A Montclair Must


Out in Vegas, my “office hours” (basically time that I devote to updating all my social media outlets, answering foodie questions, and creating recipes) always consisted of 9:30AM to 2:45PM Mondays at the Starbucks a mile and a half from my daughter’s elementary school. I’ve been going to this wifi cafe, if you must, for the past two years. It kept my schedule for a blog post and correspondence on point and it provided me with that black cup o’ joe or unsweetened iced green tea to keep me going. If anything the only complaint that I ever had was that there was an annoying cold draft at every single seat in the place. Makes sense, they don’t want us setting up shop for too long but shoot, didn’t I buy plenty of hot libations in exchange for the wifi connection?!

Anyhow, being back in New Jersey, I needed to find a great spot for “office hours” whenever it was available to me. It’s a little bit different out here. You get to drive a little further than 30 minutes and find yourself in a quaint town with a cute cafe or even a suburban Starbucks. Or you can take the train into the City and prop yourself up at a Starbucks in front of a park or see the organized chaos that is New Yorkers hustling to catch the next train, cab, or bus. I love the plentiful options my new home offered but I still wanted that special place that can play as my muse or sanctuary.

I was driving to Montclair State University where I’ll be taking some classes (not degree program, just classes) to spruce up my nutrition/healthy eating background. Anyway, I was in the area needing to post a quick blog on my latest trip across the country. I found myself on my Yelp app searching for a “wifi cafe.” And there it was, with 4 stars, 13 reviews, and the closest location to me. The top two reviews, both by amount of stars and recent post, excited me even more about this place.

Liz D. said, “This is what so many places in Montclair TRY to be…but just can’t. Or won’t. Or are just incapable of being, because the lady who owns this place is ‘genuine.'” 5 Stars 5/12/12

Per L. says, “This little cafe is a perfect spot for lunch – especially on a nice day when you can sit outside. Great for kids, great for adults. Really, really nice!” 5 Stars 4/1/12

This is exactly what I needed, so I checked it out!


I pull up to park on the street and see that I need to pay a parking meter. I thought, “Oh, heck no!” So I pulled up a little further then caught a glimpse of the Montclair Public Library. What?! I thought my GPS brought me to Terra @ The Isabel Rose Cafe. I kept driving and saw a side street, no meters and I can park here at the time without any time restrictions, score! I walk over to the library and wonder what was going on. Then, I look just to the left of the library entrance and saw it…Terra! This place is attached to the public library? This place just got cooler and I haven’t even gone in yet.

With a chalk sign on the front lawn and few patio seats adorning the front, it just keeps giving me good vibes. Walking in, I saw a circular nook with window table tops and four free standing tables with a counter and kitchen good to fit four team members comfortably to create all the orders. A young gentleman, who turned out to be the owner’s son (at least I think so), greeted me and asked how he can help me. Looking over the chalk designed menu behind him, I ordered an unsweetened green iced tea and a special, the Jersey Bowl Salad. I asked him if it was ok to have vinegar just on the side and no oil. He turned over to Grace, his mother and the owner of the cafe, and she obliged with a smile!



The young man (sorry brother, totally forgot your name) served me my iced tea first because Grace was making my salad, freshly cut, my favorite. Once the salad came, I couldn’t help but smile myself. It had local green leaf lettuce, so light and buttery I thought it was butter lettuce, apples, local strawberries, fennel, and thinly sliced Walla Walla onions (I think that’s how you spell it, like the city in Washington state) which at first I thought were leeks. She served it with a slice of lemon and small bowl of red wine vinegar. The salad was so fresh and the apples and strawberries were so juicy that I didn’t even need the vinegar. It was perfect! Totally Jersey fresh and local.


After eating my salad, I checked out what she had for sale other than the fresh food and libations. Terra featured Fair Trade teas and chocolates, fresh local strawberries, organic and natural coffee, tea, drinks, and specialty gourmet honey, syrups, and other pantry items. There were also a few products I recognized because we sold them at Whole Foods Markets across the country like Simply Organic bread and cake mixes. Don’t quote me on this but I believe they are Gluten Free as well. They also sold tea pots, coffee & tea cups, and a special display contained all-natural loose teas! The cafe was adorned with plenty of art, probably created by the local artists and maybe school children. Directly behind where I was sitting, there was an Opus One (some great wine) crate of locally made soaps and beeswax candles.






They were from Tassot Apiaries, Inc. out of Milford, NJ which is only 60 miles away. Talk about LOCAL!



Need I say more?! Ok I will! Sitting there, I got to see a true local cafe do what it does best, take care of its community. Parents came in to pick up their pre-ordered local strawberries, probably like a co-op program. A mom and son came in to pick up a catering order of sandwiches decorated with edible pansies, if I’m mistaken. I overheard them talking about the nice platter the sandwiches were placed on and that instead of throwing it away or keeping it. They were going to return it to Grace so that they can reuse it. The mother was exposing being ‘green’ and reusing things to reduce waste. I swear I thought I was in a global warming commercial and I was happy!


I finally flagged the owner over. She introduced herself to me and I quickly thanked her for an amazing experience. I told her who I was and what I do and extended another “Thank You” for being there for the community. She told me that she’s been in business for six years but recently moved into the library. She was on a location on Church Street prior to the library but moved over when her lease ended. I think she made an amazing decision. Greetings from library employees and frequent community members said it all to me. The community was thankful she was there and Grace was only humbled by the gesture. Just like what Liz D. said on Yelp, the owner is “GENUINE!”


There are so many businesses these days that claim to offer an experience as genuine as this one but they are definitely far from it. A lot of current and future business owners need to take notes from Terra At the Isabel Rose Cafe. Being genuine and simply humble goes a hell of a long way. A true business not only offers services and goods but must offer a sense of community and quality in its interactions with it’s patrons. Grace, her son, and team does just this!

Do me a favor, if you are in the Montclair area or if you are parched searching for true sustenance in a great cup of tea and customer service, come and visit Grace at Terra. They’re located at the Montclair Public Library on 50 S. Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, NJ. It’s in the heart of Montclair just minutes from Montclair State University and the town center. You won’t be disappointed just incredibly pleased! Tell them King sent you!


[SMN #eatingNYout2] The Food Freak’s Grilled Cheese Truck

On my first day in New York City, I took my friend around and hit up all the famous touristy spots. I wanted to go Uptown on the Upper West Side and check out Strawberry Fields in Central Park. My friend is a big Beatles and classic rock fan so it was definitely a must! Waiting for the A or C train from Penn Station, we were taking pictures and playing Scramble With Friends on the platform. Distracted(and addicted), we ended up hopping on an E train towards Queens. After realizing where we were going, we jumped off at the 5th Ave/53rd Street station just southwest of Central Park. We walked up 5th ave and decided to check out the East Side since we were in the neighborhood.

My friend is an amateur photographer so NYC was like being in a playground with a new toy in hand. Showing him the shops on 5th Ave, FAO Schwartz, and the old Plaza Hotel we stumbled onto the entrance of Central Park. At the southeast corner, there was a food truck stationed welcoming guests in and out of the park. We walked over since it seemed interesting and definitely emitted plenty of delicious scents. We stepped up to the Grilled Cheese truck by the The Food Freak. 20120611-220920.jpg


My friend and I we greeted by Steve and Jon, two of the three partners in this foodie station. 20120611-221059.jpg

I immediately introduce myself and I automatically new these two were the real deal. We looked over the menu and they couldn’t help but walk and talk us through what they offered. Mind you, I knew I probably couldn’t at about 95% of this food but my friend could so why not try it out. Let’s see what they had for me. Their concept is simply delicious. Who doesn’t enjoy the comfort of great homemade crusty bread and melted, gooey, lovely cheese?! (Well, I guess a plant-strong eater but that’s a given!) Then, to pair it with a homemade VEGAN, yes I said, VEGAN, tomato soup is ingenious. Here’s the menu, they have specially designed sandwiches created by these guys and then they have a kind of ‘build-your-own’ known as the Old School.

Pick a cheese, a bread, a dip (if you want) & any additions.

Depending on the cheese, the sandwich ranges from $4.75 to $5.25 plus any additions. 20120611-221154.jpg

Along with the sandwiches you are going to need a dip, soup, or appetizer, right? RIGHT! They had us try fried brussles sprouts! Fried, yeah I know, but remember, that’s one thing I can’t seem to get away from being plant-strong. I’m working on it, ok! Anyhow, seasoned with sea salt and ground white pepper, YUMMMM! Perfectly crisp, sweet, salty, and savory! Everything you would expect from fried brussels sprout. 20120611-221245.jpg

Then, they had us try their signature chili. Signature and spectacular! Why you ask? Because what would you say to a chili made with Blue Moon Brewery’s Belgian White beer? Exactly! Signature and spectacular are the words I’d use to describe it. One of a kind with a sweet deep malt flavor. They served us a sample topped with pickled jalapeños and cilantro, the perfect accoutrements. For only $5 for a small or $6.75 for a large, I’d recommend getting a 3 Cheese with a side of the Food Freak Chili and you’d be all set!

Now the ‘piece du resistance’ was being grilled up for us while all this tasting was going on. The Short Rib Grilled Cheese sandwich featuring braised beef short rib, gruyere cheese, pickled red onions, blackberry jam, watercress on sourdough! Whaaaaat!?!?!?! Honestly, by far the best short rib sandwich I’ve ever had. I’ve been to plenty steak houses serving these sandwiches for lunch and they don’t even come close. The proper crunch of the sourdough, tenderness of the short rib, and the blackberry jam, that’s what makes this the best. The combo of sweet from the jam, savory from the short ribs, tanginess of the onions and the pepperiness of the watercress, score!20120611-221412.jpg


What?! Am I a little over the top about this place? Well, guess what, they deserve it! They’ve only been open for 8 months in the city. The Food Freak has an awesome concept of what food should taste like. If I had weight in choosing best new food truck in the last year, I’d totally choose these guys! And for those of you who know me, I paid for my grilled cheese sandwich! I’m a cheap blogger. If I like something that I pay for, I’d need to love them in order for me to even decide to write a blog Meaning, I didn’t have to give them a good talk but it was definitely well worth it.

I asked them about having a possible vegan option, maybe using Daiya cheese?! They said they’ve tried it and offered it but it was something that never stuck. Honestly, if I knew that they had a vegan option for sandwich and soup, I’d be there all the time. What do you think Vegan friends? You’d be there too! For now, bring all your friends and family to this awesome concept truck. Then when they have the vegan option, we can all go there together and celebrate. Haha. Steve, Jon, and Dave, if you need ideas I have a few recipes up my sleeve for a good vegan and even plant strong grilled “cheese” sandwich. Let me know!

They were so awesome that they were featured in the NYTimes… 20120611-221455.jpg

The 411…
-Schedule: Monday/Tuesday @ Central Park East (Southeast corner); Wednesday through Sunday @ Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn
-Twitter: @thefoodfreak @foodfreaksgc
-Blog: www.thefoodfreak.com
-Facebook: Facebook.com/foodfreaksgc

Tongue & Pastrami at the Carnegie Deli

Most people who grew up in the tristate area have heard of the famous Carnegie Deli of NYC. From the elite to the layman and the foodie to the hungry, the Carnegie Deli satisfies all!

This recent trip to NYC was my very first time at this deli. Living in NJ for 20 years never even brought me to this sandwich haven. But after numerous times seeing on the Travel Channel in shows such as Bizarre Foods, No Reservations, and Man Vs Food. At every angle, I’ve been exposed to what amazing food the Carnegie Deli has to offer.

Just around the corner from to Dream Hotel where we enjoyed the rooftop lounge, the bright lights of the deli called out to us. Walking in at 3AM, the deli was scattered with a handful of patrons and the restless servers and kitchen staff. You could tell we weren’t the only ones there to soak up all our alcohol. The walls were adorned with many picture of famous diners. It was like a “Who’s Who” for the Carnegie Deli. As we were seated, we were greeted by Desmarie, a twenty-year veteran server at the deli. She was the brightest soul in the room. I fell in love immediately. I actually kept telling her that I loved her and that I wanted to call her ‘Angel!’ she just nodded with approval.

My best friends, dancers/instructors from the Dance With Me studio in SoHo of NYC, decided to share one of the mammoth sandwiches. They ordered a Hot Pastrami and Swiss served on rye with a side of thousand island dressing and coleslaw. They were a bit disappointed that the Swiss cheese wasn’t melted but hey, they don’t advertise, “Have It Your Way!” as you walk in! They both agreed that it was definitely tasty and did the right job for the night. They definitely made the right choice splitting one sandwich because they were only able to finish their own half.

Questioning what I should order, I asked Desmarie for her opinion. Beef tongue? In an instant, she offered a sample of the thinly-sliced, full-flavored beef tongue. It was a winner. But since I felt just still a little squeamish, I ordered half Hot Pastrami and half Beef Tongue! With a side of sauerkraut, sour pickles, and the original Carnegie Deli mustard, I was all set!

“How do I attack this thing? Do I fork-n-knife it or just tackle it with hand-to-mouth?”

It was just what I expected. The warm, sweet, salty, and peppery flavor of the pastrami paired well with the beefy, almost bologna-style, flavor of the tongue. The pastrami helped somewhat mask the thought that you were eating tongue. Delicious nonetheless, this sandwich was everything I imagined. Oh, and if you don’t have it with the Carnegie mustard, you might as well not eat there at all!

One of my friends commented that they liked Katz Deli pastrami a lot better. Now, I’ve never eaten at Katz and remember, this is my first time at the Carnegie Deli. But all it did was give me a reason to visit Katz! Have you eaten at both places? I want to hear your opinion. Leave a message here and tell me if it’s worth it to visit Katz Deli or keep to Desmarie’s loving attitude at the Carnegie Deli!

Two-Dollar Tasty Tacos de Tijuana

I had my first experience of these amazing tacos when I visited family in Chula Vista (San Diego), California. But just like my first experience, the Las Vegas site continues to show me why Baja California’s amazing tacos are just that incredibly good!

Tacos El Gordo is simplicity done right!

It’s cafeteria-style ordering system can be somewhat confusing but have no fear, plenty of the friendliest people, however much English they chose to speak, are willing to help you understand. Facing the counter, the far left window is the lady making the freshly pressed, homemade corn tortillas as well as the grilled, perfectly caramelized green onions and peppers.

The guy just to the right of her is grilling and serving up the incredible carne asada. When I mean incredible, I mean carne asada done right. Thinly sliced steaks, grilled, and then thinly sliced for your taco-eating pleasure. This ain’t Roberto’s or Fausto’s where they have huge pieces of beef (top round/beef chuck) that they thinly slice and then cook up on the flat top. This is perfectly grilled and seasoned, smoky steak!

To the right, my favorite stuff, are all the other pieces of beef and pork that you would never see in any other restaurant, let alone a Mexican restaurant. Buche (Pork Stomach), Saudero (many definitions but I’ll go with something like brisket), Lengua (Beef Tongue), Cabeza (Beef Head), Sesos (Beef Brains), Tripa (Beef Tripe). If you’ve never had any of these cuts of meat, you need to try it, at least once. They are all perfectly clean-tasting cuts of meat. They know how to serve up their innards, if you know what I mean. Quick tip…you have to order the tripa and ask them for the crispy tripa. IT WILL ROCK YOUR WORLD, PROMISE!

Finally, to his right, the ‘piece de resistance,’ the pork Adobada. Meaning “marinated,” the adobada is what you MUST get if you ever visit Tacos El Gordo. It’s pork marinated in a red chili sauce with vinegar and oregano. It’s slow roasted with sweet pineapple (which you have to ask for a piece of when ordering the adobada, it raises the bar), on a contraption that a New Yorker would think it was a gyro on the spigot. Slowly rotating around a flame so that the natural pork juices keep running down the meat, keeping a nice crust on the outside to keep the juices in. The taco de adobada is topped with a salsa rojo and this heavenly avocado cream.


“Con cebollas y cilantro?” “Si, con todo!” Unless specified, all the tacos are topped with raw white onions and cilantro. The adobada and the innards (as I call them) are also topped with a special salsa rojo. But the adobada alone gets the special avocado cream. Sandwiched between two freshly made corn tortillas, just ask for a plate of carmelized green onions and peppers and your done! Oh, don’t forget to let them know if you want it ‘to-go’ or ‘for here!’ You can also get these meats topped in a Sope ($4), sandwiched in a quesadilla ($4), or topped on a tostada ($2). For $10, you can get any of the pork Adobada or the steak Asada with fries topped with guacamole and crema fresca…that’s best for ‘midnight munchies!’

For only $2 a taco, this stuff is the cheapest, best tasting, late night Mexcian food at its best! Open from 9AM-2AM Sunday-Thursday and 9AM-4AM Friday & Saturday, this is thee place to fulfill your Mexican cravings!

Thank God its clear across town because if it was any closer, El Gordo is exactly how I’ll be for the rest of my life!

Holsteins Zero, In N Out Won

Burger joints have been popping up across the country as if there’s an epidemic of meat-hungry Americans needing a beef fix, ASAP! Vegas has its own plethora of burger joints all-around town that are competing to win over locals’ stomachs. Las Vegas offers up restaurants brought to you by America’s finest gourmet chefs such as BLT Burger by Chef Laurent Tourondel at the Mirage and the Burger Bar by Chef Hubert Keller at Mandalay Bay. Then, we have the good ol’, simple-as-they-come burger joints that pride themselves in what the beef has to offer. From In-N-Out and Fatburger to Five Guys and Fuku burger, the local burger food truck. No matter what corner of Las Vegas you end up on, there’s a burger palace up for the adventurous appetite.

At The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the newest Las Vegas Strip Hotel & Casino, Holsteins Shakes & Buns is what they have to bring to the table for our beef-eating, patty-lovers. They bring us their “Bad-ass burgers and milkshakes that we won’t find anywhere else in Las Vegas (or in the world for that matter!)”

Walking into the restaurant, we were greeted by the infamous pink cow branded with “HOLSTEINS” on the side. It just screams BEEF right when you walk into the door.

They offer a nice array of “Bam-Boozled Shakes” for the 21+, such as the Strawberry Shortcake: cheesecake chunks, graham crumble, strawberry swirl, and Absolut vanilla vodka and the Oreo Milkshake: Oreo Cookies and Bailey’s Irish Cream. They surprised me with an amazing selection of 12 “Big Buns” choices from the Classic to the Korean ‘Bull’Gogi featuring marinated beef, fried egg, kimchee slaw, and a chili mayo. For an extra $1 or $2, you can add their “One Dollar Cheese” or their “Two Dollar Cheese,” clever huh? They also have toppings from a fried egg for an extra $1 all the way to lobster meat or Foie Gras Torchon for $7 each. Holsteins also provides “Snacks” and “Tiny Buns” as their appetizers and sliders.

Appetizer: Southern-Fried Chicken Fingers-N-Waffles (w Maple Syrup and Ranch Dressing), Daughter: Virgin Oreo Milkshake, Kids Grilled Cheese & Shoestring Fries, and Me: Plain Iced Tea and the Hen House Burger (medium)

As excited as I was to try Holsteins, the faster I was let down.

Southern Fried Chicken Fingers & Waffles: First off, they never came. Well at least before our entrees showed up, as I asked. The runner showed up at our table with our burger and grilled cheese. The look on my face was priceless and then our server, Alicia, comes scurrying behind with our chicken fingers. She apologized because the kitchen never saw our appetizer ticket until after our entrees. Now, I have all my food on my table at the same time. What do I eat first? Which item should I endure cold, the chicken fingers or the burger? This is definitely a decision one should never have to make. Needless to say, I had the chicken fingers and waffles first. It probably didn’t matter if I had it after the burger because I’m sure it would’ve been as uneventful either way. The taste of fried, previously frozen, chicken fingers with a ranch dressing that tasted too much like blue cheese dressing was not worth the $11. Ever heard of Raising Canes? Cheaper and taste way better!

The Burger: The Hen House (Beef, a fried egg, smoked bacon, lettuce tomato, mustard and ketchup) on a whole wheat bun served w/ steak cut fries…At first look, this burger was going to make my lunch worthwhile. Juicy, vibrant, and had the sweetest smell! Upon tasting it, it was another world. First off, the bun was way, too dry. When I took a bite of it, all it tasted of was grease, mustard, and ketchup. So then I gave it another go but this time just took a taste of the beef patty. I ordered it to be cooked to medium. Either it was because I had my chicken fingers first or because it was just left under the heat lamp (hence my bun felt like it was toasted) but the patty was cold and worst off, tasteless. Tasted of dry, cold, ground meat. I have had way better burgers at In-N-Out and it wasn’t even “Animal-Style.” Over to the fries…steakcut!? Aren’t these called wedges? And in this day and age of burger frenzy, why wouldn’t you make fresh steak cut fries? Is our economy that bad that we have to use frozen fries?

Do you really want me to continue onto my daughter’s order? Let’s just say that the Virgin Oreo Milkshake was the best thing she ordered. The grilled cheese was cold, flavorless cheddar cheese and once again, from frozen, shoestring fries.I don’t care how crisp you can get them but a frozen fry is a frozen fry, you can’t mask it. Now there are plenty of places that sell frozen fries, McDonald’s & Burger King, but when you sell fries for $5 as a side order, you’ve got to do better than frozen!

There’s a definite reason this place doesn’t have the word ‘burgers’ in its name but I really feel they should change it up to…”Holsteins Shakes, PERIOD”