Have you noticed the fairly recent addition of a tall freezer case at Bon Appetit’s fine foods emporium in the Princeton Shopping Center? I did, and asked Adriano DiDonato, director of store operations and purchasing, about its contents: frozen starters, entrees, sides, and desserts from Babeth’s Feast.
DiDonato says that he and owner Bill Lettier have wanted to offer a line of frozen foods since Lettier bought Bon Appetit back in 2009, but didn’t have enough electrical capacity. Once that was taken care of, Lettier brought onboard Babeth’s Feast, which got its start in 2014 on NYC’s Upper East Side.
“Frank Matz, the CEO of Babeth’s Feast, is a good friend of Bill,” DiDonato says. Matz and Lettier were at one time both executives at Dean & DeLuca. “The line has been doing well in New York, so they saw it as an opportunity to bring it to another high-end grocery market,” he says. Bon Appetit has been carrying the products since December and, reports DiDonato, “sales have doubled every month since. It’s an option for the high-paced guest who may also buy our fresh prepared food, but who can take this home and stick it in the freezer for another time. And it’s high quality.”
DiDonato’s personal favorite is Babeth’s Feast Coq au Vin, with Beef Bourguignon a close second. Each runs $12.99 for 12 ounces, which the package states can serve 1 to 2, and $19.99 for 28 ounces, serving 3 to 4. I tried the Fish Curry ($8.99): swai fillets in coconut curry sauce. (Swai is a relative of catfish that’s farmed in ponds in Vietnam.) The white fillets were tender and the rich, creamy sauce held just the right punch of spicy heat. I could see that with the addition of, say, rice or naan, it could, in fact, serve two adults.
Unlike much packaged food, sodium counts on Babeth’s Feast products are not high. The fish curry, for example, has 65mg per serving, and a reasonable 260 calories. (Even if you ate the entire package in one sitting, it would be only 130mg sodium and 520 calories.) The fish curry also has no trans fat, and, to its credit, the only preservative on the ingredients list is citric acid.
Starters range from $5.99 to $6.49 and include soups (tomato, butternut squash, lentil and spinach is one). Sides (cauliflower crumble, olive oil potato puree, farro with asparagus, etc.) serve 2 to 3, and range in price from $8.99 to $11.99. Packaged desserts consist of several individual servings of chocolate lava cake, crème brulee, and 3-berry crumble. Twelve mini-Provencal quiches ($14.99) would make a great go-to hors d’oeuvre to have in the freezer for when guests drop by unexpectedly.
Need a hostess gift to take to a shore house this summer?
I did recently, and found an ideal solution at the Whole Earth Center: Sea King’s New Jersey Sea Salt, hand-harvested from the waters off Barnegat Light. The folks behind this hyper-artisanal salt are chefs Ashley Pellagrino and Christopher Sanchez, the husband and wife team who own Black-Eyed Susans, the highly rated restaurant in Harvey Cedars.
The snow white salt is the result of a slow, painstaking evaporation process. Sanchez compares the final product to England’s Maldon sea salt, which many chefs consider among the best in the world. Sea King’s should be used as a finishing salt – and is priced accordingly, at $13.99 for four ounces. Naturally, it’s in very limited supply, so you might want to call the ahead to the Whole Earth Center to see if it’s in stock. Whole Earth Center: (609) 924-7429; wholeearthcenter.com.
Blue Point Grill to expand
Among the many recent announcements about changes and additions coming to the downtown dining scene is yet one more: Jack Morrison’s Blue Point Grill on Nassau Street will be converting what is now street-side patio dining to an enclosed porch, and adding a glass-enclosed deck above it, providing additional dining space. At its March 16 meeting, the Princeton Zoning Board granted Morrison variances for parking, site coverage, and setback allowance.
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