Tag Archives: Chef Scott Anderson

Salsa Slam Winners; Elements Sets Opening Date; Freebie @ WildFlour

11 Princeton Eateries Vie for Salsa Bragging Rights

I don’t know what it is about salsa that brings out the best in people, but for the 4th year in a row the Princeton Public Library’s salsa contest drew a fun-loving crowd (estimated at 200), a passel of uncommonly cheerful salsa-dispensing volunteers, 5 downright giddy judges (me among them), and 11 amazing anonymous entries.

The Contenders

The Contenders

Congrats to these winners:

First Place: Olives, for its Tropical Mango Salsa (which also contains green tomatoes, avocado, pineapple, jalapeno, red onion, lime, cilantro, and olive oil)

Crowd at Salsa Slam 2015

Crowd at Salsa Slam 2015

Second Place (Judges’ Choice) and Second Place People’s Choice: Nassau Inn, for its Watermelon Salsa (including red onion, lime, cukes, jalapeno, cilantro, mint, and honey)

My fellow judges (l to r): Arlene Reyes, Elisa Neira, Sue Gordon, Gab Carbone

My fellow judges (l to r): Arlene Reyes; Elisa NeiraSue Gordon, Gab Carbone

Third Place: Jammin’ Crepes, with Local Summer Harvest Salsa, a tasty combo of peaches, cukes, red peppers, red onions, jalapeno, pickles, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic.

People’s Choice: Tie: Jammin’ Crepes & Tortuga’s Mexican Village (Classic Pico de Gallo: tomato, onions, cilantro)

Steven Fitch, Sous Chef, Nassau Inn & Creator of People's Choice Winner

Steven Fitch, Sous Chef, Nassau Inn & Creator of 2nd Place Winner

Elements Sets Opening Date & Menu

Scott Anderson, The Princeton Echo, July 2015

Scott Anderson of Elements, Courtesy of The Princeton Echo, July 2015

The date: August 11. The menu: first iteration here (reservations as well).

Attention Cyclists: WildFlour Bakery in Lawrenceville Has an Offer You Can’t Refuse

If you enjoy bicycling and haven’t yet discovered the recently opened Lawrenceville Hopewell Trail, you’re in for a treat. A double treat, in fact. Because WildFlour, the gluten-free bakery and cafe on Main Street (Route 206) in the village, has this extra incentive for you to hop on your bike:

Simply download the coupon here, on the WildFlour website.

 

All-Princeton Post: Scott Anderson Dishes on the New Elements; Manuel Perez Departs The Peacock Inn; Aurelio’s Opens on Leigh Ave.

Everything You Wanted to Know about the Re-launching of Elements

Turns out that since its closing last year to relocate to a new space on Witherspoon Street, every aspect of the Elements experience has been examined, reconsidered, and altered – if not radically transformed. I sat down with chef/owner Scott Anderson and got the who, what, where, why, when, and how of the new Elements, which is expected to debut within weeks. Here’s my 2,500-word report, in the July issue of The Princeton Echo.

Scott Anderson, The Princeton Echo, July 2015

Scott Anderson, The Princeton Echo, July 2015

Change of Chef at The Peacock Inn

Manuel Perez, who had been executive chef since the Peacock Inn’s own relaunch five years ago, has departed. Barry Sussman, the owner, is expected to announce his replacement at any moment. Here are the details, as I reported them in my Food for Thought column in that same issue of The Echo:

Manuel Perez Representing the Peacock Inn at Epicurean Palate, 2012

Manuel Perez Representing the Peacock Inn at Epicurean Palate, 2012

“Owner Barry Sussman announced in mid-June that Perez, who had been executive chef since 2010, when the inn and restaurant’s dramatic, multi-million dollar renovation debuted, was leaving to become chef de cuisine at Bouley restaurant in New York. Perez had worked for famed chef David Bouley early in his career, eventually moving to NJ to work at Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank and then moving over to the Peacock. Departing with Perez is his wife, Cynthia, who was the restaurant’s pastry chef. At press time Sussman was close to naming a replacement. He told New Jersey Monthly that chefs from two-star Michelin restaurants were in the running. Stay tuned.”
Update: Sam Byrne, formerly of Cross & Orange in Asbury Park, has been tapped for this position.

Aurelio’s Cocina Latina Opens on Leigh Avenue

Aurelio's Princeton

Aurelio’s Princeton

Rocio Lopez hails from Oaxaca; her husband, Marco Gonzalez, from Guatemala. The menu of their cheerful, lemon-yellow cafe reflects both homelands. In truth, I wish the menu had more Guatemalan dishes, because the standout dish on a recent lunch was housemade pupusas with chicharron and cabbage slaw.  Aurelio’s took over the quarters of what had been Tortuga’s Mexican Village, before that restaurant moved directly across the street. Tortuga’s is a longtime favorite of Princetonians. Lopez says she’s not worried, though.

Sweet flowers at Aurelio's, Princeton

Sweet flowers at Aurelio’s, Princeton

More details are here, in my July Food for Thought column in The Echo, along with tidbits about two new Central NJ farmers markets that have out-of-the-ordinary missions and unique rosters of farms. And, oh yes: I divulge my favorite source for fennel pollen.

Professor Scott Anderson? Plus,Tapas at Tertulia

I got to sit in recently as Chef Scott Anderson of Elements delivered a command performance lecture-demo to Ph.D. candidates in the materials science program of Princeton University. Here’s my report, in the May issue of New Jersey Monthly, on that Ivy League school’s first foray into the world of food science.

NJ Monthly cover may13

Did I mention that the demo concluded with a four-course lunch that deliciously explicated such concepts as (ahem) pyrolysis vs. the Maillard reaction? Dessert was this playful take on chicken-and-waffles.

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The chicken comes in the form of chicken skin “crumble” (evaporated chicken skin, pulverized into a powder). It’s sprinkled over honey-maple waffles, which rest on a bed of sweet, pudding-like white hominy. Pecans and butternut squash ice cream finish the dish.

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For someone who prides herself on covering the Jersey food scene, I have been dining across the Hudson (and even the Potomac) a lot in recent weeks – and dining darned well. Here’s the first of several reports.

Tertulia

Open-fire rotisserie, from www.tertulianyc.com

Open-fire rotisserie, from http://www.tertulianyc.com

It took me way, way too long to make my first foray to this Spanish tapas place in the West Village that, within weeks of its 2011 opening, became a finalist for the James Beard Award as best new restaurant in the country. Here chef/owner Seamus Mullen (whose last gig was Boqueria and who has been a judge on “Chopped“) continues his love affair with Spain, which extends to the hard ciders of Asturias. At least two are available daily, poured from this good-looking tap:

Actually, all of Tertulia is good-looking, from the bar at the front of its two long, narrow rooms to this – the semi-exposed kitchen in the rear:

The view from my table

The view from my table

Mullen’s fare manages to be both authentic and purely his own at the same time. My advice: order anything with jamon Iberico. Like this lunchtime tapa ($12) of two oversize crostini plied with smashed potatoes and slightly crushed shirred egg, then topped with folds of this incomparable ham:

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If, like me, you like anchovies, you’ll love the Tosta Matrimonio ($9), which weds meaty, salty black anchovies and tart, supple white ones (boquerones). They recline on a thin slice of sheep’s milk cheese over crisp crostini made of flax and quinoa, chastely separated by succulent slow-roasted tomato.

Anchovies cropped

One dish with jamon was not enough, so this grilled sandwich with Serrano ham, Mahon cheese, and quince paste was mandatory ($9):

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My companion & I also shared a generous salad of preserved tuna, farro, Castelvetrano olives, cucumber, frisee, and tomato ($14). While it had good flavors – especially the premium quality tuna – the texture was a bit gummy.

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At that point we were too stuffed to even consider dessert, a situation that conveniently provides an excuse to return to this warm, handsome spot. On my list for next time: classic Spanish egg-and-potato tortilla, fried Shishito peppers, and grilled octopus with beans, kale, and Marcona almonds. And definitely more jamon Iberico.

Tertulia on Urbanspoon

Breaking News: First Peek Inside Mistral in Princeton

Last week Scott Anderson took time out to escort me around Mistral, the smaller, more casual sibling to his acclaimed restaurant elements, that’s set to open later in April. Read my report at NJMonthly.com. Mistral-Logo

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.

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.

Fancy Food Show Report, Orange Soda BBQ Sauce Recipe, Breaking Restaurant News

My annual round-up of the best and the brightest at the Summer Fancy Food Show is out – check it out here in the July 3 issue of US 1 newspaper. Bonus: one additional find I don’t mention in my story:

Jansal Valley Basil Crystals, basically bits of shelf-stable fresh basil mixed with sugar. Interesting, to say the least, and the flavor of fresh basil really shines through. I came across it at the Sid Wainer booth, but it does not appear to be available online yet.

You Asked for It: Orange Soda BBQ Sauce Recipe Redux

I’ve been getting lots of requests for the recipe for Grilled Chicken with Orange Soda BBQ Sauce that was featured in my Princeton Packet column for Father’s Day. I linked to it in a previous post, but the article is no longer free at centraljersey.com so I’m reprinting it here – just in time for your Fourth of July cookout.

Don’t let the seemingly long list of ingredients fool you. It couldn’t be simpler: Basically, you combine all the dry rub ingredients in a bag and all the bbq sauce ingredients in a saucepan. That’s it. You could even omit the spicy rub and use only the sauce.

The recipe is the creation of Chef Jeremy Stahl,  who teaches for-credit and non-credit culinary classes at Mercer County College. This recipe is just one of several he’ll feature in the class he’ll conduct on July 21st called Great American Summer.

CHEF JEREMY STAHL’S GRILLED CHICKEN WITH ORANGE SODA BBQ SAUCE

Two 2-1/2 pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
For the BBQ rub:
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated garlic
3 tablespoons granulated onion
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
For the orange soda BBQ sauce:
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
One 12-ounce can orange soda
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika

1. Make the BBQ rub by placing all ingredients in a bowl and mixing them together well. Store in a sealed plastic container until ready to use. (Can be made well in advance.)
2. Make the BBQ sauce by combining all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heating to just a simmer. Allow to cool, cover pan, and set aside or refrigerate.
3. The morning of the day you’ll be grilling, rub the chickens with the BBQ rub and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.
4. Preheat the grill to medium heat (325 to 350 degrees). Divide the BBQ sauce between two bowls.
5. Place the chicken on the grill rack as high above the flame as possible to minimize flare-ups and charring. Cook chicken with the lid down. Total cooking time should be between 30 and 35 minutes. During the final 10 minutes, brush the chicken with some of the BBQ sauce. The chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Serve chicken with the remaining bowl of BBQ sauce on the side.

Breaking News: Mistral in Princeton

Scott Anderson and Steve Distler, the fellows behind Elements in Princeton – one of the state’s top-rated restaurants – have announced that they have a new collaboration in the works. Mistral will open in Princeton this September, in  the space that for many years had been Ichiban.