Monday, December 10, 2007

One Night in the Jerz

It takes a lot to get a bunch of Manhattanites out to the Jerz. Say, a flight out of Newark. Or the necessity of driving through it to get to a better state, like say, Pennsylvania. But food? Why would one ever think to leave Manhattan for food? The mere insinuation is blasphemy to most New Yorkers. But that is exactly what we did last weekend. Now, I don't mind treks to other boroughs/states, because am a borough girl myself. But when 20 people schlep to the Jerz and 17 of them live on the island, you know you have devoted friends who trust in your recommendation.

So that is how we ended up in Elizabeth, NJ on a Saturday night to eat steak at a Portugese restaurant. How, you might ask, did we find this place? Well it just so happens that one Mr. Binder lives and breathes the Newark air every day of his life, sacrificing high rent for a bullet-holed front door to teach today's youth. Let me just tell you how much respect I have for people who do Teach for America and actually stick it out for the two years. So Mr. Binder makes the most of his life in the Jerz and apparently treks one town over with some frequency to eat this steak. But not just any steak... this is the description he gave us in his evite (yes, there was an evite):

The deal is this: Restaurant Valenca, a Portuguese establishment in Elizabeth, NJ (7 minutes from my apt.) starts you off with hot, fresh Portuguese rolls and an endless salad, and for a reasonable price offers one of the best sangrias around. The entire menu is incredible, but what you really want is the almost 20 oz cut of tender filet mignon, served raw on an oven-hot brick, topped with crushed sea salt, garlic butter, and lemons. Squeeze on a little lemon, smear a little garlic butter, and flip your steak on the brick, releasing a veritable cornucopia of heavenly smells and sizzles into the air. You cook it yourself to perfection, and because the steaks are so thick, you'll cut off a slice while the rest of the steak cooks, sear it, and eat every bite piping hot and juicy. If you've still got room, the dessert menu is also unique and delicious. Believe me, you want to come hungry.

And let me tell you, he wasn't lying, or even exaggerating. It was honestly one of the best steaks I've ever eaten. And there was something remarkably satisfying about cooking it myself, so each bite was hot off the... brick. The sangria flowed freely, and we shared a few desserts, and a lot of laughs. When all was said and done we each paid a mere $40. The 20 ounces of filet alone would cost $40 in Manhattan. And ya know, few things beat a 3 hour dinner with people you love, no matter the locale. Thanks Jerz for a night we'll not soon forget.

I have never seen the guys look this happy for anything. Except maybe football.

That was what I was served. My mouth is drooling just recalling the glorious sight and smell of that hunk of beef.

A little demonstration on how to best cook it.

Yes, I finished it all. By myself. My father would be proud. Or maybe disappointed.

What are the odds that 3 people out of 20 would be wearing blue and white stripes??

That would be all of us, post beef, post sangria, closing out the place.

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