Arts & Entertainment

Chatham "Farm to Table" Event Celebrates Anniversaries of Farmers' Market, Restaurant Serenade

James and Nancy Laird of Restaurant Serenade square off in the Top Chef Competition Credits: TAP Chatham
Jenna of River Horse Brewing served up beer made in Ewing, New Jersey Credits: TAP Chatham
T.M. Ward Coffee owner Axlyn Summer offered "pumpkin spice" and other flavors Credits: TAP Chatham
Monica Schaefer and Vicki Fife Credits: TAP Chatham
Bob and Patty Falzarano Credits: TAP Chatham
Home-made meatballs were served up by Antonio and Gino Pascarella Credits: TAP Chatham
Vicki Fife gets some butternut squash provided by River Grille's Peter Schwab and Lisa Martucci Credits: TAP Chatham
Attendees could also bid on silent auction items Credits: TAP Chatham
Keeping with the farm theme, there also were seats made out of hay Credits: TAP Chatham
James and Nancy Laird prepare for their Top Chef Competition Credits: TAP Chatham
James Laird serves up his dish for the judges in the Top Chef Competition at the Farm to Table event Credits: TAP Chatham
James and Nancy Laird, owner of Restaurant Serenade, serve up about 28,000 meals each year Credits: TAP Chatham
Nancy Laird shows off her 2016 Farm to Table Top Chef Award. James Laird was the runner-up Credits: TAP Chatham
Chris Tomaino was the emcee for the event Credits: TAP Chatham

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.

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"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."


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