You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'restaurant'.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 12 entries.

dinner at elements

  • Posted on April 24, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Work has been insane, more than 70 hours a week for me, ever since we got back from Florida.  The guys at elements have been blogging and Facebook-ing and posting pictures. First it was the local chicken liver pate. Then it was the first of the season morels. There was also the sour cherry dessert, but that may have been after I made the reservation. Somewhere in there Mattias had made a rhubarb cooler and posted in their bar blog. The picture of the morels did it for me, though, or more accurately I knew it would do it for the Husband and I’d been jonesing for a good dinner out.


“Yes, wife?”

“elements has first of the season morels….”

“when can we go?”

“I’ll call and ask.”

A day or so later I finally remembered to call and the young lady who answered was able to accommodate us at 5 pm on Friday in the Cube, which is their private room adjacent to the kitchen. The chef’s table in the kitchen was already booked so this was really just perfect for us. Score! It also meant I’d need to stop working at a reasonable hour to get dressed and ready to go because I really did want to try and relax and enjoy myself. To say it had been a hell of a week is an understatement.

We arrived a few minutes early and got to hang around with the staff out back behind the kitchen before service started. It was nice to be missed as much as we missed them. It seemed the NY Times review photographer was coming that night at 7 pm to take the pictures for the review they had just gotten. You’d think if it was just for pictures, they’d come at an easier time than Friday or Saturday night!  After being seated, we looked at the menu and realized we were in trouble- there were just too many amazing choices! This was definitely one of those menus where there were more things up the Husband’s alley and I had a harder time. We ended up sharing a number of different dishes and everything was just incredible from start to finish.

We’re bad foodie bloggers. We completely forgot to write down or photograph entire courses, so most of the descriptions will be straight from their menu.

Amuse was a trio of interesting tidbits. Beef tongue wrapped around sushi rice with pickled carrots (yum); house cured something sausage-like fresh not dried with a grain mustard (which I liked), and a third bit with piquillo peppers and tasted fishy.  This last one even the Husband liked!

chicken liver pate with pheasant egg, mushroom, leek with crispy toast points

What a way to start out the meal. I knew I had to have this first because if the Husband did I may have only found some mushrooms left! Seriously good.

short rib pierogi  caraway, potato, leek, sour cream

These were outrageous. The short rib pierogi had the most amazing texture and I would definitely order these again.

spaghetti carbonara  our bacon, peas, duck egg

I only had a bite of this but it was very good. How bad can it be with their own bacon and these fresh tiny peas?

sablefish  romesco, marcona almond, charred scallion spaetzle, shrimp

romesco sauce shmeared across the plate. scallion spaetzle with Laughing Bird shrimp and spinach. oh yum. and the fish was good too.

Columbia river sturgeon  local asparagus, osetra caviar, quail egg, garlic

We got two small portions of this, mostly so I could give the caviar to the Husband. This was outrageous. The fish was perfectly cooked. The asparagus was pureed into a soup or broth that we both sopped up with bread and a spoon. I don’t usually eat eggs but knew there was no way I was giving that one up to the Husband. Perfectly soft cooked,

local skate  split pea & ham, spring onion, morels, carrot

We haven’t had skate in a long time and this was a perfect version of it. My only issue with it was that to me it tasted strongly like caraway, which I don’t really like. But otherwise it was fabulous. Came apart easily with a fork. Just so so good.

tilefish  local morels, ramps, horseradish, spinach, quinoa, white asparagus

Yum, yum and yum. By this point I was getting full, and wanted to save room for dessert, so the Husband got most of it. This was just insanely good.

When we first looked at the menu I knew I was going to be in trouble with dessert. I have a weakness for anything cherry, and there happened to be two cherry desserts on the menu. So with a little encouragement from everyone we ordered both, plus the vanilla panna cotta for the Husband.

black forest cake. black cherry, chocolate, lambic granite, sponge

I’ve got to say, I’m often impressed and intrigued with the desserts and presentations that Joe and the team come up with here. I know enough never to get my heart set on an exact anything and have never been disappointed. Tonight was no exception. Black forest cake was almost like a devil dog without the chocolate coating, chocolate cake rolled with creamy frosting of some sort. Served with two griotes (I snagged the Husband’s), some tasty and really interesting chocolate sponge, and a bit of chocolate topped with the lambic granite, which the Husband loved. Next time, I would probably ask them to hold the granite but that’s just me.

vanilla panna cotta. shortbread, spring pea ice cream, peanut, bacon

Who would’ve thought pea ice cream? It was the most incredible shade of green and really tasted like spring peas! Not something I’d ever order at an ice cream shop but it really did work here. I wasn’t crazy about this dessert, as bacon so doesn’t do it for me, but the Husband was, and thought it was delicious.

sour cherry bar. nilla waffer ice cream, cookie crust, “cherries”

Yum. Nilla wafer ice cream. Sour cherry bar was outrageously good and the “cherries,” even the Husband’s eyes lit up when he ate one. I’m not quite sure what it was made out of but it sure tastes like sour cherry!

As always, our thanks to the staff for a fabulous meal, that was as much food for the Spirit and Soul as it was for the body. From Mattias hiding the bottle of sake from Joe and Scotty (sorry, guys!) so that it would be there for the Husband,  to reassuring us that we could do whatever we wanted to make our own tasting menu, they went over and above for us, particularly for a busy Friday night.  We kept saying to each other, “why has it been so long since we’ve been here?” From start to finish this was an extraordinary meal, and just what we needed.

Bring Me Food

  • Posted on February 6, 2010 at 4:13 pm

“Bring Me Food” is Ninety Acre’s version of a tasting menu, with a twist. Instead of a menu, patrons are presented with a list of ingredients from which the chef will make their dinner. They are simply asked to indicate which ones they would prefer not to eat. Additionally you are seated in the kitchen area instead on the main dining room. Wine pairings are available as well.

We were there last Tuesday, the first night they began doing this, and we were the only ones which meant we essentially had the kitchen space to ourselves. It was a bit hard to resist all the good food that was passing us by as we waited. We realized that they seem to have a separate bar menu, as we saw burgers or sliders and fries and various other tasty tidbits we had never seen on the regular menu. I meant to check it out before we left but completely forgot; hopefully I’ll remember the next time we go in.

We arrived a bit early for our reservation, which wasn’t a problem except the kitchen wasn’t -quite- ready with the cheesy cracker point with Parmesan and assiago cheese that they intend to serve just after folks get seated. After taking a look at the ingredients, the Husband opted for no mushrooms or tomatoes, and I said no to the fresh from the chicken eggs. I also now know to let them know that I don’t want a cheese course, either. But we’ll get there.

The first course for the Husband was an egg with bacon and parsnip mousse with, I believe, a vinegar essence, all served in the egg shell. The kitchen was kind enough to bring out two orders, just in case I wanted to try it. I did, and it was delicious, but bacon and eggs are not my thing. Instead they had sent out a beet and blood orange salad on an endive leaf which was tangy and tasty and delicious.

Next course was Barnagate scallops with Hawaiian gold pineapple, cilantro, and piquillo peppers, served cold in a broth that seemed to be essentially pineapple juice with ribbons of cilantro.  Generally the Husband doesn’t like scallops that are not seared but these were fantastic! Definitely not a combination I would have thought of, but it worked remarkably well. Although David is a huge proponent of farm-to-table, and locally sourced and sustainable, he said the pineapple was one of his few exceptions, and it was in peak season. He was right, this was an outstandingly fresh and clean tasking course.

Pan roasted tile fish came next, served with a Serrano ham and saffron broth with mezzaluna greens.  The skin was perfectly crisp and the parsnip puree it was served with was a creamy counterpoint. I didn’t have any issues with the texture of the fish, but the Husband’s was possibly a bit underdone for him. (For reference, he prefers his salmon cooked through as well, and we’ve learned to specify that.)

Griggstown pheasant with spinach gnocchi and black trumpet mushrooms. Swoon. Yum. I don’t know if either of us has had pheasant before but this was delicious. Skin on sliced breast, and then it seemed like some of the dark meat was cubed with the mushrooms. I gave the Husband gnocchi, he gave me mushrooms. It works.

Cheese course was Valley Shepherd nettlesome cheese served with quince. The quince was tasty. I had a nibble of the cheese and it wasn’t really too my liking but then again most cheeses are not.The Husband seemed to like it though.

Dessert was a cranberry orange napoleon with orange zabaglione, tuille, apple compote and candied cranberries. Wow. Just wow.  I want one now. One of my favorite desserts has always been a zabaglione and some fruit and a cookie. I used to get it at the Stage House in place of a cheese course and it was always something I looked forward to. The orange zabaglione was incredible.

Finally, there we were presented with two mini (but not too mini, mind you) ice cream sandwiches with vanilla ice cream and orange chocolate chip cookies.

David had messed up his back pretty badly the previous Friday, but managed to drag himself in for opening night. I almost felt badly that we were the only ones there; it hardly seemed worth it for him.  But he himself said they were still working some things out and was glad to be able to try it out on some friends first. We certainly couldn’t tell that they had issues to work out. Once we were back on schedule (we did show up 20 minutes early) things were quite smooth and nicely paced.

He’s quite justified in having the faith that he does in his staff, many of whom came with him from his previous kitchen. We had been there the Friday night he was injured, and had we not been told that he was not in the kitchen, there was no way to tell in comparison with our previous visits.  The quality of the food being turned out was just as high and, at least from our limited vantage, the kitchen seemed to run smoothly.

They start doing brunch in a couple of weeks, and we can’t wait for that as well. But we’ll definitely be back to the kitchen as soon as we can for more Bring Me Food.

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!

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…

Here piggy piggy…

  • Posted on August 22, 2009 at 5:07 pm

It’s kind of funny to me to be writing a complete post on pork. This is not just any pork, and I suspect this will not be just any post. I think in order for you to get a true appreciation of this, I need to go into a little background before I get to the food. And oh, lard-y, the food. (I think I also need to apologize in advance for the humor as well. Not to mention the lateness of this post.)

When the Husband and I got married four and a half years ago, the wedding was at our favorite restaurant at the time (which has since changed hands and chefs and we’ve barely been back, not even for an annual anniversary dinner, but no matter). The chef there was a lovely young man, and fabulous chef, named Michael Clampffer. We followed Michael after he left that restaurant to his next venture and then were thoroughly disappointed when he left there to became a private chef.

Fast forward to the Facebook age, where we were able to reconnect with Michael, though I had managed to catch glimpses of him in the media before that. Seems Michael was working for a gentleman who, among other things, owned Mosefund Farms where they were starting a new venture of raising Mangalitsa pigs. Mangalitsa pigs are also known as Hungarian wooly pigs, a heritage breed that fell out of favor in part due to its exceptionally high fat content. To some, the high fat makes it undesirable; to others, it make an tasty product with a texture that just can’t be beat. As it turned out, one of Michael’s first customers in NJ for the Mangalitsa was Scott Anderson, the Chef at elements in Princeton. And if you’ve read anything else on this blog, you’ve probably noticed that they are currently our favorite place.

Our next Sunday in we remark to Scott, “So we hear you’re getting a pig!” It turned out that Scott and staff we not getting one pig, but two- the first for charcuterie, the second for cooking, AND they were planning to do a special tasting dinner in its honor, one could say a “roast” of sorts. That was it, we had a reservation. On a Monday night in August, about 50 people gathered at elements for a 9 course tasting menu.

Oh my. We had both been a little leery of a 9 course pig dinner, since both of us have food quirks of sorts and there are all sorts of things we just don’t do. And we knew that this was an amazing opportunity for Scott and Joe and the elements staff (as well as Alex and Aki from Ideas in Food) to try out all sorts of pork preparations and we had no idea what would end up on our plates. Oh, and by the way, they were going to do this with community seating- large tables with other people. Considering we like to sit in the kitchen AWAY from other people, this was going to really be an adventuresome evening!

We get to elements separately, since I was coming from work, and the Husband from home. The first thing I notice when I walk in is that it’s hot. And I don’t mean kitchen-going-full-steam-all-burners-on-high hot. I mean A/C not working hot. SO not a good sign. We do not deal well with hot. We decided to try and make the most of it and go out into the car as needed and just do the best we can. (It turned out the A/C in the men’s room was working but the lights were not even working in the ladies room, so it was lit by candlelight which only made things warmer!) We staked out a table and then waited for the evening to begin. We chatted with some folks, some who sat at the other end of our table, some who we knew from The Plucky and were delighted when Michael came to sit with us for the evening!

There were passed hors d’oeuvres, some of which we got, some we did not. Fried green tomatoes with green goddess dressing- yummy, I wish those had come around again. Smoked lardo on crostini. I’m afraid that this, and “on kimchi chip” are the extent of my notes from the evening. From the pictures taken by Shola on the elements blog, I know that there were also radishes with lardo. Fried clams with a dipping sauce. Pulled pork on cracklings.

The first course was “mangalitsa and melon charcuterie.” A platter of assorted charcuterie, including pate, cured ham, sausage and what we were told was incredibly good head cheese, was just delicious. An assortment of mustards, pickles, bread slices as well as three different kinds of melon- canteloupe, honeydew and another canteloupe-like melon rounded out the course. Everything we tasted was terrific. We don’t have much of a basis for comparrison since those are not the types of meats we usually eat, but everyone seemed to enjoy it all and not a slice of melon went back to the kitchen from our table.

Next course was “Smoked uni, “hot & sour soup” gelee, tomato.” Smoked uni was a new one for both of us, and not something I have any need to eat again. It’s an interesting texture. The soup gelee was also an interesting texture. The tomatoes in the disk were incredibly good and I did love the taste of the soup and tomatoes but this was definitely our least favorite course.

“Green bean and beet salad, ham gribiche” was the third course. Yum. Served family style, the salad was brought out on a platter. Two different kinds of beans, yellow and green, were lightly dressed atop a pile of gribiche which I believe was just a fancy name for cracklings. On top of all that were diced beets and shaved truffle. Oh, yum! I’ve never been a big fan of beets but this was delicious and I even had a second helping. Sweet and tender, against the crunch of the beans and the gribiche which gave it some amazing flavor.

“Pork belly, stone fruit, tamale.” I wasn’t sure how we were going to like this course. Pork belly is really just crispy fat. In this case, really tender, meltingly creamy, fat, but fat none-the-less. I think it was Michael, though, who called it the fois gras of the pig. And he’s right. It’s a fairly similar texture, one that many people don’t like. But on the mangalitsa, the fat is something else entirely. The mangalitsa that elements was working with had a two-inch thick layer of fat. Think about that for a second. Two inches of just plain fat. And here they was sliced and seared it, served it with a stone fruit sauce to cut the sweetness, a small but oh-so-tasty corn tamale and a mole sauce that was just out of this world. I couldn’t finish my portion, it was just a touch too much for me, but it was absolutely remarkable when you consider what went into it.

“Italian sausage & peppers, garlic bread sauce” was the next course and with a garlic bread sauce, it made me wonder just what it would be. It was sausage stuffed into a pepper and served atop some tomato sauce with exactly that, a garlic bread flavored sauce. It made you want a piece of garlic bread to mop it up with but we made do with the ever abundant and delicious basket. They always have such tasty breads and that night was no exception.

“Preserved lemon cavatelli “carbonara”” was the pasta course. Served with sous vide egg yolk that was the most yellow and creamy. I almost want to buy one of those immersion circulator cooker thingys (and yes, that’s the technical term!) to make eggs like that! It was really a sensational dish, with all the flavors and textures coming together nicely.

“loin & leg, fixins” was how the next course was billed and it was here that we finally stuffed ourselves silly. Fixins was an understatment. Small cast iron pots were brought out, with each hiding a new delight. First some mushrooms. Then ratatouille. Some sweet corn. A platter of leg and loin meat. Some sauces, a salsa verde which was tangy and tasty. A cucumber shrimp slaw, which I don’t remember trying. But by that point I was so full it wouldn’t have mattered much.This was really where the taste of the meat itself shined through. It didn’t -need- any of the accompaniments. Just by itself it was probably the best pork loin I have ever had. But the fixins blew it over the top. The mushrooms were out of this world; the corn had to have been picked that day. Every element (no pun intended) worked on its own, and they all worked well together. I would have loved to have a doggy bag to have taken the leftovers home. It would’ve made a hell of a lunch!

The first dessert was “Bacon and Eggs” which is a traditional dessert at elements, usually served as part of the chef’s tasting menu. For tonight, though, Joe wasn’t content to just serve up a Mangalitsa version of their regular bacon and eggs, though I can imagine that would have been amazing. Instead we got bacon and eggs milkshake served in hollowed out eggshells with little mini straws with scoops on the end to ensure you could get every drop. I’m not big on bacon, but this was insanely good. Like seriously. Oh, and instead of a plate, they used a piece of the cardboard egg container.

The dessert itself was “honey glazed ham ice cream, pineapple, pork crackling “cracker jacks”” that seemed to be a riff on your typical baked ham dinner, cherry sauce included. Definitely not something I would order on a menu, but not something I would turn down if it was put in front of me. The ice cream really  tasted like sweet ham.  And the compressed pineapple and cherry sauce was just a terrific counterpoint. The crispy cracklins were a bit too porky for me, so I gave the last bit to the Husband as I settled into a near food coma.

It was an absolute pleasure to get to spend this evening with Michael and hear more about his pigs. They really are some of the tastiest meat I have ever had the pleasure to taste and the staff at elements and the folks at Ideas in Food came up with some great ways to showcase not only the flavors of the pig, but everything else they served with it. I usually don’t order pork when we go out to eat, but should I ever see Mangalitsa on the menu, I don’t think I could turn it down. It was truly an incredible evening.

At the end of the night I went over to Scott to thank him for the wonderful evening and suggested that they have Mangalitsa hash on the brunch menu the following Sunday. The Husband and I figured that it couldn’t hurt to ask, and Scott then seemed to think it was a good idea. That was some of the best freaking hash either of us has ever had. Holy wow.

I can’t wait till they’re back from vacation.

Some links:

to elements blog with pictures by Shola

Jay’s Strange Blog which I found while looking for pictures/posts to help fill in my memory.

Sette Cucina Italiana

  • Posted on August 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville is where the Husband and I dined with two foodie friends this past Tuesday evening.

From the moment you walk in, this quaint BYOB evokes the spirit of Italy. There are only about 8 tables so even on a Tuesday night we were grateful to have reservations. I know, even as I begin to write this, that this may come off as a fairly negative review but it’s not. Everything was good, desserts were outstanding. I’d go back again, but would probably wait until the menu changes.

The menu on the website is the current one. There was one appetizer special of broccoli rabe stuffed with cheese and fried (no price was given when it was described to us). It was very tasty, but the portion, like the portions of all the appetizers, were fairly small and not really sized for sharing. We also got and shared a braised artichoke filled with ragusano cheese and a buffalo mozzarella and tomato. The artichokes were a little undercooked but tasty. The fresh mozzarella was really the standout, simple and fresh.

Bread service as a single sesame topped roll with an herbed dipping oil. We all agreed that there was too much crust and crunch and not enough bread-y goodness. No additional bread was offered after the first.

For mains, I had the Zuppa di Mare. The Husband and one friend had the pork loin rolled with fontina cheese and pancetta in a cream truffle sauce; our friend also had the cod wrapped in parchment. All three entrees also came with roasted potatoes and braised red cabbage. The seafood was all perfectly cooked but the broth was lacking some oomph. Usually you want to sop up all the sauce with some bread. Aside from the lack of bread to do so with, it just didn’t seem to be worth the calories. The pork loin wasn’t bad, by any means, it just wasn’t very interesting, either. It was also a touch overcooked, which made the texture a little less than perfect. The cod was also tasty, but again, nothing spectacular. I was told that the rosemary in the dish dominated the flavor profile. I didn’t try the potatoes or red cabbage but I did notice that everyone left some cabbage.

Desserts, all made in house, were a pleasant improvement over the mains and were absolutely delicious. We shared three for the table- Millefoglie Layered puff pastry with a lemon custard, orange Panna Cotta and Profiterol, cream puffs with chocolate sauce. Our friends were fondest of the profiterol, which I thought had just a bit too much chocolate sauce on top. The panna cotta was deemed outstanding by the Husband, and reason enough for him to return.The lemon custard in pastry was also delicious.

The desserts were impressive enough that we all said that we would give it at least another change but again probably not till the menu changes.

A note on the service. We’re not sticklers for white glove, five star service, but there is a basic requirement of being able to communicate well, if not clearly, with those who are staffing our table. For most of our meal, we were attended to by the owner/manager/executive chef/pastry chef. But when he was unavailable, the busser who assisted was not able to communicate well. Wine was almost poured when we asked for it to be chilled and we had a hard time getting his attention when we were ready to have it poured. He certainly tried to be helpful, but the language barrier was definitely present.

We had a delightful evening with lovely company, a good meal, ending on just the right, sweet note. Although we won’t be rushing back to Sette Cucina Italina, we could certainly recommend it for a satisfactory meal to anyone in the area.

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.

Brunch at Elements

  • Posted on July 27, 2009 at 7:11 am

It is one of the nicer feelings for a foodie to be led to the Chef’s table by the chef himself. Furthermore, also being told that the table has already been set for us in anticipation of our arrival – with NO reservations!

We love it there – the Chef’s table is in a spacious alcove adjoining the kitchen. From there one can watch all the hustle and bustle as the amazing staff at Element’s prepares the finest, freshest foods.

Because of my perfume allergies, it is SO cool of the staff to allow to sit there as often as we do. Otherwise there is a good chance that our meal will be ruined by some person who has just poured a bottle of stink over their heads instead of settling for the clean smell of soap.

Oh, and a very big thank you to Chef Scott Anderson for making me a Perfect-10 breakfast – a simple dish of 3 poached eggs, crispy house-cured bacon and buttered toast points. My hat is off to the man who understands the joys of the basic bacon-and-egg breakfast!

visiting vegans and elements

  • Posted on July 12, 2009 at 8:54 pm

I love my vegan friends and wish they would visit more often.

Saturday started at the farmer’s market, where I ran into one of the waitresses from the Plucky. Then to the Amish which was remarkably uncrowded. Finally to the supermarket then home. All sorts of good stuff piled in the fridge.

After all I ended up worrying and fussing, we didn’t eat a damn thing in the house! We ended up going to dinner at elements. The kitchen table was available and accommodating the two vegans was not a problem for them. It was a fabulous meal, and we plan on going back the next time they come visit for a five course tasting menu. The Husband and I started with Kindai tuna. They have a kindai tuna tataki (five slices of tuna served warm over soba noodles and kimchi, topped with sesame seeds, as well as a kindai tuna tartare, served with white soy, scallions and ginger. I’m not sure which I liked more, probably the tartare, but only because the tataki had sesame seeds in it. The Husband had the filet and I had the scallop. This was at least as good as any scallops I have had any place else, if not better. They were served with the most remarkable fried broccoli and carrots.

For a change, we had dessert. The Husband had sicilian pistachio ice cream and Bailey’s ice cream. I had the blueberry dessert which was a phenomenal blueberry cobbler, blueberry sorbet and the most remarkable blueberry mousse, made with mascarpone cheese. Just delicious.

Our guests had a wonderful time was well. We also got to see a friend who works in the kitchen who we haven’t seen since she doesn’t do brunch which is usually when we are there. We also had cocktails for a change, too. The Husband tried two of their sake’s. The first one I liked very much. The second packed way too much of a punch for me. I had a “puesta de sol- mount gay eclipse rum, espiritu, blueberry, lime.” That’s how they describe it on the menu, but that doesn’t tell you that it’s really a fresh blueberry foam that they use and when it settles it darkens the color of the drink. It was quite tasty and definitely not overwhelming.

Speaking of brunch, we were back at elements for brunch today. We both had the french toast, and the Husband had poached eggs to go with his. I had a mimosa, too, a nice treat! The french toast was outrageous; that BLiS maple syrup is just incredible.

Tomorrow we get to host some of them here for a BBQ. I’m trying not to be too neurotic about the food. I have fillet mignons, chicken breasts, hamburgers, turkey burgers all from the Amish and hot dogs if we decide to go really low-brow. Macaroni and potato salad from the Amish, and I keep contemplating making a horseradish potato salad as well. I have the marinated mushrooms. Chips and salsas, veggies, humus and pita. Fruit. Lots of sorbets and ice creams. I’ve got a cherry vanilla chilling now to be frozen and then a malted milk that I’m going to make the base for today and freeze tomorrow. That’s in addition to the four (maybe five?) I already have in the freezer.  I think I’m going to make blondies too. I should’ve made the flourless chocolate cake but I didn’t think of it in time. Oh, well.

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…