When you know where your food comes from, it just tastes better.
I recently had the pleasure of sampling our Garden State’s own Jersey Fields Tomato Sauce. Appropriately named, the Jersey born and bottled sauce is a product of the Farm-To-Table-Food Group, a local company that specializes in the production of sauces and salsa’s using only Jersey farm fresh produce.
The Farm-To-Table-Food Group is owned and operated Hunter Stagg and his sister, Lauren Stagg. They are committed to local sustainability, and not only use local farmers in production, but also local merchants throughout the entire delivery process.
The Stagg family is from Chatham and Hunter and Lauren's grandmother is still a resident. Hunter is a self-taught professional chef, whose mentors include James Laird, owner of Restaurant Serenade in Chatham.
Stagg said he studied culinary arts at Hunterdon County Polytech, which had a restaurant at the school. When he finished, he said "I went right out into the field. ... I just went out and taught myself, worked under good chefs, and put in the time. I feel it worked and I’m very happy where I am today."
Stagg worked at the Ryland Inn under Chef Craig Shelton and at the Tewksbury Inn. He developed a love of "working with our local meat and produce. […] You’ve got to love what you do, even when times suck. At the end of the day you still laugh and say, 'Damn, that was fun!'"
But what about the sauce? Stagg’s style is unabashedly fresh, no doubt inspired by the Garden State. The sauce is light and vibrant, with mellow acidity. Not a sauce to be confused with American “gravy.” I had it over penne, with a little julienned fresh basil and ricotta salata on top, and a medium bodied Montepulciano D'Abruzzo in my glass. Bellissimo!
Want to grab a jar? Jersey Fields is available on Saturdays, throughout the Fall, at the Chatham Borough Farmer's Market in Chatham. Keep an eye out for Jersey Fields Tomato Sauce on the shelves at Whole Foods Market by the end of this summer.