5/31/2012

coffee, croissants, & bikes

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The other weekend, during this glorious stint of summer-like weather, cute Colin and I decided to take a bike ride (about 20 miles, to be exact) down to the Stockton Farmer's Market.


All surroundings looking greener than green, flowers in bloom everywhere and all kinds of wildlife (from baby turtles to baby ducks!), including one particular friendly but stranded kitty that kept us company while we waited for Animal Alliance to come scoop him up. (He's still looking for a home, and you can find him here!)


Arriving in time to peruse the stands, full of local NJ vegetables, freshly-baked bread, and artisan jams, we decided on a strawberry-filled croissant (I KNOW) and two sesame cookies from Crossroads Bakeshop.


We also stopped by the newly open Market Café, serving coffee and espresso beverages made from La Colombe beans. YUM. They even have coffee-ice-cubes for their cold drinks. Perfect!

Cute Colin takes a cute sip.




5/28/2012

strawberry pickin'

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One of the biggest perks of living in the Garden State (well, hold on, maybe it is actually THE biggest perk) is when the pick-your-own season begins. Most farms usually start around May with snap peas and (ahem) straaawberries, and end in the fall with apples and pumpkins (and, usually, apple cider donuts which, if they started to grow on trees, would be very bad news for my waistline). Some even go into the winter months and include festive Christmas decorations, though I wouldn't recommend that you bite into a coniferous tree any time soon.

Surrounded by farmland (for the most part), cute Colin and I have our pick of all the best areas to pick your own fruits and vegetables. And if it's not available for picking, they most likely have it for sale on their stands, and the prices are always pretty damn hard (if not impossible) to beat. Besides, this is local eating/support at its very core: who wants to eat/buy globe-traveled produce, sitting around in the grocery store, when there's just-picked NJ asparagus and green beans?!


This super-warm weekend in the end of May, we decided it was the perfect time to visit Terhune Orchards, a family-owned farm in Princeton, NJ, and pick some sun-ripened strawberries: YUM!

At $3.25 a pound (with a $4.00 advance charge that gets credited to your total amount), we ended up paying about $14.00 for four over-flowing quarts. That price, my friends, cannot be challeged.



These deep-red supersweet berries were everywhere, the best ones hiding underneath the plants wide, flat leaves. Cute Colin finds a baby berry, which, despite their mini-size, are packed with flavor.




We found some ca-razy shapes mixed in the bunch, including this little guy who very much resembled, well, a little guy.

At the end of a very hot picking session, we walked away with lots of berries, the sweet smell invading every part of my car on the drive home. Seriously though, try to tell me otherwise, but I'm pretty sure there's no better aroma than a fresh, NJ strawberry. Never rivaled, never mimicked even by your favorite lip balm or ice cream flavor. (Though, I don't know, I might have to concede to The Bent Spoon on their unmatched NJ strawberry sorbet!)


Even though the tendency is to ask "What can we make?" after a pick-your-own adventure (perhaps shortcake or, as Terhune suggested via print-out recipe, Fresh Strawberry Muffins?!), sometimes the very best way you can enjoy your harvest is to leave them as is, no modification required. After all, the pure summery-sweet goodness is pretty hard to beat.



5/25/2012

three pretty peppers

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A sure sign that summer is on the way in the Garden State (admittedly, probably one of the best places there is to be a vegetarian): fresh produce and farm stands galore. Oh, I seriously can't wait to have my own garden.


5/21/2012

harini restaurant

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Yes, more Indian food!

Seriously, though, we can't get enough. If my every day diet involved naan andddd CHANA MASALA, my new favorite thing?!, than you would find me a happy girl. Happy, and most likely, really full. Plus, having less opportunity to cook these days, a problem we will be working out soon soon soon, leaves us more opportunities for eating our favorite international cuisine.

Harini is right off of busy Route 1 in the Mercer Mall shopping center, which has at least half a dozen chain mega-restaurants and then a handful of other places, including a Japanese sushi place we've been meaning to visit. SOON.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have mulligatawny soup over endless salad and breadsticks any day. AND, every time we've been to Harini, the people working there are unbelievably nice. Our waiter (with sideburns and I want to say ... aviators?) was more than happy to comply with my request that my food be "suuuper mild" and even took the time to warn me that perhaps the mulligatawny soup would then be too spicy for my taste (it wasn't, it was amaze, but aw, he cares!).


Since no Indian meal is complete without bread (seriously, this isn't me being bread-biased: naan is for DIPPING!), we decided to go with the entire bread basket, complete with garlic naan (YES), plain naan, and tandoori roti. Because we don't mess around.

Our basket of tandoori roti. 

For our main courses, cute Colin decided to go with one of his favorites, vegetable biriyani, of the medium-plus spice variety. (Don't ask me what that means, but I'm sure my mouth would be on fire.) I went for, as mentioned before, an extremely mild version of chana masala, paired with a heaping bowl of rice, perfectly spiced with cloves and saffron.



So, so good. I'm seriously unable to reason why, since becoming a vegetarian, I've never tried this dish before. The flavor even bordered on sweet, mostly due to the tomato-based curry I would imagine. Super-duper good. Even better across from my Colin, looking super-duper cute!




5/17/2012

the mother's day trip to bent spoon

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Since we all know my no-meal-would-be-complete without dessert theory, and since brunch technically qualifies as two meals in ONE, this would also, in a technical sense, mean we should have had dessert twice during our Mother's Day celebration.

However, a trip to The Bent Spoon is really all you need for one, satisfying sense of quality indulgence. I know, I know, I've raved about it once or twice already, but the fact is, I could have it every day and each time be newly impressed with the freshness and purity of their flavors. UNREAL.

My particularly odd but glorious combination of Apricot-Aprihop and Fresh Mint Chunk. DIE.


I had Apricot-Aprihop + Fresh Mint Chunk (as I mentioned), Susan had Dark Chocolate Sorbet and Cardamom Ginger Ice Cream, Gram had Cookies Cream (even their ordinary flavors are EXCEPTIONAL) and Christine went the Apricot-Aprihop route paired with Raspberry Lemon Sorbet. Sheeeesh.



5/14/2012

the blue rooster in cranbury, nj

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For the past few years now, my older sister and I have gotten onboard with the traditional Mother's Day trend of: BRUNCH. Taking our mother and grandmother for a day of mid-day meal-ing, where their only instruction is to leave their wallets at home, we go out to celebrate their constant gift to us by re-gifting back to them in French toast and Mexican hot chocolate form.

I mean, really, is there a better way to say thank you?


Though other years have taken us into New York City, this year we decided to go local(er) and take a trip to The Blue Rooster Bakery & Cafe in Cranbury, New Jersey. This town, with a particular sense of history for our family's beginnings, welcomed us on a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny and bright.


This tiny eatery built into a old house for a particularly at-home feel is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as (wait for it!) afternoon tea. Pinkies UP.

Since brunch is available on weekends only, and since Sunday was already completely booked up for the occasion, we decided that a day-early celebration was the way to go.


Offering an array of sweet and savory options, we had a well-rounded selection of flavors at our table, including a basket of eight mini-pastries, each all better than the last: cranberry-lemon, chocolate, apple-cinnamon, and baby almond croissants. Too cute to eat? Please.




Seated at the best table in the house tucked into a rounded window, coffee cups (and fresh-squeezed orange juice!) in hand, we scanned the diverse menu trying to settle on the perfect mid-morning meal.



Our patient waiter circled back twice before we could decide. In the end, I opted for savory, in counteraction with the pastries I just inhaled: tomato goat-cheese quiche. My sister went for the fresh fruit, honey, and yogurt filled crepes. (Mom and Gram went for the chicken salad plate, complete with carrot and quinoa salad. No chicken for this green girl, though!)




Though we decided to skip dessert because of a. fullness and b. other plans for The Bent Spoon (coming SOON!), their menu made it pretty difficult to resist. To which I say, there's always next time.



5/10/2012

lunch @ holstee

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Last week's lunch at the Holstee office! You know the start of anything new always involves good food, right? This particular plate courtesy of Mary Shoulvin, the Holstee team has decided that every Tuesday and Thursday someone will prepare lunch for everyone in the office that day. How's that for a sincere sense of community!

Who will come near me after I've eaten an entire tub of Trader Joe's garlic hummus?

5/07/2012

renato's in west palm beach, fl

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On a graduation trip disguised as a weekend getaway, my family and I recently made the trip down to West Palm Beach, Florida to celebrate a milestone in the life of the family's youngest, now armed with a college degree and the determination to face the world head-on.

While graduations tend to be a whirlwind of events and ceremonials, making time to eat was the first thing we planned upon arriving in the balmy tropical air. Palm trees, with their leaves swaying in the heat above our heads, lined the roads as we drove through the coastal town to little Grace's front door.


The place? Renato's just off of Worth Avenue, a West-Palm-Beacher's version of Rodeo Drive. Tucked away in a corner, Renato's offered a garden seating area, fresh roses on every table, and a pianist casually striking the keys with soft, welcoming music.

The staff and maitre'd were luminously inviting, guiding us to watch our step as they led us to our outside table, just in time to enjoy the beginning of typical Floridian evening weather.



While the summer heat subdues my appetite ever-so-slightly, it could not convince me to pass up trying the Insalata Renato, a mixture of radicchio, Belgian endive (my fave), Boston Lettuce, diced tomatoes and shaved Parmesan with a light balsamic vinaigrette. Simple yet refreshing.



For my main course, though the some of the rest of my family enjoyed one of Renato's meat-based entrees, I was content with a homemade three-cheese ravioli in a tomato-basil sauce.


Gram's selection, penne vodka.

While no meal is complete without dessert (and we had it, don't you worry), the quickly setting sun only allowed for photographic evidence by candlelight, none of which would serve as proper pictorial justice.

I do have to say, however, that the tahitian vanilla bean créme brulée was one of the best desserts, no FOODS, I have ever eaten. (Also enthusiastically sampled: a molten chocolate cake and an espresso toffee ice cream. Divinity.)