Tag Archives: Agricola Princeton

‘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.

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?

 

Review of Anthony David’s; Italian Cocktails Having a Moment; Say Cheez in Princeton

Anthony Pino Updates His Hoboken Flagship

www.anthonydavids.com

Private Dining Room anthonydavids.com

No one can accuse Hoboken chef/restaurateur Pino and his wife, Liz, of standing still. Here, from the August issue of New Jersey Monthly, is my review of the latest iteration of Anthony David’s.
p.s. Pino, who also is behind Bin 14, will be opening a third restaurant any day now.

Italian Cocktails Past, Present, Future

I have always thanked my Italian heritage for my being partial to bitter flavors in food and drink, especially the herbaceous liqueurs like Campari, Fernet, and the amaro family. Until recently I have considered myself in the minority. But 3 area events – past and future – are telling me otherwise. (Why New Brunswick was and will be the setting for all three beats me.)

Negroni Sbagliato & Crostini with Anchovy-Chickpea Schmear, Clydz New Brunswick

Negroni Sbagliato & Crostini with Anchovy-Chickpea Schmear, Clydz New Brunswick

In August Katie Parla, the Rome-based food and beverage journalist who grew up in West Windsor, invited me to a fun Italian cocktail tasting at her father Mike’s restaurant, the venerable Clydz in New Brunswick. Eight selections ranged from classics such as the above Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, Vermouth Cinzano rosso, sparkling wine) to new inspirations from bartenders currently working in Rome. I particularly enjoyed Patrick Pistolesi‘s Cosa Nostra (Campari, Rabarbaro Zucca, Fernet Branca, Buffalo Trace bourbon, simple syrup).

I was sorry to have to miss the “Garden Tasting of Aperitifs and Digestifs” with Jeremy Fisher of the Frog & Peach on September 18. His tasting included all of my Italian faves, plus Spanish and French liqueurs and fortified wines, including 2 lesser knowns that I am partial to: Pineau de Charentes and Suze.

Due Mari, New Brunswick Courtesy duemarinj.com

Due Mari, New Brunswick
Courtesy duemarinj.com

I wouldn’t tease you about these past events if there weren’t another one on the horizon. On Saturday, September 26, the folks at Heirloom Kitchen are teaming up with those at Michael White’s Due Mari for a 3 pm Italian cocktail class at that New Brunswick restaurant. The session ($58) covers the classics as well as  the nouveau. Students take home recipes and a shaker, and Due Mari light fare, such as arancini and crostini, will be served. Details & sign up here.

A Take-out Shop Devoted to Grilled Cheese; Heirloom Beans; A New Addition to the Princeton Happy Hour Scene

The "Princeton" & Tiger Fries, Say Cheez Princeton

The “Princeton” & Tiger Fries, Say Cheez Princeton

Those are the subjects of my September “Food for Thought” column in the Princeton Echo. Read about Say Cheez, which I fully expected to loathe – and clearly did not – as well as why Rancho Gordo’s heirloom dried beans are worth seeking out (and where to find them), plus what the bartenders and chef at Agricola are bringing to the expanding Princeton happy hour scene.

 

Agricola’s New Chef; Savory Squid Guts in Berkeley; New Offerings at Central NJ Farmers Markets

Meet Executive Chef Crawford Koeniger of Agricola

Crawford Koeniger, Agricola Princeton

Crawford Koeniger, Agricola Princeton. mercerspace.com

As you likely know by now, that Princeton restaurant’s opening chef, Josh Thomsen, has decamped to Florida. Rising up in the kitchen to take his place is Crawford Koeniger, whom I chatted with as we strolled Great Road Farm, which supplies much of the raw materials for his kitchen. Here’s my profile, in the June issue of The Princeton Echo.

Ippuku: Not Your Usual Sushi Joint

There are many excellent restaurants in downtown Berkeley (CA), but none more exciting than Ippuku, an izakaya renowned for its uncommon but authentic small plate offerings and large selection of shochu – Japan’s clear, distilled spirit. On a recent visit I found even its familiar dishes, such as skewers of grilled chicken breast, uncommonly good. Here are some highlights.

Favas with black sesame, Ippuku

Favas with black sesame, Ippuku

After a freebie of a wedge of raw cabbage with excellent miso mayo – you peel off one leaf at a time and dip it into the creamy sauce – we dug into the above favas. Fresh, perfectly prepared, with a deep umami hit. We couldn’t stop eating them. They, and everything that followed, matched perfectly with 2 shochus (the one shown above is Kura No Shikon) that our excellent server guided us to. Both were made from sweet potatoes (other bases can be barley, rice, or buckwheat), and both seemed to me to be akin to vodka, only much softer and more mellow. Mine also had a slight smokiness that brought to mind peaty Scotch.

I apologize in advance for the photo that follows, for 2 reasons. 1. It’s not the best pic I’ve ever taken and 2. It’s of squid sashimi in salted, fermented squid guts. But I am compelled to include it because this is one of the best and certainly most intriguing things I’ve eaten in a long time. Keep in mind these words of wisdom from Anthony Bourdain: ““Always entertain the possibility that something, no matter how squiggly and scary looking, might just be good.”

Squid sashimi in salted squid guts. Ippuku, Berkeley

Squid sashimi in salted squid guts. Ippuku, Berkeley

“It tastes like the ocean,” was my guest’s rapt reaction.  I enjoyed the contrast between the pleasantly chewy strands of squid sashimi and the rich, salty, silky sauce-like substance.

Ippuku's chicken skewers

Ippuku’s chicken skewers

Not your everyday yakitori. Here, it’s chef’s choice of chicken parts that can include cartilage, tail, and skin. Ours had gizzard (most tender I’ve ever had), wings (my guest’s fave), breast, thigh, and neck (my fave). We also enjoyed a skewer of beef tongue and grilled, split salted horse mackerel.

Tofu pouch stuffed with local megumi natto, Ippuku, Berkeley

Tofu pouch stuffed with natto, Ippuku, Berkeley

Another showstopper is an uncommon tofu dish: Local, organic Megumi natto (fermented soy beans) in a tofu pouch. Salty, pleasantly bitter, with a stringy cheese-like funk. The textural contrast between the slightly sticky (some might say slimy, but in a good way) beans and the grilled pouch (think: dry omelet exterior) is masterful.

Ippuku is the brainchild of Christian Geideman, who learned these techniques in Japan. The space, a mash-up of Japanese roadhouse and modern industrial, matches the food and includes semi-enclosed tatami rooms as well as booths. A $6 per person table charge is assessed in lieu of tip, and the drinks list includes craft beer and sake in addition to shochu.

Farmers Market Updates: Griggstown, West Windsor, Princeton

lillipies at Central NJ farmers markets

lillipies at Central NJ farmers markets

Kielbasa, breakfast sandwiches, & panini are among the new offerings at this season’s batch of farmers markets. Get the delicious particulars, here, in my June Food For Thought column in the Princeton Echo.

 

Outstanding Italian Eats at the Shore & in San Francisco

I’ve had so many memorable meals in recent weeks – all around NJ, in NYC, and in the Bay Area – that it’s going to take several posts just to get caught up. I’m starting with 2 Italians: a real find at the Jersey Shore, and the San Francisco restaurant by James Beard award-winning chef Michael Tusk (of Quince fame) that inspired the design of Agricola in Princeton.

But first, your moment of zen:

Rib Tickler in vintage coupe, Chez Tanner

Rib Tickler in vintage coupe, Chez Tanner

This photo of a Rib Tickler cocktail was taken by my daughter Alice at my Memorial Day weekend cookout. My son-in-law-to-be, Ryan (via my other daughter, Elizabeth), is an excellent mixologist and expertly produced a pitcherful for me from this recipe on tastingtable.com.

Ingredients for Rib Tickler cocktails

Ingredients for Rib Tickler cocktails

I was attracted to it because it used something I hadn’t encountered before: Suze, which I found at CoolVines in Princeton. The cocktail was gorgeous, yes, but also delicious and a big hit.

NJ Monthly cover june15On to the restaurants. First up is Mossuto’s Market & Cafe in Wall Township. Surely you’re heading down the Shore this summer. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Belmar and Brielle, I strongly recommend you stop in for a terrific Italian meal (at minimum, a wood-fire pizza and Peroni) and/or to stock your Shore pantry with top-notch Italian comestibles from the market portion of this family-run restaurant, deli, butcher shop, & bakery. Here’s my review, in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly.

On to the City by the Bay.

Cotogna SF window

Cotogna SF window

With only 1 day in San Francisco on my latest trip to visit my daughter in Berkeley, CA, I chose Cotogna, the Northern Italian restaurant in the financial district that’s joined at the hip with sibling Quince. (Cotogna means “quince” in Italian.) Of particular interest was that Jim Nawn, owner of Agricola, had named Cotogna as an inspiration for the design of his Princeton popular eatery. To be exact, the window on Witherspoon Street that shows the cooks hard at work and a suspended wood-slat ceiling. Here’s Cotogna’s ceiling:

Wood slat ceiling at Cotogna, SF

Wood slat ceiling at Cotogna, SF

To be honest, I expected a fine rustic Italian lunch. But I didn’t expect the fireworks Cotogna delivered, nor that it is apparently a power lunch spot. Maybe it’s the bargain $28 3-course fixed price, or the wine list with all glasses at $12 and all bottles at $50. (I had an excellent Niklas lagrein from Alto Adige.) No matter, a decidedly stylish group of diners of all age groups turned up, some clearly on business, some purely social.

Pictorial highlights:

Calypso cocktail & arugula salad with stone fruit & almonds, CotognaSF

Calypso cocktail & arugula salad with stone fruit & almonds, CotognaSF

Cotogna country loaf, more than worth the $6 tab

Cotogna country loaf, more than worth the $6 tab

Super-rich agnolotti stuffed with sugo of 3 meats (1 of which is lamb): Cotogna, SF

Super-rich agnolotti with sugo of 3 meats (1 of which is rabbit): CotognaSF

Buttermilk budino with berries, Cotogna SF

Budino with berries, CotognaSF

Next post: an izakaya in Berkeley that serves anything but your run of the mill sushi, sashimi, and yakatori. Squid in salted squid guts, anyone?

Breaking News! Josh Thomsen to leave Agricola

This just in from Agricola Eatery in Princeton:

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen

Jim Nawn, Proprietor of Agricola eatery in Princeton, announced that he and Josh Thomsen, Executive Chef of Agricola, have decided to mutually part ways. “Over two years ago, Chef Josh and I partnered in opening a very successful restaurant for Princeton. I learned and benefitted a great deal from him over that time, and while I am sorry to see him go, exciting new opportunities lie ahead for both of us. We are proud of what we have created and are grateful to have collaborated on Agricola,” said Nawn.

Chef Thomsen will be taking on a new challenge as Executive Chef at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Florida. Replacing Chef Thomsen will be Crawford Koeniger, formerly Executive Chef at Washington House in Basking Ridge. Chef Koeniger joined the Agricola team in January. He has worked in Princeton before with Chris Albrecht, then moving to open Washington House.

“Koeniger is a talented young chef and an excellent fit for Agricola and our team. Agricola is a strong brand and we will endeavor to improve every day going forward, continuing to build on what Chef Thomsen has started,” added Nawn.

GET “UP CLOSE & PERSONAL” WITH DENNIS CAKEBREAD OF CAKEBREAD CELLARS, COMING TO AGRICOLA IN PRINCETON

A special four-course dinner on February 10th, limited to 45 guests, is your chance to meet Dennis Cakebread, whose family winery has been a luminary of the California wine scene for almost four decades. Among the wines he’ll pour that night are hard or impossible to find vintages, paired with a menu created just for the occasion by Agricola’s executive chef, Josh Thomsen.

Dennis Cakebread & Josh Thomsen Photo by Fred Oufredo

Dennis Cakebread & Josh Thomsen
Photo by Fred Oufredo

I spoke with Thomsen about how he and his friend Cakebread collaborated on the wines and food, and how the dinner came about in the first place. Get all the details here, in my post on the New Jersey Monthly website.

“Preppy Cookbook” Recipes; Agricola & Frog & Peach News;Tips for Berries & Oysters

Award-winning North Jersey Chef Keeps the Preppy Flame Alive. Literally.

Christine Nunn, whose previous restaurant, Picnic in Fair Lawn, garnered a rare three-and-a-half stars from me, has given birth not only to a new restaurant, Grange in Westwood, but also to her first book.

In The Preppy Cookbook, subtitled “Classic Recipes for the Modern Prep,” Nunn makes a strong case for the timelessness of the “prep” lifestyle, including the eternal merits of hollandaise, Hellman’s, and hangover hash browns. Alongside classics such as poached salmon and eggs Benedict are thoroughly modern, easy-to-prepare gems. Sara Moulton, a friend and fellow prep, wrote the introduction. The book won’t be released until August 27, but you can pre-order it here on amazon.com.

Preppy Cookbook

I couldn’t hold off sharing Nunn’s seasonal recipes for summer squash salad, savory peach compote, and roasted fruits with honey and walnuts. Find them and more  in my In the Kitchen column from the August 2nd issue of The Princeton Packet, and here:

SUMMER SQUASH SALAD
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn

Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup vegetable or corn oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 small zucchini and yellow squash, about 2 pounds, unpeeled and rinsed well
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

  1. Place lemon juice and oil in a large bowl or blender. Whisk by hand or blend on low speed for 3 minutes, until emulsified. Add the honey, mustard, salt, and black pepper and whisk or blend on low speed until well incorporated. Taste for acidity and seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as needed. Stir in the lemon zest and the pepper flakes.
  2. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, slice thin ribbons of squash into a large bowl. Once there are lots of seeds in the squash and a little flesh, stop and move on to the next squash.
  3. When ready to serve, add the dressing and the pine nuts and toss until evenly coated. Divide evenly among chilled salad plates and, with a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the squash.
    Serves 4 as a first course.

SAVORY PEACH COMPOTE
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn
Nunn uses this one-step condiment to top breaded pork chops and pork roast.

2 ripe peaches, cut into 1-inch cubes
1-1/2 tablespoons Pommery mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Serves 4.

ROASTED STONE FRUITS WITH HONEY & WALNUTS
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn

8 assorted stone fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots, halved
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup honey
1 cup dry-roasted walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stone fruits, skin side down, in the dish and top with the butter.  Roast for 20 minutes. Remove dish from the oven and stir. Add the honey and stir again. Roast for 5 minutes more, until the fruits are softened and beginning to turn golden. Stir in the walnuts and the pepper. Serve immediately. (Top with ice cream if desired.)
Serves 4.

EAST ENDER COCKTAIL
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn
“This refreshing cocktail [comprises] a triple threat of prep. It is named after a section of London (Britain, preppy), made with gin, the prep alcohol of choice, and a hint of mint that is slightly reminiscent of a mint julep (Southern preppy).” – CN

3 slices cucumber, plus one thin peel of cucumber for garnish
6 mint leaves
2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes

Chill 1 old-fashioned glass. In a cocktail shaker, lightly crush the cucumber slices and mint with a muddler. Add the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into the chilled glass. Float the cucumber peel on top.
Makes 1 drink.

Agricola Opening for Lunch

This restaurant that has taken Princeton by storm is finally adding lunch hours, starting August 8th (after the restaurant takes a 2-day hiatus). Here’s a taste of what’s on the menu:

Great Road Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad (watermelon, lemon cucumbers, almond hummus)
Cobb Salad (Valley Shepherd blue cheese, grilled chicken, house-cured bacon, avocado, Great Road Farm tomatoes & hard-boiled eggs)
Housemade Veggie Pita (whole grain pita, quinoa, cauliflower, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, eggplant, lemon herb vinaigrette)
The Standby (Cup of tomato soup, grilled house-smoked ham & cheese sandwich)

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen, Agricola’s executive chef, will be cooking at the Beard House this Tuesday night (August 6). Among the hyper-local treats this French Laundry alum will be serving up for his Rustic Farmhouse Feast are Great Road Farm egg custard with sweet corn and summer truffles and Cape May day boat scallops with fingerling potato-bacon cake, shaved apples, fennel, and mustard vinaigrette. www.jamesbeard.


Super Lunch Deal at The Frog & The Peach

Through Labor Day, chef/owner Bruce Lefebvre is offering this spectacular 3-course lunch for only $19 at his popular New Brunswick restaurant:

Frog & Peach: Black Truffle Gnocchi

Frog & Peach: Black Truffle Gnocchi

FIRST COURSE: Heirloom Tomato Salad (House Smoked Berkshire Bacon, Organic Bibb, Spiced Pignoli, Aged Cheddar Emulsion) or Black Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi (Cremini, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil Pesto)

SECOND COURSE: Pan Roasted Griggstown Chicken (Smoked Pecans, Sweet Potato, Pickled Bell Peppers, Bourbon Pan Sauce) or Grilled New Jersey Monkfish (Gigante Beans, Fennel, Pancetta, Tuscan Kale
Littleneck Clam Red Sauce)

THIRD COURSE: Coconut Semifreddo (Caramel, Chocolate Croquettes) or Valdeon Cheese (Leon, Spain: Cow/Goat Blue, Wrapped in Oak Leaves
Endive Marmalade, Pistachios)

The $19 cost excludes beverages, tax and gratuity. The same menu is offered for dinner at $42. www.frogandthepeach.com

Helpful Tip #1: Keeping Berries Fresher Longer

Photo by George Point

Photo by George Point

The following excellent advice comes directly from the newsletter of the West Windsor Community Farmers Market. Thanks, manager Chris Cirkus and crew!

If you aren’t planning to eat your berries the day you bring them home from the Market, here’s a simple tip that works like a charm to keep them from getting moldy…give them a vinegar bath!

  • 1 TBS organic apple cider vinegar
  • 10 TBS filtered water
  • Fresh berries

Prepare the mixture in a large bowl. Place your berry beauties in the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse; although not necessary to rinse as the mixture is so diluted that you can’t taste the vinegar. Place your washed berries in the fridge in a covered container.

The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that may linger on the surface of the berries. Raspberries will last a week or more. Strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft.

Helpful Tip #2: An Easier Way to Shuck Oysters

Courtesy of Tre Piani restaurant

Courtesy of Tre Piani restaurant

I haven’t tried this method yet, but it comes via the innovative, reliable folks at chefsteps.com. I profiled ChefSteps, the free online cooking school from key members of the team behind Modernist Cuisine, a while back at njmonthly.com, and since that time the school has amassed 12,477 students/users. Here’s the step-by-step for oysters.

My Review of Agricola; Unusual Berries from an Unlikely Plot

I weigh in on Agricola, the Princeton dining sensation, here in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly, which is just now hitting the newsstands.

Agricola sign

Jostaberries, Goumi Berries, & Serviceberries: Just a Few of the Rarities at Kendall Park’s Pitspone Farm

 

Michael Brown grows these berries in his backyard in the middle of a suburban development in Middlesex County, along with elderberries, red currants, and more – and chefs at leading restaurants in nearby Princeton have taken notice. Read all about it – complete with this Food Network recipe for Summer Pudding from Emeril Lagasse and the Groset Fool recipe below (gooseberries optional) in my June 7th In the Kitchen column in the Princeton Packet.

GROSET FOOL (Gooseberry Cream)
British and Irish Cooking (Garland Books; ‘Round the World Cooking Library 1972)

Note: A recipe on the blog Hungriness mixes elderflower cordial (i.e. St. Germaine) into the whipped cream instead of vanilla extract. Brilliant! – p.t.

1 pound fresh gooseberries
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place berries in a saucepan, add water and 1/2 cup sugar and cook over low heat until fruit is soft. Force the fruit through a strainer to remove the seeds. Allow pureed fruit to cool. Whip the cream until almost stiff. Beat in the 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla and fold the cream into the fruit puree. Chill 4 hours.
Serves 4.

Michael Brown, Pitspone Farm, in front of European elderberries
Michael Brown, Pitspone Farm, in front of European elderberries

Princeton Dining Scene Explodes; Hopewell Gets a Food Hall; Interesting Wine Dinner Benefit in Morristown

If you think the opening of Agricola is the only restaurant news coming out of downtown Princeton, think again. In the Spring Dining Issue of US 1 I profile these latest newcomers:

6-5 Cover Only(1).indd

Mistral  Meet chef Ben Nerenhausen, who Scott Anderson hired away from 3-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa for his small plates byob. Nerenhausen explains why the NJ dining scene reminds him of Northern California (!)

DeSpana  Find out why this popular SoHo tapas cafe and market chose Princeton for its first satellite location

North End Bistro An American comfort food eatery from the growing Central Jersey restaurant empire of the brothers behind the Osterias Procaccini

Cafe 44 Fusion After a long absence, soul food returns to Princeton as a restaurant-within-a-restaurant – and with an unexpected legacy that extends back to the 1970s

Ivy Inn Princeton’s favorite (only?) dive bar becomes family friendly and serves fresh, casual, bargain-priced fare curated by chef Jackie Baldassari who recently did a star turn on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen.

A First look at Brick Farm Market in Hopewell

This – Double Brook Farm‘s retail market – may have been a long time coming, but has been thoroughly embraced by the community in the short time it’s been open. I had never been inside its home, the old Malek Chevrolet building on Broad Street, but had always admired its gorgeous patterned brick facade, which dates back to the 1930s.

I was surprised by the sheer size of the interior, transformed into a glowing, rustic-chic food hall on two levels.

Brick Farm Market 001

The upstairs gallery (on the left, above) holds “shops” (really, counters) and a long dining bar with stools for those who want to eat in. The butcher shop features Double Brook Farm’s own meats from its sustainably raised animals. The next counter is chock full of charcuterie made from the same raw materials but transformed into dried and cured goodies by NJ’s estimable Salumeria Biellese. A creamery features ice creams and yogurts made with milk from Double Brook cows and cheeses from all over, overseen by Michel Lemmerling, who many customers recognize from his days behind the cheese counter at Bon Appetit in Princeton. (Sister-in-law Deeann Lemmerling is the market’s manager.)

Michel Lemmerling, Brick Farm Market

Michel Lemmerling, Brick Farm Market

On the street level, customers can dine at cafe tables just inside the door or out on the sidewalk after making their selections at the prepared foods arrayed in a large case that spans the rear. In charge here is chef Chase Gerstenbacher, who I profiled in this previous post.

Chase Gerstenbacher, Brick Farm Market

Chase Gerstenbacher, Brick Farm Market

The menu includes breakfast items (till 11 am) like steel-cut oats and a breakfast croissant with bacon, chorizo, or country sausage; “snacks” like housemade herb & garlic kettle chips, country pate, and mac ‘n’ cheese; “specialties” like sausage flatbread and pulled pork; and sandwiches and panini like the ones below, accompanied by salad of the day (here, pasta and kale):

Brick Farm Market's Roast turkey, rhubarb compote, baby lettuce on rye

Brick Farm Market’s Roast turkey, rhubarb compote, baby lettuce on rye

Brick Farm Market's brie, apple, and honey on baguette

Brick Farm Market’s brie, apple, and honey on baguette

One long wall is lined with more “shops,” including a full bakery (presided over by Karen Child, of the erstwhile Village Bakery in Lawrenceville) and a juice and coffee bar pouring Small World coffee and pressing fresh fruit and veggie juices.

Also for sale on this floor are fresh herbs, produce, and flowers from the farm, which is nearby, and finely curated groceries.

Slow Food Northern NJ’s 5-Course Wine Dinner to Benefit School Gardens Program

Who: The chef is Andrea Lekberg, chef/owner of the boutique bakery, The
Artist Baker, in Morristown. Lekberg has worked with Pichet Ong, among others, and her bakery was profiled in the NY Times in 2011.

What: 5-course tasting menu of local foods sourced from Mosefund Farms, Salumeria Biellese, The Urban Farm at Lafayette, The Community Garden in Morristown, and Valley Shepherd Creamery paired with wines from Beneduce Vineyards, Unionville Vineyards, and Hopewell Valley Vineyards.

Where: The Artist Baker in Morristown

Why: The funds raised will benefit the Slow Food Northern
New Jersey School Garden Program

When: You’ll have to hurry! It’s Friday, June 7th, at 7:00 p.m.

How: Tickets cost $80 for Slow Food Members whose membership is current is and $85 for non-members. A vegan or vegetarian option is available upon request. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/368818.