Tag Archives: Nature Conservancy

Upcoming March Against Monsanto; Theater District Dining; Green Restaurant Nominations

Marching to Label GMO Foods

March Against Monsanto logo

This Saturday, October 12, thousands of people around the world are expected to march against ag-biotech giant Monsanto – including in Princeton where the focus will be on getting foods containing GMOs labeled. Organizers of the Princeton march, which kicks off at 2 pm at the Whole Earth Center, include that natural foods store, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ), Food & Water Watch of New Jersey, and GMO-Free NJ. Read about what the march will entail, as well as background info on the GMO debate, in my revealing interview with march organizer and NJ food activist Theresa Lam in the October 9 issue of US 1.

Mercato in NYC’s Theater District (& a Bonus Find)

When I am dining before or after a play or concert, I try to pick a place within walking distance. This past Sunday I needed a lunch spot near Playwrights Horizon, where I was going to see Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play. (Yes, the Mr. Burns in the title refers to the Simpsons character. I had snatched tickets after reading this glowing review by Ben Brantley in The NY Times.)

Mercato roomMy choice was Mercato, an unpretentious, surprisingly authentic Italian spot on 39th Street between 8th & 9th Avenues. We enjoyed good-size pours of a Montepulciano ($9) and a Falanghina ($11), as well as excellent espresso. Here are highlights of what we ate in between.

The special app of tuna tartare, below, doesn’t come cheap ($16) but it’s uncharacteristically generous and beautifully accented with pomegranate seeds, capers, and slivers of yellow pepper:


The best dish of the meal, hands down, was this pasta dish from the regular menu. The cavatelli-like pasta is actually Sardinian malloreddus, here enveloped by braised wild boar ragu ($18):


To be honest, my choice – fettuccine with mushrooms – couldn’t compare. Since we still had time to kill before the performance, we strolled around the outdoor flea market I had spotted at the end of the block. Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market is a real find! Among the treasures I snagged were a pair of vintage Trifari earrings, which I haggled down to $12. God, how I love New York!
Mercato on Urbanspoon

Hell's Kitchen Flea Market

Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

New Jersey Finalists Announced for Nature’s Plate Award:
Vote Now for Your Favorite Green Restaurant

Nature Conservancy logoIn a previous post I urged you to nominate your favorite ‘green’ restaurant for the Nature Conservancy’s national award. The eateries with the most nominations have entered the finalist voting round, which is open from now until October 15 at 5 pm EST. The finalists in New Jersey are:

Ninety Acres, Peapack
Eno Terra, Kingston
Local Urban Kitchen, Brielle
BluePlate, Mullica Hill

All of them embrace green practices like using sustainable seafood, free-range and grass-fed meat, organic produce, locally sourced food, and tap water (rather than bottled water). Vote for your favorite at www.nature.org/naturesplatenj.

To sweeten the deal, one voter will be chosen at random to receive a $100 gift certificate to the winning restaurant. The winning restaurant and lucky voter will be announced October 17.

Why I Dislike Paella (includes a delicious recipe); Where I Dined in San Francisco (part 1); Nominate Your Favorite Green Restaurant

In my 8/30 In the Kitchen column in the Princeton Packet, I (a) confess that I have always been disappointed by paella (even in Spain), (b) tell where it is I finally encountered a version I can get behind (hint: Princeton), and (c) share a recipe for same.

My Paella

My Paella

Click here and all will be revealed. And here’s the recipe:

Courtesy of Spain GourmeTour magazine, via
www.tienda.com  (Directions adapted and expanded)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 roasted piquillo peppers, coarsely chopped if whole
1 large Bermuda or Vidalia onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
5 to 10 strands of saffron
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into large cubes
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups short-grain Spanish rice, such as bomba or calasparra
3 cups vegetable stock, heated and kept warm
Finely minced parsley
Lemon wedges

  1. In a 13-inch paella pan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the piquillo peppers, onion, and bell peppers. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent (but not browned).
  2. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, saffron, zucchini, and tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes more.
  3. Stir in the rice and warmed stock, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until most of the stock is absorbed. While paella is simmering, heat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Cover pan with aluminum foil, place in heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  5. To serve, sprinkle with parsley and decorate with lemon wedges.
    Serves 4.

Wonderfully Funky Thai Meal in Berkeley

Actually, the meal itself wasn’t funky, but the setting delightfully so. Berkeley Thai Temple Brunch (or Lunch), as it is colloquially tagged, takes place from 10 am to 1 pm every Sunday in the backyard of the Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist temple, which is located in a residential area of South Berkeley.

Front of temple. Brunch is outdoors, in back

Front of temple. Brunch is outdoors, in back

The fare, made by temple volunteers, consists of familiar Thai restaurant dishes like pad Thai; red, yellow, and green curries; beef noodle soup, fried chicken, tofu, etc. All are more akin to homemade than commercial, and are uncommonly fresh, delicious, and inexpensive.

Which is why folks line up well in advance of the 10 am start and why the 200 seats at plastic picnic tables and metal folding chairs fill up fast.

The system is quirky. The Religious do not handle money, so you trade in your cash (credit cards not accepted) for silver-colored tokens worth $1 each. Our group of 4 bought $40 worth and wound up not using them all. (You can trade them in for a refund or donate the surplus to the temple.)

You stand in one of several lines – long, but they move quickly and are made up of friendly, laid-back folk (this is Berkeley after all) – and order from what is almost too many options, including many vegetarian ones. They allow mixing and matching, so we shared one plate loaded with Panang curry, chicken with cashews, and mixed vegetables, and another divided between pad Thai, yellow chicken curry, and pork. Here are massive Vietnamese-style summer rolls filled with tons of fresh mint, shrimp, and shredded carrot:


We topped our meal off with not-to-be-missed mango sticky rice (with coconut custard and both white and purple rice) and Thai iced coffee and iced tea.

Wat Mongkolratanaram on Urbanspoon

Nature Conservancy‘s “Nature’s Plate” Restaurant Contest Comes to the Garden State

Which restaurant do you consider to be our state’s greenest, most eco-friendly dining destination? With the tastiest, most health-conscious food? The Nature Conservancy is betting that it’s one that uses fresh, locally grown and raised ingredients from our state’s fields, pastures, orchards, vineyards, and waterways.

From September 3rd through the 16th, you can nominate your choice. Voting begins on October 1, and winners in 19 states will be announced on October 17.

The NJ “Nature’s Plate” winning eatery will be promoted to Nature Conservancy members throughout the state and nation, and will receive an award plaque, public relations support, and more. And one lucky voter in the finalist round will be picked at random to receive a $100 gift certificate to the winning restaurant. That could be you! To nominate your favorite, visit www.nature.org/naturesplateNJ