Lidia’s Cuban Kitchen – 1950’s Cuba in Cranford, NJ , Surviving Superstorm Sandy required a move

A little out of my Monmouth-Ocean county home base, Lidia’s drew me to visit them. As you may know from my bio, I teach Spanish, and love the culture. Any good Hispanic restaurant is worth a visit from me. I also happen to have some friends who live in Cranford who said, “What the heck, we’ll go give it a try”. Lidia’s originally had a restaurant in Highlands, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, and have recently opened in Cranford.

Since we were coming up from exit 98, our friends suggested reservations, when we called we were told they only take reservations for parties of 10 or more. We decided on 7pm on a Saturday thinking we might just be ahead of the Saturday crowd. Well, the people in front of us were the last ones to get a table before the entire restaurant was full. Happily, this gave us time to take in the ambience which was very cool if you can appreciate Cuba in its heyday. The wait staff wore black pants, Lidia’s black t-shirts and straw-fedora hats, so very Cuba! And the music was right there, too!

We saw a beautiful bar and asked if it we could sit there and have a drink while waiting. That’s when we met Joe, Lidia’s husband. He said sure we could sit there, but it was a byob. I told him we had heard about the byob and were eager to try some sangria. I showed him the wine we had brought and he smiled and proceeded to make us some very tasty sangria. Also, if you bring rum you can get a pitcher of mojito’s, maybe we’ll try that next time. For $12 they will mix either for you. There were large stalks of sugar cane sitting in pitchers with water that looked exotic and delicious at the same time.
Eventually the entire bar area became packed and it was our time to be seated. I could tell there was a lot of attention to detail when we looked at the menu; it was almost a parchment paper held together by twine. Also, the Spanish teacher in me thought the placemats that looked like a 1950’s Cuban newspaper were the perfect touch. Very important to note, on the menu it says all food is fresh and made to order so please be patient. My party had a lot to catch up on so the time was not an issue, but we were there for a few hours.

empanadasplaintain cups with picadilloshrimp with garlic saucecalamari We couldn’t wait to eat. Our mouths were watering each time a table’s food came out of the kitchen. For our appetizer’s we chose 4 different so we could all try each others. One companion chose empanadas, there were a choice of chicken, picadillo or spinach and manchego cheese or a combination of all three, and that’s what he chose. I chose one of the specials of the night, plaintain cups filled with picadillo. Another chose the garlic shrimp and our fourth, who was hesitant to try Cuban food, had the fried Calamari. Joe, it seems is Italian and told me at the bar he speaks no Spanish. His influence is the few Italian items on the menu and it sure come in handy to please everyone in your party. Not just an afterthought, the Calamari was perfect. The calamari came with Lidia’s homemade sweet and spicy sauce with pepperocini aioli. Our non Cuban eater found it a little too spicy but others raved and more was asked for later in our meal. The empanadas were tasty and filled to capacity. No skimpy empanadas here! The plantain cups filled generously with the picadillo as well. And the garlic shrimp, well….garlicky .

Vaca Frita

Vaca Frita

Cuban Paella

Cuban Paella

Still enjoying our sangria we awaited our entrées. Our non-Cuban eater chose the ravioli. These came with a meat sauce which seemed a little out of the ordinary but was totally perfect for ravioli. Maybe I should show you her very empty plate. I ordered the Vaca Frita, directly translated means Fried Cow, thankfully it is shredded beef,seasoned and pan fried. I could taste a vinegary marinade, just devine. (Is your mouth watering yet?) I chose the congri for my side. This is black beans and rice cooked together rather than side by side. The two guys chose the Cuban paella. This was served full of such fresh fish and steaming hot. After the took a bite or two they both said they thought the sauce that went with the calamari would be great with the paella. So we asked for some and who should bring out the precious liquid, but Lidia herself! I suppose she wanted to see who was mixing up her menu . Both of them had plenty of their entrée left to take home as I did. We just had to save room for dessert.

Ravioli with meat sauce

Ravioli with meat sauce

The desert choices ranged from the usual to the exotic. Our choices included the vanilla ice cream, which came served in a ceramic cup that looked like a cone. How cute! Another had the Casquitos de Guayaba with cream cheese, this is fresh guava slices served with cream cheese, not your typical cream cheese, this is less sweet and the perfect compliment. My buddy, the non Cuban eater, chose the cheesecake, drizzled with caramel sauce. She kept saying how delicious the cheesecake tasted. I chose the Tres Leches cake. For those of you unfamiliar this is a typical Hispanic dessert made with 3 milks. It was the best Tres Leches I have ever had, and believe me I’ve sampled my share. And to top it off, it was drizzled with that intoxicating caramel sauce. I had to ask if the sauce was made there and of course the answer was yes.

Tres Leches

Tres Leches

For everyone reading, it is so centrally located you have no excuse not to go. Right off exit 136 GSP. Will I be back? You bet, I still have so many things to try.

Lidia’s Cuban Kitchen, 117 North Union Ave, Cranford, NJ 908-27CUBAN(2-8226)

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#SCBDExclusive: Behind The Scenes & Lunch at DBGB Kitchen & Bar

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A saying I’ve learned to live by and well have always lived by is: when a good opportunity comes around, you should take it. Well almost two weeks ago, I was invited to go see the prep kitchen and get a behind the scenes look to the charcuterie and pastry program to Daniel Boulud‘s restaurants in New York City. I was invited to go with a guest so, SCBD team member Kelsey Jelling came with me. We could not put down this once in a lifetime opportunity and it was definitely a day to remember.

When we arrived to the prep kitchen in the East Village we were greeted by Lauren, who does the pr for all of the Daniel Boulud restaurants in the city. We were welcomed to enjoy some complimentary coffee & pastries before our tour began. I made sure I tried a croissant and some coffee and it did not disappoint. I was ready for the tour to begin.

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Our tour began by seeing where all the breads are made and packaged including making our own baguettes (which was the best baguette I ever tasted thus far). We also where the pastries are made and maintained before the charcuterie part of our class began. I was definitely starting to crave all the sweets I was seeing.

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Next, it was time to see the charcuterie department. We started off by seeing where some of the casing was done but then we went into the ‘cold’ room where all the important stuff goes down. We saw a how they make their famous rilette which we also got try and it was a delicious! A rilette is a mix of braised pork shank that was slow cooked for 48 hours, roasted vegetables, oil and seasonings.

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After we finished with the charcuterie part of the class, it was time for my favorite part, our lunch on the house at DBGB Kitchen and Bar. I’ve heard so many great things about Daniel Boulud‘s cooking and after attending the class I knew what I wanted to try. We started off with cocktails, since Kelsey and I both liked fruity cocktails, our waiter recommended The Dicken’s which was fruity with a bit of spice but was delicious and I’d definitely get it again.

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While we were looking over the menu and picking out our appetizers, we also got to meet Daniel Boulud, we were so in awe we didn’t take a picture with him but it was surely an honor. For my appetizer, I  tried the Fried Egg and Wild Mushroom Appetizer which was delicious and creamy, it was a perfect balance of egg and mushrooms. I decided to try the famous DBGD Dog, especially after learning about how all their hot dogs & sausages are made in-house, I was crazy not to! It certainly did not disappoint and was served with some delicious homemade fries. We also got a complimentary sausage de jamon sent from the kitchen, which was great!

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The Chocolate Only Cake

We were getting so full, but could not turn down dessert so I decided to get the ‘Chocolate Only’ Cake which is by far the lightest, most heavenly piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had. It was a fun-filled, food day that I would never forget and I would love to come back and eat at DBGB Kitchen and Bar again!

Sara SCBD Logo Edited

#SCBD February Fun Foodie Favorites

February is well underway and I’m here to report some of my favorite foodie products.

1. Go Organic NYC

GoOrganicNYC

Go Organic NYC, a food delivery service bringing boxes of fresh, organic produce to homes and offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, is now expanding to northern New Jersey. Consumers in Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union counties can sign up to customize their own boxes of produce, or choose to receive a preset selection of fruits, vegetables and seasonal produce, delivered straight to their doorstep. There are no commitments, upfront fees or contracts, just boxes of fresh, organic, high quality produce delivered to consumers at intervals of their choosing. I received a box from Go Organic NYC a few months back and loved it! It was great having the best quality of produce delivered to your door! Go Organic NYC is offering all new customers a 20% off discount when they place their first order, here. To claim the coupon, enter GOORGANICPROMO upon checkout.

2. Eight O’ Clock K-Cups

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I love good coffee and was thoroughly impressed with the Eight O’ Clock K-Cups. I feel that most k-cups aren’t as strong as regular coffee but these are definitely an exception. I even came up with my own Cafe Mocha recipe that works great with them.

Cafe Mocha

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a large mug, make Eight O’ Clock K-Cup in Keurig machine.
  2. Add hot cocoa mix of choice– add milk or sugar if needed.
  3. Top with whipped cream.
  4. Enjoy!

3. Wawa Single Serve Cups

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I grew up in Central Jersey kind of near the shore and Wawa is a staple down there. So when I was home for the holidays I had to pick up the Wawa Single Serve Cups. I love the Wawa brand and there is nothing like their coffee. Since there are no Wawa’s near me up in Bergen County these definitely conquer my craving and they are so cheap– only $10! If you don’t live near a Wawa you can also buy them online, here.

4. Love With Food Box

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I came across Love With Food when I was looking at a HARO email a few months ago so I had to check out for myself. I got the holiday box sent to me in the mail awhile ago and it is perfect. It was filled with fun holiday snacks, some flyers and a note from Love With Food. Love With Food is the easiest way to discover what’s tasty, delivered to your door! Every month, Love With Food members will receive a curated box of unique, hard-to-find tasty bites which varies based on seasonal themes. Say goodbye to boring grocery selections and HELLO to a monthly tasty surprise! Join Us on this tasty journey.

At Love With Food, they are passionate about helping the more than 16 million children in America who are at risk of hunger. For every box sold, they donate a meal to several food banks such as the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry. Join Us to help end childhood hunger one meal at a time!

5. Santa Teresa Rum

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During the storm this weekend I was able to open up my bottle of Santa Teresa Rum— the Santa Teresa Rum 1796 bottle. This is a great artisanal rum, best served on the rocks. It’s an aged, dark, delicious rum. Cheers!

6. Crave Jams

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Sisters & best friends, born and raised in the birthplace of the grass roots, Artisan Foodie movement, Brooklyn, NY. They currently live and work in the heart of the Garden State and are riding the crest of the current Food Entrepreneur/Small Business wave!
They specialize in creative twists and takes on traditional favorites! Each batch is lovingly prepared, using the freshest seasonal produce and finest quality ingredients & flavorings available. All Crave products are handmade, in small batches, from market fresh ingredients and canned with care.We source locally whenever possible and are very passionate about the quality of what you crave. All of their jars & labels are all made of recycled materials and we compost! Crave jarred products have a shelf life of 12 months unopened; please refrigerate and consume within 3 months of opening.

Here’s a peak into the Crave varietal menu (7oz jars – $10.95):

  • Balsamic Fig
  • Blueberry Mojito
  • Blackberry Bliss
  • Caramel Apple
  • Chunky Vanilla Pear
  • Cran-Marnier (Best Seller – Limited edition thru New Years)
  • Morning Glory Marmalade (Best Seller)
  • Strawberry Lemon Poppyseed (Best Seller)
  • Texas BBQ Sauce
To place an order or for more information:

Those are just a few of my foodie favorites for this month!

Stay tuned for more of my favorites next month!

Sara SCBD Logo Edited

#SCBD Halloween Spooktails!

Halloween would not be complete without a cocktail or two. Here are some delicious cocktails some of New Jersey & New York’s finest are offering during their Halloween parties this week and weekend:

Devils Tuxedo (Blue Moon Mexican Cafe)

  • 2 oz Patron XO Cafe
  • 1 oz Irish Whiskey

Devils Tuxedo!

Oktoberfest Milkshake (Big Daddy’s)

  • Vanilla Milkshake
  • Oktoberfest Beer
  • Whip cream
  • Caramel

Oktoberfest Shake

The Spooky Spicy Bloody Mary (Maxwell’s)

  • Stoli vodka
  • Maxwell’s house made old bay bloody mary mix

Shaken & served over ice!

Bloody Spooky Mary

Killer Transfusions (Maxwell’s)

  • Stoli Vodka
  • Ginger ale

Served over ice with a splash of grape juice!

Killer Transfusions

Blood Orange Margarita (Maxwell’s)

  • Tequila
  • Simple Syrup
  • Blood Orange Extract
  • Fresh Lime

Shake and serve in a martini glass!

Blood Orange Margarita

Cheers to a great Halloween!

Why SCBD thinks you should see Robert Irvine Live!

In case you didn’t know I’m a huge fan of Chef Robert Irvine & so is my boyfriend! I also was fortunate to have to have the opportunity to interview Chef Robert Irvine for Jersey Bites before he had his show live in Red Bank, NJ on October 5th!

I figured the best way to tell you all why you should see it is through pictures! I will let you know that the night was filled with cooking, physical, mental, & cooking challenges. As Robert promised in my interview– a robot & of course getting to know him better and on a personal level! We had great seats– 2nd row to the left! It was a great night shared by both my me and Jason (my boyfriend) and let me tell you Count Basie probably smelt the best it ever did!

Here’s a peak of Chef Robert Irvine Live:

Started the show cooking a great piece of fish!

Speaking to the crowd with the lights up in the audience!

Speaking again– in tip top shape!

Getting ready for a challenge!

Telling us a story!

Time for a physical challenge, that was crazy!

It’s #hammertime

Bidding the hammer and proceeds go to the armed forces & vets!

If you are a fan of Chef Robert Irvine, I highly recommend you go to the show! It’s unlike any show you’ll go to and you really get to meet Chef Robert! It’s awesome that he is constantly interacting with his audience and they actually participate in the show! Check out if he will be in a theater near you– here.

For all the Jersey fans– Chef Robert Irvine will be back in New Jersey at Bergen PAC in Englewood, NJ on December 16th. I know I will definitely be there, especially since it’s so close to where I live now! If you plan on going to the Bergen PAC show, you can purchase your tickets, here.

If you’ve gone to the show I’d love to know what you thought of it! Also let me know if you plan on attending the show on December 16th, maybe I’ll see you there!

’til next time! 😀

The Best of Bergen Made An Appearance at #Bergenfest 2012!

If you checked out my fall event round up, you know that Bergenfest  held by Bergen Health & Life was last week and it was an event not to be missed! It took place last Thursday, September 27th at the Sheraton Mahwah Hotel from 5-9 PM. I went along with three of my main girls– Lauren, Leah & Nicole.  Lauren is a foodie & a photographer, she took just about all the pictures I will be featuring in this post unless I mention otherwise, Nicole also has a food/nightlife blog– Rockland 411 and Leah, who is one my roommates and is an adventurous eater, she also hails from Canada originally! Bergenfest was a great night, so let me tell you why!

The ladies & I taking a picture by the Step & Repeat!
Photo Credit: Lauren Kelly

“This event is an amazing chance to experience the best of Bergen County—and to have a great time and find treasure too,” says Andy Shane, publisher of Bergen Health & Life.

Bergenfest was an event not to miss, the people of Bergen county were dressed in their very best and prepared to meet some of the counties best vendors. Tables of vendors filled the lobby showcasing their resources to residents from hair salons to dentists you could find it at the festival.

The moment you stepped into the main room, the smell of food filled the air. I know my senses were taunted by the smell and astonished by the variety of food vendors that were present. They were all fully prepared for the huge crowd that awaited. I knew some of the vendors and have written about two: Mr Cupcakes & Blue Moon Mexican Cafe. I also came across a few vendors I’d love to visit in the near future like MK Valencia, Broadway Joe’s Bagels, and the renown Biggie’s Clam Bar.

At the MK Valencia table, getting ready to dig in!

The girls & I in the photo booth NYC photo had provided. Hair & makeup by the Moxie Salon in Ridgedale, NJ!

The night would not have been complete without a performance from Bergen’s own Janice Robinson who performed her hit, “Dreamer” which engaged the whole crowd. There was also a fashion show that followed soon after. Of course the night ended with the celebrity sighting of RHONJ own, Jacqueline Laurita. See more pictures below:

It was definitely a night to remember and I can’t wait to check out the restaurants that were present at the event! Looks like I’ll have more local deals to cover! If you live in Bergen county it’s an event you won’t want to miss! I know the ladies & I had a great night! 😀

Be back with more event coverage from this past weekend before you know it!!! 😀