Tag Archives: Chef Chris Albrecht

Chefs Team Up with Griggstown Farm; Mistral Opens in King of Prussia; Where to Dine on Excellent Ramen & Breast of Veal, Finding Nectar on a Human Scale

Talk about a mixed bag! Today’s post runs the gamut from coq au vin and crispy pork riblets to authentic ramen and hard-to-come-by Italian-style breast of veal. Oh yes: and how you can experience collecting nectar like a bee.

Inaugural Video of Griggstown Farm Chicken Channel Features Chef Chris Albrecht of the Ryland Inn

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Coq au Vin, Griggstown Chicken Channel

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Chris Albrecht & George Rude, Sr., Griggstown Chicken Channel

 

 

 

 

 

The folks who raise Griggstown’s chickens and other premium, all-natural birds have launched a YouTube channel that has New Jersey’s top chefs demonstrating how to put those birds to excellent use, and pairs each video with related special offers. I sat in on the first taping and got the behind-the-scenes scoop while Albrecht demonstrated making coq au vin. My full report here, in the March issue of The Princeton Echo.

A Second Mistral Opens in Newly Expanded King of Prussia Mall

The folks behind Princeton’s popular Elements and Mistral restaurants – Steve Distler & Scott Anderson – opened their second Mistral on March 1st, across the river in Pennsylvania. As I reported a  few months back, chef de cuisine for this newly constructed space is Craig Polignano, who left the Ryland Inn (and moved to Conshohoken) to take the post.

The bright and airy restaurant is larger than its older sibling – 111 seats inside and  48 outside – but just as stylish, although with a different aesthetic, dominated by pale, whitewashed wood tones accented with bright azure.

Below are highlights from my first meal there. Three of us shared seven dishes, each so impressive that it was hard to pick favorites. The menu structure is mostly small plates (like its Princeton forebear), but the selections are unique to KOP. If you go: locating the restaurant is tricky. It’s next to Nieman Marcus. Look for the sign for Grand Lux Cafe – Mistral is below.

Maitake

Pork Riblets w/scallion pancake, shiitake, English cucumber – Mistral KOP

Cavatelli

Ricotta Cavatelli w/roasted squash, capers, pecorino tartufo, & yolk – Mistral KOP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon

Olive Oil-Poached Organic Salmon w/onion, baby beet, mustard, buttermilk – Mistral KOP

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food for Thought logo

My Food for Thought column in March’s Princeton Echo is chock-full of happy finds, including:
A don’t-miss, 3-course ramen meal prepared by an expert is coming up for one night only inside Princeton’s Nomad Pizza restaurant. Here are pics from a previous one:

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Frank Caponi’s Mushroom Ramen

 

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Frank Caponi’s Chasu Ramen

 

 

 

 

 


A Central Jersey Italian restaurant offering roast breast of veal that beats my own mother’s version. Here’s a pic from the meal that won me over:

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Breast of Veal, Chick & Nello’s Homestead Inn

Think you know all about how bees gather nectar? I guarantee you’ll be gobsmacked by what you didn’t know at this small but captivating display in Ewing at The College of New Jersey.

resonent-nest-tcnj

Jessica Rath, Resonant Nest, Photo by Brian Forest

All details here.

 

Meet Max Hansen; Catch 3 Central NJ Dining Deals

The Star-Studded Story Behind One Bucks County Chef-Caterer-Shopkeeper-Best-Selling Cookbook Author

Late last year when I attended Customer Appreciation Day at the new Max Hansen Carversville Grocery I was so impressed that I not only blogged about it here, but knew I wanted to dig deeper. His life story doesn’t disappoint! To name just a few of the key players: Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Carly Simon. I tell all in the January 15, 2014 issue of U.S. 1.

btw: The US 1 cover story by Dan Aubrey on his firsthand experience dealing with the Christie administration makes for timely, powerful reading.
Update: On January 28, 2014, the NY Times picked up Dan’s story, as a “portrait of a smear.” Here’s the link.

January Dining Deals in the Princeton Area: Get ’em While They’re Hot

1. Outback Steakhouse (Have I lost my bloomin’ onion mind?)

Regular visitors to this site know I have a soft spot for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Which explains why I’m suggesting you eat at Outback Steakhouse. One time, one location, one day only. The generous folks at the Outback on Route 1 in Mercer Mall are donating 50% (up to $5,000) of their sales tomorrow, January 20, 2014, to the Mercer County chapter of BBBS. That’s for lunch or dinner, from 11 am to 1o pm.

Tomorrow also happens to be MLK Day, as well as the restaurant’s opening day. The restaurant isn’t listed yet on either the Outback or Mercer Mall homepages. Here’s the phone number: 609.799.3039.

2. Calling All Brunello Lovers

Montalcino (Wikipedia)

Montalcino (Wikipedia)

I consider $80 for a 4-course dinner by Eno Terra chef Chris Albrecht paired with Lisini wines of Montalcino a steal. The dinner, at which proprietor Carlo Lisini will preside, takes place on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 starting at 6:30 pm at the Kingston restaurant. Featured wines include 3 Rosso’s and the 2007 Brunello. Tax & gratuity not included in the price. Reservations: 609.497.1777.

3. $5 AYCE Mussels at Tre Bar

How did I miss this one? I love mussels and every Monday night at Tre Bar, the eatery attached to Tre Piani in Forrestal Village on Route 1 near Princeton, they’re apparently all you can eat for $5. (Plus, wines by the glass are half price from 4 to 6:30 pm.) I hope to report back with a firsthand experience soon.

Update: Turns out that I hadn’t missed the word on this offer; it was just implemented on January 20th. Which is when I and my buddy Faith Bahadurian, who blogs at NJSpice went. We were among the first to try the mussels. They’re in a terrific marinara, come with lots of excellent country Italian bread and, yes, they’re AYCE for $5.

Frank Bruni et al @ Princeton; Delish Dandelions; Menu Malfunctions; Maricel Does It Again

Bruni Speaks!

A few weeks ago Frank Bruni and other notable food memoirists – including chefs Gabrielle Hamilton and Anita Lo – spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Princeton University. The topic was “Food, Writing, Intimacy” and each of the speakers, who also included chef Christopher Albrecht of Eno Terra and professor Leonard Barkan of Princeton, was given 10 minutes to talk about, well, anything they liked, followed by a short q & a.

Food Memoir Talk

Among the interesting information to emerge: Bruni will be teaching a course in food writing at the university next year and Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, is being made into a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Here are some of my favorite moments:

Professor Barkan (author of Satyr Square): “I did not grow up in a culinary household, but my first girlfriend did. Eventually, I grew more interested in food than I did in her.”

Frank Bruni (Born Round) told how during his time as NY Times restaurant critic he would make reservations under a different pseudonym each week, often forgetting to come up with one until he was on the phone. Among the names he used, as he glanced around his office: Mr. Strunk, Mr. White, Mr. Fodor, Mr. Frommer.

Anita Lo (chef/owner of Annisa in New York and author of Cooking without Borders) started off saying, “I want to talk about identity and food.” Her father, she said, had emigrated from China, her mother from Malaysia. Her father died when she was three, so she was raised mostly by her mom and stepfather, who was of German extraction, in the suburbs of Detroit. Because her longtime nanny was Hungarian, chicken paprikash is now one of her comfort foods. “So,” she concluded, “I’m pretty much a WASP.”

Gabrielle Hamilton (chef/owner of Prune in New York and award-winning author) admitted at the start, “I would rather be boiled in oil than talk. I look forward to the q & a! My memoir, like my cooking, is reluctant and inadvertent. I wanted to be a writer, but a memoir is much too personal.”

To view the entire session on video, click here. (Be sure to catch Bruni, who is quite the raconteur, telling about his encounter with the soap dispenser at Nobu 57.)

Dining on Dandelions

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I sing the praises of this spring treasure in my latest In the Kitchen column for the Princeton Packet, including my recipe for the above dish and one for dandelion risotto from Anna Scozzari of Enzo’s La Piccola Cucina in Lawrenceville.

Lost in Translation, Menu Edition

My daughter Alice recently was awarded an all-expense-paid stay at the exquisite Live Aqua Cancun Resort in Mexico, courtesy of the extraordinary company she works for. In addition to raving about the oceanfront beach, 9 pools, daily foot massage in her private cabana, and other decadent offerings, she singled out a fantastic meal at MB. It’s the inhouse restaurant of Michelle Bernstein, the James Beard Award-winning chef whose flagship is Michy’s in Miami.  The food easily surpassed some rather…um…unfortunate menu descriptions. Goat cheese marbles, anyone?

Restaurant MB menu


Maricel Presilla Does It Again

Congratulation are in order yet again for Hoboken restaurateur Maricel Presilla. Her book, Gran Cocina Latina, just won the 2013 IACP award as Best General Cookbook.

Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama, Zafra, & Ultramarinos

Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama, Zafra, & Ultramarinos

Stay tuned to see how she and her book fare when the James Beard book awards are announced on May 6th. For the complete list of IACP winners, click here.

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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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….?