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Stage Left, New Brunswick

New Year's Eve Wine Dinner

What do to on New Year's Eve is always the big question here at our house. And often one we don't start asking until the week before. Most years it involves us going out to dinner, coming home and trying to stay awake until the ball drops. As our food and wine adventures continue to go on and get more exciting, we thought we'd end 2011 with a great food and wine experience.

My dining companion has been dying to get to Stage Left in New Brunswick and we've just never made it there, as there are so many great place on our "to do" list. So, in looking up restaurants that might have nice New Year's menu's, I came across Stage Left's wine dinner. Apparently, this is some what of a regular occurrence at Stage Left, usually featuring the wine maker or vineyard owner presenting their wines over a dinner served by the exceptional staff at Stage Left. For New Year's Eve, one of the fabulous co-owners at Stage Left, Francis Schott, hosted a dinner featuring "new wines" that he selected to accompany the offering from their kitchen.

My dining companion and I could not pass up a night in New Brunswick (a quick train ride from nearby Princeton Junction station) with great food and wine. We arrived and were asked to wait at the bar until they were ready to seat everyone for the wine dinner. We opted to not get a drink as we were excited to see what was to be offered to us when we got seated. Judging from the others in the bar it was obvious we'd be the youngest people at this dinner, we appreciated that it would be a quiet night after witnessing some of the crazy partyers on the train headed to NYC.

As they came to get people from the bar and seat us in the room where the wine dinner was to take place, it was clear that there was assigned seating and that a lot of these people new each other. My dining companion and I were lead to our table which was empty, we waited with anticipation to see who would end up at our table. And as it turns out, not knowing anyone made us lucky enough to end up sitting with the co-owner, Francis Schott, his lovely girlfriend and Master of Wine, as well as friends of theirs who are a most extraordinary couple and great company. You may not be impressed, but we were in heaven. Okay, okay, I know you are here to read about the food and not how much fun my dining companion and I had.

It started with a champagne cocktail with actual rose petals in it, fun, fancy and tasty. As we enjoyed those cocktails staff came around with Hors D'Oeuvres, including mini crab cakes, spring rolls, mini beef wellingtons and many other assorted miniature treats. We were eating, drinking and getting acquainted with our table mates, we learned so much about wine, mixology and food. After the last of the hors d'oeuvres were passed, we started on the journey through the rest of the menu, which began with a lovely seafood bisque with a poached Maine lobster tail floating in it, heavenly really. It was paired with Trebbiano d'Abruzzo which is a lovely white wine that was surely a good pair with the rich, velvety soup. Trebbiano is the white sibling grape to the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Trebbiano that we had that night was from proprietor, Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, Italy.

Next we move on to possibly one of the best things I've ever tasted, our "small plate" for the evening was Prosciutto Wrapped Foie Gras Pate with Applejack Cherries. It was tart, rich, creamy, salty, the multiple combinations of flavors and textures as incredible. This course was paired with a wine from Hungary, that we had never heard of called, Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos which was a lovely light red that was really enjoyable. Regrettably, it is the only plate I took a photo of all night because I was too busy, eating, drinking and talking. I wish I could show you all the beautiful courses we were served, but just this one photo will have to do.
Our next course involved an itty bitty member of the poultry family, a Roasted Griggstown Quail served with Lentils and Grilled Mushrooms this delicious little bird was paired with a deep, dark and lovely Cabernet Sauvignon. You don't always think big red with a bird, but this roasted, gamey dish was begging for something with a little body to it and the Cab Sauv obliged.

After enjoying that last course we were starting to get full, but we weren't done yet. Next they wowed us with a Lamb Loin stuffed with Grilled Merguez Sausage. The lamb was perfectly cooked and the sausage provided just enough texture and spice to complement the tender lamb. The lamb was served over a lovely puree of polenta and was accompanied by extremely delicious oyster mushrooms. With this fantastic dish, we had a fantastic wine,  Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 1999; Dante Marramiero; Abruzzo, Italy. All I can say is what a pair!

Were were so full at this point but you can't turn away dessert at a tasting event! So, onward we went as midnight was slowly approaching. And of course they couldn't just send us off with one lovely dessert, but instead offered us a sampling of desserts. On this lovely plate we had an Almond Tart, Ginger Crème Brulee, and a Petite Financier. The almond tart was sweet and certainly would have been a star all on it's own. Probably my favorite on the plate was the Crème BruleeCrème Brulee which was the only thing on the plate I finished, I am pretty sure my dining companion finished all three.

We finished up this lovely feast just in time to run out front of the restaurant and catch the fireworks shot off the top of the Heldrich Hotel across the street. We counted down the New Year, watched some fireworks and then ran off to the train station and were lucky enough to catch a train that was lacking in the drunk and loud revelers we traveled with early and enjoyed a quiet train ride home talking about the incredible food and wine we had and the lovely company we enjoyed.

Whether it is for a wine dinner or other special event or just to go in and enjoy the regular menu, we think you'll enjoy Stage Left, so go ahead and check it out and tell Francis that Skip says hi.

Happy New Year from House of Skip!


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"Paleo Burritos" AKA stuffed collard greens

I recently discovered another use for collard leaves, a replacement for our old friend known as tortillas or wraps. After removing the stems and taking a quick 3 to 5 minute bath in boiling water they are ready to go. They are more durable than lettuce and fold over a little easier after being boiled. I have used them to make a variety of lunchmeat and grilled chicken wraps recently and then I got to thinking, couldn't I make a burrito out of them? Once I assembled them, it reminded me more of stuffed cabbage than burritos, call it whatever you want, they were still yummy. So, I'll share the recipe with you.

This recipe should be considered a guide and you can change and swap any way you wish.

Approximately 4 collard leaves
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion sliced thin
1 green bell pepper sliced thin
1 4 oz can green chiles
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
the following spices can be added to your taste (I don't measure)
chilli powder
garlic powder

Paleo Pineapple Upside Down Cake


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