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Trader Joe’s, New Year’s Eve, etc

  • Posted on December 30, 2009 at 8:50 pm

They opened up a Trader Joe’s in Princeton not all that long ago….summertime, maybe. I had been to TJ’s when I lived in North Jersey, when there was one closer, but parking there was SUCH a hassle that it just wasn’t worth it. Now, if I could manage to get there without getting off at the wrong exit, this one will be not all that inconvenient to get to every couple of months. It’s totally worth it. I’ve been looking at the posts on Chowhound for recommendations on good items, and most things to date have been pretty good.

We’re having a few friends over for New Year’s Eve tomorrow, and brunch the following morning, so I decided to head over and pick up a few things.  Note to self: shopping at TJ’s while hungry is a Very Bad Idea. Why else would I end up with three boxes of Joe Joe’s (ok, two different kinds), etc, etc? For brunch, we’re going to get bagels and cream cheese that morning. I’ve got some lox, chocolate croissants, mini breakfast rolls and apple raspberry pastries. I still need to do a french toast dish and an egg dish. I’m thinking eggs and potatoes and ham, top half with cheese. I’m trying to do stuff that can just be thrown in and put out on the table with minimal fuss. It’s going to be a long night, and I know we’ll be running the espresso machine in the morning, so the less food fussing the better.I did pick up a pumpkin pancake mix from TJ’s so I may have to break that out as well.

Dinner tomorrow night will be a pot luck, so people are bringing a ham, pot roast with potatoes and carrots,  pastries, cheese and meat platter, fruit. I’ve got some mini cheese souffles, ratatouille bites, some assorted hot apps, chips and salsa, crackers and dips including an olive spread and bruschetta.  A truffled pate, For dessert, some macarons, lemon bites, assorted caramels and chocolates and cookies. Not to mention the pastry platter Jim’s going to bring. If I make it up to the Amish, I have to get some pumpkin bars, half a cherry pie and a small lemon meringue. A cookie plate from them too. Oh, and I was going to make brownies! Did I mention we’re only going to be 13 people?

Tomorrow, last minute errands and shopping and chores, and then a double espresso pumpkin latte.

My foot is finally starting to feel better. I may actually be able to wear pretty shoes tomorrow night, for the first time in months. It was still Faire season when I hurt my toe. I didn’t manage to buy a new outfit, which I had kind of wanted to do, but I certainly have what to wear.

second visit to ninety acres

  • Posted on December 20, 2009 at 11:43 am

We were finally able to get back to Ninety Acres tonight, though it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying. Every time we’d called they could only get us in after 9, and I just can’t eat dinner that late. (Granted, I was usually calling the same day, or at most the day before.) For Friday, I was able to get us a table at 5:30 so I worked from home for the day. It was totally worth it, once again. The menu was fundamentally the same, which was not surprising since they’ve been open less than a month. As luck would have it, the same friend who joined us last time was able to join us again.

Our drink for the evening was once again the “Fall Back” and it was just as tasty as they had been the last time. At least the first round was; the third round was a little more potent, without the subtleties that the first had. Or maybe my tongue was drunk by then, a distinct possibility.

We shared the pumpkin and kale pizza again. It was a little more well done than it had been last time, which was not necessarily a bad thing- though I did manage to snag the least crispy slice when it was first put down. Tonight I needed to start with something hearty and substantive, but I wanted to try something other than the delicious soup which I got last time, so I got a half order of the wild boar pasta, with pine nuts and guanciale. For a half order, it was a rather substantial portion. Once again, David and the kitchen did an outstanding job. The pasta (not quite ziti) was of the perfect texture. It wasn’t a tomato sauce, it seemed to be just the meats and their juices, and some slivers of cheese it was topped with. Even the Husband, who’s never really big on pasta- or game meats- enjoyed it so much he finished my portion! We both went after the leftover sauce with some bread. The Husband was unable to resist the poached egg again, and once again returned a plate that looked like it had been licked clean.

For entrees, I had the duck breast which was just phenomenal, probably the best duck I’ve ever had. As the Husband commented in his blog, the texture was just perfect, without any of the chewiness that can often accompany duck. Or lamb, for that matter, which is what our friend had and it too was just outstanding. Again, perfectly cooked with magnificent texture. The Husband had the Chatham cod which was the lightest entree of the night and still delightful and perfectly executed.

For dessert, the gingerbread panna cotta was declared perfect and light, just the way to top off the meal. The “pie of the day” was a S’mores pie, graham cracker crust, chocolate mousse, marshmallow topping which seemed toasted to order as it came out smelling like the perfect toasted marshmallow. The Husband had the espresso donuts that I’d gotten last time. We also ordered their “assorted sweets and treats” to take home and will have that for a snack later today once the snow comes, I think. Once again we left absolutely stuffed, having eaten and drank ourselves deliciously silly.

As is unfortunately all too typical in our early visits to a restaurant, until we figure out which are the best seats for us, we had to change tables between the appetizers and entrees. The table at which we had been seated was in a row of two-tops fairly close together. Unfortunately, when they finally seated someone next to us, the lady was wearing a substantial amount of a rather pungent perfume. Dinner with a face mask is not really a fun option, so the Husband escaped to the front desk and was able to arrange with our gracious hosts to switch tables to a lovely four-top across the room.  Whew!

It’s certainly helpful that even at a new restaurant, we know much of the management for many years. They know if we are asking to move, that we’re not being difficult, that it’s a real need where otherwise we have to get everything wrapped up to go.

I wonder if they’ll let us make a standing reservation once they have the tables for “Bring Me Food” in the kitchen area. THAT would just rock.

So far they seem to be doing incredibly well and I hope they continue to do so.

Soon, the cooking school. I need to see what classes they’ve got scheduled there. I’m not sure I could handle a whole day in a kitchen like Scott’s doing at Elements, certainly not during the winter, but a class for a few hours, especially with chairs around, I can hack that.

ninety acres at Natirar

  • Posted on December 6, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Ninety acres is the name of the restaurant at Natirar, the new resort in Peapack-Gladstone being opened by Richard Branson. Ninety acres is also the new home for Chef David Felton, formerly of the Pluckemin Inn. It’s also the site of the newest Viking Cooking School locations. They opened this past Tuesday and we managed to get ourselves a reservation for Friday night. Once they open the spa there, I may never leave. I was home from work that day, and figured it would be the perfect opportunity, as we could get there early (and it sounded like a good reward for getting through two doctors appointments in one day). We invited a dear friend to join us and despite my running late, we managed to get out and find our way to the estate then wind our way up the road to the restaurant.  I imagine it must be breathtaking with the snow we got yesterday, as it was certainly magnificent when we were there.

The space is interesting. We were seated at a corner table at the back of the banquette near the kitchen. This was just fine for us, as it was as out of the way as it seemed you could get in that room. As it got more crowded the volume increased; it can get fairly loud. It’s also fairly dark in spots. Our table was just fine but the table next to us needed to use the candle to look at the wine list. The tables are fairly close together. It definitely does not have the same white tablecloth romantic ambiance as the Plucky does.

To start I had the butternut squash soup with roasted brussel sprouts. The Husband had both the hamachi and the poached egg appetizer with toast and bacon. Our friend had the butternut squash soup as well as the endive and arugula salad. For mains the Husband had the “farmer’s plate” of the day which was ale battered fish and chips. I love David’s french fries, they really are some of the best and most addictive I’ve ever had. I had scallops which were lightly seared and fabulous. I can’t recall what our friend had but it was meat and she said it was delicious and took home the leftovers. We also got a side of their mushrooms with polenta which were outstanding! For dessert they both got the ice cream sampler which was vanilla, egg nog and peppermint. I only tasted the peppermint but it was delicious with an amazingly creamy texture. I had the espresso donuts for dessert and this was probably the best chocolate dessert I’ve had in a long time. It was not too overwhelmingly sweet or chocolaty, but had just the perfect flavor. The chocolate sauce on the side was just enough to bring it over the top.

David also brought us a pizza (on the house) when they brought our first course- ricotta, pumpkin and kale and it was declared delicious by all of us and devoured, and I usually don’t like ricotta.

They offered house filtered water, either still or sparkling, for free which was a nice touch, and they left the carafe on the table. They had a short specialty cocktail list with all house infused or flavored items. Our drink for the evening was called the “Fall Back” and it was cider and rum and maple and oj and the thinnest strips of orange rind and it was really really good. I think I had three of them.The breadbasket is three different kinds of bread, olive, french baguette and something else as well as homemade crackers.

Needless to say by the time we were done, we were done. The bill was very reasonable for all that we got, and everything was just outstanding. Service was professional and friendly, knowledgeable and eager to please.

There are two things that we’re looking forward to. The first is brunch come spring time. The second is “bring me food,” David’s version of omakase or a tasting menu of indeterminate length. The idea is to start with five courses for a certain price and then expand from there. They’re also supposed to have outdoor seating come spring and even now have a couple of tremendous fire pits out back where you can sit. They also have space for the Viking Cooking School and will do other classes as well. Oh, lordy, this is gonna be fun!

Full disclosure: We know Chef David Felton from the Pluckeminn Inn as well as some of the staff, though not our waiter Jeff. Additionally, dining room manager Richard Spaulding we know from Restaurant David Drake as well as the Stage House before that. Considering it was their opening Friday night, we were just blown away when David came out with that pizza for us. They were having their first party in the downstairs kitchen that night and had just gotten the equipment delivered only a couple of hours before!

I can’t wait to go back. We’re already talking about booking the smallest private dining area for mother’s day this year.

Medical update behind the cut

dinner and a show

  • Posted on December 4, 2009 at 1:39 am

Tonight we went to see Manheim Steamroller at the Beacon Theater in NYC. We had front row orchestra seats on the aisle. It doesn’t really get much better than that. It was the Husband’s first time at the Beacon, and it was nice to see the venue through his eyes and really get to look around and appreciate it, instead of just rushing through to get to our seats. It’s a remarkable building.(Ok, so I looked at their website and it turns out they just underwent a $15 million restoration. And it shows.

We’d made dinner reservations at Ouest but canceled them because we didn’t think we’d make it in on time. Once we got into the city and parked we took a walk around and came across the Hummus Place and had dinner there. Wow. Just wow. I haven’t had humus with mushrooms like that since I was in Israel. Everything was just fabulous. They even had sangria so we had a bit. Ok, two carafes. They weren’t very strong but fruity and tasty. For dessert I got the baklava, which was actually three different kinds, and it was some of the best baklava I’ve ever had. Seriously. I would definitely go back there any time quite happily.

The show was really good. I’m not that big into Christmas music and really bought these tickets for the Husband but we had a good time. I’d see them again next year. I still think I liked TSO better (and we’re going to see them again next weekend) but that may have to do with how they have the story run through the first half of the show which to me makes it much more enjoyable than “just” Christmas music.

Oh, and Fairway. Drool. We stopped in at Fairway between dinner and the show. The Husband had never been and it’s been a looong time since I’d been to Fairway. It was as eye catching and drool worthy as I remember. He’s already suggested making a trip into the city to go again, to both Hummus Place and Fairway, and doing a -real- shopping there. I’d so love that. There was so much that we saw in just the brief few minutes we were there, I know it would be a small fortune of a shopping trip but so worth it.

Note to self: Paramus Fairway. May be an option on Sundays during the holiday season, when the rest of Paramus is closed. As much as I hate Paramus, it may be more viable than NYC.

Tomorrow, dinner at ninety acres, the new restaurant at Natirar. The chef is David Felton, formerly of the Pluckemin Inn. The restaurant manager is Richard I-always-forget-his-last-name, who used to work at David Drake and before that at The Stage House Inn. This should be a wonderful combination, and I don’t just mean that selfishly. We so, SO can’t wait for dinner tomorrow night!

a lovely day off

  • Posted on November 14, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Today was Veteran’s Day so I had the day off. I had arranged to have lunch with the girls from my previous job who I’ve actually missed rather much. It was good to see them and catch up. Hopefully we’ll get to do so again soon when some of the missing can make it.

After lunch I made my way over to the new Trader Joe’s in Princeton. Oh, lordy. It’s a good thing it’s not closer or I would be there all the time. There were just so many things I wanted to try, it was very hard to restrain myself. Especially with tomorrow being the Husband’s birthday. So for dinner tonight I picked up a refrigerated chicken parm (which he likes) and brussell sprouts au gratin (which we were not crazy about). I also got some of their version of oreo’s, dark chocolate marshmallow creams, as well as mochi in mango and green tea. The mango mochi is just outrageously good, like worth-the-trip good. We haven’t tried the green tea yet, but both other snacks got a resounding yummy. As did some of the thinnest lemon cookies. I picked up a chicken pot pie and a sesame chicken noodle bowl to stash in the freezer for emergency meals for the Husband. I got myself a curry bowl, vegan pad thai, and a shrimp ettouffe. I want to start bringing lunch one or two days a week, both for cost and nutritional reasons.

birthday chocolates

  • Posted on November 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm

The Husband and I have birthday’s a day apart, plus we moved in together on our birthday’s as well, so we have a tradition of having a real celebration each year, with two notable items, a fabulous meal with friends, and gourmet chocolates. We also have some very dear friends who are also foodies, and he shares my birthday as well so for the last three years they have been a delightful part of the celebration.

This year’s dinner will be at elements, and just the four of us. We were unable to get the table in the kitchen so we’ll be in the cube instead, which may be even better. I don’t know if we’re going to do a tasting menu, though I suspect so.

I’ve been having a problem with the chocolates. It has to be something just fabulous, since that’s as close to presents as we’re getting (which is just fine, really). Last year I got a custom box from CocoaBella, and I could certainly go that route again this year, but I wanted something different. I started at Vosges this year, since they have the applewood bacon chocolate bar. in a mini size. I got a 4 piece caramel assortment and a box of their holiday bonbon collection. But no chocolate covered orange peels. No matter what else I get for the birthday chocolates, there’s always a small box of orange peels for me. Yum! Jacques Torres has orange peels, and truffles too. Li-Lac has an outlet in Grand Central, where I’ll be tomorrow so I may see what they have. was recommended by Annie, and they looked pretty good too, perhaps when they have different marshmallow flavors. I’ve got to remember where I ordered the macaroons from last year, too.

I’m still trying to figure out what we’ll be doing for dinner on Thursday night for the Husband’s birthday and Friday night for mine. Perhaps for his we’ll get take out sushi. For mine, I’m still working on options for that. I’m not working that day, though I do have things to do in the morning and will probably need to do a bit of work that day, so we should be able to get an early dinner wherever we’d like. Just need to decide where that should be.  need to remember this one too

dinner and a show and a party

  • Posted on November 1, 2009 at 11:31 pm

At some point months ago, I had gotten us tickets to see Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. We had front row balcony seats on the aisle. I had made reservations at one restaurant which we ended up canceling at the last minute and getting another reservation at the restaurant literally down the block from the theater, Buona Sera. I was a little leary of the place, even though it got good reviews. You’re always worried that they get by on being so close to the venue and serving passable food. I have to say that though it was crowded and noisy, the service and the food were outstanding. The cocktails were rather potent, but tasty, though a little expensive at $12 each. I started with a half order of fried calamari. I never order it any more but I thought a half order couldn’t be too much of a disappointment. This was light and crispy, neither chewy nor greasy, served with a very simple and tasty marinara sauce. This was calamari made right. For my entree I had zuppa de pesce- shrimp, scallops, Lobster Tail, Mussels, Clams & Calamari. Again, the seafood was perfectly executed, with everything in a spicy sauce.  The Husband had goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto which he proclaimed some of the best he ever had. He then had a filet mignon (slightly closer to well than medium) topped with Gorgonzola, served with port wine demi glace as well as a crab cake. For dessert I had a carrot cake, individual servings, and the Husband had cheesecake. I think New York style.  Dinner was a tad expensive, but not unreasonably so for what we got. It was certainly an enjoyable meal and we’d both gladly go back.

The show was great, but the venue was crowded and incredibly warm, even for me, so we left at intermission.

The following afternoon my mother threw a surprise party for my step-father’s 75th birthday. We picked up the cakes that morning, both white cakes with whipped cream, one with cherries, one with chocolate pudding. Both were very tasty, at least for most people. She had it catered, it was lovely. And we got to bring leftovers home for dinner that night! The first of two weekends of family time…

Day at the Amish

  • Posted on October 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm

For some reason I couldn’t get the darn thing to work while I was at the Amish, or I would’ve posted from there as I went through the market. So we’ll just have to settle for a retrospective entry.

The most pleasant surprise of the day was running into Alex and Aki from Ideas in Food and their lovely daughter at the market. It’s their local market and they didn’t know about the website so I just sent them the link.

Other than that, I got some crab cakes and a twice baked potato which we had for dinner tonight. They were very tasty done in the convection oven. They were out of the soups I had wanted to get from the fish stand which was annoying. I didn’t really get a whole lot otherwise. Some desserts. A black forest one was different. I got some paella valenciana for lunch during the week. I got some eggplant in sauce and two Indian samosas. Cook up a chicken breast and I’ve got lunches during the week. The fruit stand actually had some peas in pods and I couldn’t resist getting a small bag. I got some dried mango, low sugar, no sulfites, and a s’mores snack mix which we already demolished. I didn’t get any meat or poultry, either raw or cooked, because I’m not cooking and I unfortunately can’t trust that they don’t season the meats with msg in some form. Though I really should just ask them; though I know Kingston does. I got one bacon, egg and cheese log for the Husband and I had a roast beef and swiss which was great- I wish we could get those in Kingston! I forgot to redeem my coupon for a free ice cream scoop. And I got whoopie pies. They had oatmeal and chocolate chip ones and I should’ve gotten more of those. Oh, yum.

Oh, and I got fudge. They had these little cups prefilled with pieces of fudge, so I got a cookies and cream for me and orange and cream for the Husband. We’re snacking on them now and they are quite yummy.

I got my haircut today. Woo hoo!! It actually -does- happen twice a year, believe it or not. The Husband comes with me and stands behind me while he and Lauren figure out how much we’re taking off. I never know till we’re all done. Today I don’t know how much we took off, but I’m thrilled. I love it when it’s this light, it feels so different. I think this is the shortest it’s been in years.

Tomorrow’s Sunday which means brunch at elements. Yay. Then we have a new client to visit and see what’ll come out of that.

long weekend

  • Posted on September 28, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Thanks to the Jewish High Holidays, the Husband and I got a rare long weekend together. It’s the curse of being a consultant, you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Being back in Finance does mean that there are a few long weekends during the year, but this was the first since I started working. I may not be observant, but going to work on Yom Kippur just feels wrong.

So instead we went over to New Hope for the afternoon. We confirmed that Captain Bob would be running the boat and we were good to go. It was a great day for a boat ride, so we went twice. The river was rather choppy today, square waves, I think Steve called them, so it was a bit more of an adventurous ride than usual. We tried to get some picture of the water, but I don’t know how they came out. We actually got some ice cream before heading onto the boat, “cherries for George” for me and “orange cream dream” for the Husband. Both were rather yummy, and made me wonder why we don’t get ice cream more often when we’re there. But after two boat rides it was time for some real food. We talked about dining in New Hope but a) it was Monday and we weren’t sure what would be closed; b) it was that in-between time that many places are closed; c) we looked at the menus for a couple of places and either they were expensive or just didn’t do it for us. So we decided that it was just easier to venture over to the Plucky.

Fortunately, they are still seating outside at the Plucky, and we had the patio all to ourselves. We ordered the crab cake with tempura green beans (that even the Husband ate!), pork tostada, chick pea puree (aka hummus), and the pizzette for the Husband who also had an espresso martini. I also had an amazingly good raspberry mojito. Everything was excellent, as always. It was a wonderful way to end a fabulous day and weekend. I can’t wait till our next long weekend together.

And for anyone interested, I’m still fighting that headache. Tomorrow I need to find out about the office pharmacy concierge service and then have to call the doctor and get something called in. This has been a really viscous cycle for me, with my needing to go the full three pill combo to try and kick it. Today when we got home it was so bad I needed to go take a nap to bring it back down to tolerable. Not gone, but no longer needing to envelop myself in the cone of quiet and dark. I’m really glad we were able to get out to New Hope, though. I -hate- being stuck at home with a headache. I hate having to change plans to accommodate the headache. It’s bad enough I need to make other life accommodations to deal with my health, but that one really irks me. If I can handle it, I’d rather be out with a headache than stuck home with one. At least out I have some chance of forgetting about it for a while.

life and stuff

  • Posted on September 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm

The new job is still kicking my ass. The hours are brutal and the pace is at some times frenetic. I don’t know if I really like what I’m doing, despite the fact that I’m good at it. The Husband still hasn’t found a full-time gig yet. We know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of when, and hanging on till it does come through. It seems like I’m started in a migraine cycle. Part of it is that I don’t have an ergonomic set up in the office. Part of it is that I can’t relax the physical tension in my shoulders. Either which way it sucks. Will probably have to call the doctor next week.

We haven’t been cooking much at all. The Husband spent three weeks not feeling well where nearly all he ate was chicken soup (from Harold’s NY Deli in Edison, NJ). It turns out they make a really good black and white cookie, too. Ginormous, as all there stuff is, but very tasty. A good texture of the cookie, the icing was not just sweet glop, it was actually tasty and the chocolate was actual chocolate.

NY Ren Faire season is over, which does take some pressure off of Saturday mornings. We were up reasonably early today and I headed over to the Montgomery farmers market. It’s still in some ways summer there, with the almost last of the peaches and nectarines, but the first of the pumpkins were in the market, and that’s definitely a sign of fall. I picked up a lot of fruit today. Peaches to make what will probably be the last of the peach ice cream or sorbet for the season. Nectarines, plums, an assortment of apple varieties. The intention next week is two pieces of fruit a day in the office before I even think of the vending machines. It’s so hard for me to stay away from the tomatoes. Unfortunately, they’re one of the foods that is said to be not so good for the inflammation from fibromyalgia. (Unlike pineapple which is supposed to reduce the inflammation, and I try to get some of that at least three days a week), I’ve been trying to stay away from them but it’s hard at the market, when there are still so many varieties of them that I used to just love to eat out of hand. Maybe just a sprinkle of sea salt on each bite. So I got some cucumbers and peppers, forgot to get spinach- I prefer it to lettuce for a salad base. The market runs to Oct 16, so I have a couple of more weeks to go.

Then it was off to the Amish. It was rather crowded when I got it, not too surprising for a Saturday. I got some burgers for dinner during the week- it’s grilling weather for us. Some chicken breasts to cook for lunch for myself. I got some desserts for munching. And grapes. Which I am snacking on now.

I haven’t been cooking much. This job knocks the hell out of me and by the time I get home, I have a hard time dealing with food some days. I think I had pb and j (apricot preserves) three nights last week. I have to work on finding some easy to make dishes for nights during the week. It seems like half the time I do that, though, I have one of ‘those’ weeks, and it goes to waste since I end up being too tired to do anything with it.  It was easier when we had the personal chef service and could just heat and eat. Once things get settled again….

I got some apple cider from the Amish, too, just a small once. Hot cider with rum is one of my all time favorite drinks. That and hot chai with Kahlua.

Monday is Yom Kippur so I’ve taken the day off. I need to do some work in the morning, but after that, it’s just me and the Husband. A boat ride or two in New Hope is about all that we have planned for the rest of the weekend. And ice cream or sorbet.

So that’s that, for the most part. No food to talk of, just the day in day out staus quo. Which doesn’t suck.