Eno Terra: Eat Local, Drink Global.

The best laid plans… My birthday agenda was going to include a fancy dinner followed by a “Monet in the Garden” Fountain & Fireworks (F&F) show at Longwood Gardens—over an hours drive from home. Wouldn’t you know, that Saturday was the first day of a predicted weeks-long rainy pattern, and the hourly forecast showed 100% heavy rain from mid-afternoon until past midnight.

Despite the dismal weather, the F&F wasn’t cancelled, so we altered our dinner plans for another evening, dressed in foul-weather gear, and made the trip to Longwood Gardens. And boy are we glad we did. What a show!! The shows are far and few between and sold out months in advance, but if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend…

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3.IMG_6370I couldn’t help myself by adding this video and a few pics from the event. But I digress…

Back to the food blog at hand (and where I finally had my birthday dinner)… According to their website, Eno Terra is founded on the principle of regionalism and seasonality drawing from local farmers, fishermen, grass fed beef and poultry producers and three season harvests from their Eno Terra Canal Farm. They’ve created an enhanced Enoteca style menu, to complement their farm-to-table multi course format.

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Located in Kingston, NJ, just outside of Princeton, Eno Terra, opened in 2008, is steeped in history and sits on the oldest highway in America—King’s Highway—which was a center point of local commerce. The restaurant itself is the site of the old Fisk General Store and dates back to the 1860s, with original beams and store foundation still in use in their wine cellar (ask to see them when you visit).

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For some reason, their small patio area was not available for seating, even though it was a gorgeous summer evening. Not to complain because the two-story space in a historic, wood-framed general store remains inviting, with its artful wall hangings of lichen and other living greenery. Their menu is Italian in sensibility, while the wine list focuses on Italy and the United States with an abundant representation from France and Spain. So many to choose from!

IMG_6600Russ spends some time reviewing all of the wine offerings, orders and Italian NOE Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, then I enjoy a sip…

Along with a separate detailed wine menu and a smattering of a few nightly specials, the menu is arranged into four segments (plus dessert) starting with their highly touted Salumi & Formaggi offerings. While waiting to be seated, Russ eyeballed the high-end Italian meat slicer (shown below) near the hostess station and just knew he was going to have to start with something in this category…

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IMG_6608…  Russ chose the Piccolo which allowed for four choices from the meat and cheese offerings, letting our very Italian waiter make the selections for him. Along with marinated Castelvetrano olives, also on the wooden plank platter was an array of spiced cashews, a fruit spread, walnut raisin bread slices, and melt-in-your-mouth Prosciutto di Parma and Coppa meats, and creamy cheeses Taleggio and 24-month Parmigianno. A meal in itself!

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Mid-summer screams fresh corn to me, so I began with a small portion of the Sweet Corn Soup. It was ever so delicately spiced with a nod toward the sweet and garnished with fresh heirloom tomato chunks and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Divine! Of course, we both shared a bit with each other so we could experience the entire meal together.

IMG_6611Our next hurdle was choosing from the Antipasti & Insalate or the Primi categories, so we went with one from each. Russ chose the San Marzano Lamb Meatballs, with four golf ball-sized mounds of meat smothered in the house’s bright, tangy roasted tomato sauce atop Anson Mills polenta, with shaved Pecorino and parsley.

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My pick was a Primi, the homemade Tagliatelle with braised veal, succulent Maitake mushrooms, mixed with Swiss chard and topped with rosemary and grated Pecorino. Our waiter raised an eyebrow when I mentioned I was also going to order a Secondi, so he suggested just a half order of the pasta, thank goodness, because that was plenty—and plenty tasty!

IMG_6614For his main dish, Russ zeroed in on the Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak grilled to a perfect medium-rare and accompanied by grilled asparagus, nantes carrots, rock potato and dressed with a clinging red wine jus. He absolutely marveled at how fantastic the vegetables were, especially the potatoes with their crisp exterior and creamy soft interiors. I had a taste and couldn’t have agreed more.

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An all-time favorite of mine are Scallops, and their line of five plump, perfectly seared dry sea scallops came christened with roasted pepper marmalade. They were paired with a baby kale, shaved fennel and citrus salad, and an artistic swash of Shishito pepper purée decorated the plate. Before finishing this course, we were quite full (surprised?), so about half of each dinner was packaged for home. And BTW, we had them the next day for lunch at the pool—even without reheating, they were amazingly good.

Definitely no room for dessert but it looked like they had some great options from scrutinizing offerings ordered by other diners. The meal was not rushed and the waitstaff was very attentive, making sure to keep our wine and water glasses refreshed as needed. Eno Terra, a new favorite? Quite possibly…

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