Tag Archives: Brick Farm Tavern

From Dishwasher to Exec Chef; Upcoming Events: 1 on Nature & Creativity & the other, Halloween Fun; News re Brick Farm Tavern & First Field Ketchup

3 Princeton Area Chefs Tell Their Stories of Working Their Way from the Bottom Rung to the Top of the Restaurant Kitchen Ladder

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For the 2016 Harvest Dining issue of US 1, I approached executive chefs at 3 of the Princeton area’s most popular and revered food establishments for the stories of how they navigated their way from the lowest to the top position. That all 3 are Hispanic immigrants with no English at the start speaks volumes. (Donald T***p please take note.) Read about the journeys of Juan Mercado of One53, Jose Lopez of Nassau Street Seafood, and Edgar Urias of Blue Point Grill here.

 

Nature-as-Muse Workshops at Princeton’s Mountain Lakes Preserve Feature Successful Perfumer, Food Artisan, Graphic Designer, and Poet

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Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon, Courtesy Princeton Echo

The bad news is that this series of October workshops mounted by Friends of Princeton Open Space is sold out. The good news is there probably will be more to come. So if you’re interested in upping your creativity quotient, check out this unique series of open-air walks and a related workshop. Each is led by a different successful professional on four consecutive Sundays: a perfumer from Firmenich (scent), an independent graphic designer (color), a poet (words), and the inimitable Gab Carbone of the Bent Spoon ice cream shop (flavor).

I share all the fascinating details here, in the October issue of the Princeton Echo. Bonus: Get to know Princeton mover-and-shaker Fran McManus, the genius behind the workshops.

Halloween Fun for Grown-ups and New Milestones for Brick Farm Tavern and First Field (the NJ Ketchup Folks)

Food for Thought logoCheck out my “Food for Thought” column in October’s Princeton Echo for details on:

  • Tre Piani & Planet Apothecary teaming up for their Witches & Warlocks Ball
  •  Menu details for the upcoming (and already sold out) dinner at the Beard House by Brick Farm Tavern Chef Greg Vassos on October 22
  • The newest product from the First Field Jersey Ketchup folks which surprised even owners Theresa Viggiano & Patrick Leger in its popularity. (Hint: it’s not ketchup)

First Report: Dining at Brick Farm Tavern’s Bar

By the time Brick Farm Tavern opened for business last Thursday (11/19/15), the reservation book at this long-awaited Hopewell restaurant, brought to you by the folks behind Double Brook Farm and Brick Farm Market, was already full for the next several weeks.

Chef's table at Brick Farm Tavern

Chef’s table at Brick Farm Tavern

But the bar there, which has its own menu, operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, and so two nights later I and my husband, Bill, headed over. I was careful to make it there at opening time – 5 p.m. – in order to be assured a perch at the 12-seat bar. By 5:20, every seat was taken, both at the bar and at the hi-tops in the adjoining lounge. Ten minutes after that, the barroom was SRO. Joshua, our server, told us that the restaurant’s been slammed like this from the start.

Brick Farm Tavern's executive chef, Greg Vassos

Brick Farm Tavern’s executive chef, Greg Vassos

I can see why. In October, when I interviewed Chef Greg Vassos and GM Mike Lykens for this preview in the Princeton Echo, they hoped to achieve a marriage of fine dining with “unpretentious, comfortable service.” Mission accomplished, at least in terms of Joshua (who, btw, is in the background below, and who also works at Agricola in Princeton). He was the personification of grace under pressure.

La Manzana cocktail, Brick Farm Tavern

La Manzana cocktail, Brick Farm Tavern

Vassos and Lykens also promised that the restaurant would put to use of every kind of meat, egg, fruit, vegetable, herb, etc. produced at Double Brook Farm, supplemented with that of nearby farms. So I went local with my cocktail, of which the bar features 5 house creations, each $12. I chose La Manzana, a refreshing, balanced blend of Espolon reposada tequila and Lillet with Terhune apple cider, lime, and house-made hay salt. When I inquired about that last, Joshua took the time to describe how it’s made and to give us a sample taste. (It is fleur de sel, smoked ’til black, over hay.)

The wood for the bar, btw, was reclaimed from the nearby estate of Charles Lindbergh, and newly crafted. (A fuller description of this American farm-to-table restaurant, including its owners and the handsome, circa-1812 farmhouse that is its home is included in the above link to my Echo story.)

Detail of bar beverage menu, Brick Farm Tavern

Detail of bar beverage menu, Brick Farm Tavern

I’m impressed with the wine-by-the-glass selections, which lead off with interesting and unexpected choices, including Arneis from Piemonte, Kerner (a cross between Trollinger & Riesling) from Alto Adige, Prieto Picudo from Castilla y Leon, and my husband’s choice, Giel Pinot Noir from Reinhessen.

Bar food menu, Brick Farm Tavern

Bar food menu, Brick Farm Tavern

The bar’s food menu is short, smart, and appealing, as you can see. As is the trend, it lists ingredients only – giving equal billing to each, with zero descriptors about preparation. Instead, servers are tasked with sharing helpful but painfully detailed explanations.

Tuscan fries, Brick Farm Tavern

Tuscan fries, Brick Farm Tavern

Word to the wise: Tuscan-fries-showered-with-pecorino. Cut thin and short, brined, fried in plenty of oil, salty, and addictive. If I had one wish, it would be that they were sprinkled with Pecorino throughout, not just on top. The smoky housemade ketchup is a match made in heaven.

Brick Farm Tavern burger

Brick Farm Tavern burger

It’s possible that just about every ingredient in the Double Brook burger – save the compte cheese and salt – is from the restaurant’s farm or, like the bun, made at Brick Farm Market. This helps explain its $18 price tag. But the burger’s so decadently good that it renders both provenance and price moot. Even though the menu says it’s accompanied by pomme frites, those Tuscan fries showed up. No complaint here.

Lamb Bolognese at Brick Farm Tavern

Lamb Bolognese at Brick Farm Tavern

When the Lamb Bolognese arrived, I thought the portion looked skimpy. But the dish is so rich and satisfying, and so loaded with thick coins of lamb merguez sausage, that it suffices. The short, thick, ribbed tubular pasta appeared to be fresh and housemade, and was cooked more al dente than customary. (I prefer it that way, but I suspect others may not.) I can’t say I detected distinct flavor from the strands of calendula (a type of marigold), and although the sausage itself suffered from too much salt, it wasn’t enough to deter me from finishing the dish with gusto.

Pumpkin dessert at Brick Farm Tavern

Pumpkin dessert at Brick Farm Tavern

Meanwhile, the folks next to me raved about their chicken wings and the Brick Farm charcuterie – a gorgeous, generous platter and a bargain at $14. For dessert Bill & I shared pumpkin mousse on praline shortbread. It’s topped with maple ice cream and hay salt foam and garnished with stewed and geleed cranberries. All the flavors were quite muted, though, so we wished we had opted instead for the only other choice: the pecan dessert, which Joshua had earlier informed us was the staff’s favorite. (Lesson: Always listen to a server you trust.)

One of Brick Farm Tavern's several small, cozy dining rooms

One of Brick Farm Tavern’s several small, cozy dining rooms

By the time I was sipping a perfect espresso, the crowd at our backs had grown even larger (and hungrier) and Bill & I fantasized about how much we could make if we auctioned off our seats to the highest bidder. That, alas, would run counter to the friendly, comfy-yet-refined vibe here.

View into the open kitchen from the chef's table, Brick Farm Tavern

View into the open kitchen from the chef’s table, Brick Farm Tavern

It’s something akin to magic when a restaurant is in total alignment with what the surrounding community craves and supports. Although it’s still early days, that seems to be exactly what I witnessed throughout the restaurant’s warren of charming dining rooms.  This, despite the many fine establishments right within tiny Hopewell (The Blue Bottle and Brothers Moon, to name just two) and in nearby Princeton (Agricola, Elements, Mistral, etc.) As I overheard one returning (returning!) customer remark to Joshua, “We are glad you’re here.”

Meet Brick Farm Tavern’s Chef & GM; Delectable Peruvian Dining in DC

Hopewell’s Brick Farm Tavern is Set to Debut on November 19. Here are Its Key Players

Greg Vassos, Mike Lykens, Jon McConaughy, & Robin McConaughy, Brick Farm Tavern

Greg Vassos, Mike Lykens, Jon McConaughy, & Robin McConaughy, Brick Farm Tavern (courtesy Princeton Echo)

The folks behind Double Brook Farm and Brick Farm Market, Robin & Jon McConaughy, have put their much anticipated farm-to-table restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern, into the hands of two alumni of The Broadmoor, the five-star luxury resort in Colorado Springs. Here in the November issue of the Princeton Echo I interview Executive Chef Greg Vassos and General Manager Mike Lykens about how they intend to carry out the McConaughys’ vision.

Brick Farm Tavern

Brick Farm Tavern

btw: Reservations are currently being accepted on OpenTable or by calling the restaurant at (609) 333-9200.

At China Chilcano, Jose Andres Takes on Peruvian Cuisine with Verve

I have yet to encounter a restaurant of DC-based chef Jose Andres that doesn’t bowl me over. It seems no matter what unlikely cuisine this Spanish-born master turns his hand to, he manages to honor and expand on it in a most delicious way. In the past I’ve raved about America Eats Tavern, for example, where he pays homage to historic American dishes while making them modern and desirable (e.g., Manhattan clam chowder, mutton with oysters, and America’s first mac ‘n’ cheese, which features vermicelli).

Andres works the same magic at China Chilcano, where the electric liveliness of the setting matches that of the vibrant food:

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

Below are highlights from wide-ranging dinner my table of 4 enjoyed, after cocktails from a list that includes 5 takes on pisco. The menu encompasses both indigenous Peruvian dishes like papas a la Huancaina (potatoes with spicy aji amarillo sauce) and the beloved hybrid rice and noodle dishes developed by the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who flocked to Peru during the late 19th century. (So did Italians, but they’re not represented here.) All photos by Chris Le.

Every gorgeous dish has the Andres touch – none more so than these 3 siu mai from the dim sum section of the menu.

Pork & jicama siu mai topped with gold-flecked egg. China Chilcano

Pork & shrimp siu mai topped with gold-flecked egg. China Chilcano

Scallop & pork siu mai with tobiko. China Chilcano

Scallop & pork siu mai with tobiko. China Chilcano

 

Chicken with aji amarillo siu mai. China Chilcano

Chicken with aji amarillo siu mai. China Chilcano

(Don’t know why that last photo insists on being upside down.) Another gold-flecked dim sum winner is this one of lamb pot stickers, hidden under crispy cumin-scented lace:

Pegao Norteno (lamb pot sticker). China Chilcano

Pegao Norteno (lamb pot stickers). China Chilcano

From the selection of ceviches and tiraditos (Peruvian crosses between sushi and ceviche), here’s the big eye tuna with soy-cured egg yolk, Nikkei leche de tigre (citrus marinade), puffed quinoa, avocado, mountain yam, red onion, and furikake seasoning:

Ceviche Nikkei. China Chilcano

Ceviche Nikkei. China Chilcano

Peru and Asia meet up perfectly in this lomo saltado of hanger steak, tomato, soy sauce, shishitos, ginger, shoestring potatoes, and rice:

Lomo Saltado with Egg. China Chilcano

Lomo Saltado with Egg. China Chilcano

While a classic aji de gallina is purely, and wonderfully, Peruvian:

Aji de gallina. China Chilcano

Aji de gallina. China Chilcano

I can’t decide which of these two desserts I enjoyed more, although the funky look of the suspiro Limena (“woman of Lima’s sigh”) still has me smiling:

Coconut "Birds Nest" Soup with Pink Grapefruit Sorbet. China Chilcano

Coconut “Birds Nest” Soup with Pink Grapefruit Sorbet. China Chilcano

Suspiro Limena: Sweetened Condensed Milk Custard with Meringue & Passion Fruit. China Chilcano

Suspiro Limena: Sweetened Condensed Milk Custard with Meringue & Passion Fruit. China Chilcano

China Chilcano is located on 7th St. NW in the Penn Quarter, very close to Andres’ signature restaurant, Jaleo.

Brick Farm Tavern Names Opening Chef; Local Handmade French Candies; Do You Yelp?

Double Brook Farm’s Restaurant, on Track  for November Debut, Snags Opening Chef from Colorado

Chef Greg Vassos

Chef Greg Vassos

For a while it looked as though Aaron Philipson of Hopewell’s Blue Bottle Cafe was going to team up with Robin & Jon McConaughy for their first full-service restaurant, but when that fell through the couple broadened the searched to the national scene. Find out why they’ve signed on Greg Vassos for their Brick Farm Tavern in my “Food for Thought” column in the October Princeton Echo.

Les Delices D’Annelise: Handmade, All-Natural Calisson, Nougat, Caramel, and other French Confections

Calissons, Les Delices D'Annelise

Calissons, Les Delices D’Annelise

In that same space, be sure to read further on to learn about the French woman in Princeton who concocts the above and more (e.g., soft, fresh, violet-flavored marshmallows) and where and how to get your hands on them. (You can thank me later.) If you can’t make it to Princeton for Madame Mugnier’s confections, email her at les.delices.annelise@gmail.com.

You, Me, & Yelp

Aurelio's Tortilla Chips

Aurelio’s Tortilla Chips

For my monthly food feature in the October Echo, I tell why and how I find Yelp reviews helpful – and not – using Yelp entries for Princeton restaurants to make my points. Would you be surprised to learn, for example, that number 3 on Yelp’s “10 Best Restaurants in Princeton” list is a place called Aurelio’s Cocina Latina? I was. Above is my photo of the very good tortilla chips and salsas I enjoyed there, but still and all….