Tag Archives: Princeton 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.

Happy Anniversary Alchemist & Barrister (w/recipes) and Zone 7; My Meal @ Razza in JC

PRINCETON’S ALCHEMIST AND BARRISTER TURNS 40

Alchemist & Barrister

Alchemist & Barrister

When it comes to restaurant longevity, I think in dog years: a ratio of 7 to 1. At that rate, this casual pub and restaurant on Witherspoon Street would be turning 280 this year. Like many a grande dame, the A&B is having some work done as she enters her fifth decade, including a new exterior (current one shown above), new windows, a set of French doors that will open onto the restaurant’s alleyway entrance, and an additional bar that will bring the number of beer taps to 50.

Arthur Kukoda, Alchemist & Barrister

Arthur Kukoda, Alchemist & Barrister

A linchpin of the A&B’s success for at least the last 26 years has been executive chef/co-owner Arthur Kukoda. He has consistently traversed that tricky culinary fine line between the traditional and the of-the-moment. The current menu includes both classics – shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie, to name two – and modern American fusion dishes like poutine with short ribs and ginger-sesame fried calamari. This summer Kukoda’s daughter Melissa will join the A&B team as social media director.

Below are 2 recipes that exemplify this chef’s style. With outdoor grilling season upon us, his mango barbecue chicken (shown above) brings this backyard favorite to new heights. The chicken can be split in half or quartered.

"Fantastic Five" Salad, Alchemist & Barrister

“Fantastic Five” Salad, Alchemist & Barrister

The five-grain salad gives nods to three trends: ancient grains, gluten free, and vegetarian/vegan. (A&B customers can opt to add chicken or shrimp.) The restaurant uses its own grain mix consisting of equal parts quinoa, millet, kaniwa, amaranth, and teff. Kaniwa is a relative of quinoa and similar in its nutty taste. Both are technically seeds, by the way.

A&B bar guru Jason Wilkins has kindly volunteered the craft beer pairing suggestions.

 

A & B’s MANGO BBQ CHICKEN
(Suggested craft beer: Brooklyn Summer Ale or Wells Banana Bread Beer)

1 chicken, boned-out with exception of wing drumettes (Ask butcher to split chicken and debone the rib cage and thigh and leg bones)
For the marinade:
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
1 cup vegetable oil (Kukoda uses a blend of canola and olive oils)
For the mango barbecue sauce:
1 large onion, diced small
1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 poblano pepper, diced small
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (e.g., canola, olive, or a blend of the two)
12 ounces mango nectar or frozen mango chunks (defrosted)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup rum
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
24 ounces ketchup

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients. Pour over deboned chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Make the mango barbecue sauce: In a large saucepan, saute the onion, ginger, garlic, and poblano pepper in 4 tablespoons vegetable oil until soft. Add mango, cider vinegar, lime juice, rum, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. Combine well, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow sauce to cool, and puree in blender or food processor.
  3. When ready to grill, set aside at least half a cup of the bbq sauce for serving. Remove chicken from the marinade and grill as usual. Toward the later stages of grilling, brush the chicken with the sauce, being careful not to have the chicken over the open flame so sauce does not burn. Serve the reserved sauce with the cooked chicken.
    Serves 4.

A & B’s “FANTASTIC FIVE” GRAIN SALAD
(Suggested craft beers: If adding chicken, pair with Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale or a bottle of Hacker Pschorr Weisse. With shrimp, pair with 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer.)

2 pounds cooked mixed grains (from 1 pound of uncooked), preferably a mix of equal parts quinoa, millet, kaniwa, amaranth, and teff, or use quinoa alone
1/4 cup blanched broccoli florettes
1/4 cup sliced radish
1/4 cup grated carrots
1 cup grilled fresh pineapple rings, diced and separated
Toasted almonds, for garnish
For the grilled pineapple-tamari vinaigrette:
1 shallot, diced
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 cup vegetable oil (preferably a blend of canola and olive oil)
1/2 cup grilled pineapple (from above)

  1. Make the vinaigrette: Combine shallot, rice vinegar, and tamari in a bowl. Whisk in the oil. Fold in 1/2 cup grilled diced pineapple. (Save the other 1/2 cup to add to the salad.)
  2. Combine in a bowl the cooked grain(s), broccoli, radish, carrot, and remaining diced pineapple. Pour in the vinaigrette and toss well. Sprinkle salad with toasted almonds.
    Serves 4.

(The above is excerpted from the May 27, 2014 issue of The Princeton Packet)

Happy Anniversary, Zone 7!

Zone7_Logo_Color-250x300Straight from proprietor/visionary Mikey Azzara of this farm-to-restaurant distribution service comes this notice: “In May of 2008, Zone 7 made its first delivery of Muth Organic Strawberries to The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ.  Every year around this time, we like to reflect on our past and look ahead to what the upcoming season will bring.  As we enter Year 7, we want to give thanks for all of your support.” To see how Zone 7 got its start, check out this video: The Story of Zone 7.

My Dinner @ Razza

Razza board

A couple of posts ago I linked to my interview with Dan Richer of Razza Pizza Artigianale that’s in the Summer 2014 issue of Edible Jersey. What I didn’t report on was the terrific meal I enjoyed after the interview concluded. Here are some of the highlights.

Bread at Razza

Bread at Razza

Richer is a man obsessed with fermentation. The wild yeast culture he started more than four years ago forms the basis of both his pizza dough and the loaves of bread that emanate from his wood-fired oven. He pairs the bread with the handmade cultured butter he makes from the cream of grass-fed Lancaster County cows. Bread & butter costs $4 here – and patrons are happy to pony up. The table setting reflects the rustic-industrial look of the space.

Razza bread and butter

Razza bread and butter

Razza’s meatballs ($9) are loose and tender. My husband paid them the highest compliment when he remarked that they reminded him of my own mother’s. They’re made with chunks of day-old Razza bread soaked in buttermilk that’s left over from churning that housemade butter. The tomato sauce is fresh and bright tasting, with a great tomato tang.

Razza meatballs

Razza meatballs

Below is a detail of the Margherita pizza ($15). Note the big, crusty edge, which is full of flavor yet light in texture and has just the right balance of tender/chewy/crisp. It may look like there’s a lot of cheese (handmade fresh mozz), but actually it’s just a thin layer. Richer considers the dough the main event, and all toppings merely condiments. He’s right.

Razza Margherita pizza

Razza Margherita pizza

We also wolfed down the beet salad ($10), which stands miles above the countless other versions out there with its tender red and gold fire-roasted beets, crunchy heirloom watermelon radishes, gorgeous nasturtiums and dollop of rich Lancaster Valley yogurt. And don’t pass up the hazelnut panna cotta if it’s a dessert-of-the-day. You’ll also want to check out the abbreviated but smart list of cocktails, Italian wines, and craft beers from both Italy and the region (NJ, NY, and PA).

Dan Richer of Razza

Dan Richer of Razza

 

 

Beard Awards: Big-time Semi-finalists from NJ; Food Photography Lesson; Marvelous Meyer Lemons

Jersey Chefs Up for National & Regional Awards

I was thrilled to see 3 Garden Staters on the national lists and another 3 up for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic among the semi-finalists for the 2014 James Beard Awards, which were announced earlier this week.

Maricel Presilla

Maricel Presilla

Marc Vetri

Marc Vetri

Congrats to Maricel Presilla and Marc Vetri for their nominations as Outstanding Chef in the U.S. – Presilla for Cucharamama in Hoboken and Vetri for Vetri in Philadelphia. But because he crossed river this year with Osteria in Moorestown Mall, I’m claiming him for NJ! I can’t stop myself from including another name here: Gabrielle Hamilton, who’s nominated for her work at her NY restaurant, Prune. But since she was raised in Lambertville, I’m labeling her NJ, too.

Ben Nerenhausen & Scott Anderson. Courtesy PrincetonInfo.com

Ben Nerenhausen & Scott Anderson. Courtesy PrincetonInfo.com

Congrats also to Ben Nerenhausen of Mistral in Princeton, who is nominated for Rising Star Chef in the U.S.

Congrats, finally, to these 3 who are among the 20 nominees for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic region: Scott Anderson, Elements; Joey Baldino, Zeppoli; Lucas Manteca, The Red Store. What’s particularly gratifying to me is that all 3 restaurants are in the southern half of the state – Princeton, Collingswood, and Cape May, respectively – which has long played second fiddle to the more populous metropolitan areas up north.

A dandy showing! Good luck to all.

Want to improve your food photography?

Lord knows I need to! We’ll get the chance on Sunday, March 9th when professional photographer Frank Veronsky of Princeton Photo Workshop presents “Shoot It & Eat It” at Tre Piani in Forrestal Village. During the 3-hour class, guests will first photograph and then down a 3-course dinner. Click here for details and to register.

My Meyer Lemon Madness (with recipes)

(Adapted from my “In the Kitchen” column in the Princeton Packet of 2/28/14)

Meyer lemons 006

A few years ago I fell hard for sweet, floral Meyer lemons at San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmers Market. At the time they weren’t regularly available around these parts, so my San Fran-based daughter, witness to my infatuation, thoughtfully gave me a dwarf Meyer lemon tree for Christmas. My sapling arrived months later, complete with excellent instructions for potting and growing, from Four Winds Growers based in Winters, CA.

Meyer Lemon brochure 002Here in Zone 7 the tree must winter indoors. It took three growing seasons, but this past summer mine produced 5 big beauties (pictured above) that ripened just before the first frost. (A 6th was still small and green; more on that later). I was so excited, I planned an entire dinner party for 4 guests around those 5 lemons.  For inspiration I turned to this L.A. Times article: “100 Things to Do with a Meyer Lemon.”

Here’s my menu:

Meyer lemon feast 013Nibbles & drinks: Marcona almonds; hefeweizen beer with slices of Meyer lemon
Main: Roasted monkfish with Meyer lemon salsa; basmati rice; zucchini and sliced Meyer lemons
Dessert: Meyer lemon-almond cake with Meyer lemon Chantilly cream

As you can tell, I stretched my quintet as far as it could go. I even used the lemon leaves for table decor. ??????????

Amazingly, the dinner did not result in Meyer lemon overload and, with one exception, was wildly successful. Beer and Meyer lemon is a match made in heaven, although it takes a few minutes for the lemon to assert itself. I chose monkfish for its dense, meaty, snow-white flesh, but found the salsa, which contained shallots and olives as well as the fruit, bitter and overpowering. Next time I’ll substitute the compound butter I’ve included in the recipe below. On the other hand, the combination of thin rounds of zucchini and even thinner ones of lemon sautéed together in olive oil was a revelation! I may never make zucchini without lemon again.

??????????Without a doubt, though, the Meyer lemon-almond cake, a variation on one of Claudia Roden’s, stole the show. It has the texture of a tea cake and is as simple to make. It’s good on its own, and its flavor even deepens overnight, but I felt compelled to gild the lily by adding Chantilly cream flavored with Meyer lemon.

??????????

As to the fate of that last green fruit left on the tree: It continued to grow indoors, albeit at a greatly reduced pace. Just as it became full, ripe, and ready for plucking, this recipe from Bobby Flay for Meyer lemon potatoes the New York Times. It turned out to be the perfect coda to my Meyer lemon season.

ROASTED MONKFISH WITH MEYER LEMON COMPOUND BUTTER
Serves 4.

1-1/4 pounds monkfish, in one piece (tuna can be substituted)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
Salt & pepper, to taste
For the Meyer lemon compound butter:
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1-1/2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves only
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Make the compound butter: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mash and stir until well blended. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an oven-safe baking dish with oil.
  3. Make a series of small incisions on both sides of the fish, and insert a sliver of garlic into each cut. Rub or brush fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Place fish in prepared dish and roast in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until just opaque and cooked through. Slice fish into thick, diagonal slices and serve with compound butter at room temperature.
    Serves 4.

Afghan in Raritan; Lamb Sliders & Eggplant Recipes; Edible Jersey Wants Your Food Story

3 Olives Mediterranean Restaurant

There’s an awful lot of mediocre Middle Eastern food around, so I took my sweet time getting to this “Afghan fusion” spot on W. Somerset St in Raritan. A real mistake on my part, because not only does 3 Olives, situated in a former dive bar (Mugs Pub), feature impressively fresh, full-flavored versions of hummus, grape leaves, and Greek salad (here dubbed “Mediterranean” salad), it puts an Afghan spin – and to my taste, a superior spin – on them and other dishes, including versions of naan and daal.

Hummus with naan at 3 Olives
Hummus with naan at 3 Olives

3 Olives is surprising in other ways: cloth napkins, full liquor license, and stylish tableware, like that shown above. All in a dark, old-fashioned wood-paneled, commercial-carpeted setting. Adding to its appeal is its friendly, easygoing owner, Arina Zafar, who served as hostess and order-taker on our noontime visit.

eggplant and 3 olives 005

At lunch, full meals run about $8 and include complimentary house-made naan with two dips (yogurt with cilantro and garlicky vinaigrette with red pepper, above) and  soup (lentil, on our visit) or a mini-version of the full-size Mediterranean salad, below. Notice that the red pepper vinaigrette comes on the side.

??????????

All the Afghan dishes we tried were standouts. Fried leek dumplings called aushak topped with homemade yogurt and meat sauce; a stew of spinach and meltingly soft boneless lamb chunks (sabzi chalaw); and the vegetarian sampler, with its choice of 3 stews/purees. I chose eggplant, lentil, and pumpkin. Each had back notes of slow-cooked onions, ripe tomatoes, and its own warm spices.

??????????

What’s not shown above is the accompanying basmati rice, which blew me away. It’s perfection – tender but not mushy, each grain separate and fluffy, wearing a light sheen of what I suspect is ghee. But more than that, the rice itself is stunningly flavorful. As we were leaving, I overheard Ms. Zafar telling another table that she and her husband, Kris, who is the chef, travel to northern Virginia every couple of months to buy the rice, which she described as “three times above regular basmati.” I concur.
3 Olives Mediterranean Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

attention sign

attention sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attention home bakers: What took me to the Raritan area was a visit to Candyland Crafts on W. Main Street in Somerville. Despite its name, it’s also a baking supply paradise, with an immense selection of commercial-grade bakeware, tools, packaging materials, and professional ingredients (e.g., large bags of pre-made royal icing waiting for water). Prices are closer to wholesale than to retail.

Me & Main Street Bistro: An Ongoing Affair

eggplant and 3 olives 004I had no idea when I was randomly searching the internet for a recipe for eggplant rollatini that I would confront my past – and not even recognize it. The upshot? My  In the Kitchen column in the October 25th edition of The Princeton Packet, with the story behind how Princeton’s Main Street Bistro became one of Bon Appetit magazines Great Neighborhood Restaurants. Here are the related recipes: my adaptation of that rollatini dish and Main Street’s popular lamb sliders.

MAIN STREET BISTRO’S EGGPLANT ROLLATINI
www.epicurious.com

Nonstick olive oil spray
All purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
3-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
2-2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese (about 8 ounces)
18 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick lengthwise eggplant slices (from 2 medium)
3 cups (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1-1/4 cups ricotta cheese (preferably whole-milk)
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3 cups purchased marinara sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 3 baking sheets and one 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Place flour in one wide shallow bowl, eggs in second bowl, and breadcrumbs mixed with 1 cup Parmesan cheese in another. Sprinkle each eggplant slice with salt and pepper. Coat each slice with flour, then beaten egg, and finally breadcrumb mixture. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared sheets. Bake eggplant in batches until coating is golden, turning after 15 minutes, about 30 minutes total. Cool on sheets.
  2. Mix mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, basil, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Season filling with salt and pepper. Divide filling among eggplant slices (about 3 tablespoons per slice); spread evenly. Starting at 1 short end, roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, in prepared baking dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spoon marinara sauce over rolls; sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered until rollatini are heated through and mozzarella cheese melts, about 30 minutes.
    Makes 6 main-course servings.

LORI MARSHALL’S LAMB LOAF/SLIDERS/GYROS

1 pound ground lamb
1 pound mix of ground veal, pork, and/or beef (all beef can be substituted)
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon (rounded) marjoram
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend 1 minute. Form into slider patties or pack into two loaf pans. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For loaf pans, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Drain fat from pans. For sliders, sauté in olive oil for 3 minutes on each side.

To assemble sliders: Place a slider on a mini-pita, or use circle cookie cutter to form mini-pitas from full size. Add tzatziki (recipe follows) and cucumber slices as desired.

To assemble gyros: Slice the lamb loaf lengthwise about 1/8″ thick and sauté in olive oil to a crispy brown.  Serve with tzatziki (recipe follows), warm pita, chopped tomato, and shredded lettuce.

Makes 20 to 24 patties for sliders. Each loaf makes 4 to 5 servings as gyros (each gyro containing 4 to 5 slices).

MAIN STREET BISTRO TZATZIKI
Chef Nick Schiano

1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
1teaspoon minced garlic
Several pinches salt, plus more to taste

  1. Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl and drain for 2 hours.
  2. Toss cucumber with salt and drain for 2 hours.
  3. Mix lemon juice and garlic with yogurt and cucumber. Taste and add additional lemon juice and salt if needed.
    Makes 1 cup.

Edible Jersey Wants You!

Edible jersey cover fall 13For the second time in its history Edible Jersey magazine is soliciting everyone for 150-word stories about our favorite food experiences – people, places, memories, etc. – for a feature they’re calling “Edible Life.” This is the second time they’re doing this. (The first time around, I contributed my first food memory: eating a fig which my elderly Italian neighbor had plucked from his tree and handed through the wire fence that separated our backyards in Newark’s Central Ward.) Here, in their own words, is what the magazine is looking for:

“In 150 words or less, tell us about one of your food-related favorites: the roadside hole-in the wall with incredible food, the teapot your grandmother gave you, the farm stand you’ve visited every summer since you were 3, the best spot for Jamaican food in NJ, your favorite cooking spice, the best meal you ever had, the kitchen utensil or appliance you can’t live without, your favorite diner, your favorite summer produce, a treasured cookbook, your favorite bartender, your favorite farmers’ market, the cooking class that made a difference …. You get the idea.”

Send your submission to info@ediblejersey.com and include “Edible Life” in the title. You are welcome to submit more than one favorite. Be sure to include your name, phone number and town. (And please do adhere to the 150 word limit.) All selected “Edible Life” submissions will be notified prior to publication and the writer’s name, business/restaurant (if relevant) and town will be included with printed selections. Deadline to submit is November 8, 2013.

The Sorry State of Food TV; 2 NJ Slow Food Events; Craig Shelton’s New Gig; NJ & Beard Awards; Mistral Preview

This essay by Andy Greenwald on the state of Food TV is the best I’ve encountered. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with everything Greenwald writes – I thought I was the only one who felt this way! I was gratified in particular by this sentence about Emeril Lagasse‘s role as a Top Chef judge:

“Stripped of his catchphrases and his band, Emeril has revealed himself to be kind, patient and insightful, able to articulate the nuances of food we’ll never taste with expert, understated flair.”

Not only do I agree with that assessment as a viewer, but it reflects the conclusion I came to when Emeril was a guest on my radio show years ago. We did an entire hour show live from Marketfair mall in Princeton.

Pat & Emeril1

I expected lots of bam! and bluster, and instead I got a thoughtful, soft-spoken, gentle man who answered my questions with insight and modesty. It was only when a young boy in the audience shouted out, “Emeril, say Bam!” that he did – and talked about how great it was to have youngsters interested in cooking.

Slow Food Farmers Market (Central) & Expert Talk on GMOs (North)

Slow Food Central Snail

This Sunday, 2/24/13, will see the final Slow Food Central NJ winter farmers market of the season. This one is being held at Tre Piani restaurant in Forrestal Village along Route 1 in Princeton, from 11 am to 3 pm. There’ll be live music and you can sit down for food and drink at Tre Bar in between stocking up on meats, breads, mushrooms, cheeses, wines, baked goods, and sweets from these vendors:

Beech Tree Farm….Birds and Bees Farm…Bobolink Dairy and Bake House…Cherry Grove Farm…Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms…Donna and Company…Fulper Dairy Farm…Funni Bonz Barbecue Sauce…Happy Wanderer Bakery…Hopewell Valley Vineyards…Judith’s Desserts…Jammin’ Crepes…Pure Indian Foods Ghee…Rocky Brook Farm…Shibumi Exotic Mushrooms…Valley Shepherd Creamery and Woods Edge Wools Farm.

For information, phone 609.577.5113.

Slow Food SnailThen next Sunday, March 3rd, attend an afternoon meeting of Slow Food Northern NJ at the DeHart Community Center in Maplewood that starts at 1 pm with a tasting of local foods and includes talks on school gardens and the impact of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on our lives. Speaker for that will be Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, who will “describe what genetic engineering is, the lack of required safety testing, and why you should be concerned.” Click here for info and to purchase tickets ($8 for members; $10 for the public).

Craig Shelton, Consultant

Craig SheltonNew Jersey’s most well-known chef (check out the interview with him I posted here last December) is now consulting at Mediterra in Princeton. Laurent Chapuis, the proprietor of the Princeton Corkscrew wine shop just a few doors down, was impressed with a recent  lunch overseen by Shelton. If you know Monsieur Chapuis, you know he is one tough customer, so his praise bodes well for this match.

Mediterra’s general manager, Carmine DePasquale, says that Shelton will be at the restaurant four to five days a week, mainly during lunch service, for at least the next three months. He isn’t so much behind the stove tweaking dishes or changing the menu as he is, DePasquale says, “showing us a different hospitality factor, a new way of managing how guests perceive things.” He’s working hand-in-hand with Mediterra chef Terry Strong and his sous chefs, yes, but also servers and the management team as a whole. Shelton, DePasquale says, has set his task as observing, commenting on what’s being done correctly (or not), and addressing issues around hospitality and even marketing. “The beauty of Craig,” DePasquale says, “is that he holds himself up to the Relais and Chateaux guidelines, and it’s always good to strive for that with every single person who walks through our door.”

Congrats to 2013 James Beard Awards Semi-finalists Scott Anderson, Joey Baldino, and Thirty Acres

If you call yourself a New Jersey foodie, you’ve likely heard by now that the Garden State receive three nods on the first round of balloting announced this week. Both Scott Anderson of elements in Princeton and Vetri-alumnus Joey Baldino of Zeppoli (his Sicilian restaurant in Collingswood) are among 2o chefs vying to be one of 5 semi-finalists for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. Thirty Acres in Jersey City is one of 29 hopefuls for Best New Restaurant in the USA.

Thirty Acres, Jersey City

Thirty Acres, Jersey City

Five finalists in each category will be announced on March 18, and the ultimate sole winners on May 6.

Sneak Peak of Mistral Menu at elements, Princeton

Mistral-Logo

Speaking of elements, the projected opening of Mistral, the second (and more casual) restaurant by the same team, is now set for April. Those of us who can’t wait for its small plates of interpreted Mediterranean classics can get a smattering at elements between now and then. Prices start at $7 for fennel salad with lemon basil, red onion, and orange and run to $12 for bronzino with potato puree, black olive, and caramelized red onion.

In between are house-cured lomo (Spanish-style dry-cured pork tenderloin) with trumpet royale mushrooms, pimentos, and garlic; pressure-cooked octopus with “papas bravas” (their quotation marks), and caper aioli; and dark meat chicken with yuzu and soy honey glaze.