Tag Archives: Duke Farms

2 Must See’s: My Interview with Judy Wicks & “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” @ George St. Playhouse

Judy Wicks of the Legendary White Dog Cafe to Speak at Duke Farms This Sunday

GoodMorning Beautiful Business

Wicks, local foods pioneer and a nationally recognized leader in the socially responsible business movement, is the keynote speaker at Slow Food Northern NJ’s event this Sunday, March 23rd, from 1 to 3:30 pm. Last week I spoke with Wicks about her upcoming appearance and her memoir, Good Morning, Beautiful Business. Read the conversation at www.njmonthly.com, then click the link at the end for tickets to the event, which cost $18 and include a lunch of local foods prepared by two of NJ’s finest chefs: Anthony Bucco of the Ryland Inn and Dan Richer of Razza and Arturo’s. The barn at Duke Farms in Hillsborough is the location.

Eat Your Heart Out at Charming, Hilarious One-Woman Tour de Force @ George St. Playhouse

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

I must admit it was with some trepidation that I attended the opening night in New Brunswick of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, the adaptation of Giulia Melucci’s best-selling memoir about her romantic misadventures and how she cooked her way through them.

First off, like both Ms. Melucci and the actress who plays her onstage, Antoinette LaVecchia, I am an Italian-American girl with an East Coast accent who grew up eating my way through joys and sorrows while making Sunday gravy. Usually, this means my radar for authenticity gets in the way of my enjoyment of artistic representations of such. (Sorry, Cher, but this includes your performance in Moonstruck.)

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Second, the action involves Ms. LaVecchia preparing a 3-course meal onstage and serving it to a small number of audience members over the course of the performance. Antipasto, salad, and fresh pasta with Bolognese. So even my radar for authentic cooking would be on overdrive.

Third, the play itself or the acting could have fallen short, especially since it is a one-character play, and that character speaks directly to the audience. (High potential squirm factor.)

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Obviously, I Loved, I Lost… cleared all these hurdles. And then some. The set, simple but effective, is a working kitchen island and Ms. LaVecchia really does use it to make from-scratch Bolognese sauce (a can of Cento tomatoes included) and fresh pasta dough that she runs through a pasta maker and boils before our eyes. I had my doubts as to whether the results would taste good, until aromas began to waft over the theater in the third act. (For insurance, afterwards I approached some of the 10 diners who were perched at bistro tables on stage during the play, and who ate and drank wine – poured by Ms. LaVecchia – throughout. They confirmed that the sauce was terrific and the pasta perfetto.)

Lest you think this play is all gimmick, let me clarify. The character, Giulia, is smart, funny, earthy, real, and heartbreaking. (Someone characterized the book, correctly, as “Sex and the City meets Big Night.”) Ms. LaVecchia engages the audience from beginning to end. She’s so good at it and so relatable that when she asked, “Now where was I, what was I saying?” after a snafu with sound equipment had temporarily halted the performance, someone in the front row blurted out, “You were telling us why you broke up with Ethan.” Just as if a friend had asked during a tete-a-tete.

One cool side note: Catherine Lombardi restaurant, next door to the playhouse, is donating the ingredients needed for the production.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti runs through April 11. Tickets and info at www.georgestreetplayhouse.org or call the box office at 732.246.7717.


NJ’s Best Farmers Markets & Specialty Food Shops; School Garden Contest & Workshop; Free Birthday Cake; Dandelion Dinner; More

The April issue of NJ Monthly is all about Fabulous NJ Food (Yay!).

NJ Monthly cover apr13I was pleased to contribute my picks for the best farmers markets and specialty food shops in the central part of the state.

Click here for the story on the cream of the crop of Garden State farmers markets.

Click here for the story on our most delicious specialty food shops.

Think Your Kid’s School Has the Best Garden in the State?

Then make sure it’s a contender for the NJ School Garden of the Year Award. Top prize is a cool $1500 – that’s a lot of lettuce! Entries are being accepted now through July 1st. The award, in its second year, is presented by Edible Jersey magazine and the NJ Farm to School NetworkClick here for details and entry form.

Riverside School Garden, Princeton

Riverside School Garden, Princeton

If you’re interested in creating or improving a school garden, the Farm to School Network is holding a workshop called Creating Sustainable School Gardens on Wednesday, April 3, from 8 am to 3 pm at Duke Farms in Hillsborough. Cost is $30. Click here for details and to register.

You say it’s your birthday? Well, happy birthday to you – at Za in Pennington

Cute cross-pollination idea from chef/owner Mark Valenza of Za, the quirky little byob on West Delaware Avenue. Just mention that you’re celebrating a birthday when you make a reservation and they’ll provide your table with a free ice cream cake from a shop located in the same shopping center where they are. Here’s the deal, in their own words:


“We’ll buy your table a delicious Uncle Ed’s Creamery chocolate and vanilla ice cream birthday cake! (serves 4) We’re not allowed to sing Happy Birthday, but we will deliver your free ice cream cake to the table with a birthday candle.”

Dandelion Dinner @ Enzo’s La Piccola Cucina



Another central NJ byob – Enzo’s in Lawrenceville (near the Trenton Farmers Market)- is welcoming spring with a 1-day, 5-course dinner devoted to that delightfully bitter green. If like me you grew up in an Italian-American family, you’ve developed a love of all things bitter, including the vitamin-rich dandelion. Here’s the menu that Anna Scozzari, the proprietor of this tiny, old-school establishment, has planned:

Batter-dipped Dandelion
Dandelion Salad
Dandelion & Cheese Manicotti
Balsamic & Fig Glazed Cornish Hen with Dandelion Risotto
Surprise Dessert

Sunday, April 7th is the date. Reservations are a must, and there are two seatings, at 1 pm and 6 pm. Cost, $59, includes tax and gratuity. For reservations phone 609-396-9868.

Congratulations to NJ Beard Nominees

I predicted that Maricel Presilla‘s masterful Gran C0cina Latina would show up on the major cookbook awards this year, and that has come to pass. It’s a finalist for two prestigious awards: James Beard and IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Gran Cocina Latina

Ditto for the latest output of Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hersheimer: Canal House Cooks Every Day. (To read more about the duo, click here for my 2010 profile in NJ Monthly.) Happily, the two books are nominated in separate categories in each instance so they can both come away winners.

Speaking of Awards…

…a very kind subscriber has nominated DineWithPat for a Saveur Best Food Blog award! If you feel so inclined, I’d be very grateful for your vote.

Mint, White BBQ Sauce, & Summer Wine Classes

Magnificent Mint

Spearmint, Wikipedia

In my previous post I talked about lunching at Duke Farms. But I also took a class there, on the magic of mint. Here’s the link to my July 20 Princeton Packet report .

Since those of us who grow mint currently have too much, here are two of my favorite recipes that employ it in abundance (reprinted from that column):

The Foods of Greece by Aglaia Kremezi

1 large cucumber, half-peeled in lengthwise strips to give striped appearance
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Wash and dry the cucumber and cut it into very thin crosswise slices. Place the slices in a salad bowl, sprinkling with the feta and mint. In a small bowl whisk the oil and lemon juice with the salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss thoroughly. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio by Wanda & Giovanna Tornabene

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups drained ricotta*
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil and butter with the garlic cloves in a large skillet over low heat, stirring often. When the garlic cloves begin to turn golden, discard them and stir in the ricotta with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the tomato sauce, chopped mint, and chopped thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt into the boiling water and add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, stirring often.
4. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and add it, 1/4 cup at a time, to the pasta sauce, until the sauce is the desired consistency. Transfer the spaghetti, drained, to a serving bowl. Add 1 cup of the sauce and toss. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and toss well. Garnish the bowl with a little bouquet of fresh mint and thyme sprigs, and serve with Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

*To drain ricotta: Wrap it in a double thickness of cheesecloth set it over a fine-mesh sieve suspended on the rim of a bowl. Refrigerate overnight and discard the liquid in the bowl.

Alabama White BBQ Sauce?

Just when I think I know all there is to know about regional barbecue styles, I come across this entry on serious eats about Alabama white bbq sauce. I haven’t tried it yet, but I can see how it would be fabulous. If you’re familiar with it, let me hear from you.

summer wine classes in flemington

A set up of Merlot wine tasting

A set up of Merlot wine tasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, like me, you’ve already spent all your summer vacation time and are looking for something fun to get you through the slog that is August, wine expert (and all-around nice guy) George Staikos of The Educated Grape has lined up three evening wine classes at 55 Main Restaurant, each featuring 6 wines and 3 dishes. You can sign up for individual sessions at $70 a pop or the series for $180.

Aficionados of Cab won’t want to miss the first one, on 7/31: The Great California Cabernet Vintages of the Last Twelve Years. For complete details on all classes visit The Educated Grape or phone George at 973.699.2199.