Here’s a little restaurant history. Epernay in Montclair was opened in November 2000 by chef Mark Papera and was sold in April 2006 to restaurateur Franco Del Barba who kept the name Epernay. Epernay closed November 2012 and to our delight Fricassee opened in February 2013 by one of our favorite chefs, Mark Papera. He’s back and we couldn’t be happier. Epernay under his ownership was excellent, so it is no surprise that Fricassee is equally outstanding. You do want to dine here.
Some of our favorite classic French bistro dishes are back on the menu. Try the frisee salad with bacon and chunks of blue cheese and mustard vinaigrette. It’s topped with a poached egg, which deliciously oozes over the salad when broken. The country pâte with cornichons and Dijon mustard is back, too and great for sharing. And how much more French bistro can you get with the onion soup and its scrumptious broth? What’s new are four offerings of gratins de macaroni (wild mushroom and truffle, short rib and blue cheese, creamy five cheese or mixed vegetable). Pick one, place it in the middle of the table and try not to stop eating it. We had the addictive creamy five cheese. Entrées included a beautifully prepared, rare herb and pepper-crusted tuna with lentil salad and a shallot vinaigrette; hanger steak au poivre with haricot vert and frites; crispy-skin salmon with ragout of white beans, chorizo (sausage) tomato confit and baby spinach with a grain-mustard cream sauce; and my favorite a braised lamb shank on curried chickpeas with baby carrots and spinach. Did we have room for dessert? No, but we ordered one anyway. It didn’t help that we also noshed throughout our meal on the bread from Balthazar (presented with a miniature cast iron frying pan filled with sweet butter) and used it to sop up the tasty sauces. But how can we bypass a dessert by chef Papera? So we ordered a lemon tart and four forks. Chef Papera sent over the tart along with the crème brulee, mousse au chocolat (the best we have ever had) tarte tatin, and profiteroles. And yes, we tasted everything and were very satiated diners as we left this fabulous restaurant.
Fricassee is open Monday to Saturday from 5 to 10 PM. Welcome home chef Mark, welcome home.
Braised lamb shank on curried chickpeas with baby carrots and spinach.
Photos Courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
6 Park Street
SORRENTO RISTORANTE, EAST RUTHERFORD
We arrived at Sorrento Ristorante in East Rutherford in a round about way. The restaurant is located at 132 Park Avenue in EAST Rutherford. I put 132 Park Avenue, Rutherford in the GPS, and when when we pulled up to that address there was a restaurant with lettering saying “Paisano’s.” We were thoroughly confused. So sheepishly we walked into the restaurant and asked if we were at Sorrento’s. The host was polite and said no; the name of the restaurant was Paisano’s. I then realized that we were in Rutherford not East Rutherford and we proceeded to drive to Sorrento, which was a few minutes away. What are the chances of two Italian restaurants being at 132 Park Avenue in adjacent cities? Obviously in NJ, not a surprise. So if you go to Sorrento’s be sure you head to East Rutherford, and if you wish to dine at Paisano’s, it is in Rutherford.
We started with warm bread topped with chopped tomatoes, followed by eggplant rollantini, hammy tasting pasta and bean soup, broccoli rabe with house-made sweet sausage and a very refreshing arugula, shaved fennel, fresh orange, olives and almond salad with an orange vinaigrette. A lemon ice intermezzo was served between courses and it must be at least 30 years since we’ve seen this palate cleanser offered. Entrees were mixed. The veal chop was huge, tender and a dish we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. Thin strands of imported chitarra pasta were al dente, perfectly cooked and combined with chickpeas, pancetta, onions, and fresh, basic, garlic and fresh tomatoes. It was a huge portion that we enjoyed the next evening. A half roasted duck with an orange/apricot sauce was dry and dull and the accompanying string beans soggy. Desserts were a large platter of mixed Italian cookies, which we gobbled up, and fresh berries topped with cannoli cream.
The restaurant is on a residential street, has valet parking and there is live music on Thursday and Friday. They are open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.
Arugula, shaved fennel, fresh orange, olives and almond salad with an orange vinaigrette.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
132 Park Avenue
The Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off was held on March 21, at the Manischewitz Headquarters in Newark, with the winner, Josie Shapiro from San Francisco winning a prize valued at $25,000 for her Faux Pho recipe. Of the five contestants, one was from NJ, Yitzi Tabler (Bergenfield), who entered with his garlic chicken rollatini recipe.
About 180,000 cases of matzo are produced annually at the Manischewitz plant in Newark and we had a tour of the facilities to learn how matzo is made. Our tour started with a view of the dough being dropped onto a conveyer and rolled thin. It is cut into squares and perforated with 500 holes to enhance the baking process and create crispiness. The matzo is then baked in a very long 700 degree oven for two minutes. The squares are cooled, packed into boxes, brought into the warehouse and shipped all over the world.
Founded in 1888 when Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz opened a bakery in Cincinnati, Ohio to make matzo for his family and friends for Passover, the company moved production in1932 to Jersey City. In 2006, they relocated to Newark, where about 180,000 cases of matzo are produced annually. Manischewitz ® is the world’s largest matzo manufacturer and one of America’s largest kosher brands which include: Season ®, Guiltless Gourmet ®, Tam Tams ®, Rokeah ®, Mishpacha ®, Jason®, Mother’s® and Goodman’s ®. Some of the new products introduced this year include gluten-free goods, Mediterranean gefilite fish; and frozen macaroon dough.
Dough for matzo after it has been rolled out, cut into squares and perforated.
View of matzo baking in the oven.
Ovens at the Manischewitz plant.
Cooked matzo coming out of the oven.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
Here is the winning recipe, Faux Pho by Josie Shapiro:
12 oz. Manischewitz® Egg Noodles
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. curry powder
32 oz. Manischewitz® Chicken Broth
½ cup orange juice
1 cup coconut milk
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz ea)
¼ cup lime juice
1 ½ cup fresh basil leaves
1. Cook the egg noodles two minutes less than directed on package.
2. Strain, run under cold water to stop cooking process, and set aside.
3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
4. Add curry powder, stirring until fragrant, about one minute.
5. Add chicken.
6. Flip to coat in curry.
7. Add broth, orange juice and coconut milk and bring to a boil.
8. Turn heat to low and gently simmer until chicken is almost cooked through, about 15 minutes.
9. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken from soup and roughly chop into bite size pieces.
10. Return chopped chicken to soup.
11. Add cooked egg noodles, turn heat to high and return soup to boil.
12. Lower heat and simmer two minutes.
13. Remove from heat and season with lime juice, salt and pepper.
14. Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.
THE DINING ROOM, SHORT HILLS
In celebration of their 25th anniversary, the Hilton Short Hills, 41 John F. Kennedy Parkway, Short Hills, has relaunched The Dining Room restaurant with a brand-new, contemporary look and farm-to-table menu from executive chef Richard Kennedy. This 120-seat restaurant features New American cuisine with ingredients, meats and produce from the area’s farms and markets. The restaurant will serve line-caught fish from the East Coast exclusively.
Menu items include chicken casserole consisting of pulled chicken, veloute and crispy bread pudding; flat-iron steak au poivre with celeriac puree and rosemary honey; salmon wrapped in brick dough with a root vegetable hash; 36-ounce cowboy steak with crisp kale and roasted garlic butter to share; chocolate bar ganache with devil’s food, chocolate cheesecake, and caramel crunch and a PB & J eclair with layers of pate choux, homemade jam, peanut butter nougat, peanut butter ice cream. The Dining Room is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner, Monday through Saturday. Reservations: 973-912-4756.
WINE AND MARTINI TASTING AT SALT CREEK GRILL, RUMSON
On April 18, Salt Creek Grille, 4 Bingham Avenue, Rumson will celebrate its 15th Anniversary with Its Annual Anniversary Wine and Martini Tasting Fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Middlesex Counties. The evening includes wines, specialty martinis, passed hors d’oeuvres, pasta and carving stations by Salt Creek Grille, plus guest tables including cheeses from Sickles Market and a raw bar by Lusty Lobster. 7 to 10 PM; $125 with 100 percent going to BBBS. Call 732-544-2224 ext. 321 or visit www.bbbsmmc.org to purchase.
A TASTE OF……..
There are three “Tastes of” on Monday, April 15 to keep us all well fed:
A Taste of Madison will be held at the Park Avenue Club, 184 Park Ave, Florham Park to benefit the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, Madison Downtown Development Commission and the Rotary Club of Madison; 6 to 9:30 PM. For ticket information, visit tasteofmadison.org or call 973-377-7830.
A Taste of Gloucester, with cuisine from more than 20 restaurants along with wine tastings, will be held Auletto Caterers, 1849 Cooper St, Almonesson. 6 to 8:30 PM; $60. Reservations: 856-415-9084.
The Taste: New Jersey Food and Wine Tasting will be held at the Hyatt Regency-New Brunswick, 2 Albany St, New Brunswick, sponsored by the Central New Jersey Convention and Visitors Bureau. 5:30 to 8:30 PM; $45. For tickets, visit www.gocentraljersey.com/About-CVB/The-Taste-.aspx.
Chef Johnny Meatballs, aka Johnny DeCarlo, sells his meatballs made with veal, pork and beef in specialty stores and via mail order. He operates a mobile meatball cart at events, farmers’ markets and now through April, he will be at the Wicked Wolf Tavern, 120 Sinatra Drive, Hoboken on Thursday evenings from 8 to 10 PM, along with sidekick Frankie Antipasto. For information log onto: http://www.facebook.com/JohnnyMeatballsCatering or e-mail [email protected]/
Restaurant Nicholas, Middletown was listed as one of the Top 40 Restaurants in the United States, while Amada, Atlantic City received honorable mention as a Top New Restaurant by Gayot (www.gayot.com)
Please send press releases and restaurant news, including information on staff changes, wine tastings, and cooking classes, to [email protected].