AVENUE, LONG BRANCH—A SHORE BET
Between the view of the ocean from the dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows and the Parisian bistro fare at Avenue, Pier Village, 23 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch, we could have been dining at a French beach resort rather than the Jersey Shore. At this restaurant, which is under the direction of executive chef Dominique Filoni, we recently dined on a frisée aux lardons salad; shellfish from the raw bar; a charcuterie and fromage board; an onion tart; salmon with fava beans, spring peas, spinach, truffled nage, and tomatoes; steak frites; salt-crusted branzino; and the best boeuf bourguignon, made with short ribs and accompanied with fresh pappardelle, that we can remember having. Specialties du jour are also offered; these can include lamb shanks, coquilles St. Jacques, and bouillabaisse. Don’t pass up dessert, as the profiteroles, apple tarte tatin, and pot de crème were exceptional.
Diners can choose from a 300-bottle, largely French and American wine list comprising small boutique labels and New World wines as well as twelve wines by the glass. Specialty cocktails include Peach Passion (Zygo vodka, champagne, white peach purée, passion fruit), Le Parisien (Woodford Reserve bourbon, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, champagne), and Versailles (Hendrick’s gin, Lillet Rouge, apple juice).
The restaurant is open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5 to 10 PM, Friday 5 to 11 PM, Saturday 5 PM to midnight, and Sunday 4:30 to 9 PM. Lunch is served on weekdays from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM, and brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM. For reservations call 732-759-2900. If you’re looking for a dining deal, Avenue offers a three-course special menu before 6 PM for $28.95.
Salmon with fava beans, spring peas, spinach, truffled nage, and tomatoes.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
CAFÉ FIORE, RANDOLPH
The night we dined at the newly opened Café Fiore, 477 Route 10 (College Plaza), Randolph, both tripe and sweetbreads were on the menu. Quite impressive for a small Italian BYO. Along with specials that might include fish, rib-eye steak, quail, rabbit, or ostrich, Café Fiore offers menu selections seen at many Italian restaurants in NJ but does them exceptionally well. Bread is often the first item eaten at a restaurant, giving you a hint of what’s to come. Here it is warm, crusty, and worthy of being dipped into the herb olive oil. A spinach salad with pignoli, goat cheese, warm bacon, and white sherry vinaigrette tasted as good as it looked, as did a side of escarole sautéed in garlic olive oil. Ethereal ravioli stuffed with ground beef and veal and surrounded with a Bolognese sauce was a scrumptious dish where house-made tasted homemade. Chicken parmigiana and eggplant parmigiana, both served with linguini in tomato sauce, may be ho-hum menu items to some, but here they were full of flavor and certainly worth ordering. We look forward to returning to this restaurant, which also offers a complimentary after-dinner Sambuca. For reservations call 973-343-7447.
Spinach salad with pignoli, goat cheese, warm bacon, and white sherry vinaigrette.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.
DAN AYKROYD’S CRYSTAL SKULL VODKA
On June 13, meet Dan Aykroyd at Stew Leonard’s Wines of Clifton, 345 Allwood Road, Clifton, where he will be autographing bottles of his Crystal Skull Vodka and offering complimentary tastings of his wines. 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. For more information call 973-859-7700.
DINNER AND A SHOW AT BRADDOCK’S, MEDFORD
On June 12, True Jersey, a comedy based on political, geographical, and nonsensical stories about NJ, will be performed at Braddock’s, 39 South Main Street, Medford. The evening includes a three-course dinner and the show; there will also be a cash bar. 6:30 PM; $50. For reservations call 609-654-1604.
NJ SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
On June 13 and 14, you’ll find food, wine, music, a children’s-activity tent—everything Jersey—at the NJ Seafood Festival at Silver Lake Park, Fifth and Ocean Avenues, Belmar. 11 AM to 7 PM; free admission and free trolley transfers between Belmar marina, downtown, the Belmar train station, and the festival. For more information call 732-681-3700.
PERKS OF THE TRADE
Be sure to check the June 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine for the story “Fiesta Forever,” which features Chef Maricel Presilla, owner of Cucharamama and Zafra in Hoboken. Everyone will want to work for her after reading about the party she throws for her staff each year.
Expected to open in July above the Eden Gourmet Marketplace, South Orange, is the aptly named Above, a restaurant featuring contemporary American cooking with a wine list that complements each dish. And to put the icing on the cake, the executive chef is Paul Lustbader, previously from Cent’Anni, Maplewood, and Trattoria Fresco, Caldwell.
A three-course Sunday prix-fixe dinner along with a half bottle of red or white wine per person for $45 is being offered at the Bernards Inn, 27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville. Call 908-766-0002 for reservations.
Every Sunday throughout the summer, LITM (Love Is the Message), 140 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, offers a three-course dinner for $21, plus the screening of a classic movie at 8 PM. For more information and reservations call 201-536-5557.
Eat the way you want to at restaurant.mc, 57 Main Street, Millburn. Monday through Friday a spring small-plates menu has nothing priced over $10, and two-course ($24) and three-course ($30) menus are available daily before 7 PM. For reservations call 973-921-0888.
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