Sharing Food

I love food!  I think I may have hinted at that once or twice in this space, I mean, except for the tomatoes.  But even those, I have learned to at least try.  I don’t consider myself any kind of chef or foodie expert, I just like eating and I think about it a lot.  I’ve recently given up sugar and nearly all processed or packaged foods which makes eating out a little trickier, but not impossible, maybe even tastier.  A few weekends ago my sweet and super-fun friends, Martha and Neil, invited me and my good friend Jackie, to go dining in Doylestown, PA.

There are so many cute restaurants in this town that it was hard to choose just one for dinner.  I will definitely be going back!

photo 1

We started out at the Station Tap House. This place continued the “It’s Hard to Choose” theme because they have so many beers on tap. If you’re into craft beers (Like I am!), this is a good place to do some tasting. We each chose a different brew and enjoyed the Happy Hour crowd.

For dinner, we chose The Hattery, which is the bar and restaurant of the Doylestown Inn, a quaint little historic hotel in the middle of town.  The restaurant’s full name is The Hattery Stove & Still which combines a few things that the building used to be – a hattery, a cigar shop, a shoe store, a restaurant and a speakeasy.  There are so many cool things in the decor of this place.  I wish I’d taken more and better pictures, but here are a few things I enjoyed…

Hanging hat lights above the upstairs bar

Hanging hat lights above the upstairs bar…

Unicycle bar stools...

..and unicycle bar stools!

I didn't understand why no one else was riding their stool...

I didn’t understand why no one else was riding their stool.

The food was yummy!  We shared some deviled eggs to start...

The food was yummy! We shared some deviled eggs to start…

I had the salmon with mushrooms and potatoes...

…I had the salmon with mushrooms and potatoes…

And Neil offered to share his fries...How cute is that little fry basket?!

…and Neil offered to share his fries.  How cute is that little fry basket?!

My favorite part of the restaurant were these big frames hanging on the wall with all these great quotes about food.

Like this...

Like this…

and this!

and this!

They reminded me of something my aunts often say, “Sharing food is a sign of affection.”

Because I love food, but I love it even more when I'm sharing it with my people...Thanks for a great night in D-town, Martha and Neil!  You two are always a blast!

Because my favorite part of the night was… my friends!  I love food, but I love it even more when I’m sharing it with my people!  Thanks for a great night in D-town, Martha and Neil! You two are always a blast! (I’m not sure what kind of blast is happening to the lady behind us, but I hope she had as much fun as I did.)

Stuff Your Octo-pi-hole!

Do you love food?  I looooove food! Right now I’m borderline obsessed with avocados. And a very happy part of many recent days has been when I ate some smashed up avocado on toast for breakfast. Mmmmm…  If you know me in person, I may have told you about it, or I may have droolingly noticed the avocados in the salad you brought to work for lunch.  My good friend Kellie even gave me some of her de-licious homemade guacamole as part of my Christmas gift. Now that, is friendship.

I love food, but sometimes I can get into a restaurant rut.  You know, heading to the same close-by, easy, good-enough places when really, there are lots of new (or new-to-me) restaurants with delicious food just waiting to become my next favorite meal.  So when I made my winter goal list, I said I wanted to try some new restaurants and freshen things up for my taste buds. The great thing about this goal is that my friends were more than happy to join me in making it happen.  So off we went… this place for some Mexican and Peruvian cuisine!

Jenna suggested this place for some Mexican and Peruvian cuisine!  And you know what that means…MARGARITAS!  It’s a BYO place, so, you tote in some of your own Tequila, and the lovely people of El Tule will bring you a pitcher of margarita mix.  It’s a happy start to Friday night dinner. Plus, there was guac.  I could have stopped there.

and then

But I didn’t.  I went ahead and ordered the Chaufa de Marisces y Quinoa.  How do you pronounce that?  I don’t know, but it means – –  “kind of like fried rice except with quinoa…and SQUID and OCTOPUS!”  That’s just a loose translation.


They were very tiny tentacles, but I ate them with crazy-eyes just to taunt Kellie,  who was a weensy bit grossed out about me eating octopus. I guess that wasn’t the nicest thing to do to my best guac supplier. Sorry, Kell.

Contrary to Kellie’s expression in that pic, my dinner was very tasty. Everyone liked their dinners. A lot!  Kellie got a chicken dish. Jenna got the fish tacos. And cleaned her plate! Evidence of goodness! Jackie had those enchiladas up there on the menu, with the crab. Kellie and I polished off her black beans. Just go ahead and clean your friend’s plate.  It’s fine. Yum! We recommend! I can’t wait to go back to El Tule in the warm weather.  They have a cute little backyard table area that looks like a fun place to have some cocktails and tacos!

The next weekend, to make up for my tentacle teasing, and just because it’s how we do, Kellie and I headed out for an early morning breakfast.  For crepes!  Have you heard about the new crepe place in Princeton?!  It’s Jammin’! No, they weren’t playing Bob Marley in there. It’s what the place is called, ‘Jammin Crepes’ on Nassau Street in Princeton.  I don’t know the story of the name, perhaps because they also make their own jam and put it IN crepes?   I think it opened last spring or over the summer. It’s very, very cute inside with big wooden tables and mason jars filled with charmingly mismatched silverware.

They use a deck of cards to keep track of orders and if you get as lucky as we did, maybe a nice lady sitting next to you will give you a lesson about the history of the chocolate hazelnut combination.  The Italians started it all.

They use a deck of cards to keep track of orders and, if you get as lucky as we did, maybe a nice lady sitting next to you will give you a lesson about the history of the chocolate and hazelnut combination. The Italians started it.

Does the history lesson give you a hint about what I ordered?  The "Nut-Cho-Tella" Crepe!  They offer a whole selection of savory crepe choices as well, with fillings such as trukey, ham, eggs, veggies and goat cheese.  Which makes this place a good choice for lunch or dinner as well as breakfast.

Does the history lesson give you a hint about what I ordered? Yep, the “Nut-Cho-Tella” Crepe! They offer a whole selection of savory crepe choices as well, with fillings like turkey, ham, eggs, veggies and goat cheese. Which, if you’re not into breakfast for lunch or dinner or dessert for breakfast, gives you some other options.  I, personally, could eat dessertbreakfast all the day long.

They make their own chocolate-hazelnut-almond spread.  I loved it!  They make their own jams and fruit spreads too.  You can take a jar home with you.

They make their own chocolate-hazelnut-almond spread. I loved it! They make their own jams and fruit spreads too. You can take a jar home with you.

Obviously, Kellie was not grossed out by this meal.  She has cinnamony-apple goodness in that thing, with whipped cream on top!

Obviously, Kellie was not grossed out by this meal. She has cinnamony-apple goodness in that thing, with whipped cream on top!

Next time, I want to sit at the sunny window seat and watch the Princeton people go by.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Next time, I want to sit at the sunny window seat and watch the Princeton people go by. Maybe I’ll see you there!


#15 – The Early Bird…

…doesn’t have to sit at the community table.  But should she?

About a week ago, I was awakened at 7:51am, by the sound of a text message from my friend Kellie:  “Hey!  Are u up?”  (I am now.) “Craving french toast.  Want breakfast? Wear sweats.”  Now, I like me a lil bit of extra sleep on the weekends, so I was very tempted to roll over and ignore the invite.  But, even though Kellie and I work at the same place every day, our schedules only cross paths for about an hour a week, during which time we’re on cafeteria duty with about 80 kids while they, and we, eat lunch.  There’s milk to be opened, chicken to be cut, spills to be cleaned, milk to be opened. There’s not much time for chit chat.  So, I was tired, but I wanted to catch up with my friend.  Plus, we’re wearing sweats. Easy, comfy.  Plus, bacon.  Ok, I’ll go.

30 minutes later we’re almost on our way to a local diner, when I think about my list.  Let’s go somewhere new! Well, new to me.  And then we’re heading to PJ’s Pancake House.  Which is not new at all.  Apparently they’ve been around since 1962.  It’s probably ridiculous that I’ve been living not far from Princeton for years and haven’t ever eaten here, but I haven’t.  There is almost always a line of people stretching down the sidewalk waiting to get into this place.  In fact, that’s how I describe the restaurant to Kellie, “You know that pancake place in Princeton that always has a line?”  So we are happily shocked when we pull up and don’t see a line. Then we’re a little bummed when the host tells us that they’re full and we will be the first people to start the line.  They don’t let anyone wait inside and they don’t take your name.  You just have to wait in line, single file, on the sidewalk. They’ll come get you when there’s space.  OK.  That’s fine.  We’re in the middle of a story anyway.  It’s sunny.  We start the line.  We continue the story.  We don’t have to wait long until there’s space for us…at the “community table”…

PJ's Pancake House154 Nassau Street  Princeton, NJ

PJ’s Pancake House
154 Nassau Street Princeton, NJ

Sooo, the community table is a big, giant, probably seats about 20 people table in the middle of the restaurant and you just sit with whomever else happens to be sitting there in the community. And it was crowded this day. Would you like that?  We kinda just wanted uninterrupted, not have to be polite to our neighbors or sensor our talk chat time We weren’t sure the community was going to want to hear our chatter but we were kinda going with it since we were hungry.  And then a sweet, sweet server must have seen the uncertainty on our faces and said, “How many ladies? Two?  Take this booth!”  And then we told him we loved him and I had pecan pancakes and bacon and Kellie got her french toast and we looked at pictures and we talked and told stories and laughed and laughed and not one child asked us to open their milk container.  It was nice.  Thanks for waking me up, Kell!

But then I got to thinking…maybe I should go back some time, wait, I’ll definitely be going back.  There are so many pancake choices, that it was hard for me to order. I want to try their crepes. But maybe next time I’ll  join the community table… connect with the neighbors, meet some new friends, maybe share my bacon.  They give A LOT of bacon at this joint!

#15 – Breakfast with the Bakers

Well, the Bakers didn’t bake the breakfast but they did show me a great new eating spot in one of my favorite towns.  The Bakers are my good friends, Rob and Caroline, and the restaurant is Cafe Blue Moose in New Hope, PA.

Cafe Blue Moose
9 W. Mechanic Street

New Hope is an adorably, fun town along the Delaware River that is full of artsy, little shops and lots of restaurants.  Cafe Blue Moose is unique among the eateries though.  In fact, they are unique in the country in that they are the nation’s only completely youth-run restaurant.  It’s high school and college-aged students who do everything in the kitchen and dining rooms of this cafe.  I’m totally into supporting a place that supports our kids.

…and your manners.

It’s a small restaurant with only 30 seats but they did find some space to fit in a few moose for decor.  The menu is not large either but the portions are more than enough.  The dinner menu is a prix fixe.  Offering only a few different choices but changing them frequently to allow for use of local ingredients at their prime.  The breakfast/brunch menu includes a list of eight different pastries that come with most of the meals.  Check it out…

Look at all of those pastries!  And do you see what’s there on the bottom?  NUTELLA!

It was the pastry list combined with the nutella pancake offering that made it very hard for me to decide on my order.  I really wanted some nutella, but I also really wanted about four of those pastries and something savory.  See those cheddar biscuits?  Don’t they seem like a party for your taste buds? But I really like nutella.  But I can never finish when I order pancakes.  What to do?  I asked the waitress for more deciding time.  And that’s when ROB BAKER saved the breakfast!   He offered to give me a taste of his pancakes in exchange for a little sharing of my menu choice.  Deal, buddy!

I’ll drink to breakfast sharing!

My choice turned out to be the Scrambler du jour (after I confirmed that there were no tomatoes included!).  I also got fries and a homemade cinnamon bun.  Caroline got the Omelette du jour with fruit and a cheddar biscuit party for her taste buds.  Rob brought the nutella goodness to the table and we added some grilled banana bread just because. We all shared. It was all delicious! But seriously, look at that nutella!

See what they did there? They totally put the nutella in a pastry bag or a squeeze bottle. I need that to happen at my house.

This place is cute, the food is super yummy and the kids are working and very friendly. I recommend you try it!  If you want dinner, call ahead for reservations.  Like a few weeks ahead…I hear they’re packin the place every weekend!

#13 – I Did It Again! and again.

This was not part of the plan.  Tomato eating, that is.  Look right up at the top of the page.  It says, “Tomatoes NOT included!”  Seriously, I only named the blog 35tomatoes so that I could connect it to something about myself other than my list. I thought I would be leaving room for the blog to evolve beyond this year of the list.  And I only added “eat 35 tomatoes” to the list so that I could connect the blog title to the list.  I meant it as a joke. And I used the strikethrough font!  Which means it is strikken from the record.  Which means I don’t have to do it!  (Strikken is so a word!)

Maybe all of that only makes sense in my mind or maybe people just like seeing their friends squirm a little, because, as I mentioned before, and as continues to happen, I am being strongly urged by a few of my “friends” to actually buck up and eat the dang things.  At one point someone even started their own list of tomato dishes for me to taste!  Sadly, that got lost on a broken phone.  Oh, darn.

But, if you could just not tell my friends, I’ll admit that I haven’t been minding it too, too much.  There has only been one truly bad, gag-inducing experience.  And there was one that I actually LIKED!  The rest were either things that I already didn’t mind, like salsa, were covered up by other ingredients (basil and balsamic? Yum!) or were just ok.  It’s not like I’m craving them or anything but maybe, by the end of this year, I might be allowing a few more of them onto my plates…

It’s blurry because I was shaking my head “NO!” It was a tomato slice that I took off of my sandwich. It was gross and yucky and mushy! BLECH! No, thank you!

I don’t really mind salsa, but this is a much bigger, chunkier, tomato-y-er, scoop than I would ordinarily take. Thanks, kid.

Sideways thumb? Or thumbs up? It wasn’t that bad.

That tomato was on my delicious turkey burger from the Dogfish Head restaurant in DE and I will admit that it looked like it might taste good. Nice and red.  But after my previous gross out with a sliced one from a sandwich, I let my assistant take it. It’s good to have a cute and adventurous assistant!

I snagged this one from my assistant’s mama’s pizza. And boy was I surprised! It was GOOD! It was sweet! Maybe a plum tomato, maybe stewed then a little roasted. I went back for bigger pieces!

I saw this at the library today. Have I mentioned that I live in the “Garden State”? People claim we grow the best tomatoes in the land! I guess I should try a little harder to enjoy them. For my state.

#5 & #14 – Do Not Mix!

Let’s just review the numbers for a sec. In case you don’t have them memorized.  Don’t worry.  Neither do I.  #5 is about hosting family dinners for no reason at all, or at least not a holiday, and #14 is about trying out new recipes.  Now, if you know my family, er, my dad, you know that these two things do not mix.  For example, here are a few things my dad has been known to say to me when I’m hosting family dinner:  “No green stuff.”  “Don’t you just have regular mustard?” “Why can’t you make normal cookies, like chocolate chip?”  “I don’t wanna smell any weird things cooking with my Thanksgiving dinner.”  But I think the family favorite is, “When you think it’s done, cook it 5 more minutes.”  Yep! Good idea, Dad.  Just burn the flavor right out of it!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my dad! He’s one of the good guys. He takes care of me. He listens to me. He encourages me. He’s kind. He’s a hard worker.  He’s funny.  I inherited his skinny strong legs.  He just offered to buy me a new bike. (Thanks, Daddy!)  He just doesn’t like to eat the stuff that I like to cook.  So when I made Apricot-Mustard Baked Chicken from this lady’s new cookbook, he didn’t eat any. Wouldn’t even try it.  Good thing I had mom, aunt, uncle and godson there!  Good thing I burnt made hamburgers too.

Speaking of godson…we made whipped cream in a jar, thanks to Tracy Shutterbean! I’m thinking she would approve of the jar/plastic container swap for the 4-year-old.  I played a little Twist n Shout (shake it up baby!) and the boy shook!  He only took one lick of dessert as evidenced in the picture below,  buuuuuuut… my dad… took some home! (minus the whipped cream.  “What’s wrong with Cool Whip?”)

Whipping cream in a container…aaaannnnnd…shake it up, baby!


This song could work too!

Taste it!

The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake by Molly Wizenberg

Want the dessert recipe?  Go here.  Get this book.

#15 – Za!

If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you might know that I had a little kayaking fake out and that was a bit of a bummer.  You might also know that I got my passport in the mail and that was super exciting.  What you might not know is that those two things actually happened on the same day.  Downs and ups.  For a little while, I was looking for a way to perk up the day and then I wanted to have a celebration.  So what did we do?  Za!

Za Restaurant
Pennington, NJ

This restaurant was a great place to have a little cheer up celebration dinner with two of my wonderful friends! But I did kind of continue the down and up theme, just a little. Not a terrible downer, but, you see, Za has “Lobster Bliss” happening right now.  The have 7 different lobster dishes to choose from, each with 2 pounds of Maine lobster meat which has already been removed from the shell.  No mess.  No plastic bib.  They have lobster tempura.  I like lobster. I like fried things!  I like being past the bib stage of life!  But, guess what.  I didn’t order any lobster.  I got grilled asparagus and aubergines risotto.  (Aubergines are eggplant. Did you know that?  I didn’t.)  Don’t get me wrong, it was good, very good.  But I should have gotten the lobster. I wished it as soon as the waiter walked away.  If you’re tempted to get the lobster, you should just get the lobster.  Treat yourself, people!  It’s not like we’re out ordering lobster every day.  Or dessert.  So when dessert time came, I made up for it. Heck yeah, we’re ordering dessert tonight!  It was butterscotch pot de creme, like a custard, served with house-made whipped cream and raspberries.  Yum! I heard the key lime pie was pretty good too!  So the moral of the story is, if you really want to go kayaking, but the lake is closed, just go get yourself some lobster and dessert. Things will be looking up.

Oh yeah.  Za is where this happened.

My good, good friend saved me some tomatoes from her apple pico salmon dinner so that I could live up to the blog name. Thanks, Jac! I said I was just kidding about #13!

#15 – Vidalia

It’s outdoor dining season!  This week, I got to enjoy a tasty, al fresco dinner with some good friends at a super adorable spot.  Vidalia Restaurant is a quaint, little BYO place just off the main street in Lawrenceville, NJ.

I had passed this restaurant while on a bike ride a few days earlier and was so charmed by it’s patio dining area. The owners have turned their side driveway into a sweet, open air dining room with a white picket fence, big umbrellas, pots full of colorful flowers and strands of twinkling lights.  I couldn’t wait to get there to eat! 
I tried my best not to look at the menu beforehand, thinking I might like to be surprised by the choices.  I made it a few days too, but then I had to go online to make a reservation, and that’s when I peeked at the dinner selection.  One thing about me is that I often enjoy the anticipation of something about as much as the event itself.  Which was true in this case because I enjoyed thinking about artichoke francese as I finished up my day at work, artichoke francese as I picked out a bottle of wine and artichoke francese as I waited for my gas tank to fill up on my way there.  Most of all, I enjoyed eating artichoke francese while chatting with my friends and sipping said wine. Outside!  Ahhhh…

Vidalia Restaurant

There were also some salads.  I couldn’t pronounce mine, Insalata Palermetana, which consisted of organic baby leaf lettuce, shaved parmigiano, fennel, oranges, and almonds; drizzled with homemade honey infused balsamic vinaigrette.  My friends both had an asparagus appetizer that seemed to be wrapped up in some yummy bread and Insalata di Mela, organic spring mix lettuce with walnuts, gorgonzola, apples, and topped with the same honey balsamic dressing. 
The meals were delicious, the atmosphere was charming and the company was the best!  I’m definitely going back and I know exactly what I’m getting next!

#14 Lunch

Do you pack or buy? I try to pack. I don’t really have time to go out to lunch on weekdays.  I can buy lunch in the cafeteria where I work, but the options are limited, so I try to bring something from home most days.  Jars of peanut butter seem to have a way of multiplying in my cabinet, so I can always, and often do, throw together a PB&J.  I’m most happy, though,  when I can make a big batch of something tasty over the weekend and then divide it into smaller portions for lunch during the week.  In a short amount of time, I get to check “Make Lunch” off of my to-do list for the whole week, or most of it, at least. And while I’m working hard all morning, I get to look forward to a nice meal at break time.  If you like to do the same thing, I’ve got a recipe to share… Continue reading