Food and Fare

Reviews and features of restaurants, bars, dishes and more.

99 Ranch brings Asian cooking to NJ homes

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 4/11/17

In Central Jersey, those with Asian and non-Asian backgrounds have the blessing of being surrounded by delectable Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino restaurants they can flock to anytime they have a craving for sushi, dumplings or spring rolls.

However, thanks to specialty food markets such as 99 Ranch, an Asian supermarket chain that opened its first New Jersey location at the Wick Shopping Plaza at 561 Route 1 in Edison in January, those with a constant craving for Asian dishes have new choices for their favorite meals.

The largest Asian supermarket chain in the United States with 49 locations since its establishment in 1984 in Westminster, California — also known as Little Saigon — with many more on the way, 99 Ranch expanded to Edison because of its large Asian population, said Virginia Tan, marketing manager for 99 Ranch.

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Sample the best of the region at Taste of Middlesex

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/27/16 

It’s no secret that Middlesex County is host to tons of amazing eateries, sporting cuisine from every corner of the world, each with their own spin on the restaurant industry.

Taste of Middlesex, which will take place on Monday, March 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., will give attendants the chance to try them all.

The 20th annual event hosted by the Edison Chamber of Commerce and the Pines Manor is offering tickets for $50 per person and $55 at the door, which allows attendants an all-you-can-eat pass for all of the participating restaurants. Since there are alcohol vendors participating, only adults 21 and over may attend.

Taste of Middlesex, which will take place on Monday, March 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., will give attendants the chance to try them all. (Gannett file photo)

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Rahway resident’s baking creations bring him to Food Network win

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/22/17

When Anthony Damiano, a lifelong Rahway resident and full-time bartender, tuned in to watch “Cake Boss” on television through the years, he never expected that the cake sculpting and baking skills that he learned through the show would one day bring him straight to the Boss himself.

“A few years ago, I made a cake for a friend who was expecting a baby after I had learned some things from Cake Boss and she asked me where I bought the cake from,” Damiano said. “At that moment, I knew that this was an area I could excel in.”

After years of creating edible art centerpieces shaped like the Eiffel Tower, bouquets, Christmas mantles, Thanksgiving turkeys and more as gifts for friends and family and for fun, Damiano came across a posting on Facebook for a casting call for a new show called “Bakers vs Fakers” on the Food Network. He applied and sent in some photos of his creations, and soon went through more rounds of interviews and even a baking competition before being cast.

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5 signature Irish dishes in Central Jersey

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and with every green beer that New Jerseyans will be raising to celebrate their genuine (or pseudo) Irish heritage on March 17, they will also be keeping their palates happy in another way — with some scrumptious Irish dishes.

Here in Central Jersey, we have a multitude of Irish pubs to help you get your fix of corned beef, cabbage and more, even if it’s just to bide some time before your next Guinness. Check out some of these favorite Irish dishes that can be found on the menus of local Irish pubs on St. Patrick’s Day and everyday.

Guinness chicken from Hailey’s Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Hailey’s Harp and Pub)

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Celebrate Carnevale like Venetians with fine food and wine

Carnevale, a colorful, over-the-top “carnival” traditionally held in Venice, Italy, that ends on the day before Ash Wednesday, is known for its showy costumes, elaborate masks and decadent Italian food to let loose before the 40 days of Lent.

Jersey City may not have a lot in common with the “Floating City” besides its own canal-like neighbor of the Hudson River, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t celebrate the age-old tradition.

Pasta Dal Cuore, a fresh pasta factory and modern Italian eatery in Jersey City, will be hosting a five-course Venetian dinner alongside Cool Vines, a Jersey City unfussy wine shop, to celebrate Carnevale with festive masks, live classical music, fine Veneto wines and, of course, authentic Venetian food.

The dinner, which costs $95 per person and includes wine, the dinner, tax and tip, will take place on Mardi Gras on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. and will seat about 40 people. Plenty of spots are still available and interested guests can reserve their spot by emailing events@coolvines.com or by calling 201-448-8657.

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A Central Jersey-style Mardi Gras at the Old Bay

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 2/15/17 

There’s a lot to love about Mardi Gras. Filled with fruity drinks, Cajun-Creole food, colorful beads, fun music and more, it’s a day to let loose that New Orleans has taken to new heights.

However, those living in Central Jersey don’t have to miss out on the festivities just because New Orleans is much further than a bead’s throw away from the Garden State.

The Old Bay Restaurant, a lively New Orleans-inspired hangout offering Southern fare, dozens of draft beers and live music at 61 Church St. in New Brunswick, is known for its annual Mardi Gras celebration featuring live entertainment, a Cajun-Creole buffet, burlesque dancers, giveaways and more.

“This is our Cinco de Mayo,” said Tommy Brennan, manager at the Old Bay for the past five years. “Everyone knows that on Fat Tuesday, you need to be here.”

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Tumulty’s Pub reopens with same Irish charm

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 2/14/17

Tumulty’s Pub, an iconic Irish pub in the heart of New Brunswick, has always been known for its Old World charm, complete with original wooden beams, iron chandelier fixtures and a train set chugging along the interior of the space.

Even though the pub has passed onto new ownership to Sheila and Richard Weber of East Brunswick, the friendly neighborhood restaurant and bar still possesses all of those things — as well as some modern upgrades.

The Webers, who also own the Brunswick Grove in East Brunswick, a wood-paneled game-day spot offering familiar American grub and craft draft beer, purchased Tumulty’s in August 2016 and closed the restaurant for three months for their floor-to-ceiling renovations before reopening Nov. 14.

“We were looking to expand, since we have owned the Brunswick Grove for 15 years, which has been the neighborhood bar where people go for family outings, team meetings and things like that since it opened in 1934,” said Sheila Weber, who visited the old Tumulty’s as a teenager. “We grew up around the area and we wanted to be part of what’s happening in New Brunswick with all of the revitalization.”

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Explore Jersey City’s budding food scene with Jersey Girls Food Tours

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 2/7/16

Jersey City, previously an overshadowed city reserved for commuters, is no longer just the underdog neighbor to bustling New York City and upscale Hoboken. These days, the cultural hub is known for housing a lively arts scene, a diverse community and all that a foodie could ever want.

That’s why Alessia Aron, a 2010 Rutgers University graduate, and Janis Borroto, both of Jersey City, took it upon themselves to launch Jersey Girls Food Tours in mid-2014 — they knew that they could showcase all that the culinary world of Jersey City had to offer while also giving tourgoers an inside look at the up-and-coming destination.

“You can easily go out to dinner tonight to get a taste of what a city has to offer, but for those who are looking for a different way to experience a city, this is the way to do it,” said Aron, who, with an Argentine, Italian and Israeli background, has always appreciated the cultural significance of food.

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Project P.U.B. is ready to serve in Somerville

Lately, Somerville residents have been wondering what’s been going on at the upper floors of 1 W. High St., where Tapastre, an intimate tapas bar featuring Mediterranean small plates, rotating craft drafts and patio seating, has established itself downstairs through the past 10 years as the go-to spot to grab a beer in the borough.

For about a year, Mike Proske, founder of Tapastre, has been working hard to open his new bar and restaurant, Project P.U.B., which takes the concept of pairing beer with food to a whole new level as a “pop-up brew pub,” which is also the eatery’s namesake.

Each month, Proske’s team will select one brewery — the first one being Founders Brewing Co. — and dedicate all of their taps to them as well as create a food menu with items cooked with the beer as well as those that can be paired with the beer.

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New Somerset business makes meal delivery service personal

It’s dinnertime again.

And instead of having a meal planned, with ingredients laid out and ready to cook for our not-so-patient families, many of us find ourselves peering in the fridge, wondering what we are going to make and how we are going to find the time to do it.

In today’s world of long commutes, busy schedules and extra hours at work, this is a familiar conundrum, and it’s is why meal delivery services such as Blue Apron, Plated and Home Chef have grown in popularity. They allow subscribers to select a variety of meals in advance, and then have the ingredients, accompanied with cooking instructions, shipped right to the customers’ doors.

Now, such services aren’t the perfect recipe for everyone. They usually require customers to subscribe for weeks at a time, and convenience comes at a fairly high price right at the start. Not everyone likes the idea of meals sitting on their doorsteps all day long, and of course, while you have the ingredients, you still have to assemble and cook everything. And in today’s transparency-valued world, people like to know where the ingredients are coming from, too.

Sesame chicken from Simply Delicious Dinners. (~Courtesy of Simply Delicious Dinners)

Sesame chicken from Simply Delicious Dinners. (~Courtesy of Simply Delicious Dinners)

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