Where do you get the kale in the winter? Ask Farm-To-Table Agricola Restaurant in Princeton!

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So, it seems a little nutty to be heading to a farm to table restaurant when the mercury can’t find its way above freezing, right? But I’m on a mission to find kale salad, so I’m taking the 40-minute trek to Princeton.

Agricola: Fenwick Hospitality Group

With a nod to the previous establishment, Lahiere Restaurant, a nearly century-old Princeton institution, Agricola  opened to great fanfare in 2013. Big shoes to fill, and as a sentimental gesture, the Lahiere sign will continue to hang, in homage, above the street. Executive Chef and Partner, NJ-born Josh Thomsen has brought Napa credibility to the challenges of farm-to-table in the sometimes wintry Garden State. Along with partner Jim Nawn who owns the nearby Skillman farm cultivated by Steve Tomlinson, later joined by Kyle Goedde, Fenwick Hospitality Group has brought delight-your-mouth-and-senses meal experiences to the area. Fenwick also introduced the French brasserie Cargot, across from Princeton’s McCarter Theatre last year, and they also operate the nearby Dinky Bar & Kitchen. Welcome additions to the local scene.

Savoring the Farm-To-Table Experience

Ambience is casual and Agricola simply furnished with a lot of wood—tables, floor–and ceramics on the walls. When it’s crowded, the dining room is not the place for an intimate meal, but if you are looking for convivial and loud, you’ll enjoy. My meal was enjoyed near the end of the lunch hour where noise subsided gradually to more peaceful surroundings.

Needing to take off the chill, I began with the smooth, delicate local potato and leek soup finished with crème fraiche and chives and crispy croutons. The soup arrived at a perfect temperature for immediate consumption so necessary on a chilled winter day. I had planned ahead to try a desert, so I followed up with the crave-worthy organic kale salad, dressed with radish and carrots, pumpkin seed vinaigrette—generous and delicious. Next time, I will doubtless be tempted by various items, including LoRé Beet Rigatoni, or possibly Hangar Steak, if they are still available. Prices peaked at $17 for the Margherita Flatbread appetizer, or $25 for the steak, with plenty of options. The wine list is international and the bar presents whimsically titled libations—“Wake Up and Smell Four Roses”—along with non-alcoholic hot and cold selections, including house-made flavored sodas.

Saving the best for last, I had to try the ricotta beignets and fruit, and I am so happy I did.  Don’t scold. The fluffy beignets arrived with sweet roasted seckel pears, currants, milk chocolate crema, almond crumble. These accompanying flavors were the perfect complement.

Beignet

What about the Kale?

The kale salad is one of Agricola’s specialty items, so I had to ask because it’s February, and the local farms are covered with snow and ice. The answer was gladly researched by the wait staff, and I learned about Zone-7 Farm—a New Jersey farm-fresh distribution service for 120 sustainable area farms.  They deliver produce, grains, meat, and dairy to restaurants, school services, and supermarkets from New York to Philly. The Great Road Farm itself cultivates 120 different vegetables during the growing season. In the summer, yes, there’s also some greenhouse farming to keep the kale flowing.

Treat Yourself Well

Agricola is a warm and welcoming restaurant, serving brunch on the weekends, lunch on weekdays, dinner, and an abbreviated afternoon bar menu. Ahem—it’s almost Valentine’s Day—take a look at the menu.

Open every day, Agricola is located at Eleven Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08542.

Reservations recommended, especially for large parties:
(609) 921 2798
info@agricolaeatery.com

 

 

A Day of Chandeliers and Awesome Food

 

IMG_0001 Chihuly at NYBG

This week’s excursion brought me to the New York Botanical Gardens for the Chihuly Exhibit, which will be on display until October 29. 2017. This site-attuned exhibit will bring the ooh’s and ahh’s to your lips. Colors and shapes, each more dramatic than the one before–Seuss-like Chandeliers, Spikes, Flora, Geological formations that tease the fountain sculptures–this is a rich experience for all ages. I spent the most time at the Fountain, where I found the beautiful icy rock-like sculptures were so organically integrated with the metal sculptures, as if they had always been there. Alas, they won’t, so go soon! If you are without a car, there are two convenient transit ways to go on the Gardens’ Directions Page here. There is plenty of nature to enjoy at the Gardens–the water lilies are in beautiful bloom right now–plan for a long visit so you can see it all!

IMG_0004 Chihuly chandelier

Not far away, I made the pilgrimage to New York’s northern “Little Italy,” Arthur Avenue, rewards the pilgrim with tasty fresh foods, made the old-fashioned way–fresh mozzarella, pasta, vegetables–markets and specialized shops to take home some. I went in quest of that creamier mozzarella, Burratta,  but, alas Calabria’s (home of the famous “meat chandelier”) only begins to make it on Tuesday so it wasn’t going to be ready on Thursday…a weekend trip back sometime will be necessary if the fresh mozzarella I had to buy is any indication of what to expect.

I dined in high deli style at Mike’s Deli in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, surrounded by all manner of Italian delicacies. Huge portions. They wrap to go!

Afterwards, I took a stroll to find bread and at least look at beautiful pastries. Purchases done, I relaxed with an iced latte at the pleasant café, The Prince Coffee House (air-conditioned or sidewalk seating). The ceiling is covered with latte pitchers–great atmosphere for this coffee lover! Sorry, I cannot tell you about the pastries.

IMG_0003 Ceiling Prince Coffee House

The Arthur Avenue neighborhood is a brief sliver of New York, so you could pass through quickly or have a leisurely lunch and an excellent stroll in and out of the stores. A New York gem to visit.