CHATHAM, NJ - Chef James Laird and Janice Piccolo "brainstormed" a way to mark the 10th anniversary of the Chatham Farmers' Market and the 20th anniversary of Restaurant Serenade in Chatham.
The idea for a "Farm to Table" event hatched by Serenade Chef Laird and Piccolo, the manager of the Chatham Farmers' Market, came to life on Sunday evening at Reasoner Park at Firehouse Plaza.
Chatham residents closed out the summer by tasting the signature offerings from local eating establishments and cleared their palates with local beers and wines while listening to the live music provided by the band "Good to Go." Chris Tomaino was the emcee for the event.
"I wanted to do something to support the town and the farmers because, for me, it's all about the farmers,
Laird said. "The town has supported us all these years and it just all came together."
The evening was capped by the "Top Chef Competition" between Laird and his wife, Nancy Sheridan Laird, the co-owner of Restaurant Serenade. The two each made a dish with shrimp and scallops donated by Whole Foods.
Nancy Laird was the winner with her Ceviche, gaining the majority of the votes from the six judges. James Laird made shrimp and scallops poached in tomato broth with fresh herbs and pasta.
"I know I won't be sleeping on the couch tonight," James Laird said.
Other local chefs did their part, too. River Grille chef Eric Moody served up a delicious butternut squash soup, topped with goat cheese; the Pascarella Brothers, Antonio and Gino, made their signature "home-made meatballs," Cafe Villa dished out a customer favorite, Chicken Francaise, while Chatham's newest eatery in town, Chianti Pizzeria came with a variety of its brick-oven pizzas.
Also, making the event special were a Taste of Asia, Aida's Cozy Kitchen, Cafe Beethoven, D'Oro Ristorante and Melick's Town Farm.
River Horse Brewing came up from Ewing to show off its New Jersey brews and Valenzano Winery poured its wines made from grapes grown in its 88-acre vineyard located in the Pine Barrens. Tree City Vodka mixed up the perfect summer drink: blueberry, lemonade, vodka and mint.
For desert, the choices included Mr. Cupcakes, Yo Lotta Luv and T.M. Ward Coffee.
"It's a great way for the community to celebrate the farmers' market," Piccolo said. "We really didn't want to go for the summer without having one more last event. We really had a nice welcome in Chatham, so we wanted to give back to the community as well. It was also a way for us to have some economic stimulus for the businesses downtown. Maybe you haven't tried one of their restaurants. The food here was outrageously good."