Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Just a Note

Like many others, I was shocked and saddened to learn that 
Natalia Caicedo, known as Natasha, of Kraverie died recently from injuries sustained during a hit and run.

I did not know her well; I didn't know her at all except as the presence behind the Taco Truck, Lucinda Creperie, and Kraverie but even in the handful of times I visited those locations, she made a lasting impression. She was always welcoming, calm, gracious, and patient which is quite a feat in the restaurant's quite a feat in day to day life, let alone the restaurant industry.

The Lucinda Creperie Cart was the first mobile food vendor I remember seeing with any regularity around downtown Jersey City. I can recall wondering what that might mean for the future and I believe their presence was a major influence that we can all be grateful for.  I have a clear memory of the first time I actually visited the was mid-evening and as I finally approached the window after staring at the menu for ages, Natasha smiled in welcome and took my order (chicken florentine) as her husband Christian immediately began prepping and cooking.  They had an amazing rhythm and it was clear how comfortable and used to working with and around each other they were. There was a sense of happiness, of calm contentment and most importantly, of mutual enjoyment between them that I can still recall feeling both in awe of and welcomed by and that alone made my experience so worth it without ever even having a bite of food - which was delicious, by the way. 

I am so so sorry to hear of her passing and my thoughts are with her husband, her parents, and the Jersey City community as a whole and I just wanted to share my own personal experience and celebrate one of the memories she is leaving behind. The dedication and care Natasha showed in building her restaurants is an inspiration and she will be missed.

Please consider donating to her Memorial Fund:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Farmers Market Find: BBQ at Legal Beans

I’ve seen the somewhat clumsily named BBQ at Legal Beans at various events downtown and they’re a pretty constant staple at the Grove Street farmers’ market but I’d never actually stopped to get anything. A couple years ago, I went to the storefront and truthfully, wasn’t that impressed but always thought I should give it another shot. Naturally, I never got around to it and in the meantime, it seems as though Legal Beans has reworked and expanded their menu.

Figuring I might as well take advantage of their presence at the farmers’ market, I stopped by to get dinner and see if the food had improved.  As I approached the stand, I was hit with the mouthwatering smell of grilled meat and warm BBQ sauce. It smelled like summer. They had a series of large covered foil pans on one table that held different cuts of chicken, at least two kinds of ribs, pulled pork, and probably a couple more I didn’t see. There was also a second side table with smaller pans containing all their side options; I saw rice, beans, mac and cheese and mashed sweet potatoes. I ordered a grilled quarter chicken with a side of mashed sweet potatoes.  The server asked me if I wanted extra barbecue sauce on top and I went with it, noticing he was being pretty generous when pouring it on without flooding the container. My total came to $8 which I found incredibly reasonable, especially when taking into account the huge serving of mashed sweet potatoes they gave me. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Scenes from Downtown Jersey City Farmers’ Market

Monday night, I took some time to wander around the Farmers' Market outside the Grove Street Path.  I love the Farmers’ Market and make it a point to do some shopping there whenever I can. It’s grown a huge amount over the past few years and I love seeing the variety of stands and vendors that show up.  Here are some samples of what can be found:

Choc-O-Pain was there, advertising their store-front, and selling some very tempting-looking pastries.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Event Recap: 28th Annual Hamilton Park Festival and Lizzmonade!

Last Saturday, June 8th, Hamilton Park held their annual festival - #28, filled with live performances and music, booths, family activities, and of course, food! It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, inviting everyone out to play.
There was music and entertainment for kids and families at the center of the park with live bands also performing on the Jersey Avenue side, appealing to all ages. I saw a variety of booths, some promoting new events or different organizations in Jersey City; others selling some interesting art pieces and collectibles. It was great to walk around and peruse. I was impressed by the attendance and it made me very excited to see people getting involved and enjoying the sense of community.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dame's Coffee Espresso Bar - Big Taste, Big Cost

As it’s mid-June and pouring rain, perhaps you aren’t looking for a delicious iced beverage at this exact moment, but if you were, I’d point you in the direction of Dame’s Coffee Espresso Bar. Dame’s opened in Jersey City about two years ago and quickly established itself by having some of the best coffee around with Counter Culture beans and baristas who take their time to make sure you’re getting a quality beverage. Dame’s offers all the standards you find at an independent coffee house – lattes, americanos, etc. and on this particular day, I went for an iced mocha.

They pretty much only come in one size (stick of butter as obviously the best reference) which I estimate to be the equivalent of a medium at most places which is a decent size, but goes quickly, at least for me.  There’s a strong espresso flavor working with the chocolate, not hiding it behind it. The chocolate is dark, rich and semi-sweet at best which I love. One thing I didn’t love was the ring of chocolate that settled on the bottom that no amount of stirring would help.

Even taking that into account, this drink is much more complex and heavier in flavor than a mocha you’d get at Starbucks or another major chain...but it’s also more expensive than even those pricey options – my drink was over $5 and that seems to be pretty standard for most of their specialty beverages with drip coffee starting at $2.50.

All in All:
As high quality as this coffee is and as much as I love it, the price tag makes it something I would consider once in a while versus making it my weekend coffee spot. Dame’s also sells some pastries from various bakeries as well as a couple other specialty seasonal beverages (currently fresh squeezed lemonade!) which helps keeps things interesting, but I’m the first to say the cost doesn't justify frequent visits to check everything out, no matter how much I might want to.

Dame’s Coffee Espresso Bar, located at 581 Jersey Ave between 3rd and 4th streets. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Monmouth Street Deli - An Italian Deli Worth Visiting

Welcome!  I’ve lived in Jersey City for about six years in which time, I have eaten a number of sandwiches throughout the city. However, I recently came upon a new recommendation: Monmouth Street Deli.

The sandwiches focus heavily on Italian cold cuts with fresh mozzarella and there’s a wide selection of Italian mains – pastas, parms, etc. as well as a selection of hot daily specials, cold salads and sides out for you to ogle and drool over. Monmouth Street also had refrigerators containing some frozen pastas and raviolis, whole milk ricotta, and some other cheeses.  Not a huge selection, but enough to put together some pretty good meals.

On my visit, I was sucked in by a list of special subs they have up on the wall and selected the Monmouth Street Sub: peppered ham, turkey, salami with fresh mozzarella, imported sharp provolone, roasted peppers, and olive oil on a roll.  Figured I couldn’t go wrong with the namesake, right?