Monthly Archives: October 2014

Black Horse Tavern

With 24 taps, three bars, two dining rooms, and plenty of room for first-rate live entertainment the Black Horse Tavern has it all for a night-on-the-town experience. Take a trip back in time to this historic building with a home town feel located on South State Street near the corner of Centre Avenue. Plan on giving yourself some extra time before your dinner reservation to window shop, or actually make a purchase at any number of retail shops along State Street.

On our last Saturday night visit, the service was extremely slow due to the singular chef in the kitchen, and it was apparent that all of the other patrons had also been waiting a long time for their meals to arrive. But our attentive waiter brought us several glasses of wine (on the house!) while we listened to the delightful live music wafting in from the upstairs piano bar.

"BHT" truffle fries
“BHT” truffle fries

Neither of us had lunch that day and by the time our 8:00 reservation rolled around we were famished, so for the appetizer we ordered the “BHT” Truffle Fries: hand-cut fries tossed in truffle oil with parmesan and Belgian aioli. OMG, decadently sinful! A rare treat, I could have been satisfied with just those. But since we had a $35 GroupOn to use up, we opted to stay for dinner. Our entree selections were the Duck Maxie: house-smoked duck breast with duck confit, hand-rolled pan-seared gnocchi, sautéed spinach, mushrooms and black truffle foie gras butter for Russ; and a perfectly cooked, medium-rare 12-ounce New York Strip Steak for Lynn which came with a choice of four sauces, my pick: the sherry-braised onions. Sides came with a choice of white rice, roasted red bliss potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes or Black Horse big fries; and sautéed spinach rounded out the platter.

New York Strip Steak
New York Strip Steak
Duck Maxie
Duck Maxie

Despite the long wait, the evening was pleasant enough, and we were in no hurry. There’s no doubt we’ll return again.

Advertisements

Fun and Fabulous Tasting Event

Foodie Fun—In mid-October Russ and I attended a tasting event hosted by Mercer County Community College’s Culinary Arts program that featured more than a dozen of the region’s finest restaurants. In addition, current MCCC culinary students and alumni staffed tables with some of their own edibles. And tasty they were! In total, at least 200 attended/worked the sold out affair which included 136 paying guests.

agricola
The staff from Agricola pose behind their organic pastry display.

PalaceOfAsia
Palace of Asia dishes out their offerings. 

My first stop was at Stone Terrace where I chose a sampling of their divine Lobster Mac N Cheese, and a fall salad with mixed greens, sliced apples, walnuts, cranberries drizzled with a light dressing. Next I made a beeline for Toscano’s whose display of a variety of Italian meats, cheeses, breads and a mouth-watering Gnocchi Osso Buco was to die for! I made sure to tell everyone I encountered to try it.

I can’t even begin to describe all of the offerings, but here’s a few more: Pumpkin Soup with Cranberry Crouton and Microgreens, Mini Jalapeño Quesadillas, Tuna Tartar, Italian Meatballs with Mozzarella Cheese, Prosciutto Di Parma, Gnocchi with Brussels Sprout Leaves, Seared Scallop Spoons, Poached Salmon, all kinds of meats, cheeses, olives and spreads.

salmon platter5   platter2 platter1   gnocchi.brusselsprouts   ChickenSalad bites.plate

Desserts were aplenty with Organic Pumpkin Spice Donuts with Maple Icing from Agricola–a huge hit at our table! Other offerings included an assortment of mini-cupcakes, fruit pastries, crumb cake, parfaits, scones and meringues. While a coffee barista made sure you enjoyed a fresh brewed cup of coffee to go with dessert.

pastries dessert.plate1

Participating restaurants included Jersey Girl Café, Blue Bottle Café, Palace of Asia, Agricola (fabulous restaurant in Princeton that I blogged on this past summer), Jammin’ Crepes, Nassau Inn, Pure, Small World Coffee, Sadie Cakes, Stone Terrace by John Henry’s, and Terra Momo Bread Company, among others.

Scholarship1
Student Natalie Russano receives the first scholarship award.

bacon.egg.shoes
Chef/Professor Frank Benowitz models his “bacon and egg” shoes.

The evening also featured a silent auction, with many restaurant certificates and food-related items available. All proceeds from the event benefited the Chef Anne Lumberger and Chef Sari Widmayer Pastry Arts Memorial Scholarship Fund. And the first scholarship was awarded to an unsuspecting student, Natalie Russano, at the end of the event. Yours truly, bid on, and actually won two silent auction items: gift certificates to Stone Terrace and Karla’s of New Hope!

What a fabulous way to experience a large variety of delectable food options and donate to a worthy cause at the same time! So get it on your calendar for next year (more to come next Fall.)

Thanks to Wendy Humphrey for the addition of the “people” photos!

The Blood Sucker

On this fine Fall Saturday morning, a week before Halloween, I remembered I had a stash of frozen blood orange juice in the freezer. You may remember my blog on said fruit back in the Winter months (it can be found under the Food Fetish tab). While it was thawing, I started imagining an adult beverage using the juice.

blood.sucker.tall.glass

So I concocted the “Blood Sucker” a very appropriate Halloween adult libation that is wickedly good! It was only 10 a.m. when I assembled my first batch—yes, I did have a small taste—and a drink worth waiting for when cocktail time rolls around…

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed blood orange juice, strained
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate Liqueur (I used Pama)
  • 1/2 cup premium vodka
  • Mint garnish (optional)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • one cup water

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. The syrup can be refrigerated in a glass jar for up to 1 month.

Make up the simple syrup ahead of time and let cool. Then combine all ingredients in container of choice. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour. When ready to imbibe, pour over crushed ice or straight into glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

Enjoy!

Tuscan Tuna Mac Casserole

finished.with.basil

—Tuna Casserole gets a much needed facelift with this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. Never one of my go-to favorites, I have now elevated the status of this common comfort food out of the lower echelon of possible dinner entrees… so yes, I will definitely make it again!

While I was skeptical about using only two 5-ounce cans of tuna (after all, it is supposed to serve 6-8), we didn’t feel cheated in the least. In fact, quite the opposite.

I’ll confess that I upped the cheese quotient from 4 ounces to about 6, and used a combination of green and purple basil but otherwise followed the recipe as written—except for length of cooking time. After 30 minutes, the crust wasn’t browned enough, so we let it cook for an additional 10 minutes and that gave us the perfect result!

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red and/or green sweet peppers
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons Tuscan Garlic Herb Blend (see below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked egg noodles
  • 2,  5-ounce cans oil-packed tuna, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

helping.of

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart au gratin or baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, peppers, and onion. Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in milk until smooth. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the herb mix, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Fold in the noodles, tuna and 3 tablespoons of the basil. Spread in prepared dish and arrange tomato slices over mixture in a single layer.
  4. In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, melted, remaining 1/2 tablespoon herb mix, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle over tomatoes. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are golden brown. Garnish with remaining basil.

Tuscan Garlic Herb Blend

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme, crushed
  • 4 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed

Shake everything together in a small jar, cover and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

A Purse Chair?

restaurant.sign

This just slayed me! While at a recent conference down in National Harbor, Maryland, we dined at Grace’s Mandarin, an Asian restaurant just across the way from the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center. We put this place on our short list when we visited in May and made online reservations before we even headed down.

purse.chair2

purse.chair

Have you ever seen a “purse chair” before?? Well, I hadn’t and I was so intrigued I had to get not just one, but two pictures of patrons putting them into action. Actually it’s a pretty cool idea if the table your seated at doesn’t have enough space to accompany your pocketbook in a “safe” fashion. Although Russ was mortified that I was even taking these pics!

OK, so since I’m blogging about Grace’s, I might as well mention the other restaurant particulars. It is quite a large establishment, with a decidedly zen-like atmosphere and a ginormous Buddha flanking a corner by the stairwell.  We were seated in prompt fashion in a cozy booth that allowed for easy conversation.

interior

buddha.lynn.distance

Our shared appetizer was a spicy tuna roll which came with the requisite soy sauce, wasabi paste and pickled ginger—quite good actually. In between this course and our main entrees we received “utensil chairs.” I kid you not! Check out the photo of our fork, spoon and chopsticks resting—another fabulous idea so that you don’t have to put them directly on the tabletop where germs may lurk (not an appetizing thought.)

spicy.tuna.rolls

silverware.bed

Our take on the food? Decent, but not a WOW factor. We’ve had better at restaurants close to home. That being said, my choice was the National Harbor Rice which was artfully plated with a beautiful edible flower and had lots of tender shrimp, scallops and crabmeat with peas, carrot, fried brown rice, ginger and egg white. Russ ordered the Crispy Beef which was tasty in its own right, just not earth-shattering.

national.harbor.rice.dish

crispy.beef

Would we go again? Sure! The menu was extensive so there are a lot of other options to try.

If you ever get the chance to visit, it’s a great little town just south of Capital Hill and across the Potomac from Alexandria, Virginia.

Enjoy!

 

Oh Me, Oh Miho

miyo.pear

On our latest excursion to McCaffery’s Supermarket in Newtown there was a display for a fruit we had never seen, called a Miho Asian Pear. At first glance, it resembles a yellow apple. To entice customers to try a sample, there was a display with bite-size pieces, so out of curiosity we each popped one in our mouths. The result, a crisp delicious juice-filled fruit with the texture of an apple and the mouth-watering juice content rivaling that of a watermelon. Soooo good, so we bought some.

They’re perfect to eat out-of-hand, and would be fabulous in any type of salad. Or try the pears with a glass of chardonnay and a slice of smoked gouda, or with salty blue cheese or duck. They can also be poached in Riesling or port wine for dessert. Plus they’re just interesting to look at and would make an artsy addition to a Fall arrangement.

Miho Asian Pears are grown in the fertile ground of the Lehigh Valley in Eastern PA at Subarashii Kudamono, a working farm that grows 10 to 20 varieties of Asian pears—but are not typically open to the public.

The pears are tree-ripened and picked precisely at the right time, and will not ripen further after picking. Asian pears do not need to soften, as other pears do, and can last two to three months in the refrigerator. The dried pears, without any additives, will last up to one year.

The rich flavor of Miho Pears is the result of meticulous orchard practices. The many varieties are the result of over a decade of variety trials and research. The growing season runs from early September through late October.

With a celebrated heritage dating back thousands of years, this wonderful fruit has been found to contain vitamins and nutrients (Luten & Zeaxanthin) that have been shown to increase macular pigment density and lower the risk for age-related macular degeneration. Asian Pears have long been served peeled and chilled as a desert, on late summer salads, or as a healthy snack.

Let me know if you end up trying (or have already tasted) a Miho pear.

Spanish Fiesta at Casa Hartman-Holl

This past April we vacationed in Italy with Paula and Mike Graham. Dining at their house a few months ago, we relived our “Italian” experience through a pasta-making dinner. So to reciprocate, we decided to transport them to Spain at our house this time around. And there’s nothing more quintessential Spanish than Paella, an icon of Spain’s cultural identity!

finished.paella

Classic Seafood Paella was the intended main course, with the salad from The New Spanish Table, Frisee with Pears and Honeyed Lardons (recipe follows), and a traditional flan planned for dessert. Several bottles of Rioja and Tempranillo wines were resurrected from the cellar; and it was up to the Grahams to provide a Spanish appetizer–and that they did with a platter of artsy piquillo pepper bites. On toasted baguette slices, stuffed with goat cheese, sprinkled with a smattering of sliced scallions and drizzled with balsamic glaze, not only were they visually appealing, but incredibly tasty too. The platter was a piece of art in itself!

paula's.app

After Mike exclaimed a few times that he really liked the apps, Paula confessed that he was a bit hesitant about the choice before they made the trip over. Not to worry, there wasn’t a morsel left on the platter.

mike.pouring.porron

An item of interest for Mike was our Porron: a traditional glass wine pitcher typical of many regions of Spain like Catalonia and Aragón. It resembles a cross between a wine bottle and a watering can. The top of the bottle is narrow and can be sealed off with a cork. It is shaped such that the wine stored inside it will have minimal contact with the air, while being ready to be used at all times. They are often shared while drinking directly from the vessel without using wine glasses—although that’s not a custom we engaged in.

paula.russ.mike

paula.lynn.mike

Visual steps to making the Paella:

raw.shellfish
The seafood at the ready.

making.sofrito
In Spanish cuisine, sofrito consists of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and grated tomatoes cooked in olive oil. 

rice.cooking
The Spanish bomba rice is cooking in the sofrito.

russ.cooking.shellfish
Russ cooks the shellfish in the paella pan while the scallops sear in another skillet.

paella.closeup
A close up of the finished paella.

flan
Traditional flan for dessert.

Continue reading Spanish Fiesta at Casa Hartman-Holl

In the ZONE at the Zarrilli’s

On a recent Saturday we were invited dinner guests of Rosanne and Gary Zarrilli (blogged about a few times previously), along with Barb and Arnie Marx. Upon arriving “in the zone”, husband Gary bounded outside to see if we needed help bringing anything in — and he was quick to specify “especially any hors d’oeuvres!”

tablescape

Several days prior, while ruminating on what to make, Russ and I came across a version of our appetizer on the web. After a little more online investigation, I found a similar recipe from the Showfood ChefProsciutto Cups with Goat Cheese and Figs, which seemed a bit more elegant than the first option. And we added our own touch with a drizzle of balsamic glaze as a finish. (Recipes follow story.)

prosciutto.platter

cucumber.app

pumpkin.platter.app

The Marx’s contributed a couple of visually attractive and equally tasty appetizers. Compiled of halved, fresh cucumbers spread with hummus and dotted with red pepper pieces — they were a fresh, and oh-so light, delight! Festively arrayed on a pumpkin platter, the other hors d’oeuvre was mini pizza-like pita wedges topped with cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese and fresh basil. So with glasses of wine in hand, we enjoyed cocktail hour while Rosanne occasionally attended to finishing touches to her entree and sides, which were quickly filling the kitchen with tantalizing aromas!

tomato.soup

As dinner was ready to serve, we gathered around Rosanne’s artistically arranged seasonal tablescape, and Gary served us with her first course, a wonderful Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary taken from Foodnetwork.com—a nice reprieve from the usual side salad. It was one of the best tomato soups I’ve ever had, so of course I had to get the recipe! Then the big guns came out… Two platters of Rosanne’s Succulent Marinated Chicken Breasts with roasted red peppers, asparagus and provolone; accompanied by an elongated, purple ceramic dish containing roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. No complaints from anyone on this meal!

chicken.entree

potatoes.asparagus

Dessert, was an elegant finishing touch—Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp, based on a recipe by Ina Garten, The Barfeoot Contessa. Conversation and laughter flowed easily while the evening wound down over coffee and dessert. Alas, all good things must come to an end—at least temporarily.
See the recipe for Rosanne’s novel take on Ina’s apple crisp …

scooping.dessert

plated.dessert

Continue reading In the ZONE at the Zarrilli’s