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NJ eats

out of our comfort zone: a family dinner at Picnic

I swear to you, I had every intention of blogging and uploading masses of photos over Thanksgiving break.

I really did.

It’s just that my computer died the week before break. And then I lost my hard drive that had all my blogged photos and family pictures. And I had 2 exams, 2 projects, and an exam that week.

It was a dark, traumatic point in my life. I think the only thing that kept me going was the thought of the nearing 10-day break.

But you know what? After I climbed out of the deep pit of self-condemning doom and despair, I realized that things could have been a lot worse. While I lost all my notes, I had a lot of the pictures and documents backed up online; my laptop had served me well for 3 years, and I guess it was about time I got a new one, better suited for my school, photographing, and blogging needs.

Yes, I am one of those weirdos who see the glass half-full. More to drink then, eh?

But anyways, over break I got a new laptop with exciting, uber-good specs (WHOOAOAOAAAA) and I’ve been breaking into it slowly. Which also means downloading Microsoft Office and the Adobe programs. I’d just got settled into my new computer when my family left our vacation to Florida.

Orlando, Florida. As in the place where dreams come true.

But more on that in the next post.

To celebrate my coming back from college, my family decided to eat out at a fancy dinner place. Now, normally we’d go for an up-scale Asian place like Umeya, but this time we decided to go the Western food route.

I felt it was time to expand our fooding horizons, to venture out of our comfort zone, and enjoy foods that were somewhat foreign to our palates.

After doing some research online, I settled on Picnic, the Restaurant.

I chose this restaurant not only because it had gotten good reviews and it was nearby (in Fairlwan), but because I was intrigued by the food it served.

As you can see on the picture above, the menu was for Tuesday, November 23, 2010. What does this mean, exactly?

It means that Picnic changes its menu on a daily basis, depending on what it gets from the market that day. Cool, huh? It’s a restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal ingredients.

You can see why I wanted to go there.

It’s also a relatively new restaurant, having opened only a couple months ago. The interior was simple yet elegant, and because it was a fine-dining restaurant, there was the air of fanciness to it. It’s pretty small, but I think my mom was impressed with how up-scale it was.

contemplating dinner choices

While the menu wasn’t overwhelmingly extensive, there was still a lot to choose from. As usual, my family ordered a mix of small dishes and entrées to share with everyone. I apologize in advance about some of the photos – a few of them are blurry and/or noisy. It was really dim in the restaurant and I had to turn the shutter speed way down and crank the ISO up to get decent pictures. They’re not the quality I usually post up here, but I tried my best – that’s all that matters right? :D Hopefully you guys can still get an idea of what the food was like.

Before we ordered anything, the chef (who was working at the front of the house that day) came to our table with a plate of small bites for us to nibble on while we decided what we were going to eat.

On the plate were pecans, 2 types of cheese, blackberries, and sliced baguette sprinkled with olive oil. Really simple stuff, but it made for good nomming. I actually really liked the cheeses – one was brie, and the other one (which I forgot the name of) is that blue-marbled stuff in the front. My parents like them too, and I was glad that they got to try something other than the cheddar or mozzarella they were used to.

After a few rounds of discussion, contemplation, and asking for recommendations, my family finally ordered our dishes. Since we were going to share, my sister and I had a couple of appetizers come out later as main courses. SO the first to come out were:

braised pork belly with a bacon cheddar corn spoon bread

I didn’t get to try this (Calynn was being a little stingy…) but my sister said it was good – flavorful pork belly with a cornbread studded with bits of bacon.

One thing that really intrigued us was the marrow. It wasn’t on the menu, but once the chef recommended it, my dad jumped at the chance to indulge in some cow-bone fattiness.

Split-open cow bones are served atop of braised beef with slices of bread. We all tried some, scooping out the marrow and spreading it on the bread with a dollop of the meat. None of us had ever tried anything like this so the chef gave us some background information, saying that this was as classical French as you can get. My dad absolutely LOVED this dish in all of its meaty goodness, and he said later that it was the best thing he had eaten that night.

autumn crabcake with sweet potato, apples and cheddar maple béchamel sauce

Next to arrive were our main courses. This was my sister’s 2nd pick of the night, and while it was good, I don’t think she enjoyed it as much as the pork belly. She said that it was a little too heavy, with both the crab cake and the creamy sauce together in a single dish.

My order of the night was scrambled eggs on a toast point with a side of mixed greens. Now I know it may not look like much, but this was really good. It didn’t hurt that the little brown stuff on top was white truffle that was just imported from Italy, shaved tableside onto the eggs. Yes, that’s right. And while I may not appreciate truffles as much as some of the true gourmands out there, it really was unique – I’ve never had anything like it. As soon as the truffle was shaved, it released a heady, mushroomy fragrance and worked just right with the soft eggs and the buttery toast to make the perfect bites. And I can now say that I’ve eaten white truffles. COOL!

I also had a small cup of autumn squash and sweet potato puree that went un-photographed. It was sooo good – creamy and smooth, and tasted of fall.

chatham haddock with gremolata cranberry relish and clementine beurre blanc

My mom, being the seafood lover that she is, got a fish entrée. She liked it, saying that the mix of textures and tastes made the perfectly-cooked haddock all the better.

loin of venison with a juniper berry and aquavit demi glace with lingonberry and sweet potato

And my dad (the carnivore) of course went with meat. He was going to go for the prime rib, but while we were “out of our comfort zone” we decided to share the venison – that is, deer meat. My parents seemed mildly horrified at the thought of something that trots through our backyard on a daily basis, but I told them that it’s not uncommon to eat venison in this area. The meat was gamier than your average steak (as is all wild meat compared to domestically-raised), but it was perfectly cooked and I think it was absolutely worth it to try it this one time.

After all of this food we were really full – not particularly because it was a lot of food, but just because most of it was so rich. That’s French cuisine for ya. But you always have to make room for dessert right? My sister and I chose desserts to share while my parents got coffee.

chocolate espresso pot de creme

Calynn loooooved this dessert. Our waitress described it as a creme brulee without the crunchy top, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. It was a chocolatey, smooth custard served chilled in a smallish cup. (I say smallish because it actually held more than it looked like it did). My sister described it as almost ice-cream-like, and she had to restrain herself from finishing off the entire thing. There was an excellent chocolate flavor, taken to the next level with the addition of the coffee. Definitely a dessert worth getting again.

apple crumble pie

In my love of all things fall, I decided to go for the apple pie. And it was SO YUMMY. Definitely an indulgence (what part of this meal wasn’t?) but the crunchy top and the sweet apples and the buttery crust… I can’t describe it. Just go and get it. You’ll understand what I mean.

So that wraps up our dinner at Picnic. It was one of the few times we’ve eaten at a non-Asian restaurant together as a family, and it made for a nice change. We didn’t like all of the dishes, mostly because they were really rich and heavy – growing up on a Korean diet that revolves mostly around pickles and vegetables, I have to say it was somewhat of a palate-shocker. But I think it was good to try something different, and the high notes of this dinner were really high.

Yay! Post done! I’m back in my dorm as I type this, and not gonna lie, I’m kind of daunted by all the photos I have to put up (Orlando, remember? Plus some more Food for Thought adventures…) Finals are coming up in 2 weeks, but I promise to try to make up for the 3-week hiatus from You Eatin’ Nice.

That’s it for now – good luck to everyone preparing for finals!!

 

P.S. It’s only been 48 hours since I left home, but I think I’m already going through Korean food withdrawal. Need… my… mom’s… food…. :(

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