Tag Archives: Karen Child

Couples in the Kitchen, part ii; Local TV Cooking Show Debuts; Hopewell Restaurant Week; Slow Food Market

Love in (and out of) the Kitchen

Food biz  couples in the Princeton area who live, love and work together in their restaurants and shops recently shared with me the highs and lows, the ins and outs of their personal and professional lives. In this December 2014 post, I featured an engaged couple just starting on this life journey (Lauren Sobogal and Frank Caponi) and seasoned veterans with a popular restaurant and a toddler (Rory and Aaron Philipson of Blue Bottle Cafe).

Karen Child

Karen Child

Below, excerpted from my 1/16/15 “In the Kitchen” column in the Princeton Packet, is the final installment. This time the spotlight’s on two married couples: Jennifer & Rudie Smit of Olssen’s Fine Foods, the Palmer Square cheese shop, and Karen & Bo Child, who’s previous enterprise was the Lawrenceville Bakery.

Rudie chose to be the correspondent for the Smits and Karen for the Childs.
First up, Rudie.

Q: What are the best, most rewarding aspects of working so closely together every day?

Rudie: “Here are a few things that Jen and I brainstormed about working together in our store. For a correct understanding it should be noted that our staff and children are connected to that too as they all have to put up with all the “married-couple-with-kids” shenanigans. Our staff calls this the “Smit-swirl:” a state in the shop where our kids run around, Jen and I give contradictory instructions to the staff, new ideas are fired and mayhem abounds. Fortunately, this is usually limited to ten minutes, after which calm returns, the children find something to occupy themselves with, and Jen and I start working with our staff and our customers. Jen is the visionary in our working and home relationship and I typically execute. Whatever divides us, our passion for the store and what we sell really unites.

Q.: What are some unavoidable conflicts and how do you handle the stress and how do you keep the romantic spark alive?

“Between the paperwork and long hours, Jen and I sneak out for a nice quick lunch or make a delivery together. The busy nature of owning your own business still does not mean that you cannot have off-time together. We try to have a date night or a civilized lunch.  We try our best to avoid talking about the shop and instead talk about the things that brought us together originally.

“Early in owning the shop, a smart person told us to divide responsibilities and while there is often overlap, we have found that we always go back to “hold on, that is yours” – we might talk about a new cheese (which is my main responsibility) but I lead the introduction of the cheese.

Next up are Karen and Bo Child. Karen, a pastry chef, and Bo, a musician, are currently planning their next endeavor, which will combine both of their specialties. Here’s Karen’s report from the trenches.

“Well, here’s a perfect example of what couples do when they work together. My husband Bo is an English major and subsequently the writer in the family so I asked him to write something for your article and he thought I had written and sent you something….and , so the story goes…

“It’s tough being in business together, I won’t kid you. I think the most important thing that needs to be done is to establish who does what in the business and actually have some written job descriptions down so you and your spouse can be accountable for certain duties. However, even with these descriptions, there are going to be snafus where either one may not actually do what’s part of the job description – which ultimately means that one person might have to carry the ball and wear two hats at any given time. I think this happens routinely in any corporate environment as well, so it’s nothing new. The goal is to avoid the pitfalls and see them before they actually become a problem.

“The following are some examples of what you can expect as a couple working in the food industry. As much as you want to hire employees that you can trust, we learned the hard way that it was best to have one of us at the shop during open retail hours. This made having time off together difficult to achieve.

“And then there were the holidays. With both of us in the business and holidays being big retail days for us, we couldn’t spend time with our respective extended families like we would have liked. And snow days. You look outside and see a ton of snow and a veritable winter wonderland and you just want to stay in your pajamas, by the fire. But no, someone has to go to the shop – regardless of whether or not you’re going to open for business during a winter state-of-emergency. If the decision was made to NOT open, then someone STILL has to go in and, in the case of owning a bakery, attend to raw product that’s been sitting in the proofer. And try as we might, sometimes we each broke the promise to not bring shop business home with us. Sometimes shop-related arguments carried over into our home life. We vowed never to let that happen again.

“However, on a more positive note, there were many wonderful times when we worked together. We each instinctively knew what each one was capable of doing. You go into the partnership knowing what each others’ strengths are and when you allow each person to do what they know best, the machine hums. We had wonderful evenings at our shop, especially during the last couple of months in business when we had a lot of music and food that was put together very spontaneously. Bo acted as host and MC and talked and played music with folks who brought their instruments and I was in the kitchen with a friend preparing food that we were offering our guests. The lights were off due to the storm, candles were lit which added a soft ambiance and, although the storm left its mark financially on us, we put our concerns aside for the evening and hung out, singing and dancing (me too!) until it was time to make our way home, steering clear of trees that had fallen during the storm. It was one of the most memorable evenings we had at the bakery during our 10 years in business. We miss those times the most.”

My thanks to all these folks – Jennifer & Rudie, Karen & Bo, Rory & Aaron, and Lauren and Frank for sharing.

“Cook for the Health of It” Debuts on PrincetonTV

Dorothy Mullen, "Cook for the Health of It"

Dorothy Mullen, “Cook for the Health of It”

The first episode of this show with host Dorothy Mullen, who’s well known in the Princeton area for her Suppers Programs, features a guest who has had debilitating rheumatoid since the age of 16. Together, they discuss the healing powers of whole foods while making split pea and kale soup. New, 30 minute episodes will appear monthly on the local Princeton channel, and can be screened at www.princetontv.org.

Hopewell’s First Ever Restaurant Week

SweetGrass shrimp & grits w/hush puppy, pickled okra, Creole sauce

SweetGrass shrimp & grits w/hush puppy, pickled okra, Creole sauce

From February 22 through 28, twenty-one of Hopewell’s best eateries will offer special menus and pricing. They include established favorites – e.g., Blue Bottle, Brick Farm Market, Brothers Moon, Nomad Pizza – newbies you may have been meaning to check out (Sweet Grass, e.g.), or oldies you’ve been meaning to check out, like Peasant Grill or Paint the Roses Tea Room (which also serves Chilean food). Check it out here.

Reminder: Slow Food Northern NJ’s Winter Farm Market is Sunday, February 1

It’s a chance to stock up before the coming snowstorm on edibles from your favorite farmers and food artisans and, as I wrote in this previous post, meet some new ones. Note: a couple of the vendors I mentioned – Arturo’s and Jose Porter Farm – won’t be able to make it, but 20 others will.


Waterside Dining with Exquisite Views

9-24 Cover & Front (1-11).inddAdmittedly, all but 1 of the 5 restaurants I profile in the Fall Dining Issue of US 1 are across the river in PA, but they each come with  great views of Central NJ. And there are some pretty noteworthy eats at, for example:

Charcoal BYOB in Yardley, where 2 young brothers are making waves as far away as Philly with their progressive American cuisine

The Yardley Inn: Just mere feet from Charcoal, updated traditional American fare shines due to the exacting standards of Chef Eben Copple, who deserves more recognition on this side of the river

The Black Bass Hotel: New owners who bought the outdated inn and restaurant upriver in Lumberville at auction a few years ago have given it a new lease on life.

View from The Landing Restaurant, New Hope PA (Pat Tanner)

View from The Landing Restaurant, New Hope PA (Pat Tanner)

Is Your Apple Pie Prize-worthy? I’ll be the Judge of That!

The West Windsor Community Farmers Market is holding a bake-off for home bakers on Saturday, October 11 and I am honored to be a judge, along with pro baker Karen Child (formerly, Village Bakery & Brick Farm Market) and Princeton food writer & restaurant critic Faith Bahadurian.

I make a pretty mean apple pie, myself!

I make a pretty mean apple pie, myself!

Here are the details, straight from the market folks:

Amateur Apple Pie Bake Off Contest –Due to the overwhelming outpouring of peach pies in our August contest, we’ll be hosting an apple pie contest.  Think you make the best apple pie around using NJ apples?  Come show us your stuff!  Pies are due at the market at 10:30am with judging at 11:00am.  First, Second and Third place winners will receive Market Bucks to be used as cash at the farmers market this season.  Amateur bakers only and pre-registration is required.  To register, for more details and rules, please email wwcfm@yahoo.com.

Congratulations to manager Chris Cirkus and everyone at the West Windsor market for being voted NJ’s #1 farmers market for the second year in a row by American Farmland Trust.

Pregnant Princeton Dining Scene Giving Birth This Month

Jammin' Crepes logoJammin’ Crepes: For years, Kim Rizk & company’s inventive sweet and savory crepes have been enjoyed at area farmers markets. Her long-awaited brick-and-mortar spot on Nassau Street has passed its final inspections & will be opening any day now.

Mamoun's Falafel Lamb Sandwich

Mamoun’s Falafel Lamb Sandwich


Mamoun’s Falafel: Rumor has it  (thanks, Mimi O of Princeton Tour Company!) that this NYC chain with outlets in Hoboken & New Brunswick will at long last open its Witherspoon Street digs within hours. Fingers crossed!


Seasons 52: This well-regarded small chain that already has a popular Cherry Hill location will open on October 30 at MarketFair Mall (in the  space that had been Barnes & Noble). Seasons 52, self-described as a “fresh grill and wine bar,” changes its menu 4 times a year and sports an extensive wine list that includes 52 wines by the glass.

SweetGrass: The unique, beautiful structure that had been Bell & Whistle (byob) in Hopewell has just reopened with a new name and new chef/owner, Sarah Gresko. She terms her menu “bold American,” but much of it pays homage to her culinary training at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, SC. (Think fried green tomatoes & chicken with andouille cornbread stuffing.)

Sarah Gresko, Owner/Chef SweetGrass, Hopewell NJ

Sarah Gresko, Owner/Chef SweetGrass, Hopewell NJ


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: