Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ninety Acres

The anticipation of dining at Ninety Acres was almost palpable. I mean the history of the location, the celebrity of the current owner, local restaurant buzz, and the scarcity of reservations were enough to set any food lover’s heart racing.  After months of effort, we finally snagged four spots for their “Bring Me Food” concept for Saturday prime time seating.

First, a little background. Ninety Acres is located on the grounds of Natirar, formerly owned by the King of Morocco. Set on 500 lush acres in the rolling horse country of Somerset County, the King purchased it from the original owners in 1983. The estate’s first owners, the Macy-Ladd family, named the property Natirar (an anagram of Raritan) for the river that runs through it.

Speeding up to present day, in 2001, Sir Richard Branson and Bob Wojtowicz, began negotiations to purchase the entire estate from the Moroccan royal family. However, Somerset County stepped in with interest and together with Branson and Wojtowicz, presented a plan for a public-private partnership. The county successfully purchased the estate from the royal family, and in 2003 they issued a 99-year lease to the Branson group for a “90 acre” plot. 

So you see, Ninety Acres has quite the pedigree. 

You approach the entrance from a rural road, and follow a winding path for a good mile before reaching the entrance. Warm lighting washes the building and as you enter, you are greeted with an energetic bar to the right and dining room to the left. There was not an empty seat anywhere.

As mentioned earlier, we had reservations for “Bring Me Food,” which is Ninety Acres’ version of the chef’s table.  Diners can order the “BMF” dinner with or without paired wines. Executive chef, David Felton, presented each of the courses, and a young, hip wine sommelier poured.  There are seven tables set aside in proximity to the open kitchen specifically for BMF. The rest of the restaurant is available for a la carte dining.

Service was relaxed and professional without being stuffy. Both our wine guru and Chef Felton were approachable and easy to chat with.

The evening’s menu:

Hudson Valley cured duck breast, Asian pear, walnuts, celery (Cava Brut Reserve NV – Spain)

Natirar poached egg with spaghetti squash, pork belly and parmesan (Tokaji Furmint Sec 2007 – Hungary)

Barnegat Light Scallops, roasted beets, horseradish, short rib and vodka (Chinon Les Galuches 2007 – France)

Griggstown Pheasant, Natirar rutabaga, salsify, bordelaise sauce (Cotes-du-Rhone Mon Coeur 2009 – France)

OktoberKase with honey, almonds, and herbs (Coteaux du Layon Chateau Soucherie 2007 – France)

Almond and fig cake, mascarpone ice cream, port reduction (Tawny port, Quinta do Infantado – Portugal)

As is the case with most tasting menus, the portions are on the small side. But keep in mind, there were six courses so we did not leave hungry.

Each course was delicious and uniquely different, but the most unusual, I think, was what they called “New Jersey on a Plate” (photo at the top of the post). The scallops with roasted beets, horseradish, and short ribs.  To look at that combination on paper, you would never think it could work. But it does. The scallops were so fresh and sweet that when paired with the heartiness of the beets and short ribs the dish morphed into rich, velvety luxury.

I loved the taste and texture of the sharp OktoberKase with the sweet honey, and crunchy almonds.  Of course, dessert was my favorite part of the meal – the mascarpone ice cream was so creamy alongside the nutty-sweet almond fig cake.

With coffee, they offered miniature cranberry sorbet cones and absolutely delectable hazelnut chocolate truffles served over cocoa nibs. These were so delicious that I almost asked for another taste!

The wines were paired perfectly, as one would expect.  Although for the money, I would have liked a bit more than a quarter of a glass per course. 

The partners plan to open a Virgin Spa and hotel in the near future. They already partner with Viking Cooking School to offer culinary classes on-site.

Ninety Acres is quite the experience. And I can only imagine that experience being enhanced in the summer with the full bounty of their gardens at Chef Felton’s disposal and imagination.

Ninety Acres
2 Main Street
Peapack-Gladstone, NJ

Serving brunch Sunday
Serving dinner Tuesday-Sunday
Closed Monday

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

UPDATE: WE WON!!! South of the Border Super Bowl Baskets

Greetings, Cook's Tour Readers!  

Terry here with BIG news!  I was notified by the FoodBuzz people yesterday that the recipe we submitted was chosen as the Grand Prize winner!  Chef George Duran (Hunt's Tomato spokesperson, host of TLC's "Ultimate Cake-off", and and author of "Take This Dish and Twist It") chose our South of the Border Super Bowl Baskets out of the recipes submitted by FoodBuzz Featured Publishers.  Chef George will be coming to our home to do a food demo!  More details to come about that.  

In the meantime, some folks have asked for a written version of the recipe, which I am happy to supply.  The recipe is quick, easy, delicious, and will be a terrific snack for your Super Bowl parties!  Please watch the video below to see exactly how we did this.  But first, I must give credit to my husband, Barry, for coming up with the recipe idea - the man is very talented!

South of the Border Super Bowl Baskets
(this recipe makes approximately 12 baskets)

1 package flour tortillas
PAM Cooking Spray
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
2-3 links fresh chorizo sausage
1 can refried beans
Shredded Mexican cheese
Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take small ramekins and place in large roasting pan. Spray ramekins with PAM.

Heat a saute pan.  Split the chorizo sausage casing down the middle and remove the casing. Drop the sausage into the pan and break up.  Cook thoroughly.  

Using an upside down glass bowl, cut tortillas to fit ramekins and place one in each ramekin. Bake tortillas for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Move rack to top level and set your oven to broil.

While tortillas are still warm, spread approximately 1 tablespoon of refried beans on bottom of each tortilla. Next, add about a tablespoon of cooked chorizo, followed by a tablespoon of Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chilies, and cover with small handful of shredded cheese.  Slide pan of ramekins under broiler and broil for approximately 2 minutes. Watch carefully.  Remove from oven when tortillas are crisp and brown around edges.

Remove tortillas from ramekins, arrange on serving platter. Top with a dollop of guacamole and sour cream. Enjoy!

Printable recipe here!

As part of a promotion from FoodBuzz and ConAgra, yours truly won a package of ConAgra food items and an HD Flip Video Camera with which to create a new recipe especially for the upcoming Super Bowl!

Our idea: South of the Border Super Bowl Baskets.  Made with flour tortillas, ground Chorizo sausage, Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, refried beans, and topped with shredded cheese, guacamole, and sour cream - it's the perfect all-in-one football snack.  The chorizo and Rotel tomatoes with green chilies add just the perfect amount of spice to this dish.  

They asked us to videotape the recipe in the making so attached below is my first attempt ever at a food video.  Let me tell you, that video stuff is not as easy as it looks!  The writing, directing, filming, editing, voiceovers - the list goes on and on!

So while the video may not be "Food Network" quality, our South of the Border Super Bowl Baskets are (as we say in football lingo) "up and good!"  Besides being "super" easy, they are delicious.  You can prep them ahead of time and then just finish them off in the broiler for a few minutes right before serving.  This way you won't miss any of the big game.  Hope you enjoy eating them as much as we did creating them!

Petit Lily Bows

Greetings, Cook's Tour Readers!  You know most of my postings revolve around food, but today I want to introduce you to a line of adorable hair bows for little girls.  It's called "Petit Lily Bows," and is the brainchild of a good friend of mine, Melissa, who started making bows for her little girl.  All the bows are handmade and they have a wide selection of themes for every holiday.  They will also be happy to custom-design a bow to match an outfit for a special occasion.

If you have a special little lady in your life, visit Petit Lily Bows and order something pretty for her.  As they say, "every little lady deserves a pretty bow."
My personal favorite, the "Chef Terry" bow!