#SCBD Friday Inspiration: Favorite Foodie Quotes!

I’m going to try to keep this up and post some of my favorite foodie quotes every Fridays. Here are some of my inspirational foodie quotes this week:

 

 

& for perspective:

I have a few posts on the way for here as well as Jersey Bites, New Fork City, and more!

Also don’t forget to RSVP to the events on my Facebook page for next week, I’ll be posting about them as well!!!

Have a great weekend, new posts soon!

’til next time, Happy Eating! :D

 

 

 

#SCBD Event: Unveiling of the #SCBD Cupcake, Sara Smile!

I’m happy to announce the first, Small Chick Big Deals event. This isn’t just any event either, it’s the unveiling of the #SCBDExclusive cupcake that you can ONLY get at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes as of August 31st.

Why August 31st, you ask? It’s because it’s the night of the event!

Here are the details:

Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes in Totowa & Nutley will be having a special deal August 31st from 5-7 PM for any #SCBD followers, fans, & of course readers.

The event itself will be at the TOTOWA location although the cupcake will be available at both locations.

JARETS STUFFED CUPCAKES TOTOWA is located at 181 Union Blvd, Totowa, NJ

At the event in TOTOWA, not only will you get to meet Small Chick Big Deals herself and some of the Jerz Hot Spots crew but you will be the first to see the and taste the Sara Smile Cupcake!

We have a special deal for anyone who shows that they read Smallchickbigdeals.com:
Buy 3 Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes, get 1 Sara Smile Free!

Please RSVP ASAP to the Facebook event here :)

Hope to see you all there, Happy Eating! :D

#SCBD Friday Inspiration: Favorite Foodie Quotes!

Hello fellow #foodies! I’ve been inspired by these food quotes after getting back into my cooking jive again thanks to the simple recipe for Salmon Cartoccio Serena Palumbo gave me. So without further a due, here are some awesome Friday #foodie quotes I came across for some weekend inspiration:

 

 

With that being said, Happy Friday! :)

Cheers to the weekend, ’til next time…

 

 

#SCBD #Exclusive Interview Series: Chef, Attorney & Food Network Star Finalist Serena Palumbo

Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing and sharing a meal with Serena Palumbo at Keste Pizzeria & Vino (271 Bleecker Street) in West Village, NYC. Keste is one of her favorite pizzerias in NYC and specializes in serving Authentic Neopolitan pizza. Not only is she an attorney but she also has a food blog with webisodes called Cooking in Manhattan and was also a finalist of Season 6 of Food Network Star.

Serena and I after enjoying our meal at Keste Pizzeria in West Village!

Here’s the inspiring interview I had with Serena Palumbo while enjoying dinner with her at one of NYC’s finest pizzerias:

SCBD: First, you grew up in Italy, what did you pick up from cooking in Italy? What’s your favorite Italian dish?

SP: It’s a pleasure to meet you and do this interview for your blog Small Chick Big Deals. Italians are usually very passionate about food because it is a very strong part of our culture. I see the same applies to the great Italian American community in the US.  It is amazing to see how they have kept their identity as Italians through food and have created a real melting pot of flavors implementing the American traditions as well.  I learned everything about Italian food from my family and friends growing up in Salerno.  But besides the recipes and techniques what I brought with me from Italy when I moved to New York was the concept that your food defines who you are.  The dishes that we tasted in our childhood, are the first step to people’s culinary knowledge and flavor pattern so they are also near and dear to our heart.  In my case, since I am from Campania, I usually crave Neapolitan pizza. And because of the time I spent in Rome, working as an attorney at the beginning of my career, I love Carbonara and Amatriciana.

SCBD: I saw that you went to school in Italy for a law degree, how was it going to school in Italy? Do you have any early memories of food playing a part in your life during that time?

SP: The school system in Italy is very different from the US! My father was a doctor and he would have loved for me to go to Medical School.  I took the tests and I got in but I am not very fond of blood so I had a frank conversation with him and I told him I was going to Law School instead.  He told me I could do whatever I wanted as long as I did not disappoint him. So Law School it was!  I wanted to be a journalist when I was a kid but then I learned that lots of journalists in Italy had a Law Degree so the choice was easy. 

My fondest memories from school are the birthday parties! My mom is really awesome because she always finds a reason to celebrate and invite people over.  So when my birthday  or name’s day approached she would plan great parties. My mom is kind of fearless when it comes to cooking for people, so she would tell me to invite my classmates and other friends and we would discuss menus and cook together. It was SO EXCITING! My friends LOVED coming to our parties because my mom would serve grown up food, not just pizza and cake.

3. I saw that you were a former ballerina. I used to dance as well. How did that shape your life? Did it get you ready for the camera?

SP: Determination, dedication, and commitment. Those were the values I learned from ballet.  I had a great ballet teacher and have very fond memories of my ballet years and thanks to Facebook I am in contact with all my ballet classmates. They are great girls (and boys) and some of them became professional dancers while others moved to a different career path.  The common denominator is that we are all very focused and have a fire in our belly.  Ballet played a great role in my childhood and teenage.  I took classes for 14 years and graduated at 19 years old.  Today I realize that ballet made me camera ready too. I am not afraid of talking in public, doing a culinary demonstration or talking into a camera because falling from a pirouette or an arabesque in from of the whole theater is a lot more embarrassing!

SCBD: Your specialty is Mediterranean cuisine, what is a signature dish of yours you recommend an amateur like me try?

SP: Mediterranean food is the best! But I might be a slightly bit biased. I think Mediterranean food is the healthiest choice you have, because of its simple ingredients and that the techniques are not overly complicated.  Food should be food, not a product that goes through an industrial process. Mediterranean recipes let the ingredients shine and they are also easy on the waistline and the wallet.  I really resent the recipes that call for 15 different spices and exotic ingredients. The great thing about Mediterranean food is that it is accessible easy and fresh, so anyone can whip it together very quickly.

You should try my Salmon Cartoccio with Pear Arugula Salad. It is super easy and you can’t beat the fast clean up! It is perfect for a small kitchen and people who don’t have time for complex preparations. Check out the video to both recipes here.

SCBD: Before you applied to Food Network Star, you started your blog Cooking in Manhattan, did you expect for it to take you this far? Do you recommend video blogging? I’m just about to start doing it and it’s a big step for me.

SP: The webisodes started as a joke.  I had a friend who could not cook and she wanted to learn. We were both very busy and so one day Kurt, my husband, decided to make a video of me cooking.  I posted it on youtube and soon thereafter it got 320 views… not bad for a newbie!  Cooking in Manhattan is a big part of my life now. I never imagined that posting my recipes on the internet could give me so much joy.  It is the interactive aspect that I like the most: people commenting on the recipes and asking questions. The webisodes are still a homemade production so I have control over every aspect of them.  I think you should definitely consider video blogging but you should have one specific topic for every segment. As for cooking videos you need to limit your message to something that the viewer will follow from the beginning to the end. I try to limit the length of my videos so that I won’t lose the viewer in the process. 

SCBD: Did having your blog help you in regards to reaching your audience on the show?

SP: It helped me introduce myself to the audience because they could see my videos, but once I joined Twitter and Facebook and became more active in social media I was able to really reach my audience. In retrospect, I would’ve joined Twitter during the taping of the show but at the time I didn’t believe it reach could be as big if not bigger than Facebook. I love speaking to my fans on Twitter now.

SCBD: I saw you cover more than cooking on your blog, such as travel & lifestyle. What’s the best thing you ate on your travels?

SP: The website has taken a life of its own in the past few years. I started with food but then readers started asking for suggestions on where to go on vacation or where to eat while in Milan Rome or Naples.  The lifestyle part comes from the fact that (like many Italian women) I am an absolute beauty junkie.  You need a new mascara? Dry Shampoo? Scrub? I have probably tried everything on the market by now. I am also very lucky because I have friends from all over the world and they have been extremely generous to contribute articles for the website.  We now cover Brazil, Peru’, India, UK and of course Italy with CityProfiles and there are many more to come!

I would have to say that the best meal I ever had outside of the US is in Sicily at La Madia, a small restaurant owned by one of the most creative chefs, Pino Cuttaia.  I still remember the 7-course menu I had 3 years ago, and I usually don’t remember what I ate last week so that tells you how great it was.  I had great food in Ecuador too! We visited some friends this winter (it’s summer there) and they roasted a pig on Sunday. It was the best porchetta I have ever had!

SCBD: How and why did you get into Food Network Star?

SP: I decided to audition for Food Network Star because a couple of friends/readers told me I should give it a try. The point is that I love my webisodes and I put a lot of time and effort in them. My friends and family have been very supportive because not only they get the tips and tricks of cooking in a small kitchen they also get to try the food!

So I went to an audition and there were probably 3000 people so I did not think I would get to be on the show at all. When my time came I went into the audition room and I presented myself and my cooking webisodes.  The lady I interviewed with liked the idea of cooking in the confined of a urban kitchen and she gave me a call back for a screen test. 

After that, much to my surprise I was invited to be on the show! In Season 6 I was the only finalist without a culinary education, and still many people who had a culinary pedigree were eliminated before me.  I am very proud of how I did during the show. The challenges are very complex because there are time constraints as well as the pressure to perform and cook edible food for people that might become your new employed. Still, I had no reputation to tarnish as I was and still am an attorney… the worst case scenario was that someone would sue me because I poisoned them, right? Well I did not poison anyone thankfully most importantly I went into every challenge with the purpose of having fun and testing my limits.

SCBD: How did it change your life?

SP: Well first of all now I can put food network star alumna next to the NYU law alumna badge. That is quite an accomplishment in my book! I am still the same person I was before, I just know a lot more about myself.  The Food Network Star is more than a competition to win a job. It is a real test of your abilities that spans from the cooking abilities to testing your work under pressure. I am used to pressure because of my daily job but no one (including myself) thought that I could endure the physical effort that is required of you on the show.  You wake up at 5AM and go to bed at midnight so it is a real test of how resilient you are. 

The show also changed the way I think of my website and webisodes: I learned that you need to listen to your readers and viewers and cater to their needs first and foremost.  So for example if you have a viewer with food allergies you need to provide solutions for that viewer so that he/she can enjoy the recipe as well with few tweaks.  I don’t come from a marketing background but I believe that listening to your readers and viewers is the best way to build a solid following. Content is king on the internet and if you deliver useful content to your viewers and readers, that is the best marketing you can possible engage in.

SCBD: What was one of the hardest competitions you did on the show?

SP: During my season there were some very difficult challenges.  The producers really upped the ante on what they wanted to see from the finalists.  There was a competition for a party in episode three that was really tough for me since I got injured and the finalist I was paired with was a very difficult character. In the end we did not win the challenge and I kind of ended up at the hospital fearing I had broken my foot…. But at least we weren’t eliminated!

SCBD:  What was your favorite competition, why?

SP: There were some pretty awesome competitions and I loved cooking during most of the show. It was just so much fun for me to be away from my desk job and following my passion for once. My favorite competition was in episode five when Brianna and I were paired to work in a lunch truck.  We have both very strong very assertive women and initially Brianna and I did not see eye to eye, but not only did we work together very well, we won the episode challenge! It was a real underdog story but we surely demonstrated some girl power that day!

SCBD: Last, I saw on your profile on Food Network that you are only in your early 30’s and have accomplished so much. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

SP: You know it is really funny that you ask because some days I feel ancient and some others I feel like an “absolute beginner”.  One of my best friends tells me that I always look like I have a plan and that I know exactly what I am doing.  That is not always the case. I try to use my strengths and downplay my weaknesses but I don’t really have a life plan.

You know that part of your childhood when you plan at what age you get married, buy a house and have children? I skipped that part altogether, I try not to make plans especially the long term ones. Making plans for me is like setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. No matter how much you plan, life always throws you a curve ball and you have to be ready to make the best of it.  If you plan too much and you are too focused on your life plan you don’t see the opportunities around you. They may not be what you planned but they may be great nonetheless.  There is nothing worse than a wasted opportunity especially for a self made girl.  So in 10 years we will have to get together again and I will tell you what happened, but in the meantime I will keep my eyes and ears open!

Thank you again for doing this interview with me Serena, it was pleasure to meet you, another woman making her mark in the food industry! It was truly a blessing to share a meal with Serena at one of her favorite and Authentic Neopolitan pizzerias, Keste! Grazi!

Look out for more interview on the way in my interview series! In the meantime…

Here are some pictures from our dinner at Keste Pizzeria:


Until my next post…. Happy Eating & Drinking!

Top Notch Meal at Top O’ Th’ Hill

Last Friday I went out with my boyfriend, Jason to this local dive near his house now. I haven’t seen a place like it in New Jersey, cheap drinks (cocktails are $5 and beers are $3-4) and delicious food to eat, especially if you are a sucker for comfort food like I am. I’ve been there twice and my second experience just justified how great it is. Here are the reasons why Top O’ Th’ Hill is another one of my Jersey favorites!

Top O’ Th’ Hill Tavern (1182 US 202, Bridgewater, NJ)

Customer Service: 5- If your sitting behind the bar, Jim will most likely take care of you. He knows everything about the restaurant and takes care of all the customers. Everyone is attentive because they serve a lot of locals.

Atmosphere: 5- It’s definitely a dive, a few tables and a big bar in the middle towards the back. They have a huge tv near the bar that usually has sports on. It works very well for it. They have a lot of memorabilia up too, it’s very local but that’s what I love about it.

Food/Drink Quality: 5- I was actually more impressed than I thought by the food. The first time I went I split the boneless fried chicken with Jason’s mom and Jason had a burger. The dinners are huge by the way, big enough to split and come with two sides which range from cucumber salad to potato pancakes. We were silent the entire time because it was so delicious. The second time I came I had the crab cakes and had leftovers because it was huge. I want the recipe for the cucumber salad, it’s so delicious.

The bar is very typical. They have a great beer selection which includes blue moon and they also have some craft beers. But if you like cocktails you have to get their signature cocktails, the Tennis Ball or Red Death. My personal favorite is Red Death now. It’s a great mix of juices and liquors. It would be a sin to go and not get at least one of those cocktails. Jason even got the inside on the recipes so we can make them at home when we can’t come in, which probably won’t be often since I love it at Top O’ Th’ Hill.

Price: $- You can definitely get dinner for two for $40 or less depending on how much you eat or drink. Entrees are no less than $15 and the appetizers are budget friendly. Their signature cocktails are $5, strong & delicious.

Final Score: 15/15- I highly recommend going to Top O’ Th’ Hill Tavern if you are in the Bridgewater/Bedminster area. You’ll get your money’s worth of food (portions are huge) and drinks are top notch plus it’s a great little date spot. They also have a band every Friday night for entertainment. I love this place and try to go to at least once on a Friday or Saturday, since they are closed on Sunday’s,  when I’m staying by Jason.

The Red Death at Top O’ Th’ Hill Tavern, Bridgewater

Cucumber Salad

Crab Cake Dinner

If you are in the Bridgewater area and stop in let me know if you agree!

Top O’ Th’ Hill is everything that my blog stands for: great local food, great drinks at a great price, and a friendly staff to top it off.

Look out for me covering: NYC, Hoboken & more!

Also I’ll be guest blogging for Carter Int’l Concierge, contributing for Jersey Bites & New Fork City, be on the look out. Links will be on this page as well! There will also be more interviews & recipes in the near future. Can’t wait tell you more of what’s in store. Make sure you’re following @smchickbigdeals on Twitter and a fan on Facebook!

‘Til next time…

Happy Eating! :D

Tonic takes Times Square ‘tourist’ cuisine to new heights…

These past two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a meal or two & some delicious cocktails at Tonic Times Square. I’m not one for going to “tourist” places in Times Square, but I’m pretty happy a friend lead me that way. I was really impressed by the food & cocktails. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with a mixologist there who took care of me. Lets just say, I have some surprises coming up for you readers and you won’t be disappointed. In the meantime, let me tell you about my experience at Tonic Times Square…

Tonic Times Square (727 Seventh Avenue, NY, NY)

Customer Service: 5- I arrived around 7 pm which gave me a good hour before happy hour ended. Everyone was friendly and helped me as needed.

Atmosphere: 5- It has a very typical Times Square to it. It’s in the middle of Times Square on 7th between 49th & 50th. It’s a huge restaurant and perfect, fun place to check out a game or enjoy a date.

Food/Cocktail Quality: 5- When I came in they still had Voli happy hour specials. I got the “Big Sexy” and loved it, even ended up having not one but two. The first time I came in I ordered their signature tonic wings. For $10 you get 10 nice sized wings. I loved the tonic sauce and was pretty impressed. They actually really work hard on how the food tastes and looks. I wouldn’t call Tonic’s food a tourist trap at all. The next time I came I decided to try the Grilled Steak Skewers since I love steak. They were $12, the Chimichurri sauce is delicious and has a little kick to it. Both the wings & skewers were appetizers but suitable for a meal. The skewers could’ve used a side but regardless I was not disappointed. All I need is a good dish & cocktail & I’m set and I got that at Tonic.

Price: $-$$: Depending on what you get and when you go it can get pricey but for New York the appetizers, salads, and sandwiches are decent priced. During happy hour drinks range from $3-7 which is a huge deal and they aren’t ‘well drinks’. The happy hour on Monday’s includes brands such as Voli and more.

Final Score: 15/15- I was pretty impressed with Tonic’s menu and selection. The food is delicious and is presented just a great. If your ever in Times Square I highly recommend it!

Cocktails at Tonic

Steak skewers at Tonic

Let me know if you agree!

In the meantime, happy eating & drinking!

’til next time…

 

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