Located in central NJ, The Farmer and the Chickpea proudly hosts monthly Tuscan Table dinners from early winter, all the way until farmers’ markets season begins in the spring.
Reservations are a must, as you’re promised a cozy atmosphere of good people, great smells, and exceptional food.
The always happy face of The Farmer and the Chickpea is Jillian. She handles the business aspect of the company and travels to several New Jersey farmers’ markets from May to Thanksgiving.
Behind the scenes is head cook, Ashley, who prides herself on composing sauces and dishes with five or fewer ingredients. She is of Italian descent, so several of her dishes showcase her heritage.
This year’s winter-themed table was littered with three kinds of Hershey’s kisses, and was surrounded by friendly faces.
Referring to the family-style, sit down, pass the plate approach to the dinner, Carol, attending her second Tuscan Table meal, said, “This is truly a traditional way to eat food.”
Tuscan Tables usually include six or seven large courses, with multiple items per course. The meal started out with three kinds of breads: home-baked biscuits with corn butter; toast points with ricotta, walnuts, and honey; and sliced baguette with kale pesto and melty mozzarella cheese.
After that, the attendees attempted to eat healthily with both house and Caesar salads. But of course, both were dressed up with plenty of ripe tomatoes, cheese encrusted artichoke hearts, and homemade croutons the size of golf balls.
Among the many comments from the excited guests, the most common was, “This is unbelievable. It’s so fresh.”
Following the salad course was the pasta dish: tender penne puttanesca. For seafood lovers, Ashley whipped up creamy crab guacamole inside crisp wonton shells.
“I didn’t have one thing I didn’t like,” Carol’s daughter, a college-aged picky eater, said.
One may not generally like artichoke hearts, crab, or olives, but once Ashley gets her hands on ingredients, it’s impossible to dislike them.
Roast pork with raisin stuffing, and lemon marinated chicken, were the superstars of the main course. Accompanying them were flights of fresh roasted zucchini, sweet potatoes, radicchio, and sweet peppers with parmesan cheese.
Two desserts ended the amazing meal. The chocolate torte with hand-whipped whipped cream and the apple and fig cobbler with homemade granola, topped with five-spice whipped cream, were both “unreal,” as many of the diners commented.
“Everything is unbelievable — really unique and different,” said Alicia, a dedicated customer of The Farmer and the Chickpea.
All this cost only $60 per person, with tax and tip included. If there’s a surplus of food, you can even take leftovers.
“This is a steal,” Andrew Parr ’12 said.
With almost everything made from scratch, dishes are constantly being created and executed, while sometimes twists are put on old Italian favorites. No matter what, nothing suffers in quantity or quality.
Jillian and Ashley expect to publish a cookbook with about 150 recipes in the coming months.
To learn more about The Farmer and the Chickpea, visit their website http://www.thefarmerandthechickpea.com and check them out on Facebook.