Tag Archives: Ruth Alegria

Tavro 13 Review; Rosie S. Dishes NJ; Oaxaca @ City Grit; Eating Bugs

Tavro Thirteen: South Jersey’s Hottest New Restaurant

The Colonial-era Old Swedes Inn in sleepy Swedesboro (that would be Exit 2 of the NJ Turnpike) has been deliciously brought into the 21st century under Philly star chef Terence Feury (Striped Bass, Fork). NJ Monthly cover may13 Here’s my review, from the May issue of New Jersey Monthly.

Sounds Like a Fun Time with My Pal Rosie Saferstein

Rosie SaferstesinLearn how to cook dishes from Rosie’s favorite restaurants on Thursday, May 9, when Rosie Saferstein of Table Hopping with Rosie and Suzanne Lowery of Soup to Nuts – both bloggers at njmonthly.com – will be at Kings Cooking Studio in Short Hills for a “Rosie Dishes-Suzanne Cooks” cooking class. Chef Lowery will demonstrate the following recipes, Rosie’s personal faves:

Shrimp-corn chowder with apple-smoked bacon from Boulevard 572, Kenilworth: chef Scott Snyder

Cauliflower steak with fregola; stuffed, roasted tomato; wild arugula; golden raisin and pine nut sauce from Satis, Jersey City: consulting chef is Michael Fiorianti. Chef de cuisine is Galice Ryan (btw: This dish happens to be on my own top list as well. Here’s my NJ Monthly review.)

Duck breast with red cabbage, caramelized turnip, and red-wine fig emulsion from Blu, Montclair: chef Zod Arifai.

French apple galette from executive chef Mitchell Altholz of Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange

Rosie will also dish about the NJ restaurant scene. Bring your questions and bring your appetite for a fun-filled evening. 6:30 to 9:30 PM; $65. Click here to register, or call 973-258-4009.

Ode to Oaxaca Dinner at City Grit

When I trekked down to NoLIta for a Hurricane Sandy benefit dinner recently, my main motivation was to connect with my friend Ruth Alegria, who was up from Mexico City taking time away from the food tours and cooking classes she conducts through her business, Mexico Soul and Essence.  My second motivation was to help Fany Gerson, a young New Yorker whose La Newyorkina all-natural ice pops with Mexican flavors – paletas – had been hugely successful. Until, that is, she lost her Red Hook kitchen – equipment, supplies, inventory, everything – to the storm.


What I wasn’t expecting from the evening was (a) an introduction to one of the coolest dining spaces in the city and (b) a Mexican meal as good as any I’ve had in, well, Mexico itself.

Fany’s Ode to Oaxaca – she was raised in Mexico, where she had a beloved nanny from Oaxaca – was staged at City Grit on Prince Street, which describes itself as a culinary salon. It’s the brainchild of Sarah Simmons (among Food & Wine magazine’s “America’s Greatest New Cooks”). Sometimes she mounts dinners there; other times she turns the salon over to guest chefs – often from out of town, and often young and high-profile – which is why the NY Times calls City Grit a sort of Off Broadway, “scrappier” Beard House.  City Grit operates evenings in the back room of what by day is WRK Design, a funky, hipsterish furniture store. Just about everything you see in the photos that follow is for sale.

The Menu

The Ode to Oaxaca Menu


The Crowd

The City Grits Crowd

Fany Gerson (left) & Sarah Simmons

Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina (left) & Sarah Simmons of City Grit

Orange-Mezcal Marinated Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce

Orange-Mezcal Marinated Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce, Fany Gerson’s Ode to Oaxaca @ City Grit

The dinner opened with antijitos – street food – that included a corn “boat” topped with sautéed crickets. Several guests had carted ingredients up from Oaxaca, among them the crickets, Oaxacan cheese, and pinole (toasted corn flour).

of Eating Bugs…

Compared to most North Americans, my personal history of consuming insects (on purpose, as an adult) is fairly extensive. On the first occasion no less a personage than chef Bill Yosses, now at the White House, convinced me to try an oatmeal-toasted mealy worm. Then my buddy Ruth Alegria got me hooked on dried crickets, called chapulines (in their crushed form) sprinkled over guacamole and in quesadillas.

A basket of Chapulines (Roasted Cricket) in a ...

A basket of Chapulines (Roasted Cricket) in a market in Tepoztlan, Mexico, December 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mealy worm was just OK (notice the singular “worm”). The flavor was actually good, but its squishy interior put me off. Chapulines, though, are delicious without qualification. Like potato chips they are crunchy, salty, and have a satisfying umami quality.

With the impending invasion of countless hordes of 17-year cicadas about to hit the East Coast, some sources recommend eating them.  They are supposedly super-high in protein and have a nutty taste. Recipes and more at cicadainvasion.blogspot.com.

So, would you eat insects? Before you say no, check out this report from fastcoexist.com. I think these grad students may be onto something.

ento bento

My Julia Child Story; NJ Expat’s Mexico Cooking School Among Saveur’s Tops; Progress at the Ryland Inn

New Jersey & Julia: Perfect Together

English: Julia Child, Miami Book Fair Internat...

English: Julia Child, Miami Book Fair International, 1989 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I met the wonderful, inimitable Julia Child only once but, amazingly, New Jersey (and her wry sense of humor) figured prominently in that encounter.

About 14 years ago, having more or less fallen into food writing as a sideline I was contemplating leaving my day job. (A move, clearly, I have never regretted.) To help me decide I signed up for a food writers’ workshop at The Greenbrier. Among the slated presenters was Ms. Child. On the first morning each attendee was asked to give a short personal introduction. Sitting in the first row was that famous face and six-foot-plus frame. Even though she was a speaker, not a student like the rest of us, she stood up when it was her turn and without a hint of irony said, “My name is Julia Child and I teach cooking on television.” The room erupted, as you may well imagine.

Going down the line, a fellow from the culinary program at Atlantic Cape Community College introduced himself. The next person quipped something to the effect that he was delighted to hear that New Jersey had a cooking school in addition to oil tanks – and oh, yeah – which exit off the turnpike was it anyway. When it came my turn, I began by saying that I write for newspapers and magazines in New Jersey because contrary to popular belief, we do actually have them.

After that, many of the attendees made humorous references to our fair state and their connection to it. When everyone had had a turn, Julia Child stood up again and, with a twinkle in her eye, said that she had left out something extremely important from her introduction: that she, too had a connection to New Jersey. This time the room erupted in gales of laughter. It turned out that her husband, Paul, had been born in Montclair and she and Paul had often visited his parents there. By the way: when it came time for our first writing assignment, Child completed the exercise as if she were just one of us students.

Congrats to Ruth Alegria of Mexico Soul and Essence

The cooking classes of my good friend Ruth Alegria, founder and original owner of Princeton’s Mexican Village II (now Tortuga’s Mexican Village), rank among the top 5 in all of Mexico in the current issue of Saveur magazine, which is devoted entirely to the culinary traditions of that country. Alegria, who established Mexico Soul and Essence when she relocated to Mexico City several years ago, leads cultural and culinary tours of that city and conducts cooking classes in her kitchen. She’s a real insider – co-founder of a local Slow Food chapter who knows all the top chefs, the best local markets, and the best street food.

Rosie Has the Latest Goods on the Ryland Inn Opening

Speaking of good friends, my buddy Rosie Saferstein has lots of details on the renovations and progress at the Ryland Inn, which is scheduled to open soon. Check them out (including photos) at her Table Hopping with Rosie column at njmonthly.com.