In spite of everything I'd heard about it, it turned out to be a very lush and beautiful place, full of flowers...
And cotton-tailed bunnies...
And some pretty excellent food, most of which, I must admit, was found in New York, not New Jersey (with the exception of a delightful ice cream joint called The Bent Spoon, which itself is worth a trip to Princeton.)
In one spectacular day that possibly shortened my life, my sister and I ate at both Eataly, Mario Batali's city block-sized Italian food emporium, and David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar.
Eataly boasts four restaurants; we chose La Piazza, a wine bar, for a late morning "snack." We started with crisp glasses of rose...
and a gigantic salumi e formaggi plate.
I forget all the meats, although there was prosciutto (two kinds, I think), speck, ham, salami, and mortadella (little cubes hidden under the salami).
The cheeses were divine and included, from left to right, a sweet and mild ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, something I can't remember, taleggio, and a creamy gorgonzola. Alongside were candied orange peel, honey with almonds, and a delicious fig marmellata.
We also shared smoked bluefish with asparagus and chives.
After finishing this hefty snack, we walked about 100 blocks or so (perhaps I exaggerate--I like to imagine I walked off that salumi plate), chatting and shopping. It was sweltering, so when we stumbled across this sunny yellow truck, it only made sense to get a cone.
I got mint chip, my sister got ginger. No photos, though--who can balance an ice cream cone in 97 degree heat as well as a camera? Not me.
After more walking and shopping, we found ourselves at Momofuku Ssam Bar. It was earlyish, probably around 6, and though we expected a wait, we were able to nab a spot at the bar right away. Over ice-cold cocktails, we decided on our menu, which somehow ended up being rather large in spite of both of us claiming not to be that hungry on account of our ice cream cones.
There was the famous Momofuku pickle plate, which included kimchee, sunchokes, rhubarb (!), beets, mushrooms, tomatillos, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and a few other things I can't recall.
And there were the pork belly buns, quite likely one of the best things I have eaten in my life.
There was also some very thinly sliced raw geoduck in a pale green gazpacho; spicy pork sausage with rice cakes and Chinese broccoli (an outstanding dish, I highly recommend it if you find yourself there); and poached chicken with sticky rice, morels, and spinach, shaped into a galantine with a creamy sauce I could have eaten--and did, let's admit it--by the spoonful. By the time these dishes showed up, I'd abandoned the camera. You'll have to use your imagination.
I really loved this place; I wish there was one in San Francisco so I could be a regular.
In addition to eating out, during my short stay my sister and brother-in-law made all kinds of delicious and summery things for us to enjoy at home, including a warm pasta salad with tomatoes and olives, grilled sausages, garlicky pesto, and strawberry scones for breakfast.
Food, of course, wasn't the only great thing about the trip. I got to hang out with my nieces, a major treat. Mischievous Pug and I got a few hours to ourselves to sit on the couch and gossip...
And I enjoyed watching Scrappy take down a sizeable piece of pizza.
I miss you all so much, I can't wait to return!