Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 21
 
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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BETTER AND BETTER: “We are always trying to be better. What was good enough yesterday is not good enough today. Our guests are educated. They want to know the ‘why’ of things.” Christopher Albrecht, executive chef at Eno Terra, is shown by the restaurant’s salumi station (charcuterie). Behind him is a “living” wallscape by artist Robert Cannon.

“Eat Local, Drink Global” Is Philosophy Of Eno Terra Restaurant in Kingston

“We were looking to do something that would be a culmination of the culinary path we’ve been on,” says Carlo Momo, owner with his brother Raoul, of Eno Terra in Kingston.

Located at 4484 Route 27, it is part of their Terra Momo Restaurant Group (TMRG). Recipient of numerous awards within the food industry, TMRG is also known for its other establishments, Mediterra, Teresa Caffe, and Witherspoon Bread Company in Princeton. The Momo brothers’ tradition of emphasizing locally-grown and organic produce, grass-fed beef, and environmental sustainability is also a priority at Eno Terra.

When it opened at the site of the former Wine Press in September, 2008, it was eagerly anticipated by area residents. Aware of the TMRG success story over many years, diners were looking forward to sampling Eno Terra’s Italian-inspired cuisine, emphasizing local ingredients. They were also curious to see how the former Wine Press building, which dates to the 19th Century, had been transformed into a new configuration to house Eno Terra.

They have not been disappointed!

The building was originally the site of the Fisk Grocery, a general store, points out Mr. Momo. The restaurant contains 8,300 square feet, and is home to an 1,100 square-foot restored 2-story bar and wine cellar, featuring original timbers with mortise and tenon joints and tree pin nails.

“We bought the Wine Press because we wanted to fulfill our destiny,” notes Mr. Momo. “We thought the area needed this type of restaurant. It was in the works for seven years, and we totally renovated it, and added an entire new section. The name ‘Eno Terra’ is derived from Greek and Latin, meaning ‘Land of Wine.’”

Light and Spacious

The restaurant can seat 140 people, with a light and spacious dining room and salumi station, bar and light fare Enoteca area, and second floor private dining room and wine room, suitable for parties or corporate meetings.

Eno Terra is firmly rooted in the principle of regionalism, adds Mr. Momo. Founded on the philosophy of “Eat Local, Drink Global”, it brings together wines from around the world. With an inventory ranging between 7500 and 10,000 bottles, the Eno Terra wine cellar features labels from Italy, France, Spain, South America, and California, while also incorporating smaller independent wineries.

Establishing proper wine conditions has also been important, he points out. “We have an all-temperature-controlled facility, so all bottles can be stored in perfect conditions. We like to expand people’s horizons with our wine. We’ll say, ‘if you like Pinot Grigio, try this.’ It can be a new taste for them.”

Environmental sustainability is paramount to TMRG, and Eno Terra is a member of the Green Restaurant Association, an organization committed to helping restaurants minimize their environmental impact. Eno Terra separates garbage, targeting organic for compost, uses motion-controlled lights to save on energy, and uses no styrofoam products.

With many ingredients traveling little more than the typical commute to New York or Philadelphia, Eno Terra not only ensures the freshness of its dishes, but reduces the restaurant’s carbon footprint. “We are one of only very few green-certified restaurants in the state,” reports Mr. Momo. “We are committed to this, and hope the idea will take root.”

Eno Terra’s cuisine has received enthusiastic reviews from press and public alike, with many diners returning frequently to sample new dishes. Regulars return once a month, once a week, and even four times a week, says Mr. Momo. And there are always new customers on any given day or evening as well.

Rare Occurrence

Especially noteworthy was last September’s “Excellent” rating in The New York Times — a rare occurrence indeed.

“It’s tempting to say that Eno Terra is a dazzling restaurant, but that wouldn’t be quite right,” wrote David Cameron in his review. “The experience is actually quite low key. It’s only in retrospect, when you think back on the meal and the setting, that you realize how seamlessly and pleasurably it all came together.”

After noting the emphasis on sustainability and regionalism, Mr. Cameron ended his review with a comment on a number of desserts. “Then, there’s a chocolate tart, with candied hazel nuts, a cloud of whipped cream and spiced caramel that sticks, for a delectable moment, to the roof of your mouth. Now that is dazzling.”

Local produce, cheese, grass-fed meat, and home-made pasta — all of these are central to the cuisine. In addition, notes Mr. Momo, “Our cherry and oak wood-fired grill imparts smokiness and sweetness. It is a defining characteristic of the restaurant.”

The menu also often identifies the local source of the item, such as dairy from Cherry Grove Farm and Valley Shepherd Creamery, lettuce from Terhune Orchards, chicken from Griggstown Farm, beef from Simply Grazin’, etc.

“We also emphasize ‘Fish to Fork’,” says Mr. Momo. “We buy fish from day fisherman in Long Island and the Jersey shore. It’s incredibly fresh.”

Intriguing Dishes

Diners at Eno Terra will find a range of intriguing dishes. Popular items include the fried artichoke; house-made mozzarella; Simply Grazin’ grass-fed beef carpaccio; and grilled little neck clam appetizers; the roasted baby beets and ricotta cheese salad; and Kingston “casalinga” onion soup.

Other favorites are the hand-rolled agnolotti pasta, and house-made elbow macaroni Bolognese; the seafood dish, saffron brodetto (mussels, clams, shrimp, and scallops); and sides, such as the 3-cheese Oak Grove creamy polenta. Wood-fired grill specialties include Griggs Farm poussin al Mattone; Simply Grazin’ pork chops; and Simply Grazin’ New York strip steak, among others.

A special 3-course business lunch includes salad or soup, entree, dessert or cheese at a fixed price of $19, adds Mr. Momo. Other prices include appetizers from $6, sandwiches from $11, pasta dishes from $15; other entrees start at $23.

In addition to the aforementioned caramel chocolate tart, popular desserts include crespelle — crepes with lemon curd and blueberries; and panacotta — eggless custard with buttermilk and a gelée topping.

Presentation is important, points out Mr. Momo, “and the chef can be creative. Most of all, though, we want our food to taste good and be wholesome and pure.”

That is the goal of executive chef Christopher Albrecht, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and formerly associated with such prestigious restaurants as the Grammercy Tavern and Craft Restaurants in New York City, as well as serving as executive chef at CraftSteak Las Vegas.

57 Varieties

“We are set apart by our techniques,” notes Mr. Albrecht. “We work very hard with the cooks, emphasizing what it means to saute or braise. What is the difference between simmer and boil, and why it matters. Green vegetables prefer a lot of liquid rapidly boiling; other, dense vegetables like carrots, prefer less water and should simmer. It saves their flavor.

“Eno Terra has a farm a half-mile down the road in Kingston, and we have 57 varieties of vegetables and herbs, and some fruits. Our variety of local produce is noteworthy. Who else has 11 varieties of carrots and nine varieties of beets?”

Mr. Albrecht goes to the farm himself to plant, noting, “We take ‘Farm to Table’ to new levels!”

Mr. Momo is pleased with Eno Terra’s reception, but it’s hard work, and as he notes, referencing the famous “Myth of Sisyphus”: “We push that boulder every day. Sisyphus must have been a restaurant guy!”

Mostly, he hopes many more people will see the value of regionalism and sustainability — its importance both to one’s health and to the environment. “With the commercial meat industry, for example, there is a cost to our health and to the environment. I hope more people will come to realize the importance of healthy food.”

Eno Terra is doing all it can. “The job here is for everyone — from the busboy to the chef — to deliver a dining experience to our customers that is memorable. I am very proud of everyone here.”

Eno Terra is open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; for dinner, Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9, Friday and Saturday 5 to 10:30, Sunday 4 to 9. For light fare in Enoteca, Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 11:30 to 11:30, Saturday 2 to 11:30, and Sunday 2 to 9. Reservations strongly recommended. (609) 497-1777; website: www.enoterra.com.

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