Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moses' Chosen Burger

This week, we decided to stay close to home to check out a local landmark, White Manna Hamburgers, in Hackensack, NJ. Named for the biblical food that fell from heaven in Exodus, this location of White Manna has been cranking out onion-smothered sliders since 1946 and is a bit of an institution in this neck of the woods. By the way, I've always imagined that manna looked like instant mashed potato flakes. This is hardly relevant, but I honestly don't know if I'll even have occasion to share that little brain nugget again!

The sign is bigger than the diner!

Sitting right on the bank of the Hackensack River, the location is so picturesque that you'd think a burger joint no larger than an Airstream trailer would look out of place; but, due to the surrounding street-scape and the history that further entrenched White Manna into this very spot, it's the river that seems odd while gurgling under the shadow of the diminutive diner.

Though, you guys don't want to hear any more about the landscape. How did the burgers stack up? That's really all you crazy carnivores want to know, isn't it?

Feel free to leave your thoughts about White Manna in the comments section. And, if you have any other local gems you'd like for us to explore and review, definitely share that as well!

Dreaming of owning my own flattop grill,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following...or close to it:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Black Noodles for My Black, Black Heart

This week, we're revisiting one of our most popular blogs, in honor of that great pain in the ass of an unoriginal holiday -- Valentine's Day. We've changed a few bits here and there to keep things interesting and (no promises, but) we may have even tracked down Russell Stover and kicked him squarely in the chocolate truffles.

Just remember, maxi pads have wings too.

Ah, Valentine’s Day…

...flowers…love notes…eating half of every chocolate candy while on the hunt for anything with coconut and putting the rest back in the sampler box…sweethearts walking hand-in-hand…birdies singing because spring is just around the corner…it’s a nice scene, isn’t it?

Then, why does it suck so bad?!

Try as I might to be perky about the mandated day of love, all I seem to see is flowers that cost 40% less last week … the marginalizing of lonely individuals … children in the Third World laboring in chocolate factories … my favorite restaurants decidedly jamming 20 more tables and chairs into an already tight space … really bad movies with way too many celebrity cameos by overpaid actors that only had to be on set for less than a week in order to move the 19 shoddy plots along … being told I’m great because a day decrees it to be so.
(I know I’m great, tell me tomorrow.)

And, I know I’m not alone. Many people can’t stand Valentine’s Day.

Antivalentinism is an established movement and, while I don’t necessarily want to label myself as quite THAT committed to my distaste for the most unoriginal day of the year, it’s a surprisingly sensible criticism.

The first insulting Valentine’s cards surfaced in the 1850s and were known as Vinegar Valentines or Penny Dreadfuls. They were usually poorly printed and sent anonymously. The post office sometimes confiscated them as unfit to be mailed.

Anti-Valentine cards exist and they’re AWESOME!

So, as you might have guessed, I looked at all other possible world holidays being celebrated this week. But, with North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and even parts of the Middle East all drinking cupid’s Kool-Aid, Independence Day in Gambia just didn’t quite make the cut. 

As a result, I set out to find a custom somewhere on the planet that could potentially save Valentine’s Day for me. Out of all of the countries that celebrate V-Day, there just had to be a tradition that didn’t make me want to choke on a box of Be Mine hearts.

And, it turns out that my search did us all proud! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Black Day: the most excellent, South Korean (by way of China), Valentine’s ritual.

Here’s the deal ... in South Korea, on February 14, folks are still actively engaging in the age-old tradition of exchanging candy – only it’s women who give candy to men. One month later, on March 14 (White Day), men return the favor by giving women non-chocolate or white chocolate tokens of their affection. Then, one more bumpy ride of a month down the Tunnel of Love, we find ourselves at April 14 – Black Day!

Reserved for the lonely hearts, Black Day is when those who didn’t exchange gifts on V-Day or White Day take themselves out to a restaurant and eat Jjajangmyun, Korean noodles with black bean sauce. The black sauce is what gives the day its name and apparently gives singles the strength to move on in a loveless world!

Homemade korean noodles.
Mix the two and thank me later.
Black bean sauce.

The sauce is made from a base of fermented black bean paste, potatoes, and onions. And, apparently you can't get the real-deal just anywhere; though, a little digging revealed that the Jjajangmyun in the New York metro area can be found at Mandarin restaurant, in Palisades Park, New Jersey. They make their own noodles in-house and serve Chinese food in the Korean style.

Palisades Park's Koreatown has the highest concentration
of Korean restaurants within a one-mile radius in the U.S.

The main red characters spell Mandarin in Korean.
The smaller, red characters say su ta gook su (hand made noodles).

That's right! Ed wins a gold star (covered in black bean sauce) for giving his order clearly and properly, albeit loudly and overly annunciated. 

Show off.
Though, things started to quickly look up as I tucked into my seafood soup!

I even (generously) let Ed suck the prawn head.


And, if there's one final, loving nugget that we would like to leave you with, it's this -- when dining out on Jjajangmyun, DO NOT sample the dessert gum.
You've been warned.

Also, the abbreviation for Singles Awareness Day is SAD.

Well, I’m off to get my Antivalentinist card laminated.

Until next week,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following...or close to it:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Slap Yo' Momma

Well, the most treasured of American holidays has come and gone; but, that won't stop me from basking in the glow of dimmed stadium lights as they reflect in purple & gold confetti for a couple more days.

Why might I carry out Superbowl magic as long as possible? Do I love the Ravens? Nope. Am I a sucker for football season and hate to see it end? Yes, but that's not it either. Could it be that I have selfish interests? Much warmer...

You see, I have a family recipe for Chinese chicken wings that is so good it will seriously make you want to slap yo' momma! And, one night a year, I get the privilege of producing a dish so complete in its awesomeness that it brings grown, football-loving men to tears. That's why I mourn the passing of Superbowl Sunday. It will likely be another trip around the sun before I am chockfull of high-fives and meat sweats.

You will never stop thanking me for this ... ever.

And, since this is a blog dedicated to sharing holiday experiences -- especially the ones where men put on helmets and smack talk -- I really wanted to deliver for all of you in a big way, by 'dishing-out' my magical chicken-y knowledge.

However, we hit a speed bump right out of the gate:

My text to my Chinese-American Stepdad:
"Hi Dad! How would you feel about me featuring your chx wings on the blog this week? Would you mind if I share the recipe?"

My dad's text back to me:
"I want the recipe to be a family secret. It is, however, based on a published and copyrighted recipe by noted Chinese chef Joyce Chen. Ms Chen, I believe now deceased, was a friend of my mother's family. There is now a line of Chinese cookware that bears her name."

Well, it was over before it started. I so wanted to pass on the source of my deliciously gooey Superbowl powers, but you don't argue when a parent utters the words secret family recipe. What if Mrs. Fields' daughter couldn't keep her trap shut? Or, God forbid, little Sally Entenmann?

No sir, I can't deny myself the eventual windfall that is my chicken wing birthright. I WILL NOT go against the family. I WILL NOT share our secrets with the unwashed chicken wing loving masses. I will, however, tweak said recipe just enough that you, too, can be inundated with pub grub love this time next year.

So, after adding some delicious new elements and keeping a couple ingredients to myself, here is what you need to know:

(All measurements based on 2 pounds of chicken wings)

- Add several Tablespoons of coconut oil to dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat.
- Brown wings in batches, about 4 minutes on each side.
- Once all wings are browned, lower heat to medium-low and add:
- 1-2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger.
- 1 minced chili. Chinese chili, if you can find it. A Serrano pepper (with seeds) works just fine, too.
- 2 Chinese anise stars.
- Let that cook several minutes, until fragrant. Then add:
- 1/3 Cup soy sauce.
- 1/3 Cup sake.
- 1/3 Cup water.
- 2 Tablespoons mirin.
- 1-2 Tablespoons sugar.
- Bump the heat back up to medium and bring to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir Every 5 minutes or so.
- Uncover and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, continuing to stir every 5 minutes.
- Remove the wings from the sauce and transfer them to a platter.
- Continue reducing the remaining sauce.
- Once it becomes a thick glaze, discard any star anise pieces you come across.
- Pour glaze over your towering platter of amazing chicken wings.
- Enjoy!

If this doesn't make you hungry, you might be broken.

I think the biggest thing we can all take away from this holiday (other than a mild tummy ache) is that my family totally knew Joyce Chen! How awesome is that?! And, you can simply click here should you want to take a gander at her version of this recipe -- or her daughter's updated version.

I'll be perfecting my touchdown dance until we meet again,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following...or close to it: