My Birthday Dinner

Manish treated me to the BEST birthday dinner that I have experienced in my 39 years. He didn’t need to ask where I wanted to go, he just made the reservations and made it happen on a quiet, Sunday evening. We brought our bottle of 1997 Salon blanc de blancs to elements in Princeton, and relied on Justin for the rest of our pairings. It felt like Chef Mike and his team catered the meal to please us specifically, as all of the ingredients that they used in the evening’s chef’s tasting were among our favorites.

Enjoying the Hot Mama (Manish's Maple Loch in front)

I started off with a drink called the “Hot Mama” and Manish enjoyed his Maple Loch. The hot mama was one of Mattias’ concoctions that he created for Mother’s Day. He took fresh ripe strawberries when they were in season, and put them through a steam evaporator, extracting as much flavor as he could. He took this “strawberry consomme” and reserved it to use throughout the summer. He added the juice of thai chili, some sugar, some rum, some simple syrup and some lime juice to the strawberry essence and then topped it off with a little sparkling wine. Delicious. Can you imagine if this much work went into my cocktail, what dinner was going to be like!? (Photos below can be clicked on to see larger images. They are condensed in this post for spacial reasons.)

Our amuses included a melon soup with fried jalapeno; a tuna tartare with cucumber and shiso, and a fabulous caesar salad custard that was brought out to us in a hollowed out egg shell. The custard was on the bottom of the shell (we had to scoop it out) and an incredibly aromatic and flavorful herb (salad) broth was delicately poured on top.

The composed salad showcased heirloom tomatoes, scallops, mangalitsa pork, and assorted melons and was accompanied by a basil vinaigrette, olive oil powder, and elderflower. So refreshing and balanced.

The next three courses highlighted products of the sea, always a showstopper here at elements… Kindai tuna with shaved radishes, green tomato puree, locally foraged mushrooms, turmeric cake, and honey. Exotic and rich flavors blended to perfection. Swordfish was accompanied by a carrot puree, a pistachio puree, some spelt, and roasted bell peppers. A pan seared sea bass was bathed in a coconut curry with boudin blanc puree and apples – divine!! We were offered a “snack” of a japanese omelet with slightly seared tuna on top. The omelet was more of a thin crepe style and rolled up… very cool!

The next three courses were the the heartier focus of the evening. The foie gras course was presented to us with pieces of brined foie, seared foie, foie sponge cake, black olive powder, and shiso. What an incredible marriage of flavors – I never thought brine and foie would work so well together! Next was a perfectly cooked portion of mangalitsa pork, shiso, and charred bell peppers. Our last savory course was the wagyu shabu shabu with locally foraged mushrooms. Delicious – sort of an individual “hot pot” cook your own meat sort of thing. We also were served a “snack” during these savory offerings. A small piece of cod with sauteed local mushrooms and creme fraiche.

“The Snacks”

Snack - Japanese Omelet with Tuna
Snack - Cod with Local Mushrooms and Creme Fraiche

The sweet endings to the meal were a tasting menu all on its own! First we were presented with a palate cleanser style course… Wild plum soup, chili sorbet, melons, and cream. The seasonal produce at its height of freshness was shining through – absolutely stunning.

Next was the epoisse custard with sweet onion and nectarine ice cream. Justin had just paired this with Dogfish Head Punkin Ale a few days earlier for a beer dinner. The flavors were divine and the perfect blend of savory and sweet. If I were to choose a favorite dessert, this would be it!

However, the most attractive plate on the menu was this next one… Chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell, vanilla ice cream, berry sorbet, and a heartfelt message.

Thank you, Manish… and thanks to elements for a most memorable birthday meal.

Farmers Market Finds

Rainbow Carrots

Every year on the Saturday before Labor Day, Manish and I take the girls and meet up with Jigna, Piyush, and our nephews in Hoboken or NYC. We then proceed on our annual pilgrimage to the green market at Union Square, then Eataly (for the past two years at least,) followed by a picnic at a family friendly park. The kids enjoy choosing their own foods from the market (and cheeses and breads from Eataly.) And we enjoy exploring and learning about the unique and colorful crops that some of these farmers bring to the table. This year, Manish and I stocked up on many of the farmers market finds and tested them out in our kitchen… and here are some of the culinary results!

Pea Shoots - we used them for everything from salads to stir fries!

Heirloom cherry tomatoes were chosen very carefully. We tasted as we shopped, and these were the sweetest! We used some basil and fresh mozzarella to create  a very simple heirloom salad. September on a plate 🙂

Squash Blossoms…. I tried to re-create a dish that I experienced earlier this summer. Squash blossoms stuffed with fresh ricotta, lightly breaded, pan fried, and drizzled with an anchovy butter sauce…

One of the farms literally had someone sauteeing shisito peppers – fresh – with garlic – and we sampled. Need I say more? We brought some home, and we devoured. Beware though… one out of every 10 is SPICY hot! Delicious, nonetheless!

We didn’t bring these home though…. the hottest pepper in the world. The Bhut Jolokia. From India – translated to “Ghost Pepper.” We had to take pictures though – gorgeous huh?