Corrections or additions?
These articles by Jamie Saxon were prepared for the November 17,
2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
What’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who interned
under uber-chef Daniel Boulud in New York and worked at the Ryland Inn
doing roasting parsnips and chasing turkeys on a farm in Griggstown?
He’s coming home.
Matthew Sytsema, 23, grew up about a mile from Griggstown Quail Farm.
After the hellish restaurant hours and hellish commute to Cafe Boulud
in which he says he only slept about three to four hours a day,
Sytsema has found a new place to hang his chef’s hat – Griggstown
"I hired Matty so no one else would. I invested in Matty. I like that
he came from a farm – right down the road," says owner George Rude,
adding that his new hire is part of a strategic business move. Through
distributor D’Artagnan, the specialty meat company in Newark, the farm
has been shipping out free-range poulty and game at a frightening
speed, some 35,000 pheasants, 100,000 poissons (young chicken), and
30,000 quail annually to high-end restaurants like Gotham Bar & Grill
and upscale markets like Citarella in New York. Another 8,000 live
birds go to shooting clubs.
"Ever since 9/11, the wholesale market has tanked," says Rude. To grow
the business in a new direction, he and Sytsema have built a 20 x 30
foot restaurant-caliber kitchen off the retail farm market at the
entrance to the 80-acre farm.
On a recent weekday, Sytsema was in the kitchen stirring butternut
squash soup (made from squash grown on the farm) in an eight-gallon
pot – just one of the offerings on the farm’s takeout Thanksgiving
menu. Rude says the intent is to have the kitchen USDA-certified (the
farm’s processing facility already is), enabling him to sell any item
Sytsema prepares to a reseller. Right now he can only sell to the
public through the farm store. "Everyone has tomatoes," says Rude,
referring to the plethora of farm markets in the area, "but not
everyone has a USDA-certified kitchen."
While he stirs soup with one hand, Sytsema’s other hand is cranking
out another much-in-demand item – the farm’s signature chicken pot
pie. Both Rude and Sytsema are ardent proponents of the slow food
movement – 200 people attended their slow food picnic last spring. It
takes Sytsema three days to make one batch of 300 chicken pot pies.
Needless to say, the chicken in the pie is from the farm, which
Sytsema rotisseries, then hand-tears, still warm, from the carcass.
The meat is combined with slow-roasted fresh vegetables in a veloute
sauce, then poured into a double-crust puff pastry shell.
Rude is raising 1,500 turkeys this year, so if you still haven’t
bought a turkey for Thanksgiving, you can order a fresh one – right up
until the day before Thanksgiving. The birds are given all-natural
feed with no antibiotics and no growth stimulants. "I give my birds as
much outside room as possible to exercise." That results in a bird
with more meat and less fat. Rude reveals what you should really know
about fresh turkeys. "They need to be processed – we don’t use the ‘K’
word – four to five days before Thanksgiving, to give the muscle a
chance to break down and become tender. Then they need to be stored at
28 degrees Fahreinheit, what we call a ‘chill-pack.’ I can taste a
turkey and tell if it was processed just two days ago. It’s not
But what Rude really wants to talk about is the chicken pot pie, which
he says is the perfect weeknight dinner for a busy family. "My chicken
pot pie is $14. A pizza pie is $15. What do you want your kids to eat?
Vegetables – or cheese?"
908-359-5375, www.griggstownquailfarm.com. Turkeys, $2.75 per pound.
We hear a lot from people who say, ‘We live right in your backyard but
we didn’t know you existed,’" says Anthony Accardo of Rat’s restaurant
at Grounds for Sculpture. Since the departure of executive chef Eric
Martin, who is working on starting his own restaurant (watch U.S. 1
for more on that), Accardo, who helped open the restaurant in January,
2000, and served first as sommelier and then director of wine and
beverage, is temporarily the self-proclaimed "director of everything."
In order to generate traffic from some of those "backyarders," and to
attract people who might not have tried the restaurant because they
heard it is expensive, Accardo chose the slow month of November to
unveil a $39 four-course tasting menu, designed by sous chef Leclere
English. The price is right, considering that the entrees alone on the
main dinner menu hover around $30.
"This is our third tasting event," says Accardo. "The menu is designed
to appeal to a wide range of palettes. We also tried to be a little
less eclectic. There is even a vegetarian choice at every course. For
example, the chestnut and winter vegetable stuffed cabbage is not
something you get in your run of the mill restaurant that tries to do
a vegetarian dish. The fourth course, tarte Tatin, is French comfort
Accardo, who marketed the tasting in a targeted postcard mailing to
5,000 homes in Lawrenceville, West Windsor, and Newtown, Pennsylvania,
with an average income of over $75,000, says that the response has
been wonderful. "Friday night is our most popular night, with
one-third to one-half of the house coming for the tasting." Accardo
isn’t shy about touting another bennie of the tasting’s lower price:
"It lets people drink better. If your normal budget for wine is $30 to
$50, with the tasting you can spend $70 to $80."
Four course tasting at Rat’s, 16 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,
609-584-7800. Tuesday through Friday, through December 3. Special
invitation to U.S. 1 readers: Offered only to recipients of a postcard
direct mailing, this tasting has been extended to U.S.1 readers. Call
the restaurant to make a reservation and mention you read the U.S.1
article. You will be required to leave an e-mail and/or mailing
address as part of the promotion. $39, does not include beverages. Tax
and gratuity will be added.
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