Tag Archives: Gab Carbone

From Dishwasher to Exec Chef; Upcoming Events: 1 on Nature & Creativity & the other, Halloween Fun; News re Brick Farm Tavern & First Field Ketchup

3 Princeton Area Chefs Tell Their Stories of Working Their Way from the Bottom Rung to the Top of the Restaurant Kitchen Ladder

us-1-harvest-dining-2016-crop

For the 2016 Harvest Dining issue of US 1, I approached executive chefs at 3 of the Princeton area’s most popular and revered food establishments for the stories of how they navigated their way from the lowest to the top position. That all 3 are Hispanic immigrants with no English at the start speaks volumes. (Donald T***p please take note.) Read about the journeys of Juan Mercado of One53, Jose Lopez of Nassau Street Seafood, and Edgar Urias of Blue Point Grill here.

 

Nature-as-Muse Workshops at Princeton’s Mountain Lakes Preserve Feature Successful Perfumer, Food Artisan, Graphic Designer, and Poet

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Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon, Courtesy Princeton Echo

The bad news is that this series of October workshops mounted by Friends of Princeton Open Space is sold out. The good news is there probably will be more to come. So if you’re interested in upping your creativity quotient, check out this unique series of open-air walks and a related workshop. Each is led by a different successful professional on four consecutive Sundays: a perfumer from Firmenich (scent), an independent graphic designer (color), a poet (words), and the inimitable Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon ice cream shop (flavor).

I share all the fascinating details here, in the October issue of the Princeton Echo. Bonus: Get to know Princeton mover-and-shaker Fran McManus, the genius behind the workshops.

Halloween Fun for Grown-ups and New Milestones for Brick Farm Tavern and First Field (the NJ Ketchup Folks)

Food for Thought logoCheck out my “Food for Thought” column in October’s Princeton Echo for details on:

  • Tre Piani & Planet Apothecary teaming up for their Witches & Warlocks Ball
  •  Menu details for the upcoming (and already sold out) dinner at the Beard House by Brick Farm Tavern Chef Greg Vassos on October 22
  • The newest product from the First Field Jersey Ketchup folks which surprised even owners Theresa Viggiano & Patrick Leger in its popularity. (Hint: it’s not ketchup)

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.

 

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

Fine-Dining in Point Pleasant Beach

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

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

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

Tomlinson Family. Photo courtesy US 1 Newspaper

Tomlinson Family. Photo courtesy US 1 Newspaper

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

Judging Salsa (the Condiment) in Princeton

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

Salsa Slam 2015 Flyer

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

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

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

A few cookbooks from my shelves

A few cookbooks on my shelves

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

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

 

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

Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surfeit of Scrumptious Salsas Sizzle at Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MANGO MADNESS SALSA
George Point

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

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

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

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

Chefs’ Last Meals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US 1 Fall Dining

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

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

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

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

Elements Collaborative Dinner Thursday, November 15

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

Gab Carbone: Mad Genius of Ice Cream

Just when I think Gab Carbone of The Bent Spoon in Princeton absolutely cannot invent another flavor combo that will blow my mind, she does. In spades.

Twice within the last two weeks in fact. First, she developed a custom flavor for my friends George and Helen of Lawrenceville. They were the recipients of an auction item – 1o pints of your own custom flavor! – which Gab and partner Matt Errico offer regularly to worthy nonprofits, such as McCarter Theatre, Housing Initiatives of Princeton, and Slow Food USA. (Two years ago, Carbone tells me, a bidding war erupted at the Stonybrook-Millstone Watershed auction that resulted in a winning bid of more than $1000! For ice cream!)

I was lucky enough to share in George & Helen’s bounty. Their custom flavor of choice? Herb honey (Airborne brand, from New Zealand), candied pistachios, and fresh ricotta.  Unbelievably good. I would have been happy for months going on the just the taste memory of that, but then last week I got to try another crazy-scientist-slash-culinary-artist concoction.

Actually, several of them. Gab was responsible for dessert at the eight-course “Collaborative Feast: Princeton Chefs Give Back” dinner at elements restaurant. A portion of the proceeds from the dinner benefited the Princeton Community Foundation. Each course preceding dessert was rich and memorable, so when it came time for dessert my tablemates and I began mumbling about perhaps not having room for it.

Then the first wave of a three-part ice cream dessert fantasy arrived. To say we approached our Pretzels & Mustard Hot Fudge Sundae with trepidation would be an understatement. But hesitation gave way to ecstasy with first spoonful. The mustard wasn’t shy, and yet it was perfect. The pretzels, well yes, salt and crunch are always welcome. But mustard? With chocolate sauce? I’m telling you, it works. In short order, we were also the beneficiaries of three mini-floats, in flavors that were nominally
“root beer” and “cassis” and “chocolate,” but made with exotic ingredients like a clear liquor infused with rare cacao nibs. Then came mini sugar cones filled with butter and Scotch ice cream. Not butterscotch as we know it, but butter and a smoky, peaty 15-year-old Scotch. (I think Gab said Laphroaig, but I could be mistaken.)

Flickr photo by a fan in Tokyo

In truth, the flavors available on any given day at the Bent Spoon shop on Palmer Square  are just as interesting (and often just as counter-intuitive). They change daily – sometimes several times within a day – and here are just three November choices:

Wild Turkey Bourbon with Sea Salt Caramel

Olive & Mustard Oil

Cranberry Mostarda

For the less adventurous, there are more conventional but just as tasty ice cream and sorbet flavors, including cookies & cream, chocolate cinnamon, mocha chunk, mascarpone, and Sicilian blood orange.  The Bent Spoon team has created more than 500 flavors to date, all told.

Here’s my first holiday shopping tip of the season: Gift certificates to the Bent Spoon! If you happen to have someone who doesn’t like ice cream on your list, cans of their ridiculously rich European-style hot chocolate mix can’t miss. And my daughters regularly give their friends super-cool Bent Spoon T-shirts, which feature a tiny map of NJ, reflecting  Carbone & Errico’s dedication to using local ingredients.

Check out this charming YouTube video of Gab and Matt at work.