Tag Archives: bent spoon

Fine Dining in Point Pleasant; Big Doings @ Great Road Farm; Join Me @ Salsa Slam 2015

Fine-Dining in Point Pleasant Beach

There comes a time when even the most devoted sun worshiper or boardwalk fan relishes a chef-made meal in a civilized, air-conditioned setting. In the High Summer issue of Edible Jersey I profile three possibilities:

Edible Jersey high summer 2015Daniel’s BistroThe Picard family resurrected their popular restaurant after it and their home were devastated by Superstorm Sandy
Poached Pear. This first solo restaurant of Scott Giordano (last of Whispers in Spring Lake) was just this week named among the top 25 restaurants in the state by New Jersey Monthly
Shipwreck Point. Readers of NJ Monthly designated it the best steakhouse in South Jersey

Great Road Farm: Big Plans Underway for the Farm that Feeds Agricola

Tomlinson Family. Photo courtesy US 1 Newspaper

Tomlinson Family. Photo courtesy US 1 Newspaper

I sat down with Farmer Steve Tomlinson and Jim Nawn, owner of both Great Road Farm in Skillman farm and Agricola, the Princeton restaurant it supplies, to talk about their latest plans and accomplishments. Foremost among them is the Food Barn project, well underway, that will feature its own kitchen and chef and will be the site of on-farm dinners, demos, and other events. I spill the beans here in the July 8 issue of US 1.

Judging Salsa (the Condiment) in Princeton

As I have for the past three years, I will be on the panel of judges in the Princeton Library‘s annual fun event, which crowns the local eatery with the best salsa. There’s a People’s Choice winner, too, so come on down this Wednesday night to sample the salsas and vote for your favorite. While you’re there, stop by the judge’s table to say hello – and not just to me, but to the star judge: Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon, who won the first Salsa Slam.

Salsa Slam 2015 Flyer

Summer is NOT Over: Dine on the JC Waterfront; Attend a David Burke-Curated Alfresco Fundraiser; & Make Seasonal Salsas

Before We Get Started: Join me at Readathon for Adult Literacy

This Thursday, September 4th, I’m participating in Literacy New Jersey‘s Readathon at the Princeton Public Library. At 1 pm, I will read from my favorite (food-related) book for 5 minutes, as part of an all-day event to spotlight adult illiteracy.

A few cookbooks from my shelves

A few cookbooks on my shelves

Did you know that in Mercer County alone, 60,000 adult residents cannot read above a fourth grade level? As someone with a sibling who never learned to read (incredible, I know), this cause is very close to my heart.

From 10 to 11 am, children’s books will be featured; from noon to 4 pm, adult books. Please join me! The public is welcome to sign up as readers, too. Phone 609.587.6027 or email vgolden@literacynj.org.

 

As It Grows” Dinner to Benefit Little Silver’s Historic 1665 Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

David Burke is the celebrity chef (David Burke Fromagerie, etc.) creating a sumptuous farm-to-table menu for what event co-chair Bob Sickles (of Sickles Market) terms a “serious food and wine event with a fun, casual approach.” It takes place on Saturday, September 13 starting at 6:30 pm under a sailcloth tent at the historic Parker Homestead in Little Silver, which is the beneficiary.

The “elegant casual” evening includes wines from Colts Neck’s 4JGs Vineyard, music, dancing, and a live auction (featuring rare collectible wines) conducted by Antiques Roadshow star Nicholas Dawes.

Here’s the menu created by David Burke (who, btw, grew up in Hazlet):

Cocktail Reception: Bacon Clotheslines with Pickled Carrot Garnish; Cheese”burker” Sliders; Quinoa Sliders; Pork Rillettes; Corn Panna Cotta Jars; Pig Trotter Terrine Spiced Apple; House Cured Lardo; Garden Conserva; Country Crostini; Chicken Lollipops.

Lusty Lobster Raw Bar: Wild Caught Sandy Hook Bay Clams; Wild Caught Delaware Bay Oysters; Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail; Jonah Crab Claws.

Sickles Market Cheese Table: Assorted Farmstead Jersey Cheeses including Long Valley Shepherd, Bobolink Dairy and Cherry Grove. Gourmet accompaniments and fruits.

“Local” Salad Station: Organic Kale Caesar Salad; Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Apples; Candies Pecans, Blue Cheese, Dried Cranberries; Fall Market Salad with Fixins’; Tomato Burrata Salad.

Fish Station: Barnegat Light Day Boat Scallops, Parsnip, Apple, Chanterelle, and Leek Fondue.

Pork Station: Porchetta Carving Station, Pineapple and Mustard Kraut, Quince, Lentils, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Corn Bread Stuffing, Country Potato Salad.

Beef Station: Roast Prime Rib with Au Jus, Horseradish, Crème Fraiche and David Burke Steak Sauce.

Pasta Station: House Made Cavatelli, Sheep Milk Ricotta, Butternut Squash.

Dessert: Cotton Candy, Smokin’ Hot Doughnuts; Peach Pies.

Tickets are $250 and can be purchased at www.AsItGrows.org or by calling 732.462.1466.

Surfeit of Scrumptious Salsas Sizzle at Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Last month I was a judge at a different event at the Princeton Public Library: it’s third annual salsa contest. Ten area eateries vied for the coveted title of best salsa in this Ivy League town. Terra Learning Kitchen (located inside the YMCA) won over us judges with its Salsa Verde with Avocado, while People’s Choice went to Tortuga’s Mexican Village for its classic Secret Family Recipe Salsa.

My fellow judges: Gab Carbone of the bent spoon, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, & food blogger Sue Gordon

My fellow judges (left to right): Gab Carbone of the bent spoon, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, & food blogger Sue Gordon

Naturally, I used the occasion to gather recipes for some of my personal favorites. Don’t let the Labor-Day-means-the-end-of-summer hype fool you: there’s plenty of NJ harvest time left to make the following fresh, exciting salsas. The folks at Agricola, Princeton’s popular farm-to-table restaurant kindly shared their intriguing entry, anchored by kimchi and heirloom tomatoes. The mango salsa recipe is courtesy of my friend George Point of Lawrenceville, who won awards for it years ago when he competed on the NJ barbecue cook-off circuit.

For a full report on the Slam, read this terrific account by one of my fellow judges, Sue Gordon, who blogs as the Princeton Food Examiner. (Recipes are reprinted from my column in the August 15 issue of the Princeton Packet.)

KIMICHI – HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALSA
Pete Maglaty, Sous Chef, Agricola

3/4 cup kimchi
2-1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup spring onion, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Juice from 1-1/2 limes, separated
4 tablespoons kimchi juice, separated
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

  1. Combine the onion, jalapeno, juice from 1 lime, and 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice in a small bowl. Cover and let macerate overnight at room temperature.
  2. Next day, cut the tomatoes into small dice and chop the cilantro leaves. Mix together the tomatoes, cilantro, and kimchi. Stir in the macerated mixture of onion and jalapeno, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice. Season with salt, cover, and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving adjust seasoning if necessary with additional salt and lime juice.
    Makes about 3 cups.

MANGO MADNESS SALSA
George Point

2 15-ounce cans sliced mango
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 ripe kiwi fruit, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, or to taste
Juice of one fresh lime
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Puree the mango. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a small bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Makes about 3 cups.

Review: Battello – Ryan DePersio’s Latest, at the Newport Marina in Jersey City

NJ Monthly cover sept 2014The views of Manhattan, the open-air porch on the Hudson, the breezy nautical decor all make Battello a natural for catching the last of summer’s fine weather. The modern Italian seafood ain’t bad either. Read the joint report from me and senior editor Eric Levin, in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.

Chefs’ Last Meals

Because my final Princeton Packet column of 2013 ran on December 21st, I decided to ask Princeton-area chefs and food pros what they would choose to eat and drink for their last meal, and who they would want to share it with.

English: Mayan calendar created by a modern cr...

English: Mayan calendar created by a modern craftsman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Their responses are as diverse and diverting as their culinary output. Here’s who participated: Chris Albrecht of Eno Terra, Scott Anderson and Mike Ryan of elements, Josh Thomsen of the highly anticipated Agricola, Beth Feehan of NJ Farm to School Network, master baker Jen Carson, Gab Carbone and Matt Errico of The Bent Spoon, and Mark Valenza of Za. (Valenza even managed to bring Rachael Ray and Anthony Bourdain to the table.)
Here’s what each had to say:

Chris Albrecht of Eno Terra, Kingston. My last meal of 2012 would be cheese fondue, one of my favorite winter dishes, especially in front of a fire with some good vodka and great company.  I mean classic traditional fondue, made with emmental and gruyere – although the Rosedale from Cherry Grove might make it in there, too. Plus good, crusty bread and vegetables like fried artichokes and broccoli rabe. Apples and Asian pears, mushrooms too. Riesling would have to be a part (in addition to the vodka). This meal may not seem too crazy, but after all the craziness leading up to New Year’s, I’d just as soon have my most comfortable meal. As for who would be there, it would definitely include my daughters and a few other good friends, but once the kids were in bed, the storytelling and reminiscing would be the life of the evening.

Mike Ryan of elements, Princeton. A good bottle of burgundy, sourdough bread, and epoisses. Great mustard and pickles. Scott Anderson of elements, Princeton. A great talk about metaphysics with Thich Nhat Hahn, while eating mushroom-laden macaroni and cheese. [Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, poet, peace activist, and author of more than 100 books.]

Beth Feehan of the NJ Farm to School Network. For my last meal, I’d wish for my mother’s osso bucco. Her version was to grind up onions, carrots, and celery in a food processor and slow-cook them with lots of garlic. She’d braise the veal shanks with a dusting of flour, salt, and pepper and when browned, add them to the vegetable mixture along with wine and canned tomatoes. Basil, bay leaves, and eventually lemon gremolata rounded it out for one of the most succulent dishes I ever loved, cooked in the oven for hours. It is my favorite meal of all time and if I have to go, this is what I’m asking for to ferry me out.

Josh Thomsen of Agricola Eatery, opening in Princeton in early 2013. My last meal on earth would have to be a family-style feast prepared by the people who created the favorite dishes of my life and have meant so much. Since this is the grand finale, I’d want to slow down and taste every morsel. I tend to get excited and eat too quickly, as chefs learn to do out of necessity. The toast before the meal given by Professor Jacques; Bitton Hog Island oysters opened by owner Terry Sawyer; tuna croquettes by Jessica (you know who you are); “steak & eggs” vegan style by Chef Sean Baker; grilled branzino by Chef Geno Bernardo; spaghetti carbonara cooked by my dad; potato latkes cooked by my mom; steak cooked by Italian butcher Dario Checcini; Tres Sabores wine poured by winemaker Julie Johnson; anything Chef Jeff Jake wants to bring (his presence would be enough for me); any dessert by Chef Ed Moro (but I would hope it would be something with chocolate).  Everyone would cook and then sit down to enjoy.

Jen Carson, Baker, Double Brook Farm & forthcoming Brick Farm Market, Hopewell. For my last meal I would have all of my family – I’m talking siblings, parents, in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews, second cousins- EVERYONE – come over to cook together. We’d make homemade ravioli, which is one of the first dishes I remember preparing with my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mom as a little girl. It is the BEST meal to prepare with people you love because it is so tedious. Bear with me here. It is so tedious and repetitive that funny stories, memories, and laughter will ultimately ensue. Most of the family stories I remember hearing as a kid were told to me while making ravioli. So, ravioli-prep (and a nice glass of wine) with family… that would be perfect. Actually eating the ravioli together with everyone would be the “icing on the cake.”

Gab Carbone and Matt Errico of The Bent Spoon, Princeton. In thinking about what would be our last meal it’s easy to fall into a whirlwind of gluttony. Courses and courses of rare tastes, perhaps? Indulgent sauces, exotic ingredients? Things we haven’t yet tried? All the while chasing – no, hunting – for culinary perfection. While understandable that many might yearn for a bacchanal feast or think of a goose-bump inducing, seemingly never-ending tasting menu from the likes of Thomas Keller, we submit that for our last meal we’d take homemade comfort over goose livers. Nothing seems more satisfying, more fulfilling than the food of our families. The pure food itself, and in particular the food memories created by them is what sustains and nourishes us. It’s the stuff of life! So, we’ll pass on the uni, ortolan, and truffles for this final feast. At the end of it all we know nothing will make us happier than homemade pasta sauces from our Italian-American fathers and sharing with the people we love.

Mark Valenza of Za, Pennington. Last Meal Party Planner, since December 21, 2012 will be our last dinner together (according to the Mayans).  I’ve been busy getting a jump on the end-of-days meal planning for quite some time now. Just what is appropriate for a Once and Only Occasion? Since money and basic accommodations are no object – it being the end and all – I’ve planned to fly in everybody I’ve ever known and loved…so we will be a party of eight. As for the meal itself, I plan a 21-course tasting menu in honor of The Day. I’ll be serving a 1985 Bollinger Brut Champagne, Grand Cru Classe from the Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Burgundy, and a Pomerol Bordeaux. I’ll enlist my Za servers to serve my guests under the threat that there may be a tomorrow (but I doubt it).  I’ll start my dinner with a beautifully caramelized seared foie gras cut into the shape of California. As entertainment I will commission Anthony Bourdain to eat a brick and Rachael Ray to just sit quietly. My dinner will be a progression of culinary classics in miniature: an entire Thanksgiving dinner nestled into a Japanese soup spoon, a clay-oven pizza the size of a quarter served with a salt-rimmed test tube of  pepperoni essence, and, for end-of-days expedience, I’ll produce the Christmas Eve seven-course fish dinner layered into one thin slice of multi-colored pate. I’ll amuse my guests with witty restaurant antidotes. “Did I ever tell you about the time Queen Latifah had to have two orders of my goat cheese gnocchi?” Anyway, aside from my scintillating stories, as a parting gift my guest will each receive a leopard Snuggie and a long birch stick. We’ll end it all just as my culinary career began many, many years ago – by toasting marshmallows in the fire. If not, Rachael, Anthony…I love you guys.

Restaurants: US 1 Fall Dining Issue; Review of Just in Old Bridge; Elements Special Dinner

Before I get to the restaurant stuff, I want to let you know you’ll be getting a second posting from me today. On Monday I composed and thought I had published a post on what restaurants are doing to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief. Somehow I forgot to press the “publish” button. I’m blaming that on Sandy. Although I was one of the lucky ones – only 3 days without power, no damage – I have noticed that I’m not multitasking as efficiently as usual. Have you noticed the same?

US 1 Fall Dining

Despite the soft economy, some veteran restaurateurs in Central NJ are adding sibling restaurants to their existing stable. Read my profile of them and their new and forthcoming restaurants in the 2012 Fall Dining Issue of US 1.

Among the restaurants: A second Osteria Procaccini, a second PJ’s Pancake House, North End Bistro, Masa Sushi, and Centro Grille. That last, btw, is from the current owner of Acacia in Lawrenceville.

Just: A Fine Dining Restaurant on Route 9 in Old Bridge

Read my review of this ambitious undertaking on an unlikely stretch of that roadway, from the November issue of New Jersey Monthly.

Elements Collaborative Dinner Thursday, November 15

An interesting lineup of NJ chefs is cooking up a collaborative feast for a good cause at Scott Anderson’s elements in Princeton. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Taking on one course each are David Felton of 90 Acres, Josh Thomsen of the highly anticipated Agricola, Gabby Carbone of the Bent Spoon, Will Mooney of the Brothers Moon, and Chris Albrecht of Eno Terra. The evening will begin with hors d’oeuvres at 6pm. For information and reservations click here.

English Tea (with a Twist) in Hopewell; Fabulous Fall Squash Recipes; More

AFTERNOON TEA – WITH A DIFFERENCE – AT PAINT THE ROSES

I’m a sucker for the whole ritual: carefully brewed pot of tea, warm scones with jam and clotted cream, assorted finger sandwiches followed up by a variety of sweets. At the interestingly named Paint the Roses Tea Room on Hopewell’s main drag you can get all of the above or you can mix it up, as I did, with some Latin flavors courtesy of owner Jimena Hajek.

Hajek, who hails from Chile, has taken over what had been La Chardon tea room. She serves a wholly traditional English tea for $18, but is gradually supplementing her breakfast, lunch, and tea menus with foods of her homeland. I couldn’t resist adding her delicious empanadas to an already teeming afternoon repast. About the following photos. I’d like to pretend that I got all artsy and purposely used a blue filter, but the truth is I don’t know what the heck happened. The (in reality un-blue) beef empanadas ($9.95) below are moist inside, tender and flaky outside, and come with Chilula Hot Sauce. Varieties change daily.

At least 20 different teas are on offer, as well as Rojo’s Roastery coffees. I got organic black Assam tea.

All the “correct” finger sandwiches put in an appearance: cucumber on white, egg salad on pumpernickel, ham & cheese on croissant, and chicken salad on wheat:

Hajek’s take on scones is a bit different, in a good way. Instead of dry, white, and crumbly, hers are crackling on the outside and almost muffin-like inside. They come in interesting flavors like cranberry-chai tea and butter brickle, with a nice touch of sliced mango on the side. They’re followed by a choice of desserts – cheesecake, flan, or Swiss rolls with blackberry or caramel filling.

Paint the Roses Tea Room takes its name straight out of Alice in Wonderland. If you look really, really close you can see the merest hints of red roses tinged with white growing just outside the window.

TWO RECIPES FOR THOSE SPECTACULAR FALL SQUASHES NOW IN THE MARKET

Kabocha squash, worldcrops.org

Who better than Maricel Presilla – Latin chef and chocolate expert – to come up with a soulful soup that combines two New World crops – squash and chocolate? This is reprinted from a previous Princeton Packet column I wrote and blogged about her spectacular new cookbook.

SMOKY PUREED PUMPKIN AND CACAO SOUP
Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla (Norton $45)
Serves 6 to 8.

2 pounds calabaza (Caribbean pumpkin) or kabocha or Hubbard squash
4 medium plum tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
1/2 small white onion (about 3-1/2 ounces), not peeled
4 garlic cloves, not peeled
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon anise seeds
1 ounce cacao nibs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated brown sugar loaf (panela or piloncillo) or Demerara sugar
8 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
1 ounce dark chocolate, preferably Pacari Esmeraldas 60% or Manabi 65%, coarsely chopped
For the garnish:
1 cup diced manchego cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 cup Mexican crema or crème fraiche

Peel and seed the squash and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside. Heat a griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until the tomatoes are blistered and the onion and garlic are charred in spots, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. Scrape off the charred bits from the tomatoes and peel the onion and garlic. Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a food processor; add the chipotle chile, allspice, cinnamon, anise seeds, and cacao nibs and process to a smooth puree. Heat the oil in a medium heavy pot over medium heat until sizzling. Add the puree (watch out for splatters), stir in the brown sugar, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the squash, then pour in the broth and let come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor. With a wooden spoon, force the puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the chocolate and cook, stirring until it melts, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. To serve: ladle into bowls and serve garnished with the diced cheese and cream.

The following recipe from chef Fabian Quiros of Salt Creek Grille doesn’t include squash, but it features two of my favorite ingredients: big, juicy scallops and homemade toasted pumpkin seeds.

Taken for Halloween during a carving

Taken for Halloween during a carving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCALLOP SALAD WITH APPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE & TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Chef Fabian Quiros, Salt Creek Grille, Princeton
Serves 4

1/2 cup toasted  pumpkin seeds (instructions follow)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons canola oil
12 large sea scallops(U-10 size)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound baby arugula, cleaned and dried
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1. In a large bowl whisk together the apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, apple cider, honey, and salt. Drizzle in a slow, steady stream 3 tablespoons of the canola oil into the apple cider/Dijon mixture and whisk until it emulsifies.
2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining canola oil over medium-high heat. Generously season the scallops all over with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot and shimmering, gently put the scallops into pan. Do not touch or move the scallops until the edges have turned light brown and the bottom is caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook for 4 minutes more, until the bottom edges are browned. Add the white wine to the pan, cover, and remove the pan from the heat to finish cooking, 4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, toss the baby arugula with the apple cider vinaigrette to coat and then add in the halved grape tomatoes.
4. Divide the arugula salad among 4 plates and top each with 3 of the seared scallops and a sprinkling of the toasted pumpkin seeds.

For the pumpkin seeds:
2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a medium baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted. Yield: 2 cups.

SHIRLEY TILGHMAN HEARTS THE BENT SPOON

President of Princeton University Shirley Tilghman

President of Princeton University Shirley Tilghman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the end of a recent interview on WNYC radio, the outgoing president of Princeton University gave a nice shout-out to Bent Spoon ice cream. She also had some interesting things to say about the status of women in the sciences. Listen to it here.

I Judge Salsa; Zagat Issues Updated NJ Guides; Salt Creek Grille Shares Recipes

Cool Winner of Princeton’s Hot Salsa Contest

Who could have predicted that a sorbet would win Princeton’s first ever salsa contest? But that frozen concoction from the folks at The Bent Spoon won over us judges from among a strong field of 14 entered in the event held at the public library.

The pale pink “taco sorbet” had all the flavors and zest you expect in salsa – but in a creative and unexpected form.

I and my fellow judges had a tough time deciding, as did the public. Only 3 votes separated the People’s Choice winners, with Olives just squeaking past Eno Terra. Above are  Dorothy Mullen of the Suppers Program and Judith Robinson of Our World, Our Choice. Not pictured is Sue Gordon, whose blog is FoodNetworkMusings.

You can see here some of how diverse the entries from eateries and businesses throughout Princeton were:

And the young lady below came over to me begging for water after sampling a particularly zingy entry.

Not just salsa of the edible kind was featured at the event. There was lively dancing on the plaza as well. Totally fun; I hope they do it again.

Speaking of Contests, Let’s Not Forget Relish

Serious Eats recently listed their picks for top hot dog relishes in the US and guess what? Two of the 14 hail from NJ! Congrats to Grandma Fencz’s Hungarian Onion Sauce (at Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha) and Rutt’s Hutt Relish (Clifton). I feel compelled to add a third: First Field’s, bringing my personal NJ total to 3.  Unfortunately, First Field’s is currently out of stock. The good folks behind it expect to have this year’s batch on the shelves (and at farmers markets) in the coming weeks.

Two Updated Zagat NJ Guides

I have been remiss in not reporting that 2 updated Zagat NJ guides are out for 2012/13: the statewide book and Jersey Shore Pocket Guide. (Full disclosure: I am an editor of both.) Among the updates and additions are 21 Key Newcomers. The iconic maroon books are widely available, including on Amazon and the Zagat site.

Recipes from Salt Creek Grille’s Wine & Dine for Eden Autism

Since 2008 Salt Creek Grille in Forrestal Village on Route 1 in Princeton has mounted an annual and wine gala on behalf of a worthy local cause. This year’s gala, held on June 28, raised funds for Eden Autism Services.

At the gala, selections from Salt Creek Grille’s recently unveiled “Fresh Reinvented” menu were served under the direction of Fabian Quiros, who took over as executive chef in January. The “Fresh Reinvented” menu features dishes that are lighter and healthier than in the past. (These are in addition to such Salt Creek signature dishes as mesquite-grilled double-cut pork chop and bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp.) The restaurant group has also increased its commitment to using organic and locally sourced ingredients, and among its current suppliers are Small World Coffee, Fresh Field (Jersey ketchup and relish), Crazy Steve’s Pickles & Salsa, Cherry Grove Farm (cheeses), Griggstown Farm (poultry and sausage), and Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen.

Chef Quiros’ menu for the Wine & Dine event featured, among many other dishes, four pastas and chef stations offering roast pork rubbed with smoked paprika and prime rib with chimichurri sauce. These were all delicious, but the surprises for me were the stupendous made-to-order sliders – actually, chubby mini burgers – and seafood paella. (That last particularly because I rarely enjoy paella even in Latin restaurants.)

Fabian Quiros’ story is inspiring. He came to the US from Costa Rica in 2000, speaking no English. He started out as a dishwasher in the Rumson Salt Creek Grille, worked his way up to sous chef and now, at age 32, is executive chef. Along the way he met and married a Salt Creek Grille waitress, and the couple, who lives in Jackson, has a two-month-old daughter, Lucia.

One dish on the restaurant’s new menu that is just now in season is Roasted Squash & Ricotta Ravioli, made with Lucy’s pasta, a plethora of fresh vegetables including corn, sugar snap peas, and baby tomatoes, and a pesto that employs three types of greenery. The pasta pillows come topped with a dollop of fresh tomato marmalade. Below is Quiros’ recipe for the marmalade – which I think would also be great over roasted salmon – as well as the pesto. This meticulous chef blanches the basil, spinach, and parsley and then squeezes them dry before pureeing, but I have to admit I got good results taking the lazy route – just dropping them au naturel into the blender.

BASIL, SPINACH & PARSLEY PESTO

4 ounces Italian basil

4 ounces baby spinach

4 ounces flat-leaf parsley

8 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

4 ounces almonds

4 ounces Parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with salt and blanch the basil, baby spinach, and parsley for 15 seconds. Have a bowl of ice water at the ready. Remove the herbs from the boiling water and place in the ice bath for approximately 1 minute. Remove the herbs and squeeze out the excess water in a towel (the drier the better). In a blender, puree the herbs together with the oil, almonds, garlic, and cheese on high speed for approximately 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes enough for 4 generous pasta servings.

FRESH TOMATO MARMALADE

5 Roma tomatoes, diced small

1/2 Spanish onion, diced small

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/4 large sprig rosemary, needles chopped fine

2 ounces clover honey

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Tis the Season: Farmers Markets, Food Fests, Birthday Fetes

Congratulations & Many Happy Returns…

…to Edible Jersey magazine on its 5th anniversary. The anniversary issue (summer 2012) of this free gem is out, so be sure to pick it up at Whole Foods, your local farmers market, and elsewhere. Click here for a complete list of where to find it.

…and to The Bent Spoon on its 8th anniversary.  As I write this, the Princeton ice cream shop is featuring the original 12 flavors it opened with.


Mousaka - (bottom center) Yahni (String Beans ...

Mousaka – (bottom center) Yahni (String Beans – top center) Pork Souvlaki (Kebab) – (left to right, center Rice Pilaf – (bottom right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Food Like Yia-Yia Makes

As a restaurant reviewer I like nothing better than to discover and then share with you terrific little eateries. But I have to confess that I’m a little loath to tell you about the Greek food at this week’s festival at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Hamilton, Mercer County. This church is by no means the only one to mount such fundraisers, it’s just that the homemade food prepared by their parishioners is simply the best. Hence it’s a popular and crowded event – and although these dedicated women and men make tons of food, I’d hate for it to run out before I get there. They offer gyros and souvlaki outdoors but the real treats are inside, where they serve full lunches and dinners to eat in or take out. This spring’s event runs from Thursday (night), May 17 through Sunday, May 20th. Check out the specifics here.

Central Jersey Farmers Markets 2012

Each year around this time I give a rundown on what’s new and happening at this season’s batch of farmers markets in my In the Kitchen column in the Princeton Packet. I repeat it mainly because many readers have told me that they clip it out and keep it posted on their fridge as a reference for the entire growing season. In the May 4th issue, I give the 411 on a dozen or so of my favorites.

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!

Kale Ice Cream, Magic Mineral Broth, Winners of Giveaway

Yep, you read that right: kale ice cream. An explanation is in order.

My hometown is smack in the middle of a month-long celebration of that tasty green called Eat More Kale Princeton.

Lots of businesses and organizations – food-based and otherwise – have come up with fun and ingenious ways to promote kale, as you can read on the Facebook page. Granted, kale-flavored ice cream is particularly crazy. Crazy delicious that is. Ever on the forefront of all things zany, the folks at the bent spoon are featuring kale and organic kumquat ice cream.

Naturally, I had to try it. It’s electric green in color, with a wonderfully silky-creamy texture. If you had blindfolded me and asked me to identify the flavor I’m not sure I would have come up with either kale or kumquat – but who cares? The day I tried it the suggested pairing was salt & pepper chocolate ice cream. Which, of course, I went for. It was a nice match but personally I wish I had gone with a double scoop of the kale – it was just that good. (Once again, I have to acknowledge a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

If you’re in Princeton during March, give it a whirl.

Magic Mineral Broth: A Public Service

That’s how I think about this recipe from Rebecca Katz’s book, One Bite at a Time: Nourishing Recipes for People with Cancer, Survivors, and their Caregivers.  Sadly, too many of us have a dear one who’s going through or has gone through the rigors (not to say downright horrors) of cancer treatment. I pulled out this recipe recently to make it for a good friend in just that situation.

It turned out to be one of the very few things my friend would happily consume for the duration, especially since cancer therapy wreaks havoc with your taste buds. This somehow still tasted good, and the bonus is it’s jam-packed with, as Katz writes in the first edition of her book, “potassium and numerous trace minerals that are often depleted by cancer therapy.” She continues, “Sipping this nutrient-rich stock is like giving your body an internal spa treatment. Drink it like tea [as my friend did] or use it as a base for all your favorite soups and rice dishes. Don’t be daunted by the ingredient list. Simply chop the ingredients in chunks and throw them in the pot.”

I followed the recipe from the first edition, which differs slightly from the revised version on Katz’s website. Here, though, are a few of my own pointers:

*Use as many organic ingredients as you can.

*Be sure to use a stiff vegetable brush for scrubbing all the root vegetables so that they are as clean as can be without having to pare them. But if dirt is embedded, go ahead and peel it off.

*Trim off all the root ends and tops, but thoroughly wash the greens of 3 of the carrots and add them to the stockpot.

*Remove the outermost skins of the onions and garlic.

*Carefully remove all blemishes and defects, like wilted leaves and potato eyes.

*I consider Japanese yams and Garnet yams to be a must – substituting regular sweet potatoes results in a muddy, less flavorful broth. I found both yams at my local Whole Foods.

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Congrats to the winners of the 2011/12 Zagat NJ Restaurant Guide giveaway, Rachel Wieranga and Rita Haake!