New Jersey Nosh

US – Northeast

As on most Saturday mornings I was preparing to go grab breakfast at one of my usual haunts when I remembered a new spot I’d seen on my way to the Doctor earlier in the week. It was in a spot that has been at least two other restaurants that I’d visited so I thought let’s see what #3 might have going for it.

I checked them out online and when I saw this on the menu I knew I had to check them out.

I figured if they had crayons on the salad I needed to see if they were cooking with E-Z Bake ovens and using a Lite Brite for the menu board. (Spoiler Alert – they didn’t and aren’t).

When I got to Momma’s Place I was the only patron in the restaurant. I was greeted and seated quickly and set up with coffee and a menu. When I got the menu the guy waiting on me let me know the whole menu was open so order anything I wanted. As tempting as a crayone salad might have been or more seriously an empanada for breakfast I decided to stick with “regular” breakfast fare.

In this case a bagel with eggs, pork roll & provolone cheese.

Now getting to that required navigating a lot of options. The stock breakfast sandwich is two eggs (fried, scrambled or omelet style) on a roll or bagel (plain, everything or cinnamon raisin). You can add meat (bacon, Italian sausage, pork roll or ham) or cheese (American, Swiss, provolone, cheddar, pepper jack, muenster, or Monterrey jack) for little extra.

Never having had pork roll and after some discussion about how pork roll was like the unofficial official breakfast meat of New Jersey & New York I had to try it out. It’s also called Taylor ham in some quarters for reasons you can find out on Wikipedia after Googling it.

Looking at the photo you may have had the same reaction I did, “that’s just fried bologna man.” It was in fact fried but it was definitely more hammy tasting that bologna. It was fried to the point where it was a little bit crispy and paired well with the rest of the sandwich.

The staff of this place was really great, friendly and more than willing to converse with the customers and answer any questions. I’ll definitely go back and try some of their other offerings, although I’m still not that keen to try the crayons.

Salivating over Salvadoran

El Salvador

After seeing an early showing of Captain Marvel I decided to just take a right onto South Blvd in Charlotte and see what struck my fancy. I had confidence there’d at least be something with a Latin American influence along the route that would serve. After passing a few that didn’t lure me in I decided to pull into a strip lot parking lot because I saw a Mexican place at the end that looked promising. The I saw Restaurante Comalapa that advertised being Salvadoran, Honduran & Mexican and that roped me right in.

When I first walked in and the waitress rounded the corner and saw me it apparently threw her off her game because she just stood there for a bit staring at me. I don’t know if she thought I was lost, wanted to use the phone or what but after a few seconds of silence I decided to help her out and said “Just uno” and that seemed to cut through the confusion and she went into action, grabbing a menu and beckoning me to follow.

As soon as butt hit booth she asked if I wanted guacamole fresco & chips so I said sure. I expected her to ask me what I wanted to drink first but nope that didn’t come up until she came back several minutes later with a platter of chips, salsa and guacamole.

I ordered up a Modelo Especial and tried my first bite of the guacamole. So let me say until just a few years ago I called this green concoction gag-a-mole or gackamole but I’ve had a change of heart and will eat it now and then. Based on that I am no connoisseur of guacamole but this was the best I’ve ever had. They mean the “fresco” part and that’s why she asked immediately because they make it to order. All the ingredients tasted fresh and it was both creamy and chunky with just the right amount of salt and cilantro. I did try the salsa and while it was good it was the second place finisher in a two dip race. Let me also add this is an appetizer and will show on the bill.

I tried to order the chicken tamales for my meal since the picture made them look pretty cool and they came wrapped in a plantain leaf. I barely got the word tamale out of my mouth and she was channeling her inner Soup Nazi with “no tamales for you!” At least she followed it up with “we ran out”. OK so it wasn’t personal. She recommended the other dish I was considering, pupusas.

These are kind of like corn flour pancakes stuffed with cheese and / or other things like the pork I got. They came with cabbage salad and a thin tomato sauce. I tasted the cabbage salad first and it was crunchy and tart with a bit of carrot and some green herb I think was oregano. At first I thought it was vinegar giving the tangy acidity but the more I had of it the more it reminded me of the tang from fermentation like the homemade sauerkraut I made last year. Regardless it was good but still only a side dish.

The pupusas were new to me but I’m now a fan, at least of the ones from Comalapa. They had a nice corn taste and the filling was ground pork with a little seasoning. It was ground fine, not quite a paste, so the filling layer wasn’t thick, just enough to give additional flavor to the corn bread. The tomato sauce for dipping was called “special” on the menu but that was optimistic at best. It was thin and fairly tasteless but to me it was extraneous anyway. The papusas stood on their own.

Overall I’d have to say this lunch was no kind of fancy but some kind of good. If you find yourself in the neighborhood stop in and grab a meal. Oh and by the end of the meal the waitress was friendly and chatty and on the way out the lady at the register made a point of waving, thanked me for coming and invited me back soon.

Italian Yum

Italian Snacks

The February box from Universal Yum was loaded with snacks from the best country shaped like footwear and like quality footwear even if it’s not your style it’s hard to say bad stuff about it. Nothing in this box fell into the “yuck” category although a couple were unusual enough to make you go hmmm.

It was hard to pick a favorite this month. Nothing really stood out far and away above the others but it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate an hazelnuts so here was the one that edged out the others.

The chocolate was good and the hazelnut chips, while not evenly distributed, managed to show up in every bite. Plus I like the packaging, no glitz just information. Interesting marketing.

Number two on the hit parade revisits the same combo.

That trapezoidal chocolate hunk in the middle is the runner up. The chocolate is silkier than the bar and the hazelnut flavor is fully saturated in the candy. As I’m writing this it occurs to me the reason this is in second place has more to do with size rather than taste. I guess it does matter.

The most unusual was a tie between a sweet and a savory.

The white chocolate bar with saffron was interesting. The white candy part was nothing special on it’s own but the saffron was a nice addition. It was subtle but obvious on first bite but the distinctiveness fell off with each additional square. After a break though the next first bite was interesting all over again.

The savory item was a lemon pepper wheat cracker sort of thing. After tasting the first one I decided this was going to be pared with some soup. In this case lentil soup. The tart lemon and spiciness of the black pepper were a perfect accompaniment to the earthy lentils. I’d not have thought about that combo in a cracker but it worked.

So my least favorite wasn’t really bad but just the back of the pack overall.

I feel like I should have liked these more but the truffle chips really just didn’t do it for me. The chips were crispy and their truffle game was strong but maybe too strong. I could taste the truffle before it even hit the tongue and it was just as strong on the last chip as it was on the first.

I have to give honorably mention to the almond crisp cookies.

After I had the first one I immediately got up and fixed a cup of coffee. Great almond taste and crispy and crunchy like nobody’s business. I don’t think I’ve a better coffee companion in quite a while.

The other items in the box were a carrot orange cake, tiramisu cake, rosemary crackers, pizza flavored corn puff rings, cappuccino chocolate ball and fizzy hard candies in lemon and orange flavor. All snack worthy.

I didn’t even crack the code for March. I figured I let it be a surprise.