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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

weekend update

  • Posted on October 12, 2009 at 9:36 pm

It’s been another one of those busy weeks, and the upcoming one doesn’t look too different.

Work is still a lot of hours and a lot of work. I don’t like it any better this week than last. I was talking to the girls at PMG today when I was home and had IM access, and realized how much I miss them personally, as well as just working with folks on a daily basis to chat and catch up with, to break up the day, to sympathize with the specific insanities of the job. I don’t have that where I am now. And as anti-social as I am now I miss it.

Saturday was a very long busy day. We started the day taking a drive up to Woodstock to take care of a bit of business with a friend. It was a lovely drive, the trees are all changing up there, but it was almost two hours up, and then two hours back. We stopped at the Plucky for lunch on the way home. I had a yummy tomato soup and a crab cake with tempura green beans. The Husband had the butter lettuce salad which he said was spicy this time, so much so it made him flushed. He also had the baked ham and brie sandwich with an egg on top. He was so exhausted that he asked me to drive home. I certainly didn’t mind, it was just home from the Plucky which I’d done countless times before.

We get home and he’s just exhausted. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal but Saturday we also had a second Rocky Horror Reunion to go to. And I have to admit, I -really- wanted to go. Some of the same people from July were there but there were several folks including Sal who hadn’t been there. So we both just try to chill out and finally he goes to take a nap. Before he does we talk and he’s ok with me going in, so I put him to bed and go shower and get ready. I realize that I can’t wear the outfit I had planned because it laces up the back, so I find something else and head out into the city. I stop at Starbucks at the rest area on my way in for a needed fix and managed to get myself into the city and parked without too much angst. Always a plus to starting the evening. I hate driving into Manhattan.

Parking in the city is always fun. This time at least I knew exactly where I was parking, it just took $10 to convince the guy to find a spot when he said the lot was full. Got to the theater and got my ticket, definitely a good thing since the show sold out. Then met up with Jeremy; it was funny- I texted him to see if he needed a ticket and a minute later he came walking up the block. He didn’t actually notice my text till much later. I’m so glad the two of them are working together, and that this can work out to be something good. It’s so rare for either of them to have someone at their own level.  We then ran into Angela and the three of us headed over to the diner. Holy Hades was it hot in there! They had us in way too small a space and there were a lot of us and it was really freaking hot. In a way it was good that the Husband wasn’t there, he would have been incredibly uncomfortable and outside for much of the dinner. It took us FOREVER to order, but I think that was just my table, which I ended up sharing with Greg who played Rocky before my time (and that night) and his wife Laura and their daughter Violet. When we finally got it, they made a decent burger, medium rare as asked for. I figured they couldn’t screw that up too badly. Eventually we headed out to the theater. Met up with Jason and a couple of his friends for a smoke before the show.

Thanks to MMM I was once again able to get in with the cast and company before the general audience. It was a really good preshow. The kind of preshow I remember back from the Playhouse days. It’s good to be able to think back to those days and remember the good times and the friendship. I think it was MMM who in the tribute to Sal said that he created a place where all of the misfits and outcast could come together and be themselves and have each other. And we really did. It’s kind of amazing how 20 years later those are still some of the friendships and memories I treasure the most. I stayed till after Time Warp, said some goodbyes and headed home. I wish I had stayed till the end of the show. But it was late and I needed to be sure I could drive myself home safely.

I kept texting and emailing with the Husband all night which was really cool. Poor thing; I missed him so! But he was in no shape to be out and about that night and I’m glad he had the sense to let himself rest. Sunday we did just about nothing. He went out to pick up some awesome sushi for dinner and I think that was the extent of it. Today was Columbus Day so I had off from work but was still up by 9. Ugh! Even with the lunesta, I can’t get a decent night’s sleep. I’ve been trying to rest and do as little as possible for the last few days. I haven’t had much of a choice- the Husband has insisted on taking care of me and everything else and I’ve been trying to let him. Especially since he’s been fighting his own issues at the moment and slept for 13 hours last night.

I’m still fighting the headache, though for a brief moment it seemed like it was loosening its grip somewhat, so we’ll see what happens this week. I’m trying to stay optimistic but it’s hard sometimes. Though I have to say, I didn’t get as sick as I expected from being in the city Saturday night. I hadn’t been feeling well for a day or two before and was sure I was going to be knocked out on Sunday but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’m trying to be grateful for the little things. I still need to make a neuro appt. Ugh.

Next weekend we’re supposed to go see Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull down in Red Bank. Tomorrow I must remember to make the dinner reservations. Then Sunday my mother is throwing a surprise party for my stepfather’s 75th birthday.  Always something to do. Fortunately, the Husband is dealing with the cake for which I’m grateful. I was feeling a little overwhelmed having to deal with that too.

Must make plans with Rocky friends. I don’t want to lose touch again. The Husband and Phillykins need to play some chess, maybe get Mutie to come around, see who else we can wrangle up. Dang it. Need to get Ed and Joey to come home too, at least to visit. When things were good, hanging out with them were some of the best times of my life.

Bed. Rest. Sleep. Wake up. work. travel to office. work. travel home. work. bed. sleep. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

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.

Dinner at the Plucky

  • Posted on July 27, 2009 at 6:13 pm

We finally made it back to the Pluckemin Inn for a long overdue dinner since the new chef took over. We’d been to the Tavern and come in for lunch, but had not been back for dinner until tonight.

I’d been wanting to go back for a couple of reasons- I’ve been dying to try Chef Juan Jose Cuevas’ food and they also put my favorite summer cocktail, the Watermelon Red Hot, back on the menu. Yum! (I had two tonight.) After chatting at the bar for a few minutes and ordering our cocktails the hostess took us to our table. Upon perusing the menu for a bit, the Husband and I come to a conclusion- it’s unquestionably tomato season. A good thing for me, not so good for him. Fortunately, they don’t mind serving much of the tavern menu in the dining room so we weren’t worried about filling in some holes.

The amuse buche was a tomato/vegetable water which was very tasty, just as light and cleansing as you would expect from something that was probably picked from the garden mere hours earlier.  The only slip up tonight was the service. I ordered three courses, the Husband two, and they brought both of my starters out first, without bringing either of his. I started with the NJ heirloom tomato salad, basil, clear melon broth and tomato sorbet.  There were about 5 or 6 different varieties of tomatoes with fresh basil leaves in the broth and a scoop of the tomato sorbet. The tomato salad was incredible but the tomato sorbet was just outrageous. I can’t really describe what it was like but I just wanted more, it was really remarkable. I then had the grilled day boat sea scallops, with watermelon, chilis, mache,  Castel Vetrano olives. Personally, I prefer my scallops with a bit more of a sear than these had, but that’s just me (and the Husband!) but these were still quite tasty. The sauce had a bit of a kick to it. I didn’t see any olives and thought it had grapefruit, but I could be mistaken.

The Husband finally got his risotto, organic zucchini risotto with parmesan,  sot-l’y-laisse & squash blossom tempura. We learned today that sot-l’y-laisse is “chicken oysters”. I’m still not quite sure what -that- is, but it was two very tasty little morsels. The squash blossom wasn’t a big poofy piece as you often see, it seemed like this was split in half so it fried flat.

The Husband also got a crab cake, a consistently tasty treat from the Tavern menu. The tempura asparagus that came with it was apparently so tasty I never got a piece! (And that says something for someone who doesn’t really like vegetables.) I had the John Dory, fennel, preserved tomato, white eggplant caviar & ratatouille jus. I didn’t taste the fennel in it, but it was still tasty. The eggplant caviar was creamy and didn’t have the seedy texture you sometimes get with eggplant.

We didn’t get dessert, but two small chocolate chip cookies (still and consistently some of the best we’ve had) and two coconute macaroons were delivered with the check.

All in all, a delightful dinner. We’ll definitely be back to the Plucky with the new chef at the helm, just after tomato season.

Anniversary Weekend recap

  • Posted on June 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm

It has been suggested to me that I write up the food extravaganza that was our anniversary weekend this year, even though it was more than three months ago. We’re foodies. We love to eat, and eat well. We didn’t intend for it to be a weekend-long celebration, but I don’t think either of us were complaining when all was said and done.

Our actual anniversary was on a Friday, and we started it at the Pluckemin Inn with the chef’s tasting menu. That’s all we had originally intended to do. Below are my notes from that night:

  • ahi, mussels in spicy, fois gras bon bon, balsamic and brioche
  • fish with spicy pineapple sauce in shell. cilantro, salt, spicy sauce
  • Noodles with hard boiled egg and stuff
  • first of the season halibut, buttered morels, pea puree
  • scallops, pork belly, beet sauce
  • venison. black trumpet mushrooms. kale. cippollini onions.
  • Japanese kobe, super titi garlic chips. pad thai flavors
  • sous vide rhubarb and rhubarb foam
  • lemon creme fraiche
  • chocolate caramel brownie
  • salted caramels

Some recollections: the halibut, morels and peas were just fabulous, though I’m not sure how you can go wrong with anything with morels. the “super titi” garlic chips were pretty phenomenal. The Husband loved the noodles and egg. I’m pretty certain we had cocktails. I believe they also gifted us with a glass of champagne. If this was all we had done or eaten, it would have been a fantastic weekend.

I’m pretty sure we were back at the Plucky for lunch on Saturday and then Saturday night we got sushi to go.

For Sunday brunch, we decided to finally try elements for the first time. The Husband had pheasant hash, I think I had the french toast. We were impressed with the food, and they had the chef’s table in the kitchen available for that night, so we decided to end our anniversary weekend in much the same format we started it. At the mercy of a chef. Once again we were not disappointed.

  • Terhune tamago. Crispy bacon sweetbread frisee. Citrus lauging bird shrimp.
  • Kindai o-toro
  • Kampachi crudo four ways
  • Popcorn. Coarse ground corn meal. Mushrooms, black truffles.
  • diver sea scallops. spring pea leaves. truffles. mussel broth.
  • Kindai tuna loin wrapped in rye
  • fois gras torchon. kumquats
  • guinea hen. yogurt spatzle.
  • 48 hour short ribs
  • Bacon and eggs. Mille feulle.

Some thoughts on the above: by the time we got to the guinea hen, I was starting to get full. The popcorn and cornmeal dish was OUTRAGEOUS. Really unique taste profile. We loved that there was so much seafood here. The only thing I didn’t really like was the tuna in rye and that’s because I don’t like rye. The tuna was incredible.  I think there was another dessert as well (either carrot cake or bananas foster, I can’t remember). They sent out the bacon and eggs when we were there for brunch. I’ll have to get Joe to give me the details again (brioche, maple custard, candied bacon, I don’t know), but from someone who doesn’t like bacon, it was pretty good. The Husband loved it so much they served it to him again at dinner (originally they weren’t going to but he asked for it). No cocktails tonight, but I believe they gifted us with a glass of rose cava.

It’s hard to believe we’ve only been going to elements for less than four months! It did get off to a rather auspicious start.

And that is the tale of gluttony that was our anniversary weekend. It was good food and a whole lot of fun! Just as the four years of our marriage have been…