Alert! Restaurant and Food News…

Just thinking about some interesting restaurant news while I wait for my dang appetite to return…

I have mixed feelings on hearing that Blue‘s chef Steven Cameron is leaving (yes, sniff, leaving!) after this summer season. The somewhat good news is that he’s off to try his luck with the big boys in Philadelphia, opening a place called Noble with Blue’s owners. His food always seemed big league, with emphasis on seasonal, fresh local New Jersey ingredients. Eating there feels special, even though you can arrive in casual-chic shorts. It’s a little on the pricey side, but so worth it. Everything is addictive, from the homemade breads and spreads, to the key lime pie (I’d describe more, but you never know what will be on the menu when you go!). I advise any and all to get there before 1) the tourists crowd the Island for the summer and you can’t get a reservation, and 2) Cameron makes such a big splash in Philly you can’t get a reservation. Sigh.

Blue – 11th Street and Long Beach Blvd., Surf City. (609) 494-7556. BYO.

217 East Main opened in Tuckerton recently, with Chris Brannon (former chef at the Hurricane House in Barnegat in the kitchen. I actually got a coupon/ad for it in our recent Val-Pak (should we be worried?), and they’re making a big to-do about it being next door to the Lizzie Rose (it is also a fixed-up Victorian “Painted Lady”). That’s all well and good, but show me the food. So far, they claim to have the “Best Ever True New England Clam Chowder” (maybe we’ll see him at LBI’s Chowderfest in October?), and a few interesting items like Panko-Crusted Boursin Cheese. Prices look moderate. If you get there before we do, let us know what you think!

217 East Main – 217 East Main St. (Rt.9), Tuckerton. (609)296-3343.

Las Olas occupies the same location as the ill-fated La Bahia, which was also an elegant, Southwestern fusion place. It even looks the same on the outside! Though La Bahia had its good points and its faults, it was a relief to see someone trying something different around here. Looking forward to checking out their take on “Southwestern/Mexican/Latin fusion”.

Las Olas – 507 South Main St. (Rt 9), Stafford. (609) 978-0550.

The Downtown Dinner Club For those of you who are clued-in, I’ll mention Chef Greg Manning’s (formerly of Jeffrey’s) name, or just “The Olde Corner Deli”, and a sly smile will creep across your face: oh, yeah, you’ve been there, you know. Well, wipe that smarmy expression off your face, because Manning is no longer under-cover; if you don’t already know, as of March he’s opened up a place in downtown Toms River and dinner is being served on-gasp!- Saturday night! For those who don’t know: Manning is the local “buzz” chef who has laid low for the last few years and kept his skills thriving in a small place in the back of an old deli in Island Heights, serving only some weeknights. It used to be the best tasting, best-kept secret in town. Now, however, you too can go and enjoy. It looks like prices are still very reasonable, with a $25 prix fixe deal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (that’s when us struggling young parents are going to go).

The Downtown Dinner Club – 216 Main Street, Toms River. (732) 281-2582.

Lastly, it’s strawberry season in Jersey – yeeeeeeehaw! Go out and find a roadside stand or pick your own this weekend. I’m thrilled, because it’s one of the few in-season foods that don’t cause hurling on my part right now. I called my favorite strawberry-picking place last week, Silverton Farm in Toms River, and was informed that they’ll be ready this week. It’s a cute little family farm, organic, and I feel good about what I get there and supporting it. Call them at (732) 244-2621 to double check hours and get directions. Also, remember-it’s not a giant place, and it’s their home, so please be respectful.

Don’t forget it’s almost June, and you know what that means… Blueberries! It’s our state fruit, after all. South Jersey is abundant in them and they should be ready by mid-June. I’ll let you know when we’re going picking….

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