Tag Archives: Elijah’s Promise

First Look @ Better World Market; Gluten-free Pizza @ Wildflour; Wine & Jazz @ Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Elijah’s Promise’s Latest Project Spotlights Jersey’s Farms & Food Entrepreneurs

Better World Market & Cafe

Better World Market & Cafe

I paid a visit to the newly opened Better World Market & Cafe in Somerset, expecting to find lots of farm-fresh Jersey produce in an indoor setting, with proceeds going to the good works of this New Brunswick-based non-profit. I found that – plus many excellent surprises. My report, here at NJMonthly.com.

It’s Gluten-free, but is it Pizza?

Wildflour, the popular gluten-free bakery and café in the village of Lawrenceville, recently held evening hours to showcase its latest offering: gluten-free pizzas. Normally, owner Marilyn Besner’s charming spot is open for breakfast, lunch, and takeaway, closing at 5 pm on weekdays and 3 pm weekends.

Marilyn Besner of Wildflour Bakery & Cafe

Marilyn Besner of Wildflour Bakery & Cafe

But the cafe stayed open until 8 pm one night a few weeks back, and I and my food-writer pal Faith (NJSpice) Bahadurian were among the invited guests that stopped by to sample both this Margherita (basil, mozzarella, fresh-tasting tomato sauce, a hit of oregano):

Wildflour Margherita Pizza

Wildflour Margherita Pizza

And this vegetable version (eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, red onion, creamy ricotta, schmear of that same tomato sauce):

Wildflour Vegetable Pizza

Wildflour Vegetable Pizza

The quality of the toppings is impeccable – which made me wish there were a tad more of them on the Margherita.

As you can see, the crust is quite thick – more akin to focaccia than pizza dough. The interior is, I’m happy to report, the polar opposite of many gluten-free breads: it’s tender, has a light, pleasantly springy texture, and boasts subtle flavor.

If, like me, you prefer crisp thin-crust pizza, Wildflour’s gluten-free flatbread topped with shiitake “bacon” is hard to beat. This, in fact, was our favorite bite.

Wildflour Flatbread with Shiitake 'Bacon'

Wildflour Flatbread with Shiitake ‘Bacon’

The pizzas, which are available to eat-in or take-away, sell for $8 for 2 slices or $30 for a whole pie. (Phone ahead for availability.) A half-sheet of the plain, unadorned focaccia – always available for takeout – is $11.80 and makes a great base for adding your own toppings at home. Ditto for the crisp flatbread base: a bag of half a dozen of the cooked but unembellished rounds sells for $11.70.

Besner hopes to hold evening pizza parties once a month; check the Wildflour website for details. Down the line, she may add pasta nights, too.

You Could be Forgiven for Thinking You’re in Napa

I have always loved the setting of Hopewell Valley Vineyards, but never has the expansive view of the vines and the surrounding Delaware Valley countryside reminded me more of Northern California than it does this summer – now that we’re actually experiencing Napa’s balmy weather.

I took in the view on a recent Sunday afternoon as I and some friends made our way inside the winery for its weekly Jazzy Sunday. Specifically, to hear the Carol Heffler Trio, which did not disappoint.

Carol Heffler Trio @ Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Carol Heffler Trio @ Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Along with the music, we enjoyed the winery’s Barbera, and shared its cheese & salumi plate.

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Barbera & Cheese Plate

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Barbera & Cheese Plate

I always enjoy this wine ($17), but the cheese plate was merely OK. It can’t hold a candle to the winery’s own brick-oven pizza that’s served on Friday nights – evenings that also feature live music in several genres, including classic rock, acoustic pop & rock, and classic jazz. (Owner Sergio Neri, an accomplished pianist, has been known to take a turn.)

Details about tastings and events at www.hopewellvalleyvineyards.com.

 

New Eateries: Wildflour & Mallery’s; Marc Vetri on Stuttering; Notable Events

Lots to report. Dine gluten-free (plus vegetarian) in Lawrenceville and on Simply Grazin’ organic meats in Hillsborough. My radio encounter with Vetri and his lifelong stutter. Participate, please: March against Monsanto, cheffy benefit for one of my favorite NJ nonprofits, first ever Montclair food & wine fest.

Wildflour Bakery/Cafe

The space that had been the Lawrenceville Inn has morphed into an artisan bakery and daytime cafe featuring made-to-order savory and sweet crepes, breads and pastries – all gluten-free. The cafe menu  (you’ll need to click to enlarge) also offers housemade soups, salads, and smoothies (also gluten-free and vegetarian).

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The gal behind Wildflour is Marilyn Besner, shown here holding one of her exceptional coffee cakes.  Princeton-area foodies known her from Moonlight Bakers, her previous strudel-making venture. Besner used her training at The Natural Gourmet Institute and French Culinary Institute to develop her own blends of flours, using everything from amaranth to quinoa, which result in exceptionally light textures, even for cream puffs and pastry for fruit tarts.

On my first visit to Wildflour I couldn’t resist ordering two crepes. I started with a buckwheat crepe filled with sautéed spring greens (kale was one) and caramelized onions with goat cheese crumbled on top and red pepper muhammara on the side ($7.95). Big, hearty, and flavorful. If buckwheat is not to your taste, the alternative is a rice-lentil batter. For my dessert crepe I chose the “plain” batter, made from Marilyn’s own blend of rice, millet, and other flours, the result of which is a light, tasty, tender wrapper. Housemade lemon curd and ricotta was my chosen filler and even though 2 full-size crepes are really too much for one sitting, I gobbled it down. Below is my companion’s equally spectacular choice: Nutella with bent spoon ice cream on the side.

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Wildflour Bakery/Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch. Birthday cakes and full-size pies and tarts are available by special order.
Wildflour Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mallery’s Eatery
UPDATE, AUGUST 2013: MALLERY’S EATERY IS CLOSED INDEFINITELY

Fans of Mark & Lynne Faille’s organically raised meats from their Simply Grazin’ Farm and Mallery’s Grazin’ Meats butcher shop – both in Skillman – have added a butcher shop/cafe in Hillsborough called Mallery’s Eatery. Executive chef is none other than Eric Martin, the opening and long-time chef at Rat’s Restaurant at Grounds for Sculpture.

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The lunch and take-out menu includes soups like his organic chicken orzo ($7); salads such as one of beets, granny smith apples, goat cheese, and arugula ($8); cold and hot sandwiches; panini; and “plates” of spaghetti and meatballs ($10) and meatloaf ($13). On a recent visit I was particularly impressed with this organic turkey chili (beef is also available) served with fresh corn tortillas and all the trimmings ($9.99):

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Mallery’s Eatery is open for breakfast and lunch, tucked away deep in the recesses of the Kingsbridge Shopping Center on South Branch Road.

Marc Vetri, Stuttering, and Me

Did you catch this touching HuffPost piece by Marc Vetri about life as a stutterer? It resonated with me partially because back in 2005, after being wowed by a fabulous meal at his namesake Philly restaurant, I emailed him asking if he would be a phone-in guest on my live, Saturday morning radio talk show. It was only after he accepted that I learned he was a stutterer. I was impressed once again with the man – he wasn’t going to let that stop him. The interview went well and got a good response. I have to admit it was stressful on my end – it was hard not to jump in when he was struggling to get a word out – but it was a lesson in restraint well worth learning.

Chef’s Night @ Palace at Somerset Park

New Brunswick-based nonprofit Elijah’s Promise (motto: “Food Changes Lives”) does so many important things so well it takes my breath away: soup kitchen, pay-what-you-can eatery, CSA, community garden, more social services than I can name. But one that’s particularly close to my heart is Promise Culinary School, an intensive, state-accredited program that prepares low-income adults to work in the dining industry.

Chefs Night PhotoChef’s Night, the school’s biggest fundraiser, with 35-plus restaurants participating, will take place on Monday, June 3rd from 6 to 9 pm at the rather grand Palace at Somerset Park. For menu, details, and tickets, click here.

I’m not often political in this space but…

March Against Monsanto logo

I am so distressed by the so-called Monsanto Protection Act that I’m breaking my unspoken rule. A worldwide March Against Monsanto has been called for Saturday, May 25th. Check out the list of participating continents, countries, states, and cities here. The official March against Monsanto Facebook page has so amassed more than 81,000 likes.

In NJ, 2 Marches are planned by NOFA-NJ and other organizations. Marches lead off at 2 pm, from downtown New Brunswick and Atlantic City.Here’s their rationale:

– Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.

– In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products.

– Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.

– For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.

Montclair Food & Wine Festival: A 2-day Feast for a Good Cause
Participating Chef Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane

Participating Chef Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane

This is the inaugural event showcasing leading chefs from Montclair’s long list of terrific restaurants (and a couple of high-profile outliers from neighboring towns). It takes place on Saturday, June 1st and Sunday, June 2nd. A portion of the proceeds will go to the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Center for Feeding and Swallowing and to Partners for Health Foundation. For the complete line-up, details on the Grand Tasting and Gala Dinner, and tickets, click here.

Doing Good While Dining Well

I love it when these two things come together. Usually, it means patronizing a high-end food and wine gala that raises funds for a worthy non-profit. Each of the three instances below, though, offers a different take on dining well while doing good.

Elijah’s Promise: Community Supported Dinners

How I wish I lived or worked in the New Brunswick area! Elijah’s Promise, the multifaceted social enterprise non-profit that started out as a soup kitchen, is offering a new slant on the CSA model. Instead of buying shares in weekly farm produce, subscribers get a weekly gourmet dinner to take home that’s prepared by the folks at their Promise Culinary School. You sign up and, beginning June 1st, you pick up dinner for two or four each Friday afternoon at either their New Brunswick or Highland Park location.

Elijah’s Promise has already launched a successful Community Supported Bakery program along the same lines. This one offers dinners that use seasonal, locally sourced, sustainably produced ingredients prepared by their staff and students.  Each includes a starter, entree, and side, with meat or vegetarian options. Here is a prototypical menu from their globe-trotting offerings:

Starter: Watermelon, feta, and mint salad

Entree: Beef brisket braised in tangy bbq sauce

Side: Old-fashioned potato salad

Now, the meat for this meal comes from The Student Sustainable Farm at Rutgers, the nation’s largest organic farm managed by university students. (Be proud, New Jersey!) The watermelon is an heirloom variety. The tomatoes are grown by First Field (originally known for their Jersey ketchup) and processed by teen volunteers from an affiliated program, Urban Mitzvah Corps – how great is that?  I think the dinners are a bargain at $12.50 or $15 apiece. The money not only goes into the coffers of a terrific organization, it also furthers hands-on culinary training for deserving folks trying to get back on their feet.

Click here (then scroll down to the bottom of the page) to get complete details and to download an order form.

Outstanding Farm-to-Table Restaurants in NJ & Westchester County

Are you familiar with the free, county-based series of Health & Life Magazines? In the spring 2012 issues I spotlight one outstanding farm-to-table restaurant in each of three NJ counties and provide a statewide list of the top ten. When you dine at any one of these places you’re assured not only a first-rate experience, but you’re helping them support responsible local farms and fisheries. Hence, dining well and doing good.

English: Natirar Park and Mansion, Somerset Co...

English: Natirar Park and Mansion, Somerset County, New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can check out online my story and pick for Morris/Essex County (it’s Ninety Acres at Natirar), and for Westchester (it’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns). The Westchester edition includes the top 5 farm-to-table restaurants thereabouts.

Out in print, but not yet online are the Bergen edition (Picnic in Fair Lawn is my choice) and the Monmouth edition (JBJ Soul Kitchen).

My choice for Middlesex (The Blue Rooster) will appear in the summer issue of Middlesex Health & Life. Look for it soon.

You’re Never Too Young to Do Good While Dining Well

yea.... It hasn't changed much

yea…. It hasn’t changed much (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

..or at least trying to dine well. Have you heard about the 9-year-old Scottish schoolgirl whose blog about the sorry state of her cafeteria’s lunches got results after just a few posts? While also receiving a comment from none other than Jamie (“Food Revolution”) Oliver? Here’s one newspaper story about the phenomenon. Be sure to follow the embedded link in it to the neverseconds blog. You’ll find that this youngster is a talented and engaging blogger as well as food crusader.

My Lunch with David Bouley

Now that I have your attention, I have to confess it wasn’t actually with him so much as provided (and cooked!) by him at Bouley Test Kitchen. And it wasn’t just for me, but for a group of food journalists who had gathered for a tasting of three Italian cheeses and two prosciutti, all arranged by an Italian food consortium called Legends from Europe.

But Chef Bouley did address our group, as proud as any papa about his baby, the Test Kitchen, which is a pretty cool space where visiting chefs give demos and classes, and which can be rented for private events. It was, for example, the host site to the Bocuse d’Or training earlier this year.

Four of the Italian products being spotlighted are pretty familiar to all of us: Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Grana Padano. It was the fifth one that caught my attention: Montasio, which is a melting cheese that’s the sole ingredient in those wonderful Northern Italian fried cheese crisps called frico. On hand to cook them up was Mary Ann Esposito,

Cover of

Cover of Ciao Italia

host of the long-running PBS series, Ciao Italia. (More about her and a recipe for frico in a future post.)

Now, what you should know is that food media lunches are almost always fabulous – whoever is behind them strives, naturally, to put their best foot forward. But it was as if this particular lunch was created specifically with me in mind. Here’s the menu:

Slow-poached Connecticut farm egg with Prosciutto di Parma and a Parmigiano-Reggiano cloud

Fresh sardine with tomato-saffron broth, fingerling potatoes, Prosciutto di San Daniele, and Grana Padano crisp

Hot caramelized Anjou pear with Valrhona chocolate, biscuit Breton, and hot toffee sauce, plus lemon verbena and Tahitian vanilla ice cream

For a bonus they threw in melon soup with ricotta ice cream as a palate cleanser after the sardine.

Two of my favorite edibles in the world are eggs – especially soft-cooked – and fresh sardines, so it was pure bliss. These are fairly unusual choices for a group meal, even for a group of food professionals. 

Gosh, how I do love my job.

Speaking of loving your job: Congrats to Lisanne Finston, director of Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, who is one of ten recipients of the 2011 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award. This national award honors exceptional people who tackle challenging health and health care problems in their communities.  Elijah’s Promise is a remarkably effective soup kitchen, plus a foodservice training facility for clients of the soup kitchen (called Promise Jobs), and a community restaurant (a la Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen) named A Better World Cafe in Highland Park. 

And finally today: this one’s for Nirit, who when she read my post about Fakesgiving – which my family celebrated in October because one of my daughters was off to Sri Lanka for a wedding over Thanksgiving – asked if I would post a photo of Alice in a sari. Well, Nirit, here she is in all her glory, accompanied by her boyfriend Chris, who’s wearing a kurta.

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