Thursday, August 29, 2013

Red Store

Red Store
Cape May Point, NJ

Final Grade: B

            In the past 3 weeks, I have called this place the wrong name too many times. I’ve said Red House, Red Door, and maybe only twice referred to it with its correct name- Red Store. It also obviously didn’t help that I recently ate at a restaurant called Red Knot just a few weeks ago. What the heck, do I need to look into the color of red or something?!? Anyway, even though I can’t seem to remember this spot’s name, I most certainly can remember what we ate. Food this good doesn’t slip the mind like namesakes do.

            This is actually Part 2 in a 3-part series all based around Hubby’s _ _ birthday. Last week, I detailed Our Day in Cape May while today you will be in luck to read about our celebratory dinner.

            After searching and searching for a reputable seafood BYOB restaurant in our area, I was left with little hope for a memorable meal. I decided to switch focus and start looking into French BYOB places. After making a few calls and finding out most places were booked, I went into my trusty NJ Monthly Top 25 Restaurants List, 2013 to see what I could find. This is where I found the write-up on Red Store. Seafood-check, BYOB- check, great reviews-check, open reservation for August 10- check. Done! Off we went…

            As the name implies, it is somewhat of a store. Don’t fret though; the store is like a country convenience store that only takes up the first ¼ of the space. It is actually very cute and while your table is getting set, you can shop- nice touch. We didn’t specify whether inside or outside with our reservation so were a bit apprehensive about being placed al fresco. Again, no need to fret here either- the outdoor garden patio is covered, breezy and ridiculously romantic. I’d take a table there any day over their wood-plank floored and ceiling fan ventilated dining room.

            The menu was small but definitely detailed and grand in its scope of cuisine. We decided to each go with the 3-course tasting menu. Even with 6 meals to pick between the two of us, we had difficulties deciding. So while we debated and discussed our choices, we enjoyed an order of the Artisanal Bread. The bread was decent, the butter was divine. Covered in course sea salt, it spruced up that loaf like a pro.
            My first course was the Corn and Crab Chowder and what a way to start! It was, by far, the best soup I’ve ever had. Creamy, steamy, and seasoned perfectly, it had me at first spoonful. The corn was just ripe enough to let both the silkiness of the base and freshness of the corn shine.  Matt went with the Wagu Beef Carpaccio and was quite content with his choice. He admired the velvety richness of the paper-thin beef but honestly thought the arugula salad and Grana Padano cheese stole the show.
            For the second course, I went with my old standby, Jersey Scallops. Laid atop a quinoa and pistachio taboulei, they were simply scrumptious. The tomato jam was a nice addition that added a welcomed depth of acidity but with fresh scallops, I am always one to adhere to the “less is more” mantra. Matt went with the Argentinean Style Spicy Empanadas and was then sitting next to 2 things he loved, (wink wink). The pastry dough was light and just-a-bit-buttery while the inside chopped meat was kicking with spice and personality. I especially enjoyed the cilantro crema as it both cooled and contrasted the spices.
            Dinners were next and we were definitely ready to get to the “main course”. Birthday Boy went with My Mother’s Ricotta Gnocchi with Crab while I went with the Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Duck Fat Fries. Yes, I just typed that- duck fat fries. My dinner was the better of the two indeed as Matt’s was a bit too one-noted. The creamy sauce and lump crab meat needed a burst of color or liveliness to cut through the deep and rich flavors abound. My steak was cooked to its requested medium-rare and was rather flavorful. The fries, ya know- the duck fat ones, were as you’d expect, delicious times a thousand. And although a bit too large for my liking, the crispy-fried edges were darkened and crisped just enough to counter the heavy starch within.
            As with any birthday dinner, we were more than willing to stay for dessert but were surprised to not see nor be offered a dessert menu. We didn’t ask the waitress either as it seemed that no one around us was satisfying their sweet tooth either. We paid our bill, thanked our wonderful waitress and trekked it back up the parkway. Our 2.5 hour drive was long without a doubt, but we filled it with tasty conversation about not only our next trip back but to how we could replicate that chowder in the meantime. Funny, we still haven’t attempted that recipe nor have planned that trip…..Frankly, I think we need to narrow our focus and just concentrate on getting the name right first!

            So even if you can’t remember the name, here is the info you do need to know: Red Store is located at 500 Cape Avenue, Cape May Point, NJ 08212. For more information, please visit their website .

Total score 20/25
Final Grade: B
A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5

Restaurant Rubric

Food Taste
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Restaurant service
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Food Presentation
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?



Monday, August 26, 2013

FoodBank's Culinary Classic- 4 Weeks to go!

The 22nd Annual Culinary Class- September 23, 2013

            So did you buy your tickets yet? I sure hope you did as this year’s event is going to be spectacular. Like I mentioned last week, not only will your taste buds be in luck but you can feel good about supporting a great organization- The FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties. They do amazing work, truly. My post last Monday detailed some highlights, you did read it, yes?

            Back to that ticket purchase……Okay, so you didn’t buy any yet. No biggie, I won’t get on your case (just yet), there is still time to buy.

            However, if you still need a little nudging….. just look at all the restaurants you will be able to get a taste of:

The Beanery

            That’s 30, yes 3-0, restaurants for you, your friends and your family (you are bringing them all, right?) to enjoy. Where else can the price of one ticket allow you to savor what some of the most known chefs and spots are cooking up? It is a no-brainer- buy the ticket, relish in the deliciousness, and support a great organization.

            To make it a bit easier, here is where to click to buy: tickets
Coming next Monday: Spotlight on the Special Guest Chef: David Burke




Gaetano's Restaurant & Market

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Day in Cape May

A Day in Cape May….and a special someone’s B-Day!
            Taking a little deviation here my friends: today’s post is more like a journal entry rather than a recipe or review. Have no fear though, this is actually a 2-part post where the next one will feature where we had dinner. The place was so darn good, I had to give it its own write-up. I wouldn’t be doing it justice if I just mentioned them and wrote a few lines. No way, I give credit where credit is due!

            So back to part 1- Our Day in Cape May….also Hubby’s _ _ birthday! He has a huge problem with getting older and rarely ever wants to celebrate these occasions. I, on the other hand, love birthdays and applaud at any chance to celebrate. FYI- next March is a BIG one and I have already hinted at told Hubby to get started on the party planning :) Ah, deviating all over the place here….back to Cape May.

            The drive took a ridiculous amount of time, thank goodness I pack snacks. Our first destination was The Cape May Craft Beer & Crab Festival. Although small in size, the fest kept us well entertained for a few hours. We sampled many delectables from various vendors and found our favorite right away. The balsamic vinegar from Leonardo e Roberto's was exceptional. Thick and velvety, it had all the marks of a well-aged version.
              There were many BBQ sauce and rub vendors sprinkled throughout the grounds and we definitely found not only some interesting variations but some comic relief as well…
            I enjoyed shopping and found myself wanting to buy enough things you’d think it was my birthday! See, one happy gal…..
            Look at these herb garden labels, too stinking cute….
            Watch out, my next project- turning butter knifes into outdoor d├ęcor!

            After perusing the tents, we both were ready to manga! Oh, who am I kidding- we were ready the minute we parked, but thought lunch at 10:30 was something we should reconsider. Hence, by noon we were famished and ready to get us some crabs. I am still a bit confused as to why they call this festival a Crab one in that you were only able to get crabs from one vendor. One vendor?!? That is not a Crab Festival, that is a Crab Monopoly! Luckily, the crab cakes from the people in charge, The Carriage House, were super. Meaty, juicy and pan-fried to perfection. We grabbed a cute seat under a gazebo and eat in silence……maybe we should’ve eaten earlier!

            Once we were done with lunch, it was time to kick back and enjoy the beer garden and live music on the lawn….
             The options from Goose Island Beer Company were all tempting and birthday boy went with a few samplings that afternoon. Upon entering the garden and paying our entrance fee, we were awarded with one souvenir glass. Pretty cool in that now Hubby has a glass with his b-day on it….ya know, in case he forgets in the coming years. I hear those 30’s do that to you (wink wink).
            While enjoying the music, we had a surprise visit from some other special people… parents!.....
             They arrived much later than us and weren’t able to get a souvenir glass and had to wait in much longer lines than us for both lunch and beverages. Apparently, the early bird gets more than just the worm! Anywho, Dad went with the old-fashioned crack-at-your-will crabs and was feasting and filthy in no time!  Just like us, they were quite content with the offerings.

            Before we headed to dinner, we stopped at the beach to enjoy a few hours of some sun. It was (gasp) my first time to the beach all year! I was a bit uneasy though as I looked like I was ready for a day out, not a day at the beach. Oh well, I swallowed my Jersey girl pride and threw off my heels and dug my toes into the sand. Bliss ensued…..

            The beach was beautiful and I was able to put my new camera into practice….

            I don’t know if this is Hubby letting his age show…………..

            Awe….. I’m a mush, I know……

            Coming next week…….our dinner! Believe me, it is one you will want to read!  

Monday, August 19, 2013

FoodBank's Culinary Classic- 5 Weeks to go!

The 22nd Annual Culinary Classic- September 23,2013

            I know most of us like to enjoy great food and I like to think we are always up for helping a good cause. Achieving those two activities by themselves isn’t too much too handle- getting a reservation at a new spot on one weekend while sending in some cans of food for your child’s food drive the next week is pretty easy. But being wined and dined by some of NJ’s most acclaimed chefs while supporting a great cause at the same time- almost impossible.

            Impossible that is until now….I invite you and whomever you’d like to be accompanied with to the Annual Culinary Classic. At this event, not only will your ticket price go towards supporting The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties but it will act as your gateway to some downright delicious cuisine.

            The Classic, in its 22nd year, will be held at The Mill in Spring Lake, NJ on September 23. This year’s event promises to be exceptional with Celebrity Chef David Burke in attendance and Brian Kirk & the Jirks keeping you entertained. There is an extensive list of restaurants that will be present to offer tastings from their menus. Next week I’ll post the entire list for you but as a sneak peek, I’ll let you know some notables: Chef Mike's ABG, BrandlDanny's Steakhouse and Shipwreck Grill. Not to mention, there will be wine and spirit purveyors on hand to pair with the cuisine.  

            But what’s way more important than what you’ll be eating or drinking, is what your ticket sale is supporting- The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Back in June, I was able to take a tour of their vast facility and meet some of the heroes behind the doors. What I saw and learned truly had me grounded and in awe. Between seeing the aisles upon aisles of food ready to be shipped to countless families, I learned the following:
  •  About 1.2 million people live in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, with about 1 in 10 needing emergency food.
  •  If all the people the FoodBank fed last year joined hands, they would reach from Belmar to Trenton- 3 times!
In Monmouth and Ocean Counties:
  • Over 127,500 individuals receive emergency food, an 84% increase compared to 5 years ago
  • The number of children has increased by 150% with over 51,000 served in our local communities. 14,000 children are under the age of 5
  • 7.1 million pounds of food area distributed through a network of over 260 different feeding programs including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior housing and day care centers
During Super Storm Sandy:
  • In the first 4 weeks following the storm, The FoodBank distributed food for approximately 1 million meals!
  • The FoodBank’s Culinary Kitchen prepared hot meals daily for churches and civic organizations serving storm-stricken communities
  • The FoodBank provided food for hot meals prepared by emergency feeding programs for displaced residents
            And 2 last fascinating facts that I was shocked to learn was that 94 cents out of every dollar raised goes to supporting programs and food purchases and  that for every 1 dollar donation, the FoodBank can provide 3 meals! Wowza, that is incredible and more than just a bang for your buck!

            So stay tuned as I continue to countdown to the FoodBank’s Culinary Classic and be sure to check out their web page to learn more about their fantastic organization or their Facebook page to learn about this event. Oh and of course, I hope you grab some friends and family and enjoy a night out not only feeding yourselves but in turn, so many others!
Click here to purchase tickets or call 732-918-2500 to reserve.





Thursday, August 15, 2013

Eggplant Parm Naan Bread & Bonus Leftover Recipe

              Ricotta Cheese. Oh how sweet the sound! I seriously adore this stuff……layered, dolloped, stuffed, or just plan spooned- I could eat it all day. The best ricotta cheese I’ve ever had is actually from one of my best friend’s family restaurants: Capone's in Toms River, NJ. The ricotta they use is exceptional, like nada I’ve ever had! I could eat the cheese raviolis right from the conveyor belt thingy that helps them make their homemade ravs. Oh, who am I kidding??.. I've done it quite a few times!  Their distributor, Anacapri, provides them with the ricotta and it is beyond creamy. I would actually like to bathe in it, I think my skin would glow, don’t you?!?

            Point being that I love ricotta cheese and have pretty much grown up eating it- from the fresh raviolis at Capone's to my favorite frozen brand ones (Seviroli ) and from good ol’ eggplant rollatini to just on top of some spaghetti, I , <3 me some Ricotta any day!

            Loving it so, I usually have some in the fridge. The other day I was craving eggplant parmesan yet had nil time to make that beauty. Luckily, I had eggplant, some great flat bread, and of course Ricotta.What went from a craving to a dinner took a mere 30-45 minutes and I had lunch supplies for the next day! Winner , winner, more than just a cheesy dinner! Okay, maybe I’ve consumed too much calcium or something…..Anywho, this recipe was fantabulous and I am definitely glad I made a little time to quench my craving. I hope you do the same….Enjoy…

Eggplant Parm Naan Breads & Leftover Bonus Recipe
Serves: 2

OBJ: TCW be able to use her favorite flatbread along with her favorite cheese by making one of her favorite things: pizza

1 eggplant, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 Naan breads
¼ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus additional for drizzling
½ C – ¾ C whole milk ricotta cheese
½ C – ¾ C shredded mozzarella
2 tomatoes, sliced thin and layed out on paper towel to drain
S & P: salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes (RPF), optional
¼ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6-8 fresh basil leaves, torn or thinly sliced

1. Preheat grill over medium flame
2. Simultaneously, place pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees
3. Brush each side of eggplant slices with ¼ C oil and season each side liberally with S & P
4. Grill for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once until golden brown. Remove from grill and turn off. Once cooled, cut each eggplant into quarters
5. Assemble breads/pizzas: Drizzle each bread with about 2 tsp oil and brush to spread. Place tomato slices over bottom.  Top tomato slices with eggplant pieces. Dollop the ricotta all over each bread and then sprinkle each with mozzarella. Season with S, P and RPF. Top with Parmesan and an additional drizzle of olive oil (1 tsp over each bread)
6. Place each bread/pizza on preheated stone and bake for about 10 minutes or until edges are dark golden brown and cheese has melted
7. Remove from oven and top with basil. Slice, serve and enjoy
Leftover Bonus:

Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches
Serves: 2

OBJ: TCW be able to use up her leftover grilled eggplant for a satisfying and veggie-friendly lunch

4 slices grilled eggplant
Caramelized onions (or grilled)
½ C baby spinach, rinsed
2 TBS honey balsamic dressing: I highly recommend Ken's Chef Reserve
2 slices tomato
4 fresh basil leaves, torn or thinly slices
S & P- salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 rolls- any soft kind would work except something too tough like Portuguese

1. Place the two bottoms of rolls side-by-side
2. Top each with 2 slices eggplant, onions and ¼ C spinach. Add basil, S & P and Parmesan on top of spinach
3. Spoon and spread 1 TBS dressing on each top half of roll
4. Place top half on the sandwich, enjoy!