For your appetizer, choose between soup or salad. For your main course, bite into a 7 oz. filet with mashed potatoes and asparagus sides. For dessert, treat yourself to a decadent chocolate torte – all for just $30.
3 courses: $30
Call ahead for reservations: (856) 456-CHUB (2482)
Looking for a family-friendly way to help tackle hunger in South Jersey? Check out COMMUNITY.
On Sunday, February 10, South Jersey nonprofit COMMUNITY [sic] hosted an event at LourdesCare in Cherry Hill. Founded in November 2016 by a group of friends, the organization aims to bring people together to serve local communities in need.
This Sunday, volunteers assembled 400 bagged lunches that were then delivered to Project Home, Anna M. Sample Women’s Shelter, and underserved populations in Camden. The bags contained bagels with cream cheese; turkey and cheese sandwiches, granola bars; bananas; apples; and bottled water, items donated by volunteers.
I recently learned of the program through my friend Chetna Macwan, a local chef and culinary instructor who volunteers at COMMUNITY with her children. She explained that COMMUNITY events, which often take place on weekends, are family-friendly.
Because I brought my four-year-old son with me, I was relieved to see other young children at the event. By the time we arrived, the room bustled with busy volunteers. We were greeted by friendly faces who directed us toward kid-friendly ways to help.
We stayed for an hour, during which time my son helped place label stickers on the brown lunch bags. We also got to help put food items into the bags. The organization was kind enough to provide snacks and juice for the kids in attendance.
My impression of COMMUNITY was of a well-run organization with a sincere mission to help local communities. Finding kid-friendly volunteer opportunities isn’t easy, especially since I wouldn’t want our attendance to be a hindrance to any charity.
We felt welcomed at COMMUNITY, and I found the event to be a good opportunity to introduce the idea of hunger to my son in an age-appropriate way. He enjoyed having the chance to help out, and we hope to attend more COMMUNITY events in the future.
Want to help? Check out COMMUNITY ‘s Facebook page, which provides a listing of upcoming events. High school and college students can also apply for an internship with COMMUNITY through their website.
Set between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, South Jersey’s restaurant scene continues to diversify and innovate. In 2018, South Jerseyans welcomed a number of new restaurants.
To ring in the new year, we take a look back at a few of the best new restaurants to hit South Jersey during the past twelve months.
I crowdsourced this article by polling other South Jersey food bloggers on Instagram and Twitter to see which new restaurants they loved most. I’ve included an asterisk in front of the places I’ve personally visited and enjoyed.
One thing I learned from writing this article: I have a lot of new restaurants I need to try in 2019.
(Cherry Hill) – In 2008, Paul Altero and Bill Hart opened the first Bubbakoo’s location in Point Pleasant. After several years in operation, Altero and Hart set an ambitious goal to open hundreds of regional Bubbakoo’s shops. Today, Bubbakoo’s boasts more than two dozen locations – all sporting a surf-skater vibe – throughout the Garden State. In 2018, they opened one of their newest shops in Cherry Hill. With a menu that includes modern, customizable options like tacos, burrito bowls, and nachos, Bubbakoo’s quickly earned a reputation for fast, mouthwatering Mexican-American cuisine.
Online ordering available at some locations. Offers kids’ menu. Discount student meals (with valid ID) also offered.
56 Haddonfield Rd. Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Monday – Sunday: 11 am – 9 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Bubbakoo’s Cherry Hill location.
(Sewell) – Burger Barr calls itself a BYOB, but you can leave the booze at home. In this case, BYOB stands for “Build-Your-Own-Burger.” Burger Barr wants their customers to get creative. Using a highly customizable burger menu, diners can select from their choice of meats, cheeses, buns, sauces, and toppings to create a burger perfectly suited to individual tastes. Unique menu standouts include Kobe wagyu beef; pretzel buns; and truffle aioli.
(Merchantville) – Enjoy a variety of crepes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Charlie’s Crepes. Co-owners Charles Koory and Lisa Ciacciarelli Koory, husband and wife, launched their crepe business at a South Jersey farmer’s market. Today, they remain committed to seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. Try traditional, savory crepe staples like Ham and Cheese – or order one of their more adventurous options like Sherry Shallot Mushroom Crepes with garlic lime crema. When you’re craving something sweet, Charlie’s also sells creative crepe desserts, like their Schober Orchards Vanilla Bourbon Peach Crepes with candied pecans and salted caramel.
(Cherry Hill) – Offering globally-influenced, modern American cuisine, Denim American Bistro opened in October in the historic Cherry Hill landmark that once housed La Campagne. Chef David Murray innovates with dishes like Ahi Tuna Crudo and Vegan Beetloaf. Visitors who remember La Campagne might be surprised – and pleased – by some of the changes to the restaurant’s interior, which include refinished hardwood floors and wells decked out in blue. When you come, bring a pair of jeans to donate and score a free dessert. Denim donations support Teens for Jeans, a nonprofit that helps clothe homeless youth.
312 Kresson Road Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Romantic, intimate ambiance for date nights. Offers a kids’ menu; gluten-free menu; and vegetarian menu. Food-allergy-friendly. BYOB. Wine available for purchase.
(Collingswood) – Cozy meets creative at this Collingswood BYOB, which has been lauded for its quality fare and romantic ambiance. Chef Dominic Piperno uses locally-sourced ingredients to create contemporary meat, seafood, and pasta dishes cooked on a wood-fired hearth in front of customers. Visitors rave about Hearthside’s attention to detail – in both food and setting.
Locally-sourced ingredients. Romantic, intimate setting good for date nights.
(Palmyra) – In 2018, Philadelphia’s The Farmacy gained a second home in Palmyra. Chefs Ross Scofield and Danielle Coulte seek out sustainable, seasonal, and local ingredients for the comfort food they create. Visitors especially love their weekend brunch menu, which includes items like Cannoli French Toast and a Salmon B.L.T.
Locally-sourced ingredients. Vegan options.
307 W Broad St. Palmyra, New Jersey
Friday: 9 am – 2 pm Saturday: 9 pm – 2 pm Sunday: 9 am – 2 pm
(Cinnaminson) – Amazon natives have been eating acai berries for thousands of years. But it wasn’t until recently that health-conscious restauranteurs popularized acai as a trendy breakfast item. In 2016, a recent college graduate and Jersey resident named Brooke Gagliano opened the first two Frutta Bowl locations in Freehold. Serving acai bowls, pitaya bowls, smoothies, and other health-inspired treats, the franchise now has locations all over the eastern United States – including ones in Marlton and Cinnaminson.
Note: I had two minor gripes with Frutta Bowls during my visit. They don’t offer a kids’ menu, which can get expensive if you’re a parent. Secondly, they don’t publish their nutritional information, which I feel should be standard at a health-inspired chain. Still, I kept them on this list because their bowls were delicious, and they’re offering something new and innovative.
195 Route 130 Cinnaminson, New Jersey
Monday – Sunday: 9 am – 8 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Frutta Bowl’s Cinnaminson location. Read her guide on where to find acai bowls in South Jersey.
(Somers Point) – In 1908, the building that now houses Josie Kelly’s Public House was built as a grocery store before becoming a restaurant called Mac’s in 1924. As they renovated the historic building, co-owners Dermot and Kathleen Lloyd modeled the restaurant and bar in the tradition of a coastal Irish pub and named it after Dermot’s Irish grandmother Josephine. They envision it as a welcoming, neighborly place where people can come together for drinks and good food.
(Marlton) – South Jersey has no shortage of Italian eateries, and this strip-mall BYOB’s standard Italian-American menu is nothing exceptional. But what Korner Bistro lacks in originality it makes up for in quality. Although it opened just a few months ago, the restaurant has already established a reputation for exceptionally tasty fare. Korner Bistro offers brunch all day long, every day, in addition to their lunch and dinner menu.
(Collingswood) – In 2018, Collingswood topped USA Today’s list of the “Best Small Town Food Scene” in the country – and for good reason. Whatever you’re craving, you won’t go hungry in Collingswood. Macona BBQ is one of the newest arrivals to the town’s restaurant scene. With walls adorned in murals painted by local artist Chuck Styles, this casual eatery specializes in southern-inspired comfort foods like smoked brisket and ribs, homemade pickles, and macaroni and cheese. Even if you’re an herbivore, don’t write this one off your bucket list: Macona also offers seitan-based, vegan options.
Casual. Vegan options available.
577 Haddon Ave. Collingswood, New Jersey
Monday – Saturday: 11 am – 9 pm Sunday: 11 am – 4 pm
(Pennsauken) – A hot trend throughout the country, food trucks continue to innovate by offering food to match every craving. With Italian takeout specialties that include flatbread, sandwiches, pastas, salads, and of course – homemade meatballs, Mama’s Meatballs began as a food truck before opening their store in Pennsauken. While Mama’s specializes in meat, vegetarians shouldn’t shy away from this popular eatery: Mama’s also serves up a vegetarian “Veg-Da Ball” made from beans and vegetables and fried in soy oil.
Takeout. Vegetarian options. Catering with online ordering option available.
2673 Haddonfield Rd. Pennsauken, New Jersey
Monday – Friday: 11 am – 9 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Mama’s Meatballs. Read her full review on the PhillyGrub website.
(Hammonton) – When a baker’s popularity outgrows her own food truck, she’s probably doing something right. In 2014, Gabriella Tomasello Mannino launched her cannoli food truck business. By 2016, The Daily Meal had named Mannino’s one of the top 100 food trucks in the country. While she continues to serve the tri-state area from her food cart, in 2018 Mannino also opened her brick-and-mortar shop along Hammonton’s newly revitalized Bellevue Avenue. Mannino’s offers a variety of cannolis, cakes, espresso beverages, and creamy Italian gelato in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. Grab lunch at one of downtown Hammonton’s many noteworthy eateries – and don’t forget to stop in at Mannino’s for dessert. Bonus: they carry spumoni gelato, a flavor that’s proven difficult to find in South Jersey.
(Collingswood) – Score another victory for Collingswood – and Stephen Starr. BYOB Porch and Proper has earned five-star reviews from diners and critics alike. Seasoned veterans in the restaurant industry, co-owners Jason and Casey Simkins have previously managed other Stephen Starr restaurants like famed Buddakan and Morimoto. At Porch and Proper, Executive Chef Ryan McQuillan sources his ingredients from local vendors. McQuillan uses seasonal vegetables and herbs – including those grown in Porch and Proper’s own picturesque garden – to create their gourmet dishes, which include items as diverse as Seared Fois Gras and Smoked Cauliflower Steak. The restaurant – set inside a historic building – has also been lauded for its beautiful design, which is the brainchild of local artist Hillary O’Carroll.
Seasonal, locally-grown ingredients. Al fresco seating available. Intimate, romantic ambiance ideal for date nights. Offers vegetarian options.
(Mullica Hill) – The epitome of “farm-to-table,” Rastelli Market’s newest location sources most of their ingredients directly from an on-premise farm. Even the wood used to smoke Rastelli’s meats comes from the trees at bucolic Hill Creek. To obtain ingredients unavailable on the farm, Executive Chef James Luizza and the rest of the Rastelli team work with local vendors to secure the highest quality products they can. The rustic Loft Cafe – set in the upper level of the store – features cozy seating, a large-screen television, and a cafe. Inside the lounge, relax with a bottle of Hill Creek Apple Wine – available for purchase – or head downstairs for freshly baked donuts, prepared foods, meat, and seafood. Or bring the kids and spend the day: Hill Creek Farms also offers hayrides and other seasonal, family-friendly activities.
Kids’ menu available. Local, seasonal ingredients. Wine available for purchase. Family-friendly activities offered seasonally.
1631 State Highway 45 Mullica Hill, New Jersey
NOTE: Due to state regulations on seasonal farm markets, this Rastelli Market location will close during the months of January and February. They will reopen in March 2019.
Read my full review of Rastelli Market at Hill Creek Farms.
Disclosure: In November, Rastelli Market at Hill Creek Farms invited local food bloggers for a free tasting.
(Medford) – Not long ago, Medford residents had to drive to Hammonton to score quality Mexican food. Then came Cielito Lindo, and Tacos el Tio quickly followed. Both eateries were worth the wait. After years as a successful Mexican restaurant in Egg Harbor, in 2018 the owners of Tacos el Tio Cantina opened a second restaurant in Medford’s newly revitalized Taunton Forge plaza. Like their first location, Medford’s Tacos el Tio quickly grew as a popular place to enjoy delicious Mexican cuisine and drinks. Eat indoors, have a drink at the bar, or when the weather’s right – take advantage of the restaurant’s beautiful outdoor seating.
Includes bar. Kids’ menu available. Offers takeout. Al fresco dining available.
(Haddonfield) – Marcello De Feo’s grandparents and their children came to America from Abruzzo, Italy. Having grown up around an endless supply of mouthwatering fare, Valente has passed his family’s tradition of homemade Italian cooking onto his children. After years of working in the restaurant industry and participating in farmer’s markets, De Feo opened his first retail store. At Valente’s Italian Specialities, he sells homemade pasta, bread, premade meals, coffee, kitchenware, and other culinary-inspired gifts. In addition to Valente’s imported specialty items, Valente sources the ingredients for many of his Italian foods from local vendors.
Locally-sourced ingredients. Catering available. Offers classes for kids and adults.
7 Kings Ct. Haddonfield, New Jersey
Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Valente’s. Read her full review of Valente’s on the PhillyGrub website.
Edit: Thank you to David Stewart for recommending Central Taco and Tequila (Haddon) be added to this list. I will post a brief summary of it in the coming week.
Anywhere we missed?
Love a new (opened in 2018) South Jersey restaurant that’s not on this list? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add it when I get a free moment.
Visit this four-and-a-half acre playground on the Camden Waterfront where kids can let their imaginations run wild. Bring the whole family for brunch with Santa, hot chocolate, and a kids’ Polar Express ride.
Call ahead for reservations & details: (856) 365-8733
Wear your ugliest sweater for a chance at a $100 prize. Bring a new, unwrapped toy or gently used winter clothing for a free beer. Visitors will also enjoy holiday crafts, live music, food trucks, and more. Santa will be there from 3 – 6 pm.
Head to Winslow Township where you can relax with friends as you listen to live music at Sharrott Winery. Choose between indoor and outdoor seating while you enjoy wine and food from Sharrott’s wine bar.
Outside food or beverages are not permitted, and seating is first-come, first-serve.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities presents a series of educational programs that explore issues relating to the Victorian era. This Saturday they will hold the final program of the year.
Cost: $20 per person (includes lunch buffet)
Registration required: (609) 884 – 5404 – I do not know if they still have space at this event.
Do you know the difference between bechamel, veloute, alfredo, and carbonara? Find out here – and learn where to enjoy quality white sauce in South Jersey.
White sauce. Alfredo. Bechamel. What’s the difference?
That’s what I wondered earlier this week.
I had just whipped up a quick dinner for my family. I stirred together some milk, butter, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, chopped up some spinach and canned salmon, tossed it all over a box of linguine, and finished off the dish with some freshly grated parmesan.
When my four-year-old son Elliot asked me what our meal was called, I hesitated. I wanted to say “linguine and salmon with bechamel,” but I was unsure.
“Alexa, what’s the difference between bechamel sauce and Alfredo?” I asked.
Alexa replied with some confusing nonsense where she basically repeated my question back to me. (Rest assured: artificial intelligence is not going to take over the world just yet.)
I vowed to do a little research to settle my confusion.
Behold a brief guide to white sauce:
‘White sauce’ is a generic term that can refer to any kind of creamy sauce made from milk, butter, wine, or cheese.
Bechamel’s origins are rooted in political history. In 1533, Catherine de Medici of Italy married a French duke named Henri. When Medici came to France, she brought her Italian chefs with her.
Back in Medici’s homeland, Tuscans had already been eating their own version of white sauce – besciamella – since the Renaissance. No one quite agrees on who exactly invented bechamel, but Medici’s arrival in France paved the way for the sauce.
Bechamel sauce is named for Marquis Louis de Bechamel, a businessman and steward of King Louis XIV. During the 1800’s, a French chef named Marie Antoine-Carême described four French “mother sauces” – including bechamel – in her book Le Guide Culinaire.
Today, cooks make bechamel using a roux of flour and butter to which they add milk, salt, black pepper, and often – nutmeg. (If you’ve only eaten nutmeg is sweet desserts, you need to try it in savory white sauce dishes.)
If you want to make a basic bechamel sauce at home, I recommend using this recipe from Epicurious. I double the recipe, add a pinch of nutmeg to it, and pour it over cooked tortellini or linguine.
If other white sauces are too heavy for you, behold the light, milk-free veloute. The word veloute derives from the French word ‘velour,” a reference to the sauce’s smooth, velvety consistency. Veloute is another of the four original mother sauces Marie Antoine-Careme outlined in the nineteenth century.
Like bechamel, veloute begins with a flour and butter roux. In lieu of milk, clear stock made from unroasted chicken or fish is added, making for a lighter sauce that is then poured over fish or vegetables.
The earliest known mention of carbonara sauce can be found in Richard Hammond’s 1957 book Eating in Italy: a pocket guide to Italian food and restaurants. Many people believe carbonara, which originated in Rome, was introduced to Americans at the end of World War II. American troops stationed in Italy had little to eat. But they added cured pork to dried pasta to create something similar to carbonara sauce.
‘Carbonara’ roughly translates to ‘charcoal burner,’ so another theory holds that carbonara was first created as a dish for Italian coal miners.
However, some historians doubt both theories. No one is entirely sure when carbonara was first created. Today, spaghetti alla carbonara is a popular Italian-American dish made with creamy white sauce, pancetta, egg yolks, and an Italian cheese like pecorino or parmesan.
Alfredo, one of the simplest white sauces, is made from butter and parmesan cheese over fettuccine pasta. Fettucine alfredo is one of the most common dishes you’ll find at American restaurants.
While Americans might consider it a quintessential Italian dish, fettuccine alfredo is not a common sauce in Italy – though it was invented there.
A Roman restauranteur named Alfredo di Lelio first made the dish for his pregnant wife. American actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate at di Lelio’s Ristorante Alfredo and told their friends back in Hollywood. Celebrities like Sophia Loren and Jimmy Stewart soon came to love fettuccine alfredo, helping to popularize the dish in America.
Where to Find Good Cream-Based Pasta in South Jersey
If you don’t feel like whipping up your own, head out to one of these South Jersey restaurants for quality white sauce.
Ristorante Toscana Fire Grill and Bar (Cherry Hill, New Jersey) – My former workplace held our annual holiday party at Toscana every year. I recall loving their Champagne Pear Sacchetti, which their menu describes as “Toscana’s Speciality.” The sacchetti pasta is stuffed with pears and ricotta and tossed in a rich, creamy walnut-champagne sauce. Yum.
Theresa M. Hinke, a public relations professional, recommends three South Jersey restaurants for quality pasta of any kind:
Allora (Marlton, New Jersey) – Allora’s new “Pasta Your Way” menu includes two different white sauce options: carbonara and truffle cream.
Linda Pelaschier Mihlebach, a home cook and Instagrammer, suggests Filomena Lakeview (Deptford, New Jersey). While not a white sauce fan, “I never had a pasta dish there I didn’t like,” she says. Their menu includes a seafood and tortellini butter sauce.
Mihlebach also enjoys the Bronzino Francese at Chubby’s Steakhouse (Gloucester City, New Jersey) – which is made with butter, lemon, and white wine.
Angel Merrill’s family, which has owned and operated Merrill’s Colonial Inn (Mays Landing, New Jersey) since 1959, has passed down recipes for generations. Their homemade spaghetti with white clam sauce is a customer favorite.
In good conscience, I couldn’t leave Hammonton off this list. Located in the Pine Barrens, Hammonton is home to a large Italian population. I attended high school in Hammonton and have never had bad Italian food there.
While I can’t recall ordering any white sauces, I have always enjoyed Marcello’s (Hammonton, New Jersey) which has been serving up homemade Italian specialties for more than two decades. Marcello’s “Special Sauce” is made with cream, mushrooms, and peas. Their menu also includes carbonara and alfredo sauces.
Where’s your favorite spot in South Jersey for delicious white sauce pasta?
“What are THOSE?” my four-year-old son Elliot laughed as I pushed him in a shopping cart through the grocery aisles of the Berlin Wal-Mart last week. I looked where he was pointing.
“I have no idea,” I answered.
“Can we get them?” he asked.
I reached for a plastic package containing a dozen or so golfball-sized fruit that looked like a bunch of sea urchins having bad hair days. “Sweet and juicy!” the package promised.
“Sure…” I said, surprised that Wal-Mart carried such an exotic food. I tossed the package in the cart, and we continued walking. As we shopped, Elliot continued laughing about the “weird things,” as he had dubbed the mysterious produce.
What is Rambutan?
Rambutan is the fruit’s real name, and before that night, I had never encountered them. When we got home, Elliot wanted to try them right away. I opened the package and wondered what to do with them. Do we bite them? Peel them? Cook them? Luckily, the package included directions on how to eat rambutan.
I grabbed a knife from the drawer and sliced the rambutan’s firm, spiky flesh across its hemisphere. Out popped a white, gelatinous, egg-like fruit, which I sliced in half. My knife met resistance as it hit a hard pit in the center of the “egg.” I cut out the seed, hesitated, then popped a piece of the fruit in my mouth.
“Wow, that’s sweet,” I said.
Elliot reached for a piece. He chewed for a moment, paused as I had, then swallowed. “More,” he said. Like most other fruits, the rambutan was a hit with my son.
I had to know more about this strange-looking but pleasant-tasting plant. Later that night I learned that the rambutan is a native Indonesian fruit that grows from trees in tropical Southeast Asia where people enjoy them fresh or canned. In the Malay language, rambut means ‘hairy,’ a fitting name for a fruit covered in hair-like spikes.
According to Wan Yan Ling of Serious Eats, rambutan also grows in “Australia, South America, Africa, and Hawaii.” The label on the package we bought says “Fort Lauderdale,” so I imagine rambutan can grow anywhere with a tropical climate.
In the Phillipines, people roast and eat the rambutan’s seeds. Use caution if you try the seeds, though, as they are reportedly poisonous if consumed raw. High in fat, research suggests rambutan seeds also have the potential to be used for manufacturing fatty products like cocoa butter, soaps, and fuels.
I posted a picture of the fruit on Instagram and asked if anyone else was familiar with it. Amaris Pollock, a freelancer who writes about Philadelphia’s food scene, remarked that the rambutan looked similar to lychee, another Asian fruit. She was right. A quick Google search revealed that rambutan, lychee, longan, and pulasan fruit are all close relatives of one another.
Because of their sweet scent, rambutan trees attract large numbers of stinging fire ants, which can make obtaining the fruit a dangerous endeavor. Bees also love rambutan trees, and they feed on the rambutan and then produce honey.
Rambutan & Health
Rambutan fruit is used to treat fever and other ailments in traditional Malaysian and Indonesian medicine, and recent studies show it may actually possess medicinal benefit. Studies conducted in vitro and on mice suggest that rambutan honey contains antioxidants that can hasten the healing of oral wounds. Another study suggests rambutan’s high antioxidant count may help treat diabetes. It’s worth nothing these studies are small, and I wasn’t able to locate any definitive proof that rambutan offers any health benefits beyond those provided by other fiber-rich fruits.
How to Cook With Rambutan
So if you’re able to find rambutan at your local grocery store, what exactly can you do with it?
Linda Pelaschier Mihlebach, a home chef from South Jersey, makes rambutan martinis. Another South Jersey chef specializing in Indian cuisine, Chetna Macwan of the blog Spice Culture says they’re also delicious in “summery fruit salads.”
I love trying new foods, and I was especially glad to find them at a common store like Wal-Mart. In some countries, rambutan is in-season during early winter, which is likely why they had them in stock. And I have to admit: I’m proud of my son’s comfort with unfamiliar foods and his willingness to taste them.
If you know of somewhere else in South Jersey that carries rambutan, please let us know in the comments below.
Here are a few rambutan recipes with serious yum potential: