Hungry? (A) Join Me at Lawrenceville’s Premier Tasting Event & (B) Read My Story of 3 Central NJ Restaurants that are 3 Generations Strong

It Really Does Take a Village

Lawrenceville night in the village

In my neck of the woods, Princeton gets all the restaurant glory. But these days I’m enamored of my (new) home base of Lawrenceville. So I was honored when the local non-profit, Lawrenceville Main Street, asked me to be part of its premier annual event, A Night in the Village, which is happening this coming Sunday, October 1st. The weather forecast is for a beautiful fall day and evening, so if you don’t have dinner plans, please meet up with me and a few hundred other locals as we restaurant-hop through 11 outstanding eateries for tastings of food and beer, first at 4:30 and then again at 6:30 pm. All the details here.

We’ll also be reporting live on facebook and twitter during the event!

They’ve Been Going Strong in the Same Location and with the Same Families Behind Them Since the 1930s. Three Restaurants that Have Stood the Test of Time

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What is the magic that allows a restaurant to weather- even thrive despite – economic depressions, world wars, and ever-changing cultural and dining norms? I interviewed the folks behind Conte’s in Princeton, Chick & Nello’s Homestead in Hamilton, and Freddie’s Tavern in Ewing to find out. I guarantee that their answers, here in the September 27 issue of U.S. 1,will surprise you.

AWARD-WINNING CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR WITH A NJ RESTAURANT CONNECTION; MY PICKS FROM THE FANCY FOOD SHOW

Meet Airlie Anderson of Belle Mead

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Airlie Anderson, courtesy New Jersey Monthly

I had known for a while about Airle Anderson’s many awards for writing and illustrating a dozen-plus children’s picture books. But it wasn’t until her best-seller, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends, captivated my then four-month-old granddaughter (keep in mind that this is not a board book for infants) that I decided I needed to know more. That she is married to one of the Garden State’s best restaurant chefs and that the couple’s first child is just turning one only added to my curiosity. I was richly rewarded.

Meet them all here in my profile in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly.

The Winners among the Winners at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

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Meg Barnhart & Jane McKay, founders of The Zen of Slow Cooking

If you’ve been following my work for a long time, you know I’ve been reporting on the Specialty Food Association’s fancy food show for years. I’ve tasted a lot of schlock over that time and seen too many questionable trends come and go. But I can say definitively that this year’s show, held at the end of June at the Javits Center, was impressive. One big departure from the not-so-distant past is that, at least among the show’s award-winners, the emphasis is on natural ingredients – often responsibly sourced – with fresh, bold flavors that rival homemade.

So it was challenging to select the best of the best. After all, there were 154 winning products out of 3,000 entries for the association’s sofi Awards. (In total, the show featured 2,600 exhibitors offering 180,000 products!) Below are my favorites.

LE BON MAGOT EVERYTHING: This line of condiments from Lawrenceville’s own Naomi Mobed garnered an unprecedented 5 sofi awards – in the company’s first year! Read all about Mobed and her terrific products in my profile here in the June issue of the Princeton Echo.

TOMATO ‘NDUJA, CITY SAUCERY: This vegetarian version of Italy’s beloved spicy pork salami spread is made in NY, but with 100% NJ vine-ripened San Marzano tomatoes. I swear, you won’t miss meat – which could by why it took the award for best new condiment.

CAMBODIAN COCONUT PEANUT SAUCE; BEET VINEGAR, WOZZ! KITCHEN CREATIONS: I’ve extolled this company’s products before, and I’m doing it again with these two. The beet vinegar was a total surprise – smooth and not too sweet.

ST. BENOIT ORGANIC MEYER LEMON YOGURT: It’s by the incomparable Laura Chenel’s Chevre company, so ’nuff said. Whole Foods carries the  brand; I hope to find this new flavor there soon.

VERMONT CREAMERY CULTURED BUTTER WITH SEA SALT: This should come with a warning label it’s so good.

GRAETER’S HANDCRAFTED FRENCH POT ICE CREAM: A friend who went to school in Cincinnati introduced me years ago to Graeter’s – that city’s pride – and their signature black raspberry-chocolate chip in particular. It has been available at Wegmans and Whole Foods for a while, and if you haven’t yet tried it you’re in for a real treat.

LA TOURANGELLE ROASTED PISTACHIO OIL: Every bit as wonderful as that sounds. The company rep assures me it lasts in the fridge for up to 18 months. (I’ve had too many expensive nut oils go rancid too quickly, haven’t you?)

JERSEY ITALIAN GRAVY ALFREDO SAUCE: Each of those words – Jersey, Italian Gravy, Alfredo Sauce – struck fear in my heart, but the contents of these refrigerated tubs immediately erased it. It’s authentic and all natural.

THE ZEN OF SLOW COOKING’S SLOW COOKER SPICE BLENDS: I don’t use slow cookers, but my colleague who accompanied me to the show does – and was blown away. The company is also an example of a comforting trend of food businesses making a social impact. The founders, pictured above, help adults with developmental challenges to find employment by training them in “slow” cooking techniques.

BOBBYSUE’S NUTS! NUTS OVER OLIVES: This mix of almonds, cashews, and pecans with roasted black and green olives is salty, spicy, and irresistible. Bobbysue’s is another company with a social conscience: for 15 years it has supported animal welfare in the form of building modern shelters for rescue dogs.

BLACK SESAME SEED TOFFEE BRITTLE, NEO COCOA: A bit misnamed, this is really slabs of 72% dark chocolate with a layer of brown sugar-sea salt toffee and sprinkling of black and toasted white sesame seeds. The combination is a knockout.

CHEEKY CHEEKY CHURRO, CHUAO CHOCOLATIER: Yes! A chocolate bar with a layer of churro from a top-shelf chocolate maker.

GLUTEN-FREE PIE CRUST MIX, CUP4CUP: I tried it only because it’s from Thomas Keller. If I ever need to make a gluten-free pie crust, not only would I use it but I suspect no one would even know.

TOP NOTE INDIAN TONIC WATER: Time to give your gin and tonic a serious upgrade. Add a red grapefruit garnish and you’ll never go back.

Novice NJ Entrepreneur Dominates Specialty Food Awards; Next Major Princeton Restaurant Set to Debut; More

Lawrenceville’s Le Bon Magot Captures 5 Major Awards at Fancy Food Show

 

Naomi Mobed

Naomi Mobed of Le Bon Magot. Courtesy Princeton Echo

I guarantee you haven’t encountered anything like Naomi Mobed’s line of artisanal sweet and savory preserves – marmalades, chutneys, caponata – and that’s saying a lot, considering how over-represented that category of comestibles is these days. Her back story is as interesting as her Le Bon Magot (“Hidden Treasure”) Tomato and White Sultana Chutney with Ginger and Garam Masala, which took gold as Best Condiment at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show. Read my interview here, in the June 2017 issue of the Princeton Echo.

Note: The Summer Fancy Food Show gets underway later this month at the Javits Center in NYC.  Among the awards yet to be bestowed from among hundreds of entries is Product of the Year. I’ll be attending and reporting on the winner, as well as my best finds, so stay tuned.

Owner of Agricola & Dinky Bar/Kitchen Set to Open Brasserie Near McCarter Theatre

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The expected debut is late June for Jim Nawn’s Cargot Brasserie, in the second of two historic train station buildings he has converted into eateries. I report the latest details, straight from the horse’s mouth, here in my June “In the Kitchen” column for the Princeton Echo. Plus, a summer cocktail recipe from expert Dale DeGroff, who came to New Brunswick recently to help celebrate Stage Left’s silver anniversary.

A Personal Note

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The June contributions to the Princeton Echo, above, represent my last regularly scheduled entries. After 20+ years of being fortunate enough to always have several regular food-writing gigs, as well as innumerable ad hoc assignments, I decided to go one step further and transition into what I term “food writer without portfolio,” leaving myself free to pursue stories at whim. This is by no mean the first time I have voluntarily stepped away from a post that many would rightly envy, but each time I have done so it has led to new, exciting developments. I am beyond grateful to my editors, Rich Rein and Dan Aubrey, and to everyone at the Community News family of newspapers for their kindness and understanding.

And know that you’ll still come across my byline in newspapers and magazines around the state and be assured that I’ll continue to post about my food finds and adventures here at dinewithpat.com.

Princeton Farmers Market Gets a New Manager; Korean Fried Chicken Comes to Town; ‘Compost Man’ Wants Your Kitchen Food Waste

Mother’s Day 2017

As I post this, it is Mother’s Day. I want to wish an especially happy day to my daughter, Alice, who is celebrating her first one as a mother. And for all us mothers who have left little ones in the care of their father, here’s something we can really relate to. It was sent recently by Alice’s husband, when he got hungry while in charge. He titled it “sous vide bottle warmer.”

sous vide bottle warmer

Changes at Princeton-area Farmers Markets

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Kate Festa, Manager, Princeton Farmers Market (courtesy the Princeton Echo)

At long last, farmers market season is underway! With it comes changes. Here, in the May 2017 issue of the Princeton Echo, I introduce you to Kate Festa, the 27-year-old dynamo now managing the Princeton Farmers Market. Also included: a line-up of new vendors at this and other Central NJ markets this spring.

Food for Thought: Korean Fried Chicken Comes to Princeton (About Time!) & “Compost Man’ in Mercer & Hunterdon counties

Food for Thought logoIf you’re not already familiar with the other KFC – Korean Fried Chicken – you may want to avail yourself stat. The well-known purveyor, Bon Chon, has been active in New Brunswick for a while. Thankfully, the wonder that is Korean fried chicken has finally debuted in Princeton, at the independently-owned Hobin Chicken. Details on this, and on Kevin Carroll’s ‘Compost Man’ quest to turn the household waste of Mercer and Hunterdon counties into rich compost, here in my FFT column in the May 2017 issue of the Princeton Echo.

The Women Behind 3 Excellent Bakery-Cafes; Best Hiking in NJ; Report on Princeton U Conference on Climate & Food

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SWEET SUCCESS
In U.S. 1‘s spring dining issue I get the stories of three women who have ventured out on their own to start bakery-cafes – with great success: Jen Carson of Lillipies, Joanne Canady-Brown of the Gingered Peach, and Marilyn Besner of WildFlour.
SPRING IS HERE & SO IS THE SCOOP ON THE BEST PLACES FOR HIKING & BIKING IN NJ
NJ Monthly cover April 2017
New Jersey Monthly‘s April issue spotlights, among other things, 34 scenic treks throughout the Garden State. I was pleased to contribute 3 of my own favorites: the vista atop Baldpate Mountain (the highest spot in Mercer County), the quirky Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows, and a portion of the sprawling Sourland Mountain Preserve that’s as atmospheric as it is sparsely trekked.
EXPERTS CONVENE AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY TO DISCUSS “CHANGING CLIMATE, CHANGING APPETITES”
Changing Climate Appetites poster
The one-day conference brought together scholars and experts from universities, the food industry, government policy organizations, and others to discuss sustainability. I recap the proceedings in the April issue of the Princeton Echo, including key takeaways from NJ food professionals in attendance.

Jersey Girls Rule! – Win National & International Awards; Dining Well at 3 Delaware River Beauties

Jim Filip

Jim Filip

But first, a sad farewell to a pioneer of our state’s fine dining scene. In the early 1980s, Jim Filip’s Jersey Shore restaurant, Doris & Ed’s, helped us overcome our status as a fine dining backwater. He passed away on March 7th at the age of 75. Doris & Ed’s was the first in the Garden State to receive a James Beard Award – and that was just one of many accolades. The Highlands restaurant was renowned for its seafood and its perch on Sandy Hook Bay that afforded a spectacular view of the New York Skyline. The restaurant closed permanently after suffering damage from hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

Katie Parla’s “Tasting Rome” Wins Major Cookbook Award

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Katie Parla

Tasting Rome

The West Windsor native’s widely acclaimed Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient Citya lively guide to the vibrant Rome dining scene (with recipes), took home top honors in the travel category earlier this month at the conference of the International Association of Cooking Professionals (IACP). The award went to Parla and the book’s photographer, Kristina Gill. I wrote about Katie Parla’s Jersey roots in my profile here in the Winter 2017 issue of Edible Jersey.

Meet Pam Flory: Award-Winning School Garden Manager and Gardening Instructor at Princeton Day School

Edible Jersey cover spring 2017

Speaking of Edible Jersey, here in the Spring 2017 issue is my profile of Pam Flory. (Clearly, that’s not her on the cover). She’s the energetic powerhouse who has broken new ground – literally and figuratively – in making her school’s garden a national model.

River Crossings: 3 Atmospheric Gems Just Across the Delaware in Pennsylvania

Thanks to the insistent prodding of a good friend, over the last few months I’ve enjoyed meals at these history-laden eateries that are long on both charm and first-rate fare. If you’re not familiar with them, I urge you to check them out.

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Lumberville General Store

Lumberville General Store: It’s across the street from the Black Bass Inn, has the same owner, and, like the Inn, is in a historic stone structure (1770) that radiates charm. But that’s about all the two have in common. In keeping with its original roots, this cafe/deli/bakery maintains casualness and warmth, and its seemingly casual menu belies the kitchen’s care and expertise. At breakfast, for example, the sausage is housemade, the salmon smoked on premises, and the hash browns undergo sous vide in a multi-step process that results in the best I’ve encountered. Here are pics of our breakfast choices, each a mere $7.95.

Scotch Woodcock

Scotch Woodcock: Lumberville General Store

Smoked salmon, scrambled egg, and caper and herb cream cheese on a kaiser roll with hash browns

Hearty Start Biscuit

Hearty Start Biscuit

Lumberville Cafe breakfast sausage with two fried eggs on a buttermilk scallion biscuit with hash browns.

Bowman’s Tavern: The unchanged look of this comfortable spot is resolutely old-timey, but in a good, authentic way. Like the Lumberville General Store, it got new owners (here, in 2013), and an updated menu that utilizes fresh fare from area farms and creameries. The tab is gentle here, too. Among my favorites: a generous helping of big, tender, cornmeal-crusted oysters  with tarragon aioli; roasted lamb sandwich with whipped goat cheese on ciabatta; and crab cake sandwich. (That last is something I adore but am rarely satisfied with.)

Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm: The house and grounds of this beautifully preserved farm were once owned by playwright George S. Kaufman, and is primarily a bed & breakfast. But its stunning dining rooms are open to the public and I particularly recommend the classic brunch served in the glass-encased conservatory on weekends. The setting and the service could not be more gracious, and a three-course $35 prix fixe meal includes a complimentary mimosa, fabulous bread and muffin basket, and coffee or tea. The menu boasts an array of choices  – some traditional, some modern – for starter, entree, and dessert. Our happy picks included maple-glazed pork belly with grits and a poached egg and avocado and oven-roasted tomato toast with an egg (sunny side up), ricotta, and baby field greens.

(Visit the websites not only for complete menus, but for gorgeous pics.)

 

 

 

Chefs Team Up with Griggstown Farm; Mistral Opens in King of Prussia; Where to Dine on Excellent Ramen & Breast of Veal, Finding Nectar on a Human Scale

Talk about a mixed bag! Today’s post runs the gamut from coq au vin and crispy pork riblets to authentic ramen and hard-to-come-by Italian-style breast of veal. Oh yes: and how you can experience collecting nectar like a bee.

Inaugural Video of Griggstown Farm Chicken Channel Features Chef Chris Albrecht of the Ryland Inn

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Coq au Vin, Griggstown Chicken Channel

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Chris Albrecht & George Rude, Sr., Griggstown Chicken Channel

 

 

 

 

 

The folks who raise Griggstown’s chickens and other premium, all-natural birds have launched a YouTube channel that has New Jersey’s top chefs demonstrating how to put those birds to excellent use, and pairs each video with related special offers. I sat in on the first taping and got the behind-the-scenes scoop while Albrecht demonstrated making coq au vin. My full report here, in the March issue of The Princeton Echo.

A Second Mistral Opens in Newly Expanded King of Prussia Mall

The folks behind Princeton’s popular Elements and Mistral restaurants – Steve Distler & Scott Anderson – opened their second Mistral on March 1st, across the river in Pennsylvania. As I reported a  few months back, chef de cuisine for this newly constructed space is Craig Polignano, who left the Ryland Inn (and moved to Conshohoken) to take the post.

The bright and airy restaurant is larger than its older sibling – 111 seats inside and  48 outside – but just as stylish, although with a different aesthetic, dominated by pale, whitewashed wood tones accented with bright azure.

Below are highlights from my first meal there. Three of us shared seven dishes, each so impressive that it was hard to pick favorites. The menu structure is mostly small plates (like its Princeton forebear), but the selections are unique to KOP. If you go: locating the restaurant is tricky. It’s next to Nieman Marcus. Look for the sign for Grand Lux Cafe – Mistral is below.

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Pork Riblets w/scallion pancake, shiitake, English cucumber – Mistral KOP

Cavatelli

Ricotta Cavatelli w/roasted squash, capers, pecorino tartufo, & yolk – Mistral KOP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon

Olive Oil-Poached Organic Salmon w/onion, baby beet, mustard, buttermilk – Mistral KOP

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Food for Thought column in March’s Princeton Echo is chock-full of happy finds, including:
A don’t-miss, 3-course ramen meal prepared by an expert is coming up for one night only inside Princeton’s Nomad Pizza restaurant. Here are pics from a previous one:

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Frank Caponi’s Mushroom Ramen

 

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Frank Caponi’s Chasu Ramen

 

 

 

 

 


A Central Jersey Italian restaurant offering roast breast of veal that beats my own mother’s version. Here’s a pic from the meal that won me over:

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Breast of Veal, Chick & Nello’s Homestead Inn

Think you know all about how bees gather nectar? I guarantee you’ll be gobsmacked by what you didn’t know at this small but captivating display in Ewing at The College of New Jersey.

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Jessica Rath, Resonant Nest, Photo by Brian Forest

All details here.

 

Katie Parla’s NJ Roots; More PJ’s Pancake Houses; Trenton’s New NOLA-Style Breakfast Spot; More

Please accept this post in the spirit it is offered: as a short respite from the craziness going on all around us. 

Edible Jersey’s Annual Travel Issue Features Katie Parla

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By now you’ve probably heard of Katie Parla, author of the acclaimed book, Tasting Rome, and whom Mario Batali considers “an expert on all things Rome.” Parla talks about her Jersey roots and future plans in my story in the  Winter 2017 issue of Edible Jersey, here.

Kingston’s Main Street Bakery Morphs into PJ’s Pancake House

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Gretalia Hospital Group: Tino Procaccini, Zissis (“Z”) Pappas, John Procaccini

All the Main Street properties – this bakery/cafe, the bistro in the Princeton Shopping Center, the commissary in Rocky Hill – were bought out late in 2015 by the folks behind Agricola in Princeton. But since then, this modest bakery/cafe that had anchored the tiny hamlet of Kingston since 1984 changed hands again. In March, it will reopen – newly refurbished and expanded – as a PJ’s Pancake House, the third (but not last) iteration of the iconic Nassau Street eatery. Get the scoop on this and the growing stable of eateries from the Gretalia Hospitality Group via my feature story here, in the February issue of the Princeton Echo.

February’s ‘Food for Thought’ Column

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  • Downtown Trenton finally gets a great breakfast spot (and lunch, too). Hot beignets and coffee with chicory are just two of the New Orleans-style offerings from chef/owner Bert Dumas of Studio B Bakery & Bistro across from the Sun Center.
  • Just in time for Valentine’s Day: 2 romantic restaurant tales from the staffs at Princeton area restaurants.
  • A passel of new and forthcoming restaurants in and around Central NJ.

Details here.

 

See You on the Radio;NOFA-NJ Winter Conference; Tiffin Service; Drunk History; Italian Dried Pasta Recommendation

Listen in to Sergeantsville’s WDVR on Monday, 1/9

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I will be co-hosting “Let’s Talk” with my friend Walt Haake from 3 to 5 pm. We’ll be discussing restaurants and dining in Hunterdon and Bucks counties, food and dining trends for 2017, and myriad other food-related topics.

Joining us are those inimitable Canal House Cooking gals, Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hersheimer, who host the “Canal House Cooking Hour” on WDVR each Wednesday at 4 pm.

For me, it’s a blast from the past, bringing me back to my radio years hosting “Dining Today” in the Princeton area. WDVR can be streamed live or listened to on 89.7 FM in Bucks & Hunterdon, 96.9 FM in Trenton/Princeton, and is simulcast over WPNJ 90.5 in Easton, PA. Please join us!

Calling all NJ Organic Home Gardeners & Farmers Market Aficionados

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The 27th annual conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) is taking place at Rutgers New Brunswick on Saturday & Sunday, January 28 & 29. Many of the scheduled expert speakers and 25+ workshops address cutting-edge issues of concern to home gardeners, cooks, and CSA members. Among them:

  • No-till vegetable gardening
  • Uncommon fruits for every garden
  • The past, present, and future of CSAs
  • Fermentation
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Elizabeth Henderson will speak on the past, present, and future of CSAs

Among the presenters is Elizabeth Henderson, who founded one of the nation’s first CSAs almost three decades ago. She will speak on a subject near and dear to my heart: food justice for farmers, farm workers, and consumers. Read my preview interview with Ms. Henderson here in the January issue of The Princeton Echo.

For cost and registration details, click here.

January’s Wide-Ranging Food for Thought Column: Tiffins, Food History on TV, Traditional Dried Italian Pasta from an Historic VillageFood for Thought logoMy Tiffin Express is a Plainsboro-based business that delivers home-style Indian meals daily to 6 pick-up locations around the area. I tried it and report on the results.

Much to my astonishment, I am recommending you tune in to the Comedy Central show, Drunk History, which is as informative as it is amusing. Find out why. Hint: artichoke wars and the great molasses flood.

I was tickled to read the story in the 1/4/17 New York Times about the resurgence of Italian dried pastas made with 100% Italian durum wheat, which appeared after I shared a recommendation for exactly that from none other than Rome food expert – and Jersey girl – Katie Parla. (p.s.: Look for my profile of Parla in the winter 2017 issue of Edible Jersey, which should hit the streets any day now.)

Specifics on all the above, here in the January 2017 Princeton Echo.

 

 

 

Catching Up: Fresh Local Pasta; Fresh Local Rice; Chefs with Non-Culinary Sidelines; New BBQ in Lambertville; Foodie Gift Idea for New Parents; More

t has been 2 months since I last posted here. One reason for this lapse is personal: lots of wonderful major life events, including welcoming my first grandchild and gaining a second wonderful son-in-law. The other is global: trying to regain my balance since the election, which I consider an unmitigated disaster. (This is a blog about food and dining, not politics. But I won’t be offended if you want to stop following it because of the preceding statement. In fact, if you voted for the incoming administration, I wish you would unfollow me.)

Here are the stories – some among my all-time favorites to write – that appeared in the interim:

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1. My profile of the Zeck brothers and their fresh, inventive, all-natural LoRe pastas made with local ingredients – including grains. This story made the cover of the current (i.e. holiday 2016) issue of Edible Jersey

2. My interview with Jim Lyons about the rice varieties he grows on his Pennington farm, Blue Moon Acres, which was my November feature story in the Princeton Echo

3. I followed that up in the December Echo by having 3 Princeton-area chefs tell, in their own words, about the passions they enjoy outside the kitchen: Crawford Koeniger (auto engine rebuilding), Dennis Foy (well-respected fine artist), and  Max Hansen (hand-turned wooden spoons and spatulas; photo below).

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Max Hansen, courtesy the Princeton Echo

Food for Thought logoAmong the tidbits in my “Food For Thought” column over the last months:

  • More Than Q, the popular outlet for Texas-style barbecue, closed up shop at the Stockton Market and opened up in Lambertville
  • NJ resident and blogger Leena Saini has produced a beautiful and eminently useful book for introducing babies to a world of flavors. Read all about Around the World in 80 Purees here. (Scroll down)
  • New ventures for Shibumi Mushrooms, and musical chefs’ chairs: Chris Albrecht takes over the kitchen at the Ryland Inn, while Craig Polignano leaves that post to become the opening chef at the forthcoming Mistral II in King of Prussia, PA. Details on both here.