Summer is nearly here and what better way to cool down than an icy cold, fruity, refreshing cocktail? Bibi’z Restaurant and Lounge invited us in to try two new summer cocktails that scored high in terms of taste, refresh-factor and smoothness. This restaurant continues to stick to its tradition of unusual, thoughtfully-crafted dishes and cocktails, emphasizing local, seasonal fare.
Ida Martin, founder of Bibi’z, gave us a demonstration of the new cocktails recently. Her new margarita, Good Karma, is a subtle combination of refreshing orange slices which is complemented by fresh basil leaves. Ida slightly muddles up the two ingredients before adding a touch of Karma tequila, a splash of lime juice as well as a splash of triple sec topped off with sour soda. After shaking everything up, Ida adds a final touch of orange juice. This colorful drink is a delicious concoction with a lovely balance of flavor and subtle sweetness.
Ida also introduced us to her revisited SummerLemonade made with pineapple vodka and an infusion of watermelon and cucumber. The drink consists, on one hand, of a splash of sour soda, a fair amount of lemonade, topped with pineapple vodka. Ida then muddles up on the side the watermelon and the cucumber before adding the mix to the rest of the drink along with ice. The cocktail is a surprising marriage of flavors that together are the tastes of summer with a little bite. This elegant cocktail keeps its promise of offering a refreshing delight.
It always seems to be happy hour at Bibi’z – although it’s officially offered six days a week from 3.00PM to 6.30PM. But these cocktails are recommended equally for a relaxing brunch, lunch or dinner as they offer sexy sipping that is equal parts summer and refreshing.
Bibi’z Restaurant | Lounge
Fri-Sat 12p-11p (Bar until 12a) Sun Brunch 11a-3p | Dinner 3p-9p
284 Center Avenue
Westwood, New Jersey 07675
Brasserie is defined as “an unpretentious restaurant that serves drinks and hearty meals.” Brasserie Brandman located in Park Ridge, New Jersey lives up to its name. The restaurant serves an American menu, many of the items informed by hotelier owner Steve Brandman’s personal favorites. Housed in a 100 year old home (formerly Valentino’s restaurant), the space has been restored and has a minimalist vibe spiked with Brandman’s collection of large Man Ray photos. Why would a successful hotelier open a brasserie when he’s got so much on his plate already, plus a wife and growing family in Saddle River to tend to? Turns out he’s a steak lover. His wife and kids are vegetarians. He needed a place to go for steak. He built one. That’s Brasserie Brandman. Brandman brought in Julie Farias, who held stints at several notable NYC restaurants, to serve as executive chef.
The polished, handsome bar has flat screens which show loops of Godfather parts 1 and 2 on mute. The dining room’s ambience is straightforward and understated. Yet the beauty of Brasserie Brandman is in the details. Like exquisite, delicate glasses for water and wine. Elegant Bernardaud candle hurricanes on each dining room table with sweet peas etched into them, flames dancing within. Half-inch discs of danish butter accompanying house-made Southern biscuits, which, while oddly cool in the center, were redeemed by a slathering of that creamy, super fatty butter and a generously sprinkling of the flake salt served alongside. Drizzled with local honey, which came in a small syrup dispenser, helped me forgive the cool interior. Brandman’s excessive attention to the small things, which makes a big statement about all that Brasserie Brandman is and has the potential to become, that’s compelling. Brandman is also a wonderful host and it’s clear he loves owning a restaurant as he circles the dining room and bar frequently, asking questions and making small talk with guests.
The menu’s selections speak to comfort and familiarity. Prices are on par with other Bergen upscale restaurants. Tempura Rock Shrimp, crispy fritters in a pleasantly hot sauce, was among the better choices and Chocolate Spare Ribs, a riff on BBQ ribs cooked low and slow and served with a glaze of Mole, were tasty, sticky and satisfying. Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice was our favorite, a smart melding of yielding, delicately flavorful flesh with salty, crispy rice crackers. Steakhouse Slab Bacon (pork belly) had intense flavor and a maple sweetened soy sauce to add further depth.
Selections in the mains section of the menu include a buckwheat crepe with vegetable stuffing, a variety of seafood options including bouillabaisse, pastas, local poultry, steak and chops. Veal Milanese with arugula, tomatoes atop made a beautiful presentation. A breading of something that resembled matzoh meal didn’t produce the crispy exterior I would have hoped for, but the meat (sourced from Pat La Frieda) had good flavor and tenderness. Skirt steak was nicely cooked with delicious beefy flavor. Spaghetti and meatballs scored with well-seasoned meatballs in spite of the pasta being cooked too long. Portions are good size. Hand-cut fries were meaty and toothsome and served with mayo for dipping.
Most desserts were unavailable due to our late arrival, but looked as thoughtfully chosen as the rest of the menu items. The chocolate cake we ordered, several layers of dry, inedible cake cemented by a nearly flavorless icing, was beautiful to look, defying gravity.
This is a new venue and my prediction is that the kitchen will work out its kinks in the coming months. I’d recommend the brasserie for quiet evenings out or dining with couples. It’s low-key enough for conversation and service is polished enough to keep a comfortable pace. The bar is ideal for dining solo and challenging your Godfather I.Q.
Ask John D’Amico of D’Amico’s Flower Farm which apple is ideal for baking and you will get an answer as well as an in-depth explanation of how the texture of different varieties are impacted by weather. Traveling up to 200 miles multiple times each week to local farmers for what he considers the best in seasonal produce, eggs, cheese, cider (Melick’s non-preserved only from Hunterdon County), John groups these edibles along with plants and herbs under the modestly sized stand his family has managed for generations. On these darker, colder days of fall, I recently found a beautiful bounty of 12″ broccoli heads and cauliflower, just begging to be turned into pureed soups:
One of my favorite ways to serve cauliflower is to steam it until fork tender and add a splash of chicken stock, plenty of butter and grated parmigiano reggiano, then blend with an immersion hand blender.
Check out these massive brussel sprouts that look like they were just harvested. At $3.50/stalk, they offer another great buy from this small family farm stand. I love them roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper or steamed and sauced with lemon, butter and Worcestershire, a la New Orleans kitchens. These flavorful cabbage cousins are at peak season now and can even be julianned in salads.
These gnarly celeriac knobs are beautiful and also competitively priced. A little patience and creativity goes a long way with these flavorful tubers.
Parsnip and rutabega not first on your shopping list? Great for an alternative to plain mashed white potatoes and loaded with vitamins.
I continue to buy these (sometimes in baskets half price when a bit bruised) to turn into soups, sauces and slicing into salads and sandwiches until John has no more.
Bosc pears are flavorful, hearty pears that remain unscathed in my kids’ lunch boxes since their skin is a bit firmer. They are juicy and full of sweetness. If we don’t eat them quickly enough and they soften and get mushy, they get tossed into a pot of steaming bruised apples (the more varieties the better), a couple inches of cinnamon stick and a half inch of water for apple sauce making. If I don’t have the good fortune of fresh or frozen cranberries on hand, I’ll throw in a handful of dried cranberries for their beautiful pink radiance and tang. But look what John just happened to get in!
I will use about four boxes of these beauties to make my Thanksgiving cranberry relish which is 100% raw. RAW! I wash the cranberries and toss in my food processor fit with the steel blade, then puree with the peel of a washed navel orange, its juice, a small knob of fresh ginger, along with Vermont maple syrup to taste. This chunky relish is beautiful and delicious, not to mention packed with vitamin C.
No shortage of hard-fleshed squash at D’Amico’s. At under $1/pound, it’s also well-priced with butternut and other varieties available through December 1.
Bins of apples at D’Amico’s rotate multiple times weekly, so new varieties are always being added. Great pricing on wine sap and honey crisp and my favorite, pink lady. Not certified organic, but not sprayed. John’s quite picky about how produce is grown. Ask him about this.
What’s not shown in this post are shelves groaning with honey, preserves, chutneys and mustard as well as two large refrigerator cases filled with at least two varieties of mushrooms, kale, celery, herbs, baby arugula, beets (John won’t take them when they grow over a certain size) and carrots. His offerings change on a daily basis. Fresh Melick’s cider is available, along with fresh mozzarella, freshly ground horseradish, white potatoes, red bliss potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, onions, leeks and much more.
Patronizing small business is what drives our economy and keeps families surviving economically from one generation to the next. This is one business worth patronizing not merely for the pristine quality of its offerings and the knowledge and passion of its owner, but also because it is a local business supporting local farmers. Through Thanksgiving, the Flower Farm will offer produce, plants (poinsettias soon) and then Christmas trees, wreaths and holiday plants after December 1.
November hours: 10:30AM-5:30PM 7 days, call for special orders, flower baskets and hours in December
460 Demarest Ave, Closter, NJ 07624
Phone: (201) 767-1009
Fressers and jokesters join forces for a fundraiser to benefit others at Nosher-Rye, the Jewish-style deli in Allendale, NJ on Saturday, June 8th for two shows, 6-8PM and 9-11PM. Korean stand-up comedienne, Esther Goodhart, who spent summers at Catskills resorts and grew up in Bayside where she developed a deep appreciation for Jewish humor and culture, has a black belt in Borscht Belt schtick. So much so, that she married a nice Jewish boy, converted to Judaism and moonlights as a Hebrew teacher in her Demarest, NJ home. A regular on the philanthropy scene and comedy circuit, Goodhart joined forces with Nosher-Rye to create a series of dinner show fundraisers for Bergen County, NJ-based charities. The kick-off event June 8th will celebrate the hotbed of Jewish comedy in the U.S., the Borscht Belt, which gave birth to and influenced comic giants ranging from Mel Brooks to Jerry Seinfeld. A $20 cover charge gets you in the door and a 3-course price fixe menu covers classic Jewish fare, from house-cured deli meats piled sky-high on a sandwich to roast chicken and brisket entrees. Reservations are available by calling 201-784-1818. 10% of the evening’s proceeds go to Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels. Trivia winners will receive prizes throughout the shows and enjoy an open mike crack at sharing their own humor.