Saturday, November 23, 2013

Restaurant Review: Union Republic - Jersey City

**update 12/8/13** A return visit to Union Republic confirmed my suspicion that the noodle issue was based on the large volume of customers on opening night I am happy to say the noddles are now delicious and well cooked and the ramen is piping hot (as it should be especially in the winter!)

There is no doubt that I love to make a home cooked meal but not everything is really suited for home cooking. For me, ramen is one of those things. Between the complex, rich broths and little bits of everything thrown in that make each bowl a little treasure hunt it seems to be a little more trouble than its worth. Just tonight a new restaurant opened and I am so excited to report its only two blocks from us! Over the summer we moved to a new condo and while its only a few blocks further away from the PATH station (that is the subway here in Jersey City) those few blocks can be enough to make you stay home and order takeout when those first few really cold nights have arrived.

 Nose to Tail Ramen

We arrived about five minutes before the doors to Union Republic opened and used that time to run over to the small liquor store and grab a few beers. Once we were inside we were talked through the ordering process (you check off the items you want with a marker) and took a seat. While its definitely a casual dining atmosphere (you order up front but have the food delivered to your table) the space inside is really beautifully designed and looks quite modern. There is no typical Asian theme or look to the space and they do serve a variety of food so don't expect a traditional ramen from Union Republic. There is also a lot of open space still yet to be filled... when I questioned the man who was working the front of house he said that they will be using some of it for their pre-packed items and perhaps a band in the future. The room filled pretty quickly and by the time we left the large communal style table were rapidly filling as well.

 Shot of the communal table from their facebook

We had scouted out the menu online and have to admit the ramen burger sounded pretty good but unfortunately tonight was not the night for that! But it does give me a very good excuse to go back very soon. We started with the roasted pork tea sandwiches and the BBQ lamb ribs. The tea sandwiches came out in typical tea style cut into four little triangles (though I did spy a few orders going by later that night just cut into larger triangle halves). The pork was cubed up and the pickled onions were very nice, however they were a bit hard to eat without loosing all of the meat when you picked up the sandwich though I think that the larger cut probably helped that. The lamb ribs were perfectly sauced and seasoned. My only complaint there is that one thin little napkin that was on the table wasn't going to stand up to that sauce! But luckily we were able to flag a waitress down and get a stack before I had to resort to finger licking.

Next up was our ramen.... he tried the "Nose to Tail" and I had the "A Hen Full". I personally enjoyed the Hen Full more as the lighter Shoyu broth is more to my taste but the Nose to Tail was filled with a lot more fun little bits. I did really enjoyed the chicken meatballs in the Hen Full - they had the perfect amount of texture. I would have preferred the soft egg to be a bit more to room temp instead of cold as it was served and actually think that the entire bowl of ramen could have benefited from being a few degrees warmer. Instead of starting out so hot that you have to barely pick around while inhaling all that delicious broth flavored steam it was just warm when served and cooled down to room temp before I could finish. I think that this is a case of first night issues though as our waitress mentioned that she was suppose to be in the back so it seems that maybe they were still working out some kinks.  Sadly, the noodles were lacking. Most were clumped up and stuck together which made slurping just about impossible and they needed a bit more cooking as they were still very "al dente" in my Hen Full (lucky for my husband the Nose to Tail bowl was a bit better).  On our walk out we noticed at least one bowl full of noodles abandoned which isn't a good sign when the noodles are suppose to be the star of the show.

The verdict? I am definitely going to give UR another chance as they seemed to be a little overwhelmed with the large turnout and I am very interested in seeing how things work out in another few weeks. I am especially excited about their to go section as it could be a nice alternative for a no-cooking night (a line of refrigerations that were just about empty tonight but I am hoping will be filled with ready to heat/eat meals in the future) 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Infusions: Buddha Hand Citron and Grapefruit Rosemary Vodkas

This post has been a long time coming. Months and month ago I got this great idea. I was going to make all this infused alcohol for my friends and family for Christmas. Well I did a bit of the research and bought some nice bottles with stoppers and little book of infusion ideas. And then nothing.... I stored the bottles in the back of our spare bedrooms and for months they were covered over in gifts, then blankets and wedding accessories and then finally one day I saw it in the store. Christmas had come and gone but citrus fruit season was finally here and the Fairway near my work had one of the most interesting looking fruits I has ever seen...A Buddha Hand Citron

The book actually had a recipe for a vodka using this exotic citrus fruit but to be honest you don't really need much of a recipe as much as flavor pairing skills. One of my favorite "cookbooks"  The Flavor Bible is actually not really a cookbook at all but its a great one for making infusions. This book just lists different ingredients that compliment each other and that is the secret to a well balanced drink. The method of infusing vodkas is usually quite simple just add a flavorful item and let it sit for a bit. Its very important to carefully strain the vodka after flavoring as any debris left in the flavored vodka can go bad and really ruin your creation. For strong flavors - like hot peppers - use less time but for subtle flavors like fruits you can give it a bit longer.

For the Buddha Hand Citron I washed then cut up the fruit I left most of the white pith because its not very bitter in this fruit its actually the part you eat. Then I added it to a large clean airtight jar and added 1 L of vodka. As far as the quality of vodka, I usually try to find something moderately priced and fairly clean - Svedka is usually my go to since it is five times distilled and has a very low taste profile. Each one of my jars took just about a full 1.75L bottle.

My next flavor combo was grapefruit and rosemary. This is a little strange to some people but I had fallen in love with a cocktail (similar to this) featuring the duo and was confident that it was going to be good..... and it was! Because the grapefruit pith can be a bit stronger I took care to only use the skin and as little white as possible - I used the skin of three grapefruits. The rosemary I was able to use whole and put in three as well. I have also been experimenting with some other flavor so more options and some cocktails will be coming up soon....

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cooking fun with OXO! Peppermint Cheesecake minis

This winter I was super lucky to get a chance to check out the cutest new measuring set from OXO. For those of you who read this blog and are close friends you may know that I used to be a chemistry teacher. This is why I totally freaked when I saw this new set from OXO that is little beakers. I was so happy to have them because when I was making these adorable little cheesecakes I had to use some funky measurements because I was making 3/4 of a recipes. I know that sounds crazy but sometimes when you have a party to go to and you forgot to buy enough cream cheese and your amazing finance runs to the store but buys the wrong type and you have to get it in the oven because you still need to shower and your ride will be there in less than an hour....its a  3/4 of a cheese cake kind of day!

Luckily it was so easy to adapt the recipe and by making smaller cupcake versions not only was less messy to eat (with no cutting or serving to worry about) but no one missed the other 1/4 cake. I have seen many version of this with crushed peppermint candies but I have to be honest I think that they either have to be crushed into dust then it isn't pretty or its too chunky and I choke on them. I also didn't add the topping since I was already in a bit of a rush but these little cakes were done so fast that I never got an after shot! Filling the cakes was no fuss because I poured all of the batter into a zip top bag then cut off the corner. Using a baggie as a disposable pastry bag just makes clean up a breeze.

Recipe at Epicurious  Peppermint Twisted Cheesecake

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beef Stew

I posted about my Moroccan Chicken Stew a while ago but now I am going to give you the other half of that fun chilly weekend. Even though the weather seems unsure of where it is going I am still up for snuggling on the sofa with a warm cup of soup. This recipe is another one that I started on the stove but finished in the crock pot. For this one I decided to head out with some friends and leave dinner at home cooking for me while I enjoyed myself!

I just crave hearty stews like this once the temperature starts to go down. There is something about a cup of soup that just warms your whole day up. Luckily I haven't started to feel the winter sniffles and coughs but if you are this is a low maintenance way to enjoy some really tasty homemade soup. This soup was inspired by a new line of organic beef that was made available at my super market and was on sale... don't need to ask me twice!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Balsamic Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostini

There is something special about caramelized onions. Its not that its expensive and it doesn't take a special pan or knife or anything really.... just time and attention. Its dishes like these that truly show off your cooking skills - its easy to make $40 a pound prosciutto taste good but how does the $0.99/lb onion fare.  I have to admit that this idea was totally ripped off from a friend... she served it at her Christmas party this year and I have been thinking of it ever since! She served brie with her crostini and that was a perfect pairing as well.

This is a simple and low cost appetizer that can either be assembled or just put out for guests to serve themselves. The most expensive part of the whole dish was the splash of aged balsamic I used to deglaze the pan at the end of the cooking. If you don't have the time (or inclination) to make the crostini yourself you can always get pre-made rounds at most stores - the store near me even sells them pre-seasoned which is even easier.

Follow the link for the directions