went to work for Joël Antunes, who
would win the James Beard Award for
Best Chef Southeast the following year.
So eager was Ridgway to work with Antunes that he agreed to start over as a
prep chef. He quickly ascended. Together, they went to Taiwan to redo the menu
of a restaurant there and arrived in New
York in 2008 for what proved to be the
ill-fated reopening of the Oak Room.
Back in Bucks County, Ridgway took
a job driving a truck and sweeping floors
for a purveyor of sustainable seafood.
During his fast-lane years, Ridgway had
learned the art of making charcuterie.
The owner proposed piggybacking Ridgway’s charcuterie on the seafood the
owner sold to high-end restaurants. By
the end of 2009, Ridgway had launched
his own company, PorcSalt, selling to
area restaurants and farmers’ markets.
“It was therapy,” he told me. He was
making an artisanal product he was proud
of and did not have to be responsible for
a staff of 100, as he was at the Oak Room.
He was back in his own element.
Growing up on a 2-acre property where
his mother had an organic garden and
his father raised bees, Ridgway learned
early to can and preserve. His boyhood
chores included chopping wood, weed-
ing the garden and trying to keep the
deer from eating the vegetables. Later,
traveling in rural France with Lacroix,
Ridgway came to appreciate the little ca-
fés—called routiers, for the truck drivers
that frequent them—that serve a limited
menu of local fare.
Ridgway looked for a restaurant space
on both sides of the Delaware River, and
last November fell in love with an 1860
clapboard house in Columbus that was
once a country store and more recently
a popular brunch site but was vacant and
in disrepair. He turned the space into
his own kind of routier and a home for
PorcSalt. From a 1936 glass-and-porce-lain cooler at the front of the restaurant,
the charcuterie he and Mitchell make is
sold for takeout only. (He told me he will
eventually put a charcuterie plate on the
menu, but didn’t at first because, “I didn’t
want to be thought of as an all-pork restaurant.”)
Far from the classic brigade Ridgway
was trained in, he and Mitchell do all the
prep and cooking at the Pass themselves.
The restaurant is named for the stainless-
steel counter where the servers pick up
the dishes as the cooks finish them. Every
restaurant has one. It’s totally utilitarian,
the pass, but also the only place where
the back of the house and the front of the
house interact once service begins.
“I want people to have fun,” Ridgway
said of his pick-three, one-price menu.
The weekly reboot of ingredients, he add-
ed, “pushes us to stay fresh.” Delivering
this high-wire act with top-quality ingre-
dients at an attractive price can be a ze-
ro-sum game. With a superb fish like the
sockeye salmon costing him $15 a pound,
“sometimes the portions are smaller,”
Ridgway admitted. “We don’t want to
pass on the price to our customers.”
That salmon, poached in white wine
and saffron and served with shelling
beans, was marvelous even apart from
its tour-de-force topping—its skin, fried
to an irresistible crisp, placed on top like
a long cracker. Equally delicious were
hake tempura and porgy en papillote,
the latter a small, delicate fillet cooked
in parchment with ginger, leeks and carrots, enhanced by a tableside pour of an
anchovy, butter and lime sauce. Rich,
eggy house-made agnolotti filled with
“I firmly believe beer pairs better with food than wine,”
writes beer connoisseur and South Orange native John Holl
in The American Craft Beer Cookbook (Storey Publishing),
his spirited call for allying keg and kitchen.
“If you think about the ingredients in beer and the flavors
they produce,” he says, “you can begin to think about how
specific foods can pair with beers.” Craft beer boasts as
wide a range of flavors and properties as fine wine.
A basic beer ingredient like malted barley, for example,
imparts flavors such as toffee, chocolate, coffee, caramel
and toast. Hops, the seed cones of the hop plant, provide
PAIR BOEUF WITH BEER,
Oui! Or rather, Yeah! Brews have as many
flavors as crus, argues a new book
that shows you how to match them with
cuisines high as well as low.
BY RICARDO KAULESSAR
crisp bitterness with notes of citrus, pine or tropical fruits.
Yeast—beer makers use many different strains—contribute
banana, clove, bubblegum and stone fruit flavors. The most
fundamental ingredient of all, water, can add mineral tastes.
Attractively designed and photographed, the 352-page
book presents 155 recipes from brewpubs and breweries
across the country for dishes that either pair perfectly with a
particular brew or include beer as a main ingredient. A South
Orange native, Holl was naturally drawn to Garden State beers,
the variety and quality of which have lately skyrocketed. From
Ridgefield Park’s Bolero Snort Brewery, for example, comes
the recipe for a roasted chipotle salsa burger, to be paired
with the brewery’s There’s No Rye-ing In Basebull, a lightly
hopped rye lager. The recipe was created by Bolero Snout co-
founder Robert Olson and his wife, Melanie.
The book includes thumbnail profiles of each contribut-
ing brewery or brewpub, many of which Holl visited—among
them Barcade in Jersey City (where Holl lives) and Triumph
Brewing Company in Princeton. “With so much going on in the
beer industry, I kept traveling down new roads of pairings and
flavors,” Holl says. “It was a fun journey.”
Holl, editor of All About Beer magazine, spent substantial
stove time testing and adjusting recipes and sampling beers
to confirm compatibility. You might envy his friends and fam-
ily, whom he often invited to tastings. “There was no rhyme or PH