NUTLEY, NJ - While some pundits claim that Time Square is the cross roads of the world, those in the know understand that Nutley has always had lived up to that moniker: whether it was Dutch settlers, entrepreneurs who built Franklin along the rail lines to New York, or Roman Catholic Immigrants looking to start fresh in the New World, the township along the Passaic River has been the place for people to come together and build community.
On that journey, neighbors embraced the time honored traditiion of sharing a plate or two and leave with inspiration to bring the foods of other cultures into their own homes.
Executive Chef Jeff Galan of the Oakley Kitchen and Cocktails has taken that tradition of melding cultures to create a special dish for the Nutley Family Service Bureau Garden Party taking place Sunday September 15 in the Moustsier-Hardie Garden.
Galans crispy pork takes inspiration from Italy and China to create a taste sensation that is sure to be talked about for a long time.
This isn't just any crispy pork, just presented on a plate like a wanna-be piece of bacon. This pork is served in its own doughnut pillow, but this isn't just any doghnut, this is a five-spice donut. And its finished with fernet caramet.. No need to google anything, we're going to discuss what all of that means.
Crispy pork we all understand, well, we understand. but rarely do we have the change to experience pork prepared by someone who understands the nuances of porks flavor and textures like Galan.
Five spice, commonly called Chinese five spice, is a blend of warm spices including cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. All of these spices are familiar, and when combined create a taste sensation that captures the essence of Autumn, but is works all year round, especially with barbecue pork ribs, but that's another conversation.
Galan then reduces Fernet, an Italian herbal liquer, into a caramel to bring sweetness to the party. The herbal flavors and aromas not only work their magic with the pork, but balance out the spices of the doughnut.
So what's the hole melding of cultures thing?
In the Dark Ages, the period between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, bubonic plague spread rampantly across Europe, including the Italian penninsula. At the time, Italy was a series of city-states, like mini-countries, all looking out for the welfare of their people. This is where the Asian and Chinese Italian connection comes in.
Venice was always a sea power. During the Middle Ages, Venice cut itself off from the rest of Europe, including trade, to prevent the spread of disease. Being seafaring people, the Venetians looked east, traveling to Asia Minor, the Arabian penninsula, and as far as China for trade, becoming an economic powerhouse. On the way home they brought back spices, including what we know as Chinese five spice, with them. So while the rest of Europe was shrouded in misery, the Venetians were creating fusion cuisine.
The sidebar of this period is the architecture, the Venetians were so busy trading they did not keep up with the latest architectural styles. This is why so many Venetian buildings feature Italian Gothic motifs long after the Renaissance had established itself on "the mainland." But that's a whole other conversation.
Back to the pork. Being a first time participant in Nutley Family Service Bureau's Garden Party, Oakley owner Khris Reina wanted something special for the event. He tasked Galan with creating something new, and crispy pork in five spice doughnut with fernet carmel was born.
The garden party takes place today, Sunday September 15, in the Moutsier-Hardie Garden on Rutgers Place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Online ticket sales have closed, but tickets are availalbe at the garden gate for $75.
The party will also featureother area restaurants, an eclectic mix of jazz, classical, and contemporary music from The Attic, Vince Villanueva, Nutley School of Music, Bongiorno: Jazz Guitar Volunteers, and more.
“We are grateful to Silas and Graeme for their continued support of NFSB by opening their spectacular garden to the community for the benefit of our programs,” said Eileen Painter, Executive Director of the Nutley Family Service Bureau. “Mental health services are critically needed, as is the growing demand for our food pantry services. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit these programs.”
The Nutley Family Service Bureau is a non-profit organization that has served the greater Nutley area for over 100 years. Its mission is to strengthen the emotional and social well-being of individuals and families through affordable mental health counseling and social service programs, including an expanded Food Pantry.
If you are not going to the Garden Party, the Oakley will be serving their "NFL Surf and Turf Tailgate Combo" during this afternoon's games.
The Oakley is located at 789 Bloomfield Ave in Nutley, just across from the On3 campus. There is parking alongside the building as well across the street along Nichols Park.