Buon Appetito at Buona

by Diana Worden Karmin

You can get pizza anywhere. You can get it delivered by the cardboard box people. You can stop by your nearest neighborhood pizzeria. Or you can get it frozen at the supermarket (ice crystals optional). It’s probably all passable. Some crust. Some sauce. And some grated (usually way too much) cheese to cover up the overall mediocrity. Go ahead, toss on a couple of toppings in an attempt to make things interesting… or, at the very least, palatable.

When you’ve had enough of barely edible or just plain boring pizza and if you’re within driving distance of Westfield, New Jersey – and by driving distance, we mean within two hours. What? WE drive three hours for lobster roll – YOU can travel a bit for outstanding pizza, can’t you? Anyway, get in the car or hop on a train because we’ve found the perfect Jersey pie at Buona Pizza.

Buona Pizza
The dough base is a harmonious blend of softness under the sauce and cheese and the right amount of crunch at the crust. And the sauce… oh that sauce. We suspect someone’s Nonna from the Old Country is in the back, stirring all day. Ask for a cup of sauce on the side for dipping prior to each delightful bite. And Buona isn’t just pizza… they have a full traditional Italian cuisine menu (Nonna is busy) and the smells coming from the kitchen are downright intoxicating. We often plan to sample fare other than their pizza when we go, but the pizza is sitting right there as you walk in the door, and once we see it and smell it, we gotta have it. Maybe next time we’ll be strong… and get the pizza to-go for later.

Well? Are you drooling yet? You should be – and the only cure for perfect pizza cravings is at Buona Pizza on South Avenue in Westfield. Buon appetito!

#pizza #Westfield #BuonaPizza #KarminKuisineTour

Superb Sushi in Somerville

by Diana Worden Karmin

Located on West Main Street in Somerville, New Jersey, Yokohama is an unassuming little sushi place that could be easily bypassed if you weren’t looking for it. A humble awning in front with “Yokohama” in faded letters is the only visible invitation for the delights that await you inside. 

Yokohama front
Regulars and first-timers alike get a warm welcome by the staff, and then you’re seated in one of the movable booths. Yes, there are a couple of tables, but the booths are far more interesting because they are not bolted to the floor and the “tables” between them are either one or two cafe-type tables with x-cross legs, making finding a comfortable place for your feet an interesting challenge while you wiggle around to situate the floating booth seat to be “just right.” Even more challenging is when the diner behind you is performing the same seating shuffle. It can be a (polite) battle of wills until all are settled. It’s okay, because the activity only further serves to work up an appetite. And you’ll be glad you did because the sushi here is consistently fresh and fabulous. 

Yokohama cook
We have found that many sushi restaurants can be wildly inconsistent with the quality of their offerings. Not at Yokohama. High quality food and outstanding service is the norm every day.

The Karmin Kuisine Tour usually starts our meal with seaweed salad and salad with ginger dressing. And, yes, their ginger dressing and their delicately spiced seaweed salad is the best around. We follow up with the tuna, salmon, and yellowtail sashimi appetizer (pictured), and occasionally, they offer us a sample of a new appetizer on the menu to try. Next comes a platter of perfectly presented rolls that usually includes the vegetable roll and the House Special roll. We also frequently enjoy their various rolls that incorporate tri-colored tobiko (roe) and the Spider roll (soft-shell crab).

Yokohama sashimi
Treat yourself to an awesome meal anytime at Yokohama – and tell them that the Karmin Kuisine Tour sent you. Or maybe we’ll be in the booth behind you, trying to adjust the seat.

#Yokohama #Somerville #sushi #KarminKuisineTour

In Memoriam – Manners

by Diana Worden Karmin

The Karmin Kuisine Tour spends a lot of time visiting all types of food establishments and we do the majority of our writing while sitting at various Starbucks, getting fueled by copious amounts of caffeine. Sometimes, while we’re out and about, we are often stunned (and too frequently disgusted) by some of the behaviors we’ve observed – inspiring us to pen the following piece: IN MEMORIAM – MANNERS. We hope you find some humor in this rather disturbing subject and will feel free to share your thoughts with us.

IN MEMORIAM – MANNERS:

WTF? After a valiant struggle, Manners lost its battle with crassness today. Surviving is family member, Decorum. However, Decorum is not expected to withstand the loss of Manners. In keeping with the rising tone of a total lack of consideration, Decorum will be buried alongside Manners – even if still on life support in order to cut down on costs and not to infringe upon any more of John Q. Public’s “me” time.

In lieu of flowers, loud cell phone conversations and emitting all manner of bodily functions without Shame (who predeceased Manners) during the service will be encouraged. Utterances of social pleasantries such as “please,” “thank you,” or “excuse me” will not be tolerated.

The entire ceremony will be streaming live and then immediately posted on YouTube. Smiling duck-faced “selfies” will be expected by attendees.

The use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other addicting social media will be welcomed during the eulogy and heads should be in the bowed position AT ALL TIMES. Not as a display of respect – but so as not to miss any posts about the Kardashians or any other vitally important world event such as graphic details about your girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s) hangover.

Attire should be short, tight, and totally inappropriate to event. If any type of undergarments are worn, they should be clearly visible.

Idiocracy will be screened immediately following the ceremony to illustrate life sadly imitating art.

Idiocracy

Natale’s Summit Bakery and The Famous Philly Fluff

by Diana Worden Karmin

Does walking up the three steps to the front door of Natale’s really count as exercise as suggested in Escaping From Food Coma?

We hope so, because Natale’s Bakery in Summit, New Jersey offers the most outstanding baked goods in the Northern Jersey area. We stock up on our favorite goodies and our tummies are always full in short order… sometimes even before we pull out of the always-crowded parking lot. “STOP HONKING! We’re indulging here!”

Natales Bakery
Natale’s has been a Summit staple for over 70 years, and just walking through that door brings back a flood of memories for one member of the Karmin Kuisine Tour who lived in Summit for many years: Special order birthday cakes (including the vanilla cake they prepared every year for the family dog and a “sushi cake” to replicate a favorite roll); a made-to-order gingerbread house to celebrate a family member buying a new home during the holidays; and the high-round bread that they sliced every Sunday afternoon for school lunches for the coming week. One does not grow up in Summit without having Natale’s woven into the very fabric of their lives.

And, of course, one also cannot talk (while salivating) about Natale’s without mentioning their signature cake, The Philly Fluff. Describing a particularly delectable food as “heavenly” is common… but let us attest to you… this cake is anything but common and the single closest slice of heaven you’re likely to taste. Imagine a light-as-air pound cake perfectly infused with a hint of cream cheese and dusted with confectioners sugar. Now imagine a piece melting gently in your mouth, followed by a sip of tea or coffee. Nirvana achieved.

Philly Fluff
Philly Fluff has become our go-to cake to bring to friend or family’s home for dinner. As a matter of fact, when the Karmin Kuisine Tour was recently invited to chat with Bert Baron on WCTC AM 1450, we brought along a Philly Fluff. What better way to kick off an on-air talk about a food blog than to supply a memorable treat for the staff? 

Alan with Bert Baron
Get yourself to Natale’s for the ultimate bakery experience. Or better yet, invite The Karmin Kuisine Tour for dinner – we’ll bring the Philly Fluff – because anything else we bought, we probably devoured in the parking lot. “STOP HONKING ALREADY……”

http://natalesbakery.com/

#Natales #Summit #PhillyFluff #WCTC #1450AM #BertBaron#KarminKuisineTour

Outstanding Chinese – But Don’t Get Sent To “The Chokey”

by Diana Worden Karmin

Do you want delicious traditional Chinese food served up by a friendly and attentive staff? Then get your hungry self over to Hunan Spring on Morris Avenue in Springfield, NJ. 

Hunan Spring facadeDo you have to use the restroom? Then trust us, go before you get there.

It might seem odd to start off a review about food… good food, actually… with bathroom humor, but there is nothing humorous about the moldy stench that inhabits their basement restrooms. How can an establishment that serves such outstanding food in their immaculate dining room neglect this aspect of their business? Two minutes in The Chokey (remember the movie Matilda?) and your meal is or will be ruined. 

Hunan Spring ughWe hope that Hunan Spring will read this review and take heed because we do love the food and we want to send customers your way.

On a positive note – the food never disappoints. The Vegetable Bean Curd Soup and the Vegetable Moo Shu are the best we’ve ever tasted. Portions are sizable, prices are reasonable, and as we said at the onset, the staff is excellent.

Visit Hunan Spring and bring the family. Just make sure nature calls before or after.

http://www.hunanspringrestaurant.com/default.asp

#ChineseFood #SpringfieldNewJersey #BathroomHumor #KarminKuisineTour

Cafe Villa – Just Stick With The Pizza

by Diana Worden Karmin

Why has it been so difficult to find decent (or even palatable) Italian cuisine in the Northern/Central Jersey area outside of NYC’s Little Italy or Spirito’s in Elizabeth? Any suggestions from our readers are welcomed, but frankly, we’re tired of being disappointed.

One rainy Sunday afternoon, we ventured to Chatham, New Jersey in search of a nice Italian meal and decided to give Cafe Villa on Main Street a try. Their pizza has always been good, so why not try having dinner?

Big mistake.

Let us start off by saying that the staff was extremely attentive and friendly. Some of the establishments we’ve patronized in the past would do well to take a lesson from Cafe Villa on how to properly serve and treat customers. Conversely, Cafe Villa would benefit from learning the art of how to prepare meals without drowning them in overly heavy sauces or butter. And don’t even get us to talking about the sauce. When we’re talking Italian, it’s all about the red sauce, isn’t it? Not here. The red sauce was watery, acidic, and barely edible.

Pictured is chewy overcooked shrimp over store-bought linguine with sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and capers in some thick, salty, cream-type sauce. The capers weren’t half bad. 

Cafe Villa
Tell ya what… if you’re in the mood for some decent pizza in the Chatham area, then stop by Cafe Villa. If you’re in the mood for bad Italian, then go to Olive Garden. At least there you can numb your taste buds with their cheap wine.

https://www.facebook.com/Cafe.Villa.Chatham.NJ?fref=ts

#ItalianCuisine #CafeVilla #Chatham #KarminKuisineTour

Ice Cream and Rock and Roll!

by Diana Worden Karmin

Emack & Bolio’s is back in Millburn, New Jersey! 

After a long absence, Emack & Bolio’s, with its delectable ice cream, frozen yogurt, and candy re-opened its doors on Millburn Avenue… with a Rock ‘n Roll flair. 

The new store is a riot of chocolate delicacies, candy-laden cones, a multitude of ice cream flavors, sundaes and smoothies, and even ice cream pizza. The walls are lined with the best of Rock ‘n Roll nostalgia. Read all about their rocking roots here:

 http://www.emackandbolios.com/rocknrollroots/

Lita Ford

As an added bonus, the staff at Emack & Bolio’s is fun, friendly, and upbeat. What’s not to love?

Emack and Bolio
Not near the Short Hills/Millburn area? Be thankful… but that’s another story. They also have other locations New Jersey, and in Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois.

Get thee to the new Emack & Bolio’s to party on and rock on! And don’t allow the Masters of the Universe to push ahead of you in line… you’re just as “entitled” to a treat as they are.

Master of the Universe

http://www.emackandbolios.com/

#EmackandBolios #icecream #RockandRoll #KarminKuisineTour

What Is Mongolian Hot Pot?

by Diana Worden Karmin

Have you ever had the experience of preparing your own dinner in a fragrant, spicy broth called Hot Pot? If the answer is no, then make plans to visit one of the Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot restaurants that are scattered throughout the U.S., Canada, China, and Japan.We stumbled upon this unique dining experience while in Edison, New Jersey when we were looking for (as always) some food and fun. We surely found food and fun… albeit with a bit of confusion on our part initially.

The Little Sheep restaurant was very busy, and as we were being seated, we noticed that each table had its own cooktop. Many of the cooktops had a large, simmering pot on top. We observed other patrons placing food from large serving platters into the pots and stirring with chopsticks or ladles.

Mongolian Hot Pot BrothOur waiter explained to us – in broken English – that we were to select our soup base and then select meats and/or seafoods and whatever vegetables and noodles we desired. Unfamiliar with some of the foods offered, we went with shrimp, scallops, bok choy, watercress, Udon noodles, sponge tofu, and bean curd knots. 
Mongolian Hot Pot VeggiesWhile awaiting our do-it-yourself main course, we tried kimchi – a traditional Korean dish of fermented cabbage, carrots, celery, and other assorted vegetables that is both sour and spicy. Beware… after your palate recovers from the initial surprise of the spiciness, kimchi can be quite addicting. In fact, during the Korean War, South Korean President, Park Chung-hee, told then U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson, that kimchee was “vitally important to the morale of Korean troops,” and it was requested that it be made available to the troops in the field. We can certainly understand why. We’d like it made available to us on a regular basis, too.

When our mushroom-based broth arrived, we noted scallions, red peppers, a variety of what looked like nuts, and a few anisette stars floating around. We were unsure if any of the ingredients were edible, save the scallions, and were advised by the waiter that he “would not eat it.” Good enough for us… we’re not that brave. We were also not sure of how long to cook each item in the broth, until we saw the printed guide on our table.

Mongolian Hot Pot InstructionsAfter a few mishaps and getting splashed with the (very) hot broth, we got the hang of it and savored our freshly-prepared food selections, steeped in the spicy and savory broth. The bean curd knots, having absorbed much of the flavors of the soup, turned out to be our absolute favorite item. 
Mongolian Hot Pot BowlNotice to those who like to eat and run: This is a time-consuming process to be enjoyed at a somewhat slower pace than most of us are used to. Be prepared to spend some time there while soaking up the atmosphere and the wonderful aromas. And for heaven’s sake… wear a bib for all the splashing of the broth… until you become a hot pot master.

http://littlesheephotpot.com/

#MongolianHotPot #LittleSheep #KarminKuisineTour

Honey Mead Makes a Comeback

by Diana Worden Karmin

We recently discovered Mead – a honey-based wine that was one of the first known fermented drinks. Enjoyed in the Middle Ages, Mead is making a comeback. You can view a story about this ancient delight on CBS Sunday morning. (Just click the link below the picture.)

Our suggestion for an outstanding Mead is produced by Mount Hope Estate and Winery. Their wares can be found at the Lancaster Beer and Wine Gallery in Bird-in-Hand, Pa. Check out our review at:

http://karminkuisinetour.com/is-it-too-early-for-wine-of-course-not/

Mead Wine
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mead-the-honey-based-brew-producing-a-real-buzz-2/