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This week Rosie tells us about Divina Ristorante in Caldwell; Sustenance on the Farm Dinner at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morristown; The Corner Table at Whole Foods in Vauxhall; The Manor and Highlawn Pavilion both in West Orange and much more news about New Jersey restaurants.
DIVINA RISTORANTE, CALDWELL
Everyone was greeting each other and table-hopping at Divina Ristorante (461 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell). Early in the evening, even chef/owner Mario Carlino was in the dining room chatting with guests, and, except for us, he seemed to know everyone. This is a neighborhood restaurant—obviously filled with regulars—where careful attention is taken with the food and the patrons. We hadn’t been here in a year and, to our delight, this restaurant is still worth a visit.
We had healthy starters: a vegetable side of escarole; string bean salad with red onions and tomatoes; and roasted peppers and mozzarella. On our last visit, we had the eggplant parm, which was so good it made it to our Best Dishes of 2011 list. Was it still freshly made with thin slices of eggplant and an impressive tomato sauce? Yes—and it will be on the Best Dishes of 2012 list (out in December). Veal with wild mushrooms was reported to be tender and tasty and a special of bronzini with white-wine sauce, served with spinach and roasted potatoes was moist and perfectly cooked. For those of you that like chicken on the bone, it is offered in four variations—and was also listed as a special. (By the way, specials are printed out with prices—thank you!) Dessert was an interesting blueberry cheesecake with the berries incorporated in the batter rather than just on top. It was light, but not as creamy as other cheesecakes we have had. Even on a Tuesday night Divina was packed, so be sure to call ahead. Reservations: 973-228-5228; BYO.
String bean salad
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
INDIGO KITCHEN, MONTCLAIR
This was a new one for us. Lowell gave the waitress a credit card when we finished eating; she came back with an iPad and said, “just write your name with your finger.” There was a prompt for the tip, and if you want a receipt, you type in your e-mail address. When we got home the receipt was in our inbox. Where were we? Indigo Kitchen (615 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair)—which is using technology that will likely be the norm at restaurants in the future.
Owner/chef Lance Knowling’s shrimp and grits are as good as I’ve had in Charleston, South Carolina. The seductive, creamy grits with plump, perfectly cooked shrimp topped with scallions, make for a faultless comfort dish. The menu offers it as an appetizer, but it is rich enough to be an entrée. Or just order two servings; it’s that good. Buttermilk-fried chicken sliders, three to the order, are presented on biscuits with tomato, pickles, mayonnaise, and chips. BBQ chopped brisket sliders are also on the menu. Greens were piled high on the beet salad, which was large enough to share, and came with an impressive honey-sherry dressing, goat-cheese biscuit croutons and toasted pistachios.
If you are a first timer here, you may wish to order an Indigo sampler with individually cut, baby-back ribs; white-meat chicken slices; tender beef brisket, and humongous french fries. The sautéed lump crab cakes with corn fritters and parsley rémoulade were reported to be succulent, but the grilled, boneless short ribs accompanied with frizzled Vidalia onion rings were short on taste. Sides of whipped sweet potatoes and three-cheese mac made with cheddar, jack, and Asiago wowed us. For dessert, we shared a warm, red-velvet cake—not the best we have ever had. Perhaps, we’ll try the key-lime tart, sweet-potato pie or Valrhona chocolate Devil’s food cake next time. Other items on the modern soul-food menu are: Louisiana corn-and-crab velvet soup; cornmeal-crusted fried okra; cabbage and collard greens made with smoked turkey; fried chicken, and wood-grilled catfish. Reservations: 973-707-2950; BYO.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
Watch the Food Network on Thursday, August 16 at 10 pm to see chef Lance Knowling of Indigo Kitchen in Montclair, and Atlantic City chef Terry French as contestants in the second season of Extreme Chef. The show takes “chefs out of their kitchens and drops them into extreme locations, from the scorching California desert to the exotic jungles of Thailand.” The first episode is “Doomsday Survival.”
SUSTENANCE ON THE FARM DINNER, MORRISTOWN
On August 26, a five-course Sustenance on the Farm dinner with organic and sustainable wine will be held at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm (73 Kahdena Road, Morristown). The event will benefit Slow Food Northern NJ school garden programs and the Farm’s educational programs for school children. In attendance will be farmer Ron Kibbe; chef David Felton of Ninety Acres at Natirar in Peapack-Gladstone; chef Dan Richer, Arturo’s of Maplewood; pastry chef Celeste Governanti of Made with Love Organic Bakery in Jersey City; and jazz guitarist Paul Meyers. 5 to 8 pm; $160. For tickets visit http://sustenanceevents.com/2012farm-dinners.html
CORNER TABLE, WHOLE FOODS, VAUXHALL
Here’s the scenario: You are looking for a casual restaurant for lunch or dinner that also has a kid’s menu with healthy items your child will eat. Or, you are looking for a place that won’t break the bank and has choices for everyone. You’d also like to have a beer or glass of wine— whether or not you have children in tow—and, perhaps, watch TV. The food should be organic, fresh, natural and, of course, delicious. Where can you go? Well, The Corner Table has opened at Whole Foods Market (2245 Springfield Avenue, Vauxhall; 908-688-1455) featuring a menu of locally sourced food, beer, and wine. It’s a win-win. Whole Foods has a stellar reputation for selling the finest natural and organic foods and has a commitment to sustainable agriculture. Everything they serve at The Corner Table is from the store. Might be cheaper to eat here then home!
This is how it works. After you walk to the cash register. Give your order and get a number. Get your beverage drink and walk to a table with your complimentary bag of popcorn to munch on while waiting for your order to be brought to the table. There is no tipping allowed, but please bus your table.
Just want a drink and snack? Some choices are beer nuts, olives, cheese plate, salumi, nachos, wings (buffalo, BBQ or sesame ginger), chicken fingers, salads and soup. There’s also plenty for a vegetarian to choose from, including vegetarian chili, hearth-baked flatbreads with veggies, nachos, mushroom-based veggie burger, and hummus.
At a family and friends night, we started with the sesame-ginger wings with carrots and celery sticks, which were literally finger lickin’ good. Mac ’n‘ cheese, with Gruyère, cheddar, jack, Parm and pecorino/Romano was creamy and had a delightful topping made from pretzel crumbs. The hefty and tasty burger made with grass-fed beef was served with addictive crinkle-cut, house-made potato chips. It was so big we shared it so that we’d have room for the juicy, perfectly cooked, grilled-salmon sandwich with caper-dill mayo.
The Corner Table is Whole Foods Market’s newest dining establishment and its first Tap room in New Jersey. A glass of red or white wine ranges from $4 to $7, and a bottle can be had for $14 to $22. There are 20 beers available, priced $4 to $6. Local beers include: Sixpoint Craft Ales Sweet Action (Red Hook, Brooklyn); Troegs Perpetual IPA (Hershey, PA); River Horse Special Ale (Lambertville) among others. There is a daily Happy Hour from 4 to 7 pm; with all pints and snacks are $1 off. Menu items range from $4 to $12.
Upcoming events include: 2012 Summer Olympics Night (family-friendly Olympic trivia games); Meet the Brewer; to wine and cheese pairing classes; live Friday night jazz; and children’s’ book swaps. All menu items are available for take-out. The Corner Table is open daily from 11 am to 10 pm.
The Corner Table, chicken wings
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
THE MANOR AND HIGHLAWN PAVILION, WEST ORANGE
OpenTable diners recently awarded the Knowles family not one, but two awards for their West Orange restaurants. The Manor (111 Prospect Avenue, West Orange; 973-731-2360) was named in the top 10 Best Overall Rated Restaurants in the Tri-State Area (www.opentable.com/best-new-york-restaurants). The Highlawn Pavilion (Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange; 973-731-3463) was recognized as one of the top 100 scenic view restaurants in the United States (www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?ref=6115&pid=391). Congratulations to the Knowles family and executive chef Mitchell Altholz.
NIGHT ON THE NAVESINK: A FLAVOUR SUMMER SOIREE
On August 16, Red Bank Flavour with JP Barry Hospitality, Inc will host “A Night on the Navesink: A Flavour Summer Soiree” at the Molly Pitcher Inn (88 Riverside Avenue, Red Bank) to benefit the Lunch Break and the Red Bank Middle School Athletics Foundation. The evening will include more than twenty Red Bank eateries, as well as wine samplings, libations, and craft beer selections from New Jersey breweries. 6 to 9 pm; $40 in advance, or $50 at the door. For tickets, visit www.NightontheNavesink.eventbrite.com.
HAPPY 10TH BIRTHDAY TO BOBOLINK, MILFORD
Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse (369 Stamets Road, Milford) will be celebrating their 10th birthday on August 19 with music, food for purchase (bread, cheese, grass-fed burgers, roasted Bobolink pig, vegetables and fruits from regional farmers, and local ales from the Ship Inn). Noon to 6 pm; admission $10; (which will be donated to the Allegro School). For tickets visit cowsoutside.com and click Special Events.
FESTIVAL OF PEACHES AT FROG & THE PEACH, NEW BRUNSWICK
The peaches are back at the Frog & the Peach (29 Dennis Street, New Brunswick) with the following five-course peach tasting menu:
Peach carpaccio with crispy duck confit, arugula, spiced almonds, prosecco vinaigrette. (Prosecco, Zardetto, Veneto, Italy, NV)
Spanish octopus, pickled peach, lemon, mint, chive, jalapeño emulsion. (Itsas Mendi, Hondurrabi Zuri, Bizkaiko Txakolina, País Vasco, Spain, 2010)
Dijon barbecue-glazed pork loin chop, peach marmalade, black bean sprouts, pecans, 50-year-old sherry vinegar jus. (Boedecker “Stewart” Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon, 2009)
Grilled peach and haloumi, black currant agrodolce, herbs. (Emilio Lustau, Palo Cortado Sherry “Alamcenista Vides,” Spain)
Peach trio: sundae, soda pop, upside-down cake. (Château Rôumieu-Lacoste Sauternes, France, 2009)
$59 prix-fixe menu; $104 with wine pairings; $148 for two people with wine pairing on Friday nights. Reservations: 732-846-3216.
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