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” ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ

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

Discover the Taste of “Tropicali” at Fins!

img_20160917_124327As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, I’ll do anything for a little taste of the tropics. Thankfully, there’s FINS.¬†With locations in Bradley Beach, Point Pleasant & Sea Girt, Fins offers their own “tropicali” cuisine, featuring a¬†blend of flavors borrowed from¬†Southern California, the Pacific Rim & various tropical islands. Whether you dine-in & enjoy their surf-themed decor, order take-out, or have your meal delivered, you don’t want to miss these tropically inspired tastes.

 

screenshot_2016-10-24-18-08-10-1As a creature of habit, when I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. I originally became obsessed with this “S-Turn Burrito” and ordered it exclusively for many months. The crispy chunks of coconut-sesame battered white fish, mixed with grilled pineapple, cheese, black beans and Sriracha sauce was my be all, end all.¬†The fresh chips and my favorite salsa were just an added bonus.

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But one day I decided to branch out… The “Cloud Break” caught my eye as I love codfish and the sound of a “cilantro coconut cream sauce” seemed almost¬†heavenly. Well I was right, and a new favorite was born. You can’t go wrong with adding peppers, red onions, avocado, pico de gallo and cheese to the aforementioned ingredients and then rolling it all in a lemon cilantro tortilla. Total yum.

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Then there are those days when you just crave a certain ingredient. One day it was shrimp and I ventured out¬†“Somewhere in Jamaica” and had this spicy wrap put into a “Soup Bowl” for fun. It’s important to note that all of Fins’ burrito/wraps/salads are also available in this yummy tortilla bowl at no extra charge. Spicy grilled Caribbean shrimp, romaine lettuce, chunks of mango, pico de gallo, black beans & mixed cheeses combined to form this bowl of deliciousness.

img_20160926_142619When I’m feeling a bit on the plump side, I opt for this gluten-free favorite called The Bali Bowl. It features coconut steamed vegetables & grilled chicken, drizzled with a sweet Thai chili sauce over TropiCali rice with a side of blue corn chips. I always feel a little healthier when I eat it (since it doesn’t have any cheese… lol) but it certainly doesn’t lack any flavor or leave me feeling hungry.

 
img_20160720_131020Another “light” option is the Oahu Wrap (again pictured in the Tortilla Bowl, but comes standard in a spinach wrap). It features the most delicious piece of teriyaki-seared tuna served with sliced avocado,¬†a mix of black beans, chunks of mango, Mandarin sesame slaw & romaine lettuce. If you’re a big tuna fan, this one will not disappoint.

 

2016-09-17-13-05-15For those who are not so adventurous (like my 10-year old son), this “Tahitian Fish & Chips” is a tried and true favorite. Crispy coconut-sesame fish¬†fingers¬†are served with Fins tortilla chips and a side of Wasabi Passion dipping sauce. It’s a good size portion, even for an adult… I’ve rarely seen any leftovers from this one. ūüôā

 

This review is long overdue as we’ve been devouring Fins’ amazing food for years. Our crew at On-Site Computer Service in Ocean Grove enjoys a quick delivery from the Bradley Beach location several times a month! ¬†But remember…the items shown here are only a few examples of the delicious offerings at Fins. ¬†Check out their full menu or stop in to one of their 3 locations to get¬†the “tropcali” feel for yourself!

www.finsusa.com

120 Main St, Bradley Beach, NJ 07720
(732) 897-8600

2701 Route 88, Point Pleasant, NJ 08742
(732) 458-3200

Sea Girt Square, 2100 Highway 35, Sea Girt, NJ 08750
(732) 359-8210

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 Р17 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 entr√©e. 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!!!

 

Check Out My New Facebook Page!

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The new Facebook Page¬†is up & running! Some of the content will certainly¬†cross over¬†both platforms, but Facebook will provide a place for more interaction among readers, as well as fun little perks like “Tuesday’s Travel Tip” & “Wanderlust Wednesday” so be sure to check it out!

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This week’s¬†“Travel Tip”¬†was posted this morning…
Find out the one thing I ALWAYS bring when I travel by visiting the new page at:  www.facebook.com/tripsandtastes

Once on Facebook,¬†please be sure to “Like”¬†and “Share” the page¬†with all your travel & food-loving friends!¬† Thanks ūüôā