When the Farm Stops Coming to You

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Despite the ever expanding selection offered with Winter Harvest, it’s hard not to miss Headhouse Farmers’ Market once it wraps up for the season.  Seems like as good an excuse as any to visit one of the many nearby farm stores.  We went to two of our favorites on Monday: Griggstown Market and Cherry Grove Farm Store, both a few minutes away from one another in the Princeton area. 


Cherry Grove Farm creates an amazing array of cheeses, the making of which you can often view right through the window at the Farm Store as you buy.  We took home a Full Nettle Jack - worth it for the name alone, but also herby and creamy.  The Farm Store also carries Cherry Grove’s own pasture raised meats and eggs, and dozens of products from local and regional farms and producers.  The beeswax candle scented with lavender essential oil would have made a wonderful gift, but we were content to keep it for ourselves.

If you haven’t had a Griggstown pot pie, you’ve got a long, cold winter to correct that.  My very favorite is chicken, but they do beef, turkey, vegetarian and Shepherd’s pies, along with whole and ground chicken and poussin, and a variety of meatballs and sausages.  There’s even a prepared food counter, soups and chili, local milk and eggs, fruit pies and seasonal produce. 

Both stores are open seven days and easily provide one stop dinner shopping. 

Posted by Donna on 12/31 at 01:40 PM

    A Day of Wine in the Lehigh Valley

    Friday, November 28, 2014

    Several weeks ago we had the opportunity of visiting four very different wineries within the span of a week.  It was highly effective (not to mention enjoyable) in learning how different wine can taste - and by that I mean how different wines made from the same grape can vary year by year, vineyard by vineyard within the same area, and microclimate by microclimate.

    I was particularly impressed with what we found during our day trip to the Lehigh Valley, following a route similar to Craig Laban’s.  Our first stop was Pinnacle Ridge, where we focused on tasting their dry red wines.  This was the first (and likely only) time I actually enjoyed a chambourcin, but more importantly I understood clearly something that Luca Turdo explained to me this summer: cabernet franc does best in colder climates.  The cabernet francs I had tasted from warmer microclimates were thinner, less interesting stuff than what Pinnacle Ridge is making here.  In fact, it was quite nearly the quality of Roanoke’s cabernet franc from North Fork, Long Island.

    After a quick and delicious lunch from Wanamaker’s General Store, we wound our way up (quite literally) to Galen Glen winery. 


    This was not my first tasting of Galen Glen, but this was my first visit to the winery.  It may be the most picturesque tasting room I have seen on the East Coast.  Even more impressive were the wines.  The Stone Cellar Gewurztraminer had an incredibly floral bouquet and palate of tropical fruit.  The dry Stone Cellar Riesling was bracingly so, with a taste of citrus.  However, my absolute favorite was, and is, the Stone Cellar Gruner Veltliner.  Delicious, complex, and refreshing, I have a difficulty imagining that I would ever tire of this wine.  I am still kicking myself for only buying two bottles.  Thankfully, they do ship within Pennsylvania. 

    After our week of wine tastings, and an additional one since, I have a newfound appreciation for the number of truly unique, excellent wineries within an easy drive of the city.  We have had consistently and reliably good wineries for some time, but we have not gone even further with some truly exceptional ones as well. 



    Posted by Kevin on 11/28 at 01:23 PM

    Beyond Red Gravy

    Saturday, November 15, 2014


    We’ve tried a few types of Vera Pasta over the past few months and have loved their variety and seasonality.  Their beet linguine was a unique starter to Easter dinner with soft goat cheese melted in, and we inhaled their kale and lemon linguine with a walnut sauce.  This time, we tried their crab cake ravioli and were a bit stumped for a sauce until I saw the Delicata squash in the fridge.  Cut into small cubes and sauteed in olive oil, it was ready faster than the ravioli.

    Posted by Donna on 11/15 at 06:06 PM

    Wyebrook Farm - Honey Brook, PA

    Friday, November 07, 2014


    To celebrate the end of Daylight Savings Time, we took a beautiful drive last Sunday morning to Wyebrook Farm, a little more than an hour from Philly in Honey Brook. 


    Wyebrook raises cattle, pigs and chickens, all to meticulous sustainable standards.  Their meats, milk and eggs, some vegetables and a large selection of local cheeses and other products can be purchased at their market, while the cafe and restaurant serve lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.


    The brunch omelet, with fresh made sausage from the farm, was delicious, as was the “bread basket” full of beautiful little pastries and quick breads. 


    We took home fresh ground beef and chicken along with various other local items from the market.  Definitely better than an extra hour of sleep.

    Posted by Donna on 11/07 at 06:16 PM

    Humble and Lazy Beans

    Sunday, November 02, 2014


    Each year, I am amazed at the diversity and output of our little garden plot. Even when the success rate of our three-sisters experiment was 66% (no squash), we still came away with delicious corn and an unusual pole bean called Lazy Housewife. 

    I thought the Lazy Housewife was just amusingly named, but there’s a metaphor buried in that imaginative moniker: there was little effort in harvesting the dried beans.  To be honest, we picked the beans, plopped them in the vegetable bin in the fridge, and completely forgot about them.  Weeks later, we remembered, peeled them open, and out popped dried beans. 

    Since these were special to us, I wanted a simple preparation - no stews or soups here.  So, I opted for this recipe from Jamie Oliver.  The Lazy Housewife may have been used in “Humble Home-cooked Beans,” but don’t let the underwhelming adjectives deceive you.  They were absolutely delicious.  Apart from the (apparent) simplicity of the dish, I was interested in the technique: simmering the beans with vegetables and spices to impart flavor.  I had done so with garlic and herbs, but never this many ingredients.  The results were beans that didn’t taste like the vegetables, but a more interesting, complex version of themselves.  Just a word of warning: a long, slow simmer is best.  In fact, simmer these the way you would simmer a slow-cooking shoulder-cut of meat.

    Posted by Kevin on 11/02 at 04:56 PM

    Garden Vist: Mt. Cuba Center

    Wednesday, October 15, 2014


    For a lovely day trip to a beautiful garden dedicated to education and research of native plants, we highly recommend Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware. 


    Set on 550 acres, the garden not only offers beautiful grounds to explore both on your own or with a knowledgeable guide, but also numerous classes and certifications in various aspects of gardening and conservation. 


    Their “trial garden”, where they plant and observe dozens of native species, is completely open for guests to see.


    The native plants are meticulously labelled throughout the rest of the garden as well, and guides are stationed at various points to answer questions.  In a time when support of pollinators has never been more important, Mt. Cuba Center proves it can be both accessible and beautiful to plant native species.


    Posted by Donna on 10/15 at 05:05 PM

      A Smoothie with Pears But No Banana

      Tuesday, October 07, 2014


      Pears to me have always shared a strange similarity to bananas in their ripening.  Not ripe enough is barely edible, while overripe is so mushy and cloyingly sweet that it’s hardly worth it.  I shouldn’t have been surprised to stumble upon a delicious use of them in a smoothie.  On a recent trip to New York, after tortas and guacamole on the High Line, we were looking for a light desert and found Taim Mobile Falafel and Smoothie truck.  The choice wasn’t hard - pear, mint and lemon sounded so perfect for the warm fall day, especially after stuffing ourselves at Taco Truck


      When I tried this on my own, with lovely little pears from Tom Culton, I honestly forgot the lemon altogether and it was still delicious.

      Pear-Mint Smoothie
      4-5 small pears, such as Seckel, or 2 large
      1 bunch mint
      4 ice cubes

      Skin and core pears.  Put all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.


      Posted by Donna on 10/07 at 05:35 PM

        When You’re Tired of Fried Calamari

        Wednesday, October 01, 2014


        Shore Catch has kept us well stocked in fresh, local seafood all summer - so well that for some products, like squid, we were running out of new preparations.  Fried rings or grilled fillets were simple and delicious, but decidedly summery.  With the weather changing, this braised squid dish from The Guardian seemed perfect.  Don’t be afraid of the long cooking time, as the squid comes out perfectly tender, flavoring the stewing liquid.  We served it over roughly mashed Carola potatoes from Savoie Organic Farm.  We used Tempranillo from Cape May’s Hawk Haven Winery both to braise and to drink with.

        Posted by Donna on 10/01 at 05:04 PM

          Sometimes Olive Oil Just Won’t Do….

          Sunday, September 28, 2014

          We thought we’d tried just about every product the wonderful PorcSalt charcuterie had to offer, but last week at Headhouse Farmers’ Market chef Matthew Ridgway suggested the pork rillons - chunks of slow cooked pork belly that came packed in fat.  He suggested we render the fat for dressing, so we did just that, tossing it all with lettuce, thinly sliced apples and croutons browned in the pan after the pork had crisped a bit.



          Posted by Donna on 09/28 at 04:23 PM

            Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Bacon and Ginger Butter

            Sunday, September 21, 2014

            Okay, so I may have completely stolen this idea from Kennet’s wonderful brunch menu, but it was the first dish I thought of when I looked at the fresh ginger offered by Blooming Glen Farm at the Headhouse market.  Who knew it would be the perfect early fall dish because that’s when the ginger is harvested?


            Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Bacon and GInger Butter

            1 cup cornmeal (I used a very fine grind and a much rougher grind mixed together for a really pleasing texture)
            1/4 cup spelt flour
            2 tbsp baking powder
            pinch salt
            1 tbsp sugar

            In a bowl, mix cornmeal with spelt flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. 

            In another bowl, mix buttermilk and egg.

            Cut bacon into small strips and cook at low heat divided into two small skillets until some fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towel.  Pour rendered fat into small bowl to cool slightly before pouring into liquid ingredients.  Quickly saute ginger in one of the pans to cook slightly before mixing into butter. 

            Combine liquid ingredients with dry and stir in bacon.  Heat skillets to medium and pour mixture into two skillets.  Cook for a few minutes on each side.

            Posted by Donna on 09/21 at 06:27 PM

              Blooming Glen Farm Growing Ginger

              Sunday, September 14, 2014


              There aren’t many fresh vegetables available this season or any other that wouldn’t be improved with the addition of some ginger.  It’s almost unfair to think of it as a non local element to a dish, because it’s such a staple and how could we possibly grow it here?  Apparently we can.  The ginger on the right is what we all know from the supermarket, but the one on the left is freshly picked from Blooming Glen Farm.  I will cook with it, and soon, but right now I just keep staring at it, amazed that it grew only an hour away.

              If only our little lemon tree would give us another crop.

              Posted by Donna on 09/14 at 03:13 PM

                Local Wine, Local Food, Local Waters

                Saturday, August 30, 2014


                It is difficult to imagine an event that more perfectly blended three of my favorite aspects of the Jersey Shore: wine, seafood, and the ocean.  For two-and-a-half hours, a small group of us were taken on a cruise of the tall ship the A.J. Meerwald out of Cape May.  As we sat enjoying the brilliant, sunset-lit skies and views, Chef Lucas Manteca (of Cape May Point’s Red Store) prepared food and the staff of Hawk Haven Winery poured us wine - lots and lots of wine. 


                Of Chef Manteca and the Red Store, I have posted a great deal.  To this I will only add that there is a very good reason the staff laugh in recognition when we come in yet again.  This is some of the finest, freshest, most creative and varied food to be found on the Jersey Shore.


                Of Hawk Haven, I have posted before, and they remain one of the finest wineries in New Jersey.  This is a far greater distinction than it might at first appear: there are now myriad wineries in the “Outer Coastal Plain” and many, like Hawk Haven, are worth far more than just a visit on a rainy day.  Hawk Haven’s Signature Series, in particular, offers unique, high-quality wines grown and bottled on the estate. 


                Beyond the obvious combination of these things on a sailing ship, both Chef Manteca and Hawk Haven went to great lengths to make the event even more memorable.  The food served was always attuned to the wines poured: as we progressed from lighter whites to heavier reds, we moved from taquitos to seared tuna.  Moreover, the variety of wines allowed for some very interesting comparisons, comparisons you would rarely be able to find at a winery or restaurant. Thus, we were able to compare vintages (2009 versus 2010) and fermentation methods (oaked versus unoaked) in a highly informative juxtaposition.

                Most memorable, though, was the singularity of the experience - an experience that could not have happened anywhere else.  Local wines with local food while sailing the local waters. 


                Posted by Kevin on 08/30 at 04:01 PM

                  A Polenta For Summer

                  Thursday, August 28, 2014


                  For the first time ever, we grew corn this summer in our community garden plot.  We were warned by nearly everyone to expect little.  One gardener said as he walked by our foot high stalks, “You’re growing corn - you must be an optimist.”  But it kept growing, along with the pole beans we planted as part of a “three sisters” planting.  (The third “sister”, zucchini along the base of the corn, didn’t fare so well.  Next year we’ll try another form of squash.)  Soon it was nearly the tallest thing in the entire garden, and cobs appeared seemingly overnight.  Some trouble did arrive, in the form of massively aggressive squirrels who took about six of the ears for themselves, but we learned the nifty if slightly nutty looking trick of slipping a paper bag over each ear and managed to save the remainder for ourselves.  We grilled the first several ears and ate them with lime butter, but then tried this Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce by Yotam Ottolenghi.  Don’t be misled by the name: there is no dried ground corn to be found, as this is made entirely with fresh corn kernels.  If you are left with the inevitable pot of leftover boiled corn after a barbecue, you have to make this recipe.  Both the polenta itself and the sauce involve very few ingredients, come together quickly and are perfect for the season.  Hillacres Pride’s feta works beautifully, as it is almost as moist and creamy as the polenta itself.

                  If the paper bags continue to work, we’ll be making this at least once more.

                  Posted by Donna on 08/28 at 05:10 PM

                    Who Needs Farmed Shrimp?

                    Saturday, August 23, 2014


                    In the wake of The Guardian’s investigation into slave labor in large scale shrimp farming, it seems a better time than ever to commit to knowing exactly where your seafood comes from.  We’ve written many times here about how lucky Philadelphia area consumers are to have the likes of Otolith, Ippolito’s and Shore Catch, purveyors that either catch their own product or provide a scrupulous account of its provenance and sustainability.  Our proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means access to a vast variety of freshly caught options as well.  H and H Seafood, located just outside Cape May, offers such a diversity from their own small boats that we visited three times in one week on a recent vacation, never eating the same thing twice.  One night we brought home triggerfish, once considered “trash fish” not worth even hauling in, and grilled it with herbs sandwiched between the fillets.  It not only had a meaty texture, it also soaked up the flavor of both the grilling and the herbs as well as any meat.  The lobster above came steamed for us as requested, which we ate with boiled new potatoes from the Fincas Del Mar CSA box and grilled corn from our garden.
                    Both Otolith and Ippolito’s offer delicious varieties of wild and sustainable shrimp to keep you away from those questionable bags at the supermarket, but why not try the literal ocean of new and familiar seafood just an hour away?

                    Posted by Donna on 08/23 at 08:32 AM

                      In Search of the Perfect Potato Salad

                      Thursday, July 24, 2014

                      Anyone who grew up near Vineland in South Jersey will surely know Joe’s Poultry.  Our parents would never consider fast food appropriate for dinner, but a stop at Joe’s little shop for a rotisserie chicken was a different case altogether.  But it wasn’t the chicken that was my favorite - it was the potato salad.  Almost creamy, with bits of shredded carrot and diced pickle and never too much mayo, the potato salad deservedly became the standard by which all others were compared in my family.  (Joe’s Poultry is still going strong, by the way, and if the reviews on Yelp are any indication, we’re not alone.)

                      A few years ago I tried my hand at potato salad, thinking I could definitely come up with something delicious with all the wonderful local potatoes at hand.  Nope.  I used Tom Culton’s lovely fingerlings, which according to many recipes should have been the perfect texture, and left the skin on.  The result was more like like pieces of potatoes dressed in mayonnaise - not at all the moist and flavorful texture of Joe’s.  While the skins were delicious, there was way too little potato exposed, so nothing cohered.  I tried again, this time choosing young potatoes with thin skins, but big enough to allow for pieces with plenty of exposed potato.  I also mashed the potatoes slightly with a fork and added tiny diced bits of pickles and chives.  My family wholeheartedly approved.


                      So why is the potato salad pictured purple, you ask?  We picked up a massive jar of naturally fermented pickles made by Amanda of Phickle at the food swap the week before and they had a fantastic half sour taste that was perfect for potato salad.  The only potatoes we had on hand were from Savoie Organic Farm and just happened to be purple.  Prettiest batch I ever made.

                      2 pound potatoes, skin on is fine if they are new potatoes, cut into pieces of 1 1/2 to 2 inches
                      1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
                      8 tablespoons mayonnaise, or more, depending on your preference
                      1 bunch of chives, chopped
                      1 dill pickle, diced

                      Put potatoes in a pot and cover with water.  Add 1 tbsp salt and bring to boil.  Boil potatoes until fully cooked - usually no more than 10 minutes, but test with fork.  Drain and allow to steam dry.

                      Transfer potatoes to a bowl and roughly mash some with a fork to desired consistency.  Toss potatoes with mayonnaise, chives and pickle.  Add 1 tsp salt and taste to adjust salt or mayonnaise.  Serves 4-6.

                      Posted by Donna on 07/24 at 05:32 PM

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