Interpretive-American Fare

Last May for Russ’ birthday he chose “elements” in Princeton, NJ, which was situated above the innovative restaurant Mistral, an establishment we hoped to patronize in the future. Serendipitously, local food activist Scott Anderson broke into the Philadelphia market in early 2017, with another seasonally fared Mistral restaurant in the King of Prussia Mall (KoP). So less than a year later we were fortunate enough to dine with a group of friends at the new location.

But before our reservations, the eight of us all gathered at Kim and Jeff’s beautifully decorated townhome in Collegeville, conveniently located about 8 miles from the KoP Mall. The last time we were all together was six months ago down in Culpeper, VA for Paula and Mike Graham’s daughter Kelsey’s wedding back in September. It was time for some catching up…

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What I didn’t know was that Jeff and Kim, above, are as enthusiastic chefs as me and Russ, and find pleasure in cooking as a team. After greetings and choices of wine in hand, we were treated to a tour of the home they moved into three years ago. Jeff proudly announced that Kim was the interior decorator and picked all of the choices, from flooring, to cabinets, countertops and light fixtures. However they are still waiting for the painter to come and give it that finishing touch with their already chosen color palette.

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It was almost ludicrous to plan on dining out after the wonderful, and plentiful, appetizers prepared by Kim and Jeff. The ramekins of seafood salad were plump full of crab, lobster and shrimp with a slight kick from the vinaigrette. And those crab-stuffed cooked mushrooms were divine! Kim admitted the dumplings were store bought, but she did make the accompanying tasty soy-scallion dipping sauce.

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Denise, Dan and Russ sip some wine while enjoying each other’s company.

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Paula and Mike on the other side of the large kitchen island.

Satiated from all of the wonderful appetizers and Jeff’s wine cellar bursting with a fine selection of reds, we had second thoughts about leaving—but go we did, since we had reservations and we all were excited about checking the place out.

After the short ride over, we were seated immediately at a long table with a view into the open kitchen. Our one complaint was the proximation to the front door. It being a bitterly cold night, as other diners entered, we were occasionally hit with a cold breeze. But we soldiered on. Jeff chose a bottle of red which five of us shared, while three others imbibed on a selection of beers. Now it was time to make the hard decisions and narrow down our choices on what to eat…

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The ladies, Kim, Denise, Lynn and Paula line one side of the table…

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…while our other halves, Mike (not pictured), Russ, Dan and Jeff line the other.

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All together here…

Mistral’s menu is a vanguard of modern-global cuisine. As their website states “culinary pioneer’s chef Scott Anderson and chef de cuisine Ben Nerenhausen place a superlative emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, ultimately creating a progressive menu of seasonally curated small plates for guests to savor and share.” Both Scott and Ben were named as 2014 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finalists — Scott for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, and Ben for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Impressive!

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The word Mistral derives from a strong Mediterranean wind that sweeps through, bringing fresh air and clearing weather. We are excited for Mistral KOP to bring that same sense of fresh air to the Montgomery County dining scene.
— Chef Scott Anderson

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Menu items differ from Mistral Princeton to reflect the highest quality ingredients that Montgomery County PA’s local farms, aquaculturists and butchers have to offer. A good portion of their menu is geared towards sharing, with plates a little smaller although not to be mistaken as tapas.

To begin, we ordered an assortment of Snacks, Small Bites and Salads. Wings with tamarind glaze and sesame; Hush Puppies with bacon, horseradish and dill dipping cream; Market Greens Salad with roasted vegetable puree, shaved gouda, pumpkin seed tossed in a  vinaigrette; Bucatini Cacio y Pepe with parmesan and uni; Pork Riblets on scallion pancakes with pickled cucumber; Crispy Maitake Mushrooms with broccoli, grilled onion, and topped with a creme fraiche; and last but not least Grilled Calamari with papaya salad, peanuts, and brown butter.

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Chicken Wings for Dan

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Hush Puppies for Denise and Kim who loved them so much she intends on going back for some take out orders

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The ginormous salad for Lynn

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Buccatini for Jeff

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Mike had the Pork Riblets

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A bowl of Crispy Maitake Mushrooms for Russ

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And Paula had the interesting plate of Grilled Calamari

For our main dishes, the most popular choice was the Wagyu Beef, which Russ, Mike, and Denise all opted for. The steak was accompanied by a celery root purée, maitake mushrooms and sunchokes. Russ gave me a taste and it was definitely drool-worthy!

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Paula and I chose the Olive Oil-Poached Organic Salmon with onion soubise, roasted red baby beets, mustard, and buttermilk. The salmon was exquisite and melted in your mouth!

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Jeff decided on the Lamb Belly with chickpea panisse, anchovy, and green olives and loved it. While Dan enjoyed his Grilled Shrimp Caesar with baby gem lettuce, anchovies and Parmesan as an entrée.

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Finally for dessert, a few of the couples split some Peanut Mousse with banana pudding, peanut crunch and apricot. While they agreed it was good, they weren’t over the top with it.

For our next get together we talked about the possibility of doing one of those Amazing Escape Rooms, a recent worldwide trend. The idea is to challenge your mind and ability to collaborate with others in an interactive, team-building environment in your choice of a variety of themed rooms. Paula and Mike, along with several of their kids, recently had a great time busting out of one in Philly.

Here’s how it works—Groups of up to 10-12 will work together to solve problems, uncover clues, and crack codes in order to progress as a team. You and your team have 60 minutes to escape the room. Each room has a storyline that you’ll be introduced to upon entering, along with basic instructions on what you’ll need to uncover to escape.

I’m hoping they have a Culinary-themed room, which would be just the ticket for this group!

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