Earn Turning Point gift cards and other prizes this weekend at the restaurant’s annual fundraiser benefiting pediatric brain cancer research.
South Jersey resident Kortney Rose Gillette lost her battle with brain cancer in 2006. She was nine years old. Just five months prior to her passing, Gillette was a healthy, vivacious youngster with a love for sports, water slides, and laughter.
Through the Kortney Rose Foundation (KRF) – named in her honor – Gillette’s legacy lives on. With a mission to “Help Get Brain Tumors Off Kids’ Minds,” KRF supports much-needed pediatric brain tumor research. Brain tumors are the number one cause of disease-related deaths in children.
For the tenth year in a row, Turning Point has partnered with KRF. Their annual “Great Food for a Great Cause” fundraiser will take place on Saturday, February 23 and Sunday, February 24 between 8 am and 3 pm. Diners who donate to the foundation during the event will receive Turning Point gift cards and other prizes (see list below).
Despite the prevalence of childhood brain cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) allocates only about 4% of its funding toward researching pediatric cancers. Of that 4%, just a tiny percentage is put toward brain tumor research.
KRF works to raise research funds for the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC). CBTTC, a collaborative initiative, unites sixteen worldwide research institutions dedicated to pediatric brain cancer research. Locally, CBTTC helps support the Neuro-Oncology Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Recognizing the need for research funding, Turning Point has raised $314,000 for KRF to date. This weekend’s event will take place at sixteen Turning Point locations, a dozen in New Jersey and four in Pennsylvania (see list below).
Donation levels & prizes:
Donate $25 to receive 2 free entrees on your next visit
Donate $50 to receive 4 free entrees on your next visit
Donate $60 to receive 4 free entrees on your next visit plus a Turning Point mug
Donate $100 to receive 8 free entrees on your next visit. The first two $100 donors at each location will also receive a custom doormat.
Chef Chetna Macwan teaches South Jersey residents the art of Indian cooking.
Disclosure: Fork in the Pines was invited to observe one of Chetna Macwan’s classes at Atlantic Cape Community college free of charge.
“I got a noise complaint,” the security guard joked when he walked into our classroom at Atlantic Cape Community College this past Saturday. Six students were gathered to learn the art of Indian cooking from South Jersey Chef Chetna Macwan. I was there to learn and observe.
The guard had never tasted Indian food, but the spicy aroma had enticed him to check out our class.
“It’s REALLY good,” one student told him. “You have to try it.” He conceded and took a bite. One bite led to another. He was glad he stopped by.
When a meal’s aroma can lure someone into a room and convince him to try a new cuisine for the first time, the chef must be good. Better than good. Before I left, I told Macwan that her Indian food was the best I’d ever tasted. I wasn’t buttering her up (pun intended). I was speaking the truth.
As a child, Macwan learned to cook North Indian cuisine from her mother. A no-nonsense instructor, Macwan’s mom ensured her children learned proper cooking techniques, including knife skills. Macwan likened her experience growing up to attending culinary school.
Leading With Dessert: Khajur Burfi
We started with dessert. Macwan taught us to prepare khajur burfi, or Indian almond and date balls. Easy enough for beginner chefs, khajur burfi contains just five ingredients – and no added sugar. The almonds are toasted and combined with cardamom, dates, and ghee, a clarified butter common in Indian recipes.
Cardamom lends the dessert a “soft, sweet flavor with a floral aftertaste,” explains Macwan.
Macwan and another student rolled the mixture into balls and coated each with shredded coconut. Then we got to taste them. The khajur burfi’s buttery, toasted flavor had me reaching for seconds (and, admittedly – thirds).
Modern Techniques With Traditional Roots
Macwan then demonstrated how to make a hariyali marinade. Her sous chef, Juliana Torres, helped prepare the marinade’s ingredients. I noted Torres’s technique of rolling the lemons on the counter before juicing them. The marinade also contained lots of fresh cilantro and mint, which makes it especially well-suited for summer meals. Harilayi is the Hindi word for “greenery,” a reference to its bright green hue.
While Macwan’s recipes are rooted in traditional Indian cuisine, most of them have been modernized. By using a Vitamix blender, Macwan was able to reduce preparation and cooking time without sacrificing flavor. With a blender, home cooks don’t need perfect knife skills either, since all the ingredients are pureed.
Macwan suggested we use a blender at home to prepare the hariyali. Then, we can freeze a large batch and divvy it into small portions inside an ice cube tray. The marinade contains a special spice blend Macwan jokingly dubbed, “Chet’s Chix Mix,” telling us that it’s ideal for quick, weeknight chicken or seafood meals.
We ate the marinade over chicken breast. A versatile blend, Macwan suggested other ways to enjoy it at home. She recommended serving the hariyali with chicken wrapped inside Naan bread and topped with garlic chutney and yogurt.
“You can almost eat it like a gyro,” Macwan elaborates. The marinade also works well with paneer, a popular Indian cheese.
Learning the Secret to Great Indian Cuisine: Oil & Spice
I was relieved to still have room in my stomach for more food. We still had two dishes to make. Next up was lamb and pea keehma, a ground meat dish that can be eaten with rice or used as a filling for savory Indian pastries called samosas.
As Macwan started to make the kheema, she stressed the importance of frying Indian spices in oil at the start of a recipe. While I’ve made my own version of Indian cuisine at home, I had never added my spices at the beginning as she did. Of everything I learned on Saturday, this technique fascinated me the most.
“Flavoring that oil is really key,” Macwan says. Infusing the spices with the oil ensures a dish with a consistent flavor throughout, as the seasoned oil seeps into every bite.
“Flavoring that oil is really key,” Macwan says.
“Pasta-Style” Basmati Rice With Aromatics
As we cooked, Torres prepared the basmati rice. Macwan had instructed her to cook the rice using a technique she calls “pasta style.” Rather than cooking the rice in a covered pot with a specific ratio of water to rice, Macwan allows her rice to simmer in an uncovered pot filled to the brim with water.
On the top of the water, she adds Indian aromatics like cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves. After she checks the rice to ensure its doneness, she removes the aromatics from the pot. (See Macwan’s blog post on “pasta style” rice.)
With the rice ready to be eaten, we started cooking our final dish: chicken makhani. Makhani isthe Indian word for “butter,” appropriately named for the multiple sticks of butter it contains. Traditionally, makhani simmers on low for several hours with tandoori-style meat. This “low and slow” method of cooking allows the ingredients to integrate into one smooth-textured gravy.
But Macwan uses a blender to prepare her makhani, allowing the ingredients to fully combine before being cooked on the stove. By modernizing the dish’s preparation, Macwan reduces the cook time to 34-45 minutes. The shorter cook time makes the recipe much more accessible to novice home chefs like myself.
Chicken Tikha Masala Versus Chicken Makhani: The Distinction
As she cooked, Macwan explained the difference between chicken makhani and another popular Indian dish: chicken tikha masala. Whereas makhani gravy is smooth, tikha masala contains chunks of vegetables like bell pepper and onion. While makhani also contains pepper and onion, all the ingredients are integrated into the gravy. (Macwan joked that makhani is a perfect dish for her young son, who doesn’t like to see any of the vegetables he’s eating.)
Traditional makhani contains yogurt, but Macwan prefers to use heavy cream. The cream mellows the gravy, resulting in a lighter dish. Jaggery, an Indian-style brown sugar with a molasses-like flavor, adds a hint of sweetness to the makhani.
Macwan instructed us to leave some fat on the chicken thighs. The fat flavors the dish and thickens the gravy. I was relieved to hear her say this. I already leave fat on my chicken thighs. Now I have an excuse other than laziness.
Meal Time and Second Dessert
Once we all had a plate of rice, kheema, makhani, and naan bread in front of us, the room grew silent. Everyone ate together, and no one voiced a single complaint. When we were finished, Torres – who is a pastry chef – dished out some of her flan dessert. (Yes, we had two desserts!) The flan was creamy, light, and coated with a sweet, caramelized sauce.
I left inspired to try cooking Macwan’s recipes at home. After smelling the pungent aroma of her spices, I knew I needed to shop for some fresh spices of my own. (Mine have sat in my pantry far too long.)
After purchasing some fresh ingredients – like cloves, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks, my house filled with the aromatic scent of curry. I haven’t even cooked with them yet. Coming downstairs this morning, my mouth watered just thinking about the makhani I plan to make for dinner tonight.
Chef Macwan’s Upcoming Events
Beginning on March 16, Macwan will be teaching another series of classes called, “Indian Style Breads.” The course, which will also take place at Altantic Cape Community College, will cover flat breads, fried breads, and stuffed breads. The campus is set in a beautiful, heavily forested area of Mays Landing about a half hour from the Jersey Shore. Find out more on their website.
Private Cooking Lessons with Chef Macwan
Macwan also offers private group cooking classes. If you’re looking for a creative gift for the foodie in your life or even a date night idea, contact her to find out more. You can read more about Macwan’s cooking adventures on her blog Spice Culture. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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.
If you’re a federal worker affected by the shutdown, visit these South Jersey spots for special discounts and freebies.
As the government shutdown drags into its second month, there’s little relief in sight for families living without income. Understandably, workers are enduring high levels of anxiety, stress, and – in some cases – even boredom from weeks at home.
To offer a helping hand, numerous South Jersey businesses are offering freebies and discounts to furloughed and unpaid federal workers. Media outlets like the Courier Post, NJ.com, and the Press of Atlantic City have recently published articles about these local businesses.
The following list covers a few of the generous South Jersey companies and organizations that haven’t yet received extensive media coverage, as of today (Wednesday, January 24).
If you’re a federal worker affected by the shutdown, visit these South Jersey restaurants and food pantries. Before you make the trip, be sure to call the business or organization in advance to verify that the offer is still valid.
This week only, Center Square Tavern will provide free meals to local families not currently receiving pay. Bring your government identification (ID) and up to four family members before Friday, January 25.
120 Center Square Rd Swedesboro, New Jersey Tuesday – Friday: 11 am – 12 am
When you come to Charlie’s Crepes, write down “I ❤ crepes” on a sheet of paper and hand it to the owner. He or she will ask you for your preference of savory or sweet crepe. Please be sure to call before you visit, as Charlie’s was closed this morning due to freezing pipes.
177 S Centre St Merchantville, New Jersey
Wednesday – Friday: 9:30 am – 1 pm, 4:30 – 8 pm Saturday: 8 am – 12 pm, 4:30 – 8 pm Sunday: 10 am – 2 pm
Bring your photo ID to the Hammonton Presbyterian Church on Wednesdays between the hours of 9 am and 12 pm for help with groceries. You do not need to live in Atlantic County, and you may visit once every 30 days.
Eager to help local families affected by the shutdown, the People’s Pantry Relief Center will serve government workers with valid ID on Saturdays between 1 and 3 pm. Visit their pantry for fresh produce, meat, baked goods, and baby food.
Until Thursday, January 24, bring your government ID and enjoy a free entree and rice at any Tiffin location between the hours of 12 and 2 pm. Choose between Chicken Tikka Masala; Chicken Curry; Saag Paneer; Chana Masala; Dal Makhani; or Dal Tadka. Carry-out ordered on-premises only.
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.
A new eatery serving up Dominican soul food recently opened in Willingboro.
Burlington County can add another cuisine to its repertoire. Sol Sazon, which opened in Willingboro in September, specializes in Dominican dishes with a modern twist.
A small, family-owned BYOB, Sol Sazon serves up traditional Dominican soul food like mofongo, a Puerto Rican staple also popular in the Dominican Republic. Mofongo owes its origins to traditional West African fufu, a dish that arrived on the Carribean islands during the sixteenth century.
Made from mashed plantains and chicharrones (fried pork skin), mofongo is a dry food usually stuffed with a second protein like chicken, beef, or seafood and served with a sauce or gravy. Sol Sazon offers their mofongo with your choice of chicken with alfredo sauce or shrimp with creole sauce.
Other Sol Sazon specialties include fried empanadas, loaded yucca fries, and pasteles (Dominican tamales). Sol Sazon’s owner says the pasteles’s mushy texture might take some getting used to on an American palate.
Empanadas and even yucca fries – which resemble thick french fries in both appearance and taste – provide a more conservative introduction for less adventurous diners.
Housed in a small strip mall off Route 130, Sol Sazon’s family-friendly, brightly-lit interior is decidedly casual. As diners wait for their meals, they have the option of playing Dominos, a game the owners have available for visitors.
Menu prices range from $2 to $18 for appetizers and $10 to $30 for entrees, which you can order in individual portions or family-style. To drink, bring your own wine or beer, or order the kids a morir sonando, a sweet drink made from orange juice and milk.
On Saturday, December 15, 2018, I dined at Sol Sazon with a few other food bloggers.
To fully experience Sol Sazon’s menu, we ordered a variety of appetizers – including beef empanadas, salmon empanadas, chicken empanadas, pasteles en hoja, shrimp mofongo, chicken mofongo, and loaded yucca fries.
I enjoyed the empanadas – particularly the beef variety. As Sol Sazon’s owner mentioned, the pastelito’s texture was a bit mushy for me, though it was flavorful. The rest of the food was on the bland and dry side for my liking. Being a newcomer to Dominican food, I’m unsure whether these characteristics are typical for other restaurants serving similar cuisine.
A quick Google search revealed other reviewers describing Dominican food as ‘bland.’ So my suspicion is that my complaint has more to do with my unfamiliarity with Dominican food – along with a personal preference for spicier cuisines – than a failing on the part of the restaurant.
Sol Sazon’s friendly, welcoming staff was open to our feedback. As a new establishment, Sol Sazon is still working to refine its taste and work out kinks. Because food is so subjective, I firmly believe people should try things for themselves rather than taking someone else’s opinion as fact.
I know I’ll be giving Sol Sazon – and Dominican cuisine – a second try.
BYOB offering takeout, dine-in, and catering in South Jersey
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.