Sunday, November 20, 2011

Waitress, there's a bug in my salad

Hotel Caesar's in Tijuana, built in 1929 or 19...
Image via Wikipedia
Hotel Caesar's in Tijuana, Mexico, built for Italian-born Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur who moved to Mexico and is commonly credited with creation of the lovely Caesar Salad.

Editor's note: Today, I describe a return visit to Amici Family Restaurant in Bergenfield, preparations for Thanksgiving, and free-range, grass-fed Australian beef.

If you go to Amici Family Restaurant, a BYO that serves big portions at reasonable prices, it makes sense to share dishes to keep the final bill down.

We tried that Saturday evening, but ran into a couple of problems with sanitation and food in a busy dining room, and I'm not sure we'll return.

We started with a well-dressed, family style Caesar Salad, combining two portions at $6.95 each, but the romaine lettuce was cut into confetti-like strands that were hard to eat. 

We loved all the grated cheese, but not the over abundance of croutons.

A bigger problem was the tiny bug my mother-in-law found as she ate her first serving of the salad. When she put it aside, it fell, jumped or flew to the floor, and she couldn't find it again.

My wife and her mother also shared two menu items, an appetizer of Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($8.95) and an entree of Red Snapper Amici with vegetables  ($17.95), plus a side order of linguine in tomato sauce ($6.95).

They loved the large, moist crab cake and all the crab used in it, but found the thick fish fillet tough, even chewy, as if it had been frozen, precooked or overcooked. My wife said it wasn't red snapper. I tried a piece and agreed.

I also ordered an entree from the regular menu, Zuppa di Pesce in a fra diavolo sauce, but chose the gluten-free penne instead of regular linguine ($17.95).

I loved the spicy tomato sauce, the delicious, fresh-tasting shellfish, scallops and shrimp; and my first gluten-free pasta, which was cooked al dente -- all served in an oversized soup bowl. 

Service was terrific. The restaurant has added at least two servers to handle the crowds that responded to a favorable review in the newspaper, and the dining room was full when we left around 6:30.

We told our waitress about the fish, but not the bug. When I looked over the bill at home, I didn't see a charge for the salad we had shared.

Amici Family Restaurant, 127 S. Washington St., 
Bergenfield; 201-374-1996. BYO, off-street parking.

Thanksgiving meal

We drove to Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff on Friday to pick up the fresh-killed turkey I ordered over the phone, and left with a few other items.

The turkey, raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics, weighs just under 14 pounds at $2.39 a pound, bigger than the 10-12 pound bird I had ordered. 

We also asked for eight split turkey wings ($16.65) and a half-dozen duck eggs ($1.25 each). Duck eggs have really large yolks, but at this price, I probably won't buy them again.

An 18-ounce bottle of Uncle Dougie's Chicago-Style Chicken Wing Marinade -- a wickedly spicy sauce that's great with turkey wings, too -- was $5. 49.

In the past, we've ordered only turkey drumsticks, thighs and wings from the farm, but this year, we needed a whole turkey to serve white meat to my mother-in-law.

At nearly 14 pounds, I don't think it will fit into our electric rotisserie, so I asked my wife to pick up a turkey roaster while she was shopping at the mall on Saturday morning.

I gave her a J.C. Penney circular, and she came home with a Philippe Richard-brand, 2-piece, nonstick steel roasting pan for $18.89 -- with a mail-in rebate of $10.

Of course, it's made in China, which doesn't have a great record for food safety, but I hand-washed the pieces and put them away for use on Thursday.

On the way to the farm on Friday, we stopped at Whole Foods Market in Paramus for a fully cooked, naturally raised Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Ham to serve with the turkey ($7.99 a pound), but could find only a drug-free Wellshire Farms Virginia Baked Deli Ham ($6.99 a pound).

Then, I couldn't find the credit card I had used, so returned to the store on Saturday. I didn't find the card, but did find the Niman Ranch ham, which is raised without antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products. 

Beef from Australia

The ShopRite circular is advertising Nature's Reserve Boneless Rib Eye Roasts from Australia at $5.99 a pound under the words "All Natural, Free Range, Grass Fed."

For several months now, I've been trying to get updated information on how cattle and sheep are raised in Australia, especially those destined for export.

At ShopRite, Costco Wholesale and elsewhere, Australian lamb often is labeled in the store, and the words "All Natural" and "Grass Fed" don't appear on the labels.

ShopRite is the only North Jersey supermarket I know that sells Australian beef, and it's marketed under the Nature's Reserve label, but the words "Grass Fed" don't appear there, either.

I've been referred to the Web site of Meat and Livestock Australia, a ranchers group, and have found extensive discussions of cattle and sheep being raised on pasture, including the methane gas released by grass-eating animals.

Here's is a link to the Web site: Grazing and Pasture Management

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  1. Victor, was the managment at Amici's using the table nearest the pizza oven as a de-facto office area?

  2. I've seen that, but they weren't on Saturday night. Apparently, the place fills up early, and maybe they adjourn the meeting before the crowd arrives.

  3. Either that or the crowd gets too loud for them to conduct business in the dining area LOL


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