Around the world with a silver spoon

Today, part of my job at MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com is to write for our weekly Table section, where we feature restaurants, food news and the like. So, basically, I live the dream – I visit new local restaurants, try out cool dishes and hang out with like-minded people who don’t eat to live, but live to eat.

Although I do get to meet lots of friendly restaurant owners and chefs whose mouths literally water as they describe their favorite meals, I also meet a lot of food snobs. These people generally believe that the best wines are those you can’t pronounce and the best restaurants can only be found in the hidden corners of the world.

Continue reading “Around the world with a silver spoon”

The Best Waterside Restaurants on the Jersey Shore

When you live on the Jersey Shore, summer doesn’t start on June 21, when the sand gets hot, or even when the local pools open up. Beachrats can barely wait for an 80-degree thermometer to tinker on over to the beach (which is why you can spot them surfing in the dead of winter), but instead, you’ll find these dirty combers scouring the sands as soon as the calendar swings over May.

Why? They don’t care if they have to wear jeans to do it – these people want to be on their boats, in the kayaks, hovered over the side with fishing poles, and trotting down the boardwalk with their sloppy puppies – and they don’t want to wait. However, even the dirtiest beachrat needs a nice meal once in a while that didn’t come from a truck, which is why you should check out the below Jersey Shore restaurants in between the spouts of living in your car this summer, especially before all those bennies get down there in mid June.

1. The Lobster House at Cape May Harbor

The Lobster House is a staple of a weekend well spent in the southern shores. With a modest price tag for outdoor seating, you can grab some menus, mark it up with your people, and head over to the respective bars to grab your crab cakes, clam chowder, and oysters on the half shell and enjoy them on the deck across the bay from million-dollar homes and yachts and plenty of gulls. The Lobster House is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. Learn more at thelobsterhouse.com

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Photo Courtesy of Ed Morlock

2. Boathouse Restaurant at Wildwood

At Boathouse, choose indoor or outdoor seating for stunning panoramic views of the harbor while enjoying top-of-the-line fresh clams casino, steamed mussels, stuffed flounder, or twin lobster tails. A classier establishment than other harborside seafood restaurants, Boathouse is a great end note when you’re feeling like you deserve to spend a few bucks. Learn more at boathouseonline.net.  

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

3. Rooney’s Ocean Crab House at Long Branch

Rooney’s is a top-of-the-line restaurant and raw bar that sits just far enough from the hub of Pier Village while facing the Atlantic in a completely glass-screened seating area. Offering a raw bar, conveniently placed circular bar, private parties, and a truly stellar $30 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch until Memorial Day that is never crowded, Rooney’s is a great spot for birthdays and anniversaries while also being a go-to for nursing your Sunday morning hangover with a Mimosa and some crab legs. Learn more at rooneysocean.com.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

4. Moonstruck at Asbury Park

With an ambiance that doesn’t mimic pinkies in the air or bored businessmen, Moonstruck is reminiscient of an old-school cocktail lounge and restaurant tucked away at the corner of town in a romantic old building. Travel up the hiking steps, grab a bottle of wine, and listen to the insanity of Asbury Park from nearby… in the quiet corner of Moonstruck, equipped with a variation of classic Italian dishes. Learn more at moonstrucknj.com.

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Photo Courtesy of oldbridgemusiccenter.wordpress.com

5. Stella Marina at Asbury Park

Stella Marina boasts an extensive Italian menu in a classy, white tablecloth environment overlooking one of the most notorious boardwalks in the United States. With outstanding views of the Asbury beaches below, visitors enjoy some classic Italian accompanied by plenty of wines fit for events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Learn more at stellamarinarestaurant.com

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Photo Courtesy of restaurantpassion.com

 

Keeping the World in Your Kitchen

I’ve never been a foodie. I can’t tell you the difference between cooking with vegetable oil or olive oil, I rarely use measuring cups, and I’m still not sure how much pasta to throw in the pot for two people. However, I can tell you that nobody appreciates a gourmet meal quite like a kid who grew up on TV dinners.

When I was little and I would go to the grocery store with my mother, it seemed normal to just point out what microwave meals I wanted for the week. When I would eat them at the end of a long day, I would always feel empty, a little gross, and always hungry, hungry for something with a taste; with flavor.

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Turkish lunch from Istanbul 

Getting invited to other people’s homes for dinner was always a real treat, which was why I made it a point to get in the good graces of fat Italian mothers who made it all from scratch. In my head, they spent the day poring over cookbooks, stewing pots of homemade pastas and beating down tomatoes with their bare hands. At the end of the day they would emerge from their lairs, beautiful again, eager to present finely laid out meals to their happy families and their kid’s weird friend who may or may not have lived in a car.

However, living on your own finally gives you the opportunity to live life the way you imagined it from your pink bedroom. Besides learning how to pay bills, scream at conniving gas companies, and fix leaky roofs, I finally learned how to boil water and thus began my gourmet chefdom and eventual progression into the closest to adulthood that I will ever wander.

When I went to Italy for a few months when I was 21, my newfound obsession with cooking and creating was brought to a new level when I realized I wasn’t the only one. Unlike in America, when every Internet recipe screams “easy” and “quick,” Italian recipes whispered for dutiful chefs, qualitative cooking, rich spices, and savory, dark flavors.

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Blueberry steak from Acqua al due, Florence

Although it was an adjustment to learn how to walk slower and talk faster, catching onto the beauty of food was not difficult. Finally, not only could I enjoy these creamy and pungent foods on a daily basis, but I could also create them, following vague instructions in Italian I learned from Giancarlo in my Pairing Food with Wine class and mixing flavors and spices in pots in my tiny kitchen and hoping the oven would work that day. I could spend hours hunched over dishes, but more often than not, the time would fly by and before I knew it, it would unfortunately be the time to sweep up the flour and figure out what I was going to pack for lunch tomorrow.

Thankfully, it didn’t end there – in every country I went to, I would never balk at meats, tails, or goop staring back at me – instead, I would smile, dig in, and ask for seconds. Running around the world, I have yet to run into a dish I found truly disgusting, and instead, I jump at the chance to try whale at the local fish market in Bergen, eat bratwurst and roasted nuts at Oktoberfest, and dig away at fish heads in Brac.

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Seafood pasta dish from Split, Croatia

Back in America, I talk to people all day long who ate food for dinner that had already been cooked in a bag and they’re just grateful to have some time back in their lives; for themselves. But for me, cooking is for myself, whether I’m trying to recreate a Spanish paella, master the perfect bruschetta, or throw a bunch of stuff together that tastes strangely Creole.

Even if the world is keeping me at home, it will not keep the world out of my kitchen. By the time I finish cooking dinner and drinking wine it may be too late to do the laundry, clean my room, or watch some television, but I have yet to go to sleep hungry.