Frog and Peach - Overhead ViewOn Saturday, September 26, 2015, 7:00 p.m., the Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street at Hiram Square, New Brunswick, New Jersey, will host a special four course dinner paired with the libations of the Kane Brewing Company of Ocean, New Jersey.

Passed Hors d’Oeuvres

Country-Style Pork Terrine: Spicy Pickled Long Beans, 6 Minute Egg, Ben’s Bread; Brew Pairing: Single Fin Blond Ale

Hot Smoked Unagì: Foie Gras, Hakuri Turnip, Sushi Rice, Soy Reduction; Brew Pairing: Head High IPA

Veal Schnitzel: Oven-Dried Heirloom Tomatoes, Local Greens, Lemon Potato Dressing; Brew Pairing: Ripple Pale Ale

Brown Butter Yeast Cake: Caramelized White Chocolate, Blueberries; Brew Pairing: Simplicity Belgian-Style Ale

The Cost of the Kane Keg Dinner is $95.00 per person, all inclusive. For more information, or to make reservations, please call (732) 846-3216, x 0.

Bon Appétit!



Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

On Tuesday, August 25, 2015, The Daily Meal, the world’s largest food and drink lifestyle site, released its fourth annual list of the 75 Best Colleges in America for Food. This year’s list featured 28 states; California led the way, placing 15 in the Top 75.

To assemble the ranking, The Daily Meal team began with a full list of about 2,000 colleges. After rigorous research and outreach to their dining services, the list was narrowed down to approximately 300 contenders. After that, the final 75 were ranked by scoring the colleges on the following criteria:

Nutrition and Sustainability: The college makes consistent efforts to ensure that its food is well-balanced as well as tasty; and that the food is healthy, not just for the students but for the environment as well.

Accessibility and Service: The college accommodates all dietary preferences, has a variety of options for students to choose from, and makes certain that the dining options are conveniently located near students’ dorms. Dining program has on-campus eateries that are open late at night; and meal plans let students purchase off-campus foods.

Education and Events: The college offers nutrition and culinary education to every student on campus and holds food-centered events to foster community and break the monotony of the dining experience.

Surrounding Area: Students have access to exciting and vast food options in the area surrounding the college that can be easily accessed. Information was compiled from Yelp to grade colleges on the quality and accessibility of all the food within a five-mile radius of the campuses.

The “X” Factor: The little extras that prove the colleges go above and beyond in their culinary creativity.

The number one ranked college…? Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine.

Noted below – in ascending order – are the colleges in our general area that made the coveted 75…

69 Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

67 Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA

57 University of Delaware, Newark, DE

48 Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

45 Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

44 Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

29 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

7 New York University, Manhattan, NY

3 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

2 Columbia University, Manhattan, NY

Bon Appétit!



Fireside Bar & Grille

1211 South Bethlehem Pike

Ambler, Pennsylvania

(215) 643-6540

 Fireside Bar & Grille - Interior 2As you cross the threshold, the profusion of wall-mounted television screens should be more than enough to convince you that, at the Fireside, sports are the name of the game. No matter what your favorite – from bowling to badminton, weight-lifting to Wiffle ball – if it’s to be found anywhere on the tube, you’re likely to catch it in living color on one of Fireside’s 17 TV screens. And if you happen to drop by while the Phillies are playing, there’s even a special bar menu with a delicious array of $5.00 munchies and reduced prices on beer and wine.

Over the years, the building that is now home to the Fireside has been the site of a spirited game of musical restaurants – the Dublin Pub, the highly-respected Crane’s, Fonzo’s and Rookies, another sports bar – but the current resident is obviously here to stay. If you’re skeptical, just try snaring a table on a free-for-all Saturday night or during major sporting events.

Fireside Bar & Grill - InteriorBut the Fireside is more than just a great sports bar. In 2008, in only its second year of operation, the Fireside was voted #1 for family dining by the Montgomery County’s Readers’ Choice Awards. And in 2012, the restaurant was voted the Montgomery Media’s Readers’ Choice winner for Best Business Lunch, Best Takeout Lunch/Dinner, Best Casual Dining, Best Pub/Bar, Best Burger, Best Wings, and Best Catering.

The food here isn’t about to set any new culinary standards, but its solid pub grub/eclectic fare is carefully prepared, generously proportioned, and moderately priced. The “Grille” menu – salads, pizzas, munchies, sandwiches, burgers, lunch-time pastas – is available all day, with the full dinner menu kicking in at 4:00 p.m. Dinner entrées also include your choice of soup or salad and two side dishes or pasta. In addition, the “Early Bird” menu is available every day from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and includes all the above-mentioned dinner accompaniments plus dessert for a paltry $12.95. No matter when you dine, however, neither your stomach nor your pocketbook is likely to feel shortchanged.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Cheese Pizza w PepperoniIf you’re a pizza fan, this is definitely the place to indulge, as Fireside’s pies (which come in 10”, 12”, and 16” sizes) are infinitely superior to those I’ve sampled at several so-called “artisan” pizza joints recently. All are prepared with house-made dough & sauce and are cooked in the restaurant’s huge wood-fired brick oven. The cheese pizza with pepperoni, for example, was outstanding: plenty of cheese, plenty of sauce… and plenty of pepperoni. The crust was thin but not anorexic; and the texture – which is to say neither Pillsbury Doughboy-ish nor burned to a crisp – was perfect.

Sandwiches round up the usual suspects, from clubs & wraps and hoagies & grinders with choices of BLT, tavern ham, turkey, tuna salad or chicken salad to burgers to chicken, meatball and eggplant parmesan to variations on the kitchen’s slow-roasted beef. All are worthy of consideration.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Roast Pork CalabreseAmong the new sandwiches on the menu, there are several standouts… The roast pork Calabrese served up on a toasted hoagie roll, for instance, is a sure winner. The slices of pork are inordinately tender, not at all dry, and are aided and abetted by broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, and crown of melted provolone cheese. A side of pork juice for dipping adds just the right complementary touch. If you’re a pork fan, the Calabrese is something of a must.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Pastrami Grilled RuebenThen, of course, there is the scrumptious grilled pastrami Reuben, a recent luncheon special. Everything here was just right: the lusciously lean pastrami… melted Swiss… creamy coleslaw… and a sensuous sea of Russian dressing gently oozing from between slices of perfectly grilled rye bread. Incredibly delicious.

As you move on to the entrées proper, possibilities abound. For those feeling Italian and lyrical, there are the classic pasta & meatballs and chicken or shrimp Alfredo. Chicken and veal specialties – Marsala, parmesan, Francaise – are also present and accounted for, as are a number of seafood representatives.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Petite Filet & Crab Cake DuoCombos are quite popular with Fireside’s patrons as well… like the kitchen’s petite filet & crab cake duo, an interesting take on the surf & turf theme. A single crab cake is topped with lemon butter sauce, the filet with a house-made merlot demi-glace. Neither constituent is slighted – ditto your taste buds – the crab cake is all succulent crab, sans filler, the filet is tender yet flavorful. The perfect dish for those who have difficulty making up their minds.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Veal & Shrimp FrancaisThe veal & shrimp Francaise is another winning combination. Both constituents are gently sautéed in a subtle lemon-butter sauce, the crunchiness of the pristinely fresh shrimp playing nicely against the slightly chewy texture of the (real, not processed) veal. Sautéed spinach and chopped fresh tomatoes add a host of contrasting flavors as well as welcome swatches of color.

Since I’m an absolute sucker for eggplant parm, the “Eggplant Rosa,” a gastronomic variant, immediately caught my eye. Eggplant cutlets were lightly breaded, fried, crowned with spinach & fresh mozzarella, splashed with house-made marinara, and companioned by penne pasta in a Rosa cream sauce.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Eggplant RosaUndeniably delicious; the eggplant was, indeed, lightly breaded and perfectly cooked… It was also humongous (see photo); I was barely able to make a dent. The accompanying pasta was especially notable… and very, very rich. Plenty of cream here; you could almost feel your arteries clogging. Highly recommended, though. However, unless you have the appetite of a ravening hyena, be prepared to lug home a significantly large doggie bag. My wife and I consumed two full meals with the leftovers from this dish.

By the way, should you be incurably carnivorous, be advised that the Fireside Bar and Grille is known for its signature prime rib – both the 12-ounce prince cut ($16.95) and 18-ounce duchess cut ($21.95) – which is served on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings only. One of the members of our party ordered the diminutive portion and was thoroughly impressed.

Fireside Bar & Grille - Black & White Mousse CakeDesserts (if you can possibly find room) consist of tried-and-true favorites: rice pudding, ice cream, chocolate mousse, New York cheesecake, warm chocolate lava cake, warm fudge nut brownie, and traditional and chocolate cream filled cannolis. My nod, however, goes to black and white mousse cake (pictured) that is as easy on the eyes as it is on the palate. Beautiful crust and white & dark chocolate mousse that are as light as a feather.

As noted above, the Fireside serves up good solid fare at more than reasonable prices. But, like all restaurants, it has its pluses and minuses. The sandwiches, pizzas and entrées, for the most part, are quite good. The straightforward desserts are first-rate as well. Conversely, side dishes are a mixed bag. The fries are OK but nothing special; the onion rings are long on batter and short on onion; the baked potato is… well, a baked potato. The coleslaw, which is made in-house, on the other hand, is excellent. Coleslaw may sound like a “no brainer,” but it is easily mucked up. Fireside’s version incorporates just the proper amounts of mayo, sugar and vinegar, and is appetizingly creamy. It’s the best restaurant version I’ve sampled in a long, long time.

All entrées come with a starter of either soup or salad. The house salad is generic at best. Trust me, go for the soup; it’s infinitely better.

RE: Liquid Libations… A big plus: There’s a good selection of brewskies here. An equally big minus: The only wines served are house wines, which are of nominal quality from dubious sources; and they are barely quaffable. The Cabernet, however, has the most to offer. On the other hand, at $5.00 per glass it’s hard to complain.

Fireside Ball & Grille - ExteriorBottom Line: The Fireside Bar & Grille is definitely worth a visit. Lunch is always a good bet. If you decide to pop in for dinner, be advised that the place is wildly popular – especially on an anything-goes Saturday night – and the restaurant takes reservations for five or more only.

Bon Appétit!



Gladstone Dine with DogOn Sunday, August 30, 2015, the Gladstone Tavern, 273 Main Street, Gladstone, New Jersey, will host its 9th annual “Bring Your Dog to Dine Benefit” – outdoor dining with dogs on the restaurant’s terrace.

The Gladstone Tavern will be serving the lunch menu at 12:00 noon, 2:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m. and the dinner menu at 6:00 p.m. Admission is $10.00 donation per dog, with daily specials featuring beef stew for dogs in 2 sizes and dog biscuits. All proceeds will benefit St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Centers in Madison and North Branch, NJ, for the Centers’ veterinary care, shelter, food, and adoption program expenses.

This is always a very popular event. For more information, please call (908) 234-9055.

Bon Appétit!



Food Truck - Ms. CheeziousOn August 19, 2015, I posted that The Daily Meal announced the 101 Best Pizzas in America. Well, the world’s largest food and drink lifestyle site is at it again… unveiling its annual list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America. The top food trucks featured were spread throughout the country, with the 2015 list featuring 23 states.

“The food truck ‘trend’ is no longer a trend; it’s here to stay,” notes Nikkitha Bakshani, editor of The Daily Meal. “Food trucks are more than just kitchens on wheels. Even if the buzz around the food truck renaissance started off frenzied and then cooled a bit, the resilience of these mobile eateries is a testament to the fact that creative, quite literally chef-driven food need not be limited to wallet-busting restaurants with month-long waiting lists.”

In the past, The Daily Meal based their ranking on a combination of Twitter followers, Yelp reviews, and Yelp stars into a weighted algorithm, rounded out by an originality score that took into account menu innovation, overall concept, and geography. This year, The Daily Meal invited America to decide, via a public survey. To compile the list of best food tucks for voters, The Daily Meal expanded on previous lists from 2012, 2013, and 2014. They began by asking readers for suggestions, pulling winners of the Vendy Awards, and searching for rookie trucks. This year’s ranking is a result of 2,662 responses and a total of 5,634 votes (respondents were allowed to vote for multiple trucks).

“Korean fusion, lobster rolls, and tacos seem to lead the way in terms of popular food truck cuisines; vegan food, barbecue, and grilled cheese make up a lot of the most beloved meals on this year’s list,” notes Bakshani.

Miami’s Ms. Cheezious secured the top spot this year; but Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Austin have continued to lead the way. There are also a number of other cities that came on strong, most notably Boston, which claimed 12 spots. Washington, D.C., and New Orleans also continued to boast robust food truck scenes.

Here’s a brief rundown of food trucks from our area (in ascending order) that made the coveted list…

96 Rigatoni’s Mobile Crab Cakes, Philadelphia

66 Butter Truck, Philadelphia

52 Dapper Dog, Philadelphia

46 Foolish Waffles, Philadelphia

37 The Taco Truck, New Jersey, Multiple Locations

28 Mac Mart Truck, Philadelphia

13 Cucina Zapata, Philadelphia

11 Seoulfull Philly, Philadelphia

6 Oink and Moo, Philadelphia

For a complete list of the 101 Best Food Trucks for 2015, please click here.

With its extensive coverage of food and drink, The Daily Meal creates a complete epicurean experience for cooks, food lovers, wine, beer and spirit connoisseurs, discerning diners, and everyone in-between. Comprised of original content and video from award winning editors, industry insiders, tastemakers, and the user community, features range across the site’s multiple channels: Cook, Eat/Dine, Drink, Travel, Entertain, Best Recipes, Holidays, Lists & Community. The Daily Meal also produces much anticipated annual reports, including the 50 Most Powerful People in Food, America’s Most Successful Chefs, 101 Best Restaurants in America, and 150 Best Bars in America. Helmed by editorial director Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal is one of the largest food sites on the Web and the first property of Spanfeller Media Group, founded by Jim Spanfeller.

Bon Appétit!



Frog and Peach - Aperitifs  & DigestifsOn Friday, September 18, 2015, 7:00 p.m., the Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street at Hiram Square, New Brunswick, New Jersey, will host “The Bitter and the Sweet,” a Garden Tasting of Aperitifs and Digestifs.

The tasting will include: Averna… Genepy des Alpes… Prunier Pineau des Charentes… Barbieri Aperol… Lillet Blanc… Dubonnet Rouge… Lustau “La Jaraña” Fino or Amontillado “Los Acros”… Dry Sherry… Bonal Gentiane-Quina… Cocchi Americano… Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro… Fernet Branca… Suze… La Troussepinete… Cappelletti.

Passed hors d’oeuvres will also be served.

The current craze for craft cocktails; the opening of swank Manhattan ‘Bitter Bars”; the worldwide shortage of Angostura; all are manifestations of an exploding interest in aperitifs and digestifs. Traditional Old World products of herbs, spices, fruits, concocted by secret recipe were originally used for their health benefits. Today, these fortified wines and liqueurs are all about flavor.

Jeremy Fisher will conduct an informal tasting, leading guests through a wide range of these delicious bottles and also demonstrating their use in mixology.

The cost of the tasting is $40.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (732) 846-3216, extension 0.

Bon Appétit!



Pluckemin Inn - San GennaroOn Friday, September 11 and Saturday, September 12, 2015, the Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, New Jersey, will be serving a special menu to celebrate San Gennaro, the annual feast of the Patron Saint of Naples.

ANTIPASTI (Choice of) – Sarde in Scapece: Marinated Sardines, Pine Nuts, Eggplant Caponata… Pepperoncini al Pomodoro: Fried Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Aged Provolone… Bresaola: Black Mission Figs, Aged Balsamic, Arugula, Parmigiano… Fritto Misto: Calamari, Zucchini, Shrimp, Peppers, Anchovy… Insalata Caprese: Heirloom Tomato Salad, Basil, Mozzarella di Bufala

PRIMI (Choice of) – Canneloni di Melanzane: Sicilian Eggplant, Mozzarella, Basil, Marinara… Cacio e Pepe: Tonnarelli, Pecorino, Parmigiano, Black Pepper… Maccheroni: Fennel Sausage, Broccoli, Chilies, Pecorino Romano… Spaghetti alla Puttanesca: Olives, Capers, Anchovy, Chilies, Tomato… Lasagne alla Napoletana: Pork Ragu, Meatballs, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmigiano

SECONDI (Choice of) – Cotolette di Maiale: Pork Chop, Broccoli Rabe, Cherry Tomato, Radicchio… Zuppa di Cozze: Mussels, Calamari, Octopus, Shrimp, Tomato Broth… Pollo Avellino: Braised Chicken, Mushrooms, Basil, Sweet & Hot Peppers… Pesce Spada: Swordfish, Fennel Orange, Capers, Olives, Pine Nuts… Bisecchina di Manzo: Angus Sirloin Steak, Fried Potatoes, Escarole, Lemon, Pecorino

DOLCI (Choice of) – Trio di Formaggi: Marinated Olives, Pine Nut Nougatine, Grissini, Fig Marmalade… Tartufo: Brandy Cherries, Chocolate Ice Cream, Cherry Sorbet… Biscotti: Italian Cookie Sampler

The cost of the special San Gennaro menu is $65.00 per person for three courses; $75.00 per person for four courses (plus beverages, tax and gratuity). Last year’s event sold out quickly for all seating times. The restaurant strongly encourages you to make reservations early. Please call (908) 658-9292.

*Please note: The menu noted above will be the only menu available on Friday and Saturday, September 11 & 12.

Bon Appétit!



Gladstone Tavern - Local Corn WeekThe Gladstone Tavern, 273 Main Street, Gladstone, New Jersey, is currently celebrating Local Corn Week (Wednesday, August 19 – Tuesday, August 25, 2015) with a special menu utilizing local corn from Melick’s Farm.

The Local Corn Week menu is noted below…

COBB-TAILS – Native Thunder: Glen Thunder Corn Whisky, Honey, Ginger, Lemon, Black Pepper Bitters, $10… Corn Fusion: Corn-Fused Tequila, Llegal Mescal, Lime Agave, Cilantro, $10

FIRST COURSE – Truffle Popcorn Basket: Truffle Butter, Parmesan, Chive, $4.5… Crab Cron Chowder: Crispy Sweet Potato, Ancho Chili, $8… Black Bean Corn Salad: Avocado, Tomato, Mesclun, Grilled Red Onion, Blue Corn Tortilla, Cilantro Vinaigrette, $9.5… Pulled Pork Corn Cakes: Black Bean Salsa, Chipotle Crema, $10

SECOND COURSE – Rock Shrimp Corn Pasta: Tasso Ham, Local Tomato, Green Onion, Cabot Aged Cheddar, Corn Flour Pappardelle, $23… Sautéed Red Snapper: Corn Hominy Stew, Fried Okra, Roasted Bell Pepper, Cilantro Rice, $26… Grilled Filet Mignon: Smoked Corn Whisky Sauce, Corn-Spinach Soufflé, Tri-Color Fingerling Smash, $30… Mexican Street Corn Side: Chipotle-Lime Butter, Cojita Cheese, $3.5

THIRD COURSE – Sweet Corn Cake with Popcorn Ice Cream: Salted Caramel Buttercream, Chocolate Fudge, Candied Peanut, $8

For more information about Local Corn Week, or to make reservations, please call (908) 234-9055.

Bon Appétit!



Pizza ImageThe Daily Meal, the world’s largest food and drink lifestyle site, recently unveiled its annual list of the 101 Best Pizzas in America. The top pizzas for 2015 were spread throughout the country, with this year’s list featuring 24 states.

The Daily Meal began with a list of 800 pizza places throughout the country, 100 more than last year, before narrowing down to the 101 that made the list. The pizzas were chosen by a panel of experts, including The Daily Meal’s own in-house pizza experts and city editors. The rest of the 109-member panel was comprised of a geographically diverse collection of American chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers and pizza authorities. Panelists included: “The Pizza King” Dan Janssen; Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods; Los Angeles Times Restaurant and Wine Critic Irene Virbila; and even the authority on pizzaology, “Blondie’s” Dagwood Bumstead.

“Putting together this year’s list of the best pizzas in America was an arduous process,” noted Arthur Bovino, Executive Editor of The Daily Meal. “Of all the lists we put out each year, the pizza list definitely stirs up the most emotion in our readers, so we wanted to consider as many places as possible. The passionate feedback we receive shows us that there’s just something special about pizza.”

Of the 24 states that made the list, New York, the birthplace of American pizza, claimed 27 spots. Number 1???? Frank Pepe’s, New Haven, Connecticut: White Clam Pizza.

Here’s a brief rundown (in descending order) of the selections (and types of pizzas) in New Jersey and Pennsylvania…

12 Papa’s Tomato Pies, Robbinsville, NJ: Sausage

39 Delorenzo Tomato Pies, Robbinsville, NJ: Tomato Pie

63 The Original Tacconelli’s Pizzeria, Philadelphia, PA: White Pizza

66 Osteria, Philadelphia, PA: Parma

72 Brooklyn’s Pizza, Hackensack, NJ: Cheese & Tomato

82 Star Tavern Pizzeria, Orange, NJ: Thin Crust

83 Pizzeria Beddia, Philadelphia, PA: Tomato, Mozzarella, Old Gold Age Cheese, EVO

88 Pizzeria Vetri, Philadelphia, Pa: Tonno

97 Tony’s Place, Philadelphia, PA: Tomato Pie

101 Ghigiarelli’s, Old Forge, PA: Red

For a full list of the 101 best pizza places, please click here.

Bon Appétit!



Wright … and Wrong

by artfuldiner on August 18, 2015

in Opinion, Wine

Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir 2013The Oregon single vineyard Pinot Noirs produced by Ken Wright Cellars are the stuff of legend. Highly rated by wine lovers and wine critics alike, their recent scores have soared into the mid and upper 90s (on 100-point scales). I have sampled several over the years and always found them thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of their $50.00 – $65.00 price tag.

Mr. Wright’s top-rated single vineyard Pinots have always been rather difficult to track down. However, after his photograph recently graced the cover of the Wine Spectator (along with an extensive article), those vintages have been positively scarce.

The winery also makes an entry level wine, the Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, a blend of the grapes from many of his single vineyards, which retails in the $20.00 – $25.00 range. This wine is obviously an attempt to appeal a larger audience, to those who may not be kindly disposed to shelling out their hard-earned cash for Mr. Wright’s more expensive offerings.

The Wine Enthusiast bestowed 91 points and an “Editors’ Choice” on the 2012 vintage, calling it “an astonishing value, lushly fruited, tangy and laced with appealing minerality. The mix of red fruits, earth, acid and mineral is a perfect encapsulation of the pricier cuvées’ strengths.” I would tend to agree.

The 2013 Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, however, is quite another story. It is… well, yes… not a very good wine. The 12.5% alcohol, a bit on the low side for a Pinot Noir, provides the first clue that something may be amiss. But once the wine hits the glass, you know immediately there’s nothing but trouble ahead. The color is anemic… the body anorexic… and aromas and flavors conspicuous by their absence.

I waited patiently for the wine to open up… and waited… and waited… and then I poured it down the drain. Yes, it was that bad. I realize that wine tasting is not an exact science and that others may quite possibly enjoy this particular wine. However, in my opinion, it had – and has – absolutely nothing to offer.

There is no question that Ken Wright Cellars produces some excellent wines. Unfortunately, the 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is not one of them.