The newest edition of Edible Jersey – holiday 2013 – is out. In it you’ll find my story about the 3 generations of the Aichem family behind the venerable Black Forest Inn in Stanhope (on the border of Morris and Sussex counties). In the kitchen alone, 4 of the Aichem men work side by side – and 3 of them are named Heinrich! Included are recipes for ham in bread dough and red cabbage with apples.
The digital edition is online (click here). Flip to page 35 for my story. You can find copies of this free magazine at farmers markets, Whole Foods markets, restaurants, and specialty food shops throughout the state. For the exhaustive list click here. (A word to the wise: in my neck of the woods, copies of Edible Jersey disappear faster than you can say Schwarzwald.)
Speaking of the Black Forest Inn…
I decided to stay for lunch after interviewing the Aichems. I haven’t been to Germany in decades, but the refined German cuisine at this old-school restaurant brought me back there in the best possible way. When it comes to food, “refined” and “German” aren’t always joined at the hip, but they are here.
I didn’t have my camera, so below is the only photo I could dig up of something I actually ate during that glorious meal: maultaschen, the German version of ravioli ($7.75 as a starter; $13.75 as entrée).
Inside these tender pasta wrappers – which are neither too thick nor thin – is a layer of silky, subtle ground veal and spinach that conjures a fine terrine. As you can see, the envelopes are ladled with jus (caraway, and darned flavorful) and strewn with thin strands of fried onions.
I had begun with a fillet of house smoked trout ($9.75), which was expertly boned and delicately smoked. Classic accompaniments include creamy horseradish sauce, capers, and minute strands of red onion. Completing the plate were these beauties: fresh mache, carrot shavings, one endive leaf filled with chow-chow, a cornichon, and a tiny pickled onion. Clearly, presentation counts for something here.
I also indulged in cucumber dill salad ($4.75) – a simple-sounding dish that isn’t so simple to get right. Here it was perfection, its paper-thin slices of crunchy, in-season cukes tossed in a tamed-down white vinegar dressing with handfuls of fresh snipped dill thrown in.
My final treat was a big slice of something I normally have an aversion to: Black Forest cake ($5.75). This one’s a specialty of Heinrich, the grandson of founder Heinrich (dubbed “Heinz” in the kitchen to avoid confusion), and it’s a revelation. For one thing, it has a thin, buttery, pie-dough bottom crust. Above that, three layers of midnight-black but light-textured chocolate cake. In between are marinated whole cherries (fat, winey, and not too sweet) and dollops of chocolate mousse. The whole thing is covered with supremely fresh whipped cream that’s plastered with thin-sliced almonds. Wowee.
Sure, you can get wursts and pretzels and kraut and beers at the Black Forest Inn. And its throwback gemutlichkeit setting isn’t unique. What is hard to come by is the increasingly rare treat of encountering classic haute-German fare.
Tis the Season to Dine Well and Do Good
Like you, I’m inundated every holiday season with invitations to food and wine events that benefit good causes. With our calendars bulging with seasonal chores, events, and obligations, it’s as hard to choose among them as it is to find the time to attend. Here are some worthy candidates for spending your precious holiday capital:
Thursday, 11/21, Princeton: The 3rd annual Fall Collaborative Feast at elements restaurant. Two things in particular recommend it: it’s turning the spotlight onto those unsung heroes of restaurant kitchens everywhere – the sous chefs – and raising money for D&R Greenway Land Trust. The sous (the plural can’t be souses, that just doesn’t seem right) come from leading NJ restaurants, among them the Ryland Inn, 90 Acres, and elements itself. Details here.
Thursday, 12/5, Red Bank: The culinary coalition Red Bank Flavour is hosting their 2nd annual Holiday Flavour at the Molly Pitcher Inn. 20+ local restaurants are participating in this event, which benefits 3 local nonprofits and includes a chance to win a special multi-course tasting dinner for 2 curated by Tom Colicchio at his Colicchio & Sons restaurant. Details here.
Anytime, Newark: For both of the above events, a portion of the proceeds will go to very worthwhile organizations. But if you want 100% of your largesse to directly benefit those most in need, I urge you to donate to Bring Home Dinner, a simple, successful, hyper-local collaboration each November that aids the families of Newark’s Camden Street School, where more than 90% fall below the poverty line, and where nearly 50% of the children are special needs. Funds raised in November provide each family with $50 worth of local supermarket gift cards to feed their family for the week. For details and to donate, click here.
And Finally: Help for Making it through the Season
Saturday, 11/30: For the 3rd year, American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday across the nation. Check your local papers and social media for special deals and events in your area. In Princeton, for example, Catch a Rising Star comedy club is sponsoring an afternoon of holiday shopping, visiting with Santa, and watching a magic show at Forrestal Village. For those who stay for dinner, Tre Piani restaurant is offering one free kid’s meal with the purchase of each adult meal. Details here.
Sunday, 12/8: Slow Food Central NJ’s 9th season (!) of winter farmers markets kicks off at Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, from 10 am to 2 pm. A full list of vendors will be posted soon at www.slowfoodcentralnj.org.
Thru 12/31: If you find yourself needing a restorative lunch after a day of holiday shopping in the New Brunswick area, you can’t do better than taking advantage of the 20% discount on lunch (as well as on selected beers and wines by the glass) at the Frog & the Peach. If you doubt me, check out their amazing lunch menu.