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Blue Bottle Cafe - A Review

My two best friends and I went to the Blue Bottle Café for dinner a couple nights ago. First, let me start off by saying the service was wonderful. Our server was both warm and professional. The atmosphere was also pleasant – it was cozy without being cramped, and the lighting was not too dim.

Because we were having what we call a “grown-up dinner” at a nice restaurant, we started off with appetizers/salads. I can’t remember what the dressing was on L’s salad, but it was tasty – the salad I remember had spinach, wonderfully flavorful mushrooms and asparagus. She finished it pretty quickly. E had an heirloom tomato and house-made mozzarella salad with balsamic syrup. The tomatoes were very flavorful (perfect, actually), and the texture of the mozz was great. However, I would have liked a stronger balsamic accent (though it could be just the bite I had) and less-salty mozz.

Finally, I had the corn soup. I’m not a corn soup fan, but found the description intriguing – I was not disappointed. It was a smoothly pureed corn soup with a roasted vegetable relish and basil oil. The smokiness of the vegetables and the brightness of the basil oil were in a constantly shifting balance, which made each bite of the soup an exciting experience. It was really great – I cleaned the bowl.

The bread that came with the meal, btw, was excellent. Three varieties – a crusty French/Italian, a multigrain and one that reminded me a little of Irish soda bread with caraway seeds and dried fruit.

The entrees were more than satisfactory. L had scallops over what I guess could be described as a lentil pilaf that was heavily flavored with bacon. It was a bit salty for my taste, but L is a big bacon fan and she was delighted with it. E had the parmesan gnocchi which came with artichokes, tomatoes, Piave cheese and a little spinach in a light wine sauce. The gnocchi were among the lightest I’ve had and, because of the parmesan, very flavorful. E was very pleased with the dish.

My own dish was the marinated buffalo flank steak in a cumin-lime sauce with corn cakes and tomato-jicama salsa. The buffalo was done perfectly and really tasted like buffalo. The cumin-lime sauce lent flavor but was not overwhelming. I’ve never had corn cakes before, believe it or not, but I really enjoyed these. I’m more of a mashed potatoes traditionalist when I have steak of any kind though, so I would have probably been just as happy with that. I’ve also never gotten the point of jicama – if anyone can explain its delights to me, I would appreciate it – so I kinda picked out the tomatoes in the salsa and was again very happy with those – bright, brilliant red with a full tomato flavor.

Dessert was another happy event. L had a raspberry financier (kinda like a very flat, very large vanilla cupcake with no icing) with raspberry sauce and Earl Grey Tea ice cream from the Bent Spoon (all the ice cream is). The financier tasted good to me, but I’ve never had one before, and the ice cream was freaking awesome – no other way to put it. E had a celiac-friendly pavlova (she doesn’t have celiac, but the dessert looked yummy). The meringue part wasn’t that thrilling for E – I think she just realized she doesn’t like meringues. But she liked the mix of fruits in an orange-flavored sauce and the peach ice cream.

I had a fudge cake with peanut butter accents and peanut butter/chocolate ice cream – it arrived surrounded by a puddle of chocolate and peanut butter sauces in a decorative pattern that was almost – I reiterate almost – too pretty to eat. It was basically decadence on a plate. I think I offered E and L each a taste and then hoovered it. Yum!

Sometimes I leave a restaurant satisfied and pleasantly full. Sometimes the food sits heavy and uncomfortable in my stomach. After eating at the Blue Bottle Café, I felt completely stuffed – not because the food was heavy, but because I had basically cleaned my plate during each course. It was a great meal, and I know we will be going back.

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  1. Wow heatherb, what a great review!, felt like I was there. Very talented chef, he will prepare those gnocchi (and other items) as to the season. Lighter in the summer, changing in the Fall and Spring winding up hearty in the Winter.

    1. My family and I ate at the Bue Bottle for the first time last night and we loved it! The food was delicious, obviously prepared with a lot of care and attention. The atmosphere is charming and the staff is wonderful - warm and professional at the same time. We are already planning our next visit.

      1. Blue Bottle is one of our favorites. From the outside, it's a little off-putting, but once you get inside, everything changes. Great, fresh food. Very nice service; professional, but still friendly enough to make you feel like you're at a "joint". The food has always been good. Sometimes great. The desserts are yummy and yes, the ice cream is always the highlight. Blue Bottle is nice enough for a special occasion but down to earth enough for a weeknight where you just don't want to cook. Love it.

        1. OK, I'll play this silly game... What state is this place located in?

          2 Replies
            1. re: equal_Mark

              Mark, run a search for Blue Bottle Cafe and you will find numerous threads filled with very positive reports and reviews.

            2. After a beautiful spring day in Princeton, we drove over to Blue Bottle for our 7;30 reservation. We're continuing our tour of favorite restaurants.
              We thoroughly enjoy Blue Bottle and last night was no exception. After seated we received 3 different types of bread, the fruit with fennel and the pumpernickel were especially good.
              We were determined to try some different items on the current menu which runs another 3 weeks. The menu changes every 3 months.
              For apps, the chilled poached lobster with grilled endive, grapefruit, roasted fennel and shellfish vanilla emulsion sounded wonderful but we chose:
              Gingered sweet potato bisque with toasted pumpkin seeds and spiced crema.
              Also had housemade seafood sausage of crab, scallops and salmon, caramelized onions and mustard jus.
              Both of these apps showed the skill of Chef Aaron in regards to texture, spicing and combining flavors.

              We split a Blue Bottle salad of mixed baby greens with sliced red grapes, toasted hazelnuts, red wine and honey vinaigrette, shaved manchego cheese.
              Simply a delicious salad and plenty to share.

              For entrees we went the carnivore route. DW had the buffalo hanger steak, housemade corn tamales, plaintain chips, black beans, corn, avocado crema and chili chocolate mole.
              I had the duo of wild boar: Grilled rib chop and boar meatballs with creamy orzo, smoked ham, roasted onions and cranberry jus.
              Both entrees prepared a perfect medium rare and went well with our Tablas Creek CdP blend wine.
              Scallops and handmade gnocchi are specialties here and both looked wonderful coming from the kitchen.
              Desserts, we were tempted by the blackberry and almond financier with blackberry sauce and Earl Grey ice cream, white chocolate and raspberry bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce and pineapple upside down cake with caramel and cardamom ginger ice cream but settled for just a cappuccino and tea.
              Service here is always top notch, very efficient with no pretentions. You will never hear "who gets the ****". Owner Rory who runs the front of the restaurant, makes sure everyone is pleased. She is also knows her wine and enjoys talking about the subject.

              In this economy no restaurant is immune and Blue Bottle has begun a new midweek (Tuesday - Thursday) 3 course prix fixe menu for $36.00 which is a nice way to sample the many flavors of this restaurant.
              With the regular menu changing in 3 weeks it gives us another reason to get back there soon. Enjoy.

              3 Replies
              1. re: tom246

                Tom - Sounds like a great meal. I'm happy you enjoyed it.

                1. re: bgut1

                  Bgut, always very enjoyable at Blue Bottle. You will make a fine choice when you meet your friends there.

                  PS: an interesting sidelight. At the table next to us was the former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve. An interesting conversation ;))

                2. re: tom246

                  Aw jeez, now I really want to get back there before the menu changes!

                3. What were we thinking. It had been over 4 months since our last visit which is waaay too long :)
                  Seated promptly when we arrived, the restaurant was bustling. For those not familar with BB, there are 3 small but distinct dining rooms which keeps noise levels well in check.
                  The breads here are a treat, we could eat a loaf of the raisin and fennel, the multigrain and ciabatta are also excellent. Served with a large ramekin of softened butter.
                  Blue Bottle is in the middle of their summer type menu which changes every 3 months.

                  For appetizers, the pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras with grilled Terhunes peaches, multigrain crouton and verjus rouge gastrique sounded and looked wonderful but we passed and instead shared:
                  Chilled seafood salad of laughing bird shrimp, calamari, bay scallops and fresh lump crabmeat with granny smith apple and mojito vinaigrette.
                  Fresh , delicious and the vinaigrette was light and totally enhanced the seafood.
                  Also shared the Pad Thai salad with rice noodles, green papaya, Asian greens, shitakes, carrot, bok choy, peanuts and coconut curry peanut vinaigrette. This salad showed the real skill of Chef Aaron Phillipson, combining flavors, temperature and textures. A great tasting combination.

                  For entrees, its almost painful to pass on the gnocchi preparation which changes with the season. Homemade spinach gnocchi with oven dried tomato pesto, gaeta olives, marjoram, spinach and roasted fennel. Next time I think we will order as a side :)
                  For our entrees, DW had the porcini dusted filet of halibut, parnip puree, sauteed maitake and trumpet royale mushrooms, Swiss chard, red wine reduction. This was delicious and a substantial amount of halibut. Again showed the skill of the chef making a light sublime red reduction with the specific fish preparation. Went together beautifully.
                  I had the pan seared dayboat scallops with wild rice, toasted almonds, baby green beans and a small ring of white gazpacho sauce. BB is a master of scallop dishes and this was no exception.
                  All the desserts are made by Pastry Chef Owner Rory Philipson, seven in all. They are varied and some take advantage of the local fruits in season.
                  We shared a peach shortcake with buttlemilk biscuits, poached Terhunes peaches and tarragon whipped cream. Creative dessert and the innovative tarragon whipped cream pulled this all together. Yummy.
                  A artisinal cheese plate is also offered.

                  Our server Diane has been with BB for several years and was a joy to talk to, nice sense of humor and very willing to guide you through the menu if your in doubt.. A coffee and tea finished our evening. Had a delicious 2006 Holdredge pinot noir with dinner.
                  Many of the creative dishes from BB take advantage of produce and provisions from Terhune Orchards, Blue Moon Farms, Griggstown Quail Farms and Cherry Grove Farm

                  If you have not been to BB, I highly recommend to give it a try. Owner chefs Aaron and Rory have been serving exceptional food and service for over 3 years. The many glowing reviews and reports they have received are well deserved.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: tom246

                    OK Tom, you sold me.

                    Now, where is Hopewell? ;o)

                    1. re: seal

                      Seal, about 15 minutes west of Princeton. There is a simple back road way to get there from Princeton (what we did yesterday) but an easy way to find on a map is to find Route 518 which is Broad street in Hopewell and where Blue Bottle is located.
                      I admit its in the middle of nowhere, but its good :)

                      1. re: tom246

                        Forgot to include the link to the website. The site has poor pictures of the food. Ignore them they are very appealing in person. The directions from Princeton is the back way I referred to.


                    2. re: tom246


                      You had me at "pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras with grilled Terhunes peaches, multigrain crouton and verjus rouge gastrique." No surprise as I am known to family and friends as the "Foie Gras Queen." lol

                      Thanks for another excellent review. Blue Bottle has been on my "go to" list for a while, but you have impelled me to push it nearer the top. :)

                      1. re: RGR

                        Same here RGR. I've been meaning to go but the trip is a little prohibitive considering that we must use a sitter. Elements is another restaurant that have yet to try due to the distance.

                        1. re: bgut1

                          Hi R and B, yes, BB is a hike for you guys. Its 40 minutes for me, like every good restaurant :)
                          If you decide to go to BB, let me know. I can cut the trip for two by driving from my house.

                          1. re: tom246


                            Princeton is 40-45 minutes from our house, so I'd say Blue Bottle is about 50. Hardly a "hike" fo us, considering that we occasionally travel to Lambertvillle and even across the bridge into New Hope, which takes over an hour. And don't forget, we're regularly back and forth to NYC. We willingly travel for good eats! :)

                            1. re: RGR

                              just go....... you will be happy you did. full repot to follow soon. BTW 1 hour 20 min for me and would definitely do it again.

                              1. re: chefMD

                                Hey chef, sounds like you enjoyed the BB. Look forward to reading your report.

                    3. New menu at The Blue Bottle, a lot to explore and we had a very enjoyable meal on Saturday.
                      First is the top rate service, from owner Rory greeting you at the door to the smart efficient service all through the meal. Certainly makes for a relaxing evening.
                      Nice assortment of breads, I'm a sucker for the raisin fennel along with the fresh butter, yum.
                      For the apps we had and shared: Shrimp Bisque with tarragon, diced shrimp and a bit of cream. Very flavorful, wonderful texture and perfect on this cool fall night. Other app was the Vietnamese Vegetable Roll full of yuzu marinated trumpet royales, savoy cabbage, celery root, squash, radish mint and scallions. Came with miso and rice vinegar dipping sauce. This was an attactive and large portion, fresh tasting but could have used a bit more overall flavor.

                      Entrees were Tamarind Braised Shortribs with wilted baby spinach and sweet potato dried fruit Israeli cous cous. Hearty and rich flavor, the cous cous is a great choice for the starch.
                      I had the Pan Seared Dayboat Scallops with butternut squash, raisin and apple chutney, sauteed turnips, toasted pumpkin seeds and sage brown butter sauce. What a great Autumn preparation for scallops. Sweetness from the ingredients plus savory flavor from the prep, comfort food for the season.
                      Both entrees were excellent and we barely were able to finish the portions.

                      Of course that didn't stop us from splitting a dessert :) We chose the Pineapple Upside Down Cake with salted caramel ringing the cake and Bent Spoon cardamon ginger ice cream. "From an old family recipe" we were told and it sure tasted good.
                      We enjoyed a stellar group of wines including a 2004 Fisher Vineyards Chardonnay, 2007 Bethel Heights Pinot and 2002 Jones Family Cabernet.

                      If your anywhere near the Princeton area this is the place to try. Here is a link to their new website which contains the current menu.