Tag Archives: Alps Bistro

Spring Dining & How This Year’s Taste of the Nation in Princeton is Different

2oth Year for Share Our Strength’s Princeton Benefit will be a Locavore’s Dream

Share Our Strength

Share Our Strength (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been attending this event over the years – in Princeton or elsewhere around the state – you know the drill. Tastes of great restaurant food and great drink – wine, beer, and spirits. Nifty foodie-centric auction items. You know that 100% of your money goes to an excellent cause because nationally Taste of the Nation has raised more than $73 million to fight childhood hunger.

Jim Weaver

Jim Weaver (Photo credit: pplflickr)

This year’s event mixes things up a bit. Sure, there will still be impressive restaurants (Elements in Princeton and Michael White’s Due Mari in New Brunswick to name just two). But it will also be a celebration and reunion of sorts for the pioneers of our state’s locavore movement, whose stories are captured in the book Locavore Adventures. In it, chef Jim Weaver relates how he and a small group came to found one of the first Slow Food chapters in the US, and introduces readers to the wildly diverse cast of characters whose businesses have changed the way New Jerseyans and the entire New York metropolitan area eat.

Among those with products on hand for tasting: Atlantic Cape Fisheries (which brought the Delaware Bay Oyster to national attention), The Bent Spoon, Griggstown Quail Farm, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Mosefund Mangalitsa, Salumeria Biellese, and Zone 7.

Other key differences and changes this year:

Tre Piani at Princeton Forrestal Village

Tre Piani at Princeton Forrestal Village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Location: Tre Piani Restaurant in Forrestal Village off Route 1 – Jim Weaver’s own place, and the site of the first meeting of what would become Slow Food Central NJ

Day and time: Sunday afternoon, May 20, from 2 to 5 pm. (In the past Taste has been held on a Monday evening)

For a complete list of participating restaurants and vendors (I have only scratched the surface here), and to purchase tickets visit www.strength.org/princeton/

The Spring Dining Issue of US 1 is Out!

I’ve had the privilege of writing the cover stories for US 1 newspaper’s spring and fall dining issues for years now and the latest issue has hit the newsstands. In it I profile the folks behind six Central New Jersey ethnic restaurants – a couple of which you’ve read about in this blog (Alps Bistro & Mercer Street Grill) the rest of which are new finds that I haven’t featured previously: Antimo’s Italian Kitchen, El Tule, Ploy Siam, and Tete. Bon appetit!

I’ve Been Dining Around Central New Jersey

On average, I dine out more than 150 times a year.

Only a small fraction of those meals wind up as restaurant reviews for NJ Monthly. (Speaking of which, check out my latest one online there: Hopewell’s Bell & Whistle.) Others turn out to be nonstarters. Still others, while noteworthy, don’t fall within the parameters of a full-scale review.

Here are two such places. Both are small, charming mom-and-pop byobs situated in small, charming Central Jersey towns. Bon appetit!

You may already be familiar with Blue Rooster Cafe & Bakery,  which opened in 2008 in a lovely Victorian house on Cranbury‘s historic Main Street. It soon developed a following for its fabulous breakfasts, baked goods, and lunches. Dinner, not so much. ‘Expensive and mediocre’ was the comment I heard most often.

That situation began to change last October when owners Karen & Bob Finigan brought in a new chef, Richard Lipshanic. Just this week I got to sample his wares for the first time. Impressive. His classical training and experience – last at a resort in Maine – is evident in a tightly focused winter menu of 7 starters and 8 entrees that sent me scurrying to my food dictionaries to look up sauce salmi, capote capers, and pomme Macaire.

Long story short: fantastic lobster bisque soup of the day – and only $5; ravishing housemade butternut squash ravioli, $9 for four diminutive but flavor-packed crescents; and olive oil poached wild Scottish salmon with bitter greens and sweet balsamic dressing that my companion rightly termed “the best salmon I’ve ever had.” The sizeable portion is a steal at $24. Plus baker Bob Finigan’s elegant French sourdough dinner rolls, classic desserts at $5 a pop, and French press coffee.

Long story even shorter: Give dinner here another try. Apps average $9; entrees, $24. The current winter menu should be up on the website any minute, but for now, check it out on the Blue Rooster Facebook page.

Update: Lipshanic has departed, but you should still give this place a try.
The Blue Rooster Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Alps Bistro

There are so few German restaurants left in New Jersey that I jump at the chance to dine at any new one that comes along. When good reports on the Alps Bistro in Allentown starting coming my way, I assumed it was located in the old mill on this sweet Monmouth county town’s Main Street that had housed mediocre German restaurants for decades. Not so!

Its eight tables are in a storefront location further up the street. I’m not going to mince words here: I found the fare – which includes all the German and Austrian staples, but also a few Polish and even Hungarian dishes – solid, reliable, and well priced. I’m just not as crazy about it as just about everyone else who has weighed in – including the two couples I dined there with, one member of which is a bona fide German expat! He loved it, so who am I to quibble?

The unrivaled standout dish, we all agree, is chicken paprikash, a special that as far as I can tell is often available. Leek and potato soup, too, is very good, and curry wurst – the popular, slightly sweet German street food – is the best part of a mixed wurst plate that, like many dishes here, comes with several accompaniments of your choosing, among them German potato salad, spaetzle, red cabbage, and sauerkraut. Sauerbraten with gingersnap gravy, rouladen, schnitzel – standard but creditable and hearty versions are all here.

The most endearing part of the Alps Bistro for me is the amiable, sincerely hospitable folks behind it, Ginger and Marty Locke. On a cold winter evening, the golden glow emanating from their sweet little place is an accurate beacon for what lies within. Alps Bistro doesn’t have a website, but check it out here on Facebook.