Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bergers at the Smorgasburg!: Brooklyn, NY

I had been begging to go to the Smorgasburg for months.  The Smorgasburg, for those of you not aware, is a roving band of food vendors that set up in various Brooklyn locations every weekend.  Food stand upon food stand, it was a Mecca of sorts for me.  If I still lived in New York, I am certain that this would be a part of my usual weekend routine, and one December Saturday we finally got there.  (Lucky for me, this year the Smorgasburg now has a winter indoor location).  I'm fairly certain that the outdoor Smorgasburg is a completely different experience, and I look forward to going come Spring, but for now 75 food vendors will just have to suffice. 

That's right, 75 food vendors under one roof in a Williamsburg warehouse, if only I had the time, stamina and stomach to try them all.  We did our requisite research on the drive in, each vendor is listed on the website in advance along with a map so you can attempt to plan your visit.  Lines can be long especially for the "it" item.  For example, we did not feel like waiting an hour for the Ramen Burger but we took a peak at it and perhaps JB can recreate it at home.  

Some of our highlights: 

- Dough: The first stop because Big Z had been so patient on the drive to Brooklyn (not really). Z's reward was a massive, plain glazed donut for $2.25.  It was big enough to keep him entertained through our entire visit.  I hear they have a Bed-Stuy location, we may be stopping by.

- Cemita's Mexican Sandwiches: JB had seen a TV show that featured these Mexican behemoths, so we braved a moderate line for a freshly made sandwich.  Our Cemita was a roll piled with steak, Mexican cheese, avocado, onion and a few different kids of sauces.  In a word, it is awesome and worth every bit of $8. 

- Kelvin Natural Slush Co.: While waiting for the cemita, I was able to sample, for free, a spicy ginger slush. Not exactly my thing, but I appreciated the opportunity to try something that I would usually skip.  

- Landhaus: Little D is our bacon lover.  Sadly, he was not a Smorgasburg lover.  We saw bacon on a stick and thought this would be better than any cookie would be.  We were wrong on that front, but our $3 bacon on a stick was just awesome.  Awesome sugary-glazed bacon.  Thanks for sharing, D. 

- McClure's Pickles:  The bacon didn't work.  But the pickles did.  We made two stops here for their spicy wonders, $2 each, made with both cayenne and habanero versions.  Perfect for our feisty 4 year old. 

I could have stayed all day. But not all of the members of our party (namely the ones 5 and under) were as into it.  I drooled past the BBQ, the grilled cheese, the lobster, the Asian-style hot dogs, just so much amazing food.

I highly recommend a visit, whether you have one snack or twenty, it is certainly a New York experience.  

I can't wait to go back. 

Until our next Berger, 
Find more info about the Smorgasburg including locations, hours and the vendor list.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Family Affair: Bistro 25, Sayville, NY

Our path to Bistro 25 was not a smooth one.  It was dark, it was snowing and our party of 9 was turned down by our original choice (more about that later).  Some quick Google work led our family to this welcoming and delicious stop in Sayville.

I was still somewhat skeptical as the over-friendly server handed us our menus, and then I saw the
menu.  Pork belly, truffled macaroni and cheese, this was no roadside restaurant.

The restaurant is named Bistro 25 as most of their wines are $25 a bottle.  Of course, we didn't realize this until half-way through dinner, so I will tell you all now.  Wines by the glass, though, were not too shabby either.  My prosecco was a heavy and bubbly pour.  A pinot noir, also a good size, was robust and flavorful.

JB started with a salad, that, upon its arrival, I promptly shared.  Spicy and peppery arugula was lightly dressed with grape tomatoes, parmesan shavings and a light lemon vinaigrette.  For me to like a vinaigrette, means it was indeed a good one.  A chopped salad that included candied walnuts and dried cranberries was also a hit our table.

For dinner, I chose a scallop special with brussel sprouts and pancetta.  I had to battle little D for almost all of my pancetta.  I inhaled the well-flavored scallops in minutes.  Meanwhile, JB chose the pappardelle with a meat ragu.  The meat itself was delicious and appeared to be the same meat in the short ribs that were also at our table.  Another table favorite was a fish-filled paella.

Par for the course, our boys had burgers and fries which passed their test.  Little D had a double order of bacon that he graciously shared after the pancetta incident.

A simple dessert of a dark chocolate tart ended our decadent meal.  The boys had house made ice cream.

I am looking forward to our return, this time as our planned destination.

A note about our original choice: Downtown Burger at Five Points Cafe.  This place was written up in Newsday as one of the best burgers on Long Island, however, they would not seat our party of nine despite having the room for us.  Big mistake.

Until our next Berger,

Bistro 25
45 Foster Avenue
Sayville, NY

A Groupon Steak Feast: Delmonico's, Southampton, NY

When Groupon first appeared on the scene, I was an instant fan.  Discounts on food, massages, clothes?  YES! But then I found myself purchasing items I really didn't need and struggling to redeem them on time.  So I cooled off.  Occasionally though, there is something too good to pass up.  Like the Groupon I found for Delmonico's Steakhouse in Southampton, NY.
       * $100 for 4-courses for 2, including wine *

Sign me up.  I quickly purchased the deal and immediately felt satisfied.  And then I waited.  And waited.  And soon, as with all Groupons, the expiration date loomed.  No need for a special occasion, an offer was expiring.  I picked a Friday and tried not to eat a big lunch.

On a July Friday, this place would be packed.  On a December Friday, it was empty.  The room was welcoming with a roaring fireplace and just two tables of two seated next to it.  "Have a Groupon?" the host asked when we arrived - I guess we weren't the only ones.

The Groupon offered some impressive choices.  For the the first course there were two salads, a crab cake and a soup special.  JB opted for a heaping wedge salad covered in bacon and blue cheese.  My Caesar salad was standard and tiny compared to JB's.  The second course was a mushroom risotto.  Being mushroom averse, I inquired about a mushroom-free risotto.  I was initially told that my request could not be accommodated, and then the server returned victoriously with my sans-funghi creamy and cheesy risotto.  Note: JB was a fan of the mushroom version.

The third course was a no-brainer for us both among the choices - a 40 day prime aged strip steak.  This was the best part of the deal.  The steak was perfectly cooked and massive.  It could have used a side, but we really did not need it.  After JB helped me to finish mine, we still had to take some home.

Dessert offered just one choice - a salted caramel and chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream.  I ate the tart and JB the ice cream.

Service was brisk, a la steakhouse style, and we did have to pay full tax and tip on the meal, so it wasn't just $100 even. While still a tremendous deal,  it is, unfortunately, no longer on offer on Groupon.  Furthermore, I have heard rumors this location may close (or perhaps just for the Winter season).  So I will consider myself lucky that I got to eat a great meal at a great price.

Until our next Burger, 

Delmonico's of Southampton
268 Elm Street
Southampton, NY

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Celebratory Lunch: Topping Rose House, Bridgehampton, NY

When there's a new restaurant in the Hamptons, I put it on my must-hit list.  My list is long.  So I slowly chip away at it.  When the Topping Rose House opened in late 2012 with Tom Colicchio as head chef, it took a spot at the top of my list and remained there until last week, when JB and I treated ourselves to a celebratory lunch.  A lunch worthy of celebrating indeed.

The Topping Rose House is an historic home turned luxury hotel (read: rooms start at around $500/night).  The renovations are top notch and the pinnacle of the experience is dining at their establishment which focuses on farm to table fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  Given that we are now in the off-season, at 12:30 on a Wednesday, we were the only two in the 50 seat dining room.  It was heavenly.

The small room is comprised mostly of two-tops and four-tops, some along a banquette with large old windows overlooking Montauk Highway.  The music was a bit loud for just the two of us, but would have been fine with a few more patrons.

Service was impeccable and stands out with little touches.  As we sat, my white napkin was promptly switched for a black one.  We were offered a taste of our wines by the glass prior to the full pour.  The potato rolls were warm and lightly dusted with salt.

The lunch menu is well-curated and small with just five appetizers and five entrees (including a burger!) Our server presented us with two bowls of beautifully cured bacon and creme fraiche and proceeded to cover it with potato leek soup.   The bacon was crispy and well complemented the robust potato flavor.   I would have preferred slightly warmer soup, though, it was warm enough.

For our mains, I chose the cheese pumpkin agnoolotti.  This homemade pasta came with discs of duck confit and pecorino, it was rich and delicious.  Better still was JB's entree of the chicken sausage with roasted vegetables and chicken jus. While on paper it appeared simple, the sausage was seared to perfection and each vegetable seemed hand-selected for the dish including the tiniest broccoli florets I have ever seen. 

To finish we ordered the apple pie which was not just a slice but rather a miniature pie surrounded in a flaky, buttery crust.  Completing the plate was vanilla bean ice cream and caramel.  We could not have asked for a better dessert to finish our special meal.  

While JB ordered a fresh French press and I finished a local Long Island Red Wine, we imagined dinner on a crowded summer night.  I can only assume that the restaurant at full capacity is as delightful as it is for two.  I hope to find out soon. 

Until our next Berger, 

Topping Rose House
One Bridgehampton - Sag Harbor TurnpikeBridgehampton, NY631.537.0870

On the Side:  Open daily year-round, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Prix-fixe dinner currently offered Sunday to Thursday, 3 courses for $48.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Post-Thanksgiving Meal: Pasta Pasta, Port Jefferson, NY

In our family, and most families I imagine, there is the obligatory visit with the family that you didn't see on Thanksgiving.  This year our visit took place in Port Jefferson, NY, a former shipbuilding town that is now home to several touristy shops and a ferry that traverses Long Island Sound to Connecticut.  Eating was on the itinerary.

We usually eat at a spot called the Fifth Season that is very close to the ferry dock, but they do not serve lunch on Saturdays so we headed to an oft-recommended spot, Pasta Pasta.  Although no one was really in the mood for Italian food, I assured the group that Pasta Pasta offered more than just it's name.

The dining room is quaint, romantic almost, with frilly curtains and mirrors.  Yet they were kid-friendly and did not seem to mind when little D was wailing while waiting for the Wi-Fi to connect.  (Yes, full disclosure, I let my boys use their electronic devices sometimes at restaurants).

The menu is massive.  In addition to the assumed pasta section, they have a major focus on seafood and landlubber items.  At lunch, this came in the form of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and entrees.

While we perused the menu, a gigantic bread basket arrived that contained several pounds of garlic-slathered bread.  This thing was heavy to pass around the table but quickly got lighter and lighter.

Ordering took awhile as there were so many choices, but we finally settled on two seafood salads, one with crab cakes and the other with lobster, two filet mignon quesadillas and one hamburger with fries.

Contrary to the bread, the crab cakes were miniscule.  After two excellent bites of crab cake, it was all lettuce.  The lobster salad had more meat to it and tasted especially fresh and light.  The filet mignon quesadillas were packed with flavorful ingredients including alouette and mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions and roasted corn.  The quesadillas themselves were crispy, covered with chipotle lime aioli and plentiful.  My Dad who was still hungry after the crab cakes was able to fill up with my remaining quesadilla donation.  Oh and as always, the boys enjoyed their hamburger and fries.

Now, I do wonder if we ordered correctly.  I think everything we had was fine, good even, but not outstanding.  Other tables appeared to really have some winning dishes, including wasabi calamari and all of the pastas.  I guess in a restaurant called Pasta, Pasta, that is probably the right order.

Until our next Berger,

Pasta Pasta
 234 E Main St
Port Jefferson, NY

PS -- After lunch, we stopped in an adorable restaurant, C'est Cheese, that sells grilled cheese, cheese boards, wine, etc.  It is on my list for the next visit.  We did take home some amazing Point Reyes Toma to tide us over until our next trip to Port Jeff.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ladies Lunch: Tuscan House, Southampton, NY

The Ladies Lunch is never easy for me.  Time is tight and location is key. Compared to the Ladies Night Out where time seems to melt away as the wine is poured, at lunch there is a lot of watch-monitoring and water-drinking. Still, it is a treat.

C and I happened upon Tuscan House while shopping in the village of Southampton. At just before noon, we were the only ones in the restaurant so we chose a corner table with a "winter view." Winter view being defined as with the leaves off the trees and some neck craning you can see a sliver of a body of water.

This is the kind of place that is packed in high season with the windows all open so you feel the warm summer breeze as you indulge in Italian food.  In November, we can only dream about that.

Being that this is Southampton, prices are high.  We spent some time going through the menu trying to select dishes that wouldn't make us feel too guilty.  We agreed to split a salad and a main course.

The Caesar salad was simple yet delicious with big flakes of parmesan and crunchy croutons.  Our salad came already split into two bowls and it was bigger than I imagined.

Even more surprising, the branzino done "Venencian" style again came pre-split and neither of us could finish our half-portion.  The branzino was roasted with tomatoes and a few shrimp and sat atop a bed of spinach.  The whole dish seemed a little "blah."  It needed some more seasoning,  some olive oil and garlic could have gone a long way.

A welcome respite of calm, though, I'll take any day of the week.

Until our next Berger, KLB

The Tuscan House
10 Windmill Lane
Southampton, NY

Happy Hour Eats: Brinkley's Station, New York, NY

Happy Hour. In the suburbs, it's elusive. In the city, it's the norm. So when offered the chance to partake with E & L, two old friends, I could not resist.

Brinkley Station is not the best happy hour spot. There are no $5 cocktails here nor are there 10 cent wings.  But if location, drinks, food and especially, company are good, then what should price really matter?

Drinks are small, but good.  Seriously one of the smallest wine glasses I have ever seen. E, however, swears by the their Dark and Stormy. And both E & L had some kinds of Pork Ale.  Beer and pork products - how could one go wrong. 

Appetizers were a must. Both E & L had been before and recommended the burgers. We opted for the smaller portion of sliders. The serving came as 2 small and flavorful burgers complete with cheese, pickles, sauce and mini onion rings.  2 were not enough.  It may have been a better idea to just get the full size burger or two orders of sliders or both.  

The macaroni and cheese topped with breadcrumbs was just decadent. How could one go wrong with the blend of fontina, parmigiano and pecorino topped with breadcrumbs. Never has licking the bowl been so right. 

And then just as fast as it began, it ended. Happy hour is too short.  

Good thing they can happen every night.

Until our next Berger,

Brinkley's Station
153 E. 60th Street
New York, NY

On the Side: Check out their SoHo and Miami locations, too!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Quicksie NYC Lunch: 'wichcraft, New York, NY

Another quick NYC work trip, another quick lunch.  This time we chose Wichcraft of Tom Colicchio fame.  We are big fans when reputable restauranteurs open chainlets of excellent food -- just like Danny Meyer and the Shake Shack and Bobby Flay and Bobby's Burger Palace do with burgers, 'wichcraft provides a gourmet spin on something ordinary -- the sandwich.  Or in my case, the salad.

Enter the roasted turkey salad on mixed greens with avocado and bacon.  Part healthy, part not so healthy but only 491 calories per their prominently displayed menu.  Sit down or take out and feel like you got some better than the average corner deli.

With 15 NYC locations, they are doing something right.  Try it.

Until our next Berger,

Visit the location nearest you:

Pizza and Zeppoles: Coals and Zeppoleme, Port Chester, NY

Oh, Port Chester. The step-child of Westchester County. Just "over-the-line" from Connecticut.

Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich brought the Tarry Lodge to town in 2008 and helped pave the way to make PC a great food destination. Coals and Zeppoleme are two more establishments helping to revitalize this community. 

From the outside, Coals looks like a bar in a working class town. People drinking beers at the bar, watching football, eating pizza and burgers. But if you take a closer look, that beer is a fine local microbrew, the pizza is doused with truffle oil and the burger is grass-fed with duck bacon. 

Our bare table was unassuming as we ordered our drinks (just beer and wine to my father's disappointment). And my mom insisted on the fried brussel sprouts to share. 

I am always a Brussels fan, these were well executed with walnuts and raisins, but the vinegar-mustard dressing was heavy and not to my liking. 

JB, my mom and I each ordered one wood grilled pizza - a Margherita, a Pure Bliss and a Rustico - but I, of course, insisted on tasting them all.  The pizzas were bigger than the promised personal size (no complaining here).  JB's Margherita was simple with just fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil and JB's call to have no pecorino was a good one.  The Pure Bliss, my choice, was similar to a Margherita except that it also had ricotta and basil pesto.  Frankly the ricotta weighed it down, making each slice a mandatory two-hander.  And the Rustic, which my mom had raved about and subsequently ordered, was the most unique with mushroom, truffle oil, fontinella and mozzarella cheese, plus garlic and grana padana.

It's tough to say which was the best.  They were all good.  The Rustic certainly had the most flavor, but truffle oil is not something I can eat too much of -- it is almost too sweet.  Conversely, I could have eaten the Margherita all day long.  And the Pure Bliss had the most winning combination of ingredients but I tired it of it quickly. I guess then I would declare the Margherita the winner.

And then there were those burgers, which were grass-fed and devoured by my Dad, Big Z and Little D.  

It is tough to go wrong with pizza and burgers....but then there was more.

As we headed back over the line to Connecticut, we passed a place called ZeppoleMe - a zeppole store(!) - and we had to pull over to check it out.  Don't forget we did skip dessert at Coals.

The concept of ZeppoleMe is that it's your local Italian Coffee Shop with delicious coffee and desserts.  And zeppoles are the star.  I placed my order and waited and waited.  Apparently these take more time than the vendors' at the San Gennaro festival.

After close to 15 minutes, we had 1 dozen fresh, hot, fluffy zeppoles.  They were worth the wait.
We got 2 kinds - the classic and the modern.  The classic is the aforementioned street food style and the modern is lighter and fluffier.  We all preferred the modern to the classic, I guess progress is a good thing.

With our dozen we chose 3 dipping sauces -  vanilla, buttercream and hazelnut. Let's just say there were no dipping sauces or zeppoles left.

For those of you close by, go.  For those of you traveling on I95 between New York and Connecticut, I recommend these two places for a worthy pit stop.  Bring me back some zeppoles!

Until our next Berger,

Coals Pizza
35 North Main Street
Port Chester, NY 

321 North Main Street
Port Chester, NY 

On the Side: Coincidentally, the New York Times is publishing a review of ZeppoleMe in tomorrow's paper, should you want a more professional opinion.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Chain Reaction: Cantina Laredo, Columbus, OH

Restaurant chains are here to stay. Despite the importance of the local farm to table movement, sometimes you just want the Thai Chicken Pasta from the Cheesecake Factory or that Homewrecker burrito from Moe's. Call it what you wish - nostalgia, comfort or maybe you just want cheap and easy.

I try not to frequent chains but when the inevitable happens I don't think they should be ignored in the foodie blogosphere. Don't worry, I'm not going to be the lady from Grand Forks, ND who raved about the Olive Garden. And in fact here at Bergers & More, we already snuck in a few chain reviews including Seasons 52 and Le Pain Quotodien

So with most chains I'll be quick, unless of course something tremendous warrants a full-blown review.  Otherwise, we'll call it a "Chain Reaction". 

Yes, Cantina Laredo is a chain but they don't want to be one. They aspire to bring high-end Mexican to every mall across America in their 100+ locations.  The decor is old hacienda style with lots of candles and white tablecloths.

Sadly the result is not good. Stick to your local Mexican spot. 

At this Columbus, OH location chips were tasteless - the kind you need to dump copious amounts of salt on for any kind of flavor. Tableside-made guacamole was overly chunky. And the shrimp in the shrimp fajitas was so overcooked, I found myself fighting to take bites. On the bright side, the Skinny margaritas were large and strong, so I focused on those. 

Our Chain Reaction - go for a drink or three and dine elsewhere. 

Until our next Berger, 

Cantina Laredo has over 100 locations across the US and a few international ones, too. 

I dined at this location:

8791 Lyra Drive

Monday, November 11, 2013

Family Italian: Butera's, Sayville, NY

Another Sunday, another Italian meal.  I am starting to like this trend.  A fun family activity followed by a large/late lunch with lots of leftovers.  Probably not so good for our waistlines, but fun nonetheless.
Speaking of waistlines, we had actually earned our calories for this meal after an hour of jumping on trampolines at AirTrampoline.  We were starving and our party of 8 wanted a kid-friendly, good meal.  I’d heard of Butera’s, a Long Island establishment with 4 locations, so we gave the Sayville branch a shot.
This is a place for a crowd.  It is loud and bustling, with big round tables, and able to handle our four "5 & unders".
At 2:00, we were offered both the lunch and dinner menus as we demolished the generous bread basket multiple times.  
And if the bread basket wasn't enough, I opted for the Grilled Eggplant sandwich.  This was a monstrous open-face piece of focaccia covered in grilled eggplant, onions, mozzarella and tomato sauce.  After about two bites, I had to stop eating the bread and just eat the eggplant with its topping.  It was tasty and oh-so-filling.  
JB's Rigatoni alla Rossa was comprised of chicken sausage and spinach in a pink sauce. The sauce did not hold a candle to Marie's vodka sauce and the sausage was over-fennelled, in my opinion, but this pasta dish did the trick for JB.
We also shared a marinara pizza for the table which frankly did not have enough sauce.  The boys, per usual, enjoyed a mammoth burger and for an Italian restaurant, some good-looking fries.
We were stuffed, exhausted and it was leftovers again for the Berger family.
Until our next Berger, 

100 South Main Street
Sayville, NY

On the Side: They also have locations in Seaford, Woodbury and Smithtown, so check it out if you are in the area. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A Guy Recommendation: Marie's Italian Specialties, Chatham, NJ

My fascination with the Food Network has slowly deteriorated over time, JB's declined sharply but he has a new thing for Diner, Drive-ins and Dives. What he sees in Guy, I don't know, but I stumbled upon a website that pinpoints all the places featured on the show to date. And as I planned our family road trip, I looked for one on the way. And there it was, BAM (sorry couldn't help the Emeril reference ), Marie's Italian Specialties.

Technically, Marie's was a little out of our way, maybe 10 miles off the highway in Chatham, NJ which happens to be one good-looking town.  Tucked in a nice strip mall, if that’s possible, is the unassuming Italian restaurant. White walls, black tables with benches and a black and white tile floor make it more industrial-looking than your average Italian place. 

4PM on a Sunday and the place was empty.  We were starving and ordered some of so called specialties.  In fact, Guy's favorites we're highlighted on the menu - I guess they take their newfound fame pretty seriously.  We pounced on the fresh bread that was served as we eagerly awaited to be wowed.

First up, Rice Balls.  These were incredible, unbelievable really, 3 huge balls of bread and fried rice sat in a bath of vodka sauce.  Crispy on the outside and perfection on the inside.  We lapped up the vodka sauce before we even finished the 3 rice balls, but fear not another dish of more vodka sauce came.  

Then mains.  Eggplant Parmesan arrived on a heaping platter.  I could barely lift it up.  Again, amazing.  One of the best Eggplant Parmesans that I have ever had.  JB ordered their famous roast chicken.  The skin was crispy and the meat inside was not in the least bit dry.  It was, according to JB, the way a chicken should be done.  

Three Sides.  The simple spaghetti that accompanied my eggplant was tremendous.  Usually the pasta side dish is a throw away, not here.  Polenta was creamy and loaded with parmesan, a win for me, but not for JB.  The only real off item was the broccoli rabe that was bitter and out of place amongst all of the other deliciousness.  

The boys stuck to their usual and ordered plain pasta, although truthfully, they gorged more on the bread than anything else.  

Service was quick and generous.  We took everything home and had meals for days.  

I’m not in New Jersey often, but if you are, or want to take a road trip, I strongly recommend this place.  We will be back.  And thanks, Guy!

Until our next Berger, 


Marie's Italian Specialties

641 Shunpike Rd

Chatham, NJ 


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Awesome Crayola Eats in an Unlikely Place: Two Rivers Brewing Company, Easton, PA

As we traveled along for Little D's birthday celebration, after our Brooklyn stop at Roll-N-Roaster, we found ourselves in Easton, PA.  Easton is the home of the Crayola factory (our birthday destination), Lafayette College and an abundance of chain restaurants.  While it was tempting to just try the never ending pasta bowl at the Olive Garden, I thought Little D deserved something better.  So we spent much of our drive to PA researching restaurants.  With a little luck, we found an amazing spot - Two Rivers Brewing Company.

Yes, I know it sounds like a bar.  And it is, so don't judge, it has stellar food.

The restaurant occupies an old 3-story building.  Today the first floor is the only floor that serves food and drink, the upper floors will soon be the official brewery. Sadly, they are not serving their own brews yet, however, several PA beers are available on tap.

We sat close to the bar and to the live music (one lady with a guitar) singing a combination of 70s covers and her own stuff, and we began our feast.  When I say feast, I am not kidding.

Their menu is eclectic to say the least.  We wanted a lot.  JB and I settled on 4 plates as we drank a local Pennsylvania brew and a California Malbec, respectively.

1.  Gumbo: This was a risky choice.  We were very far from New Orleans, but it felt like a gumbo night. We were blown away by the thick soup that was chock full of chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp and okra.
2. The Breakaway Farms Pork Board: We hemmed and hawed over this one.  Should we or shouldn't we.  This was essentially a bacon sampler.  It was Little D's birthday, and he does love bacon, so we went for it.  The server presented us with a huge wooden cutting board that had 3 different kinds of bacon, plus pork belly, bacon jam, homemade boursin, mustard and bread.  To say we loved this would be an understatement. Each bite was better than the last.  And every combination was a winning one. Pork belly and bacon jam. Bacon jam and boursin.  Smoked bacon and boursin.  I could go on.  Let's just say we were shocked (but not really) when before long the platter was clear.
3.  Shrimp and Grits: If the gumbo was a hit from the South, this was the lone miss.  Several overcooked shrimp lay on a bed of cheesy grits.  I am usually one for cheesy grits.  But this was so far away from the Shrimp and Grits I had at Luke this summer that it did not compare.  You know the dish is a miss when JB says, "You can finish this one".
4.  Peanut Butter Bacon Cheeseburger: Because we hadn't indulged enough, we had to try this.  It was genius - more bacon, cheddar and a peanut brittle dust smothered a delicious grass-fed burger.  I had to throw in the napkin on this one early, I was done.  JB prevailed and declared it a masterpiece.
5.  Grass Fed Beef Kids Burgers and Fries: This was probably one of the best kids menu dishes I've ever seen and for $5 at that.  "A little salty", per Big Z, "but awesome".  Sadly, I didn't have any, but if it was anything like the other burger, I'm sure Big Z's "awesome" review is accurate.

We had no room for dessert and decided to have some celebratory ice cream for Little D the next day.  We had eaten (well) enough.

Until our next Berger,

Two Rivers Brewing Company542 Northampton St.Easton, PA 610.829.1131

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Brooklyn Institution, Berger Style: Roll-N-Roaster, Brooklyn, NY

A Berger birthday is cause for a celebration and for Little D's 4th birthday the first stop was a Brooklyn Institution: Roll-N-Roaster. Any place with hyphens in its name piques my interest. A place with hyphens and free parking, is a must stop.

At noon on a cold and sunny Saturday, though, we were not the only ones with Roll-N-Roaster on the brain.  Alas, we had to feed the meter for a parking spot right out front, but it was worth the $1.00 to not have to wait for that free parking spot.

When I saw the parking lot line, I feared the ordering line and was pleasantly surprised to see it was relatively short.  We quickly ordered in the back of the restaurant, found a seat and listened for our number to be called.

The boys and I sat in front of the big window and played with our newly acquired balloons (not just for birthday boys, for all kids) while we waited.  This is Brooklyn at its best: we saw everything from multi-generational families out for their Saturday lunch to an eccentric man literally dressed like a fish.  What I'd really like to do is visit here at 2AM, purely for the people watching.

The menu ranges from burgers to roast beef to fried shrimp to pizza.  Lemonade and champagne.  You want it, they probably have it.

Of course we wanted the whole menu, but sampled only the following:
- Roast Beef Sandwich: JB was slightly disappointed here.  The roast beef, which was supposed to be juicy, seemed dry.  In our ordering panic, JB had forgotten to order the Cheez (yes, Cheez) which I think was needed.  They pride themselves on their fresh Kaiser rolls which seemed on the ordinary side.
- Chicken Fingers: Again, ordinary, but satisfying.  A little honey mustard went a long way.
- Burgers: Per our younger critic, Big Z, the burger was "great, awesome, meaty".  He's 5 and never met a burger he didn't like.
- Fries: The fries here were circles not sticks.  I was worried the boys wouldn't touch a new shape, but a fry is a fry is a fry.
- Corn Fritters: BEST thing on the menu.  Fried cream corn=bite-size perfection.
- Lemonade: Amazing and fresh. Sadly, no refills. (Yes, we asked)

We had some winners, we had some losers.  Will we be back? YES.  I definitely want some champagne with my corn fritters next time.

Until our next Berger,

2901 Emmons Ave  Brooklyn, NY 

Side Dish: If you go on your birthday, you get the chance to "spin the wheel" for a prize. Prizes range from $5 to $25 off your meal. But you need ID.  Little D at age 4 doesn't carry ID, so they wouldn't let him spin.  So note, if you bring a child on their birthday, you need a birth certificate.  Dumb policy, IMHO.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Quicksie NYC Lunch: Le Pain Quotodien, New York, NY

On the go fast lunches are easy - sandwich at the deli, made to order salad, dare I say drive-thru. But sit down fast lunches with waiter services are hard to find, except in New York City.

At Le Pain Quotodien, a chainlet of sorts, we sat, ordered and were delivered our delicious bowls of spring pea soup accompanied with a mini baguette, in a matter of minutes.

More time for chatting and eating vs. chatting and waiting.

We did wait for a long time for our check though, which made us long for their amazing pastries. But self-control and meetings prevailed, so next time.

In a rush? Try it.

Until our next Burger,

Locations across the US, but the NYC 3rd Ave & 44th location happens to be extremely speedy and convenient for a work lunch.

An Experience: Hampton Coffee Experience Store, Southampton, NY

am not a coffee girl. JB is coffee-obsessed, especially lately. So when in between soccer practice and apple picking I suggested we hit the Hampton Coffee Experience & Café in Southampton,  JB agreed. The boys were harder to convince and lobbied for the diner, luckily, this time (FINALLY) the parents won.

Nestled between a strip of car dealerships, the cafe is large and airy, if not a little stark and sparse.  A few leather chairs, two large communal tables and a row of counter-side stools comprise the seating options.  The coffee choices are plentiful and the bean varieties are on display doubling as décor. But I was here for the food. 

A few miles further down on Montauk Highway in Water Mill, another branch of Hampton Coffee offers a full restaurant and it appears that they prep the food there and send it over to be warmed up.  We ordered two sandwiches – a sausage, egg and cheese on ciabatta and a turkey, bacon and swiss on a whole wheat pita.  And some bagels for the boys. 

The bagels came out first, obviously.  They were large and fluffy, and they, combined with cars zooming past outside and the spinning stools, kept them entertained. 

Our sandwiches arrived cold.  The tops were warm but ice cold on the inside.  We sent them back for another round in the Panini press.  Upon return, they were up to par.  My turkey sandwich was light and tasty, despite the bacon and swiss.  JB enjoyed his sausage sandwich and immediately wanted more.

Hampton Coffee also is known for their desserts, so instead of another round of sandwiches, we opted for dessert.  A homemade chocolate chip cookie for Big Z, a large Lemon Square for me and a Chocolate Croissant for JB - Yes, Yes, and Yes. 

By the way, JB did have some coffee.  Two cups of the French Roast and recommends it heartily.
Given the season, they also now have pumpkin coffee.

Great fuel for our pit stop. 

Hampton Coffee Experience Store & Café
749 County Road 39A
(next to BMW of Southampton)
Southampton, NY

Friday, September 27, 2013

Burgers, Ramen & Ices: Here & There, New York, NY

Where better to spend the last day of summer than foodie hopping in NYC.  Back when JB and I were full-time city residents, this was a favorite pastime.  It still is, but now our group is a little bigger and involves a stroller.  We had less stops so we had to make them count.


Stop #1: Naruto Ramen

This was a JB-stop only.  Not that I don’t like ramen (I don’t love it though), but Big Z and Little D are not fans, so JB went solo.  Lucky him.  He had 30 peaceful minutes eating/sluriping Miso Ramen. Naruto Ramen is a small noodle shop with a few tables and even fewer seats at the counter-JB opted for takeout on the bench outside.  (Note to self: Do not try this in the winter. )

The restaurant separates the takeout soup into two containers, one for the broth and the other for the junk.  The junk here includes the homemade ramen noodles, roast pork, fish cake, bamboo shoots, corn and bean sprouts.  And butter. Yes, butter.  Combine and eat. 

1596 3rd Ave

New York, NY



Stop #2: People’s Pops

Our adventures took us playground visiting in the East Village.  We were hot and needed ice cream.  Knowing that we were having burgers for dinner, I tried to steer us towards something lighter.  People’s Pops did the trick.  

This outside stand on the corner of 1st Avenue may not be the best location given the abundance of homeless people and tourists, including a drag queen-led tour, 
but it works.   One man sits at his perch with a massive block of ice.  He shaves the ice and he douses it with your favorite flavor.  We opted for Lemon Mint.  Yum.  And light. And perfect. 

Our younger set chose the more tame strawberry popsicle that was a combination of mik, strawberries and sugar.  The drippy chins were proof of love. 

Check out their website because you too can enjoy this goodness.  They sell their wares at local gourmet markets in the NY area.  

118 1st Ave
New York, NY



Stop #3: 5 Napkin Burger 

And finally it was burger time.  I’d read so much about 5 Napkin Burger that I was drooling when we walked in.  I wanted my burger now. 

Big Z selected a big round table and our drooling continued as we looked over the menu.  So many burgers, so little time.  I could have had anything on the menu.  But I was here for one thing.  The Original.

Now I’m the kind of person that usually needs to alter my meal in some way.  Put something on the side, add something on top – but tonight I was having the Original and I was having it as is. 

Gruyere, sautéed onions and rosemary aioli atop the 10 ounces of beef on a soft white roll.   The Original is the one that is supposed to require 5 napkins.  It doesn’t.  Yes, the combination was good but something was missing.  Salt? Pepper? Maybe.  I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

JB felt the same about his classic cheese.  Good, but not a Wow. 

I think, though, that we’ll be back.  The boys loved their burgers and fries.  The cheddar tots were interesting, although I could have used a few more.  And the place is just cool – adorned with subway tiles and bare light bulbs. 

The menu is big enough for another shot.

150 E. 14th Street

New York NY



Until our Next Berger,


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Post-Golf Lunch: Fairway Restaurant, Sagaponack, NY

When you think golf in the Hamptons, you see dollar signs. Most of the time, that’s true. But not at the Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack. This 9-hole course can usually be played for as little as $20, so when JB saw an online special for $5, golf was the new plan for the day. And the minute Big Z came off the course, he had to eat. Luckily, they had a restaurant at the course.

The Fairway Restaurant is really a diner that specializes in breakfast and lunch. It is predominantly a crowd of regulars going for eggs or one of their post-golf specials (there are 9 of those, get it?). But these are rich regulars.

Big Z and Little D each had a hamburger and fries, I had a cup of chili and JB had an iced tea (shocking I know, but he had eaten a bacon, egg and cheese about 90 minutes earlier). $40 later I felt that I had been taken.

The burgers were fine, good even. Fries were soggy and greasy. The “famous chili” was like drinking taco meat. I couldn’t tell you about the iced tea.

Oh well, at least golf was cheap.

Until we eat again,

Fairway Restaurant
@ Poxabogue Golf Center
3556 Montauk Highway
Sagaponack, NY

No website for the restaurant, but here’s the link for the course.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Berger Review!: Bay Burger, Sag Harbor, NY

Every time I go to Bay Burger, I am upset.  Why can’t this establishment be closer to me!  If you think about all of the burgers on the East End, their burger is up towards the top of the list.  In fact, the whole restaurant, though not fancy by any means, should be one of the top 10 restaurants in the Hamptons. Here’s why. 

Located on Sag Harbor Turnpike, just a few miles south of the village of Sag Harbor and a few miles north of the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) in Bridgehampton, Bay Burger is a Mecca for both kids and adults.

JB and I started going to Bay Burger when it opened in 2007.  And we keep going, visit after visit. We even had Little D’s first birthday party in their back dining room. 

Standing on line to order, you can tell this is not just your typical burger joint.  Yes, they have burgers and fries, but their burger is made with beef that is ground fresh onsite every day.  Their brioche bun, also homemade daily, comes with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt on the top.  And their toppings are local, fresh and delicious.  While their burgers are hard to resist, you also can’t go wrong with a BLT, falafel or grilled cheese.

On a recent visit, I ordered a swiss burger with the bun on the side and an order of tots (yes, tater tots!).  My burger came draped in cheese yet it seemed unbelievably light.  Unlike most restaurants that cook burgers on a flattop, Bay Burger uses an actual grill, so the fat drips off resulting in a lighter-tasting burger.  After one bite of the brioche bun that was on the side, I realized that I had to eat the whole thing, and quickly wanted another.  Tots were obviously amazing.  Tough to go wrong with tots.

JB opted for the crisp chicken sandwich that came coated in a spicy buffalo sauce with a blue cheese dressing.  While JB would also ordinarily get the burger, he’s been trying to see if he can find a better chicken sandwich than the one he had at Rebecca’s on Block Island.  So far he can’t. 

The boys went for burgers and fries, per usual, and JB and I were hoping they wouldn’t finish so we could have their leftovers.  No such luck.

And because we couldn’t resist, we got one serving of their Joe & Liza’s vanilla ice cream.  This homemade treat is the perfect ending to a burger feast. 

Until our next Berger, KLB

Bay Burger

1742 Sag Harbor Turnpike

Sag Harbor, NY



Side Dish: Good news! Bay Burger is now open year-round!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hola Mexico: La Brisa de Tacombi, Montauk, NY

Within minutes of docking in Montauk after our two day stint in Block Island, I was ready for dinner.  We hadn’t been to Montauk all summer and I’d been collecting a list of new establishments to try.  La Brisa was at the top of the list. 

If Tacombi is the flagship  New York City version, then La Brisa is the Montauk cousin.  Being that’s it is in Montauk, the atmosphere is laid back and surf-like and with a fish-heavy menu.

We dove in. We had to try their guacamole with homemade chips.  Now JB makes a killer homemade guac, so our bar is very high, and this guac passed the bar – excellent.  Lots of lime, not too much garlic and just overall a winner. 

We each had two tacos.  Each taco comes with two made-that-day tortillas.  The restaurant recommends ordering 3 tacos per person, but since we had the guac (and a side of excellent rice), we scaled back. 

I chose steak and shrimp, both had a spicy kick to them with fresh ingredients.  JB chose chicken mole and steak. We both agreed that we could have had more.  I guess the restaurant was right. 

The restaurant is planning to stay open year-round, I hope they do, otherwise I’ll be running to New York City for my next taco fix. 

La Brisa de Tacombi

752 Montauk Highway

Montauk, NY


Block Island Highlights: Here and There, Block Island, RI

As we neared the end of our 2-week Staycation, it was time for a change of scenery.  Block Island seemed an ideal choice.  For those of you who have never been or don’t know, Block Island is a small island (obv.) off the coast of Rhode Island.  Accessible only by boat or plane, we chose to travel there via high-speed ferry from Montauk.   A quick 1-hour trip helped get us into vacation-mode and we hit the dock running.  We packed in as much as we could in our 2 days.  Here are the highlights (and lowlights):


I wouldn’t say that eating was the main purpose of the trip, but we were lucky to have some terrific meals during our stay.

-          Rebecca’s Takeout:  Our first stop. Picnics tables are de rigeur here.  JB had the tasty, but small lobster roll.  My grilled tuna sandwich was super-fresh, although not as rare as I would have preferred.  JB decided to go for another round and had the popular and delicious – buffalo chicken finger sandwich.  That’s right, he went from a lobster roll to a chicken finger sandwich.  And, believer it or not, it was an awesome move.  The servers claim that it is popular both late night and for breakfast.  I understand why; it is a winning combination. 

435 Water Street, Old Harbor


-          Blocks of Fudge:  For me any beach vacation needs to involve fudge.  JB and I came to this small candy shop on our last visit to Block Island in 2000 and we both still remembered it.  The proprietor is a character and put up with our antics as we picked out 5 different fudge flavors for our sampler 1 ¼ lb. box.  Snickers was far and away the best flavor followed by a tie with plain chocolate and cookie dough.  JB loved the maple walnut and neither of us cared much for the Oreo. 

459 Chapel St, Old Harbor


-          Hotel Manisses: We decided to splurge on a nice dinner, it was vacation after all. But we had no idea that we would have such a fine dining experience.  The Hotel Manisses is an older hotel, slightly up the hill from the center of town.  I was expecting to have some kind of continental meal, perhaps with an emphasis on seafood.  I was blown away by the innovative dishes that ranged from Vietnamese Pho to vegan.  We could not decide what to order, so we chose 4 courses, all to share.  And a bottle of Malbec to accompany it.

1.       Heirloom Tomato Asian Pear Gazpacho: For some reason, I have not had enough gazpacho this summer. That was a mistake.  JB took the first crack at this which was topped with blue crab (that I don’t care for).  Light on the oil, heavy on the produce, perfection in a cup.

2.       Sashimi Tuna-Mango Poke & Halibut-Yuzu Ceviche: This two-part dish well-complemented the gazpacho and the yuzu flavor was strong, yet not overpowering.  The sashimi was nicely sliced and as fresh as can be.

3.       Lobster Raviolos: When in Block Island, eat lobster.  I wasn’t sure if I would like this dish and it wound up being my favorite of them all.  Two large raviolo were stuffed with lobster and ricotta, and topped with a lobster caprese salad.  This dish is worth traveling to Block Island for.

4.       Moroccan Scallops: JB was especially interested in these scallops as they were procured from George’s Bank, a very deep part of the Atlantic.  They were incredible, large but not chewy and well-spiced.  To offset the spice, quinoa and wilted spinach accompanied the dish.  This was JB’s favorite. While I adored the scallops, I was disappointed in the blandness of the sides.

And, yes, the Berger boys did sit through this meal.  While the Manisses serves excellent, fine dining meals, they do cater to children, too.  A big bowl of pasta, a few refills of the bread and butter (and maybe an iPad or two) and JB and I were able to enjoy this special meal. 

5 Spring Street, Old Harbor
401. 466.2421

-          Froozies:   A few doors down from our hotel was Froozies Juice Bar &  Café, located at the back of the National Hotel.  An ad in one of those local tourist magazines featured breakfast burritos and I was intrigued.  What I didn’t realize that this is a vegetarian place, so while I could have said burrito, it would have no bacon or any meat for that matter.  That being said, JB was somewhat disappointed in his egg and cheese sandwich – mainly because it was lacking bacon.  I, however, loved my burrito of egg whites, tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella. This was the fuel I needed to bike the island.

26 Dodge Street, Old Harbor



-          The Oar:  As our final on-island meal, we took our bikes to the Oar.  Keep in mind it was a Thursday, after Labor Day and there was a wait for lunch.  This is one popular spot. Right on the water in the Old Harbor, we sat at the picnic tables playing cornhole waiting for our table. 

The restaurant is literally covered in oars.  Patrons donate their oars each summer and they are nailed up on the walls.  JB wants to put one up next time.  This place looks like it will be a dive bar with average food, but it's not.  They actually have the best sushi on the island to go with some pretty tasty seafood. 

JB went the dive bar route with a bowl of New England Clam Chowder and a BLT (he really had missed that bacon from breakfast I guess), and washed it down with a can of PBR.  I went for the sushi side of the menu getting truffle lobster avocado tacos and a spicy tuna roll.  The tacos were small (as the waitress had explained), yet full of flavor.  And the spicy tuna roll was well made and enhanced with cucumbers.  It certainly wasn’t Nobu, but it was the ideal meal after a long bike ride with still a few miles to go.  And a place that should be on everyone’s Block Island go-to list. 

221 Jobs hill Rd, New Harbor



I will not be returning to our hotel, the Water Street Inn.  Big Z, walked into our room, and asked, “Um, why is this room so small?” Small, wasn’t really the issue, although it was pretty small. Instead, it was the fact that the room had not been thoroughly cleaned (we found candy bar wrappers underneath the bed that we definitely did not consume), the A/C unit was so loud it kept us up and the lock on the door was barely functional.  But for 1 night, a location right in town and a low price of $130 (less than the cost of the round trip ferry!), we were fine. 


There is enough to do on Block Island to keep a family busy for a whole week, or even a whole month.  Other than eating, we focused on two things: Beaching and Biking. 

The beach is always a destination for us Bergers.  We chose to go to Ballard’s Beach because it was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel AND it has bar-service on the beach.  I’m sure it’s not the nicest beach on the island, and it is a “daytripper” destination. Did I mention that there was bar-service on the beach?

JB did not want to go biking.  He wanted to rent a moped.  They sometimes call Block Island the “Bermuda of the North”.  We compromised that he would rent a bike, if I pulled both boys on a trailer behind my rented bike.  Some compromise. 

Block Island is not even 10 square miles, but it felt like I biked 100.  Pulling 80 pounds of Berger boys uphill is no easy feat.  It was worth the pain, though, to explore more of the island including the South East Lighthouse which has magnificent views.  And the boys especially loved the Abrams Animal Farm which has exotic animals (read: cross-breeds) including my personal favorite, the Zedonk – half-zebra, half-donkey. Plus, we were able to burn off some of the calories consumed on the trip.


If  you are planning a trip, a simple Google search will get you most of what you need to know about Block Island (other than Bergers & More, of course).  But the New York Times never fails me, especially this great article about late summer in Block Island

Until our next Berger Adventure,