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Blue Bottle Cafe, Hopewell NJ

New menu (number 16) in place at Blue Bottle and it is a stunner. Where do I start. Going to The Blue Bottle is like going to three different restaurants depending which room your in. Last night was the Trellis room which is a converted greenhouse. Our server Elaine was super all evening as is all the staff.

The appetizers and salads here are fantastic but the last two times here I did not get their famous homemade gnocchi. I was determined to change that :)
First came the bread course with the delicious raisin fennel, ciabotta and whole wheat. A very nice selection that becomes an accent to the meal not just another piece of bread. Comes with fresh butter.
For starters DW had the salad which consisted of arugula and Belgian endive with Serrano ham, blood oranges, marcona almonds and roasted shallot sherry vinaigrette. Fresh, fruity and earthy all at once, a unique tasting salad. I had those homemade potato gnocchi with pork and beef bolognese, shredded piave cheese, first press olive oil and basil. Simply the lightest tastiest gnocchi I have had and the bolognese was delicious. This is normally an entree but can be had as an app.

The goodness continued with the entrees. I had a beautiful rare hunk of yellowfin tuna with white bean puree, escarole, roasted red onions, gaeta olives and tomato fennel broth. The flavors of the dish matched very well with the delicate flavor of the tuna.
DW had a great preparation of scallops. The dish consisted of large pan seared day boat scallops with ragout of black eyed peas, leeks, yellow turnips, pancetta, cremini and maitake mushrooms, red wine reduction. Innovative, bold preparation of scallops that was sensational.

The best tasting desserts are usually not overly complicated. The torta de tres leches was cinnamon sponge cake soaked with three milks, cinnamon anglaise and whipped cream. Can a dessert be light and indulgent at the same time. This is!. Just a great dessert. A cappuccino and pot of tea finished the evening.
A 2005 Rochioli Estate Pinot was up to the high caliber of the food.

The Blue Bottle Cafe is a restaurant everyone wants in their neighborhood. An upscale restaurant whose menu changes several times (4) a year.
Owner Rory Phillipson runs a very efficient front of the restaurant and creates all the wonderful desserts. Husband Aaron is the magician in the kitchen.
In the "2010 Must Try" thread BB was mentioned by several people. Get there, you won't be disappointed.

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  1. Awesome notes as always tom246! The sounds of the scallops has me salivating! Sounds like a great evening! Good on ya for the Rochioli! These are awesome wines! Wanna trade cellars? ;-) Cheers! -mJ

    2 Replies
    1. re: njfoodies

      Njfoodie, the scallop preparation at the BB is always special. The menu 16 version hits it out of the park. So savory and yet not overpowering the flavor of the scallops.
      I wish I had more Rochioli but down to just a few. Need to get together soon.

      1. re: tom246

        The scallops do indeed sound gorgeous! How can you not like anything with pancetta! I had a version of their crab cakes one of our first visits there that also had pancetta in the sauce and it was phenomenol! Way to go! I am so hungry now! If only Dunkin Donuts had a scallop and pancetta croissant I would be making a run! ;-)

        Say the word, and we'll get together sometime somewhere! Always a pleasure getting together with you and DW! Cheers! -mJ

    2. tom - Sounds like a fantastic meal and I'm happy you enjoyed it. The DW and I need to make it back to BB very soon.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bgut1

        Hi bgut1, thanks. BB is tucked a bit away in Hopewell but the food and service is worth the trip.

      2. Gas from Monmouth County to Blue Bottle Cafe..... $5.00
        Traffic and aggravation in Princeton Boro getting to Blue Bottle..... Lots.

        Two Blue Bottle salads, two bowls of heavenly gnocchi, one tres leches dessert
        all washed down with a Carlisle syrah..... Priceless!!

        Our sympathies go out to Rory and Aaron who were working the restaurant with a heavy heart last night.

        1. Menu 17 has been in place for several weeks and three of us had a delicious and relaxing meal last night.
          We said goodbye to a colleague of 25 years who is moving back to England and BB fit the occasion perfectly.

          We all sampled the Asparagus Soup with Black Truffle Crème Fraiche. Wow, this is subtle yet impactful with the truffle at the ideal level to compliment the soup.
          Apps were varied and distinctive. Our friend had the Brie and Caramelized Mango Tart with Puff Pastry, Green Papaya and Miso Rice Wine Vinaigrette.
          DW had Lentil Salad with Baby Red Romaine, Roasted Golden Beets, Mustard Vinaigrette and Crumbled Goat Cheese.
          I had Yuzu Poached Laughing Bird Shrimp ‘Cocktail’ with Pineapple, Napa Cabbage, and Carrot, Ginger and Orange Coulis.
          We could not pick a favorite, three way tie for first :)

          We stuck with fish and seafood for the entrees. Five Spice Dusted Day Boat Sea Scallops with Sautéed Rice Noodles, Edamame Flan, Baby Carrots, Lemongrass Coconut Nage. This was declared awesome by our guest and showed the chefs talent with scallops as this prep. was the total opposite from the previous menu.
          DW had Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Forbidden Black Rice, Ginger and Mirin Glazed Baby Bok Choy and Sauce Americaine. Moist and flavorful and a substantial portion that we all enjoyed.
          I had Pan Seared Crabcakes with Black Bean, Mango, Chayote Squash and Yellow Pepper Salad, Ancho Aioli and Microgreens. Lots of flavor, light with a touch of heat. Complex and yummy.

          Shared two desserts, could not pass up that Tres Leches cake and we also had fresh fruit Pavlova with a mixture of berries, firm meringue, with scoops of grapefruit and raspberry sorbet. Two very different desserts but both equally satisfying. A 2005 Kosta Browne Pinot and a couple of brews washed it all down.
          Host, owner (and pastry chef) Rory Phillipson is engaging and make you feel like your in her home (I guess you are :) and special notice goes to the very talented servers who tend to your every need without ever being overbearing.
          Menu 17 in place until the last week in June. Enjoy if you go.

          2 Replies
          1. re: tom246

            That lentil salad is really awesome - felt kinda like a meal in and of itself when I had it. And if I go back, I'm definitely getting that tres leches cake - i tried just one bite of my friend's, and it was pretty amazing!

            Glad you liked the crab cakes - I was considering that last time, but went with the pork chop. Next time!

            1. re: Heatherb

              Funny, I was all set for the pork chop and changed my mind last minute. Next time its the chop for me.
              My wife loved the lentil salad and also mentioned the it was delicious and hearty, such a shame that she had to share it :)

          2. We wanted to get back here before menu 17 goes away after Saturday June 26. Add to that Heatherb saying the pork chop was great , that was added incentive ;)
            From start to finish the evening was perfect. Some of the highlights were: The assortment of breads here with creamy butter is always a welcome start.

            The laughing shrimp cocktail was delicious as I described previously. I had the
            frisee lettuce salad with fingerling potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, roasted shallots, French beans and creamy truffle vinaigrette. Like being in rural France where you often see such a salad. Delicious flavors, textures and even temperature difference of the ingredients.

            For entrees that double cut Berkshire pork chop done perfect medium, glazed with honey coriander and fennel, sitting atop roasted purple fingerlings, Maiitake mushrooms and sauteed leeks was every bit as tasty as it sounds. Its a very large chop so go hungry! Very happy I got to try it.

            We could not pass up the dessert of peanut butter mousse with chocolate ganache on top, sprinkled with nut brittle and with a strip of chocolate covered bacon. Taking a bit of that chocolate covered bacon with a fork full of mousse was awesome. The savory of the bacon and peanut butter play off each other really well.
            Service, as always, is flawless and very friendly. We celebrated the occasion with a 1998 Beaucastel CdP.
            Owners Rory and Aaron are going on a well deserved vacation starting June 28. Menu 17 in place till then or wait for the summer menu (number 18) in early July.

            4 Replies
            1. re: tom246

              We're headed there tonite for our 18th wedding anniversary! Can't wait!

              1. re: flourgirl

                Happy anniversary flourgirl! Hope you had a great evening at BB

                1. re: tom246

                  Thanks tom! And yes, we had a wonderful time. Everything was delicious, and the service was as just as great as usual. Great choice for our anniversary celebration. :)

              2. re: tom246

                Glad you liked the pork chop! I had the crab cakes when I went back with my father, and they were wonderful! I had to get that lentil salad again though - and it was just as good the second time.
                The dessert menu had changed a little, and I went with the fudge cake. That was perhaps the one mediocre note of the night - It was very good, but I'm used to spectacular when I go to the Blue Bottle. Anywhere else, and I would have been totally delighted, but I was expecting more of a creative twist. However, if that's my one complaint after four visits in the past two years or so, I think I can live with it.

                Blue Bottle Cafe
                101 E Broad St, Hopewell, NJ 08525

              3. Man this place looks great...but it's so out in the middle of nowhere! I've never been to hopewell - are there other things to do in the area?

                4 Replies
                1. re: joonjoon

                  Princeton is 15 minutes away. Here is a suggestion for a great day. Spend an afternoon at the Princeton Art Gallery. It is world class and free to boot.

                  Follow up that experience with dinner at The Blue Bottle and you will have close to a perfect day.

                  1. re: tom246

                    Not quite free - they ask for $5

                    1. re: arpad

                      Been there half a dozen times and have never been asked for anything

                      1. re: tom246

                        Been going for over 10 years and never paid a dime

                2. I went last week to BB to pay my last respects to menu 17. If they never change the menu again that would be all right by me. It was wonderful!!

                  I started out having the pan seared foie gras which was to die for. Think how hard it is to pan sear foie gras... it's like searing butter, it just pretty much all fat. It was delicious... best I've had. My wife had the asparagus soap. Not a drop left!

                  For the main course I had the sea scallops, expertly prepared and she had the fabulous pork chops. Service was delightful & professional as usual (thank you Ashley).

                  I wish Aaron and Rory a well deserved break and see you in a month or so!

                  1. New summer menu in place, number 18 for those counting, Chef Owners Aaron and Rory Philipson have crafted another winner, every bit as good as menu number 17. Many of the offerings reflect the warm summer season.
                    Sat down to our reservation and while looking over the menu nibbled on that delicious assortment of bread and creamy butter.
                    The raisin fennel is especially addictive.

                    I started with the “taco” salad which consisted of butterhead lettuce, corn, tomato, garlic, red onion, crispy fried corn tortilla and tequila lime vinaigrette. Zesty and flavorful yet light. A perfect summer salad.
                    DW had the homemade duck prosciutto with fresh sweet diced cantaloupe, mixed greens and aged balsamic. The duck, cantaloupe and balsamic played off each other in flavor and texture. Another yummy starter.

                    I have said it before, if there is a chef in NJ making more tender, flavorful, creative gnocchi, please let me know.
                    We shared the gnocchi preparation. Roasted tomato gnocchi with grilled diced eggplant, basil chiffonade and parmesan cream.
                    These tender little pillows almost melt in your mouth. This dish was so satisfying yet true to the season was light and did not leave you at all with that stuffed feeling.
                    Entrees kept pace with the meal. DW had the pan seared fillet of Barramundi, Swiss chard, heirloom tomatoes, Jersey corn, orzo, basil scallion aioli. Moist flaky hunk of fish, was perfect with the orzo.
                    I’m a sucker for the BB scallop preparation, this time it was pan seared day boat scallops, with portabella mushrooms, baby carrots over mashed potatoes with verjus rouge emulsion. Just plain delicious.

                    Pretty full but we could not pass up splitting a dessert. Chose the white chocolate raspberry bread pudding with marscapone ice cream. Aaron is the genius in the kitchen but Rory is the master of the desserts. A great dessert to finish the meal.
                    Service as always was spot on. The servers are well trained and it shows throughout the meal. Even on this busy Friday night, service was smooth and seamless.
                    Enjoyed a 2005 Arista Pinot Noir with all the courses.
                    BB is tucked away in the rural town of Hopewell, set a reservation, bring a nice bottle of wine and be ready to enjoy a friendly, inviting atmosphere and some great food!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: tom246

                      Always great reviews Tom246! The taco salad sounds awesome, and ya just can't go wrong with scallops! Awesome! -mJ

                      1. re: njfoodies

                        Ok-who's been recently? We are going with friends in 2 weeks. Any recomendations from the winter menu. I hate to admit it, but we haven't been in over a year.

                        1. re: stillnotdon

                          Best person to ask is tom246. He is a frequent diner at BBC.

                          1. re: stillnotdon

                            Timing is everything :) I was there Friday night with customers. I don't normally report on the food when out with customers but can say that our meal Friday was very good.
                            The new menu is firmly in place, here is a quick rundown of what was served.
                            I had the smoked magret duck breast appetizer which was excellent, other people had the mussels, cream of porcini soup and roasted vegetable timbale, all three received a big thumbs up.

                            For an entree I had the slow braised osso bucco which was full of flavor. Two other people had the scallops which they said they liked a lot and the other person had the spice crusted buffalo hanger steak which also got a nod of approval.

                            Desserts were the Key Lime Miroir which was tasty and similar to a key lime pie. The banana almond financier was gobbled up and I can't remember the last dessert.

                            Hope that helps, I only could best describe what I ordered but the other people seemed to really enjoy the food.
                            Here is the link to the current menu

                            1. re: tom246

                              Thanks-it's one thing to read the menu and quite another to hear from someone who actually eats there. I'm going with people I don't know all that well. Hope they like to share...I'll report back.

                      2. There's a new menu in town, its the winter version and Chef owners Aaron and Rory Philipson have put together some seriously good dishes. What we had last night was delicious, both to the eye and belly :).
                        Started with salad of butterhead lettuce with wheatberries, fennel, dried cranberries, pink lady apples with a mandarin vinaigrette. An array of color and flavors, fruity, earthy and delicious.
                        I had the sous vide Doublebrook farm egg with roesti potato, sauteed mushrooms, and tarragon buerre blanc. Combination of texture, temperature and flavor, just excellent.

                        If the other entrees are as good as our selections, its a heck of a good reason to return. Gnocchi at BB are always very good, this preparation was outstanding. Homemade potato gnocchi, with hot Italian sausage ragout, shaved piave, basil and kalamata olive oil.
                        Other entree was a thick grilled Berkshire pork chop with creamy orzo, bacon, wilted spinach, golden beets and cider pork reduction. Hearty, rich, off the charts good. It was nice sharing both entrees.

                        Very full but really difficult to pass up Rory's dessert selection. We snagged the last piece of the lime cheesecake, smooth creamy and yummy. Also sampled the pineapple upside down cake with ginger buttermilk cake and ginger ice cream. Totally worth every single calorie :)
                        Service as always is friendly, timely and efficient. Makes for a nice dining experience. A 2006 August West syrah pared very well with everything.
                        Plenty of time to experience the new menu, be sure to call for a reservation and enjoy.


                        5 Replies
                        1. re: tom246

                          Tom, just spoke with a friend who commented that he dined up there with some close friends (two of the 3 are chefs themselves down here at the Shore) in this past Tuesday's fine spring weather.

                          While I caught him 'in the kitchen' and he was busy with prep - he commented how great the place was - couldn't recount all that they dined on - he commented that the Duck egg appy over potato and mushroom was inventive, and tasty as hell. He also had the Berkshire pork chop. There was also a Scallop with lemongrass dish that was outstanding. I cannot recount the dessert that they had, but it was unbelievable.

                          I will visit as time allows this spring as we visit the Grounds for Sculpture and opt to dine at the Blue Bottle as opposed to Rats. By the way, I asked my friend that the BB menu (over the years) reminds me much of what Joe Romanowski does in the kitchen. There is a connection as I believe there was some time that the BB chef spent in Joe's years back as per my friend. My mouth is watering Tom.

                          1. re: JustJake

                            JustJake, good to hear your friends had a great meal. Would surprise me if it was anything else. I had that exact meal, egg appetizer and Berkshire pork chop and both were excellent.
                            My wife always gets the BB scallops as the preparation each season is very different and always delicious but decided on the gnocchi when she saw the menu. They are on the radar for next time :)

                            I don't know about any association with Joe but both Aaron and Rory were part of Piccola Italia in Ocean Township when that restaurant was on top of its game many years ago.

                            Enjoy your meal and don't forget to bring a nice wine. Excellent stems are used and decanters are available.

                          2. re: tom246

                            Another great review on Blue Bottle Tom246! Definitely need to get back there soon! Was trying to do a 2000 Bordeaux dinner there on March 3rd but they can't accommodate a group of 16 on a Saturday. Bummer! -mJ

                            1. re: njfoodies

                              Maybe try for another night there. I have seen the back Greenhouse room used for that type occasion. Oh, and let me know when, I have some 2000 I would like to open :)

                            2. re: tom246

                              I hope this menu is still in place when I'm back in March!

                            3. New menu at Blue Bottle always warrants a visit to explore and enjoy. Enjoy we did last night! Nibbled on the assortment of bread while looking at the menu, could probably eat a loaf of that raisin fennel.

                              Appetizers were diverse and delicious. Salad was hydroponic butter lettuce with wheatberries, fennel, asparagus, radish, brought together with a creamy lemon vinaigrette. Simple ingredients but together a mouth full of flavors and texture. House smoked rainbow trout, marinated beets, strip of pumpernickel with horseradish crème fraiche was flat out delicious. Last app were those wonderful gnocchi. This preparation has goat cheese gnocchi, English peas, broccoli, pancetta, herb crème fraiche nage. Light little seared pillows, these went down very easy.

                              Two very different entrees, we shared both. Pan seared scallops with green apple and potato puree, snap peas, golden beets, raisins, marcona almonds, carrot curry emulsion. The combination brought out the sweet flavor of the scallops. Braised pork shank sat on a large farotto stuffed cabbage, English peas, baby carrots with a pork reduction. The Flintstone sized shank over the faro stuffed cabbage was very creative, delicious and a large portion.
                              Desserts prepared by owner chef Rory Philipson are always a treat. We sampled a new one, Banana cake, brown sugar rum sauce, a ring of sliced bananas topped with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream. Sounds heavy, it wasn’t, a perfect ending to the meal.

                              Great service by Krista and staff all evening, they really work well together. A 2005 Pegau CdP paired really well with the food. Enjoy the new menu, Blue Bottle will be closed from June 1 – June 10. The summer menu will be in effect after that.

                              1. We were looking forward to the summer menu, number XXVl and by the end of the evening we all agreed it was a delicious meal from a diverse menu. We shared plates to get a taste of everything coming from the talented kitchen

                                Appetizers were a toasted flatbread with truffled ricotta, roasted corn, shitakes, caramelized red onions. This starter was loaded with flavor, those caramelized onions tied the dish together nicely. A large portion that was easily shared. Also had a summer vegetable panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes, toasted sourdough, cucumber, red onion, arugula and tomato balsamic vinaigrette. A perfect summer salad that looked as good as it tasted.
                                Had to sample the sample the gnocchi which are always a treat. The preparation was unique. Homemade pecorino gnocchi with toasted garlic, kalamata and cured Moroccan olives, capers, tomatoes and wilted arugula. Tender and feather light with bold savory flavors, just plain delicious.

                                Entrees were every bit as good, duo of beef was a fork tender Wagyu tri tip and smoked beef brisket with Jersey corn polenta and summer slaw was the ultimate Jersey summer picnic on a plate. A special of duck was very special, roasted duck breast along with a good sized piece of foie grascame was over braised lentils, chanterelles, baby carrots with a tamarind beet sauce. It looked great and tasted even better. Indulgent and tasty is a very good combination :) Pan seared scallops with forbidden black rice, glazed bok choy, shiso pesto and dashi broth was delicious. Close your eyes and you could be 8,000 miles away enjoying this dish.

                                Very full, the consensus was to get one dessert and share. The lemon meringue pie was perfect, juicy, tart and came with blueberry and raspberry coulis. Service as usual was excellent, with Chef Aaron Philipson running the kitchen and pastry Chef Rory Philipson running the front of BB dining here is a real pleasure.

                                1. DH and I went on Saturday to celebrate our anniversary before the impending hurricane, and enjoyed it immensely.
                                  I started with butternut squash strudel, which was flaky and light. The squash had a great deep, roasted flavor and wasn't overly sweet with the goat cheese tempering it. Didn't get much from the sage cream foam, but it looked pretty. Hubby had sauteed calamari (sans chorizo) which was served with a paprika viniagrette, tasty and tender. Entree, I had arctic char. I loved how the skin was properly crisped in the pan to the point that it was like a fish skin cracker! The broth had a nice warm spiciness to it, and the chutney was a pleasant sweeter counterpoint. Hubby had the seared chicken breast, which I didn't get to taste, but he cleaned his plate (the ricotta gnudi looked yummy and he used them swipe up the gravy on the plate!). For dessert, I had banana financier which was served with toasted almond ice cream and "fosters style" banana and caramel on the side. I just stopped short of licking the plate. He had a dessert that was a special, apple tart with a crumble on top, which was served with ice cream (ginger, IIRC, but he asked for cinnamon instead) and also a drizzle of caramel.
                                  FYI, for those who are "gnocchi fans", they are temporarily off the menu for the appetizer course, I heard Rory tell someone that Chef Aaron was tired of making gnocchi and was taking a little break. Also, she is apparently going to be on Food Network's "Chopped" show, filming in early December. Best of luck!