Tag Archives: Fran McManus

From Dishwasher to Exec Chef; Upcoming Events: 1 on Nature & Creativity & the other, Halloween Fun; News re Brick Farm Tavern & First Field Ketchup

3 Princeton Area Chefs Tell Their Stories of Working Their Way from the Bottom Rung to the Top of the Restaurant Kitchen Ladder


For the 2016 Harvest Dining issue of US 1, I approached executive chefs at 3 of the Princeton area’s most popular and revered food establishments for the stories of how they navigated their way from the lowest to the top position. That all 3 are Hispanic immigrants with no English at the start speaks volumes. (Donald T***p please take note.) Read about the journeys of Juan Mercado of One53, Jose Lopez of Nassau Street Seafood, and Edgar Urias of Blue Point Grill here.


Nature-as-Muse Workshops at Princeton’s Mountain Lakes Preserve Feature Successful Perfumer, Food Artisan, Graphic Designer, and Poet


Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon, Courtesy Princeton Echo

The bad news is that this series of October workshops mounted by Friends of Princeton Open Space is sold out. The good news is there probably will be more to come. So if you’re interested in upping your creativity quotient, check out this unique series of open-air walks and a related workshop. Each is led by a different successful professional on four consecutive Sundays: a perfumer from Firmenich (scent), an independent graphic designer (color), a poet (words), and the inimitable Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon ice cream shop (flavor).

I share all the fascinating details here, in the October issue of the Princeton Echo. Bonus: Get to know Princeton mover-and-shaker Fran McManus, the genius behind the workshops.

Halloween Fun for Grown-ups and New Milestones for Brick Farm Tavern and First Field (the NJ Ketchup Folks)

Food for Thought logoCheck out my “Food for Thought” column in October’s Princeton Echo for details on:

  • Tre Piani & Planet Apothecary teaming up for their Witches & Warlocks Ball
  •  Menu details for the upcoming (and already sold out) dinner at the Beard House by Brick Farm Tavern Chef Greg Vassos on October 22
  • The newest product from the First Field Jersey Ketchup folks which surprised even owners Theresa Viggiano & Patrick Leger in its popularity. (Hint: it’s not ketchup)

Gift Ideas from 6 Jersey Food Writers; Holiday Celebration at the Canal House

Still Searching for the Perfect Gift for the Cook or Gourmand in Your Life? These Experts are Here to Help!

This time of year I customarily offer up my own gift ideas for the food lovers on your holiday list, based on what I would relish finding in my Christmas stocking or under my tree. This year I decided to change things up a bit. I solicited 6 other freelance food writers, all based in the Princeton area, for the culinary visions that are dancing in their heads right now. Their amazingly helpful and varied suggestions appear in the December 11 issue of US 1 newspaper but I’ve reproduced the story in its entirety below, in part because it includes links to the writers and to many of the gifts. (Cookbook collectors alert! Be sure to check out Faith Bahadurian’s terrific find, Eat Your Books!)

12-11 Cover & Front (1-7).indd

Pam Parseghian is a veteran food writer, editor, and cooking instructor. Her latest story, on fish, will appear in the February issue of Prevention magazine. “As far as stuff goes, I’m in love with Staub’s Pumpkin Cocotte, the 3-1/2 quart pot. It’s too cute for words. And my other new crush is with Scanpans because the nonstick surface doesn’t come off even when you use metal utensils. So I’d specifically enjoy an IQ Nonstick Grill Pan.  For stocking stuffers, I would be very happy with a bag of Arborio rice, jar of truffle salt, and a tiny silicone spatula. The rice makes lovely risotto. You get a super truffle flavor with truffle salt, and the spatulas that are teaspoon size are great for getting every last drop out of a jar of mustard.”

But Parseghian also dreams big, including with a splurge on restaurant meals near and far. “Experiences are always great! A trip to eat my way around cities I’ve never been in Spain, Denmark, or Brazil would be a dream come true. Closer to home I would be very excited to go on a one-day eating spree in New York City. I’d start with lunch at Krescendo in Brooklyn, which was opened by chef Elizabeth Falkner. She’s a serious talent who was based in San Francisco until this year. Then I’d go into Manhattan and have dinner at The NoMad Hotel where I hear chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara are creating exciting experiences. I love going to new places!”

Parseghian allows that she doesn’t have to travel even that far for her wishes to come true. “I’d be thrilled to get a gift certificate to any of the exciting new places in Princeton that I haven’t eaten at yet – Mistral, Despaña, and Agricola. And I’m always happy to visit any of my old favorites – elements, the Peacock Inn, and Rhong Tiam in Plainsboro and Nomad in Hopewell.”

Sue Gordon, who reports online as Princeton Food Examiner and blogs at Food Network Musings says she “may have gone little crazy” with her list. Although her suggestions are many, they are modest. “My first idea is an Aerolatte Milk Frother (under $20). Maybe it’s because I can’t live without mine that I think anyone who enjoys homemade cappuccino and latte HAS to have one. In the same vein, a K-Cup Replacement Coffee Filter (anywhere from $6 up to $20) is good news for people who love their Keurigs but want to use their own coffee. You can finally go through all the coffee that’s stashed in your freezer that’s been unused since you discovered the convenience of the Keurig. It’s also good when you’re buying just a small amount of flavored coffee for the holidays or decaf for Aunt Sally and you don’t want to invest in an entire box of K-cups.

“I love the little Herb Stripper ($7.95) from Sur La Table. It makes quick work of getting thyme leaves (and other herbs) off their stems in a hurry. This is the season of pumpkin breads and I really want (to give OR keep) this gorgeous Pumpkin Loaf Pan ($30), also from Sur La Table. I love The Sugar Diva for pretty Paper Loaf Pans ($8.50 – $10). They have big and mini ones and I always include the recipe of whatever I’ve baked with some extra loaf pans, that way your friends or family can pass on the good cheer with their own baking. The Sugar Diva also has a huge selection of Paper Straws (from $4.50 up), which are kind of fun. A set of Milkshake Glasses with those straws makes a great gift.

“My last two ideas: Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar from The Tree And Vine is surprisingly delicious and versatile. It’s perfectly lemony with a bit of sweetness. It’s good in salads, to deglaze a pan, or even to pour in a rich autumn soup. The Tree And Vine is an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop with an amazing selection of high quality oils and vinegars – everything from Cinnamon Pear, Fig, or Merlot Balsamic Vinegars to an Aged Chocolate one. And if you’re in Asheville, North Carolina or Knoxville, Tennessee, you can taste all of them in one of their two shops! Luckily, they do mail order and every oil and vinegar I’ve tasted has been first-rate. The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg is a famous outpost for nuts of every description. The Handcooked Virginia Peanuts are a classic choice, but you may be tempted by the Praline Glazed Peanuts ($25.99 – $39.98) or Praline Glazed Pecans  ($35.99). You can’t go wrong here. Nuts are the perfect hostess or house gift and it’s always good to have a few cans yourself for holiday entertaining.”

holly sprig clipartFaith Bahadurian is a freelance food writer whose recipe columns, restaurant reviews, and features have long appeared in Packet Publications vehicles, including the Princeton Packet, TimeOFF, and PM Fine Living. She also blogs at www.njspice.net. “Some of these are gifts I’ve given or already received myself. I don’t have room for more gadgets in my kitchen, so am mostly focusing on comestibles. I swear quality fruitcake is poised for a comeback, I see it in gourmet markets all over, like the Bien Fait Tea Cakes at Lucy’s Kitchen and Market. And in Zingerman’s catalog, an aged Vintage Rare Citrus Fruitcake (the $90 version, as opposed to the regular, mere $65 version!). Zingerman’s has a stollen that sounds really good too, and they offer gift baskets and food club memberships for many tastes (bacon, anyone?).

“Speaking of gift baskets, a co-worker put together a fabulous one for me, based on my blog posts and tweets, with much of it from Despaña, the new Spanish market and restaurant uptown. They even have boxed paella kits, or you can put together all the fixings yourself.

Savory Spice Shop put together a custom collection of herbs and spices for my niece, complete with rack, as a housewarming gift for her first home. They put everything in labeled jars, and we did it all by email and a phone call. When it was ready, I just swung by and they brought it out to my car.

“I had so much fun adding various bitters to my gin and tonics this summer, so an assortment of trendy artisanal bitters could make a good gift for adventurous imbiber. (Amazon has a huge selection.) For cold drinks, I like those double-walled insulated glasses, made of borosilicate glass, because it keeps them from sweating and the ice lasts longer, rather than diluting the drink quickly. (Of course, the handled ones are good for hot toddies.)

For a baker, a lovely new book, Wintersweet, by Tammy Donroe Inman (Running Press) came out this fall, with seasonal dessert recipes that sound (and look) delicious. The chocolate-pomegranate Pavlova on the cover might be worth the price alone. These are mostly rustic desserts, and not too difficult. For someone who has too many cookbooks (guilty!), a membership to Eat Your Books is only $25 per year. Thousands of cookbooks, magazines, and blogs have been indexed for their library; you add the ones you own to your virtual bookshelf, and then you can search for recipes by main ingredients (or name, whatever). The recipes themselves are not online, but you’ll know which of your books, etc. have the kind of recipe you’re looking for. Brilliant!” For the cook who loves detailed instructions (the America’s Test Kitchen fan, for instance), a membership to Rouxbe online cooking school might be just the thing, plus they’re about to launch special online wellness programs with a board of medical advisors.

Linda Prospero is creator of the blog Ciao Chow Linda, (ciaochowlinda.blogspot.com). Like Pam Parseghian, she is a fan of the widely available Scanpan line. “It’s time to throw out those old nonstick pans that can be hazardous to your health and replace them with ‘green’ nonstick pans. I would be happy to own some of the good Scanpan CTX ceramic nonstick pans from Williams Sonoma. And while it has sentimental value, I need a replacement for the 40-plus year old pizzelle iron that was my mom’s. Every time I put the dough on the old iron, I have to weigh it down with a brick to keep the pizzelle flat. I like the one from Cuisinart that has different temperature settings. I’ve always used parchment paper for cookies, but it’s time to try a Sil-pat liner. Sur La Table carries several. With the holidays coming up, serving a bit of the bubbly is always festive. I always lean toward prosecco rather than champagne, and would be thrilled if I got a case from Prospero Winery.” (Note: I asked Prospero if is there is a family connection, and she replied that she doesn’t know of any, but perhaps if she dug deeper, she might find one.)

Like Pam Parseghian, Prospero also dreams big. “For my gift-giving friends and family with deep pockets: A five-day cooking vacation with Fabrizia Lanza at her family’s estate in Regaleali, Sicily. The estate produces world-renowned wines and emphasizes traditional cooking using seasonal ingredients grown or raised on the property. For anyone who has seen the movie or read the Italian classic The Leopard, Lanza hails from the author’s (Giuseppe di Lampedusa) aristocratic family. You might be working in the kitchen during the week, but you’d also feel like landed gentry.”

Fran McManus is also a freelance food writer and the creator of  UnderstandingFlavor.com. “This Christmas I would love to get Chef’s Essences from Aftelier. Mandy Aftel sources a broad and interesting range of essential oils for cooking and perfume. She has added some new Chef’s Essence Oils to her collection as well as sprays that allow you to add a misting of aromatics such as blood orange, sarsaparilla, and litsea cubeba (lemon) to dishes. Spice blends and biscuits from La Boite. Lior Lev Sercarz creates complex, aromatic spice blends that are gorgeous to smell and fun to explore. I’ve never tasted his biscuits and I am eager to try them. Cookbooks! Three of my culinary heroes have new books out and I want them all: David Kinch (Manresa: An Edible Reflection), Daniel Patterson (Coi: Stories and Recipes) and Edward Behr (50 Foods).”

(On the topic of cookbooks, I’d like to insert a couple that are on gift-giving list this year. Pronto! is the latest in the Canal House Cooking series from Lambertville’s own Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hersheimer. Its “easy and delizioso” put the Canal House spin (i.e., updated but still simple) on classic Italian recipes. The other is Cowgirl Creamery Cooks, a collection of 75 recipes for cooking with cheese from founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of that award-winning creamery, as well as their expert accumulated knowledge about tasting, buying, serving, and appreciating all kinds of cheese.)
Leslie Mitchner describes herself as a “food lover and a food writer,” including for Princeton magazine. When she is asked to dream, she dreams big! Her list starts with one fantasy and moves on from there. “A kitchen twice as big as the very nice one I already have, so that I could have an island in the middle for prep and plating. A La Cornue range or an Aga cooker because either would fulfill a lifelong fantasy and look great in my far larger wished-for kitchen. A copper risotto pan to put on the La Cornue. Some truffles to go with the risotto. A bottle of Pouilly Fuisse 1961 because one of my best friend says it was the best vintage ever. Real Toulouse sausages for my first fall cassoulet. Old beautiful Moroccan serving dishes for my North African cooking. Beautiful nineteenth-century art nouveau or aesthetic movement silver serving spoons to use with the Moroccan dishes.”

Wow. While any foodie can get on board with Mitchner’s flights of fancy, everyone can share her concluding wish: “Finally and most importantly, for no one in this country or anywhere else to go to bed hungry.”

Holiday Celebration at the Canal House

2013 Beard Winner!

2013 Beard Winner!

For the second year in a row, Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hersheimer are throwing open the doors to their cooking atelier in Lambertville. Below is their gracious invitation. Be sure to rsvp if you intend to stop by.

Join us for our 2nd annual Open House 

Come by for some delicious food and a liquid refreshment.
We’ll have plenty of signed copies of all our books at special holiday prices for your purchasing pleasure.
Pick up our newest book
Canal House Cooking, Pronto!
or our
2013 James Beard Award winning
Canal House Cooks Every Day

Open House at Canal House
Sunday December 15, 2013
11:00 to 3:00 pm
6 Coryell Street, Studio B
Lambertville, NJ

You don’t have to buy to come by.
We’d just love to see you.
Peace and Love
Christopher & Melissa
If you think you might be able to make it, rsvp so we have plenty of bubbles on ice.

Border Crossings: San Francisco Neighborhood Restaurant Finds

Customarily when I dine outside the boundaries of the Garden State it’s to cross either the Hudson or the Delaware. Recently, I trekked clear across the country.

The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA a...

The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA at sunset taken from the Marin Headlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nopalito & Izakaya Yuzuki: Delicious Food at Reasonable Prices


Nopalito on Urbanspoon

You know how it’s always the locals who know the best little neighborhood places in a big city? Well, imagine my delight when the “locals” in the know turn out to be one of my own daughters and her boyfriend. Nopalito – there are actually two locations because it’s just that popular – serves up simply the best straightforward Mexican food I have eaten outside of Mexico City.

There are two key factors that account for Nopalito’s success. First, many of the ingredients are organic, sustainable, and local. Masa, made from organic corn, is ground in-house and tortillas are hand-formed. Chorizo and queso fresco are made on the premises, too. Blue Bottle coffee is served. Key factor number two: the two chefs behind Nopalito, Jose Ramos and Gonzalo Guzman. They started out at Nopalito’s parent restaurant, the more formal Nopa (which serves Northern California cuisine), where as part of their cooking duties they were tasked with making the “family” meals for staff. These were so delicious, Nopa’s owners offered them their own spinoff.

Nopalito’s setting is casual in the extreme and its short menu covers the basics. Don’t let either of those factors fool you into thinking it’s run of the mill. Ceviche and carnitas are revelations. Tamales change with the season and should not be missed. (In July, I downed the Empipianado, with pork and two kinds of seeds. It’s now replaced with a summer squash, corn, and tomato version.) A pitcher of margaritas would not be amiss (Pueblo Viejo Blanco, Combier, agave nectar, and lime), for $33. Prices, for the quality, are ridiculously reasonable – like $15.50 for carnitas or carne asada and $4.50 for a beef gordita. Plus, the staff is friendly and although Nopalito doesn’t take reservations, you can call ahead when you’re on your way and get put on the list.

Izakaya Yuzuki

Izakaya Yuzuki on Urbanspoon

I learned about Izakaya Yuzuki, on the other hand, from Princetonian Fran McManus, longtime marketing director of that town’s Whole Earth Center. Yes, it’s Japanese – but it doesn’t serve sushi. Instead, it focuses on cooked dishes featuring “koji,” the fermenting agent used since ancient times to make many essential Japanese foods and ingredients, including (but not limited to) sake, miso, and soy sauce.

Vegetables 3 Ways

Vegetables 3 Ways (Photo credit: I am Jeffrey)

In the introduction to her menu, Izakaya Yuzuki‘s owner, Yuko Hayashi, explains that “the preparation of koji…demands much time and close attention. As a result, this beautiful and sophisticated tradition as been cast off for faster, cheaper methods” and mass production. Whatever – the food speaks for itself.

We happened to hit this small storefront restaurant in the Mission (near Tartine) at the tail-end of a weekday happy hour, when both food and sake were offered at prices we couldn’t resist. We loaded up with small plates (and by small I mean a couple of bites each) and a flight of 4 sakes (each in an amazingly different style). Among the many standouts was a combo dish of 3 vegetables of the day that featured smoky sautéed spinach and sweet potatoes with crisp skins and custardy insides.  Sweet clams and Japanese cucumbers in red miso also pleased, but what blew me away was – and I realize this sounds dreadful – squid cooked in its own liver. Couldn’t get enough.

Grilled Chicken Meat Ball

Grilled Chicken Meat Ball (Photo credit: I am Jeffrey)

Among the consistently excellent larger dishes (although still not exactly large) are Kobe beef tataki and whole, air-dried horse mackerel – crispy skinned and butterflied – with daikon ponzu sauce. More conventional but no less lip-smacking are grilled chicken wings and chicken meatballs on a skewer. As at Nopalito, many of the ingredients are fresh, organic, and from local and sustainable sources, and even the soy sauce and tofu are made in-house.

Izakaya Yuzuki offers 24 sakes, as well as beer, shochu, and a nicely curated list of European wines that are well matched to the fare. One final detail not to be missed: the restroom has a high-tech heated toilet seat.