Tag Archives: Pennington restaurant

Lunch @ Le Cheri (w/recipe); Girl Scouts’ Herb Giveaway; Avanti in Pennington Changes Hands

Lunch @ Le Cheri: How Sweet It Is

I don’t get into Philadelphia nearly as often as the exciting dining scene there warrants, but I made sure to find time to dine at Le Cheri, the second restaurant from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels. Five years ago I fell in love with Bibou, their tiny byob French bistro on South Eighth. (Bibou’s Sunday pre fixe dinner, 4 courses for $45 , is the best deal around.)

Philadelphia Art Alliance, Wikipedia

Philadelphia Art Alliance, Wikipedia

So when the Calmelses opened Le Cheri on Rittenhouse Square in the Philadelphia Art Alliance building – the neat Italianate period piece above – I had to give it a go. Lucky for me, what had been forecast to be a rainy afternoon turned out gloriously sunny, so my little group opted to dine out in the garden in back. Charming, no?

Le Cheri patio garden

Le Cheri patio garden

The weather, season, and setting seemed to cry out for glasses of rose, and the Jean Paul Brun Rose d’Folie ($11) turned out to be as delicious as it is beautiful:

wine glassesThe ambiance also dictated my choice of starter: creamy (but not overly rich) watercress soup with a centerpiece of a few small, tender mussels mixed with julienne duck breast and dots of cayenne oil around the edges.

watercress soupBut I would have been just as satisfied with my friends’ choices: pretty scalloped ravioli filled with mushrooms and napped with rich sauce ivoire…

ravioli…and chilled poached rabbit terrine with Cumberland sauce. (Cumberland sauce is a chunky concoction customarily served with game, similar in style to cranberry sauce. Red currant jelly, orange and lemon rind, and Port are some of its components.) Like the sauce ivoire and much that would follow, this dish is straight out of Escoffier, only made with Pierre Calmels’ light touch and modern sensibility.

rabbit terrineMain dishes are equally beguiling, with each component of every preparation interesting, carefully selected, cooked to perfection, and presented beautifully. To wit:

Seared scallops, lavender oatmeal panisse, sugar snap peas, honeydew melon & mustard seed vinaigrette

Seared scallops, lavender oatmeal panisse, sugar snap peas, honeydew melon & mustard seed vinaigrette

Veal medallions, fingerlings, asparagus, lemon veal jus

Veal medallions, fingerlings, asparagus, lemon veal jus

Chef Georges Perrier crab cake, endive & haricots verts salad, whole grain mustard sauce

Chef Georges Perrier crab cake, endive & haricots verts salad, whole grain mustard sauce

If there’s a weak spot here, it’s dessert. I found the chocolate terrine too rich (tart raspberry sorbet that accompanied it notwithstanding), and the white peach Melba (below), while pretty, was the only classic among an entire meal of classics that seems dated.

??????????My friend who opted for one of the cheeses instead of a sweet came away a winner with this ramekin of runny, creamy, wonderfully pungent epoisses at the perfect stage of ripeness and served with slices of excellent baguette:

epoisses and cappuccinoFrench press coffee, espresso, and cappuccino are impeccable at Le Cheri. For lunch, menu prices range from $8 to 13 for starters, $21 to $27 for mains, and $7 to $9 for desserts and cheese.

"Galette 1523" @ Le Cheri

“Galette 1523” @ Le Cheri

Now for the promised recipe. The crab cake is listed on the menu as “Galette 1523.” That number refers to the street address of the old Le Bec Fin, and is a faithful replication of the one made famous by Calmels’ mentor, Georges Perrier. Ethereal custard-like texture sets it apart – a cross between quiche and souffle – and plays up the crab’s delicate flavor.Here’s a link to the original recipe.

Girl Scouts Giving Away Fresh Herbs (and Growing Tips)

Apparently it’s not just a one-night stand between chef/owner Jim Weaver of Tre Piani and local Girl Scouts.
Wait – that doesn’t sound right. Let me start again.

scouts at tre piani 013Last year I reported here on a sweet event in which Weaver, the founder of Slow Food Central NJ, invited a Girl Scout troop from Flemington into his kitchen to cook up a farmers-market-to-table meal as part of their badge-earning journey. Now, on Friday, June 27 between 11 am and 2 pm – during the Princeton Forrestal Village farmers market held on the plaza outside Tre Piani – another Girl Scout troop, this one from Plainsboro, will share their knowledge of fresh herbs, as well as herbs themselves, with the public. Here’s the deal, straight from farmers market manager Nirit Yadin:

garden 2009 007

My own herb garden

“Come learn to grow herbs in your own kitchen and reap the benefits of herbs in fresh food. Then get a free pot of herbs to take home. The program is presented by Girl Scout Troop 70694. The girls are working on a Sow What Journey which is all about connecting people to their food. Come, educate yourself and support the troop!’

 

 

 

Breaking News: Changing of the Guard at Pennington’s Avanti

Michael Moriello

Michael Moriello

Michael Moriello, chef and owner of La Mezzaluna, the popular Italian byob on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, has acquired Avanti, the equally popular Italian byob in downtown Pennington. Moriello, who came to the US 9 years ago from Naples, has bought out Vincenzo Severino, a Sicilian native who established Avanti almost 20 years ago on W. Delaware Avenue.

Avanti in Pennington

Avanti in Pennington

Moriello isn’t planning major changes to the menu at Avanti, which offers classic fare like linguine with red or white clam sauce and pasta Bolognese inside a charming carriage house. One change: the restaurant is now serving lunch on Sundays (in addition to dinner).

La Mezzaluna, Princeton

La Mezzaluna, Princeton

At La Mezzaluna, Moriello offers refined Italian dishes like seafood risotto and hazelnut-crusted rack of lamb. He just completed a major renovation of that restaurant’s modern minimalist decor.

NJ’s Best Farmers Markets & Specialty Food Shops; School Garden Contest & Workshop; Free Birthday Cake; Dandelion Dinner; More

The April issue of NJ Monthly is all about Fabulous NJ Food (Yay!).

NJ Monthly cover apr13I was pleased to contribute my picks for the best farmers markets and specialty food shops in the central part of the state.

Click here for the story on the cream of the crop of Garden State farmers markets.

Click here for the story on our most delicious specialty food shops.

Think Your Kid’s School Has the Best Garden in the State?

Then make sure it’s a contender for the NJ School Garden of the Year Award. Top prize is a cool $1500 – that’s a lot of lettuce! Entries are being accepted now through July 1st. The award, in its second year, is presented by Edible Jersey magazine and the NJ Farm to School NetworkClick here for details and entry form.

Riverside School Garden, Princeton

Riverside School Garden, Princeton

If you’re interested in creating or improving a school garden, the Farm to School Network is holding a workshop called Creating Sustainable School Gardens on Wednesday, April 3, from 8 am to 3 pm at Duke Farms in Hillsborough. Cost is $30. Click here for details and to register.

You say it’s your birthday? Well, happy birthday to you – at Za in Pennington

Cute cross-pollination idea from chef/owner Mark Valenza of Za, the quirky little byob on West Delaware Avenue. Just mention that you’re celebrating a birthday when you make a reservation and they’ll provide your table with a free ice cream cake from a shop located in the same shopping center where they are. Here’s the deal, in their own words:

birthday_cake_photo

“We’ll buy your table a delicious Uncle Ed’s Creamery chocolate and vanilla ice cream birthday cake! (serves 4) We’re not allowed to sing Happy Birthday, but we will deliver your free ice cream cake to the table with a birthday candle.”

Dandelion Dinner @ Enzo’s La Piccola Cucina

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Another central NJ byob – Enzo’s in Lawrenceville (near the Trenton Farmers Market)- is welcoming spring with a 1-day, 5-course dinner devoted to that delightfully bitter green. If like me you grew up in an Italian-American family, you’ve developed a love of all things bitter, including the vitamin-rich dandelion. Here’s the menu that Anna Scozzari, the proprietor of this tiny, old-school establishment, has planned:

Batter-dipped Dandelion
Dandelion Salad
Dandelion & Cheese Manicotti
Balsamic & Fig Glazed Cornish Hen with Dandelion Risotto
Surprise Dessert

Sunday, April 7th is the date. Reservations are a must, and there are two seatings, at 1 pm and 6 pm. Cost, $59, includes tax and gratuity. For reservations phone 609-396-9868.

Congratulations to NJ Beard Nominees

I predicted that Maricel Presilla‘s masterful Gran C0cina Latina would show up on the major cookbook awards this year, and that has come to pass. It’s a finalist for two prestigious awards: James Beard and IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Gran Cocina Latina

Ditto for the latest output of Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hersheimer: Canal House Cooks Every Day. (To read more about the duo, click here for my 2010 profile in NJ Monthly.) Happily, the two books are nominated in separate categories in each instance so they can both come away winners.

Speaking of Awards…

…a very kind subscriber has nominated DineWithPat for a Saveur Best Food Blog award! If you feel so inclined, I’d be very grateful for your vote.