As autumn begins to slowly yield to the call of winter approaching, we begin to fall into patterns and traditions linked to the holidays and foods made with purpose, intention and above all else, a loving heart.
Generations of family gather in kitchens sharing secrets, passing on recipes, exchanging techniques while planning out dinner menus and deciding what delicacies to bake. During this time of year when family is brought into sharper focus and comfort foods are more abundant, there seems to be warmth in the air that not even the deepest chill of winter can permeate.
This warmth and these intentions are present from the moment one enters the Lovin’ Oven. Currently located across the Delaware River in Frenchtown, NJ, Lovin Oven had its start 11 years ago in a Victorian style home located in Milford, NJ. Their reputation grew for delicious baked goods and breakfast and lunch features driven by locally sourced ingredients far in advance of the locavore movement in our region. The need to find a location that provided the space required to meet the needs of their growing following became a priority.
Chef and owner Julie Klein beams as she greets her guests, many of whom are as familiar to her and her staff as are their families. It is a culture that has been nurtured with the end result being an environment where creativity in the kitchen and harmony amongst the team yields beautiful food served with a warm smile. The demeanor is never hurried. Servers exude a sense of humble pride as they bring forth food that is as tastefully presented, as it is full of seasonal flavors from the very best local vendors available. Blooming Glen Farms, Trimble Farms, Cherry Grove cheeses, Me and My Family for meats, and Manoff Farm Market for strawberries, peaches and apples are just a few of the local vendors and farms that have been carefully selected to grace your plate and please your palate. Every menu item is ingredient driven and carefully considered to bring out the flavors of the season and region, American Farm to Table at its best.
Originally intended as a breakfast, brunch and lunch café, the Lovin’ Oven made the move several years ago to slowly expand their hours into the evening. With this decision came the need to bring on a few additional sets of hands in the kitchen. To test the waters a bit, gourmet pizza and salads were offered on Friday and Saturday evenings. Farm to Table Dinner opportunities became more of a reality when the Lovin’ Oven moved to it’s current home with the dinners providing patrons the opportunity to partake in a multi course meal hosted by Julie, her staff and the farmers.. This personal and open approach to dining has continued to evolve into dinners that celebrate community. Toward the end of November, the Lovin’ Oven hosted it’s fifth bi-annual Community Dana Dinner. This seasonal community dinner and pot-luck is open to the community as a whole with the term Dana being an ancient Pali word meaning giving and generosity. In addition to thoughtful dishes made with incredible local ingredients, dinners such as these and other expressions of generosity and kindness toward the self and the community set the Lovin’ Oven apart from other establishments.
With the addition of extra hands in the kitchen, Angel and Faye, the number of evenings that dinners are offered was expanded. Wednesday evenings are now dedicated to three courses of International Comfort Foods courtesy of Faye’s culinary expertise and experience both she and Julie gained at the Rosemont Café. Angel leads from the front on Thursdays, offering a three course Italian Dinner complete with home made cannoli. Both dinners are priced at $21 per guest. Farm to Table dinners remain a staple from June through October with all involved striving to offer a highly concentrated events where various components of the meal, flavors and knowledge marry to create a complete experience.
As the chill sets into the air and winter begins to make itself more frequently known, the Lovin’ Oven has some wonderful ways to put some warmth back into your day. Looking for breakfast? In addition to seasonal and savory breakfast specials you will find the Autumn Egg Panini served on thick sliced raisin bread with grilled ham, radicchio, friend egg and sharp cheddar cheese. Perhaps you are looking for a bit of a protein boost to start your day. The Roasted Apple Quinoa Breakfast Bowl may be for you. Made with coconut milk and organic maple syrup, the quinoa is topped with cardamom almond clusters, sliced banana and roasted butternut squash. Huevos Rancheros, House Made Quiche featuring seasonal ingredients also plays a staring role in breakfast as do other items with breakfast and lunch specials listed online daily.
Perhaps you are not an early riser but are looking more towards beginning your day with lunch prior to exploring all that Frenchtown has to offer. There are several vegetarian and gluten free options available in addition to other seasonal items. For a light start the Stuffed Avocado Salad served over greens with black beans, roasted corn and organic brown rice, drizzled with cilantro lime vinaigrette and topped with house pickled red onions may just do the trick. For a little warm and sweet the Sautéed Seitan Veggie Burrito may hit the spot. Served in a whole-wheat tortilla with caramelized sweet onions, roasted butternut squash and garlic sautéed kale all served with dairy free chipotle sour cream and garlic roasted tomato. The Roasted Pear and Brie Melt features cranberry chutney and a house made walnut spread, served on pumpernickel with baby arugula. These are just a few of my favorite things.
There is a light café menu offered from 3pm to 5pm but the real star of the show is the dinner menu. Served 5pm to 9pm Wednesday through Saturday, the variety of options available truly leaves something for everyone’s taste. Among the starters are soup and a variety of salads with ingredients consistent with the season. Among the options you will currently find are the Autumn Antipasto Plate- local cheese, house made pickles, cured olives, roasted red peppers, butter bean salad, house made whole grain maple mustard and grilled bread.
Entrées are varied with casual fare offered along side more formal choices such as Blackened Jail Island Salmon served with organic brown rice, southern okra succotash and garlic sautéed kale. Red Beet & Ricotta Gnocchi featuring sautéed red beets, aged balsamic and shaved locatelli romano sits comfortably above the Korean Beef Bulgogi, a grilled, marinated steak offered with house made kimchi, organic brown rice, Korean dipping sauce with bibb lettuce wraps. If more causal fare is what you are looking for, Baja-style Fish Tacos, Roasted, Spiced Chickpea Tacos and other options are listed under casual fare.
This is just a small sampling of all that Lovin’ Oven has to offer in addition to a specialized menu for holiday catering. To get a sense of all that is available I strongly recommend that you take a few minutes to peruse their menu on line. With changes occurring seasonally based on available ingredients, there is always something new to look forward to and Julie and her staff have continuously challenged themselves to be inventive in their kitchen to bring out the very best flavors in what is seasonally available. The experience that the Lovin’ Oven provides is about more than just food. It is akin to having a meal prepared by the best of friends and family and dining with the same at a table where warmth and hospitality are abundant.
As always, enjoy.
About the Contributors
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