Tag Archives: Hopewell Valley Vineyards

HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen Helping Families Become Self-Sufficient;Yet More Restaurants Opening in Princeton; Making Perfect Porchetta

Long-time Princeton Caterer & Cooking Instructor Teaches Homeless Adults and Children in New State-of-the-Art Kitchen

Christina Crawford’s Wooden Spoon Catering Company was Princeton staple for 15 years. After that, she taught children and adults at the culinary center inside Princeton’s Whole Food. But now that she’s heading up HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen in Ewing, she told me, “This job is a thousand times better than anything I could have thought about doing.” Find out why, here in my profile in the February issue of The Princeton Echo.

Christina Crawford & Students

Christina Crawford & Students

February Food for Thought: 3 More New Eateries Coming to Downtown Princeton; Dining Deal at the Peacock Inn; Mediterranean Farm-to-Table Dinners at Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Chef Nikiforos Vaimakis, courtesy Infini-T Cafe Princeton

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Chef Nikiforos Vaimakis (courtesy Infini-T Cafe Princeton)

Gosh, how I love having the central part of our state as my base of operations. One prime example: this February Echo column that’s chock-full of exciting developments. Details on: Jules Thin Crust Pizza, Marhaba, Kung Fu Tea & Noodle House, a new Osteria Procaccini outpost, $49 to dine at the Peacock Inn, $70 for a 5-course meal with wines in Hopewell. My, oh my.

Picture Perfect Porchetta

For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted to attempt porchetta for Christmas this past year. It turned out to be a showstopper (my family took to calling it the Meat Log), and it would make an impressive centerpiece for any winter dinner party.

My porchetta

My porchetta

Now, I’m not going to tell you that forming a jelly roll out of thick slabs of meat and fat is easy, but it’s worth the effort. I followed this Martha Stewart recipe and video for Porchetta with Salsa Verde, using wonderful boneless pork loin and pork belly from Double Brook Farm (which I had pre-ordered from butcher Cole Dougherty at Brick Farm Market).

You know you're onto something when your canine guest plants himself outside the kitchen

You know you’re onto something when your canine guest plants himself outside the kitchen and won’t budge

The stuffing of fresh Mediterranean herbs and garlic featured exceptionally fragrant fennel pollen from Princeton’s Savory Spice Shop. And added bonus was that for days afterwards we enjoyed leftovers of porchetta sandwiches on Terra Momo Bread focaccia.

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.

 

Princeton Dining Scene Explodes; Hopewell Gets a Food Hall; Interesting Wine Dinner Benefit in Morristown

If you think the opening of Agricola is the only restaurant news coming out of downtown Princeton, think again. In the Spring Dining Issue of US 1 I profile these latest newcomers:

6-5 Cover Only(1).indd

Mistral  Meet chef Ben Nerenhausen, who Scott Anderson hired away from 3-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa for his small plates byob. Nerenhausen explains why the NJ dining scene reminds him of Northern California (!)

DeSpana  Find out why this popular SoHo tapas cafe and market chose Princeton for its first satellite location

North End Bistro An American comfort food eatery from the growing Central Jersey restaurant empire of the brothers behind the Osterias Procaccini

Cafe 44 Fusion After a long absence, soul food returns to Princeton as a restaurant-within-a-restaurant – and with an unexpected legacy that extends back to the 1970s

Ivy Inn Princeton’s favorite (only?) dive bar becomes family friendly and serves fresh, casual, bargain-priced fare curated by chef Jackie Baldassari who recently did a star turn on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen.

A First look at Brick Farm Market in Hopewell

This – Double Brook Farm‘s retail market – may have been a long time coming, but has been thoroughly embraced by the community in the short time it’s been open. I had never been inside its home, the old Malek Chevrolet building on Broad Street, but had always admired its gorgeous patterned brick facade, which dates back to the 1930s.

I was surprised by the sheer size of the interior, transformed into a glowing, rustic-chic food hall on two levels.

Brick Farm Market 001

The upstairs gallery (on the left, above) holds “shops” (really, counters) and a long dining bar with stools for those who want to eat in. The butcher shop features Double Brook Farm’s own meats from its sustainably raised animals. The next counter is chock full of charcuterie made from the same raw materials but transformed into dried and cured goodies by NJ’s estimable Salumeria Biellese. A creamery features ice creams and yogurts made with milk from Double Brook cows and cheeses from all over, overseen by Michel Lemmerling, who many customers recognize from his days behind the cheese counter at Bon Appetit in Princeton. (Sister-in-law Deeann Lemmerling is the market’s manager.)

Michel Lemmerling, Brick Farm Market

Michel Lemmerling, Brick Farm Market

On the street level, customers can dine at cafe tables just inside the door or out on the sidewalk after making their selections at the prepared foods arrayed in a large case that spans the rear. In charge here is chef Chase Gerstenbacher, who I profiled in this previous post.

Chase Gerstenbacher, Brick Farm Market

Chase Gerstenbacher, Brick Farm Market

The menu includes breakfast items (till 11 am) like steel-cut oats and a breakfast croissant with bacon, chorizo, or country sausage; “snacks” like housemade herb & garlic kettle chips, country pate, and mac ‘n’ cheese; “specialties” like sausage flatbread and pulled pork; and sandwiches and panini like the ones below, accompanied by salad of the day (here, pasta and kale):

Brick Farm Market's Roast turkey, rhubarb compote, baby lettuce on rye

Brick Farm Market’s Roast turkey, rhubarb compote, baby lettuce on rye

Brick Farm Market's brie, apple, and honey on baguette

Brick Farm Market’s brie, apple, and honey on baguette

One long wall is lined with more “shops,” including a full bakery (presided over by Karen Child, of the erstwhile Village Bakery in Lawrenceville) and a juice and coffee bar pouring Small World coffee and pressing fresh fruit and veggie juices.

Also for sale on this floor are fresh herbs, produce, and flowers from the farm, which is nearby, and finely curated groceries.

Slow Food Northern NJ’s 5-Course Wine Dinner to Benefit School Gardens Program

Who: The chef is Andrea Lekberg, chef/owner of the boutique bakery, The
Artist Baker, in Morristown. Lekberg has worked with Pichet Ong, among others, and her bakery was profiled in the NY Times in 2011.

What: 5-course tasting menu of local foods sourced from Mosefund Farms, Salumeria Biellese, The Urban Farm at Lafayette, The Community Garden in Morristown, and Valley Shepherd Creamery paired with wines from Beneduce Vineyards, Unionville Vineyards, and Hopewell Valley Vineyards.

Where: The Artist Baker in Morristown

Why: The funds raised will benefit the Slow Food Northern
New Jersey School Garden Program

When: You’ll have to hurry! It’s Friday, June 7th, at 7:00 p.m.

How: Tickets cost $80 for Slow Food Members whose membership is current is and $85 for non-members. A vegan or vegetarian option is available upon request. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/368818.

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.