Category Archives: Interviews

Birthing a NJ Vineyard; Jim Nawn on His Newest Princeton Resto; Finds Galore – Fancy Food Show, Hidden Montgomery Gem, and 2 Gorgeous Event Venues

Have you fantasized about starting your own vineyard & winery? Here’s one couple’s story


In some ways, Beverly Tepper and Mark Pausch of Rocky Hill are typical of couples who take the plunge. But they do have a unique advantage: both are accomplished scientists in fields that apply to winemaking, specifically taste sensation (her) and yeast fermentation (him). My story about their journey and nascent Monmouth County vineyard, here in the Fall 2016 issue of Edible Jersey.

First came Agricola & Great Road Farm. Then the buyout of Main Street Cafe, Bistro, & Commissary. Just debuted is Dinky Bar & Kitchen in Princeton’s new Arts & Transit neighborhood. Next…



Dinky Bar Interior, Courtesy Princeton Echo

There is a next, as restaurateur Jim Nawn reveals in my far-ranging conversation with him about his new and future projects here in the September issue of the Princeton Echo.

Food News: Winning Finds from the Fancy Food Show, Excellent From-Scratch Middle Eastern Fare in a Hidden Location, High-end Caterer at Lakeside and Farmside Locations


Details on all these in my “Food for Thought” column in the same September Echo issue, here.


Princeton’s One-and-Only Ivy Inn; Gourmet Hot Dogs in Lawrenceville; Excellent Lunch in Lambertville

Ivy Inn Princeton Echo

Ivy Inn, courtesy the Princeton Echo

Out-of-towners are always surprised to learn there’s something akin to a dive bar in toney Princeton. Even more remarkable, the place draws regulars from every economic, educational, and social strata in the area. On Saturday, August 6th, the Ivy Inn celebrated its 50th anniversary. Leading up to that I polled townies, visitors, and the Ivy’s owner, Richey Ryan, about its unique and lasting appeal. Here, in the August issue of The Princeton Echo.

Princeton University Eating Club Spawns Gourmet Hot Dog Eatery (Plus: NJ’s Own Hard Apple Cider Debuts and Jammin’ Crepes Readies Its First Truck)

Food for Thought logo

Tower Dogs, a casual eatery that opened in Lawrenceville in June, is a collaboration between the Tower Club’s longtime chef and a club board member. Chef Jim Forkel spent years perfecting his now-proprietary hot dog recipe, which is the star of a full-blown menu of gourmet dogs. Details here, in my “Food for Thought” column in that same August issue of The Princeton Echo. (Along with info on Ironbound Cider, named for the Newark neighborhood not far from where its NJ-grown apples are turned into hard cider, and on The Flying Crepeze, the truck that will start dispensing Jammin’ Crepes’ popular wares in the coming weeks.)

Annie’s Gourmet-to-Go: A Pleasant Surprise in Lambertville

I must thank food writer Susan S. Yeske for introducing me to Annie’s, where we shared a terrific lunch recently. Back in 2013 owner and chef Debra Caucci took over the spot on North Union Street that had been Ennis’ Market and named it after her mother. She serves fresh, from-scratch, generously portioned breakfast and lunch fare, both for eating-in and taking-out.

Annies porchetta sandwich

Porchetta Sandwich, Annie’s Gourmet-to-Go, Lambertville. Photo courtesy

I was won over by her Sicilian porchetta sandwich of pan-roasted, properly herbed (and garlicked) pork, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on a warm, crisped ciabatta roll. For a side dish I chose m macaroni salad – made with small pasta shells, if I recall correctly – that took me back to my grandmother’s own. Not realizing the sandwich came with its own side, Susan and I had also ordered a wedge salad to share, and that, too, was fresh, generous, and perfected executed. (The menu board shown above isn’t quite up to date; among other things, a number of salads have been added.)

Annie’s is open everyday but Tuesday, with different hours on weekdays and weekends.

Kitchen Twins in Edible Jersey; Princeton Carillon in NJ Monthly; Masala Grill Farewell in Princeton Echo

You watched them on “Chopped Junior” and “Rachael Ray”…

Kitchen Twins

Photo by Andrew Wilkinson, Courtesy of Edible Jersey

…and you may have purchased their most successful product: Kitchen Twins shake-and-bake kale chips, available at 300+ markets nationwide. Now get to know Lawrenceville’s 12-year-old dynamic duo, Emily & Lyla Allen (above), who I profile here in the High Summer issue of Edible Jersey.

I admit it: before I watched and heard Princeton University’s carilloneur, Lisa Lonie play, I didn’t even know the difference between church bells and carillons

Lisa Lonie NJ Monthly

Photo by Robert Yaskovic, Courtesy of New Jersey Monthly

Turns out that not only do carillons make beautiful music, but everything about them is fascinating. Including Princeton’s 67 cast-bronze bells (the fifth largest carillon in the world) and Lonie herself –  Princeton’s first female carilloneur and a repository of carillon knowledge. (Two examples: Philip Glass has composed for the carillon, and not all that long ago, Lonie would have been termed a carilloneuse.) With Princeton’s summer carillon festival underway through August, now’s the time to read my profile here, in the July issue of New Jersey Monthly.

After 20 years, Masala Grill says goodbye – and thanks – with a blowout open house

Owner Suchitra Patel didn’t want to leave the modest Chambers Street space she had leased in Princeton for two decades, but when the time came she knew exactly how to thank her many loyal fans. Two-hundred people showed up on the final day. Here’s my report – and where to find her food now – in the July installment of Food for Thought in the Princeton Echo.

Update on EDDY Awards: My Story Won 2 Awards! Plus: LoRe Pasta, Barrio Costero, Upcoming Writers Panel

“First Ladies of Cape May” Takes Readers’ Choice AND Critics’ Choice Awards for 2016!

First Ladies of Cape May

Dot Burton & Lucille Thompson. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

Thank you to everyone who voted for my story, which appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Edible Jersey and which was one of 5 nominees in the Best Chef Feature for this annual award sponsored by Edible Communities. Many of you voted every day – I am beyond touched. And thank you to the 50 food world superstars who served as judges.There were over 600 submissions in all categories, and Edible Jersey’s publisher, Nancy Painter, tells me that the Chefs category was among the most highly submitted. I’m so flattered.

Here’s the official announcement from

Congratulations to Edible Jersey writer Pat Tanner and photographer Aleksey Moryakov on winning both critics’ choice and readers’ choice awards in the 2016 EDDY competition for Best Feature Chef article. (And thanks to all of you who voted!) Click here to read the winning story about “The First Ladies of Cape May,” two sisters working at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May for generations.

My only regret is that the elder of these wonderful women, Dot Burton, passed away shortly before my story was published. But Dot’s sister, Lucille Thompson, was back when the hotel reopened the next season, along with Dot’s daughter, Tina. So the family legacy continues.

NJ’s Newest Fresh Pasta Company: How Local Can You Go?

LoRe Pasta brothers

Richard & Mario Zeck, courtesy the Princeton Echo

For brothers Mario & Richard Zeck of LoRe Pasta in South Brunswick, the answer includes fresh-milled whole grains from two local granaries, eggs from a newly hatched poultry farm in Hillsborough, and cheeses – including ricotta impastata – from Flemington’s Fulper Farms. The result isn’t cheap, but it is remarkable. The details, here, in my July feature in the Princeton Echo.

First Look: Barrio Costero, Asbury Park

In a previous post I wrote about the many Princeton restaurant alumni who have found their way to Barrio Costero, a hip new restaurant with a modern take on Coastal Mexican cuisine and inventive cocktails to match. Here’s a closer look at my first tastes there. You’ll have to bear with me: the house cocktails by Jamie Dodge were so good that my photographic skills rapidly deteriorated.

Chico 2

See what I mean about the cocktails? Above is the Chico: gin, zucca amaro, creme de mure (blackberries), sugar, lemon, tiki bitters, and pink peppercorn salt. Gorgeous, balanced, and irresistible.

Aztec Rabbit Logo

Here’s the restaurant’s logo – an Aztec rabbit – atop a Hotel Nacional: dark rum, pineapple, lime, apricot liqueur, and bitters. I resisted trying this concoction at first, thinking it would be sticky-sweet. Silly me.

Scallop and Hummus

Small plates with big flavors complement the cocktails, wines, and beers beautifully. Above is beet hummus (much tastier than you’re supposing) on corn chips and nicely seared scallop Yucatan (with pineapple, jalapeno, and white beans).

Chicken Adobo Roulade w Quinoa

Above is chicken adobo roulade with quinoa, one of the surprise hits of the evening. Vying for top tastes were pork belly with pineapple, pickled onion, and orange rub and lamb tacos with cactus. Too hard to pick a winner!

Congratulations to everyone at Barrio Costero, especially chef David Viana and Jamie Dodge.

Join Me on July 16 for 3rd Annual Food Writers Panel

Rachel Weston Portriat

Rachel Weston Portrait

I am delighted to be participating once again in this lively, popular event at the West Windsor Farmers Market. Fellow panels are: Fran McManus, marketing manager of the Whole Earth Center, cookbook author, and principal of Understanding Flavor; Nancy Painter, publisher of Edible Jersey, and Rachel Weston, food writer and cookbook author (“New Jersey Fresh”).

The fun starts at 11 a.m. Get the details here.





Princeton Restaurant Veterans Spread Their Wings; Lillipies Opening @ Princeton Shopping Center; Update on EDDY Awards Voting

New Restaurants from Familiar Names & Faces in Union, Asbury Park, & King of Prussia Mall

Jamie Dodge, Beverage Manager at Barrio Costero puts a finishing touch on his Hotel Nacional cocktail

Jamie Dodge, Beverage Manager at Barrio Costero, puts a finishing touch on his Hotel Nacional cocktail

Here in my June “Food for Thought” column in the Princeton Echo I have the scoop on the latest projects & whereabouts of folks like Jamie Dodge (formerly of Elements & Mistral), Derek Brousseau (One53 & Mistral), David Viana (Kitchen @ Grove Station & Battello), Carlo & Raoul Momo (Terra Momo Restaurant Group), and Scott Anderson & Steve Distler (Elements & Mistral).

Jen Carson Shares Plans for the June Opening of Lillipies, Her Bakery-Cafe on North Harrison Street

Jen Carson, Lillipies, courtesy The Princeton Echo

Jen Carson, Lillipies, courtesy The Princeton Echo

Besides the sweet and savory baked goods that have earned her a large following, Carson’s first brick-and-mortar spot will offer scratch-made soups, sandwiches, coffee, ice cream, and live entertainment. Details here, in my June feature story in the Echo.

There’s still time to vote for my EDDY-nominated story, “The First Ladies of Cape May!”

Dot Thompson & Lucille Burton. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

Dot Thompson & Lucille Burton. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am honored that my story from Edible Jersey is 1 of 5 nominees in the Chef Feature category of the EDDYs: the national writing awards of the 90 Edible Communities magazines. You can cast one vote a day every day from now through Wednesday, June 8th by clicking here. (As of this writing, my story had accumulated 66% of the votes!!!)

I’m on a Roll! 3 National Publications in the Last 3 Weeks

Latest honor: A story I wrote for Edible Jersey is nominated for an EDDY – the annual awards of 90 Edible Communities magazines!

A profile from last spring of the First Ladies of the Chalfonte in Cape May is one of 5 nominees in the Best Chef Profile category. I would be so honored if you would vote for it! You can vote once a day every day through June 8th. Read the stories and vote by clicking HERE.

Dot Thompson & Lucille Burton. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

Dot Thompson & Lucille Burton. Photo by Aleksey Moryakov

I am so grateful to Nancy Painter and the folks at EJ for submitting the story, and to the EDDY Award judges who nominated it. There are nearly 90 Edible publications across the U.S. and Canada. Over 50 of them entered more than 600 pieces of editorial work into 21 categories this year, and, Painter tells me, the chefs category had one of the largest # of entries! Industry judges narrowed the field down to the 5 final nominees.

Another Edible Jersey story has been picked up by another North American publication & entity

Suzanne Cunningham & Kindergartners, Princeton Waldorf School

Suzanne Cunningham & kindergarteners, Princeton Waldorf School

My story-memoir about the gardening curriculum past and present at the Waldorf School of Princeton that appeared earlier this year is included here in “Waldorf Today,” a weekly continental newsletter. (Scroll down for it.) AWSNA – the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America – also picked it up and shared on social media.

Then there is my contribution to Travel + Leisure…

Elements' Bison Tartare

Elements’ Bison Tartare

…about the best farm-to-table restaurants in NJ. In case you missed it, I named Elements in Princeton tops among several. You can check it out here.

5 Central NJ Restaurants with Hard-to-Find Fare

I turn the spotlight on the following underrepresented cuisines for my cover story in US 1’s 2016 Spring Dining issue:

4-27 Cover & Front (1-11).indd

  • Puerto Rican- the rarest of the Hispanic/Caribbean cuisines in the state
  • Polish – traditional, but with a light touch
  • Taiwanese – inside the area’s only ramen house, so you find two hard-to-come-by genres in one spot
  • Ethiopian – it’s in New Brunswick but it’s not Makeda, which closed down over a year ago
  • Indian Chinese – not Indian and Chinese, but rather a terrific mashup that’s trending: Chinese restaurant dishes modified to fit Indian tastes.
Fusion Bhel, Spice Rack Indian Fusion, NJ

Fusion Bhel, Spice Rack Indian Fusion, Franklin Park

Grandma's Seafood Soup, Buen Provecho, Hamilton

Grandma’s Seafood Soup, Buen Provecho, Hamilton


Rai Rai Ramen, No. Brunswick

Rai Rai Ramen, North Brunswick

Not pictured: Dashen, New Brunswick & Rozmaryn, Trenton. They’re all sit-down, full-service BYOBs. Details & interviews with the owners here in the April 27 issue.

Nina’s Waffles Coming to Princeton; Highly Recommended: Nektar in New Hope; Babeth’s Feast Frozen Gourmet

Nina’s Authentic Liege Waffles & Housemade Ice Cream: in New Hope, Doylestown, Sergeantsville and now Princeton

If you’re a fan of Liege waffles – made from yeasted dough instead of non-yeasted batter and caramelized with pearl sugar – you know they’re hard to come by. When Nina’s Waffles & Ice Cream opens its doors on Nassau Street come mid-April, these delicacies will become available to Princetonians. Along with a rotating roster of 130 housemade ice creams will be a menu of savory options, all created by Nina’s co-owner and chef, Shawn Lawson. If that names rings a bell, find out why, here in my interview in the April issue of The Princeton Echo. 

Nektar in New Hope

I’m just going to come right out and say it: there are a lot of mediocre restaurants in New Hope. So when Nektar on West Mechanic Street was recommended by a trustworthy acquaintance, I jumped on the chance to try this modern, Mediterranean-influenced bistro that focuses particularly on pairing its small plates (in reality, mostly medium plates) with a smart selection of wine, beer, and whiskeys.

My friend did not lead me astray. I was doubly lucky in that my dinner coincided both with Lambertville-New Hope restaurant week and a 24-hour long taste of late spring weather (in March!), that allowed us to dine on the patio, right alongside the river and across from the Bucks County Playhouse.

There were three of us, so we got to try every dish but one on the $25, 3-course special menu. (There was also a $35 option, and both came with optional $20 wine pairings.) Each dish was tasty, interesting, and beautiful, and went well with our chosen bottle: Il Cacciatore di Sogni “Rosso Conero” DOC montepulciano for $32. Here are the delicious details.

Course 1: Pre-appetizers? (If so, pretty hearty and sizeable)

Goat cheese & potato croquettes with roasted red pepper sauce. Nektar, New Hope

Goat cheese & potato croquettes with roasted red pepper sauce. Nektar, New Hope

Meatball sliders with fonina & basil. Nektar, New Hope

Meatball sliders with fonina & basil. Nektar, New Hope

Avocado yogurt dip w/za'atar-spiced pita chips. Nektar, New Hope

Avocado yogurt dip w/za’atar-spiced pita chips. Nektar, New Hope

Course 2: Appetizers?

Warm goat cheese-potato parfait w/olive & arugula. Nektar, New Hope

Warm goat cheese-potato parfait w/olive & arugula. Nektar, New Hope

Bacon-wrapped dates w/almonds & roasted red pepper sauce. Nektar, New Hope

Bacon-wrapped dates w/almonds & roasted red pepper sauce. Nektar, New Hope

Italian grilled cheese (provolone, fontina, Parmesan) w/roasted tomato & pesto mayo. Nektar, New Hope

Italian grilled cheese (provolone, fontina, Parmesan) w/roasted tomato & pesto mayo. Nektar, New Hope

Course 3: More substantial small plates?

Chicken thigh (coq au vin style) w/pappardelle pasta. Nektar, New Hope

Chicken thigh (coq au vin style) w/pappardelle pasta. Nektar, New Hope

Spicy lamb merguez sausage w/pita, avocado tzatziki, onion, & tomato. Nektar, New Hope

Spicy lamb merguez sausage w/pita, avocado tzatziki, onion, & tomato. Nektar, New Hope

We also had a timbale of baked pasta and finished off our meal by adding on a big goblet of decadent chocolate pudding with whipped cream. I should also mention that our server, Jessica, was delightful, responsive, and very well informed. To repeat myself: Nektar Wine, Beer, & Whiskey Bar is highly recommended.

Babeth’s Feast, NJ Sea Salt, Blue Point Grill Expansion

Frozen gourmet that’s not an oxymoron? Sea salt harvested off Barnegat Light that rivals Maldon?? An expansion of a popular Nassau Street restaurant in a space that seemingly can’t hold any more???

All is explained here, in my “Food for Thought” column in the April issue of The Princeton Echo. 

Highly Recommended: Free Weekend @ The Morgan; Waldorf School Gardening

Morgan Library & Museum, a Treasure Anytime, Offering Free Visits & Events in April

Morgan Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

Back in the ’70s I worked just steps from what was then called the Morgan Library: the Gilded Age brownstone of industrialist Pierpont Morgan at Madison & 36th. I knew it was open to the public and that it held treasures, but I never stopped in. It took me until this past summer to rectify that major oversight, and I was simply blown away.

Morgan Museum & Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Museum & Library. Photo by Pat Tanner

What finally nudged me into action was a particular exhibition (Alice in Wonderland, now past) and taking advantage of Restaurant Week to dine in what had been the Pierpont family dining room. Details on that visit follow below, but what you should know is that in celebration of the 10th anniversary of a highly successful modern expansion that has doubled its annual attendance, the Morgan – now the Morgan Library & Museum – is opening its doors for a free weekend mid-April.

Normally $18 for adults and $12 for children, seniors, and students (and well worth it), everyone enters free from 7 pm on Friday, April 15 through 5:30 pm closing on Sunday, April 17.  In addition to 4 exhibitions on view (including one on Warhol and another on Richard Wagner’s “Ring”), there will be live classical and jazz music and a Spring Family Fair on Sunday. For me, though, the brownstone itself is the masterpiece.

Morgan Library Ceiling. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Library Ceiling. Photo by Pat Tanner

The Morgan has 2 dining options: this cafe in the Renzo Piano-designed space, now 10 years old:

Morgan Museum Addition. Photo by Pat Tanner

Morgan Museum Addition. Photo by Pat Tanner

(Sadly, the striking colored squares shown were a temporary installation.)

The other option is the dining room, where I ate, which is open for lunch and brunch and for which reservations are necessary. The menu changes seasonally, and for the April free weekend will offer special cocktails and dishes inspired by the current exhibitions and anniversary.  Here are highlights of the Restaurant Week meal I and a friend enjoyed last August:

Morgan Red & Yellow Beet Salad w/Goat Cheese, Citrus, & Pistachios

Morgan Red & Yellow Beet Salad w/Goat Cheese, Citrus, & Pistachios


Morgan Chicken Paillard w/Haricots Verts, Fingerlings, Tomato, Frisee, Lemon

Morgan Chicken Paillard w/Haricots Verts, Fingerlings, Tomato, Frisee, Lemon

Morgan Grilled Shrimp w/Butter Lettuce, Pickled Mango, Avocado, Toasted Almonds, Cucumber Yogurt

Morgan Grilled Shrimp w/Butter Lettuce, Pickled Mango, Avocado, Toasted Almonds, Cucumber Yogurt

For a complete list of anniversary weekend activities, check out this press release at If crowds are not your thing, I encourage you to visit this hidden-in-plain-sight NYC masterpiece anytime.

Waldorf School Gardening Class, Past & Present

Edible Jersey Spring 2016In the spring 2016 issue of Edible Jersey I write about the experiences of my own children and their classmates at the Princeton Waldorf school back in the 1980s and 90s – including a landmark visit by Alice Waters – and interview the school’s current gardening teacher, Suzanne Cunningham to see what has changed. (In a nutshell: a lot! No more handing full-sized scythes to third graders and letting them loose in a field.) Story starts on page 19.

Suzanne Cunningham & Kindergartners, Princeton Waldorf School

Suzanne Cunningham & kindergarteners,           Waldorf School of Princeton

Please take a moment to read it, and then come back here to make sense of this, my very personal post-script:

I find it interesting that the design and building of the sitting garden is Lemmo’s fondest memory. He went on to earn a degree in architecture from Rice University, and recently founded his own firm, LA-N-D (Lemmo Architecture and Design) in Austin, TX. He may or may not see a correlation there, but I do. Likewise with Elizabeth, whose imagination once had her thinking she was working with magic potions. After earning a Ph.D. in genetics from Stanford University, she is conducting postdoctoral work in virology at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, with a goal of developing vaccines for rapidly evolving pathogens such as HIV. Alice, who has arguably fewer happy memories of Waldorf gardening, nevertheless finds herself digging these days, as director of sales operations for Clarabridge, a data-mining consultant firm in Virginia.

waldorf plowing


Photographing Food Makes It Taste Better. Whaaa?; 12 Farms Benefit Dinner; Nomad Pizza in Princeton

Instragramming = More Yum?

Photo: Konstantin Trubavin/Corbis, on

Photo: Konstantin Trubavin/Corbis, on

My friend Joel Burkam, a psychologist, recently sent me an article that concludes: “The act of taking a picture before eating — including all of the natural-light seeking and angle tweaking that goes into it — can actually make food taste better.”

What the heck?? Get the scientifically proven facts, here in  The Scientific Case for Instagramming Your Food, from NY Magazine‘s column, “The Science of Us.”

Burkam explained it to me thus: “It’s simple Pavlovian conditioning! The visual representation provokes autonomic responses within the body associated with the previous memories/tastes attached to the item. Perceived as desire/passion, etc.which winds up enhancing the taste.”

Hightstown’s 12 Farms Restaurant Donating Pay-What-You-Will Benefit Dinner

I love when two personal favorites join together for a good cause. On Friday, March 18th my favorite Hightstown restaurant, 12 Farms, is preparing and donating a 3-course meal at One Table Cafe, a monthly pop-up run by the folks at Trinity Church in Princeton. (I’ve written about their annual St. Nicholas bazaar.) All are welcome to this “donate what you can” dinner, with net proceeds going to 4 causes: Mercer Street Friends, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Bread for the World, and Episcopal Relief & Development.

The dinner commences at 6:30 and in honor of Women’s History Month, will feature these guest speakers:
– Judith Donohue Hutton, CEO, YWCA Princeton
– Dr. Cecelia B. Hodges and the Witherspoon/People’s Verse Speaking Choir

Dress is casual, children are welcome, and reservations are a must and should be made by Tuesday, March 15. Phone 609.924.2277, ext. 352. For more info on the cafe, visit

Nomad Pizza Opening in Princeton

If you who follow me on facebook and twitter you already know that owner Tom Grim is bringing his popular wood-fired pizza to the Princeton Shopping Center this spring. This will be the fourth Nomad, with two in Philly and the original in Hopewell. Get all the details in my interview with Grim in the March issue of the Princeton Echo.