Spring, always an iffy season in New Jersey, was especially slow off the mark this year. But one thing you can count on is a glorious September. While we all love the weather, what farmers and restaurateurs relish is the harvest bounty.
To celebrate the season, Mark Pascal and Francis Schott, the owners of Stage Left Steak in New Brunswick, are teaming with Dreyer Farms in Cranford and Wightman Farms in Morristown to create, in partnership with New Jersey Monthly, an Endless Summer Dinner at Stage Left Steak on Friday, September 14 at 7 pm.
“September is such a great month for food,” says Pascal. “Tomatoes are still at their peak, corn is still coming in, the second season of raspberries is still around. All great food is ingredient-driven, and September in New Jersey is hard to beat.”
Since he moved to Cranford in 2003, Pascal has been buying fruit and vegetables from Dreyer for the restaurant and for home. The fresh-picked produce, he says, “is so alive with nutrients and flavors. The difference between that and produce brought to you by a purveyor is night and day.”
Dreyer and Wightman farms are wedded in more ways than one. Jessica Dreyer runs the farm, which is owned by her father, John. Jessica’s husband, Adam Costello, runs Wightman and is one of its owners. In the spring, Dreyer starts a host of plants in its greenhouses. When the weather improves, it transfers them to Wightman, which has 10 times the acreage plus a larger staff. When the crops reach maturity, Costello brings some of the fresh fruit and produce back to Cranford to be sold at Dreyer.
As Costello the farmer sees it, “In September the summer crops are still rolling in, you’re getting late season peaches, and apples are starting. It’s not 100 degrees, so you can start growing lettuces again. All the tender crops are available, and you’re getting early pumpkins and acorn and butternut squash. It’s the best of summer and a glimpse of fall.”
Pascal, Schott and their chefs have mapped out a worthy gustatory evening. It begins with seasonal hors d’oeuvres and drinks from New Jersey craft brewers and distilleries. The starters include mini-BLTs; Griggstown Farm quail; cucumber and crab; and combos of pork roll, quail egg and cheese.
The main course, paired with wines from Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes, is Wagyu flatiron steak with fermented shallots, black truffle creamed corn, local arugula and smashed fingerlings. Dessert to follow.
The cost of the evening is $190, inclusive of food, beverage and service. For the complete menu, and to order tickets, click Here