Category Archives: Restaurants

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.

Fireplace

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.

Maitake

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.

 

Birthing a NJ Vineyard; Jim Nawn on His Newest Princeton Resto; Finds Galore – Fancy Food Show, Hidden Montgomery Gem, and 2 Gorgeous Event Venues

Have you fantasized about starting your own vineyard & winery? Here’s one couple’s story

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In some ways, Beverly Tepper and Mark Pausch of Rocky Hill are typical of couples who take the plunge. But they do have a unique advantage: both are accomplished scientists in fields that apply to winemaking, specifically taste sensation (her) and yeast fermentation (him). My story about their journey and nascent Monmouth County vineyard, here in the Fall 2016 issue of Edible Jersey.

First came Agricola & Great Road Farm. Then the buyout of Main Street Cafe, Bistro, & Commissary. Just debuted is Dinky Bar & Kitchen in Princeton’s new Arts & Transit neighborhood. Next…

 

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Dinky Bar Interior, Courtesy Princeton Echo

There is a next, as restaurateur Jim Nawn reveals in my far-ranging conversation with him about his new and future projects here in the September issue of the Princeton Echo.

Food News: Winning Finds from the Fancy Food Show, Excellent From-Scratch Middle Eastern Fare in a Hidden Location, High-end Caterer at Lakeside and Farmside Locations

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Details on all these in my “Food for Thought” column in the same September Echo issue, here.

 

Princeton’s One-and-Only Ivy Inn; Gourmet Hot Dogs in Lawrenceville; Excellent Lunch in Lambertville

Ivy Inn Princeton Echo

Ivy Inn, courtesy the Princeton Echo

Out-of-towners are always surprised to learn there’s something akin to a dive bar in toney Princeton. Even more remarkable, the place draws regulars from every economic, educational, and social strata in the area. On Saturday, August 6th, the Ivy Inn celebrated its 50th anniversary. Leading up to that I polled townies, visitors, and the Ivy’s owner, Richey Ryan, about its unique and lasting appeal. Here, in the August issue of The Princeton Echo.

Princeton University Eating Club Spawns Gourmet Hot Dog Eatery (Plus: NJ’s Own Hard Apple Cider Debuts and Jammin’ Crepes Readies Its First Truck)

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Tower Dogs, a casual eatery that opened in Lawrenceville in June, is a collaboration between the Tower Club’s longtime chef and a club board member. Chef Jim Forkel spent years perfecting his now-proprietary hot dog recipe, which is the star of a full-blown menu of gourmet dogs. Details here, in my “Food for Thought” column in that same August issue of The Princeton Echo. (Along with info on Ironbound Cider, named for the Newark neighborhood not far from where its NJ-grown apples are turned into hard cider, and on The Flying Crepeze, the truck that will start dispensing Jammin’ Crepes’ popular wares in the coming weeks.)

Annie’s Gourmet-to-Go: A Pleasant Surprise in Lambertville

I must thank food writer Susan S. Yeske for introducing me to Annie’s, where we shared a terrific lunch recently. Back in 2013 owner and chef Debra Caucci took over the spot on North Union Street that had been Ennis’ Market and named it after her mother. She serves fresh, from-scratch, generously portioned breakfast and lunch fare, both for eating-in and taking-out.

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Porchetta Sandwich, Annie’s Gourmet-to-Go, Lambertville. Photo courtesy www.anniesnj.com

I was won over by her Sicilian porchetta sandwich of pan-roasted, properly herbed (and garlicked) pork, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on a warm, crisped ciabatta roll. For a side dish I chose m macaroni salad – made with small pasta shells, if I recall correctly – that took me back to my grandmother’s own. Not realizing the sandwich came with its own side, Susan and I had also ordered a wedge salad to share, and that, too, was fresh, generous, and perfected executed. (The menu board shown above isn’t quite up to date; among other things, a number of salads have been added.)

Annie’s is open everyday but Tuesday, with different hours on weekdays and weekends.

Kitchen Twins in Edible Jersey; Princeton Carillon in NJ Monthly; Masala Grill Farewell in Princeton Echo

You watched them on “Chopped Junior” and “Rachael Ray”…

Kitchen Twins

Photo by Andrew Wilkinson, Courtesy of Edible Jersey

…and you may have purchased their most successful product: Kitchen Twins shake-and-bake kale chips, available at 300+ markets nationwide. Now get to know Lawrenceville’s 12-year-old dynamic duo, Emily & Lyla Allen (above), who I profile here in the High Summer issue of Edible Jersey.

I admit it: before I watched and heard Princeton University’s carilloneur, Lisa Lonie play, I didn’t even know the difference between church bells and carillons

Lisa Lonie NJ Monthly

Photo by Robert Yaskovic, Courtesy of New Jersey Monthly

Turns out that not only do carillons make beautiful music, but everything about them is fascinating. Including Princeton’s 67 cast-bronze bells (the fifth largest carillon in the world) and Lonie herself –  Princeton’s first female carilloneur and a repository of carillon knowledge. (Two examples: Philip Glass has composed for the carillon, and not all that long ago, Lonie would have been termed a carilloneuse.) With Princeton’s summer carillon festival underway through August, now’s the time to read my profile here, in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly.

After 20 years, Masala Grill says goodbye – and thanks – with a blowout open house

Owner Suchitra Patel didn’t want to leave the modest Chambers Street space she had leased in Princeton for two decades, but when the time came she knew exactly how to thank her many loyal fans. Two-hundred people showed up on the final day. Here’s my report – and where to find her food now – in the July installment of Food for Thought in the Princeton Echo.

Update on EDDY Awards: My Story Won 2 Awards! Plus: LoRe Pasta, Barrio Costero, Upcoming Writers Panel

“First Ladies of Cape May” Takes Readers’ Choice AND Critics’ Choice Awards for 2016!

First Ladies of Cape May

Dot Burton & Lucille Thompson. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

Thank you to everyone who voted for my story, which appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Edible Jersey and which was one of 5 nominees in the Best Chef Feature for this annual award sponsored by Edible Communities. Many of you voted every day – I am beyond touched. And thank you to the 50 food world superstars who served as judges.There were over 600 submissions in all categories, and Edible Jersey’s publisher, Nancy Painter, tells me that the Chefs category was among the most highly submitted. I’m so flattered.

Here’s the official announcement from http://www.ediblejersey.com:

Congratulations to Edible Jersey writer Pat Tanner and photographer Aleksey Moryakov on winning both critics’ choice and readers’ choice awards in the 2016 EDDY competition for Best Feature Chef article. (And thanks to all of you who voted!) Click here to read the winning story about “The First Ladies of Cape May,” two sisters working at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May for generations.

My only regret is that the elder of these wonderful women, Dot Burton, passed away shortly before my story was published. But Dot’s sister, Lucille Thompson, was back when the hotel reopened the next season, along with Dot’s daughter, Tina. So the family legacy continues.

NJ’s Newest Fresh Pasta Company: How Local Can You Go?

LoRe Pasta brothers

Richard & Mario Zeck, courtesy the Princeton Echo

For brothers Mario & Richard Zeck of LoRe Pasta in South Brunswick, the answer includes fresh-milled whole grains from two local granaries, eggs from a newly hatched poultry farm in Hillsborough, and cheeses – including ricotta impastata – from Flemington’s Fulper Farms. The result isn’t cheap, but it is remarkable. The details, here, in my July feature in the Princeton Echo.

First Look: Barrio Costero, Asbury Park

In a previous post I wrote about the many Princeton restaurant alumni who have found their way to Barrio Costero, a hip new restaurant with a modern take on Coastal Mexican cuisine and inventive cocktails to match. Here’s a closer look at my first tastes there. You’ll have to bear with me: the house cocktails by Jamie Dodge were so good that my photographic skills rapidly deteriorated.

Chico 2

See what I mean about the cocktails? Above is the Chico: gin, zucca amaro, creme de mure (blackberries), sugar, lemon, tiki bitters, and pink peppercorn salt. Gorgeous, balanced, and irresistible.

Aztec Rabbit Logo

Here’s the restaurant’s logo – an Aztec rabbit – atop a Hotel Nacional: dark rum, pineapple, lime, apricot liqueur, and bitters. I resisted trying this concoction at first, thinking it would be sticky-sweet. Silly me.

Scallop and Hummus

Small plates with big flavors complement the cocktails, wines, and beers beautifully. Above is beet hummus (much tastier than you’re supposing) on corn chips and nicely seared scallop Yucatan (with pineapple, jalapeno, and white beans).

Chicken Adobo Roulade w Quinoa

Above is chicken adobo roulade with quinoa, one of the surprise hits of the evening. Vying for top tastes were pork belly with pineapple, pickled onion, and orange rub and lamb tacos with cactus. Too hard to pick a winner!

Congratulations to everyone at Barrio Costero, especially chef David Viana and Jamie Dodge.

Join Me on July 16 for 3rd Annual Food Writers Panel

Rachel Weston Portriat

Rachel Weston Portrait

I am delighted to be participating once again in this lively, popular event at the West Windsor Farmers Market. Fellow panels are: Fran McManus, marketing manager of the Whole Earth Center, cookbook author, and principal of Understanding Flavor; Nancy Painter, publisher of Edible Jersey, and Rachel Weston, food writer and cookbook author (“New Jersey Fresh”).

The fun starts at 11 a.m. Get the details here.