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Eating Jersey Like a Tourist

October 4, 2013

Yesterday I packed about a week’s worth of New Jersey food exploration into one very filling day. The good news is that Princeton is very much a walking town, so I got in a fair bit of movement.

I also checked out Modernist Cuisine at Home (and some other food books) from the library and lugged them around town. That one book alone is over ten pounds, so that was a little bit of a workout there.

It’s a good thing too, because I plowed through a handful of donuts, a deep fried hot dog, two ice cream parlors and two hoagie shops. The day also involved buying some more crushed aleppo pepper at the spice store and picking up another dozen eggs from the farmers market.

Here’s the rundown and what I learned.

If I ever get homesick for Albany, Trenton is just a short drive down the road. It’s amazing how you can go from the fancy Lululemon clad Audi drivers of Princeton to the rough and tumble wilds of Trenton in less time than it takes to hard boil an egg.

On the edge of this more working class town is where I sought out a promising donut shop. And it had many of the trappings of a good place. It had a great old fashioned sign and seemed to be run by a pair of charming grandmothers, although they could have been great-grandmothers.

To get a sense of their donut making skills, I bought a small variety. The specialty was clearly a powdered-sugar-dusted cream-filled stick. But I also got a Boston Cream and a glazed for comparison purposes.

Overall, their yeast raised donuts were rich and dense. Maybe a hair on the tougher side than I would like to see, but still leaps and bounds beyond the crap sold at Dunkin’ Donuts. I’d gladly drive my kids here for donuts instead of letting them get something at the much more convenient outpost of the national chain.

However, it’s clear that my donut quest shall continue.

The best way to cleanse the mouth from a morning of eating fat and sugar is to subject it to a neutralizing combination of fat and salt. Did someone say deep-fried hot dog?

I’ve wanted to try these New Jersey Italian-style hot dogs which seem to be a completely incongruous combination of a deep fried hot dog, topped with mustard, topped with onions and peppers, and oddly, potatoes.

The one I found may not have been the truest specimen of the form. The potatoes were more like French fries, which look different than other versions of this regional hot dog that I’ve seen online. But the flavors were oddly compelling. The mustard, which sounded like the strangest part, adds a nice balancing acidity to the whole thing.

So now I’m looking forward to trying another one of these in the weeks (or maybe even days) to come.

Princeton itself may not have a very strong culinary identity. But there is a strong case to be made for this being a great ice cream town. I know other places come to mind first. Just hear me out.

Princeton has a central square across the street from the University. And on this square there is not one, but two remarkable ice cream shops. Sadly, one is so remarkable, that I’m concerned that the other is really given the short end of the stick. But while Halo Pub may not be as fancy or as expensive as The Bent Spoon, it’s really a very special place indeed.

The two places are quite different, and both have their pros and cons. However, both believe strongly in high quality local ingredients. So everyone wins. I’ll be writing more on these ice cream parlors later.

You know what else Princeton has two of in very close proximity? Hoagie joints.

There is the more famous Hoagie Haven on the left. And the less famous George’s is on the right. Effectively, they make the exact same thing: big, gut-busting, greasy sandwiches. The sandwiches are a massive sixteen inches long, but fortunately they are available by the half. And by some miracle of economics those eight inches stuffed full of fat-laden calories, cost a mere five bucks or so.

It can be hard to decide which one to try. My elegant solution was to simply try them both. Everyone seems to love the Buffalo chicken hoagie from George’s, and I can understand why. That was tasty enough to see me getting it again. I can’t say the same for the phantasmagorical Phat Lady sandwich from Hoagie Haven.

For the uninitiated, that is a cheese steak with french fries, mozzarella sticks and hot sauce. It’s a wicked combination, and I can see in my head how it could make sense. But the french fries had a pasty mealy interior that was just unpleasant. I’ll save my grease calories for a truly great cheesesteak across the river in North Philly.

Wow, that was a lot of eating for one day. Now I’m going to spend a couple of days being good again. Luckily the Trader Joe’s wine selection is interesting enough to have a few reds sitting around the house. So at least I’ll be able to work some of that cholesterol through my system.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2013 10:46 am

    How does the pizza compare to what is available in the Albany area?

  2. October 4, 2013 11:05 am

    So glad you went to the Bent Spoon. Yummmm indeed.

  3. October 4, 2013 12:47 pm

    Nom nom aleppo pepper. It reminds me to make ich.

  4. October 4, 2013 2:37 pm

    I have had deep fried hot dogs before and I didn’t get super excited about them… It is interesting, but doesn’t bring much to the table I don’t think. I haven’t had one of the potato dogs, I would be much more interested in a good one of those.

    Also, I like to sprinkle a bit of Aleppo pepper and sumac on my hummus. It is very tasty.

  5. October 4, 2013 5:50 pm

    So even in the reputation department, Trenton Makes and the World Takes.

  6. CMR permalink
    October 28, 2013 4:50 pm

    As a Rutgers alum, I must say–if you’re going to eat fat sandwiches, you need to go to New Brunswick. Giovanelli’s (now that the grease trucks are closed). Proceed with caution (and best case scenario, after several drinks), but if you’re gonna do it, do it right:)

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