Tag Archives: zagat NJ

Zagat NJ Needs You; Jack Morrison on 30 Years in Seafood Biz; A Better Food Label?; More

Are You One of Those People Who Bemoan the Ratings in the Zagat Survey?

Then here’s your opportunity to eviscerate that stale has-been that gets sterling ratings year in and year out, and to speak up on behalf of that hole-in-the-wall or cool new spot that has been unjustly overlooked by those (ahem) jaded restaurant critics. The voting on NJ restaurants for the 2013/14 guide is going on now through December 2. Just sign up here and have at it – and you’ll get freebies to boot.

Are you a fan of Princeton’s Blue Point Grill or Witherspoon Grill? It all Started 30 Years ago with a little fish market that could…

Jack Morrison
photo courtesy of princetoninfo.com

These days Jack Morrison is a restaurateur, real estate developer, shopkeeper, farmers market founder, and Princeton mover-and-shaker. He got his start three decades ago with a modest seafood market at the “dead” end of town in the middle of a recession. On the occasion of Nassau Street Seafood‘s 30th anniversary, Morrison explains how and why it worked then – and now – in my report in the current issue of US 1.


Speaking of Princeton: Congrats to Jammin’ Crepes

This signature 20-layer crepe cake filled with lemon blossom mousse took The People’s Choice award at the recent dessert competition sponsored by Corner House, the counseling agency for Princeton area young people and their families confronting substance abuse and other emotional issues. Jammin Crepe‘s owners Kim Rizk’s and Kathy Klockenbrink’s crepes are wildly popular at area farmers markets.

Is the US Ready for an Improved Food Label?

How to understand and use the US Nutritional F...

In case you missed it in last Sunday’s NY Times, here’s Mark Bittman’s proposal on how to develop a food label that is quick and easy to read (unlike the current sample above) and provides actual useful information. I like that the one he promotes incorporates the Slow Food ideal of food that is good (tasting), clean (of harmful chemicals, pesticides, etc.), and fair (to animals and to the humans who raise and process them.)

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.

Kale Ice Cream, Magic Mineral Broth, Winners of Giveaway

Yep, you read that right: kale ice cream. An explanation is in order.

My hometown is smack in the middle of a month-long celebration of that tasty green called Eat More Kale Princeton.

Lots of businesses and organizations – food-based and otherwise – have come up with fun and ingenious ways to promote kale, as you can read on the Facebook page. Granted, kale-flavored ice cream is particularly crazy. Crazy delicious that is. Ever on the forefront of all things zany, the folks at the bent spoon are featuring kale and organic kumquat ice cream.

Naturally, I had to try it. It’s electric green in color, with a wonderfully silky-creamy texture. If you had blindfolded me and asked me to identify the flavor I’m not sure I would have come up with either kale or kumquat – but who cares? The day I tried it the suggested pairing was salt & pepper chocolate ice cream. Which, of course, I went for. It was a nice match but personally I wish I had gone with a double scoop of the kale – it was just that good. (Once again, I have to acknowledge a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

If you’re in Princeton during March, give it a whirl.

Magic Mineral Broth: A Public Service

That’s how I think about this recipe from Rebecca Katz’s book, One Bite at a Time: Nourishing Recipes for People with Cancer, Survivors, and their Caregivers.  Sadly, too many of us have a dear one who’s going through or has gone through the rigors (not to say downright horrors) of cancer treatment. I pulled out this recipe recently to make it for a good friend in just that situation.

It turned out to be one of the very few things my friend would happily consume for the duration, especially since cancer therapy wreaks havoc with your taste buds. This somehow still tasted good, and the bonus is it’s jam-packed with, as Katz writes in the first edition of her book, “potassium and numerous trace minerals that are often depleted by cancer therapy.” She continues, “Sipping this nutrient-rich stock is like giving your body an internal spa treatment. Drink it like tea [as my friend did] or use it as a base for all your favorite soups and rice dishes. Don’t be daunted by the ingredient list. Simply chop the ingredients in chunks and throw them in the pot.”

I followed the recipe from the first edition, which differs slightly from the revised version on Katz’s website. Here, though, are a few of my own pointers:

*Use as many organic ingredients as you can.

*Be sure to use a stiff vegetable brush for scrubbing all the root vegetables so that they are as clean as can be without having to pare them. But if dirt is embedded, go ahead and peel it off.

*Trim off all the root ends and tops, but thoroughly wash the greens of 3 of the carrots and add them to the stockpot.

*Remove the outermost skins of the onions and garlic.

*Carefully remove all blemishes and defects, like wilted leaves and potato eyes.

*I consider Japanese yams and Garnet yams to be a must – substituting regular sweet potatoes results in a muddy, less flavorful broth. I found both yams at my local Whole Foods.


Congrats to the winners of the 2011/12 Zagat NJ Restaurant Guide giveaway, Rachel Wieranga and Rita Haake!

Back Forty West: an Opening & a Recipe, Plus a New Giveaway

Did you catch in Wednesday’s NY Times that Peter Hoffman (of the shuttered Savoy) has opened a new restaurant in the same location on Prince Street? It’s called Back Forty West, since it’s a spinoff of Back Forty, his charming farm-to-table spot on Avenue B.

Back Forty Chairs

I was pleased to see that in charge is chef Shanna Pacifico, who is moving over from Back Forty. I consider her one of NYC’s most overlooked talents.

A while back I attended a wine tasting and brunch at Back Forty, the aim of which was to demonstrate that wines – even full-bore California chardonnay and syrah – can pair well with typical brunch dishes. Perfectly proving the point that mimosas can be banished once and for all were wines of Bouchaine Vineyards in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Here is Pacifico’s inspired brunch menu from that day:

Market Hodgepodge Salad with artisanal ricotta, lemon verbena oil, fresh herbs, and spring market vegetables

House Smoked Trout with sweet potato pancakes, creme fraiche, and baby butter lettuce salad

Housemade Maple & Sage Sausage with fried egg, creamy grits, spinach, and toasted pecans

Blintzes with Housemade Farmers Cheese and strawberries, balsamic, and fresh basil

This meal tasted every bit as delicious as it sounds, and Pacifico was kind enough to share her can’t-miss blintz recipe. Any berry or mix of berries will do – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries – and fresh mint can replace the basil.


2 cups strawberries, washed and halved

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

6 tablespoons ricotta cheese, preferably fresh and locally made

10 fresh basil leaves

For the crepes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

In a bowl, combine strawberries, balsamic, and sugar. Allow to macerate for at least an hour before serving. Add the lemon juice right before serving.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle for skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the batter on the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.

Cook each crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is lightly brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side briefly.

Take three crepes and fill with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta. Wrap the crepe into a burrito shape. Top the crepe with the macerated strawberries and some fresh basil. Serves 3.

Now on to the Giveaway!

Two lucky commenters will each win one copy of the 2011/2012 Zagat New Jersey Restaurants Guide. I am a local editor of these handy maroon books that contain ratings by the dining public of 1,000+ eateries throughout the state.

To enter, leave a comment on this post before midnight EST Saturday March 10, 2012. To earn a bonus entry, simply “like” this post in addition to commenting. If you post about this giveaway on your own website or blog, post the link here to get yet another extra entry. The winners will be selected using random.org. Good luck!