by Diana Cercone
The destination dining spot Rouget’s in Newtown may have closed, but it’s owner and chef Brian Held has far from disappeared—or abandoned French cooking. A few months ago, he opened Brian’s in Lambertville. The eponymous-named cozy restaurant reflects Brian’s new culinary direction: still French but with a sophisticated rustic, country spin to it coupled with a dash of Italian.
It’s a little place, he says, where people can come regularly and slip away to Provence to enjoy some of that area’s celebrated cuisine without the hassle (or cost) of traveling there. During the week, you’ll find a changing three-course tasting menu as well as an a la carte one, including brick-oven pizzas, cassoulets and handmade pastas. Come the weekend, Brian uses the brick oven to slow roast whole fish, baby lamb, pig or goat for the evening’s special entrées. Another new addition still coming is his homemade charcouterie, which he’ll offer as a course similar to a cheese one.
Though most of the items on the menu are new, Brian will continue to serve some of Rouget’s signature dishes, e.g., Purée of Mushroom Soup with Leeks and Truffle Oil and Provence Style Fish Sticks (a combination of white fish, lump crab meat, shrimp and scallops) with Aioli and Fennel Marmalade. These are de rigueur, he says, lest, like the Bastille, his new restaurant serve as the staging for another French Revolution.
Fennel Marmalade (Makes 2-3 cups)
4 fennel bulbs, diced small
1 Spanish onion, diced small
3 tablespoons canola oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fennel pollen, optional
Add oil and vegetables to a pan over very low heat. Sweat the fennel-onion mixture until very soft (about 2 hours). The fennel will have a jam-like consistency when completed. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and add the pollen, if using.
8 cloves Garlic (rough chop)
salt and pepper - to taste
4 egg yolks
juice of 2 lemons
4 cups canola or vegetable oil
1 cup ex virgin olive oil
In a mortar add garlic and a large pinch of salt work with a pestle to a smooth paste (this can also be done in a food processor)–add the yolks–using a small whisk add the vegetable oil in a thin stream whisking to form a emulsion (mayonnaise). Then add the olive oil. Adjust flavor and acid be adding lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 5 cups.
Provence Style Fish Sticks
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Onion- Minced
2 Fennel Bulbs-Minced
2 Celery Stalks-Minced
Salt and Pepper- To Taste
12 oz Chopped White Fish ( Striped Bass, Cod, Ect.)
8 oz Jumbo Lump Crab
8 oz Chopped Shrimp
8 oz Chopped Scallops
2 cups Aioli (Recipe Follows)
5 cups Fresh Bread Crumbs (from Italian or French Bread in a Processor)
2 Tbs Chopped Parsley
2 Tbs Chopped Celery Leaves
1 Tbs Chopped Fennel Fronds
Butter as Needed
Heat the oil in a sauté pan–sweat the Fennel, Onion, and Celery until soft (low heat-about 15 minutes)–Cool and place in a bowl–add all of the fish and shellfish–Add the Aioli and herbs–Add the bread crumbs about a half cup at a time until the batter is firm but still very moist–It should take about 11/2 to 2 cups–place the remaining crumbs in a pan for coating the fish sticks.Form the batter into Rectangle Blocks about 3 inches long and ¾ inch wide. Coat well in the crumbs and pan fry in butter until golden brown on all sides. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oils–Serve immediately with Aioli on a bed of Fennel Marmalade. Serves 12.
Brian’s, which is a BYOB is located at 9 Kline’s Court in Lambertville, NJ; 609-460-4148 brianslambertville.com.
Chef Blake Faure - Golden Pheasant Inn
To some it might seem that Blake Faure was gilding the lily when she attended the Le Cordon Blue culinary school in Pasadena, CA. After all she grew up in her dad’s kitchen at the Golden Pheasant Inn, and, like the toasted baguette in his adored onion soup, she absorbed the private cooking lessons from her father’s one-on-one master class.
Still the years spent at school allowed her to spread her own apron strings—as well as meet her partner in life and in the kitchen, Chef John Ramsey—and come back to the Inn to take over for her dad. “I learned so much from my him, especially about sustainability.” One of the things, she says, her dad instilled in her was to plate dishes as sustainably grown as possible as they are pleasing to her patron’s palate.
A lesson Blake took to heart. One of the first things she did was to tap into local farmers and food artisans for the quality and freshness of their ingredients. For example, she says, the duck for her Roasted Duck Breast with Stone Fruit Puff Pastry, is delivered fresh from a nearby family farm. Like the other culinary gems on the menu, it’s fast becoming a favorite at the Golden Pheasant Inn—where farm-to-table dinner is celebrated every day.
Some traditions just get better and better: While Blake fills her father’s toque in the kitchen, sister Brittany Booz assumes their mother Barbara’s role of taking care of guests in the dining room.
Golden Pheasant Inn
Roasted Duck Breast with Stone Fruit Puff Pastry
Roasted duck breast with wild rice, stone fruit puff pastry and an apricot, ginger, brandy reduction (serves two)
1 whole duck or 2 pre-fabricated duck breasts (we love Dr. Joe Jurgielewicz & Sons pekin-style duck from Hamburg, PA, www.tastyduck.com)
½ cup wild rice
1 ½ cups duck stock or water
½ Spanish onion chopped
1 tsp of olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 sheet of puff pastry
Assorted seasonal stone fruit sliced (Nectarines and peaches are excellent but any stone fruit that is in season will be great with this recipe. We source from Manoff Market Gardens in Solebury, PA, www.manoffmarketgardens.com)
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1 tbsp of apricot preserves
½ cup of ground dried apricots (we prefer the Turkish variety)
¼ cup of apricot brandy
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger (we source our’s organic from Blue Moon Acres in Buckingham, PA, www.bluemoonacres.net)
Warm the olive oil in an oven proof pot (Le Creuset or similar) on medium heat. Add chopped Spanish onion and sauté until onion softens. Stir onion frequently to avoid charring at edges. Add duck stock or water. Bring to a boil. Add rice, salt & pepper. Place lid on pot and cook in 350 degree stove for 45 minutes. When finished rice will be soft and grain will open.
Bring lemon juice to a boil. Add brandy, apricot preserves and ground apricots. Whisk together until mixed and loose. Bring to a simmer being careful not to allow sugars to crystallize. At end add fresh ginger and a pinch of salt to taste. Extra sauce can be used to lightly brush the stone fruit puff pastry to give it a beautiful gloss.
Cut out two 5-inch circles in puff pastry sheet (a large mouth glass is a great tool for this). Add slices of desired seasonal stone fruit arranged on top and in the center of the puff pastry. We like a circular design. Place in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until pastry has risen and browned just a touch. Brush the puff pastry and fruit with a light coating of the apricot sauce; this will give it a beautiful shine which looks fabulous on the plate.
If your duck breasts are not scored, score them across the fatty skin (cut a 1-2 inch slice across the breast to allow fat to drain during cooking). In sauté pan, on medium heat, add scored duck breasts and render fat side down until golden and crispy. Finish on other side, and if desired past rare to medium rare, finish in oven for additional 5 minutes or longer.
Plate the duck breast with the sauce over the breast and the puff pastry and wild rice to the side. We love this dish with a nice glass of pinot noir or Red Burgundy.
Golden Pheasant Inn is located at 763 River Road in Erwinna; 610-294-9595; www.goldenpheasant.com.
Chef Francisco Argueta - Francisco's on the Delaware
With the success of his BYOB restaurant Florentinos in Newtown secure, Chef Francisco Argueta opened another a few years ago. This one in Washington Crossing. Set like a jewel on the nearby banks of the Delaware, Francisco’s On the River offers Italian and Mediterranean cuisine in a soft, sophisticated atmosphere and where diners have a choice of sitting in the main dining room with picture-window views of the river or in a more intimate setting by a fireplace.
Regulars to his Newtown spot can take comfort in knowing that he has kept the same menu which features his signature dishes such as Fettuccine alla Bolognese, Linguine al Frutti di Mare Fradiavola, Francisco’s Lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiano. The lasagna, he says, sits 5-6 inches high and is layered with ricotta, Bolognese sauce and a hint of smoked pancetta. Never encumbered with breading, his eggplant dish delivers 14 layers of thinly sliced eggplant dressed simply in a basil tomato sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
In addition, look for new types of fish to pop up on the menu, such as corvina (which has a mild, sweet flavor). Ever attentive to the dietary concerns of his guests, Francisco offers whole wheat and gluten-free corn pastas or dishes devoid of butter and cream.
Arugula & Radicchio Salad (Serves 4)
1/2 cup of radicchio
12 ounces arugula
1 ounce lemon juice
4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
In a bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice; whisk until it emulsifies. Add salt and pepper, set aside. Remove the center cord of the radicchio and chop; toss with the arugula in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette to taste. Top with shavings of the cheese.
4 boneless chicken breasts (about 8 Oz each)
2 oz olive oil
2 oz lemon juice
1 sprig of rosemary finely chopped
2 oz olive oil
2 oz butter
Flour for dusting chicken
2 md sized shallots
4 cloves of garlic
8 oz chicken stock
2 oz of dry white wine
Salt & pepper
Lightly dust chicken with flour. Heat oil in a large skillet until it reaches almost the smoking point, add the 4 breasts carefully (top side down). Sprinkle each breast with a pinch of salt and pepper. Let chicken brown, and then flip. Remove excess oil and then add 1 0z butter, shallots and garlic to the pan. Let them cook until golden brown, deglaze the pan with white wine. Add chicken stock and lemon juice, bring to a boil then sprinkle with a few pinches of rosemary. Place into the oven preheated to 500 degrees for about 8 minutes (cooking times may vary). Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes. (Serves 4 people)
Francisco’s On the River is located at 1251 River Road in Washington Crossing; 215-321-8789; franciscosonthe river.com.
Chef Gino Lenti - LaVilla
Some say Chef Gino Lenti, like George Washington, stole across the Delaware to Trenton to do battle—and like the beloved general, Gino returned victorious. However, with one major difference: With not a single drop of bloodshed, Gino returned to his restaurant, La Villa in Morrisville, and through testing recipes and stretching their doughs and cooking, and tasting for the right combination of tomatoes for the sauce, Gino crushed the code to Trenton’s famous Tomato Pie—making it even better. To all who know and appreciate this thin-crusted culinary wonder, topped with a delicate and sweet tomato sauce and anointed with a hint of garlic, they gladly wait in line to be rewarded with one of Gino’s pies.
Gino admits his tomato pies are addictive. The upside, he says, is there’re no side effects. Everything is made fresh and handmade—even to the fennel-infused homemade sausage used on some of his Trenton pies (he offers seven styles).
But don’t go to La Villa for only his tomato pies. For Gino brings a wealth of Italian traditional recipes to his kitchen, especially from his Calabrian homeland, such as Spaghetti Calabrese (sautéed shrimp with broccoli rabe in garlic and extra virgin olive oil) and Pesce Spada Grigliato (grilled swordfish topped with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil).
But, then, to make the Trenton tomato pies or any of his dishes, Gino says, “It’s like a work of art. Everything is made with the hands, taste and heart.”
Tuscany Salad (serves 4)
5&1/2 ounces spring mix
4&1/3 ounces tomatoes, cut into chunks
4 ounces, cucumbers, sliced
4&1/4 ounces roasted pepper, sliced thin
1&1/2 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces walnuts, chopped
6 ounces grilled chicken breast, sliced
3&1/3 ounces tiny shrimp
2 ounces dried cranberries
1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
Place first 8 ingredients into a large bowl. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve.
La Villa is a BYOB and is located at 21 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Morrisville; 215-736-3116 or 3113; lavilla-restaurant.com.
Chef Joe McAtee - Honey
Chef Joe McAtee likes to mix things up—boldly and thoughtfully melding different cultures into one dish and elevating comfort to exotic, and, along the way, bend the flavor spectrum to create a fuller range. Like the opening of a flower, the flavors of his spices expand with the ingredients so you taste not just one element, such as sweet or hot, but an enticing play of flavors as in his Black Tea Glazed Spare Ribs with Spicy Ginger Ice Cream or Truffle and Smoke Potato Chips.
Mixing it up at Honey also applies to ordering, with sharing of the small plates encouraged both as a way of adding fun and extending the dining experience but also to build on the flavors and contrasting textures of the dishes. With this in mind McAtee arranges the menu in ascending order according to the intensity of flavors. For example the milder dishes, like Peas & Carrots, are at the top, where the middle section may offer ones like risotto cakes with a saffron/piquillo pepper emulsion and finishing in the last section with lamb and beef dishes.
McAtee changes his menu to reflect the seasons as well as offers vegetarian and vegan menus. Look for his spring and summer menus to be Latin and Japanese inspired, with the fall and winter ones more French and Italian influenced.
Peas and Carrots
1 bunch baby carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ “ rounds
Carrot tops from 1 bunch baby carrots, washed and dried
2 cups fresh shelled English peas
1 8oz. package of goat cheese, room temperature
1 clove garlic
½ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
¼ cup spring onions, sliced very finely (scallions or chives would work, too)
Juice of one lemon
6 1” thick slices of Focaccia
1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs such as mint, tarragon, parsley, chervil, cilantro (any or all), gently torn
Truffle infused honey for drizzling (or good quality local honey)
Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Fill a medium sized sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Season the water well with salt. The water should taste as salty as ocean water. Prepare an ice bath and set near the boiling water. Quickly blanch the fresh peas in the hot water for about 30 seconds and then remove them with a spider or slotted spoon and place in the ice water to set the color of the peas. Remove peas from ice water and drain. Taste the boiling water again to see if it needs more salt. Add more salt if necessary and then add the carrot rounds to the boiling water. Cook until desired tenderness is achieved, up to 3 minutes, then remove carrots and add to ice water. Remove the carrots from the ice water and drain. Reserve the peas and carrots at room temperature and place the carrot tops in a blender with the clove of garlic, the ¼ cup olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Puree the carrot tops, scraping the sides of the blender as needed. Place the softened goat cheese in a mixing bowl and add the carrot top puree. Mix well with a rubber spatula, folding until the goat cheese is uniformly green. Next, brush the Focaccia slices with olive oil and place them on a sheet pan. Bake the Focaccia for about 3-5 minutes until slightly crisp and warmed through. While bread is in the oven, mix the peas, carrots, lemon juice, spring onions, and little drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove Focaccia from oven and allow it to cool just for about 1 minute. You don’t want to melt the goat cheese. When bread is slightly cooled, slather each slice on one side with a good amount of the goat cheese mixture. Don’t skimp, because warm Focaccia and goat cheese is great just as it is! Now, to take it to the next level, top each piece with some of the peas and carrots mixture. Arrange on a serving platter and allow some of the vegetables to fall onto the plate. Drizzle everything with some of the honey, and then arrange the herbs of your choice on and around the Focaccia in a sparing and natural way. Serve at once and enjoy.
The recipe provided will yield enough to make more than just 6 pieces. The amounts of the ingredients aren’t as important as the techniques, so feel free to play with different spring vegetables such as baby beets, fava beans, asparagus, morel mushrooms, etc. You can also work with ricotta or feta instead of the goat cheese. Also try a different bread. Make the recipe your own! The important thing is the combination of warm bread, creamy-tangy cheese, acidity of the lemon juice, toothsome seasonal vegetables and sweet aromatic honey.
Honey is located at 42 Shewell Avenue in Doylestown; 215-489-4200; www.honeyrestaurant.com.
Chef John Wolf - Cascade Lodge
Fresh catch of the day takes on a whole new meaning in the hands of John Wolf, Cascade Lodge’s chef for more than 20 years. Diners not only have a choice of delectable trout dishes, including two served table side, but John encourages them to, well, literally, catch their own from the spring-fed waters that flow from the restaurant’s springhouse to a trout stream located in its downstair wine cellar and continuing to connecting ponds outside.
But fresh doesn’t stop with the trout. So adamant is he about freshness he wouldn’t consider using anything but fresh herbs for his dishes—even in winter. All the herbs he needs, he says, he grows in his garden, such as for his Trout du Provence. (At the end of the growing season, Wolf preserves the fresh herbs in olive oil, making a pesto-like mix to swirl into a sauce or dab into a dish when needed.)
And it’s not unusual to find Wolf flambéing a trout or duck at a table for diners while giving pointers on growing herbs and how best to show off their color and fragrance in floral arrangements. Just ask him about lavender, one of the herbs he uses in his Trout du Provence (one of the dishes offered on the Table Side Menu)—and often appears in floral arrangements on the tables—to see what I mean.
Herbs du Provence
2 stalks of fresh lavender, leaves only
2 stalks fresh thyme, chopped fine
2 stems of flat leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
1 stalk fresh rosemary, leaves only
1 fresh sage leaf, shopped fine
Scant 1/4 cup extra-light virgin olive oil
Place all herbs in a blender or food processor, with a drizzle of olive oil to help emulsify the herbs. When blended well, add the oil and blend well.
Trout du Provence
Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare trout for cooking.
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic
1/2 cup mayonanise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
6 ounces lump crab meat
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until the mixture resembles a thick but creamy crab cake. Set aside.
See recipe for Herbs du Provence in magazine.
Stuff the trout with the crab meat mixture. Place in a baking dish and add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of the dish to prevent the trout from sticking and to keep it moist while baking. Drizzle olive oil/herb mixture over the trout, cover with aluminum foil and bake until trout is white and crab mixture is hot in the center. Drizzle with lemon juice if desired, or garnish with an olive tapenade. Plate and serve immediately.
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon capers
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup Pinot Grigio wine
1 ounce brandy, optional
Flour trout fillets on both sides. Place sauté pan on medium flame, add 4 tablespoons of butter, add trout, belly side down, salt and pepper. Saute until trout fillets are golden brown. Flip the trout filets, and sauté skin-side down until golden brown. If using brandy, flambe now, then add capers, squeeze of lemon over trout fillets and add wine and, at last minute before plating trout, add 2 tablespoons of butter, melt, swirling the liquid in the pan until it becomes buttery and thicker. Immediately turn off flame, plate trout and pour butter sauce over the trout.
Cascade Lodge is located at 5065 Lehnenberg Road in Erwinna; 610-346-7484; cascadelodge.com.