Paté spread courtesy of Sickles Market in Little Silver.
It was a foggy Monday night when guests, chefs, and culinary students converged on the Navesink Country Club for the annual Jocef, Joe Romanowski Culinary Fund Raiser. A veritable who’s who in the local food scene, Flavor Chronicles brings you pictures of some of the most beautiful creations you’ve ever seen.
Poached pear, spicy shrimp, smoked duck on pumpernickel triangles and a beautiful tossed salad were made by Brookdale Culinary College students.
Not out of school yet and already cooking and serving like pros.
Once overlooked by guidance departments in high schools, culinary education is becoming mainstream. Making scholarships possible for those in need is the point of this fund raiser. It is also a grand opportunity to meet, great and chat with executive chefs. Seeing the latest creations and tasting new flavors is a big bonus.
George Lyristis brought yellowfin poke — a Hawaiian delicacy — to the exhilarating buffet. We’re told that this is a new addition to the menu at The Bistro in Red Bank. Edamame dumplings are on the menu at Teak, also in Red Bank.
Carpaccio, in its most elegant guise was served at the Raven and the Peach table. Their executive chef Rachel Cicalese is a graduate of BCC Culinary.
If at first you eat with your eyes, then Mumford’s Culinary Center in Tinton Falls takes the prize for natural goodness. The fresh colors were just outstanding. But that can be expected when the restaurant and cooking school tends to their own garden.
Kitch Organic, the gluten-free all organic haven on Leighton Street in Red Bank brought tasty delights for all to enjoy. Friends and relatives with special needs diets find true bliss when they walk in the door of this restaurant. I’ve been told more than once that finding a place where they can order “anything on the menu,” means more than we will know.
Danny Murphy of Danny’s Steakhouse on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank brought a little sweetness to the party with cauldrons of butternut squash soup. Each cup was embellished with a swirl of whipped cream.
Unforgettable depth of flavor that still makes my mouth water came from the sauté pan on the table at Graze. I’m told by chef Junior, seen in the lower left photo with Chef Brian and his wife of Picolo Italia, that you need to use some surprising porcine parts for this luscious dish. Not surprising since he’s been teaching a monthly class on how to breakdown an entire pig. Graze can be found in the Markham Street shopping center in Little Silver.
Always exuberant, B2 Bistro on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank brings their A-game with more than one bite muffuletta sandwiches. This is a sandwich I hope to see on the menu next time I stop in because 2 bites weren’t enough. Their food never disappoints!
Culinary genius Pat Trama continues to wow us with a mozzarella bar. I called it an antipasto buffet but was corrected. It is innovative, brilliant really and appealed to so many hungry souls. From the fresh mozzarella to the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes it is beautiful to look at and just flat out delicious. At the end of the table you see tiny bulbs or pipettes of olive oil, vinegar, and balsamic. Trama’s Trattoria is located on Brighton Avenue in Long Branch.
D’jeet in Shrewsbury produced tiny mouthfuls of heaven. Crunchy cups filled with a salmon tartare mixture were inspiration itself from chef Casey Pesce.
Yumi, located on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright couldn’t get their sushi on the table fast enough for the swarming crowd. Their artful displays are always super-fresh and top-notch.
The freshest fish in town or in this case the Highlands on Bay Avenue comes from Lusty Lobster. Although they didn’t have wandering shucker’s this year, they did have plenty of guests waiting to grab a mollusk or two.
Never last or least, when it comes to pâtisserie or The Vintage Cake, I always make it a point to stop at their table first. Excellence in every single spoonful and bite is what we’ve come to expect from these bakers. The white chocolate mousse is a transcendent cup of bliss. It is an understatement to say that it was almost impossible to get near this table at the end of the evening. That is why I’m telling you to go to this amazing fund raiser next year and eat dessert first.
In Long Branch, Tuzzio’s on Westwood Avenue has been serving home-style Italian food since 1965. I’m pretty sure they get the longevity award. We have loved sliding into a booth in this restaurant for as long as we’ve lived here. That would be twenty seven years. What can you say about a place that means comfort food? I’m so glad they’re there and it was lovely to see them at this fund raiser. Those meatballs were served with slices of garlic bread. Yeah, stopping at this table brought big smiles to everyone’s faces.
My palate is stuck in Paris…while my body is still happily enjoying what we call local summer at the Jersey Shore. This is the moment when most of the tourists and summer denizens have gone back to where-ever-they-live and the traffic returns to something we consider normal. After living here for a quarter of a century I can attest to the fact that this is truly a time to rejoice. But why are my taste buds wishing to hang out at a true Parisian café?
Not a myth: Chefs tables really do exist. There are only a handful in all of New Jersey but bigger cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles seem to be teeming with them. Monmouth County has two restaurants with specifically designated tables open to or inside the kitchen and a few quasi chefs tables in the form of cooking schools.
Chefs table at Zoe in Little Silver, NJ.
A documentary series on Netflix delves into the lives and careers of half a dozen famous chefs. It’s interesting and entertaining, but not essentially about actual chefs tables.
The Red Bank area boasts two such atypical dining options, one can be found at Zoe in Little Silver and the other at Nicholas in Red Bank. There is a third option in Fair Haven where you can enjoy a meal while getting to know a chef better. Taste and Technique Cooking Studio has hosted many local celebrity chefs often managing to teach a trick or two while impressing a small crowd.
Salmon served over cheddar grits from Zoe in Little Silver.
Those who eat to live probably won’t appreciate the idea of eating a gourmet meal while getting to know the chef in a more intimate setting. But those who live to eat, who collect recipes and equate most of their life experiences to the meal consumed in the moment, who memorialize their lives bite by delectably important bite … these are the people who wind up paying the big bucks to sit at a chefs table.
Smoked habanero salt encrusted duck breast platter with potatoes au gratin and pickled vegetables from Zoe in Little Silver.
So let me break it down for you. A coveted reservation at the chefs table at Nicholas will run you $150.00 per person. Tax, gratuity and booze not withstanding. Pricey? Yes, but the bragging rights might make it worth the money.
Laercio Chamon, known to most as Junior, is owner and new executive chef at Zoe. He’s just getting his feet wet with organizing his chefs table. A few months into owning the place, he is changing things to meet his own desires and expectations which include locally sourced produce and meats. He tells me that he is willing to work with customers to accommodate a chefs table experience based on specific desires. Currently offering a chefs table meal of pasture raised suckling pig with all the accoutrements, the meal will set you back about $80.00 per person. Tax and gratuity again add to the price, however, this is a BYOB restaurant which gives you the option of pricing your wine and beer high or low.
Chefs Lauren Phillips and Claudette Herring, owners of Via 45 in Red Bank demonstrate to about a dozen at Taste and Technique in Fair Haven.
Taste and Technique Cooking Studio offer chef demonstrations that run about $75.00 per person. You will observe the preparation of a complete meal. Usually three or four courses. It is also a BYOB. Although the chef in this case doesn’t have the benefit of home court, every chef I’ve observed in this venue has not only taught me a thing or two, but has thrown together an awe inspiring meal.
A bowl of corn chowder embellished with whole lumpmeat crab cake was a memorable highlight at Taste and Technique prepared by a much missed chef, Joe Romanowski.
The take-away is an unforgettable experience as opposed to just another dinner out. Getting to know how the chef thinks and operates, the possibility of making a connection and being fed an outstanding meal. Life is all about the experiences that we stack up. A meal at a chefs table might just be every foodies dream-come-true. It is a step above the ordinary and worth every extra penny you spend. Book a reservation soon and let me know what you think.
While many food writers are publishing recipes deep in cultural roots, others are taking the tried-and-true to new levels with a creative, almost impertinent approach. Such is the composition of Casey Barber’s new cookbook Pierogi Love.