My life- in 2D.
Category Archives: Foodie Fundamentals 101
Growing up in South Florida until recently, I was well-aware that old roadside “joints” were all but dead in The Sunshine State. So imagine my excitement when I first drove by Weber’s Drive-in, located in Pennsauken, NJ, right off of Route 38. It was “American Graffiti” for real. The main attraction at Weber’s is their signature Root Beer.
Everything about it- the roadside sign, colors, architecture, and yes- even the food, just screams “1950’s”. I suddenly had an urge to go out and buy the complete “Happy Days” series on DVD. Weber’s is that authentic. A standing, living monument to days-too-long-gone-by.
Weber’s is a Drive-in. That’s Drive “in”, not Drive-“thru”- big difference. For those that never experienced it, a Drive-in is a restaurant where patrons pull up to a parking spot, a server comes to your car to take your order, and then delivers the food to you, so you can dine in your car. At Weber’s, the authenticity of 50’s drive-ins is cemented by fastening your food order tray to the driver’s side window. Daddy-O, this place is like crazy!
When first approaching your parking spot, turn your headlights off. The reason? Well, there’s a sign that explains it right in front of you- “Lights On For Service”. Simple- just like 50’s.
Weber’s menu is not extensive- your basic hamburger, hot dog, cheese-steak joint, with a few available tweaks to each. They also serve a Pork Roll® with Cheese sandwich- a staple here in Jersey and Philadelphia. Pork roll is very similar to Canadian Bacon, in my opinion. Locals here will fight you to the death denying it. That pretty much covers the food- drinks are shakes and sodas.
It shouldn’t take you more than a minute to decide what to eat, at which point you flick on your headlights. Within seconds, our server showed up to take the order.
As I said earlier, Weber’s signature item is Root Beer. Being a root beer fanatic, it was that fact that got me giddy like a five-year-old. I love a good homemade root beer- not out of a can, but in a frosted mug. Weber’s deliver’s.
Having never been there, we try a sampling of a few sandwiches- the burgers literally being a bit larger than a Slider and not too filling. We order a cheeseburger, cheesesteak, and a pork roll sandwich. Within five minutes we’re eating.
Now, this isn’t a five-star restaurant, folks- but the food is just what it sets out to be. Simple. All of the sandwiches were adequate- fresh buns, and served hot. The pork roll is your basic ham and cheese- very mild and quite delicious. The burger, although not huge, was juicy and flavorful. The cheesesteak was like the kind you make at home, but satisfying, nonetheless.
For drinks, of course we ordered a root beer, and we also wanted to sample the vanilla shake. The root beer was okay– it was definitely ice-cold in the mug, but the soda itself didn’t have that strong root-y, herb-y flavor that I like so much. It wasn’t as good as A&W serves up out of their kegs, but it was close. I would definitely bring a gallon home in the future, which are available in glass jugs, for just $4.99). The vanilla shake, on the other hand, was superb. A nice, thick,- but not-too-thick blend of real vanilla ice cream and milk. It was also served in a chilled mug, which adds that special touch. Perfect to wash the food down with.
Having finished our meal, we turned back on the headlights, and the server came over to take our empty tray and mugs. She also gave us the check, which sits on your windshield while you dine. At an average of 3 bucks and change an item, Weber’s is definitely budget-friendly. Oh yeah, it’s also cash-only. More Fifty’s authenticity .
All in all, a great place to go, to bring the kids, and for you people a generation older than me- a great place to wax nostalgic.
But wait- there’s more!!! Upon entering the parking lot of Weber’s, on the roadside and beckoning the traffic passersby- is Elvis. Yes, ladies and gentlemen- Elvis Presley. Well, kind of…. His real name is Mark (or Marc, maybe?), and he entertains from the side of the highway- microphone in hand and boombox on the ground.
Mark– er, Elvis was kind enough to pose for some pictures for me, and also let me know that he is available for parties and private engagements. I still have your number, King.
Happy Days, indeed. I love this place.
Thank ya- thank ya veramuch.
In Cherry Hill NJ, lies a very unassuming, little restaurant in a very unassuming, little plaza called Sawmill Village. Just the type of place you would find a phenomenal restaurant. Case in point, a fabulous place called Kuzina by Sofia- serving authentic “Traditional & Modern Greek Cuisine”.
Being new to the area approximately 10 months ago, I had a hankering for some good Greek food. So like anyone in this age of technology would do, I researched the internet and hoped for the best. Now four visits later, I’m posting this blog to share it with you.
Yes, I always get the same thing at Kuzina- maybe someday I’ll expand my horizons, but until that day arrives, I’m a creature of habit- what can I say? With that being said, to say that I was thrilled with the anticipation of what awaited me, would be a major understatement.
We arrived a little early for dinner, and were the only ones there. By the time we were finished with our meal, the place was packed.
Once seated, the server brings water- and a basket of fresh, hot grilled pita bread, cut into wedges. To accompany the bread, is a bowl of olive oil, with spices and sesame seeds. You can taste the quality of the olive oil in its flavor, and the combination of the warm, lightly char-flavored bread doused with it, is wondrous.
Next, the two appetizers (aka “The Usual”, for me)- Saghanaki, and Spanakopita.
First, the Saghanaki- a salty, white Greek cheese, flambéed to a bubbly crust. Kuzina’s menu states that theirs is flambéed with Ouzo. All I have to say to that is, “OPA!” The crispy outside and chewy inside, with all of its salty goodness is the very definition of a guilty pleasure.
Next, the staple and most people’s first taste of Greek food- Spanakopita, better known as Spinach Pie. Fresh spinach (not Byrd’s Eye frozen), and ample chunks of Feta (another salty) cheese are very visible, and marry together seamlessly. The filling of spinach and cheese is wrapped by multiple layers of Phyllo dough, which is paper-thin sheets of dough that is used widely in Mediterranean pastries. The Spanakopita is baked, and the dough turns airy-light and crispy, browned to perfection, also toasting the sesame seeds added on top. The fresh, spinach filling with the buttery, crispy crunch of the pastry is mind-blowing.
Being completely satisfied thus far, I still have to go for the slam-dunk: The Gyro. My favorite Greek food, and my main coarse every time. It is served either as a pita sandwich, or as a platter, which comes with the gyro meat (beef and lamb, traditional-style); a greek salad; pita wedges; and Tzatziki sauce- which is a Greek yogurt, usually made with cucumbers and dill, plus various spices and lemon juice.
I always go for the Gyro in sandwich form, which comes also with tomato and onions. Always despising tomatoes from birth, and getting too old to handle raw onion, I opt- out on the veggies and go strictly meat- with the Tzatziki on the side (I like to govern the amount put on).
My favorite part of the meal- the arrival of the sandwich, served with French Fries. I’m not a huge fries person, but Kuzina even does them right, always tasting fresh- crispy on the outside, and nice and “potatoey” inside.
But the culinary star today, as always, is the Gyro. Bundled up in, again- a perfectly soft, warm Pita bread, is the gyro meat- a combination of lamb and beef and many different spices, traditionally cooked on a vertical skewer, with radiated heat. This produces a meat that is perfectly juicy with a peppery outer-crust. The meat is sliced as it browns and served immediately. I could literally eat pounds of just the meat- it is seriously that good. Crispy and seasoned on the outside, but ever so tender to the bite- and Kuzinas does it flawlessly. Their Tzatziki is the freshest I ever tasted, and is the perfect companion to the not-overly spicy meat.
Having other dessert plans for the evening, it was skipped this time. However, on one of my previous visits I tried the Baklava- traditional Greek dessert made up of chopped nuts and a Greek honey-based syrup, filled inside Phyllo dough and baked to a crisp, then drizzled more with the honey-syrup on top. Served with some great coffee- the perfect end to a perfect meal.
The service is always great, and the Mediterranean music softly playing overhead only adds to the ambiance and overall wonderful experience. I also had the pleasure at a previous dining, of meeting the woman behind the greatness- Sofia is as gracious a hostess as she is a fabulous chef.
Check out Kuzina by Sofia first chance you get- you will be extremely ευτυχισμένος that you did!
Just off of Route 38 in Mount Laurel, NJ is a great Western- themed restaurant, bar, and dance hall called Prospector’s Steakhouse & Saloon. The theme might instantly conjure up bad memories of dining at The Ponderosa Steakhouse but let me assure you, there’s no comparison.
Upon walking through the main entrance, the first thing you notice right in front of you, is the enormous salad bar- more on that later. My guest and I were taken to our table, in the middle of a vast dining area- filled with people chatting and enjoying their meals.
Almost immediately one of the staff brings a basket with two piping-hot sweet yeast rolls. Amazing. You could see the steam release when ripped apart, a little hint of sweet to the taste, and were so light and fluffy. Great beginning….
Enjoying the roll and looking over the menu, I took in the scenery around us. Yes, it was a typical Western-theme, pictures paintings and sculptures of cowboys, with the obligatory mounted animal heads, and animal skins on the walls. I got the biggest kick, of course (being a big kid myself), out of the train on a track surrounding the whole room, circling above everyone’s head.
The menu itself is very extensive- and with nightly specials at Prospectors, you’ll never have a problem of finding something for everyone. Click here to view the menu.
The waitress arrived (she was awesome throughout the whole meal), then took our order. I was told that with your dinner you either get soup, a pre-made salad, or the salad bar. No brainer! Of course, we opted for the salad bar.
My mistake- The “Produce Wagon”, as it’s called at Prospectors. This thing is huge- about 20 feet from left to right, I’d estimate. Ice cold plates out of a refrigerated icebox makes all the difference in the world, as far as I’m concerned- and Prospectors has one. I can’t remember all of the offerings (most of your typical salad bar fare), but there was an abundance of it, and it all looked very fresh. I had the mixed greens with crushed hard- boiled egg, a little touch of bacon bits and some thousand island dressing. I’m a salad minimalist- and even more so since I was aware of the meal that was coming my way soon. I usually don’t do croutons either, but when I saw how fresh and obviously homemade they looked I had to try a couple. Crunchy, toasty, garlicky and delicious. Things were going very well…..
About five minutes to digest the salads and our main course arrived. It’s Wednesday night at Prospectors- and BBQ Baby Back Ribs is the special. Hello. For those that know me personally, I’m a sucker for ribs- any kind, but especially baby backs.
All the clichés- smoky; tender; fall-off-the-bone; blah, blah,blah…….. are true here. Perfectly done, with a touch of caramelized char on the outer meat of the rib. What I most loved about the ribs was that the sauce had that baked-in quality. There’s nothing worse for me than ribs overly-slathered in sauce, so much that you’re eating more sauce than rib. Not the case here- they were perfect. In fact, a little dish of barbecue sauce was on the plate for dipping, if I chose to do so. From the sides that I had to choose from, I decided to do the “healthy” thing, being that I’m downing a rack of ribs- and opted for the sweet potato, sans butter and cinnamon. I just love sweet potatoes plain and simple. The sweet potato rocked- cooked to a perfect softness, and was literally the size of a softball. I’m happy.
My dining partner, and girlfriend Kelly (The Jirish one- see my Doug Heffernan blog), ordered the Chicken Oscar- which is boneless chicken breast, topped with crabmeat, asparagus spears, and hollandaise sauce. I tried a bite, and while all of the ingredients were fresh and very well-prepared, and i like all of the ingredients separately, it just didn’t jive with me. What’s important here, however- is that my dining partner loved it. Along with her main coarse she ordered the macaroni and cheese. Um…… good choice. Wow! This side dish was a brick- sized portion of baked mac and cheese, with the perfect cheese-to-pasta ratio. Insanely good stuff, and huge- most of it is sitting in our fridge right now, waiting to be reheated.
For dessert, we decided to split a chocolate mousse- another weakness of mine (I have quite a few), with our coffee. A few spoonfuls into the airy, chocolaty, rich goodness and we gave up. I usually never leave a dessert unfinished, but I had more than enough by then. Kelly- she gave up after the second spoonful. I keep telling her to not try and keep up with me- it’s a futile thing by nature.
All in all, a great meal and fun time. Dinner ran about $60 after tax and tip- not bad for the belt-loosening feast we enjoyed so much. There’s also a sports bar area we never got to experience, with nightly specials- and offers all of the sports packages. Also, there’s a nightclub for line-dancing and the like, if that’s your thing.
If you’re ever in Mt. Laurel, NJ make sure you stop by for a spell- you won’t regret it.
Baby Boomers, get your dental fillings ready- Astro Pops are back.
The rocket-shaped, tri-colored, translucent lollipops are hitting stores again.
Astro Pops, one of my favorite childhood confections, were discontinued in 2004 by The Spangler Candy Company. They acquired the brand from Los Angeles-based Nellson Candy Company (the original inventor of the Astro Pop) in 1987.
According to the Official Astro Pop website, “Many cried. One guy did something about it.”
The original 1-oz. pop will debut during the first quarter of 2011. For now, you can order a giant- sized Astro Pop for the bargain price of $39.95 and features “the same shape with the original wax base! It also has the original flavors: Pineapple, Passion Fruit and Cherry! That’s 15 inches long by 3 inches wide at the base! Weighing in at two pounds, this will be the longest lasting lollipop in the world!”
I remember when Astro Pops had their original shape, in all of its stoplight- colored glory, with the wider base of the lollipop at the bottom (resting on a wax- foundation), and the sharp-pointed apex at the top, where it belonged. But apparently, in the new found political correctness of the 80’s, Spangler inexplicably felt the need to invert the lollipop- possibly so some crazy kids wouldn’t hold up a liquor store with such a lethal weapon. Thus, giving the Astro Pop a backwards-ass look altogether, and pissing off those who knew it from its first go-round.
According to the Official Astro Pop Site, in addition to the original flavors of Pineapple, Passion Fruit and Cherry, there will be an abundance of new flavor combinations:
Astro Sour Pop: (sour grape, lemon and cherry)
Rappin Raspberry: (blue Raspberry, red raspberry, blueberry)
Banana Split Astro Pop: (banana, cherry and vanilla)
Carmel Apple: (caramel and green apple)
Astro Confetti Pop: (lemonade with confetti candy)
Halloween Astro Pop: (orange, vanilla and chocolate)
Citrus Sensation: (orange, cherry, lemon)
Easter Astro Pop: (grape, vanilla, lemon)
Astro Pop, Awesome Hot: (hot cinnamon flavor)
Astro Sundae Pop: (chocolate, vanilla and cherry)
Astro Patriot Pop: (cherry, vanilla and blueberry)
So keep an eye out for Astro Pops, coming to a store near you- just try not to poke it.
Think 7-11 or Circle K on steroids, with superior quality, and you have Wawa. A staple in the Mid- Atlantic region of the U.S., Wawa should be nationwide. Period.
From the coffee to the custom-made
Subs (Oops, sorry- I’m still a southerner. I forget it’s “Hoagies” here), Wawa is the Disney World of convenience stores. According to Wikipedia, On April 16, 1964, Wawa Food Markets opened their first store in Folsum, PA.
But I won’t bore you nor myself with the details.
Upon stepping into a Wawa, the first thing you notice is the space- lots of it. Now again, it is just a convenience store, with all of the usual necessities- snacks, groceries, toiletries, soft drinks, etc. But Wawa takes it to the highest level.
Coffee- the Wawa staple, like most convenience stores- gives more choices than I ever saw.
About 10 or so different types of coffee, in canisters for an easy pour into your cup, or flavored coffees out of a machine- if you’re a coffee drinker, welcome to Nirvana. Then to the coffee accessory bar- where every kind of sweetener, flavored creamer, half gallons of every type of milk or half and half, etc. can be found.
Hoagies- Wawa has them. Now, I won’t tell you that the quality is up there with Primo Hoagies, or for my South Florida brethren, La Spada’s (which coincidently, originates from Philadelphia- and is still there), but I think they’re a step above the Subway class.
It’s how you order that’s so cool, too. Blew my mind the first time I walked into a Wawa for a su…. er, hoagie after a night of hanging out with my good pal Captain Morgan, and was directed to a touchscreen. From there, you can choose any hoagie they offer, then choose your condiments and toppings. Once you’ve entered your decision, the sandwich maker gets cracking, and in a few minutes you’re ready to dive in. Rock and roll.
The hot dogs are ball park-like. All fresh and seated in individual cardboard containers, in a see-through, heated glass warmer. Good stuff. When was the last time any of you actually ate a hot dog from 7-11?
Near the cash register, when you’re ready to pay for your gatherings, there’s another heated glass warmer, carrying my favorite Wawa breakfast food- The Sizzli. Sizzli’s are your basic Egg McMuffin®, but with a wider range of choices. Croissant, bagel, and now even a pancake as the outer holders, with egg, cheese, bacon, sausage or even pork roll (hello, Philly) as the meat and filling. Fresh, hot and I say just as good, if not better than the clown’s counterpart.
They also have fresh Philly-style pretzels.
Not bad, but not nearly as good as The Philly Pretzel Factory (for another blog). They’re not hot as they should be, but go home, throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds, and all is well. Wawa also has stuffed pretzels, with cheddar or cream cheese. Let’s just say they don’t suck.
If you’re ever in the Northeast, heed the slogan of this awesome store- “Gotta Hava Wawa”. You’ll see what I mean…..
After posting multiple pictures of food and travels I have endured through the last few years, a good friend suggested I start a blog- so I took him up on it, and figured I’d give it a shot. So here goes…..
I have finally found the Promised Land- and it exists in Edison, New Jersey.
Being a South Florida native and a “nice Jewish boy”, I’ve had my share of “New York” style deli- but living in the Northeast now, I’ve learned first-hand that South Florida pales in comparison to Delis up here.
Yesterday, after a few postponed plans, I finally made it to Harold’s New York Deli- which sits- unassumingly I might add, off of a highway next to a Holiday Inn. A Holiday Inn….. no joke.
Upon arriving at Harold’s, I had one thing- and one thing only in mind. Hot Pastrami On Rye. It’s been awhile since I’ve had it- and it rates right up there with sex as one of my favorite things to partake in (sidenote: sex edges it out, only by a margin of minute proportion).
Upon entering Harold’s I was greeted by the above sign. “Man vs. Food” was here! I already knew that- seeing the show with Harold’s featured. It was then that I knew that an appearance here was in my not-too-distant future.
The place is huge inside- absolutely huge, which is a good thing- it was packed. Not overly- packed like I would have expected, but enough to have us wait a full three minutes before being seated. The following picture shows the front seating area. There’s a huge dining area to the right, where my guests and I were seated….
While waiting to be seated, in the waiting area, are refrigerators housing Harold’s over-the-top, ginormous-sized desserts. The picture below doesn’t even do justice of showing just how huge they really are. I got this random lady in the picture to try and show some scale:
And next to the desserts, the refrigerator chock-full of Dr. Browns sodas- the obligatory beverage of any deli outing:
So once we’re seated, we look over the menu, (which was pointless- for me at least, knowing without question what I was there for). Upon looking at the menus however, I was reminded exactly why “Man vs. Food” was there. At Harold’s they are best known by their “Triple-Decker” sandwiches, which the menu states: “Recommended to feed at least 5 -6 people”. A more accurate description would be “9-10 people”, in my opinion. I didn’t see any groups of people ordering one, so here’s a picture I grabbed off of the internet- of Adam Richman, host of “Man vs. Food” on The Travel Channel, along with some guests:
The Triple Decker sandwiches will cost you slightly over fifty dollars, but if you split between 6-8 people, it’s actually cheaper than getting individual sandwiches.
After our drink and food orders are taken, we’re told to go to the “Pickle Bar”. Pickle bar? Yeah. That’s the place where you get all the accessories to go with your meal. Every kind of pickle you can imagine is there on display, along with stacks of fresh-baked rye bread, because Harold’s sandwiches (which come in sizes of “Large” and “Extra-large” only) are so huge, that it’s a mountain of filling, in-between two slices of bread. The idea here is to take off the top piece of bread and distribute the meat amongst the masses, all of whom will need their own bread to build their own sandwich- get it?
The Pickle Bar:
Upon arrival back to the table, I was amazed that the main course was already there- waiting for me to devour. It could not have been more than a five-minute trip to-and-from the pickle bar.
The time had finally arrived- it was here, in all of it’s hot, steaming glory. Insert the clouds parting, and hearing angels singing here:
Words cannot describe- it’s beyond grasp, akin to trying to explain the feeling of a drug. But I’ll try…..
Upon first bite, the butter-like texture of the meat hits you. It’s neither chewy or stringy- two adjectives that usually show up (unfortunately) in describing many-a-pastrami sandwich. This was pure quality- just the right amount of fat needed to bring out the salty, pungent brines flavor of the meat. The consistency was really that of what I imagine biting into a stick of butter is. The after-taste of the peppery outer- crust was simply spectacular. It was the perfect pastrami sandwich.
You might think that a restaurant with a gimmick of using comedy -like proportions would be doing it to cover up the quality, or lack thereof- of the food. This is definitely NOT the case at Harold’s. If anything, the superb quality only adds to the thrill of watching the waiters deliver mammoth- sized food to other customers, and the patrons reactions to when their food is delivered to their table. I had a funny thought that this place is like Alice In Deli Wonderland, after eating the “small” pill.
Between me and two others, we shared two sandwiches- which, between the three of us, we ALMOST finished a complete ONE. The other sandwich was a Salami on rye. It wasn’t nearly as euphoric to me as the Pastrami, of course- but stood quite proud on its own. Again, the proportions made me laugh aloud:
As we prepared to indulge in the feast, we grabbed for the napkins and all laughed out loud…
Something else I noticed on the menu, which will make some people happy (You reading this, Steve M.?)
Unfortunately as it was pointed out, it was too bad there were only three of us. With immense proportions like this, you really need a group of at least six to explore the side dishes, and split a couple of sandwiches to get the full experience of Harold’s. We saw a potato pancake- one per order, mind you, that was literally the size of the large plate it rested upon.
The Matzoh-Ball soup comes with one matzoh ball. I’d put its size as somewhere between a softball and a bowling ball. We didn’t order it, so I have no picture. Next time, and you’ll just have to trust me.
We were so full from just a portion of the two sandwiches, that we passed on dessert- yet another reason for the need of a group of people. I did, however get some closer shots of the desserts on the way out:
All in all, it was a lunch of epic proportion (pun intended), and there was so much pastrami and salami left over, i was able to enjoy a big second sandwich for dinner. I would recommend in a heartbeat this place, even to the casual deli patron. It is an experience enough to talk about a couple days after- and with a blog now, a chance to relive over and over.
At least, until I go back.