Friday, February 6, 2009

Eating Out Without Breaking the Bank

By Millicent K. Brody

Maybe its’ been a while since you’ve been out to dinner with friends. Secretly, you’re craving a meal in a restaurant, but your budget and wallet are screaming, “NOT YET!”

“Well, why not?” says I. You can do it! Change your dining patterns. Instead of going to dinner, meet for breakfast.

Most neighborhood diners offer daily breakfast specials. If that doesn’t work, head over to Mama’s Caboose in Berkeley Heights for a hunk of Kim’s delicious sour cream coffee cake with apricots and a cup of illy coffee. Or stop by Culinary Creations in Hillsborough for one of Andrew Pantano’s breakfast specials. Visit your local bagel place. Grab a table, order a bagel with lox and a smear of cream cheese with tomato and onion, and a cup of coffee. Livingston Bagel in Livingston offers all you’d ever want to eat for breakfast. You take your place on a queue, place your order, and pay for exactly what is on your tray. That way, YOU are in control of YOUR bill.

Dinner options could easily begin with drinks and hors ‘d'oeuvres at your house. Then on to a restaurant where you may order several appetizers, dessert, and coffee. Or, you could easily share a couple of appetizers, an entree, an order of pasta, one dessert, and coffee. Or simply, go out for dessert and coffee. If you’re wandering around Westfield, stop in at the Chocolate Bar. Not only will you love a cup of Neil’s Belgian hot chocolate and a dish of his house-made gelato, you’re sure to enjoy the art of dining out.

$$$$: Consider asking for separate checks. Although this practice is not exactly in vogue today, it's certainly acceptable.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Art of Loveless Cooking

By Judy Garfield

I am a loveless cook.

NJL has taken a bold step allowing me to write a cooking column. To paraphrase the late Peg Bracken, who wrote the I HateTo Cook Book, “Some people like to cook. This column is not for them.”

Peg Bracken called herself a humorist. I consider myself more of a gloomerist. I suppose this is why I dislike cooking so much. Always anticipating the horrible things that can go awry with every recipe. And so much work. Ugh. The worst part? People expect you to do this EVERY DAY. So, since I like to eat pretty much everything and hate to cook pretty much anything, I try to get my husband S. to cook. One thing we loveless cooks instinctively do is find a significant other who likes to cook. And I did.

S. is a fabulous cook, and he really enjoys the process. But there are some dishes that cry out for a disinterested, dispassionate person like myself. Southern fried chicken is one of my favorites. My mother, who is from Portsmouth, VA, made this dish a lot
before we were aware of annoying words like cholesterol and plaque. It’s easy to make and delicious, and once in a while a nice treat.

Loveless Fried Chicken
1 chicken cut up
2 cups flour
salt, pepper, paprika to taste
brown paper lunch bags
vegetable oil

Combine flour and seasonings in a plastic bag. Shake chicken in bag till well coated. Heat enough oil in cast iron skillet to almost cover chicken. Use tongs to drop in chicken and brown evenly. Remove and drain on brown paper bags covered with paper towels.

Note: Cast iron pan is essential!

We like to eat it at room temperature. You could throw in some healthy side dishes, but stay away from anything too complicated. S. is always surprised I can make something so tasty. I told him less is best. Too much love can kill a good piece of fried chicken.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don’t Forget Chablis

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Last Friday night, my husband and I made our way to the symphony at Lincoln Center, but not before stopping in Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s newest notch. Praised for a stellar wine list and delectable French fare, I was super excited to indulge. In an instant that feeling fizzled as the leather-bound book of wine was gently placed in my hands. I couldn’t help but think, if you have a friend who loves to cook, do you always insist they make you dinner? Or perhaps a food lover is among your inner circle. Do you always ask them to order your meal? The point is, even if I am a sommelier, we all like to take a night off once in a while.

I motioned to the sommelier actually being paid for that evening, and asked him make the choice for us. I felt a rush of excitement and was anxious to taste the mystery wine. In a fabulous accent, he presented a beautiful bottle, one that had not even crossed my mind, a Premier Cru Chablis. We were both delighted and sipped and swirled with ease. The pressure was off. My advice is to use the sommelier and let your wine-loving friends off the hook once in a while. There’s a good chance you’ll all be steered to something new and fabulous.

Michael Madrigale’s (Bar Boulud’s Sommelier) Pick- 2006 Chablis Premier Cru, Montée de Tonnerre, Domaine Vocoret (retail $30- at Bar Boulud $85)
This Chablis was flinty, so if you’re unsure of that descriptor pick up a bottle of this for a lively lesson. It was incredibly seductive from the very first sip. I loved that the body of this wine caressed the palate and was punctuated with the perfect pop of acidity. It worked with everything from oysters and octopus to pate and pickled onions. A fabulous French fling all the way around the glass!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Spot of Art

By Brianne Harrison

With the economy the way it is and people losing their homes, now might not seem the best time to give money to the arts instead of, say, charities devoted to homelessness or mortgage relief. But as important as those charities are, it’s also vital to support the arts and their venues, many of which struggle even when the economy is strong.

All things considered, it was both surprising and gratifying to see such a large crowd at Princeton Art Museum’s annual fundraiser last Saturday night. More than 200 art lovers and patrons descended on the jewel of a museum in the middle of campus to meet and greet, enjoy some drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and in some cases, give informal guided tours of the collection that would put many professional guides and docents to shame.

And what a collection they have to work with! Although the museum isn’t large, it boasts works from some of the best-known artists in history (Monet, Manet, Degas, and Goya share wall space with Georgia O’Keefe, John Singleton Copley, and Andy Warhol) along with dozens of little- or unknowns. The museum also has two rooms filled with ancient artifacts, including a fragment from an Egyptian sarcophagus, pieces of Greek and Roman statuary, jewelry, and incense burners.

Perhaps one of the best things about the museum is that it’s free and open to the public, although there is a fee to view certain special exhibitions. If you’re in the Princeton area and hankering for a spot of art, the museum is certainly worth an hour or two of your time.

The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, please call 609.258.3788 or visit

Monday, February 2, 2009

Breakfast at the Blue Rooster

By Pat Tanner

In these, the statistically snowiest weeks of the year, my thoughts turn to breakfast; specifically, the warm, comforting, stick-to-the-ribs (and other interior regions) varieties. In truth, breakfast is my favorite meal year round, and I happily eat breakfast foods any time of day.

So it’s no wonder I have fallen head-over-heels for Cranbury’s Blue Rooster Bakery & Café, which opened last fall in a pretty Victorian house on Main Street in that quaint old town. Owners Karen and Bob Finigan say their bakery/café/gourmet take-out shop was inspired by those in Ireland, where they lived for several years. The “Rooster” serves breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea in two sunny, beautifully appointed dining rooms.

On my first visit I was immediately drawn to the hot cereals - oatmeal, porridge, and Vermont multigrain - served with warm milk, brown sugar or honey, and raisins or dried cranberries. But then I spotted the full Irish breakfast – authentic in its eggs, bacon, breakfast sausage, tomato, beans, toast, and white and black pudding. (If you have to ask, you probably won’t want it). I couldn’t make up my mind so am mildly embarrassed to confess I had both porridge and the full Irish deal. Plus I took home a sticky bun.

Breakfast is served seven days a week. The menu encompasses eggs done every which way; French toast; pancakes; fruit salad, parfait, and smoothies; and assorted pastries, including scones and brioche. And there are daily specials, which lure me in like a (very cold) moth to a (very warm) flame.


Two other personal faves for breakfast fare:
THE FLAKY TART, Atlantic Highlands (see my food blog of March 14, 2008)