Tag Archives: Gary’s Wine


Think You Know Princeton? Think Again!

Cafe Vienna strudel

Cafe Vienna strudel

You’re probably familiar with the town’s bucolic campus, lively downtown centered around Palmer Square, and its legendary historic sites (cue the American Revolution & Albert Einstein). But scratch around the edges and you’ll discover (among other things): a new bike trail, entry to a locked cemetery, a dive bar, an authentic Viennese cafe, and a sit-in Frank Gehry sculpture inside a futuristic dining hall.

NJ Monthly cover october 2015That and more in my “Offbeat Princeton” story, here in the October issue of New Jersey Monthly.

All Wine (& Beer), All the Time

I could devote an entire month’s worth of posts to the many wine and/or beer tastings, dinners, and festivals happening around our fair state in the coming days and still not be done with it! In the interest of time and space, here are 3 that caught my special attention:

You’ll have to hurry, but I understand there are a few seats left for Agricola’s Frog’s Leap Wine Dinner on Monday, October 19, featuring founder & winemaker John Williams. If you don’t think this will be worth your time and $$$, I strongly suggest you (a) check out the hilarious annotated history of that legendary winery here and (b) take a gander at the evening’s menu here.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace has expanded its annual fall fundraiser to a 3-day event, including a symposium moderated by Karen MacNeil, who is kicking offer her book tour for the 2nd edition of The Wine Bible. Plus, wine dinners with guest vintners at Jockey Hollow, the Ryland Inn, and the Bernards Inn. Plus the Grand Tasting event. Plus in-store wine tastings with vintners & winemakers in Madison, Bernardsville, Wayne, and Hillsborough.  All for 5 beneficiaries, and all happening on October 26, 27, & 28. Details here.

Amanti Vino’s Wine & Beer Throwdown with Skurnik Wines and Firestone Walker Brewery

Cru vs Brew 2015

Cru vs Brew 2015

I can’t think of a wine distributor/importer who I admire more than Michael Skurnik, nor a beer maker more than Garrett Brown, who is now with Firestone Walker. These two heavyweights have selected pairings that will go head-to-head on each course of a benefit dinner mounted by Montclair’s Amanti Vino wine shop that will be prepared by chefs from 5 of Northern NJ’s top chefs, including Ariane Duarte (Ariane Kitchen + Bar), Corey Heyer (Bernards Inn), and James Laird (Restaurant Serenade). This title match – Cru vs. Brew 2015 – takes place on Thursday, Oct. 22 in Upper Montclair. Menu & details here.

Think You’ve Seen Every Dining Concept Under the Sun? Think Again!

I thought I had seen it all, ad nauseum. But this new concept by 3-Michelin-star chef Corey Lee (of Benu fame) that’s slated to open this spring at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is truly innovative while at the same time proudly derivative.

Corey Lee, "Benu Cookbook," www.phaidon.com

Corey Lee, “Benu Cookbook,” www.phaidon.com

As this in-depth profile in the October issue of WSJ.Magazine explains, “For his new restaurant…Lee asked the world’s top chefs to reveal their culinary secrets so he could copy their signature dishes exactly. And they said yes.” In other words, his menu is literally curated – just like an art exhibit – with acclaimed masterpieces from the likes of Thomas Keller, Rene Redzepi, Daniel Boulud, and Wylie Dufresne. What do you think? Would you give it a try?


Moonshine Goes Legit; Food Writers Speak; A Farmers Market Shows Heart

Are You Ready for Some Moonshine?

I knew that moonshine had gone mainstream, but was nonetheless surprised to find an entire shelf dedicated to more brands than I could easily count when I toured the newest Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, which opened on Route 206 in Hillsborough in June.

Tim Smith, Climax Moonshine

Tim Smith, Climax Moonshine

Moonshine will be in the spotlight at that store and at the Gary’s in Wayne on Saturday, August 29th, when Tim Smith of the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” (shown above – NOT at Gary’s!) will be on hand to sign bottles of his Climax Moonshine, which Huff Post named the best-tasting legal version out there.

Smith will be in Hillsborough from 1 to 3 pm; Wayne from 4 to 6 pm.

I’m told moonshine averages 150 proof; Climax is 90 proof. As for how to drink it, BuzzFeed offers these 19 moonshine concoctions.

And if wine is more your thing, know that Gary’s offers free tastings of at least 8 bottles every day at all of his stores.

Gary's Wine Tasting Dispenser

Gary’s Wine Bar Dispenser


Gary's Shelf Tag

Gary’s Shelf Tag

Second Annual Food Writers & Photographers Panel at West Windsor Farmers Market

West Windsor Farmers Market

West Windsor Farmers Market

This event also takes place on Saturday, August 29th, at 11 am (so you can squeeze in both Gary’s & this). I am honored to be a panelist once again. Come out to the market and ask us everything you ever wanted to know about food writing, blogging, and photography. (On that last subject, I’ll be looking for pointers myself.) Here are my impressive fellow panelists:

Justine Ma Justine Ma is a NY Food Editor who has eaten her way around the world. She has cooked alongside top chefs in the James Beard Foundation kitchen and shares local food experiences on her lifestyle blog LittleMissLocal.com.

Katie Parla is a NJ native and Rome-based food and beverage journalist and educator. She is the author of the blog Parla Food parlafood.com and website katieparla.com, the apps Katie Parla’s Rome and Katie Parla’s Istanbul parlafoodltd.com and the Ebook Eating & Drinking in Rome. Her forthcoming cookbook, Tasting Rome, co-authored with Kristina Gill, will be published by Clarkson Potter in early 2016 and is available for pre-order.

Linda Prospero divides her time as a board member for Princeton’s Italian cultural institution, Dorothea’s House, writing her blog, Ciao Chow Linda ciaochowlinda.blogspot.com, co-teaching a memoir-writing workshop, Italy in Other Words and travels to and from Italy.

Clay Williams is a photographer and blogger based in Brooklyn. He has shot assignments for the New York TimesFood Republic and the EdibleCommunities titles, among other publications. Follow his work at ultraclay.com/wordpress.

A Visit to Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market, Trenton

Isles Urban Farmers Sign at Greenwood Ave. Market

Isles Urban Farmers Sign at Greenwood Ave. Market

Sure, Trenton has the venerable Trenton Farmers Market and there’s the Capital City market on Thursdays, but I recently stopped by the fledgling Greenwood Avenue Market because it is doing important work for the local community. Not only does it have terrific produce dispensed by friendly folk, like these from Isles’ non-profit Urban Farmers:

Isles Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

Isles Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

And also bounty from Hillsborough’s Norz Hill Farm (including grass-fed ground beef at $3.99/lb):

Norz Hill Farm Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

Norz Hill Farm Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

but it also provides important services to the local community. It accepts SNAP and WIC vouchers, offers on-site health screenings and physical activities, and dispenses nutritional info, advice, and samples – like these zucchini pasta samples courtesy of Michelle Brill of Rutgers:

Michelle Brill, Rutgers' Family & Community Health Services

Michelle Brill, Rutgers’ Family & Community Health Services

The market is catty-corner to the Trenton train station (you can see the parking deck in the background of the first photo above) and is open Mondays from 2:30 to 6:30 pm. Make it a point to stop by some Monday between now and the end of October to show your support for this important effort.

Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market Sign

Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market Sign

A Blind Tasting of NJ Wines & Results of My Llama Meat Experiment


The March issue of NJ Monthly is all about wine. As part of it I was invited to be a judge in and to chronicle a blind tasting of NJ wines. The heady group of experts I was thrown in with were:

*Sue Guerra, marketing director, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace

*Nicholas Harary, chef/co-owner, Restaurant Nicholas (and, btw, former sommelier at Jean Georges)

*Brian Hider, wine director, The Pluckemin Inn

*Tim Hirsch, wine consultant, The Wine Library

*Dr. Gary Pavlis, NJ wine expert & specialist, Rutgers University

*Sharon Sevrens, proprietor, Amanti Vino

*George Staikos, wine consultant, educator & proprietor of The Educated Grape

Click here to find out how we rated 50-plus white, red, and fruit wines submitted by 25 wineries from every corner of the state. The good, the bad, the ugly. And feel free comment here with your own opinion on the state of our state’s wines. Salute!

 As I reported in a previous post, I recently purchased two pounds of ground llama meat from WoodsEdge Wools Farm in Stockton. I cooked it three different ways over three nights, the upshot being that while some experiments worked better than others, I’m happy to make llama meat a part of my life. Why, you ask?

Well, it’s a tasty, lean red meat. As Jim Weaver of Tre Piani had told me, it does indeed resemble pork in texture. But it has its own unique flavor – pronounced but not overpowering, simultaneously tangy and sweet. The first night I made two versions of pan-fried burgers, one with only truffle salt and pepper. It was OK, but when I topped it with First Field Jersey Ketchup, the flavor rounded out beautifully. For the other version I smeared a plain burger (regular salt & pepper) with some herb butter I had left over from a salmon dish the night before. When the butter melted into the cooked burger, it was a match made in heaven.

The next night I created a quick-and-dirty Stroganoff of the llama, sauteed onions and sliced portobello mushrooms, and sour cream. The richness of the sour cream proved a perfect foil; I will never use ground beef for this weeknight go-to dish again.

With the remaining llama I made mini-meat loaves in muffin cups, adding bread crumbs, fresh herbs, minced red onion, an egg, a squirt of lemon juice, and (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit) one finely diced mozzarella stick. This was my least successful dish – bland and a bit dry – although more of that Jersey ketchup helped.

In the end, I realized that any recipe I now have for pork can be substituted with the same cut of llama. (I’m particularly keen to try stew.) Since llama has tons more flavor than most pork, while being leaner, I think it’s a win-win. And here’s a scoop: Plans are in the works at WoodsEdge for offering yak meat by the end of March.