This Farm to Fork Week in South Jersey is proving to be a culinary endeavor. So many restaurants, so little time. Last night the eight of us were at Catelli’s in Voorhees, NJ for their four course $35.00 meal. Either my friends all have a limited vocabulary, or the meal was off to a great start, because I heard the word “DELICIOUS” uttered by everyone, and we were only 3 minutes into the appetizers. Let’s take a look at some of the starters that evoked such prolific usage of this descriptor.
Carol B. and I had both selected for our first course, the Cheese Steak Egg Roll– Tender Steak “Wit” & House Made “Whiz”. This tasted about how I thought it would, a simple offering that should taste good if it has anywhere close to the makings of a cheesesteak. The sauce was very good as were all the sauces, all night.
Some of the other amazing creations were Sue C.’s Tasting of Jersey Tomatoes, Tomato Water Shooter, Heirloom Tomato, Roasted Pepper & Mozzarella Napoleon, Roasted Tomato Sorbet. I had no idea there were that many different ways to serve tomato. Sue enjoyed the unique starter. Joe B. went with the Crispy Stuffed Jersey Long Hots, Short rib filling, Roasted Garlic Aioli. Joe has a penchant for “hot n spicy” so he felt right at home with his choice. Jerry C. & Tom T. each picked the Crab Cake and Seafood Corn Chowder which must have been what they were hoping for because they were part of the “delicious” voters. My wife, Kathy was totally thrilled with her Eggplant Rollatine filled with ricotta, basil and mozzarella actually declaring it to possibly be the BEST eggplant rollatine she has ever had. Barbara had trouble finding the words to adequately describe her Jersey Shore Shellfish Plate, Local Oysters, Farm Raised Clams, (seriously, farm raised…what a sheltered life I must live having never been to a clam farm) Blue Crab Fingers, Chilled Shrimp with a trio of Dipping Sauces. The meal was off to a good start.
Catelli’s, not being a BYOB (except on Monday nights), seemed like a place to skip wine for the evening and Jerry and I went with beers. I had a Bass Ale many of the others chose martini’s of one exotic type or another, and we enjoyed our drinks while anticipating the second course. These next dishes proved to be just as exotic as the first and had my erudite friends fumbling for new superlatives. Most sounded something like, “excellent”, spectacular and I belive Barbara T even managed to use “scrumptiolicious” which she assures me can be found in Webster’s 12th edition. I did hear one not very enthusiastic “ehhhh” from Carol B. but we will talk more about that in a minute.
The eight of us chose three different second course items from the 7 offerings. Two of the ladies had the Roasted Pear Salad, Candied Cashews, Dried Cranberries, Cinnamon Croutons, Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette. The reviews on this were thumbs up from both of them. The Roasted Beet Salad, Goat Cheese, Granny Smith Apples, Spiced Walnuts, Baby Arugula, Beet Sorbet, Holt’s Farm Wildflower Honey Vinaigrette was enthusiastically received by my wife, and a few others. I had a taste of this and was pleasantly surprised what can be done with beats in the skilled hands of a creative chef. The other item that several of us had as our second course, the Crab Bolognese, Jersey Hard Shell Crab “Gravy”, House Made Fettuccine, Jumbo Lump Crab (pictured on the right above) was slightly less than I expected. I enjoyed it but the flavors were more subtle than I would have predicted. Joe B. had no problem with it but Carol B. searched long and hard to come up with her descriptive “Ehhh”. I didn’t totally agree with her but I did know what she meant.
The packed restaurant was beginning to empty out as it was now past 10:00 P.M. (we had 8:30 reservations) and it was time for our main entrees.
Joe B. had the Filet & Crab, Smashed Local Fingerling Potatoes, Local Green Beans, Roasted Garlic and Parsley Bernaise. It looked delicious (there’s that word, again) and Joe remarked that it tasted even better than it looked. He had made a great choice from the nine offerings.
Sue C. and Tom T. both ordered one of the 5 fish offerings, theirs being the Basil Crusted Tilapia, Pistachio Crust, Eggplant Caponata, Citrus Butter Sauce, Crab and Potato Filled Ravioli. Despite the fact that this tilapia did NOT come from a local tilapia farm, they still thought the blend of seasonings were just right in making this a great entree.
Barbara T. had the Lobster and Shrimp Fra Diavalo, Baby Lobster Tail, Jumbo Shrimp, Rigatoni Pasta. OK, it was sorta like that. Actually, she requested they hold the “Fra Diavalo” and skip the Shrimp. They were nice enough to substitute another baby lobster tail and she declared the dish to be exquisite, which, I believe, is two steps up from delicious.
My wife, Kathy, after some serious deliberation and thru a personal process of elimination settled on the “Back Yard Barbecue”, Peach BBQ Boneless SHort Ribs, Grilled Corn on the Cob, Seasonal Vegetable Slaw. Carol B. also picked this item and both thought it was very good with just a tad too much salt in the sauce. Cathy enjoyed the veggie slaw but Carol thought it wasn’t something she would pair with the dish and gave her share to Joe.
I went back and forth on no less than five of the nine selections before finally deciding on the Stuffed Soft Shell Crabs, Shrimp & Crab Filling, Sauteed Crispy Sweet Corn Risotto, Dijon Cream Sauce. Quite honestly, it was the inclusion of the sweet corn risotto which swayed my decision. It was a great blend of flavors and I was pleased with the dish. I was tempted to get the Basil Crusted Salmon based on last week’s shockingly good salmon enjoyed at this very same restaurant.
Any mention of the word L-A-M-B on a menu usually draws the immediate attention of Jerry C and tonight was no exception. He deftly chose the Lamb Loin Chop, Marinated and Grilled Lamb T-Bone, Basil Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Spinach and Shallot Au Jus. The dish looked terrific and Jerry silently immersed himself in his food which could only mean he found it to be, dare I say it, DELICIOUS (where is my thesaurus when I need it?).
We had debated which of the three dessert offerings we would select to complete our four course dinner and wondered why we had not been approached by our server, Nick, to make our choices. Our quandary was answered when a plate with ALL THREE of the dessert offering was presented as part of a birthday acknowledgment for Joe B. who will be celebrating his 29th (again) this coming Tuesday. Left to right on the plate below we have the White Chocolate Tiramisu with raspberry Puree, the Blueberry and Vanilla Filled Crepe and the Peach Crisp with Cinnamon Peach Gelato. Most of us had planned on ordering the Peach crisp but as it turned out we all unanimously agreed that the Blueberry crepe was easily the best of the trio.
It was a very enjoyable evening at Catelli’s. The restaurant offered a wine pairing with each course for an additional $20 per person. I wasn’t enthralled with the wines they had selected so I was fine with an evening without my vino. It appears that several local restaurants are going to extend Farm to Fork Week for another few days so it just could be we will all be gathered somewhere else next Friday for what we hope will be an equally great experience.