Category Archives: Events

I’m on a Roll! 3 National Publications in the Last 3 Weeks

Latest honor: A story I wrote for Edible Jersey is nominated for an EDDY – the annual awards of 90 Edible Communities magazines!

A profile from last spring of the First Ladies of the Chalfonte in Cape May is one of 5 nominees in the Best Chef Profile category. I would be so honored if you would vote for it! You can vote once a day every day through June 8th. Read the stories and vote by clicking HERE.

Dot Thompson & Lucille Burton. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

Dot Thompson & Lucille Burton. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

I am so grateful to Nancy Painter and the folks at EJ for submitting the story, and to the EDDY Award judges who nominated it. There are nearly 90 Edible publications across the U.S. and Canada. Over 50 of them entered more than 600 pieces of editorial work into 21 categories this year, and, Painter tells me, the chefs category had one of the largest # of entries! Industry judges narrowed the field down to the 5 final nominees.

Another Edible Jersey story has been picked up by another North American publication & entity

Suzanne Cunningham & Kindergartners, Princeton Waldorf School

Suzanne Cunningham & kindergarteners, Princeton Waldorf School

My story-memoir about the gardening curriculum past and present at the Waldorf School of Princeton that appeared earlier this year is included here in “Waldorf Today,” a weekly continental newsletter. (Scroll down for it.) AWSNA – the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America – also picked it up and shared on social media.

Then there is my contribution to Travel + Leisure…

Elements' Bison Tartare

Elements’ Bison Tartare

…about the best farm-to-table restaurants in NJ. In case you missed it, I named Elements in Princeton tops among several. You can check it out here.

New Supper Club Series; Fish Buying Conundrum; Restaurant News

SUPPER CLUB @ REFURBISHED CEDAR GARDENS TO HOLD BEARD HOUSE-STYLE DINNERS

The family behind Buy-Rite Wines & Liquor recently purchased and renovated the venerable Cedar Gardens in Hamilton, and they are mounting ongoing guest-chef dinners in one of the smaller, more intimate rooms. The first is happening this Thursday, May 12th, with guest chefs from Trenton Social, which suffered a devastating fire very recently. Check out the menu below, especially the first course which is an homage to pork roll/Taylor ham. Since time is of the essence – reservations are requested by noon on Monday, May 9th – I’m posting the press release just as I received it.

Cedar Gardens

Cedar Gardens

Trenton Social Brings ‘Road Show’ to Buy-Rite’s Supper Club at Cedar Gardens  

HAMILTON – Trenton Social’s owner T.C. Nelson, his chef Byron DeLeon and their staff will headline a special wine dinner starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening, May 12, at Buy-Rite’s new Supper Club at Cedar Gardens, here.
Last Sunday morning, a car crashed into Trenton Social, causing extensive damage and temporarily shuttering the popular restaurant.  That hasn’t stopped Nelson and DeLeon’s culinary creativity, however.
With the acclaimed Loire Valley winemaker Clement Berthier coming to the area for one night, Nelson and the Buy-Rite team behind the Supper Club knocked heads and came up with a plan to both show support for the Trenton Social community and welcome, in proper style, one of the great vintners in France.
Nelson and DeLeon will present a four-course menu to pair with five of Berthier’s wines. The price, including all food, wines, taxes and tip, is $80 per person. The dinner is open to the public; seating is limited and reservations are required.

The Loire Meets the Delaware; Berthier Wines, Trenton Social Cuisine

1st course: Pork Roll Tribute: Pork Roll Spring Roll; Pork Roll ‘Nita
2015 Clement et Florian Berthier Sancerre Rose

2nd course: Crab Mousse with Caviar and English Cucumber
2014 Clement et Florian Berthier Coteaux du Giennois Blanc
2014 Clement et Florian Berthier Pouilly Fume

3rd course: Blackened Salmon with Mango-Roasted Red Pepper-Cucumber Salsa; Truffled-Sea Salt Fries and Seasonal Vegetables
2014 Clement et Florian Berthier Coteaux du Giennois Rouge
2014 Clement et Florian Berthier Coteaux du Giennois L’Inedit

4th course: Key Lime Tart

The Supper Club is located within the Buy-Rite/Cedar Gardens facility at 661 Route 33 in Hamilton.,Reservations must be made by noon Monday, May 9. To reserve, please call 609-931-9463 and ask for Chris, or visit www.squareup.com/store/cedargardensupperclub and link to Supper Club events.

BUYING FISH & SEAFOOD: SLIPPERY AS AN EEL

Saidur Rehman, McCaffrey's Lead Seafood Dept. Manager

Saidur Rehman, McCaffrey’s Lead Seafood Dept. Manager

I confess my personal struggles and report on others’ recommendations here, in the May issue of The Princeton Echo.

MORE RENOVATIONS AT THE ALCHEMIST & BARRISTER; HOAGIE HAVEN BOTTLES A CULT SAUCE; McCAFFREY’S MARKETS GROWS TO 6 STORES

Food for Thought logoThere are now 76 beer taps at the A&B in Princeton, plus improved open-air dining in its beloved rear pub. Hoagie Haven has its own cult followers (among them, Jon Stewart), and so does one of its proprietary sauces, now available bottled, online and in stores. Family-owned McCaffrey’s is expanding from 4 to 6 stores in central NJ & nearby PA. Get the details here, in my “Food for Thought” column in May’s Princeton Echo.

Highly Recommended: Free Weekend @ The Morgan; Waldorf School Gardening

Morgan Library & Museum, a Treasure Anytime, Offering Free Visits & Events in April

Morgan Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

Back in the ’70s I worked just steps from what was then called the Morgan Library: the Gilded Age brownstone of industrialist Pierpont Morgan at Madison & 36th. I knew it was open to the public and that it held treasures, but I never stopped in. It took me until this past summer to rectify that major oversight, and I was simply blown away.

Morgan Museum & Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Museum & Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

What finally nudged me into action was a particular exhibition (Alice in Wonderland, now past) and taking advantage of Restaurant Week to dine in what had been the Pierpont family dining room. Details on that visit follow below, but what you should know is that in celebration of the 10th anniversary of a highly successful modern expansion that has doubled its annual attendance, the Morgan – now the Morgan Library & Museum – is opening its doors for a free weekend mid-April.

Normally $18 for adults and $12 for children, seniors, and students (and well worth it), everyone enters free from 7 pm on Friday, April 15 through 5:30 pm closing on Sunday, April 17.  In addition to 4 exhibitions on view (including one on Warhol and another on Richard Wagner’s “Ring”), there will be live classical and jazz music and a Spring Family Fair on Sunday. For me, though, the brownstone itself is the masterpiece.

Morgan Library Ceiling. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Library Ceiling. Photo by Pat Tanner

The Morgan has 2 dining options: this cafe in the Renzo Piano-designed space, now 10 years old:

Morgan Museum Addition. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Museum Addition. Photo by Pat Tanner

(Sadly, the striking colored squares shown were a temporary installation.)

The other option is the dining room, where I ate, which is open for lunch and brunch and for which reservations are necessary. The menu changes seasonally, and for the April free weekend will offer special cocktails and dishes inspired by the current exhibitions and anniversary.  Here are highlights of the Restaurant Week meal I and a friend enjoyed last August:

Morgan Red & Yellow Beet Salad w/Goat Cheese, Citrus, & Pistachios

Morgan Red & Yellow Beet Salad w/Goat Cheese, Citrus, & Pistachios

 

Morgan Chicken Paillard w/Haricots Verts, Fingerlings, Tomato, Frisee, Lemon

Morgan Chicken Paillard w/Haricots Verts, Fingerlings, Tomato, Frisee, Lemon

Morgan Grilled Shrimp w/Butter Lettuce, Pickled Mango, Avocado, Toasted Almonds, Cucumber Yogurt

Morgan Grilled Shrimp w/Butter Lettuce, Pickled Mango, Avocado, Toasted Almonds, Cucumber Yogurt

For a complete list of anniversary weekend activities, check out this press release at www.themorgan.org. If crowds are not your thing, I encourage you to visit this hidden-in-plain-sight NYC masterpiece anytime.

Waldorf School Gardening Class, Past & Present

Edible Jersey Spring 2016In the spring 2016 issue of Edible Jersey I write about the experiences of my own children and their classmates at the Princeton Waldorf school back in the 1980s and 90s – including a landmark visit by Alice Waters – and interview the school’s current gardening teacher, Suzanne Cunningham to see what has changed. (In a nutshell: a lot! No more handing full-sized scythes to third graders and letting them loose in a field.) Story starts on page 19.

Suzanne Cunningham & Kindergartners, Princeton Waldorf School

Suzanne Cunningham & kindergarteners,           Waldorf School of Princeton

Please take a moment to read it, and then come back here to make sense of this, my very personal post-script:

I find it interesting that the design and building of the sitting garden is Lemmo’s fondest memory. He went on to earn a degree in architecture from Rice University, and recently founded his own firm, LA-N-D (Lemmo Architecture and Design) in Austin, TX. He may or may not see a correlation there, but I do. Likewise with Elizabeth, whose imagination once had her thinking she was working with magic potions. After earning a Ph.D. in genetics from Stanford University, she is conducting postdoctoral work in virology at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, with a goal of developing vaccines for rapidly evolving pathogens such as HIV. Alice, who has arguably fewer happy memories of Waldorf gardening, nevertheless finds herself digging these days, as director of sales operations for Clarabridge, a data-mining consultant firm in Virginia.

waldorf plowing

 

Photographing Food Makes It Taste Better. Whaaa?; 12 Farms Benefit Dinner; Nomad Pizza in Princeton

Instragramming = More Yum?

Photo: Konstantin Trubavin/Corbis, on nymag.com

Photo: Konstantin Trubavin/Corbis, on nymag.com

My friend Joel Burkam, a psychologist, recently sent me an article that concludes: “The act of taking a picture before eating — including all of the natural-light seeking and angle tweaking that goes into it — can actually make food taste better.”

What the heck?? Get the scientifically proven facts, here in  The Scientific Case for Instagramming Your Food, from NY Magazine‘s column, “The Science of Us.”

Burkam explained it to me thus: “It’s simple Pavlovian conditioning! The visual representation provokes autonomic responses within the body associated with the previous memories/tastes attached to the item. Perceived as desire/passion, etc.which winds up enhancing the taste.”

Hightstown’s 12 Farms Restaurant Donating Pay-What-You-Will Benefit Dinner

12farms.com

12farms.com

I love when two personal favorites join together for a good cause. On Friday, March 18th my favorite Hightstown restaurant, 12 Farms, is preparing and donating a 3-course meal at One Table Cafe, a monthly pop-up run by the folks at Trinity Church in Princeton. (I’ve written about their annual St. Nicholas bazaar.) All are welcome to this “donate what you can” dinner, with net proceeds going to 4 causes: Mercer Street Friends, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Bread for the World, and Episcopal Relief & Development.

The dinner commences at 6:30 and in honor of Women’s History Month, will feature these guest speakers:
– Judith Donohue Hutton, CEO, YWCA Princeton
– Dr. Cecelia B. Hodges and the Witherspoon/People’s Verse Speaking Choir

Dress is casual, children are welcome, and reservations are a must and should be made by Tuesday, March 15. Phone 609.924.2277, ext. 352. For more info on the cafe, visit onetablecafe.org.

Nomad Pizza Opening in Princeton

If you who follow me on facebook and twitter you already know that owner Tom Grim is bringing his popular wood-fired pizza to the Princeton Shopping Center this spring. This will be the fourth Nomad, with two in Philly and the original in Hopewell. Get all the details in my interview with Grim in the March issue of the Princeton Echo.  

March: An Entire Month for Doing Good While Dining Out

With culinary fundraisers of every stripe happening all over the state this month, you and I have no excuse not to participate. If attending a gala isn’t your thing, there are many other fun and meaningful ways to support everything from cooking school scholarships to tackling a disease so rare it affects only 600 Americans – including a Princeton teen. Here’s the rundown.

(Update: It’s too late for this deal, but you can always contribute to the cause) February 28: Turning Point Restaurants’ Fundraiser for the Kortney Rose Foundation 

Turning Point fundraiserWhat: From 8 am to 3 pm, donate a minimum of $25 to the Kortney Rose Foundation at any of the 11 restaurants in this privately owned group of casual breakfast, brunch, & lunch restaurants and receive a Turning Point gift card good for two entrees to be used anytime in the future.
Where: Brick, Cherry Hill, Hoboken, Holmdel, Little Silver, Long Branch, Manalapan, Marlton, Princeton, Sea Girt, Westfield
Why: Named in memory of a 9-year old Oceanport girl who died from a brain tumor in 2006, this foundation has donated more than $1,200,000 to the pediatric brain tumor research program at CHOP.
For more info: theturningpoint.biz; thekortneyrosefoundation.org

March 5 thru 13: Hopewell Valley Restaurant Week

Hopewell Valley Restaurant Week 2016What: Take advantage of specially priced 2- and 3-course menus at 21 popular eateries, including a $25 3-course special in the bar at super-hot Brick Farm Tavern. Plus similar deals at, for example, Blue Bottle and Brothers Moon – and that doesn’t even cover the “B’s” on the list!
Where: Hopewell Borough & Township and Pennington
Why:
While enjoying your special restaurant week deals, you can leave a donation in envelopes for FISH, Hopewell Valley’s own meals on wheels program that’s subsidized and includes meals made by Pennington Quality Market.
For more info: eatinhopewell.com; hopewelltwsp.org/FISH.pdf

March 14 thru 20: Caffe Galleria in Lambertville Honoring the Memory of Founder Dawn Raia

Dawn Raia, Caffe Galleria, Lambertville

Dawn Raia, Caffe Galleria, Lambertville

What: 10% of all checks during this week will be donated to 3 organizations: Animal Alliance, Fisherman’s Mark, & Lambertville Animal Welfare
Where:
Caffe Galleria
Why:
Ms. Raia, a beloved local figure, passed away from cancer 2 years ago. This is a tribute to her spirit and the causes dear to her heart.
For more info:
caffegalleria.com; animalalliancenj.org, fishermansmark.org, lambertvilleanimalwelfare.org

March 14: 3rd Annual Joe Romanowski Culinary Education Foundation (JOCEF) Gala

JOCEF CHEFSWhat: “Recipe for Success” Gala featuring tastings from 25+ Shore eateries, among them Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, Mumfords Culinary Center, & Sickle’s Market. Auction items include vacations, dinner for 8 at Salt Creek Grille in Rumson, and a $400 voucher for cocktails and limo service
Where:
Navesink Country Club, Red Bank
Why:
Funds raised are used for scholarships for students of the Culinary Education Center, a collaboration between Brookdale Community College and the Monmouth County Vocational School District. JOCEF was established in memory of Joseph Romanowski, chef/owner of acclaimed and fondly remembered restaurants Joe & Maggie’s and Bay Avenue Trattoria. In its first 2 years, the fund awarded more than $40,000 in scholarships.
For tickets, which start at $105, & more info:
culinaryjoe.org

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day Celebration & Long Beard Contest

Alchemist and Barrister Saint Paddys DayWhat: Irish fare, bagpiper, music and step dancing, plus the 36th edition of the for-charity beard contest. Prizes for the longest, handsomest, ugliest, and most innovative beards. 
Where:
Alchemist & Barrister, Princeton
Why:
This year’s party will benefit Derek’s Dreams, named for Derek DeGregorio, a Princeton High senior who suffers from ataxia telangiectasia, to expand research on this very rare disease.
For more info: Fare & Irish libations available all day. Starting at 5 pm, a $5 entrance fee for the other festivities. The A&B has set up a GoFundMe page for direct contributions to Derek’s Dreams: gofundme.com/theaandb. Restaurant: theaandb.com

March 24: Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala

What: Tastings from about 40 Shore-area restaurants, a dessert “extravaganza,” dancing to live music, a 50/50 raffle, etc.
Where:
Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, Atlantic City
Why:
This annual event has raised $3 million since 1984 for student scholarships at the Academy of Culinary Arts, Atlantic Cape
For more info:
Tickets, $225 per person, can be ordered via atlantic.edu/gala

HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen Helping Families Become Self-Sufficient;Yet More Restaurants Opening in Princeton; Making Perfect Porchetta

Long-time Princeton Caterer & Cooking Instructor Teaches Homeless Adults and Children in New State-of-the-Art Kitchen

Christina Crawford’s Wooden Spoon Catering Company was Princeton staple for 15 years. After that, she taught children and adults at the culinary center inside Princeton’s Whole Food. But now that she’s heading up HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen in Ewing, she told me, “This job is a thousand times better than anything I could have thought about doing.” Find out why, here in my profile in the February issue of The Princeton Echo.

Christina Crawford & Students

Christina Crawford & Students

February Food for Thought: 3 More New Eateries Coming to Downtown Princeton; Dining Deal at the Peacock Inn; Mediterranean Farm-to-Table Dinners at Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Chef Nikiforos Vaimakis, courtesy Infini-T Cafe Princeton

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Chef Nikiforos Vaimakis (courtesy Infini-T Cafe Princeton)

Gosh, how I love having the central part of our state as my base of operations. One prime example: this February Echo column that’s chock-full of exciting developments. Details on: Jules Thin Crust Pizza, Marhaba, Kung Fu Tea & Noodle House, a new Osteria Procaccini outpost, $49 to dine at the Peacock Inn, $70 for a 5-course meal with wines in Hopewell. My, oh my.

Picture Perfect Porchetta

For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted to attempt porchetta for Christmas this past year. It turned out to be a showstopper (my family took to calling it the Meat Log), and it would make an impressive centerpiece for any winter dinner party.

My porchetta

My porchetta

Now, I’m not going to tell you that forming a jelly roll out of thick slabs of meat and fat is easy, but it’s worth the effort. I followed this Martha Stewart recipe and video for Porchetta with Salsa Verde, using wonderful boneless pork loin and pork belly from Double Brook Farm (which I had pre-ordered from butcher Cole Dougherty at Brick Farm Market).

You know you're onto something when your canine guest plants himself outside the kitchen

You know you’re onto something when your canine guest plants himself outside the kitchen and won’t budge

The stuffing of fresh Mediterranean herbs and garlic featured exceptionally fragrant fennel pollen from Princeton’s Savory Spice Shop. And added bonus was that for days afterwards we enjoyed leftovers of porchetta sandwiches on Terra Momo Bread focaccia.

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.

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 lighthorsetavern.com)

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 www.first-field.com where it’s $8.99 for a 10-ounce jar.

PRINCETON, OFF THE BEATEN PATH; WINE EVENTS GALORE; A UNIQUE DINING CONCEPT

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," www.phaidon.com

Corey Lee, “Benu Cookbook,” www.phaidon.com

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?