Store-bought sauce can be a pretty contentious subject for fans of sauces with that just-made fresh flavor. I was one of those snobs, always stressing to squish San Marzano tomatoes in the can as a pot of salted water cooked pasta. I’d pull out the woody stems and toss the broken down tomato meat with fresh smashed garlic cloves sizzling in olive oil. That simmering concoction would meld as it cooked, was seasoned with salt and pepper and finished with torn fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of EVOO.
My work-life balance wasn’t in sync enough for homemade sauces to be on the menu and I always kept a few jarred options to resort to when the kids were lobbying for lasagna, pasta and a protein or chicken parm. I’d get complaints when I hadn’t sufficiently labored at the stove and produced a luxurious sauce that had flavor rich with the taste and aroma of freshly made tomato and basil sauce with the wonderful texture of those hand-swished tomato chunks.
When the folks at Hoboken Farms asked me to sample their three sauces–Big Red, their marinara sauce; Big Boss, their vodka sauce; and Big Basil, their tomato basil sauce– I agreed without expecting much. I had read the reviews and readied myself to see what all the fuss was about.
I popped off the lid of the Big Basil sauce and took stock: wonderfully fresh aroma; great texture thanks to meaty tomato chunks; beautifully seasoned and full of fresh taste. These sauces are the real deal. They have the taste you’d expect from a chef that perfected marina, tomato basil and vodka sauces by simply relying on excellent quality ingredients prepared classically with minimal fuss.
Here’s how I enjoyed Big Basil over Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne: talk about elevating the natural flavor of pasta! Hoboken Farms defies you to sauce your pasta modestly the way you’d be served them in Italy. I flunked, happily and greedily over-saucing and enjoying every spoonful.
Other ways I’d serve Hoboken Farms Big Basil or Big Red sauces:
– Spooned over a layer of pesto atop a grilled slice of sourdough or ciabatta
– Layered with plain Greek yogurt for a savory parfait that’s topped with minced celery and parsley for crunch
– Spooned over zucchini noodles or baked potato
– Blended with summer veggies like squash and kale for a refreshing smoothie or chilled soup
– Stir a cup or more into bean or vegetable soup
– Baked on top of seasoned chicken cutlets or fillets of fish like char
You are only limited by your creativity with Hoboken Farms, a pantry essential for uncompromising sauce enthusiasts.
Open for 12 months, Roots Steakhouse in Ridgewood, NJ is Harvest Restaurant Group’s third Roots opening, with others located in Summit and Morristown. A classic old-fashioned New York style-steakhouse, Roots is a stand-out for multiple reasons, ranging from a luxe swanky club-like interior to excellent food and super polished wait staff under the watchful eye of GM Scott Hooyman, a young, capable gent who cut his teeth at Ruth’s Chris before joining the Harvest team, and the skilled kitchen leadership of Chef Jason Morey, a man who clearly enjoys running the show with precision and creativity. Chef Morey handpicks the menu each day and changes his specials weekly to offer peak season freshness in locally sourced produce. Everything made at Roots is prepared from scratch, including tartar, cocktail and steak sauces. This attention to detail and fussiness over ingredients shows. But the biggest surprise, and one of the most delightful aspects of the restaurant, is its tremendous value for the dollar. Menu prices are designed to keep patrons coming back and not view the restaurant as a special-occasion-only destination. With a menu that spans seafood, lighter fare and entree-sized salads, it’s easy to view Roots as a fine choice for leisurely lunches, weeknight dinners of grilled protein-topped salads and a modestly priced 10 ounce burger ($11.95) for weekday business lunches.
The Roots name came from the Summit clothing store of the same name, which was where its restaurant was first located. The restaurant offers a spirited yet classic selection of steakhouse standards updated slightly with Chef Morey’s whimsy and an enveloping upscale, yet not stuffy, ambience. At full capacity, the restaurant can be noisy. Impeccable detail in floor to ceiling decor and a formidable array of military-inspired artwork that reflects the owner’s veteran status adds to an ambience that is masculine without alienating women. A smartly outfitted bar area is elegantly old school with the welcome absence of flat screens that dominate most bars today. That lack of technology lends a sedate, grown-up feel free of the clutter of busy screens and more noise.
Roots’ 16 cooks are visible in an open glass-walled kitchen and 10 wait staff tend tables, all neatly clad in jackets. All butchering is done on premises and vegetables are sourced locally.Popovers and whipped butter are served upon arrival to whet the appetite. Appetizers on the lunch menu range from $6.95 to $22.95. From an excellent colossal lump crab cocktail and huge, nicely crisped crabcake to half-dozen salads that are abundantly portioned, crisp and dressed with well-seasoned dressings, lunch at Roots delivers on all fronts. On a recent lunch visit, about 80% of the customers were women, which speaks to the menu’s success in appealing to women. The lunch menu sports a larger salad selection with prices $9.95 at its lowest and $13.95 at its highest. All salads, from sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to a colossal iceberg wedge, comprised of two wedges topped with a lip-smacking Ranch dressing and smoky bacon nuggets, are enough for two to split or one to take home leftovers.
Fish is a big seller at Roots, I am told. Large portions, deft cooking and excellent quality make seafood options attractive, even if you visit hankering for beef, veal or lamb. Roots’ lunch menu has 19 different entrees ranging from $10.95 to $30.95 including spicy barbeque baby back pork ribs, lobster roll and swordfish steak. The dinner menu is more streamlined and steak and chops centric.
Roots is known for its slow roasted prime rib which comes in 12 ounce ($29.95) and 24 ounce ($39.95) cuts. Unfortunately, the kitchen had sold out before I arrived, but I am determined to enjoy this on my next visit and have been told to call ahead to reserve a cut of the roasted prime rib on the afternoon of my planned visit. However, I couldn’t have been happier with the prime strip steak (10 ounces wet aged) at $42.95, perfectly cooked and full of wonderful beefy flavor. All beef, available in wet and dry aged varieties, comes from cornfed cattle in the Midwest. Roots’ dry aged Kansas City styled steak was juicy with intense flavor. The three-pound porterhouse steak for two at $79.95 was well cooked with a delicious crust and quite tender. A variety of different sauce selections supplement steaks including its horseradish cream and Hollandaise sauces, all house made. Steaks can be prepared Oscar Style, topped with asparagus, crabmeat and Béarnaise sauce for an up charge of $15.
There are 18 different sides at $6.95 each. The grilled local asparagus is a top seller followed by lushly flavored creamed spinach. Creamy Brussels sprouts are toothsome thanks to chunks of smoked bacon and pearl onions.
The desserts, courtesy of Chef Denise Scanlon, all priced at $8.95, are presented in enormous portions and well-executed. Fabulous cheesecake made with ricotta was very creamy and light. Warm butter cake with a blueberry compote and fresh whipped cream is a cross between pound cake and tea loaf, at once delicate yet deeply rich. The desserts are offered alongside over forty different wines. Connecticut artisanal maker of gelato and non-dairy (sorbet) gelato, Gelato Giuliana, cover a wide assortment of flavors and are the perfect way to cleanse and freshen the palate. Roots offers loose teas at $3.50 that are freshly brewed at table side.
Roots offers an extensive wine list of over 100 different wines by the glass and bottle organized by region and type. Servers and the menu suggest pairings to suite palate and wallet. Staffers are knowledgeable working under wine and beverage director Vincent Comunale. This is a steakhouse in the classic tradition that is hitting many marks. Go hungry and go often.
Originally founded by Funbars Hospitality owners Michael Sinensky and Sean McGarr, Little Town expanded from New York into New Jersey this past spring into Hoboken. Funbars partnered with Albie and Chris Manzo, the sons of Caroline Manzo, one of the recently exiting stars on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” on Bravo when opening their Hoboken location. I took my teenage daughter, Olivia, to the restaurant to sample a new menu from Little Town’s 25 year old executive chef, Jordan Andino.
A native of Toronto and Philippino master chef, Andino has a degree from Cornell University’s Hotel School of Administration, the nation’s leading hospitality school and credits his culinary expertise to his father, also a chef. Andino scrapped 90% of the existing Little Town menu when he was brought in to helm the restaurant a couple months ago. He replaced them with some lighter, female-friendly options although the menu has lots of man grub remaining.
The standout on my visit was braised short rib served over a taro root mash ($26) and topped with the chef’s own 9-hour prepared sriracha demi-glace. The taro root mash was buttery, smooth and loaded with nutty sweetness, a nice counter to the lush richness of the tender beefiness of the short rib. The viscous demi-glace was luxuriously flavored and textured.
The lunch menu is split up into 5 sections: Little Town Bites, which consist of appetizers including their popular Little Town Rice Balls that are the perfect size for a bite of ham and cheese on the inside of a crispy, browned exterior. Little Town Sliders and Dogs offers five types of sliders and two types of hot dogs of choice. Three sliders are served with each order. Sammy Town offers twelve sandwich options and the last two menu sections comprise soups and salads along with wings. The prices of lunch selections range from $7-$15. Caroline Manzo’s own recipe for meatballs is incorporated into the menu and is available in a sandwich version or atop red sauce with a large garlic bread slice. They were tasty and fried for a crispy exterior which gave way to a tender, beef interior.
The dinner menu offers extensions from the lunch menu. The main section of the menu consists of Little Town Big Tastes, which range from carbonara, linguini tossed in parmesan, egg, green peas, roasted garlic and pancetta ($18), a bit dry on our visit, to the braised short rib mentioned above ($26). Little Town offers a wide array of entrée options, from seafood to salmon. Entrees range from $14-26.
For guests with a sweet tooth, Andino remakes one of his childhood memories with the dessert selection, Traditional Funnel Cake. Order it “Carnival Style” and it will arrive with acombination of traditional funnel cake topped with the house-made berry compote, 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream and powdered sugar, at no extra charge. Tell them Redhead With A Fork sent you.
Thank you for visiting Redhead With A Fork, a blog dedicated to adventures in eating, cooking, lifestyle and consumerism. Here you’ll find musings about dining out, cooking, nifty products, noteworthy places and programs and other things I stumble upon that I’d like to share. I am a mother of three, feeding two teenage girls and a 10 year old boy, all great eaters and very opinionated. By (week)day I run the boutique public relations agency I founded, tending to clients in and beyond the Garden State. But from the moment I enter my home in the early evening, I tie on an apron and (often wearily) plot and prepare dinner. With homework overseen from afar at my stove post, I, like millions of other mothers and fathers, wear multiple hats. We have a core rotation of favorite dinner mainstays, which I’ll be sharing, and I often experiment with new recipes and twists on classics.
I cook simple preparations that are going to be enjoyed. I aim for healthy and for the most part, succeed. We are omnivores. My older daughter Isabel is the most finicky of my kids, telling me she no longer eats chicken at dinner when she subsists on grilled chicken wraps for lunch. Cooking for kids can be among life’s least rewarding experiences at times. But on those occasions when everyone is happily eating around the table and the kids are getting along, I know that I am blessed and feel so appreciative of life, family and the dinner gathering.
Because my time is limited on evenings and weekends (homework, kids’ sports events, spending time with my kids, food shopping, yoga, dog walking and the occasional round of golf), I will focus here on things that I think and hope will be of value to you. Things as mundane as good organizing tools for the kitchen or a nifty shortcut to a satisfying weeknight meal will be presented.
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