Tag Archives: Picnic Restaurant

Elements Chefs’ Farmstand Pop-up; Stockton in the Fall; Review: Due in Ridgewood

Free Food & Drink! Scott Anderson & Elements Staff @ Z Food Farm

Diners sampling Elements' ever-changing spread at Z Food Farm

Diners sampling Elements’ ever-changing spread at Z Food Farm

That’s right: from 4 to 7 pm on Friday, September 26, chefs from Princeton’s acclaimed Elements restaurant will be cooking and grilling seasonal vegetables and other goodies at Lawrenceville’s organic Z Food Farm. I stopped by the first such pop-up in August – as did, oh, about 150 others – for this fabulous, fun, free event. Here’s a photo recap:

Scott Anderson of Elements at Z Food Farm

Scott Anderson of Elements at Z Food Farm

Chefs Scott Anderson and Mike Ryan dished up an amazing spread for sampling. On my short visit these included (among other things) fennel and Tropea onion salad with chrysanthemum; smoked, grilled tomato crostini with marigold vinaigrette; pizza with eggplant puree and Swiss chard; & watermelon with fresh cilantro.

The crew had jerry-rigged a cement-block grill, from which they also brought forth this yellow tomato and Swiss chard pizza:

Elements' pizza at Z Food Farm

Elements pizza at Z Food Farm

Meantime, Elements’ mixologist Jamie Dodge was shaking up impromptu libations using the farm’s herbs and fruits, including one that combined 2 kinds of watermelon, black lotus flower (!), ginger, and citrus juices.

Jamie Dodge, Elements mixologist, at Z Food Farm

Jamie Dodge at Z Food Farm

Anderson, Ryan, and Dodge kept pulling fresh produce from the farmstand bins. Ryan told me, “The product is so fresh, we just basically add extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of Champagne vinegar.” Anderson added, “I believe in this farmer. With this produce, we do the minimum – and it’s at its prime right now.”

“This farmer” would be Dave Zaback. Here he is, with parents Alan & Lynn in the background:

Dave Zaback, Z Food Farm

Dave Zaback, Z Food Farm

I made a new veggie acquaintance that day: Mexican gherkins. Dave Zaback described their taste as “almost like pre-pickled cukes.” These marble-sized beauties are as crisp as fresh cukes, but do indeed have a hint of brine.

Mexican gherkins, Z Food Farm

Mexican gherkins, Z Food Farm

Elements is on hiatus while its new digs on Hulfish Street are being readied for an early 2015 reopening. For directions to the 9/26 tasting, visit the Z Food Farm website.

Z Food Farm

Z Food Farm

NJ Monthly’s (and My) Picks for Fantastic Fall Getaways

Reflections of the Past: Strolling the D&R Canal at the restored Prallsville Mills. Photo by Steve Greer, Courtesy of NJ Monthly

Reflections of the Past: Strolling the D&R Canal at the restored Prallsville Mills.
Photo by Steve Greer, Courtesy of NJ Monthly

In NJ Monthly’s October issue I turn the spotlight on the many charms of tiny Stockton, while others tempt you to Chester, Cape May, Crystal Springs Resort, and golfing at Renault Winery Resort.

Due (as in the Italian Number Two) in Ridgefield: My Review

And in that same issue read my 3-star review of Ridgefield’s Due restaurant, where Bergen County favorite-son chef Adam Weiss has teamed up with owner Chris Tarta. Weiss’s modern twists on Italian classics have been dubbed “Itali-Adam” by another accomplished Bergen County chef, Christine Nunn. (A new iteration Picnic, her terrific former Fair Lawn restaurant, is expected to open in October in Ridgewood, just a few doors down from Due.)

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.