First Report: Dining at Brick Farm Tavern’s Bar

By the time Brick Farm Tavern opened for business last Thursday (11/19/15), the reservation book at this long-awaited Hopewell restaurant, brought to you by the folks behind Double Brook Farm and Brick Farm Market, was already full for the next several weeks.

Chef's table at Brick Farm Tavern

Chef’s table at Brick Farm Tavern

But the bar there, which has its own menu, operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, and so two nights later I and my husband, Bill, headed over. I was careful to make it there at opening time – 5 p.m. – in order to be assured a perch at the 12-seat bar. By 5:20, every seat was taken, both at the bar and at the hi-tops in the adjoining lounge. Ten minutes after that, the barroom was SRO. Joshua, our server, told us that the restaurant’s been slammed like this from the start.

Brick Farm Tavern's executive chef, Greg Vassos

Brick Farm Tavern’s executive chef, Greg Vassos

I can see why. In October, when I interviewed Chef Greg Vassos and GM Mike Lykens for this preview in the Princeton Echo, they hoped to achieve a marriage of fine dining with “unpretentious, comfortable service.” Mission accomplished, at least in terms of Joshua (who, btw, is in the background below, and who also works at Agricola in Princeton). He was the personification of grace under pressure.

La Manzana cocktail, Brick Farm Tavern

La Manzana cocktail, Brick Farm Tavern

Vassos and Lykens also promised that the restaurant would put to use of every kind of meat, egg, fruit, vegetable, herb, etc. produced at Double Brook Farm, supplemented with that of nearby farms. So I went local with my cocktail, of which the bar features 5 house creations, each $12. I chose La Manzana, a refreshing, balanced blend of Espolon reposada tequila and Lillet with Terhune apple cider, lime, and house-made hay salt. When I inquired about that last, Joshua took the time to describe how it’s made and to give us a sample taste. (It is fleur de sel, smoked ’til black, over hay.)

The wood for the bar, btw, was reclaimed from the nearby estate of Charles Lindbergh, and newly crafted. (A fuller description of this American farm-to-table restaurant, including its owners and the handsome, circa-1812 farmhouse that is its home is included in the above link to my Echo story.)

Detail of bar beverage menu, Brick Farm Tavern

Detail of bar beverage menu, Brick Farm Tavern

I’m impressed with the wine-by-the-glass selections, which lead off with interesting and unexpected choices, including Arneis from Piemonte, Kerner (a cross between Trollinger & Riesling) from Alto Adige, Prieto Picudo from Castilla y Leon, and my husband’s choice, Giel Pinot Noir from Reinhessen.

Bar food menu, Brick Farm Tavern

Bar food menu, Brick Farm Tavern

The bar’s food menu is short, smart, and appealing, as you can see. As is the trend, it lists ingredients only – giving equal billing to each, with zero descriptors about preparation. Instead, servers are tasked with sharing helpful but painfully detailed explanations.

Tuscan fries, Brick Farm Tavern

Tuscan fries, Brick Farm Tavern

Word to the wise: Tuscan-fries-showered-with-pecorino. Cut thin and short, brined, fried in plenty of oil, salty, and addictive. If I had one wish, it would be that they were sprinkled with Pecorino throughout, not just on top. The smoky housemade ketchup is a match made in heaven.

Brick Farm Tavern burger

Brick Farm Tavern burger

It’s possible that just about every ingredient in the Double Brook burger – save the compte cheese and salt – is from the restaurant’s farm or, like the bun, made at Brick Farm Market. This helps explain its $18 price tag. But the burger’s so decadently good that it renders both provenance and price moot. Even though the menu says it’s accompanied by pomme frites, those Tuscan fries showed up. No complaint here.

Lamb Bolognese at Brick Farm Tavern

Lamb Bolognese at Brick Farm Tavern

When the Lamb Bolognese arrived, I thought the portion looked skimpy. But the dish is so rich and satisfying, and so loaded with thick coins of lamb merguez sausage, that it suffices. The short, thick, ribbed tubular pasta appeared to be fresh and housemade, and was cooked more al dente than customary. (I prefer it that way, but I suspect others may not.) I can’t say I detected distinct flavor from the strands of calendula (a type of marigold), and although the sausage itself suffered from too much salt, it wasn’t enough to deter me from finishing the dish with gusto.

Pumpkin dessert at Brick Farm Tavern

Pumpkin dessert at Brick Farm Tavern

Meanwhile, the folks next to me raved about their chicken wings and the Brick Farm charcuterie – a gorgeous, generous platter and a bargain at $14. For dessert Bill & I shared pumpkin mousse on praline shortbread. It’s topped with maple ice cream and hay salt foam and garnished with stewed and geleed cranberries. All the flavors were quite muted, though, so we wished we had opted instead for the only other choice: the pecan dessert, which Joshua had earlier informed us was the staff’s favorite. (Lesson: Always listen to a server you trust.)

One of Brick Farm Tavern's several small, cozy dining rooms

One of Brick Farm Tavern’s several small, cozy dining rooms

By the time I was sipping a perfect espresso, the crowd at our backs had grown even larger (and hungrier) and Bill & I fantasized about how much we could make if we auctioned off our seats to the highest bidder. That, alas, would run counter to the friendly, comfy-yet-refined vibe here.

View into the open kitchen from the chef's table, Brick Farm Tavern

View into the open kitchen from the chef’s table, Brick Farm Tavern

It’s something akin to magic when a restaurant is in total alignment with what the surrounding community craves and supports. Although it’s still early days, that seems to be exactly what I witnessed throughout the restaurant’s warren of charming dining rooms.  This, despite the many fine establishments right within tiny Hopewell (The Blue Bottle and Brothers Moon, to name just two) and in nearby Princeton (Agricola, Elements, Mistral, etc.) As I overheard one returning (returning!) customer remark to Joshua, “We are glad you’re here.”

Let’s Go Crazy! Chefs’ Crazy New Year’s Stories & ‘Crazy for Cookbooks’ Event

Midnight Madness: NJ Chefs Share Zany New Year’s Tales

Most of us get a little nutty when New Year’s Eve rolls around. But chefs – who have a loony job every day of the year – seem to go to extremes more than most. Here in the holiday 2015 issue of Edible Jersey (starting on page 71) I poll chefs around the state for their most memorable December 31st. They live up to their profession’s reputation in spades.

Edible Jersey cover holiday 2015

My thanks to Juan Mercado (One53), Ben Nerenhausen (Mistral), Christine Nunn (Picnic on the Square), Larry Robinson (Ceriello Marketplace, Medford), Marilyn Schlossbach (Langosta Lounge & others), & Chris Siversen (Maritime Parc & BURG).

‘Crazy for Cookbooks’ Panel Discussion at Princeton Public Library. Join Me & Other Food Writers, Chefs, Cookbook Authors, & Publishers

I jumped at the chance to participate in this fun evening, coming up on Wednesday, December 2, at 7 p.m at the Princeton Library:

Cookbook Panel Flyer RevisedThe event is free and will be followed by the participating authors’ book sale and signing. Attendees are encouraged to bring along their own personal favorite cookbook because there will be a photo booth set up where they can be photographed with it in tow. The resulting pics will be shared by the library on social media.

‘More’ Everything: More News about Agricola; More is the Name of a New Cafe; More Italian Food & Drink Than Ever at Tre Piani

Agricola Changes Chefs & May Spawn a New Restaurant or Two

Seems like just yesterday that I profiled Crawford Koeniger, the young chef who stepped into Josh Thomsen’s shoes when that opening chef departed the Witherspoon Street eatery for Florida. Now comes word from Agricola’s owner, Jim Nawn, that Koeniger, too, is gone. Nawn is searching for a new executive chef, whom he hopes to have in place by the new year. “Meantime,” he says, “Agricola is in the hands of my sous-chef team who have been with me from the outset.”

But wait! There’s, um, more. In the November issue of The Princeton Echo, my “Food for Thought” column included this tidbit regarding Nawn and his Fenwick Hospitality Group:

Agricola, university to develop ‘Dinky’ station eateries

Last January, Princeton University and the Terra Momo Restaurant Group disclosed that they had discontinued previously announced plans for that group, owned by brothers Carlo and Raoul Momo, to run a restaurant and café in the old “Dinky” train station buildings. Now word on the street is that an announcement is forthcoming detailing an agreement between the University and Jim Nawn, owner of Agricola on Witherspoon Street and Great Road Farm in Skillman. The two buildings involved are part of the University’s $330 million arts and transit project.

Meanwhile, Further Down Witherspoon Street…

…friends Mark Han & Sean Luan recently opened their bright, casual More Cafe. Just steps away from Small World Coffee, Holsome Tea, and Infini-T Cafe, you’d think there wouldn’t be room for one, um, more. But you’d be wrong, as I explain here in that same November “Food for Thought” column.

Benefit Gala at Tre Piani Features More Italian Food than You Can Shake a Stick at

I love that phrase “…shake a stick at” in part because its etymology is unknown. What the heck could have spawned it?

But I digress…only to digress further. Having lived in Princeton for decades, and the Princeton area for even more decades, I thought I was aware of all the wonderful service organizations in town.

Senior Care Ministry program 002So when I received an invitation to “A Taste of Italy,” a gala celebrating 30 years of community service by the Senior Care Ministry of Princeton I was taken aback. How could it be that this group – which pioneered the ‘aging in place’ movement and whose mission is to help people remain safely in the comfort of their own homes as long as possible – had escaped my attention up til now?

Turns out that the “Taste of Italy” gala/fundraiser was their first public event ever. Whew. As board member Catherine Vanderpool told the group of 90-plus people who had paid $125 to attend the gala, “the ministry depends on the kindness of volunteers. It’s a grassroots effort that was born out of a need perceived by a nun, Sister Mary Ancilla of the Sisters of Mercy, and assisted by the Princeton Knights of Columbus.” (Sister Mary, btw, wasn’t able to attend. This year she is celebrating the 75th anniversary (!) of entering into her commitment to the Church & Sisters of Mercy.)

Tre Piani owner/chef Jim Weaver went all out for the occasion, covering the entire Italian peninsula’s pantheon of food and drink. The evening began with antipasti and passed hors d’oeuvres, including this duck gallantine:

Courtesy of Jim Weaver, Tre Piani

Courtesy of Jim Weaver, Tre Piani

For the main meal, the Tre Piani staff had set up three stations of food and wine, each devoted to a region of Italy. Here are sample food & wine listings:

Northern Italy food selectionCentral & Southern WinesSince my grandparents hailed from Sicily I gravitated to the Central-South, and was introduced to Anthilia, a distinctive Sicilian white wine from Donnafugata.  To go with these wines, the Central/Southern menu comprised: mozzarella misto (Campania), mussels with blue cheese (Puglia), orrecchiette with brocoli rabe (Basilicata), involtini of swordfish stuffed with pignoli & raisins (Sicily), eggplant caponata (Sicily), and stromboli misti (Calabria).

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Senior Care Ministry, which provides supportive services such as transportation to health services, food shopping, and, as Vanderpool told the group “sometimes just a friendly visit to say hello,” free of charge to the homebound and elderly throughout the greater Princeton area. Better yet, if you’d like to establish a service like this in your town, contact them through their website.

Meet Brick Farm Tavern’s Chef & GM; Delectable Peruvian Dining in DC

Hopewell’s Brick Farm Tavern is Set to Debut on November 19. Here are Its Key Players

Greg Vassos, Mike Lykens, Jon McConaughy, & Robin McConaughy, Brick Farm Tavern

Greg Vassos, Mike Lykens, Jon McConaughy, & Robin McConaughy, Brick Farm Tavern (courtesy Princeton Echo)

The folks behind Double Brook Farm and Brick Farm Market, Robin & Jon McConaughy, have put their much anticipated farm-to-table restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern, into the hands of two alumni of The Broadmoor, the five-star luxury resort in Colorado Springs. Here in the November issue of the Princeton Echo I interview Executive Chef Greg Vassos and General Manager Mike Lykens about how they intend to carry out the McConaughys’ vision.

Brick Farm Tavern

Brick Farm Tavern

btw: Reservations are currently being accepted on OpenTable or by calling the restaurant at (609) 333-9200.

At China Chilcano, Jose Andres Takes on Peruvian Cuisine with Verve

I have yet to encounter a restaurant of DC-based chef Jose Andres that doesn’t bowl me over. It seems no matter what unlikely cuisine this Spanish-born master turns his hand to, he manages to honor and expand on it in a most delicious way. In the past I’ve raved about America Eats Tavern, for example, where he pays homage to historic American dishes while making them modern and desirable (e.g., Manhattan clam chowder, mutton with oysters, and America’s first mac ‘n’ cheese, which features vermicelli).

Andres works the same magic at China Chilcano, where the electric liveliness of the setting matches that of the vibrant food:

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

Below are highlights from wide-ranging dinner my table of 4 enjoyed, after cocktails from a list that includes 5 takes on pisco. The menu encompasses both indigenous Peruvian dishes like papas a la Huancaina (potatoes with spicy aji amarillo sauce) and the beloved hybrid rice and noodle dishes developed by the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who flocked to Peru during the late 19th century. (So did Italians, but they’re not represented here.) All photos by Chris Le.

Every gorgeous dish has the Andres touch – none more so than these 3 siu mai from the dim sum section of the menu.

Pork & jicama siu mai topped with gold-flecked egg. China Chilcano

Pork & shrimp siu mai topped with gold-flecked egg. China Chilcano

Scallop & pork siu mai with tobiko. China Chilcano

Scallop & pork siu mai with tobiko. China Chilcano


Chicken with aji amarillo siu mai. China Chilcano

Chicken with aji amarillo siu mai. China Chilcano

(Don’t know why that last photo insists on being upside down.) Another gold-flecked dim sum winner is this one of lamb pot stickers, hidden under crispy cumin-scented lace:

Pegao Norteno (lamb pot sticker). China Chilcano

Pegao Norteno (lamb pot stickers). China Chilcano

From the selection of ceviches and tiraditos (Peruvian crosses between sushi and ceviche), here’s the big eye tuna with soy-cured egg yolk, Nikkei leche de tigre (citrus marinade), puffed quinoa, avocado, mountain yam, red onion, and furikake seasoning:

Ceviche Nikkei. China Chilcano

Ceviche Nikkei. China Chilcano

Peru and Asia meet up perfectly in this lomo saltado of hanger steak, tomato, soy sauce, shishitos, ginger, shoestring potatoes, and rice:

Lomo Saltado with Egg. China Chilcano

Lomo Saltado with Egg. China Chilcano

While a classic aji de gallina is purely, and wonderfully, Peruvian:

Aji de gallina. China Chilcano

Aji de gallina. China Chilcano

I can’t decide which of these two desserts I enjoyed more, although the funky look of the suspiro Limena (“woman of Lima’s sigh”) still has me smiling:

Coconut "Birds Nest" Soup with Pink Grapefruit Sorbet. China Chilcano

Coconut “Birds Nest” Soup with Pink Grapefruit Sorbet. China Chilcano

Suspiro Limena: Sweetened Condensed Milk Custard with Meringue & Passion Fruit. China Chilcano

Suspiro Limena: Sweetened Condensed Milk Custard with Meringue & Passion Fruit. China Chilcano

China Chilcano is located on 7th St. NW in the Penn Quarter, very close to Andres’ signature restaurant, Jaleo.

First Report: Greene Hook in JC; Win 30 Weeks of Excellent Pizza; Jersey’s Own Cranberry Sauce

Chef David Drake Lands at 2 Spots in Jersey City

There are few NJ chefs whose food I relish more than that of David Drake. He first came to prominence at the Stage House and later earned my further respect at his eponymous Rahway fine-dining restaurant and then at the first iteration of Daryl Wine Bar in New Brunswick.

Chef David Drake

Chef David Drake (linkedin)

But when he moved up to Alice’s in  Lake Hopatcong, Drake fell outside the geographic bounds of my personal dining sphere. So it was welcome news last spring to learn that he had moved over to the Light Horse Tavern in the red-hot restaurant town that is Jersey City. And even better news is that he is also heading the kitchen at Greene Hook Bar + Kitchen, which opened in September. Both places are owned by Bill Gray (each with a different partner.)

Light Horse Tavern

Light Horse Tavern (courtesy

So I and my husband scooped up an invitation from Gray and his team to host us and another foodie couple at Greene Hook. The evening actually commenced at Light Horse, where Drake presented us with a sampling of the menu’s elevated American fare.

Light Horse Mussels

Light Horse Mussels (courtesy Light Horse FB page)

Among the standouts: steamed mussels, a dish that’s always welcome, yet also ubiquitous and difficult to make distinctive. But Drake, who applies his precise, classical training to everything at both restaurants, manages to accomplish just that via a lively tomato-based broth that includes nubs of excellent chorizo and Brooklyn Lager. We couldn’t stop dipping the delicious toast into it.

Light Horse Parmesan Gnocchi

Light Horse Parmesan Gnocchi

Unlike steamed mussels, potato gnocchi is a dish I rarely enjoy. I’ve downed too many gluey plugs in my time. At Light Horse they’re airy and springy, their potato flavor rounded out with Parmesan, sussed out by pan-searing, and further accentuated with roasted chanterelles, cauliflower, and arugula in a mushroom broth to which Drake adds a few drops of soy sauce. Earthy and light at the same time.

Owner Bill Gray himself escorted us from the tavern to Greene Hook, a short walk away. We were tickled to see that Drake had, meantime, ensconced himself in that restaurant’s open kitchen. (He told us he has made the trip as many as 10 times in 1 day.) A recent addition to the kitchen team is Joe Beninato, who came over from another restaurant I held high regard for: the recently shuttered Ursino in Union.

Greene Hook Bucket of Fried Chicken (courtesy Greene Hook FB pag)

Greene Hook Bucket of Fried Chicken (courtesy Greene Hook FB page)

Greene Hook’s menu is more casual than its sibling (although at Light Horse you can get a burger, meatloaf, and fish & chips). Already, Greene Hook’s bucket of fried chicken with mac n’ cheese and jalapeno biscuits ($16 per serving for one; $26 for two) has accumulated a substantial following. The chicken is given the full David Drake treatment: soaked first in buttermilk then cooked sous vide for hours.

But I’ll have to go back to sample that offering, for Drake and company instead had us feast on the likes of fluke crudo with green papaya salad, flat iron steak with milk stout reduction, and the evening’s sea scallop special:

Greene Hook Scallops (courtesy Greene Hook's FB pag)

Greene Hook Scallops (courtesy Greene Hook’s FB page)

of four jumbo specimens, beautifully seared to intense sweetness. With seared maitake, baby golden beets, dried apricot, and salsify, it, too, shows Drake’s finesse. (Plea to chefs everywhere: please deploy salsify, my favorite root vegetable, more.) Textbook-perfect Marcona almond cream sauce makes the dish especially memorable.

Greene Hook Interior (courtesy Greene Hook FB page)

Greene Hook Interior (courtesy Greene Hook FB page)

I should note that both Light Horse Tavern and Greene Hook Bar + Kitchen have different but appealing cocktail, beer, and wine offerings and each has a different ambiance. Bill Gray, a former carpenter and civil engineer, personally designed and executed much of the decor. He sensitively and beautifully restored the historic building that houses Light Horse Tavern. Greene Hook is in a new space (with high-rise apartments above and all around) that combines hand-crafted rustic features – including much reclaimed wood – with modern industrial touches.

I suspect that the bar/kitchen’s younger clientele neither know nor care that there’s an expert fine-dining chef pumping out their bucket of fried chicken. As for me, I’m delighted to have Drake’s fare once again near at hand.

Lambertville’s Liberty Hall Pizza Giving Away 30 Weeks of Free Pizza to Customer who Purchases Their 30,000th Pizza

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

Nine-month old Liberty Hall Pizza figures it will be baking its 30,000th artisanal Neapolitan pizza sometime in the coming days (October 30th is their best guess, so you’ll have to hurry), and just like in those old movies and 195o’s sitcoms, the lucky patron who purchases it for dine-in or takeout will win 1 pizza per week for 30 weeks.

Chris Bryan, an alumnus of Nomad Pizza, is pizzaiolo and co-owner with Danny Popkin. The latter has rehabbed the cool old industrial building just outside of downtown that also houses Rojo’s Roastery. I recently profiled Liberty Hall, a byob, here in the Fall Dining Issue of US 1. The excellent pizzas are baked in a wood-fired Valoriani oven and the menu also boasts fresh salads and Victory draught root beer.

First Field Cranberry Sauce

First Field Cranberry Sauce

First Field Cranberry Sauce

This Thanksgiving if you’re not making your own cranberry sauce, why not buy one that’s made with whole dry-harvested cranberries from independent growers in New Jersey? It’s from the folks at First Field, who flavor it with orange and vanilla. You can find it at Whole Foods markets around the state, at some retailers in the Princeton area, and at where it’s $8.99 for a 10-ounce jar.


Think You Know Princeton? Think Again!

Cafe Vienna strudel

Cafe Vienna strudel

You’re probably familiar with the town’s bucolic campus, lively downtown centered around Palmer Square, and its legendary historic sites (cue the American Revolution & Albert Einstein). But scratch around the edges and you’ll discover (among other things): a new bike trail, entry to a locked cemetery, a dive bar, an authentic Viennese cafe, and a sit-in Frank Gehry sculpture inside a futuristic dining hall.

NJ Monthly cover october 2015That and more in my “Offbeat Princeton” story, here in the October issue of New Jersey Monthly.

All Wine (& Beer), All the Time

I could devote an entire month’s worth of posts to the many wine and/or beer tastings, dinners, and festivals happening around our fair state in the coming days and still not be done with it! In the interest of time and space, here are 3 that caught my special attention:

You’ll have to hurry, but I understand there are a few seats left for Agricola’s Frog’s Leap Wine Dinner on Monday, October 19, featuring founder & winemaker John Williams. If you don’t think this will be worth your time and $$$, I strongly suggest you (a) check out the hilarious annotated history of that legendary winery here and (b) take a gander at the evening’s menu here.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace has expanded its annual fall fundraiser to a 3-day event, including a symposium moderated by Karen MacNeil, who is kicking offer her book tour for the 2nd edition of The Wine Bible. Plus, wine dinners with guest vintners at Jockey Hollow, the Ryland Inn, and the Bernards Inn. Plus the Grand Tasting event. Plus in-store wine tastings with vintners & winemakers in Madison, Bernardsville, Wayne, and Hillsborough.  All for 5 beneficiaries, and all happening on October 26, 27, & 28. Details here.

Amanti Vino’s Wine & Beer Throwdown with Skurnik Wines and Firestone Walker Brewery

Cru vs Brew 2015

Cru vs Brew 2015

I can’t think of a wine distributor/importer who I admire more than Michael Skurnik, nor a beer maker more than Garrett Brown, who is now with Firestone Walker. These two heavyweights have selected pairings that will go head-to-head on each course of a benefit dinner mounted by Montclair’s Amanti Vino wine shop that will be prepared by chefs from 5 of Northern NJ’s top chefs, including Ariane Duarte (Ariane Kitchen + Bar), Corey Heyer (Bernards Inn), and James Laird (Restaurant Serenade). This title match – Cru vs. Brew 2015 – takes place on Thursday, Oct. 22 in Upper Montclair. Menu & details here.

Think You’ve Seen Every Dining Concept Under the Sun? Think Again!

I thought I had seen it all, ad nauseum. But this new concept by 3-Michelin-star chef Corey Lee (of Benu fame) that’s slated to open this spring at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is truly innovative while at the same time proudly derivative.

Corey Lee, "Benu Cookbook,"

Corey Lee, “Benu Cookbook,”

As this in-depth profile in the October issue of WSJ.Magazine explains, “For his new restaurant…Lee asked the world’s top chefs to reveal their culinary secrets so he could copy their signature dishes exactly. And they said yes.” In other words, his menu is literally curated – just like an art exhibit – with acclaimed masterpieces from the likes of Thomas Keller, Rene Redzepi, Daniel Boulud, and Wylie Dufresne. What do you think? Would you give it a try?


Crazy For Cookbooks! December 2 at the Princeton Public Library

Source: Crazy For Cookbooks! December 2 at the Princeton Public Library

Special Cookbook Signing @Stockton Market; A Month’s Worth of Delicious Activities to Fight Breast Cancer; Rescuing a Burnt Pot

Author-Artist of 100% Hand-Illustrated & Hand-Lettered Latin Cookbook Coming to Stockton Market

Mi Comida Latina, by Marcella Kriebel (Burgess Lea Press)

Mi Comida Latina, by Marcella Kriebel (Burgess Lea Press)

On Sunday, October 11, Marcella Kriebel will sign copies of her gorgeous cookbook, Mi Comida Latina, and offer sample tastings of its contents at the Stockton Market. Times and details about this unique book and event in my post here at

Brothers Moon is the Month-Long Locus for Chefs, Farmers, and Cooking Teachers in Campaign to Fight Breast Cancer

Chef Will Mooney of Brothers Moon

Chef Will Mooney of Brothers Moon

Chef/owner Will Mooney of Brothers Moon has been doing the right thing since the day he opened his Hopewell BYO 15 years ago. He was, for example, a pioneer in sourcing local, sustainable ingredients. He supported our Central NJ Slow Food chapter from its infancy. He was the literally first customer for Shibumi Farm’s magnificent mushrooms.

For the remainder of October Brothers Moon will hold a series of dining activities to benefit Hope is in the Bag, a campaign to promote awareness about breast cancer and raise funds for those undergoing treatment at Capital Health’s Center for Comprehensive Breast Care. Some of my favorite folks – besides Will – are participating. Here’s the rundown:

October 9 through October 23 – Brothers Moon will sell pink cupcakes, the proceeds of which will be donated to Hope is in the Bag. The restaurant will also have specially marked menu items, of which 10% goes to the campaign.

Thursday, October 15 – Dinner with Jess Niederer of Chickadee Creek Farm. 10% of sales will be donated.

Friday, October 16 – Dinner with Alan Kaufman of Shibumi Farm. 10% of sales will be donated.

Friday, October 23 – Dinner with Dorothy Mullen of The Suppers Programs. 10% of sales will be donated.

Thursday, October 29 – Cooking with Allie O’Brien of the Garden State Community Kitchen. 10% of sales will be donated.

To sign up for any (or all!) of the special dinners, visit, or phone 609.333.1330 for details.

A Household Cleaning Tip That Really Works

Does anyone read the Hints from Heloise column, assuming it’s still around? Well, I gave up on it and its ilk years ago because in my experience very little of the advice ever panned out (pun intended).

Stock pot 002

So when I recently burnt – and I mean badly burnt – the inside bottom of my favorite, decades-old stainless steel stockpot (above), I came darn close to chucking it. But I just couldn’t bring myself to part with my old friend. As a last-ditch effort, but with little hope, I turned to the Internet. I’m not sure what made me trust this advice on above all others, but I took a chance. It delivered – and exactly as promised, without any hard scrubbing and with a 100% restored pot. Thanks,!

Brick Farm Tavern Names Opening Chef; Local Handmade French Candies; Do You Yelp?

Double Brook Farm’s Restaurant, on Track  for November Debut, Snags Opening Chef from Colorado

Chef Greg Vassos

Chef Greg Vassos

For a while it looked as though Aaron Philipson of Hopewell’s Blue Bottle Cafe was going to team up with Robin & Jon McConaughy for their first full-service restaurant, but when that fell through the couple broadened the searched to the national scene. Find out why they’ve signed on Greg Vassos for their Brick Farm Tavern in my “Food for Thought” column in the October Princeton Echo.

Les Delices D’Annelise: Handmade, All-Natural Calisson, Nougat, Caramel, and other French Confections

Calissons, Les Delices D'Annelise

Calissons, Les Delices D’Annelise

In that same space, be sure to read further on to learn about the French woman in Princeton who concocts the above and more (e.g., soft, fresh, violet-flavored marshmallows) and where and how to get your hands on them. (You can thank me later.) If you can’t make it to Princeton for Madame Mugnier’s confections, email her at

You, Me, & Yelp

Aurelio's Tortilla Chips

Aurelio’s Tortilla Chips

For my monthly food feature in the October Echo, I tell why and how I find Yelp reviews helpful – and not – using Yelp entries for Princeton restaurants to make my points. Would you be surprised to learn, for example, that number 3 on Yelp’s “10 Best Restaurants in Princeton” list is a place called Aurelio’s Cocina Latina? I was. Above is my photo of the very good tortilla chips and salsas I enjoyed there, but still and all….

US 1Fall Dining Issue; Double Brook Farm’s Kinder, Gentler Slaughter Facility; Slow Food & Chef Todd Villani Team Up

6 Transformed and/or Transformative Central NJ Restaurants

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

In this year’s fall dining issue of US 1 I turn the spotlight on new or newly transformed eateries that have bravely planted their flags in towns either not known as dining hubs (hello, Hightstown) or that once were hubs but have lost a step or two (apologies, New Brunswick). Here’s the story, in the September 23rd issue. Other locales include Lambertville (photo above), West Windsor, Stockton, and Trenton.

Robin & Jon McConaughy Add a USDA-Inspected Slaughter Facility to Double Brook Farm, For “A Kinder Kill”

NJ Monthly cover sept 2015Read why the couple is committed to providing a compassionate end for their pasture-raised animals, and how the design of their abattoir was influenced by Temple Grandin, here in my story in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.


Chef Todd Villani & Slow Food NNJ Team Up to Benefit School & Community Gardens

Todd Villani, Terre e Terre (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Todd Villani, Terre e Terre (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Villani’s Carlstadt restaurant, Terre e Terre, is a fitting site for this farm-to-table, 4-course benefit dinner. In her NY Times review, Fran Schumer wrote that Villani “prepares some of the best locally sourced New American dishes in New Jersey.” (I tagged his smoked Berkshire pork loin “perfect” when I reviewed his previous work for a Union City restaurant.)

On Thursday, October 8 at 7 pm, Villani will offer the following menu, at $80 for Slow Food members and $85 for everyone else. The price includes tax and tip. Be sure to BYO wine and beer.

Amuse: Shibumi Farm deviled mushroom stuffed with truffle/duck/thyme

First Course: Fire-roasted butternut squash soup/crispy farro/sage

Second Course: Sockeye salmon/cauliflower puree/bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts/charred chive and caper vinaigrette

Third Course: Slow and low-braised short ribs/goat cheese potato gratin/ sauteed greens/cipollini onions

Dessert: Apple croissant bread pudding/cinnamon gelato

Seating is limited and tickets must be bought in advance by Sept. 30 at Slow Food NNJ’s website,

And just because it bears repeating, here is the explanation of Slow Food’s mission of good, clean, and fair food for all:

Good: Our food should be tasty, seasonal, local, fresh, and wholesome
Clean: Our food should be produced in ways that preserve biodiversity, sustain the environment, and ensure animal welfare – without harming human health
Fair: Our food should be affordable by all, while respecting the dignity of labor from field to fork.