Valente’s Introduces Virtual Pasta Classes & Pasta Kits

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make fresh pasta? Valente’s Italian Specialties based in Haddonfield will be hosting virtual pasta making classes.

To get started, those interested would need to schedule their live class, then arrange to pick up the ingredients ahead of the class at Valente’s store at 7 Kings Court.

Each class including ingredients is $75.

Build your own pasta kits are also available which feature pasta cut, sauce, and meatball of your choice for $15.

Happy pasta eating!

Doing Good: Denim BYOB

I’m not sure if this will be a series of posts, but I wanted to call out some local restaurants who’ve stepped up to do more than just provide pickup and delivery during these turbulent times. They’re providing more than food, too.

When non-essential businesses were required to close to the public, many dine-in restaurants quickly saw their business plummet, some by more than 80%. Many decided to close altogether and simply ride it out temporarily. Denim BYOB in Haddonfield did just that.

But after a few weeks, Chef and owner David Murray started to become restless. Accustomed to working up to 90+ hour weeks at his Kings Highway restaurant, sitting around doing nothing isn’t his style. So, he decided to re-open with a revamped daily menu covering both brunch/lunch and dinner options at affordable price points.

“We’re not paying our bills doing this, but we’re trying to offer people inexpensive food,” said Murray.

The menu varies and is posted daily on their Facebook page and includes a la carte and family meal packages. Contact-free pickup is available between 12-8PM and delivery can be arranged within 5 miles of the restaurant.

Not only that, but Murray is also offering groceries and some essential quarantine items such as sanitizers, toilet paper, paper towels, and vinyl gloves in what he’s calling the Denim Marketplace all at very reasonable prices.

“I’m focusing more on the marketplace orders because this is what people need most. I started doing it because people were asking me for these things that I have easy access to. Plus it’s keeping people indoors and that’s important right now,” explained Murray.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, as the say.

He’s more than ready to open when the time comes and the restaurant will take extra precautions to ensure people are confident about dining out again.

Are you aware of restaurants who are going above and beyond for customers? Let me know and I’d love to feature them!

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Mulhern’s Launches Free Lunch Giveaways in Merchantville

Who said there’s no free lunch?

Mulhern’s Auto Repairs in Merchantville is getting into the giving spirit during the COVID-19 crisis. Just this week, they started a free lunch giveaway promotion on their Facebook page.

They asked fans to like and comment “FEED ME” on the Facebook post on their wall as well as a couple of local Facebook groups. Within a day, they had many entries, and then they selected a winner who chose to enjoy lunch at Pronto Pizza compliments of the auto repair shop. It was well-received so they are doing it again.

The next winner will receive a $25 lunch at The Station Coffeehouse.

“It’s fun to shop in our small town and helping those food establishments along is really a good thing for all of us. Our contribution is just a small thing to do,” said Yvonne Mulhern.

Stay tuned for more giveaways from Mulhern’s in Merchantville.

Have you heard of any other feel-good stories of people helping food businesses?
Let me know!

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Fresh Produce Delivery Service Starts Up in South Jersey

They say necessity is the mother of invention.

Two brothers, originally from Cherry Hill, started Camden County-based Veggie Carriage so that families and vulnerable individuals can have affordable fresh produce delivered to their homes.

Since the coronavirus crisis began, the state of New Jersey encouraged folks to stay at home or shelter-in-place, prompting people to venture out only when necessary. While grocery stores and supermarkets remain open as essential businesses, lines are long and there are still many risks even when social distancing. The need to have groceries and food delivered has become increasingly vital.

Third-party services such as Instacart, Fresh Direct, and Amazon Fresh are being slammed right now, with delivery dates selling out quickly and sometimes being more than a week away. Seeing this essential need, Veggie Carriage was born to lend a helping hand to communities in South Jersey. Currently, they’re servicing most of Camden County and hope to expand to other areas in the coming weeks.

As a wholesale produce company, they are able to procure fresh produce at wholesale prices and pass along the savings to their customers, especially the elderly and families who are on a fixed income.

Additionally, as a way to help those economically-impacted, they are offering FREE next-day delivery on all orders above $25.

Word has spread around via local Facebook groups and they are using social media (Facebook and Instagram) to promote their service. As of now, they’re serving approximately 100 families a day and intend for that number to reach over 200 in the next two to three weeks. 

They will also be donating some produce baskets to those who are economically distressed during this time.

Folks wishing to place an order can visit the website to see if delivery is available to their zip code. They prefer orders to be placed online but will accept orders by phone especially from those who do not have access to a computer. Call 856-630-0112.

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Three South Jersey Food Trucks Feeding the Frontline

Mary Hilbert of Mary’s Mobile Diner is on a mission to make sure the essential healthcare workers and first responders at Cooper Hospital in Camden are supplied with fresh hot meals made to order during this difficult time.

Mary recruited fellow South Jersey food trucks Red’s Rolling Restaurant and Not Your Mama’s Tacos to line up outside of Cooper’s Emergency Room every night usually between 11PM-2AM (hours may vary) to feed the tireless medical professionals who are risking their own lives during the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, Mary is asking for the public’s help and is accepting donations via Venmo that will go towards hot meals for the hospital workers, EMTs, and police officers who are dealing with this healthcare crisis. So far, over 400 meals have been donated, but her goal is to grant at least 1,000 meals to these local heroes.

“These folks are working hard and we want to make sure they’re taken care of,” says Mary. “We’re happy to support these amazing people!”

If you’d like to donate a meal, Venmo @FTFL-Cooper.

Learn more about how you can help Cooper Hospital during this challenging time here.

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South Jersey Restaurants Offering Family-Style Meals

South Jersey restaurants can only provide takeout and delivery only during the COVID-19 crisis. Many are offering family-style meal options in addition to a la carte. In some cases, they’re also making alcohol available with orders. Here are a few restaurants offering family-style meals to go or delivered during this challenging time.

Seasons 52 – Cherry Hill

Seasons 52 in Cherry Hill is offering a streamlined menu for family-style meals enough to feed a family of four. You select 1 family-sized salad, 1 entree that feeds four, 2 sides, and 4 individual desserts. See the menu below. Because they want to remain as sanitary as possible, they would prefer you to pay over the phone prior to coming in to minimize contact at this time. Mention Neighbor to Neighbor and you’ll get 20% off your order! Call Seasons 52 at (856) 665-1052 to order between 12-8PM. Seasons 52 is also giving away TWO FREE MEALS to deserving families. Click here for details.

Tortilla Press (Collingswood) & Tortilla Press Cantina (Pennsauken)

Chef Mark Smith of Tortilla Press and Tortilla Press Cantina wants to help feed people during this difficult time without breaking the bank. He’s put together a Tasty Taco Table family-style meal enough to feed a small group or family. Fixings to make 26 tacos include crunchy corn and soft flour shells, taco beef and red salsa chicken breast, shredded cheese, lettuce, pickled jalapeno, pico de gallo, Mexican crèma for just $49. Available as pick up at the restaurants or delivery through Door Dash, EZ Cater or Caviar. Call 856-869-3345 in Collingswood or 856-356-2050 in Pennsauken.

Just Fork It – Haddon Township

Yard House – Moorestown

Yard House just started offering family-style meals that serve a family of four plus they’re offering 15% off all takeout orders (with promo code) from their Moorestown Mall location. Select from Mac & Cheese Meal ($50), Pizza, Wings & Salad Meal ($50), Chicken Meals ($60), or Steak & Salmon Meals (starting at $65). Click here for more details or call (856) 722-5620.

Bonefish Grill – Marlton

Bonefish Grill is offering Family Bundles that feed up to 5 family members starting at $30. Call 856-396-3122.

Know of any other restaurants that are offering family-style meals? Let me know and I will add them here.

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South Jersey Restaurants Struggling During COVID-19

Unless you’re living under a rock. Things royally suck right now.

This is an especially challenging and disheartening time for the restaurant business all over the country. South Jersey restaurants are definitely getting hit hard even though they’re still offering take out and delivery. Many restaurants have decided to close altogether and wait it out until it’s safe. It’s heartbreaking to think that some of these restaurants may not be re-opening when it’s all over.

I reached out on Twitter to ask restaurants how they’re holding up during this difficult time. Not only to see how business is, but to see how they’re coping and to give them a little love.

Criollo’s Latin Cuisine in Millville, NJ

Scott Guzman of Criollo’s Latin Cuisine in Millville, NJ responded…

“Already had to lay off staff. Sales are down easy 40% if not more you can see it in the streets traffic is just dead. I heard a rumor Uber and Lyft might be canceled if it hasn’t already. And if that happens, we might lose Grubhub UberEats Doordash etc. Delivery has spiked slightly perhaps maybe just 15% however one would have thought delivery would have spiked a whole lot more.”

“If you think about it, we just got over the slowest time for restaurants which is the winter months and we look forward to the tax return season to create a boost in business and this is typically our black Friday season or holiday season, if you will, where most restaurants get out of red and put away for winter. I feel we just didn’t do enough to contain this early on and now it’s just too late…”

Are you a restaurant experiencing a significant loss of business and severe economic distress during this unprecedented time? Contact me so that I can feature you here. I don’t know how much it will help, but I just want to give you some love because my heart is going out to you and all of the service industry workers.

WASH YOUR HANDS! STAY THE HELL HOME! ORDER TAKE OUT OR DELIVERY!

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Main Street Laundromat Cafe Opens This Saturday

A new business is opening up at 120 West Main Street in Maple Shade that is half-laundromat and half-cafe. At the Main Street Laundromat Cafe, you’ll be able to do your laundry and enjoy a coffee drink and take advantage of free wifi.

On the cafe side, they will offer hot drinks such as coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos in a variety of flavors including sugar-free options.

Sweets, pastries, and decadent desserts such as croissants, pies, cinnamon buns, baklava, danishes, and more from nearby bakeries like Sweet Eats of Voorhees and Duffields of Sewell will be available. The baklava will be sourced from Shatila Bakery in Dearborn, MI which specializes in Middle Eastern pastries.

They’re currently in talks with a local chef to offer savory foods such as soups and sandwiches to grab and go.

Operating hours will be 8AM-8PM.

The Main Street Laundromat is owned and operated by Liat Weeks of Washington Township.

More info as we have it!

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Where to Eat During Atlantic City Restaurant Week

Atlantic City Restaurant Week is back again for another year of wonderful dining options. From March 8th to the 13th, participating restaurants in and around Atlantic City are offering prix fixe dinners for $35.20 and prix fixe lunch specials for $15.20. You can see all the participating restaurants at www.acrestaurantweek.com.

While we can’t talk about every restaurant that will be part of Restaurant Week (hint: there are a LOT), here are some options to consider:  

Restaurants at the Casinos

When Revel came back as Ocean and announced that some of the restaurants would be returning, I was sure hoping one of them would be Amada. Thankfully it was, and thankfully it is just as good as before. The menu available for Restaurant Week showcases Chef Jose Garces’ spin on Spanish cuisine. Amada lets you choose two appetizers and two entrees, so expect smaller plates but lots of flavor.  

American Cut also returned to Ocean. A modern take on the steakhouse from Chef Marc Forgione, American Cut is offering a six-ounce filet mignon as one of the entrees as well as double smoked bacon as an appetizer. 

This restaurant doesn’t get the same press as other restaurants in Tropicana, but Broadway Burger Bar is my favorite place for a burger and a drink in Atlantic City. The restaurant’s Signature Beef Burger is available for lunch and dinner during Restaurant Week.   

I give Tropicana credit for taking over The Chelsea and bringing back the former Chelsea Prime restaurant under the name Chelsea Five Gastropub. Swanky supper club feel with great views of the ocean. Entrée options for Restaurant Week include shrimp & grits, buttermilk fried chicken and filet mignon.  

Old school upscale Italian done right – that’s what Il Mulino Trattoria at Hard Rock Hotel Casio means to me. Throwback with no apologies. Nothing on the menu will surprise you, yet everything will be worth savoring. The service, by the way, is top-notch.    

Hungry for Japanese? Izakaya Modern Japanese Pub at Borgata has been a popular dining spot since it opened in 2008 and shows no signs of stopping. The Restaurant Week menu has several ‘courses’ that goes from Cold to Hot to Crispy, then a Robatayaki (“fireside cooking”) course, a Meat & Fish course with a side, and a Sushi or Sashimi course. Sounds like a good time to me.  

If you want that classic steakhouse vibe, look no further than Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at Golden Nugget. Yes, it is a chain, but do not let that sway your judgement for one nanosecond. Expect great food and excellent service.     

Restaurants in the City of Atlantic City

Restaurant Week is the perfect time to see what’s happening in the Orange Loop. What’s the Orange Loop? It’s Tennessee Avenue, New York Avenue and St. James Place – the ‘orange’ properties in that famous real estate board game based on Atlantic City (you know the one). Bourré on New York Avenue brings a little New Orleans to Atlantic City and the lunch and dinner menus give you a good sampling of this. Finish either meal with the choice of bourbon bread pudding or beignets for dessert. 

Photo: Bourré

Stroll on over to Tennessee Avenue for several dining options, such as Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, Rhythm & Spirits, and my personal favorite The Iron Room (featuring dessert from MADE Chocolate). Yes, I’ll take that vanilla glazed thick-cut bacon and vindaloo croquettes, please. 

If you want to go old school Atlantic City, look no further than Dock’s Oyster House and Knife & Fork Inn, which were around long before the modern casino boom. You walk into Knife & Fork and you really feel like you have stepped back in time to a more civilized age of dining.   

Photo: Girasole

I don’t like to use the term ‘hidden gem’ – but if I did use that phrase, Girasole would be that kind of place. A beautiful dining area with food to match, and pizza chef who knows how work a brick oven. Just go and know that everything on the plate will be delicious.   

If there was one restaurant I wanted to try during Restaurant Week, it would be Setaara Afghan French Cuisine. Afghan French fusion is a unique combination, and it would be hard to select just one appetizer and one entrée from the Restaurant Week menu, But, them’s the rules, so go and have fun! 

Restaurants Surrounding Atlantic City

I have never, and I mean never, heard a bad word said about Assaggio! In Galloway. This is a neighborhood Italian restaurant that has been making diners happy for years now with their homemade pasta and other delights. The Restaurant Week menu offers a number of gluten-free options.    

What can be said about Steve & Cookie’s By The Bay in Margate that hasn’t already been said? If you’re new to this restaurant, just know that Cookie Till is currently a James Beard Award semifinalist for outstanding restauranteur and go without worries about your meal. 

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Where to Eat Filipino Food in South Jersey

Filipino food is finally having a moment in the spotlight this year and South Jersey is getting in on the action. While other Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai and Vietnamese have always been well-represented here, Filipino fare was harder to find on this side of the bridge. It has been gaining more popularity in recent years as the Filipino population in South Jersey grows and people develop more adventurous palates.

According to Wikipedia, Filipino dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to fish curry, chicken curry, complex paellas and cozidos of Iberian origin created for fiestas. Popular dishes include: lechón (whole roasted pig), longganisa (Philippine sausage), tapa (cured beef), torta (omelette), adobo (chicken or pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce, or cooked until dry), dinuguan (pork blood stew), kaldereta (meat stewed in tomato sauce), mechado (larded beef in soy and tomato sauce), pochero (beef and bananas in tomato sauce), afritada (chicken or pork and vegetables simmered in tomato sauce), kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce), pinakbet (kabocha squash, eggplant, beans, okra, and tomato stew flavored with shrimp paste), crispy pata (deep-fried pig’s leg), hamonado (pork sweetened in pineapple sauce), sinigang (meat or seafood in sour broth), pancit (noodles), and lumpia (fresh or fried spring rolls).

Here’s where to eat Filipino food in South Jersey:

Bahay Kubo in Egg Harbor Township

Bahay Kubo
3003 English Creek Ave
Egg Harbor Township, NJ
609-383-9400

Various members of Bonilla, Ronas, Alumia, Davadilla, and Santos-Schiff families took over ownership and management as of January 2020 which opened in 2019 under different owners. When asked what sets them apart from other Filipino restaurants, “When you are at the Kubo, you are family!”

Manila Café and Market in Mount Laurel

Manila Café and Market
200 Larchmont Boulevard
Mount Laurel, NJ
856-222-0604

Arlyn Baker opened Manila Café in November 2010 with the purpose of serving fellow Filipinos in the area, as there weren’t a lot of options for Filipino food at that time. But since then, it has developed a loyal following of non-Filipino customers as well who rave about the food.

Reyta’s Filipino Cuisine in Cherry Hill

Reyta’s Filipino Cuisine
1490 Haddonfield Berlin Road
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
856-651-7470  

Mark Reyta, along with his uncle Marcos Medroso, opened Reyta’s in the Woodcrest Shopping Center in November 2019 and it has seen steady business ever since. The restaurant offers a combination of “Turo-Turo” (which means “point point” in Tagalog) buffet-style where you choose from many different popular Filipino dishes, as well as à la carte with freshly cooked dishes such as Sisig, Palabok, BBQ, and variety of grilled dishes.

Tropical Hut in Somerdale

Tropical Hut
20 South White Horse Pike
Somerdale, NJ

With five total locations, the Tropical Hut in Somerdale is the only one in South Jersey. Owned and operated by Philippine-born Leo Alquiros where his motto is “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.” 

Do you enjoy Filipino food? Where do you eat Filipino food in South Jersey?

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