DeGroff Cocktail brunch at my favorite Bar, Catherine Lombardi

Joined Jan 8, 2008
I loaded up on Ibuprofen and Laurie and I went to an awesome brunch today at Catherine Lombardi Restaurant and Cocktail Bar in New Brunswick, NJ. It was for the release of Jill DeGroff's new book Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar.

Jill was there signing books and her Husband, King Cocktail Dale DeGroff was there mixing cocktails.

Anyone who knows anything about food and cocktails knows that this combination, (THE best cocktail bar in NJ, THE king of cocktails, and drinking at noon with THE best BURGER in NJ), is something not to be missed. Indeed it wasn't.

To start, Dale was mixing up some Ramos Fizzes. I ordered one.

... and Laurie ordered a Red Snapper (or, a bloody mary made proper, with Gin). Our bar boy -- (I can call him that, because he shaved his beard) --James made one up.

James is one of the best bartenders I know. I'd call him my favorite, but he always hit's on my wife and has recently shaved his beard. He makes THE best Sazerac in NJ. James's Sazerac trumps even Dales. I've done a side by side comparison, and well, my wife, the Sazerac Connoisseur, agrees.

He just needs to grow his beard all.

After imbibing some awesome 'breakfast' cocktails with some other friends and regular who also came, it was food time. Me. I'm a burger guy, so, it was an easy decision. Laurie is a seafood gal, and we don't cook much seafood at home, so it was a given for her too.

The menu was great. (there were some additions too)

For first course, I ordered the goat cheese salad with candied pecans, orange, pickled shallots, and while I didn't see any pickled shallots, I could eat goat cheese all day. Sorry, forgot to snap a pic.

Laurie ordered Seared Scallops, Pork Belly, Anson Mills Johnny Cake and New Jersey Corn Sauce.

Homerun with this dish. A poorly cooked scallop can ruin a dish and a scallop paired with a bad sauce or accompaniment can too. This dish nailed both. Perfectly seared with a good corn sauce and the Johnny cakes were awesome. I don't have to rave about pork belly, it's pork belly. It speaks for itself.

For mains, I ordered the burger, medium. It's still the best burger in NJ. One might feel weird biting into this burger with juices getting a little messy on your hands and chin in a fine dining establishment. Don't. The Neuske Bacon was good too.

Laurie had "Hybrid Striped Bass Over Crab Chowder"

She loved it. I didn't taste it. But she loves Stage Left's crab chowders.

I don't know what the **** a 'Hybrid' Striped bass is, but I'm guessing it's fuel efficient and might not give you as much gas? I'll let you know tonight.

For dessert, who the heck wants to worry about picking just one...they set it up buffet style. Caramelizing Creme Brulees to order. Needless to say, we didn't share.

I was slipped a piece of the Raisin Hazelnut French Toast with Blackberries and Almonds too...It was gone too quick for me to take a picture.

During the meal, Dale and Francis, did some readings from the book. The book is a fun book filled with stories from bartenders, quotes, poems, and fabulous illustrations/characatures done by Jill DeGroff. Gary Regan, who is featured prominently on the cover, has a story inside that is one of the best.

I don't frequent bars, mainly because most can't make a cocktail as simple as an Old Fashioned, or serve sugary vodka concoctions, or....the bartender is, for lack of a better description, a big chested blonde who has no personality and is only there to sling bud light or sell shots of Jaegermeister (I wont attempt to even spell that right, because like the liquor, it's just not worth it). Or, it's a sports bar....and TV's have no business being in a bar in my opinion. Thank god I can't see the one in CL's from where I usually sit.

I like a bartender that has a story or two, and can listen to a story or two. This book has more than a story or two. Make yourself a cocktail at home, read a page, and you'll think you are sitting on the other side of the bar at the 21 club circa 1950. it on the toilet, like I did (feel free to take your cocktail along).

In other words, great book, great food, and well, CL's is a great bar.

"Mark and Francis- forever behind the stick"

For a few hours, I almost forgot I have had a migraine for the past 7 days...If I die of an aneurysm, at least I can rest in peace knowing I'll have died with a DeGroff mixed Fizz and a great burger in my stomach.
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