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Forsaking Paris for Princeton

September 26, 2013

Writing a month’s worth of posts based on the experiences of the Paris trip would be easy. But I have found that even the last week’s worth of foreign-focused Fussy has tragically delayed my exploration of New Jersey.

At least in part. There are other factors too, like getting the kids adjusted into their new schools. And of course there is the odd compulsion to continue the Tour de Donut even in my absence.

One of the things that I had identified as a New Jersey item of curiosity even before I left New York was the state’s deep fried hot dogs, both in the classic and Italian styles. I still haven’t tried these regional hot dog variations, but just this week the New York Times scooped me on the story.

Dammit. I hate it when that happens.

So now I’ve got a fire under my tush. One of my ten months in New Jersey is almost gone, and what do I have to show for it? I don’t even have my New Jersey driver’s license yet. So let’s clear up some old business quickly, and get to it.

Mrs. Fussy is slightly less food obsessed than I am. So our last day in Paris was more about museums and seeing really really old things than it was about eating. Still, we were able to get in a great meal at a small place called Chez Meme and it was fantastic.

With all of the cheeses and butters I had been eating, I felt like having something full of vegetables so I chose the Crazy Grandmother Salad. It was crazy because it was chock full of foie gras and langoustines. Plus there was a gorgeous poached egg buried in it. Mrs. Fussy’s duck breast was the best one I had ever had. And the dessert will get a post of it’s own sometime down the road.

It was all very French, and it was a great way to cap our very French last day in France.

So here in New Jersey, I’m looking for much different things. I’m not looking for bread or butter, although it’s possible there are some great cheesemakers nearby. It’s just too soon coming from Paris to attempt to eat similar foodstuffs.

What I would really like to find is a great yeast raised donut. I figure that like in upstate New York, there has to be an old fashioned Italian bakery that knows how to bang out amazingly light and delicious donuts. But these things aren’t always easy to find.

You know what is easy to find? Local farms. Mostly because they tend to take up a fair bit of space. And the ones that are open to the public tend to have decent signs.

What winter will be like is anyone’s guess, but fall is going to be great.

Just down the street there is a really small organic farm called Z Food Farm. The place came up in conversation with some of Mrs. Fussy’s colleagues. They were under the impression that this was just a farm stand. However, everything they sell is grown on their tiny 18 acre parcel. Not even all of that land is planted on any given season. And what they grow are gorgeous certified organic heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs.

I picked up some curly sweet red peppers, a small handful of purple potatoes, a bunch of long cylindrical beets, and some variety of hard-neck garlic. These guys have a CSA, bring some of their wares down to Philadelphia, and sell to a handful of local restaurants. But I’m thrilled to be able to pop down the road on Wednesday (or Friday) and be inspired by the beauty and bounty of their Jersey grown vegetables.

This seems like it will become a regular weekly stop for me. At least until they stop selling sometime in November.

Did you catch that thing about sweet peppers? In late September? Princeton, it turns out, is a good bit warmer than upstate New York. You’ll have to forgive me, since I know precious little about seasons, having spent most of my life in Florida and California.

The leaves here are just barely beginning to change, and it was warm yesterday. So warm, in fact, that I deemed it would have made apple picking a sweaty and unpleasant experience. But that didn’t keep me and Little Miss Fussy from checking out the local legend that is Terhune Orchards.

It’s funny because the place felt a lot like home in upstate New York. Minus the bracing late September chill, that is. So instead of picking apples, I bought a peck of Jonathans. And Little Miss Fussy got an apple cider donut and a cup of fresh cider.

The orchard was set up like many others, with activities for the kids, animals on display, and even a farm winery that makes wine from apples. I may have to go there to taste what they make, but in my heart of hearts I truly believe fruit wines really want to be distilled into brandy. Maybe now that New Jersey has loosened the restrictions on craft distilling, one day these wines will be able to make their destined leap to greatness.

Oddly, their bakery was in an offset building, separate from the main store. And even though it’s just a walk across the driveway, the shop is lacking the sweet sweet smell of frying cider donuts. Regrettably, while the bakery has a screened window, one couldn’t buy the warmer donuts that were cooling on the racks inside.

Why every orchard hasn’t found a way to capitalize on hot, fresh, now donut sales is beyond me.

What is truly exciting is that there are even more farms around in relatively close proximity. And I’m going to try to visit some more of them. Mostly because it’s great to put a little Jersey on the table. Last night I sautéed the sweet red peppers from each of these farms into a little side dish to go with Cuban black beans.

I’m trying to eat healthier at dinner time, since it sounds like I’m going to have my hands full exploring the deep fried hot dogs of my new home.

More to come.

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