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The Cake Quest took a little detour and is happily back on track. We only have about two more places to explore and then it is on to “Fall Fare.” During this little detour, I had a few tasty experiences that I want to share with you.  I had three delectable surprises, two of which came from places where low expectations were rife.  Consider these stops like points of interest along the way. I like to call them Love BitesSo open wide and enjoy!

I knew I was going to find myself back at a Hopewell favorite, The Peasant Grill. I started “The Tuna Tour” there for my first soiree into foodie land.  On that visit, Michelle slipped me a sliver of her homemade chocolate mocha cake, like a well-seasoned narcotics pusher (she makes all the cakes).  She told me it was good, but since I’m not a coffee drinker or a mocha fan, I brushed her comment aside. However, when I tasted this, I was grinning and giddy like a new convert. Obviously, I knew when I started “The Cake Quest,” I would have to make a stop at The Peasant Grill.  I invited anyone who was interested to join me for this visit and to my surprise, my old high school friend, Lori Scott Farina, showed up with taste buds primed.

I went later in the afternoon thinking that the lunch crowd would have dissipated. Boy was I wrong. Michelle and Barry and the rest of the crew were seriously making their Right Guard work over time, still filling orders and their deli case with delectable offerings. I greeted them briefly and Michelle, with her welcoming smile, remembered who I was, promising to take my order in a moment. While waiting, I spied the vhocolate mocha cake, partially devoured by patrons, but I also noticed it had some friends I hadn’t seen before. With Michelle temporarily free, I ordered the mocha cake. She informed me of the other cast members in this particular scene: a blueberry crumb cake, a peanut butter cake, and a french apple cake.  She mentioned a carrot cake slice, but since I am not a fan of that particular cake, I decided to pass. She sliced our choices for us and laid them out on separate plates.

Lori and I looked at each piece and decided that we shouldn’t eat anything chocolate last. We decided to eat what our eyes drew to first –  the french apple cake.  It was so visually appealing, with plenty of apples and cinnamon and brown sugar you could smell.  Everything about this cake reminded you of a crisp fall day — a warm sweater, a hot toddy, falling leaves, comfort. Lori and I just looked at one another with perhaps the same vision and definitely the same conclusion: this cake was wonderful. Thick with apples, generously seasoned, with moist cake layered throughout, we found ourselves more shocked than perhaps we should have been. We finished the piece of french apple, each secretly trying to get the last piece before the other. The blueberry crumb cake was topped with a generous brown sugar and butter crumb topping, followed by a vanilla flavored yellow cake, on top of a layer of blueberries. We wished for more blueberries to balance out the cake and the crumb topping, but nonetheless, it was tasty. Lori and I cleansed our palates with some water and started to eye the two chocolate slices before us. Michelle called from behind the counter, “Are you sure you don’t want to try the carrot cake?” Lori and I collectively decided to decline again, as we envisioned horrendous carrot cakes with too many nuts, too little moisture, and the gratuitous orange carrot piped in icing on each piece. We settled in to indulge in Michelle’s famous chocolate mocha cake.

With forks in hand, we prepared to take out first bites when Michelle came over. “I’ll just give you a little sliver and you can try it,” she said laying down a thin slice of carrot cake.  It was right in front of us, so we conceded, guessing she wanted us to have the full cake experience. Remembering our past carrot cake forays, Lori and I looked at each other, low expectations glinting in our eyes as we each tried a forkful. Our eyes widened. We stared at each other with obvious shock. I lied earlier, I hate carrot cake, but people — get ready — there’s a change a comin’! Of all the cakes we had tasted so far, this carrot cake, this hated and despised type of cake, swept us off our taste buds. It was moist and textured, the carrots were the right size and the nuts were obvious but not overbearing. The allspice, the vanilla, the cinnamon and the nutmeg all sang together in perfect harmony, culminating in a cream cheese icing topped experience that made us question why we didn’t get a whole piece. We were quiet, relishing that moment, still in awe that we were taken by surprise so completely. Wiping off a table near us, as we commented on how good the carrot cake was, Michelle gave a knowing smile and quipped, like a true girl from Queens, “The first taste is free but the second one will cost you!” Onward we went to the chocolate mocha cake which we knew was already a winner, robust but not overpowering with just enough of everything to make you want more. The only thing left was the peanut butter cake, square shaped and chocolatey, topped with a copious amount of peanut butter icing. You all know how much I love peanut butter and chocolate by now.

The Peasant Grill is well worth the trip to Hopewell Borough for more than their cake, although that is reason enough. Michelle and Barry love to cook and bake, and they do a stellar job at both. From grilled portabello mushrooms and rare tuna wraps, to flank steak and tilapia florentine, you’ll feel more like royalty than a peasant.  Michelle and Barry Klein will treat you right, like family they love to spoil.  Let them spoil you and enjoy it.  The Peasant Grill, 21 East Broad Street, Hopewell, New Jersey. Check them out at online: www.thepeasantgrill.com or on Facebook.

I hope you enjoyed these little Love Bites.  I know I did.  Take a walk on the tasty side and go visit some of these places. You’re welcome. The Taste Chase…yum it up. Tell all your friends.

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Renata, at this point I’m going to need to schedule at least a week in NJ to work through the list of bakeries I want to visit, and the places I want to go run, walk or bike them off! I think I gain weight just by reading these articles, but it’s a delicious experience! Thanks for the tip!

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