#7 - Oink, Oink! It's Larry Rosenberg!
The friend I've come to know is a thoughtful man who cares about the impression he leaves upon others, and that, in my mind, matters above all else.
Larry, along with his partner, Kane Jeong, are the creators of Bacon Bites, producers of the famously delicious line of chocolate-covered bacon treats. He is a virtual marketing machine and his whimsical antics in pushing his product has resulted in many referring to him as "P.T. Bacon".
#6 - July 4th with Salamander Sauce's Timothy Kavarnos
The day we'd chosen to meet up was July 4th at a local watering hole on Division Street in New York City called "Forgtmenot". Yes, that is no typo. It is spelled F-o-r-g-t-m-e-n-o-t.
We may have had some control as to our choice of destination, but we definitely had no control over what Mother Nature had in mind. I say that because sheets of driving rain blanketed the city and it seemed nothing like the warm, holiday weather we'd expected.
As soon as it became available, we grabbed a small round table and were soon met by our friend, Tim. Undeterred by the errant raindrop that managed to find its way onto our foreheads, the three of us filled that table with all kinds of brews, grub and hot sauce and yapped away for the next several hours beneath that tattered awning that hung above a myriad of puddles forming on the sidewalk. And you know what? We couldn't have had any more fun than if we sat partying on a tropical sun-soaked beach. It was that good.
And after the final minute of regulation of World Cup action ended, the bar emptied out and we took the party inside. And there we remained for the next couple of hours sucking down drinks while heavy rains pounded the streets outside. When it was finally time to depart, we promised our friend we would soon do it again. Some things are worth the wait.
#5 - Meeting John and Shannon of Slider Street
There's little else that needs to be said here other than "Happy New Year, to our dear friends."
#4 - Celebrating Paul's Da Burger Joint's 25th Anniversary
The celebration that took place on July 19th, began with an invitation-only tasting that unveiled several new menu items that Paul's planned to be offering on a regular basis if they were well-received. During the hour-long tasting that treated members of the press and foodie community to samples of these delicious new offerings, manager Matt Wardrop and his team of chefs graciously prepared tray after tray of these very same items, and had them passed through the gathering crowd outside at no charge. It was a gesture hard to ignore, and one I found spoke volumes in regard to the integrity of Matt and his staff.
All in all, it was a terrific day filled with enjoyable people and delicious food, and definitely one of the summer's highlights.
#3 - "Karen's Kucina" joins the team at Foodidude.com
For me, it was a no-brainer to add Karen Romanelli to the mix of regular contributors and columnists here at Foodidude.com. Not only is she my partner in business and in life, but her prowess in the kitchen speaks for itself and her wherewithal in concocting exciting flavors is often nothing less than spectacular.
Having grown up in a similar environment as myself - that is, a large Italian family that takes food preparation very seriously, we share a lot of the same sensibilities when it comes to the many Italian dishes we enjoyed as youths, particularly when it comes to something of a more ethnically inspired recipe.
Although we sometimes battle for kitchen time, and infrequently disagree on the minutia of just how something should be prepared, the differences are purely regional in regards to our ancestors upbringing and more times than not, we have a ball comparing notes and experimenting with bold, new flavors.
I am an adventurous eater, and besides Andrew Zimmern, she is perhaps the only person I've ever met who can battle me fish head for fish head. And I mean that in purely a complimentary manner.
#2 - Interviewing Rob Russo, Proprietor of Girasole
Rob Russo, along with his father Alfonso, is the proprietor of Girasole Cucina Italiana in Bound Brook, NJ. He is also my cousin through marriage, and I never realized until very recently just how little I knew about him.
The "Rob" I thought I knew is very meticulous in how he approaches his business and life in general. He is respectful and polite; congenial and accommodating; loving and supportive; dedicated and devoted to both his family and his business. He is hard working, ethical and measures each word long before it leaves his lips. His sense of "hospitality" is obvious even when he's away from his establishment and merely pouring a glass of wine. That was "Rob" as I knew him.
However, that was only part of the story. The "Rob" I had recently come to know as we sat and shared lunch is far deeper than I ever imagined. And as his family's tale spilled from his lips, I found myself shocked by all they had lost as a result of the earthquake that hit southern Italy in 1980 and impassioned by how he helped his father rebuild their dream on American soil. As he spoke, I was absolutely spellbound.
Rob is an inspiration to me on so many levels. And his restaurant is pretty darn good as well; maybe the best around. Applausi, il mio amico.
#1 - Creating the "2014 Mahwah Mayor's Cookbook"
Over the next two months, I managed to sort through over two hundred recipes kindly submitted by Mahwah residents, categorize them, photograph and write vignettes for each chapter, design the layout, negotiate a printer, choose the stock, and get the finished product into the hands of consumers. Considering all proceeds go to the "Baking for a Cure" Foundation on behalf of young Vincent. it was truly a labor of love... and one I was proud to be a part of.
Happy New Year and all the best in 2015!