Tag Archives: Josh Thomsen

Breaking News! Josh Thomsen to leave Agricola

This just in from Agricola Eatery in Princeton:

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen

Jim Nawn, Proprietor of Agricola eatery in Princeton, announced that he and Josh Thomsen, Executive Chef of Agricola, have decided to mutually part ways. “Over two years ago, Chef Josh and I partnered in opening a very successful restaurant for Princeton. I learned and benefitted a great deal from him over that time, and while I am sorry to see him go, exciting new opportunities lie ahead for both of us. We are proud of what we have created and are grateful to have collaborated on Agricola,” said Nawn.

Chef Thomsen will be taking on a new challenge as Executive Chef at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Florida. Replacing Chef Thomsen will be Crawford Koeniger, formerly Executive Chef at Washington House in Basking Ridge. Chef Koeniger joined the Agricola team in January. He has worked in Princeton before with Chris Albrecht, then moving to open Washington House.

“Koeniger is a talented young chef and an excellent fit for Agricola and our team. Agricola is a strong brand and we will endeavor to improve every day going forward, continuing to build on what Chef Thomsen has started,” added Nawn.

Brooklyn Comes to Princeton; Best Coffee Houses in NJ

Frankies Spuntino @ Whole Foods Princeton for a Good Cause

So how often do I make it to Brooklyn to dine? Try almost never. So when I heard that The Franks – Frank Falcinelli & Frank Castronovo – from Frankies Spuntino were cooking a meal at my local Whole Foods to raise funds for the Whole Planet Foundation, I jumped at the chance. I knew I was in for a great meal, and that happened. But the evening came with several unexpected bonuses.

Courtesy Whole Foods Princeton

Courtesy Whole Foods Princeton

Among the surprises? That the evening’s 5-course menu was Sicilian from top to bottom, that assisting The Franks was their director of operations who turned out to be a longtime chef at Princeton’s Nassau Inn (and an old friend), and that the 24 guests included luminaries from the current Princeton-area restaurant scene AND  a 13-year-old whom I predict will someday be a noted restaurant critic.

Frank Falcinelli & Frank Castronovo @ Whole Foods Princeton

Frank Falcinelli & Frank Castronovo @ Whole Foods Princeton

CrudoBeetThe Franks led off with these two light courses: fluke crudo with Sicilian sette anni peppers & pistachio, and blood orange segments with 1 sunburst of a golden beet topped with shards of caciocavallo. The unbilled star of both dishes was the zingy, deep green Sicilian extra virgin olive oil (made from nocellara del belice olives) that Frankies imports and which Whole Foods carries. The can made for a gorgeous centerpiece:

TulipsThese dishes were followed by a pasta course. Not just any pasta: fettuccine with jumbo lump crabmeat in ricci de mare sauce. For the uninitiated, that’s sea urchin. This dish had the evening’s 24 guests unabashedly going back for seconds.

Frankies Spuntino Pasta & Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Ricci di Mare Sauce

Frankies Spuntino Pasta & Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Ricci di Mare Sauce

Among those who named it as their favorite of the night was Shaun Orssaud, age 13, who came from Moorestown with his mother, Lisa.

Budding restaurant critic?

Budding restaurant critic?

Perhaps Mr. Orssaud owes his sophisticated palate  to the fact that he was born in France and lived there until he was 6.

Ribeye with Catanese Olivd Relish, Frankies 457 @ Whole Foods Princeton

Ribeye with Catanese Olive Relish, Frankies 457 @ Whole Foods Princeton

The centerpiece of the meal was this amazing slow-roasted ribeye. It was served with Ca’ Di Ponti Barbera, 1 of 3 wines poured.

Josh Thomsen, Chris Harkness, Jim Nawn

Josh Thomsen, Chris Harkness, Jim Nawn

Seated in this photo are Josh Thomsen, executive chef at Agricola in Princeton, and its owner Jim Nawn. (Sitting across from them, not pictured, were Lambertville’s famed Canal House duo, Christopher Hersheimer & Melissa Hamilton. As I said, even the guest list was star-studded!) Serving the 2 men is Chris Harkness, who I knew years ago when he was chef at the Nassau Inn, and who has been working with The Franks for years now. The photo below shows those 3 plus Scott Allshouse, president of Whole Foods’ Mid-Atlantic region.

??????????Proceeds from the dinner went to the Whole Planet Foundation. Maybe I’ve been under a rock, but up until now I’ve been oblivious to the good work this organization is doing. Through its mission to alleviate poverty by providing micro-loans, it has assisted 875,158 women entrepreneurs in 61 countries (89% go to women) with $62 million in credit. To talk about Whole Foods’ charity work was an unexpected star of the evening – Michelle Mac Arthur:

Michelle MacArthurMs. Mac Arthur has been a part-time cashier at the Princeton store for only six months, but during the last holiday season she single-handedly brought in $8,000 for another Whole Foods initiative, Feed4More. By asking customers to donate $10 (or any amount) at checkout, she alone beat out 13 other Whole Foods stores in the region! She’s standing in front of an end display featuring, among other things, Frankies olive oil and the Frankies Spuntino cookbook.

New Jersey Monthly Features Best Coffee Houses from High Point to Cape May

NJ Monthly cover April 2015See if your favorites made the cut in this April 2015 cover story. I contributed these 6 from Central NJ that the powers-that-be deemed among the best:

Buck’s Ice Cream & Espresso, Lambertville
Grovers Mill, West Windsor
Infini-T Cafe, Princeton
Lambertville Trading Co., Lambertville
Rojo’s Roastery, Lambertville & Princeton
Small World, Princeton

Clearly it was a tough assignment, drinking all those wonderful brews. But two in particular linger in my memory: the sidecar at Rojo’s espresso bar in Princeton, which are tandem, half-size espresso and cappuccino ($4) and a small pour-over of Crispy Hippie Dark Roast at Small World ($3.25).

 

 

 

 

 

GET “UP CLOSE & PERSONAL” WITH DENNIS CAKEBREAD OF CAKEBREAD CELLARS, COMING TO AGRICOLA IN PRINCETON

A special four-course dinner on February 10th, limited to 45 guests, is your chance to meet Dennis Cakebread, whose family winery has been a luminary of the California wine scene for almost four decades. Among the wines he’ll pour that night are hard or impossible to find vintages, paired with a menu created just for the occasion by Agricola’s executive chef, Josh Thomsen.

Dennis Cakebread & Josh Thomsen Photo by Fred Oufredo

Dennis Cakebread & Josh Thomsen
Photo by Fred Oufredo

I spoke with Thomsen about how he and his friend Cakebread collaborated on the wines and food, and how the dinner came about in the first place. Get all the details here, in my post on the New Jersey Monthly website.

“Preppy Cookbook” Recipes; Agricola & Frog & Peach News;Tips for Berries & Oysters

Award-winning North Jersey Chef Keeps the Preppy Flame Alive. Literally.

Christine Nunn, whose previous restaurant, Picnic in Fair Lawn, garnered a rare three-and-a-half stars from me, has given birth not only to a new restaurant, Grange in Westwood, but also to her first book.

In The Preppy Cookbook, subtitled “Classic Recipes for the Modern Prep,” Nunn makes a strong case for the timelessness of the “prep” lifestyle, including the eternal merits of hollandaise, Hellman’s, and hangover hash browns. Alongside classics such as poached salmon and eggs Benedict are thoroughly modern, easy-to-prepare gems. Sara Moulton, a friend and fellow prep, wrote the introduction. The book won’t be released until August 27, but you can pre-order it here on amazon.com.

Preppy Cookbook

I couldn’t hold off sharing Nunn’s seasonal recipes for summer squash salad, savory peach compote, and roasted fruits with honey and walnuts. Find them and more  in my In the Kitchen column from the August 2nd issue of The Princeton Packet, and here:

SUMMER SQUASH SALAD
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn

Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup vegetable or corn oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 small zucchini and yellow squash, about 2 pounds, unpeeled and rinsed well
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

  1. Place lemon juice and oil in a large bowl or blender. Whisk by hand or blend on low speed for 3 minutes, until emulsified. Add the honey, mustard, salt, and black pepper and whisk or blend on low speed until well incorporated. Taste for acidity and seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as needed. Stir in the lemon zest and the pepper flakes.
  2. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, slice thin ribbons of squash into a large bowl. Once there are lots of seeds in the squash and a little flesh, stop and move on to the next squash.
  3. When ready to serve, add the dressing and the pine nuts and toss until evenly coated. Divide evenly among chilled salad plates and, with a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the squash.
    Serves 4 as a first course.

SAVORY PEACH COMPOTE
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn
Nunn uses this one-step condiment to top breaded pork chops and pork roast.

2 ripe peaches, cut into 1-inch cubes
1-1/2 tablespoons Pommery mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Serves 4.

ROASTED STONE FRUITS WITH HONEY & WALNUTS
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn

8 assorted stone fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots, halved
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup honey
1 cup dry-roasted walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stone fruits, skin side down, in the dish and top with the butter.  Roast for 20 minutes. Remove dish from the oven and stir. Add the honey and stir again. Roast for 5 minutes more, until the fruits are softened and beginning to turn golden. Stir in the walnuts and the pepper. Serve immediately. (Top with ice cream if desired.)
Serves 4.

EAST ENDER COCKTAIL
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn
“This refreshing cocktail [comprises] a triple threat of prep. It is named after a section of London (Britain, preppy), made with gin, the prep alcohol of choice, and a hint of mint that is slightly reminiscent of a mint julep (Southern preppy).” – CN

3 slices cucumber, plus one thin peel of cucumber for garnish
6 mint leaves
2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes

Chill 1 old-fashioned glass. In a cocktail shaker, lightly crush the cucumber slices and mint with a muddler. Add the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into the chilled glass. Float the cucumber peel on top.
Makes 1 drink.

Agricola Opening for Lunch

This restaurant that has taken Princeton by storm is finally adding lunch hours, starting August 8th (after the restaurant takes a 2-day hiatus). Here’s a taste of what’s on the menu:

Great Road Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad (watermelon, lemon cucumbers, almond hummus)
Cobb Salad (Valley Shepherd blue cheese, grilled chicken, house-cured bacon, avocado, Great Road Farm tomatoes & hard-boiled eggs)
Housemade Veggie Pita (whole grain pita, quinoa, cauliflower, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, eggplant, lemon herb vinaigrette)
The Standby (Cup of tomato soup, grilled house-smoked ham & cheese sandwich)

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen, Agricola’s executive chef, will be cooking at the Beard House this Tuesday night (August 6). Among the hyper-local treats this French Laundry alum will be serving up for his Rustic Farmhouse Feast are Great Road Farm egg custard with sweet corn and summer truffles and Cape May day boat scallops with fingerling potato-bacon cake, shaved apples, fennel, and mustard vinaigrette. www.jamesbeard.


Super Lunch Deal at The Frog & The Peach

Through Labor Day, chef/owner Bruce Lefebvre is offering this spectacular 3-course lunch for only $19 at his popular New Brunswick restaurant:

Frog & Peach: Black Truffle Gnocchi

Frog & Peach: Black Truffle Gnocchi

FIRST COURSE: Heirloom Tomato Salad (House Smoked Berkshire Bacon, Organic Bibb, Spiced Pignoli, Aged Cheddar Emulsion) or Black Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi (Cremini, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil Pesto)

SECOND COURSE: Pan Roasted Griggstown Chicken (Smoked Pecans, Sweet Potato, Pickled Bell Peppers, Bourbon Pan Sauce) or Grilled New Jersey Monkfish (Gigante Beans, Fennel, Pancetta, Tuscan Kale
Littleneck Clam Red Sauce)

THIRD COURSE: Coconut Semifreddo (Caramel, Chocolate Croquettes) or Valdeon Cheese (Leon, Spain: Cow/Goat Blue, Wrapped in Oak Leaves
Endive Marmalade, Pistachios)

The $19 cost excludes beverages, tax and gratuity. The same menu is offered for dinner at $42. www.frogandthepeach.com

Helpful Tip #1: Keeping Berries Fresher Longer

Photo by George Point

Photo by George Point

The following excellent advice comes directly from the newsletter of the West Windsor Community Farmers Market. Thanks, manager Chris Cirkus and crew!

If you aren’t planning to eat your berries the day you bring them home from the Market, here’s a simple tip that works like a charm to keep them from getting moldy…give them a vinegar bath!

  • 1 TBS organic apple cider vinegar
  • 10 TBS filtered water
  • Fresh berries

Prepare the mixture in a large bowl. Place your berry beauties in the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse; although not necessary to rinse as the mixture is so diluted that you can’t taste the vinegar. Place your washed berries in the fridge in a covered container.

The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that may linger on the surface of the berries. Raspberries will last a week or more. Strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft.

Helpful Tip #2: An Easier Way to Shuck Oysters

Courtesy of Tre Piani restaurant

Courtesy of Tre Piani restaurant

I haven’t tried this method yet, but it comes via the innovative, reliable folks at chefsteps.com. I profiled ChefSteps, the free online cooking school from key members of the team behind Modernist Cuisine, a while back at njmonthly.com, and since that time the school has amassed 12,477 students/users. Here’s the step-by-step for oysters.

Breaking News! First Look inside Agricola in Princeton

Last Friday I got a sneak peak – and a guided behind-the-scenes tour – from chef Josh Thomsen of his highly anticipated farm-to-table restaurant set to open in a few short weeks. Check it out in this blog post on NJMonthly.com. Agricola sign

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.