OK, so technically I am not Italian (Dutch and Polish) in that I was bred by parents that didn't have an ounce of Italian in their genes. But when I married my wife, I converted to Italianism through a long and arduous process. My parents may not have been pleased with my decision, but I was old enough to think for myself. The allure of being Italian was just too much for me. I needed to do it.
There were tests, role playing exercises and accent seminars in order to complete the conversion process. I passed them all with flying colors and had no issue replacing "tomato sauce" with "gravy". I even had "man-a-gut" nailed to a tee and never again uttered "manicotti". I was in.
Because of my new found heritage, I've had my share of good meatballs over the years. In "Sunday gravy" with my wife's family and through a host of different recipes my wife has experimented with. While I may not be a true connoisseur, I can detect a good meatball when I taste one.
Now with two adults working and two young and active children, there isn't a ton of time to plan and execute elaborate dinners. You have to pick and choose your battles and more often than not, the meatball is sacrificed.
Until now that is.
A few weeks back my wife had been doing some "food research" (and she is damn good at it) and asked me to pick up the package below? From where you ask? C'mon now.
Of course I agreed to pick these up since there was a decent chance Matt and I may happen to find our way there.
That night, the family enjoyed them with spaghetti and our favorite gravy. Holy crap'n crap. They were likea whata mamma made.
Quick aside - Italians in Italy (that was fun to write) do not add gravy to their meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs do not exist. Meatballs are typically a side dish or second course. Here in the USA, we have bastardized them. But I will admit, a meatball parmesan sub is killer.
So these Wegmans meatballs are fantastic. I've had them a number of times since and the entire family continues to rave about them. They are super moist even though frozen and damn tastier than any frozen meatball I've ever had, not to mention other homemade meatballs I've sampled.
A win for busy people.
But the true test won't come until Matt tries them. He is full blooded Italian from the Bronx and I'm sure he has had his share of dynamite meatballs over the years. I imagine him playing stickball in the street until his mother or grandmother yelled out the window, "Matthew, time for dinner and get your bib."
So I convinced Matt to give them a try. As you can see here, he bought them with our last run to Wegmans.
Well that and an endless supply of gum and floss picks.
So Matt is now on the clock to give these a run and provide his honest feedback. I know I anxiously await the results.
But before I go, I wanted to share something with you all. I decided to try these Wegmans meatballs sans gravy; simply on their own. I baked 4 of them in the oven and dived in. You can witness my thoughts on this with the following video.
Not quite a natural behind the camera yet, but I'll get there.
John here ...
Before I dive into my musical choices, I have to comment on Matt's options. Here is a quick rundown of both his latest "mixed tape" and his top ten list of all time:
Sugar – Maroon 5 - didn't know it was necessary to add this one since you can only hear it on the radio every three minutes.
Only the Young - Journey - I freakin love this song too; it is the quintessential 80's soundtrack song. Although I'm embarrassed to admit I've never seen Vision Quest.
These Days – Bon Jovi - are they still making music? Does JBJ own the Buffalo Bills or is he the mayor of Rumson? Until I Find You Again – Richard Marx - I refuse to even look this one up. If I'm not mistaken, Matt went on the Richard Marx/Eric Carmen cruise a few years ago. Something Big - Shawn Mendes - are we sure this isn't his son's mix? Mendes is opening for Taylor Swift this summer and can be seen all over Disney Channel. Yes, I knew all that off of the top of my head. Always on Time - Ja Rule and Ashanti - I love not knowing a thing about Ja Rule and I'm going to keep it that way. Love Never Felt So Good – Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake - this song is so Matt you have no idea. Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway) – Billy Joel - I like Scream - Usher - you can take the man out of the Bronx, but you can't take the DJ out of ... wait ... what ... did that make sense? It did to me before I started typing it.
And now the top ten list. Wow. Where to begin? My Way – Frank Sinatra - not necessarily my fave Frank but this song is still all sorts of awesome. New York State of Mind – Billy Joel - top three BJ song for me I’ve Got the Power – Snap - is he kidding? Does this actually qualify as a song? Wasn't it just a sound bite at sports arenas in the early 90's? I would pay to watch Matt sing this in his car. Hint. Hint. If You Don't Know Me By Now - Simply Red - I would honestly consider this on my bottom ten list. Who would possibly want to know this guy? Blech. How Deep Is Your Love – Bee Gees - I lean more "More Than a Woman" or "Jive Talkin" but this one is OK. Looking For an Echo – Kenny Vance - Oh, I didn't realize Matt is 76 years old. Hotel California –Eagles - I'm not familiar with this song. Must not have been played all that much over the years. The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy - I'm not buying this one. This is an attempt to come off like a rocker. More likely choice here should be New Edition or Color Me Badd. Truly – Lionel Richie - I like me some Lionel but not this one all that much. Lose Yourself - Eminem - one of these things is not like the other ...
Seeing that great picture John posted of Tony Robbins just
got me thinking. No, not that he has some big a$$ teeth and maybe a hair
transplant, but how it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, that
there has not been a time where you were laying there all slouched on your couch,
changing the channel, ready to pass out (after finishing a batch of salty pretzels
and a vat of diet soda) but stopped when you heard him preaching some powerful
message about changing your life overnight. All of a sudden you hear the
“Rocky” theme song playing in your head and you’re ready for change!
OK, so what if that was me a few nights ago? Go ahead, have
your laugh (Hold on - let me dust off the salt crystals that fell on my shirt right
before I passed out in the middle of him telling me how to change my life in 3
short days). Glad I can give you that visual.
Tony Robbins is one example of the weird things that drive
my mood and lead to the creation of my next CD masterpiece (and yes, a 10 min Tony Robbins clip made
its way to one of my CD masterpieces that may have also included a song or two
from “NSYNC” or yes one of my favorites “Frank Stallone”. I know, WTF!)
There is no telling what songs could end up on these insane
mixtures of melodies that get me ready in the morning to tackle the world or a
few ballads that make you reach for a Kleenex and want to stay in bed all day
(now who doesn’t love “Careless Whisper”? - and yes, I do own a George Michael
back-pack, so piss off!).
Every “DJ Matte B” (yes, that was my DJ name back in 1989) compilation
CD consists of a bunch of really fast upbeat songs that range from current top
10 to 25 yrs. old. These musical
extravaganzas are as eclectic as it gets, so I challenge any one of you to top
the examples below….
Here is an example of one of my CD masterpieces: Sugar – Maroon 5
Only the Young - Journey
These Days – Bon Jovi Until I Find You Again – Richard Marx Something Big - Shawn Mendes Always on Time - Ja Rule and Ashanti Love Never Felt So Good – Michael Jackson & Justin
Timberlake Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
– Billy Joel Scream - Usher
Now, addressing John’s challenge. Very hard to do. Here is a
quick stab at my top 10 (In no particular order):
My Way – Frank Sinatra New York State of Mind – Billy Joel I’ve Got the Power – Snap If You Don't Know Me By Now - Simply Red How Deep Is Your Love – Bee Gees Looking For an Echo – Kenny Vance Hotel California –Eagles The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy Truly – Lionel Richie Lose Yourself - Eminem
John here ...
One of the great pleasures of going out to lunch each day with my BFF is the surprise that awaits once the key enters the ignition and Matt's car radio welcomes me. Over the years I've been greeted by New Kids on the Block (NKOTB to those in the know), plenty of 50's Doo-Wop, Eminem ("You only get one chance") and yes, even inspirational messages from everyone's favorite jawline.
The soundtrack varies greatly from week to week or even day to day. I still remember being greeted by Adele one summer afternoon and learning that her song was on Matt's "workout playlist".
Chew on that for a minute.
I kid you not, "Rolling in the Deep" inspired Matt to bench like 275 lbs. 25 times as if he were at the NFL Combine. Don't believe me? Read here for proof.
The dude's musical and inspirational tastes are so all over the place and I love it. It is impossible to pigeon hole. I could go on all day with stories I've learned over the years. From his attendance at a George Michael concert where he excitedly earned a backpack featuring the 5 o'clock shadowed singer to his belting out of "Carry on My Wayward Son" that was legitimately American Idol worthy to his fascination with Sly Stallone's singing brother Frank.
Don't believe me? Think I'm making this up? Again, here is your proof.
So with all of this in mind, I thought it would be great entertainment to have Matt share with us his top ten songs of all time. I promise you incredible diversity, some head scratching moments and songs you will not be able to get out of your head for days.
Yes we are back!!! The Two Guys at Lunch duo is back in full
force and ready to keep you posted on everything from Fage Yogurt to Kale Salad
to Chicken Parm Pizza and Fantasy Sports.
Most of the time we agree on our
favorite foods and sports topics but for some things we have our own separate
passions. One of John’s passions is water. Plain and simple, the guy loves it. Never
see him without a water bottle. His daily consumption could fill one of those gas
tanks you see on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Quite frankly it pisses me off because I have trouble
getting down a sip of it without having to add some sweetener to it. I know, save your breath, water is the best, I get it.
Now on to more exciting stuff.
Let’s talk about one of my
passions. Ahhh those big round juicy (hey!! get ya head outta da gutta) red beauties
that come out every October. Yes, those red beauties are Pomegranates! Seeing
them in stores brings a tear to my eye and an excitement like a 7 year old
running to the tree on Christmas morning. Have them plain, in yogurt (Fage only
of course), smoothies or on a salad and you are in business my friend.
I saw them while John and I were browsing Wegmans for a few odds and ends (love that
phrase). Once they caught my eye, everything slowed down and I immediately
stopped listening to whatever he was saying. At that moment it was all about me
and the POM’s (Remember, they must
have the little POM sticker or don’t
“Oh what beautiful pomegranates” I said out loud without any
hesitation. Love was in the air! I grabbed two of those perfectly round beauts
(hey!! I told ya, get ya head outta da gutta) and everything was good in my world.
If you need a little tip on the how to de-seed these powerful
anti-oxidants, check out my 1 minute video that makes life a little easier when
trying to get to the juicy red seeds.
I know it has been over a year since we last posted but let's not dwell on the negative today. We are back and that is all that matters. You asked for it and we felt compelled to give our public what they want; tales of two gentleman eating lunch. I know ... groundbreaking stuff ... and you're welcome.
Quick history of the past year: With new quirks in our schedules, Matt and I haven't enjoyed each other's company at lunch as often as we'd like. It has been a difficult and trying time, but I think therapy has helped Matt dramatically. I can't always be the rock so it is good to know he can open up to others.
But the past is in the past (thanks Elsa) and now our schedules are lined up once again and we can get back to that good place. It's 2011 all over again. So buckle up and enjoy the ride, we have a lot of catching up to do.
Onward to today ...
We are in the midst of a monumental storm here in the Northeast today (editor's note: the storm ended up totally disappointing, Snowmageddon it wasn't) but that didn't stop Matt and I from making it into the office.
We were literally the only ones in the parking lot at noon today. Luckily Matt had on his sensible shoes so I didn't have to hold his hand and guide him to the car.
It was tough sledding getting to the old daily oasis but the end result was never in doubt.
After we grabbed our lunches and found our usual seats, it was comforting to know we still "had it". I totally shrieked out loud when I saw that we bought the exact same beverage. A 42 year old yelling "twinsies" was probably a bit creepy but my emotions got the best of me.
Between us, we scarfed down:
3 barbecue chicken wings
Cajun Kettle salad
Buffalo chicken chowder
We then set out to tour the store for a bit and pick up the bare essentials before the storm really hit.
Now each lunch typically results in one moment that reminds me why we do this day in and day out. Something that still makes me laugh the next day. Today it was Matt passionately spouting out unprompted, "Those are beautiful pomegranates" as we walked by this display.
I can't even begin to tell you how much Matt loves pomegranates. In fact, I'll leave that up to a future post from him. Just know that there is a You Tube video out there of Matt's tips on how to navigate the seeds of this complicated and finicky fruit.
But you would have to agree, those are some good looking pomegranates. Reason #3467 why Wegmans kicks ass.
First off, let me congratulate Matt on being 11.5 lbs down as of this past weekend. Home boy is dominating and it ain't stopping any time soon. To put it in 1980's terms so Matt can comprehend it, he has the "eye of the tiger". Keep on keepin on my brutha.
It had been two weeks since we were able to get out of the office for lunch together and it was having an affect on our relationship. I found myself very short with him and easily irritated. If I had a work related question for him, he wouldn't give me the time of day when answering. It was a brutal few weeks but these are things we have to endure. You have to really want it in order to make it through.
We ended our drought this past week and thankfully, didn't miss a beat. It felt like it did back in the early days when we were care free and spontaneous. We were back at Wegmans (one of us dramatically lighter) and all was right with the world.
I can't remember what Matt ate for lunch but I do remember him schooling me on the benefits of salmon. If it has been written up in Men's Health, Matt has read it and shared it with me. So if I had to guess, he had sushi with salmon ... wait ... now I remember. He had some sort of sushi with sweet potatoes in it. Go figure. I didn't know that it was even a possible to mix fish and sweet potatoes. But again, I remember also being educated on the top "super foods" and sweet potatoes were at or near the top.
Dude knows his shit.
We finished lunch and thankfully had some time to wander the aisles at Wegmans. Because I am just about in the same class as professional bodybuilders, I made a beeline to the protein powder.
Don't kill the dream. You'll also notice some vanilla yogurts in the basket. Those are the only yogurts my son will eat. Another reason to bow at the altar of Wegmans.
Each and every time we "shop" after lunch, a trip to the "candy" aisle is a must. Yes I am 41 years old. My choices for the day were the following:
I ended up passing on these options because $5.99 for a chocolate bar isn't my idea of a good time. As much as my curiosity was killing me, I just couldn't splurge. So I went back to a personal favorite that didn't break the bank:
Chocolate and sea salt "anything" is a winner and this one is no exception.
Matt, aka Dr. Oz Lite, disappeared and after screaming his name and asking for help at Customer Service, I finally located him in the vitamin/remedy aisle. I snuck up on him and took this pic (cause that is what men in their 40's do, right?).
Do not adjust your monitor, that is him reviewing the nutritional information of chia seeds. What the f? Who is this guy? We're both up on
nutrition and all of the trends, but this is in a new stratosphere. Of
course now that he has since educated me on the benefits of said chia, I
will now be buying it and reaping the benefits as well. One of us can never out
do the other.
At check-out, I was still laughing at the thought of chia seeds and wouldn't let Matt forget it. But as we exited Wegmans on our way back to the real world, I did something that trumped "Operation Chia".
I came to a halt when I saw a display of ... wait for it ... wait for it ... wait for it ... poinsettias.
Many of you know that I am an avid gardener and plant lover but this was taking it too far.
How hideous is that color by the way?
Anyway, I caused a back-up like we were on the Major Deegan and I'm pretty sure I saw Matt drop his head in shame. There were disgruntled housewives in workout clothes everywhere. A rubber-necking delay like no other.
We have yet to discuss my faux pas since and I thank him for that.
All in all, it was good to get back in the groove and hopefully we won't hit such a dry spell again.
My buddy John is not making this Weight Watchers mission any easier by posting these insane mouthwatering pictures of chocolate caramel sea salt tarts and delightful looking doughnuts that could stop traffic. Thanks John for all the support, I appreciate it.
This past Saturday yours truly was ready for his weekly weigh-in. I was feeling a bit anxious and wanted to see how I did after being pretty strict and counting every crumb that made it's way into my dish. Saturday mornings are the moment of truth and make me start to second guess myself. I'll say things like, "Maybe I should of had a 1/2 cup of rice instead of a whole cup", "Maybe I could have done without that bowl of cereal" or "I should of added some cayenne pepper to speed-up my metabolism".
Unreal...1 cup vs. 1/2 cup. Mr. Dainty. Wait, let me go put my make-up on and fix my skirt. During the week you could say I put away a few pomegranates (my favorite), Red Delicious apples the size of pumpkins (Thanks Costco) and enough bananas that would make King Kong proud (All zero point foods on WW).
Being a "carb-oholic", the night before weigh-in I make sure to ease up on all the evil foods and salt. Oh and by the way did I mention that I'm a salt addict as well? Uh Yeah. Can we stack the odds any higher against me succeeding on this mission? On the doctor's scale (conveniently located in the basement next to the exercise equipment that hasn't moved in 2 years) I go. Scared to death that I did something wrong or miscalculated my points during the week, I start to move the little metal scale slider trying to pin-point my weight right down to the quarter pound. Yes, 3 pounds lighter! What a relief, 3 weeks and 9 lbs. Whew, now I can enjoy the rest of my weekend and forget about "1 cup vs. 1/2 cup".
Earlier this week, my wife and I went to her favorite place Whole foods for lunch. She chose to go with her usual favorite salad stuff (You can bank on some kind of Kale, Cabbage and Beets to be included in that container). I on the other hand went in a different direction and did a little browsing of the various food stations whole foods had to offer. Wouldn't you know, I found myself in a trance at the brick oven pizza station. Sure you must be thinking I was ready to cheat huh? I know, given up on me already. Nope, not me, I went for the Balsamic Broccoli Rabe and Pesto on Flat Bread Pizza. Yeah Baby!
My wife and I recently ate brunch at our absolute favorite spot - Lovin Oven - in Frenchtown, NJ. This restaurant is off the charts delicious and has an incredible local vibe. You can taste and smell the authenticity and it is the kind of place you could hang in for hours. But enough of my stellar review ...
About two years ago I was watching the Food Network show - "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" - and the food being ogled over was a chocolate caramel sea salt tart
The Food Network personality discussing this ridiculously sweet looking dessert had me watching with my tongue hanging out. I had never seen anything look this good. And then when it was revealed that this beauty was from Lovin Oven, I almost fainted. You mean I can go like get this in under ten minutes by car? Holy crap'n crap.
Fast forward two years and I had yet to try it. Even after numerous trips eating at the Oven. Don't ask me why, there is no excuse.
But that all changed two weeks ago. After brunch my wife and I bought a slice and planned on sampling it as soon as we had room to eat again. That was about 38 seconds after we walked in the door at home. Out came the forks and we went to town.
Seriously, it was life changing. Decadent doesn't begin to explain it. The combo of caramel/sea salt/chocolate is always a win, but this was beyond that. It was magic and almost painfully good. Three bites in and I was done; it was that rich.
I think my wife and I talked about the tart for the next hour and that lead to the inevitable discussion of "what was the best thing we ever ate". This topic always pains me as it is an impossible exercise, especially if your memory has started to blur like mine has. I usually tend to blow it off and did this time as well ... until now.
Yes, welcome to my dissertation on "The Best Things I've Ever Eaten". I have broken it down into 4 categories:
Best appetizer Best entree Best dessert Best drink
In line with my discussion on the Lovin Oven tart, today I will pontificate on my favorite dessert. And yes, there was something better than the chocolate sea salt dessert.
Back in 2000, my wife (and fellow foodie) took a ten day trip to San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. The goal was to eat and drink ourselves (not necessarily in that order) to oblivion. And we did. Included in that eatapalooza was a trip to the "ultra difficult to get a reservation" French Laundry. It was the pinnacle of our trip. This is one of the top ten (at worst) restaurants in the country and yours truly was nervous about how to handle myself. I'll spare you the details, but just know there were close to ten courses and it was a three hour dinner. And the cast of Friends had been there the night before. I was that f'n cool.
And then to top it all off, this appeared for dessert:
I can't even do it justice by trying to explain how fantastic it was. Read the recipe for Coffee and Doughnuts
and you'll see what I am getting at. Imagine the best warm doughnut you ever had and then wrap that in another warm doughnut times three. Thrown in the "coffee" and it was death by deliciousness. Not only was it the best dessert I ever had, it was the best thing I've ever eaten. Pinky swear.