Tag Archives: Sue Gordon

Salsa Slam Winners; Elements Sets Opening Date; Freebie @ WildFlour

11 Princeton Eateries Vie for Salsa Bragging Rights

I don’t know what it is about salsa that brings out the best in people, but for the 4th year in a row the Princeton Public Library’s salsa contest drew a fun-loving crowd (estimated at 200), a passel of uncommonly cheerful salsa-dispensing volunteers, 5 downright giddy judges (me among them), and 11 amazing anonymous entries.

The Contenders

The Contenders

Congrats to these winners:

First Place: Olives, for its Tropical Mango Salsa (which also contains green tomatoes, avocado, pineapple, jalapeno, red onion, lime, cilantro, and olive oil)

Crowd at Salsa Slam 2015

Crowd at Salsa Slam 2015

Second Place (Judges’ Choice) and Second Place People’s Choice: Nassau Inn, for its Watermelon Salsa (including red onion, lime, cukes, jalapeno, cilantro, mint, and honey)

My fellow judges (l to r): Arlene Reyes, Elisa Neira, Sue Gordon, Gab Carbone

My fellow judges (l to r): Arlene Reyes; Elisa NeiraSue Gordon, Gab Carbone

Third Place: Jammin’ Crepes, with Local Summer Harvest Salsa, a tasty combo of peaches, cukes, red peppers, red onions, jalapeno, pickles, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic.

People’s Choice: Tie: Jammin’ Crepes & Tortuga’s Mexican Village (Classic Pico de Gallo: tomato, onions, cilantro)

Steven Fitch, Sous Chef, Nassau Inn & Creator of People's Choice Winner

Steven Fitch, Sous Chef, Nassau Inn & Creator of 2nd Place Winner

Elements Sets Opening Date & Menu

Scott Anderson, The Princeton Echo, July 2015

Scott Anderson of Elements, Courtesy of The Princeton Echo, July 2015

The date: August 11. The menu: first iteration here (reservations as well).

Attention Cyclists: WildFlour Bakery in Lawrenceville Has an Offer You Can’t Refuse

If you enjoy bicycling and haven’t yet discovered the recently opened Lawrenceville Hopewell Trail, you’re in for a treat. A double treat, in fact. Because WildFlour, the gluten-free bakery and cafe on Main Street (Route 206) in the village, has this extra incentive for you to hop on your bike:

Simply download the coupon here, on the WildFlour website.


Summer is NOT Over: Dine on the JC Waterfront; Attend a David Burke-Curated Alfresco Fundraiser; & Make Seasonal Salsas

Before We Get Started: Join me at Readathon for Adult Literacy

This Thursday, September 4th, I’m participating in Literacy New Jersey‘s Readathon at the Princeton Public Library. At 1 pm, I will read from my favorite (food-related) book for 5 minutes, as part of an all-day event to spotlight adult illiteracy.

A few cookbooks from my shelves

A few cookbooks on my shelves

Did you know that in Mercer County alone, 60,000 adult residents cannot read above a fourth grade level? As someone with a sibling who never learned to read (incredible, I know), this cause is very close to my heart.

From 10 to 11 am, children’s books will be featured; from noon to 4 pm, adult books. Please join me! The public is welcome to sign up as readers, too. Phone 609.587.6027 or email vgolden@literacynj.org.


As It Grows” Dinner to Benefit Little Silver’s Historic 1665 Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

David Burke is the celebrity chef (David Burke Fromagerie, etc.) creating a sumptuous farm-to-table menu for what event co-chair Bob Sickles (of Sickles Market) terms a “serious food and wine event with a fun, casual approach.” It takes place on Saturday, September 13 starting at 6:30 pm under a sailcloth tent at the historic Parker Homestead in Little Silver, which is the beneficiary.

The “elegant casual” evening includes wines from Colts Neck’s 4JGs Vineyard, music, dancing, and a live auction (featuring rare collectible wines) conducted by Antiques Roadshow star Nicholas Dawes.

Here’s the menu created by David Burke (who, btw, grew up in Hazlet):

Cocktail Reception: Bacon Clotheslines with Pickled Carrot Garnish; Cheese”burker” Sliders; Quinoa Sliders; Pork Rillettes; Corn Panna Cotta Jars; Pig Trotter Terrine Spiced Apple; House Cured Lardo; Garden Conserva; Country Crostini; Chicken Lollipops.

Lusty Lobster Raw Bar: Wild Caught Sandy Hook Bay Clams; Wild Caught Delaware Bay Oysters; Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail; Jonah Crab Claws.

Sickles Market Cheese Table: Assorted Farmstead Jersey Cheeses including Long Valley Shepherd, Bobolink Dairy and Cherry Grove. Gourmet accompaniments and fruits.

“Local” Salad Station: Organic Kale Caesar Salad; Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Apples; Candies Pecans, Blue Cheese, Dried Cranberries; Fall Market Salad with Fixins’; Tomato Burrata Salad.

Fish Station: Barnegat Light Day Boat Scallops, Parsnip, Apple, Chanterelle, and Leek Fondue.

Pork Station: Porchetta Carving Station, Pineapple and Mustard Kraut, Quince, Lentils, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Corn Bread Stuffing, Country Potato Salad.

Beef Station: Roast Prime Rib with Au Jus, Horseradish, Crème Fraiche and David Burke Steak Sauce.

Pasta Station: House Made Cavatelli, Sheep Milk Ricotta, Butternut Squash.

Dessert: Cotton Candy, Smokin’ Hot Doughnuts; Peach Pies.

Tickets are $250 and can be purchased at www.AsItGrows.org or by calling 732.462.1466.

Surfeit of Scrumptious Salsas Sizzle at Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Last month I was a judge at a different event at the Princeton Public Library: it’s third annual salsa contest. Ten area eateries vied for the coveted title of best salsa in this Ivy League town. Terra Learning Kitchen (located inside the YMCA) won over us judges with its Salsa Verde with Avocado, while People’s Choice went to Tortuga’s Mexican Village for its classic Secret Family Recipe Salsa.

My fellow judges: Gab Carbone of the bent spoon, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, & food blogger Sue Gordon

My fellow judges (left to right): Gab Carbone of the bent spoon, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, & food blogger Sue Gordon

Naturally, I used the occasion to gather recipes for some of my personal favorites. Don’t let the Labor-Day-means-the-end-of-summer hype fool you: there’s plenty of NJ harvest time left to make the following fresh, exciting salsas. The folks at Agricola, Princeton’s popular farm-to-table restaurant kindly shared their intriguing entry, anchored by kimchi and heirloom tomatoes. The mango salsa recipe is courtesy of my friend George Point of Lawrenceville, who won awards for it years ago when he competed on the NJ barbecue cook-off circuit.

For a full report on the Slam, read this terrific account by one of my fellow judges, Sue Gordon, who blogs as the Princeton Food Examiner. (Recipes are reprinted from my column in the August 15 issue of the Princeton Packet.)

Pete Maglaty, Sous Chef, Agricola

3/4 cup kimchi
2-1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup spring onion, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Juice from 1-1/2 limes, separated
4 tablespoons kimchi juice, separated
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

  1. Combine the onion, jalapeno, juice from 1 lime, and 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice in a small bowl. Cover and let macerate overnight at room temperature.
  2. Next day, cut the tomatoes into small dice and chop the cilantro leaves. Mix together the tomatoes, cilantro, and kimchi. Stir in the macerated mixture of onion and jalapeno, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice. Season with salt, cover, and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving adjust seasoning if necessary with additional salt and lime juice.
    Makes about 3 cups.

George Point

2 15-ounce cans sliced mango
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 ripe kiwi fruit, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, or to taste
Juice of one fresh lime
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Puree the mango. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a small bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Makes about 3 cups.

Review: Battello – Ryan DePersio’s Latest, at the Newport Marina in Jersey City

NJ Monthly cover sept 2014The views of Manhattan, the open-air porch on the Hudson, the breezy nautical decor all make Battello a natural for catching the last of summer’s fine weather. The modern Italian seafood ain’t bad either. Read the joint report from me and senior editor Eric Levin, in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.

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.

All-Princeton: Review of Scott Anderson’s Mistral; Savory Spice Shop Sweeps Salsa Slam


So, was I blown away by Mistral, the self-proclaimed “breath of fresh air in Princeton?” Does it stack up to Elements, the first and highly acclaimed restaurant by the same team of Scott Anderson and Steve Distler? And can its chef, Napa Valley import Ben Nerenhausen, make it here on the East Coast? In Jersey? With Princetonians?  All and more are elucidated in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly. NJ Monthly Sept 13

Salsa Slam 2013

Salsa Contest 018
Salsa Contest 003

For the second year in a row, I was delighted to be a judge at the Princeton Library‘s Annual Salsa Slam, which involves both the condiment (that’s where I came in) and the dance. Congrats to first place winner Savory Spice shop, with its sweet-hot mix of Asian pear, mango, and chile pepper. Close behind were Masala Grill and Mediterra from a field of 10 Princeton-area businesses. Masala Grill’s pureed salsa containing green chiles, fenugreek, and cinnamon (as well as other ingredients) also took the People’s Choice Award. Fellow judge and food writer Sue Gordon writes it up and shares photos here in the Examiner.

I Judge Salsa; Zagat Issues Updated NJ Guides; Salt Creek Grille Shares Recipes

Cool Winner of Princeton’s Hot Salsa Contest

Who could have predicted that a sorbet would win Princeton’s first ever salsa contest? But that frozen concoction from the folks at The Bent Spoon won over us judges from among a strong field of 14 entered in the event held at the public library.

The pale pink “taco sorbet” had all the flavors and zest you expect in salsa – but in a creative and unexpected form.

I and my fellow judges had a tough time deciding, as did the public. Only 3 votes separated the People’s Choice winners, with Olives just squeaking past Eno Terra. Above are  Dorothy Mullen of the Suppers Program and Judith Robinson of Our World, Our Choice. Not pictured is Sue Gordon, whose blog is FoodNetworkMusings.

You can see here some of how diverse the entries from eateries and businesses throughout Princeton were:

And the young lady below came over to me begging for water after sampling a particularly zingy entry.

Not just salsa of the edible kind was featured at the event. There was lively dancing on the plaza as well. Totally fun; I hope they do it again.

Speaking of Contests, Let’s Not Forget Relish

Serious Eats recently listed their picks for top hot dog relishes in the US and guess what? Two of the 14 hail from NJ! Congrats to Grandma Fencz’s Hungarian Onion Sauce (at Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha) and Rutt’s Hutt Relish (Clifton). I feel compelled to add a third: First Field’s, bringing my personal NJ total to 3.  Unfortunately, First Field’s is currently out of stock. The good folks behind it expect to have this year’s batch on the shelves (and at farmers markets) in the coming weeks.

Two Updated Zagat NJ Guides

I have been remiss in not reporting that 2 updated Zagat NJ guides are out for 2012/13: the statewide book and Jersey Shore Pocket Guide. (Full disclosure: I am an editor of both.) Among the updates and additions are 21 Key Newcomers. The iconic maroon books are widely available, including on Amazon and the Zagat site.

Recipes from Salt Creek Grille’s Wine & Dine for Eden Autism

Since 2008 Salt Creek Grille in Forrestal Village on Route 1 in Princeton has mounted an annual and wine gala on behalf of a worthy local cause. This year’s gala, held on June 28, raised funds for Eden Autism Services.

At the gala, selections from Salt Creek Grille’s recently unveiled “Fresh Reinvented” menu were served under the direction of Fabian Quiros, who took over as executive chef in January. The “Fresh Reinvented” menu features dishes that are lighter and healthier than in the past. (These are in addition to such Salt Creek signature dishes as mesquite-grilled double-cut pork chop and bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp.) The restaurant group has also increased its commitment to using organic and locally sourced ingredients, and among its current suppliers are Small World Coffee, Fresh Field (Jersey ketchup and relish), Crazy Steve’s Pickles & Salsa, Cherry Grove Farm (cheeses), Griggstown Farm (poultry and sausage), and Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen.

Chef Quiros’ menu for the Wine & Dine event featured, among many other dishes, four pastas and chef stations offering roast pork rubbed with smoked paprika and prime rib with chimichurri sauce. These were all delicious, but the surprises for me were the stupendous made-to-order sliders – actually, chubby mini burgers – and seafood paella. (That last particularly because I rarely enjoy paella even in Latin restaurants.)

Fabian Quiros’ story is inspiring. He came to the US from Costa Rica in 2000, speaking no English. He started out as a dishwasher in the Rumson Salt Creek Grille, worked his way up to sous chef and now, at age 32, is executive chef. Along the way he met and married a Salt Creek Grille waitress, and the couple, who lives in Jackson, has a two-month-old daughter, Lucia.

One dish on the restaurant’s new menu that is just now in season is Roasted Squash & Ricotta Ravioli, made with Lucy’s pasta, a plethora of fresh vegetables including corn, sugar snap peas, and baby tomatoes, and a pesto that employs three types of greenery. The pasta pillows come topped with a dollop of fresh tomato marmalade. Below is Quiros’ recipe for the marmalade – which I think would also be great over roasted salmon – as well as the pesto. This meticulous chef blanches the basil, spinach, and parsley and then squeezes them dry before pureeing, but I have to admit I got good results taking the lazy route – just dropping them au naturel into the blender.


4 ounces Italian basil

4 ounces baby spinach

4 ounces flat-leaf parsley

8 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

4 ounces almonds

4 ounces Parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with salt and blanch the basil, baby spinach, and parsley for 15 seconds. Have a bowl of ice water at the ready. Remove the herbs from the boiling water and place in the ice bath for approximately 1 minute. Remove the herbs and squeeze out the excess water in a towel (the drier the better). In a blender, puree the herbs together with the oil, almonds, garlic, and cheese on high speed for approximately 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes enough for 4 generous pasta servings.


5 Roma tomatoes, diced small

1/2 Spanish onion, diced small

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/4 large sprig rosemary, needles chopped fine

2 ounces clover honey

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.