THIRTY ACRES, JERSEY CITY
In 1921, Boyle’s Thirty Acres, a wooden stadium, was built in Jersey City to host the world heavyweight championship fight between Jack Dempsey (U.S.) and Georges Carpentier (France). In 1927, the arena was demolished, and 85 years later Thirty Acres Restaurant, 500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, was opened by chef Kevin Pemoulie, who was recently the chef de cuisine at Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC. Thirty Acres opens at 6 PM and takes reservations only for five or more, so we arrived there at 5:45. Word is obviously out about this hot new restaurant, as we found a line of people waiting for it to open. It reminded us of when we used queue up to eat at Twenty Eight Restaurant, the precursor to Raymond’s on Church Street in Montclair, which also didn’t take reservations.
Thirty Acres has a small menu focused on local, seasonal cuisine. Be aware that the portions are small—but so are the prices. Everything on the menu the night we were there was under $20. Sharing is advocated, and diners can mix and match to create a light or substantial meal. We had oysters from Maine with a beet and horseradish sauce; tender grilled octopus with a grapefruit sauce; al dente cavatelli with a chicken liver sauce, broccoli, chili flakes, and mint; and a “what could be bad?” dish of nugget potatoes with bacon, topped with crème fraiche and chives. We adored the potatoes but would have preferred pieces of chicken liver rather than just sauce with the cavatelli. At this point we realized that we didn’t have any bread to dip into the sauces. When we asked, we were told that they “don’t really serve bread.” However, the chef’s wife, Alex Pemoulie, a co-owner, came to our table, asked if we wanted bread, and brought us some. Attention to detail impresses us.
Mains included grilled Spanish mackerel, a fish we seldom see offered. Served with mushrooms, ramps, and fiddleheads, this fish was much milder than we expected. Pan-fried skate with cabbage, our favorite out of four entrées, was perfectly cooked. Roasted poussin was beautifully presented with watercress and a poached egg, a great combination, and vegetarian cavatelli was prepared with roasted mushrooms, ramps, and stravecchio cheese. There was only one dessert on the menu, Kevin’s mom’s lemon bars, which were luscious.
Lots of wood gives the restaurant a rustic ambiance. Because of the brick wall behind the bar, cloth-less tables, and loud music, the noise level gets high. As of now Thirty Acres is BYO, but a wine and beer license is expected, so call before you go. Check on the reservation policy as well; hopefully it will change. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch on Saturday. There are plans to open for lunch in the future. Information: 201-435-3100.
Thirty Acres poussin.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
GARY’S WINE AND MARKETPLACE, WAYNE
Have you been to Gary’s, 1308 Route 23 North, Wayne, lately? We recently had a tour of the store and were wowed. Owner Gary Fisch was chosen as 2012 Retailer of the Year by Beverage Dynamics, a trade publication targeted at alcohol retailers, and was a runner-up for the New Jersey Monthly 2012 Reader’s Choice Award. His enthusiasm for all things wine is impressive, as is his well-trained staff. The store has organic milk, eggs, charcuterie, chocolate, flowers, 150 cheeses, gourmet prepared foods, and lunches to go. Unusual items are featured in the gourmet giftware department, including wine barrel serving pieces, exotic wood plates, out-of-the-ordinary cheese boards, and wine carriers that make a fashion statement. With 3,000-plus bottles of wine to select from, including Gary’s own “GF” private label, patrons can not only learn about new wines from the knowledgeable staff but also taste wines, served in Riedel glasses, every Saturday and on many weekdays. There’s also a tremendous selection of craft beers and loads of spirits, including single-malt scotch and singe-barrel bourbons. Check out the craft beer samplers—there are tastings of those too—or ask about the beer-of-the-month club in which six different twelve-ounce bottles are offered. We had loads of fun exploring the store, and I told Lowell we should take our next vacation here, as I would be happy with the wine, cheese, and chocolates! For more information, log on to www.garyswine.com.
Wine buyer Maggie Fox pouring tastings at Gary’s Wine & Marketplace.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
TRUE NORTH OSTERIA, MONTCLAIR
We love vegetables and applaud True North Osteria, 345 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair (973-744-4960), for practically being a vegetarian restaurant. The only non-veg items on the menu when we dined here were pizza toppings of prosciutto, pepperoni, and white anchovies; prosciutto paired with figs on bruschetta; and a special of house-cured salmon. It’s easy to appreciate the efforts of owners David and Leah Moon, as the food is fresh, tasty, healthy, and very reasonable priced. (For example, bruschetta runs from $3 to $6.)
The restaurant is very casual but appealing, with brick walls, colorful artwork for sale, and specials and local ingredients listed on blackboards. If it’s available, order the grilled fennel soup that’s described on the menu as “a melting pot of Italian vegetables and Jewish spices.” This creative tomato-based soup with cumin was fabulous, as were the roasted sweet potatoes and mushrooms with truffle balsamic and a side plate of wilted dandelion greens with almonds and cranberries. While colorful, al dente Brussels sprouts with pistachio and shallots needed a few more minutes in the pan. Pizzas are grilled here, and the True North pie exceeded our expectations with a charred, crispy crust, flavorful oven-roasted tomatoes, and house-made mozzarella. Garlic bruschetta would repel a vampire and are highly recommended. Not as successful was the bruschetta topped with cauliflower, chickpea purée, capers, and olives. It just didn’t have enough “pop” for our taste. The breads, which are available for purchase, are made in house. True North is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 9 PM, Wednesday through Saturday from 11 AM, and Sunday from noon (closed Monday); BYO.
True North dandelion greens.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
STRIP HOUSE, LIVINGSTON
It was a doubly rewarding afternoon. I was invited as a guest to the Strip House, Westminster Hotel, 550 West Mount Pleasant Avenue, Livingston, to hear a presentation by LisaMarie Dias, the owner of LisaMarie Dias Designs (http://lisamariediasdesigns.com), as part of the Mastermind Event Series where community members hear informational talks about topics that may be useful to them. Dias spoke about how to use social networking to enhance a business, including how to use online marketing with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Constant Contact, and other sites. And we were treated to lunch, which was the icing on the cake.
Upon entering the Strip House, we were handed a Nojito, a nonalcoholic and most refreshing drink made with club soda, muddled mint, and lime juice. Lunch consisted of creamy buffalo mozzarella layered with marinated grape tomatoes, topped with sweet fried shallots, and surrounded by a balsamic reduction; grilled lamb T-bone, an absolute knockout, perfectly served medium-rare with fingerling potatoes in a goat cheese sauce and further enhanced by a rosemary vinaigrette (and paired with a 2008 Strip House Cabernet Sauvignon); and, for dessert, a buttery blueberry crisp with a scoop of sweet cream ice cream. Kudos to chef de cuisine Bill Zucosky and co-owner Penny Glazier for a most delicious and enlightening afternoon. We frequently go to the Strip House for dinner, but it’s now on our lunch list as well. Reservations: 973-548-0050.
Buffalo mozzarella with marinated grape tomatoes and sweet fried shallots.
Photo by Rosie Saferstein.
BE A CHEF FOR A DAY AT ELEMENTS, PRINCETON
If you’re looking for the ultimate foodie present that can’t be duplicated, then check out the “Be a Chef for a Day” gift offered at Elements, 163 Bayard Lane, Princeton, for $295. The attendee will spend the day prepping and learning station management with executive chef Scott Anderson and his cooks and can select from a particular area of interest, such as fish, butchery, or multiple stations. The day includes a special nine-course tasting menu for the participant at the chef’s table. For more information, contact Liz Walter at email@example.com or call 609-924-0078.
Throughout the summer, an Italian-style clam bake is being offered for $55 at Carmine’s, Quarter at Tropicana, 2801 Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City, which includes six baked clams, twelve mussels, and two one-pound lobsters, surrounded by polenta, roasted potatoes, and the diner’s choice of pasta marinara or salad. Reservations: 609-572-9300.
Tula Restaurant & Lounge, 47 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick, offers a prix-fixe menu Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10 PM for $24. On Mondays at dinner, your first bottle of wine is half off. Reservations: 732-246-0014.
CASA DANTE, JERSEY CITY
On Father’s Day (Sunday, June 17), Casa Dante, 737 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, is offering the full regular menu as well as specials. For more information, visit www.casadante.com/events. Reservations: 201-795-2750.
By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.