When it comes to New Orleans, you won’t find another place like it in the world. The reason lies way back in history.
There is no culture in the world like French Creole and Cajun culture because there is no place in the world where the unique elements that make them up came together in the way they did in and around New Orleans. Whether food, music, language or overall culture, what we now think of as “Cajun” is an amazing mix of 17th Century French, West African, and Native American, along with a dash of Spanish Caribbean from the Colonial Era, all of it stirred into a blender and turned into something new.
Cajuns, for example, speak a unique dialect that is essentially the French language all mixed up and turned around. Louisiana French Creole – despite some people using them interchangeably, “Cajun” and “Creole” are two distinct things – is similar in that it’s rooted in French, but it borrows grammatical rules from West Africa and local Native American tribes, then injects a bit of Spanish, to become a language of its own.
Cajun food is a similar blend of influences. Okra, for example, may be common in Louisiana dishes, but it is actually native to West Africa. It was introduced to the region by slaves brought to the New World by the French.
Gumbo is perhaps second only to crawfish as the dish people most associate with the region, but both the dish and the name have earlier roots in West Africa. Gumbo itself is a blend of culinary influences, with slaves learning how to mix ingredients they knew with ingredients introduced to them by the Native Americans, and then bringing French and Spanish culinary practices into the mix. The name “gumbo” sprang either from ki ngombo or quingombo, the name for okra in some regions of West Africa, or kombo, the Choctaw Indian name for file, another traditional ingredient.
With all these disparate elements coming together, is it any wonder that there is no place on Earth quite like New Orleans?
Making gumbo is as much an art as it is a science, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how. We can’t give away ALL our secrets – you can’t offer Cajun dining in New Jersey by telling everyone how you do it, after all – but we can help get you started on the road towards making great gumbo.
So what is gumbo? Gumbo is essentially a hearty soup with meat or shellfish (Creole style is generally shellfish, Cajun gumbo can vary wildly) and diced veggies, typically served on rice.
Making gumbo can be a lot of work and can take some time, but once you master it the results are out of this world. The secrets behind making a genuine, traditional gumbo are easy to remember:
1) Use okra. Traditional gumbo always uses okra! That doesn’t mean you have to use okra – it’s okay to be creative, we often are – but traditionalists will insist that okra must be part of the recipes. Many will say that if it doesn’t have okra, it’s not gumbo, it’s soup.
2) At minimum, season with garlic, onions, and cayenne pepper. You can use other seasonings if you like, but these three are essential for a “real” gumbo.
3) Use more than one variety of meat if possible, and steer clear of your basic, boring beef and pork. If you want to use beef or pork, use smoked meats. Poultry gumbo is also popular, even with duck and quail. Game meats are very desirable in gumbo, as are shellfish of all types. Use both when you can!
4) Be patient! A great gumbo can simmer for hours before it’s ready!
5) Be creative! Once you have the hang of making a good traditional gumbo, don’t be scared to Jersey it up with something that screams “Garden State.”
If you’ve made your own gumbo at home and have some fun New Jersey twists on the tradition, come visit us on Facebook and tell us about your dish!
Now that our Spring Beer Garden is finally open and we can once again enjoy beers outdoors, we thought we’d take a few moments to answer an important question: What the heck is a beer garden, anyway?
A beer garden is not a place where you grow beer, but it is where you grow good times.
The modern beer garden is essentially an outdoor drinking area. Sometimes they’re standalone locations and sometimes they are attached to pubs or restaurants. These outdoor areas are set up with group tables where people can enjoy beer, food, and group companionship.
Originally, beer gardens sprang up in the Bavaria section of Germany, where they are called biergartens. They were located outside the cellars of breweries. Tables would be set up under the trees, and beer stored in the cellars for the summer would be served. These were the first beer gardens.
By the 1900s, beer gardens had migrated to the United States, and now they are popular destinations for outdoor drinking. And so we find ourselves where we are today!
Here at the Old Bay Restaurant, we have embraced the beer garden tradition. We serve a widely-recognized array of craft beers to go along with our great food, and between April and October you can enjoy those beers in our outdoor beer garden.
Even better? Our beer garden is open for business!
For more about the great craft beer in New Jersey at Old Bay Restaurant, visit us on Facebook.
Here at The Old Bay Restaurant, we appreciate the culture and especially the fun of the French Quarter’s renowned bistros, and we love to share it with you. To us, it’s always Mardi Gras. That’s why we love to celebrate with our specialty drinks served with a New Orleans twist!
The Hurricane – If you’re looking for something to get you in the Mardi Gras spirit, order a Hurricane! This drink consists of every kind of rum in the house, a variety of cordials, and fresh fruit juices served in a festive glass for an extra Mardi Gras twist. The hurricane is one stormy concoction that’ll cloud your mind!
The Mint Julep – This drink, which happens to be the drink of the Kentucky Derby, is a southern gem. We’ll mix Kentucky bourbon and a blend of fresh mint and sugar in the raw. We will pour over crushed ice and you will definitely feel a tingle in your taste buds for another one real soon!
Sazarac – If you’re looking to try something new, this drink might be it. It is a “N’awlns” favorite, made with chilled Makers Mark bourbon, bitters and sugar and served up in a pernod coated snifter.
Strawberry Mint Lemonade- This is a perfect drink for the end of the summer heat! It is an absolutely refreshing blend made with Absolut Citron, strawberry juice, lemon juice and fresh mint stirred with crushed ice and served in a nice tall glass.
The Swamp Water – This drink is a popular order at Old Bay Restaurant. The Swamp Water is made with the South’s favorite liqueurs. This add some Mardi Gras spirit, we serve it up in a mason jar. This is definitely a potent bayou potion that might bite you back!
The Old Bay – Are you brave enough to try this very special drink? It is our own Bloody Mary made from a secret recipe! We won’t tell you what’s in it, but we will say once you’ve tried ours, we don’t think you’ll ever drink anyone else’s again!
Margarita Commemorativo – This drink is an Old Bay twist on a delicious classic. This Margarita is made with Sauza Conmemorativo, Triple Sec, orange juice and lime juice, served on the rocks and rimmed with salt.
Cajun Spicy Martini – Do you want to feel the southern heat? Try this favorite made with pepper vodka, green Tabasco and olive juice. This concoction might be the perfect accompaniment for an evening suited for heated behavior. That will certainly get you ready for Mardi Gras!
Once you go to Mardi Gras, the experience will be with you for a long time. If you appreciate it as much as we do at Old Bay Restaurant, celebrate Mardi Gras all year long and join us for one or all of these mouth watering specialty drinks!
If you have dined in New Orleans, you probably know that service in a fine restaurant does not have to be stuffy to be good. In southern Louisiana, professionalism and friendliness are one in the same. It has been the mission of The Old Bay Restaurant to emulate this service philosophy. Since our opening in 1987 we have been proud to present an atmosphere which is unique to some of the oldest of the French Quarter’s renowned bistros. We appreciate the culture, and we love to share it with you. We also love to celebrate with you! To us, it’s always Mardi Gras.
Have you ever been to Mardi Gras? We love it so much, we countdown to the next Mardi Gras (it’s March 4 this year) the minute the last one ends! If you’ve never made the trip, it’s time to head down!
Mardi Gras 101
We asked some Mardi Gras veterans for a breakdown of all things Mardi Gras including must sees and things to look out for.
- Hotels start booking for Mardi Gras in August. That doesn’t mean if you don’t book that early, there’s no chance. Just book as early as you can for the most hassle free planning experience.
- Pay attention to parking rules – don’t double park and be prepared to do a lot of walking.
- Wear comfortable shoes and strongly consider wearing a pair you don’t care too much about because they will probably get ruined!
- Try side streets to get to Bourbon St., the foot traffic is pretty heavy!
- Carry only what you absolutely need because there are pick pockets at Mardi Gras.
- Don’t miss the Zulu parade – one Mardi Gras vet said it was his favorite part of the whole celebration!
- Check the side streets. While Bourbon St. is a lot of fun, there are great places all around Mardi Gras.
- Stop and watch the musicians and other acts on the street. There is a lot of talent at Mardi Gras.
- The fun doesn’t stop when the parades end. One veteran suggested sticking around for a week after the celebration. Stop in to the Cat’s Meow – a famous karaoke bar for some after parade fun.
- Stay alert. Have fun, but be aware of your surroundings. Whenever there are a lot of people in one area, there tends to be mishaps. Be careful!
- Drink Responsibly. Drinking is a big part of the celebration for many Mardi Gras visitors. Remember to drink responsibly: don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and fight and of course do not drink too much!
Once you go to Mardi Gras, the experience will be with you for a long time. If you appreciate it as much as we do, you’ll look forward to the next time you can make it to the celebration. While you’re waiting, countdown with us, and join us for some delicious Louisiana cooking and French Creole cuisine.
If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, you probably want it to be as memorable and special as possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to think of new and exciting romantic ideas, especially if you have spent many Valentine’s Days together. But no worries, The Old Bay has some great tips for a romantic Valentine’s Day!
- Create your own Valentine’s Day card! Whether you make it on your computer, or get crafty, you can write a poem or an expression of love that expresses your personality and relationship perfectly.
- Make a scrapbook filled with favorite photographs, love letters, keepsakes from special occasions, and cherished mementos. Whether you’re making this for a husband, boyfriend or wife or girlfriend, this is a special gift sure to be appreciated and cherished.
- Make your loved one a CD of your favorite songs as a couple including love songs that you both enjoy listening to even if they aren’t necessarily “your songs.” You can also buy a collection of romantic CDs, classic romantic movies or books and present them all together in a red ribbon.
- Jewelry is always a classic Valentine’s Day gift. Necklaces or earrings are great choices for women and for your man, a good choice is the classic sterling silver ID bracelet or cuff links with his name or initials custom-engraved.
- Place one silk flower in a bouquet of flowers. On the card say something like “I will love you until the last flower wilts.”
- Prepare a candlelight dinner for your special someone. If you both enjoy dessert, make chocolate fondue! It’s fun, romantic and easy to make!
- Give the sports fan in your life a personalized gift for a favorite hobby such as personalized golf or tennis balls that say, “I love you,” “You’re a hit!” or “Be mine.”
- Spend time alone together. If you are both busy, or have children, chances are you probably don’t get a lot of quality alone time. That’s why we’re here! Here at the Old Bay, we can give you a fantastic Cajun meal you won’t forget, while giving you some much needed along time!
This Valentine’s Day is sure to be one you will never forget if you take the time to consider your options. “Like” us on Facebook to stay up to date on our entertainment and special events.
For some, the supposed complexities of pairing food and wine can seem like a foreign language. However, with just a few simple tips for pairing wine with your meal, you can be a wine pro in no time!
Here’s to the red wine lovers! Let’s start with Merlot -a softer and fruiter wine than the Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the most widely planted red grape in the Bordeaux region of France. Merlot offers a great variety of flavors including black cherry, cedar and green olive. Expect mint or tobacco tones in a Merlot. This wine is best paired with red meat.
Did you know the grapes used to create Pinot Noir have been considered the toughest grape to grow? Pinot Noir is a light a fruity wine-flavors you can expect when choosing a variety are sweet red berries, plums, tomatoes and cherries. Originally from France, Pinot Noir is now produced all over the world including the United States, Germany and Australia. This wine goes well with red meat or fish.
Known as the “King of Red Wine Grapes,” Cabernet Sauvignon takes five to 10 years to reach peak maturation. It is a medium to full-bodied wine with a variety of flavors from dark berries to warm spice and vanilla. Cabernet Sauvignon originated in the French region of Bordeaux. This red wine pairs well pasta and chocolate, so leave room for dessert!
Moving on to those white wines! Chardonnay is crafted from a neutral grape which leaves this wine open to the wine maker’s creation. Flavors most commonly associated with Chardonnay are minerals, various fruits and oak. It pairs best with a chicken breast, salmon or shrimp.
This white wine is light, crisp and dry. Did you know Pinot Grigio peaks at a young age? Although it is originally from France, it is Italy’s most popular wine. This wine tends to be medium to full-bodied with a floral scent. It goes well with seafood dishes but clashes with tomatoes or fruit.
Sauvignon Blanc originated in France, but is popularly and successfully produced in New Zealand. This white wine is usually dry and crisp and ranges from light to full-bodied. Sauvignon Blanc contains a blend of herbal flavors including grass and whey. It is considered an open wine in terms of food pairings and goes well with many foods. It pairs best with dishes in creamy sauces.
A crisp and refreshing wine, Riesling is a love of chefs due to its food friendly character. It is a crisp and refreshing wine said to be a well balanced combination of acidity and residual sugar. Riesling is one the most versatile wines ranging from light to full-bodied and can be dry to sweet. When matching a dish with Riesling, the options are essentially limitless.
Next time you stop in for dinner, order a glass or bottle of one of these wines and pair it with the perfect dish. When wine is coupled with certain foods, the wine takes on a whole new flavor giving you a whole new experience. For more information on our menu “Like” us on Facebook!
If you like a challenge and you like FREE FOOD, we have good news for you. Every Thursday on The Old Bay Restaurant Facebook page, fans have had the opportunity to answer the weekly trivia for a chance to win a free sharing plate the next time they dine in at the restaurant! The fans are doing very well – people win every week! Here are just a few of the cool facts about Louisiana we’ve learned so far:
- The first Mardi Gras was celebrated in the United States in 1703.
- The dough used to make the traditional New Orleans King Cake is similar to that of a Brioche.
- Coriander is not a seasoning characteristic to Cajun cuisine, but Parsley, Bay Leaves and Cayenne are!
- The three colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold, power.
- Louisiana Creole cuisine is a style of cooking that blends many different styles together. Five of these styles include French, Spanish, Native American, Greek and Cajun.
Did you know these facts? If so, you should be participating in the Facebook weekly trivia! The trivia will include facts about Creole cuisine, Louisiana and Mardi Gras – all of The Old Bay Restaurant’s favorite things! Winners will enjoy a FREE sharing plate … and all you have to do is surf Facebook to win!
If you love Mardi Gras, delicious food and a great night out, Old Bay is the place to go! As New Jersey’s premier New Orleans-style restaurant, our dinner menu features gourmet French Creole and Cajun cuisine, steaks and seafood! For the beer lovers, The Old Bay Restaurant is pleased to serve an award-winning draft beer list featuring 22 taps pouring the finest micro-brewed imported domestic beer you can find! If you’re looking for a mixed drink, enjoy the Hurricane or the Mint Julep!
When the weather starts to cool, few things warm you like a fine craft beer. Here at the Old Bay Restaurant we are proud to carry a wide selection of craft beer in New Jersey, so we often have a chance to try top-shelf beers — and so do you, thanks to our 22 draft lines! Here are five beers we suggest you try this winter. We can’t guarantee we’ll have them on draft, but we purposely chose beers that are widely available and easy to find. After all, a great beer isn’t so great for you if you can’t get yours hands on it! That means that even if we don’t have them on tap here, you’ll be able to find all of these in your better beer shops. Cheers!
Flying Fish Exit 16- Brewed right here in New Jersey, Flying Fish’s Exit 16 is a wild rice double IPA that really is brewed with wild rice. This is a complex yet utterly drinkable beer that gives off aromas of citrus and tangerine, and drinks far easier than an 8 percent IPA should drink. Smooth and delicious, this is one of the state’s best IPAs.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout has been a winter tradition for nearly 20 years, and here’s the thing: It’s not actually brewed with any chocolate! It uses tons of roasted barley that, once brewed, takes on an amazing chocolate quality despite no real chocolate being present. The taste is just a miracle of the brewing process – and the taste is so good you really will think it’s a miracle.
Founders All-Day IPA -Founders is well known for big, aggressive beers like Breakfast Stout, KBS and Centennial IPA, so this low-alcohol “session” IPA comes as a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. Just 4.7% ABV but not lacking in flavor, All-Day IPA packs all the flavor punch of its bigger brothers while still being low enough in alcohol that you can drink it all Sunday afternoon while watching the game.
Dogfish Head Chicory Stout – Dogfish Head is best known for doing really unusual beers, but this one is pretty straightforward, sort of. It’s a stout brewed with roasted chicory, Mexican coffee, St. John’s Wort and licorice root. The nose is rich Mexican coffee, very roasty, like a handful of oily black coffee beans spilling from your hands. It’s only released once a year, so get it when you see it.
Keegan’s Mother’s Milk – This milk stout out of New York is creamy and smooth. There are subtle hints of subdued chocolate that reveal themselves as the beer warms. No real roasty flavor or coffee from it, just smooth, milky dark malts. That makes this beer a nice one to drink as a “dessert” beer or with a mild cigar.
For more beer suggestions, be sure to follow the Old Bay on Facebook!
It’s that time of year again when the beer taps start switching over to Oktoberfest brews. As the weather becomes cooler, these amber ales and lagers start appearing in frosted mugs, including right here at the Old Bay for our annual Oktoberfest celebration! But where did this autumn tradition come from? Read on and learn the history of Oktoberfest beers.
Did you know that Oktoberfest beers stem from royalty? These beers originated as part of the celebration of Oktoberfest, an 18-day festival that originally celebrated the marriage between the German Prince Ludwig and his bride in 1810. The carnival grew and became a celebration of Bavarian agriculture, marked by horse races and parades.
In the past 200 years, the festival of Oktoberfest has continued to evolve. It has become a celebration of these seasonal Oktoberfest beers and traditional German foods. Oftentimes, the celebration begins with the ceremonial tapping of the first Oktoberfest keg. The flavor of Oktoberfest brews is marked by its distinctly hoppy yet sweet flavor. A floral aroma is also characteristic of these beers, as well as a minimal head when poured. Oktoberfest beers also tend to have a higher alcohol content than traditional ales and lagers. The alcohol content ranges from 5.8% to 6.3% and a higher sugar content than other brews. Oktoberfest beers have become an autumn staple for beer buffs around the world and are seen as one of the indicators of the changing of the seasons.
We’ll be celebrating this beer and food on Sunday, October 13 from 1-7pm. Click the flier at left for details!
If you’re looking for a great restaurant in New Jersey where you can enjoy a frosted mug of Oktoberfest, look no further than the Old Bay! For more information and announcements from the Old Bay, “Like” us on Facebook!