TIDBITS HIGH SUMMER 2014

MEATBALLS AT HOME

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Photograph: courtesy of The Flying Meatballs

If you love a good Italian meatball in the comfort of your own home but lack the Italian grandmother who knows the secrets to making them, there’s now another option. Natale Grande, executive chef (and son of the founders) of the critically acclaimed Il Capriccio restaurant in Whippany, will send you meatballs in the mail. Grande launched his new venture, The Flying Meatballs, last year. “My father taught me the formal culinary kitchen, while my grandmother taught me the Italian country kitchen,” Grande says. “My style of cooking is where these two kitchens meet.”

The Flying Meatballs online menu boasts five different types of meatballs: from turkey to three-meat mixtures to 100% organic grass-fed beef. And you can order more than just meatballs. There are four sauces (or gravies), from tomato to basil to mascarpone. There are also dried pastas, chosen for texture and ability to hold the sauce; imported Italian cheeses; and even comfort foods like mac and cheese.

“We started out in 2010 selling online, when we were testing the waters,” Grande says. “Back then, we were selling 50 pounds of meatballs each week. Soon we were seeing demand for over 150 pounds each week, and we started looking for a separate location.” In May, to complement the mail-order operation, The Flying Meatballs launched two gourmet shops in Mendham and East Hanover.

When you order online, your Flying Meatballs arrive snugly packed in a small cooler. The meatballs come frozen, the sauces fresh in jars. But shipping can be pricey ($25 for delivery, with a minimum $200 order), and who wants to wait, anyway? So you can also find Flying Meatballs in Kings Food Markets, Fairway Markets, and Calandra’s Bakery stores in Caldwell, Fairfield and Newark. —Adrianna Donat

The Flying Meatballs
633 Rte. 10, Whippany
973.798.8362
theflyingmeatballs.com

Flying Meatballs Gourmet Shops:
7 West Main St., Mendham
110 Rte. 10 W., East Hanover

COMPETITIVE DRINKING

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Photograph: courtesy of Heritage Vineyards

A total of 285 wines were entered into the 2014 New Jersey Wine Competition, originating from 30 different Garden State wineries. The results of the contest, held annually at the Rutgers Research and Extension Center in Cream Ridge, are in.

  • The Governor’s Cup Award—the equivalent of best of show— for a grape wine went to Sharrott Winery in Winslow for their Vignoles, a white wine with a beautiful white-peach-aroma.
  • The Governor’s Cup Award for a fruit wine went to Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill for their Jersey Blueberry wine, which judges said tasted just like blueberry pie.
  • The Governor’s Cup Award for a dessert wine went to Tomasello Winery in Hammonton for their highly regarded 2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine.
  • Winery of the Year went to Heritage Vineyards, which entered 21 wines into the competition. Every one received a medal, for a total of four gold, eight silver and nine bronze medals.
  • Alba Vineyard in Warren County, winner of the 2009 and 2013 Winery of the Year awards, kept up its winning ways with 11 medals this year.

New Trends

New trends within the New Jersey wine industry are revealed yearly at the competition. The most positive trend is that gold medals are now well distributed throughout the state’s wineries. Thirteen different wineries, in locations from Cape May County to Warren County, won gold in 2014, indicating excellence in wine production throughout the state. Five wines, from the following wineries, tied for the top score of the day during the competition: Renault Winery, Sharrott Winery, Heritage Vineyards, Auburn Road Vineyard & Winery, and DiMatteo Vineyards.

A trend in new grape varieties being planted was also evident. Sauvignon Blanc has made a comeback in vineyards after some failed attempts in the early ’80s. Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley of France is also being planted with some success, while Nebbiolo, the noble grape of Italy, appears to be doing very well in the Cape May region. The classic grape variety Merlot was entered by many wineries in this year’s competition. If the medals received are any indication, this variety has moved out of the experimental column and into the status of a proven winner in New Jersey vineyards.

Heart of the East

Some big news in New Jersey wine this year is that wineries in the Outer Coastal Plain region of the state have released a signature wine called Coeur d’Est, which means “Heart of the East.” The wine will be a blend of five French varietals grown in southeastern New Jersey: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chambourcin. If the results of this year’s competition are any indication, this wine will be very popular with consumers. —Gary Pavlis

BY THE NUMBERS

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases a Census of Agriculture, a state-by-state accounting of the American farm. The latest census, released in May, shows that New Jersey followed the national trend: The number of farms in the state and the total number of farm acres dropped between 2007 and 2012, though the size of the average farm increased.

  • According to the latest census, there are now 9,071 farms in New Jersey, down from 10,327 in 2007. That’s a drop of 12%. Salem County was the only New Jersey county where the number of farms increased.
  • The number of acres in farms declined from 733,450 acres in 2007 to 715,057 acres in 2012. That’s a drop of 2.5%.
  • The average size of a New Jersey farm increased from 7 1 acres to 79 acres.
  • The average age of the New Jersey farmer rose from 57.1 years to 59.5 years.
  • While the numbers, at first glance, seem mostly negative, there are bright spots on the Garden State’s agricultural horizons. One area of growth for New Jersey farmers has been direct sales to customers. Direct sales to consumers through roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own and community-supported agriculture (CSAs) rose from $30.1 million in 2007 to $33.3 million in 2012, an increase of 11%. New Jersey ranked fourth in the nation in the value of market products sold per acre, at $1,408, which is more than three times the national average.

What can consumers do to help sustain Garden State farms? Look for on-farm agritourism opportunities such as pick-your-own apples and cheesemaking classes. Join a CSA, shop community farmers’ markets, and support retailers who sell locally grown produce and other food products. —J. Flesher

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