Friday, September 16, 2011

Coltello Ristorante Italiano - Crosswicks, NJ

Tonight Zelda and I headed out with People Papers pioneers Bill & Marilee, and headed back to one of the best Italian restaurants in New Jersey, Coltello Italiano located in Crosswicks. 

For whatever reason, we haven't made it back to Coltello in the last 8 months, so tonight was a great night to do so.  And yes, that is Chef Mario Batali in the picture with Chef Dominic.  And let me tell ya, if it is good enough for Mario Batali, it's good enough for us!  But we know that long before "Molto Mario" showed up there!  ;-)

We have frequented Coltello quite a few times, and have always enjoyed the food and the service.  So much in fact that last year we hosted my holiday party there, with about 50 guests in attendance, and our group is begging to return!  That being said, we have already booked our December party for Coltello once again this year!

Tonight we were greeted and seated at a nice round table in the back right hand corner of the restaurant, and had plenty of room.  Coltello is BYOB, so our wine selection tonight included a 2006 Antica Terra pinot noir, as well as a 2008 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountain, and a 2008 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Crimson Clover Vineyard.  Both of the cabs were decanted for 4 hours in the cellar prior to dinner.  Though they are young wines, they are very open for business with a nice decant, and all showed nicely.

Our server tonight was great as she came over and greeted us, and let us know that there were no special tonight as Chef Dominic was launching his new menu this evening.  Even so, the menu has plenty to offer, so who needs specials tonight anyway?  We certainly didn't, and with the care that Chef Dominic puts into each and every one of his dishes, they are all special.
We popped and poured the 2006 Antica Terra pinot noir as we ordered appetizers.  Our starters tonight included the Pane, which is actually no longer on the menu, but this is a delicious, fresh baked stuffed bread with fresh mozzarella, fresh garlic, and topped with caramelized onions.  I am so glad that they could do this as this is a Coltello staple in my mind, and absolutely delicious!  The bread had a nice crust, and the mozz, onion, and garlic were delectable.  Until you have had this, you just might never understand!

Our second appetizer tonight was the Pork and Figs, and what a perfect combination this was.  These were pork medallions and figs cooked nicely with a hazelnut glaze.  The pork was tender and delicious, and the glaze was sweet and savory.  This was one of those dishes that I could eat anytime!  I could probably even eat it for dessert!  It was fabulous.

Finally, we had the Seafood Trio, consisting of a butter poached lobster tail, Colossal lump crab meat, and jumbo shrimp!  I had some of each element of this dish, and if I had to pick a favorite, I would have to go with the crab!  I buy lump crab meat often, but more often than not it is pasteurized.  In all honesty, I have no idea if this was pasteurized or not, but if it was, I would never be able to tell.  The pieces were huge, and had just a slight mustard (?) sauce on them that was awesome!  The flavors were fresh, and it was the best crab meat I have had here in New Jersey.

The lobster was also nice and tender, and shouldn't be over shadowed by the crab meat.  The flavors were nice and simple, and it was just downright good.  But how can you not love lobster?  The shrimp were also fresh and flavorful, and this was just a great way to start a meal tonight.

Soups and salad followed, and as usual I ordered the salad with the house dressing.  The greens are always fresh, and the homemade dressing is always tasty.  This is always a winner, and a nice pre-dinner treat.

The entrees around the table varied tonight, but I can tell you that not a single one of us left anything on our plates, and everything was awesome!  Marilee ordered the pork chop, which wasn't on the menu tonight, but she had Chef Dominic do it up in a Cajun style with Cajun spices and it looked awesome!   She very much enjoyed it, and I am sure that I would have as well.  Bill had the Veal Carcofi (I think), with artichoke, tomato, mushrooms, lump crab, in a lemon white wine sauce.  I too thought about ordering this, and it too looked great!  I am sure that Bill enjoyed this as well.

Zelda ordered the house made gnocchi tonight, in a basil pesto, plum tomato, and whipped ricotta sauce.  If there is a gnocchi connoisseur, Zelda is definitely that person.  She truly enjoyed these, and from the taste that I heard, they were very flavorful.  The sauce was nice and fresh, and the homemade gnocchi were great.  We both liked the gnocchi so much that it has actually inspired us to make our own at home, which is something that I have never done.  I've made enough homemade pasta to stretch from Princeton to Hollywood, but we've never done gnocchi.

Zelda also had a side of creamed spinach, and even me, who is not a spinach fan LOVED this.  The spinach was cooked perfectly, and the cream based sauce was rich and flavorful.  If I could figure out how to make this, I would eat it constantly, and this is something that I would love to have the recipe for.  I guess I will have to do some searches and look for recipes!

I went the filet Mignon route as this would pair perfectly with the big, juicy, Santa Cruz Mountain cabernet, and I was indeed correct.  This was the 10 ounce filet served with a parsnip puree, fresh spring vegetables, and a citrus gremolata.  The last few years, I have been saying that Tastebuds in New Hope just might have the best steak in the area, however, I think that this may just take the cake.  The mean was tender, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and extremely delicious!  I can definitely say that Chef Dominic is acquiring good beef, and I would go back for this in a heartbeat.

At this point of the evening, nobody had room for desserts, but how could we come here and not order something?  Bill and Marilee both ordered chocolate based desserts.  Bill had an Oreo dessert of sort, and I think that Marilee had a mousse of sorts.  I forget what they were exactly, but I had a taste from both, and there we very rich, and definitely tasty!

I ordered the Italian custard, and I can't remember what it was called, but it was rich, fluffy, and elegant.  This screamed homemade, and is probably my favorite dessert so far this year.  This alone would be worth going back for, and just the kind of thing that I love as I am more into something like this than something with a lot of chocolate in it...unless of course I am craving chocolate.

Overall, it was a great evening at Coltello.  From the amazing dishes coming out of the kitchen, to the awesome service, to the well done, cozy decor, it was an evening to remember.  The restaurant is just done with such coziness and class, it makes it the kind of place where you could sit for hours.  The vibe in the restaurant is alive with joy, and you could see nothing but smiles and happiness as the customers enjoyed their dinners!

Hopeully we can get back before our holiday party in December, but if not, we will definitely enjoy our holiday event there.  Kudos to Chef Dominic and the Coltello team for one of the best dinners of the year!  If you are anywhere in the area, I highly recommend calling ahead and making a reservation!  You'll be glad you did!  Cheers!

Coltello Ristorante Italiano
460 Main St
Crosswicks, NJ 08515

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria - New York City

It has been quite a few trips to the city since we have ventured over to Chelsea, so today was the perfect day to make a visit to Mario Batali's Otto
Enoteca. Today, as expected, the restaurant was pretty dead, and we walked in only to see 6 or 7 other tables seated, but it was also 3PM in the afternoon as well.

For whatever reason we were seated in the back of the restaurant all to ourselves with the exception of 1 other table next to us. What I really love about Otto is the fact that the entire menu is just one page, while the wine list is the 3 pages following the menu, in small print. LOL! You have to love it, and Mario has picked out some stellar Italian wines at good prices.

We started with cocktails and wine. Zelda ordered something called The Ruiz that was extremely floral and a bit offensive in my book, while I ordered a Pio Cesare Barbaresco that was young, but drinking very nicely as the bottle opened.

For appetizers this afternoon, we went the 5 cheese route as we always do,
and they were all delicious. We had a nice selection of Parmigiano Reggiano, Provolone Mandorone, Fontina, Percorini di Fossa, and a Taleggio.

These went nicely with the fresh bread, and the breadsticks that they brought to the table. They also brought out a peach or mango in a chili sauce of sort that was interesting, some cherries, and a delicious truffled honey that was awesome.

On the pie front, I think we ordered the same pizza's as the last time we were here. Zelda went the Margherita D.O.P. route with tomato, bufala mozzarella, and basil, and as always, this was great. I really liked the sauce on this pie, as well as the cheese. The sauce has a nice freshness to it, while the cheese was creamy melted goodness.

I ordered the pepperoni with tomato, spicy salami, cacio, and mozzarella, and just like last time, it was delicious. While I am not a huge fan of salt, the salt that this pizza has from the salami is perfect, to the point where you almost crave it as crazy as that sounds. There is just something about it, and something about the flavors.

Both pies are absolutely thin, and I have to imagine that they use a machine to get these crusts as this as they do. Whatever it is, it works for them, and I enjoy it.

All in all, it was a very special day to visit New York City, and I am glad we made the trek! The dservice was good as usual, and the atmosphere is nice. While there are many restaurants in NY we love, Otto is always nice when we don't have a reservation and just want some comfort food! I hope it
doesn't take us a year (or 3) to get back again.  Cheers!

Otto Enotecca
1 Fifth Avenue at 8th Street
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212)995-9559

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jersey Girl Cafe - Hamilton, NJ

So today we decided to give a new place a try that we heard about through a friend, so on our way to Whole Foods we hit the Jersey Girl Café in Hamilton.

Nice colors when you walk in, but the place needs a bit of décor. The owner (I think she was the owner) was an absolutely sweetheart and very pleasant. Zelda gave the egg salad sandwich a whirl, and I went the burger route with bacon and Swiss.

We sat and our food came out moments later. Zelda's egg salad was good and well seasoned. It did have olives in it which I have never seen before in egg salad, but thankfully she likes olives. 

My burger came out and from the shape of it I can say that I am 97.8% sure that it was a "Bubba Burger," and I find that disappointing. Sure, I'll eat them at a picnic or cookout, but that is about it.  Not really worth talking about actually.

For me, the fries were easily the highlight of the meal, and I would go back for the skinny crinkle fries alone. They were cooked nicely, crispy, and had that translucent crunch to them! YUM!
The owner also brought us a piece of banana cheesecake gratis, and it was delicious! In short, I would definitely go back as the Rueben looked fabulous, and the fries were awesome. To me, I can see Jersey Girl Café cater to the older tea room crowd, and that is not a bad thing at all. For now, they just need some more décor on the walls, and they need to start making their own burgers in house!  Not overly impressed, but I would give it a try again.  Cheers!

Jersey Girl Cafe
731 Route 33
Hamilton, NJ
Monday - Friday 6:30 am - 4 pm
Saturday 7:30 am - 4 pm
Sunday Brunch 10 am - 2 pm
Phone:  609-838-9799