web1_web1_foodforthought.jpgAlan Kaufman, whose Shibumi Farm mushrooms have been the darling of high-profile chefs in Princeton, Philadelphia, and New York (not to mention Blue Apron, the meal kit delivery service) since he founded the company almost five years ago, is doubling his retail locations. Until now, only patrons of the West Windsor Community Farmers Market have been able to scoff up the three-dozen specialty mushrooms he offers on a rotating basis, among them chanterelles, lobster, and hedgehog mushrooms, and even locally foraged chicken-of-the-woods.

But come spring, 2017, Shibumi will take over a stall at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, sharing space with another newcomer, Fox & Son Fancy Corndogs. There, Shibumi will offer not only fresh exotic mushrooms, but also a line of mushroom stocks, pastas, vegetarian (and vegan) pates, and other inventive food products.

Overseeing the development of these is a Princeton chef whose name may just ring a bell: Crawford (“Kerns”) Koeniger, the former chef at Agricola. Koeniger briefly took over the reins there after opening chef Josh Thomsen left. Koeniger is Shibumi’s first director of operations for the brand-new mushroom products division. The team recently introduced its mushroom broth, an intense, dark-brown elixir selling for $12 a quart.

(Editor’s note: For more background on Shibumi Farm and its 12-acre “experimental research environment,” see Pat Tanner’s September, 2015, article in the Echo.)

Trinity Church to offer traditional English tea

Years ago (OK, decades ago) when I had my own catering company, my favorite bookings were for afternoon teas. Since then afternoon teas have pretty much fallen by the wayside, to my everlasting regret. But the good folks at Trinity Church at 33 Mercer Street are reviving tradition with a full-on English afternoon tea on Sunday, November 6. It will benefit the combined Trinity Choirs, which next summer will be choirs-in-residence and will sing daily services for a week at both Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral in England.

The tea will feature scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, tea sandwiches (I’m hoping for watercress, sans crusts), as well as other savories and sweets. Among those last: shortbread, lemon squares, and Linzer torte.

The premium black tea that will be poured that afternoon is being specially blended for the occasion by the Merry Auld Tea Company of Boothbay, Maine, and packages of it will be available for sale. Trinity Church Choir Blend is a melodious blend of premium black tea from three different regions in India. Each tea was chosen to represent what makes a choir sound so special.

Trinity’s English afternoon tea runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 if reserved before November 5 and $35 the day of the event. (Children under 12: $15). Entire tables can be reserved. For reservations and information E-mail trinitychurchtea@gmail.com.

Musical chairs, chef-style: Albrecht to Ryland Inn, Polignano to Mistral II

Chris Albrecht, executive chef at Eno Terra from its opening in 2007 until he departed in 2014, has stepped into that position at the prestigious Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station. He replaces Craig Polignano, who recently joined the team behind the Princeton’s Elements and Mistral restaurants that is led by Scott Anderson. Polignano will be chef de cuisine for that group’s forthcoming restaurant, Mistral II, which is scheduled to debut in late January or early February in the new addition to the King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania.

The working relationship between Polignano and Anderson goes way back — to the Ryland Inn, in fact, when it was under the direction of Craig Shelton, who earned national acclaim for himself and that Hunterdon County restaurant. “Scott and I started at the Ryland on the same day in 2001,” Polignano says. Polignano had just been hired after completing his internship there as a student at the Culinary Institute of America, and Anderson was in charge of the fish and vegetable station. “A week later the pastry chef called out sick, so Scott and I took over and somehow managed to put out good stuff,” he recalls with a laugh. (Mike Ryan, the chef who works alongside Anderson at Elements, also completed his own internship at the Ryland during this period.)

Craig Polignano will begin his stint by working in the kitchen at Mistral in Princeton sometime this month, as work on the King of Prussia space is finished up. “I’m excited for this opportunity and to be part of a company that’s as passionate about food as I am,” he says. “Mistral’s style of cuisine — chef-driven and seasonal — is a perfect fit,” he says of the modern, eclectic, mostly-small plates menu.”

The dishes at Mistral II will follow that style, but will represent a collaboration between Polignano and Scott Anderson, just as the menu at Mistral in Princeton is a collaboration between Anderson and its chef de cuisine, Ben Nerenhausen.

Anderson is co-owner and executive chef overseeing all three restaurants, which are co-owned by businessman Steve Distler.

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