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For M’s birthday this year, we went to Vernick. They offered to seat us at the kitchen so we could get a free show, so we said sure! I actually love watching people cook my food. But I always forget that it’s going to be super hot there! But we still enjoyed the show! They started us off with a complimentary little amuse bouche – a pea soup with some chili oil on top. A fun and tasty start!
vernicktunaWe started off with some tuna poke, served with macadamia nuts in a sweet soy dressing. This was a perfect combo of cold tuna with sweet and umami flavors. I’ve never had poke, so I have no idea how poke-ish this poke was, but it was darn tasty. It was obvious, from the very start, how fresh and high quality all the ingredients here were.

vernickbroccWe wanted to get at least some veggies, to feign caring about our health, so we went with the broccoli rabe, which was simply roasted with chili and aged pecorino. I need to eat more roasted veggies!
vernickravioliOur last shared small dish was the ravioli with braised duck and green beans. Another great dish. Three pieces of delicate ravioli with super moist duck. The green beans were still nice and firm. There’s nothing appealing about soggy green beans!
vernickvealM got the oven-roasted veal loin, served with Israeli couscous and spring beans with a pesto sauce. He loved it! The entree portions here were surprisingly large.
vernickbassI got the grilled black sea bass, served with tender broccoli and a fire-roasted tomato sauce. Yum! The fish is cooked really nicely, with the skin on, and the skin is nice and crispity. The tomato sauce is surprisingly flavorful and works well with the flaky fish. It’s a delicate fish, but the accompanying sauce is strong and pungent.
vernickdatecakeWe definitely wanted to try dessert so we asked our server what to get and he said “cardamom cake!” so we said sure! Listen here people. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. It’s just the whole package. It’s a roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce, a scoop of coconut gelato, and topped with a candied slice of orange. Man, the cake is warm and moist with just enough hint of that exotic cardamom flavor, the gelato is just the right amount of cold. It just works! I could eat this every day. Our experience at Vernick was just wonderful. All of it, the food, the show, and the service. It certainly deserves all its raves!
Vernick Food & Drink on Urbanspoon

The Pandan Room – Hackettstown

If you travel for work, sometimes you get to go to really awesome places, like Italy or Boston. Sometimes you get to go to less illustrious places. But wherever I’ve ended up, I’ve always managed to eat somewhere interesting. I’ve had to go to Hackettstown, NJ, a lot, and my best meal there was at Pandan Room. Man alive I love these prawn crackers! I ate the whole damn bowl. I can’t buy these in a store, because I would eat them too quickly.
I got the soup special which was a pumpkin chestnut soup. What’s not to love? I love pumpkin! I love chesnuts! Put them together!
For my main dish, I got the Babi Kecap Manis. These were little mini pork shanks marinated with Indonesian sweet soy, fresh shallot, lemongrass, and medium chili sauce. They were served with a sweet potato puree and quinoa. Quinoa at an asian restaurant? Yep! I’ve never had an entree quite like this. It was delightful!
Everything had been so delicious and also interesting, so even though I was beyond stuffed, I wanted to get some dessert. So I picked the banana mini cheesecake with vanilla ice cream. These were essentially deep fried cheesecake bites topped onto ice cream, with some sliced strawberries. Talk about decadent! This place was such a nice surprise. Service was great, attentive, and my server was super friendly. I was glad to see many people eating there, and it seemed to be mostly locals and regulars. 

Pandan Room Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pumpkin on Sundays

To continue on with my extreme laziness in blogging, I’m finally posting on this dinner from Pumpkin from forever ago. I don’t even remember what season it was! But I’m pretty sure it was from last summer. So I apologize in advance for the lack of timeliness in the menu and seasonal ingredients. But regarless, Pumpkin still has one of the best sunday night prix fixes to be had. The bread! So warm and so good.
My cucumber and grape soup that was served cold. I love me some soup. And I love me some cold soup. This is so much more exciting than a common gazpacho type cold soup. The cucumber taste was mild and the grapes were just the right pop of sweet. I would drink this out of a glass… or even a pitcher. Just put the funnel in my mouth and start pouring.
Salmon pate with spicy foam! The foam was so spicy! There were a few hunks of watermelon on top of the salmon.
Fregola sarda with cheesy foam and coddled egg. What is fregola sarda? I don’t really know. It’s big round bits of pasta, kinda like israeli¬†couscous. This foam was so cheesy!
A big hunk of cheese! It reminded us of feta, but was a very creamy consistency. And there were some bits of green plant that were completely mysterious, but quite tasty. Beets too, and some kind of pickled onion type thing. We have no clue, but we ate it all!
There were adorable tiny purple potatoes with my beef! And more mysterious green things that I happily ate.
Fish with mushrooms and more foam! I didn’t even realize until now just how foam-heavy this meal was! And every single foam was completely different from each other.
Chocolate cake with mango sorbet… just about the most mango-y thing you’ll ever taste!
Banana budino! There’s not much for me to say, other than just reiterate my love for Pumpkin. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in all of Philadelphia. I’ve never been disappointed. It’s just a lovely place.

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