Hoboken Farms: Small Town Sauce, Big Town Flavor

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Hoboken Farms Big Basil tomato basil sauce

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. 

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Hoboken Farms sauce comes in three varieties (L to R): Big Red, Big Boss and Big Basil

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.

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Big Basil sauce served over Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne

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. 

Contributions made by Samantha (Sam) Donsky

Review: Brasserie Brandman in Park Ridge, NJ

Bar at Brasserie Brandman
Bar at Brasserie Brandman

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.

Marrow Bones
Roasted Marrow Bone
Tempura Rock Shrimp
Tempura Rock Shrimp

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.

Veal Milanese
Veal Milanese

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.

103 Spring Valley Road

Park Ridge, NJ  07656

201-746-9990 P (Reservations are recommended)

HOURS

5 PM – 11 PM

TUE – SAT

(The restaurant will soon be open for brunch and weekday lunch.)

Management of the restaurant invited me in as a guest.

Upcoming Events @Bibi’z Westwood, NJ

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UPCOMING EVENTS

OCT 8:  Wine’down Wednesday at 6:30 pm featuring delicious peach and raspberry infused prosecco courtesy of Fabellini Wines. The event is free of cover charge and ALL wine is 25% off without dinner.

OCT 22:  The Opera is coming to Bibi’z on Wednesday at 6:30 pm. The event will feature a night of fab food and operatic pleasure to benefit Peace4Paws. Tickets are $55 per person including tax and gratuity. Peace4paws is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit public charity based in Northern New Jersey. Since 2007, it has been dedicated to supporting sanctuary and forever homes for the animals retired from work in research and related fields through our foster & adoption program, fundraising events involving music, yoga, animal friendly events & more plus student outreach to kids from kindergarten through college.

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peace4paws.org

Dog Talk with Johnny & Hanges in Fair Lawn, NJ

A hankering for a snappy dog led me to Johnny & Hanges in Fair Lawn, NJ, an iconic fast food restaurant that has its roots in Paterson and is known for dogs, burgers and roast beef sandwiches. I spoke with Adam Grosso, who owns the restaurant with his father Phil, about the art of crafting the perfect dog, hand melting cheese for burgers, the art of frying onions and how creamy cole slaw is created. Here’s the video.

Their famous chili sauce can be added to any order by asking for your item “all the way.” That recipe has been handed down from Johnny & Hanges’ original owners. It’s a mild sauce, not very thick, with enough bite to add a flavorful, spicy kick to your sandwich. I liked their rare roast beef which is made in house. Their dogs have a crispy exterior and toothsome bite, a nice pork and beefy flavor balance. Burgers are hefty and griddle fried. My preference goes to the dogs and roast beef. I particularly liked the creamy cole slaw, too.

Double cheese and dog
Double cheese and dog
close up of dog; fried first before griddle finished. nice bite thanks to the casing. soft potato roll encasing.
close up of dog; deep fried first before griddle finished. nice bite thanks to the casing. soft potato roll encasing.
onions are cut in shreds, seasoned with paprika and salt, then sauteed on the griddle. note the cheese draped over the burger - thanks to hand melting each slice of American in hot water before laying atop the burger.
onions are cut in shreds, seasoned with paprika and salt, then sauteed on the griddle. note the cheese draped over the burger – thanks to hand melting each slice of American in hot water before laying atop the burger.
vat of cabbage sliced on meat slicer and then hand chopped to mince. this goes into the fridge for a few hours before dressed with mayo, salt and pepper (no onion, Adam hates onion) and then back again to chill, which creates extra creaminess. make sure you get the cole slaw.
vat of cabbage sliced on meat slicer and then hand chopped to mince. this goes into the fridge for a few hours before dressed with mayo, salt and pepper (no onion, Adam hates onion) and then back again to chill, which creates extra creaminess. make sure you get the cole slaw.
finished slaw
finished slaw
hours above. Sunday special is home made meatballs.
hours above. Sunday special is home made meatballs.
Adam's a scratch golfer and likes to compete on the local circuit. Great golfers always sniff each other out. He's chatting with my companion Stuart, a top amateur player.
Adam’s a scratch golfer and likes to compete on the local circuit. Great golfers always sniff each other out. He’s chatting with my dining companion Stuart, a dog connoisseur and a top amateur player.

Johnny & Hanges

23-20 Maple Street
Fair Lawn, NJ
(201) 791-9060

www.johnnyandhanges.com

Beef Shoulder Tenderloin Introduced at Bibi’z in Westwood, NJ

Where’s the Beef? At BiBi’z in Westwood

Bibi’z Restaurant/Lounge specializes in global American fare with a decidedly Mediterranean twist. In response to popular demand, the Bergen County restaurant is adding its prime Angus beef shoulder tenderloin special as a feature on its menu. The…

Continue reading “Beef Shoulder Tenderloin Introduced at Bibi’z in Westwood, NJ”

Gluten-Free Italian Dinners Offered at La Riviera Trattoria, Clifton

I received the below invitation from La Riviera Trattoria’s owner, Maria. The last dinner I attended was excellent in terms of quality, quantity and value.  The program is set up with communal tables adding a festive ambiance. Follow the instructions as per below if you are interested in attending and don’t wait. These dinner parties fill up FAST and they are absolutely worth every penny. See you there!

YOU ARE INVITED TO THE GF ITALIAN DINNER ON MONDAY FEBRUARY 24TH AND MARCH 10TH at 6:30pm.

Because of the high volume of people, I can accept a maximum of 55 people each night. PLEASE CHOOSE ONE DATE AND LET ME KNOW YOUR ALLERGIES WHEN YOU BOOK IT. You must reserve first via email and then mail the check to: LA RIVIERA TRATTORIA.  

THE MENU:

1st Course (Family style):

Fried Calamari

Stuffed Baby Artichokes

Clams Oreganata

Meatballs

Pizza

2nd Course (Family Style):

Penne Vodka

3rd Course (Individual):

Salad

4th Course (Family style):

Veal Parmigiana

Chicken Milanese

French Fries

Eggplant Siciliana no mozzarella

Basa with baby shrimp in a scampi sauce

5th Course

Coffee

Dessert

It will be $50 per person including everything above, sodas, gratuity, and tax.  All liquor will be cash bar. Remember to save up for the products I will be selling. 

Thank you and look forward to our Party!!!!

Maria

La Riviera Trattoria

421 Piaget Avenue

Clifton, NJ 07011

www.larivieratrattoria.com

info@larivieratrattoria.com

973-478-4181

Sous Chef Antonio and Sister Maria Carlino, Crafting Italian Traditional Cuisine With Gluten-Free Ingredients at La Riviera Trattoria
Sous Chef Antonio and Sister Maria Carlino, Crafting Italian Traditional Cuisine With Gluten-Free Ingredients at La Riviera Trattoria

Julbord Swedish Christmas Feast Celebration at Ikea

Trevlig Helg!    (Happy Holidays in Swedish!)  On Friday, December 13, 2013 Ikea in Paramus, NJ will host a traditional Swedish Christmas Julbord, an all-you-can-eat-buffet at two seatings –  4:30pm-6:00pm or 7:00pm – 8:30pm.

traditional Swedish Julbord Christmas feast
Traditional Swedish Julbord Christmas feast

IKEA FAMILY Members
Adult tickets  $9.99; Children 12 & under $2.49

Non-Members
Adult tickets $12.99; Children 12 & under $4.99

Ikea is also one of my favorite places to pick up stocking stuffers and gifts for friends who enjoy cooking and baking.  Here are some inexpensive and nifty finds for those young and old on your lists, particularly those who are fans of organizing.  From wooden toys to art supplies and soft goods for children to decorative accessories for teens and all types of reasonably priced goodies, jams and kitchen organizers for adults, Ikea has some clever options for last-minute gift giving.

Rajtan Spice Jars, $3.99
Rajtan Spice Jars, $3.99
Wide array of glass storage options for fans of storage, pickling and infused oils and vinegar
Wide array of glass storage options for fans of storage, pickling and infused oils and vinegar
Burken squat jar, $3.99
Burken squat jar, $3.99
Snokul containers with lids, $3.99 - ideal for gifts of toffee and candy
Snokul containers with lids, $3.99 – ideal for gifts of toffee and candy
Tullia children's apron
Tullia children’s apron
Drommar 15 piece pastry cutter set
Drommar 15 piece pastry cutter set
Monstrad baking mat
Monstrad baking mat
gooseberry jam
Gooseberry Jam

Ikea

100 Ikea Dr, Paramus, NJ 07652

Little Town in Hoboken, NJ Celebrates Frankie’s Birthday

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Start spreadin’ the news (and the booze)…on Thursday, December 12th at 6PM,  Little Town located in Hoboken, NJ will be hosting a special celebration of legendary singer/musician Frank Sinatra’s birthday.  The event will feature famed Sinatra tribute singer and swing band vocalist Eric DeLauro.

Little Town,  a modern brewhouse and restaurant dedicated to all things New Jersey, promises to provide enough fine music and cocktails to keep you grooving all night long.  Guests will be able to enjoy specially crafted food and beverage items that pay homage to The Voice including Frankie’s Clams and Have It My Way cocktail special.  Little Town also boasts an impressive menu of local New Jersey fare, including a selection of over 100 beers and wines from the Garden State.  The crooning and festivities will begin at 6PM.

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Location: