Princeton, NJ – 11/8/16 – elements

I am completely embarrassed that it took me so long to get to elements.  I have visited Mistral downstairs numerous times for drinks and for dinner and have been impressed each time.  I thus went into this dinner with high expectations and they were actually exceeded.  I somewhat still can’t believe that I had this meal in the suburban town where I spend far too much of my life working.  I am looking forward to a return visit as soon as I can talk another colleague into going!

Fluke – horseradish and lemon balm

Spanish mackerel – sunchoke, pickled ginger, mizuna

Lobster – chive, trout roe, parker house roll

Foie gras – brussels sprouts, apple, bacon, acorn squash

Squab – huckleberry, pine mushroom, potato

Ostrich – cumin, shallot, pork jus

Ribeye – hickory smoked, NJ rice, shiso

Wintergreen – custard and berries

Farmers cheese – caramel, hemlock, hazelnut

Favorite dishes of 2016

I started with more than 60 and have narrowed it down as much as possible. In no particular order here are my top dishes of 2016, whatever ‘top’ means on any such lists. Largely these dishes are not representative of my favorite meals of 2016 and many are from what I would consider casual restaurants. They may not all be the best dishes technically but are the dishes that I could eat every day and often have cravings for. In the interest of fairness of I have disqualified the Au Cheval burger, the Humm Dog, Black Truffle Explosion, and Oysters & Pearls as well as all bread courses.

balsamic, truffle, artichoke
Luskus with Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs
New York

osetra – plantain, papaya, rum

elvis tartine
Eating House

beef crudo
Momofuku Nishi
New York

farm egg baked in celery cream
Miller Union

foie gras and truffle macaroon
Osteria Francescana

sheep’s milk gnocchi
Jockey Hollow
Morristown, NJ

passionfruit semifreddo
Contra @ Gramercy Tavern
New York

carolina gold rice

Xiao Bao Biscuit

snap pea sushi
New York
pike quenelle

nam tok beans
Kin Khao
San Francisco

spicy tuna toast
New York

ko egg
Momofuku Ko
New York

general tso fried chicken
Chaan Teng
New York

Princeton, NJ – 8/23/16 – Mistral

As seems to happen at least once a month I somehow did not note descriptions of any of these dishes. Perhaps because we sat at the bar and ordered a dish or two at a time, or perhaps because we had original intentions of only a snack but everything was so good that we kept ordering. Everytime I come here I think that it gets better and better. The burger was absolutely killer and I do not say that lightly (despite the non-Heinz ketchup on the side).

Morristown, NJ – 4/30/16 – Jockey Hollow

Each time that I visit Jockey Hollow I wish that I lived closer.  On this particular date luckily a family get-together put me about half way there and so seemed like a perfect excuse for another meal in the Dining Room.  I hate to repeat previous posts so I can summarize to say that this was a fantastic meal as always.  My favorite dish turned out to be the one that on paper should have been my least favorite – the gnocchi with oysters and white asparagus, the latter two ingredients ones that I generally dislike.  I love when that happens. But the two other pastas incorporating one of my absolute favorite ingredients – spring peas – were a close second.  If you haven’t been here yet do yourself a favor and go!

Grilled Spanish Octopus – eggplant, black olive and ‘nduja
Buffalo Milk Giuncata – spring produce, toasted yeast and romaine vinaigrette

Fluke Crudo – caper gremolata and vegetables sott’aceto
Squid Ink Garganelli – sliced calamari, neonata and bottarga

Spring Pea Agnolotti – king crab, asparagus and bernaise
Sheep’s Milk Gnocchi – Forth North oysters, white asparagus and crispy speck
Lamb Confit Cappellacci – spring pea broth, mint and pecorino pepato

Dry Aged Filet Mignon – potato puree, grilled romaine, ramps, and tendon ragu

Poached black bass – salsify, wild mushrooms, bulgur wheat and saffron nage

Kurobuta Pork Filet – roasted carrot, mushroom ragu and baby turnips

Sicilian Pistachio Tart – pistachio brittle, lemon curd and honey ice cream
Chocolate Date Cake – coffee anglaise, cacao nibs, and buttermilk sorbet
Creme Caramel – carrot pecan cake, coconut sorbet and toffee sauce
Cardamom Rice Pudding – poached rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet

Montclair, NJ – 3/28/16 – Luca Roagna Dinner at Laurel & Sage

I have had a wonderful time at all of the wine dinners I have attended in Montclair organized by local wine shop Amanti Vino. But this one I was definitely most excited about attending having greatly enjoyed quite a few Roagna wines (and my favorite being the Barolo Chianto). Luca Roagna is so energetic and engaging and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to hear him talk about these wines. This was my first visit to Laurel & Sage and I would definitely go back!

Duck confit ravioli – caramelized mushroom, black truffle emulsion
Paired with 2008 Paje & 2010 Paje
Lamb ragu – semolina pappardelle, goat cheese
Paired with 2005 Pira (magnum) and 2010 Pira
Veal chop – panzanella, gorgonzola, foie demi
Paired with 2006 Barolo “Vigna Rionda”

Belgian dark chocolate sampling
Paired with NV Barolo Chianto

Jersey City, NJ – 11/28/15 – Bell & Gray

I’m not quite sure why the original Carrino Provisions did not really catch on when Talde next door seems quite popular. And based on this one visit I’m not sure if the re-do into Bell & Gray will catch on either.  Something about the front space just isn’t very cozy and when empty it seems VERY empty.  Service was incredibly friendly and everything we ordered was good. But overall the menu leans a bit too sports bar or heavy for my personal taste. I would definitely go back but perhaps not as frequently as next door.

The Jazzy Jeff Flatbread – crushed avocado, confit tomato, corn, pickled red onion

Kale taco salad – salsa verde, cheddar, onion, cilantro crema, tomato, black olive
 Shaved apple, roasted beet, peanuts, cheddar, cherry vinaigrette

Spare ribs – Dr. Pepper, black pepper, smoked paprika almonds

Crispy chicken wings, smoked molasses, chilis, gorgonzola ranch

Black zuchette, blue crab, garlic fondutta, jalapeño

Morristown, NJ – 10/23/15 – Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen

I can’t believe that I find myself trying to talk anybody into heading into the depths of New Jersey for dinner.  Continuously fantastic and worth the drive more so than perhaps anything else in the state.  We ended up with quite a lot of food on this visit and I am proud of my dining companions who aren’t quite the professional eater that I try to be.  Thank you Chris James for the fantastic cocktails.  When I ask to be surprised with something gin based as my first drink and get my absolute favorite, the Last Word, it was obviously going to be a good night.  Congratulations on the well deserved recognition from Esquire magazine!

Braised Octopus – tomato asopao, green olive gremolata
 Autumn Salad – roasted root vegetables, almond cracker, brown butter gastrique
 Hand Cut Sirloin Tartare – potato rosti, cornichons, egg yolk
 Fusilli Pasta – spicy sausage, broccoli rabe, controne beans
 Arancini- mortadella, pistachio, pomodoro sauce
 Caramelized Squash Crostino – gorgonzola and ricotta, toasted pumpkin seeds
 Yellowtail – chicken skin, scallions
 Cheese Plate – robiola fiorita, gorgonzola dolce, pecorino grand cru, castelrosso
 Charcuterie – spicy sopressata, prosciutto, bresaola, pickled vegetables
 Desserts (unfortunately missing descriptions)
 Banana Hammock

Morristown, NJ – 7/21/15 – Jockey Hollow

If I lived Morristown I would definitely be a regular at Jockey Hollow. Lucky for me a meeting had me in the area so I thought it was the perfect excuse to check out the bar menu. Right before this visit head bartender Christopher James posted a photo of a Ramos Gin Fizz variation on instagram. It had been years since I have had a Ramos because the best versions were made by the most talented bartender I have ever known, Jason Cevallos. I didn’t even have to ask for one but on every visit to the Office @ the Aviary, a different version would appear in front of me at some point during the night. Jason tragically passed away almost 2 years ago and I’ve just never been able to order one since. But I saw this picture and it was the first time I’ve wanted one. The stars aligned with an almost empty bar so I didn’t have to feel too badly about ordering such a time consuming drink. It seems so strange that a cocktail can bring back so many memories. It was wonderful and I’m glad to be back in the Ramos game.
Unfortunately I was totally sidetracked and didn’t make very good notes about everything else we ordered. However it was all fantastic and to call this a ‘bar’ menu certainly does not do it justice. The skate I am still thinking about….

 Spicy tuna crudo  Skate    CC burger – raclette, slab bacon, salt & vinegar fries

Morristown, NJ – 6/6/15 – Jockey Hollow

I have no idea how many times I have driven by the Vail Mansion in Morristown and somehow never even noticed it. I suppose that is because it sits slightly back from the street but I am kicking myself for being so oblivious.  I remember making a mental note when Jockey Hollow opened but then somehow forgot about it. Perhaps a bit late, but I am so glad I finally made it here.  Such an absolutely beautiful building that it has been impeccably restored and is being utilized in such a fantastic way. I hope to check out the downstairs menus on a future trip although it will be difficult to miss out on the upstairs dining room. I do love how occasionally things come full circle. Many years ago I had lunch at L’Impero (and then Convivio) quite frequently as I worked only a block away and loved the brief escape into tudor city.  So its no surprise that I would love a place where Chris Cannon, Ron Morgan and Chef Kevin Sippel have been reunited from those days.  And its no surprise that all of the pastas were amazing.  But actually everything was!  Such a completely pleasant surprise to be in NJ and not feel like you are in NJ at all.

Yellowtail Toro Crudo – red radish, toasted quinoa and white asparagus

Scrambled Hen Egg – American caviar and accoutrements

Spring Pea Raviolini – carbonara, pea tendrils, smoked speck and king crab

Lamb Neck Casoncelli – wild ramp pesto and pane mollica

Duck Liver Agnolotti – fava beans, pecorino and mint gremolata

Monkfish Porchetta – pancetta, bean salad and adobo crema

Dry Aged Prime Sirloin – brussels sprouts and bone marrow au poivre

Buttermilk Spring Chicken – country ham, ragusano wild lettuces

Pavlova – cardamom rice pudding, rhubarb compote and rhubarb sorbet

Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese – cornmeal fritter, maple walnuts, huckleberries and frisee

Jersey City – 4/25/15 – Razza Pizza Artigianale

Its so great to see so many new places opening on the western side of the Hudson.  Razza is rather small and does not take reservations so a wait is very likely.  Unfortunately you actually have to stay and wait and they will not call or text you like so many other places now do.   Fortunately there is ample room to wait, but no seating so plan your footwear accordingly.  I may have skipped ordering the bread and butter if I hadn’t previously read so many great things about it.  The homemade butter was outstanding and next time I will definitely be having a double order.  The homemade bread from the wood fired oven was perfect accompaniment.  The pork pie sounds as good as it actually is and is baked with cubes of gelatinized pork which melt over the top while baking.  But most surprising was the panna cotta, a dessert I typically hate and completely avoid.  If only all were as dense as this and topped with a layer of salted caramel.

Ceci – chickpeas with CA EVOO and parmigiano reggiano

Bread and butter

Farmers salad

Special pizza of the day

Pork pie – pork broth, bacon, shaved onion, parmigiano

Panna cotta


Princeton – 4/14/15 – Mistral

On my first trip to Mistral a few months ago, I enjoyed each dish individually but the menu seemed very disjointed. Some dishes were very complex, others were very simple and they just didn’t seem to belong in the same restaurant. I’m very glad I made a return visit and happy to see what appears to be a lot of growth and a very cohesive menu. Now if only Elements would hurry up and reopen so I would have another option in Princeton!

Sunchoke tahini, warm pita, caviar, sieved egg
Squash & Kale salad, mole granola, queso fresco, chipotle , cacao
Charred squid salad, green curry, peanuts, coconut, puffed rice
Pork Belly Tteokbokki, jersey rice dumplings, fermented radish, shitake

Tuna tartare, turnip tofu, furikake, ponzu

Warm date cake, cream cheese ice cream, pecan crunch

Jersey City – 2/20/15 – Talde

I have to admit that my favorite part of this evening was seeing Joe Guidice at a table behind me with a tired stereotypical NJ blonde (and not the same one that appeared on the covers of tabloids a week later).  I love seeing some redevelopment in Jersey City and hope this area continues to improve.  Great food, although nothing was what I would have assumed.  Unfortunately no photos as it was so dark in this restaurant that everything is just a messy black blob.

Princeton, NJ – 11/4/14 – Agricola

As I spend everyday there I am trying to visit the Princeton spots worth visiting. There were things I really liked about Agricola, but a few I just couldn’t get past. The cocktails were surprisingly good as were the starters. But in November I expect a ‘fall squash’ flatbread to contain butternut or acorn, not what I consider summer squash. And while the cranberry walnut bread pudding sounded delicious it was oddly flavorless and spongy (hence no photo).
Great Road Farm Slow Roasted Beets – coach farm goat cheese, spicy carrots

Kale salad – roasted delicate squash, shaved radish, toasted pumpkin seed vinaigrette

Manchester Farms Quail – polenta, salsa verde

Striped Bass – turnip chowder

Fall squash flatbread – sweet potato, arugula-pecan pesto, house made maple ricotta


Princeton, NJ – 9/29/14 – Mistral

I had been meaning to get Mistral for several months as I need to accept that I now work in the suburbs and make the best of it. But it took me far too long to find somebody to drag along and subject to my picture taking. I’m definitely looking forward to a return visit in cooler weather when I will want to sit beside the very cute fireplace.

Warm falafel salad – sprouted grains, black sesame, carrots cooked in barley


Blue crab salad – green curry, peanuts, coconut, puffed rice


Lamb tartare – kefir, spelt, marinated eggplant


Gulf snapper – tomato escabeche, crispy okra, pardon peppers


Poached egg – pomodoro, roasted squash, bottarga, crunchy pasta


Kali short rib – kimchi,mcicumber, scallion


Sweet steamed bun – plums, buckwheat, miso


Brown butter cake – banana, walnut, rum


Jersey City – 9/13/14 – Thirty Acres

Thirty Acres is still the best thing in Hudson County by a mile but unfortunately this wasn’t my favorite meal there. Thankfully the lemon bar always saves the day.

Seared squid – squid ink and roasted garlic sauce, oregano


Spicy eggplants – tahini quark sauce, za’atar, pine nuts, parsley


Shishito peppers – melon guanciale, basil


Fried corn gnocchi – shrimp, tomato sauce, chili flakes, basil


Pork neck – sunflower hozon jus, baby lettuce, chives


Lemon bar