On Sunday, attended the Epicurean Palette at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. This annual fundraiser benefits public events and educational programs that GFS hosts during the year.
While strolling the park’s sprawling grounds, I sampled food, wine, and spirits from some of the region’s top chefs and beverage purveyors. More than fifty in total!
Musicians and live artist demonstrations accompanied the park’s eclectic sculptures. It was an afternoon of tasting, learning, and camaraderie amongst patrons and presenters alike.
The following 10 “tastes of the day” were some of my favorite dishes. The list includes restaurants I’ve visited for years and new finds I can’t wait to put on my rotation.
The Peacock Inn
I always order the signature Ricotta Gnocchi for one of my courses when I visit the Peacock Inn. You can imagine my excitement when I arrived at the park and saw Chef plating a seasonal twist on my favorite dish.
Chef paired the light ricotta dumplings with sweet Kabocha squash, charred Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin seeds. A luscious aged Pecorino sauce was the perfect finishing touch. It dressed the gnocchi without weighing them down.
The Peacock Inn is a boutique hotel, bar, and award-winning fine dining restaurant serving New American cuisine. The service is impeccable with an upscale, yet comfortable ambiance. A downtown Princeton landmark not to be missed. www.peacockinn.com
Cafè Serai at the Rubin Museum
It was a pleasure to meet Executive Chef Ali Loukazada from Cafè Serai in Manhattan. He presented one of the most unique dishes of the afternoon: Buffalo Chicken Samosas with Burnt Onion Ranch. What a creative fusion of cuisines!
The chicken filling had just the right level of spice. It warmed the palate without being too assertive. Smoky Burnt Onion Ranch both complemented and cooled the filling. (Could I cast a vote for Chef to bottle the Ranch? I’d purchase a lifetime supply. It was outstanding.)
Cafe Serai is located at the Rubin Museum in Chelsea. I’ll definitely be planning a visit on one of my next trips into the city to sample Chef Loukazada’s inventive menu. http://rubinmuseum.org
Salt Creek Grille
Executive Chef Luis Estrada treated guests to succulent Short Rib and Brisket Meatballs enrobed in Port Wine Demi-Glace.
The meatballs had a wonderful depth of flavor, awakened by the sweet, subtle tang of balsamic onions for a rounded finish. A perfect bite to accompany a glass of wine.
Located in Princeton Forrestal Village, Salt Creek Grille is a popular American restaurant. Guests know Salt Creek for its signature mesquite grill, farm-to-table menu, and extensive wine list. The craftsman-style setting is casual, yet sophisticated. Sip a cocktail by one of their cozy fireplaces in the cooler weather! www.saltcreekgrilleprinceton.com/
Caffè Storico at the New York Historical Society Museum
As we head into Fall, foods start trending toward heavier textures and flavors. I loved that Executive Chef Ed Crochet treated us to the lighter side of early-fall produce at Epicurean Palette.
Chef paired creamy Burrata with cherry tomatoes, fermented Grenada chilis, and charred corn. The combination brightened the palate.
Chef Crochet offers a menu of Venetian cuisine, accompanied by an all-Italian wine list at Caffè Storico. I’m looking forward to visiting for dinner! http://nyhistory.org/dine
King George II Inn
Executive Chef Fabian Quiros presented an artfully-plated 14-hour Texas Brisket. (Chef teased a photo of the brisket on his Instagram the night prior. I knew I would be in for a treat!)
The beef was meltingly tender. A zesty Roasted Red Pepper Tortilla Sauce contrasted the richness of the meat well, but did not overpower. I loved the balance the touch of creamy avocado mousse provided. Crisp micro cilantro punctuated the dish with a bright finish. A+!
Chef Quiros offers seasonally-inspired Contemporary American cuisine at the historic waterfront restaurant in Bristol, Pennsylvania. The King George Inn has five dining rooms, a tavern, and a patio for al fresco dining. http://kginn.com
The Ship Inn Restaurant and Brewery
In the Acer Courtyard, guests found themselves strolling around a charming Beer Garden with samples from some of the region’s top craft breweries.
My favorite sip of the afternoon was the Scattergood from the Ship Inn in Milford, New Jersey. With a floral aroma and a crisp finish, this pale ale featured notes of coriander seed, lemon, and orange peel. Refreshing!
The Ship Inn Restaurant and Brewery serves British and American pub fare with cask-conditioned ales, porters, and stouts. They also serve imported ales and ciders. Can’t wait to visit! www.shipinn.com
The Yardley Inn
As I made my way around the Palette, I kept hearing people talk about the “incredible” and “awesome” fried chicken on the Giverny Terrace. I arrived at the Terrace on a fried chicken mission. Executive Chef Eben Copple did not disappoint!
Tossed in a robust Honey-Chili Glaze, the light, crisp exterior revealed juicy thigh meat. Field Pea Salad added a clean pop of brightness. It was a plate worthy of the buzz around the park.
The Yardley Inn presents Contemporary American Cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, locally-grown ingredients. The Inn is set against the beautiful backdrop of the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. http://yardleyinn.com
The Ryland Inn
If you’re a food nerd, finding a table filled with small plates of Duck Confit is like hitting the lottery.
Chef Craig Polignano expertly paired the rich confit with a Pickled Plum Purée. The purée gave the dish a beautiful contrast of tartness and sweetness. I loved Chef’s addition of a sesame cracker.
The Ryland Inn offers a creative menu with a focus on local and sustainable ingredients. The Inn is located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.
My family and I have dined at Ryland Inn many times over the years. I haven’t yet visited with Chef Polignano at the helm. We will make it a point to visit soon. http://rylandinnnj.com
Via 45’s Grilled Sausage and White Bean Ragu with Grilled Naan was hearty and delicious. They offered to adjust their dish for gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan guests in attendance.
Chatting with Chef/Owner Lauren Phillips, I learned that this spirit of “in-the-moment cooking” speaks to the heart of their Red Bank, NJ restaurant. She and fellow Chef/Owner Claudette Herring offer a rustic Italian menu that changes daily. They make all dishes to order.
I was not familiar with Via 45 before this event. I will be sure to visit the next time I’m in Red Bank. www.via45.com
Thomas Sweet Chocolates
No culinary event would be complete without dessert. Thomas Sweet hit the mark with their handcrafted chocolates.
The Chambord (L) and Kahlúa (R) truffles were a sweet treat against the savory dishes I’d tasted all day. The chocolates were creamy, well-flavored, and not at all cloying on the sweetness scale.
Thomas Sweet has been a Princeton mainstay for 30 years. Their store offers an array of chocolates including truffles, hand dipped pretzels, fruits, and cookies. www.thomassweet.com
For more information on Grounds for Sculpture or the Epicurean Palette, visit groundsforsculpture.org. GFS Memberships are available at several levels (I’m proud to be a member!). They offer classes, performances, workshops, lectures, and social events at the 42-acre sculpture park throughout the year. A worthwhile investment for family members of all ages.