Tag Archives: new jersey

Top Noms of 2012

26 Dec

2012 was an amazing year. We went to some incredibly restaurants this year, so narrowing it down to 10 will be very tough.  It was also an amazing year personally, since Mr. and Ms. Nom Nom got engaged in Maine (where we had quite a few of our Top Noms this year!)

For the Top Noms of years past, check out the posts from 2011, 2010, and 2009.

The Top Noms really comes down to the meals that we found most memorable and enjoyable when we reflect on the past year. It’s hard to compare brunch to dinner in a ranking, but I always think about this as what I would recommend to my friends when they ask me the best places we ate this year, overall.

Away we go:

#10 – Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune was an awesome brunch.  I was dying to go after reading her book, and it lived up to all the expectations and hype (and totally worth the wait). We really need to get back there for dinner.

#9 – Gramercy Tavern was a really great experience. It is known as a top place in New York and it did not disappoint. It didn’t have a dish that really wowed me, but it was a totally solid and great meal.

#8 – Our meal at Sublime in Gladstone, NJ was incredibly surprising.  The apple crisp was out of this world.

#7 – Hugo’s in Portland, Maine was an awesome meal. The tasting menu with the wine pairings really made for a special birthday treat.

#6 – We had a great meal at Boulud Sud while trying to make our way through the Platt 101 of top restaurants in NYC. Everything was memorable, but I can’t stop thinking about the grapefruit dessert that was unlike anything else I have ever had.

#5– While we can’t remember every detail of our meal at Girl & the Goat, it made enough of an impression on us that we had to include it. That Pig Face alone was Top 10 material, maybe of all time!

#4 – Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine was an amazing dining experience. We went because we enjoyed watching the two chefs cook on Top Chef Masters and wound up thoroughly enjoying our meal.  We were impressed with the creative dishes and great flavors.

#3– Anita Lo’s Annisa was a long anticipated meal that lived up to everything we hoped it would be. The dishes tasted so rich and were made with such love, it was hard not to enjoy every single bite.

#2 – Michael White’s Ai Fiori was our first Valentine’s Day stop this year. The pasta was out of this world, and can you really top scallops and bone marrow? Two of my favorite things in one dish.

#1 – Our meal at Eleven Madison Park (Part 1 and Part 2!) was the best one we have ever had ever! It was an adventure, a journey, an experience, and one delicious meal. I can’t imagine anything better. And it got the one and only 10 out of 10 Nom Points in NYC Nom Nom history.

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Special mentions go out to Cannibal for the awesome Pig’s Head, Smush for a great take on dessert, the pasta with the roast drippings (Tajarin with Sugo d’Arrosto) from Manzo, Eventide in Portland Maine for the awesome new take on the lobster roll, and the Tap Room at Colicchio and Sons for continuing to impress everyone we bring there. We also had quite an amazing time at our “secret” Chef’s Table at SD26, since we got to watch them cook while having a chef’s selected meal. I went back with coworkers a few months later, and it managed to impress the hell out of them, too.

What a year!

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Sublime: Gladstone, NJ

25 Sep

I have a tendency to be a bit of a New York City snob (maybe elitist is a better word?).  I’ve had amazing food in many places, but I don’t think any place can come close to rivaling NYC as a food city.  And I especially don’t think of my home state of Jersey as being a food mecca.  So when my mom told me about this “AMAZING” place called Sublime in Gladstone, NJ… I was skeptical.

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But the menu sounded quite promising in its descriptions (since the menu is seasonal and changed all the time, I included our menus below).

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And it was designed with a nice aesthetic and we were greeted by an incredibly friendly hostess. Our service the entire meal was actually fantastic.

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And has a brand new porch area that looked lovely to sit at. (It was a bit too cold for that when we ate there)

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I started with a craft beer flight (they were already speaking my language!)

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It was a really nice trip through very different beers and we had fun passing them all around for everyone to try.

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Then we began eating.  They began with the tuna sliders which were mini spicy tuna burgers on brioche bun with sliced tomato, cucumber, and sriracha mayo.  Everyone besides my sister and I (who are both allergic to peppers) enjoyed these.

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We also had a wedge salad which was topped with applewood smoked bacon, radish and hard boiled egg. Yum.

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I began with the crab and avocado salad which came with jumbo lump blue crab eat with avocado, red onion, cilantro and lemon/thyme vinaigrette.  This was so fresh and so full of flavor. I just loved it. And what a beautiful presentation.

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First entree up was the NY Strip which was a grilled 16 oz. strip over truffled fingerling potatoes and topped with an herbed garlic port wine reduction.  This was cooked perfectly and had all these great rich flavors and textures.  Really enjoyable.

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Someone tried the Macadamia Crusted cod which was a red miso marinated Chatham cod crusted in macadamia nuts served over mango sticky rice and sake braised baby bok choy.  SO. GOOD.

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We also had the sea scallops, which were pan seared diver sea scallops over truffled smashed potatoes with sweet creamed corn and fried leeks.  The crisp on the fried leaks was a great foil for the tender scallops.  Each bite was better than the last.

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One person got the seafood yaki udon, which had sautéed shrimp and scallops with seasonal vegetables and udon noodles in a sweet garlic oyster sauce. Very tasty.

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And I got the short ribs.  These were boneless Rioja braised short ribs with oven roasted vegetables and Yukon gold smashed potatoes.  I’m pretty sure I moaned when I ate these.  Everything short ribs should be.  Tender, packed with flavor, in a slightly sweet and rich sauce.  Sensational.

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Sheesh! This took me by surprise. I was sitting here having a really fantastic meal… and in NJ.  (Though the prices could certainly rival NY!)

Always trust the mama.

She then informed us that the desserts were really phenomenal and not to be missed. Well fine mom, twist my arm.

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We started with the banana rangoons, which were deep fried wontons filled with banana and toasted hazelnuts served with dark chocolate sauce.  Awesome.

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Then we had the milk chocolate praline pudding, which was housemade and topped with fresh whipped cream.  Great flavor, but it could have used a little more texture in my opinion.  Some sort of crisp. But we’d be splitting hairs to make this meal any better.

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And then… it came.

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The single most impressive apple crisp I have ever had… in my life.

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It is listed on the menu as “For 2” but this thing could easily serve about 6 people.  It came with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce that just dripped right down the side of the dish.  It was an apple crisp for the records. Usually toppings on apple crisps don’t stay crispy.  They just get kind of mushy and I assumed that was the way it always had to be.  Au contraire my apple crisp loving self!  This was so good that I actually told the waiter that I wanted to send word back to the pastry chef that this was incredible and I was impressed. He came back to tell me that the chef mentioned that he bakes it at a low temperature for a very long time to get the crisp.  Good. To. Know.

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I still can’t believe how wildly good this meal was.  I’m not sure if it was the sheer surprise of it, or if the food was just that sensational.  My mom has always been quite a good judge of food, so I should have trusted her more.  I just couldn’t believe a restaurant like this would exist in a little town in the middle of the Jerz.  All the food was outrageously good, but that apple crisp gets its own 0.5 Nom Point boost.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

Shumi Sushi: Somerville, NJ

18 Oct

I was in NJ to spend some time with my mom around my birthday.  We were on the hunt for somewhere local to eat in Somerville and she remembered a sushi restaurant that she had heard rave reviews about, Shumi.  I did some mobile research and this place had AMAZING reviews.  So we followed the directions and ended up… here…

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Hmmm.  That isn’t exactly the most inspiring place to get sushi, however, I was willing to try it and see how strip mall sushi was.

We started with miso soup.  I don’t LOVE miso soup.  It is usually a bit too bland, either totally under or over salted, and the texture of tofu is not my favorite.  This, on the other hand, was delicious.  Good flavor, good broth, and more than 2 chunks of tofu and a slice of carrot hanging around in the bowl.

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Next we ordered a special… Monkfish liver.  I had only had it once before and while I was skeptical about strip mall sushi, I decided I was going to go all the way.  This was awesome.  My mom couldn’t get past the idea of monkfish liver enough to enjoy it, but I just ate this up (very literally).  It was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and dressed.  Scrumptious.

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Even the salad that came with the emal was good.  The ginger dressing tasted much more fresh and anyone who dares to put a beet in my salad is a friend, in my opinion.

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We decided to go Omakase (chef chooses what he serves you).  I cannot remember for the life of me what the special things were, but I do remember Spanish mackerel and some kind of Japanese fluke I had never heard of.  Each bite was better than the last.  Fresh… filled with flavor… And even the rice was somehow special.

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I was absolutely impressed by this place.

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I would say this sushi rivaled many of the good (and much more expensive) sushi in NYC.  And this was in NJ… in a strip mall!  I have to start being less of a judgmental snob.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Hibachi at East- Berkeley Heights, NJ

10 Aug

 

My father just bought a new house in NJ (Congrats again daddy!) and we decided to have a celebratory dinner at East, a local Japanese restaurant in Berkeley Heights, NJ.  At first we sat in the regular section, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of fire and realized that the room just next to us was for… HIBACHI!

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We still got some sushi to start, however, including a Philadelphia Role (a completely blasphemous but tasty role of salmon and cream cheese).  It was tasty, but I’ve had much better.

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The Hibachi was very typical, with the show of cooking that is completely tacky and overdone but always a good, nostalgic fun.  Our guy started with a greasy smile…

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Then lit it on fire… OOO FIRE!

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He made a heart shape out of the rice (and then made it “beat” but pulsing his spatula underneath it in the effortless style that only a Hibachi chfef can know)

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I LOVE Hibachi Fried Rice.  Why it tastes so much better from Hibachi than almost anywhere else, I do not know. But I do now need to solve the mystery to eat FAR too much of it with utter joy.

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We ordered an assortment of dishes.  The veggies (on the left of this pic) come with the meal (as did miso soup, the fried rice, and 2 shrimp each).  There was also steak, scallops, chicken, shrimp, and lobster tails.

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And then the classic onion volcano.

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FIRE!

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And then a very cute display of a toy that pissed water to put out the tire.  Nice evolution of the show for the adults.

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I chose the scallops, which were awesome.

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Plust the steak… which was just okay.

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Overall, as far as Himachi goes, this was perfectly fine.  Not outstanding, but still enjoyable.  I was glad that they didn’t force anyone to catch shrimp in their mouth at this one.  For that, an extra 1/2 nom point!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

 

 

 

Meiling’s in Metuchen, NJ

12 Nov

My dad grew up in Metuchen, NJ and on many occasions when we went back, we ate at Meiling’s Chinese Restaurant in town.  When the family was back in town, we decided we had to go back.

We ordered some Chow Fun.

And shrimp with sauteed spinach.

And orange beef (that I couldn’t eat due to the peppers).

And scallops with asparagus.

It was good.  And Chinesey delicious.  But I think the best way I can put is that it’s Chinese food that gets the job done. Nothing special.  But dependable.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Origin Thai (2) in Morristown, NJ

15 Sep

My sister became my hero when she donated 10 inches of her hair to Locks of Love.  When we were in the area, we stopped by Origin Thai for lunch.  There are two more locations in Somerville and Basking Ridge, NJ and they bill themselves as being a French/Thai fusion.  I have only previously been to the Somerville location, and it was actually the first place I ever tried (and liked) Thai.  It never fails to impress.

Both Stacey and my mom chose the Massaman Curry.  Even I like this dish (and I am just not a curry fan).

The sauce is just perfect and the ingredients are fresh.

I chose the Pad Thai.  I’ve tried many different Thai dishes, but Pad Thai still remains my favorite. And Origin does it just right.

And see that little cigar on the side?  It was delicious, however, as it turns out that lovely sauce was filled with spicy chilies.  Both Stacey and I suffered after trying it, as we are both allergic.  It wasn’t pretty.

Overall, Origin is set apart because of the quality and freshness of the ingredients compared to most Thai places.  It just has a leg up on the rest.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Winberie’s in Summit, NJ

4 Jun

After a long day in New Jersey, Mike and I found ourselves at the Summit train station and itching for dinner.  We decided to take a later train and find a local dining establishment.  I have actually never eaten at Winberie’s (partly due to bitterness that they wouldn’t give me a job when I was 16).  It’s a small chain that everyone I know who grew up in our area frequented.  They have a few other locations in New Jersey as well as one in PA and one in IL.

We started with the Bruschetta which was fire roasted tomatoes, basil, balsamic, and Reggiano Parmesan on garlic crostini.  It was quite delicious and had all the right flavor combination and textures (crispy without cutting up your mouth while you eat it). I had one piece of 3 points.

Mike opted for the burger. He seemed to enjoy it.  The fries were good but not crispy enough (a common complaint of mine with fries).

I balanced the crostini with a salad.  The Alsatian Chicken Salad sounded right up my alley… grille chicken breast, field greens, sauteed apples (why don’t more restaurants sautee their apples??), bleu cheese, candied walnuts (nom nom nom), and cider vinaigrette. Delish!  I calculated about 8.5 points for the salad.

Overall, for being a “chain” I was actually pretty impressed with the food.  A good standby… though nothing really special.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

New Jersey Comfort

27 Jul

I grew up in New Jersey and, even through all the teasing, I am still quite proud to have grown up in a place where I was neither sheltered nor thrown into the streets, surrounded by mountains, and 45 minutes from NYC, Philly, and the Beach.  NJ gets a bum rap, but I’m happy it’s where I’m from.

Every time I go back to visit my parents, food becomes a big deal (whether home cooked or a night out).  The destination of choice near my father’s is a great, reliable, friendly place called The Stirling Hotel.  It has been around for over 100 years and has that “lived in,” comfortable feeling.  I think the main picture on their homepage defines it well:

The place itself has a tented outdoor space (heated in winter) and a cute outdoor bar served from within a small barn-like area.  Inside it’s a bit cramped, with an entry hallway where everyone has to turn sideways to allow people to pass from the outdoors/kitchen/hostesses/waitresses/etc but it works out.  They have a lot of old furniture inside with antique stoves and solid wood chairs in a tavern-like atmosphere.  The inside bar could also use a bit more room, but the selection is always one of my favorite parts.  They have unique beers on tap and I can trace many great discoveries to their bartenders recommendation.  I know I had my first Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale there, opening up my eyes to the glory of pumpkin beer (though nothing beats Smuttynose on draft).

I have probably been to The Stirling Hotel at least two dozen times over the years.  It used to be the place we stopped for dinner when I lived in NJ after volunteering at The Raptor Trust (a wild bird rehab center where I volunteered with my dad, who is still there, for about 8 years).  Now it’s the place we go to pretty much every time we go home, especially if my younger sister is with me.  It’s become our family’s go to place.

My dad is such a regular there that he knows the owner, Tom, personally.  We usually have different servers, however, they’re always nice and have a good friendly feel.  Our waiter this time around was Anthony, and he had such a fun personality that I’ll give him a special shout out here.  He spoke in about 4 languages (terribly yet hysterically) and managed to dance his way through the service.  I don’t think a few locals quite knew what to do with him, but he kept us laughing.  He even mugged for a picture with a rooster.

Now onto the food!  Well.. first the beer.  I ordered an Ayinger Weissbier.  It was so good that I wrote it down.  I love my white beers, but this one was extra special.  Lots of honey and overall deliciousness.

Now the Specials menu at The Stirling Hotel was something I always went for, and they used to have an almost daily special of these artichokes that were to. die. for.  I could eat them for my meal ever day of the week.  Unfortunately, they have been missing from the menu each time I’ve been there recently.

So, alas, with no artichokes, we ordered mozzarella sticks for the app.  They were fine, but nothing special.  Not too greasy though, so that made me happy. (I’m not a huge fan, so maybe I’m not a good judge?) 

After spending the day moving my boyfriend, Mike, from his place in Brooklyn into my apartment, and storing stuff at my father’s place in NJ, I was craving some classic home-style Noms for my entree.  I went with the classic half mac and cheese (comes with garlic bread, perfect for sopping up the cheese) and an order of sweet potato fries (always VERY good there).  I usually like a mac and cheese with a little less liquid, the cheesy garlic bread made it up to me.


Dad went with a half rack of ribs (that’s a half!) and I was delighted to find out that they were tasty without being spicy.  The portion seemed good for him and we all commented that it was a tasty sauce.

Mike went with (shocker) the burger.  It is a good burger, and I don’t think this one disappointed.  Interesting that lettuce and tomato is served a-la-carte, but it worked well.  (Besides, three of us ate for the price of two in typical NYC prices, including beverages).

I actually don’t think I’ve had dessert there before, but this tiring day called for some sweets.  Mike and I split an enormous brownie sundae.  The brownie was warm (Nom Nom Nom) and it had just the right balance of brownie to whipped cream to ice cream. 

Dad ordered the peanut butter bliss pie and it was deliciously peanut buttery, and if I’m going to eat chocolate ice cream, this is the kind I want it to be.

As a dessert lover, however, my one recommendation would be to up the ante on the chocolate syrup.  A little Ghiradelli goes a LONG way.

Overall, the food here is reliably good in a great atmosphere with great beer. Beyond that, it’s comfortable.  I look forward to going here every time I’m home.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10