Tag Archives: Robin McConaughy

Meet Brick Farm Tavern’s Chef & GM; Delectable Peruvian Dining in DC

Hopewell’s Brick Farm Tavern is Set to Debut on November 19. Here are Its Key Players

Greg Vassos, Mike Lykens, Jon McConaughy, & Robin McConaughy, Brick Farm Tavern

Greg Vassos, Mike Lykens, Jon McConaughy, & Robin McConaughy, Brick Farm Tavern (courtesy Princeton Echo)

The folks behind Double Brook Farm and Brick Farm Market, Robin & Jon McConaughy, have put their much anticipated farm-to-table restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern, into the hands of two alumni of The Broadmoor, the five-star luxury resort in Colorado Springs. Here in the November issue of the Princeton Echo I interview Executive Chef Greg Vassos and General Manager Mike Lykens about how they intend to carry out the McConaughys’ vision.

Brick Farm Tavern

Brick Farm Tavern

btw: Reservations are currently being accepted on OpenTable or by calling the restaurant at (609) 333-9200.

At China Chilcano, Jose Andres Takes on Peruvian Cuisine with Verve

I have yet to encounter a restaurant of DC-based chef Jose Andres that doesn’t bowl me over. It seems no matter what unlikely cuisine this Spanish-born master turns his hand to, he manages to honor and expand on it in a most delicious way. In the past I’ve raved about America Eats Tavern, for example, where he pays homage to historic American dishes while making them modern and desirable (e.g., Manhattan clam chowder, mutton with oysters, and America’s first mac ‘n’ cheese, which features vermicelli).

Andres works the same magic at China Chilcano, where the electric liveliness of the setting matches that of the vibrant food:

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

Below are highlights from wide-ranging dinner my table of 4 enjoyed, after cocktails from a list that includes 5 takes on pisco. The menu encompasses both indigenous Peruvian dishes like papas a la Huancaina (potatoes with spicy aji amarillo sauce) and the beloved hybrid rice and noodle dishes developed by the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who flocked to Peru during the late 19th century. (So did Italians, but they’re not represented here.) All photos by Chris Le.

Every gorgeous dish has the Andres touch – none more so than these 3 siu mai from the dim sum section of the menu.

Pork & jicama siu mai topped with gold-flecked egg. China Chilcano

Pork & shrimp siu mai topped with gold-flecked egg. China Chilcano

Scallop & pork siu mai with tobiko. China Chilcano

Scallop & pork siu mai with tobiko. China Chilcano

 

Chicken with aji amarillo siu mai. China Chilcano

Chicken with aji amarillo siu mai. China Chilcano

(Don’t know why that last photo insists on being upside down.) Another gold-flecked dim sum winner is this one of lamb pot stickers, hidden under crispy cumin-scented lace:

Pegao Norteno (lamb pot sticker). China Chilcano

Pegao Norteno (lamb pot stickers). China Chilcano

From the selection of ceviches and tiraditos (Peruvian crosses between sushi and ceviche), here’s the big eye tuna with soy-cured egg yolk, Nikkei leche de tigre (citrus marinade), puffed quinoa, avocado, mountain yam, red onion, and furikake seasoning:

Ceviche Nikkei. China Chilcano

Ceviche Nikkei. China Chilcano

Peru and Asia meet up perfectly in this lomo saltado of hanger steak, tomato, soy sauce, shishitos, ginger, shoestring potatoes, and rice:

Lomo Saltado with Egg. China Chilcano

Lomo Saltado with Egg. China Chilcano

While a classic aji de gallina is purely, and wonderfully, Peruvian:

Aji de gallina. China Chilcano

Aji de gallina. China Chilcano

I can’t decide which of these two desserts I enjoyed more, although the funky look of the suspiro Limena (“woman of Lima’s sigh”) still has me smiling:

Coconut "Birds Nest" Soup with Pink Grapefruit Sorbet. China Chilcano

Coconut “Birds Nest” Soup with Pink Grapefruit Sorbet. China Chilcano

Suspiro Limena: Sweetened Condensed Milk Custard with Meringue & Passion Fruit. China Chilcano

Suspiro Limena: Sweetened Condensed Milk Custard with Meringue & Passion Fruit. China Chilcano

China Chilcano is located on 7th St. NW in the Penn Quarter, very close to Andres’ signature restaurant, Jaleo.

Brick Farm Tavern Names Opening Chef; Local Handmade French Candies; Do You Yelp?

Double Brook Farm’s Restaurant, on Track  for November Debut, Snags Opening Chef from Colorado

Chef Greg Vassos

Chef Greg Vassos

For a while it looked as though Aaron Philipson of Hopewell’s Blue Bottle Cafe was going to team up with Robin & Jon McConaughy for their first full-service restaurant, but when that fell through the couple broadened the searched to the national scene. Find out why they’ve signed on Greg Vassos for their Brick Farm Tavern in my “Food for Thought” column in the October Princeton Echo.

Les Delices D’Annelise: Handmade, All-Natural Calisson, Nougat, Caramel, and other French Confections

Calissons, Les Delices D'Annelise

Calissons, Les Delices D’Annelise

In that same space, be sure to read further on to learn about the French woman in Princeton who concocts the above and more (e.g., soft, fresh, violet-flavored marshmallows) and where and how to get your hands on them. (You can thank me later.) If you can’t make it to Princeton for Madame Mugnier’s confections, email her at les.delices.annelise@gmail.com.

You, Me, & Yelp

Aurelio's Tortilla Chips

Aurelio’s Tortilla Chips

For my monthly food feature in the October Echo, I tell why and how I find Yelp reviews helpful – and not – using Yelp entries for Princeton restaurants to make my points. Would you be surprised to learn, for example, that number 3 on Yelp’s “10 Best Restaurants in Princeton” list is a place called Aurelio’s Cocina Latina? I was. Above is my photo of the very good tortilla chips and salsas I enjoyed there, but still and all….

US 1Fall Dining Issue; Double Brook Farm’s Kinder, Gentler Slaughter Facility; Slow Food & Chef Todd Villani Team Up

6 Transformed and/or Transformative Central NJ Restaurants

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

Chris Bryan, Liberty Hall Pizza. Photo by Guy Ambrosino

In this year’s fall dining issue of US 1 I turn the spotlight on new or newly transformed eateries that have bravely planted their flags in towns either not known as dining hubs (hello, Hightstown) or that once were hubs but have lost a step or two (apologies, New Brunswick). Here’s the story, in the September 23rd issue. Other locales include Lambertville (photo above), West Windsor, Stockton, and Trenton.

Robin & Jon McConaughy Add a USDA-Inspected Slaughter Facility to Double Brook Farm, For “A Kinder Kill”

NJ Monthly cover sept 2015Read why the couple is committed to providing a compassionate end for their pasture-raised animals, and how the design of their abattoir was influenced by Temple Grandin, here in my story in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.

 

Chef Todd Villani & Slow Food NNJ Team Up to Benefit School & Community Gardens

Todd Villani, Terre e Terre (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Todd Villani, Terre e Terre (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Villani’s Carlstadt restaurant, Terre e Terre, is a fitting site for this farm-to-table, 4-course benefit dinner. In her NY Times review, Fran Schumer wrote that Villani “prepares some of the best locally sourced New American dishes in New Jersey.” (I tagged his smoked Berkshire pork loin “perfect” when I reviewed his previous work for a Union City restaurant.)

On Thursday, October 8 at 7 pm, Villani will offer the following menu, at $80 for Slow Food members and $85 for everyone else. The price includes tax and tip. Be sure to BYO wine and beer.

Amuse: Shibumi Farm deviled mushroom stuffed with truffle/duck/thyme

First Course: Fire-roasted butternut squash soup/crispy farro/sage

Second Course: Sockeye salmon/cauliflower puree/bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts/charred chive and caper vinaigrette

Third Course: Slow and low-braised short ribs/goat cheese potato gratin/ sauteed greens/cipollini onions

Dessert: Apple croissant bread pudding/cinnamon gelato

Seating is limited and tickets must be bought in advance by Sept. 30 at Slow Food NNJ’s website, www.slowfoodnnj.org

And just because it bears repeating, here is the explanation of Slow Food’s mission of good, clean, and fair food for all:

Good: Our food should be tasty, seasonal, local, fresh, and wholesome
Clean: Our food should be produced in ways that preserve biodiversity, sustain the environment, and ensure animal welfare – without harming human health
Fair: Our food should be affordable by all, while respecting the dignity of labor from field to fork.