CARNIVORE’S HEAVEN, DEBRAGGA AND SPITLER, JERSEY CITY
Lowell and I were thrilled to be invited to tour the new DeBragga and Spitler facilities in Jersey City recently. A few years ago we had the opportunity to visit a top-quality meat purveyor who dry ages and custom cuts the finest, most naturally raised meat. Their plant had been located in the meatpacking district of New York City but a year and a half ago moved across the river to larger quarters. There is nothing we love more than the smell and, of course, taste of quality beef. My dad was a butcher and I grew up on animal proteins.
DeBragga has been around a long time with a reputation of being one of the finest meat purveyors in the industry. It was founded in the early 1920s and was originally called the Brooklyn Hotel Supply Company. In the mid 1930s the company moved to Washington Street—aka the meat-market district of Manhattan. In 1948, the company incorporated under its present name, DeBragga and Spitler. In 1992, Marc John Sarrazin took over the presidency from his dad, a butcher who trained at his family’s hotel and restaurant in France. In 2006, George Faison, who founded and operated D’Artagnan—a company specializing in quality prime and natural meats, game and foie gras—for twenty years, became a partner. These two men are very knowledgeable and passionate about everything meat, including the care and feeding of animals, and the food-supply system. Needless to say, we had a most informative, impressive and immensely flavorful day.
Our group assembled outside of the meat lockers and was told by Faison: “The rooms are cold so keep your winter coats on and put these white butcher coats over them.” We also donned caps and latex gloves over our own gloves. Upon entering, we saw sides of beef, roasts and lambs aging on hooks or metal racks and were shown the differences in touch, color and smell of beef that had dried one week, four weeks, 100 days and everything in between. Each piece of meat was also tagged with the date and original weight that it went on the shelf in the aging room.
After this tour we went into the kitchen, where a meat lover’s dream lunch was served. We started with charcuterie: American Wagyu bresola (produced for DeBragga exclusively), American Mangalista dry-cured ham (produced according to DeBragga’s specifications), salami Calabrese, Surryano ham and salami Molisna. If we had to pick a favorite, it was the Mangalista dry-cured ham. However, the robust salami Molisna with whole, black peppercorn and garlic was a close second. Then we moved on to a hamburger tasting: a grass-fed burger; a dry-aged brisket and chuck-burger mix; and a naturally raised American wagyu. All were impressive, and we wouldn’t hesitate to order any of the choices, but we thought the grass-fed burger had the most taste, although it had a lower fat content then the wagyu beef. The burgers were spectacular but the steaks…well, they were knockouts, tender and juicy, with the heavily marbled Japanese wagyu so rich that we could only compare it to foie gras. We also tasted a naturally raised dry-aged, 50-day rib steak and an American wagyu dry-aged, 90-day rib steak, as well as the aforementioned Japanese Wagyu, and they were wonderfully satisfying.
DeBragga and Spitler have an extensive client list throughout NJ but here is a brief list of some of the restaurants that feature its meat: Ninety Acres, Agricola Eatery, Bernards Inn, Elements, Highlawn Pavilion, Maritime Parc, Park Steakhouse, Pluckemin Inn, Roots, Sam Mickail’s Cut Steakhouse, The Manor, and Thirty Acres. If you prefer to cook at home, all of the meats can be ordered online at: www.debragga.com/ The Safersteins’ do both!
Meats aging at DeBragga and Spitler.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
SAM MICKAIL’S CUT STEAK HOUSE, WEST ORANGE
We were invited to a press dinner at Sam Mickail’s Cut Steak House in West Orange and were anxious to re-meet this talented chef, as the last time we had his food was in November 2006, when he was the executive chef at Frank’s Waterside (now known as Waterside) in Edgewater. We may all be a “few” years older but chef Mickail hasn’t lost his touch and is still creating exciting, well presented and delicious cuisine. We were very impressed then, as well as now.
Chef Mickail received formal training in Switzerland and worked in multiple 3-Star Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe. After moving to the U.S. he worked in various top restaurants, including Terrace in the Sky in NY and in NJ at The Highlawn Pavilion, The Manor, Il Tulipano and Frank’s Waterside. He is executive chef/partner now of Sam Mickail’s Cut Steak House, which is on the second floor of 4Sixty6, a nightclub/entertainment complex and event space in West Orange.
This American steak house with Mediterranean influences, which opened in December 2012, also has a pastry chef, Julia Burnette, formerly from Highlawn Pavilion. The wine list is reasonable, with many options by the glass for $8 and bottles starting at $30. Entrées range from $22 (porcini mushroom ravioli) to $42 (20-ounce porterhouse steak).
A raw bar is available, but the all-American mushroom soup is a “must order.” Thick with chopped mushrooms and a bit of cream, it was much superior, in my opinion, to the Anthony Bourdain mushroom soup recipe I have been making at home recently. The wedge of crisp iceberg lettuce was topped with a slab of blue cheese covering the lettuce, as well as heirloom tomatoes, red onion, and blue cheese dressing. Charred, thick-cut bacon lacquered with black honey (Egyptian molasses) and sprinkled with walnuts was addictive.
As we had just tasted various steaks on our tour of DeBragga and Spitler (see story above) and Cut uses them as a purveyor, we opted for double-cut rack of lamb and a pork chop served giambotta style. Both were exceptional and everything that prime pieces of meat should be: flavorful, juicy, tender and served at the temperature requested. We also tasted the 18-ounce Tomahawk, which had a concentrated richness, another standout. Steakhouse sides were onion rings, creamed spinach, and “non tormented” green asparagus, which was sautéed and served without a sauce (delicious). What absolutely wowed us (besides the meat) was Sammy’s “Smack & Cheese. The menu says, “Just order this!” and we concurred. We loved the creamy, cheesy pasta topped with crisscrossed cheese sticks, one of the better renditions of this dish we have had in a long time. Desserts included very attractive profiteroles baked Alaska, cheesecake, caramelized Granny Smith cobbler, an interesting twist on crème brûlée as it was topped with toasted marshmallows and raspberries. A whimsical miniature ice cream cone that was filled with whipped cream and topped with a raspberry topped an “I don’t want to share this” chocolate cake.
Sam Mickail’s Cut Steak House is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10 PM.
Valrhona chocolate cake layered with cacao berry mousse, caramelized Tahitian vanilla bean creme chantilly and raspberry coulis.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
Sam Mickail’s Cut Steak House
466 Prospect Avenue, 2nd Floor
About 16 to 18 years ago, we were having dinner at LouCa’s in Edison and our waiter was so outstanding and knowledgeable that I gave him my card, (I wasn’t writing for NJM then), and told him if he ever opened a restaurant to call me. It turns out that I gave my card to chef Humberto Campos Jr, and he did call me when he opened Lorena’s in Maplewood in 2005. Since then, chef Campos Jr has been receiving well-deserved rave reviews. This past year, Zagat gave the restaurant a 28 for food and they were listed as one of the top 25 restaurants in the state in the NJ Monthly Readers’ Choice Poll.
It’s always a delight for us to dine at this intimate restaurant with its impeccable service and exceptional food. Our recent visit was just as dazzling. Starters were puree of butternut squash soup with huckleberries and brioche crouton; a warm jumbo lump crabmeat and wild mushroom crepe; burrata with figs, and a Scottish salmon tartare with sake, sesame, crème fraiche, wasabi tobiko that popped in my mouth, and crispy wontons. They were all winners. Entrées were a skate-wing fillet (a mild fillet that is interesting because of its ribbed texture), which was served with caramelized fennel, olive and preserved lemon, golden raisins and fingerlings. All the ingredients added depth and contrasting flavors to the fish. Huckleberries found their place again as a gastrique accompanying the medium-rare duck breast served with French green lentils, confit, and celery-root purée. And for those of you who forgo chicken when dining out, as it can be easily overcooked and dry, be sure to try the juicy, roasted chicken breast here as it was sumptuous. Paired with wild mushrooms, spinach, celery-root purée and truffle broth, this simple protein gained new heights. Desserts were all worth eating, and we all had favorites. Mine was the warm, chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and house-made raspberry ice cream. Others fought over the espresso crème brûlee; apple tart with almond purée, apple chip and apple cider reduction and the warm pear, almond and rum raisin brioche bread pudding with caramel sauce. Nespresso is offered as are Harney & Sons tea.
Scottish salmon tartare with sake, sesame, crème fraiche, wasabi tobiko and crispy wontons.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
168 Maplewood Avenue
BURGER DELUXE SANDY RELIEF BURGER, WAYNE
Through February 11, Burger Deluxe, 1420 Rt 23 N, Wayne is offering a Hurricane Sandy Relief Burger, dubbed the HSR Burger, and fries with 100% of the profits going to benefit the Sandy NJ Relief Fund. The HSR Burger features a half-pound patty of Pat La Frieda beef, with sausage, red and green peppers, sautéed onion, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, a side of “Jersey Shore boardwalk-cut fries,” made from skin-on russet Burbank potatoes seasoned with sea salt for $9.75. For more information, contact Burger Deluxe at 973-305-0033 or visit theburgerdeluxe.com.
WINE & CHOCOLATE WINE TRAIL WEEKEND
Six different wine trails featuring wine tastings and chocolate samplings will be held at the Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend February 9 and 10 at over 40 wineries throughout state from noon to 5 PM. For maps and information about special event each winery, visit www.newjerseywinetrails.com.
Here is a list of some NJ restaurants to dine at with your loved one on Valentine’s Day:
Andre’s Restaurant & Wine Boutique, 188 Spring Street, Newton, will offer a five-course For Lover’s Only Dinner on February 10 for $60. On Valentine’s Day a four-course dinner will be served for $45 or five courses for $55. Reservations: 973-300-4192.
Executive chef Corey Heyer of The Bernards Inn, 27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville, is offering a special Valentine’s prix-fixe menu on February 14, which will include entrees for two as well as the seasonal winter menu, complimentary flowers and decadent chocolates. Seatings begin at 5:30 PM; $118. Special entrèes for two will also be offered on Friday, February 15 and Saturday, February 16. For the ultimate in romance, stay overnight on Valentine’s Day with a special holiday package or choose from one of the Inn’s other romantic getaway packages including Winter Romance, Date Night, Essential Indulgence or the Proposal Package. Reservations can be made by calling 908-766-0002.
Chef Anthony Pino owner of Bin 14, 1314 Washington St, Hoboken, has crafted a special three-course dinner for Valentine’s Day. Seatings are available at 6, 7:45 or 9:30 PM; $65. Special wines and cocktails have also been created for the occasion. Reservations: 201-963-9463.
The Brother’s Moon, 7 W Broad St, Hopewell, will be offering a Valentine’s prix-fixe aphrodisiac menu consisting of an amuse, four courses and coffee or tea for $79, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations: 609-333-1330; BYO.
Chakra, W 144 Rt 4 E, Paramus, will celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend with various events. On February 14, 15 and 16, the restaurant will serve a three-course menu with vegetarian options available; $85, plus tax and gratuities. On Sunday, February 17, pre-dinner cocktails courtesy of Brugal Rum, a special three-course dinner and the Va Va Va Venus burlesque show will be offered. 6:30 PM; priority seating $115; general seating $105, plus tax and gratuities. Reservations: 201-556-1530.
Daryl, 302 George St, New Brunswick will offer a special four course menu for $75; add wine pairings and a champagne course for an additional $50. Reservations: 732-253-7780.
David Burke Fromagerie, 26 Ridge Road, Rumson, will be celebrating this special day of love. For information and reservations, call 732-842-8088
Have a romantic, candlelit dinner at the Dining Room at Anthony David’s, 111 10th St, Hoboken, (BYO) where owner chef Anthony Pino is offering a special three-course meal. 5 to 10 PM; $75. Reservations: 201-222-8359.
Fascino, 331 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, will offer a four-course menu in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Reservations: 5:30 to 10 PM; $75, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations: 973-233-0350; BYO.
The Frog & the Peach, 29 Dennis St, New Brunswick, will be serving a special three-course prix-fixe dinner menu for $83, from 5 to 11 PM. Reservations: 732-846-3216.
On Sunday, February 10, a Box of Chocolates workshop will be held at Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton. Participants will take home a gift box containing about one-dozen truffles.1 to 3 PM; $45; members $35. Reservations: 609-586-0616.
Highlawn Pavilion, Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, will be serving a four-course Valentine’s Day menu with choices for $74, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations: 973-731-3463.
Kuzina by Sofia, Sawmill Shopping Center, 404 Rt 70 W, Cherry Hill, will be celebrating Valentine’s Day Thursday, February 14 through Saturday, February 16, with a special four-course menu, and take-home gift for $35. The regular dinner menu will also be available. They will also deliver a four-course dinner to your home for $90 for two people. Reservations: 856-429-1061; BYO.
The Long Beach Island area will celebrate Chocolate Week, February 9 through February 18, with special chocolate-themed events. Visit www.visitLBIregion.com for information.
Plan a romantic getaway for two at The Manor, 111 Prospect Ave, West Orange, on Valentine’s Day. Along with a five-course dinner stay the night at the Marriott Residence Inn at the Manor, which includes breakfast. There are several menu options available, all of which include wine and champagne. $350 for two, includes tax and gratuity. The Romantic getaway menu is also available without an overnight stay for $95, plus tax and gratuity. Information and reservations: 973-731-2360.
Enjoy the sleek ambiance and stunning NYC skyline views while dining on executive chef Chris Siversen’s luxurious three-course prix-fixe dinner with menu options at Maritime Parc, 84 Audrey Zapp Drive, Liberty State Park, Jersey City. The menu will be available February 14 through Feburary 16. $75 exclusive of beverages, tax and gratuity. Reservations: 201-413-0050.
A six-course dinner will be offered on Valentine’s Day at the Orange Squirrel, 412 Bloomfield Ave, Bloomfield; $95, plus tax and gratuity. All full size bottles of bubbly will be $40 percent off. Reservations: 973-337-6421.
On February 13, Tea Time For Cupid will be held at the Peacock Café, Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton; 4 to 6 PM. Reservations: 609-586-0616 ext. 102.
Pink pancakes and a special Valentine treat for kids will be offered on Valentine’s Day at the Pop Shop, 729 Haddon Ave, Collingswood (856-869-0111). The party room will be adults only at dinner.
Rat’s Restaurant, Grounds for Sculpture, 16 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, will offer a romantic dinner on Valentine’s evening with a five-course tasting menu, as well as their a la carte menu. Reservations: 609-584-7800.
Restaurant Nicholas, 160 Route 35 S, Middletown, will be celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14, 15 and 16 with a special three-course menu for $105, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations: 732-345-9977.
From Valentine’s Day through Sunday, February 16th, executive chef Anthony Bucco of the Ryland Inn, 115 Old Highway 28, Whitehouse, will offer a sensual three-course tasting menu for $99. Reservations: 908-534-4011.
Owner Ilson Goncalves has added several home-style Brazilian delicacies to his a la carte menu at Samba, 7 Park St, Montclair for Valentine’s Day. Reservations: 973-744-6764; BYO.
Celebrating its first Valentine’s Day, a seductive three-course dinner with choices, will be prepared by executive chef/partner Sam Mickail of Sam Mickail’s Cut Steak House, 466 Prospect Ave, West Orange. $85 includes champagne toast; exclusive of beverages, tax and gratuity. Reservations: 973-474-9896.
Stone Grill at Pierre’s, 582 Georges Road, Monmouth Junction will be serving a three-course dinner for Valentine’s Day for $49. Reservations: 732-329-3219.
Dine in the sexy, seductive atmosphere at the Strip House, Westminster Hotel, 550 West Mount Pleasant Ave, Livingston and enjoy executive chef Bill Zucosky’s updated steakhouse menu, augmented with à la carte specials. Reservations 973-548-0050.
Dine on food that will get you in the mood for love at Tavro 13, 1301 Kings Highway, Swedesboro, where chef Terence Feury has put together a luscious a la carte menu that is sure to make you swoon. Reservations: 856-467-8413.
Twofiftytwo Restaurant, 252 Somerville Road (Rt 202), Bedminster, will be offering a five-course dinner on Valentine’s Day. The special menu will be available along with the regular menu on February 15 and 16; $85. Reservations: 908-234-9093; BYO.
Ursino, Liberty Hall Campus of Kean University, 1075 Morris Ave, Union, invites you to celebrate the romance of Valentine’s Day on February 14, with them. Chef Peter Turso has created a special three-course prix-fixe menu for the evening, which will be offered from 5:30 to 9:30 PM; $65. Reservations: 908-249-4099.
The Washington Inn, 801 Washington St, Cape May, will be open February 14, 15 and 17 offering dinner for Valentine’s Day. Reservations: 609-884-5697.
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