Tag Archives: Stone House at Stirling Ridge

Restaurants Galore: Brian’s Review, Bernards Inn, Nicholas, Ryland Inn; Plus Win a Trip to Portugal

My 3-star review of Brian’s – chef/owner Brian Held‘s French/Italian bistro in Lambertville that opened earlier this year in the space on Kline’s Court that had been No. 9 – is in the August issue of New Jersey Monthly. Check out the online version here.

NJ Seafood is Having Its Moment


seafood (Photo credit: kiszka king)

I don’t know if it’s just coincidence or what, but this summer the state’s top-tier chefs are showcasing fish and seafood from local waters like never before. Just a few of the most exciting examples:

The Bernards Inn: For the Garden State Bounty dinner he’ll be cooking at the Beard House on August 9, executive chef Corey Heyer will combine NJ seafood with ingredients from the Inn’s own garden. In a nutshell (or perhaps sea shell):

Hors d’oeuvre of smoked blue fish, Cape May salt oysters, clams (in the form of a shooter), blue crab, and lobster (in the form of a summer roll).

Four courses featuring fluke, Barnegat Inlet scallops, skate, and striped bass.

Dessert is fish-less, and rightly so: Jersey peach tart Tatin with local honey and lavender ice cream.

Bernards Inn wine director Terri Baldwin has selected wines for each course. For the full menu and to make reservations for the Beard House ($130 -$170) click here.

Nicholas: On August 23, Nicholas Harary will feature a one-night-only Tastes of the Sea menu at his top-rated Red Bank restaurant. Cape May salts, NJ Canyon bluefin tuna, Jersey blue crab (joined by sea urchin – not a NJ creature, but oh my!), Barnegat Light scallops, and lobster. $125, or $175 with wine pairings. For the full menu, details, and reservations, click here.

Ryland Inn: No, Ryland 2.0 in Whitehouse is not open yet, but I hear tell it will be soon. Meanwhile, I had a chance to preview the kinds of things executive chef Anthony Bucco has up his chef-jacket sleeve when he guest cheffed at the Stone House in Warren one evening in June. NJ seafood starred in several courses of a memorable meal, among them a perfectly nuanced crudo of yellowfin and yellowtail with baby herbs and Jersey strawberries, and steamed black bass with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and a puree of English peas and mint that was the embodiment of spring in a bowl.

btw: If you haven’t read Tammy La Gorce’s excellent story in the August issue of  NJ Monthly about the Ryland’s new owners, Jeanne & Frank Cretella of Landmark Hospitality, read it here.

Win a Trip to Portugal!

Portuguese wine center of Oporto along the Dou...

Portuguese wine center of Oporto along the Douro river. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The trade association ViniPortugal has launched a U.S. Facebook contest with a grand prize of a five-day trip to Portugal.  The contest runs between now and September 25th, with the winner announced on September 28. I have to admit I haven’t read the rules, but you might want to. Just click here.

Big NJ Restaurant News; Floyd Cardoz Interview

We will soon be able to say welcome back to two iconic Jersey restaurants, and must bid a fond farewell to a third.



The Ryland Inn, which gained national attention back in the early 2000’s under Craig Shelton, will be reborn this summer by Jeanne & Frank Cretella’s Landmark Hospitality group, albeit without Shelton (who, btw, has returned to NJ after a stint in Texas).  Liberty House in Jersey City and Stone House at Stirling Ridge in Warren are other Landmark properties.

Also rising from proverbial ashes: Lahiere’s in Princeton. This venerable spot on Witherspoon Street had been in operation for 91 years when it closed in 2010. I suspect the name won’t be retained, but here’s the (unverified) scuttlebutt: A wealthy Princetonian who owns a farm off The Great Road will turn it into an American farm-to-table spot. Much needed renovations (and demolition) are underway and a September opening is planned.

Sad face


As for the closure, we must say au revoir to Doris & Ed’s, the also venerable – and Beard Award-winning – Shore eatery in Highlands. The restaurant suffered damage during last August’s hurricane/tropical storm Irene and owner Jim Filip has decided not to reopen.

Floyd Cardoz, North End Grill

Floyd Cardoz, from northendgrillnyc.com

I was pleased to read the two-star review of North End Grill in last week’s NY Times. This seafood-centric restaurant is the latest collaboration between Danny Meyer and Floyd Cardoz, who made his name at the late lamented Tabla. Cardoz is a NJ resident, living with his wife and kids in Verona, and he was winner of the last cycle of Top Chef Masters.

As that cycle progressed, it became clear what a nice, stand-up guy Cardoz is, so just days after his victory last June I interviewed him about his experience, and what was then his restaurant-to-be, North End Grill. Here’s my write-up:

Competing on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters was “harder than anything I’ve ever done,” admits Floyd Cardoz. Nevertheless, he came away victorious after ten grueling weeks during which he often finished in second place (or worse) behind eleven of his peers. In his exit interview Cardoz told Bravo producers that the hardest thing was “not being in control. As a chef, you’re always in control.”

Even so, Cardoz stood apart from many of the genre’s hotheaded, egocentric competitors for his generous nature and how he connected in a seemingly heartfelt way with the non-celebrities in several challenges. During one, he empathized with a Biggest Loser contestant from West Orange; another time he shed tears while being thanked for a basic meat-and-potatoes meal that he produced for a serviceman’s homecoming. For that, he had put aside his prodigious skills in the full knowledge that his non-cheffy choice would likely lose him the challenge. It did. The one thing about the experience that he’s most proud of is, he says, “That I stayed true to who I am. I didn’t change what I do just to win the contest. I stayed true to what is in my soul.”

It also became clear on the show that Cardoz is a dedicated family man. Among those who viewed the final episode with him was his mother, who lives in India. Her husband – Floyd’s father – died of cancer and to honor his memory he donated his $100,000 winnings to the Young Scientists Cancer Research Fund at Mount Sinai. Cardoz, by the way, studied biochemistry before turning to the culinary world – just like New Jersey’s most famous homegrown chef, Craig Shelton of the soon to be resurrected Ryland Inn.

Floyd Cardoz settled in Verona seven years ago with his wife of twenty years, Barkha, and sons Peter, who graduated with honors this past June from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, and Justin, who is 13 and entered St. Peter’s this past fall. Why Verona? “When my wife first came to the United States she lived in Montclair. After we married, I worked in New York and we lived in the city, but she was not happy there. So, we came back to the area she liked.” The couple met as students in hospitality school in India. “We were close friends there but afterwards lost contact,” he says. “Then Barkha arrived in the U.S. two months after me and we reconnected.”

Where do the Cardozes dine when they eat out locally? For dim sum it’s China Gourmet on Eagle Rock Avenue in West Orange, for Szechuan specialties, Chengdu 1 in Cedar Grove, and for sushi, Montclair’s Toro Sushi Bar.

In the hours after his Top Chef Masters win, Cardoz observed that the biggest change in his life was that he had suddenly become a ‘personality.’ Despite the critical acclaim he had received for Tabla, he had never become a household name or star in the chef firmament. So it was especially gratifying to him, he says, that after watching the finale, son Peter told him, “You deserved the win. The recognition is long overdue.”