March 2013 Archives

What do you call a Southern inspired, Filipino fusion former coffeeshop now BBQ joint?

Just call it by its old name - Legal Beans.

Chris Escudero, a former lawyer, and his wife Mimi first started in 2004 by buying former candy store on Grand Street in Jersey City and turned it into a coffee shop known as Legal Grounds. Then, in 2005, opening Legal Beans Cafe at 86 Garden St, which began as a local neighborhood coffeeshop, selling their home roasted beans (from Legal Grounds), pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches in a glass walled eclectic store. In 2010 they founded "BBQ At Legal Beans" in 2010 on Division Street in Jersey City. Chris & Mimi not only had the stores, but also a thriving catering business, too.

Then 2011 happened with a great deal of flooding on Garden Street which did a lot of damage to the store. Up next, Hurricane Katrina. A year later, Hurricane Sandy. It wore on Chris - and, as he told me, he couldn't give the Hoboken location the attention he wanted. He shut down the business after Sandy, and decided to re-launch the Cafe as a BBQ joint for two reasons - One, the popularity of his already established BBQ At Legal Beans in Jersey City and Two - he saw a lack of BBQ options in Hoboken.

He wanted to corner that BBQ market now.

After trying it myself last night, I think we have a new King Of BBQ for Hoboken. There are other restaurants that sell BBQ in town, but since Joey's BBQ closed we haven't had a restaurant that just focused on BBQ. Plus, they are doing a buffet-style serving option, which you don't see very often in town. You can get a plate, load up what you want to nosh on - sit down and enjoy yourself or load up a to-go plate, too. Everything has flat-pricing, depending on the side of the plate.

Legal Beans Cafe isn't going to be the next Dinosaur BBQ, Blue Smoke or Hill Country. Lets get that out of the way first. But, for Hoboken in which most restaurants are mediocre at best, this is poised to be one of the best in town.

After filling a medium sized plate of food for $10, on my way out, their credit card machines were not working yet - and were taking cash only. I didn't have cash on me and the Chase ATM was about 5 blocks away. Chris who was there, just shrugged - "Just pay us next time..." That's something you don't get in NYC. The neighborhood of Hoboken can't be beat. I went home with my plate of food with Rocco, who was very interested in helping with leftovers.

I tried the espresso-rubbed ribs last night. Fall-off-the-bone fantastic, with a dark chocolate, smoky undercurrent flavor. I was in love. Then I tried the pull pork. Sweet, but smoky with a dense thickness of pork that I haven't enjoyed since Hoboken Eddie was doing pulled pork sandwiches from the kitchen under Sullivan's Bar. Also tried Brined, Rubbed, and Smoked Chicken breast - I thought the briny flavor was great, but it clearly was sitting too long and was dry. Finally had the spicy sweet potato, which is mashed sweet potato with pepperjack cheese. Wow. Silky, creamy with a hint of 'jack - worth getting this every time. The best part about the buffet is you get to try different things or just load up your plate with ribs. It's really your choice. I'm a big fan of noshing on this & that - and i'm looking forward to my next visit to try the brisket & the BBQ chicken.

I called Chris after eating to give him my review of what I liked and what I didn't like. I told him that there was something 'different' about his southern style BBQ. He laughed and said, "Yeah, my wife - she's Filipino and we get spices that they don't sell in America and use that in our dishes. Peppers and other spices that you can only buy in Asian specific markets."

After talking with him a bit more and trying to convince him to add a Paleo mashed garlic cauliflower to the buffet for people like me, I told him that if the food quality stays high (for example I told him that the chicken was dry) - he would have a customer like me there every week. He told me that the Cafe was still a work in progress. They are using the buffet but also letting people know that you still can call in specific orders if you don't want a buffet. Or, if something that dries out quickly, like the brisket isn't on the buffet, you simply can ask for it in addition to other things from the buffet - they will make it on the spot for you. Also, the plate sizes will be changing. He plans for a medium, large and "super size" plates which will be something like (still to be determined) $7, $10, $15 depending on your appetite.

Only time will tell if Legal Beans Cafe will be able to thrive in a very fickle town like Hoboken. It's not on Washington Street and will really have to hope for a solid delivery business.There are not a lot of seats in the Cafe, I counted about 12 tables with 2 seats each (when the weather improves the outdoor seating will return), and many tables have been displaced by the large buffet counter in the middle of the cafe. Also they have changed their hours opening at 7am to 8pm weekdays (closed on Tuesdays) & will include a late night option for weekends - open until 1am on Fridays & Saturdays. I'm sure the kids at Stevens will love this. You can check out the

This is one I made the other day, and turned out fantastic:

2 pound veal
1 cup almond flour
4-6 minced garlic cloves
1/2 minced onion (very fine)
2 tbls basil
2 tbls oregano
1 tbls red pepper flakes
1 tbls chili powder
2 eggs
salt & pepper
Mix in a bowl with your hands - roll into balls. Put into oven at 350 on a aluminum lined baking tray 15 min on each side. Then, throw into my sauce for 1 hour:

Sautee 3-4 garlic cloves in olive oil, then add
2 28 oz can of tomatoes & 1 1/2 cup water
2 tbls basil
2 tbls oregano
salt, pepper, 1 tbls red pepper flakes & 1 tsp chili powder
set on low heat & cover

Spaghetti squash cut in half, put in oven at 375 for 40 minutes. Let the squash cool for 10 minutes out of the oven, then scrape with a fork to get 'spaghetti'. Let the spaghetti cool down a bit, or your dish can be too mushy. Also leftover spaghetti heats up nicely in the microwave.

To save time, bake the meatballs with the squash. The meatballs should be done with about 10 minutes left for the squash. Also you can throw in the oven Italian sweet sausage to cook the same way for 20 minutes on each side @375 & add that to the pot, too.

Paleo Part 2 - Day 33

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Everything was chugging along nicely in week four and five. Injured myself in Crossfit on Monday March 11. Wasn't anything torn or broken, but really strained my hips doing a billion squats on a workout. Tuesday it was tender & sore, but I figured it would clear up in a few days. A few days became a week. Then got a massage on Friday March 15 - helped, but then on Saturday night I aggravated my hip.

I thought it wasn't too bad until I was outside walking Rocco - and it came on really fast where I literally could not move my leg without a strong dose of "soreness pain". I couldn't put much weight on it. Rocco - he is trying to walk and tugging me down the sidewalk. I have to basically scold him (sorry Rocco) to stop moving so fast. To his credit (or fear) he then walks very slow down the sidewalk while i'm trying my best Frankenstein impression.

I never had a moment where I felt so helpless. I'm standing there in the cold and I realize that I can't walk. Do I call a friend? Call an ambulance? Ask a stranger for help? Funny thing is that my decision was simple - I was embarrassed that I was hurt. I didn't want to ask for help because I couldn't believe I was hurt to begin with and the pain level wasn't severe, but my leg couldn't bear weight. I simply had to use the edge of the building to lean against while I slowly - we are talking baby steps here - inched my way to the back door of my building to get access. Then up the elevator and doing the same process down the hallway, using both my hands to stabilize myself against the wall.

I thought I was going to need to call a doctor, every movement I was in "soreness pain". So I called my sister, "S". Explained to her what happened and she had me take four Advil and call her in the morning. Long story short - it worked.

Hip is better, but not ready for Crossfit. Aiming for Monday Mar 25 as the return.

What does this all have to do with Paleo? I'll tell you.

In years past when I didn't workout, I would think "Well i'm not working out, so I can cheat meal." Then cheat meal turned to cheat day. Cheat day turned into cheat weekend. Cheat weekend turned into cheat week.

None of that happened here. My "cheat" is when I don't cook for myself and I go to Chipolte or Qdoba and get a burrito salad in a bowl with lettuce, protein, guacamole and salsa. In the long & short of things probably not ideal-perfect Paleo, but its close enough. to what we are trying to achieve.

I weighed myself today - and for the record the weight is more of a barometer than anything else because muscle and fat may weight the same but it sits differently on the body due to density - and I was 218 pounds.

Five weeks and I lost 15 pounds. I haven't wore my "fat jeans" since week three. My belt is at the lowest notch setting, I can't tighten it anymore and i'm thinking its time for a new belt anyhow.

I feel good. I don't feel like i'm sacrificing to get to this, but sure i'd like a cupcake or a roastbeef sandwich from Fiore's. Oddly enough I don't miss alcohol very much, except when my friends have plans they all revolve around drinking. St. Paddy's Day - I skipped going into NYC. LepreCon - skipped. A friends birthday party at a bar - I went to it & drank seltzer.

There were a few nights when I got caught up in work or a game on my PC and forgot to make dinner. Rather than panicking and eating crap, I just skipped my meal rather than eat something "bad". Last night I had three clementines and a banana for 'dinner'.

What I learned from paleo is two things:

1. I ate too much. I generally was good on my diet before this Paleo Self Challenge. But had quite a few weekend days where I would eat a sandwich from Hoboken on Rye, chips, a coke and 2 regular sized cupcakes from "Sweet". I can't guess on the calories there, but would hazard my lunch was 2,500 calories alone. Add in there a few beers later, with pizza and could have been eating 5,000 calories a day. With Paleo, I wasn't craving food because I wasn't hungry. I could skip a meal and yeah I wasn't STARVING.

2. The absence of sugar makes all food taste better. We are a society that eats too much sugar. People know this. But they don't make any change in their lifestyle to stop it. I woke up one day, looked in the mirror and said, "This is not who I want to be." - some people think there is a magic pill they can take which will melt the fat. Appetite suppressant isn't the way to go because it doesn't fix the underlying issue - its the diet, stupid. What makes paleo easier is that when you start to strip away the sugar overload, bland food tastes better. Carrots are tasty. Brussels sprouts are delicious. A simple dish with lamb chops, tomatoes, garlic and curly parsley is out-of-this-world.

Plus, if *I* can do this - anyone can. My willpower is nearly zero. I am very shocked that I went 30 days without alcohol & on Paleo for the second year in a row. My goal is to allow Easter weekend to be a 'cheat weekend'.

Then what?

I don't know. Part of me thinks I should try to go another month on Paleo, but allowing for certain Paleo-friendly alcohols like red wine or non-grain grape-distilled vodka on the weekends. Maybe allowing for a cheat meal once a week (which I nearly guarantee would be Fiore's roastbeef!). We will see. I will keep updating here under "Paleo" to keep people informed.

Also a few closing notes:

People ask "HOW DO YOU FEEL??" - I feel fine. On Paleo i'm much more awake and less groggy. I'm always tired in the mornings. My sleep is good, but not the deep crazy sleep that people report when they are on Paleo. Although I can walk into my bedroom and be asleep within 5 minutes on Paleo, so that's a plus.

If you are thinking of trying Paleo - do it. If you want to try it like me, you can by Robb Wolf's Paleo book and follow his 30 day guide, or search for other Paleo cookbooks on Amazon. Most of my meals are from his book or doing Google searches for foods or meals I liked. For example, I learned how to make spaghetti squash & meatballs because I was craving meatballs. So I searched "Paleo meatballs" and read a few dishes over. Then I look at how my Nanny made meatballs with veal, and I came up with this:

2 pound veal
1 cup almond flour
4-6 minced garlic cloves
1/2 minced onion (very fine)
2 tbls basil
2 tbls oregano
1 tbls red pepper flakes
1 tbls chili powder
2 eggs
salt & pepper
Mix in a bowl with your hands - roll into balls. Put into oven at 350 on a aluminum lined baking tray 15 min on each side. Then, throw into my sauce for 1 hour:

Sautee 3-4 garlic cloves in olive oil, then add
28 oz can of tomatoes & 28 oz water
1 6oz tomato paste
2 tbls basil
2 tbls oregano
salt, pepper, 1/2 tbls red pepper flakes & 1/2 tsp chili powder
set on low heat & cover

Spaghetti squash cut in half, put in oven at 375 for 40 minutes. Scrape with a fork to get spaghetti when its cooked & is great when its a day old too.

To save time, bake the meatballs with the squash. The meatballs should be done with about 10 minutes left for the squash. Also you can throw in the oven Italian sausage to cook the same way for 15 minutes on each side & add that to the pot, too.

That's it. Paleo is worth trying for one reason alone - it works. Plus I don't feel like i'm 'suffering' while i'm on paleo. Sure, I kind of miss some foods, but its more like a wistful thing than i'm-craving-a-cigarette kind of mood.

Do it!

Paleo Part 2 - Week Three

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Day 16.

Up until this week I have mostly been feeling OK, no real major cravings and a bit tired. Seems like this week I turned a corner. I'm not feeling as lethargic as I did for the first 10 days. Getting a good amount of sleep, averaging 7 1/2 hours a night. Sleeping OK, was hoping it would be better by now, but really its just OK.

Crossfit going well. 4 days in a row last week. I worked out three days this week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) and did Thursday in my condo gym doing a mixture of lifting weights (bicep curls, bench press and pulldowns) and cardio (jump rope, sit ups, squats). I'll be back today at Crossfit. Trying to keep up Crossfit to 4-5 days a week.

Scale today was 225. Funny thing is that my 'fat jeans' are in the corner and I have my old jeans back on already. I can feel the reduction all around my midsection, its just less puffy than before. Still have work to do. My goal isn't necessarily related to weight alone, since a scale doesn't take into muscle vs fat. My goal is just feeling better in my body, and getting stronger at Crossfit.

My back was a major problem when I first started Crossfit again. Really sore. To a point where I could barely do much. It was embarrassing. But I did light weight - and got a massage at Body Balance each week. It really helped. This was the first week I was free of any back pain (soreness) from working out. Now my biggest issue is getting my endurance back, but I feel like each workout i'm a bit stronger than before.

No real issues with eating. Don't "miss" food like I thought I would. I think the key so far is that my breakfast is pretty much the same:
1. Omelette (with veggies) or Egg scrambled
2. 6 slices of bacon!
3. Mixed Fruit cup

Lunch usually is a chicken over greens or rotisserie chicken with a veggie side or left over dinner. Plus maybe a handful of almonds as a snack (no more than a handful).

Most of my dinners are stuff I search for online or from Paleo-centric cookbooks. Jambalaya, Veal Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash, filet mignon steak, Italian veal chops, Flounder Fillet with Dill Vegetables, and others. Sometimes in a time crunch I will go to the Taco Truck and get 6 tacos without shells and just eat that or go to Chipolte and grab a burrito bowl with salad (protein with sauteed veggies, guac and salsa).

Only issue with cutting out alcohol is that social life goes "bye bye" around Hoboken. Really, its kind of funny how much everything centers around having a drink. But, doesn't really matter - the weather is pretty crappy and most of my weekends have been quiet.

Paleo Part 2 - Week Two

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Last year my first foray into paleo was new and scary territory with lots of questions and planning.

This year it's been pretty easy. I kind of already know what I like to eat. My routine is mostly like this:

Breakfast: Black coffee, Bacon, 3 eggs, fruit cup.

Lunch: Rotisserie Chicken or chicken salad, or leftovers from last night.

Dinner: Some kind of Paleo dish from my cookbooks or internet.

Last night is a good example of "some kind of Paleo dish". I wanted meatballs. I looked around at a few recipes from different paleo sites. I also compared my Nanny's Meatball recipe which uses ground veal. So I bought ground veal from FreshDirect, and then modified a few things like taking out sugar and adding in chopped garlic & onion, red pepper flakes, chili powder and 1/4 cup of almond flour. Funny thing is - they turned out good! I wouldn't call it "great", I want to try some things differently next time like mincing the onion versus chopping it. Also I want to fry the meatballs instead of baking them like I did last night.

Most of my meals have been homemade, but a few easy ways to order locally and apply it to Paleo Diet:

  1. Order 6 tacos from the Taco Truck - strip off the shell and eat the meat filling with a veggie side.
  2. Order "salad" from Chipolte, order double meat, sauteed onion & peppers with fresh avocado - put some salsa on there and enjoy.
  3. La Isla does a great roasted chicken breast, which is only $5 and great when you are in a jam for something to eat.

Haven't cheated except for one breakfast in which I ordered a Western Omelette and it had cheese in it - this falls under the "don't sweat the small stuff" mantra to the diet. I'm being strict but allowing for things like a packet of ketchup or A1 sauce. OH NO! THEY HAVE SUGAR IN IT. Yeah, yeah. I'm not drinking a pint of ketchup. The salsa at Chipolte could have sugar in it, but it was one meal out of 30.

I feel pretty good. Down about 5 pounds, but that falls under the "water weight" that everyone loses in the first week. I did Crossfit Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Felt stronger and my recovery a billion times better. I'm sharper - I can feel sharper. I'm still a bit tired, but that is because I haven't been sleeping enough hours - getting to bed late because i'm being dumb.

Interesting side note about sleep. Lately I have changed my approach to my bedroom. I used to play video games in there or surf the 'net. Since Paleo I tried to cut that down, with surfing the net with my iPad and playing games only occasionally. When its time for bed, I go immediately to bed - no TV, no computer, no reading. Bedroom is for sleeping. As soon as I get into bed, lights off and sleepy time.

You know what? That fucking works like a charm. I was definitely someone who had issues falling asleep because i'm thinking or whatever - just making the bedroom the place where you sleep...helps. So, my suggestion is get rid of the TV in the bedroom if you have one (I do not have one).

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