Who brings produce and plants from their garden to an interview just to make a point? Linda Walton and Lynn McKittrick owners of the hurricane Sandy wrecked, River Front Cafe in Sea Bright, NJ wanted me to understand their concept of good food.
A basket of freshly picked rhubarb, curry leaves and herbs still growing in their pots, are almost a metaphor for the natural ingredient fed recipes that they produce in the kitchen. Their tale of how they came to be sharing space in the Via45, Red Bank, NJ kitchen is as stunning as the route taken to find their cooking style. You can read about that part of their journey here. Never-the-less, they are busy with their catering business Whistling Onion.
With a combined total of seventy years as chef’s, the business partners are not only experienced, but they are mentors to their kitchen help, taking time to teach their skill set to others.
Walton told a story of how she came to be so interested in the flavors and cooking of India. “I was sitting in a cafe in Peru eating guinea pig, when I met an Indian woman. She invited me to India and so I went.” Walton goes on to explain that she was offered hospitality in several different homes while in India, and learned the cuisine from the cooks there.
“After going to India it opened up a whole new door for me. I literally have a curry tree growing in my house.”
Catering weddings and other private events, they work with their clients to personalize the menu’s. The samosa’s, seen above, came with a tamarind dipping sauce and a lesson for me on tamarind in general. Breaking open a pod to produce the sticky seed, McKittrick explained how those sticky seeds are made into a paste, also seen in the photo above, and then used in recipes. Those samosa’s were perfect, not too spicy, crisp outside, creamy inside, and the sauce brought a whole new flavor palate to this appetizer.
There is an aesthetic to their recipes, not only in taste, but vision. The food is flat out beautiful to look at. The salmon seen above wears a fresh coat of sliced cucumber, dill, and capers. It is mouth watering in appearance.
A curried chicken salad dressed with almonds on a bed of arugula was accompanied by a delicious and refreshing glass of mint tea. ” I steep a mint infused tea, and make it into a syrup with fresh squeezed lime juice.” Walton explained, pointing out that it is used for a mojito, or as above a non-alcoholic beverage. These fresh, bright flavors shine through all of their dishes.
McKittrick insisted that I try the light, gluten free, spring rolls. The superb punch of the peanut dipping sauce was honestly a delight. I could easily have eaten the entire platter.
Working with caterers can be a daunting process when you are unfamiliar with cuisine in general. Walton and McKittrick bring their vast knowledge to this business with a youthful exuberance that comes through loud and clear in the flavor and exquisite appearance of their food. It may be that a hurricane knocked them down, but they were never out for the count. They are culinary inspiration personified, and I can’t wait to be schooled by them again.