Brick Farm Market’s Pulled Pork; Beard’s Top Mid-Atlantic Chef; DC Dining; More

Brick Farm Market & Chef Chase G. Make Their Debut

Chef Chase Gerstenbacher Courtesy of the Princeton Packet

Chef Chase Gerstenbacher Courtesy of the Princeton Packet

Chase Gerstenbacher, executive chef of Brick Farm Market, may have been born and raised in Philadelphia, but his ties to the Princeton area run long and deep. The group’s Hopewell projects include Double Brook Farm, Brick Farm Market – the much anticipated and soon to open retail store in Hopewell Borough – and, perhaps next year, Brick Farm Tavern. The market will feature mainly products grown or raised at Double Brook Farm and will include a butcher, a cheese maker, a produce section, bakery, and prepared foods. It will open its doors, temporarily, for Cruise Night on May 10th, and expects to be in business permanently soon thereafter.

Since he came aboard in February, Gerstenbacher has been working closely with the group’s butcher. “It has been good to get this time to see how everything runs,” he says. “I’ve been getting in practice and a feel for the products coming from the farm, especially the beef. It’s kind of amazing: as a chef I was used to ordering a case of filets. Here, we start with a 1,500 pound steer!”

Gerstenbacher has been making sausage using a recipe he developed while working with a chef familiar to Princeton-area restaurant patrons: Larry Robinson, who was the opening and longtime chef at Mediterra. The two men worked together there and then reunited at Robinson’s current business, Ceriello Marketplace in Medford, where they worked side by side for almost two years. It was, in fact, Robinson who put Gerstenbacher in touch with Double Brook Farm’s owners, Jon and Robin McConaughy. “Larry is very supportive,” Gerstenbacher says of his former boss, who taught him the art of butchering as well.

“Larry told me of a really big project up this way. I wasn’t familiar with Hopewell; I had only driven through it one time. So, I set my GPS for the center of town. When I got here, I asked around on the street if anyone knew where Double Brook Farm was,” he says, laughing. After the local postman gave him directions, he showed up unannounced at the farm. “As luck would have it, the staff was having a meeting, so I just passed around my resume.”

Gerstenbacher, 37, graduated in 1995 from the Philadelphia School, after which he worked at the famed Rittenhouse Hotel. After that, he led kitchens in Boca Raton and Las Vegas, returning to the Philadelphia area after the birth of his two sons, now ten and seven. He subsequently divorced, and just recently bought a home in Lawrenceville with his fiancée. The couple is planning to marry next May.

During his second stint in Philadelphia, Gerstenbacher worked with star chef Jose Garces at the groundbreaking Alma de Cuba. “As a chef you’re trying to push the limits. But at a market [like Brick Farm] you want people to come in every day,” he says. So his prepared foods will be “hyper-seasonal, changing daily.”  He mentions as an example the windfall of asparagus the farm is currently producing. “A ton is coming in everyday. If we were open, I’d be offering it five or six different ways!”

In addition to dishes featuring the many vegetables that Double  Brook  grows, he plans on featuring grain-based salads using quinoa, farro, and barley and will make his own scrapple and that Jersey classic, pork roll. There will, of course, be “standard dishes” that will be available day in and day out. Among those he mentions are chicken potpie, rotisserie chicken, chicken soup, and meatballs. “Accessibility is the focus,” Gerstenbacher says, “and food that is fun, easy, and exciting.”

PICKLED BEET SALAD WITH RADISH AND APPLE
Chase Gerstenbacher, Executive Chef, Brick Farm Group

“This salad can be eaten as is or you can toss this combination over your favorite lettuce. Use the liquid from the beets combined with a little olive oil to create the dressing.” – CG

4 medium red beets
1-1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 Staymen-Winesap apple
5 or 6 French Breakfast radishes, quartered
1 medium red onion, sliced thin

  1. Wash, then roast the beets in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Let cool, then peel the skin with a paring knife. Cut into large dice.
  2. In a large pan bring the vinegar, sugar, water and spices to a boil and simmer for 5 min. Keep hot.
  3. Core and cut the apple into large dice, leaving the skin on.
  4. Toss the beets, apple, radishes, and onion in a large bowl. Pour the hot liquid over them and let cool.
    Serves 4 to 6.

BOURBON GLAZED PULLED PORK
Chase Gerstenbacher, Executive Chef, Brick Farm Group

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons paprika
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Olive oil
For the bourbon glaze:
1 cup whiskey, bourbon or Wild Turkey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper

  1. Make the glaze: Combine ingredients in a pan and cook them until they’re reduced to a glaze. Cover and set aside.
  2. Combine the salt, paprika, garlic, pepper, and thyme in a small mixing bowl and add just enough olive oil to create a paste.
  3. Split the pork shoulder in half lengthwise and rub both halves completely with the spice paste. Let stand at room temperature for about one hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Wrap each of the pork shoulders in aluminum foil so that they are completely covered. Bake for about 4-1/2 hours. Remove the aluminum foil and place the cooked pork on a large rimmed platter or in a large bowl. Using two forks, pull the pork into large shreds. Pour the glaze on the pork and serve.
    Serves 4 to 6.

Edible Jersey’s Summer 2013 Issue

Edible Jersey Summer 2013

It’s just out, it’s free, and it includes fantastic stories. Including one of my favorite interview subjects of all time:  the inimitable Bill Meyer (“The Professional”), who is in his fifth decade as a server in NJ restaurants. Currently a captain at Restaurant Nicholas, Meyer reminisces about past regulars like Frank Sinatra and Phil Rizzuto and the time a goodfella held a knife to his throat when lunch wasn’t coming fast enough. Click here for where to pick up a copy.

Beard Awards: Since a NJ Chef Wasn’t in the Running…

I am pleased that Johnny Monis, my favorite DC chef, took the award as best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region at the 2013 James Beard Awards. He won for Komi, his modern Greek/Mediterranean restaurant that I first wrote about (read: waxed poetic about) in 2007. My visit last year to his latest effort, Little Serow, for his interpretation of Thai food only sealed the deal, as I wrote in a previous blog.

King Salmon at Little Serow

King Salmon at Little Serow

While We’re on the Subject of DC Dining…

My latest foray there yielded up 2 winners: Bandolero in Georgetown and Pure Pasty Co., a short car ride away in Vienna VA.

Bandolero‘s modern interpretations of Mexican fare are the work of Jersey boy Mike Isabella, the Top Chef contestant who built his reputation at Graffiato, his Italian spot. My skepticism about whether he could pull off Mexican was quickly dispatched by these tuna taquitos with ginger, sesame, and sweet potato in shells made of malanga:

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and these sopes with lamb picadillo, pickled jalapeno, and crema:

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Not to mention the libations in the background, nor the unforgettable guacamole with masa chips and chicharrones and the lobster quesadilla. The restaurant is apparently embroiled in legal disputes – although not involving Isabella. Whatever.  The food is so good that even murky legal shenanigans and the restaurant’s dark, macho decor and vibe are not enough to keep me away.

Mike Isabella

Mike Isabella

btw: Isabella is planning to shortly open a Jersey-style sandwich shop/eatery in Edison, called G Grab and Go, which will feature his own pork roll.
Bandolero on Urbanspoon

Be honest now: Have you ever eaten a Cornish pasty in this country that didn’t have too-thick, dry, leaden pastry and/or flavorless filling? I hadn’t – although I hear Rocky’s in Wharton and Montclair’s The Pie Store are worth checking out.

Traditional Pasties at Pure Pasty, Vienna VA

Traditional Pasties at Pure Pasty, Vienna VA

Meantime, I’ve fallen for those at Pure Pasty, a small, sweet shop in the DC suburb of Vienna, run by English expat Michael Burgess. His are authentic, yet somehow the pastry is light, flaky, and flavorful and you can taste every lip-smacking ingredient in the pitch-perfect fillings.

You don’t have to take my word for how good these pasties are. Accompanying me was an actual Brit, who raved even more than I did about not only the pasties but also the authentic sausage roll. Partly what accounts for their deliciosity are high quality ingredients – often organically grown and locally sourced – and an American chef who worked at Jose Andres’ erstwhile Cafe Atlantico. Here’s the cutaway view of the above (note the elderflower soda in the background):

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Here’s the standard menu, which is augmented by daily specials. The soup the day I visited was Scotch broth:

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The shop offers 2-day mail order delivery of frozen pies, and also carries shelves of groceries only a Brit could love, like these tins of mushy peas:

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Pure Pasty Co. on Urbanspoon

Anyone Else Remember The A Kitchen Chinese Restaurant in South Brunswick?

If, like me, you lived in Central NJ in the 1970s you dined at – and worshiped – the Chinese restaurant, A Kitchen which, by the time I discovered it, had relocated from a gas station on Route 1 to a modest space on Route 27. Until now, I never knew that the NY Times had anything to do with its popularity. And, I regret to say, I completely forgot about the existence of the man who brought it to light, Raymond Sokolov, who had the misfortune to follow Craig Claiborne as restaurant critic. Here’s the excerpt from Sokolov’s new book, Steal the Menu, that talks about A Kitchen.  

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