What could be bad about hanging out in a Norman-style mansion with a bunch of nicely-dressed people, hobnobbing with local area chefs and tasting plate after plate of petite-sized goodness — all to benefit the newly-renovated Cancer Center at Clara Maass? Besides the calories, of course?
Last night, the Pleasandale Chateau in West Orange was mobbed with foodies and their consorts for A Tasteful Experience, and in the service of journalism, I stuffed my gullet with some of the finest food in all of Essex County.
First stop once we hit the ballroom was a little alcove occupied by Montclair’s new seafood restaurant Fin and its sister restaurant Salute. Fin stole the show with some lightly seared tuna over soba noodles — an excellent start to the evening. Just around the corner was Amy Harrigan of Toast, who pingponged me back to breakfast with a truly yummy Bananas Foster French Toast.
Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane greeted us with a big smile as she ladled out beef empenadas. Around the corner, Joanne Ricci of Raymond’s served up risotto balls with truffle aioli — along with a big scoop. Raymond’s has broken ground on a second restaurant — in Ridgewood, NJ. They are using the same designers they used on Church Street and are hoping for an opening next summer.
Some of the yummiest bites of the evening were the Mascarpone polenta fries from Fascino, grilled quail with truffled vinaigrette from the chefs at Pleasantdale Chateau, a melt-in-the-mouth braised short rib with balsamic onions from Costanera, an Armagnac deglazed chicken liver pate with mango and kumquat chutney from Bistro 18, a carnitas taco from Senoritas and chorizo and octupus from Mompou, an Ironbound tapas joint.
And then there was dessert: A delectable display of Thanksgiving goodies from Gencarelli’s bakery in Bloomfield, delightful bite-sized cake truffles from Confectionary Designs in Bogota, the usual wonderful toffee from Miss Nicky along with some healthy Bobbi Brown-approved cookies, pumpkin cheesecake from Anthony’s Cheesecake in Bloomfield and mini cupcakes from Stuffed Cupcakes in Nutley, which was also displaying its foray into designer cakes.