The Calm Before the Storm…

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In a few short weeks, the crowds will arrive and the summer season will officially begin at the Jersey Shore. I love living here, but I have to admit, I’m not ready to give up my empty beaches and boardwalk quite yet!

We’ve had a few mild mornings and I’ve been trying to take full advantage… enjoying long walks, bike rides, collecting shells, taking pictures and mostly just relishing in the solitude. Nothing quite compares to having that empty stretch of sand all to yourself where you can stroll, explore, & search for treasures while listening to the soothing sound of the surf and digging your toes in the sand. It’s the most peaceful and calming time for me… and always so hard to leave!

The locals know how precious this time is, and how beautiful this time of year here can be.  Everyone’s seen the crowds and heard the horror stories of wall to wall people spread across the sand, and bodies bumping into each other in the water, so I wanted to share a handful of my morning pics, and even a little poem… lol… to give a glimpse of life here in the “off-season” 😉  Enjoy!!!

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For the Foodies…

As you know, I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures of my food. If something looks delicious, or I just know it’s going to taste amazing, I like to capture the moment! I don’t post them all because honestly, I don’t want to be that annoying BUT as I’m going thru my phone this morning, I’ve come across a few plates that really deserve some air time… So here’s a breakfast, lunch & dinner wrap-up for ya from some local favorites!

20161207_085550This classic breakfast sandwich comes from none other than the infamous Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park. There’s just something about that egg, meat & cheese combo that completely covers all the bases. I strayed from the typical Jersey pork roll, and went with the ham (it sounds healthier, doesn’t it?) but the flavor satisfied just the same. And that lightly grilled roll was worth every poppy seed I had to pick out of my teeth 😉

20161207_085637This right here is one of the best lunches I’ve had in ages… The Lobster Cobb Salad at Toast in Asbury Park went way beyond my wildest expectations. First of all, it’s gigantic. Secondly, everything is incredibly fresh & the lobster chunks were to die for. Topped with a small drizzle of the Poppy Dijon Vinaigrette, I’m embarrassed to say, that I devoured the entire bowl. This really is a great twist on a classic salad.

20161207_085713I’m giving the chef special kudos for this dinner I enjoyed at Yvonne’s in Neptune City.  I had a craving for scallops, but wasn’t in the mood for the way it was offered on the menu.  I did like the sound of the Mediterranean Pasta however, so I asked if I could have these pan-seared Thai Sea Scallops added to that dish instead (I apologize… I know I’m a pain!).  But they happily accommodated my request and I was able to enjoy the shellfish I wanted atop a delicious combo of penne, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, spinach, garlic, feta and olive oil.  OMG – Yum!!!

I wouldn’t recommend eating all 3 of these meals in the same day unless you have the metabolism of a teenage boy, but rather, spread them out & treat yourself to several glorious days of delectable eats!

Frank’s Deli:  1406 Main St, Asbury Park, NJ, (732) 775-6682

Toast:  516 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, NJ, (732) 776-5900

Yvonne’s:  1311 Route 35 South, Neptune City, NJ, (732) 775-9004

Breakfast Worth the Wait in Asbury Park

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I love going out to breakfast (or any meal really), but there’s something about that late morning meal on a weekend that I especially enjoy. This week I returned to “Toast,” a spot that I had tried a few years ago that was good, but hadn’t really left me ohhhing or ahhhing at the time. Well, I’m happy to report that certainly wasn’t the case yesterday!

screenshot_2016-09-26-10-20-02-1Arriving at prime time on a Sunday morning (around 10am), we were told there would be a 15-20 min wait. Luckily, they take your cell number & text you when your table is ready, so you’re free to roam around Asbury Park while you’re waiting. Once we got our call, we were seated quickly & handed the delicious menu to peruse.

I immediately spotted the Eggs Benedict, of which they offer a few varieties including a Crab Cake version (which I saw pass by several times) and a Smoked Salmon Benedict, which I always adore. Yesterday however, the highlighted “Huevos Rancheros” caught my attention. I love this dish and you just don’t see it very often, so my selection was easily made.

img_20160925_112029The food took a little while to arrive, but we enjoyed the bustling atmosphere and our warm drinks (a tasty Pumpkin Spice Latte for me) while we waited.  And it was worth it…  My two over-easy eggs, covered in Mexican cojita cheese, sat upon a crispy tortilla surrounded by a delicious variety of beans, tomatoes & fresh cilantro. Every bite was a treat. My son devoured a giant Belgian waffle topped with fresh strawberries, and my friend enjoyed her “Bacon & Brie” omelette. Delish!

Toast is only open for breakfast & lunch, but the menu offers a wide variety of options, and all items are available all day. I can’t wait to go back & try the “Lobster Cobb Salad” and I’m sure that the “Smoked Salmon Benedict” will also end up on my plate before too long!

Toast is located at 516 Cookman Ave in Asbury Park, NJ.
Current hours are Wednesday thru Monday, from 7:30am to 3pm.  During the off season, they are closed on Tuesdays.

Visit their site for the full menu (www.toastasburypark.com) and their Facebook Page for daily specials and more!

Too Much Good Food!

I ate well last week.  So well in fact, that I think I even gained a few pounds.  My meals covered a wide culinary spectrum from full-on vegan to a Mexican breakfast, to an Italian meal that brought my family roots right to the surface.  All 3 of these restaurants were new to me, they were all very different, and all worthy of a return visit!

GOOD KARMA CAFE – 17 East Front St, Red Bank, NJ, (732) 450-8344
I am not a vegan. I could live without red meat if I had to, but dairy products (including my beloved cheese) hold a very special place in my heart. That being said, I have several close friends, and even my husband at times, who’ve made this dietary commitment. Unfortunately, if you’re vegan, eating out can be quite challenging. If you’re tired of having to read every detail of every menu or having to explain your entire life story to the server, Good Karma will make your life very simple – everything on the menu is vegan.

Screenshot_2016-04-26-10-20-53-1After sampling the Chimichurri Style Seitan Sticks, the Crispy Baked Tempeh Buffalo Wings & the Loaded Nachos (which were amazing), I decided to play it safe and get the “Pad Thai” for my entrée. I have to say that I enjoyed it more than my usual “Thai” Pad Thai. It wasn’t as spicy as I usually like, but it was loaded with vegetables (carrots, cabbage, celery & broccoli) and the peanut tamarind sauce was delicious. Topped with toasted peanuts & beautiful, fresh sprouts, I tried not to feel too guilty about the huge mound of stir-fried rice noodles I also consumed.

My “vegans” enjoyed their meals as well… oohing and aahing over every bite. The only thing Good Karma could improve upon is the ambiance for a nicer in-house dining experience. It’s quite small, but lacking a “cozy” feel. The take-out business was definitely booming though, so maybe that’s the better way to go.


MEEMOM’S
 – Kmart Plaza, Rt 35, Wall, NJ, (732) 359.8544
What better place to bring your mom to breakfast than a place called Meemom’s? This was actually the 3rd time I’d tried to eat here, apparently always stopping in at their busiest hours (like on Saturday mornings). This visit with my mom was on a Thursday around 10:30am and luckily we got right in without a wait.  It’s popularity must be due to its extensive, home-cooked breakfast menu (there are 22 varieties of French Toast) & its diverse selection of salads, paninis & wraps for lunch.

2016-04-26 10.43.36I had a hard time narrowing it down, but finally decided on the “Pico de Huevos” – a version of the Mexican dish, huevos rancheros, that sounded delicious. The perfectly poached eggs were served on a grilled cornbread muffin & topped with a chipotle hollandaise sauce. Add chorizo, pico de gallo & sliced avocado to create an amazing combination of flavors and textures. And the side of “spuds” were a pure bonus… who doesn’t enjoy a crisp pile of salted chips? Meemom’s is a definite winner, although I have to add that it took over 30 minutes for our food to arrive and like I mentioned, there is oftentimes a substantial wait. Hopefully you can time it right & enjoy this great breakfast & lunch eatery.


CAPITOLINE
639 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, NJ, (732) 455.3609
I think I saved my personal favorite for last… Capitoline is the Italian offering in the new “Complex” that has recently branched out from the original Bond Street Bar in Asbury Park. This new, 2 level structure creatively takes up the space of a city block with 3 interconnecting restaurants and 4 bars. Bond Street is still alive & well, serving their delicious burgers & sandwiches in a classic, corner bar atmosphere. Loteria, with its main entrance on Mattison Ave, is a new Mexican taqueria, brought to life with the help of Asbury’s own, well-established Mexican restaurant, Plaza Tapatia.

20160420_095033On this night, however, we were drawn into Capitoline, with its enormous roll-up windows framing the immense wooden door on Cookman Ave.  Inside, an open design, family-style seating & a roaring pizza oven complete the rustic look.  The Italian menu features apps, salads, meatballs and pizza, available in big square slices or full pies.

2016-04-26 10.42.17We started with the Antipasta – a full board of Italian meats, cheeses, bread, olives and roasted peppers. I was in heaven. Next, we went with the “Agrodolce” salad – a delicious blend of baby lettuce, arugula, radicchio, roasted beets & goat cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette – delish. And finally we succumbed to the pizza… the classic Margherita which we jazzed up with some spicy Italian sausage – perfecto!  Add a few beers and the meal was complete – I cannot wait to go back!!!

All 3 restaurants in The Complex offer reasonably priced menu items, which is often hard to find in this downtown strip. The layout is innovative & clever, with doors or halls connecting the separate venues, but with each still embracing its very distinct space & unique theme. The architecture includes salvaged pieces & building materials from many of Asbury’s most historic landmarks, including the Paramount Theater.  “Eat well. Spend little.” is their tag line & it truly fits the bill.  This spot is definitely worth a trip, especially if you can get here before the summer crowds hit!

Always enjoy every bite & sip!!!

 

Treat Your Tastebuds to Taka

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I’d been wanting to check out Taka’s new spot on Cookman Ave in Asbury Park since their move there over 2 years ago. We were big fans of their location on Mattison and somehow they just fell off our radar. Well, I FINALLY got my chance this week, as a special treat for my birthday dinner and let me tell you… it will not be long before I am back again!

This spacious new location combines a contemporary Asian feel with traditional Japanese artwork and modern furnishings. The atmosphere is welcoming and the space is well laid out with a central bar area, plenty of seating areas for quiet conversation, a large main dining room and a great outdoor patio for the warmer weather. The lighting provides a calm feeling and the decor offers a bit of a zen quality – in other words, I loved it.

IMG_20160321_190223-1I recommend starting with one of their unique cocktails (I tried the Asbury Green Tea & my husband loved his Blackberry Margarita) or choose your usual favorite from the well-stocked bar. If you’re looking for sake, I think you’ll be impressed with their extensive selection. The menu is described as Asian-Fusion, and offers a wonderful variety of apps, sushi & delicious entrées.

The “Matsuri” was a perfect way to begin, with a sampling of Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon and delicious Guacamole served with homemade tortilla chips. The Miso Soup was also a winner, as was “my usual” – the Veggie Tempura.

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I have to admit, we always come for the sushi, but one of these days I’m going to have to break down & get an entrée because they all sound so good! On this trip, I stayed on course and discovered yet another wonderful new sushi item… The Beach Roll.  Screenshot_2016-03-23-09-49-46-1-1-1This one features tuna (I opted for the brown rice), rolled with hiyashi wakame (a seaweed salad), cucumber & crunch, and then topped with a perfectly spicy wasabi sauce.  It sounds fairly simple, but the combination was amazing and that one roll was all I needed after stuffing myself with appetizers!

Screenshot_2016-03-23-09-36-54-1As I mentioned, it was my birthday, so I was “nudged” by our very pleasant and helpful server, to select a dessert.  I’m a big fan of their Green Tea Cheesecake but was so full that I opted for the gelato, knowing that my son would gladly share.  He chose his usual Chocolate Overload (a dark chocolate delight) and I went out on a limb with the Black Cherry Pistachio, which turned out to be the perfect complement.  After a lovely performace of “Happy Birthday” by the accommodating staff, I blew out my candle & then rolled myself to the car – always the sign of a good meal. 🙂

 

Taka is located at 660 Cookman Ave in Asbury Park, NJ.
Check out their web site for hours, specials & more at http://www.takaasbury.com/

Gelato… Wine… & Cheese… Oh My!

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So my favorite gelato spot in Asbury Park has just gotten even better!
“Lola’s European Cafe” (formerly Casa di Dolce) on Cookman Ave, is now serving their authentic Italian Gelato along with… wine, cheese, specialty cocktails, whiskeys, coffee, paninis & desserts… all in a beautifully redone, rustic retreat.  Taste buds beware… it’s all amazing!

And it’s gonna be a hot spot this summer, with seating both inside & out.  So get in now before the crowds take over!

HOURS (as of 6/5/15):
Tue & Thurs: 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fri & Sat: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm

And for the whiskey lovers, check out this great event coming up on June 9th!  lolas-event