Last night, my family and I celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary at one of our favorite restaurants: Girasole. Girasole is located in Bound Brook, NJ, and is an exceptional Italian restaurant. We’ve been frequent guests there for, well, years. The food is always good, and they serve cannolis of unparalleled quality.
My meal started off with a salmon cake dressed with a lemon and horseradish aioli over a bed of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. The cake was akin to an oversized fritter. It was crispy and lightly breaded on the outside, but smooth on the inside. The filling was salmony and creamy (with no breading or other filler to be found), a texture that contrasted nicely with the crunch of the cucumbers. The aioli itself was very nice. It tasted largely of lemon, but had subtle undertones of garlic and horseradish (two flavors I thoroughly enjoy). Overall, this appetizer set the tone for the rest of the dinner.
My entree consisted of three seafood items: salmon, shrimp, and lobster. Although I tend to favor crab over lobster, this tail half was well done. I find it is sometimes difficult to cook lobster, as the meat gets tough easily. This, however, was easy to cut through, and had a great charred flavor from the grill. Shrimp, similarly easy to overcook, was well-seasoned and tender. The salmon was moist and lightly flavored with some lemon. The fish has such a great flavor on its own, little more need be added to it than some salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. All of these items were set on top of a bed of wilted, garlic-infused greens (which, if memory serves, consisted of arugula). The sauce accompaniment was a creamy lemon sauce infused with parsley (or was it cilantro? I’ll admit I wasn’t paying as much attention to the food as it deserved), which paired well with everything on the plate. It was very good and on the whole, well done.
What you are about to see is photographic evidence of the greatest cannoli known to Central Jersey. Others from the area may fight me on this, but I stand firm on my position.
Behold: the best cannoli I’ve ever had. The filling is what makes this cannoli so damn good. Sure, it may look like an ordinary cannoli, but it’s so much more than that. This cannoli is made according to Sicilian tradition. It’s got the ricotta and milk base filling studded with tiny pieces of candied citron and miniature chocolate chips. Just the right amount of chocolate chips and citron are added so as not to overpower the delicious cheese filling. The filling itself is thicker than that of other cannolis I have tried (which is what I love about this one so much – I can’t stand a loose, creamy filling) and is sweetened ever so slightly. Not only is there an outpouring of filling from either side of the crispy (but not over-fried) shell, they give you a bonus dollop upon which the cannoli is placed. I could honestly bathe in that filling. I want a vat of it so I can have spoonfulls of it on demand. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted (seriously, cannolis in Boston do not compare. Yes, even the cannolis from the very overrated Mike’s Pastry.). It is the only dessert I get at this restaurant anytime I go (usually accompanied by some espresso). Hats off to the pastry chef.
So, there you have it. The best dinner I’ve had in a long time. Although others were less impressed with their food, I was quite satisfied with my meal, and I’m quite sure my grandparents loved their food as well (my grandmother is a huge veal fan, and maintains that no one does veal like Girasole), which is really all that matters. I believe Anthony Bourdain said it best: The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.
Get excited, readers. I’m home, which means I’m reunited with my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Tonight? Roast duck, Julia Child style, with clams and asparagus. We even picked up a triple berry pie for dessert (good thing I had sushi for lunch and am planning on going for a run after I finish this!). Yum.