Tag Archives: New Jersey Monthly

AWARD-WINNING CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR WITH A NJ RESTAURANT CONNECTION; MY PICKS FROM THE FANCY FOOD SHOW

Meet Airlie Anderson of Belle Mead

Airlie Anderson

Airlie Anderson, courtesy New Jersey Monthly

I had known for a while about Airle Anderson’s many awards for writing and illustrating a dozen-plus children’s picture books. But it wasn’t until her best-seller, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends, captivated my then four-month-old granddaughter (keep in mind that this is not a board book for infants) that I decided I needed to know more. That she is married to one of the Garden State’s best restaurant chefs and that the couple’s first child is just turning one only added to my curiosity. I was richly rewarded.

Meet them all here in my profile in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly.

The Winners among the Winners at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

zen of slow cooking founders

Meg Barnhart & Jane McKay, founders of The Zen of Slow Cooking

If you’ve been following my work for a long time, you know I’ve been reporting on the Specialty Food Association’s fancy food show for years. I’ve tasted a lot of schlock over that time and seen too many questionable trends come and go. But I can say definitively that this year’s show, held at the end of June at the Javits Center, was impressive. One big departure from the not-so-distant past is that, at least among the show’s award-winners, the emphasis is on natural ingredients – often responsibly sourced – with fresh, bold flavors that rival homemade.

So it was challenging to select the best of the best. After all, there were 154 winning products out of 3,000 entries for the association’s sofi Awards. (In total, the show featured 2,600 exhibitors offering 180,000 products!) Below are my favorites.

LE BON MAGOT EVERYTHING: This line of condiments from Lawrenceville’s own Naomi Mobed garnered an unprecedented 5 sofi awards – in the company’s first year! Read all about Mobed and her terrific products in my profile here in the June issue of the Princeton Echo.

TOMATO ‘NDUJA, CITY SAUCERY: This vegetarian version of Italy’s beloved spicy pork salami spread is made in NY, but with 100% NJ vine-ripened San Marzano tomatoes. I swear, you won’t miss meat – which could by why it took the award for best new condiment.

CAMBODIAN COCONUT PEANUT SAUCE; BEET VINEGAR, WOZZ! KITCHEN CREATIONS: I’ve extolled this company’s products before, and I’m doing it again with these two. The beet vinegar was a total surprise – smooth and not too sweet.

ST. BENOIT ORGANIC MEYER LEMON YOGURT: It’s by the incomparable Laura Chenel’s Chevre company, so ’nuff said. Whole Foods carries the  brand; I hope to find this new flavor there soon.

VERMONT CREAMERY CULTURED BUTTER WITH SEA SALT: This should come with a warning label it’s so good.

GRAETER’S HANDCRAFTED FRENCH POT ICE CREAM: A friend who went to school in Cincinnati introduced me years ago to Graeter’s – that city’s pride – and their signature black raspberry-chocolate chip in particular. It has been available at Wegmans and Whole Foods for a while, and if you haven’t yet tried it you’re in for a real treat.

LA TOURANGELLE ROASTED PISTACHIO OIL: Every bit as wonderful as that sounds. The company rep assures me it lasts in the fridge for up to 18 months. (I’ve had too many expensive nut oils go rancid too quickly, haven’t you?)

JERSEY ITALIAN GRAVY ALFREDO SAUCE: Each of those words – Jersey, Italian Gravy, Alfredo Sauce – struck fear in my heart, but the contents of these refrigerated tubs immediately erased it. It’s authentic and all natural.

THE ZEN OF SLOW COOKING’S SLOW COOKER SPICE BLENDS: I don’t use slow cookers, but my colleague who accompanied me to the show does – and was blown away. The company is also an example of a comforting trend of food businesses making a social impact. The founders, pictured above, help adults with developmental challenges to find employment by training them in “slow” cooking techniques.

BOBBYSUE’S NUTS! NUTS OVER OLIVES: This mix of almonds, cashews, and pecans with roasted black and green olives is salty, spicy, and irresistible. Bobbysue’s is another company with a social conscience: for 15 years it has supported animal welfare in the form of building modern shelters for rescue dogs.

BLACK SESAME SEED TOFFEE BRITTLE, NEO COCOA: A bit misnamed, this is really slabs of 72% dark chocolate with a layer of brown sugar-sea salt toffee and sprinkling of black and toasted white sesame seeds. The combination is a knockout.

CHEEKY CHEEKY CHURRO, CHUAO CHOCOLATIER: Yes! A chocolate bar with a layer of churro from a top-shelf chocolate maker.

GLUTEN-FREE PIE CRUST MIX, CUP4CUP: I tried it only because it’s from Thomas Keller. If I ever need to make a gluten-free pie crust, not only would I use it but I suspect no one would even know.

TOP NOTE INDIAN TONIC WATER: Time to give your gin and tonic a serious upgrade. Add a red grapefruit garnish and you’ll never go back.

The Women Behind 3 Excellent Bakery-Cafes; Best Hiking in NJ; Report on Princeton U Conference on Climate & Food

4-5 Cover & Front (1-9).indd

SWEET SUCCESS
In U.S. 1‘s spring dining issue I get the stories of three women who have ventured out on their own to start bakery-cafes – with great success: Jen Carson of Lillipies, Joanne Canady-Brown of the Gingered Peach, and Marilyn Besner of WildFlour.
SPRING IS HERE & SO IS THE SCOOP ON THE BEST PLACES FOR HIKING & BIKING IN NJ
NJ Monthly cover April 2017
New Jersey Monthly‘s April issue spotlights, among other things, 34 scenic treks throughout the Garden State. I was pleased to contribute 3 of my own favorites: the vista atop Baldpate Mountain (the highest spot in Mercer County), the quirky Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows, and a portion of the sprawling Sourland Mountain Preserve that’s as atmospheric as it is sparsely trekked.
EXPERTS CONVENE AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY TO DISCUSS “CHANGING CLIMATE, CHANGING APPETITES”
Changing Climate Appetites poster
The one-day conference brought together scholars and experts from universities, the food industry, government policy organizations, and others to discuss sustainability. I recap the proceedings in the April issue of the Princeton Echo, including key takeaways from NJ food professionals in attendance.

Kitchen Twins in Edible Jersey; Princeton Carillon in NJ Monthly; Masala Grill Farewell in Princeton Echo

You watched them on “Chopped Junior” and “Rachael Ray”…

Kitchen Twins

Photo by Andrew Wilkinson, Courtesy of Edible Jersey

…and you may have purchased their most successful product: Kitchen Twins shake-and-bake kale chips, available at 300+ markets nationwide. Now get to know Lawrenceville’s 12-year-old dynamic duo, Emily & Lyla Allen (above), who I profile here in the High Summer issue of Edible Jersey.

I admit it: before I watched and heard Princeton University’s carilloneur, Lisa Lonie play, I didn’t even know the difference between church bells and carillons

Lisa Lonie NJ Monthly

Photo by Robert Yaskovic, Courtesy of New Jersey Monthly

Turns out that not only do carillons make beautiful music, but everything about them is fascinating. Including Princeton’s 67 cast-bronze bells (the fifth largest carillon in the world) and Lonie herself –  Princeton’s first female carilloneur and a repository of carillon knowledge. (Two examples: Philip Glass has composed for the carillon, and not all that long ago, Lonie would have been termed a carilloneuse.) With Princeton’s summer carillon festival underway through August, now’s the time to read my profile here, in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly.

After 20 years, Masala Grill says goodbye – and thanks – with a blowout open house

Owner Suchitra Patel didn’t want to leave the modest Chambers Street space she had leased in Princeton for two decades, but when the time came she knew exactly how to thank her many loyal fans. Two-hundred people showed up on the final day. Here’s my report – and where to find her food now – in the July installment of Food for Thought in the Princeton Echo.

US 1Fall Dining Issue; Double Brook Farm’s Kinder, Gentler Slaughter Facility; Slow Food & Chef Todd Villani Team Up

6 Transformed and/or Transformative Central NJ Restaurants

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

In this year’s fall dining issue of US 1 I turn the spotlight on new or newly transformed eateries that have bravely planted their flags in towns either not known as dining hubs (hello, Hightstown) or that once were hubs but have lost a step or two (apologies, New Brunswick). Here’s the story, in the September 23rd issue. Other locales include Lambertville (photo above), West Windsor, Stockton, and Trenton.

Robin & Jon McConaughy Add a USDA-Inspected Slaughter Facility to Double Brook Farm, For “A Kinder Kill”

NJ Monthly cover sept 2015Read why the couple is committed to providing a compassionate end for their pasture-raised animals, and how the design of their abattoir was influenced by Temple Grandin, here in my story in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.

 

Chef Todd Villani & Slow Food NNJ Team Up to Benefit School & Community Gardens

Todd Villani, Terre e Terre (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Todd Villani, Terre e Terre (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Villani’s Carlstadt restaurant, Terre e Terre, is a fitting site for this farm-to-table, 4-course benefit dinner. In her NY Times review, Fran Schumer wrote that Villani “prepares some of the best locally sourced New American dishes in New Jersey.” (I tagged his smoked Berkshire pork loin “perfect” when I reviewed his previous work for a Union City restaurant.)

On Thursday, October 8 at 7 pm, Villani will offer the following menu, at $80 for Slow Food members and $85 for everyone else. The price includes tax and tip. Be sure to BYO wine and beer.

Amuse: Shibumi Farm deviled mushroom stuffed with truffle/duck/thyme

First Course: Fire-roasted butternut squash soup/crispy farro/sage

Second Course: Sockeye salmon/cauliflower puree/bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts/charred chive and caper vinaigrette

Third Course: Slow and low-braised short ribs/goat cheese potato gratin/ sauteed greens/cipollini onions

Dessert: Apple croissant bread pudding/cinnamon gelato

Seating is limited and tickets must be bought in advance by Sept. 30 at Slow Food NNJ’s website, www.slowfoodnnj.org

And just because it bears repeating, here is the explanation of Slow Food’s mission of good, clean, and fair food for all:

Good: Our food should be tasty, seasonal, local, fresh, and wholesome
Clean: Our food should be produced in ways that preserve biodiversity, sustain the environment, and ensure animal welfare – without harming human health
Fair: Our food should be affordable by all, while respecting the dignity of labor from field to fork.

Review of Anthony David’s; Italian Cocktails Having a Moment; Say Cheez in Princeton

Anthony Pino Updates His Hoboken Flagship

www.anthonydavids.com

Private Dining Room anthonydavids.com

No one can accuse Hoboken chef/restaurateur Pino and his wife, Liz, of standing still. Here, from the August issue of New Jersey Monthly, is my review of the latest iteration of Anthony David’s.
p.s. Pino, who also is behind Bin 14, will be opening a third restaurant any day now.

Italian Cocktails Past, Present, Future

I have always thanked my Italian heritage for my being partial to bitter flavors in food and drink, especially the herbaceous liqueurs like Campari, Fernet, and the amaro family. Until recently I have considered myself in the minority. But 3 area events – past and future – are telling me otherwise. (Why New Brunswick was and will be the setting for all three beats me.)

Negroni Sbagliato & Crostini with Anchovy-Chickpea Schmear, Clydz New Brunswick

Negroni Sbagliato & Crostini with Anchovy-Chickpea Schmear, Clydz New Brunswick

In August Katie Parla, the Rome-based food and beverage journalist who grew up in West Windsor, invited me to a fun Italian cocktail tasting at her father Mike’s restaurant, the venerable Clydz in New Brunswick. Eight selections ranged from classics such as the above Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, Vermouth Cinzano rosso, sparkling wine) to new inspirations from bartenders currently working in Rome. I particularly enjoyed Patrick Pistolesi‘s Cosa Nostra (Campari, Rabarbaro Zucca, Fernet Branca, Buffalo Trace bourbon, simple syrup).

I was sorry to have to miss the “Garden Tasting of Aperitifs and Digestifs” with Jeremy Fisher of the Frog & Peach on September 18. His tasting included all of my Italian faves, plus Spanish and French liqueurs and fortified wines, including 2 lesser knowns that I am partial to: Pineau de Charentes and Suze.

Due Mari, New Brunswick Courtesy duemarinj.com

Due Mari, New Brunswick
Courtesy duemarinj.com

I wouldn’t tease you about these past events if there weren’t another one on the horizon. On Saturday, September 26, the folks at Heirloom Kitchen are teaming up with those at Michael White’s Due Mari for a 3 pm Italian cocktail class at that New Brunswick restaurant. The session ($58) covers the classics as well as  the nouveau. Students take home recipes and a shaker, and Due Mari light fare, such as arancini and crostini, will be served. Details & sign up here.

A Take-out Shop Devoted to Grilled Cheese; Heirloom Beans; A New Addition to the Princeton Happy Hour Scene

The "Princeton" & Tiger Fries, Say Cheez Princeton

The “Princeton” & Tiger Fries, Say Cheez Princeton

Those are the subjects of my September “Food for Thought” column in the Princeton Echo. Read about Say Cheez, which I fully expected to loathe – and clearly did not – as well as why Rancho Gordo’s heirloom dried beans are worth seeking out (and where to find them), plus what the bartenders and chef at Agricola are bringing to the expanding Princeton happy hour scene.

 

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

Meet Dan Richer of Razza; My Review of LP Steak; Montclair’s Food & Wine Fest; Switchel Goes Mainstream

“True Italian mentality says that your location dictates your ingredients.” – Dan Richer of Razza

Dan Richer of Razza

Dan Richer of Razza

For a veteran journalist I made a rookie mistake when I interviewed Dan Richer of Razza Pizza Artigianale, a James Beard Rising Star semi-finalist whose output made Thrillist’s list of tops in the US. That mistake? I fell so in love with my subject I completely blew the word allotment my editor had stipulated. See if you’re not captivated, too, here in the Summer 2014 issue of Edible Jersey (The story starts on page 42.)

Edible Jersey cover summer 14

Luke Palladino turns his hand to steak

Having attained accolades for his Italian fare at the Atlantic City area restaurants that bear his name, Palladino has turned his small Northfield location into a hipster steakhouse. Read my review here, in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly.

NJ Monthly June 2014

2014 Montclair Food & Wine Festival: Big names, big doings next weekend

Montclair Food Wine Festival logo

Each year this 3-day celebration gets bigger and better, helping to justify its claim that Montclair is NJ’s food capital. Here’s a snapshot of this year’s activities:

Saturday, May 31: The Grand Tasting takes over the Montclair Art Museum, with food from 30 area restaurants (including the Ryland Inn) and wines provided by Gary’s Wine & Marketplace.

Sunday, June 1: Seminars on pasta, NJ oysters & clams, Latin tapas, and foie gras. For that last, two experts – Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan and Ariane Duarte of Culinariane – will debunk myths surrounding that beloved but controversial delicacy.

Monday, June 2: Gala Dinner at The Manor, with wines provided by Amanti Vino. Among the 6 accomplished chefs each doing a course is Floyd Cardoz, a Verona resident and winner of Top Chef Masters who first came to prominence at NYC’s Tabla. (Read my very personal interview with this talented chef and super-nice guy. We spoke in 2012, shortly before he started at Danny Meyer’s North End Grill, which he has since left. Click here to read the post.)

Chef Floyd Cardoz

Chef Floyd Cardoz

Get complete details and ticket information on next weekend’s festivities at montclairfoodandwinefestival.org.

Who knew? Switchel goes mainstream

I realized I was onto something when I encountered a switchel cocktail a couple of years ago at Jose Andres’ original incarnation of his America Eats Tavern. First, my post about it – complete with recipe – has accrued more hits on Dine With Pat than all posts save one (that one for orange soda bbq sauce, of all things). Then, in Wednesday’s NY Times dining section, Florence Fabricant spotlighted a switchel mixer made in Vermont. With or without alcohol, it makes a great summer cooler.

Asbury Park’s Pascal & Sabine: The Restaurant – and My Review – Are Hot

I was captivated by this brasserie in the same way I had been decades ago by the young boy and girl after whom it is named: Pascal & Sabine, protagonists of the classic French short film, The Red Balloon.

 

The Red Balloon DVD cover (wikipedia)

The Red Balloon DVD cover (wikipedia)

My 3-star review of Asbury Park’s own Pascal & Sabine is here in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly. The online review was shared 500 times within 18 hours!

NJ Monthly June 2014

 

My Cookie Wedding Favors; More from Frank Bruni; Riedel Warehouse Sale

My primary contribution to my daughter’s recent wedding was, not surprisingly, food related. Each of 153 guests received a clear, beribboned and be-tagged box containing Mexican wedding cookies I had baked.

My Wedding Cookie Favors

My Wedding Cookie Favors

For inspiration and recipes I turned to two experts: Martha Stewart and Nick Malgieri. I chronicle the ups and downs, ins and outs of pulling this project together here, in the May issue of the Princeton Packet Magazine, which is devoted in its entirety to weddings. (Scroll down to “Good Taste” for my cookie story.)

More of my interview with Frank Bruni, including the reading list for his food writing class @ Princeton

frank bruniI’ve previously linked to my interview with the former NY Times restaurant critic in the May issue of NJ Monthly. Here’s more of our conversation about the food writing course he’s teaching at Princeton University this semester, and why he’s doing it.

Tell me about the sixteen lucky undergrads in your class…
Most of them are upperclassmen. Right now it’s eleven young women and five young men. Forty-eight students applied. They all had to write a letter saying, here’s why I’d like to be in your class. I tried, without over-thinking it, to respect the gender breakdown of the letters.

They also had to submit a sample of their writing, right? So what drew you to these particular students?
A couple of them had taken a foreign affairs writing class last semester with my colleague at the Times [Carol Giacomo]. She brought her class up to The Times Center and had a number of us come talk to them. Some of the kids who applied to this class had been in that session and that was the reason they wanted to take the class. So I let a few of them in on the theory they know what they’re getting. You want everyone to be happy: they had met me, their feeling was positive. Others, it was just the amount of enthusiasm in their letters. Also, some of it was that I didn’t want a class entirely of people who are deep in the weeds of food, entirely of people who cultivate their own organic gardens. I wanted a mix of people who are incredibly food obsessed and people who are really just interested in being better writers and who find the subject of food suitably engaging. That kind of diversity.

Your syllabus lists three books other than your own Born Round: Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Why these?
They’re so different from one another. Michael Pollan’s work is such classic kind of expository journalism, written in a very elegant style. Foer’s Eating Animals is written in a completely different and much more gonzo style and it’s about a very particular thing, which is the ethics of eating. And Nora Ephron, again, a completely different style.
It’s just to get different voices in their head. I want them to read a lot. I really think that the easiest way to be a good writer, the best thing is to read. Even at my age I feel that if I’m not reading a lot I’m writing a lot worse. I feel like to make a writing course just writing and writing and writing, it’s a little bit like putting the cart before the horse. It’s one of the concerns I always have about people in high school and college taking a whole bunch of writing courses. So I want to make sure that over the course of the semester they’re also reading.

Born Round coverHow do you plan on using Born Round in the course?
I think it would be hard to teach a food writing course and not have a food memoir in there. There were many I considered. The reason I put my own in there was not to sell sixteen copies – I don’t know if they even had to buy any [of these books]. I could have assigned, say, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter and because she’s a local person I might be able to get her to come to talk to the class for an hour. But if I’m going to assign a food memoir, why not give them something that as they’re reading it if they have questions about why this approach, why is it done this way, or if they have questions about structure or anything, they have unfettered access to the author. It just made sense.

Will you bring in guest speakers?
Absolutely! For the first half of my next class Melissa Clark, who’s a friend and a good Times food writer, is going to be there. I’ll probably have my friend Kate Krader who’s the restaurant editor for Food & Wine magazine come down. And I’m also going to bring the kids up to the Times to interact with my colleagues.

What made you want to take this on, with all your other responsibilities?
A new experience! You know, when you’ve been in the business as long as I have and you’ve written on deadline as much as I have and you’ve filed as many articles of various kinds, well, if you can find ways to build something novel into your weeks and months, it’s great. And in a corny way I like the idea of teaching. I’m one of those people at work whose friends often ask for advice or to read stuff and I think I’m not horrible at explaining things and critiquing things. I hoped I might actually be useful.
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Riedel Warehouse Sale Now through Saturday, in Edison

If you’re a fan of Riedel wine glasses and decanters (count me in), you’ll want to head over to Edison, where their wares are discounted from between 45% and 75% for the next few days.  Details here. A shout out to June Jacobs of Feastivals who alerted me to this event. If you go, I’d love to get a report. btw: The sale includes items from Spiegelau and Nachtmann, too.

All Restaurants, All the Time: Yellow Plum, Bloomfield; The Pind, Kingston; Central NJ Restos with a Water View

Don’t know if you noticed, but I’ve been awfully remiss in posting in recent weeks. But I have a great excuse! My beautiful daughter, Alice, got married to the equally beautiful Chris! See for yourself:

Cutting the cake

In the interim, I’ve been bursting out in print. First off, my review of Yellow Plum, from the May issue of New Jersey Monthly

NJ Monthly cover may14

I also have a new, additional gig as the first ever restaurant critic for the Montgomery News, the hometown paper serving that Somerset County town and Rocky Hill. Here’s my review of the fairly new, unfortunately named, and  already re-conceptualized Pind, from the April issue.

Montgomery News logo

And from the April issue of New Jersey Monthly (that’s how remiss I’ve been!) be sure to check out this feature on NJ’s great lakefront restaurants. (After all, why should the Jersey Shore hog all the attention?) I contributed the entries for Central NJ, and I’d like to hear from you if I missed any good ones.

NJ Monthly cover apr14