By now you may have heard that Jim Nawn, whose Fenwick Hospitality Group is behind Agricola on Witherspoon Street, and Skillman’s Great Road Farm, which supplies the restaurant with produce and eggs, has announced that his company has acquired the Main Street properties. These include the bar-bistro in Princeton Shopping Center, the café and takeout shop that has been a fixture in Kingston for three decades, and the Main Street catering operation in Rocky Hill.
Nawn was quick to reassure Main Street’s loyal clientele that “each establishment…will continue to operate as usual” for the time being. Sue Simpkins, Main Street’s founder, and her son, John Marshall, have run the enterprise up until now. In a statement, Marshall says that the purchase will set “the groundwork for exciting future offerings” at Main Street. Jim Nawn’s group has also been tapped by Princeton University to develop the forthcoming Dinky Bar & Kitchen, modeled on French brasseries, in two former Dinky buildings as part its Arts and Transit project.
Caterer Hansen converting farmhouse into event venue
Max Hansen, the Bucks County native and celebrated chef, caterer, and best-selling cookbook author who in 2013 gave the venerable Carversville Grocery new life has announced that he, working with architects Barbara and Bob Hillier, is transforming a 25,000 SF farmhouse at 328 Carter Road in Hopewell into a catering venue for events of up to 300 people. Hopewell Township’s zoning board granted a use variance for the conversion, which abuts the corporate office park that was built in 1961 for Western Electric and is now the Technology Center of Princeton.
“The Hilliers have been clients and friends for almost 20 years,” Hansen says. “I approached Bob and Barbara and a year ago March we took our first look. It’s a beautiful, fantastic location just minutes from downtown Princeton. We get so many calls from clients in Princeton looking for a large, world-class venue and we’re giving them one with world-class architecture.”
When the venue opens, which Hansen estimates will be late spring or early summer 2017, the farmhouse will have a large space on the second floor for weddings, corporate parties, and other events of 300-plus people, a first-level space of slightly smaller dimensions, a “bride’s room,” some intimate dining spaces, and an outside deck. “We also have a spectacular view of the pond,” Hansen adds.
While he may incorporate a “grab-and-go” service for the campus’s corporate clients, a public restaurant is not in the works. Hansen points out that the catering center could also host daylong conferences, including pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol Myers Squibb, whose Hopewell campus is nearby.
Hansen is pleased to return to on-premises catering — at one time he was based at the National Constitution Center — although he will continue to do off-premises catering as well. “The farmhouse allows us to bring what are now several upscale production kitchens under one roof,” he says. He will continue operating the Carversville grocery, but Hopewell will become his base.
Hansen has owned and operated a catering business under a variety of names for twenty-some years, with clients from Philadelphia to New York. Among those he has served are Presidents Clinton and Bush (W) and celebrities such as Carly Simon.
His Max & Me line of smoked salmon has been dubbed by no less an expert than Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se fame as “arguably the finest smoked salmon produced in America.” These days it can be found not only at the French Laundry and the Carversville grocery, but also closer to home at Brick Farm Market, Lucy’s Kitchen, Nassau Street Seafood, McCaffrey’s, and Olives, and it is served at Agricola. In 2003 Hansen wrote a best-selling cookbook, Smoked Salmon, Delicious Innovative Recipes.
Lawrenceville Provisions opening on Gordon Avenue
Jill Sasso, a former wine buyer for CoolVines in Princeton who has also studied at the Cheese School of San Francisco, is in the process of converting a former office space at 9 Gordon Ave. in the village of Lawrenceville into Lawrenceville Provisions, a specialty grocery to be stocked with, among other sundries, cheese, chocolate, natural poultry, no-nitrite bacon and pet treats. She hopes to open in March.
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