Tag Archives: Forrestal Village Farmers Market

The Taco Truck, Meatball Mania, Dairy Home Delivery, More

My Newest Gig: Say Hello to the Princeton Echo

Princeton Echo April 2015

Princeton Echo April 2015

Princeton doesn’t lack for free newspapers, but this latest player in town, a monthly, aims to set itself apart by the stories it chooses to cover and its slant. I’m happy to announce that I will be part of that. Each month I contribute both a restaurant feature – an in-depth profile, not a review – and a newsy/gossipy column that’s a collection of happenings and interesting developments on the food and dining scene. (If you have tips, please email me at dinewithpat@gmail.com!)

Here are my entries for April:

Jason Scott & Lynh Pham, The Taco Truck Courtesy Princeton Echo

Jason Scott & Lynh Pham, The Taco Truck
Courtesy Princeton Echo

The Taco Truck: Meet Jason Scott, who with partner Chris Viola, founded what started out as an actual truck in Hoboken and which recently opened its 4th brick-and-mortar location in NJ in the Princeton Shopping Center. How have Princetonians responded to this city slicker? And how has Princeton changed the way The Taco Truck is doing business? Find out here.

“Food for Thought.” This is the name of my new monthly column, a compilation of interesting developments on the Princeton area food, drinks, & dining scene. In the April issue these include:

Courtesy Osteria Procaccini

Courtesy Osteria Procaccini

Meatball mania: Kingston residents have gone bonkers for the meatballs, of all things, at Osteria Procaccini, an artisan pizza spot. Insiders know to scoop them up each week before they run out. What makes them so special?

LactomanLactoman to the rescue! If you live within a 10 mile radius of Princeton, there’s a new, easy, and inexpensive service that delivers milk, cheese, and other products from local farms and food artisans directly to your door. Check it out!

Forrestal Farmers MarketFarmers market season is fast approaching, and the first batch of changes/additions concerns the Princeton Forrestal Village Market. Think more dairy, cheese, fermented goodies, and grab-and-go lunches from the likes of Bobolink Bubbly Jen’s, and Brick Farm Market.

Pork Roll CookbookPork Roll Cookbook & Signing: If you missed the details in my previous post at NJMonthly.com (which accumulated 750 likes in a matter of days), they’re all in April’s “Food for Thought.”

 

Lunch @ Le Cheri (w/recipe); Girl Scouts’ Herb Giveaway; Avanti in Pennington Changes Hands

Lunch @ Le Cheri: How Sweet It Is

I don’t get into Philadelphia nearly as often as the exciting dining scene there warrants, but I made sure to find time to dine at Le Cheri, the second restaurant from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels. Five years ago I fell in love with Bibou, their tiny byob French bistro on South Eighth. (Bibou’s Sunday pre fixe dinner, 4 courses for $45 , is the best deal around.)

Philadelphia Art Alliance, Wikipedia

Philadelphia Art Alliance, Wikipedia

So when the Calmelses opened Le Cheri on Rittenhouse Square in the Philadelphia Art Alliance building – the neat Italianate period piece above – I had to give it a go. Lucky for me, what had been forecast to be a rainy afternoon turned out gloriously sunny, so my little group opted to dine out in the garden in back. Charming, no?

Le Cheri patio garden

Le Cheri patio garden

The weather, season, and setting seemed to cry out for glasses of rose, and the Jean Paul Brun Rose d’Folie ($11) turned out to be as delicious as it is beautiful:

wine glassesThe ambiance also dictated my choice of starter: creamy (but not overly rich) watercress soup with a centerpiece of a few small, tender mussels mixed with julienne duck breast and dots of cayenne oil around the edges.

watercress soupBut I would have been just as satisfied with my friends’ choices: pretty scalloped ravioli filled with mushrooms and napped with rich sauce ivoire…

ravioli…and chilled poached rabbit terrine with Cumberland sauce. (Cumberland sauce is a chunky concoction customarily served with game, similar in style to cranberry sauce. Red currant jelly, orange and lemon rind, and Port are some of its components.) Like the sauce ivoire and much that would follow, this dish is straight out of Escoffier, only made with Pierre Calmels’ light touch and modern sensibility.

rabbit terrineMain dishes are equally beguiling, with each component of every preparation interesting, carefully selected, cooked to perfection, and presented beautifully. To wit:

Seared scallops, lavender oatmeal panisse, sugar snap peas, honeydew melon & mustard seed vinaigrette

Seared scallops, lavender oatmeal panisse, sugar snap peas, honeydew melon & mustard seed vinaigrette

Veal medallions, fingerlings, asparagus, lemon veal jus

Veal medallions, fingerlings, asparagus, lemon veal jus

Chef Georges Perrier crab cake, endive & haricots verts salad, whole grain mustard sauce

Chef Georges Perrier crab cake, endive & haricots verts salad, whole grain mustard sauce

If there’s a weak spot here, it’s dessert. I found the chocolate terrine too rich (tart raspberry sorbet that accompanied it notwithstanding), and the white peach Melba (below), while pretty, was the only classic among an entire meal of classics that seems dated.

??????????My friend who opted for one of the cheeses instead of a sweet came away a winner with this ramekin of runny, creamy, wonderfully pungent epoisses at the perfect stage of ripeness and served with slices of excellent baguette:

epoisses and cappuccinoFrench press coffee, espresso, and cappuccino are impeccable at Le Cheri. For lunch, menu prices range from $8 to 13 for starters, $21 to $27 for mains, and $7 to $9 for desserts and cheese.

"Galette 1523" @ Le Cheri

“Galette 1523” @ Le Cheri

Now for the promised recipe. The crab cake is listed on the menu as “Galette 1523.” That number refers to the street address of the old Le Bec Fin, and is a faithful replication of the one made famous by Calmels’ mentor, Georges Perrier. Ethereal custard-like texture sets it apart – a cross between quiche and souffle – and plays up the crab’s delicate flavor.Here’s a link to the original recipe.

Girl Scouts Giving Away Fresh Herbs (and Growing Tips)

Apparently it’s not just a one-night stand between chef/owner Jim Weaver of Tre Piani and local Girl Scouts.
Wait – that doesn’t sound right. Let me start again.

scouts at tre piani 013Last year I reported here on a sweet event in which Weaver, the founder of Slow Food Central NJ, invited a Girl Scout troop from Flemington into his kitchen to cook up a farmers-market-to-table meal as part of their badge-earning journey. Now, on Friday, June 27 between 11 am and 2 pm – during the Princeton Forrestal Village farmers market held on the plaza outside Tre Piani – another Girl Scout troop, this one from Plainsboro, will share their knowledge of fresh herbs, as well as herbs themselves, with the public. Here’s the deal, straight from farmers market manager Nirit Yadin:

garden 2009 007

My own herb garden

“Come learn to grow herbs in your own kitchen and reap the benefits of herbs in fresh food. Then get a free pot of herbs to take home. The program is presented by Girl Scout Troop 70694. The girls are working on a Sow What Journey which is all about connecting people to their food. Come, educate yourself and support the troop!’

 

 

 

Breaking News: Changing of the Guard at Pennington’s Avanti

Michael Moriello

Michael Moriello

Michael Moriello, chef and owner of La Mezzaluna, the popular Italian byob on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, has acquired Avanti, the equally popular Italian byob in downtown Pennington. Moriello, who came to the US 9 years ago from Naples, has bought out Vincenzo Severino, a Sicilian native who established Avanti almost 20 years ago on W. Delaware Avenue.

Avanti in Pennington

Avanti in Pennington

Moriello isn’t planning major changes to the menu at Avanti, which offers classic fare like linguine with red or white clam sauce and pasta Bolognese inside a charming carriage house. One change: the restaurant is now serving lunch on Sundays (in addition to dinner).

La Mezzaluna, Princeton

La Mezzaluna, Princeton

At La Mezzaluna, Moriello offers refined Italian dishes like seafood risotto and hazelnut-crusted rack of lamb. He just completed a major renovation of that restaurant’s modern minimalist decor.

Excellent Filipino Take-Away; A New Farmers Market; Native Wildflowers

Kusina Pilipina: Filipino Home Cooking on Route 27

Route 27 stretching from Kendall Park through North Brunswick has been home to a continuously evolving string of modest ethnic eateries for as long as I can remember (which is several decades, going back to the well-remembered A-Kitchen and Sitar). The newest ethnic group to be represented is Filipino. Last week when I drove by the sign announcing Kusina Pilipina – located behind the Dunkin Donuts near Beekman Road in Franklin Park – I knew I had to check it out. In part, because I was consumed with guilt.

Menu

As a restaurant critic, I am often asked if there’s any particular cuisine I dislike. I always answer no, that if it’s authentic and capably prepared, all of the world’s cooking is delicious. But in my head I had to admit that the few times I had sampled Filipino food – always at pan-Southeast Asian chains or at a modest storefront grocery/take-out place like this one – I hadn’t enjoyed it. Too dense, soggy, muddled, oily, and/or boring, with too much sourness or, if not that, then either overly sweet or salty.

Kusina Pilipina is none of the above. Dishes with clear, clean flavors and uncharacteristically light textures shine in what seems more like Filipino home cooking than restaurant fare or fast-casual take-out. In fact, proprietor Maria T. Morales (known as Mae) uses recipes she learned growing up on the island province of Cebu, where her parents had a small eatery.

Maria T. Morales, Kusina Pilipina

Maria T. Morales, Kusina Pilipina

Her inexpensive noodle, bbq, and stewed dishes are made fresh on site each day, from quality ingredients (especially noticeable in the meat and vegetables). They are light and nuanced when called for, earthy and full-bodied other times. Nothing I sampled was overly salty or sweet. Even these skewers of sticky boneless bbq pork (I literally smacked my lips over it) and brown sugar-coated plantains (a must if you like plantains) didn’t cross the sweetness barrier:

Kusina Pilipina

Kusina Pilipina

As for sour and salty, it mostly comes on the side, as in the tiny cup of shrimp paste, below, that accompanies an order of kare kare (extreme right). Kare kare is the signature Filipino stew of oxtail and tripe in peanut sauce, here also made with bok choy, eggplant, and green beans:

Pancit & kare kare, Kusina Pilipina

Pancit & kare kare, Kusina Pilipina

At top left is the Philippine’s famous stir-fried noodle dish, pancit, here light and fluffy and without any trace of oiliness. In case you can’t make it out due to my dubious photographic skills, it contains two kinds of noodles: cellophane & vermicelli. I also brought home a container of stew made from boneless chicken, bitter melon, and strands of beaten egg which, like the kare kare, is meant to be spooned over white rice. Since it is not especially photogenic I’ll spare you my sad attempt to capture it. Ditto for an excellent dessert: turon, a crunchy, deep-fried (but greaseless) spring roll filled with slices of plantain and jackfruit cooked almost to a custard and sweetened with brown sugar.

In the year that it’s been open, Kusina Pilipina’s takeout fare and catering options have amassed a well-deserved following among both Filipinos and the larger community. The downside is that its website is still under construction, but Ms. Morales promises it will soon be fully functional.

Central NJ Gets a New Farmers Market

Forrestal Village farmers market flyerTo be honest (again?! as if the above confession weren’t enough!) I really thought that by this time the Princeton area had enough seasonal outdoor farmers markets. But once I reviewed the specifics about the Princeton Forrestal Village Farmers Market, which debuts on Friday, June 6, I reconsidered.

First off, it’s held on Fridays, from 11 am to 2 pm. That means it won’t compete with my other favorites – West Windsor on Saturday; downtown Princeton on Thursday. Second, among its 6 farms are a couple you don’t find participating elsewhere ’round these parts: Rolling Hills (“beyond organic”) and Double Brook (the folks behind Brick Farm Market in Hopewell.) Third, among its non-farm offerings are the award-winning wines of Unionville Vineyards, the incomparable baked goods of Jen Carson of Lillipies (perhaps you’ve enjoyed them at Small World Coffee), and the unique condiments of Herb n Zest (caramelized apple champagne mustard, anyone?).

To recap: the Princeton Forrestal Village Farmers Market runs on Fridays from June 6th through September 26 (except for July 4th), between 11 am and 2 pm.

And now, your moment of zen (with apologies to John Stewart)

Bowman's Hill

Bowman’s Hill

Nothing food-related…nothing anything-related except that it reflects my continuing amazement at what a great area we are privileged to live in. Last Saturday I walked the wildflower trails at Bowman’s Hill outside of New Hope, PA. A smattering of the wonders I encountered is pictured to the right and below, thanks to my guide and friend, wildlife expert Carolyn Edelmann, whose blog is njwildbeauty.

 

 

Flame azalea

Flame azalea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

 

 

 

Jack in the pulpit

Jack in the pulpit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady slipper

Lady slipper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinxter

Pinxter

 

Prickly pear

Prickly pear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damage from Sandy

Damage from Sandy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rare yellow trillium

Rare yellow trillium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end

The end