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Checking Out NJ

June 2, 2014

Leaving San Francisco cost me close to twenty pounds. In those last few weeks I was trying to eat as many of the things I knew I wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. So it wasn’t uncommon for me to have two lunches or two dinners.

The weight eventually came off, and I was glad to have made farewell stops to some of my beloved favorites. Even still, there were places I missed.

Now we’re in the final stretch of the New Jersey adventure. It’s June. Last month. On the plus side, I haven’t been here that long. There aren’t so many places to which I feel some deeper level of connection. Of course, there are also plenty of places I haven’t visited that have been on my list for a long time.

After this past weekend, I’m feeling a wee little bulge in my belly as I’m pushing to cram just a few more local delicacies down my gullet before heading back north. And I have big plans for next weekend too, but more on those later. First I have to confess for my gluttony.

Friday

I went to the Trenton Farmer’s Market. Trenton is one of those highly underrated eating destinations. Mostly, because there are some really poor and rundown sections of the city. But this crazy four-season shed which houses a bunch of Amish businesses is a treasure trove of treats.

Really, I had come for just one thing: pork roll. While Taylor’s version of this product has taken most of the glory away from Trenton, this was the city of its birth. And believe it or not, but there are other producers of pork roll too. The largest seems to be Case’s. However, I had heard that a butcher at the market also made a version of their own. So, I had to have it.

No joke, the butcher’s name is Cartlidge’s. Sure, it’s spelled differently than cartilage, but when you say it out loud it’s quite unfortunate.

I was not expecting the homemade product to be raw. But I was undeterred, and picked up a couple rounds of the stuff to bring home and fry up in a pan. The butcher gave me the simple run down for how to prepare it properly, although I had the sense he thought it was amusing that someone didn’t know how to fry up pork roll.

One thing I have always wanted to try at the market has been the kielbasa sandwich from King’s Foods. This is another Amish business at the market, and their steam tray has giant links of the sausage sitting on top of a bed of sauerkraut. Usually, I only eat those foods when I’m in Pennsylvania, but this time PA had come to me.

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For $4.25 it was amazing. The roll could have been better, and I wish they had brown mustard instead of yellow. But the sausage itself had a remarkably snappy casing and a juicy full-flavored interior. Really, something that size should be split into two portions. That didn’t stop me from greedily devouring it.

Nor did it stop me from getting dessert at Stoltzfus Family Bakery. I’ve been here a few times over the past several months, because they make a remarkable Boston Cream style donut. Really, you just have to see it.

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The Trenton Farmer’s Market is right next door to Halo Farm. Naturally, I had to stop in for some milk and ice cream. It turns out they have an extra rich whole milk, which just has a little bit extra fat in it than the supermarket stuff. I was all over that. The ice cream was purely to go, but I should mention now that Halo Farm’s ice cream has become my standard bearer for all ice cream. Is it better than Halo? That actually may be too high of a bar.

As great as the Farmer’s Market is, I also had to run into Wegman’s for a quick stop. Yes, I’m going to miss you too, Weggies.

That afternoon, I went into cooking mode making some homemade ricotta from the extra rich Halo farm milk. There was a savory bread pudding made from stale challah with local eggs, onions, and thyme. That was the vegetarian dish for our traditional Friday night dinner of roast chicken.

But we also had two special butters. One came from the Amish in Pennsylvania and the other closer to home in New Jersey. Valley Shepherd Creamery sells their wares at the Princeton Farmer’s Market and they make a butter from cultured sheep and cow’s cream. Ooh, yeah. That’s good stuff too.

Saturday

A day of adventure. Young Master Fussy and I went up to East Brunswick. We had to pick up our guitars from an awesome independent guitar store. They were being restrung, and mine was getting its nut repaired.

On the way, we had to stop for dim sum carts.

Sure, Sunny Palace may not have the best dim sum carts I’ve ever had, but I love cart service. Regrettably, the grill cart was not cooking wide rice noodles with peanut sauce this past weekend, but we still found a way to fill our bellies (even though we got there late in the day).

YMF bravely tried congee. He didn’t like it, but I thought it was savory and comforting. The tender, gingery beef meatballs were a big hit with the boy. As were the rice noodle wrapped beef and noodle wrapped donuts. Shumai are always a hit with the lad, but he wasn’t so crazy about the pan fried pork and leek dumplings.

You win some, you lose some. And I told him we could grab ice cream on the way back home.

That’s when we discovered the Milltown Ice Cream Depot. It is clearly a beloved local institution. There’s hard ice cream, Italian ices, soft serve, fro yo, and the like. Neither the lemon or mango Italian ice had true fruit flavor, and while the kid enjoyed his peach ice cream, I found it to be a little gummy and… wait for it… not better than Halo Farm.

Later that night, I finally got to eat my fresh pork roll. My intent was to share it with Little Miss Fussy, and I did. Two rounds. One for me, and one for her. But as much as she loves meat and the color pink, it really didn’t do anything for her. That means I got to try it two ways.an

First was with poached eggs and potatoes. That was honestly pretty damn good. But the only thing I have for the sake of comparison are the egg, cheese, and pork roll sandwiches I’ve been getting on hard rolls.

Second I made the unthinkable: a pork roll and cheese sandwich. No egg. Nothing to distract from the massive pinkness of chopped pork except white American cheese and a seeded sesame hamburger bun.

You know what, that sandwich really taught me something. Pork roll and white American cheese are really a marriage made in Jersey. They round out each other’s rough edges. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I may need to run out and buy some more pork roll and American cheese.

Sunday

It’s always a day of leftovers, but I have to confess to an unplanned stop at Red Moon Pizza–which is our local pizzeria–for a slice while running errands with the boy. At least I was able to resist the siren song of Hoagie Haven this weekend even though the temptation was high.

Princeton was having their graduation anyway, so I’m sure the place would have been mobbed. Still, I have a few more sandwiches to cross off my Hoagie Bucket List. We’ll see how far I can get before I abandon the project in disgust.

And there is still so much left to eat. I’m not ready to go back. I wish we had some more time.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 2, 2014 1:13 pm

    Did they have the seven sweets and seven sours at the Trenton Amish market?

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