Chefs and foodies in New Jersey and beyond look forward to that fine summer day when they could walk out into their garden and pick the first ripe tomato.
Few fruit are more delicious than a ripe, fresh, juicy, slightly sweet, somewhat acidic, sometimes mild, occasionally citric, umami rich, homegrown, vine-ripened, Jersey tomato. Despite its savory nature, the tomato is classified as a fruit because it develops from the plant’s flowers, and grows to surround the seeds.
Scrumptiousness aside, tomatoes are also nutritional powerhouses, packing niacin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, lycopene, choline, and large amounts of glutamic acid, otherwise known as umami. Whether you like heirlooms such as the rich Purple Cherokee, the quirky Green Zebra, the classic, Brandywine, or prefer hybrids like the Rutgers-bred Ramapo Tomato, tomatoes are the unequivocal taste of summer.
On Wednesday, Aug. 3, Restaurant Serenade, will celebrate tomato season and kick off their Tomato Tasting Menu with their 10th Annual Tomato Dinner.
The dinner, which begins at 7 p.m., includes a five-course meal featuring local tomatoes, paired with wines. The menu showcases tomatoes from Melick's Farm in Oldwick, NJ, and from Chef James Laird's own garden.
Peter Melick of Melick’s Farm will attend the dinner to answer questions and discuss tomato varieties, especially how some varieties are coming back after many years of being forgotten. Laird grows vegetables, fruits and herbs in his own half-acre garden, which often make it onto Serenade's menu.
Restaurant Serenade is located at 6 Roosevelt Ave. in Chatham Borough. The Tomato Dinner kicks off the Tomato Tasting Menu, which will be available at Serenade from Aug. 4 until end of September. Cost per plate for the Tomato Dinner is $125 including tax and tip.