Heirloom Kitchen Partners with Chef David Viana

Heirloom Kitchen Partners with Chef David Viana

heirloomkitchen_kitchenHeirloom Kitchen, Chef’s Table & Cooking School, in Old Bridge, NJ, has announced a partnership with Executive Chef David Viana that includes weekend dinner service Friday through Sunday from 5PM until 10PM.

Viana has spent a year freelancing as a guest chef at Heirloom Kitchen and can now offer a truly unique dining space where guests may choose to dine at the Chef’s Table, an island surrounding an open kitchen where they can watch Chef Viana and Sous Chef Andrew Wolverton prepare and artfully present their dishes. Communal seating at a ten foot white oak farm table and more traditional dining options are also available.

Chef Viana’s menu rotates weekly, featuring modern, playful and seasonal takes on American classics. Chef Jon Boot will spearhead the pastry program and conceptualize Heirloom’s desserts. Chef Boot has worked in some of the state’s most esteemed restaurants, including The Ryland Inn, Elements, and The Bernards Inn.

Heirloom Kitchen is a BYO but will also hold a California Winery License from Domenico Winery which will offer fabulous California wines at retail pricing.

About David Viana

viana3Among Chef Viana’s many accomplishments, was his recent post as Executive Chef at The Kitchen at Grove Station in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he earned a coveted three stars from The New York Times. Among his experience includes time working with the industry’s most recognizable chefs including Bobby Flay, Michael White, Anne Burrell and David Drake, in addition to his time working at heralded restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park, in New York City.

Dinner Service: Fri–Sun, 5pm–10pm

Reservations can be made on Open Table or by calling 732 727 9444.

Heirloom Kitchen – 3853 Route 516 Old Bridge, NJ 08557.

Cheers,

Veronique

New Fall Menu at Terre à Terre

Chef Todd Villani

Chef Todd Villani

Fresh off its 2-year anniversary celebration, Terre à Terre  has a new fall menu showcasing the freshest locally-sourced ingredients the area has to offer.

With input from his new Chef de Cuisine, Ralph Perrotti, Chef/Owner Todd Villani has crafted an autumnal menu featuring Nicolosi Black Berkshire Braised Pork Ramen, Goffle Road Farm Quail, Crispy Local Black Bass and Sfoglini Seasonal Porcini Trumpet Pasta.

If you haven’t paid Chef Villani and his welcoming team a visit or haven’t eaten at Terre à Terre in a while, call to reserve a table now.

Terre à Terre – 312 Hackensack Street, Carlstadt, NJ. 201-507-0500.

Cheers,

Veronique

Crystal Springs Resort – Excelling at Garden to Table Dining

Crystal Springs Resort – Excelling at Garden to Table Dining

GardenLast week, I was invited to join a small group to sample some of the new dishes and drinks offered at Crystal Springs Resort’s Chef’s Garden.

The Chef’s Garden has a new Chef, a new menu and a new drinks program. What’s not new is how gorgeous the space is. Adjacent to a fantasy-like garden of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers, guests dine al fresco, under an impermeable canvas roof, to intoxicating aromas of grilling meats and scenic views of the Kittatinny Mountain Range.

The food offered in the Chef’s Garden is grilled over an open fire – no gas or electric cooking. The open kitchen, with its various cooking stations, provides diners a theatrical view of the food being prepared.

The new menu created by Chef Anthony Bucco and his team showcases true “garden-to-table” dining with some of the produce, herbs and flowers used in the kitchen harvested in the nearby garden.

The starters we tried were the Deviled Eggs and the Heirloom Tomatoes. The deviled eggs were beautifully-presented, with good tang, crunch from a small piece of red onion and fresh corn flavor from a corn shoot. The tomatoes were ripe, juicy and served with goat cheese, fresh basil leaves and moist corn bread croutons – a perfect dish to enjoy in the garden.   

Our entrées spanned across many categories and flavors. The dishes we shared were the Pastrami Rubbed Brisket, Grilled Shrimp Tacos, Paprika Rubbed Skirt Steak and two different flatbreads: Carbonara and Margherita. I’m weak for brisket and this version was juicy, with the perfect meat-to-fat ratio and big beefy flavors – a winner. The tacos were okay and featured nicely cooked extra-large shrimps, could-be-better tortillas, guacamole and grilled scallions, lemons, shallots and cherry tomatoes. The skirt steak was beautifully-cooked to a medium-rare temperature and served with heirloom radishes and an outstanding potato salad. The flatbreads were perfect for sharing as each was cut in individual portions. The Carbonara with its Pancetta, Pecorino and egg was a favorite at our table – rich and salty goodness. The Margherita version was also good but the tomato sauce that was smeared on the dough wasn’t as light and fresh as it needed to be to match the vibrant flavors of the fresh basil and cherry tomatoes that crowned the flatbread.     

DrinksDesserts were over-the-top, whimsical and indulgent – S’mores, Pots de Crème and Strawberry Shortcake. The three desserts were served in glass jars which made it somewhat difficult for us to share. The S’mores combined hand-made marshmallows, Graham cracker crumbs and a chocolate layer – my favorite of the three desserts. The chocolatey pots de crème were decadent with some spiced notes. The shortcake featured good quality biscuits, airy whipped cream and garden-fresh strawberries.

New to the Chef’s Garden is an onsite mixologist who’s created an interesting drinks menu with hand-made bitters and juices, local liquors and an all-American wine list. I enjoyed a Rosé of Cabernet Franc by Finger Lakes’ Anthony Road Wine Company.

The Chef’s Garden at Crystal Springs’ Grand Cascades Lodge brings fresh and local dining to a whole new level, in an idyllic setting.

Hours of operations: Dinner served Friday & Saturday: 5pm-10pm. Lunch served Saturday & Sunday: 11am-4pm. No reservations – first come, first served.

Cheers,

Veronique

Tasting Table at Terre à Terre

Tasting Table at Terre à Terre

Dining RoomTerre a Terre is the Carlstadt, less-than-year-old brainchild of Chef Todd Villani. Villani worked at some of the best dining rooms in the USA and acquired professional kitchen skills while apprenticing at one of Europe’s top five-star resorts then while working on Marcus Samuelsson’s team at his subsidiary interests including World Yacht, Aquavit and Merkato and also at some of the top restaurants in New Jersey.  

Tuna and Beet Amuse

Tuna and Beet Amuse

The décor of the 45-seat Terre à Terre leans to French country with light fixtures made from Mason jars, wall artwork featuring local farming and tables dressed in burlap and butcher paper. Over 75% of the food served at Terre à Terre is sourced within a 300-mile radius of the restaurant and with experience in both the dining room and kitchen, Chef Villani understands what customers want from the front and back of the house.

Mussel Bisque

Mussel Bisque

I’d dined at the charming Terre à Terre twice prior to last week’s tasting dinner and appreciate Chef Villani’s passion for local sourcing and his support of local farmers. My group of ten diners was greeted by Chef Villani as we arrived and was treated to a five-course meal designed at his discretion. I enjoy experiencing a meal that’s left up to the chef to create based on what’s fresh at the market, or in this case, at the farm. This is what Chef Villani crafted for us:

 

 

Amuse

Sockeye Tuna / Meyer Lemon / Pomegranate / Beet and Avocado

1st Course

Mussel Bisque / Quinoa / Pickled Tomato / Pumpernickel

2nd Course

Peach / Lavender Goat Cheese / Kale / Seeds

3rd Course

Smoked Salmon / Pea Purée / Purple Carrot / Cucumber Dill

4th Course

Goffle Duck / Gnocchi / Blue / Bacon Wrapped Leek

5th Course

Sweet Charred Corn Crème Brulée / Corn Gelato

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

The amuse could truly be considered a full course with its generous serving of tuna and beets. The candy cane beets added a playful look to the dish.

The mussel bisque was perhaps my favorite with its rich yet light creamy broth, I know that seems like a contradiction but how it felt and tasted, and crunchy pumpernickel ‘crouton’.

Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon

I must admit to being one of the few people I know who doesn’t love kale salad and I wasn’t looking to Chef Villani’s version until I tasted it. The addition of fresh peach and creamy, Bobolink goat cheese took this trendy dish to another level.

I’m a sucker for pea purée and serving it with salmon is a straight-forward way to make me happy. An additional sprinkling of salt made me happiest.

Goffle Duck

Goffle Duck

The general sentiment of the group when our waiter brought the duck dish was – wow. The plating had star power. The duck had a nicely seared skin and a lovely Bing cherry pan sauce that would have been pleasant on their own. Chef Villani gilded the lily by serving this protein with pea-size gnocchi in a blue cheese sauce which, along with the bacon, somewhat competed with the flavors of the duck. I’d actually love an entire entrée of the gnocchi in blue cheese sauce on a future visit.

Corn Creme Brulee

Corn Creme Brulee

I’m a big fan of chefs offering a memorable finish to an already memorable meal and Chef Villani pleased the folks at my table with his corn crème brulée cooked in an egg shell. The corn gelato was both refreshing and satisfying.   

The farm-to-table restaurant is a BYO but with its recently-added Unionville wine list, Terre à Terre is one of the handfuls of local restaurants offering wines by this local, award-winning winery.

In addition to its dining room, Terre à Terre offers a private dining area, an outdoor garden, a Chef’s Table offering multi-course tastings and it also offers catering services.

To get to know Chef Villani, read the Chef Spotlight I recently did on him for Jersey Bites.

Terre à Terre – 312 Hackensack Street, Carlstadt. 201-507-0500.

Cheers,

Veronique

Chakra Pre-Father’s Day Scotch & Rum Dinner

Chakra Pre-Father’s Day Scotch & Rum Dinner

ChakraChef Thomas Ciszak of Chakra serves up an early option for Father’s Day with a four course dinner paired with single malt scotches and rum all aged in sherry casks on Thursday June 12 at 7pm. Each spirit has been aged in sherry casks, allowing guests to learn about the influences that sherry-seasoned oak imparts on the spirits.

Guests will taste The Macallan 12 year old in sherry-seasoned oak, triple cask aged The Macallan 15 year old, Highland Park 18 year old aged in Oloroso sherry casks, and Brugal 1888rum, which is double-aged, first in American whiskey oak then sherry casks. 

For the menu, Ciszak has chosen dishes like Smoked Pork Tenderloin crusted with coffee-cocoa nibs and 40-hour Short Rib with pastrami spices and duck fat potatoes that play into the nuances of the spirits, while also using fatty meats to cut through the alcohol. Dessert marries the Brugal 1888’s sweet, toffee caramel and licorice notes with a Milk Chocolate and Raisin Bread Pudding with caramelized bananas.

Dinner is $79 including food & spirits (tax & gratuity additional). Chakra is located at 144 W. State Rte 4, Paramus. Reservations can be made by calling 201-556-1530.

Cheers,

Veronique

Agricola – Farm to Table Comes to Princeton

Agricola – Farm to Table Comes to Princeton

Coach Farm Goat Cheese - Potato Terrine

Coach Farm Goat Cheese – Potato Terrine

A few weekends ago, I made my way south to the beautiful town of Princeton, NJ to dine at the newly-opened Agricola. I “like” Agricola on Facebook and enjoyed experiencing the transformation of the space over many months into what is now a gorgeous space. By the time I arrived at the restaurant, I felt like I was visiting a friend’s home.

The décor is simple, relaxed and welcoming. After eating at Agricola, I feel those are three qualities that Chef/Partner Josh Thomsen’s dishes also possess.

Atlantic Cod Fritters

Atlantic Cod Fritters

Chef Thomsen is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and earned the title of “Rising Star Chef” by StarChefs in 2010. His culinary career includes stints at cult establishments like the Little Nell in Aspen, the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern in Las Vegas. The New Jersey native makes his way back to his home state to delight diners with the techniques and tips he’s amassed along his culinary journey.

Restaurateur Jim Nawn, who owns Agricola along with Fenwick Hospitality Group, also owns Great Road Farm, a 112-acre farm Skillman, NJ, just four miles from downtown Princeton. Great Road Farm will supply Agricola with impeccable ingredients like fresh vegetables and eggs from pasture-raised chicken. Other nearby farms will provide the majority of the ingredients needed to create the delicious seasonal American fare prepared by Chef Thomsen and his team.

Lancaster County Roasted Chicken

Lancaster County Roasted Chicken

The restaurant with its 160 seats is laid out in five separate dining areas. I was excited to learn that my party was being seated in the room adjacent to the kitchen. It was a joy to watch Chef Thomsen and his crew work like a well-oiled machine to create our memorable meal after working as a team for less than two weeks.

The menu at Agricola is seasonal, local and of pristine quality. Our meal started with the Coach Farm Goat Cheese – Potato Terrine ($12), the Atlantic Cod Fritters ($12) and the Octopus “A La Plancha” ($13). The terrine features roasted beets, micro arugula and balsamic syrup and is as visually beautiful as it is delicious. The fritters are masterly fried to a perfectly crunchy outside and a moist inside. The dish is presented with oven-dried tomatoes, flat leaf parsley and shaved fennel. I’m a huge fan of octopus and Chef Thomsen’s version is beyond tender and is served with pickled cauliflower, bell pepper, black garlic and toasted almonds – a true winner.

House-Made Sausage Flatbread

House-Made Sausage Flatbread

For our entrées were opted for the Creekstone Farms Braised Beef Short Rib ($29), the House-Made Sausage Flatbread ($16) and the Lancaster County Roasted Chicken ($23). The rich, fork-tender short ribs are served with spring vegetables and arrowleaf spinach. The flatbread we selected was topped with Mozzarella, spring onion and pea tendrils. The dough is a bit chewy, as it should be, and grilled expertly. I already know I’ll be ordering the flatbread topped with wild mushrooms and a farm-fresh egg on my next visit. The chicken was golden brown and very moist and paired with Tuscan fried potatoes, sautéed farm greens and green olive – fennel tapenade.

Mixed Berry Cobbler Skillet Cake

Mixed Berry Cobbler Skillet Cake

The dessert menu features tempting options and we selected the Mixed Berry Cobbler Skillet Cake ($9), an Artisan Cheeseboard ($15) featuring Valley Sheppard Creamery cheeses and served with Tassot Farms honeycomb, pear-pepper chutney and house-made crackers. We also tried the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake ($9) which is served with huckleberries and sprinkled with vanilla salt. The cobbler is baked and comes to the table in a small cast iron pan topped with crème fraîche ice cream.

There is an extensive selection of whiskeys, craft beers and wines, both by the glass and bottle on the “libations” list. Great job on building a wine, beer and cocktail program that’s eclectic and interesting with both affordable options and unusual finds.

Agricola thrives to be known as “a community eatery where friends gather over dinner, where wine glasses toast to milestones, and where families savor Sunday brunch and time together”. I can say that after being at it for two weeks, Agricola’s already provided me this kind of experience.

11 Witherspoon Street, Princeton NJ 08542
www.agricolaeatery.com
(609) 921-2798
Dinner: 7 Days a week, 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Brunch and Lunch: To Begin in April