The Rosie Report: The Wooden Spoon, Plus Shout-outs

Rosie gives the low down on soul food in Bloomfield, a classic restaurant in Maplewood and Turkish eats in Paterson.

THE WOODEN SPOON, SOUTHERN KITCHEN & SALOON, BLOOMFIELD

Not having a printed wine list or dessert menu was an inconvenience, but the food at The Wooden Spoon, which had been open for a few weeks when we visited, was so delightful that we did not mind. Our evening was additionally enhanced by Marcus, our waiter, as he had a charming sense of humor and willingness to please. Kudos also to owner/chef Donald Erickson, Jr. for sending over an “OMG I love this dessert” to make amends for the lack of a wine list. We left The Wooden Spoon well fed and this new BBQ establishment is now on the Safersteins’ rotation list.

This is what happened. There was extensive beer and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on the menu, but no wine list and we were the first people to order a bottle of wine since the restaurant opened. Our waiter asked, “What kind of wine would you like? Red or white? I can bring the bottles we have to show you” and proceeded to bring three reasonably priced ($25 and $30) bottles of sauvignon blanc to our table for us to choose from. It was actually fun to look at the labels and decide what to order. Those looking for a cocktail should check out The Bloody Mary made with Grey Goose premium vodka, chile-poached shrimp, jalapeno pickles, house-smoked bacon and Colby jack cheese. It’s a meal in a drink.

Various fried-chicken dishes as well as half or full pound meats from their smoker, Southern sides including fried okra, grits and collard greens, burgers, salads and brunch-all-day options are offered. An old fashioned retro treat of fried bologna and cheese is one of the sandwiches available however, my preference would be a classic fried shrimp po-boy or brisket sandwich.

Lowell had the pulled pork (surprise!), consisting of chunks of meat rather than shreds, accompanied by BBQ sauce on the side. It was lip-smacking as were the creamy string beans with bacon, which reminded us of the string bean casserole we always have at Thanksgiving, but better. Every Southern/BBQ restaurant has their own recipe for Creole shrimp and grits. Here, a colorful presentation of white cheddar grits, topped with firm-textured, sweet gulf shrimp in a spicy broth containing crispy, fried collards, red peppers, onions and Andouille sausage tasted as scrumptious as it looked.

Shrimp and grits

A piquant BBQ sauce enlivened the blackened, seasoned catfish fillet paired with red beans and rice. A rare option was juicy meat loaf speckled with carrot cubes. Sides included smashed red bliss potatoes and the aforementioned smothered green beans.

Appetizers such as an unusual Charleston cheese dip made with turnip greens, artichokes and cheeses, and Memphis nachos with pulled pork, cheddar cheeses, pickles, green chilies and green tomato were bypassed. Instead, we munched on large biscuits made with White Lily flour, two to an order, which came with honey in plastic pouches and butter.

The décor is whimsical with a white neon “EAT BACON” sign and a portrait on the back wall of a cow holding a bloody Mary and pig holding a spoon and a glass of beer. The waitstaff dons black T-shirts that say “low and slow.” One wall was created with slats of wood branded with the restaurant’s logo.

Dessert was a delectable butter-rum bread pudding studded with pecans that is a “must order.” This dish completed our memorable dinner.

Butter rum bread pudding

Open Tuesday from 4 PM, Wednesday through Saturday from 11 AM and Sunday from 10 AM. There is a Southern Sunday brunch buffet with live jazz from 11 AM to 2 PM.

The Wooden Spoon, 285 Glenwood Avenue, Bloomfield. 973-743-0099; woodenspoonsaloon.com.

 

ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTS

LORENA’S MAPLEWOOD
To celebrate our anniversary and Lowell’s birthday, (yes, they are on the same day), we dined at Lorena’s, a charming, romantic restaurant that has been open since 2005. From the amuse bouche, (a shot of gazpacho), to the chef’s pre-dessert of mixed berry, ginger and mint drink, we experienced outstanding food created with quality ingredients. The menu changes seasonally, but if available, try the creamy, warm lump crabmeat and wild mushroom crêpe; rich, hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli ensconced in a basil, walnut and garlic scape pesto sauce and topped with a poached egg; or a refreshing market salad. Ours had pickled peaches, candied pecans, burrata cheese and jambon de Bayonne. Fish is excellent and creatively prepared. Salmon surrounded by corn, roasted cauliflower and peaches was colorfully presented with a carrot-ginger emulsion while an orangey, sweet curry sauce gave bursts of flavor to the halibut.

Salmon with corn, roasted cauliflower and peaches in a carrot-ginger emulsion.

Almond cream served as a base for berries and chocolate shavings in a summer berry trifle.

Lorena’s, 168 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood. 973-763-4460; restaurantlorena.com. BYO

 

TOROS, PATERSON
This family-friendly restaurant has been open since 1972 and also has locations in New Milford and Clifton. The Safersteins prefer feasting on the authentic Turkish food at the casual BYO storefront in Paterson with its colorful atmosphere and customers. The diners here may be wearing a hijab or short shorts and everyone is offered extremely friendly service by the staff.

We usually order many appetizers that can easily be shared. Start with the Shepard salad containing ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions topped with feta; the smokey babagannush; creamy lebni spiked with garlic, dill and walnuts; refreshing white kidney bean salad heightened with sliced onions, tomatoes, black olives, parsley, oil and vinegar and of course the addictive hummus.

Bean salad

These along with the warm chewy pida bread fills us up. If you have room, we recommend the tender manti (steamed dumplings made with ground lamb and drizzled with a yogurt garlic sauce); the tender broiled lamb chops; juicy chicken kebab or share the Toros combination plate containing Turkish sausage, skewered ground lamb kebab, chicken and lamb kebabs. Our favorite dessert is the baklava.

Toros, 1083 Main Street, Paterson. torosrestaurant.com; 973-742-6877. BYO

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