Culinary enthusiasts know that it’s the vegetables that make the dish. Need proof? Think about your last burger. Of course you didn’t eat it plain, there was catsup, lettuce and tomato. What’s chicken without rosemary, or orange sauce, or a tamarind barbecue sauce. It’s all the veg, and the fruit, that make the difference. In a nutshell, as Escape’s chef Bryan Gregg says, “dishes come together with the sauce and the sides.”
Escape Montclair has been waving the local vegetable and fruit banner since it first opened in May 2013, but only a few of us really took notice. Let’s face it, the place looks great, the food is great, and with that combination people tend to overlook the details vegging out right in front of them. As a farm-to-table restaurant, the menu changes frequently based on what’s in season.
By what’s in season Chef doesn’t mean “Corn in July, Apples in October” but things like the first Ramps in late April, Zucchini Blossoms in May, and Lambs Quarters in June. Pursley is often on the menu, and many of the early Jersey strawberries that still green get pickled. These are locally sourced ingredients that are only available for such a short time that one may even describe them as “micro-seasonal.”
Fret not vegans: Lambs Quarters have nothing to do with Mary’s white fleeced friend. Lambs quarters are actually a wild variety of spinach that is usually only available for two months; the season hits in early summer and they are really good!
With very few exceptions, something that is not in-season locally will not be on the menu. Sure, there will be tomatoes in January, but they will be tomatoes that were canned, preserved, or pickled this summer. Gregg loves to pickle, and loves beets; it’s not too hard to imagine that these nutritional powerhouses will be making a tart appearance later on this year. He shared a few ideas of his plans, but most of what chef shared will have to remain a secret, at least until the mason jars are put up in the cupboard.
In addition to Lunch and Dinner Menus, recently started to highlight vegan options, especially now with the special partnership with Chef Sally Owens. Truth be told Vegetarian and Vegan has always been a part of Escape, but now they are stepping out of the shadows and taking center stage. Gregg breaks from his local ingredient tradition, just a bit, to include things like avocado and grains to create balanced meals that will be sure to leave the omnivores in your party drooling. That’s right, vegan at Escape will be more than just the usual sautéed vegetables or salad.
If the Montclair Vegans decide to gather a large group of their friends to dine at Escape call ahead to be perfectly accommodated. That gives chef the chance to check the pantry and hit the market to make sure that everyone in your party has a meal they’ll be talking about for weeks. Oh, but it gets better, that little “call ahead” feature works for everyone else as well. Let’s say for instance you fancied a something and was wondering if it was possible to have it, call and present Escape with the opportunity to challenge their culinary skills. Same goes for people with food allergies. In an intimate setting like this, that wonderful feeling of hospitality, where one feels like family, without ever losing that feeling of being a guest, is what it’s all about.
345 Bloomfield Ave
Montclair NJ 07042
John Lee is Black Tie and Flip Flops’ Raconteur-In-Chief: the World of food is his playground ~ the whole world! Having a Navy Dad gave John the passion to discover the world. Whether in one of Mr. Boeing’s flying machines, as an armchair traveler with a great book, or a plate beaming with the exotic flavors and fragrances, his day is all about discovering the world and sharing the stories with everyone he meets.
John cut his teeth in commercial kitchens starting in high school and continued into his undergrad years, then the media bug bit. After University he spent time at the Washington Post Company before jumping on the first internet wave in the 1990’s at some of the major players of the era. John also established himself as a culinary instructor where his style of cooking was first called “Comfort Food Remixed.” Don’t get him started on Disney Dining, but yes, he tried “the grey stuff” and it is delicious. John jokes that he’s staying in NJ because he didn’t have enough miles to trade in for a return ticket home to San Diego, but we think he likes it here.
Like Us On Facebook, or email us at BlackTieAndFlipFlops at Gmail.