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Eat Here Now
So many of the pleasures of the season are deliciously tied to food — the joy of an impromptu picnic, the taste of a fistful of blueberries still warm from the Hammonton sun, the blue haze from an unexpected BBQ joint around a back-road curve. From the mountains to the shore, New Hope to the Brandywine Valley, a bounty of summertime treats await.
The Peaks of Flavor
Kitchen gardens aren’t just for home cooks. With more than 2,400 miles of open space in the region, many of the Pocono Mountains’ best restaurants are growing their own seasonal ingredients and/or working with farms either on their own property or very nearby.
Head to the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in Shawnee on the Delaware, where they have been cooking with ingredients grown and produced on the resort’s farm since 2010. From an on-site apiary to an in-house craft beer operation and row after row of seasonal veggies, it just doesn’t get any fresher. A stack of pancakes dripping with farm-made maple syrup is a great way to start the day.
Get in on the culinary action at the oh-so-serene Lodge at Woodloch, a full-service, wellness-focused resort and spa that boasts its own garden in Hawley. Join the chef for regular farm-to-table cooking demonstrations on how to plan a menu around seasonal produce and herbs and tips on preparing the new “superfoods” — the key to a healthy, active lifestyle. Don’t miss the farm vegetable dumplings at the resort’s Tree restaurant — plump little purses filled with Swiss chard and shiitake mushrooms swimming in a miso lemongrass broth spiked with ginger.
In the mood for a little romance? Reserve a table at the Stone Bar Inn in Stroudsburg, where craft cocktails, distinctive American cuisine, Angus beef and local game are a few of the treats in store. One of the must-eats this summer: the veddy refined house applewood smoked local trout served with a dill cream sauce, cucumbers and capers.
From line-caught seafood to a bounty of farmed fruit and veggies, Jersey shore chefs have it made — they are wild about keeping it local. Whether they are cooking for a crowd at a high-end casino restaurant or welcoming visitors to an independently owned café, chefs know that cooking with Jersey produce and seafood is a home-team advantage when it comes to pleasing their customers’ palates.
Busy commercial fishing ports in Atlantic City, along with Barnegat Light to the north and Cape May to the south bring their catches to market every single day. As executive chef at Fin in the Tropicana, Demetrios Haronis delivers pristine seafood to his customers, much of it sourced from off the Jersey coastline. Flounder, fluke, tuna and black sea bass are all brought in from nearby Atlantic waters, said the chef, adding that “New Jersey has some of the best products in the world.” Chef Haronis’ go-to summer dish? A pan-fried Point Co-op flounder fillet over spinach with a Meyer lemon butter sauce.
At the James Beard Award-winning Chef Vola’s, located on on the south end of town, Louise Esposito is a stickler for detail. “Every cucumber, every head of lettuce, every piece of fish, we check it,” said Louise, who owns and runs the restaurant with her husband Michael and sons Michael Jr. and Louis. Many of Louise’s customers would walk over hot coals for a slab of one of her famous homemade desserts, including airy ricotta cheesecakes (“I use one less yolk and fold in extra whites to make it light”) flavored with the likes of peach schnapps, butterscotch and rum, and limoncello atop a homemade lemon cookie crust. The peaches in her peach pie? Yes indeed, they’re from Jersey.
At Steve and Cookie’s in Margate, seafood lovers will appreciate the herbaceous, chickpea-crusted Skuna Bay salmon served with watercress and grape tomatoes topped with a citrusy coriander vinaigrette, perfectly paired with a glass of crisp For Fathers 2011 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Closer to home, Classic Cake Company in Cherry Hill is now serving housemade gelato from chef Robert Bennett, who works with local farms to source strawberries, blueberries, apples and peaches for fresh fruit desserts. Jersey fruit, vanilla beans, fresh cream and other natural ingredients power these creamy summertime treats.
Comfort food gets a summer makeover at Red Owl Tavern on Chestnut Street, where Chef Jorge Chicas offers seared Loch Fyne salmon with baby arugula, marinated fennel and red onions in an orange-champagne vinaigrette. Add a salad of caperberries, baby heirloom tomatoes, olives, herbs, fingerling potatoes in a lemon-honey vinaigrette for an ideal light summer supper.
For a more casual, down-home take on warm-weather fare, MilkBoy executive chef Joel Mazigian grills lamb sausage topped with pickled veggies. His barbecue chicken sliders with a side of slaw deliver a backyard barbecue on a plate.
With its rolling hills, scenic country roads and quaint towns, Bucks County makes for an ideal day trip or overnight getaway. Eat your way from one side of the county to the other, starting with a honey lavender ice cream cone from OWowCow Creamery in Ottsville and Wrightstown, which only serves handmade ice cream using locally sourced and organic ingredients.
Drinking seasonal produce is as much fun as eating it at Havana in New Hope, where fresh mint and other herbs power an extensive cocktail menu that includes 10 different kinds of mojitos, best enjoyed on the outdoor patio at this Main Street hotspot.
Marsha Brown, also in New Hope, offers unique Creole fare in a renovated church. The chef’s mother loved eggplant, a summer crop that works beautifully in a soulful vegetarian Napoleon with roasted pepper and other seasonal veggies flavored with a Creole butter sauce.
While you’re wandering, pop into one of the many Bucks County wineries that dot the hillsides. Try a glass of the Summer Solstice wine at Peace Valley, a refreshing semi-sweet white wine infused with fruit flavors that pairs well with spicy summer fare. Look for Summer Solstice starting in mid-June.
Although mushrooms are usually more associated with the fall, chef Brett Hulbert at Portabello’s of Kennett Square dreams up inventive ways to use the fungi all year long. Grab a seat at this cozy BYO and order a plate of To-Jo Farm portabello fries, served with a horseradish-chive dipping sauce. Tender, local exotic mushrooms keep company with roasted garlic in a Madeira-infused crepe garnished with spring onions. And the portabello “cheesesteak,” dripping with cave-aged provolone and sweet onions, is tasty enough to become a favorite sandwich no matter what the temperature.
Beth D’Addono is making us hungry. This article originally appeared in This Summer, a Jewish Exponent publication.