From the trendy food store that brought us the glory of “Three-Buck Chuck” (Charles Shaw wine for $2.99) and so many other tasty and organic goodies comes their very own blend of scotch-whisky. This store has long been famous for their wine selection and wonderfully creative food items, which covers such a wide variety and stretches across many nationalities. While Charles Shaw wine has become famous due to Trader Joe’s import of them to stores nationwide, it does not bear their brand on the label. None of their liquor ever did, if I recall correctly. However, with a recent visit to their location in Westfield, they are apparently getting in on the action with their own liquor labels and branching out to include way more than wine. There were now different types of whiskey, topping out at $23.99 for a bottle of single-malt scotch, while more exotic liquors such as the Peruvian Pisco came in at a very reasonable $18.99. Being a big scotch fan, I settled on a one liter bottle of “blended scotch whisky”, out of curiosity, which was an eye-opening $10.99.
Its going to look great on your shelf and be a source of intrigue and questions as long as it has a place on your bar. “Ghost whiskey? Hmm what’s that?” Well, that’s a good question. According to the label, the spirit (pun-intended) is not “un-aged white dog”, but it sure tastes like it (the product is actually aged for two years in white oak barrels, so they claim). Actually, on its own, this white whiskey tastes borderline disgusting. Not strong, just icky. It does not even have an alcoholy taste, its just plain weird, and causes you to smack your lips and maybe eek a little bit. That said, when mixed with ginger ale or a ginger beer, some kind of magical transformation happens and it actually begins to taste good. That would be my recommendation: you have to mix it with your favorite mixer for it to be bearable.
I blame Andrew Johnson. Had Reconstruction in the post-Civil War era in American history not been such an abysmal failure, perhaps we would not be in the shape we are currently in when it comes to race relations in this country. Putting modern ignorance and our ability to be so easily distracted aside, Reconstruction was presented with a gaping wound that required surgery. Instead, they slapped a band-aid on it and called it a day. Over the last 150 years, that band-aid started to peel off, and the response has been to keeping pushing it back and rubbing it down, and maybe putting a piece of tape over the ends. Now, with various race-related incidents nationwide over the last year, we are confronted with the same situation. Are we finally going to go in for surgery, or do we just put another band-aid on it? I am not getting into the Confederate Flag debate on this blog. As a Civil War scholar, I will not allow myself to stoop down to discuss what a popularized notion of the flag is, and the history that attaches itself to that. However, if you are of the mindset that simply demanding what the masses believe to be a racist symbol to come down is the answer to ending racism in this country, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are seriously mistaken.
Restaurant: Bollywood Tadka
Date: Cumulative Visits
Location: 415 Route 18, East Brunswick, NJ
At any given time when you have dinner at Bollywood Tadka, up on several big screens near the ceiling, you can view Bollywood films, but that is not where the real show is. Indian food may be my favorite food, it’s a close debate. So for me to rave about such a restaurant, it must be good. I’ll say, for starters, that I have never had a bad meal here. There is a consistency that comes with each dish that leaves you wanting more. Somehow, foods that may seem strange and exotic to people who are not as adventurous with their eating would find something they could enjoy here.
Restaurant: Fiesta Grill Filipino Restaurant
Date: Sunday, June 22, 2015
Location: 655 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
This is going to be an odd review, because I’m not going to be able to actually name any dishes. Instead, I will rely on descriptions of what I ate, because quite frankly, I was the only non-Filipino eating in Fiesta Grill at the time. Part of me is grateful for that, because it made me feel temporarily transported to another world. It also gave me the heads-up that this would be authentic Filipino food, not an Americanized restaurant that we see with so many Mexican joints all over the place. I visited with two people: a friend and his aunt, both of whom are regulars. Because there was little English exchanged by anyone besides me and them, and the signs on the wall were vague, I relied on the aunt to translate and pick dishes for me. “Pork, you said? Yes please. Oh, what’s that? More pork? Sure, pile it on!” By the time I was done eating my way through the cafeteria line, all I needed was an ice cold beer and maybe a Lipitor.
Restaurant: Portuguese Manor Restaurant and Lounge
Date: Cumulative Visits
Location: 310 Elm Street, Perth Amboy, NJ
There are some people that may call Portuguese Manor in Perth Amboy dated. Some may complain that the decor and menu has not changed in at least 10 years (that’s just how long my family and I have been eating there; they have been in existence much longer). But with that reluctance to change comes a bit of charm and eternal greatness. It is not necessarily a step back in time—its not that old. But I would surmise perhaps the late 1980’s or early 90’s is when they opened, and the overall business is probably unchanged. The good side to a menu that refuses to alter is that the prices, somehow, have also stayed the same. This means you can get a massive filet mignon served with a large side of saffron rice, Portuguese fried potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower for $19. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no other place on the planet where you will get such quality and quantity. Sometimes you may find yourself unable to even finish your portion.
Restaurant: Dublin House
Date: Saturday, June 13
Location: 30 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, NJ
The Dublin House is a very popular and oft-talked about dining establishment in Red Bank, New Jersey. For years, I have heard people rave about the food and how it is one of the best places to eat in the trendy, almost hipster-like town. To get right to the point, the meal I had a couple weeks ago was excellent, but I am not sure if it will be enough to get me to return. I ate there with a friend, and we decided on the macaroni and cheese bites for an appetizer. It was $10, so I was expecting a semi-large portion. When it arrived, there were five or six sad and obviously frozen looking triangular bits of fried mac ‘n cheese. The taste was okay–nothing special– but it left a lot to be desired. It was minuscule, certainly not worth the price. Had they been homemade and a little bit better quantity, then absolutely. They are incredibly easy (and cheap) to make, which always makes me wonder why restaurants all over revert to frozen appetizers.