restaurant

Peter Luger Steakhouse - Brooklyn, NY

 

 

After a longer than anticipated break, Weatethat.com is back in action.  With the ringing in of the New Year, our resolution is to bring our focus back to providing you with the reviews and recipes you have come to expect from us.  Our first post of 2014 is on one of the best steakhouses in all of New York City.  We present to you, Peter Luger Steakhouse.  Any self-respecting steak lover should already know the name Peter Luger, but for the rest of you, get ready to find your next foodie destination.  

Peter Luger Steakhouse has been serving up steaks since 1887, which is a really long time.  Seriously, that is 127 years of serving flame broiled beef.  Luger only serves one cut of beef, which is known as short loin.  Short loin is a cut of beef that comes from the back of the cattle.  This cut includes the top loin and tenderloin.  When choosing their short loin, Luger only selects cattle that have been graded “prime” by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Prime, which typically has abundant marbling, is produced from young, well-fed cattle.  These cuts are perfect for grilling, roasting and broiling.  Each individual loin is examined for a pink color with an even marbling of fat throughout.  Once the loins are selected, Luger starts the process of dry-aging their beef.  The dry-aging process begins by placing the beef in a temperature-controlled cooler.  While in the cooler, air is circulated all around the meat.  After being properly aged, each loin is butchered and then broiled.  This is an intensive, yet necessary process to produce the best steaks in New York City.

Now that you know what makes Peter Luger so special, you need a reservation.  This is no easy task.  Luger typically has a 3 month wait for dinner reservations.  If you want to check it out, but don't want to wait a small eternity, you can try your luck stopping in for lunch.  Once you have your reservation in hand, come prepared for some sticker shock.  Unfortunately, we don't remember the exact pricing per person, but expect to pay about $100 each if you plan to have side dishes.  Things have changed recently, but in the past, Luger only accepted two forms of payment: Cash and Peter Luger Credit Cards.  It was a nice quirk to the place—as long as you had cash on you.   However, they recently succumbed to the masses and now accept other major credit cards.  

Once you enter Luger you will immediately notice the decor and the waiters.  The dining area is filled with classic wooden beer hall tables, exposed wooden beams, and chandeliers that make you feel as though you have stepped back in time. Luger has a classic feel to it, avoiding the over the top furnishings of newer restaurants.  The waiters, who are typically older gentleman, are very entertaining, with plenty of one-liners up their sleeves.  They remind you of that uncle that’s always giving everyone a hard time, but you have to admit he's pretty hilarious.  The atmosphere is the perfect setup for an amazing meal.

Now, you may be wondering how we got our reservation.  It was actually on a whim.  At about 4pm on a Wednesday night, we got a call from our friend Pauly.  A group of his friends had reservations for weeks, but on the day of, a handful of people backed out.  In a matter of minutes,  a decision had to be made.  We did not have the cash or the mental preparation to spend upwards of $100 per person for dinner, but it was Luger.  We couldn’t sleep at night knowing that we passed on an opportunity like this.  We bit the bullet and agreed to go.  It was the best/worst decision in the world. 

So, what is on the menu?

 

The Menu:

If you skipped ahead to this point, it’s okay.  We know you have been dying to see what Luger has to offer.  The menu is rather simple with a rotating daily lunch menu highlighted by a 1/2 pound burger topped with cheese and bacon.  Then, there are the appetizers.  Two of the best options are the extra thick slabs of bacon and the jumbo shrimp cocktail.  The meat selection is less intimidating than you would think.  You order your steaks by the amount of people you want to feed (i.e. steak for two). For If you are not in the mood for steak, you shouldn't be at Luger.  However, if you’re there on a steak sabbatical, you can choose from lamb chops or the fresh seasonal fish.  In addition to your main dish, you will want to add sides to your meal, such as potatoes, broccoli, creamed spinach and onion rings.  Once dinner is done, and if you have saved any room, there are a handful of desserts to choose from ranging from classics like apple strudel and New York cheesecake to their famous homemade "Schlag".

What We Ate:
 

Sliced Tomatoes & Onions

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Thick Cut Slab Bacon

Steak for Three

Steak with Fried Potatoes and Creamed Spinach

Homemade "Schlag"

Chocolate Luger's Coins

We began our meal with the tomato and onion plate.  It looked like the type of plate you would see at a BBQ with all the fixins for your burger.  We’re not really sure why you would want this as a side dish, but the tomatoes were extremely fresh.  This dish seems to be a Luger classic, but we would probably pass on this in the future.  We also started with the Jumbo Shrimp.  There wasn’t anything special about the preparation of the shrimp, but as you can see, they were pretty massive.  We definitely had our fill.  Following the shrimp, we each got a plate full of slab bacon.  The bacon was broiled in the oven and had a nice crisp outside.  It was thick cut and could almost be a meal on its own.  We would definitely recommend getting the bacon.

After a few minutes of digestion, the main meal—steak for 8—arrived.  This consisted of 3 plates of steak for 3.  The steak came to the table piping hot with all pieces cooked medium rare.  The waiters will warn you that the plates are extremely hot and they are not exaggerating.  The plates are placed under the broiler with the steak, and they come to the table upwards of 500 degrees.  They are so hot, in fact, that if your steak is a bit underdone for your taste, you only need to put it on the plate to cook for a few more seconds.  The steak itself is flame broiled to achieve a nice golden crust and then drizzled with butter.  As we mentioned, the steak is cooked medium rare and it really allows you to appreciate the natural flavor of the dry-aged beef.  The butter melted over the steak just adds to its decadence.  While the steak comes pre-cut to the table, making eating rather easy, the best part is actually a challenge.  To taste the best Luger has to offer, you need to get a bit dirty and eat right off the bone.  The meat that is right on the bone has an amazing rich flavor that does not make its way throughout the rest of the steak.  We made sure to gnaw on a couple in the restaurant and we took the rest home for later.  These bones are not for the dogs.

If you enjoy your steak with steak sauce, Peter Luger has you covered.  Their homemade sauce is a cross between a spicy horseradish sauce and cocktail sauce.  It has a nice brown color and a tangy, almost sour flavor that really compliments the richness of the steak.  We prefer eating our steak plain, but the Luger sauce it certainly worth a taste.

We accompanied our steak with creamed spinach and fried potatoes.  The creamed spinach was very rich.  Even though we are not huge spinach fans it was actually quite good.  While it may appear to be on the heavy side, it was lighter than you would expect.  The fried potatoes were very good.  They had great flavor and the best part was that the pieces were cooked to a crisp, which added a nice crunch to the meal.  The potatoes were seasoned perfectly and were a great compliment to the steak.  We were big fans of the combo steak and potato bites.

After all of this food, we somehow had room for dessert.  Well, to be honest, we didn't have any room, but we were peer pressured by our waiter to at least eat some of the famous Luger "Schlag".  The Schlag is a cross between fresh whipped cream and Cool Whip.  We were eating it by the spoonful and even took some of our chocolate Luger coins and dipped them in the Schlag.

Should or Should Not Eat:

This is not even a hard decision.  Peter Luger is a total Should Eat.  Between being one of the most famous steakhouses in New York City and the golden crust of the dry-aged steak, you need to eat here.  It is not cheap, but you will walk away extremely satisfied.  For any steak lover, Luger is a must on your Steakhouse Bucket list.  Come for the steak, but bring an appetite for all of the sides and desserts.

Restaurant Information:

Peter Luger's Steakhouse

Brooklyn, NY: 178 Broadway.> 718.387.7400

Website: www.peterluger.com

Rutt's Hut - Clifton, New Jersey

As many of you already know, we have a true appreciation hot dogs.  We love all types and styles of dogs, but we just can't resist the allure of a deep fried hot dog.  Our first post on deep fried dogs was a result of our visit to  Crif Dogs.  While they were really good and we loved the numerous options at Crif Dogs, they were not our first.  Our first bite of a deep fried dog occurred at none other than Rutt's Hut.  

We had long been told stories of Rutt's from our friend Phil.  He told us of this place in Jersey that sells deep fried dogs.  We of course scoffed at the idea but he proceeded to tell us the tale of Rutt's and the "ripper'.  Rutt's is located right off of Route 3 and Route 21 in Clifton.  It is located in this plain brick storefront that in no way resembles an inviting restaurant.  The only way you know you would even know that you are at Rutt's is the glowing neon sign.  Once you have found yourself in the parking lot you realize the entrance is not very obvious.  On the side of the restaurant is a unmarked doorway, this is the way to the Hot Dog counter.  Rutt's also has a full bar and restaurant that is completely separate located at the front of the building.  That however is for another day.  We are just interested with the hot dog area for now.  

We must warn you, don't expect to see a sit down restaurant with tables, chairs, booths or welcoming hostesses. Instead you are walking into a small open-air room with two large counter tops to eat on with no seats.  Everything at Rutt's is eaten standing up.   Your friendly hostess has also been replaced with a handful of brash Jersey guys, attitude and all.  It would almost seem as if you are interrupting something important when you place an order with them.  This however is all part of the charm of Rutt's.  

The Menu:

We usually like to review the full menu at our destinations but here at Rutt's we are are focused on only one item, the "ripper".

What We Ate:

The "Ripper" - a deep fried hot dog with house made relish and brown mustard, with a side of fries.

The "Ripper" is a deep fried hot dog that get it's name from the transformation that occurs as it is cooked.  As the dogs cook in hot oil the outer casing tends to rip open, thus creating the ripper.   This process creates a crispy, crunchy outer crust on the dogs which complements the natural flavor of the hot dog.  The ripper is however not complete without a generous helping of Rutt's house made relish.  This bright yellow almost neon relish provides a spicy-sweet flavor that comes from the combination of onions, finely chopped carrots, and cabbage.  The relish offers up the perfect counterpoint to the salty crunch of the dogs with its sweet and addicting flavor.  The "ripper' is a hot dog at it's finest, simple but extremely satisfying. 

The fries at Rutt's are actually pretty plain, but still tasty.  They are your classic frozen fries that you would expect to find at any concession stand across America.  Nothing special here, but they do pair perfectly with a fresh "ripper".

Should or Should Not Eat:

Rutt's is home of the famous "ripper" and is a Should Eat for any hot dog lover.  Rutt's may be a no frills intimidating place, but it's rough personality grows on you.  You will come to appreciate it's charm and bring everyone you know.  The "ripper" is one of the best hot dogs in the entire country, so be sure not to miss a chance to try it.

Restaurant Information:

Rutt's Hut

Clifton, NJ: 417 River Road> 973.779.8615

Website: www.ruttshut.com

Rutt's Hut on Urbanspoon

Paulie Gee's - Brooklyn, NY

We have eaten pizza all over New York State and in more than a handful of states around the country.  We have had thin crust, deep dish, brick oven, Sicilian and just about any other type of pizza that is out there.  We have even worked in a pizza place, so we feel we have the credentials to judge any and all pizza.  To have a good pizza it all comes down to using quality ingredients and serving slices fresh.  As we have said in previous posts it is not fair to judge different styles of pizza against each other.  Brick oven pizza can only be judged against other brick oven pizza.  Regular slices can only be judged against other regular slices, and so forth.  You will always see people debate the best pizza in NY and it always seems to be two different styles going head to head.  We like to keep our best pizza in NY claims to specific styles and we think Paulie Geee's has the best brick oven pizza in Brooklyn and possibly the entire city.

Paulie Gee's does not receive the word of mouth and acclaim that NY's famous pizza places get, but it should.  We had never heard of Paulie Gee's until this past summer.  A few friends suggested we go there for dinner one night and we were game.  Those of us who had not been there before were expecting your typical pizza joint in NY.  When we arrived we found out it was actually a brick oven pizza restaurant.  There are a handful of these in Brooklyn, all with varying degrees of pizza quality.  It was not until we looked at the menu that we realized that Paulie Gee's was offering up pies that we have not seen any where before.  These pies were pushing the limits of what toppings you would expect to find on a pizza.  After our first experience we knew we had to take everyone we knew here, and now that we have our blog we needed to share Paulie Gee's with the world.

The Menu:

The first few pies on the menu are very similar to any pie you can find at any other brick oven pizza place. There is the Brian DeParma, a pie topped with Italian Tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano.  There is also the Regina, which is topped with Fior di Latte, Italian Tomatoes, Pecorino Romano, Olive Oil and Fresh Basil.  All pretty standard toppings, but after that it starts to get interesting.  Like the Hellboy, topped with Fior di Latte, Italian Tomatoes, Berkshire Sopressata Piccante and Parmigiano Reggiano and Mike’s HOT Honey.  Yes, you read that correctly we said hot honey and we agree it is not often that you seen honey on a pizza.  Then there is the Grapeful Dead, covered in Baby Spinach, Olive Oil, Mild Gouda, Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and Pickled Red Grape Halves.  If those were not interesting enough you can always get the Cherry Jones.  This one is topped with Fior di Latte, Gorgonzola Cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, Dried Bing Cherries and Orange Blossom Honey.  These are just a handful of the interesting pies being created here.  Check out their full menu for more crazy combinations.

What We Ate:

Mexican Cokes

Hellboy - The Delboy (Fior di Latte, Italian Tomatoes, Berkshire Sopressata Piccante and Parmigiano Reggiano)  with Mike’s HOT Honey

King Harry IV - Italian Tomatoes, Provolone, Beef Meatballs or House Made Vegan Fennel Sausage, Sliced Cremini Mushrooms and Golden Raisins

Hellified Porkpie White - Fior di Latte, Berkshire Sopressata Piccante, Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage, Sliced Red Onion, Chopped Fresh Garlic, Fresh Basil and Mike's Hot Honey

Mike's Hot Honey 

There is something about Mexican Cokes that we can't resist.  Some people claim there is no difference between these and regular cokes, but we beg to differ.  We feel that you can really taste the cane sugar as opposed to the high fructose corn syrup that is used in our boring American Cokes.  There is also something about drinking a Coke out of a glass bottle that makes it just a little bit better, we can probably thank marketing for that.  Once we saw them on the menu we had to get one and then about two more while eating.

The first pie listed is the Hellboy, and it is by far our favorite pizza.  The pizza is topped with Fior di Latte, Italian Tomatoes, Berkshire Sopressata Piccante and Parmigiano Reggiano and then drizzled with Mike’s HOT Honey.  Fior di Latte is fancy talk for Mozzarella.  The dough is cooked perfectly, with a slightly crispy bottom and a light and airy crust that retains a small amount of crunch.  The cheese and tomatoes are both fresh and top quality with tons of flavor.  There are two things however that make this pizza one of the best we have ever had.  It starts with the Sopressata Piccante which is an spicy Italian cured meat which provides an intense saltiness and a level of heat to the pie.  Thanks to the oven it even is a bit crispy.  The finishing ingredient is Mike's Hot Honey.  Regular honey would have been interesting enough, but Mike's Hot Honey is infused with chiles which imparts a amazing heat and kick into the honey.  This sweet delicacy combined with the saltiness of the Sopressata and the creaminess of the fresh mozzarella makes this not only one of the best meals we have ever had, but also one of the most unique pizza toppings ever.  It is seriously one of the best usages of sweet and savory flavor combinations we have had in any meal.  It is so addictive that once you have it,  the Hellboy is all you can ever think about.  In fact we are dying to have one right now.

The next pie we ordered was the King Harry IV, it had Italian Tomatoes, Provolone, Beef Meatballs, Sliced Cremini Mushrooms and Golden Raisins.  Like all of their pizzas, the dough was cooked perfectly.  This pie was topped with Provalone cheese which is not often found on pizzas.  It has a nice sharp flavor that worked well with the meatballs.  The meatballs had good flavor and added mounds of salty meat to this pie.  Then for added flavor there are the Cremini mushrooms that got a bit lost in the pie, but were tasty when found.  The pie was finished off with golden raisins, that added little explosions of sweetness.  Everything mixed together formed a very good pizza pie, it does not compare to the Hellboy but it can certainly stand up to any regular pie with ease.

The last pie we ordered was the Hellified Porkpie White.  Hellified of course means they added in our favorite new condiment, Mike's Hot Honey along with more of the Sopressata.  This pie included Fior di Latte, Berkshire Sopressata Piccante, Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage, Sliced Red Onion, Chopped Fresh Garlic, Fresh Basil and Mike's Hot Honey.  We wanted to try the white pie and were rewarded with another amazing pie.  Topped with  two salty meats the Hellified Porkpie White provides a ton of flavor.  The basil adds a nice fresh green and the garlic is not overpowering.  The Hot Honey proves itself again as an invaluable condiment that we now want to put on everything.  Paulie Gee really figured out the key to combining sweet and savory, and kudos for finding a great product like Mike's Hot Honey.  This was our second favorite pie, but again nothing comes close to the Hellboy.  Also, we have had the Cherry Jones in the past and would highly recommend giving it a try as it is another unique offering.

We also wanted to highlight Mike's Hot Honey for a second.  This honey is like nothing we have ever had before.  Honey is traditionally used as a sweetener in dishes since it is naturally sweet and adds its own unique flavor.  Mike's is taking honey one step further by infusing it with chilies.  As a result you get this sweet honey packed with a nice amount of heat that drives your taste buds wild. It is perfectly paired with these pizzas, but we have thought of more than a dozen uses for the honey on it's own.  You can purchase this honey right at Paulie Gee's or order it online at www.mikeshothoney.com.  We didn't buy any while we were there and now we are kicking ourselves, we see an online order in our future and be sure to keep an eye out for how we plan to use it on the blog.  We can specifically see it working with a nice Chicken Biscuit.

Should or Should Not Eat:

Paulie Gee's is making not only traditional brick oven pizza but also some of the most unique brick oven pizzas you can find.  Here you will find pizzas topped with golden raisins, fresh cherries, mounds of arugula and even chile infused honey.  Paulie Gee's is pushing the limits of accepted pizza toppings to the extreme.  As a result you should be pushing the limits of what you expect on your pie.  Paulie Gee's is a Should Eat thanks to their perfectly cooked dough and amazing selection of the most unique ingredients in New York.

Restaurant Information:

Paulie Gee's

Brooklyn, NY: 60 Greenpoint Ave> 347.987.3747

Website: www.pauliegee.com/home.php

Paulie Gee's on Urbanspoon

Quaker Creek Store - Goshen, NY

Quaker Creek is by far one of our favorite stores/resturants.  They provide the best quality cuts of meat in all of Orange County. At Quaker Creek you can order almost any cut of meat you are looking for and if they do not have they will order it for you.  The store is located in the heart of of the famed Black Dirt Region in Goshen, NY.  As we have mentioned before the Black Dirt is named for it's noticeably deep black soil, which is extremely fertile.  Driving down Pulaski Highway, past the vast black dirt fields you will come upon a small store front.  This is Quaker Creek, and if you are going too fast not only will you get a speeding ticket but you might just miss the store completely.  

We first found out about Quaker Creek years ago and ever since we have been in love with them.  This family owned business is churning out quality, local,  homemade products and if our opinion is not enough, maybe Bobby Flay and Anthony Bourdain can change your mind.  Yes, both of these culinary stars have at one time or another visited Quaker Creek.  Flay visited the area well before he was an Iron Chef or throwing down all around the country.  He was filming for his show FoodNation with Bobby Flay at the time Anthony Bourdain on the other hand visited more recently and when he is not airing his dislike for FoodNetwork, he can be seen filming his show No Reservations for the Travel Channel.  In this episode Bourdain was highlighting some of the best culinary spots in the Hudson Valley and ended up at Quaker Creek. 

It should be no surprise that Quaker Creek has received notoriety from some of the biggest names in the culinary world, if you sell quality products people will find out.  As we stated before Quaker Creek is a full service butcher shop offering only the best quality cuts of meat any where.  They also handcraft the best sausages and hot dogs around.  Their sausages include Kielbasa, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Audouoille, and numerous Italian styles Sausages.  The hot dogs are made with natural casing which give them the coveted "snap" that we crave and as a result we refer to them as snappers.  They are linking up your classic hot dogs daily, but also offer specialty dogs like Jalapeno Cheddar.  If that was not enough they even make their own beef jerky.  If you have never had homemade beef jerky give it a try, it it much better than anything Sasquatch is eating.  Quaker Creek also makes their own cold cuts and stays true to their Polish heritage with their handcrafted Perogies.  

What We Bought:

 

Above are the Jalapeno Cheddar Hot Dogs and in the background is the Muscle Jerky and your classic Snappers 

Here is an up close look at the Muscle Jerky which offers up the perfect combination of flavor and chew to the meat. 

This right here is our pride and joy and it may even look a bit familiar, it is a fresh pork belly slab.  We ordered this bad boy for our Porchetta Recipe (click Here see).  We learned the hard way that pork products should always be ordered from Quaker Creek.  They sell only the best quality pigs which can not always be said for our local grocery stores.  You can tell the quality when working with pork belly or pork shoulders.  Often times lesser quality pork has a distinct aroma that suggest the pigs were not in the best living conditions.  This scent tends to stick in the fat and skin of the pigs, it by no means suggests that the meat is bad to eat, but just a small reminder that there are better products on the market.  

Any time we have ordered from Quaker Creek the pork has no smell what so ever.  It is a just a quality, clean slab of pork that may cost a bit more but in the end is worth it for both the flavor and piece of mind.  We have a huge bbq each summer and will only order our pork shoulders for our pulled pork from Quaker Creek.  These shoulders are choice cuts that always seem to have the best natural flavors.  This was our first time ordering pork belly from them but it most certainly will not be the last.  The meat was super fresh and very clean.  It made our Porchetta sandwiches by far one of the best things we have made in a long time.   

What We Ate:

We kept this a bit of a secret, but not only is Quaker Creek a full service butcher shop but they also serve a revolving menu of house made sandwiches and platters.  We often like to highlight these menus but Quaker Creek changes their daily, so you will have to call up or just take a chance to see what is on the menu.

Polish Lunch Platter - with stuffed cabbage, kielbasa & sauerkraut and cheese perogies.

 

Stuffed Cabbage

 

Cheese Perogies with local onions

 

Kielbasa with sauerkraut

What We Cooked: 

Regular & Jalapeno Cheddar Hot Dogs

 

 

The Polish Platter was exactly the type of homemade cooking you would expect to find from any Polish Grandmother.  Everything was made with that hint of love that you can only get from homemade food.  The stuffed cabbage was full of savory ground beef and spices wrapped up and steamed in cabbage.  It was then topped with this naturally sweet tomato sauce that is produced from local tomatoes.  It was a perfect combination of savory meat and sweet acidity from the tomatoes.  It was fork tender and full of flavor.

The perogies looked like they were going to be very heavy but were surprisingly light.  The dough was still soft but had that perfect crunch that comes from being seared on the flat top.  They were filled with cottage cheese and topped with local black dirt onions.  These perogies were like pillows of flavor, each bite had the light saltiness of the cheese and was complemented with the sweetness of the sautéd onions.

Then we tried the Kielbasa which is made in house.  It was so flavorful and salty just as it should be.  Topped with the sauerkraut and a bit of mustard, the kielbasa was a perfect bite of food.  The mustard added a nice tang that complemented both the sauerkraut and the kielbasa.  We could have eaten an entire plate of kielbasa.  This platter was a great example of traditional polish cooking at it's best.  Simple and fresh ingredients made with love.  

The food we brought home was just as good.  We grilled up both the regular and Jalapeno Cheddar hot dogs.  The regular dogs have a classic hot dog flavor that is much fresher since they are hand made.  They have the perfect snap and taste great with whatever toppings your heart desires.  As much as we enjoy a classic hot dog, the Jalapeno Cheddar may actually be our favorite.  Made with the same ingredients as the regular hot dogs, you will also find generous chunks of jalapenos and cheddar cheese.  In fact if you look at the pictures above you can even see some of the cheddar oozing out of these dogs.  The flavor is just so intense, you first get the hot dog and cheddar which work together very well.  Then all of a sudden you get hit with the heat from the jalapenos.  It is a great combination of ingredients and flavors, you do not even need to top these dogs with anything.  We highly recommend both hot dog varieties for any day full of grilling. 

Should or Should Not Eat:

Quaker Creek is a should eat for any time of the day. Whether you are looking to pick up a quality piece of meat for a special occasion or you want a homemade meal made with local ingredients.  They are serving the area with the best products around while keeping their family heritage alive and well.  Come for the meat, stay for the food and leave with a full stomach and maybe a hand full of the homemade jerky.  

Restaurant Information:

Quaker Creek Store

Goshen, NY: 767 Pulaski Highway 845.258.3027

Website: www.quakercreekstore.com

Quaker Creek Store Incorporated on Urbanspoon

Back Yard Bistro - Montgomery, New York

The Hudson Valley is increasingly becoming known as a food destination.  Many of the restaurants in the area are using quality ingredients from local farms, so it is no surprise that people are flocking to the area to eat.  It has become so popular that the Hudson Valley even started the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.  You may be familiar with the restaurant week concept that is popular in New York City and other places, where you get a three course meal at a discounted price.

In it's 6th year, the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week was held between March 18 - 31st.  During Restaurant Week (which was actually 2 weeks), participating restaurants offer a three-course, prix-fixe dinner menu for $29.95 per person (plus tax, beverage and gratuity).  Some restaurants even offered a three-course lunch menu for $20.95 per person.  These restaurants are encouraged to feature local Hudson Valley products in their dishes.  With this deal in place it seemed like a perfect time to try the Back Yard Bistro.

The Back Yard Bistro is said to be by many one of the best restaurants in the Hudson Valley.  We have had numerous people tell us we have to try the food here.  Restaurant Week provided us the perfect opportunity to try a bunch of their dishes at a great price, so we took full advantage.

Menu:

The menu at Back Yard Bistro is full of unique ingredients and unconventional combinations that are sure to cause plenty of discussion around the table.  Usually we like to go in-depth with some of the more interesting dishes on a menu, but at the Back Yard Bistro we would end up naming each dish.  The other reason we are not going to go too in-depth with the menu is that they keep their menu very fluid.  Many of this dishes are changed each month to reflect seasonal ingredients.  There are however a few dishes for April that look interesting.  One that has caught our eye is the Northwind Farm Fried Chicken with Garlic Chive Dipping Sauce and Roast Garlic Brussels Sprout Cups.  There is also the Ramp Ravioli with Parsnip Veloute, White Truffle Oil Drizzle and Potato Espuma.  One thing you can bet on at Back Yard Bistro is that you will try some fruit, vegetable or meat that you have never had before. 

As many of you know we pride ourselves on taking our own photos. Unfortunately we had issues with lighting and we felt it was important to show all of the dishes we ate,  so we had to use some images from the Back Yard Bistro's Facebook page.

What We Ate:

Amuse

Cold Poached Mussel - Served on Brioche "Shell" Red Pepper, Basil. Saffron Sauces

Appetizers:

Crispy Fried Colonial Farm Egg Yolk - Served with Duck Fat Poached Potatoes and Crown Maple Glazed Lamb Bacon 

Saffron Risotto Cake - Served with Romesco and Asparagus

Korean BBQ Hudson Valley Cattle Co. Beef Heart Steamed Bun - Served with
Kim Chee Pickled Tongue

Entree:

Smoke Roasted Pork Loin - with Pickled Mustard Seeds and Sprout Creek Farm Bogart Cheese Gratin

Grilled and Confit Northwind Farm Chicken -  Served with Buttermilk Mashed & Roasted HV Yukon Gold Potatoes

Hudson Valley Cattle Co. Balsamic Pulled Beef - with Oxtail Barley

Desert:

Almond Vanilla Cake - Served with Hudson Valley Apple Ice Cream and Cinnamon Crisp

Chocolate Cake - with Salted Popcorn Ice Cream

Frozen Yogurt Mousse Wrapped in Crown Maple Syrup Pudding - with Sweet Chipotle Spiked Shortbread

We got eat plenty of great and interesting food on this night.  It was more of an food adventure so we will walk you through the night.  Back Yard Bistro is not a big restaurant, they only have about 10 tables.  It seems a bit small inside but you are still able to have a bit of privacy.  It is certainly a nice setting for a date. We went in March so we could only sit inside, but also offer outside seating when it is warmer.  The first thing we noticed was that the staff was extremely friendly.  We received top notch service the entire night.  Our waitress was very knowledgeable regarding the unique menu.  She also provided the perfect balance of service, checking in on us but also allowing us to enjoy our meal.

The first item you will see pictured is the amuse, which was a Cold Poached Mussel served on brioche "Shell" red pepper, basil and saffron sauces. An amuse is a complimentary appetizer or taste to start off your meal. Our amuse was this tasty little morsel.  It was full if intense flavors thanks to the brioche and the trio of sauces.  While the sauces seem to be only a decorative part of the dish, they are packed with flavor.  This dish was very good our only criticism is that since the mussel was so small the flavor was not strong enough to come through with all of the sauces.  We would have been very happy to eat a whole tray of these.

For the true appetizer course we each got our own appetizer.  The best part however is that we like to share so we got to taste all of them.  Our favorite was by far the Crispy Fried Colonial Farm Egg Yolk served with duck fat poached potatoes and crown maple glazed lamb bacon.  This entire dish was so good we are not even sure where to start.  We would love eat this for breakfast every single morning.  The focus of this dish is egg yolk.  Yes it is truly an deep fried egg that was still runny in the middle.  It was breaded with a bit of panko breadcrumbs to give it a crunchy texture.  As soon as we touched it with our fork the yolk oozed out on to our potatoes.  The potatoes were poached in duck fat giving it a nice flavor.  The potatoes combined with the crispy egg yolk were almost perfect.  Perfection was found when we added a piece of sweet and salty bacon to mix.  Once all of these components were in our mouth we found the perfect bite of food.  Sweet and salty, crunchy and gooey, everything you could desire.  The bacon was so amazing that is has spawned our interest in trying to create our own.

The second appetizer we had was the least successful in our opinion.  It was the Saffron Risotto Cake served with romesco and asparagus.  We did not find the cake to be anything special it was cooked well and had a nice texture but we were not wowed by the flavor.  We also do not appreciate asparagus as others do, they were however cooked perfectly.  The best part of this dish was actually the romesco.  We had no idea what romesco was when we ate it, but we looked it up as soon as we got home.  Romesco is a sauce that originated in Spain.  It is typically made from almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and nyora peppers.  It was the perfect complement to the risotto cake.  We felt the cake did not have any huge flavors, but it did provide a nice vehicle for eating the romesco sauce.  The sauce has a very sweet flavor thanks to the sweet red pepper and roasted garlic.  The risotto cake takes a back seat to the romesco sauce in this dish. 

Our final appetizer was the Korean BBQ Hudson Valley Cattle Co. Beef Heart Steamed Bun served with
kim chee pickled tongue.  We have had beef heart before, but never have we had tongue, so we were looking forward to this dish.  If you had been served this dish without knowing what type of meats were on the plate you probably would guess that you were eating beef.  Both the heart and tongue were very good but our favorite was the heart.  You may think that since the heart is a muscle that the meat would be tough and chewy, it was far from that.  It reminded us of a nice piece of steak on a very delicious steamed bun.  The tongue was not without its own charm.  It also was not rubbery meat you might imagine.  Instead it was very tender and worked well with the kim chee.  This dish was a tasty way to cross out two items on your "Foods To Try" bucket list.

For our entrees we started with the Smoke Roasted Pork Loin with pickled mustard seeds and Sprout Creek Farm bogart cheese gratin.  The pork loin was cooked perfectly to medium, as ordered.  It was juicy and tender and had a nice hint of smoke.  The mustard seeds also added tiny nice morsels of flavor.  We were however not huge fans of the gratin.  We think it has to do with the type of cheese used.  The bogart cheese had a distinct flavor that we did not enjoy.  The potatoes were seasoned well but we just did not enjoy the flavor of the dish. 

The second entree was the Grilled and Confit Northwind Farm Chicken served with Buttermilk mashed & roasted HV Yukon Gold Potatoes.  This dish was really good.  The grilled chicken was pretty standard, seasoned with salt and pepper and had nice grill marks.  It was tender and juicy but the real star was the confit chicken.  Confit is when a meat is cooked in its own rendered fat.  This chicken was very crispy and immensely flavor full.  We were even happier with the confit chicken skin chip.  While bad for our health, it was just heavenly.  The mashed potatoes were rich and creamy exactly how you want mashed potatoes to be made.  It is safe to say this plate did not last too long. We would highly recommend this dish if it is on the menu.

Our final entree was the Hudson Valley Cattle Co. Balsamic Pulled Beef with Oxtail Barley.  This was overall a decent dish.  Since we are pulled pork fiends, we were expecting a pile of pulled beef.  Instead it came served in the shape of what looked like a brownie.  It was most certainly beef and it had very good flavor.  It was a bit dry but that was helped by the ajus you can see on the plate.  We were actually excited for the oxtail barley hoping to try oxtail for the first time.  Unfortunately there were no chucks on oxtail mixed in with our barley.  Instead the oxtail must have been used to create the ajus that the barley was cooked in.  As for the barley it was our first time eating it, and it ended up not being one of our favorites.  It was a bit bland and had a uniquely soft texture.  Without the ajus we would not have wanted to finish the barley.  As an entire dish the ingredients went well together but the beef was the best part of the plate.

Now on to the dessert course, which was probably the best course all around. The Almond Vanilla Cake served with Hudson Valley Apple Ice Cream and Cinnamon Crisp was very good.  The cake was light and airy but still moist and was finished off with whipped cream. The ice cream with cinnamon crisp was our favorite part of this dish.  The ice cream tasted exactly like fresh apples, we wish we could buy this by the gallon.  It was sweet and creamy and the cinnamon crisp added a nice crunchy component. 

The second dessert we had ended up being our favorite.  It was the Chocolate Cake with Salted Popcorn Ice Cream.  The chocolate cake was moist and full of chocolate flavor, it would have been good all by itself. It was however served with one of the most original ice cream flavors we have ever had; salted popcorn.  It did in fact taste exactly like salted popcorn, it was fantastic.  When combined with the chocolate cake it provided the perfect blend of sweet and savory.  You do not often find sweet and savory associated with a dessert, but it was amazing. This dessert is a must eat if it is on the menu.

The last dessert we had was the Frozen Yogurt Mousse Wrapped in Crown Maple Syrup Pudding with Sweet Chipotle Spiked Shortbread.  This dessert was interesting thanks to the textures involved. Both the mousse and pudding were soft but were able to keep their form.  The shortbread added a needed hard texture as a counter point to the soft pudding wrapped mousse.  The mousse did not stand out nearly as much as the maple syrup pudding.  The pudding provided this intensely sweet flavor followed but the creaminess of the mousse.  The shortbread was mildly sweet and at first we thought it did not have much heat.  We thought it would would have been hotter being made with chipotle.  As it turns out we were a bit to fast to judge, as the chipotle made itself known subtly after being in your mouth for a few seconds.  Here is where the mousse helped counter act the heat of the shortbread.  Just like when the shortbread provided the crunch the mousse did not have.  It was quite the beneficial relationship for out palate.  This was another very good dish to complete our meal.  

Here is a recap of our favorite things from our entire meal.  As we said our favorite dish was the Deep Fried Egg Yolk with Maple Glazed Lamb Bacon.  Our favorite course was dessert. The most unique thing we had to eat was the romesco sauce.  Our favorite meat was the maple glazed lamb bacon.  Our favorite pairing of ingredients in any dish was the Chocolate Cake with Salted Popcorn Ice Cream.  Try just one of these items or try them all, Backyard Bistro will surely surprise your taste buds no matter what you eat.

Should Or Should Not Eat: 

To put it simply the Back Yard Bistro is a Should Eat.  They are creating dishes that put your palate on a roller coaster of flavor.  You are guaranteed to try something you have never eaten before, which does not happen in most restaurants.  Back Yard Bistro is not for those people who are looking to just end their hunger.  Instead they are creating dishes that make you think, talk and taste.  The Back Yard Bistro should be a destination for anyone who enjoys food and trying unique dishes.  With great food, a friendly staff and a quaint location you might just become a regular.

On a side note chef and co-owner Susan Crocker was recently a participant on the Food Network tv series Chopped.

Restaurant Information:

Back Yard Bistro

Montgomery, NY: 1118 State Route 17K 845.457.9901

Website: www.holbertscatering.com/website/bistro.shtml

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/BackYard-Bistro/151007131576218

Back Yard Bistro on Urbanspoon

Chumleys BBQ - Florida, New York

Orange County, New York sits in the lush Hudson Valley, which is home to many grass fed and organic farmers. With so many quality meats at their disposal it surprising to find a lack of BBQ restaurants in the area. They are so scare in fact that they should be put on the culinary endangered species list. There are just a handful of these joints scattered throughout the OC. From the places that do exist, there are only two good worth eating at. One of them unfortunately burned down a few years ago. Luckily for us BBQ lovers in the area the best place is still standing and cranking out quality BBQ 6 days a week. We are referring to Chumleys BBQ.

If you have not figured it out yet we are already fans of Chumleys.  Every time we go we are extremely satisfied.  We think Chumleys is serving the best BBQ in the area, outside of our own special recipe. You may be asking what qualifies us to judge BBQ being that we are from New York. Well other than eating BBQ up and down the East Coast, we have eaten our selves silly at the World BBQ Championships held each year during Memphis in May. For those of you not aware, the World BBQ Championships draws the best BBQ Pit Masters from around the country to compete for Best Barbecue.  Now that we have our credentials sorted out lets get back to what's important.

Chumleys is located in Florida, NY which is best known for their black dirt farms. If you drive too fast through this small town not only will you get a speeding ticket but you will pass Chumleys.  They have a small store front right on the main strip that runs right through the town.  Slow down a bit, find a parking spot and get ready to eat some quality BBQ.

The Menu:

Chumleys is serving up a variety of BBQ favorites as well as some of their own creations. They create most of their dishes starting with one of the following Boneless Ribs, Brisket, Half Chicken(grilled or fried), Ribs On The Bone, Grilled Hangar Steak (grilled with chipotle butter) or our favorite Pulled Pork. You can order any of these on a single platter with one side. You can also order the combo which is any two of the meats and two sides or if your are really hungry The Pig Out. Yup you guessed it, any three of the meats along with any three sides. All platters are served with homemade cornbread. They even offer two Family Meal deals.

Not looking to eat that much food, choose from one of their twelve different sandwiches. Among the most interesting options are the Royale with Cheese, a nod to the movie Pulp Fiction (click here) and the Charm City classic Pit Beef.  They are even cooking up a Shrimp Po Boy, but their most popular sandwich is the Pulled Pork.

We mentioned that all of the platters come with side items. These side include Mac & Cheese, Cole Slaw, Macaroni Salad, Onion Rings, French Fries, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Baked Beans, Mixed Veggies, Rice & Beans, Sweet Potatoes Fries and Corn Bread. For those of you going to a BBQ restaurant looking for something other than meat (not sure why you would) they also offer a few salads.  The whole menu has plenty of great food which will make it hard to decide on just one meal. 

What We Ate:

Chumleys House Made White Birch Beer

Assortment of Chumleys Sauces: (left to right) Ozark Sauce, Root Beer BBQ Sauce, Spicy Root Beer BBQ Sauce, Chumleys Original BBQ Sauce and Chumleys Mustard Memphis Sauce.


Chumleys BBQ Platter: Pulled Pork w/ Macaroni and Cheese and homemade cornbread.


We started off our meal with one of Chumleys housemade sodas.  We had not seen these here in the past and decided to give it a try. They had a few different flavors to choose from, we went with the White Birch Beer. Birch Beer is made from the bark of a birch tree and tastes very similar to root beer.  It had nice crisp flaver and was a very refreshing soda.  We tried not to drink all of the soda before we got our food, but we only partially succeed.

Before we get into the meal, we need to point out that Cumleys offers a wide variety of homemade sauces. When eating BBQ there is always a debate of which sauce is the best. This seems comes down to where you are from and what type of sauce you grew up on. There are tons of sauces out there such as vinegar based dips, ketchup based BBQ and even mustard based sauces.  There are even some parts of the country that do no believe in sauce, instead they use only a dry rub.  We like all of the varieties of sauces and have eaten them all.  For us there is not one best sauce, instead it depends on what type you are in the mood for on any given day.  We have always loved traditional ketchup based BBQ sauce but we have found ourselves moving towards a more mustard based sauce over the years.  Even more recently we have started to really enjoy the tang you get from a vinegar based dip. With our palette constantly changing we would be hard pressed to choose just one sauce. Thankfully Chumleys offers plenty of options.

As you can see we have the sauces listed form left to right. We start with the Ozark Sauce.  This sauce appears to be made from apple cider vinegar infused with dry spices.  It is super tangy and has a really nice bite that goes perfectly with pork. The next sauce is the Root Beer BBQ Sauce. It is a ketchup based sauce infused with root beer which gives it this great sweetness. The third sauce is the Spicy Root Beer BBQ Sauce. This one uses the root beer sauce as a base and is then kicked up a notch with some added heat. Next we have Chumleys Original BBQ Sauce. It is a classic BBQ sauce which has a nice amount of sweetness while not being over powering. The last sauce we have is Chumleys Mustard Memphis Sauce. It is clearly a mustard based sauce paired with vinegar which adds a spiciness and tang.  These sauces are all very good.  We really enjoyed the Ozark, Root Beer and the Mustard Sauces.  We would recommend trying them all to see which your are in the mood for, but no one says you have to choose just one.  In fact we really like pairing the mustard with one of the ketchup based sauces which creates it own unique flavor profile.

For our meal we decided to go with one of our favorites in the world, pulled pork. We got the pulled pork platter with mac & cheese and corn bread.  Chumleys severs its platters with a generous portion of perfectly cooked pulled pork. The pork was tender and juicy but also had some crispy pieces.  It had great flavor by itself, but proved to be the perfect vehicle for all of the sauces. We were dipping the pork left and right, but really enjoyed it in the Ozark Sauce the best.  The sweet tang of the apple cider vinegar and spice paired perfectly with the mild taste of the pork.  In a close second was the root beer sauce.

Our mac & cheese was good but not the best we have ever had.  It was very simple but that's what makes it work. It was not trying to be some fancy four cheese mac & cheese. Instead it was the type of mac & cheese that makes you feel like you are at a summer BBQ.  In the end that's what matters most especially for a BBQ restaurant.  The corn bread was moist and sweet adding the perfect finishing touch to our platter.  We could have eaten about five more slices.  We really enjoy the food at Chumleys and you will too. We also love that the guys at Chumleys are Jets fans and are even found tailgating at home games.

Should Or Should Not Eat: 

Chumleys BBQ is providing all of Orange County with the best BBQ around.  They are making all of the classics with tons of flavor. Their generous portions paired with a variety of sauces makes Chumleys BBQ a Should Eat. We became regulars after just one visit and we are sure you will too.

Restaurant Information:

Chumleys BBQ

Florida, NY: 56 North Main Street  > 845.651.3663

Website: chumleysbbq.com

Chumleys BBQ and Catering Company on Urbanspoon

Fratello - Warwick, New York

Fratellos is a brick oven pizza joint located in Warwick, New York.  Through word of mouth we heard that Fratellos has some pretty good food especially the pizza.  Since we were looking to try a new restaurant we decided to see what they had to offer.

The Menu:

Fratellos menu consisted of exactly the type of food you would expect from a brick oven pizza/Italian restaurant. There was a large selection of appetizers such as baked clams, steamed mussels and fried calamari. They also offer a variety of salads.  Fratellos dinner menu is even larger, offering multiple dishes featuring chicken, fish and pasta. Everything on the menu sounded good but we came for the pizza and there are plenty to choose from. Fratellos has twenty-five different pizzas on the menu. They evem have some pretty unique pizzas like the Fresh Pear & Gorganzola Pizza.  It is topped with fresh sliced pears & tangy Wisconsin gorgonzola on a hearth baked crust with thinly sliced prosciutto & flame roasted walnuts.  We were not feeling that adventurous but we decided to order a few things.

What We Ate:

Honey Pecan Wings:

Pizza a la Vodka: Creamy vodka sauce topped with applewood smoked bacon & homemade mozzarella.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza: Fresh mozzarella & spicy buffalo chicken

We started our meal off with the Honey Pecan Wings.  It turns out they were actually Honey BBQ Pecan Wings, which was different than what we thought we ordered.  We are not sure if we just read the menu wrong or if it really did say Honey Pecan Wings. In any case, there were wings on the table and we were hungry. The first thing you will notice about the wings is that they are drowning in a very thick sauce.  These wings should have been covered in half as much sauce and even then that may have been too much. The sauce was your classic honey bbq sauce, with a sweet but smoky flavor.  It tasted good and mixed well together with the pecans. The wings were cooked perfectly and despite being soaked in sauce still retained the perfect crisp necessary to be a tasty wing.  The wings were also a good size.  Thesy would have been very good if not for the excess amount of sauce. 

For dinner we ordered two types of pizza. The first pie we got was the Pizza a la Vodka. We thought this sounded pretty good, but we were let down. The pizza was cooked nicely in the brick oven forming a tasty crust. The pizza looked great but once we took our first bite, we knew we were not going to be thrilled with this pie. The vodka sauce did not taste very much like vodka sauce. It actually tasted more like a regular tomato sauce. The other issue we had was the usage of bacon. We want to make one thing clear, we love bacon.  We come from the school of thought that bacon makes everything better (well almost).

Our problem in this case however was that we didn't order a bacon pizza, we ordered a Pizza a la vodka. We were served a Pizza a la Vodka but it tasted like a bacon pizza. This is because there was a generous amount of bacon on our pizza. Bacon is a very strong ingredient and if not used properly it can take over an entire dish with its deliciously smoky flavor. Unfortunately for us this is exactly what happened, the bacon invaded our taste buds and that was all we could taste.  In our opinion the Pizza a la Vodka would have worked better if it had been topped with chicken instead of bacon.

The second pizza we ordered was the Buffalo Chicken Pizza. This pizza looked awesome, so it was even more depressing when we grabbed the first slice. You can't see from the angle of our picture but the entire pie was not cooked.  On the outside it looked done, but the inside was still doughy and soft. We ate one slice and that was all. The chicken was cooked well and the pie had good flavor thanks to the buffalo hot sauce. It was not busy in the restaurant so for the pizza to be this under cooked was very surprising.  The pizza had plenty of potential but fell short due to execution. 

Should Or Should Not Eat: 

Fratellos has a good reputation and perhaps we caught them on a bad night but for us they are a Should Not Eat.  The food was just ok and being served under cooked pizza really ruined our meal.  Fratellos does have potential but they may need to take another look at their recipes and make some slight adjustments.  We will not be going back anytime soon though.

Restaurant Information:

Fratello

Warwick, NY: 22 Spring Street  > 845.986.7898

Website: www.fratellobrickoven.com/

Fratellos on Urbanspoon

Smashburger - Ramsey, New Jersey

Many of you have probably not heard of Smashburger yet.  Smashburger is a new burger chain restaurant opening up on the east coast. Smashburger was started in Denver, Colorado with the mission to “be every city’s favorite place for burgers.” Their name is derived from the process used to cook burgers, which entails smashing a ball of 100% Certified Angus ground beef on a grill to "sear in the juices." Smashburger is similar to Five Guys, but has a more upscale feel. The real question always boils down to how good are the burgers and can they separate themselves from our dislike of Five Guys.

 

The Menu:

Smashburger’s menu as you would expect focuses primarily on burgers offering 5 standard burger options such as the All American Burger. The All American is topped with American cheese, ketchup, yellow mustard, onions and pickles on an egg bun.  Each Smashburger also offers a burger tailored to the local area, so on the menu was also the New Jersey Smashburger. This had applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles, grilled onions, haystack onion, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a onion bun.

In addition Smashburger also serves chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads.  Any and all meals can be custom made with a large selection of toppings and customization options. Smashburger offers a variety of sides, including sweet potato fries, fried onions, fried pickles, veggie frites and chili.

What We Ate:

Spicy Baja: topped with Pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo and fresh jalapeños on a spicy chipotle bun.

Smashfries:  tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic.

New Jersey Smashburger: topped with applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles, grilled onions, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a onion bun.

Sweet Potato Smashfries:


The service at Smashburger was quick and friendly. You place your order at the counter and then when your burger is done it is brought out to your table. We went at lunch time while the place was packed and we got our food within five minutes of ordering. As you can see your food is plated nicely making it much more appealing than the burger we got at Five Guys. One of the first things we noticed is all of the topping were extremely fresh. The lettuce and tomatoes on  both burger were very crisp.  

The spicy baja had fresh jalapeno slices and it was topped with guacamole. The guacamole was of the premade variety but had good flavor. There was also a chipotle mayo which added a nice smokey flavor heat to the burger to go along with the pepper jack cheese. The burger itself was cooked in the same fashion as Five Guys, but managed to be less greasy. We would have liked it to be a little less greasy but over all it was not too bad. The meat was flavorful and served on chipotle bun. We did not really get the chipotle flavor from the bun, but it was still a good hamburger bun.

We are not sure what ingredients on the New Jersey Burger really connect to the area but that does not really matter. As with our other burger, all of the topping were fresh. There is a nice helping of haystack onions on the burger which are the Smashburger version of onion rings. They were seasoned well and crispy. The bacon was also served crisp which is not a given at many restaurants. They put just enough blue cheese on the burger to give it some tang without taking over the entire burger. This was a solid burger as well, not the greatest burger ever but it gets the job done.

Now we saved the best for last, the fries at Smashburger were the real stars of the meal. The Smashfries were cooked to a golden crispy goodness. They were then tossed in the right amount of rosemary, olive oil and garlic. These fries had so much flavor but not overloaded with garlic. We could not stop eating these in fact we could have used even more fries.  The only good thing was that we also ordered the Sweet Potato Fries.

We thought the Smashfries were good, which they were. However the Sweet Potato fries were even better, they were some of the best sweet potato fries we have ever had. They were also cooked to a perfect crisp, and were seasoned with a bit of salt. The natural sweetness of the potato combined with the salt provides the perfect sweet a savory flavor. We will be going back for the fries alone.

Should Or Should Not Eat: 

The fries at Smashburger make it a Should Eat for us. The burgers were good, but not anything too special. The fries however make a trip to Smashburger worthwhile. Next time we go we look forward to trying one of the chicken sandwiches as they look pretty good.

Restaurant Information:

Smashburger

Ramsey, NJ: 984 Route 17 North > 201.327.8173 

Website: www.smashburger.com

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Radegast Hall & Biergarten - Brooklyn, New York

Last weekend we found ourselves at the Radegast Hall and Biergarten in Williamsburg. We wanted to start off the night with some large liters full of beer and food hot of their grill. The biergarten has the classic beer hall feel with large wooden tables and tall ceilings. The waitresses all wear your standard bier maiden outfits, which add to the atmosphere. All of this coupled with the huge liters full of authentic German beer makes it feel as if you are in Germany celebrating at Octoberfest. 

The Menu:

Radegast offers two types of menus to order from, the main menu and the grill menu. The main menu offers more formal dishes featuring German classics such as a Munich Pretzel or Veal Schnitzel. The grill menu on the other hand provides less formal options such as sausages, burgers and fries all cooked on the open grill in the back of the hall. The beauty of the grill is that it sends out this amazing aroma of grilled meat into the hall that is almost impossible to resist.

What We Ate:

Munich Pretzel - with Spicy Mustard and Cornichon

Bratwurst - Served on a Pretzel Roll with sauerkraut 

Mustard Options

We started with the Munich Pretzel that is baked in house to order. This pretzel has a nice crisp outside with a warm soft inside and it is seasoned with the perfect amount of salt.  It is all too often that pretzels get over salted because the dough is just not that good. The good thing for us is here at Radegast they know what they are doing when it comes to making pretzels.

They serve the pretzels with a house made spicy mustard and Cornichon pickles. The mustard has a great kick to it and pairs perfectly with the pretzel. The pickles are tart with and have a nice amount of snap to them when bitten into. There is no better appetizer while drinking dark German beers than one of these pretzels.

We followed up our pretzel with a selection from the grill. We ordered the grilled bratwurst served on a Pretzel Roll with sauerkraut. Yes that's right we added more pretzel to our meal. When the chef suggests adding the pretzel roll to your meal you do not ask questions you just say yes. Our bratwurst was cooked in front of our eyes and had that freshly grilled look to it, nice and crispy. It was then placed on the bun and topped with a healthy serving of sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was sweeter that you might expect, we think it is due to the addition of carrots in the cabbage. It did however add a nice counterpoint in flavor to the saltiness of the brat. We then topped all of this off with a bit of the German mustard for the final touch to the meal.

To go along with the brat, we ordered some fries. The thing about the fries at Radegast is they are very addicting. They are fried to a golden crisp and seasoned well with just the right amount of salt. We dipped these things in just about every mustard option they had available. The best was either the spicy mustard or the German mustard. We could not get enough fries and even ordered more to go with our beers later in the night. 

Should Or Should Not Eat:

Radegast is easily a Should Eat. They offer everything needed for a good night out on the town, good atmosphere, good food and good drinks. There may be more than a handful of similar places in Brooklyn, but Radegast is the total package. Check out Radegast for the food and stay for the drinks.

Restaurant Information:

Radegast Hall & Biergarten

Brooklyn, NY: 113 N 3rd Street > 718.963.3973

Website: www.radegasthall.com

Radegast Hall & Beer Garden on Urbanspoon

L & B Spumoni Gardens - Brooklyn, NY

 

Welcome to one of our favorite places to eat in all of New York City. L & B Spumoni gardens is often referred to as just Spumoni or Spumoni Gardens. While they are now famous for their pizza, Spumoni Gardens got it's start selling spumoni out of a horse drawn wagon.   Spumoni Gardens was started by Ludovico Barbati, he came to the United States in 1917, from Torella Di Lombardi, Italy. He learned to make spumoni and began to sell it up and down the streets of Gravesend & Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

All of this spumoni talk may have you confused, especially if you do not know what spumoni is.  Spumoni is an Italian dessert made up of layers of molded ice cream. Traditionally flavors include cherry, pistachio chocolate and vanilla.

In 1939, Ludovico, Sr. decided he needed a place to make his Spumoni and bought a plot of land in Brooklyn and built their first building to be their factory.  People began to line up at the factory to get spumoni and that is when they realized they would need to build a sit down area for customers.In the mid 1950's L & B Spumoni Gardens built the second building, which is now the Pizzeria. Then progressively, though the years the third building was added, it became their luncheonette.  When you go to Spumoni today you can still see the 3 different buildings that comprise L & B Spumoni Gardens.

While they have tons of things to offer, we went to Spumoni to get some of their famous Sicilian style pizza.

The Menu:

The beauty of Spumoni Gardens is how basic the pizza menu is.  Pizza is the only thing they sell in this section of Spumoni Gardens is, so orders go quickly. You can order slices or whole pies but you will have to choose between traditional round pizza or their famous Sicilian. We have never gotten the traditional slice but we hear it is very good.  For us if you are going to Spumoni Gardens the only thing you can buy is the Sicilian pizza. You may think one or two slices of Sicilian pizza will be enough for you, but trust us you will want more. 

What We Ate:

Sicilian Pizza - Lots of it

We are not even sure words can do this pizza justice, but we will try.  Pizza is a simple meal consisting of three main things dough, sauce and cheese. You start with the dough, add the sauce and then top it all with cheese. Here at Spumoni they change those rules a bit. They start with the dough, then add the mozzarella and top it off with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese. It is this method that sets their Sicilian slice apart from any that we have ever had.

Adding the layer of cheese before the sauce is a game changer. It creates a layer of protection for the dough keeping the sauce from soaking in.  It also adds this amazing texture in the middle of the pizza, which creates one of the four layers that makes this pizza so good. The first layer of goodness is the sauce. Made from San Marzano tomatoes, the sauce is naturally sweet and made fresh. Next comes the cheese which we have already mentioned above. The third layer is the soft airy dough in between the cheese and crust. The dough has great flavor and is not as dense as many other Sicilian pizzas. Here it is very light which allows you to eat as many slices as you like. The final layer is the crispy layer on the bottom of the pizza thanks to the tray. It creates this crispy golden brown crust that gives the slices enough support to be picked up. Every other layer in this pizza is very soft so the bottom layer helps to bring in that needed crunch.

When these four layers come together in each bite it is just so good. Our favorite part is the gooey center created by the cheese and dough. It provides a unique texture and gives the pizza a unique sensation when bitten into. Everything about this pizza is so good that you can't resist eating slice after slice.  When we go now we don't even bother order 2 or 3 slices we just order a half or full sheet. We may not eat it all there but leftovers are no problem. You will be surprised at how many slices you can eat.  This pizza also reheats perfectly losing none of its glory in the fridge, which is why the leftovers do not last very long. You may however find that this pizza is amazing cold also.  No matter how you like your pizza, spumoni will not disappoint. 

Check out this video from the TV Show,  Man Vs. Food

Should Or Should Not Eat: 

L & B Spumoni Gardens is a Should Eat. It is the best Sicilian slice of pizza you will ever have, we promise. It is worth the drive and the wait any time of year.  Some quick tips when eating at Spumoni, have part of your group secure a table while the other half orders the pizza.  Order more slices than you expect to eat, you will thank us. Get napkins it can get messy especially when eating the middle slices with no crust. 

Restaurant Information:

L & B Spumoni Gardens

Brooklyn, NY: 2725 86th Street  > 718.449.1230

Website: www.spumonigardens.com

L & B Spumoni Gardens on Urbanspoon

Yard House - Yonkers, New York

 

We had a birthday dinner to go to tonight for two of our good friends. With a bunch of us getting together we decided to go try the Yard House in Yonkers New York. Yard House features a large menu of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and house favorites. On top of that they also feature one of the largest selections of beers on tap you will find at any restaurant. They have 100+ local and imported beers at any given time. It seemed like just the place to celebrate some birthdays.

What We Ate:

Unfortunately due to some camera and lighting issues we were not able to document the appetizer portion of our meal.  We did however order the following:

Chicken Nachos - spicy pinto beans, cheddar, jack, red and green sauce, tomato, cilantro, onions, guacamole and sour cream

Spinach Cheese Dip - baked with feta, jack, parmesan & cream cheese served with crispy flatbread

Fried Calamari - with spicy tomato and tartar sauce

Cuban Roast Pork Dip - pepper jack, pickles, roasted roma tomatoes, dijon & garlic aïoli on garlic french bread with bbq au jus

Carnitas Street Taco - roast pork with grilled onions, pico de gallo, guacamole and pineapple

Margherita Pizza - roasted roma tomatoes, roasted garlic, mozzarella and fresh basil with Extra Cheese

The atmosphere in the restaurant was nice. The decor was modern and had a warm feeling.  The lighting was low but not too dark. There were a ton of TV's playing sports, but they were not distracting. The staff was nice and provided us with enough space to enjoy our meal while also keeping our glasses full. 

It felt like an upscale version of a Chili's or T.G.I Fridays style chain restaurant, more on par with the Cheesecake Factory. The menu had plenty of options but it was hard to choose just one item to eat.  We decided to get some appetizers. The chicken nachos were a big let down. There was almost no chicken on our nachos and the chips were drowned in a bland salsa and covered in cheese. This was your classic chain appetizer, nothing fresh or amazing about it. You ate it because it was there but it could have been so much better.

We also ordered Spinach Cheese Dip.  This featured a healthy portion of spinach mixed with four different cheese's served with flat bread chips. The chips went nicely with the dip giving you the perfect vehicle to get the dip into your mouth. The dip was tasty but was a bit salty. As with the nachos this dip was nothing special but it was not bad. The dip was followed up by some fried calamari.  We enjoy calamari, but it is hard to do correctly.  Yard house did it's best to make it right, they did reasonably well for a chain restaurant.  The calamari was not chewy and had good seasoning, they were not bad.  The common theme with all of our appetizers was that they were nothing special. 

It took awhile to decide on our maincourse so we ordered a few thing.  The first thing we decided on was the Cuban Roast Pork Dip.  Having lived in Miami for two years we know a thing or two about Cuban sandwiches, but lets be clear this should not be called a Cuban. While Yard House uses some of the same ingredient as a classic Cuban they have also added their own twist which ruins what makes a Cuban so good.  

We were not a fan of the roasted tomatoes. The pork was extremely salty and the BBQ au jus was not worth the dip.  We were disappointed in the sandwich and wish we could go back in time to change our order.  Where is Doc Brown when you need him?  We did however get Truffle French Fries with this Sandwich that were good, really good.

The fries were cut very thin and cooked to the perfect level of crispness. They had the right amount of salt and then seasoned with shredded parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.  We could not stop eating these fries and they gave us a ton of them. These fires were so good they could have been a meal on their own.  We would certainly go back for these fries.

We also decided to try one of Yard House's Street Tacos.  If your a regular of the blog you could probably guess that we would get the pork taco.  That is exactly what we got, it was a carnitas taco with grilled onions, pico de gallo, guacamole and pineapple.  We knew this was not going to be the best taco, but it was much better than our Cuban. The pork was roasted and juicy. The pico de galllo had little flavor and the pineapple took over as the main flavor in the dish.  They did not put any guacamole on the taco which was missed. The tortilla also had little flavor, but when everything was mixed together it was a nice snack.

Lastly we ordered the Margherita pizza. This pizza was so bad, we only ate two little pieces of it. The pizza looks much better than it tasted.  If you look at the picture you would think it has some potential and could be good, trust us it was not. There was too cheese and no sauce whatsoever. Yard House decided to get too cute with their take on a Margherita pizza (click here to see how it should be made). They thought adding Roma tomatoes would be enough for this pizza and skipped the sauce. The crust of the pizza tasted like cardboard, it was very dry. Dry crust combined with no sauce is the recipe for a bad pizza. There is not much more we can say except do not ever order the pizza at Yard House.

Along with mediocre food at best, the prices are very expensive at Yard House.

Should Or Should Not Eat:

Yard House made nothing that impressed us except the Truffle Fries.  They get a very clear Should Not Eat from us.  However if your looking for a place to get a huge selection of beers on tap Yard House is a Should Drink. If you do happen to go drinking here and get hungry stick to the Truffle Fries, the only thing we had that we will highly recommend. 

Restaurant Information:

Yard House

Yonkers, NY: 237 Market Street > 914.375.9237

Website: www.yardhouse.com

Yard House on Urbanspoon

Five Guys - Middletown, New York

 

We are going to break some hearts today with our review of Five Guys.  We have heard a lot of hype about how good Five Guys is, so we had to go check it out. They just opened a new location in Middletown, New York so we stopped by for lunch.

Five Guys opened it's first location in Arlington, Virginia in 1986 and since then they began to spread around the country and by 2003 they were in 46 states and 6 Canadian provinces.  Their secret so to speak is serving only hand-formed burgers cooked to perfection on a grill along with fresh-cut fries cooked in pure peanut oil. 

The Menu:

If you have never been to a Five Guys there are some things about the menu you need to know. The first thing is that the normal Five Guys burger comes with 2 burger patties.  If you are only looking to order a single patty you need to order a Little Burger.  You have the options of ordering a plain burger, cheeseburger, bacon burger and a bacon cheeseburger.  

They also offer a plain hot dog, a cheese dog, a bacon dog and a bacon cheese dog.  If you are not in the mood for meat you can order a veggie sandwich, a cheese veggie sandwich or a grilled cheese.

For all of your meals you have the option of adding any toppings you would like for free.  These topping include mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, relish, chopped onions, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, A-1 sauce, BBQ sauce, or hot sauce.

After you navigate the menu and figure out what you want you then need to decide if you want any of Five Guys hand cut French Fries.  You can order these plain or Cajun Style.  They come in two sizes regular and large.

What We Ate:

Peanuts:

French Fries:


Little Bacon Cheeseburger: with tomato, jalapeno, hot sauce and ketchup

Kosher Style Hot Dog: with mustard and ketchup

You are probably wondering what is with the peanuts.  Well Five Guys has big containers full of peanuts for anyone to take while they wait for their orders to be made.  Since everything is made fresh it can take a few minutes to get your food when the place is busy.  We went in at lunch time and the place was packed so the peanuts came in handy and they were good.

We ordered regular size fries, but you would think we got a large.  The nice thing about Five Guys is they give you an order of fries and them top you off with even more.  A regular order is more than enough for 2 people. We have had the Cajun fries and they are pretty good also with a nice amount of spice.

The fries are fresh hand cut potatoes with the skin left on. We actually were not a big fan of these fries. They were under cooked for our taste and greasy.  It may have been due to the amount of people ordering, but the fries should have been cooked longer to get a nice crisp. They also were not seasoned at all.  We are not a huge fan of this type of fry to begin with so we may be a bit biased.  People who like these types of fries have sad they Five Guys makes them well.

As for the burger the first thing you will notice is that it is not visually appealing. Even when eating in the restaurant the burgers are served wrapped in foil. As a result the burger is kind of mashed together. The toppings were all fresh and really helped to improve the burger. The burger patty was very greasy, but it had good flavor.  It reminded us of a Wendy's hamburger.  After a few bites we started to feel sick from all of the grease.  After finishing the burger we did not feel good at all.

Like the burger, the hot dog was not very visually appealing. It was grilled on the flat top and actually had good flavor.  Topped with ketchup and mustard we were pretty happy with the taste of this dog.  We would definitely order this again.  

After eating we did not feel good at all.  The burger was just sitting in our stomach and our bodies were not happy. There was just too much grease in the burger.

Should Or Should Not Eat:

We are sorry to do this but Five Guys gets a Should Not Eat from us.  We were overall just disappointed by our meal.  The Five Guys hype machine is on over drive claiming to have the best burger and best fries all around the country but we disagree whole heartedly. The burgers are your classic fast food burgers grease included, but for double or triple the price. There was nothing special about the burger, except the ability to choose all of your toppings which were very fresh.  The hot dog was tasty and if we were to go back to Five Guys for anything it would be for the Hot Dog.  The fries were mediocre, not the best we have ever had but not the worst.  They do however give you a ton of fries which is a nice touch for the price.  

Five Guys in our opinion is a glorified fast food joint without a drive thru. This is no where close to the best burger we have ever had so we suggest being a bit skeptical if someone tells you Five Guys has the best burger.  Feel free to try it for yourself but we warned you.

Restaurant Information:

Five Guys

Middletown, NY: 469 East Route 211 > 851.341.0350

Website: www.fiveguys.com

Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

Mable's Smokehouse - Brooklyn, New York

 

Mable's Smokehouse opened up in Brooklyn a little over a year ago.  Since their opening they have quickly become one of our favorite places to drink in Brooklyn.  They are also home to some of the best BBQ we have eaten. Mable's has a very relaxed atmosphere with cafeteria style seating and a nice sized bar. The decor helps transport you from NYC to some roadside BBQ joint in Oklahoma. We can't forget to mention the great tunes that put you in the mood to grab a stool and throw back a couple of Lone Stars. After inhaling the sweet smoky aroma of wood and smoked meat you can't help but place an order.

The Menu:

Mable's has a basic menu which features Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket and St. Louis Style Ribs.  For you vegetarians out there they also offer a vegetarian Sloppy Joe. The pulled pork and brisket can be ordered on a sandwich with 1 side or as a platter with 2 sides. The ribs come as a platter with 2 sides.  For the sides you can choose from BBQ Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Bet’s Best Potato Salad, Collard Greens, Creamy Mac n' Cheese, Borracho Beans or Candied Yams.

What We Ate:

The Brisket Platter: (Beef Brisket, Mac n' Cheese, Candied Yams, small cup of slaw, pickles, jalapenos, sliced onion & Wonder Bread)

 

Mable's recipes come from co-owner Jeff Lutonsky’s Oklahoman mother and grandmother (Mable herself). These ladies were on to something because this food is delicious.  The brisket platter was piled high with about 7 slices of perfectly cooked brisket.  It was fork tender and had a nice bark thanks to a generous application of dry rub. The bark is a BBQ term which refers to the surface of the brisket after it has been cooked. You will also notice the coveted smoke ring right below the bark of the brisket. The smoke ring refers to the pink ring that is below the bark of the brisket, these are both qualities that any true BBQ connoisseur will look for.  Topping the brisket is Mable's secret BBQ Sauce.  This is a sweet style BBQ sauce that has a nice lip smacking tang to it. This sauce is so good you will find yourself putting it on just about everything. 

To go with our brisket we ordered candied yams and Mac n' Cheese.  The candied yams were soaking in a sauce consisting of butter and brown sugar.  This sweetness helped to provide a nice contrast from the savory flavor of the meat. The yams were cooked to the right consistency and reminded us of Thanksgiving dinner.

The Mac n' Cheese was nothing fancy, which is why it is so good.   Mable's is not trying to wow you with 5 different types of cheese you can't pronounce, let alone ever heard of.  It has a nice creamy texture and reminds us of the Mac n' Cheese we grew up with, even if it was right out of a box. Like we said earlier their BBQ sauce could go on everything, well we added it on top of our Mac n' Cheese.  It sounds like an unusual pairing, but it just works and we suggest giving it a try.

Also served with the platter are some slices of Wonder Bread, Homemade Cole Slaw and a batch of pickles, onions and jalapenos that were all pickled together.  We especially like the pickles and jalapenos that add a nice spice to the meal. 

Should or Should Not Eat:

Mable's offers the type of BBQ that is hard to find outside of BBQ country. There are plenty of places in New York City that claim to have authentic BBQ, but not many of them actually deliver.  Mable's on the other hand "smokes" the competition. They provides great food, cold beers, friendly service and a perfect atmosphere making them a Should Eat.  Take a trip to Mable's and find out for yourself, you may even see us there at the bar drinking Lone Stars

Restaurant Information:

Mable's Smokehouse

Brooklyn: 44 Berry Street > 718.218.6655

Website: www.mablessmokehouse.com

Mable's Smokehouse & Banquet Hall on Urbanspoon