Here's what I consider a near-perfect lunch - a glass of wine, a hunk of bread, some good cheeses, cured sausage and pears.
We bought the cheeses and sausage at a winter farmer's market held at "Tre Piani," a restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey's Forrestal Village.
The chef and co-owner of the restaurant is a founder of the local chapter of "Slow Food" so you know he cares about eating local and eating well. The three floors of the restaurant (Tre piani means three floors) were taken over by local food producers -- everything from creamy gelato to baked goods to sausages and cheeses. A jazz combo provided musical entertainment.
I had no idea that such fine cheeses were being made right here in New Jersey. Valley Shepherd Creamery, located in Long Valley, N.J. had set up a table highlighting a dozen or so of its cheeses. It was difficult to choose, but I ended up with one called "shepherd's logue," a raw sheep's milk cheese wrapped in herbs de provence, and a "crema de blue," a gooey cave-aged veined cheese.
Then I spotted a table laden with sausages from a place called Salumeria Biellese, located both in Hackensack, N.J. and in New York City. They make wonderful cured sausages, including one made with boar's meat, and the picquant Neapolitan-style one I purchased. As I was tasting a sample, it occurred to me that their name sounded familiar. Then it dawned on me that two weeks earlier, my son and I had eaten at Biricchino, a New York City restaurant. Turns out that Salumeria Biellese is right next door to Biricchino and both are owned by the same proprietor. Turns out that the waitress who served us was the woman helping set up the samples at Tre Piani. Small world.
Armed with our goodies, we headed home for a great lunch. The fig jam I made last fall would make a sweet accompaniment to the cheeses, and I still had a few slices of crusty homemade bread left from earlier in the week. A sliced pear, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and we were set for our near-perfect lunch.
Now if only we were enjoying it with a warm summer breeze overlooking the Mediterranean -- that would have catapulted it to perfection.