Sushi O in Edison NJ

Shrimp teriyaki lunch bento box

Going out to eat with my college boy is a guaranteed trip to an Asian restaurant. There are so many different places to eat near Rutgers that we almost never go to the same place twice. We picked Sushi O for lunch because neither of us have been there.

Lunch prices were great. Less than $9 for bento boxes, and even less for kitchen selections. I went with the shrimp teriyaki bento box, which was served with edamame, California roll, fried shrimp shumai, with soup and salad to start. My son picked 3 rolls for $10.95, though I really can't imagine how filling that can be! My husband got beef teriyaki without the fixings, as he is the picky one of the family.

Despite the low prices, this place had a surprisingly romantic ambiance. I would just suggest switching off the radio pop music. The servers were pleasant, prompt, and funny.

Soup & salad included with lunch

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Ocean Harbor in Philly's Chinatown

Dim sum selections

The weekend is the worst time to go to Chinatown-- any Chinatown. But on this particular Sunday, I had a hankering for dim sum, and it wasn't going away until I got some. After circling the block a couple of times, my friend and I gave up and finally parked in the garage across the street.

It's a shame there were only two of us. It would have been better to go with more people-- the more is not only the merrier, but also a way to try a little bit of everything without getting stuffed. We just made the best of it with ordering only what we really fancied from the pushcarts: 2 shrimp dumplings, 2 shrimp rice noodles, 1 stuffed tofu, 1 vegetable dumplings, 1 heaping plates of greens, and 1 sticky rice stuffed with meats. We also got chrysanthemum tea, which was too flowery for my taste. Next time, I am sticking to plain black tea.

Altogether, our bill was just $31. We have no idea how much each plate cost. Everything was stamped in Chinese and our servers barely spoke English. Service was poor due to our miscommunication and their lack of patience. A common joke among my friends is that these establishments are the only places we CHOOSE to go to, EXPECT poor service, and still RETURN to!

I've seen the horrible reviews. And to all those reviews, I say-- Eh. This comes with the territory of having an authentic experience. Paying just $31 for 8 food items? Cannot complain.

After the dim sum rush

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Beer Bread by Boardwalk Food Company

Cornbread, one of four flavor options

Beer bread mix prior to adding beer and butter

My favorite summer beer: Red Stripe

My daughter cracked up when I said to her pediatrician that "it smells like spring outside." Having enjoyed her many snow days this winter, she does not see why most adults are excited about winter ending.

A package that arrived last week was just the ticket to usher me into the warmer seasons. It contained a box of beer bread mix by Boardwalk Food Company, with its nostalgic illustrations of colorful boardwalk shops with striped awnings. Founder, Andy Yochum, certainly has a heartwarming mission of bringing this nostalgia into our homes, with a genius concept of marrying beer & bread-- two of the best things in the gastronomic universe.

Making it is both fun and easy. Add 12 oz. of your choice of beer and half a stick of melted butter to the mix, bake in a loaf pan, mini-muffin pans, or regular muffin pans. I regret not having taken a video because, from the moment I poured the frothy beer into the bowl, there was an instant party in my kitchen. I used my favorite summer beer, Red Stripe, and used regular muffin-sized cups. Within minutes, my whole house was warm with the aroma of beer and cornbread, and it was heavenly.

Since I believe that sharing is caring, I gifted friends and family with goody bags containing beer bread muffins. Since the alcohol is cooked off during the baking process, my kids were able to try them, too. 

The verdict: Beer bread is a great invention! Among the beer connoisseurs, the hint of beer was a pleasant surprise. Its novelty was also a party hit, as it was both fun as a conversation piece as well as simply being a tasty treat. From the different ways we tried it, it was best served warm with butter on top, but was also quite good with cheese (as pictured).  

There are four flavors to try: original, cornbread, lemon poppy, and rosemary sea salt. They can be ordered online and can also be found at The Bottle King, which is the largest retailer of wine, beer, and spirits in New Jersey. The possibilities are endless with the many types of beer one can buy, so a unique kind of bread can be had each time. 

Please check out Boardwalk Food Company's website for more information:

They are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy eating!

Right out of the oven


Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City NYC

My friend invited me to lunch at Manducatis Rustica, as she knows the chef and owner, and in general-- wanted to show me this dining gem in Queens. It was pretty quiet during lunch, because it was a weekend and because it was rainy out. I was able to explore and appreciate the space more, with its brick walls and eclectic choice of contemporary art, grounded with a very old school formality of dining. It's a place to have good food and fun.

We started with two antipasti items: burrata mozzarella served with homemade pizza bread and grilled Spanish octopus, which was buttery and tender. My friend and her husband opted for fish plates, and I enjoyed shrimp over gluten-free pasta, with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and arugula in white wine sauce. Our seafood was well-paired with a bottle of white wine.

A perfect end to our relaxed and enjoyable meal was a round of coffee and cannoli. From start to finish, it was all just so delightfully delicious. The biggest perk was meeting Gianna, whose tag of "Come Home for Dinner," really comes from the heart.

Gluten-free pasta


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Hailey's Harp & Pub in Metuchen NJ

Sullivan Sampler

My friends and I got our headstart to St. Patty's celebrations by going on Friday the 13th instead. Don't get me wrong-- Hailey's was still very much alive and hopping without the annual holiday. It's a great spot for people who want to have good, loud fun, with good, filling food, whether it's a couple on a date, a group of friends, or even families. The place is tight, but if you don't mind, no one else does either!

March Madness was a special cocktail that started us off, followed by beer and other cocktails, and we all ended with Irish coffees. In our group, two people ordered burgers; one friend ordered a dish called "Sweet 16" though we were stumped as to why the oversized fish sandwich with a side of slaw was called that; my husband got a more straightforward fish & chips platter; and to make things easy yet satisfying for myself, I got the Sullivan Sampler.

Irish food is not much to look at, as someone once told me, but whatever it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in personality. My sampler was the best representation of it all. I got corned beef & cabbage, Irish ham, shepherd's pie, and bangers and mash, all in one. The server, along with my friends, all cheered me on in polishing off the plate meant for two people. It was all part of the fun and magic that I now know about Hailey's.

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Queens Comfort in Astoria NY

"Down by Law" ... I asked for no-bun to make it gluten-free friendly

Blue Bottle coffee

My friend wanted to celebrate her last day of work and her upcoming new job, and she chose the aptly named Queens Comfort for its vibrantly kitschy and cozy atmosphere with a great selection of comfort foods. Three-quarters of the menu is made up of sandwiches, though the starters offers up some non-sandwich entree options, like the mac & cheese, which was popular with our group.

Unfortunately, my photos did not do the plates any justice. Especially when I asked for no-bun, which would've made my plate look more appetizing. I got the "Down by Law" chicken sandwich for its interesting condiment of bacon jam, combined with avocado and chipotle mayo. I would suggest using real roast chicken and slathering more bacon jam!

My daughter loved her "adult" bacon cheeseburger, prepared medium, and I enjoyed picking off my husband's plate of BBQ pulled pork and fresh slaw. Despite my low enthusiasm for my plate, I practically licked my plate clean which speaks for itself.

Just like the bodegas of olden days, this place takes CASH ONLY. It's also BYOB, so don't forget your 40, in or out of a brown bag.

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WildFlour Bakery & Cafe in Lawrenceville NJ

There comes a time in a gluten-free diet that one says-- enough is enough, I need to eat bread, dammit! Well, that day finally came, though I seriously have been really committed and alright without bread since the summer. I had found WildFlour on a search a while back, and it was time to pay a visit.

My husband and I started with our customary coffee (for me) and latte (for him), then ordered pancakes and a grilled cheese sandwich to share. My husband wasn't happy with his latter, but I was so over the moon about the food that I didn't care!

The weird thing about eating gluten-free bread is that it feels like it's going to crumble and fall apart before it makes it into your mouth. You can imagine the mind games it plays. It looks like bread, but it isn't. At WildFlour, the sliced bread for the sandwich was thick and soft, and even though it threatened to crumble, it was really good. The muhammara, a red pepper hummus with crushed walnuts, was a real scene stealer, and the plate really wouldn't have been as memorable without it. The pancakes were good, but you can tell something about it was different. Mind games, I tell you.

I do recommend WildFlour to anyone on a gluten-free diet. It has a great vibe, similar to what I look for in a place, gluten-free or not. So it's not just a run-of-the-mill bakery and cafe, it really is something special with its artisanal offerings and a cool, inviting space. If it was closer than 10 miles to my house, I'd definitely visit regularly.

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Tiffin in Wynnewood PA

Chicken korma

Traveled to the outer suburbs of Philadelphia to visit my friend's mother in the hospital. Our appetites had grown for a hearty dinner, so after our visit, my friend and I did not want to travel far. She had heard of Tiffin, and there was one location by the chain, in a little strip mall next to Old Navy and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

The interior makes you forget you are in a strip mall, though the square layout is a giveaway. For a Thursday night, near closing, the place was half-full, so it was a good sign. The menu is mostly a la carte, though at least rice is included with the viand options.

Between the two of us, we shared a cauliflower vegetarian dish, a lamb dish, and chicken korma. My friend enjoyed a special naan with a coconut and nut filling. I was so surprised with the quality of the food, especially the korma's sauce which was complex and hearty with crushed cashews and ginger bits. I still had enough to bring home and enjoy the next day.

Tiffin has several locations, and I believe they deliver in the city. Give it a try at least once, and they may impress you also for a second round, or it can even become a staple.

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