Autumn in Princeton is like nothing else. The streets are bustling, the colors are gorgeous, and the bounty of all the farms is so abundant and diverse, you wonder how you made it through the rest of the year to get here.

For Mistral, this is the best time of year, when the menu is at its richest and the weather is just perfect enough to want to sit outside and enjoy a fantastic meal in the fresh air. And now you get to do that worry-free. Mistral’s new patio, open just this past May, is the perfect setting for fall dining, no matter how well the weather wants to cooperate.

The new patio isn’t the usual tabletop-umbrella-style setup (then again, would you expect it to be?), but rather a roofed outdoor area with wide-opening French double doors that so befits the earthy, natural wood interior, general manager Derek Brousseau refers to it as “the extending room.” The patio also features a 12-foot fireplace and radiant heat from the ceiling in case things get a little chillier.

Of course, you could always warm up with a drink. With Mistral’s sister restaurant, Elements, closed for renovations and awaiting its new location downtown, Mistral now has the liquor license only Elements previously had. But just in case you still want to bring your own bottle of wine to go with your dinner, Mistral will still maintain its BYO policy without penalizing those who B their O. In other words, you won’t be charged for opening your bottle of wine at the table ‒‒ and you might want a cocktail before you crack open the vino anyway, or an aperitif for later.

The outdoor atmosphere and a nice glass of wine or spirits with dinner greatly enhance Mistral’s newest menu, which is replete with the harvest bounty. From the roasted sweetbreads, chock full of savory truffles and sweet, aromatic chanterelle mushrooms to spicy and multi-layered Pozole de Verano with pork sausage, poblano, and hominy, every plate is a colorful work of art.

Mistral’s strong focus on local produce and meats has always contributed to the presentation of the meals and menus. And this approach, says Brousseau, conveys the straightforward, natural, often organic appeal of the dish.

This focus also reflects the care and craftsmanship of the area’s artisanal growers and farmers, he says. These are not big-operation farms that crank out product by way of growth serums. The farms and growers Mistral buys from are small, dedicated craftspeople who truly love growing the absolute best ingredients for the absolute best meals.

In short, the variety and inventiveness of the menu truly bring a breath of fresh air to Princeton’s dining community. No wonder so many diners consider Mistral one of the best restaurants in the area.

Mistral, 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. 609-688-8808. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. See ad, page 27.

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