#SCBDExclusive Last Minute Guide to #CincoDeMayo

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Don’t feel like celebrating #CincoDeMayo at home this year? Here are some great options if you plan on going out!

Galli (45 Mercer St, NY) will be having $5 Margherita, Lili’s Curves:

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Ingredients:

  • two ounces of Esplon Silver
  • one ounce fresh lime
  • one ounce black pepper infused simple syrup
  • spoonful of purated strawberries
  • two dashes of orange bitters

Combine, mix, serve, and enjoy!

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo or better yet Cinco de Derby at Jacques 1534 and enjoy $10 select cocktails including Fishermans Julep, El Diablo Loco, or Uptown at The Pitch & Fork with $10 Mint Juleps and Margaritas!

Come sit, relax, and sip on the rooftop at Social Bar & Grill they will have $20 Corona buckets & $5 Margaritas to celebrate.

Upper West side restaurant Amigos (2888 Broadway) is the perfect place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with  your amigos! And there are more than enough options for every taste and mood: the Bull Dog, a frozen margarita with a Corona; the Mexi-Cali Lunazul tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice; a Hot Tamale with Corralejo Reposado tequila, fresh jalepeno, lime juice, mango, and a chili salt rim; Los Amigos with El Mayor Plata tequila, Barenjager honey liqueur, and cinnamon orange garnish; and the El Gallo Avion Plata tequila, passion fruit liqueur, and lime juice.

Crystal Springs Resort (1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg, NJ) is celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Sunday May 5 with a free tequila tasting, a special Mexican-inspired menu and signature cocktails at Crystal Tavern.

From 1pm – 4pm, representatives from Patron tequila will be pouring free samples of Patron Silver, Reposado, Anejo, XO Café and Citronge, and giving away free gifts

All day, Crystal Tavern will serve special cocktails and a menu of Mexican favorites in addition to the regular a la carte menu. Cocktails ($12) include  Cilantro Julep Patron Anejo, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, amber agave nectar and cilantro leaves; Ginger Lemon Spice Patron Silver, Patron Citronge, simple syrup, fresh ginger, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice; Mexican Espresso Martini Patron XO Café Dark, Patron XO Café, espresso; Sweet Orange Patron Reposado, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, bitters; Pina Coronado Patron Silver, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice, elderflower liqueur, vanilla/cinnamon syrup.

Cheers! Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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#SCBDExclusive: Say #cheers to #May with Sipping Rum Friday’s

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If you know me, you know I love good rum to sip on or enjoy in a cocktail. If you’re the same way, I have good news. Santa Teresa (mentioned in my February Foodie Favorites), Venezuela’s oldest rum producer with a family heritage dating two centuries, announces that its flagship rum, Santa Teresa “1796,” is the focus of a FREE weekly tasting series at Union Square Wines & Spirits.  Located at 140 Fourth Ave. at 13 St., the tastings will be held on four Friday evenings: May 10, May 17, May 24 and May 31, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  At “Sipping Rum Fridays,” attendees can sip Santa Teresa “1796” neat, on the rocks or in classic cocktails.

Santa Teresa Sipping

“We are delighted to partner with Union Square Wines & Spirits to introduce their discerning customers to the velvety charms of Santa Teresa ‘1796,’ our flagship rum, through this tasting series,” said Daniela Curiel, Brand Manager, Santa Teresa Rum.  “As an aged rum, it’s perfect for sipping or even pairing with foods like chocolate.  It takes classic cocktails, from daiquiris to nightcaps, to a whole new level.  It’s also an ideal gift, with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up.”

Check out the line-up below and pick a Friday to come out, relax, and sip some rum at Union Square Wines & Spirits:

May 10: Happy Mother’s Day!

  • This tasting pairs mom’s favorite gift, chocolate, with Santa Teresa “1796” Rum.  This match made in heaven will be led by Santa Teresa Off-Premise Brand Ambassador Isabella Izquierdo.
May 17: Save the Daiquiri!
  • So you think you know daiquiris?  Experience a whole new libation when Santa Teresa “1796” is used as the base spirit.  Carla Verenzuela, Santa Teresa On-Premise Brand Ambassador and Bartender, will lead this spirited tasting that rethinks a favorite summer tipple.
May 24: Dare to Sip a Nightcap!
  • What’s the most civilized way to gently conclude an evening?  By sipping a nightcap, of course!  This tasting by Santa Teresa Brand Ambassador Daniela Curiel will offer Santa Teresa “1796” neat, on the rocks and in nightcap-style cocktails.
May 31: Happy Father’s Day!
  • Does dad really want (or need) another tie, polo shirt or extra golf balls for Father’s Day?  Show him that you really care by presenting him with a Santa Teresa “1796” gift set that will set him aglow.  Santa Teresa Brand Ambassador Daniela Curiel will pour Santa Teresa “1796” neat and on the rocks.

Cheers!

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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)

#SCBDFavorite: Delicious Meal For Two at The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield!

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A week or so ago, Jason and I celebrated our anniversary by having dinner at The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, NJ since I was invited to check it out earlier in the week! The Orange Squirrel is centrally located at 412 Bloomfield Ave, not too far from the hustle & bustle of Montclair. Founded by Chef/Owner Franseco Palmieri, The Orange Squirrel
brings your Italian favorites and comfort food to new heights, not to mention everything is made fresh. We were knocked off our feet and are already thinking of when we can go again! I also forgot to mention how great the atmosphere is– the decor is orange and brown and stays on theme.

The Pink Squirrel

The Pink Squirrel

When we got in we were greeted by Chef Palmieri who was greeting guests that came in. He sat us down and gave us menus which we devoured. I decided to start the night off with the Pink Squirrel cocktail which screamed my name and Jason had a Sprite. It was one of the best cocktails I’ve had, it had grapefruit juice in it which can be overpowering at times but it wasn’t because it was freshly squeezed. We were already on our way to foodie heaven.

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Photo taken by Jason Ferrera

Since we still weren’t sure what to get for an appetizer and meal to share, we decided to start off with Squirrel Nuts (shown above) which are crisp truffled potato, cheese puffs and so delicious. They are less than ten bucks to great to start with for a shareable snack before you dig into Chef’s delicious food. After looking at the menu awhile we decided we were in the mood for Italian so opted on getting the Baked Veal Meatballs as an appetizer and the Manicotti to share for dinner. As we waited for our order, the chef sent out theese salmon fritters with an amazing aioli for us to nibble on. A few minutes later, our meatballs came out. I’m not a huge veal eater, but I would gladly eat them again– they were cooked to perfection and had great flavor.

Salmon Fritter

Salmon Fritter

 

Baked Veal Meatballs

Baked Veal Meatballs

Shortly after we devoured our meatballs, our Manicotti came out, nicely presented in a small cast-iron skillet. It was the perfect size for us to share. The pasta is made in-house and you can really taste the difference. It was probably some of the best Manicotti I’ve ever had and I don’t eat it as much as I used too. It was so light with a perfect balance of cheese and pasta, melted it in your mouth. I definitely recommend it to anyone and would gladly get it again. I’d also want to try more of the pastas next time I come in.

Manicotti

Manicotti

Another staple you must try at The Orange Squirrel is their monthly dirt tasting for dessert. Chef Palmieri’s wife comes up with innovative flavors every month. When we came in the flavors were Easter-centric with Cadbury in it and more. They were the perfect size for both of us to share.

Photo by Jason Ferrera

Photo by Jason Ferrera

The Orange Squirrel was the perfect spot for Jason and I to celebrate our anniversary and we’d gladly go again. In fact, we were already trying to plan our next visit on the way out. Everything is made fresh, they have innovative specials daily & weekly, and the staff is incredibly friendly. In the mood for tartare, pizza, or chicken pot pie? I suggest you dine at  The Orange Squirrel because you can find them there and won’t be disappointed. Whether you are looking to dine like a king or queen or share some appetizers and cocktails with friends or family, it’s the place to go!

Cheers! 😀

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#SCBDExclusive: Interview with Abbey & Lindsay, Owners of Cake Couture NJ!

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Cake Couture NJ is a home-based custom cake company founded by two Jersey girls from my hometown of Howell, Lindsay Mauser and Abbey Lanz. Last time I was home I had the opportunity to interview them on the company, their cakes, and more!

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SCBD: How long have you been baking and cake decorating?

CCNJ: We’ve been baking as long as we can remember. We started getting into cake decorating by taking classes at Michael’s when they had them locally. Abbey received her degree in pastry from the Culinary Education Center of Monmouth County in 2011 where she performed in pastry competitions too. She’s always been more passionate about cakes rather than general pastry, you can see it in our work.

SCBD: Who came up with idea to start Cake Couture NJ?

CCNJ: We started making cakes for family about 4 years ago and then came up with the name and really started our business three years ago. When we first started it was Abbey and my (Lindsay’s) sister Erin but Erin wasn’t as passionate about it after a while so I stepped in and we’ve been successfully working together since. We feel that our cakes aren’t just any cakes so we felt that Cake Couture was the perfect name for us.

SCBD: What is special about your recipe compared to others?

CCNJ: Well, you can’t really compare us to any other cake or cupcake out there. We’re very creative and are constantly coming up with new recipes to try. We love coming up with new recipes for flavors we like.

SCBD: I’ve seen pictures of your cakes and the artwork looks so professional. How did you learn this?

CCNJ: We learned the most by doing it all the time and through trial and error. It’s all about finding the right temperature, etc.

21st birthday beer cake

21st birthday beer cake

SCBD: What’s a new flavors are you working on?

CCNJ: We are currently working on summer flavors, our latest creation is working on some summer cocktail cupcakes like margarita, and more!

SCBD: What’s the most popular cake flavor order you get?

CCNJ: Our vanilla with vanilla butter cream and red velvet with cream cheese frosting are our most popular.

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Cupcakes with faces of Aunt & Grandma

SCBD: What’s the most unique order you’ve had?

CCNJ: Our most unique order so far was for cupcakes with our client’s grandma & aunt’s faces on them. It took a lot of work but it was fun to do and rewarding at the end.

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21st birthday cake

SCBD: What was your first order? Who was it for?

CCNJ: Our first order was for a 21st birthday at a big banquet hall, we were pretty nervous but it was a success. The cake had pink quilted zebra print on it.

SCBD: What’s a quote you both live by?

CCNJ: “She who leaves a trail of glitter, is never forgotten.”

SCBD: What’s Cake Couture NJ‘s motto?

CCNJ: “Made with Love” which we always have on all of our orders and “Edible Art For Magical Moments”.

SCBD: Where do you see Cake Couture NJ in five years?

CCNJ: We have high hopes and would love to be doing bigger events and have it turn into our full time job. We are looking forward to having bigger orders and to be in demand in the tri-state area. We are  working with the Ronald McDonald house on their event in May and donating a cupcake tower to their silent auction on May 19.

SCBD: Last, what do you want SCBD readers to know about Cake Couture NJ?

CCNJ: Nothing is impossible for us, we are willing to take any order. We take our time with every order and are very critical of our cakes. We do consultations and tastings for cakes for any event.

Harry Potter cake

Harry Potter cake

Make sure you like Cake Couture NJon Facebook  follow them on Twitter @CakeCoutureNJ! I’m definitely looking forward to working with them more because they have such a great thing going!

Cheers– let’s eat cake!

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Elizabeth’s City Pizza Overnight Review

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Last Thursday I placed my order for pizza delivery from City Pizza Overnight– and Friday afternoon, as promised, I came home to a huge, brown box at my doorstep.  City Pizza Overnight is a Chicago-based company that specializes in NYC-style pizza delivered overnight. It comes to you cooled and packed in ice, ready to crisp up in your oven and eat in 6-7 minutes. The ordering process is simple and straightforward, and their FedEx shipping process is seamless. They send you a confirmation and tracking number so you know exactly where your order is and when it arrives. Definitely easy and definitely convenient.

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For my pizzas, I tried a regular plain pizza, a gluten-free plain pizza, and a gluten-free pizza topped with onions, and peppers. Once out of the box, all you have to do in unwrap each pie and put them right on the rack in your pre-heated oven. The pizzas made my kitchen smell fantastic; a nice perk you don’t usually get to enjoy when you order pizza. I found it helpful to keep the cardboard circles from under the pizza- that way you can just pull them right out of the oven onto those and serve.

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How did they taste? The gluten-free options are a real accomplishment. They have a tender and crispy crust like you’d expect from a regular pizza, the sauce and cheese are in good proportion, and the vegetable toppings on one gave it a welcomed boost of flavor. For anyone with a gluten allergy who’s craving a pizza fix- this would surely hit the spot. The regular plain pizza for me tasted a little plain, for lack of a better word. It didn’t have the cheesy, crusty, unctuousness I’ve come to expect from plain pizza. But if you live in a part of the country where good pizza is far and few between, this might be right up your alley. And as I said before, the gluten-free options are a smart and delicious option even for those without a gluten allergy. You can even order up a bunch of pizzas and keep them in your freezer, ready to heat and eat at a moments notice.

Celebrate #NationalMeatballersDay at The Meatball Shop!

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First, off Happy National Meatball or better yet Happy Meatballers Day! In honor of the holiday today, The Meatball Shop is asking their fans to snap and share your favorite meatball moment on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #NationalMeatballersDay and the handle @MEATBALLERS. The three most creative photos will be chosen and shared on our Twitter and Instagram feeds on Monday, and the winners will receive a limited edition black n’ gold Grinder Hat. HAPPY #NATIONALMEATBALLERSDAY!

So last week, after taking a cooking class at Sur La Table in Hells Kitchen I decided to take food journey to Chelsea to check out The Meatball Shop in their new location, 200 9th Ave. It was also my first time ever dining at The Meatball Shop. I figured it was about time, since I had heard amazing things about them. I had no lunch plans that day so it was definitely worth the trip.

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My $6 Sangria

Let me start off by saying, their meatballs are a big deal and you definitely get a bang for your buck.  It was the new location’s first week doing lunch service and everything was on par. I decided since I came by myself I should sit at the bar. I looked at the menu and decided to start with their signature sangria, which was whopping $6– for NYC that is amazing and thus the excitement began.

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For my meal I decided to get the Naked Classic Beef Meatballs with Class Tomato Sauce & the Family Jewels (which is just a fried egg on top) which as only $7. The meatballs were delicious, huge, and filling so I actually had some leftovers– which didn’t last in the fridge long. The bartender I had was wonderful and recommended I try dessert so of course I did, I mean who in their right mind would say no to a $3 scoop of homemade ice cream? The ice cream of the day that day was passion fruit so I really couldn’t say no. Of course, I was very happy with my decision because it was some of the best ice cream I’ve had in the city. It was so creamy and delicious and you could really taste the fruit!

If your looking to celebrate National Meatball Day in the city– I highly recommend you celebrate the right way with the @MEATBALLERS!

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