Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Princeton review... backwards

This past weekend, AV and I headed back to his hometown of Princeton to lend a hand at his mom's jewelry show on Sunday. I'd been back to Princeton once before but hadn't thoroughly checked out all the edibles the town had to offer. For the past few weeks, I'd been looking forward to checking out the Bent Spoon, Princeton's famed artisanal ice cream shop, as an after-dinner treat, wherever dinner may be. But as Saturday night neared and dinner hour came and went, AV and I were simply not that hungry. But we wanted ice cream. So we decided to skip dinner entirely and head straight to the good stuff. Strangely, however, I wasn't craving fancy, delicate ice cream a la Bent Spoon; I was craving what we had had during my last trip to Princeton: Thomas Sweet.

Thomas Sweet is known for both ice cream and chocolate, but as we entered the shop, we knew exactly what we wanted. Two efficient orders later, we were sitting at a table diving into the most decadent, purest cookies 'n' cream ice cream I've had since that euphoric moment at SoCo Creamery in the Berkshires over the summer. This ice cream was a straightforward expression of sugar, vanilla, cream, and cookies-- nothing more, nothing less. It cooled the tongue and warmed the heart.

Absolutely classic

Satisfied with our dinner, we set off on a stroll around Princeton proper. Even in the merciless mist, Princeton was fairy-tale-like, cute and dreamy like a movie set. We peeked into the coffee shops and stores and dodged the college students, and all of a sudden I floated an idea: "Any chance you'd like some... real food?" Curiously, AV was on the same wavelength-- though we'd both just consumed about a half-pint of ice cream each, all of a sudden we were hungry for dinner.

And so we ducked into Mediterra, a warm yet chic restaurant near the center of town. It was about 9PM, and the hostess quoted us about 15 minutes for a table. So as I nipped off to the bathroom, AV retreated to the bar area, and by the time I returned, he had scored us two choice seats right at the bustling bar. I will note that Mediterra has by far and away the most comfortable bar seats we've ever had the pleasure of perching upon: padded and upholstered with substantial backs, these made our gastronomic journey a pleasure.

We each ordered a light bite from the menu, and within a moment or so a bread basket swooped down. The bread selection was admirable: three different kinds by my count, including a pumpernickle, a white slice, and some delicious focaccia. The dipping oil had a peppery bite to it that kept the palate interested.

Lots of bread for two casual noshers

With barely a few bites of bread consumed, our entrees (after-dinner snacks?) made their appearance. AV had chosen the fried calamari, which came with "harissa-pomodoro and lemon aioli" as dipping sauces. AV asked for an extra side of the red sauce, noting that any order of calamari that doesn't come with just straight-up marinara isn't quite playing fair (and though I wouldn't necessarily style myself a calamari expert, I'm inclined to agree). Speaking of playing fair, the mound of calamari was actually interspersed with tiny shoestring french fries, making the seafood pile seem more substantial than it was. As it was, AV steered around the unfavored octopus-like tentacle pieces and gobbled the rings and the fries and was satisfied.

Trompe l'oeil calamari

I had chosen the bibb lettuce salad with roasted pumpkin, red delicious apple, brie, roasted beets, and raisin vinagrette. I was very pleased with the salad, which came with two dressings on the side, one more apple-sauce-like (which I loved) and the other pretty standard. The brie crostino was pungeant and tasty, and the pumpkin was soft and sweet. My only gripe was that a few of the beets had slightly rotten spots, but other than that, I was a happy camper.

Creative melange

Our snacks at Mediterra capped off a delightful and delicious evening of dining in reverse. I'll be craving the ice cream at Thomas Sweet for some time to come, and the savory-sweet salad at Mediterra was no slouch either. It was the perfect combination for a dreamlike night at a fairy-tale land so close to the city, and yet a whole world away.

Thomas Sweet
179 Nassau Street, Princeton


29 Hulfish Street, Princeton

No comments: