Tag Archives: Salt Creek Grille

Review: Pastaio in Spring Lake; Big Brothers/Sisters Benefit; My Most Popular Recipe Ever – Ideal for Father’s Day

When she worked at Eataly in New York, Lisa Stanko-Mohen was tasked with making 3,000 pound of pasta a day. See if she learned well from her master, Mario Batali, in my review of Pastaio, her Spring Lake restaurant. In the June 2013 issue of New Jersey Monthly.

NJ Monthly cover June13

Help Mercer County Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary

Both NJ Salt Creek Grilles – the one in Rumson and the one in Princeton – continue to be exceptional supporters of the communities they’re in. One of the most enduring and meaningful alliances is between Salt Creek Grille, Princeton and a cause close to my heart: Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Salt Creek Grille Princeton

Salt Creek Grille Princeton is hosting their 5th annual Wine & Dine Festival & Fundraiser, benefiting Mercer County BBBS, on Thursday, June 20th from 6 to 9pm. Set up under big tents on the sprawling Salt Creek Grille lawn, Wine & Dine is an outdoor celebration of fine wine, craft beer, cuisine, and music. This year’s Wine & Dine event has special significance for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mercer County, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. $60 in advance, $75 at the door. For information or to place your reservation, call (609) 419-4200.

Giving the People What They Want: Apparently, That’s Orange Soda BBQ Sauce

Of all the subjects I’ve blogged about over the last year and a half, the one that continues to receive the most hits – day in and day out, literally from all over the world –  is for grilled chicken with orange soda barbecue sauce. I first published the recipe, supplied by chef Jeremy Stahl who teaches at Mercer County College, in connection with father’s day 2012.

Thanks, Jeremy!

Thanks, Jeremy!

As a continuing public service, here is the link.  I would add my wishes for a happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, but clearly this recipe’s appeal goes way beyond American men on one particular day of the year! Who knew?

btw: Want to know the second most popular hit? Again, I couldn’t have predicted it in a million years. It’s a drink called switchel, a cocktail served in a Mason jar that I encountered at Jose Andres‘ America Eats! Tavern in DC. In its original, Colonial American incarnation switchel was a non-alcoholic refresher for farm workers. I wrote about it – complete with a recipe from America Eats! – here in my very first blog post. Come to think of it, it too would be great for Father’s Day!

Sandy Fundraisers: NJ Restaurants & Others Step Up to the Plate

As promised (threatened?) here is my second post of the day – the post I thought I had sent out into the world on Monday. We all are searching for ways to help those still suffering and in need, so here are some generous and ingenious efforts our state’s food community, businesses, and non-profits have developed to help raise funds over the next few days and weeks.

SALT CREEK GRILLEoffering free gift cards to anyone who makes a donation to the American Red Cross while at the restaurant. Diners simply text REDCROSS to 90999 in any amount, show their server, and they’ll get a gift card to match the donation up to $50 – good at any Salt Creek Grille restaurant. The promotion will be running at all Salt Creek Grille restaurants for the next month, including its 3 California locations, the Princeton location, and the Rumson, NJ location, which was directly impacted by the storm – making this a mission very near and dear to the Salt Creek family’s hearts.

PRINCETON HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF DRIVE: On Tuesday, November 20, from 9 am to midnight, a percentage of sales at almost 50 businesses will be donated to relief agencies, among them the American Red Cross and the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund that has been established by First Lady Mary Pat Christie and Governor Christie. Restaurants, markets, retailers, banks, and service companies have all signed on, and the percentage donated will be determined by each merchant.

NOMAD PIZZA: On Tuesday, November 13, 50% of every pizza sold will go to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, at both the Hopewell & Philadelphia locations.

NJMONTHLY.COM: Click for a list of Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts & Resources throughout the state.

GROUNDS FOR SCULPTURE: One dollar of every paid adult admission will go to the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund from now through Sunday, November 25.

TABLE TO TABLE: Calling for post-Sandy food donations for those in need from Northeast NJ food businesses. Table to Table, Northeast New Jersey’s first and only non-profit food rescue  program, and  Gail Schoenberg Public Relations (GSPR), the New Jersey based food and beverage public relations firm, are urgently calling for food donations from restaurants and professional food establishments in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Essex counties after Hurricane Sandy. Prepared food, as well as perishable foods including fresh or frozen meat, dairy and produce  – anything that is healthy and good to eat – from  local restaurants, supermarkets and food businesses is urgently needed to supply those in need in these counties. In addition, delivery of food prepared specifically to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy can be coordinated seamlessly through Table to Table. Operating five refrigerated vehicles, Table to Table’s dedicated drivers are on the road and ready to pick  up  excess  food that is  not  being  sold, but still of good quality, from  food establishments in the four Northern New Jersey  counties. Businesses that want to contribute can call 201-444-5500 or 201-887-7839 to schedule an immediate pick-up. The fresh food delivery is provided free of charge to nearly 70 non-profit agencies throughout the Northern New Jersey area, including homeless shelters, elder care facilities, drug rehab centers, homes for victims of domestic violence, HIV day centers, and pantries serving the working poor.

English Tea (with a Twist) in Hopewell; Fabulous Fall Squash Recipes; More


I’m a sucker for the whole ritual: carefully brewed pot of tea, warm scones with jam and clotted cream, assorted finger sandwiches followed up by a variety of sweets. At the interestingly named Paint the Roses Tea Room on Hopewell’s main drag you can get all of the above or you can mix it up, as I did, with some Latin flavors courtesy of owner Jimena Hajek.

Hajek, who hails from Chile, has taken over what had been La Chardon tea room. She serves a wholly traditional English tea for $18, but is gradually supplementing her breakfast, lunch, and tea menus with foods of her homeland. I couldn’t resist adding her delicious empanadas to an already teeming afternoon repast. About the following photos. I’d like to pretend that I got all artsy and purposely used a blue filter, but the truth is I don’t know what the heck happened. The (in reality un-blue) beef empanadas ($9.95) below are moist inside, tender and flaky outside, and come with Chilula Hot Sauce. Varieties change daily.

At least 20 different teas are on offer, as well as Rojo’s Roastery coffees. I got organic black Assam tea.

All the “correct” finger sandwiches put in an appearance: cucumber on white, egg salad on pumpernickel, ham & cheese on croissant, and chicken salad on wheat:

Hajek’s take on scones is a bit different, in a good way. Instead of dry, white, and crumbly, hers are crackling on the outside and almost muffin-like inside. They come in interesting flavors like cranberry-chai tea and butter brickle, with a nice touch of sliced mango on the side. They’re followed by a choice of desserts – cheesecake, flan, or Swiss rolls with blackberry or caramel filling.

Paint the Roses Tea Room takes its name straight out of Alice in Wonderland. If you look really, really close you can see the merest hints of red roses tinged with white growing just outside the window.


Kabocha squash, worldcrops.org

Who better than Maricel Presilla – Latin chef and chocolate expert – to come up with a soulful soup that combines two New World crops – squash and chocolate? This is reprinted from a previous Princeton Packet column I wrote and blogged about her spectacular new cookbook.

Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla (Norton $45)
Serves 6 to 8.

2 pounds calabaza (Caribbean pumpkin) or kabocha or Hubbard squash
4 medium plum tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
1/2 small white onion (about 3-1/2 ounces), not peeled
4 garlic cloves, not peeled
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon anise seeds
1 ounce cacao nibs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated brown sugar loaf (panela or piloncillo) or Demerara sugar
8 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
1 ounce dark chocolate, preferably Pacari Esmeraldas 60% or Manabi 65%, coarsely chopped
For the garnish:
1 cup diced manchego cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 cup Mexican crema or crème fraiche

Peel and seed the squash and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside. Heat a griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until the tomatoes are blistered and the onion and garlic are charred in spots, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. Scrape off the charred bits from the tomatoes and peel the onion and garlic. Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a food processor; add the chipotle chile, allspice, cinnamon, anise seeds, and cacao nibs and process to a smooth puree. Heat the oil in a medium heavy pot over medium heat until sizzling. Add the puree (watch out for splatters), stir in the brown sugar, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the squash, then pour in the broth and let come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor. With a wooden spoon, force the puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the chocolate and cook, stirring until it melts, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. To serve: ladle into bowls and serve garnished with the diced cheese and cream.

The following recipe from chef Fabian Quiros of Salt Creek Grille doesn’t include squash, but it features two of my favorite ingredients: big, juicy scallops and homemade toasted pumpkin seeds.

Taken for Halloween during a carving

Taken for Halloween during a carving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chef Fabian Quiros, Salt Creek Grille, Princeton
Serves 4

1/2 cup toasted  pumpkin seeds (instructions follow)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons canola oil
12 large sea scallops(U-10 size)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound baby arugula, cleaned and dried
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1. In a large bowl whisk together the apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, apple cider, honey, and salt. Drizzle in a slow, steady stream 3 tablespoons of the canola oil into the apple cider/Dijon mixture and whisk until it emulsifies.
2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining canola oil over medium-high heat. Generously season the scallops all over with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot and shimmering, gently put the scallops into pan. Do not touch or move the scallops until the edges have turned light brown and the bottom is caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook for 4 minutes more, until the bottom edges are browned. Add the white wine to the pan, cover, and remove the pan from the heat to finish cooking, 4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, toss the baby arugula with the apple cider vinaigrette to coat and then add in the halved grape tomatoes.
4. Divide the arugula salad among 4 plates and top each with 3 of the seared scallops and a sprinkling of the toasted pumpkin seeds.

For the pumpkin seeds:
2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a medium baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted. Yield: 2 cups.


President of Princeton University Shirley Tilghman

President of Princeton University Shirley Tilghman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the end of a recent interview on WNYC radio, the outgoing president of Princeton University gave a nice shout-out to Bent Spoon ice cream. She also had some interesting things to say about the status of women in the sciences. Listen to it here.

I Judge Salsa; Zagat Issues Updated NJ Guides; Salt Creek Grille Shares Recipes

Cool Winner of Princeton’s Hot Salsa Contest

Who could have predicted that a sorbet would win Princeton’s first ever salsa contest? But that frozen concoction from the folks at The Bent Spoon won over us judges from among a strong field of 14 entered in the event held at the public library.

The pale pink “taco sorbet” had all the flavors and zest you expect in salsa – but in a creative and unexpected form.

I and my fellow judges had a tough time deciding, as did the public. Only 3 votes separated the People’s Choice winners, with Olives just squeaking past Eno Terra. Above are  Dorothy Mullen of the Suppers Program and Judith Robinson of Our World, Our Choice. Not pictured is Sue Gordon, whose blog is FoodNetworkMusings.

You can see here some of how diverse the entries from eateries and businesses throughout Princeton were:

And the young lady below came over to me begging for water after sampling a particularly zingy entry.

Not just salsa of the edible kind was featured at the event. There was lively dancing on the plaza as well. Totally fun; I hope they do it again.

Speaking of Contests, Let’s Not Forget Relish

Serious Eats recently listed their picks for top hot dog relishes in the US and guess what? Two of the 14 hail from NJ! Congrats to Grandma Fencz’s Hungarian Onion Sauce (at Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha) and Rutt’s Hutt Relish (Clifton). I feel compelled to add a third: First Field’s, bringing my personal NJ total to 3.  Unfortunately, First Field’s is currently out of stock. The good folks behind it expect to have this year’s batch on the shelves (and at farmers markets) in the coming weeks.

Two Updated Zagat NJ Guides

I have been remiss in not reporting that 2 updated Zagat NJ guides are out for 2012/13: the statewide book and Jersey Shore Pocket Guide. (Full disclosure: I am an editor of both.) Among the updates and additions are 21 Key Newcomers. The iconic maroon books are widely available, including on Amazon and the Zagat site.

Recipes from Salt Creek Grille’s Wine & Dine for Eden Autism

Since 2008 Salt Creek Grille in Forrestal Village on Route 1 in Princeton has mounted an annual and wine gala on behalf of a worthy local cause. This year’s gala, held on June 28, raised funds for Eden Autism Services.

At the gala, selections from Salt Creek Grille’s recently unveiled “Fresh Reinvented” menu were served under the direction of Fabian Quiros, who took over as executive chef in January. The “Fresh Reinvented” menu features dishes that are lighter and healthier than in the past. (These are in addition to such Salt Creek signature dishes as mesquite-grilled double-cut pork chop and bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp.) The restaurant group has also increased its commitment to using organic and locally sourced ingredients, and among its current suppliers are Small World Coffee, Fresh Field (Jersey ketchup and relish), Crazy Steve’s Pickles & Salsa, Cherry Grove Farm (cheeses), Griggstown Farm (poultry and sausage), and Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen.

Chef Quiros’ menu for the Wine & Dine event featured, among many other dishes, four pastas and chef stations offering roast pork rubbed with smoked paprika and prime rib with chimichurri sauce. These were all delicious, but the surprises for me were the stupendous made-to-order sliders – actually, chubby mini burgers – and seafood paella. (That last particularly because I rarely enjoy paella even in Latin restaurants.)

Fabian Quiros’ story is inspiring. He came to the US from Costa Rica in 2000, speaking no English. He started out as a dishwasher in the Rumson Salt Creek Grille, worked his way up to sous chef and now, at age 32, is executive chef. Along the way he met and married a Salt Creek Grille waitress, and the couple, who lives in Jackson, has a two-month-old daughter, Lucia.

One dish on the restaurant’s new menu that is just now in season is Roasted Squash & Ricotta Ravioli, made with Lucy’s pasta, a plethora of fresh vegetables including corn, sugar snap peas, and baby tomatoes, and a pesto that employs three types of greenery. The pasta pillows come topped with a dollop of fresh tomato marmalade. Below is Quiros’ recipe for the marmalade – which I think would also be great over roasted salmon – as well as the pesto. This meticulous chef blanches the basil, spinach, and parsley and then squeezes them dry before pureeing, but I have to admit I got good results taking the lazy route – just dropping them au naturel into the blender.


4 ounces Italian basil

4 ounces baby spinach

4 ounces flat-leaf parsley

8 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

4 ounces almonds

4 ounces Parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with salt and blanch the basil, baby spinach, and parsley for 15 seconds. Have a bowl of ice water at the ready. Remove the herbs from the boiling water and place in the ice bath for approximately 1 minute. Remove the herbs and squeeze out the excess water in a towel (the drier the better). In a blender, puree the herbs together with the oil, almonds, garlic, and cheese on high speed for approximately 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes enough for 4 generous pasta servings.


5 Roma tomatoes, diced small

1/2 Spanish onion, diced small

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/4 large sprig rosemary, needles chopped fine

2 ounces clover honey

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.