Peacock Inn owner Barry Sussman announced in mid-June that Perez, who had been executive chef since 2010, when the inn and restaurant’s dramatic, multi-million dollar renovation debuted, was leaving to become chef de cuisine at Bouley restaurant in New York.
Perez had worked for famed chef David Bouley early in his career, eventually moving to New Jersey to work at Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank and then moving over to the Peacock. Departing with Perez is his wife, Cynthia, who was the restaurant’s pastry chef.
At press time Sussman was close to naming a replacement. He told New Jersey Monthly that chefs from two-star Michelin restaurants were in the running. Stay tuned.
Aurelio’s Mexican -Guatemalan debuts
Rocio Lopez, a veteran Princeton businesswoman who opened this BYOB in mid-June along with her husband, Marco Gonzalez, and son, Abner DeLeon, has qualms about her entry into the restaurant biz, although being situated directly across the street from longtime Princeton favorite Tortuga’s Mexican Village isn’t among them.
“We do different things,” she says of her cheerful, lemon-yellow café that is, in fact, housed in quarters that once were home to Tortuga’s (and most recently, Cafe44).
The menu is mostly Mexican favorites — Lopez hails from Oaxaca — with a few specialties of her husband’s homeland of Guatemala, including housemade pupusas: soft, fluffy griddled masa cornmeal rounds topped with a mixture of chicharron, cabbage and carrot slaw, red salsa, and queso fresco (3 for $9).
Among Aurelio’s eight breakfast items, which can be had all day, are chilaquiles with eggs and cecina (salted beef) and Guatemalan style: eggs with refried beans, plantain, cheese, and chorizo (each $8.50).
Fennel Pollen: A love story
Like most dedicated home cooks, my spice cabinet is bursting with jars, tins, bags, and even vials full of exotic herbs and spices. Mine literally run from A (asafetida) to Z (za’atar).
The trendier and more obscure the better, even though I have to confess that most of them get used once and then pushed to the back of the cabinet. (Hello, Australian wattleseed!)
But one has stood the test of time: fennel pollen. If, like me, you love the anise-like flavor of fennel and fennel seed, pollen is like that, only intensified. I smear it on just about any meat for fish before cooking, although it’s especially fine with pork.
Because it takes many tiny fennel blossoms to produce the pollen, it is, by weight, as costly as saffron. But like saffron a little goes a long way.
Savory Spice Shop on Spring Street is my favorite supplier because they source it from California, which is considered the best in the world.
They also stock Coastal California Fennel Pollen Rub, a blend of 10 ingredients including fennel seed and fennel.
Area Welcomes two new farmers markets
There’s yet another reason to visit the beautifully re-imagined Duke Farms in Hillsborough: its Farm to Table Market which runs Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm until November. Draws, in addition to local farms offering sustainable meats, vegetables, and honey, include native wildflowers from Toadshade Wildflower Farm (propagated, not poached) and, from Woodsedge Tree Farm, wooden bowls turned from trees downed by Sandy. More farms will be added as the season progresses. www.dukefarms.org/en/Visit/NEW-Farm-to-Table-Market. Trenton got its third market with the launch on June 15 of the Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market, right behind the transit center.
Jersey produce, tropical fruit and vegetables, meat, bread, eggs, and more will be offered by Isles’ Urban Farmers, Norz Hill Farm, and others. The market runs Mondays from 2:30 to 6:30pm through October 26. www.facebook.com/greenwoodavefarmersmarket.
Pat Tanner blogs at www.dinewithpat.com. She is a long-time food writer and restaurant critic based in Princeton. Born and raised in Newark, she is one of seven children in a food-obsessed Italian-American family.