Chef James Laird Honors The Jersey Tomato

by Melody Kettle

Tomato Watermelon Martini to be served at Tomato DinnerChefs and foodies, New Jersey and beyond, look forwardto that fine summer day when they could walk out into their garden and pick the first ripe tomato.   Few fruit are more delicious than a ripe, fresh, juicy, slightly sweet, somewhat acidic, sometimes mild, occasionally citric, umami rich, homegrown, vine-ripened, Jersey tomato.  The tomato, despite its savory nature, is classified as a fruit because it develops from the plant’s flowers, and grows to surround the seeds.

Scrumptiousness aside, tomatoes are also nutritional powerhouses, packing niacin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, lycopene, choline, and large amounts of glutamic acid, otherwise known as umami!  Whether you like heirlooms such as the rich Purple Cherokee, the quirky Green Zebra, the classic, Brandywine, or prefer hybrids like the Rutgers-bred Ramapo Tomato, tomatoes are the unequivocal taste of summer.

Next Wednesday, August 3, Restaurant Serenade, 6 Roosevelt Avenue, Chatham, will be celebrating tomato-season and kicking off their Tomato Tasting Menu, by hosting their Tenth Annual Tomato Dinner.

The dinner, which begins at 7pm, includes a five-course meal featuring local tomatoes, paired with wines. The menu will showcase tomatoes from Melick's Farm in Oldwick, and Chef James Laird's own garden.  

Peter Melick, of Melick’s Farm, will be in attendence to answer questions and discuss tomato varieties, specifically how some varieties are being brought back after many years of being forgotten.  Chef James Laird, is also an accomplished gardener, who tends to his  own half-acre garden where he grows vegetables and herbs, which often make it onto Serenade's menu. 


The Tomato Dinner kicks off the Tomato Tasting Menu, which will be available at Serenade from Aug. 4 until end of September.  Cost per plate for the Tomato Dinner is $125 including tax and tip.