Sunday, January 29, 2012
Last night I ate a tremendous meal, and I ate it in Trenton. And I ate it at a restaurant that I'm betting most followers of this blog have never heard of.
The kids and I joined friends (Dr. John Hamada, his son Joe, Joe's schoolmate Max and John's friend Teresa) for dinner at The Blue Danube, tucked away on tiny Elm St., just off Broad St. not too far from the Sun Bank arena, in Trenton's South Ward. John is a chiropractor and accupuncturist, and before moving to quieter and safer Pennington to practice his healing arts, he had a well-known and vital office practice just a few blocks away from the restaurant.
It was one of the best dinners I've had in a restaurant in years.The Blue Danube is old school, and it specializes in Hungarian, Romanian, German and Polish cuisine. But instead of the
heavy gravies and sometimes leaden preparations that are often associated with these cuisines, the dishes we enjoyed last night were executed with a light touch and a deft hand. Some of this food brought back echoes from my childhood, growing up with both Italian and Polish grandmothers who were themselves terrific cooks.
At the Blue Danube, Peter Pulhac, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Margaret, is the chef and he is a master of his domain, an extensive menu of the familiar and not so familiar. We started with soups: a dark, rich cream of mushroom filled with a dice of several mushroom varieties; a chicken-spinach-egg drop soup with an intensely chickeny broth, shreds of chicken and tangles of spinach and egg, a spectacular soup; and cream of potato-tomato, a blush pink, surprisingly light cream soup with a whisper of dill, a really stunningly simple cup of potato and tomato goodness. Pierogies were also surprisingly light dough wrappers plumped with potato and cheese, glossed with sauteed onions. Potato pancakes were two big, golden, greaseless, peppery-oniony discs that overlapped the salad plate on which they were served. They were firm but amazingly light.
Entrees included chicken parmigiana and spaghetti for the kids, and one of the best versions of chicken parm I've ever had in a restaurant. Beef Stroganoff was a silky, creamy stew of beef over feather-light spaetzle, the beef almost sweet with hints of nutmeg and wine; pork schntizel was a huge, flawlessly, greaselessly fried cutlet atop a puddle of brown gravy, sided with some curly buttered noodles and sauteed spinach studded with garlic; beef goulash was intense with paprika,dill and onion notes with more of those good noodles, and brussels sprouts studded with bacon alongside. Entrees were in the low teens. Low teens. Low teens!
Desserts were a glass goblet of tira misu that was so good, we ordered another; a Romanian flaky pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese; a chocolate mousse pie that my son Ben gobbled up in about 4 bites, and some very good coffee.
The dining room at Blue Danube is small and cozy, the service is gracious and deferential,the music is gentle polkas and various folk music and the wine list features some well chosen Hungarian and Eastern European wines, a few domestic bottles for the unadventurous, and some decent German, Polish and Czech beers.
This was a deeply satisfying meal, at a place worth discovering. Savvy Trentonians have been eating here for years, but I'm betting many of you have never heard of the place. Don't wait. This is a restaurant worth supporting. I plan to be back soon--and often.
The Blue Danube
Elm & Adeline Sts.
Trenton, NJ 08611
Facebook: Blue Danube Restaurant
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Trenton food history changes tonight. Delorenzo's Tomato Pies of Hudson St., of whom I have written in the Philadelphia Daily News once and here many times, is closing tonight after 64 years. Owners Gary and Eileen Amico say they need a rest, need to step back and assess, and maybe contemplate a move someday to Pennsylvania (to Newtown, PA is the persistant rumor).
Tonight, after I get some dinner into the kids (rigatoni with vodka sauce and turkey meatballs), I may try to make my way down to Chamberburg, if nothing else to shake Gary and Eileen's hands and thank them for all of the great tomato pies they've served me over the past 20 years. And for teaching and supporting their son Sam, who keeps the Delorenzo's Tomato Pies flame alive at his own place in Robbinsville, NJ.
But check the video above. It may still be a live stream when you visit this blog, because the very hip Trenton paper, The Trentonian (full disclosure: they feature this blog on their website, trentonian.com) are streaming live from inside a packed Delorenzo's to document this historic, bittersweet night in Trenton history, with reporter Joey Kulkin doing his level best to capture the feelings and comments of the regulars and lucky souls who waited outside all day (some camping out starting on Sunday morning)and braved 20-degree weather and winds to have the last tomato pies on Hudson Street. For the record, the final pie was a large half sausage, half pepperoni pie, made by Gary Amico himself. A crowd of about 20 or so stood and watched, snapped photos and videos of the moment, and applauded loudly. A priceless moment.
History tonight, dear reader. And you can watch some of it, maybe even live. Bring that last pie close to the camera, Joey, one last time from Hudson Street.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
What a great year this is about to be!
I assure you that this is not boilerplate PR hype, nor motivational speaker-speak, nor the results of any random wisps of reverie resulting from too much cold medicine (leave me NOW, oh phlegm of Satan!). Well, OK, maybe it's the last one.
This Friday is a Friday the 13th, one of three Friday the 13ths that occur this year (dontcha just LOVE Leap Year?). But the real significance here is that this Friday will be the 24th FRIDAY THE FIRKINTEENTH at the Grey Lodge in NE Philly, and to my mind, still the greatest one day beer festival in the world.
That's owner/publican Mike "Scoats" Scotese in the photo, tapping a firkin of fresh ale at one of the previous Firkinteenths, my favorite picture of the man who has quietly created an international phenomenon. This Friday, starting at Noon, the Grey Lodge will begin to tap up to 30 firkins of fresh ale, 7 at a time, some of which were specially made for this day by craft brewers from across the country, and this year, from England as well.
It is the most friendly, civilized and yet raucous fun time that one can possibly have drinking beer, and it takes place in a hip, cozy bar that also happens to serve terrific food. And it's the only beer festival dictated by the calendar.
If I've whetted your interest, and you're thinking about attending, try to arrive earlier than later (I'm planning for a 3PM arrival myself), as the roster of beers change fairly quickly (each firkin holds about 85 pints of beer) and the variety of brews is impressive. A firkin of England's Old Speckled Hen should be a highlight, as well as a first-time appearance of Landslide IPA from 50/50 Brewing Co., in Truckee, CA, a beer from multiple medal-winning brewer Todd Ashman, a good friend and an outstanding beer magician. There will even be a cask cider this year, made locally by Bucks County's Desiato Cider Co., and a tasty quaff at that. These firkins are set atop the bar in the Grey Lodge, tapped the old fashioned way with a hammer and the beer inside is served by gravity. The result is a smoother, silkier beer, the taste and feel of which you'll never forget.
Also, make use of smaller 7 oz. glasses so that you can sample a wider variety of beer. And drink LOTS of water, to hydrate your body and cleanse your palate. And stop and grab something to eat upstairs, like all the savvy beer aficionados do.
Here's the lineup for this Friday's Firkinteenth:
Current Cask List
Bavarian Barbarian First Snow
Cricket Hill Colonel Blideâ€™s Bitter
Dock Street Rye IPA, dry-hopped
Duck Rabbit dry-hopped Brown Ale
FiftyFifty Rockslide IPA
Flying Fish Scarlet Fever
Iron Hill West Chester Anvil Ale
Lancaster Milk Stout
Manayunk Rye of the Tiger
Nodding Head 60 Shilling
Old Speckled Hen
Philly Joe Porter
Prism Bitto Honey IPA
Ruddles County Ale
Sixpoint Gorilla Warfare
Sixpoint Vienna Pale
Sly Fox Sly Fox 113 IPA (113 on 1/13)
Sly Fox Robbie Burns Scottish Ale
Stone Stone Stone Smoked Porter - dry hopped w/ Chinook
Stouts Chocolate ESB
Voodoo Four Seasons IPA
I hope to see you there! If, not, the next Firkinteenths will be in April and July!
Gotta LOVE Leap Year! And the Grey Lodge.