A baker’s dozen of ideas for what to give those serious cooks, gourmands, and imbibers on your list – as well as young foodies-to-be. Here in the December 17 issue of US 1.
This celebrated Kingston restaurant has been without an executive chef since the departure earlier this year of Chris Albrecht, the opening chef and very public face of the restaurant. Carlo Momo of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group has announced his replacement: Michael Metzner, a native New Jerseyan who has worked for star chefs Nicholas Harary and Dennis Foy, among others.
Metzner, a Johnson & Wales graduate, last worked at Giovanni’s Bistro in Berkeley Heights. Before that restaurant closed earlier this year, it received a rating of Very Good from the NY Times, which cited Metzner’s “polished cooking” and “carefully articulated flavors.”
A fuller biography of the chef can be found at the Giovanni’s website, which is still up and running.
DINING ALONG THE DELAWARE; APPLE PIE: YOU MAKE, I TASTE; PRINCETON RESTAURANT SCENE ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH TO QUADRUPLETS
Waterside Dining with Exquisite Views
Admittedly, all but 1 of the 5 restaurants I profile in the Fall Dining Issue of US 1 are across the river in PA, but they each come with great views of Central NJ. And there are some pretty noteworthy eats at, for example:
Charcoal BYOB in Yardley, where 2 young brothers are making waves as far away as Philly with their progressive American cuisine
The Yardley Inn: Just mere feet from Charcoal, updated traditional American fare shines due to the exacting standards of Chef Eben Copple, who deserves more recognition on this side of the river
The Black Bass Hotel: New owners who bought the outdated inn and restaurant upriver in Lumberville at auction a few years ago have given it a new lease on life.
Is Your Apple Pie Prize-worthy? I’ll be the Judge of That!
The West Windsor Community Farmers Market is holding a bake-off for home bakers on Saturday, October 11 and I am honored to be a judge, along with pro baker Karen Child (formerly, Village Bakery & Brick Farm Market) and Princeton food writer & restaurant critic Faith Bahadurian.
Here are the details, straight from the market folks:
Amateur Apple Pie Bake Off Contest –Due to the overwhelming outpouring of peach pies in our August contest, we’ll be hosting an apple pie contest. Think you make the best apple pie around using NJ apples? Come show us your stuff! Pies are due at the market at 10:30am with judging at 11:00am. First, Second and Third place winners will receive Market Bucks to be used as cash at the farmers market this season. Amateur bakers only and pre-registration is required. To register, for more details and rules, please email email@example.com.
Congratulations to manager Chris Cirkus and everyone at the West Windsor market for being voted NJ’s #1 farmers market for the second year in a row by American Farmland Trust.
Pregnant Princeton Dining Scene Giving Birth This Month
Jammin’ Crepes: For years, Kim Rizk & company’s inventive sweet and savory crepes have been enjoyed at area farmers markets. Her long-awaited brick-and-mortar spot on Nassau Street has passed its final inspections & will be opening any day now.
(UPDATE: MAMOUN’S OPENED ON 10/6/14 – JUST AS INDICATED HERE:)
Mamoun’s Falafel: Rumor has it (thanks, Mimi O of Princeton Tour Company!) that this NYC chain with outlets in Hoboken & New Brunswick will at long last open its Witherspoon Street digs within hours. Fingers crossed!
Seasons 52: This well-regarded small chain that already has a popular Cherry Hill location will open on October 30 at MarketFair Mall (in the space that had been Barnes & Noble). Seasons 52, self-described as a “fresh grill and wine bar,” changes its menu 4 times a year and sports an extensive wine list that includes 52 wines by the glass.
SweetGrass: The unique, beautiful structure that had been Bell & Whistle (byob) in Hopewell has just reopened with a new name and new chef/owner, Sarah Gresko. She terms her menu “bold American,” but much of it pays homage to her culinary training at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, SC. (Think fried green tomatoes & chicken with andouille cornbread stuffing.)
Free Food & Drink! Scott Anderson & Elements Staff @ Z Food Farm
That’s right: from 4 to 7 pm on Friday, September 26, chefs from Princeton’s acclaimed Elements restaurant will be cooking and grilling seasonal vegetables and other goodies at Lawrenceville’s organic Z Food Farm. I stopped by the first such pop-up in August – as did, oh, about 150 others – for this fabulous, fun, free event. Here’s a photo recap:
Chefs Scott Anderson and Mike Ryan dished up an amazing spread for sampling. On my short visit these included (among other things) fennel and Tropea onion salad with chrysanthemum; smoked, grilled tomato crostini with marigold vinaigrette; pizza with eggplant puree and Swiss chard; & watermelon with fresh cilantro.
The crew had jerry-rigged a cement-block grill, from which they also brought forth this yellow tomato and Swiss chard pizza:
Meantime, Elements’ mixologist Jamie Dodge was shaking up impromptu libations using the farm’s herbs and fruits, including one that combined 2 kinds of watermelon, black lotus flower (!), ginger, and citrus juices.
Anderson, Ryan, and Dodge kept pulling fresh produce from the farmstand bins. Ryan told me, “The product is so fresh, we just basically add extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of Champagne vinegar.” Anderson added, “I believe in this farmer. With this produce, we do the minimum – and it’s at its prime right now.”
“This farmer” would be Dave Zaback. Here he is, with parents Alan & Lynn in the background:
I made a new veggie acquaintance that day: Mexican gherkins. Dave Zaback described their taste as “almost like pre-pickled cukes.” These marble-sized beauties are as crisp as fresh cukes, but do indeed have a hint of brine.
Elements is on hiatus while its new digs on Hulfish Street are being readied for an early 2015 reopening. For directions to the 9/26 tasting, visit the Z Food Farm website.
NJ Monthly’s (and My) Picks for Fantastic Fall Getaways
In NJ Monthly’s October issue I turn the spotlight on the many charms of tiny Stockton, while others tempt you to Chester, Cape May, Crystal Springs Resort, and golfing at Renault Winery Resort.
Due (as in the Italian Number Two) in Ridgefield: My Review
And in that same issue read my 3-star review of Ridgefield’s Due restaurant, where Bergen County favorite-son chef Adam Weiss has teamed up with owner Chris Tarta. Weiss’s modern twists on Italian classics have been dubbed “Itali-Adam” by another accomplished Bergen County chef, Christine Nunn. (A new iteration Picnic, her terrific former Fair Lawn restaurant, is expected to open in October in Ridgewood, just a few doors down from Due.)
Summer is NOT Over: Dine on the JC Waterfront; Attend a David Burke-Curated Alfresco Fundraiser; & Make Seasonal Salsas
Before We Get Started: Join me at Readathon for Adult Literacy
This Thursday, September 4th, I’m participating in Literacy New Jersey‘s Readathon at the Princeton Public Library. At 1 pm, I will read from my favorite (food-related) book for 5 minutes, as part of an all-day event to spotlight adult illiteracy.
Did you know that in Mercer County alone, 60,000 adult residents cannot read above a fourth grade level? As someone with a sibling who never learned to read (incredible, I know), this cause is very close to my heart.
From 10 to 11 am, children’s books will be featured; from noon to 4 pm, adult books. Please join me! The public is welcome to sign up as readers, too. Phone 609.587.6027 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As It Grows” Dinner to Benefit Little Silver’s Historic 1665 Parker Homestead
David Burke is the celebrity chef (David Burke Fromagerie, etc.) creating a sumptuous farm-to-table menu for what event co-chair Bob Sickles (of Sickles Market) terms a “serious food and wine event with a fun, casual approach.” It takes place on Saturday, September 13 starting at 6:30 pm under a sailcloth tent at the historic Parker Homestead in Little Silver, which is the beneficiary.
Here’s the menu created by David Burke (who, btw, grew up in Hazlet):
Cocktail Reception: Bacon Clotheslines with Pickled Carrot Garnish; Cheese”burker” Sliders; Quinoa Sliders; Pork Rillettes; Corn Panna Cotta Jars; Pig Trotter Terrine Spiced Apple; House Cured Lardo; Garden Conserva; Country Crostini; Chicken Lollipops.
Lusty Lobster Raw Bar: Wild Caught Sandy Hook Bay Clams; Wild Caught Delaware Bay Oysters; Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail; Jonah Crab Claws.
Sickles Market Cheese Table: Assorted Farmstead Jersey Cheeses including Long Valley Shepherd, Bobolink Dairy and Cherry Grove. Gourmet accompaniments and fruits.
“Local” Salad Station: Organic Kale Caesar Salad; Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Apples; Candies Pecans, Blue Cheese, Dried Cranberries; Fall Market Salad with Fixins’; Tomato Burrata Salad.
Fish Station: Barnegat Light Day Boat Scallops, Parsnip, Apple, Chanterelle, and Leek Fondue.
Pork Station: Porchetta Carving Station, Pineapple and Mustard Kraut, Quince, Lentils, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Corn Bread Stuffing, Country Potato Salad.
Beef Station: Roast Prime Rib with Au Jus, Horseradish, Crème Fraiche and David Burke Steak Sauce.
Pasta Station: House Made Cavatelli, Sheep Milk Ricotta, Butternut Squash.
Dessert: Cotton Candy, Smokin’ Hot Doughnuts; Peach Pies.
Tickets are $250 and can be purchased at www.AsItGrows.org or by calling 732.462.1466.
Surfeit of Scrumptious Salsas Sizzle at Salsa Slam 2014
Last month I was a judge at a different event at the Princeton Public Library: it’s third annual salsa contest. Ten area eateries vied for the coveted title of best salsa in this Ivy League town. Terra Learning Kitchen (located inside the YMCA) won over us judges with its Salsa Verde with Avocado, while People’s Choice went to Tortuga’s Mexican Village for its classic Secret Family Recipe Salsa.
Naturally, I used the occasion to gather recipes for some of my personal favorites. Don’t let the Labor-Day-means-the-end-of-summer hype fool you: there’s plenty of NJ harvest time left to make the following fresh, exciting salsas. The folks at Agricola, Princeton’s popular farm-to-table restaurant kindly shared their intriguing entry, anchored by kimchi and heirloom tomatoes. The mango salsa recipe is courtesy of my friend George Point of Lawrenceville, who won awards for it years ago when he competed on the NJ barbecue cook-off circuit.
For a full report on the Slam, read this terrific account by one of my fellow judges, Sue Gordon, who blogs as the Princeton Food Examiner. (Recipes are reprinted from my column in the August 15 issue of the Princeton Packet.)
KIMICHI – HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALSA
Pete Maglaty, Sous Chef, Agricola
3/4 cup kimchi
2-1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup spring onion, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Juice from 1-1/2 limes, separated
4 tablespoons kimchi juice, separated
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
- Combine the onion, jalapeno, juice from 1 lime, and 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice in a small bowl. Cover and let macerate overnight at room temperature.
- Next day, cut the tomatoes into small dice and chop the cilantro leaves. Mix together the tomatoes, cilantro, and kimchi. Stir in the macerated mixture of onion and jalapeno, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice. Season with salt, cover, and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving adjust seasoning if necessary with additional salt and lime juice.
Makes about 3 cups.
MANGO MADNESS SALSA
2 15-ounce cans sliced mango
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 ripe kiwi fruit, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, or to taste
Juice of one fresh lime
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Puree the mango. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a small bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Makes about 3 cups.
Review: Battello – Ryan DePersio’s Latest, at the Newport Marina in Jersey City
The views of Manhattan, the open-air porch on the Hudson, the breezy nautical decor all make Battello a natural for catching the last of summer’s fine weather. The modern Italian seafood ain’t bad either. Read the joint report from me and senior editor Eric Levin, in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.
First Look @ Better World Market; Gluten-free Pizza @ Wildflour; Wine & Jazz @ Hopewell Valley Vineyards
Elijah’s Promise’s Latest Project Spotlights Jersey’s Farms & Food Entrepreneurs
I paid a visit to the newly opened Better World Market & Cafe in Somerset, expecting to find lots of farm-fresh Jersey produce in an indoor setting, with proceeds going to the good works of this New Brunswick-based non-profit. I found that – plus many excellent surprises. My report, here at NJMonthly.com.
It’s Gluten-free, but is it Pizza?
Wildflour, the popular gluten-free bakery and café in the village of Lawrenceville, recently held evening hours to showcase its latest offering: gluten-free pizzas. Normally, owner Marilyn Besner’s charming spot is open for breakfast, lunch, and takeaway, closing at 5 pm on weekdays and 3 pm weekends.
But the cafe stayed open until 8 pm one night a few weeks back, and I and my food-writer pal Faith (NJSpice) Bahadurian were among the invited guests that stopped by to sample both this Margherita (basil, mozzarella, fresh-tasting tomato sauce, a hit of oregano):
And this vegetable version (eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, red onion, creamy ricotta, schmear of that same tomato sauce):
The quality of the toppings is impeccable – which made me wish there were a tad more of them on the Margherita.
As you can see, the crust is quite thick – more akin to focaccia than pizza dough. The interior is, I’m happy to report, the polar opposite of many gluten-free breads: it’s tender, has a light, pleasantly springy texture, and boasts subtle flavor.
If, like me, you prefer crisp thin-crust pizza, Wildflour’s gluten-free flatbread topped with shiitake “bacon” is hard to beat. This, in fact, was our favorite bite.
The pizzas, which are available to eat-in or take-away, sell for $8 for 2 slices or $30 for a whole pie. (Phone ahead for availability.) A half-sheet of the plain, unadorned focaccia – always available for takeout – is $11.80 and makes a great base for adding your own toppings at home. Ditto for the crisp flatbread base: a bag of half a dozen of the cooked but unembellished rounds sells for $11.70.
Besner hopes to hold evening pizza parties once a month; check the Wildflour website for details. Down the line, she may add pasta nights, too.
You Could be Forgiven for Thinking You’re in Napa
I have always loved the setting of Hopewell Valley Vineyards, but never has the expansive view of the vines and the surrounding Delaware Valley countryside reminded me more of Northern California than it does this summer – now that we’re actually experiencing Napa’s balmy weather.
I took in the view on a recent Sunday afternoon as I and some friends made our way inside the winery for its weekly Jazzy Sunday. Specifically, to hear the Carol Heffler Trio, which did not disappoint.
Along with the music, we enjoyed the winery’s Barbera, and shared its cheese & salumi plate.
I always enjoy this wine ($17), but the cheese plate was merely OK. It can’t hold a candle to the winery’s own brick-oven pizza that’s served on Friday nights – evenings that also feature live music in several genres, including classic rock, acoustic pop & rock, and classic jazz. (Owner Sergio Neri, an accomplished pianist, has been known to take a turn.)
Details about tastings and events at www.hopewellvalleyvineyards.com.
2014: My Favorite Year for the Fancy Food Show
I’ve been attending these extravaganzas longer than I care to admit. But this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show ranks among the most memorable for intriguing new products – everything from draught-beer flavored Jelly Belly to beet-flavored soft drinks. Find out what I relished and what I spit out (figuratively, of course), here in the August 6 issue of US 1. (That’s Seward Johnson on the cover – another interesting read.)
Note: As you read my report, you might want to take notes for your holiday gift-gifting list. I came across a record number of make-your-own kits – including those for butter, chevre, tofu, bitters, kimchi, and high-end s’mores.
Rabbit Wine Stoppers: Am I the last one to discover these gems?
Speaking of gifts for the foodies in your life: For years now I’ve been singing the praises of Vacu Vin wine stoppers for preserving leftover wine in opened bottles. You know the ones I mean – they come with a separate plastic doohickey for pumping the air out of the slit in the top. They usually work OK, but it’s often hard to know when you’ve pumped enough, and it means that the act of opening one bottle involves many moving parts: foil cutter, bottle opener, pump, stopper.
Recently, friends gifted me with a set of Rabbit stoppers that seal wine airtight without the pump. You simply push a colorful rubber stopper into the bottle and you’re done. They work like a charm, come in bright, happy colors, are easy to clean, and are inexpensive – a package of 2 lists for $4.99, but you can find them cheaper – and in 4-packs – at many sites, including Amazon, Macy’s, the Container Store, and Bed Bath & Beyond. They make a great hostess gift or stocking stuffer.
Thank you, Linda & Felix Buccellato for a terrific find!
Pat Tanner, Mixologist?
I am a good cook but a terrible cocktail maker. Even when I religiously follow cocktail-making instructions, something almost always goes awry. (Exceptions: I produce excellent Pimm’s cups and on one and only one occasion mint juleps, a fluke I’ve never been able to replicate.)
So out of desperation on a recent hot, humid mid-summer day, I started improvising with disparate ingredients that happened to be at hand. I didn’t expect much, but the resulting Arancino cocktail proves that necessity really is the mother of invention.
The inspiration was Arancino Morelli, a sweet liqueur from Piemonte made from infused orange rind. A gift from my daughter Alice, who recently honeymooned in Italy, it’s a delectably thick, sticky-sweet digestif similar to its cousin, limoncello. But that just wouldn’t do on a blistering afternoon. So I poured some over ice and topped it off with Pellegrino. But the genius part, if I may say so, was adding several dashes of lavender bitters.
The bitters were also a gift, last Christmas, from the fiance (and soon to be husband) of my younger daughter, Elizabeth. For the beauty shot at the top of this post I gussied up the drink with orange twists and sprigs of fresh lavender, which I will repeat when I serve it to friends. Hopefully, it will wipe my past missteps from their collective memories.
NYC Restaurant Week Lunch @ Lincoln Ristorante
You know how sometimes when you dine out during Restaurant Week (assuming you’ve been able to snag a reservation – no easy task) you can feel like you’re not getting the full-on experience or the best of what a place has to offer? That is decidedly NOT the case at Lincoln, Jonathan Benno‘s modern Italian restaurant at Lincoln Center. The ravishing 3-course lunch (a mere $25) even includes as an amuse these hot, tender, two-bite cheese fritters:
(Actually, the amuse appears after the breads – focaccia and country Italian with sesame seeds, plus a saucer of olive oil and a whipped puree of white beans, lemon, and garlic.)
Diners choose among 2 first courses, 3 mains, and 2 desserts. Since there were two of us, we got to try almost everything – passing up only the rigatoni pasta with marinara, spicy pork sausage, and caciocavallo cheese (which only goes to show how appealing the choices are). First up: creamy, soft buffalo milk burrata with terrific heirloom tomatoes, arugula and – upping the interest factor exponentially – soft, pickled grape hyacinth bulbs (lampascioni). This specialty of South Italy has a haunting bitterness that appeals to me. The plate is brushed with herb salsa verde.
The salumi platter, the other starter, includes silky, top-quality prosciutto, spicy coppa cotta and a good-size slab of tender, flavorful, house-made head cheese (barely in frame at the top of the photo). The unexpected component here is molten cippolini in pilacca, a zippy Puglian sauce of fried red chili peppers, garlic, and olive oil.
For her main course, my lamb-loving friend chose lamb shoulder, spectacularly braised to unctuous softness along with Swiss chard and piquant green olives, then topped with a mix of breadcrumbs, pecorino, and lemon zest. Although not very photogenic, this was our favorite dish.
But running a close second was my zuppa alla Tarantina, the centerpiece of which is flaky flounder fillet in a sea of tomato-saffron broth dotted with chickpeas, mussels, and tiny clams. The saffron in the full-bodied broth is pronounced without going overboard. I had to fight the urge to bring the rimmed bowl to my mouth to lick the last drops.
Desserts are every bit as appealing. The pretty creme-fraiche crostata features summer berries inside and out. The blackberry compote is to die for, and the quenelle of buttermilk gelato ain’t shabby either.
The other Restaurant Week dessert is Chef Benno’s take on a custard-filled dessert from the town of Lecce in Puglia. His version has layers of sponge cake encasing lemon curd, topped with toasted almonds. Underpinnings of figs and fig marmalata are good enough to stand on their own.
Diminutive cinnamon biscotti that come with the bill are the final lagniappe. But the restaurant offers one other component that enhances its Restaurant Week lunch even more: 2 four-ounce pours for $12, a white to go with the first course and a red for the second. Both are lovely wines from the Marche region – Verdicchio de Matelica and Sangiovese Morelli.
I should also mention that service here hits that sweet spot between cordiality and professionalism and that the striking, comfortable space is modern yet exudes warmth.
It’s possible that Summer Restaurant Week reservations have all been taken at this point, but I recommend Lincoln Ristorante any time of the year, for any meal.
And from the this-is-why-I-heart-NY file:
Serendipity! Happening in the courtyard just outside the restaurant was a rehearsal for a Lincoln Center Out of Doors concert – what would that evening be the world premiere of John Luther Adams’ Sila: The Breath of the World. About 80 contemporary musicians were scattered on three sides, and (as you might just be able to make out) singers in full concert dress black were stationed inside the pool!