Friday, July 25, 2014

Mistral: Princeton, NJ

Final Grade: A

            Sometimes I think this blog should be re-titled, “’! We, myself and Hubby, more often than not, arrange our plans and appointments based on restaurants within the vicinity. This may sound crazy, but for us whenever we get to hit the road for any reason we know we 1- will have to eat, 2- may never get to this area again and 3- can possibly cross off a restaurant from our list. It's a win-win for all involved……unless we are coming to your house for a BBQ or dinner, we then might have an issue with you.

            Towns we love to ‘just so happen to be in’ or around are Jersey City, Morristown, New Brunswick, Westfield and most recently Princeton. The last one there being the focus for this review. Princeton- what a beauty. I had never really given the town more than just a thought involving an Ivy League school and it being close to Trenton. Basically and more realistically, I haven’t given this town its credit. Just in the past 6 months, I think I’ve pinned a handful of restaurants I need to get to  and read reviews about umpteen more. So naturally, when the opportunity presented itself a few weeks back for us to be in that area to drop off my cousin, I was like, “Slam bam, thank you Mam, we gonna chow right now!”
            After narrowing down our choices for that Sunday afternoon lunch, we decided to go to the much-desired Mistral.
            We opted to sit at their bar area where the kitchen is in full view. This, for me, is like being a kid in a candy store. Watching chefs work is so intriguing and entertaining. What’s more here is also getting a look at how the Chefs both handle and respect their ingredients. What I truly loved here was that many ingredients, from the croutons to the pickled vegetables, were labeled with dates.  Now I would hope most restaurants do this, but for me, actually seeing how literally fresh these items were did nothing but make me smile.
            Our lunch consisted of a few items to share, although our forks generally stayed in our own direction. I went with the Grilled Vegetable Salad ($8) and an order of the Warm Cornbread with Jalapenos and Honey Butter ($5). The salad consisted of locally grown summer vegetables tossed with fried crouton crisps, a few lettuces, fresh herbs and a light dressing to tie it all together. What I thought at first was just a heaping bowl of arugula actually turned out to be a pot of gold once I tossed what was on the bottom to the top. The vegetables had what was somewhat of a cross between a roasted and grilled flavor while the croutons dazzled up each bite with a fried crunch. Now the cornbread I knew I would have no problems with upon seeing. Arriving straight from the oven in its cast iron skillet with the butter melting more each second, I knew I had paired the salad perfectly. Oh how scrumptious that buttered and steamy bread was with each sliver of jalapeno. This was a dish hard to share.
                       Hubby had similar to say about his choices as well. He went with the Seared Halibut ($16) and a side of Bacon Beignets ($5). The fish was outstanding, simply put. Wrapped in Serrano ham skin and simmering in a broth sporting both turnips and rock shrimp, it was culinary craftsmanship at its finest. The broth alone could win awards, which is why if we had one complaint it would be: serve that dish up with some crusty bread please! The Bacon Beignets speak for themselves. Puffed, salty and rich in pork fat flavor, they had me wishing I was willing to share more of my cornbread!

            We skipped dessert as it was lunch and I, being a weirdo and all, don’t like to overstuff during the day for one reason: it ruins dinner. I live for dinner, if you haven’t noticed yet. Anyway, we did glance at the dessert offering and were both caught eyeing up our neighbor’s Pot de Crème ($9) with hazelnuts and thyme all in a too-cute tea cup. Oh well, we will be back again for dinner and will most definitely get our shot at dessert. Actually when we do go back, I already have a few things I saw the Chefs create that had my name all over them. I would list them all but I’d rather let you go there yourself and watch the spectacle of Mistral unfold before you.

Mistral is located at 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ. Visit their website for more information.


Total score 22/25

Final Grade: A


A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5

Restaurant Rubric

Food Taste
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Restaurant service
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Food Presentation
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?








Thursday, July 10, 2014

Italian Ricotta Cookies

              Yum, these cookies! Little gems with just the right amount of sweetness and small enough to grab a few and have no shame. Add to that a cup of tea and you’ll have yourself one midday escape. Oh and plus they have sprinkles…..this undoubtedly makes everything better. Duh

            Only problem is….July- when a cup of tea and cranking your oven sound like we’re off our rocker!

            So maybe just wait to make these for a rainy cool day……or send the recipe to someone, like me, who bakes in the summer……or suck it up and put on a tank top and get crackin!

            Or if you must, pin the recipe and save for Christmas time. Being that the recipe makes about a million cookies, you’ll definitely want to make these come December. It will be you: 1 overwhelming Holiday stress: 0  

            Can’t believe I was just writing about Christmas…..ahh, enough of that…..Here’s to enjoying the sun, playing in the heat and (maybe) having some cookies along with! Enjoy….

Tip: place newspaper underneath cookies with sprinkling to save yourself a mess

Italian Ricotta Cookies
Makes: about 4 dozen
Source: Family Friend

OBJ: TCW be able to make one batch of cookies to feed a crowd

½ lb butter, room temperature
2 C sugar
½ tsp salt
1 lb Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 orange
4 ½ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

2 C confectionary sugar
¼ C butter, melted
3 TBS whole milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
Multi-colored sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper
2. Cream butter, add sugar and continue creaming.
3. Add eggs, ricotta, vanilla and beat well
4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to batter along with orange rind and mix well
5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool completely

1. Combine all ingredients until smooth consistency
2. Spread icing on top of each cookie and add sprinkles

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Super Quick Reese's Peanut Butter Fudge

       Oh, Lauren… continue to amaze me with simple and delicious recipes…..I wish you were my neighbor….

            This one, super quick Reese’s ™ PB Fudge, was ridiculous. My family was smitten for hours this past weekend. The minute the outdoor gang heard that the indoor gang had fudge, the entire porch emptied out and the fudge-filled platter shrunk considerably. At one point, I think everyone had fudge in their mouths and more pieces on their plate. Needless to say, I wasn’t the one the party was for but I did get some serious recognition and praise. Don’t worry baby Mark- your Baptism was beautiful and I, your Godmother, was overjoyed to watch you be Blessed. I just won’t bring a dish to your Communion, deal?

            So this being such a hit, I had to share with my readers and those who attended the party, for which I promised the recipe ASAP. You can have this done and ready to serve in a snap. Be warned though, once it goes out- 1. There may be none left within minutes 2. Everyone will want the recipe and 3. You will be the center of attention.

            So with that, get on your Sunday best, brush them teeth and share on……Enjoy….


Reese’s™ Peanut Butter Fudge
Servings: about 25-30 pieces
Slightly adapted from: Lauren's Latest

OBJ: TCW be able to bring a dessert dish to a family BBQ that will please almost all

1 can, sweetened condensed milk
3 Cups, semisweet chocolate chips
2 TBS sugar
24 full size Reese’s PB Cups, divided

1. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with foil and lightly spray with nonstick spray
2. Place 16 peanut butter cups in single layer on bottom of dish:
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips, sugar and condensed milk in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until completely combined and smooth
4. Pour melted chocolate over peanut butter cups and spread it over smoothly
5. Roughly chop remaining 8 peanut butter cups and press into chocolate, let set and come to room temperature (about 45 minutes) before covering with foil and refrigerating:
6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, remove from dish, peel away foil and cut into bite-size squares
7. Enjoy!