NEW in town: The Fig Tree

RER 8.19.12

RER 8.19.12

For a while now, restaurants in Hoboken have been spreading off the main drag, and creeping into other areas of the city, mixing with the contemporary and historic architectural landscape. The Fig Tree, a fairly new restaurant, has done the same, tucked in a residential block. The owners and creators of the restaurant are not new to the food scene in Hoboken, but this is their newest venture after troubles with landlords.

Set in the subterranean level of a home on Park Avenue, a few doors down from the park, The Fig Tree is slightly unexpected, but starkly beautiful. The large glass windows look into the quiet restaurant from the street, and the black lettering echo the stark lines and immense detail in the interior decorating. Three dining areas and about 15 tables, almost felt like a dining room in a home, polished, cozy contemporary, and put together, with a grey and black color scheme.

The seasonal menu, heavy and glossy, was not large but featured an a la carte list, as well as a prix fixe. The titles and the descriptions were lengthy and somewhat obscure to the average diner, littered with French techniques and fancy ingredient names. The prix fixe had items that were not available a la carte, which made the decision making more difficult. All the items listed seemed thought out and appealing.

After the menus were swept away, a plate with two different varieties of cornbread was brought to the table and articulately described, along with a kind of pre-appetizer from the chef. The small plate sported a sole cracker, thin and crisp, with a dollop of what was described as a salmon and cucumber salad, topped with cilantro. It was cool and crunchy and the salmon made its presence known through the aioli and fresh cilantro. One of the two varieties had chives and jalapeño mixed in the fluffy batter, giving it a kind of kick. The other of the two was denser, sweet and crunchy, with more of a course cornmeal feeling on the tongue. This second cornbread paired nicely with the sweet melted honey butter that accompanied the breads.

One of the starters ordered was an asparagus salad, with red bliss tomatoes, roasted garlic, and drizzled with a dill vinaigrette. The ingredients were very accessible and tangible. The asparagus offered a fresh crunch while the potatoes countered with a softer pliable texture, and the vinaigrette was bright and pungent.

The gazpacho was poured at the table by the waiter, into a large bowl with the patiently waiting shrimp salad and caviar. It was smooth and sweet, and the baby beads of caviar popped in the mouth, adding texture and excitement to the otherwise monotonous nature of smooth soups.

The poppy seed risotto was littered with duck confit, crimini mushrooms, English peas, Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. The texture of the duck was stringy and disguised under the almost under cooked grains of aborio rice. The duck t gave the risotto nice pockets of meats to counter the superfluous peas, which created a grainy but sweet taste to the rice. Amongst the mixture were the tiny poppy seeds, which added color and another dimension. The poppy seeds were an enjoyable addition, surprising. The ratio of rice to ingredients was off and did not hold together, but the portion was enormous for an appetizer.

The Hudson Valley foie gras with Meyer lemon curd, maitake mushrooms, pinenuts, mâché lettuces, was an appetizer where sweet meet heavy and smooth. The foie gras itself was smooth, and thick like custard, resting on top of sweet sautéed onions. It was topped with meaty mushrooms that took on the texture of the duck fat. Pinenuts added crunch and another layer of richness and decadence to the appetizer. They added a fatty feeling as well, only to be broken by the lemony acidic greens and the crunchy toast point. This was delicious, but the pinenuts may have added too much fat and density.

The duck entrée, was a hearty portion of two thick slices of duck breast, cooked to medium rare, as per the chef’s suggestion. The thick pink red slices rested on a bed of baby vegetables, including baby bok choy, turnips and cippolini onions. A sweep of “strawberry paint” on the plate added a sweet note that worked really well with the meaty duck. The duck chewed like a medium cooked steak, but tasted like chicken, creating a nice juxtaposition between the gaminess of the poultry and the delicate vegetables.

The diver scallops, part of the regular menu, were accompanied by yellow squash and zucchini, baby tomatoes, a soubise and a corn saffron puree. These scallops were plump and juicy, seared on the outside, and just cooked enough on the inside, maintaining the necessary succulence. The crust on the outside of the scallops was lovely, but a little on the salty side, though the acidity from the soft roasted tomatoes and the fresh crunch of the sautéed squash helped to balance. The corn sauce was sweet like the scallops and mealy, while the soubise was smooth and studded with firm string beans, giving a nod to the inner texture of the scallops. The architecture of the plate was a bit more contemporary than the presentation of the other entrees, but it was fun and the contrasting colors made the dish look lively.

The grilled Atlantic salmon, featured on the prix fixe menu, was lacking imagination. It appeared as a salad topped with a large fillet of salmon. The salmon was cooked ok, though, inconsistent as it was really salty in some bites and less so in others. But it was just grilled salmon, nothing extremely inventive. The watercress greens underneath were slightly more interesting, decorated with pecans, dates, cucumber and dressed in a coriander vinaigrette. The dates and pecans gave the mouth a point of interest, a different chew than the flaky salmon and the watercress, adding spikes of sweetness and fat.

Dessert varied from what was listed on the menu that accompanied the prix fixe, but the remixed recipe was panna cotta with raspberry and pineapple. The small panna cotta was plated nicely, atop what looked like a doily, but was a thinly sliced round of pineapple, slippery and aesthetic. The custard was creamy and topped with what felt like a raspberry jelly, sweet and dense, the citrus cutting the rich custard. Although the smooth jelly like and slimey textures played with the mouth the flavors synched.

The other dessert ordered was the peach and blueberry tart, capped with crumbles, decorated with cool peaches and blueberries. Warm peaches and their sweet juices oozed from the overly crisp almond crust, almost too difficult to break. The hot syrupy fruits spiked with tartness melded well with the cold vanilla ice cream, while the temperatures played well together.

The staff was very polite and knowledgeable about the menu, as well as the ingredients and the history of the restaurant and its owners. The service was well synchronized and orchestrated, quite and causing little disturbance of the meal. Throughout the various dishes, the quality of the ingredients was apparent, as well as the skill level and design of the chef. Though presentation was not as contemporary and imaginative as expected, the flavors and in some of the dishes the levels of complexity were inventive. The Fig Tree is definitely worth revisiting to explore the menus featured for the other seasons.
RER 8.19.12

RER 8.19.12


not just nourishment: HUDSON COUNTY Restaurant Week

RER 8.1.12
We have all heard about the famous Restaurant Week in New York City—the week that foodies wait for and that many restaurants pull out all kinds of stops for. It is a food celebration that amplifies reservation volume and comes around twice a year, made for the appreciation of food and all that surrounds it.
Hudson County (New Jersey), just across the Hudson River from the famed food world of Manhattan, has their very own bi-annual food festival—HudsonCounty Restaurant Week.  It was jump started by Get Out Hudson Magazine in 2005, by the magazine’s creator Tamara Remedios. According to the website, the restaurant week was the result of many conversations with local restaurateurs, creating not only a tourist attraction, but something the whole community could enjoy. The Restaurant Weeks are set during slower times of the year, January and July,  as an effort to rekindle business and expand. Both the magazine and the event are to promote activity and participation in the area; by those who live there but also those open to exploring.

RER 8.1.12
The Hudson County Restaurant Week is a bi-annual celebration of food and the experiences surrounding it, catering to the foodies and the hungry alike. Many diverse restaurants across the county get involved, creating special prix fixe menus or hosting various events. This puts Hudson County on the map as being more and more of a food destination, not just a cheaper place to stay to enjoy the dining in the City. Hudson County, is the smallest of the counties of New Jersey, comprised of 12 cities, but it its proximity to the Big Apple has given the county appeal and popularity. The restaurant week and its surrounding events are meant to help take advantage of location, as well as the growing populations and desirability of the area.

Not only does the event bring more people to the area, but it is also great exposure for restaurants, new and old—those with a following as well as those just starting out. It is a way to show its neighbors what it can produce and the ways that the restaurant is unique. The prix fixe that many of the participating restaurants offer, is the perfect vehicle to showcase what they want to be known for and give a great sampling of the vision of the restaurant. Smaller portions and specials can give patrons a look into the restaurant without the full investment, and if impressed, they will return to make the full investment. Not that it makes a fierce competitive atmosphere, but it is a way to assert presence, and perhaps friendly culinary competition.

RER 8.3.12
This was an excellent way for me to discover and uncover other restaurants in my area that I never would have thought of trying.  The website for the event made it easy to look by city for restaurants. This kind of index is very helpful for the under exposed and is also more narrow than just googling “Where to eat in Hoboken, NJ.” With the website, the viewer is also able to look at the menus and prices that the restaurants were offering. Being able to see all of these things makes for a fun comparative exercise, and all the info is right on the table. Everything was at my fingertips. The open accessibility makes the event even more special and can also be seen as a community builder, opening up food options and experiences to a wider net of people, through the prices and the website. I would only say that there could be more advertising, through other outlets perhaps, spreading the word even further.

I am really looking forward to January’s Restaurant Week. This time around was my first real experience with it, and it was lots of fun. I went to places I would not have gone to, either due to expense or familiarity. This time I only ventured to a few restaurants, mostly in Hoboken and Jersey City, but in January…it is on! I am looking forward to casting the net wider as well as finding a joint that will come into regular rotation on my dining list. 

RER 8.3.12
 *Note: The top two photo's are of the Hamilton Inn in Jersey City, and the other two are from the Brass Rail in Hoboken. Both were restaurants participating in Hudson County Restaurant Week.


CLAM SHACKS is where it's at

RER 8.22.12
On a short trip to Rhode Island, my boyfriend and I decided we were going to consume as much seafood as we possibly could, being that we were in New England. So with that goal in mind, we set out on our (sea)food adventures.

Flo’s Clam Shack—Middletown, R.I.
The night of our arrival, after a long long, traffic-ridden journey up to the small state, my boyfriend and I were famished and ready to start our seafood quest. Quickly flipping through the little “Rhode Island” book set in the hotel, we found Flo’s Clam Shack, under “Best Clam Shack.” 

Upon arrival, the charm of the place is apparent. It’s quirky, lively, fun… and cash only. There is ocean memorabilia hung all over the walls and the ceiling, and the menu has cartoon fishies. There were families and couples alike in the spot, some regulars and other visitors (the way to really tell who was from the area, was by how they ate their clam chowder—if they dipped the fried clam cakes, they were a native), but still a fun group and place.

Armed with hunger and ambition, we ordered the fisherman’s platter, which included what felt like everything under the sea. Notably: clams, clam strips, calamari, shrimps, scallops, fish, clam cakes—all fried. All fried and delicious. It was greasy and comfort food, but I could not stop. This was the moment I fell in love with fried clams. I have had clam strips and fried seafood before, but something about this was so fresh, so new and so exciting. The whole fried clams ended up being my favorite, meaty and chewy. The runner up was the fish, which was buttery underneath the batter. The batter used on most of the items was crunchy and salty, but the food wasn’t completely drained of the frying fat. It was hard to determine what was what underneath the fried goodness so every bite was a surprise on the tongue.

We also got white clam chowder and clam cakes. The chowder was hot and fresh, and it was deffo not as thick as I thought it would be. It was pretty loose but still creamy and hearty. Dipping the clam cakes was fun, but not necessary in my opinion.

RER 8.24.12
Evelyn’s Drive- In—Tiverton, R.I.
This little seafood shack was featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which we love, so when we saw it was just mere miles from Newport, we were down for the adventure. The menu is not long and prices are esoteric, as most of it is marked MKT (market price) and varies like the weather. Looking at what Evelyn’s Drive-In had to offer online beforehand, did not help us much in deciding when we got there. After moments of study and regulars getting mildly impatient, we ordered. We landed on a pint of fried clams (with the bellies!) and the intriguing lobster chow mein.

The little spot is located on a large road that felt in between towns, residential and wooded, but also set on water. There is a string of covered picnic tables right on the water, where, while we were waiting for our fried delights, we were able to look at boats.

When my boyfriend came back from picking up our food from the window, my hunger mounted and I was excited. We opened the lobster chow mein first, and I could feel my smile fall. It looked so weird. There was a thick gloppy sauce dumped heavy on top of fried noodles, drowning some sautéed vegetables and the beautiful lobster. It tasted almost as bizarre as it looked, but at the same time felt addicting. The crunch of the noodles made you come back for more even while questioning that decision. Unfortunately, the taste of the lobster was lost, but we could still tell the high quality of the ingredient.

The clams were fresh and fat, served up fried in a white Styrofoam container. This batter was less salty and greasy as at Flo’s. The clams did not go limp and have the same chewy texture I was expecting in comparison. Evelyn’s clams were more stiff and the crunchy exterior batter clung to the clams much better.

JAR 8.24.12
Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House—Narragansett, R.I.
Iggy’s was a suggestion given to me by a friend who has been living in Rhode Island since our time in college, so we thought it was worth a try. When we pulled up there was already a small crowd and a list of items that we were becoming familiar with by now (third time is the charm).

We decided on getting a kind of combo dinner, which includes french fries and a cup of clam chowder. We chose the combo with scallops and fried clams (just one last time). I love scallops, and I was hoping for the fat scallops that we had at Flo’s or beautiful ones I had for dinner (more to come on this later), but instead before us in our Styrofoam container, were marshmallow sized scallops. They were tiny baby ones, still fresh, but not enough scallop to even taste scallop.

The fried clams were decent, flimsy and greasy, but still had great clam taste. The batter here felt more sheer and less substantial, so all the details of the clam were moderately visible. I did not find myself addicted to these little clams as I was on our previous shack stops.

With our combo came our choice of clam chowder (white or red). Of course we chose white, who wants vegetable soup with clams in it (our interpretation of red/ Mahattan style clam chowder). This chowder was much much thicker than our bowl at Flo’s. It felt much heavier and creamier, almost like a clam gravy. All the ingredients were masked by the “broth,” but flecks of seasoning were visible and the clams, light pink brown, would surface occasionally. This chowder was too rich for more than a few bites, let alone a whole bowl, but all and all delicious.

The Run-Down
So, one would think fried clams are fried clams, and my adventures in Rhode Island told me that that can not be the case. My favorite experience overall was deffo Flo’s, not only was the atmosphere and food fun, but there we got the most bang for our buck (in cash). We got a heaping plate with a seafood garden and crispy fries, for the same market price that we got the 9oz of fried clams for at Evelyn’s. Iggy’s too, was well worth the dollar and was a deal, but the food was not my favorite. If you are visiting, around the Newport area in Rhode Island and have a strong yen for some fried up seafood, I would highly recommend Flo’s Clam Shack, for its food, atmosphere and memories.

RER 8.22.12


a STEAK in the heart: Dino&Harry's

RER 8.2.12

RER 8.2.12
My boyfriend and I managed to go to Dino and Harry’s in Hoboken for Hudson Country Restaurant week, but found out once there that the $35 prix fixe will last the rest of August. We always wanted to try Dino and Harry’s, but our first attempts were unsuccessful, so we were looking forward to finally try this time.

Like any special menu, the prix fixe list was small but the variety and diversity was large. Dino and Harry’s placed the highlights of the restaurant on the special prix fixe, a way to draw people back in, and continue visiting.

For starters, I had the smoked apple wood bacon with an apple slaw. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I first read the appetizer option on the website, but anything with bacon is worth a try. But despite that, when our server came over with our appetizers, and there were three thick rashers on my plate, I was surprised. At first I thought that much delicious bacon would be a gift, but it was thick and chewy, porky and didn’t feel cooked enough. The inside just felt like raw bacon, like the stuff you kind of leave on the side of the plate. The outside layers were crunchy and salty, all that you want from bacon, but there was not enough outside to combat the chewy meaty inside. The cool crisp slaw that topped each tranche was there for that reason, but still wasn’t enough to balance the texture of the applewood bacon, nor the saltiness. The apple cider reduction, which actually looked like maple syrup, was meant to help equalize the saltiness with its refined sweetness. Its likeness to one of bacon’s favorite companions, syrup, is a great play on ingredients in a pretty traditional setting.  In the end, it was just too much chewy bacon and fat.

My date ordered the soup of the day option for his appetizer. The soup was a gazpacho with crabmeat. A cold soup on a hot day was a good idea, but it was not great, just wet. It was too fine for my taste (I prefer a chunkier gazpacho), so it ended up just being a tomato soup, and the rest of the ingredients and textures were lost. It was smooth and blended, but pretty thin with little substance. Every bite taken that was lacking some of the cool crabmeat, created longing for those bites with the succulent meat. The crabmeat created a different texture and added chew to the liquidy soup. We both wished for more crabmeat and larger pieces other than the fine strings we got.

For an entrée, I ordered the Petit Fillet Mignon, because I can never really pass up steak. It was a very pretty cut of meat, decorated with super sautéed mushrooms and delicate micro greens. The steak was cooked almost just right, and chewed perfectly in the mouth, evidence of a good cut of meat. The steak could have been seasoned a little better but the salty sautéed mushrooms made up for it, and added a new layer of texture, that was the middle ground between the chewy steak and the sparse micro greens. As a side, not on the fixed menu, I ordered the cheese gnocchi, which alone was more cheese and creaminess I could bear, but when the cheese and the steak combined it was delicious, elevating both items.

 My boyfriend ordered the ravioli of the day, which was filled with veal and served with a light mushroom sauce. It was extremely fragrant with the earthy aroma of the mushrooms and attractive in the plate. This dish was satisfying in that it was meaty and hearty- the heaviness and density of the mushrooms, combined with the tender beef. The pasta of the ravioli was paper thin, just a subtle shell for the insides and skeletal barrier to the sauce. I much prefer my pasta a little thicker, though I can see the appeal of this thinner pasta, as it would not mask the deep flavors of the filling and the sauce. Despite the small number of raviolis in the dish, the end result was moderately filling.

The desert round was not so great. There were three options, we ordered two, but magically we were able to taste all three. Our server mixed up our order, and brought out pineapple cheesecake instead of the coconut flan we ordered. We tasted it and realized it was wrong and asked for it to be corrected. Both the flan and the cheesecake were overwhelmed with mysterious citrus notes, fruit flavors that we could not identify and were muddled by the sugars and creams of the rest of the dessert. I ordered the sticky toffee pudding, which was not sticky enough. There was not enough of the decadent toffee sauce to saturate the dry dark cake. I wish it came with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream to give the cake more moisture.

On the whole, the service was decent. We were able to ask questions and get water without asking, and the food was prompt and hot. I just don’t remember the atmosphere feeling very friendly, though it seems as though Dino and Harry’s is a place full of regulars. I would really like to go back to explore the extensive menu and wine list and see what makes the people come back for more.
JAR 8.2.12

RER 8.2.12



This is going to be my food diary—pictures, reviews, recipes, facts, food adventures. Here you will see food through my eyes and taste it through my experiences and words. I will look at my own food ventures, as well as thoughts of others, food facts and recipes all to create a wide and varied picture of food.

The date at the bottom of the post will be the date the review was written or the day of the adventure. Some of these entries will be out of order—some are old and many will be new.

In terms of the pictures, the sources will be cited unless the photo was taken with my camera, in my presence, in which case I will put the initials of the photographer and the date. The photos are meant to make the mouth water and give insight into presentation, texture, and ingredients. Also check out FOOD-tography, my tumblr dedicated solely to images of food!

Hope you enjoy my foodie ventures and are inspired to make your own!
RER 4.2012