Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 13
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

Advertise in Town Topics

Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

TEMPTING TASTES: “We serve excellent food in a great atmosphere, as well as a variety of baked goods and gourmet products for sale.” Greg Conley, retail manager and “barista” at The Blue Rooster Bakery & Café in Cranbury, is shown in the charming bakery and café.

Made-to-Order Meals in Charming Atmosphere Are Specialty of Blue Rooster Bakery & Café

When Karen Finigan returned to her home town of Cranbury four years ago, she knew it was the right place to be. It was also the right location for the restaurant she and her husband, Bob Finigan wanted to open. This was indeed to be a new adventure.

“I left Cranbury years ago to go to college, and after graduating, I lived in many different places,” says Ms. Finigan. “The many experiences I had and all the places I lived added a breadth and foundation to help prepare for and support this venture.”

Most recently, she and her husband lived in Ireland, where she had been director of the MBA program at Trinity College in Dublin. When her husband decided to leave the corporate world and fulfill his dream of baking bread, he went to culinary school, later working at restaurants, all the while perfecting his baking skills.

“Eventually, he wanted to open his own place,” explains Ms. Finigan. “He really just wanted to bake bread. So we had to decide where, and I said, ‘Bob, how about the States?’”

When they returned to the historic village of Cranbury, one of the oldest in New Jersey (with settlers believed to have been in place in 1680), they found a house for sale at 17 North Main Street.

“It had always been a house, but it was just what we wanted for the restaurant, and it was in the commercial district, so there were no zoning problems,” says Ms. Finigan.

Blue and Yellow

They renovated, adding a kitchen, and a new blue and yellow decor, but were able to keep much of the house as it had been since it was built circa 1850. “The front part of the house is as it was. We added the kitchen in the back, and we removed carpet to uncover the original pumpkin pine floors,” she adds.

The Blue Rooster Bakery & Café does indeed have much of the comfortable feeling and welcome of a charming and inviting home.

It was an immediate success, with customers coming not only from Cranbury and the surrounding area, but from out-of-state as well.

“Some customers say, ‘I feel as if I’m in my favorite spot in Cape Cod or in the upper East Side, and other favorite places,” reports Ms. Finigan. “We have lots of regulars, and they are from all backgrounds, including European, Asian, and Indian. They all feel comfortable here.”

The cornerstone of The Blue Rooster is its bread, baked on the premises by Mr. Finigan. It is artisan bread, hand-formed, and following a traditional process, using stone tiles and steam baking, which provides a crisp crust but a soft texture inside. Ovens imported from France help to ensure the success of the baking.

Popular breads include olive, tomato fennel, sprouted wheat, and buttermilk rye; also pain au campagne, pain au levain, and the always favorite baguettes.

Irish “Fry-Up”

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (three evenings) are served, and the cuisine is American-Continental, says Ms. Finigan. “We use fresh local ingredients. We work with farmers in the area, and get fruits and vegetables, and we also have our own herb garden. All our fish comes from the Nassau Street Seafood Company in Princeton. I knew I wanted the products to be as local as possible.”

Breakfast favorites include Timbale of scrambled eggs (three organic eggs slowly cooked to a creamy texture), French toast trio (on bakery bread cooked in a mix of eggs, milk, and spices, served with warm New England maple syrup), and a Full Irish “Fry-up” breakfast.

Hearty homemade soups are popular for lunch, along with salads and sandwiches. All sandwiches are served on Mr. Finigan’s homemade bread, and there are also four different traditional stews, presented with green salad and bakery bread. Individual quiches are also lunchtime favorites, as are omelets.

In addition, The Blue Rooster offers afternoon tea, including cream tea with scones and Devon clotted cream and jam, as well as a full English tea with small sandwiches, scones, and pastries. “We have 50 different teas — no tea bags,” notes Ms. Finigan, “and our scones are fabulous and baked throughout the day. We have five kinds, and people want them all the time. We also have the most incredible jam from Pennsylvania.”

Chocolate Mousse Tarts

Dinners are served Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and include such entrees as filet mignon, duck, New Zealand lamb chops, poached salmon, pork, rabbit, and quail. Customers often like to bring their own wine.

Desserts are a specialty, especially the pastries, which are baked on the premises. Chocolate mousse tarts, gluten-free almond orange cake, raspberry apricot tarts, orange ricotta cheese cake, chocolate hazelnut raspberry tarts are all favorites, along with a wonderful variety of cookies and brownies. Espresso, cappuccino, and three kinds of hot chocolate are also available.

A sampling of prices includes $9 and up for lunch, $20 for the full English tea, and $1 for cookies.

Catering is a growing part of the business, and all sizes of events can be accommodated. “We are also finding that a lot of people like to celebrate special occasions with us,” says Ms. Finigan. “Mother’s Day, graduations, birthdays, bridal and baby showers are all popular. It’s wonderful. We do special request cakes, and everyone feels so comfortable here. It’s like your own home, but there is no cooking or clean-up!

“Recently, a 9-year-old girl had a birthday party here. She knew exactly what she wanted, including purple balloons, and she and her friends were all dressed up for a real tea party.”

Gift Baskets

A variety of retail items are offered for sale, including jam, relishes, New England maple syrup, as well as loose tea, tea cozies, and tea wallets. Gift baskets are available and can be fully customized.

Ms. Finigan is delighted that The Blue Rooster has become such a success. “There are so many interesting people who have chosen to return here, and I am so pleased to know they enjoy something that I have had a hand in. My job is to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy. We are coming into our third year and continuing to evolve, always learning and taking advice from the customers — keeping an eye on what people want and what’s next within the context of The Blue Rooster concept.

“When you start, you have your own vision and then reality comes along, including the unintended and unexpected. The business grows in many ways, but what is always a priority at The Blue Rooster is the quality of the welcome and service of the staff. Our staff members are the mainstay and make The Blue Rooster what it is, day in and day out.”

The restaurant can accommodate 30-plus people in its two dining rooms and library, and an additional 10 with the outdoor seating on the porch in seasonal weather. Gift certificates are available, and hours are Monday through Wednesday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m, Thursday through Saturday until 9, Sunday 8 to 2. Reservations are recommended for lunch, dinner, and the full English tea. (609) 235-7539. Website:

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