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