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New York's The Leopard at Des Artistes hosts BYOB Sunday

New York's The Leopard at Des Artistes hosts BYOB Sunday

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With the rise of corkage fees up to $150 at New York restaurants like Per Se, the question of bringing your own bottle has been up for much debate. Though many wine afficionados want to be their own sommeliers, the other portion of BYOB patrons — money savers — accounts for a good chunk of New York City diners (myself included).

Wine lovers from all budgets can now pair their own wines with Sunday dinner at The Leopard at Des Artistes. Whether you're planning to enjoy a $7 or $270 bottle, you won't pay a corkage fee! On a recent Sunday, a friend and I enjoyed a multi-course meal with a bottle of $10 Cotes du Rhone, which was professionaly decanted and served with as if it were a much pricier bottle.

Italian food and wine are practically inseparable, and The Leopard's menu will flatter whichever bottle you choose to bring in.

Start with freshly baked bread dipped in authentic extra virgin olive oil, and pair with the Grilled Octopus and Celery potato salad, drizzled table side with olive oiland lemon dressing, to lighten up your first course.

On Sundays, Chef Vito Gnazzo, an Italian who truly enjoys watching his patrons devour his food, creates traditional slow-cooked Italian supper dishes, including a homemade pasta dish and a risotto.

With an impressive range of pasta dishes including fresh vegetables, seafood, cheese, and meats, all around $20, it's easy to enjoy an upscale and satisfying meal at The Leopard without straining your budget. The Homemade Pappardelle with wild boar ragout marinated with Aglianico di Taurasi ($22) is a must-try for carnivorous carbaholics: the ragout is so tender, flavorful, and juicy, wrapping perfectly with the thin strands of pasta.

Reservations are accepted for BYOB Sundays, and The Leopard is a perfect stop after a spring day in Central Park or before a performance at Lincoln Center.

New York's The Leopard at Des Artistes hosts BYOB Sunday - Recipes

Everything was good here but nothing was great. Had a Sardinian pasta to start that was nice. Then a whole Branzino which was bland and accompanied by a heap of broccoli rabe that also was bland. Room was crowded and noisy. Service was fine.

68 - 72 of 295 reviews

I have lived on the Upper West Side most of my life. My father had taken me to Cafe des Artiste to celebrate my graduation from Columbia College. He introduced me to the owner George Lang who then walked me next door to the Hotel des Artistes. The cafe originally fed the artist residents whose apartments did not have kitchens. Those magnificent murals were painted by Howard Chandler Christy who was a tenant in the hotel. George moved to Budapest and the restaurant eventually went bankrupt.
In 2011 the owners of Il Gattopardo (Leopard in Italian) and Mozzarella & Vino opened The Leopard at des Artistes after completely restoring the murals.
The history is so much a part of the restaurant and the southern Italian cuisine was superb. I choose the Prix fixed three course dinner (featuring Sicilian cuisine) paired with wine. $80 for the great food and wine in such elegant surroundings was a bargain. There is a brunch on Saturdays (jazz) & Sunday and Sunday dinner is BYOB.
I will be returning soon to try the a la carte menu.

For an exceptionally romantic experience, Leopard at des Artistes is a must.

I took my wife there for lunch on a Saturday, and we were greeted with two live jazz musicians beautiful, soft, music throughout the restaurant.

The ambiance, augmented by the sensual art, was wonderful.

The food, wait staff, host and hostesses were all first rate, and made our anniversary experience sensational.

The Leopard at des Artistes, Meals and Wines with a Story

Gianfranco Sorrentino was born in Naples and has been working in the restaurant industry for the past 46 years, starting his first job in Capri when he was 14. Since then he has gained international experience working in Italy, England, Spain, Japan, and in New York.

Sorrentino opened his first restaurant – Neapolitan of course – in 1991 inside the Museum of Modern Art, surrounded by masterpieces. He soon moved across the street and opened another restaurant called Il Gattopardo. This then moved a few doors over, into a former residence of the Rockefellers, and which is said to have been connected to the Museum through a secret tunnel.

The previous location is now home to another of Sorrentino’s restaurants, Mozzarella & Vino, a simpler restaurant whose main feature is the high quality of its products.  

A fascinating location
The same care goes into selecting the products used at The Leopard, which opened four years ago in another interesting space: the old Hotel des Artistes on the Upper West Side, now a luxurious condominium. In the Hotel des Artistes, the Café des Artistes was initially a standard hotel restaurant.

But its walls featured murals by Howard Chandler Christy that depicted naked women, and which caused a great scandal among the elites of 1924. Then in 1960, a new owner, George Lang, a famous violin player, turned into one of the world’s most famous restaurants, hosting the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill. Lang closed the Café des Artistes in 2009.

In 2011, Sorrentino took over and after extensive restorations turned the space into a southern Italian restaurant under executive chef Vito Gnazzo. The Leopard now has a new chef, Michele Brogioni, who has worked in Tuscany (where he earned a Michelin star), Moscow, and New York.

Brogioni has been modifying The Leopard’s menu, which he varies seasonally, always prioritizing the freshness of the ingredients. There’s also great value placed on providing guests with authentic culinary experiences. This is especially true when it comes to holidays. “At Christmas and Easter, for instance, we try to serve our tradition, our culture to our clientele,” Sorrentino explains.

Wine with a story 
Last but not least, there’s the wine. Sorrentino and his team go to Italy two or three times a year to select the wines, focusing on artisanal producers. They like to meet and talk with winemakers personally. 

“We want the wine to tell a story, so when we pour a wine, we can tell the customer where it’s from, its tradition” he says. All this care and attention to detail just adds to the restaurant’s distinctive quality. Every aspect of The Leopard has a story: the location, the owner, the chef, the food, the wine, and the customers. Coming here is not just about having a delicious meal, it’s a complete experience. 

Wine Berserkers - international wine social media, online community, and discussion

New York City, aka Manhattan and the boroughs BYO

#1 Post by Dan Hammer » May 17th, 2010, 9:42 pm

Welcome to the New York City , aka Manhattan and the boroughs, BYO forum.

Check out post 481 re: grubstreet and BYO. edit 7/5/17.

Please post restaurant name, address, corkage fee, and website, if available. A link would be helpful.

This thread will be updated regularly. with your help.

Check out this new website. They have information on over over 300 NYC BYO's. Added 4/22/15.

Check out this Chowhound thread from January 2010."

I just found this NYC BYO site. edit 6/21/18

example > Peter Luger's. . ad1741284/ added 6/21/18


456 Shanghai Cuisine , on Mott Street in Chinatown. Corkage is free. Bring stems.

Aba Turkish near Carnegie Hall on West 57 st. No charge to BYO. edit 7/5/17

ABCV $40. 8/12/19

Ai Fiori Max of 2 bottles byo per table and we were charged $60 per bottle. Byo'd wine must not be on their online winelist, but different vintage of a producer in their list is OK to bring.

Aldea Corkage fee of $35 per.

American Cut in TriBeCa last night. Excellent meal. Paid $40 corkage and it was well worth it given the prices on the wine list. Two bottle limit per table and it can’t be a wine that’s on the list.

Aska $80 corkage. 2 bottle limit. Added 7/6/17

Atera $65 per bottle. 2 bottle limit.

Atla in the East Village. I didn't BYO, but enjoyed our Mex-street-food-then-New-Yorked dinner. Very minimal wine list, as I recall 4 whites and 4 reds on the provided list, with about 30+ Mex-based cocktails being touted. I asked and was quoted $35 corkage per bottle. Stuck with beers and they worked well with the very bold-tasting dishes that we had. Admittedly don't know what wines I'd drink with the very bold foods.

Atoboy , a newish Korean tapas restaurant in Flatiron, at $30 per bottle. Added Jan 2017
Decent stems and wine service, decanting options, and food is quite good, albeit in small portions.

Avant Garden E. Village. Corkage is $35. Vegan, very small storefront on 7th St near St. Marks. Small list of natural wines. Very nice service, good stems.

Avra Corkage $40.00 One of the best fish restaurants in NYC. edited 4/2019.

Bacchanal $35

Balthazar $35. Mag > $70. 6/2/19.

, Spanish Tapas on LES, no corkage Mondays. Excellent! $25 other days.

BAP Korean barbecue and other dishes, Bap a newish restaurant in Murray Hill charged me $20 per bottle corkage. Nice ambiance plenty of dark woods all around with some modern amenities.

Benjamin Prime $45. 8/6/19

Benoit Bistro ( - $40 per bottle. edit 2/2016

Barbone in the East Village charges $25 per bottle.

Barolo East on East 49th street. $50 cork fee 4/30/19. $50 corkage edit 3/25/16.
Monday is no corkage - 1 bottle for every 2 guest. edit 5/3/15

Bhatti - Best Indian Kebabs in town. Excellent north indian food. No corkage fee. They have added newer burgundy stems, but safe to bring your own. Friendly service, reservations recommended.

Bistro Les Amis $25. A darling little French bistro in Soho. added 4/8/18.

Bluebird London $65.00 added April 2019.

Blue Hill Corkage is $50.

The Brasserie $25

Brasserie 8 1/2 on 57th street across from Carnegie Hall. $38 Lobster BYOB / Sunday + Monday Nights through Oct. 26. Large booths, good service, great value. Usually $25 for corkage. Added October 2015. . ants_id=67

edit 3/7/18 > Brasserie 8 1/2 has a byob menu on Sunday and Monday. Choices like filet of beef Wellington and foie gras for $38. No charge for one bottle per 2 people. Rest of menu is solid, but no surprises. Comfortable, dramatic interior, and quiet. I think the room has been spruced up and the menu upgraded. Service is spot on as always. Plus, easy to get a reservation.

Brasserie Les Halles near WTC was $25

Breslin added April 2019. $40.

Brooklyn Fare Newly implemented corkage: $90/bottle. edit December 2012.

Brushstroke $100.

Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens does corkage-free BYO on Tuesdays. Decent stemware, though nothing great. Not sure if they do BYO on other nights or what their fee might be.

Cafe Centro $25.

Cafe Loup $15.

Cafe Luxembourg $25

Calle Ocho on UWS quoted me $15 corkage over the phone, told me $17 when they opened my bottle, and actually charged me $10. Good deal and food is very good. Added April 2019.

Carbone $75

Casa Lever BYO $55. Maximum 2 750 bottles. 7/22/15

Caviar Russe is $60 edit 7/5/17

Charlie Bird Corkage is $35. Sit downstairs for peace and quiet.

Cibo e Vino (Italian, as if the name didn't give it away). Broadway near 89th Street. $25. Good food, service, and ambiance. Good neighborhood restaurant for sure/

Community Table in Litchfield CT is $25 corkage.

Contra is $40. O-Riedel tumbler glasses (meh) Added summer 2015

Convivium Osteria , near Barclays Ctr, quoted $40.

Craft : 43E 19th (cross street = Park) Corkage = $45/bottle (ouch)
request that you not bring any bottles represented on their list
no mention of a bottle limit

dell'anima has a $25 corkage fee/750ml Closed.

Don Angie $35. added April 2019

Dovetail $35.00 Closed.

Eleven B on 11th and Avenue B on Saturday night. Corkage was 5 dollars a bottle. Added October 2015.

Eleven Madison Park - Corkage is now $65/bottle and a limit of four before there is a $250 Somm fee.

El Quinto Pino on 24th St just off 9th Ave. Corkage is $15

Estella Was $45 >> quoted me $60 a few weeks ago. updated 7/17/15

Fabio Piccolo Fiore – $25.00 Good Midtown Italian eateries on 43rd and 44th street.

2127 Broadway
New York, NY 10023
(212) 595-1888
Officially, they charge $10 corkage. At offlines with multiple bottles, it's 3 for $10!

The Fat Radish $25. Sparkling $35. Was charged $40 for a 750. 8/6/19

Feast $25 8/7/19.

Fragole in Caroll Gardens $25 fee. 5/5/19.

Fung Tu - $25

Gabriel Kreuther is $75

Gigino at Wagner Park. Behind the Jewish Museum in Battery Park. $25/bottle. Not sure if limit. Accommodated us with a chiller for our one bottle. Commercial stems. Italian trattoria with fresh ingredients, good specials. Outdoor patio with great view. Reasonable considering location. European service in that you are not rushed. Reserve for weekend lunch and dinner. Added 5/12/18.

Giorgios of Gramercy $20 corkage. A short, but more than acceptable wine list. Bring stems.
27 East 21 Street between Broadway and Park Ave.
(212) 477-0007.

Gramercy Tavern :"
$35/bottle up to 4 bottles

Great New York Noodletown . corkage.

The Grocery Closed.

Hakata Tonton corkage is $40 edit 7/5/16

Hearth $40 or $50. 10/25/19.

Hillstone the vaguely crappy and overpriced, but bustling, chain restaurant with a location on 27th and Park, offers no corkage on first 2 bottles, $20 per on each additional bottle.

Il Bacco on Northern Blvd in Little Neck. $15.

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. Quoted $35 which ended up not being charged to us, maybe bc we offered sips of the 1977 B-S BdM to the waitstaff. 53 Great Jones Street.

Il Violino Corkage is $25.

Italliene (West 24th st) No cork Monday. 10/17/19.

I Trulli"
This Gramercy restaurant has eliminated its corkage fee on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. Always call first to verify. Good stems.
$25 corkage on one bottle only, and it must be an Italian wine.

Izakaya Ten Closed.

Jack's Sliders and Sushi
Starting from $30 - $60 per Bottle

James $35. 11/19/19 Prospect Heights aka Brooklyn.

Jams in Manhatan. $35 for first 3 bottles, and $100 after that.

Jeanne & Gaston Closed

Jewel Bako $35

Jungsik - $45 and not on the list.

Keens $30. Good stems. 1 bottle for 2 people. edit 8/14/19

King Bee on 9th St is now doing BYOB for Sunday brunch and dinner. Added August 2015.

Kin Shop $25. Brought one bottle, they chilled it for us, glasses were fine. Modernish thai. Food is tasty but not cheap.

Lalito , one of my current favorite local restaurant has a $35 per bottle corkage. Decent stems and they are cordial with byob'd bottles. Great food!

Lattanzi Italian restaurant charges $40 per bottle, no limit.

L'Artusi in the west village has a $30 corkage. edit 12/30/15

L'Apicio is no corkage, no limit on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Otherwise $30 edit 12/30/15

L'atelier by Joel Robuchon has opened. Corkage is $150 (!) and can't be on their list.

L'Ecole Closed.

Reach into your wine cellar for something special and bring it into L’Ecole for “No-Corkage Mondays” at lunch and dinner (up to two bottles per table, dining service only).

La Nonna Williamsburg Brooklyn- $25 corkage

La Sirene , is now charging $10 per bottle for two people.

La Vara in Brooklyn -- $15 per bottle.

Left Bank (West Village) $25 - no corkage fee Sunday & Monday

Le Coq Rico is $50.00 per bottle 2 bottle max.

Le French Diner at Nolita. Tiny place, tight seating, but with some good French bistro items, meant for sharing, on the small menu. Good service.
BYOB at $35 per bottle, small/half-bulb stems. added 4/9/18

Le Gigot in the West Village. $25 per bottle.

Le Philosophe in the East Village. Classic French bistro food in a nice French-bistro ambiance and setting. $25 per bottle corkage

Leopard at des Artistes No corkage fee Sunday evenings at the restaurant formerly known as, Café des Artistes now called the Leopard at des Artistes 1 West 67th Street at Central Park West and $50 corkage fee the rest of the time.

Les Halles , John Street location, near WTC charges $25, serviceable stems. Accommodating wine steward, but we only had one bottle. Added August 2015.

Lilia in Brooklyn. Excellent Italian food, but limited wine list. Corkage at $35 per bottle. added Jan 2017

Lincoln Restaurant
$40 per Bottle. 3 bottle limit

Little Frog A newish French in UES, is charging $30 per. Added 12/21/16

The Little Owl Tiniest place ever. loved the food! Hated the corkage - $50! But probably would go back. Very good stems.

Little Park $35.00 added 12/30/15 in Tribeca.

Locanda Verde $35, with a 2 bottle limit. Good stems. Just up the block from Tribeca Grill.

Louro on West 10th St in the Village: $35/bottle

Luzzo's in the East Village (along 1st Ave). Corkage is $15 per bottle.

M. Wells Steakhouse - $30 normally, no corkage Monday.
Added November 2015.

Maialino is now $35. edit 7/5/17

Maloney and Porcelli - $35 - good glasses.

Maialino , Danny Meyer's great place in Gramercy Park Hotel, $35 corkage. updated January 2017.

Manhatta $35 9/19/19. No tipping restaurant.

Marea $65 corkage. updates 2/2016

Marc Forgione It is located at 134 Reade St. in TriBeCa. The corkage was $25. edit Dec 2012

Donburiya $30 fee. Bring stems. 5/11/19

Mermaid Inn $25 - Upper Westside $20 edit 11/17/16

Millesime -- $30

Milling Room $30

Mimi in the WVillage at $50 per bottle(?) Added 12/21/16

164 Lexington Ave # 1
(212) 532-9596 BYO $10 but call ahead to tell them

the Modern (Bar Room) they provided appropriate glasses and good service. Free corkage on Sunday nights" The Modern (restaurant) $45 corkage and 1 bottle limit that is not on their list. Edit > now $35 8/28/19.

Momofuko Ssam has changed its BYOB. They now only allow half bottle/person.

MOMOYA Upperwest Side, 427 Amserdam Ave bet West 80 & 81st Streets, also in Chelsea

Morrimoto - $35, thats not on their list. Wine list isnt that impressive.

Mottzar Kitchen 70 Mott St right below Canal. No corkage BYO & stems.

Musket Room is BYO free on Sundays. The Musket Room just announced corkage free Mondays with their set 3 course $65, or set 7 course $95 menus. edit Jan 2017.

Nerai $35.00 Great stems. added 5/12/18.

N'eat Corkage is $50 however if you order a bottle from the list it is waived and there are many things on the list at reasonable prices. added 11/17/16.

Nice Matin Monday no cork. 10/15/19.

Noreetuh $15 > edit 11/16/19 No cork fee on Sunday.

Norma A small but very good pizza and apps spot, on 31st and 3rd. Added 12/21/16

Norman in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Good Scandinavian-themed dishes. Wine list mostly "natural-based" as per our sommelier. We byob'd and charged $35 per. Good wine service.

North End Grill in Battery Park City charges $25/bottle but has a limit of 2 bottles per table edit Dec 2012.

North Square - $15.
103 Waverly Place New York, NY 10011

NYY Steak Manhattan - $25 corkage although they have waived corkage two times

Old Homestead. $35 per

One If By Land $25 corkage. Nice glasses.

Ortzi $25 or $30. 5/11/19.

Osteria Morini in Soho. $40/btl, not sure about a bottle limit. added 12/27/19.

Pasquale Jones is $50.00 with a 2 bottle limit. added 11/17/16

Pasta Easter East 17th st. No cork fee. 11/9/19.

Patroons No fee on Friday. 8/16/19.

Peking Duck House is $10 on non-Wednesdays. Zero on Wednesdays. Wine Berserker favorite.
Chinatown PDH on a Saturday night - No corkage charge.

Pepolino 281 West Broadway $35 corkage. edit 4/6/18.

Per Se $90 corkage.

Petit Crevette , in Carroll Gardens just across the BQE. Very small, quaint French seafood place. Nothing fancy, but a good neighborhood place. We love it. Or, do what I do and bring your own stemware. N.B. > I've been here. Arrive at 6:00, otherwise be prepared to wait. Update 10/18/15 Corkage $5.00 per bottle.

Pietro’s – $25.00 Good Midtown Italian eateries on 43rd and 44th street.

Ping in Chinatown. $20.00 edit 11/17/16

Poke - No corkage fee, sushi spot in UES. Bring your own stems. Well priced, cash only. Very good quality. No reservations. Good setting. Popular with the locals.

Quality Meats/Quality Italian $35

Raoul's $50. added April 2019.

Ravagh 30th b/w 5th and Madison. $15 per bottle. Glasses sorta suck.

Recette -- $25 CLOSED 4/28/16 according to the NY Times.

Racines has posted on Facebook that it's doing BYO Mondays

Remi $40. 6/1/19

Riverpark Riverpark has moved their no corkage night to Tuesday. Normal corkage is $45. N.B. I didn't like their service. (DH)

Rock Center Cafe is $25 per bottle. Reminds me of Hillstone type food and service, but where else could you enjoy a bottle from your cellar while watching skaters go round and round on the other side of the floor to ceiling windows. . ants_id=18 Added November 2015.

Ruth's Chris Steak House 148 W 51st St. Corkage $15. . /manhattan

Santa Fe has a dyed-in-the-wool west 70s crowd with a Cheers feel to it. $15.
east of Columbus Ave at 73 West 71st St, 212-724-0822 updated January 2016.

Saxon + Parole , 316 Bowery. Quoted $25 on phone. 12/30/15 still the same price.

Scarpetta $35. One bottle maximum.!new-york/z072k added 2/2016

The Sea Grill , Rockefeller Center is $40. Very good service and food. And that view of the skating rink in winter. Very convenient to Radio City. added April 2019.

Semilla , $40 per 750ml with a two bottle max. edit 7/5/16

Shun $75. 8/15/19.

Strip House $50

Sojourn on the U.E.S. 244 E79th St. No corkage on Monday. Otherwise, $25 > confirmed 8/18/19.

Sushi Noz $100 corkage - $300 per person. Upper east side. Added April 2019.

Szechuan Chalet 1395 2nd Ave (bet 73rd & 2nd) (212) 737-1838 $5.00 corkage.

Had a nice dinner at the cozy Sutton Inn . . . they have FREE CORKAGE on Mondays and apparently get a nice turnout. They also waive corkage if you bring one bottle purchased at one of 2 wine stores near the restaurant (East 54th st between 3rd & Lex.). We enjoyed the food ( "seasonal American") and the service was great!

Table d'Hote in Carnegie Hill - policy is sort of a moving target, ranges from $20-35 (most often $25) depending on, as best I can tell, lunar phases and whether a dowsing stick bends when you call. But its a lovely, tiny, restaurant with excellent food, and a perfect place to split a nice bottle on a date.

Tasca Chino (Park Ave @ 20th) Corkage is $40 per bottle. Glassware is great. Went for the dumplings and tapas. Some interesting mixes of ingredients but was not as bowled over by the dumplings as I had hoped to be. Very attentive service. Added November 2015.

The Eddy has no corkage fee on Mondays as well

The Nomad Broadway at 28th St. $35/bottle, limit 4 750mL bottles.

The Smith ( 3 locations) $35.00 updated 4/21/14

Tartine Cafe
CORKAGE YES, NO FEE, everyday. They don't sell wine or liquor. Cash only and no reservations, but for larger parties call 90 minutes ahead as they will put tables aside as long as you plan to be the first for dinner, 5 to 5:30.

A Galician restaurant in Little Italy called Tomiño Taberna Gallega . Good stemware and decent wine service. Was quoted $25 per bottle corkage.

Temple Court $45. 8/14/19

Mondays at Tribeca Grill are cork age free. . index.html

Union Square Closed

Txikito $15

Virginia's in Alphabet City? Free corkage on Mondays, $30 otherwise.
Menu looks good.

Wayan $38. 9/10/19.

wd50 . Closed

Wallflower $30. Good stems. edit 5/17/16.

Watty & Meg in Brooklyn. Corkage $10. ttp://

Wildair = no corkage added summer 2015

Wild Edibles restaurant along 3rd Ave. Wild Edibles is a small chain of 3 stores in Manhattan that retails fresh seafood. The prepared fish dishes, and you'll see them take your fish off of the iced retail display cases, are generally above average. I believe it's $10 corkage per bottle but you'll need to confirm.

Wu's Wonton added April 2019.

La Sirene.

Ben Benson's - Forget it, no BYO
Del Friscos - Forget it, no BYO
Pearl and Ash - No BYO.
Sparks - Forget it, no BYO

Travel, Shopping and The Joy of Local

This is a post about travel. This is a post about shopping local. And this is all about how shopping local can be a trip. Confused? Come along with me.

We're all familiar with the many reasons there are to support local business. If you haven't been reminded lately, here are 10 great ones.

But there's another reason to shop local - it's the most satisfying, engaging way to make a purchase. No monotone welcomes or scripted endings ("Did you find everything you were looking for?") In local businesses you connect authentically with members of your own community while purchasing quality in a way that cycles money right back into the micro-economy that is your hometown. Win, win, win!

It's also just plain fun - especially if you turn shopping local into a form of local travel.

Travel is a state of mind you carry with you wherever you go. If you leave home open and curious and return with new ideas you transform your going into travel even if all you do is cover a few blocks. or drop into a few stores you've never visited before.

I traveled all over the world for many years as a writer for the hotel and tourism industry. I loved being on the move and fell in love with exploring new places. Then my family and I moved from Orlando to South Jersey to help develop the Revel Resort project in Atlantic City.

Do you know what happens when the project you relocated to help launch ends abruptly? Many un-fun things. One of those things for us was no more frequent travel. Actually, it was no more travel at all. Wings clipped. All plans grounded.

But good came out of that experience too. We started a family business and I fell in love with a different sort of travel - the hyper-local kind. Exploring hyper-locally only required a little bit of time each day (or week) and a lot of curiosity about the people and places nearby. That I could do!

Once I started I found out just how fun it was to "get lost on purpose."

I found beautiful landscapes, charming towns, historic sites, astonishing weirdness, awful ruins, incredible architecture and fascinating people all within miles of our home and business.

I'd come back to the day-to-day after each mini adventure with that feeling of invigoration travelers know so well.

Are you feeling wanderlust but are just too busy or broke to break out your passport for a long journey? There is a simple way to experience the kind of wonder you feel on trips even when you are close to home.

Believe it or not it's this: walk into stores owned by the people in your community.

Every individually-owned shop is a world and culture unto itself.

A great place to put this idea to the test is just 15-minutes outside of Philadelphia across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Collingswood, New Jersey. The Patco suburban line gets you there fast for under $5 roundtrip if you're traveling from Center City.

Collingswood is a colorful town where one-off businesses, restaurants and galleries line sidewalks. Once home to the Lenni-Lenape Indians and then to pioneers who arrived from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales in the mid 1600's, Collingswood is now home to an eclectic blend of residents who give the town a unique energy and progressive vibe.

You won't find too many "chains" there. What you will find are businesses with well. let's call them "wings": family-run BYOBs, bakeries, music schools, yoga studios and all sorts of shops that fly high powered by the vision and individuality of each owner.

In the center of town, there's Frugal, a donation-based thrift store where you can find vintage and modern clothes for men, women and children "at broken-in prices." It's cheerful, lively and full of great finds. I bought two summer tops - only $5.99 each - while Toots and The Mayals played in the background. (When was the last time you shopped for clothes listening to great reggae? Usually to find a great bargain you have to shop in stores where radio stations are set between Pop and static.)

At Frugal, even some of the hangers are unique - this one offered a peek into the past when New Jersey's phone numbers were only five digits long.

The Robinson family, owners of the boutique, support local charities monthly, donating a portion of their profits to each community-based organization.

Right next door there's Collingswood's happy place, The Candy Jar, a shop where you always get more than you give. Walk in even with zero dollars and you will still leave with samples, smiles and full of good conversation and stories thanks to Laurie Cohen and her team of ladies. From the moment you step inside the retro visuals, the kind welcome, the aromas of house-made chocolates all work together to return you to the best days of childhood. It's a warmth you won't find in the candy aisle of your nearest fluorescent-glare convenience store.

A few blocks away you will notice the ornate façade of a 1920s movie theater. It may look closed from your perspective along Collingswood's Haddon Avenue but walk to the corner of Fern Avenue where a small sign points you mid-block toward a non-descript yellow brick building. There you will find a way into the landmark.

You might hesitate when you face the metal logo on the door, "The Factory Workers? Is this a union hall? Is this an actual factory? Am I allowed in here?" Push open the heavy door and what you will find is an unexpected scene, one defined by deeds, dreams and deliciousness all made by skilled hands.

It takes about a second to realize you've discovered the heart of Collingswood.

Inside is a lively café that serves eight incredible coffees roasted with care on site. Revolution Roasters is a labor of love created by Justin, Steve and Joe, a trio dedicated to the art of the perfect cup of Fair Trade, sustainably grown coffee.

The food they serve along with their aromatic brews is good for the soul - hearty, fresh fare crafted in the Constellation Collective Kitchen at The Factory by Valentina Fortuna, Lindsey Ferguson and Maura Rosado, three food artisans who prepare everything - from quiches, po' boys, salads, breads and decadent breakfast sandwiches to sweets baked from scratch - from locally-sourced ingredients.

Around a bend past the café is where you find the actual floor of The Factory, a 16,000-square-foot community makerspace on a mission to help bring back the trades to the United States. The membership workshop created by owner, Tom Marchetty, makes $200,000 worth of wood- and metal-working equipment (and classes in their use) available to anyone over the age of 18 for a small fee.

The historic, mural-lined space is now home to builders, designers, a video production team, a busy recording studio and a full line-up of monthly community events that feature live music, including The Factory's Second Saturdays.

After your visit to The Factory, head back toward Haddon Avenue inspired to explore further. Look at the panorama that lies ahead of you. Those stores and restaurants you see lining both sides of Haddon are personal stories. Walk into any one of those places, ask a question with genuine interest and watch how quickly you discover the unexpected.

At El Sitio you can sit in the outdoor patio with friends and a bottle of BYOB wine for as long as you like, enjoying good conversation with one of the owners, Cecilia Jaramillo, about Collingswood and the latest dishes she has created. What you soon discover is that she owns a second El Sitio - it's thousands of miles away in Ecuador.

Stop into The Tortilla Press for a meal and you'll discover there's more to the award-winning restaurant than great Mexican-inspired food. It's run by a team that is fully-committed to promoting green practices, loves New Jersey wines and has even tried to launch a Restaurant Week for Kids.

Need one more example that might encourage you to go on your own door-to-door exploration of Collingswood? Here's a quirky one:

I almost walked past a physical therapy office on Haddon Avenue one Saturday afternoon when a sidewalk display of paintings in front of it drew my attention. I stopped and moments later I was meeting the artist behind the paintings. Francesco di Santis explained that he was borrowing the space, described how he creates his own oil pastels from elements of nature using techniques that date back to the Renaissance and shared the stories behind some of his beautiful landscapes and haunting portraits. I didn't expect to discover so much in that sunny space where neck braces and wheelchairs had been moved aside to make room for art. It was another Collingswood surprise!

I've valued small businesses ever since they started disappearing from the neighborhood where I grew up in New York. I saw one after another pushed out by national chains. Places that had existed for decades were replaced by stores that opened and closed every six months. That cycle of closings served to raise commercial rents continuously. The result? The New York I grew up in no longer exists. It went from being a place where every corner had a little neighborhood deli or old time place where neighbors could touch base and get news from each other, like my childhood favorite, Joe's candy store to being a place where recently one Design Within Reach and one Starbucks, yes Starbucks, announced they were closing due to outrageous rent hikes. (Starbucks at the corner of West 67th Street and Columbus Avenue in Manhattan saw it's rent rise to $300,000 a month this year.) In that environment everyone loses.

The big American hope that's left? Local businesses in small towns. The fight has been lost in big cities - there is no way to keep a small family place going there any more. But in small towns, people still have a chance to help each other, their local economy and themselves by supporting each others' businesses.

What will it take to inspire you to shop locally? Will it be the ethics? Will it be the fun? Whatever it might be, know that your choices - where you shop, how much you spend - matter and tend to boomerang back into the very communities we call home. Oh no. my post about travel/shopping has turned preachy! I'll end this post with more fun - a listing of fantastic upcoming events to enjoy soon on your travel adventure to Collingswood. Enjoy!

Visit these South Jersey towns to explore more and support local businesses:


Philadelphia's Fabric Workshop and Museum sells all locally-crafted goods.

Revel Resort in all it's former, promising glory.

A beautiful mural - part of Philadelphia's Mural Arts program.

A landscape that left me in awe in Amish Country.

A funny moment I captured on a sidestreet during a 15-minute mini adventure walk in Philadelphia.

A little frame shop with a big personality and long history - 75-year-old Caves in Audabon, NJ

Series of five photos show Collingswood locations featured in the post.

Joe, one of the owners of Revolution Roasters and Tom, owner of The Factory Workers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rugged, Restful, Golden

The next time you plan a trip to Colorado, be sure to put the city of Golden at the top of your travel itinerary. Golden surrounds you with rugged beauty and Western hospitality only 30 minutes from Denver International Airport.

Keep your eyes up while you're here - the panorama changes continuously with the colors and shadows cast by the sun.

Walk in one direction and you will be headed toward hiking trails that lead up to Lookout Mountain. At the very top is The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave and Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve.

If you rather not hike to enjoy Lookout Mountain's scenery you can drive up to some of its best overlook spots or you can do like the fittest do - bike the 7%-grade, 4 1/2-mile winding road, hairpins and all, to the top.

After taking in what you came for - the big sky views, sunset, moon rise, stars or twinkling lights of Denver in the distance - you may want to add a thrill to the ride back towards town. Not satisfied with the pull of gravity, many bikers choose to pedal all the way to Golden, eager for greater speed. (Some adrenaline junkies prefer to make the return trip even more daring - they cruise it on longboards.)

If real adventure is what you're after, there's plenty of opportunity for that in Golden. The landscape that surrounds Golden draws avid kayakers, hang gliders, hikers and mountain bikers to the area. Rock climbers who are serious about their pursuit also make their way into town - it's home to the American Mountaineering Center. Go for a hike at sunset and you are likely to spot groups of them coming off the trails - muddied, tired and grinning - to tailgate with a cold, local brew.

One of the most pleasurable yet easygoing ways to enjoy Golden is to just walk the town. There is so much variety and whimsy to the shops and architecture that you can expect a surprise around every corner. At the top of a hill there is a colorful structure - a replica of a Nepalese Sherpa house - that serves as both a restaurant and cultural center.

On a side street there is a large building made entirely of river rock. Expect to see vibrant murals along building exteriors - each one is the handiwork of artist, Jesse Crock.


The Authentic Allure of Alentejo: Portuguese Wines with Heart & History

Blame it on Alentejo. I'm no daredevil but somehow found myself soaring in a hot air balloon, gliding above the Portuguese countryside and hovering a little too long over one of Europe's largest man-made lakes. Invigorating yet serene, retro yet innovative, that sky-high adventure encapsulates the feeling of my entire Alentejo experience.

Hugo Domingos, hot air balloon pilot and proprietor of Emotion Portugal, made my first ever balloon ride one to remember. 

Once safely on the ground, our capable and charming pilot celebrated the moment by popping the cork on a bottle of local wine. (Speaking of cork, Alentejo is home to about one-third of the world's cork tree forests.) Whether toasting an adventure or simply enjoying a meal with family and friends, wine is an integral part of life in Alentejo. 

A treasure trove for wine lovers and those seeking the bucolic beauty of wide-open country spaces where people are outnumbered by cork trees, sheep, and possibly pigs the Alentejo region is just a 90-minute drive inland from the capital of Lisbon. Alentejo means Beyond the Tejo because it is located south of the Tejo River that cuts across Portugal.

António Rocha is preserving the ancient art of hand crafting the large clay vessels that are an integral part of Alentejo's winemaking heritage. A single Talha de Barro (amphora) can be as large as seven feet in height, hold up to 520 gallons of wine, and weigh 2,000 pounds! Outside of the nation of Georgia, Alentejo is the only place in the world where this ancient method of winemaking has never ceased. It co-exists in Alentejo alongside more modern winemaking techniques.  

Formerly part of a Roman province called Lusitania, Alentejo is the only region in Portugal that still practices the Roman technique of making & storing wines in large clay vessels known as amphorae (Talhas de Barro in Portuguese). Passionate about tradition but open to innovation, Alentejo's winemakers create authentic and appealing wines from indigenous and international grapes. 

image courtesy of Wines of Alentejo

With more than 250 indigenous grape varieties, Portugal has the highest density of native grapes per square mile of any country in the world. For those of us that don't speak Portuguese, the names may be a bit tricky but the rich and expressive flavors have universal appeal. The key red wine grapes cultivated in Alentejo include Alicante Bouschet, Castelão, Touriga Nacional, and Trincadeira. White wines represent only one-fifth of Alentejo's production but grapes like Antão Vaz and Arinto create wonderfully expressive wines. Visit the Wines of Alentejo website to learn more about the unique qualities and flavor profiles of each grape. 

image courtesy of Wines of Alentejo

Wines from Portugal are becoming increasingly popular abroad and Alentejo in particular is gaining acclaim for well-crafted and accessibly priced wines. Alentejo's mix of ancient and modern winemaking techniques, commitment to sustainability, and unique grape varieties make it hard to resist. It is also an increasingly popular, but not overwhelmed, tourist destination with a well-defined wine route. If a trip to Alentejo is not in your immediate future, take your tastebuds on a journey with their wonderful wines. Start your Alentejo winetasting adventure with wines from two of the region's best known wineries: Herdade do Rocim and Herdade do Esporão. 

The words of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa inspire the winemaking team at Herdade do Rocim: "God wishes, Man dreams, the Work is born." Located in the Lower Alentejo, Herdade do Rocim is committed to crafting wines that respect the nature and culture of their region. A modern winery that blends harmoniously with the landscape, Herdade do Rocim embraces modern techniques but also pays homage to tradition and their portfolio includes wines produced in the traditional clay amphorae. 

Winemaker Vânia Guibarra José is a key member of the Herdade do Rocim winemaking team which is led by Pedro Ribeiro. 

During my visit to Herdade do Rocim, I had the pleasure of tasting wine with a key member of their winemaking team, Vânia Guibarra José. Vânia's family initially discouraged her because "they thought winemaking was for men" and they wanted her to be a doctor. Thankfully, Vânia pursued her passion and is now one of several talented and respected women winemakers that I met in Alentejo.

Herdade do Rocim Mariana Rosé 2017 ($11.99) is a charming blend of Touriga Nacional and Aragonez. Although named after a nun whose clandestine love affair led to a dramatically broken heart, Mariana is actually a very joyful wine. Provence pale, it has lively red fruit flavors, a silky texture, and vibrant acidity. If one had to select a national grape to represent Portugal, Touriga Nacional would certainly lead the pack. According to Wines of Alentejo, Touriga Nacional's "thick skin helps to obtain deep, dense colour - one of the variety's distinctive traits - but it is the abundance and depth of aromas that best identify its value. These may be floral, or fruity, or citrus but they are always intense and explosive, with an urbane, noble air." Aragonez is an absolutely Iberian grape and is known as Tempranillo in Spain. Generally a grape with low acidity, Aragonez is often blended with other varieties. 

A bottle of Herdade do Rocim Amphora Vinho Branco 2016 ($18) contains more than wine it represents thousands of years of winemaking tradition because it was produced in the ancient style using the Talhas de Barro - large clay amphora. This blend of Antão Vaz, Perrum, Rabo de Ovelha, and Manteúdo was also fermented using indigenous yeasts. This minimally invasive winemaking technique produces wine with a unique texture and flavor profile. An appealing tapestry of mineral, flint, and nutty flavors. Herdade do Rocim also produces a red Amphora wine. 

Herdade do Rocim Vinho Regional Alentejano Touriga Nacional 2016 ($16) is a wonderful chance to sip Portugal's signature grape in a single varietal wine. A rich and supple wine with gorgeous flavors of violets, brambly blackberries, spice, and well-integrated tannins. 

Herdade do Esporão

Chances are that if you're already a fan of wines from Alentejo, you've sipped a vinho from Esporão - they are one of the region's most widely known and respected brands. Wine was first produced under the Esporão name in 1985 but the estate has a rich history -- its boundaries were first established in 1267 and have been unaltered since then. The site of many battles and intrigues during the Middle Ages, life is certainly less dangerous at Esporão these days and visitors can enjoy tastings, meals, carriage ride tours, and more. 

Herdade de Esporâo Reserva 2015 blends an all-star lineup of grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Trincadeira, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I first tasted the 2014 vintage ($24) of this wine and was blown away by its character and balance. The 2015 is just as captivating. Voluptuous but not unwieldy, it has rich dark berry flavors with savory hints of spice and herbs. 

Another captivating blend from Esporão is their Monte Velho 2017 ($10). A blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah, it is fresh and forthright with juicy berry flavors and a kiss of spice. 

Where to Wine, Dine and Relax in Alentejo

If you're looking for an off-the beaten-path place to vacation with wonderful food, wine, scenery and friendly people Alentejo should be on your list. 

Stay: Country chic is no cliché at Herdade da Malhadinha Nova. A vast estate of vineyards and olive groves, at Malhadinha Nova nature and modern life co-exist harmoniously cattle and Alentejo's famous black pigs roam the land while human guests unwind in simple luxury. 

Malhadinha Nova winemaker Nuno Gonzalez said that he is "trying to make the best wine possible, every year." Their vineyards are planted with the signature varieties of Alentejo in addition to international varieties.  

Malhadinha Nova resident chef Bruno Antunes prepares meals with ingredients that are primarily sourced from the estate, including their own olive oil and pork from the famous Black Pigs of Alentejo. Chef Antunes works closely with Michelin-starred consulting chef Joachim Koerper. 

Farm to table is a reality for meals at Malhadinha's restaurant and the cuisine is paired perfectly with their wines. The restaurant is actually located in the cellar building, which emphasizes the strong connection between food and wine. 

image courtesy of Herdade da Malhadinha Nova

The beautifully appointed and spacious rooms at Herdade da Malhadinha Nova are located in a traditional rural house that melds comfort with upscale elegance, including luxurious Bvlgari amenities in the bathroom and a combination of artisan and designer furnishings and fixtures. 

Temple of Diana, Roman ruins in Évora. 

Wine, Dine, Explore: The historic center of Évora, capital city of the Alentejo province, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a history that dates back to Roman times, in the 15th century Évora was the residence of the Portuguese kings. 

One of Évora's many quaint streets lined with whitewashed buildings. As you wander, you'll also see beautiful wrought-iron balconies and the famous azulejos (tiles).  

Évora is extremely walkable and chock-full of charm and historic landmarks, including the Temple of Diana and the exquisite Royal Church of St. Francis and it's macabre, yet moving, Chapel of Bones. 

Manuel and his wife Carolina own the cozy culinary treasure, Tasquinha do Oliveira restaurant in Èvora. I was amazed at the quantity and excellent quality of the dishes that Carolina creates. She was hard at work in the kitchen when I snapped this photo of charming Manuel! 

After your stroll around Évora, try to snag a table at Tasquinha do Oliveira.  A tiny jewel box of a restaurant, with about 14 seats, it feels like you're in your favorite uncle and aunt's living room. Better yet, make a reservation before you fly to Portugal  - it is one of the most in-demand restaurants in Évora. Manuel manages the guests and Carolina handles the homestyle cooking which is a seemingly never-ending smorgasbord of traditional Alentejo cuisine and family recipes. The offerings include the beloved Bacalhau (salted cod fish), rabbit, the famous Black Pig, and many vegetable dishes. A signature of Alentejo cuisine is that many dishes are seasoned with coriander and vinegar. 

For a more modern dining experience, visit Cartuxa Enoteca. The menu showcases innovative interpretations of classic dishes and their winery's portfolio. Cartuxa has a very rich history in Alentejo, it is owned by a foundation that is very committed to the cultural, educational, and spiritual well-being of Èvora. The winery is located in the dining room of a former Jesuit house and offers tours and tastings.

Chef José Júlio Vintem, in action at Säo Lourenço do Borracal, is passionate about preserving the culinary traditions of Alentejo. 

Back in the countryside, Säo Lourenço do Borracal is a beautifully restored estate that has been in the same family for 200 years. In addition to producing their own wine, the estate has a large organic garden, cattle, and olive groves. The guest rooms include suites and cottages.

Chef Vintem with estate owner José António Uva - the 8th generation of his family to live at São Lourenço do Barrocal. 

Chef Vintem is one of Alentejo's most celebrated culinary stars and in the early mornings he can often be found foraging for herbs and mushrooms. He magically transforms the estate's abundant resources into flavorful and authentic cuisine. 

The best wine trips are never just about the wine but discovering how this revered beverage fits into the fabric of a culture. In Alentejo, wine has been produced since time immemorial and is respected and treasured. It is a part of the rhythm of life, from the city to the countryside. Alentejo's endless hectares of old-vine vineyards show the intimate relationship between humans and nature. From toil and tenacity, grapes are cultivated and transformed via science, intuition, and artistry into wine. Whether it is produced in the ancient style in a clay amphora or crafted using all the tools that modern technology has to offer, Alentejo winemakers are committed to making their wines, their way. The Alentejo way where tradition and innovation happily co-exist. Where indigenous varieties like Touriga Nacional are nurtured but international varieties are not excluded. Where the wines are an essential companion to their cuisine. 

Black dress, red wine. In the wine cellar at Malhadinha Nova. 

My visit to Alentejo reminded me that when you open a bottle of authentically made wine, that you are tapping into the life pulse of a culture. This was my first trip to Portugal. I don't speak the language and at times felt embarrassed at how little I knew about their history. But I was made to feel welcome. Whether soaring in the sky or strolling in the vineyards, Alentejo wraps itself around you, pours you a glass of wine, and welcomes you wholeheartedly. I don't pretend to be an expert on Alentejo but my life and wine education have certainly been enriched by the days I spent there. Until I can return, memories of Alentejo are only a sip away. 

Enjoy Italian Spirits Around The City And Beyond

Kicking off September 14th and running through September 20th, 2020, enjoy Italian Spirits at some of your favorite spots in town and beyond. The initiative, available during lunch or dinner, will offer dedicated cocktail lists showcasing drinks that are best enjoyed alongside signature Italian dishes.

Featured restaurants are Aita, Bar Camillo, Bella Blu, Bice Cucina, Gerbasi, Il Gattopardo, Marco Polo, Norma, Pasta Eater, Pastificio La Rina, PizzArte, The Leopard at des Artistes, Vicolina across various New York boroughs and Piccola Trattoria and Osteria Umbria just outside of the City.

After a successful promotional week back in December 2019 dedicated to celebrating the holidays with some Italian Spirit, this second partnership comes at a perfect time given the current state of the industry and challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to Win Valentine’s Day! The North Jersey Edition

Before I begin this post, I feel like a disclaimer is in order. I am tired of receiving hate mail that uses phrases that would make Tyrion Lannister blush. I am fully aware that the name of my blog is The Blue Collar Foodie and normally I attempt to stay in the great food at a great price wheel house. However, there are a few exceptions. One of these exceptions is Valentine’s Day.

Most people would not guess it, but I am a hopeless romantic. I literally, love…love. The whimsy, the intensity, the nervousness…Oh hell, the whole damn idea of it. Therefore, even though I am cognizant that Valentine’s Day is a B.S. Hallmark, made-up Holiday I thoroughly enjoy going all out and trying to wow my wonderful wife each and every year.

What does this entail you ask? Ladies and Gentleman I present to you The Blue Collar Foodie’s Guide to winning Valentine’s Day!

Step 1: Send Flowers to Your Loved One’s Workplace: I know they are expensive and I know they will die in a week, but suck it up Buttercup, today is not the day to think that way. Every other day of the year, I am all about Shoprite Tulips and Gas Station Roses, but that just won’t do on V-Day. When you get flowers delivered, you are sending a message and that message is clear and concise. Dear Loved One. you are worth the forethought and the expense of these dying, colorful capsules of allergy laden dust.

Step 2: Get a gift: I know what you are thinking. I just spent $60 bucks on flowers, I thought that was the gift. Wrong! I am not saying you have to go out and get your Bae a diamond necklace or anything I mean unless that is how you roll, then by all means you do you Baller. I am simply saying that a small thoughtful gift with a personal touch will be appreciated and truly show you care. I feel like these should not have to be said, but since I know my audience all too well. NO SEX COUPONS! Get your ass to Etsy and do some searching for a great inexpensive gift.

Step 3: Put Pen to Paper: I know we are not all William Shakespeare or Robert Frost but for heaven’s sake do not give your significant other a Valentine’s Day card with the stock message and some X’s and O’s. To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, if you write it, they will come! See what I did there… I assure you, even if you write the worst poem ever, the fact that you tried will be enough to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Step 4: Where you eat counts: I know I don’t have to explain this to most of you, considering you clicked this link because you were promised restaurant suggestions for Valentine’s Day. Where you eat and what you eat will go along way to set the mood. For Kat and I, it is the single most important decision and also the single greatest contributor to our quarrels. So, on this day in particular after spending so much time and effort in attempting to create the perfect day for my wife, choosing our eatery is a taxing task that I do not take lightly.

As I mentioned above today is not the day to hem and haw about prices, and lord help you if you whip out a Groupon. Valentine’s Day is all about the ambience and charm of an establishment. The story behind the restaurant can aid in the allure almost as much as the food. Not to mention, it is the perfect excuse to drop some money on a wonderful meal that you don’t often get to experience. So without further ado, I present The Blue Collar Foodie’s top 12 North Jersey Restaurants for Valentine’s Day:

Ninety Acres: 2 Main Street Peapack & Gladstone, NJ 07977

You have heard of farm to table, well Ninety Acres is quite literally a table at the farm. This palatial establishment is located on the Natirar Estate which has spent the last 100 years being a private residence, a convalescent home for women, and even the vacation home of a Moroccan King. In true farm to table form the menu is always evolving with the seasons, but have no fear, you will never be disappointed. The food served here is equally as beautiful as the grounds of the estate.

The Deal: Exclusive Offering of Special four-course Prex Fixe menu with options for each course: $125 per person, $175 with wine pairings.

Café Matisse: 167 Park Avenue, Rutherford, NJ 07070

This intimate and always impressive eatery is located in a historic decommissioned horse and buggy fire house in the heart of Rutherford, NJ. Their garden has been called enchanting in the spring and summer, but their interior dining experience is almost equally as charming. The menu at Café Matisse is stacked with stunning dishes that have depth of flavor that is rarely seen outside of the most esteemed New York Eateries.

The Deal: Three Course (2 savory/1 dessert) – $75 per person, Four Course (3 savory/1 dessert) – $95 per person, or Five Course (4 savory/1 dessert)- $115 per person, plus tax and gratuities.

Note: Café Matisse is BYOB

Battello: 502 Washington Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07310

If fine dining with a remarkable view is what gets your motor running, Battello is the place for you. This epic eatery serves inspired fare with a side of a majestic view of the New York City Skyline. ( The Best Skyline in the World) The dining area is often described as luxurious and lofty, and exudes romance. The food is almost as breathtaking as the view!

The Deal: A Three-course prix-fixe menu, offered at $85 per person complemented by an optional wine pairing at $25 per person ($50 for reserve)

Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen: 110 South Street Morristown NJ 07960

This well-regarded establishment is located in the lavish Vail Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey. The dining space itself is exquisite and makes you feel like royalty from the moment you walk in. The fine dining area which radiates luxury and class, is a must for this special occasion. Jockey Hollow is a haven for couples that truly love food and want to experience dining in a relaxed yet sophisticated environment.

The Deal: Four-course prix fixe experience where guests select three savory courses and finish with one sweet course for $81 or a six-course, seasonal $108 chef’s tasting menu for the entire table for $108.

Restaurant Lorena’s: 168 Maplewood Avenue Maplewood, NJ 07040

Restaurant Lorena’s is considered by many in the foodie world as the best kept secret of the North Jersey culinary scene. Over the past ten years this quaint eatery has quietly amassed quite a few awards for their awe-inspiring dishes. The menu is heavily influenced by French Cuisine and the Chef’s attention to detail shines in every dish. If you and your beau are looking for an intimate and romantic night out, this very well may be your spot.

The Deal: Three course Prix Fixe for $150.00 per person, Oysters included

Note: Restaurant Lorena’s is BYOB

Pearl Restaurant: 17 S Broad St. Ridgewood, New Jersey

For those of you that have Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams but are on a budget, this wonderfully romantic local establishment is perfect for you and your sweetheart. Don’t let the amazingly affordable price tag fool you either, Pearl offers magnificent cuisine made with the finest meats, fish, and vegetables that are selected daily. Pearl is the best value on this list by far, as their fare is comparable to establishments where I have paid triple the price.

The Deal: Three Course Prix Fixe Menu for only $ 26.95 per person

Note: Pearl Restaurant is BYOB

Scalini Fedeli: 63 Main St, Chatham, NJ 07928

Since we are in New Jersey and it is safe to say that at least 70% of my following is probably Italian, I would be remiss to not include my absolute favorite Italian Restaurant. Not only is the food spectacular and each dish painstakingly prepared as if it was a piece of art, this astonishing establishment is located in a refurbished 260 year old farmhouse. The moment you walk into Scalini Fedeli you feel at home, and the service is impeccable. I seriously love this place and I am sure you will too! Come hungry!

The Deal: Three Course Prix Fixe Menu $59

Café Panache: 130 E. Main St. Ramsey, NJ 07446

This sophisticated eatery is located in the center of downtown Ramsey, New Jersey and has been a staple of fine dining in Northern New Jersey for over 30 years. The Chef focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients that become the star of each dish. Café Panache is a great place for the couple that has everything in common, except the type of cuisine they love, due to their wonderfully eclectic menu. You don’t exist in the restaurant world for 30 years unless you are doing something exceptional and that is exactly what Cafe Panache is doing.

The Deal: Ala Cart ordering

Common Lot: 27 Main St, Millburn, NJ 07041

Common Lot’s website sums up their establishment too perfectly to paraphrase, “The surroundings are elegant but unpretentious comfortable but handsome — an expression of our personalities and our commitment to the dining experience.” At Common Lot they have truly created a relaxed eating environment that allows us commoners to enjoy fine dining without feeling as if we are out of place. Not to mention their plates are full of internationally influenced cuisine that are both creative and bursting with flavor. Common Lot is for the couple that enjoys the finer things in food, but buys their clothes off the rack.

The Deal: Four-Course Meal for $90 a person

The Frog and The Peach: 29 Dennis Street New Brunswick, NJ 08901

This restaurant occupies an old industrial building, circa 1876, and the historical splendor of this establishment glimmers in every room. The Frog and The Peach offers several areas to dine in and each exhibits their own charm and uniqueness. Their menu offers American Cuisine with a refined flare created with only the best locally sourced ingredients.

The Deal: A special prix fixe menu for the annual Feast of Love Three Courses $85

Laurel and Sage: 33 Walnut St. Montclair, NJ, 07042

The Chef at Laurel and Sage has had quite a few gigs in restaurants during his illustrious career. These restaurants specialized in Farm to Table, Asian, Mediterranean, and American fare to name a few. His experience is on display at this delightful neighborhood restaurant, in each dish that he creates in his kitchen. You never know what you might find at this eclectic eatery and that is why I love it. Couples that can never decide where they want to eat will do well at Laurel and Sage.

The Deal: 4-course menu with options for $65 per person

Saddle River Inn: 2 Barnstable Court Saddle River, NJ 07458

Before fine dining was hip, hell before hipsters existed, The Saddle River Inn was churning out some of the best food North Jersey had to offer. Since 1981 this rustic, yet romantic establishment has been located on the William Packard Estate along the Saddle River. Although the original owners of this long established eatery have recently called it quits, the new owners seem to have hit the ground running and are still creating wonderful French dishes.

The Deal: Chef’s Season Tasting Menu described as a culinary journey including height of the season ingredients. Four course $80, Five Course $90, and 6 Course $100


Thursday, January 31 at the Italian Trade Agency office

The upper echelon of the Italian audiovisual industry met the press and opinion makers in the Big Apple to present a preview of the 2019 investment plan created by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and ICE Audiovisual and dedicated to the U.S. market.

This was an opportunity to illustrate all the measures that the Italian government will provide in order to develop the Made in Italy audiovisual industry, and in particular to create international partnerships, aimed at strengthening the internationalization of the Italian audiovisual industry.

Participating speakers at the event were:

Maurizio Forte
Director of the ICE Agency in New York and Coordinator of the USA network

Roberto Stabile
ICE Audiovisual Desk Coordinator

Chiara Sbarigia
APT General Manager

Paolo Genovese

MiBAC and ICE will allocate substantial resources to activities in the U.S. with an entire series of activities dedicated to this sector, for example:

The Kidscreen Summit is considered the most important annual event in the children’s entertainment industry. This year there will be a large pavilion set up to welcome the main Italian animation companies.

Italian Television Meets Hollywood On February 27 , in Los Angeles, in cooperation with APT (Italian Television Producers Association), ICE will organize a meeting at the Paley Center (House of Broadcasters) between the main Italian TV production companies and their American colleagues. These meetings will include the presence of the most important U.S. broadcasters along with the main platforms, to discuss co-production projects and look into new opportunities for collaboration.

American Film Market in Los Angeles November 6-13, 2019 , will repeat the now customary Lounge Italia, which welcomes and supports the main sellers of Italian audiovisual products, during their presence at what is the main audiovisual marketing event in the world.

Focus USA : In Venice, during the Venice Film Festival (the oldest festival in the world), the General Directorate of Film at the Italian Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the MPA (Motion Picture Association) will organize a focus group where the New European Digital Market will also be discussed.

Watch the video: The Leopard at des Artistes - NY (July 2022).


  1. Toai

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  2. Shijo

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  3. Aundre

    This post really helps me make a very important decision for myself. For which special thanks to the creator. I look forward to new posts from you!

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