eat & drink
By Tara Nurin
;;;; ;;;;, in a team e;ort led by
Cape May Brewing, a long-sought goal
was achieved: a beer in which all four
key components (water, yeast, hops and
malt) are Jersey grown, made or sourced.
Called Three Plows (for the state seal),
the IPA sold out, but should be available
again in September.
In May, Tuckahoe Brewing repeated
the feat with an ale called Rabbit Hole.
That name salutes Rabbit Hill Farms in
Shiloh, source of the malt—the grail of
Jersey beer ingredients.
Jersey hops and yeast have been available for awhile, and water is no problem.
But barley is negligible here. Brewers can
buy malted barley elsewhere, but like
grapes in wine, malt in beer is thought
to exhibit terroir, often defined as “the
taste of place” imparted by the soil.
Enter Hillary Bakker Barile of Rabbit
Hill Farm. In 2015, she and her family
decided to devote a small part of their
potato and sod farm to growing barley for
malt. They chose the age-old, laborious
method of floor malting. A mass of seeds
is soaked and drained, laid out on a barn
floor, and repeatedly raked to evenly
distribute the heat as the seeds begin to
sprout. The barley is then kiln dried. The
process turns starches into sugars that
yeast will later convert to alcohol.
Only the highest-quality barley is
suitable for making malt. “Most barley
prefers a cool, dry climate, not the warm
humidity of the mid-Atlantic region,
which exposes the crop to higher disease
and pest pressures as well,” says Bakker
Barile. “We fully anticipate that we may
not produce maltable barley every year.”
So far, so good. “The Rabbit Hill malt
is one of the more unique pale malts
we’ve ever brewed with,” says Tuckahoe
brewer Amanda Cardinalli, who used it
in Rabbit Hole. “It has a distinct bready
and nutty characteristic that allows for
a dominant malt presence, even in a
relatively light and dry beer.”
● BAY HEAD
AMBIENCE Spare, sunny, stunning
SERVICE First-rate, hosts less so
DRINKS Signature cocktails; 20 draft beers; 21
wines by the glass; well-priced, extensive bottle list
PRICES Appetizers and salads, $8-$19; flatbreads,
burgers, lobster roll, $13-$26; entrées, $24-$50;
OPEN Lunch and dinner, daily (in summer) ;
F72 Bridge Avenue, 732-295-1110;
By Fran Schumer
Shopper’s Wharf in Bay Head has risen from Sandy’s wreckage to become Charlie’s of Bay Head,
a beautiful restaurant with stunning
views of Twilight Lake and the only
liquor license in town. Fresh flowers,
club chairs and a couch or two add to the
appeal of a (sometimes deafening) bar.
The new building’s three stories of
unpainted shingles and tidy, white trim
are emblematic of Bay Head’s famously
informal elegance. There is understated
elegance in much of chef Stephen T.
Johnson’s food as well.
The meaty crab cake, bound not with
upscale panko bread crumbs but with
crumbled Ritz crackers and butter, was
surprisingly among the best of its kind.
It rests on pepper slaw, fresh and crisp
and sparked with hints of jalapeño. You
can order a double portion as an entrée.
Johnson’s menu is o;eat for a seafood house. He adorns flatbreads with
cheese steak and marinates cobia in mi-rin and serves it with an edamame and
shiitake salad. Italian accents are evident. A slab of provolone, for example, is
slapped (not for the better) onto a pork
chop. Garlic abounds.
Johnson grew up in Linwood, studied
at Atlantic Cape Community College, and
spent 13 years as executive sous chef of
Trump Marina in Atlantic City. He traces
his love of cooking partly to his Italian-American mother and partly to a high
school job as a restaurant dishwasher.
Peeking into the kitchen, he was intrigued
and decided to give cooking a try.
“Turned out,” he says, “I was pretty
good at it.”
“Pretty good” understates the appeal
of several of the appetizers. A creamy
clam chowder exuded the smoky scent of
its many chunks of bacon. The ahi tuna
appetizer, bound with wasabi mayo and
festooned with crunchy radishes and cu-
cumber, was rich and complex. Best was
his shrimp cocktail. He describes his
method as “grill and chill.” As he grills
extra-large shrimp, he bastes them with
a sweet, garlicky marinade enlivened
with parsley, rosemary and thyme, then
chills and serves them with ribbons of
warm-your-insides shaved horseradish.
Also better than pretty good were
several entrées. Nicely bronzed scallops
paired well with a tender wedge of pork
belly to form a novel surf and turf. A slab
of ahi tuna, nicely charred but still rare
inside, o;ered all the umami pleasures
Yet there were serious flaws. A porkchop special arrived gray and dry, its
accompanying mashed potatoes and
broccoli rabe unevenly heated. Salmon
on Moroccan couscous was as sweet as
it was weird—unpleasantly salty in spots
from an ill-conceived smattering of caper berries. (It’s now served with quinoa
and dried cranberries.)
Australian lamb chops of high quality were overwhelmed by garlic in the
meat and in the tomato-and-bean ragù
with it. Too much lemon marred an
arugula salad. European-style Plugra
butter, prized for its dense creaminess, was used to excess in a sauce that
suppressed the delicate flavor of an
otherwise lovely flounder.
These faults can be partly chalked up
to a fledgling crew trying to keep up with
a tidal wave of demand. Since it opened
in January, Charlie’s has been besieged.
Still, I’d gladly return for the comfort
and beauty of the rooms, the quality of
Johnson’s best dishes and, not least,
the appeal of the desserts. One of the
most popular, mini doughnuts, arrived
flu;y and hot, with three small squeeze
vials of raspberry, caramel and Nutella
sauces. Bread pudding was rich and
moist. Even swathed in caramel sauce, it
was not cloying.
With time and attention to detail,
Johnson has a chance to make Charlie’s
of Bay Head the destination restaurant
the area deserves.