Tag Archives: Shibumi Farm

NJ Monthly’s Top 25 Restaurants & My Review of the (new) Saddle River Inn; Restaurant News & Events; Summer Reading

Whew! Lots jam-packed into this post: tacos, champagne & small plates, mind-blowing edible food packaging, and, of course, the NJ Monthly restaurant issue – including results of its annual readers’ poll, the top 25 critics’ picks, and my review of how the Saddle River Inn is faring under new ownership.

August 2013 NJ Monthly: The Restaurant Issue

NJ Monthly cover aug13

The Saddle River Inn has been one of the state’s most revered and beloved restaurants for decades. When I reviewed it a few years back, I thought it had lost its edge. Earlier this year it got new owners – one of whom is the chef. Here’s my review of the newly reborn Inn.

In this same issue: Top 25 NJ restaurants

In this same issue: Results of the 2013 Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll

Restaurant News & Events

 The Taco Truck: A new brick-and-mortar version is opening in August in Morristown. The first ‘brick’ location of this small but growing,sustainability-conscious group is in Hoboken, but Morristown will become the flagship. Get the scoop from this Morristown Patch post.

Mistral & CoolVines: You’ll have to hurry, but these two Princeton stars are teaming up on Wednesday, July 24 at 7 pm for a 3-course pairing of Champagnes and small plates at (normally byob) Mistral. $65 all-inclusive. Details and reservations (a must) here.

Elements: Scott Anderson will welcome super-hot chef Jason Yu of Oxheart in Houston to his flagship restaurant on Friday, August 9, for a collaborative dinner focusing on wild and cultivated local mushrooms. Joining them will be Alan Kaufman of Shibumi Farm. Details here.

 Smithsonian Magazine Does a Terrific Food Issue: Who Knew?

Smithsonian Mag June 2013

I am so glad I picked up this past June’s issue. In addition to stories by Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, and Roy Blount, Jr. I particularly got a kick out of these:

Burning Desire: The hottest chile pepper in the world – it’s not what you think it is – by the inimitable, offbeat science writer Mary Roach. (Her latest book, Gulp!, is beguiling and repulsive in equal measure. I highly recommend it.)

The Future in the Making: This short, back-page entry focuses on the WikiCell, a surprisingly attractive, futuristic edible food packaging concept. Designed by a Harvard bioengineer, it functions as both wrapper and box.

3-Star Khyber Grill; NJ Cheap Eats; Oysters & Mushrooms

Lots of reasons to visit the New Jersey Monthly website right now: NJ Monthly cover feb13

  • My glowing review of Khyber Grill in South Plainfield, an Indian restaurant that manages to set itself apart from its many kin along Oak Tree Avenue.
  • 74 places around the state to dine well for $15 or less. I contributed 11 of the entries to Cheap Eats, and I’d love to know your recommendations.
  • Your chance to vote for your favorite Jersey restaurants in the magazine’s annual restaurant poll.

Eat Oysters, Win a Trip for 2 to the Caribbean, Help Fight Cancer – All at the Same Time

Oysters, opened, ready for consumption, raw

Oysters, opened, ready for consumption, raw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Sunday February 3rd is not just the Super Bowl, it’s Oyster Bowl XIV, the big event before the bigger event. How many oysters can you down in 2 minutes? The all-time record is 102 (accomplished by a tiny woman, I think), but you’ll only have to beat the other contestants that show up for this year’s competition. You can always go and just watch (and catch a good meal), but there are tons of prizes in addition to the trip, and all proceeds go Komen for the Cure. Festivities run from 11 am to 2 pm at the Blue Point Grill in Princeton. Details – and to register as a contestant – here.

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms in the Spotlight at Brothers Moon

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

This is my second mention within a month of the fantastic cultivated exotic mushrooms of Princeton’s Alan Kaufman on my website – that’s how good they are. Chefs from New York (hello, Daniel Boulud) to DC have discovered them. You can get an idea of the range and quality at two special 4-course dinners starting at 6 pm on Wednesday, January 30 and Wednesday, February 20 at the Brothers Moon in Hopewell.

Dishes (including dessert) feature pioppino, maitake, lemon oyster and grey oyster, shiitake, and lion’s mane mushrooms. Cost is $49. Check out the full menu here.

Interview with Craig Shelton; Slow Food Winter Farmers Market; LA Times’ Devilish Quiz

Coffee & Conversation With Craig Shelton

When I read in an interview in Inside Jersey that Craig Shelton – historically New Jersey’s most renowned chef for his groundbreaking restaurant, the Ryland Inn – had moved to Princeton, my home town, I invited him to conversation over coffee at a local shop.Craig Shelton I wanted to know why and how he had landed in Princeton after a stint in Texas, and what was on his horizon. As always, Shelton was gentlemanly, thoughtful, and unpredictable. I can’t think of any other chef whose responses to restaurant-related questions would encompass: artists ranging from John Singer Sargent to Basquiat, the differences between the British and German banking systems (a discussion that was, frankly, over my head and so is not included here), and the nature of man and the universe.

Me: Why Princeton?
Shelton: The reasons were several-fold. First and foremost, the children. My son, William, is 14 and in middle school. My littlest, Juliette, is at Community Park elementary. (Olivia, my oldest, is soon to be 23. She’s finishing up at Villanova. Her major is pre-med and communications.) Princeton is one of very few locations where you can have an extremely high-value quality of life without needing much money. I lived for many years in nice places that required a nice income. Have you been to the university art museum? I was blown away. I’ve always been a bookish guy. It’s nice to be in a community where you’re not an oddity. Well, I’m still an oddity. I’m probably the only guy in town that’s right-of-center politically.

Me: How has your family coped with the recent changes?
Shelton: My wife fell in love with Texas. We went down without expectations – the rolling hills and horse farms reminded us of Far Hills. People were so lovely, I can’t begin to tell you. We found the area singularly beautiful, quiet, whole, and wholesome. I didn’t see the level of spiritual emptiness that is worldwide. My wife was a shy person, but they embraced her. It affected her in a most beautiful way.

Me: I know you’re consulting with Constantine Katsifis, owner of the Skylark Diner in Edison and other ambitious diners around the state. What else are you involved in these days?
Shelton: Constantine uses me as a kind of Special Ops guy on serious issues. I go in for 90 days, do triage, implement fixes, take a look at finances, marketing – whatever his needs are. I even consult on issues outside his restaurants. But my highest aspiration is to be a bridge between the worlds of finance the restaurant arts. The Ryland was like the canary in the coal mine: it was not in a big city – it was exurban – and it had no big financial backers. It was ten to fifteen years ahead of the others in having to face the current financial and global issues. We have created a sort of Frankensteinish monetary code in the US – very injurious to the working and middle classes –  that makes any kind of traditional business [harder]. Finance and banking trump all other aspects of business, and the government is failing to resolve current issues of financial trust. There’s an unprecedented need for balance sheet work to be done!

Me: Where is the dining world headed?
Shelton: It’s easier to figure out than you think. Like all the plastic arts, it is constantly evolving. But of all the arts it has the greatest latency factor. Just look at any other art form, what you see on the plate will have come out of that. Sculpture, architecture, music – you can map alongside the resulting aesthetic changes in cuisine. What creates beauty? The mind creates beauty based, I think, on the nature of the universe – god and man. Beauty deals with these things on some level. If you take an art history class you’ll see the changes from, say, William Merritt Chase and Singer Sargent to Basquiat and beyond. You see Rothko on the plate today: a smear painted with a brush. Chefs don’t create ex nihilo, they’re a product of their environment. The current worldview is that we have rejected painterly painting, that you see the effect of modernism everywhere. You see evidences of the changes, not just in painting but in advertising, packaging, signage, etc. But I think you’re going to see a psychological need to draw support from traditional beauty with more frequency.

Me: What does it take to have a successful restaurant these days?
Shelton: The guys who have followed me have done so at a nearly impossible moment in time. Their range of choices is driven by economics, as it has been for 25 years. Like when Jean Georges began to use the secondary cuts of meat – really, it was the only economic choice at the time. Why do you think people are into foraging now? The range of options keeps shrinking. A lot of restaurants are going to go under – 20% or more. Of course, there will always be a few geniuses and a factor of luck, like finding the right business partner. A dining room of ten seats can work; anything more than that may be a liability these days.
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Slow Food Winter Market @ Cherry Grove Farm on Saturday

Cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville

Cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville

At this special holiday market you can, of course, pick up outstanding meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs from these participating farms: Cherry Grove, Cherry Grove Organic, and North Slope. But you can also put a serious dent in your holiday gift list. Personally, these are what I plan to cross off my own:

There will be much more: Organic ghee from Pure Indian Foods, fresh mozzarella and ricotta from Fulper Farms, alpaca wool products from WoodsEdge, Jersey Jams and Jellies, Artisan Tree handmade natural soaps. Plus live music by Bo Child & Anita Harding.

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

I’ll also be purchasing exotic mushrooms from Shibumi Farm to make wild mushroom mac ‘n’ cheese for a holiday dinner party I’m hosting. If you haven’t encountered the spectacular fungi of Alan Kaufman and company, like the lemon oysters, pioppinos, and king oysters show here, you’re missing out on something special.

The Central NJ Slow Food Winter Market runs from 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday, December 15 at Cherry Grove Farm on Route 206 in Lawrenceville. For directions and a full line-up of vendors, click here.

Jonathan Gold’s Cooking Weights & Measures Quiz

I am not going to tell you what I scored on this clever multiple-choice test; it’s embarrassing. Hopefully you’ll do better.