Tag Archives: Bobolink dairy

Restaurant Empire: Meet the Smiths; New Vendors @ Slow Food Northern NJ’s Winter Farmers Market

The Folks behind Your Favorite Asbury Park Restaurants (Porta, The Annex, Pascal & Sabine) are Taking Over the State

Edible Jersey Winter 2015

Well, nearly. Meet the young visionaries behind the Smith Group, which I profile in the Winter 2015 issue of Edible Jersey(My story starts on page 22.) Other of their A.P. projects include upscale condos and the much acclaimed vegan restaurant, Goldie’s (which since I sat down with them has been converted into the Happiness Luncheonette). Plus they’ve exported the Porta artisan pizza brand to their restaurants in Newark (The Monk Room) and Jersey City (Porta). For 2015 they’re turning their attention to nothing less than a full-scale redevelopment of Burlington City. Whew!

Slow Food Northern NJ’s 7th Annual Winter Farmers Market: Catch up with Your Favorite Producers and Meet a Batch of New Ones

Slow Food Northern NJ

Like the childhood song says, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” On Sunday, February 1st I intend to do both, at this chapter’s indoor market at the historic Woodland 1930 Georgian Revival mansion in Maplewood.

20-plus local growers and food artisans are expected. Familiar (and beloved) names include cheese makers Bobolink and Cherry Grove, but new to me are Pennsylvania’s Flint Hill Farm and Valley Milkhouse.

Bobolink’s fabulous breads and baked good will be available, too, as well as those of Arturo’s Restaurant (whose master bread maker, Dan Richer, I profiled last year in Edible Jersey), and several others. Examples of other new-to-me and interesting-sounding vendors include Josie Porter Biodynamic Farm in Stroudsburg, PA (garlic-infused vinegar is among their offerings), and prepared foods and baked goods from Rogowski Farm/Black Dirt Gourmet, Pine Island NY.

Attention teachers, parents, and school administrators interested in starting a school vegetable garden: you can sign up at this event for materials and fundraising support to help. Proceeds from the winter market will help advance Slow Food Northern NJ’s mission of helping schools start vegetable gardens. Slow Food NNJ has been able to provide 30 grants in the past 6 years.

The winter market will take place on Sunday, February 1 from noon to 4 pm at The Woodland, Maplewood. Entrance fee is a $3 donation to support Slow Food Northern NJ’s school vegetable garden programs (see above). Snow date is February 8. For snow closing info, phone (908)451-0051. For information on the market, visit slowfoodnnj.org.

Where Rush Holt Dines in DC; Frank Bruni, Gabrielle Hamilton & Others Coming to Princeton; Girl Scouts Cook “Slow” @ Tre Piani

When I read the NY Times story “A Lunchroom Called Capitol Hill,” I couldn’t help but wonder about the dining preferences of my own representative, Rush Holt. (You may have encountered the bumper sticker for him that reads My congressman IS a rocket scientist!)

English: Official photo of Rep Rush Holt

English: Official photo of Rep Rush Holt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I contacted his office for a bit of what passes with me as investigative journalism. Here’s his reply:

“If by favorite you mean where I eat most often, it would be my desk.  Eating out, it would be the Chinese restaurant on Pennsylvania SE.”

Well played, Congressman. Not only does this indicate how hard Holt works on our behalf, but also the restaurant to which he refers is Hunan Dynasty, an inexpensive, standard-issue, neighborhood Chinese joint. His constituency can rest assured that he’s working hard on our behalf, not wasting our tax dollars at effete watering holes, and does not participate in the one-upmanship described in the Times piece.

By the way, that story included a secret that my DC-dwelling daughter passed along to me a while ago: the best cafeteria food on the National Mall is to be had at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Acclaimed Food Memoirists and Chefs to Discuss “Food, Writing, Intimacy” at Princeton University

On Tuesday, March 26 the latest in a series of talks labeled Critical Encounters will feature Frank Bruni of the New York Times (“Born Round“), Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in NYC (“Blood, Bones, and Butter“), Anita Lo of Annisa in NYC (“Cooking without Borders“), Chris Albrecht of Eno Terra in Kingston, and Professor Leonard Barkan of Princeton (“Satyr Square“).

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

The event, conceived and organized by Professor Anne Cheng of Princeton, is free and open to the public. It takes place at 4:30 pm in McCormick Hall 101 on the university campus.

Girl Scouts Cook Up a ‘Slow’ Meal for Farmers, Friends & Family at Tre Piani Restaurant

I don’t know who was braver, the 6 teenage Scouts who wielded 12-inch chef knives and skirted the huge blue flames of the restaurant’s professional stoves or owner/chef Jim Weaver who invited the girls to cook a meal at his Forrestal Village restaurant. It was all part of an advanced Scouting project, Sow What?, that focuses on sustainability, farming, and nutrition.

The girls shopped for local ingredients at the Slow Food Winter Farmers Market that took place at the restaurant earlier in the day and then, with Chef Jim, devised a menu. Here’s what they cooked up:

scouts at tre piani 009

Salad of baby lettuces, Tre Piani’s own fresh mozzarella, local hothouse tomatoes, and croutons made with bread from Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse, one of the day’s many vendors.

scouts at tre piani 015

Penne Bolognese made with local grass-fed beef and sausage, mushrooms from Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms, and fresh ricotta from Fulper Farms.

scouts at tre piani 011

The girls had made ahead of time and brought with them avocado chocolate mousse – a recipe of Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Shoppers at the annual Winter Slow Food Farmers Market held at Tre Piani restaurant in Forrestal Village last month may have noticed an unusual sight: a group of six teenage girls in t-shirts and jeans bouncing from table to table, debating which meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, and other comestibles to select – and then gathering up enough to feed a small army. Well, at least the 25 people they were having over for dinner that night. At the restaurant.

The girls – Hannah Barrett, Olivia Killian, Gabrielle Longchamp, Julia McDonald, Olivia Rios, and Emily Schalk – are all members of Girl Scout Troop 80925 in Flemington, and their Tre Piani experience was but one leg in a group journey called Sow What? In Girl Scout lingo, a “journey” is a group of activities and accomplishments for older Scouts that, along with accumulating badges, culminates in a Gold Award – the equivalent of Eagle Scout for boys.

Cathy Schalk, one of the troop leaders and mother to Emily, explained that the Sow What? journey “encompasses sustainable farming, Slow Food, and the nutritional importance of food to our health.” The girls began working on the project last summer: visiting area farms and meeting with agriculture specialists and leaders of the Slow Food movement, including Jim Weaver who founded and heads up the Central New Jersey chapter.

“They contacted me last summer,” recalls Weaver, chef/owner of Tre Piani. “They said they were touring farms, doing the whole Jersey Fresh thing. They came to the restaurant and I did a little tasting and talk with them.” To thank him, the girls decided they would cook a dinner for the chef, in February. “But it occurred to me,” Weaver says, “that we could piggyback on the farmers market held here each February. I thought, why don’t we shop, cook, and sit down and eat together instead.”

That’s how the scouts – five sophomores and one freshman at Hunterdon Central Regional High, several of whom have known each other since second grade – came to be shopping at the Slow Food market and, afterwards, donning aprons and wielding twelve-inch chef’s knives in the restaurant’s kitchen. “The girls shopped pretty much by themselves and decided on the menu,” said Weaver, as he had them busily chopping onions and carrots. When these were sautéing, along with garlic, over huge blue flames in massive sauté pans, he sprinkled in dried chili flakes, telling the girls, “A little pepperoncini adds another element/dimension. It helps excite your palate a little bit.”

As the scouts worked, their adult troop leaders talked about the effect the Sow What? journey has had on the girls and their families. Cathy Shalk said, “At home, I now think twice when I go to serve an ‘emergency’ dinner on paper plates.” Michele Levasseur, Gabrielle’s mother, laughed and added, “After they read all the nutrition info about fast food, like McDonald’s, they’re now telling me what to eat!” But, she added, “because of this project, my daughter and I regularly ride bikes through the community. We see local farms and we stop and talk to the farmers.”

Some of these farmers were among the 25 friends and family members the troop had invited to share their Tre Piani dinner, among them a soils expert from Rutgers University and a Flemington school nurse who had founded a school garden. After everyone had tasted the pasta, Jim Weaver proclaimed, “This dish just may have to go on the menu here at Tre Piani. We’ll call it ‘Pasta 80925.’ The only thing is, customers will expect Girl Scout cookies afterwards!”

Later, many of the girls agreed that cooking had been their favorite part of the day. Gabrielle Longchamp said of the overall experience, “It went more smoothly in the kitchen than I had anticipated.” Olivia Rios admitted that she was “scared to death” of the cooking, but managed to enjoyed it. “But I also liked choosing the ingredients, too,” she added.

The recipe below includes in parentheses the vendors at the Slow Food Farmers Market who provided ingredients for the Girl Scout’s feast.

 TROUP 80925 BOLOGNESE SAUCE
(developed with Jim Weaver, Tre Piani)

2 pounds fresh wild mushroom mix (such as Davidson’s or Shibumi Farms)
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
2 onions, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon chili pepper flakes
1 package (about 1 pound) pork sausage (such as Beech Tree Farm), removed from casing, if any
2 pounds ground beef (such as WoodsEdge Wool Farm)
2 cans (28 ounces each) plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups beef stock, or 1 cup stock and 1 cup red wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pint fresh ricotta (such as Fulper Family Farms)
2 pounds dried pasta, such as penne

1. Clean the mushrooms by wiping with a damp paper towel. (Do not rinse: mushrooms soak up water like a sponge.) Chop mushrooms. Saute over high heat in small batches with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a little salt. The liquid released from the mushrooms should have enough room in the pan to evaporate and let the mushrooms develop a golden-brown color. Set aside.

2. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the onion and some salt, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Then add carrots, garlic, chili flakes, and a little salt. Cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add the sausage and ground beef. Cook, breaking down the lumps with a fork, until the meat is cooked through. Add tomatoes, olive oil, and stock. Add salt and pepper to taste (not too much; the sauce will reduce and intensify). Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or, better yet, an hour.
4. Add sauteed mushrooms and stir until heated through. Serve or refrigerate. The sauce tastes even better the next day. If you make it ahead of time reheat over low heat while the pasta is cooking. Just before serving take the sauce off the heat and mix in the ricotta.
5. When ready to serve, cook the pasta according to package instructions then mix with the Bolognese sauce.
Serves 8 to 12.

scouts at tre piani 013

The Sorry State of Food TV; 2 NJ Slow Food Events; Craig Shelton’s New Gig; NJ & Beard Awards; Mistral Preview

This essay by Andy Greenwald on the state of Food TV is the best I’ve encountered. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with everything Greenwald writes – I thought I was the only one who felt this way! I was gratified in particular by this sentence about Emeril Lagasse‘s role as a Top Chef judge:

“Stripped of his catchphrases and his band, Emeril has revealed himself to be kind, patient and insightful, able to articulate the nuances of food we’ll never taste with expert, understated flair.”

Not only do I agree with that assessment as a viewer, but it reflects the conclusion I came to when Emeril was a guest on my radio show years ago. We did an entire hour show live from Marketfair mall in Princeton.

Pat & Emeril1

I expected lots of bam! and bluster, and instead I got a thoughtful, soft-spoken, gentle man who answered my questions with insight and modesty. It was only when a young boy in the audience shouted out, “Emeril, say Bam!” that he did – and talked about how great it was to have youngsters interested in cooking.

Slow Food Farmers Market (Central) & Expert Talk on GMOs (North)

Slow Food Central Snail

This Sunday, 2/24/13, will see the final Slow Food Central NJ winter farmers market of the season. This one is being held at Tre Piani restaurant in Forrestal Village along Route 1 in Princeton, from 11 am to 3 pm. There’ll be live music and you can sit down for food and drink at Tre Bar in between stocking up on meats, breads, mushrooms, cheeses, wines, baked goods, and sweets from these vendors:

Beech Tree Farm….Birds and Bees Farm…Bobolink Dairy and Bake House…Cherry Grove Farm…Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms…Donna and Company…Fulper Dairy Farm…Funni Bonz Barbecue Sauce…Happy Wanderer Bakery…Hopewell Valley Vineyards…Judith’s Desserts…Jammin’ Crepes…Pure Indian Foods Ghee…Rocky Brook Farm…Shibumi Exotic Mushrooms…Valley Shepherd Creamery and Woods Edge Wools Farm.

For information, phone 609.577.5113.

Slow Food SnailThen next Sunday, March 3rd, attend an afternoon meeting of Slow Food Northern NJ at the DeHart Community Center in Maplewood that starts at 1 pm with a tasting of local foods and includes talks on school gardens and the impact of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on our lives. Speaker for that will be Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, who will “describe what genetic engineering is, the lack of required safety testing, and why you should be concerned.” Click here for info and to purchase tickets ($8 for members; $10 for the public).

Craig Shelton, Consultant

Craig SheltonNew Jersey’s most well-known chef (check out the interview with him I posted here last December) is now consulting at Mediterra in Princeton. Laurent Chapuis, the proprietor of the Princeton Corkscrew wine shop just a few doors down, was impressed with a recent  lunch overseen by Shelton. If you know Monsieur Chapuis, you know he is one tough customer, so his praise bodes well for this match.

Mediterra’s general manager, Carmine DePasquale, says that Shelton will be at the restaurant four to five days a week, mainly during lunch service, for at least the next three months. He isn’t so much behind the stove tweaking dishes or changing the menu as he is, DePasquale says, “showing us a different hospitality factor, a new way of managing how guests perceive things.” He’s working hand-in-hand with Mediterra chef Terry Strong and his sous chefs, yes, but also servers and the management team as a whole. Shelton, DePasquale says, has set his task as observing, commenting on what’s being done correctly (or not), and addressing issues around hospitality and even marketing. “The beauty of Craig,” DePasquale says, “is that he holds himself up to the Relais and Chateaux guidelines, and it’s always good to strive for that with every single person who walks through our door.”

Congrats to 2013 James Beard Awards Semi-finalists Scott Anderson, Joey Baldino, and Thirty Acres

If you call yourself a New Jersey foodie, you’ve likely heard by now that the Garden State receive three nods on the first round of balloting announced this week. Both Scott Anderson of elements in Princeton and Vetri-alumnus Joey Baldino of Zeppoli (his Sicilian restaurant in Collingswood) are among 2o chefs vying to be one of 5 semi-finalists for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. Thirty Acres in Jersey City is one of 29 hopefuls for Best New Restaurant in the USA.

Thirty Acres, Jersey City

Thirty Acres, Jersey City

Five finalists in each category will be announced on March 18, and the ultimate sole winners on May 6.

Sneak Peak of Mistral Menu at elements, Princeton

Mistral-Logo

Speaking of elements, the projected opening of Mistral, the second (and more casual) restaurant by the same team, is now set for April. Those of us who can’t wait for its small plates of interpreted Mediterranean classics can get a smattering at elements between now and then. Prices start at $7 for fennel salad with lemon basil, red onion, and orange and run to $12 for bronzino with potato puree, black olive, and caramelized red onion.

In between are house-cured lomo (Spanish-style dry-cured pork tenderloin) with trumpet royale mushrooms, pimentos, and garlic; pressure-cooked octopus with “papas bravas” (their quotation marks), and caper aioli; and dark meat chicken with yuzu and soy honey glaze.

MoonShine Review; Shore Eateries Needing Our Help; Burns’ Nights & Haggis in NJ

Is the intriguingly named MoonShine Modern Supper Club in Millburn more moonshine, more modern supper club, or neither? My review is in the January issue of New Jersey Monthly. Check it out here. NJ monthly cover jan13

The Jersey Shore’s Leading Restaurateurs Need Our Help

Marilyn Schlossbach‘s stable of shore favorites are mostly intact months after Sandy. But at least one, Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, is not – and the big-hearted, community-minded Schlossbach, who has helped so many, now needs our help. Here’s how, via JerseyBites.com.

Same with Drew Araneo, whose Keyport restaurant, Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, is among my top shore picks. Find out how to dine well while helping him out at this fundraiser, via Table Hopping with Rosie.

Another way to help restore the shore goes down even easier: drinking beer. As you may have heard, Jersey’s own Flying Fish Brewery is debuting their brilliantly named Forever Unloved (F U) Sandy pale ale in February. You can nominate the Jersey relief organization that you’d like the estimated $50,000 it will raise to go to. To make a nomination, send the folks at Flying Fish an email by clicking here.

Celebrating Robert Burns’ Birthday in the Traditional Manner

English: Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert bur...

English: Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert burns.jpg Replacement of existing commons image with higher res version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That manner being a raucous, ritualistic supper featuring haggis, Scotch, bagpipes, toasts, poetry, dancing, and Auld Lang Syne. Burns Nights are held around the world each year on or around January 25 and if you’ve never been to one (in which case I pity you), I’m here to help.

Click here for a good description of the tradition. Then, below, check out places around the state where you can join in the festivities. If you’d rather celebrate at home, never fear: I provide a resource for buying that all-important haggis (grassfed, no less!). You know you’re dying to try it, with or without neeps and tatties.

Newark Firefighters at St. Patrick's Day Parad...

Newark Firefighters at St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2006 Belmar – Lake Como, NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Celebrations in NJ in 2013:
Summit: On Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Grand Summit Hotel, presented by the Clan Currie Society and the Rampant Lion Pipe Band. Click here for details.

Mount Laurel: On Friday, January 25, by the South Jersey Celtic Society. Click here for details.

Milford: On Monday, January 28 at the Ship Inn. Note, however, that the website asks for reservations by January 15 – so perhaps it’s too late. To check it out just in case you can still squeak in, click here.

Where to buy haggis in NJ: Bobolink in Milford
Until it went out of business, Stewarts of Kearny in Brick was the source. But this

Haggis neeps and tatties

Haggis neeps and tatties (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

year, haggis aficionados (that’s me and probably one other person) can actually get grassfed haggis at Jonathan White’s farm, better known for its cheeses and breads. I picked up a half-pound slice from the freezer on a recent visit for my own at-home celebration. Here’s the description that Charles, the helpful guy behind the counter, provided of Bobolink’s somewhat nontraditional take on this specialty:

“It’s a mixture of ground pork organs – heart, liver, kidney – plus beef heart and pork belly. These are mixed with oats, malt whiskey, and herbs and spices and stuffed, not in the traditional sheep stomach, but in a synthetic casing. The haggis is poached in the wood oven [used for bread baking] until cooked through. To serve, you just slice and pan-fry until crisp on both sides.”
I can hardly wait for the 25th to try it.

Dilly’s Done Different & 2 Slow Food NJ Farmers Markets

Dilly’s Done Different
Anyone familiar with Dilly’s Corner – the beloved walk-up hot dog and ice cream shack in the New Hope, PA area that had always closed down for the winter – will be astonished by a cold-weather transformation that began last year. On weekends from November to March, the shack magically transforms into a homey, charming, and surprisingly accomplished restaurant, not unlike Cinderella after the bippety-boppety-boo. Friends who prefer to think of Dilly’s Done Different as a sort of culinary Brigadoon finally got me there this past weekend.

Dilly's Corner Sign Touting Summertime Treats

Dilly’s Corner Sign Touting Summertime Treats

Several surprises struck me from the start: the warm greeting for my friends by Tom Massa, who owns Dilly’s with his wife, Nancy; tables set with smooth white linens, quality wine glasses (it’s byo), and one big, yellow rose in a bud vase; and a moderately priced menu of appealing modern American fare.

I started with the soup du jour:  shellfish stew with a rich (but not too rich) tomato-cream base, which I think cost something like $6.25. Like everything else, it was a good-sized portion and a wonderful combination of earthiness and finesse. So too my main dish of grilled, sliced teres major (an inexpensive, tasty, and bafflingly underutilized cut of beef) with a potato gratin that Escoffier would approve for both its flavor and good looks, and roasted asparagus – those ultra-skinny spears we’re seeing a lot in restaurants these days. Up til now, I’ve considered them silly and underwhelming in flavor. Somehow, these had been roasted so as to enhance their inherent flavor – a first for me. I finished up with a dense, rich, sticky hazelnut-espresso torte.

Meantime, I was feverishly swapping plates with my companions, and have to say that I was just as pleased with their selections, which included:

A big bowl of steamed mussels in red tomato broth/sauce
Pork schnitzel (a thick chop butterflied but still on the bone) with fresh fettuccine
Braised short ribs with smashed potatoes
Fettuccine with fresh vegetables
Three-cheese lasagne with homemade meatballs on the side
Lemon poppy-seed pound cake topped with meringue

Next time I’ll try the pan-roasted salmon ($26) or the roasted half-chicken ($22). I’m told that running Dilly’s year-round kitchen are two young chefs who conceived Dilly’s Done Different as an off-season way to give their cooking chops a workout. I hope that Kevin Gilbreath, a CIA grad and executive chef, and Steven Schwier, sous chef, feel that need for years to come.

Things you should know before going: Both incarnations – Dilly’s Corner and Dilly’s Done Different – are cash only. Dilly’s Done Different operates roughly from November to March, offering dinner on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings and brunch on Sunday. Reservations are pretty much required because seating is limited and, as you might expect, the place is becoming very popular. Although the address is given as New Hope, Dilly’s is technically in Solebury Township, immediately across from Stockton, NJ.  In fact, on the unusually balmy Saturday night of my visit we parked in Stockton and walked across the Center Bridge to the restaurant.
Dilly's Corner on Urbanspoon

Two NJ Slow Food Chapters Holding Winter Farmers Markets on the Same Day in January

Whether you live in North, Central, or South Jersey, mark your calendar for Sunday the 27th.

English: The main entrance of the Frelinghuyse...

English: The main entrance of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ. It currently houses the offices of county officials. There are plans to make this building into a museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That day, from noon to 4 pm, the Northern NJ chapter will be hosting no fewer than 21 “farmers, food artisans, and friends” at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown. These include two of our state’s premiere cheese makers: Bobolink and Valley Shepherd. A $3 entrance fee supports the chapter’s school vegetable gardens program. For the full line-up, directions, and other details click here.

Johnson Education Center www.d&rgreenway.org

Johnson Education Center http://www.drgreenway.org

Also on the 27th the Central NJ chapter of Slow Food will hold the second of three markets scheduled for the winter of 2012-2013. This one will run from 11 am to 3 pm at the gorgeous Johnson Education Center at the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton. They’re also hosting two fab cheese makers – Bobolink & Cherry Grove. Here’s the complete line-up:

Beechtree Farm
Birds and Bees Farm (NJ raw honey)
Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse
Cherry Grove Farm
Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms
Fulper Farms
Good Times Kettle Corn
Hopewell Valley Vineyards
Jammin’ Crepes
Jersey Jams and Jellies
Pure Indian Foods (organic ghee)
Shibumi Farm (exotic mushrooms)
Stony Brook Orchids
WoodsEdge Wools Farm

A $2 donation to the chapter is suggested. For directions click here.

Cafe Blue Moose; Epicurean Palette Highlights & Recipe; Got Goat?

“The nation’s only completely youth-run restaurant” proclaims the website of Cafe Blue Moose located on Mechanic Street in New Hope, PA. Owner/chef Skylar Bird began his professional culinary journey at the age of 14, when he formed a supper club in his parents’ home. Then it was on to culinary school and France, and now, at the ripe old age of 20, his sweet byob

employs only high school and college students – so expect to uncork your wine yourself. And then dig into Bird’s home-style fare. $20 gets you 2 courses – your choice of starter and main, or main and dessert, or starter and dessert. Another $5 and you’re good for 3 courses at this cash-or-check-only spot.

The menu changes frequently, but on a recent weeknight I and a friend enjoyed starters of butternut squash soup and a salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, apples, and walnuts:

Each table is hand-painted with a different free-form design that includes a blue moose. Freebies (freebies! even at these prices!) include hot buttered popcorn and soft country-style bread. On the way out we picked up homemade cookies – another lagniappe. Before that we had enjoyed housemade fettuccine with sausage and sweet corn, and short ribs with squash puree. We skipped dessert, although this description of Moose Tracks tempted: “Our signature chocolate sherry whipped cream cake.”
Cafe Blue Moose on Urbanspoon

Epicurean Palette 2012

About 1,000 people strolled Grounds for Sculpture last Sunday for what many agree was the best iteration yet of this food, wine, and beer gala that’s the sculpture park’s major annual fundraiser. Let’s start with the home team, Rat’s restaurant.

Here’s executive chef Shane Cash (he’s a distant relative of Johnny Cash, although he doesn’t tout it) tending the star ingredient of his Moroccan lamb with harissa oil. He cooked the lamb in a China box, usually used for barbecuing whole pigs.

Over at the Eno Terra table, Chris Albrecht and crew are clearly enjoying themselves dishing up hand-rolled garganelli pasta with pecorino Sarde and baby eggplant:

While Manuel Perez and the folks at Princeton’s Peacock Inn wow guests with ricotta gnocchi, which somehow I neglected to take a sample of!

Meantime, a typically intense Scott Anderson of elements forms countless quenelles of spicy short rib tartare. Short rib tartare? As meltingly tender – but more flavorful – than tartare made with high-end cuts. What sorcery is this?

At left, Scott Snyder (right) of Boulevard Five72 plates lobster roulade, while below, Nina & Jonathan White stand behind their Bobolink cheeses, literally and figuratively.

The Epicurean Palette would not be complete without two signatures: the chocolate rats produced by, well, Rat’s and the chocolate pots de creme of Brothers Moon. I devoured the chocolate rat bonbon before thinking to take a pic, but here is Brothers Moon owner/chef Will Mooney (on the right) and his assistant, Nicolas Angelus. Even better, here’s the recipe:

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO POT DE CREME FOR A CROWD
(
20 six-ounce portions)

3 tablespoons espresso powder
6 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, chopped small
16 ounces egg yolks (approximately 24 eggs)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large heavy-bottom pot combine espresso powder, milk, sugar, and cocoa powder and heat until hot and all sugar is melted. Combine chopped chocolate pieces and egg yolks in a large bowl. Drizzle milk mixture slowly into the chocolate and yolks and then add the vanilla. Divide mixture among ramekins. Bake in a water bath in a preheated 300-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until set. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, overnight. If desired, serve with fresh berries, cookies, and/or whipped cream.

Sourcing Goat Meat: No Goat Left Behind

Did you know that goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world? Whenever I encounter it on a menu (thankfully more common than in the past) I never pass it up. I’ve cooked it at home, too, although I have to confess that, before the days of local, grassfed farms, I was always wary about its origins. Even now, fresh, local goat meat isn’t always easy to come by. So I welcome Heritage Food USA’s celebration of Goatober, which offers three different cuts and 2-day shipping. Now I just have to decide how to cook it: Italian, Jamaican, Indian….?