Archive for Pitman NJ

SWEET LULA’S – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Sweet Lula's, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by ballymote

For years, our friends had always lamented the dearth of restaurants in Pitman, NJ. A quaint little town that featured a theatre that booked some good acts and some interesting plays; it was like a miniature Collingswood, without the eateries. In the past couple of years, there have been  two notable dining spots that have opened to fill the needs of theatre goers. Our group of eight had been to Barcelona in the past and last night it was time to check out Sweet Lula’s. Located almost directly across the street from the theatre, Sweet Lula’s is owned by Anthony Asbury, a local puppeteer with film credits to his name. The unique dining spot shows old-time silent movies continuously on it’s back wall. Eight of us had  7:30 theatre reservations and were not about watching movies on a wall.

Our wines for the evening were the 2002 Thorn-Clarke Barossa Shiraz Having spent a few years in my cellar I thought this one had lost a little of that intense peppery shiraz note but Kathy still felt it was too sweet and much preferred drinking Gerry C.’s wine the 2005 Cantina Zaccagnini, Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Riserva, a medium bodied dry wine with bright cherry flavors mingled with cracked pepper. It was a very food-friendly wine. While Katie, our capable server, described a couple of specials, we carefully studied the menu.

Probably the most unusual item selected was Tom T.’s choice of the Spaghetti Squash which consisted of summer squash, baked, the meat removed and shredded, the core basted with butter, garlic, paprika and nutmeg and then refilled and baked once again before being topped with fontina cheese. It was certainly an interesting treatment. The rest of us settled for more run of the mill choices like the  Caprese Salad with fresh Jersey tomatoes and mozzarella topped with a balsamic dressing.

Jerry C. had the Spinach Salad with bacon and mushrooms and a creamy peppercorn dressing.

I went with the Soup du Jour which on this night was a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo that had some nice seasonings and that distinct Cajun treatment. I though it was quite tasty and would have been improved by being served slightly hotter. My soup was warm, at best.

It looked like a decent crowd and it was apparent that most of them were headed to the theatre, also. The bright interior of Sweet Lula’s features a preponderance of round tables which seem to be at a premium in most restaurants and provide a much better seating arrangement when we have six or eight friends gathered for a meal. Kudos to them for that.

Joe B. ordered the Basa Florentine. The menu doesn’t offer much description but the Basa is a Vietnamese or Thai catfish and how it found its way to Pitman, NJ, I have no idea. Joe’s dish, as was true for the majority of our entrees, came with mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots.

Pictured from left to right are my Pork Fillets with Candied Apples, Tom’s Prime Rib and Carol B.’s Shrimp and Scallops (hold the Scallops and give me extra shrimp). I thought mine was good. It was very reminiscent of a home cooked meal.

 Barbara T. had mixed feelings about her Lobster Ravioli. She very much liked the fact that each ravioli was full of real lobster pieces rather than a compressed mousse of lobster. She was not quite as thrilled with the bacon flavored sauce that she felt overpowered the entire dish. It was a case where she felt there would have been an addition of flavor by a subtraction of sauce.

My wife, Kathy’s dish, the Mushroom Ravioli looked very similar to Barbara’s. Kathy was not quite as concerned with the amount of sauce. She kinda liked the bacony flavor but she thought the mushroom filling was a bit bland. Overall, there were some hits and some misses. There also seemed to be a shortage of ice at Sweet Lula’s. I neglected to mention earlier that Joe B. had brought a Rodney Strong Chardonnay which spent the evening basking in a small pool of water and maybe three ice cubes in what looked like an ice bucket. Our water glasses were also noticeably devoid of those little frozen cubes. My guess would be that Sweet Lula’s gets a future visit from our group although it may be more result of their proximity to the theatre than any culinary magic performed during our initial visit.

BARCELONA – BYOB

Posted in Barcelona, BYOB Restaurant Reviews, South Jersey BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , on January 23, 2010 by ballymote

Barcelona - A European Bistro, is located in beautiful, downtown Pitman, NJ. Friends and neighbors have long lamented the dearth of suitable restaurants in Pitman which, with it’s Broadway Theatre and small town shopping, has long been a natural location for good eateries. Barcelona helps fill that need. It’s a great stop for pre-theatre dining and that is exactly what we were doing there this past Saturday evening. Our friends Jerry and Sue C. gave us their tickets to “Singing in the Rain” at the Broadway  Theatre and my wife Kathy and I, Joe and Carol B. and Tom and Barbara T. had a 6:15 reservation at a place I had never been before. The other two couples, being season ticket holders at the Broadway, had been to Barcelona a few times in the past.

The interior is bright and cheery and the tables are nicely spaced to afford diners ample privacy. Both Joe and I had brought with us Malbecs from Argentina. Joe had the 2008 La Posta “Angel Paulucci Vineyard”, my wife Kathy’s new “favorite wine”, while I had one of my perennial favs, the 2007 Fabre – Montmayou, Barrel Selection, from Patagonia. Both seemed naturals for the spices associated with a Spanish restaurant.

The menu itself has a wide variety of interesting items and they had a few specials for the evening to add to the wealth of choices. Barcelona also offers an extensive tapas selection if you are in the mood for trying lots of small plates.

I chose an appetizer from the “Specials” list because it sounded different and interesting, it was Mark’s Spring Rolls, a crisp spring roll filled with steak, drizzled with cheese and served with carmelized red onions.

The dish was presented with four nice size offerings of tender steak, drizzled with the cheese sauce (think mini-cheese steak in a pastry shell). It was very filling and could almost have served as a meal.

Some of the women chose the Soup du Jour which was a Sweet Potato soup. Kathy and Carol both split an eggplant appetizer. It should be pointed out that our friend Carol B. is, by nature, a very sweet, charming and fun to be with person. She has, however, little patience with flaws in food or service when dining out, and is not hesitant to point them out when they occur. When both her soup and her appetizer arrived at the same time she was quick to point out to our server that an error had been made. The situation was quickly rectified without bodily injury to anyone and our meal continued in peace and harmony.

All three of the women ordered the Sweet Potato Ravioli in Sage Butter sauce. The pasta was nicely cooked and the filling flavorful. It should be pointed out that all of us had our eyes on our watches as we waited quite some time for the entrees to arrive and the starting time for our theatre date drew closer. Joe had chosen the Baked Bronzino from the specials menu and Tom and I both ordered the Tilapia Rellena, Stuffed Tilapia with shrimp, scallops and crab meat in a shrimp sauce.

We were really rushing toward the end to finish in time for the show but I would be remiss in not pointing out that the chef came to our table to apologize for the delay confessing that he had burned one of the tilapias and that was the reason for the slow service. He was nice enough to comp all of our desserts, and since we didn’t have time to have them there, we had them boxed for consumption after the show back at our house.

Overall, the food at Barcelona was pretty good, the experience was a little haggard, but I would say they certainly deserve another chance and the place shows the potential to be a nice spot for a weekend dinner in a town that desperately needs quality dining places.

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