Best Bites: Dinners, Terra Learning Kitchen, Tina Cucina, and winter desserts

I’ve been out quite a bit lately, celebrating my retirement (from my weekday job) and a birthday, plus researching an article I’m working on for Packet Magazine. (If you’ve been wondering where you can order freshly prepared dinners delivered or picked up near you, stay tuned.)

What we have here is a mash-up of those meals plus some home cooked meals – Beefy Mac ‘n’ Cheese, who knows where that urge came from?, Shrimp with White Beans, and a dinner made from groceries from Despaña (love those little hot chorizos!)

The mushroom and truffle dish is from a tasting dinner I enjoyed at elements this past weekend on my birthday. This was a spectacular meal, each course hooking onto the next, as we progressed (generally) from vegetable, to fish, to poultry, to red meat. All I can say is WOW. Really, WOW.

And, while I restrained myself from taking any photos at the Blue Bottle Café the night of my retirement, that dinner also had me swooning over onion-gorbonzola tart, arepa with chile braised chicken, and duo of wild boar. Fantastic!

The salmon dish (over wheat berry salad, with chimichurri), is from the kitchen of Tina Cucina, operating at the Dessert Boutique in Skillman. This is one of the places where you can pick up freshly prepared meals that you order ahead of time (plus they do offer some delivery in Princeton), and there are always a couple of savory options available in the case, among those yummy cupcakes.

The other such place represented here is the exciting new Terra Momo venture at the YM/YW CA – Terra Learning Kitchen just opened on Monday, and besides operating the café inside the Y on Paul Robeson Place, they are easing into their online ordering system. They don’t deliver, but you can order ahead (see link) and drive by for curbside pickup. These meals are very healthful, the pasta with Griggstown chicken sausage is actually gluten-free pasta (I doubt I would’ve noticed had they not told me), and the kale salad, massaged with lemon-garlic dressing is just delicious. Y patrons can have breakfast or lunch at the little café, and dinners are available after 4pm (they are open 8-6, Mon.-Fri.) And, of course, given the name, they’ll be offering classes, too, as part of the mine-body-spirit mission of the Y.

And last, but definitely not least, I’ll be writing about Wintersweet for the Packet issue of November 29, but if you like to plan ahead, this would be a lovely gift, to yourself, or the baker in your life. These recipes make the most of those ingredients we associate with winter: pears, apples, persimmon, pomegranate, citrus, dried fruits, chocolate…and the stunning photos will clinch the deal. (By Tammy Donroe Inman)

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