Shout-Out from the Besty

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Thank you, Julia & The Besty team, and happy eating!


Capital Corn & Confections

Last month, I received an e-mail from the "Queen of Corn"-- Nicole Bailey-Williams, of Capital Corn & Confections. She offered to send samples to expand the reach of her small business, created in 2011 out of a love of popcorn, which she deems "as American as apple pie." Her business is based in New Jersey's capital, Trenton, hence the name.

My package arrived this week, and just in time for my daughter to also sample as she got off the school bus. As my daughter is accustomed to having a snack when she gets home, she and I shared a unique treat upon opening the package. The flavors we received were Cinnamon Bun and Cookies & Cream, which are the two most popular flavors for the locals. Just by looking at the product, I could see that each popped kernel of corn was coated with their respective special flavors, with a nice sweet glaze pulling everything together. My daughter was surprised by the taste, not really knowing what to expect-- especially the thought of cinnamon in popcorn, which ended up being quite fun and tasty. I was also reluctant, but I really liked the delicate combination of sweet and savory of the Cookies & Cream.

In the age of cronuts and salted caramel ice cream, Capital Corn & Confections definitely has its place in the current food world. Cheddar & Bacon and Salt & Vinegar sound like fun savory treats, while there are numerous sweet and savory flavors to choose from, including Pralines & Cream and Peanut Butter Cup. Seasonal flavors would make good gifts over the holidays, such as Pumpkin Pie and Peppermint Bark.

While there is no freestanding shop, this gourmet popcorn can be found at Marrazzo's Thriftway, Pennington Quality Market, and Kennedy's Cheesecakes, in Mercer County, NJ. The website also has information on both small and large orders (think parties and fundraisers).

I plan to visit one of the above stores this weekend, as I was thinking of a local food to gift to my son's bosses. He worked for a tax firm temporarily, and his stint is ending on tax day! One boss is diabetic, so I'll be sure to get a savory flavor.

Thank you, Ms. Bailey-Williams, for introducing me to your delicious creations, and all the best to your business!

Capital Corn & Confections
(609) 331-9POP


Tre Piani

Crispy spaghetti with shrimp, mushrooms, and prosciutto,
in a creamy saffron sauce

I've never dined at Tre Piani, though I've eaten its fare many times through discounts and parties at Tre Bar, which is a chic bar and lounge attached to the main restaurant. Last October, I won the big prize for best costume, and a dinner for two was one of my winnings. I decided then that I would save the certificate for a special occasion, and while a couple of birthdays and the holidays came and went, I didn't use the certificate until now to celebrate my 12- year wedding anniversary on April Fool's Day.

A disclaimer: It was already set up to a bad experience. The weather was dreary and my daughter was sick, so we didn't want to leave her too long. The stress of having a sick child compounded by awful weather made me sick as well, and I threatened to vomit too many times at the dinner table. But still, it was a special occasion, and while I may not have eaten with my usual gusto, I tried to enjoy myself as much as I could.

For our starters, we chose the antipasto misti for two-- a no brainer-- as it included meatballs, eggplant rollatini, fried calamari, and other bite-sized appetizers. But actually, our real starter was the Bordeaux blend my husband chose as our bottle for the evening!

For my entree, I chose the most interesting item I could find on the menu, which I had also seen featured on Tre Piani's Facebook page: crispy spaghetti with shrimp, mushrooms, and prosciutto, in a creamy saffron sauce. The spaghetti is shaped as a small cylinder with a crunchy layer on top, hence the name. It was really delicious, and it upset me that I was too sick to finish it! My husband picked the pistachio-encrusted lamb, with mashed potatoes and shoestring vegetables, cooked perfectly as ordered.

We ordered seemingly tame desserts, which surprised us. The baklava was loaded with more nuts than the usual baklava, and the raspberries on the side added a nice flavor contrast. The lemon sorbet over the fruit puree was so refreshing that it cured my migraine!

Baklava (front) and sorbet with fruit puree (back)

Tre Piani offers so much more than this small sampling. When I am feeling better, and have another special occasion to celebrate, I hope to return.

Tre Piani on Urbanspoon


Calling All Young Chefs!

Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off-- Food Network’s exciting culinary reality series, is currently casting for season 2!

Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri are back for battle and are in search of the most talented kid chefs in the country. They are looking for kids with captivating personalities who believe they’re at the top of their culinary game and want to inspire a Food Network audience through their passion for food and cooking. The winner will receive a grand prize that will help to kick-start their culinary career!

For more information and how to apply, please visit their website at www.RachaelvsGuyKidsCasting.com



Metuchen Inn in Metuchen NJ

The private lunch I attended included four courses, beginning with mushroom ravioli and salad, choice of entree, and a pre-selected dessert. I enjoyed the mushroom ravioli a lot, and would've been happy with it as a main course. I continued with my vegetarian theme and ordered the risotto as my entree, and the grilled asparagus on top was the star of the plate. Other selections, which I got to taste, were a pasta bolognese and salmon over white beans. The pasta was good and hearty, but the salmon left much to be desired, though it was a nice portion.

The dessert was some kind of a lemon sponge cake with mousse, and it wasn't so great either. The red icing on top looked strangely like ketchup!

The interior of Metuchen Inn is bright, clean, and simple. It seems good for families, groups, and even romantic dates. I'd be willing to return to try other dishes, even though it seemed like a hit and miss today.

Metuchen Inn on Urbanspoon


Cochon in Philadelphia PA

Cochon in French means pork, and there was plenty of it to go around at this charming corner spot on East Passyunk Avenue in Philly. I met with two old friends from high school, along with my husband and daughter. We came prepared with two bottles of red wine to enjoy with our meal, which also went well with sharing stories and catching up after many years.

The menu is short, but nowhere near simple, and it also changes often, with specials not listed on the menu and also different from the website. Warm bread is served individually, slice by slice, and when we asked for more, the server would give it to us, slice by slice again. Finally, my friend just asked for a whole bunch, since the bread was good for dunking in the broth and sauces of the dishes that followed.

We started with mussels and chicken livers, both special items. The mussels were large and plump, in a milky fennel broth. The chicken livers were done medium, and was a surprise hit at the table. 

Two of us ordered Trio of Pork as a main entree, which included a piece of sausage, short rib, and cheek. It had a heaping of sauerkraut on top liberally seasoned with mustard seeds, with fingerling potatoes and bacon bits in the sauce. My husband ordered a pork shoulder dish, served with two large pieces of meat, over bacon rice pilaf. My friend ordered a crispy pork chop served over prosciutto mashed potatoes, with grilled brussel sprouts. The meat fell right off the short rib bone, and the breading of the chop was excellent.

All the offerings were definitely fun and sophisticated at once. Our only complaint was it got too salty at times.

Pork shoulder over bacon rice pilaf

Trio of Pork

Oh, and it's even in the dessert! There's a bread pudding dessert served with bacon ice cream on top. I wasn't crazy about it, as the bacon flavor came as a foamy aftertaste. We also had a more normal chocolate cake with fruit and nuts in it, as well as a fun dessert that was recently concocted: rice pudding rolled in corn flakes, then fried. The rice pudding also had fruit and nuts in it, and this was my favorite.

Cochon definitely provided a memorable dining experience. If you love pork, this is a great place to go to. You will delight in all the different ways that pork is used in the dishes, and the way it is cooked. You will also enjoy all the pigs in their decor, from chalkboard drawings to large figurines. 

Corn-flake encrusted rice pudding

Cochon on Urbanspoon


Pinoy Filipino Restaurant in Somerville NJ

There is now a daily lunch buffet! The price includes soda and food is served family style. Just take a look at what's available and the server will bring the dishes to your table. This is my preferred way of eating anyway... no getting up for refills! The style of cooking is authentic and comforting, so if you are Filipino and haven't got family here, you can pretend you are visiting your Lola's or Tita's house.

Always available are noodles and rice, and entrees vary. When I went, there were pork & chicken BBQ sticks, chicken afritada (with potatoes and tomatoes in a rich sauce), paksiw na lechon (pork with soy sauce and vinegar), sinigang (pork and vegetables in a sour tamarind flavored broth), and bistek (beef and onions). The surprise treat for the day was grilled pineapple dusted with cinnamon.

Desserts are not included in the buffet, but they are worth trying. Pictured above are leche flan (egg custard), biko (sweet coconut rice served with coconut ice cream), and bibingka (banana flavored sticky muffin served with mango ice cream). The latter two desserts are not readily available elsewhere, so these are really special to this place.

Warmer weather is coming and outdoor seating will be available soon. Division Street is also a lovely place to hang out in, with its weekend festivals and interesting shops to peruse. Don't forget to bring a bottle!

-- Original post below 9/21/13 --

I've been coming here since they opened in 2009. Back then, it was half a grocery and half a restaurant. The place has gone through a major overhaul in recent years, and the grocery is only about a tenth of the place now, and may not be there for a while longer. The decor consists of candles and mini bamboo bouquets, on honey colored wooden tables. There is outdoor seating for the warmer months, and on Saturdays there is usually some live music on the street, which is permanently closed off to car traffic. Bonus points for being a BYOB.

Now, the place is running full speed ahead with a well thought out menu. The items are priced well, and they have all the comfort foods that any Filipino might come looking for. My daughter declared the lumpiang shanghai to be the best she's ever had, and I always order the stuffed grilled squid because that's what feels like home to me.

I would recommend bringing beer or any dry white wine!

Somerville Pinoy Goods on Urbanspoon