Restaurant News

This week Rosie tells us about Blue Morel in Morristown, the Oyster Festival at Legal Seafoods in Paramus and Short Hills, Arthur Schwartz at Kings Cooking Studio in Short Hills, a murder-mystery weekend in Cape May, and much more news about NJ restaurants.

Blue Morel, previously known as Copeland, located at the Westin Governor Morris Hotel, 2 Whippany Road, Morristown, is the new creation of Chef Thomas Ciszak and the TLC Restaurant Group. Executive chef Kevin Takafuji delivers expertly prepared modern contemporary American cuisine and has some impressive qualifications. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC, was sous chef at the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, and has also held positions at Cafe Boulud, Town, Cello, and Le Bernardin, all in NYC.

Changes from Copeland include a wine bar with 70-plus selections by the glass and half-glass pours, a sushi and raw bar, a banquet space for private events, and regular wine dinner tasting events at a communal table, with menus designed around daily offerings from local farms.

Blue Morel sushi.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.

At a recent press dinner we started with a whimsical glass jar filled with pickled cucumbers, carrots, and watermelon rind and a basket filled with a variety of rolls. A sushi platter with a grilled shrimp roll (shiitake mushrooms, avocado, yuzu mayonnaise), dragon roll (avocado, cucumber, eel kabayaki), rainbow roll (tuna, salmon, local fluke, Sriracha aioli), and spicy tuna roll (tobiko, Sriracha aioli) was colorful and fresh tasting. Locally sourced heirloom tomatoes layered with cantaloupe made for a refreshing salad, which was followed by roasted Barnegat scallops with succotash, smoked tomato, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, which had layers of tastes. Smoky and spicy tender grilled octopus was enlivened with dried chorizo, blistered shishito pepper, arugula, and a roasted red pepper basquaise.

We loved an opulent and tender twice-cooked beef short rib, which was topped with shaved salsify and pickled carrot. It was creatively paired with a coddled egg atop a parsnip purée. An oxtail ragù completed this impressive dish. A cheese plate preceded Oma’s (German for “grandmother’s”) Jersey peach torte with vanilla schlag; blueberry trifle with sweet corn ice cream; warm flourless chocolate cake with white peach ice cream and a sautéed red plum; caramel and roasted banana pot de crème with a malted milk shooter; and angel food cake with roasted plums and crème fraîche ice cream. I know—it sounds like a lot. But there were eight of us, and we just kept tasting and passing to the right! Pasty chef Ernie Rich got our applause for this riveting, beautifully plated, and scrumptious finale to our dinner.

Blue Morel scallop.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.

If you prefer to sit at the bar, a cocktail such as the Sauvignon citrus martini, made with Sauvignon Blanc, Ketel One vodka, and lemon, lime, and orange juice, is just one of the many specialty drinks available. Bar snacks include one of our favorite burgers, made with ground Waygu beef, Gruyère, bacon, lettuce, and tomato, as well as tea-smoked chicken wings, Jersey tomato bruschetta, and a cheese or meat plate.

Blue Morel short rib.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstien.

Blue Morel is available for private parties, and the wine room seats eighteen. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, a brunch buffet on Sunday, and dinner daily. For reservations, call 973-451-2619.

Blue Morel blueberry trifle.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein.


Legal Seafoods, Garden State Plaza, Paramus (201-843-8483), and the Mall at Short Hills (973-467-0089), will be featuring an Oyster Festival through October 16. Menu items change weekly and may include oyster stew; fried oysters; smoked oyster spread; oyster and andouille sausage jambalaya; and oyster, mushroom, and spinach pie. The festival is timed to take advantage of the seasonal availability of this healthy bivalve mollusk, and varieties such as Wellfleet, Cotuit Bay, Bluepoint, Kumamoto, Glidden Point, and Malpeque will be featured.

Fried oysters at Legal Seafoods.


He’s back! Arthur Schwartz will be at Kings Cooking Studio, 778 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, on October 10, teaching a demonstration cooking class, I Cook as I Please. Menu highlights include a diet version of pasta with zucchini; pasta and peas with scallions and mint; pasta and chickpeas with rosemary, garlic, and great olive oil; spaghetti all’amatriciana; “eggs in purgatory”; roasted chicken legs/thighs with rosemary and hot pepper; and Franca Miceli’s warm apple cake. 6:30 to 9:30 PM; $85. To register, call 973-258-4009.


A mystery weekend, Night of the Living Dead: Disguise for Murder, will be held at the Mad Batter at the Carroll Villa Hotel, 19 Jackson Street, Cape May, October 21 through 23. Prices start at $525 plus tax per couple for the weekend and include lodging at the Carroll Villa, a Friday-night wine and cheese reception, breakfast and dinner on Saturday, breakfast on Sunday, a mystery weekend souvenir, and all clues and interactive murder festivities for the weekend, including an eyeball toss and scavenger hunt. For a deadly good time, call 609-884-9619.


More than 700 wines along with food will be available on October 10 at Super Tasting 2011, hosted by the Wine Library, Springfield. The event will be held at the Manor, 111 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, with a portion of the benefits going to the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce. 5:30 to 9:30 PM; $95. VIP tickets are $125 and allow entrance at 4:30 PM. For tickets, call 973-376-0005 or 888-980-WINE.


On October 6 at 6:30 PM, a demo, Q&A, and book signing of Simple Food, Big Flavor: Unforgettable Mexican-Inspired Recipes From My Kitchen to Yours with Aarón Sanchez will be held at Chef Central, Paramus Towne Square, 240 Route 17 North, Paramus. Sanchez, the owner and executive chef at Centrico in NYC, is a costar on the Food Network’s Chef vs. City and can also be seen on Chopped, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and The Next Iron Chef. For more information, call 201-576-0100.


On October 7, a medical-mystery dinner, Fast Food Critic Fred Is Dead, will be held at the Wedgwood Country Club, 200 Hurffville Road, Turnersville, to benefit the Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury. 6:30 to 9:30 PM; $55 in advance only; cash bar. For tickets, call 856-227-5522 ext 3. Seventies attire is suggested but not required.

Please send press releases and restaurant news, including information on staff changes, wine tastings, and cooking classes, to [email protected].

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