Guest Appearance

My sister-in-law’s cousin, Joe Zawistowski, has become a regular at our Christmas Eve dinners.  Joe is an architect, and he travels and eats out a lot with his (many) friends, so I always enjoy talking to him.  He lives north of Princeton, and gets to a lot of places that I don’t, so as we dined on delicious baked cod and pasta with clam sauce on December 24, I asked him to send me his thoughts on some of the restaurants he’s been visiting.

He paid a trip to the California wine country not too long ago, and shipped home a lot of wine.  So he and his friends plan to make a point of trying BYOBs in the coming year, to use up that stash. Stay turned for more on this, as I think that will be an interesting topic to explore – how do you choose the best wines to take to a BYOB, given the kinds of dishes on the menu?  Sometimes I do well in that department, but other times I wish I’d taken something different. 

One thing I have learned, is to bring a red and a white, even for just two of us, as that covers a lot more bases.  Most of the time I opt for red no matter what I’m eating, but I’m becoming more openminded about that, and have enjoyed some great whites in the last year, especially at three wine dinners I attended put on by Eno Terra, Mediterra, and CoolVines at Blue Point Grill.   Wine dinners are a great learning experience!

But now I introduce you to Joe Zawistowski, as he makes a “guest appearance” on NJ SPICE, to describe some of his and his friends’ favorite restaurant dishes from the past year.  Realize, he warns, that they might not always be available, but, he continues, “Still, I think that the rest of the menu makes each restaurant definitely worth a trip.

“Hot and Angry Lobster Cocktail at David Burke’s Fromagerie left us warm and happy. Comes out looking like the lobster is trying to climb off the plate — perhaps a little too reminiscent of the shrimp cocktail scene from Beetlejuice. But the combination of paprika (I think), cayenne pepper (I think), lobster, and frying is remarkable. So is the price — $25 for an appetizer — but worth it. (Not a BYOB)

“Chilles rellenos at Chilangos in Highlands. Or maybe the Mexican pizza with chorizo. Or perhaps anything with the pasilla sauce (including rack of lamb – at a Mexican restaurant!). Or the mole sauce. Get the picture?  And the best margaritas. Plus the owner’s name is Leonardo Cervantes. It doesn’t get better than this. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Cinco de Mayo or Cinco de January — we go about once a month. (not a BYOB; that’s OK — we’re only about a quarter of the way through sampling the 150 or so tequilas behind the bar).” (Website http://www.chilangosnj.com/ not working, fb.)

“Fried calamari at Antoinetta’s in West Creek (near LBI). Another appetizer, it has left all twelve of us at dinner that night wishing that everyone made this ubiquitous dish in the same way: coated with graham crackers and tossed with thinly sliced cherry peppers and red pepper butter. No marinara. No sauce of any kind — and no regrets. Close second was my tuna entree — I don’t remember anything other than it being rare, beautiful and so good that the rest of the table — we share a little — ordered more in lieu of dessert. (BYOB).” [I’ve got to try this place on one of my south NJ excursions!  fb]

“Mrs. Micchelli’s Macaroni and Cheese — yet another appetizer — at Bay Avenue Trattoria in Highlands. Mrs. Micchelli is apparently owner Joe Romanowski’s brother-in-law’s mother or mother-in-law. I’m not a particular fan of mac and cheese but this was outrageously good. Maggie — Joe’s wife — told us she could only tell us that the dish included three different cheeses but that it was a secret — but then told us. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t order this dish or at least eats some off of someone else’s plate should know the secret, but here’s a hint: one of them begins with a ‘V’. (BYOB)

And Others:
My friend Pat loves rack of lamb and has had it almost everywhere we’ve gone. Until now, Number one was Fiddleheads in Jamesburg; new number one is Bay Avenue Trattoria.
My friend Rich loves duck; the hoison and ginger glazed duck (which mango relish) at Bay Avenue was pronounced, ‘The best duck (he) ever had!’ There’s a pattern here…”

Joe, thanks for the entertaining commentary; We’ll look foward to hearing about your BYOB adventures!

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