The Strawberry is Number One!

by artfuldiner on May 26, 2016

in Breaking News, Opinion

StrawberriesYesterday, Wednesday, May 25, 2016, Ranker, the leading destination for crowd-sourced rankings and opinions, released the results of its public poll to determine the public’s favorite fruit. The poll drew over 45,000 votes… with Strawberry taking the #1 spot overall.

The top 10 most delicious fruits as determined by over 45,000 votes on 106 kinds of fruits are as follows:

1. Strawberry

2. Grape

3. Watermelon

4. Banana

5. Orange

6. Peach

7. Mango

8. Apple

9. Pineapple

10. Cherry

Full poll results may be found here.

Although the strawberry took #1 overall, there were some varied opinions among different demographics… Millennials voted bananas their #1… Women ranked oranges their #1… and northeastern voters picked watermelon as their #1.

Bon Appétit!



Nicholas - Summer Walk-Around Wine TastingOn Thursday, June 9, 2016, 7:00 p.m., Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, New Jersey, will kick off the summer with a tasting that will feature wines that are perfect for sipping by the pool, in the backyard, or at the beach club.

Nicholas chose these wines with summer ingredients in mind, as these varietals pair easily with fresh fish, grilled meats, and seasonal vegetables.

To complement the special selection of wines, hors d’oeuvres and artisanal cheese will be served.

The wines to be tasted are noted immediately below…

Giovanni Almondo Arneis Bricco delle Ciligie 2015

Domaine Tinel-Blondelet Pouilly Fumé 2013

Domaine Terre des Velles Bourgogne Blanc 2014

Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Russian River Dutton Ranch 2014

Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Château de Villeneuve Saumur Champigny 2014

Corzano e Paterno Chianti Riserva Tre Borri 2013

Fiancetto Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Gravelly Loam 2013

Weingut Ratzenberger Riesling Spätlese Bacharacher Wolfscholle 2010

Corzano e Paterno Il Corzanello Bianco 2013

Capablanca Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2014

André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé 2014

Domaine de la Citadelle Côtes du Luberon Rosé La Châtaignier 2015

Domaine Francois Raquillet Mercurey Rouge 1er cru Les Vasées 2014

Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras 2011

Ca La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Ripasso 2013

Fabre Montmayou Malbec Mendoza Gran Reserva 2013

The cost of the summer walk-around wine tasting is $75.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). Fifty dollars of the $75.00 fee will be put toward the first wine purchase.

For more information, or to reserve your place at the tasting, please call (732) 345-9977.




Wine1On Saturday, June 4, and Sunday, June 5, 2016, from 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m., Skylands Stadium, 94 Championship Place, Augusta, New Jersey, will host its First Annual Wine Festival.

The festival will be held in the stadium’s new outdoor play and party zone, The Backyard Place. The event will provide wine sampling, food and dessert trucks, plus music and a special VIP tent.

Tickets are $35.00 purchased in advance; $40.00 at the door. The festival will also feature a special VIP tent, priced at $55.00 per ticket, where attendees will enjoy a fine wine selection, food tasting, giveaways and prizes. To attend the festival only (with no wine tasting) is $15.00. There is no charge for children 10 and younger. Food from the food & dessert trucks is available for purchase separately. Parking for the event is free.

For those interested in dining indoors, Skylands Stadium’s new on-site restaurant, Wheelhouse Kitchen + Bar, will be open on both days of the festival.

Bon Appétit!



Bernards Inn - John Holl, Beer Bites & BooksOn Thursday, June 2, 2016, 6:30 p.m., the Bernards Inn, Bernardsville, New Jersey, will host “Beer, Bites and Books,” a beer and food pairing dinner with special guest John Holl. Mr. Holl, beer expert and author, will enlighten and entertain guests during this interactive culinary experience.

Guests will enjoy a reception and seasonal four-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Corey Heyer with craft beer pairings specially selected by Mr. Holl to complement the flavors of each dish. The beers will vary widely in flavor profiles so that attendees may explore the depth and complexity of great craft beers from around the Garden State.

Mr. Holl’s informal presentation will cover the history and origins of craft beers in New Jersey; and he will sign his new book, Dishing Up New Jersey, as well as his previous title, The American Craft Beer Cookbook.

Mr. Holl, the award-winning editor of All About Beer magazine, has spent the last decade traveling the country chronicling craft beers and the imbibers who support them. A journalist since 1996, his work has appears in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast, Beverage World, and many other publications. He has judged beer competitions around the globe, lectures regularly on craft beer, and often appears on television.

The complete menu and beer pairings are noted below…

Barnegat Inlet Scallops*: Charred Corn, Jalapeño, Cherry Tomatoes, Cilantro, Lime; Brew Pairing: Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale from Flying Fish Brewing Co.

Cavatelli: Pheasant Sausage, Fennel, Arugula, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Lemon Confit, Basil; Brew Pairing: Forgotten Boardwalk What the Butler Saw Wit (Wit Beer) from Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing

House-Made Bacon & Pulled BBQ Chicken: Broccoli Gratin, Red Onion Marmalade, Cirspy Skin, Sweet & Sour Cabbage; Brew Pairing: Carton Boat Beer (Pale Ale from Carton Brewing

Farmers’ Strawberries: Dark Chocolate Ganache, lemon Gelato, Mint; Brew Pairing: Flounder Iced Coffee Stout (Stout) From Flounder Brewing

*Recipe from Dishing Up New Jersey.

The cost of the “Beer, Bites and Books NJ Craft Beer Dinner is $79.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). Books will be sold separately for $19.95 each.

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (908) 766-0002.

Bon Appétit!



Il Granaio Italian Restaurant

711 Concord Road

Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

(610) 459-8469

Il Granaio, the elder sibling of Antica in nearby Chadds Ford, PA, is owned by chefs Josh Friedberg & Gent Mema. Fittingly enough, the name of this charming BYOB, which means “granary” or “barn,” is located in a building that formerly served as a granary for a local farm.

The interior is dark, rustic, and candlelit. It is also wildly popular. Two recent mid-week visits, for example, found the restaurant full and overflowing by the 7 o’clock hour. Be that as it may, it is the excellent authentic Italian cuisine that remains the chief drawing card for locals and gastronomic pilgrims alike.

Il Granaio - Bread w Herbed Olive OIl & HummusAn evening here begins with a basket of Italian bread accompanied by a luscious island of hummus surrounded a sensuous sea of herbed olive oil. My only quibble… the texture of the bread suggested that it had been cryonically preserved and subsequently resuscitated rather than freshly baked.

Il Granaio - Fritto Misto di VedureStarters include items like the ubiquitous Caesar salad – which was good but not outstanding – fried calamari, grilled marinated octopus, roasted golden beets & creamy barrata cheese (a fresh Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream), and whipped mascarpone & herbed ricotta served with crostini. The table favorite, though, was the simple but sublime Fritto Misto di Vedure. Freshly cut zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and onions were deep fried and served with a caramelized shallot and sage aioli. Everything about this presentation was right on the mark: the breading was as light as a feather, the vegetables delightfully crunchy (as opposed to soggy), and the aioli a perfectly delicious companion.

As you move on to the entrées, the element that most impresses is the incredible intensity of flavors. Take the Agnolotti Porcini, for instance… Agnolotti are basically small ravioli that the kitchen stuffs with veal and mascarpone cheese. It is, however, the marvelously flavorful sage, brown butter & mushroom sauce that propels this dish into orbit. The sauce grabs you by the taste buds and just doesn’t let go. A definite winner on all counts.

Il Granaio - Braised Veal RagoutAnd the same may be said for the Braised Veal Ragout. Tender morsels of veal are slow cooked with a variety of root vegetables and then tossed with pappardelle pasta. A ragout is really a stew; and it is the slow cooking that allows the various ingredients to meld together, intensifying the flavor. And the large, broad, flat pappardelle noodles are the perfect vehicles for capturing and ultimately depositing all those extraordinary flavors in your eagerly awaiting oral cavity.

Il Granaio - Risotto PrimaveraThe Risotto Primavera is yet another highly recommendable main course. The risotto itself is as smooth as silk, with artichoke and asparagus adding their own unique flavor contributions. Then, of course, that tiara of pristinely fresh, beautifully grilled jumbo shrimp adds immeasurably to the festivities. The real kicker, though – a feast for the eye as well as the palate – is provided by a pool of roasted garlic pomodoro, which, in turn, is bisected by a savory circular ribbon of arugula pesto. Simply a must for true risotto fans.

Il Granaio - Veal SaltimoccaThe only entrée that didn’t quite make it, in my opinion, was the veal saltimbocca. While renditions may vary slightly from chef to chef, the dish is generally composed of sautéed veal medallions topped with prosciutto & mozzarella, companioned by sage leaves, and consummated with a light sauce. No question, the veal here is the real deal, not that faux processed garbage… and it is prepared just right, tender but with just the slightest hint of chewiness. Unfortunately, all the ingredients – and their distinctive, individual flavors – are drowned beneath a flood of rich brown sauce (see photo). I’m certain that some diners would find this presentation quite exceptional; but I much prefer a sauce that caresses rather than smothers the objects of its affections.

Desserts, though, are right back on track. The recently sampled lemon cheesecake doused with raspberry sauce is especially good. But even better is the lusciously addictive chocolate mousse cake. Silky smooth on the palate, this decadent denouement goes down nice and easy… and even easier with a shot of potent espresso


As noted above, chefs Josh Friedberg & Gent Mema not only own Il Granaio but also Antica Italian Restaurant & BYOB in nearby Chadds Ford (1623 Baltimore Pike, 484-770-8631, And when two restaurants with the same owner(s) are located in such close proximity to one another, a spirited game of comparisons & contrasts seems inevitable.

I reviewed Antica two years ago, May 2014; and when I decided to critique Il Granaio, I thought a return trip to its younger sibling would give me an interesting perspective on both restaurants.

Antica - Interior 1So let’s begin with the ambiance… Whereas Il Granaio’s interior is rather dark and rustic, Antica’s three dining areas are light & airy and come replete with soft soothing colorations, an original stone wall, and framed prints by Chadds Ford’s favorite artistic son, Andrew Wyeth. Maybe it’s me, but Antica just seems a bit cozier, more openly welcoming.

Antica - Baked Arctic CodBut on to the food… In my opinion, Antica’s cuisine feels more sharply focused, more carefully prepared & presented, and more upscale in its approach. Recently sampled, for instance, were an eye-catching eggplant Napoleon; spinach fettuccini with mushrooms and pulled short-ribs; and a marvelous Arctic cod filet baked in casserole over sliced potato, artichokes, green olives & tomato, and herbed breadcrumbs (pictured). And these were more than enough to convince me that those few miles between the two restaurants do make a major difference. And as a professional “hired belly,” having observed the clientele at both establishments, there is no question in my mind that Antica is definitely aiming at a more sophisticated Chadds Ford crowd.

If this appears to smack of snobbery, so be it. But it is a smart restaurateur who knows his/her/their potential audience and targets it accordingly. If you are so inclined my complete review of Antica Italian Restaurant & BYOB may be viewed here:

There is absolutely no question that Messrs. Friedberg & Mema preside over two very fine dining establishments, both of which I highly recommend… But I also freely confess that Antica has stolen this reviewer’s heart as well as his palate.

Bon Appétit!



Newton Vineyard - Exterior 2Wine guru Robert Parker once called Newton Vineyard “one of the most gorgeous mountain estates in California.” In 1977, the late Peter Newton (a native of England) and his second wife, Dr. Su Hua Newton, originally from China, purchased one square mile of tumbling slopes on Spring Mountain, making them pioneers of what is now considered a prime viticultural region, producing some of the world’s finest and most unique wines.

Newton Vineyard - Exterior 3The prestigious hillside estate is replete with small formal English gardens, caves, and a decidedly Asian influence. Co-founder Su Hua Newton’s great respect for nature is not only reflected in the beautifully terraced vineyards but also in the estate’s design. The winery was custom built to allow minimal handling of the fruit, utilizing gravity flow systems to separate batch fermenting. Wine caves were tunneled into the hillside, and a room was built underneath the formal parterre garden to specifically allow Chardonnay barrels to ferment naturally in the cool environment below the earth.

The parterre garden is just one element of the estate that reveals the heritage of its founders. The British telephone box also reflects the birthplace of Peter Newton; the Chinese red gate, striking pagoda, and other accents clearly denote the culture of Su Hua Newton. Today, Newton Vineyard is owned by the luxury goods company LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), which also owns Dom Pérignon, Château d’Yquem, Veuve Clicquot, New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay, and a host of other properties.

Newton Vineyard is recognized as an American pioneer of unfiltered wines. But filtration – or the lack thereof – isn’t something to which wine consumers give much thought… It is, however, an extremely important step in the winemaking process. Wine that is filtered (or over-filtered) can be robbed of its ability to gain complexity with age, as it is stripped of microscopic grape particles and chemical components that contribute to the wine’s overall taste and texture.

Newton Vineyard - Unfiltered Chardonnay 2013The Newton 2013 Unfiltered Chardonnay, is a classic example of a wine that has escaped the possible deleterious effects of overzealous cleansing. It is lusciously fruity, delightfully complex, rich, and beautifully balanced. The 2013 was 100% barrel fermented utilizing indigenous yeasts. It was then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. During maturation, every barrel was hand stirred weekly to re-suspend the sediment, a technique that protects the wine from oxidation and creates added complexity. The individual lots were then blended and bottled unfiltered.

One of the elements that sets this Chardonnay apart from the pack is that, despite a hefty 14.5% alcohol, it is still light on its feet – and on the palate. This isn’t one of those infamously ponderous California Chards; no, this medium bodied beauty is crisp, clean, and marvelously refreshing. The proof is in the fruit, not the oak. The 2013 Unfiltered Chardonnay retails in the $40.00 – $45.00 range.

Newton Vineyard - Red Label Claret 2013Another of Newton’s offerings that I found particularly enticing is their 2013 Red Label Claret. Claret is the English term for red wines from Bordeaux. And, like red Bordeaux, this claret is a blend of several varietals, specifically: 74% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Syrah, 2% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc. The 2013 Claret, however, weighing in at a bracing 14.5% abv, possesses a bit more alcoholic punch than most Bordeaux…

And this is all to the wine’s benefit. Aromas of ripe fruit, vanilla, and spice waft from the glass; while hints of cedar and spice dominate the palate. This isn’t a “blockbuster,” by any stretch of the imagination; but it is a good, solid wine that is just right for every day quaffing and a most suitable companion for a variety of beef and lamb dishes… The price isn’t bad either. Check online and you’ll generally find it retailing around the $20.00 mark.

Newton Vineyard - Rob Mann, New WinemakerJust one additional note… In July 2014, Rob Mann, twice-awarded Producer of the Year, as well as Winemaker of the Year by the West Australian Wine Guide, moved his family from the Land Down Under to become Newton’s estate director and chief winemaker. So it seems quite obvious that good things are yet on the horizon for one of Napa’s most famous wineries.




plukemin2On Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., the Pluckemin Inn, 359 Route 206 South & Pluckemin Way, Bedminster, New Jersey, will host an evening of fine food and wine with vintages from one of California’s benchmark wineries, Cakebread Cellars.

Special guest David Griffiths, Director of Sales and Marketing for Cakebread, will guide guests through the wines of this iconic winery, all perfectly paired with a menu specifically created for the evening by Executive Chef Andrew Lattanzio.

The complete menu and wine pairings are noted below…

AMUSE – Asparagus Velouté: Feta, Dill, Preserved Lemon; Wine Pairing: Cakebread Cellars 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

FIRST COURSE – Sea Scallops: Lombino Ham, Crispy Sage, Clams, Polenta Broth; Wine Pairing: Cakebread Cellars 2013 Chardonnay

SECOND COURSE – Rigatoni: Mushroom Ragu, Pancetta, Pecorino Sardo; Wine Pairing: Cakebread Cellars 2013 Pinot Noir

THIRD COURSE – Grilled Short Ribs: Cipollini, Gruyère, Spinach, Walnuts; Wine Pairing: Cakebread Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

CHEESE COURSE – Gorgonzola Dolce: Black Currants, Pine Nuts, Rosemary; Wine Pairing: 2012 Benchland Cabernet Sauvignon

The cost of the Cakebread Cellars wine dinner is $125.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (908) 658-9292.

Bon Appétit!



Fiddleheads - InteriorThis coming Sunday, May 15, 2016, Fiddleheads Restaurant & New American Bistro, 27 East Railroad Avenue, Jamesburg, New Jersey, will host a free artists’ reception from 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Featured will be works by Tom Myers of Bundle of Paws Photography in Robbinsville and watercolor and ink artist Tatiana Rodionova of East Brunswick. Also featured will be the continuing exhibit of “Woodspirits,” a collection of woodcarvings inspired by Viking-era “old man of the forest” lore by Fred Linke of East Brunswick.

Guests are invited to have a drink, sample homemade snacks, and meet the artists.

Fiddleheads will not be open for à la carte seating during the reception, but will be open for Sunday brunch until 2:00 p.m. (reservations accepted until 12:45 p.m.), and reopen for dinner at 4:30 p.m., the conclusion of the event.

Fiddleheads serves lunch Wednesday – Saturday, dinner Wednesday – Sunday, and Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

For more information, or to make reservations for dining, please call (732) 521-0878.

Bon Appétit!



Crystal Springs - New Belgium BreweryOn Friday, May 13 & Saturday, May 14, 2016, Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey, will welcome New Belgium award-winning craft brewery to the Garden State with a weekend of tastings and special events.

Founded in 1991, in Fort Collins, Colorado, New Belgium’s roots lie founder Jeff Lebesch’s bike trip though Europe’s beer countries, which fostered his appreciation for Belgian beef styles. Today the company produces a wide range of beers from Fat Tire amber to tangerine IPA Citradelic to the ultra-hoppy Rampant IPA.

On Friday, May 13th, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., beer aficionados can stop by the lobby of Grand Cascades Lodge to sample the brews… then head over to Crystal Tavern for flights of Heavy Melon, Ranger IPA, Citradelic and Fat Tire ($10.00 for 4 beers; 4:00 p.m. – close.

Saturday, May 14th, offers guests a choice of an afternoon party, featuring beers, complimentary light bites and live music on the Grand Cascades’ Fire & Water Deck (2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.; cash bar); or a dinner with beer pairings in the lush outdoor Chef’s Garden at 7:00 p.m. Executive Chef Anthony Bucco has created a five-course menu that utilizes a whole Berkshire pig from Restoration Agriculture. Each course will be paired with a different New Belgium beer.

The full menu is noted below…

Pig’s Head Terrine: Ramps, Green Strawberries, Pistachio; Brew Pairing: Citradelic IPA

Toulouse Sausage: Chickpeas, “Caesar,” Country Bread; Brew Pairing: Ranger IPA

Salt Baked Pork Belly: Almond Romesco, Charred Cauliflower; Brew Pairing: Rampant IPA

Smoked Pork Loin: Horseradish-Mustard, White Beans, Dandelion; Brew Pairing: Fat Tire

Bitter Chocolate: Pecans, Candied Bacon; Brew Pairing: Heavy Melon

The cost of the dinner with brew pairings is $79.00 per person (plus tax & gratuity). For more information, or to make reservations, please call (866) 935-6340.

Bon Appétit!



Mother's Day 2On Sunday, May 8, 2016, Chakra Restaurant in Paramus, New Jersey, will be serving a special Mother’s Day prix fixe menu from 12:00 noon – 8:00 p.m.

FIRST COURSE (Choice of) – Caesar Salad: Romaine Hearts, Lemon Confit, White Anchovies… Mesclun Greens: Fines Herbes, White Balsamic Vinaigrette… Roasted Red & Golden Beets Salad: Walnuts, Pears, Confit Onions, Caveman Blue Cheese… Horseradish-Crusted Crab Cake: Snow Pea Shoots, Mustard Seed Vinaigrette ($8 Supplement)… Fried Calamari: Crispy Cherry Peppers, Aioli, Sofrito… Lobster Bisque: Cognac-Marinated Lobster, Tarragon Chantilly… House-Made Radiatore “Primavera”: English Peas, Goat Cheese, Red Beets, Sorrel-Lemon Gremolata

MAIN COURSE (Choice of) – Salmon Medallions: Young Leeks, Smoked Salmon, New Potatoes, White Asparagus Velouté… Chili-Cinnamon Glazed Chilean Sea Bass: Potato-Wrapped Shrimp, Baby Bok Choy, Lemongrass Nage ($12 Supplement)… Goffle Farm Chicken: White Asparagus Gratinée, Fondant Potato… Filet Mignon: English Pea Purée, Truffled Crostini, Asparagus, Pinot Noir Reduction ($13 Supplement)… Mailbock-Glazed Pork Tenderloin: Hazelnut Spaetzle, Morel Mushroom à al CrèmeTop Sirloin of Lamb: Slow-Cooked Bell peppers, Green Olive Polenta, Olive Tapenade… Vegetarian Eggplant Tart: Sacred Chow Tofu, Tomato-Bell Pepper Coulis

DESSERT (Choice of) – Coconut Tapioca: Golden Pineapples, Passion Fruit Sorbet, Cilantro… Goat’s Milk Cheesecake: Figs, Port Wine, Honey-Rosemary Ice Cream… Peanut Dacquoise: Caramelized Bananas, Jivara Milk Chocolate Chantilly, Hawaiian Sea Salt… Valrhona Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding: Macerated Berries, Vanilla Ice Cream

The cost of the Mother’s Day prix fixe menu is $49.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity). A children’s à la carte menu will also be available.

For more information, or to make reservations, please call (201) 556-1530.

Bon Appétit!