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Everything posted by Pitter

  1. Siam in Lambertville is the best of all, in my humble opinion. I've been to most of those listed above. Getting a reservation there, or even anyone to answer the phone, is a big obstacle. Show up at the door at 6:00, and if you are rejected, go somewhere else -- ( Rick's for fish and red-sauce pasta (cheap!) or Hamilton's Grill Room for expensive American, or Martine's in New Hope, just across the Bridge, for clams in wine). Anyway, I think Siam has the best Thai in NJ.
  2. Pitter


    The Occelli butter from Italy is so good because the cream comes from freely ranging cows grazing on the natural flora of the Piedmont region. Another butter that I think is fantastic is a sheep's milk butter, packed into a crock by Papillon in France. There is also a nice cow's milk butter from Spain called Cadi. All of these are going to be quite different from anything manufactured in the U.S., cultured or not. I love the cultured butter from Vermont Butter and Cheese, and for everyday use, guess what, it's Land-o-Lakes -- always unsalted. I'm not wild about Plugra, which is higher fat (82% vs. 80%) and therefore more like the European butters, though it is uncultured. It all starts and ends with the quality of the cream.
  3. Thank you all for the heads up on this topic. I went to the Wegman's in Bridgewater today, specifically to check out the Herme display. I've been there many times before, but simply passed over the bakery counter, figuring it was better than average, but not as good as I would be looking for. Phew, what a shock. This, coming from a former pastry chef. I found the people behind the counter to be very helpful, just as previous posters who have visited Princeton. I bought a lb. of chocolates. They are astounding, and what incredible value at $33 per lb. Now I know I will be in Wegman's every week rather than every three or four. I love their vegetables, cheeses, and D'Artagnan game, but before I could do without a weekly visit, since I live 20 miles away. Now I know I have to sample the entire pastry case. And I will be buying Monsieur Herme's book! Thanks again.
  4. Thanks Jason. I don't know the area very well, and will certainly check this out.
  5. I think that someone probably already wrote about this, but today I went there for the first time -- accidentally, as I had some time to kill before a meeting at Whole Foods a mile up the way. Phew. Wow. An amazing store. They have sushi fish and great looking beef, sliced paper thin and stacked just right, ready to go. I couldn't buy these because I would not get them refrigeratored for 6 hours, and in this heat, imagine. They also have maybe 3,000 other things that I did not recognize. Even so, bought $40 worth of green tea, what I am told is the BEST sushi rice in the world ($7 for 10#), and had to leave the rest behind because I was in a hurry. I will be returning any time I am in the nabe, to buy some octopus and tuna. Prices, by the way, were fairly steep. I was the only person in the whole store who was not Japanese. All of the labels on products were in Japanese, and only a few of those had English translations. Gotta say, this place is a trip -- that means great! for anyone younger than 40.
  6. Pitter


    Please beware, lebne is more fattening than sour cream, and, I think, mayonaisse. I still love it, especially when sprinkled with chopped tomato, onion and lots of Zatar, then drizzled with great olive oil and scooped up with pita bread or chips. For really good, everyday yogurt, try to find Brown Cow whole milk, with the cream on top. I see this in natural food stores. The plain is fine, and the vanilla is divine, especially when mixed with tahini for an instant sauce on hummus etc. Other than that, Stoneybrook is probably the way to go, especially since it is so readily available.
  7. I live in Hunterdon County, which is a sort of wasteland for good food, but here goes: Miel's in Stockton -- Great "comfort" food, my fave in the nabe. Franks -- really the best for a red sauce place. Rosemont General Store -- for desserts to take home Alberto's -- on Rte 31 just above Flemington -- the best pizzettas and veal in the area. Etzel's -- on the corner of Rtes. 12 and 579, my local lunch place, and a total dump. They make everything from scratch. They make the best onion soup in the county, and maybe the world.
  8. My pepper grinder is called, I think, Pepper Mate. This is possibly the most practical purchase I have made for my kitchen, and I buy them as b-day gifts for all of my friends. They are ridiculously overpriced at $50 (mine was $20, 15 years ago). They are rectangular shaped, with a chamber for catching the grounds, a butterfly knob on the side for grinding, and the top pops open to pour in maybe 2 oz of peppercorns. You can adjust the grind with an easy hand-turn of a screw inside the chamber. It will grind 1 tablespoon of ground pepper in, like, 4 seconds. Mine hasn't broken in 15 years, and will never break. The other essentials in my kitchen have already been mentioned: Microplane, tongs (mine are metal, and again, they are a dozen years old and will never break), wooden spoons, a lemon reamer, but because I have only a four burner stovetop, I also use cast-iron trivets to park hot pots for freeing up a burner or two.
  9. I was taken to the River Palm in Fairlawn for a Christmas Party (let's ask, how much worse could it get?) but was pleasantly surprised, actually astonished, by the quality of the seafood appetizer platter and the 3 lb lobster that graced my way. The platter included huge shrimp, a few smallish lobster tails stuffed with something, some crab claws, well prepared clams and a whole pound of lump crab meat dumped in the middle. I guess this was intended for 4-6 people. It was better than okay.
  10. Peter Luger overcooked the steak, and always does? I haven't been there since my college days, in the mid-70's, but what I remember is asking for it rare, and everyone else at the table wanted it medium, so their procedure was to bring it out rare, then send it back for further cooking. Well, it came out with, like, 1/32" of brown on each side and 2" of raw, literally cool red meat in the middle. My friends were so overwhelmed by the aroma that they decided to eat it immediately, and as we masticated on this fine flesh, finally understood without reservation that humans were supposed to be carnivores. Oddly enough, I really don't like beef steak, and was hoping that someone had ordered the burger --
  11. Rosie -- of course you are absolutely right, but I was with a large table of folks in the food biz, and this restaurant is a client with some of them. Therefore, I did not wish to make a scene, and possibly compromise someone's relationship. I guess I should send them a short letter. In my industry we never send things back and never complain. It's part of the cost of doing business.
  12. This is all a big joke, right? I simply give them the money and tell them to "hold" on the cookies.
  13. Lullyloo: It's hard to say how long to reduce stock until suitable for cubes. I usually reduce it until I can't stand waiting anymore, then reduce it another two hours. Not scientific! Use low, low heat in the final stages until it is literally like syrup. When cool, it should be wiggly-jiggly. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. After they are frozen, I usually put them into ziplock bags for easy access. Simply use the number that tastes right. In classical cooking, one cube should be diluted with one cup of water to make a tall cup of stock. If I am making a big pot of soup, I'll toss in 8 or 10. If I want to enrich a sauce, 1 or 2. Cooking is all about improvising. Just have fun, and good flavor will follow --- Sorry I can't be more specific.
  14. I had dinner at Epernay about a month ago, and thought it was one of the worst meals I ever had. I ordered a salad, after seeing these beautiful plates of lettuce pass by, and what I received was indeed a beautiful plate of lettuce, dressed with nary a drop of dressing, and perhaps a teaspoon of salt. When I finally found that singular drop of dressing, it was acrid and way off balance. What an incredibly easy thing for a restaurant to do: properly dress a salad. This was, instead, inedible. My partner ordered the steak tartar, and what she received was a pile of raw beef, obviously processed in a food processor so that it was a mound of raw beef puree, positively disgusting to look at, and, the clincher was that it contained perhaps a half cup of dijon mustard to a cup of meat. We each took a tiny bite of it, burned our tongues, and had to send it back. The waiter just kind of shrugged his shoulders, and we were charged for it nevertheless. The roasted chicken was barely decent. Guess this was quite an "off" night.
  15. I love the burgers at Broome St. Bar and Grill, with the fried onions. They serve them with pita bread, which may seem a bit strange, but it actually works. If you are in the nabe you must try these out.
  16. I think that when folks are mentioning "cubes," this is short-hand for the folks who take their stock and simmer it off until it is very thick, like a "glace." Then they pour it into icecube trays, freeze it, and use a cube at a time to mount sauces, thicken stews, or dilute for soups. Most of stock is water. If you evaporate that off, you still have the good stuff of stock, but in a much more manageable form. If you are a real purist, and evaporate enough water, a "cube" can be diluted to a "cup" of real stock.
  17. In addition to a month's supply of Chinese dumplings, some stocks and artichoke bottoms (the only veg I really like frozen) I keep my tin of saffron in the freezer. I buy it by the ounce, which is enough to last a lifetime, but usually go through it in a year or so as I give big clumps of it away as gifts. I used to freeze Parm but found that it is then good for only grating, and since I like to eat it by the slice, I have found that triple wrapping it keeps it squeaky clean when stored in the coldest part of the fridge.
  18. Tommy, I may think it is natural to "stuff the box" but that does not make it fair or moral. I, too, view surveys as more fun than truth. The big problem here is that people spend money at these places and end up with a mediocre meal. At the same time, NJ Monthly is invalidated -- I would simply read the winners as places that I must avoid. And in fairness to some of the ethnic places that never caught onto the scheme, these places might be avoided as well. Rosie is right -- it is important for us common folks to vote, but in lieu of the gospel of NJ Monthly, thank our blessings that we have computer forums which dish out the real deal. ;)
  19. Balsamic is a "cheater's" product. When a bottle says "aged 12 years" it is usually a blend of younger vinegars with a few drops of the older stuff. Almost all supermarket balsamic in 750 ml bottles is mass produced red wine vinegar with carmelized sugar. In tasting some of them, you get a huge, acrid aftertaste which is from using cheap, red wine vinegar as a base. On the other hand, some balsamics are really as represented. The only way to tell is to taste them. In my experience as a salesperson of balsamics, I know of several which are exactly as represented, which are complex, smooth, and not very expensive. Usually I use a mixture of balsamic and either lemon juice or good red wine vinegar in salads. And after more than a few tastings of balsamics in the 25-100 range, I can tell you that some of these are so divine that the lingering, evolving flavor becomes encrypted in memory -- I can recall them now, five years later.
  20. Pitter


    I haven't tried your recipe, but I would suggest you use bar sugar -- extra fine, but without the cornstarch of 10x sugar, and substitute 1/4 of the total flour with rice flour. The rice flour has no gluten, which may not help your "crumbly" problem, but you can work the dough a bit more without worrying about making it tough. The bar sugar melts better, and herein may be your solution. Good luck. Love shortbread, myself.
  21. I wish I did not have to post this inflammatory message and could email Ms. Bressman privately, and I trust that NJ Monthly has shored up their auditing practices, but please know that for 5 years out the of last ten, I worked for Food Distributors in NJ, and had a bird's eye view of some of the inner offices of restaurants. On more than one occassion, I visited a chef or owner in their enclosed domain, and saw 500 copies of NJ Magazine piled up on the floor. Take a guess which issue this always was. And, no surprise, said restaurants would turn up as winners in their annual poll. I kid you not, and I would testify to this under oath.
  22. The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Yamuna Devi Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition, Anna Maria Cornetto English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David Flatbreads and Flavors, Alford and Duguid Celebrating Italy and The Italian Baker, Carol Field Simple Cooking, Outlaw Cook and Serious Pig, John Thorne World of Food, Paula Wolfert
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