LITTLE SILVER SZECHUAN’S SECRET: COMFORT

101514 little szechMoo Shu Pork, fried rice and condiments crowd a table at Little Szechuan Restaurant. Below, a view of the comfortable booths.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101514 litte szechBefore so many take-out joints started popping up all around the greater Green, there was Little Szechuan Restaurant on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Church Street in Little Silver.

It was the only place to find sit-down Chinese food back in the day, and that day goes all the way back to 1981. Today, there’s still a good chance that you will run into neighbors you haven’t seen in a while when you visit for lunch or dinner. It is part of the charm and civility of this neighborhood eatery.

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RED BANK: NOT FANCY BUT SO TASTY

101014 international2The platter of Tacos al Pastor, served on a melmac plate, at the International Mexican Food Restaurant. Below, a sampling of the sauces that accompany the tacos. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

101014 international3Walk down Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank and you are almost certain to miss a terrific taqueria.

The International Mexican Food restaurant is something of a stealth business. You wouldn’t know what lurks inside at number 92 if someone didn’t tell you. There is a tiny sign above the door that reads, “International,” but that’s it.

Don’t let the bare-bones exterior stop you, though, or the fact that no one inside speaks English; even the takeout menus are in Spanish. This place is busy because the food is fairly unique to the area and seriously good.
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SPICING UP THE LARDER WITH TANGY SAUCE

101314 linares sauceLinares Grocery on Monmouth Street sells squirt bottles of the chamoy sauce found in Mexican restaurants. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

LARDER-270_100414On a recent culinary tour of Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank with our friend and guide, David Prown, PieHole discovered a little secret: some of those big flavors you come across in Mexican restaurants can be found in the bodegas along Shrewsbury Avenue.

Linares Grocery owner Alfredo Linares showed us an eyecatching fruit salad: a pineapple shell filled with sliced peaches and pineapple, and then covered with chamoy dipping sauce. Tangy, slightly sweet, slightly sour, chamoy sauce is sold in a squirt bottle like ketchup or srircha, but this condiment is made from fruit pulp, usually apricot, lime, and spices.

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RED BANK: CHILI WITH A LOT OF SOUL

101114 jbjchili24Stuart Jensen and Vinnie Sarullo of Navesink Hook and Ladder with their potful of chili at JBJ Soul Kitchen’s chili cook-off. Below, Union Beach Fire Company’s entry won first place.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

[See clarification below]

By SUSAN ERICSON

101114 chili6Firetrucks and EMS vehicles crowded the area of the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank this weekend, but the only thing on fire was taste buds.

Kicking off its three-year anniversary, the pay-what-you-can Monmouth Street restaurant hosted a chili cook-off Saturday, inviting local firefighters and EMS squads to serve up their fiery best.

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WHATS FOR LUNCH: SLIDERS ON SURFBOARDS

091914 woodys2Brisket sliders and an Orange Crush on a surfboard-themed table at Woody’s Ocean Grille in Sea Bright.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

092014 woodys sbMeeting a friend for lunch at the beach is one of the biggest perks to living on the greater Green. So, dispensing with the usual idea of running into Red Bank, we opted for the more relaxing sandy beach locale of Sea Bright, where Woody’s Ocean Bar and Grille stands among the reopened restaurants decimated by Hurricane Sandy almost two years ago.

Decorated true to its name, the driftwood and lacquered-surfboard styling gives this place a comfortable beach vibe. Upstairs, in a loft overhanging the bar, a long banquette with comfy little pillows made us feel like we were sitting on a sofa rather than a bench. The skylight adds to the outdoorsy ambiance. (For more on the design, check out redbankgreen‘s 2013 feature on designer Jeff Cahill.)
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SEA BRIGHT: DIVE BAR DIVES RIGHT BACK IN

091214 dive2A bright and colorful interior to Dive into in Sea Bright. Below, the vegetarian black bean burger. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091214 dive3 Dive owners and newlyweds Christina DiIorio and Steven Graniero  start and finish one another’s sentences.

“We called it Dive so people would feel comfortable to come here,” Graniero said. “Diving into Sea Bright, diving into the food, and just diving into the new place,” DiIorio added.

After Hurricane Sandy, Dive – which had been open only two years – was closed for 20 months. In that time, the couple worked on refurbishing the restaurant and got married. “We opened Dive on out honeymoon” in early July, DiIorio said.

They hired Sea Bright locals, Kyle Hopfensperger as executive chef and Daniel Ciameroni as sous chef. Both 29 years old, they have restaurant experience in the area, and either ride their bikes or skateboards to work. They have also been friends since they were two years old.

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GETTING FRIED ON THE GREEN

062714 zucchini barnacle billsBarnacle Bill’s fried zucchini with tangy dipping sauce is a perennial favorite, while deep fried pickle spears (below) from the Globe are a newer menu addition. (Photos By Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

DSCN2037

Eat your vegetables, you were told as a child. They’re good for you. But your mama probably didn’t mean the deep-fried veggies that have been popping up on tavern menus all around the Green.

Belly up to the bar, boys and girls, to try a less healthy but way more fun way to fill your pie hole with roughage. PieHole leads the tour…

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SEA BRIGHT: FRUITY JAMS WITH ZING

082814 jollyjam2Holly Hindin at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market last Thursday. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumWhat’s the difference between jelly and jam?

“Jelly is clear, while jam contains pieces of the fruit it’s made from,” Holly Hindin explains from across her table at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market, one of three local markets where she sells her Holly Jolly Jams.

And while the 40-year-old Fair Havenite has an array of fruity jams to entice shoppers and samplers, she also makes some with real zing.

“The Apple Pie jam, Balsamic Fig jam, and the Jalapeno Jelly are probably my best sellers,” she said, “but the Cowboy Candy is maybe the most unusual.”

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WHATS FOR LUNCH: SOUP’S ON

090114 cjmcloones1The oversized Reuben lunch platter with  fries, above, and French onion soup, below, from CJ McLoone’s.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

090114 cjmcloones2The calendar flips to September, and just like that, thoughts of bathing suits and salads are gone, replaced by hankerings for sweaters, coats and heartier lunches.

A soup-and-sandwich pairing is a favorite for many who want a little more than just a quick bite, and to this soup lover, it doesn’t matter that it’s still hot outside: September is the start of soup season.

CJ McLoone’s on Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls offers a soup of the day, oversized burgers, and many typical sandwich options.

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SEA BRIGHT FARMERS MARKET: DIVE DEMO

082814 sbfarmrs mkt1Dive chef Kyle Hopfensperger and sous chef Daniel Ciameroni at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market. Their salsa, below. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

082814 sbfarmers mkt2Last week, the still-new Sea Bright Farmers’ Market added a weekly feature: local restaurant chefs’ demonstrations and tastings.

First up were Dive chef Kyle Hopfensperger and sous chef Daniel Ciameroni, both 29 years old, who brought youthful exuberance and a vat of salsa for shoppers to try.

Not so much a demonstration as a tasting, the event gave the pair a chance to offer suggestions on what to buy at the market and how to use it.

“The fresh white peaches and watermelon in the salsa came from two local farms,” Hopfensperger said. Jalapeno peppers – pickled in-house at Dive, across the street on Ocean Avenue – gave the salsa a spicy kick. Finely chopped white onion added additional bite, making the salsa less sweet than you’d think.

“We’re bringing  bar food to a new level,” Ciameroni said.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH: BISTRO SUSHI

081514 bistro sushiA large platter of specialty sushi rolls from the Bistro take up most of the table top. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

081514 bistro sushi2Where can you find dependably fresh and tasty sushi in Red Bank? The Bistro on Broad Street has been a go-to restaurant for years and the place where we first introduced our kids to raw fish and chop sticks.

PieHole‘s latest visit, though, was no ordinary business lunch; it was, rather,  a celebration of sorts. The daughter I was lunching with is moving on: new apartment and job transfer making our ladies-who-lunch dates a thing of the past. Our decision to have sushi at the Bistro was a calculation in nostalgia.
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RED BANK: KICKING-OFF A WEEK OF COCKTAILS

081014 kickoff cocktail 1 Jamie Gray prepares a cocktail at red‘s upstairs lounge bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumThere’s a party going on in Red Bank over the course of the next week, and it’s going to be a bit of a booze-filled frenzy.

At the kickoff of Cocktail Week Sunday night, bartenders prepared specialty drinks made with Leaf vodka, just one of several sponsors for the event organized by Red Bank Flavour.

Bartender Jamie Gray of red restaurant on Broad Street squeezed fresh limes for the Thai basil martinis while Matt Monaco was busy muddling mint for the Hendrick’s Gin mojitos served with cucumbers.

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FAIR HAVEN: MOM’S RECIPE LAUNCHES BIZ

072214 4thcreek2Fourth Creek’s red pepper relish, made by Fair Haven resident Andrew Shiavetti. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumWith deep roots in Fair Haven, Andrew Schiavetti started a food company with a recipe his mother, Barbara, made for barbecues, and named it after a stream that cuts through town.

The sweet red pepper relish was so popular that family members were expected to bring it with them every time they received an invitation to a Fourth of July party or BBQ.

“This is my tether back to when I was a kid,” says Schiavetti, a Rumson Country Day and RFH alum. Fourth Creek Food Company‘s products provide him “a connection to not just the good times, but remembering family and friends.”

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FAIR HAVEN: COOK, TASTE, LEARN

071614 taste technique schlossbachMarilyn Schlossbach teaching a class at Taste and Technique Cooking Studio. Below, the Cast Iron Steak Scampi she prepared. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

071416 taste technique steakA dozen guests gathered at the counter of Taste and Technique Cooking Studio on River Road in Fair Haven last week, absorbing the pearls of culinary wisdom of chef and retaurateur Marilyn Schlossbach.

Cooking studio owner Carolyn Rue has managed to bring in some of the most sought-after  local restaurant chefs, making sure that the classes are not only informative and delicious, but often entertaining.

The class, titled ‘Jersey Farm Fresh Table,’ consisted of a full dinner, cooked by Schlossbach.

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RED BANK: PHO LE ROLLS INTO SUMMER

061914 phole egg rollVietnamese eggrolls deliver desired crunch from Pho Le in Red Bank.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallIn a rare moment of culinary indecision, a recent PieHole conversation ran to a “What are you in the mood for?” theme.

The overwhelming desire for something different led us to the Vietnamese restaurant Pho Le on Broad Street in Red Bank.

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RED BANK: MUSTARD IN A STEIN? JAWOHL!

mustard 061214Alstertor Düsseldorf Style Mustard comes in a 250-mililiter beer stein.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

morsels medium“Crisp clean and sharp taste, this smooth German mustard is a classic.”

So says the website of – we kid you not – the National Mustard Museum (“Home to the World’s Largest Collection of Mustards and Mustard Memorabilia”) in Middleton, Wisconsin, about Alstertor Düsseldorf Style Mustard.

We found this appealing little curio of a condiment in neither Wisconsin nor Düsseldorf, but atop the meat case at Monmouth Meats in Red Bank.

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