Tag Archives: Cherry Grove Farm

Restaurant Empire: Meet the Smiths; New Vendors @ Slow Food Northern NJ’s Winter Farmers Market

The Folks behind Your Favorite Asbury Park Restaurants (Porta, The Annex, Pascal & Sabine) are Taking Over the State

Edible Jersey Winter 2015

Well, nearly. Meet the young visionaries behind the Smith Group, which I profile in the Winter 2015 issue of Edible Jersey(My story starts on page 22.) Other of their A.P. projects include upscale condos and the much acclaimed vegan restaurant, Goldie’s (which since I sat down with them has been converted into the Happiness Luncheonette). Plus they’ve exported the Porta artisan pizza brand to their restaurants in Newark (The Monk Room) and Jersey City (Porta). For 2015 they’re turning their attention to nothing less than a full-scale redevelopment of Burlington City. Whew!

Slow Food Northern NJ’s 7th Annual Winter Farmers Market: Catch up with Your Favorite Producers and Meet a Batch of New Ones

Slow Food Northern NJ

Like the childhood song says, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” On Sunday, February 1st I intend to do both, at this chapter’s indoor market at the historic Woodland 1930 Georgian Revival mansion in Maplewood.

20-plus local growers and food artisans are expected. Familiar (and beloved) names include cheese makers Bobolink and Cherry Grove, but new to me are Pennsylvania’s Flint Hill Farm and Valley Milkhouse.

Bobolink’s fabulous breads and baked good will be available, too, as well as those of Arturo’s Restaurant (whose master bread maker, Dan Richer, I profiled last year in Edible Jersey), and several others. Examples of other new-to-me and interesting-sounding vendors include Josie Porter Biodynamic Farm in Stroudsburg, PA (garlic-infused vinegar is among their offerings), and prepared foods and baked goods from Rogowski Farm/Black Dirt Gourmet, Pine Island NY.

Attention teachers, parents, and school administrators interested in starting a school vegetable garden: you can sign up at this event for materials and fundraising support to help. Proceeds from the winter market will help advance Slow Food Northern NJ’s mission of helping schools start vegetable gardens. Slow Food NNJ has been able to provide 30 grants in the past 6 years.

The winter market will take place on Sunday, February 1 from noon to 4 pm at The Woodland, Maplewood. Entrance fee is a $3 donation to support Slow Food Northern NJ’s school vegetable garden programs (see above). Snow date is February 8. For snow closing info, phone (908)451-0051. For information on the market, visit slowfoodnnj.org.

Edible Jersey Holiday 2013; NJ’s Own Black Forest; Noteworthy Food Events

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.

Edible Jersey Holiday 2013 004

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.

Black Forest Inn exteriorSure, 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.
Black Forest Inn on Urbanspoon

Tis the Season to Dine Well and Do Good

holly sprig clipartLike 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.

The Sorry State of Food TV; 2 NJ Slow Food Events; Craig Shelton’s New Gig; NJ & Beard Awards; Mistral Preview

This essay by Andy Greenwald on the state of Food TV is the best I’ve encountered. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with everything Greenwald writes – I thought I was the only one who felt this way! I was gratified in particular by this sentence about Emeril Lagasse‘s role as a Top Chef judge:

“Stripped of his catchphrases and his band, Emeril has revealed himself to be kind, patient and insightful, able to articulate the nuances of food we’ll never taste with expert, understated flair.”

Not only do I agree with that assessment as a viewer, but it reflects the conclusion I came to when Emeril was a guest on my radio show years ago. We did an entire hour show live from Marketfair mall in Princeton.

Pat & Emeril1

I expected lots of bam! and bluster, and instead I got a thoughtful, soft-spoken, gentle man who answered my questions with insight and modesty. It was only when a young boy in the audience shouted out, “Emeril, say Bam!” that he did – and talked about how great it was to have youngsters interested in cooking.

Slow Food Farmers Market (Central) & Expert Talk on GMOs (North)

Slow Food Central Snail

This Sunday, 2/24/13, will see the final Slow Food Central NJ winter farmers market of the season. This one is being held at Tre Piani restaurant in Forrestal Village along Route 1 in Princeton, from 11 am to 3 pm. There’ll be live music and you can sit down for food and drink at Tre Bar in between stocking up on meats, breads, mushrooms, cheeses, wines, baked goods, and sweets from these vendors:

Beech Tree Farm….Birds and Bees Farm…Bobolink Dairy and Bake House…Cherry Grove Farm…Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms…Donna and Company…Fulper Dairy Farm…Funni Bonz Barbecue Sauce…Happy Wanderer Bakery…Hopewell Valley Vineyards…Judith’s Desserts…Jammin’ Crepes…Pure Indian Foods Ghee…Rocky Brook Farm…Shibumi Exotic Mushrooms…Valley Shepherd Creamery and Woods Edge Wools Farm.

For information, phone 609.577.5113.

Slow Food SnailThen next Sunday, March 3rd, attend an afternoon meeting of Slow Food Northern NJ at the DeHart Community Center in Maplewood that starts at 1 pm with a tasting of local foods and includes talks on school gardens and the impact of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on our lives. Speaker for that will be Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, who will “describe what genetic engineering is, the lack of required safety testing, and why you should be concerned.” Click here for info and to purchase tickets ($8 for members; $10 for the public).

Craig Shelton, Consultant

Craig SheltonNew Jersey’s most well-known chef (check out the interview with him I posted here last December) is now consulting at Mediterra in Princeton. Laurent Chapuis, the proprietor of the Princeton Corkscrew wine shop just a few doors down, was impressed with a recent  lunch overseen by Shelton. If you know Monsieur Chapuis, you know he is one tough customer, so his praise bodes well for this match.

Mediterra’s general manager, Carmine DePasquale, says that Shelton will be at the restaurant four to five days a week, mainly during lunch service, for at least the next three months. He isn’t so much behind the stove tweaking dishes or changing the menu as he is, DePasquale says, “showing us a different hospitality factor, a new way of managing how guests perceive things.” He’s working hand-in-hand with Mediterra chef Terry Strong and his sous chefs, yes, but also servers and the management team as a whole. Shelton, DePasquale says, has set his task as observing, commenting on what’s being done correctly (or not), and addressing issues around hospitality and even marketing. “The beauty of Craig,” DePasquale says, “is that he holds himself up to the Relais and Chateaux guidelines, and it’s always good to strive for that with every single person who walks through our door.”

Congrats to 2013 James Beard Awards Semi-finalists Scott Anderson, Joey Baldino, and Thirty Acres

If you call yourself a New Jersey foodie, you’ve likely heard by now that the Garden State receive three nods on the first round of balloting announced this week. Both Scott Anderson of elements in Princeton and Vetri-alumnus Joey Baldino of Zeppoli (his Sicilian restaurant in Collingswood) are among 2o chefs vying to be one of 5 semi-finalists for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. Thirty Acres in Jersey City is one of 29 hopefuls for Best New Restaurant in the USA.

Thirty Acres, Jersey City

Thirty Acres, Jersey City

Five finalists in each category will be announced on March 18, and the ultimate sole winners on May 6.

Sneak Peak of Mistral Menu at elements, Princeton

Mistral-Logo

Speaking of elements, the projected opening of Mistral, the second (and more casual) restaurant by the same team, is now set for April. Those of us who can’t wait for its small plates of interpreted Mediterranean classics can get a smattering at elements between now and then. Prices start at $7 for fennel salad with lemon basil, red onion, and orange and run to $12 for bronzino with potato puree, black olive, and caramelized red onion.

In between are house-cured lomo (Spanish-style dry-cured pork tenderloin) with trumpet royale mushrooms, pimentos, and garlic; pressure-cooked octopus with “papas bravas” (their quotation marks), and caper aioli; and dark meat chicken with yuzu and soy honey glaze.

Dilly’s Done Different & 2 Slow Food NJ Farmers Markets

Dilly’s Done Different
Anyone familiar with Dilly’s Corner – the beloved walk-up hot dog and ice cream shack in the New Hope, PA area that had always closed down for the winter – will be astonished by a cold-weather transformation that began last year. On weekends from November to March, the shack magically transforms into a homey, charming, and surprisingly accomplished restaurant, not unlike Cinderella after the bippety-boppety-boo. Friends who prefer to think of Dilly’s Done Different as a sort of culinary Brigadoon finally got me there this past weekend.

Dilly's Corner Sign Touting Summertime Treats

Dilly’s Corner Sign Touting Summertime Treats

Several surprises struck me from the start: the warm greeting for my friends by Tom Massa, who owns Dilly’s with his wife, Nancy; tables set with smooth white linens, quality wine glasses (it’s byo), and one big, yellow rose in a bud vase; and a moderately priced menu of appealing modern American fare.

I started with the soup du jour:  shellfish stew with a rich (but not too rich) tomato-cream base, which I think cost something like $6.25. Like everything else, it was a good-sized portion and a wonderful combination of earthiness and finesse. So too my main dish of grilled, sliced teres major (an inexpensive, tasty, and bafflingly underutilized cut of beef) with a potato gratin that Escoffier would approve for both its flavor and good looks, and roasted asparagus – those ultra-skinny spears we’re seeing a lot in restaurants these days. Up til now, I’ve considered them silly and underwhelming in flavor. Somehow, these had been roasted so as to enhance their inherent flavor – a first for me. I finished up with a dense, rich, sticky hazelnut-espresso torte.

Meantime, I was feverishly swapping plates with my companions, and have to say that I was just as pleased with their selections, which included:

A big bowl of steamed mussels in red tomato broth/sauce
Pork schnitzel (a thick chop butterflied but still on the bone) with fresh fettuccine
Braised short ribs with smashed potatoes
Fettuccine with fresh vegetables
Three-cheese lasagne with homemade meatballs on the side
Lemon poppy-seed pound cake topped with meringue

Next time I’ll try the pan-roasted salmon ($26) or the roasted half-chicken ($22). I’m told that running Dilly’s year-round kitchen are two young chefs who conceived Dilly’s Done Different as an off-season way to give their cooking chops a workout. I hope that Kevin Gilbreath, a CIA grad and executive chef, and Steven Schwier, sous chef, feel that need for years to come.

Things you should know before going: Both incarnations – Dilly’s Corner and Dilly’s Done Different – are cash only. Dilly’s Done Different operates roughly from November to March, offering dinner on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings and brunch on Sunday. Reservations are pretty much required because seating is limited and, as you might expect, the place is becoming very popular. Although the address is given as New Hope, Dilly’s is technically in Solebury Township, immediately across from Stockton, NJ.  In fact, on the unusually balmy Saturday night of my visit we parked in Stockton and walked across the Center Bridge to the restaurant.
Dilly's Corner on Urbanspoon

Two NJ Slow Food Chapters Holding Winter Farmers Markets on the Same Day in January

Whether you live in North, Central, or South Jersey, mark your calendar for Sunday the 27th.

English: The main entrance of the Frelinghuyse...

English: The main entrance of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ. It currently houses the offices of county officials. There are plans to make this building into a museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That day, from noon to 4 pm, the Northern NJ chapter will be hosting no fewer than 21 “farmers, food artisans, and friends” at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown. These include two of our state’s premiere cheese makers: Bobolink and Valley Shepherd. A $3 entrance fee supports the chapter’s school vegetable gardens program. For the full line-up, directions, and other details click here.

Johnson Education Center www.d&rgreenway.org

Johnson Education Center http://www.drgreenway.org

Also on the 27th the Central NJ chapter of Slow Food will hold the second of three markets scheduled for the winter of 2012-2013. This one will run from 11 am to 3 pm at the gorgeous Johnson Education Center at the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton. They’re also hosting two fab cheese makers – Bobolink & Cherry Grove. Here’s the complete line-up:

Beechtree Farm
Birds and Bees Farm (NJ raw honey)
Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse
Cherry Grove Farm
Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms
Fulper Farms
Good Times Kettle Corn
Hopewell Valley Vineyards
Jammin’ Crepes
Jersey Jams and Jellies
Pure Indian Foods (organic ghee)
Shibumi Farm (exotic mushrooms)
Stony Brook Orchids
WoodsEdge Wools Farm

A $2 donation to the chapter is suggested. For directions click here.

Interview with Craig Shelton; Slow Food Winter Farmers Market; LA Times’ Devilish Quiz

Coffee & Conversation With Craig Shelton

When I read in an interview in Inside Jersey that Craig Shelton – historically New Jersey’s most renowned chef for his groundbreaking restaurant, the Ryland Inn – had moved to Princeton, my home town, I invited him to conversation over coffee at a local shop.Craig Shelton I wanted to know why and how he had landed in Princeton after a stint in Texas, and what was on his horizon. As always, Shelton was gentlemanly, thoughtful, and unpredictable. I can’t think of any other chef whose responses to restaurant-related questions would encompass: artists ranging from John Singer Sargent to Basquiat, the differences between the British and German banking systems (a discussion that was, frankly, over my head and so is not included here), and the nature of man and the universe.

Me: Why Princeton?
Shelton: The reasons were several-fold. First and foremost, the children. My son, William, is 14 and in middle school. My littlest, Juliette, is at Community Park elementary. (Olivia, my oldest, is soon to be 23. She’s finishing up at Villanova. Her major is pre-med and communications.) Princeton is one of very few locations where you can have an extremely high-value quality of life without needing much money. I lived for many years in nice places that required a nice income. Have you been to the university art museum? I was blown away. I’ve always been a bookish guy. It’s nice to be in a community where you’re not an oddity. Well, I’m still an oddity. I’m probably the only guy in town that’s right-of-center politically.

Me: How has your family coped with the recent changes?
Shelton: My wife fell in love with Texas. We went down without expectations – the rolling hills and horse farms reminded us of Far Hills. People were so lovely, I can’t begin to tell you. We found the area singularly beautiful, quiet, whole, and wholesome. I didn’t see the level of spiritual emptiness that is worldwide. My wife was a shy person, but they embraced her. It affected her in a most beautiful way.

Me: I know you’re consulting with Constantine Katsifis, owner of the Skylark Diner in Edison and other ambitious diners around the state. What else are you involved in these days?
Shelton: Constantine uses me as a kind of Special Ops guy on serious issues. I go in for 90 days, do triage, implement fixes, take a look at finances, marketing – whatever his needs are. I even consult on issues outside his restaurants. But my highest aspiration is to be a bridge between the worlds of finance the restaurant arts. The Ryland was like the canary in the coal mine: it was not in a big city – it was exurban – and it had no big financial backers. It was ten to fifteen years ahead of the others in having to face the current financial and global issues. We have created a sort of Frankensteinish monetary code in the US – very injurious to the working and middle classes –  that makes any kind of traditional business [harder]. Finance and banking trump all other aspects of business, and the government is failing to resolve current issues of financial trust. There’s an unprecedented need for balance sheet work to be done!

Me: Where is the dining world headed?
Shelton: It’s easier to figure out than you think. Like all the plastic arts, it is constantly evolving. But of all the arts it has the greatest latency factor. Just look at any other art form, what you see on the plate will have come out of that. Sculpture, architecture, music – you can map alongside the resulting aesthetic changes in cuisine. What creates beauty? The mind creates beauty based, I think, on the nature of the universe – god and man. Beauty deals with these things on some level. If you take an art history class you’ll see the changes from, say, William Merritt Chase and Singer Sargent to Basquiat and beyond. You see Rothko on the plate today: a smear painted with a brush. Chefs don’t create ex nihilo, they’re a product of their environment. The current worldview is that we have rejected painterly painting, that you see the effect of modernism everywhere. You see evidences of the changes, not just in painting but in advertising, packaging, signage, etc. But I think you’re going to see a psychological need to draw support from traditional beauty with more frequency.

Me: What does it take to have a successful restaurant these days?
Shelton: The guys who have followed me have done so at a nearly impossible moment in time. Their range of choices is driven by economics, as it has been for 25 years. Like when Jean Georges began to use the secondary cuts of meat – really, it was the only economic choice at the time. Why do you think people are into foraging now? The range of options keeps shrinking. A lot of restaurants are going to go under – 20% or more. Of course, there will always be a few geniuses and a factor of luck, like finding the right business partner. A dining room of ten seats can work; anything more than that may be a liability these days.
—————————————————————————————

Slow Food Winter Market @ Cherry Grove Farm on Saturday

Cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville

Cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville

At this special holiday market you can, of course, pick up outstanding meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs from these participating farms: Cherry Grove, Cherry Grove Organic, and North Slope. But you can also put a serious dent in your holiday gift list. Personally, these are what I plan to cross off my own:

There will be much more: Organic ghee from Pure Indian Foods, fresh mozzarella and ricotta from Fulper Farms, alpaca wool products from WoodsEdge, Jersey Jams and Jellies, Artisan Tree handmade natural soaps. Plus live music by Bo Child & Anita Harding.

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

I’ll also be purchasing exotic mushrooms from Shibumi Farm to make wild mushroom mac ‘n’ cheese for a holiday dinner party I’m hosting. If you haven’t encountered the spectacular fungi of Alan Kaufman and company, like the lemon oysters, pioppinos, and king oysters show here, you’re missing out on something special.

The Central NJ Slow Food Winter Market runs from 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday, December 15 at Cherry Grove Farm on Route 206 in Lawrenceville. For directions and a full line-up of vendors, click here.

Jonathan Gold’s Cooking Weights & Measures Quiz

I am not going to tell you what I scored on this clever multiple-choice test; it’s embarrassing. Hopefully you’ll do better.

Interview w/Chris Young of ‘Modernist Cuisine;’ ‘Fresh!’ Pilot; Winter Farmers Market

“Modernist Cuisine” Alumni Create Free Online Culinary School

I recently sat down with Chris Young, the principal co-author with Nathan Myhrvold of the groundbreaking, award-winning Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, when he was in Princeton. Chris YoungHe was here to consult with a major flavor and fragrance company as part of one of his new ventures, Delve Kitchen. But while sipping coffee at Small World on Witherspoon Street, we talked mainly about ChefSteps, the innovative free online culinary school that he and fellow Modernist Cuisine alums Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith have created.

You can (and should) read my main report about ChefSteps at njmonthly.com. Then follow the link back here for additional fascinating detail, below, on why Young and his collaborators left Nathan Myhrvold and the Modernist Cuisine team behind – he had no involvement, for example, with the follow-up book, Modernist Cuisine at Home, which was published on October 8 – as well as the high-profile geniuses that inspired ChefSteps.

Young on leaving Modernist Cuisine and finding the Gates Foundation and Johnson & Wales:
Modernist Cuisine turned out to be a bigger project than we imagined,” Young says as a bit of an understatement about the six volume, $625 encyclopedia. “The funny thing is that, at the start, Nathan warned me that it probably would not be a fulltime gig.” Myhrvold envisioned a 300-page book describing new cooking technologies like sous vide. “Who knew it would take six years, and thousands of pages? That last year was like the Bataan Death March! For five years that was my life, and they turned out to be even harder than my five years at the Fat Duck,” he says, referring to his work at Heston Blumenthal’s famed restaurant outside of London, where he ran the experimental kitchen. “Then, one year later most people assume you want to write another book. But, to me, I’ve done that. I’ve said almost everything I wanted to say. I needed to step out of the doughnut hole, see what was next.”

“I was offered to jump onto a Gates Foundation project having to do with improving the milk supply in sub-Saharan Africa. So Nathan said OK, you have a lot to offer. And I helped re-form the project. Oftentimes these kinds of projects apply a first-world solution to a third-world problem. They’re two very different worlds. The business model I developed is currently being implemented in field trials in Kenya, and I’m very hopeful that it can help break the poverty cycle.”

“Just as I came off that project last fall, I had started one overhauling the curriculum at Johnson & Wales, which I’m still doing. Many culinary schools are interested in incorporating Modernist Cuisine into their curriculum. I liked the Johnson & Wales model, which unlike others, is not to fly me in to teach an expensive class. We all realized that the only way to make this scalable is not to each students, but to train the faculty. So I basically ran a boot camp. I trained half the faculty (and interacted with 1,000 students). So here’s the Johnson & Wales faculty, some of whom had been chefs for thirty years, acting like kids again! It had an impact. But I’m thinking, culinary school training professional chefs is big, but it’s still a subset of an already small world. Most people do not want to become professional chefs and there are many working professional chefs who will never go to culinary school. How to make a broader impact?  I reasoned that rather than another big book, I wanted something more collaborative and engaging – like the way it is when you work in restaurants.”

“Grant Crilly had also left Nathan, and had participated with me in the Johnson & Wales project. Ryan Smith had left, too. He had established a very lucrative photography business. The three of us, we’re friends and in January of this year we found ourselves asking, what do we want to do? From January through March, we were scratching around. We had straightforward consulting contracts, and those provided our only cash flow. We had no wealthy individual behind us.”

Young on the conception of an online culinary school:
Young mentions as a model and inspiration Sebastian Thrun, a professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford and a Google vice president. “Two years ago, Thrun offered his a.i. class at Stanford free online. A couple thousand enrolled within a day! Eventually 125,000 enrolled, and 20 percent completed it all, taking the quizzes and tests. Stanford agreed to give them all a Stanford certificate of completion.” After that, Thun established his free online university, Udacity. “This was a huge influence. We thought that we ought to be able to do the same thing with cooking. You need a way of engaging, like Udacity. You still need step-by-step instructions and photos, but also video. Unlike with a book, if it takes 20 photos to show a step, that’s OK. If it needs a movie, OK, we can do that.”

One that’s free…
Another influence is Gabe Newell, the video game software genius. “We asked ourselves, how do you charge for this?” Newell has said that monetization is the root of all evil. In the video game world the most successful are those that switch to free-to-play, but with added value. Twenty percent of players will spend more on the value-added stuff than if you charged a fee to pay. So, free-to-play equals free-to-learn.” Young mentions the ill-fated attempt of the New York Times to charge for online content. “We figure if we charge, that’s wrong for two reasons: One, it doesn’t work. And two, you’re competing with [the free content on] YouTube. So fine, all the fundamentals are free. Our users will vote, will tell us what is of value to them, what recipes they want to see, what structure works best for them…”

…and someday soon, open-sourced and self-policing
Once the idea of a free online culinary school was validated, Young addressed the problem of keeping its integrity. He spoke about this problem with Matt Mullenweg of the open-sourced WordPress, whom he invited into the Delve Kitchen to help process a whole pig. “He had ideas on incentivizing and self-policing, and how that works.”

The future of ChefSteps
“What feels wonderful is that it’s truly a grassroots effort. It takes a lot of volunteers, a lot of support. A lot of new content is coming!” The team has lined up a number of guest presenters for the winter. “The point is it’s not just what we want to teach. For example, I am lucky to work with an amazing knife forger, who knows a huge amount. You’ll never see him on Food Network, and most likely you’ll never see a book from him. We can provide a platform for people like him, give him a voice. These people have been an unexpected bonus and a profound inspiration. A big part of our job is curating. Eventually, the hope is, if we can get ChefSteps to where, say, Wikipedia is, maybe someday some  phenomenal contributor can teach their own class.”

To read more about Chris Young’s work at Johnson & Wales University, click here.
——————————————————————————————-

Watch the Pilot for Greener NJ’s ‘Fresh!’

Fresh PilotI was lucky enough to sit in on the dinner produced for and seen in this pilot, which features folks from Cherry Grove Farm, Terhune Orchards, Stults Farm, Chia-Sin Farms, the West Windsor Farmers Market, and Tre Piani restaurant. Check out the first episode here.


Slow Food Central New Jersey
’s Eighth Season of “Eat Slow” Winter Farmers Markets Kick off December 15 at Cherry Grove Farm

The Lawrenceville farm’s outdoor event barn will be the place to get the farm’s own famed cheeses as well as locally produced breads, baked goods, fresh produce, jams, wine, mushrooms, and more, from 11am-3pm. “Dress warm,” the organizers advise.

A Green Feast Inaugurates Greener NJ Productions

Now that New Jersey has lost its dedicated PBS station – I know, I know, NJTV has taken the place of NJN, but it’s not quite the same now, is it? – a newcomer hopes to fill the gap, at least in part, with TV and web shows dedicated solely to “the greener side of the Garden State.”

That nonprofit entity is Greener New Jersey Productions, spearheaded by JoAnne Ruscio, formerly of NJN. Last week saw the taping of a half-hour pilot for their upcoming series, Fresh!, which will premier in November. A portion of the show was being taped at the West Windsor Farmers Market, and part of it at a dinner at Tre Piani in Princeton’s Forrestal Village. There, chef/owner Jim Weaver created a feast from the bounty of the market’s vendors, including cheese from Cherry Grove, Asian vegetables from Chia Sin, and fruits and vegetables from Stults Farm and Terhune Orchards.

I was fortunate to sit in on the dinner  – while gingerly ducking the cameras – which was enjoyed by about 50 of Greener NJ’s friends and supporters.  Below are a few photos. I’ll report on the air date of the pilot when it is announced.

Centerpiece created by Kim Clearwater

Among the guests: daughters of WW Farmers Market manager Chris Cirkus

Local salumi was one of the cocktail hour hors d’oeuvre, which also featured Cherry Grove brie with warm Asian pear relish, Stults Farm potato tartare, and Mangalitsa pork  lardo bruschetta

Chef/owner Jim Weaver of Tre Piani

A familiar face to Tre Piani regulars: Maitre d’ Giancarlo Squitieri

Colorful salad course of Chia Sin roasted Japanese eggplant, tomato, roasted peppers, pickled cabbage, and cilantro with red beet vinaigrette

The guests a tavola

Gifts for the Foodies in Our Lives

My annual column in U.S. 1 devoted to holiday gift ideas for the cooks and gourmands in our lives is out! Here’s just a taste of what I recommend:

My favorite find from this year’s Fancy Good Show:

 This gift selection of farmstead cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville

And the new Canal House Cooking – all Italian this time! – from Lambertville’s Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hersheimer

In addition to the 20 or so suggestions in the column, here are even more:

– A t-shirt or apron printed with “Hope is Delicious” from Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen community restaurant in Red Bank

– Lidia Bastianich’s new book, Lidia’s Italy in America, which includes profiles of and recipes from six New Jersey farms, food producers, and restaurants. btw: some photos are by Christopher Hersheimer

– A sparkly, haute couture apron from Haute Hostess made from ball gown and cocktail dress fabrics. A splurge to be sure, but proudly worn by the likes of Beyonce and Gwyneth Paltrow

Happy shopping!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Breaking News! Good Food Awards Give Nod to NJ Cheesemaker

When I interviewed Bay Area transplant Michelle Fuerst – an alumna of Chez Panisse and Zuni Cafe – for my 11/11/11 column in The Princeton Packet, she mentioned her involvement with the Good Food Awards, which recognize  the American artisanal products in eight categories. Like the Slow Food Awards, these are based on the principle of good, clean, and fair, but are limited to Americana. Judges (besides Fuerst) include such luminaries as Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Bruce Aidells.

Well, the 2012 nominees were announced earlier this week, and among the finalists in the cheese category is Lawrenceville’s own Cherry Grove Farm. Specifically, farmer/cheesemaker Kelly Harding’s toma. Congrats to everyone there!

 Cherry Grove is in some pretty heady company, including Cypress Grove and Old Chatham Sheepherding. Other award categories are: beer, charceuterie, chocolate, coffee, pickles, preserves, and spirits.

The winners will be announced on January 14 at a ceremony hosted by Alice Waters (who else?) in San Francisco (where else?). Best of luck to Kelly and his crew on this well deserved honor; they’ve already done our state proud.

Enhanced by Zemanta