Tom About Food

Food for Thought

Home » Articles posted by Tom Reynolds

Two chefs, one kitchen

I had the privilege of attending a charity dinner for the Carol G Simon Cancer Center at Escape in Montclair. I often enjoy Escape because there are not too many other places where one can get farm-to-table food at reasonable cost. For the charity dinner, Chef Bryan Gregg was joined by Chef Todd Villani of Terre à Terre.

The intimate scene of 40 people in a small space just west of Lackawanna Plaza reminds me of a barn with a modern twist, the aluminum metal doors and exposed ductwork. The black and white photos of farmers at work and chalkboards listing the farms where the food has come from makes sure you never forget the reason you chose to come here.

First, the amuse bouche of scallop, grapefruit, poppy seed and avacado by Chef Villani. You can taste the desideratum of the Chef, a need to keep food to its simple flavors. The showcase flavor here was not the blank canvas of scallops, but its relation to the grapefruit. It was an intriguing journey, who’s course was set by this first course.

Next, a surprise unexpected from the night, Chef Gregg’s cornbread madeleines. Soft, spongy, sweetly kissed by honey, the cornbread madeleines always has some memory for the patron. I have heard stories of mothers and grandmothers and trips to far lands revealed by the madeleines. For me, it is a reminder of my own grandmother teaching me how to cook on chairs turned backwards against the counter so I can see what is going on.

20150325_200600The next course came, a mirepoix-ish soup. The mirepoix, traditionally added to flavor and color a stock, here was the the soup. A pickled white carrot suspended in a creamy celery root soup. This was a soup. The creamy kind that is hard to find in homes anymore. Chef Villani again keeping the flavors simple and delicious.

20150325_202555And now the dialectic becomes defined, between Chef Villani’s complimentary flavors that hint toward one end and Chef Gregg’s bold view of food: the sot-l’y-laisse. There is one morsel of on the thigh of poultry, sometimes called the chicken oyster. It is one of the most flavorful and tender parts of the chicken. Chef Gregg displayed it for us atop a soaked rye bread and a green pea puree. The chicken, rye, pea not fighting for your attention but dancing boldly together on your tongue. A stark transition from Chef Villani’s compliments. If Chef Villani was the tango, Chef Gregg is the capoeira. Both beautiful, both mesmerizing, but this dish was bold.

20150325_205437Fourth plate, the fish. That ugly fish you have to stop and stare at in the grocery store. It’s wide mouth of many tiny sharp teeth, its flat head, laid out for display atop a bed of fresh ice, its dark scales looking greasy in the sunlight, a fish you would stop swimming if you saw one coming at you, the monkfish. Plated foraged mushrooms, turnips, the haricot, green cover vert and mussel cream. The light flavor of lobster and a similar texture, all complimented by Chef Villani’s choices for bedding. The roasted haricot was visually an appealing touch.

20150325_212343The auroma of seared beef filled the room, as the quinto corso was prepared. A dry-aged beef with the Jerusalem star, the Aztec’s food of the Gods, Mexican truffle or huitlacoche and miner’s lettuce by Chef Gregg was the sensory winner of the night. miner’s lettuce, who’s flavor is akin to the bitter bite broccoli rabe, with the sweetness of the huitlacoche, meet the beef cooked perfectly. In a dither for how these flavors would meld together, the chef managed to do so with such a beautiful dish.

The journey of the night near complete, every course prepared perfectly, every dish more interesting and delicious than the last. Chefs Villani and Gregg masters of their craft allowing us a peek into their culinary genius. As this journey comes to a close, the final course, the dessert simply listed as: brioche, white chocolate, hazelnut and orange. This by Chef Gregg where the hazelnut and orange, made the white chocolate more, exquisitely more. The brioche soaking up the flavors and covered in a whipped cream made moments before.

If there was every a way to support cancer research and care, through the kitchen of Escape would be the most enjoyable way to do so.



I was reminded about how delicious scones are when I realized I have baking powder at home. I had a half hour to kill, and a memory of my childhood. So, let’s get to the important things.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk (I used a vanilla almond milk)

additional ingredients

  • berries of your choosing
  • grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • get creative and add your own twist


this is the difficult part…

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients.
  3. Mix in melted butter
  4. In another smaller bowl, mix milk and egg.
  5. Mix wet and dry ingredients.
  6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. If you’re concerned about making a mess, consider a large baking sheet on a towel. Knead dough briefly and cut into 1/2 inch thick round..
  7. This is where the fun happens – cut up anything you want in your scone and fold it in. You may need to reflour the scones if they are too wet.
  8. bake for 15 minutes in the preheated over or until golden brown. Consider taking another egg, beaten, and lightly coating (brush with pastry brush) the tops of the scones to get a beautiful golden brown color.


All the credit goes to the busy easy creative folks at

I’m letting you know now, I didn’t measure everything precisely and was generous on the cheeses because, well, I love cheese.


Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 24 button mushrooms, stems removed, washed and dried
    I used crimini (bella) mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
    I added another tablespoon, give or take
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat over to 425

Combine all ingredients and stuff into mushrooms. Place stuffed mushrooms onto tray that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake for 15 minutes, serve immediately…

well, you might want to wait until its cool enough to eat. You might also want to quadrupedal the recipe, it was enough for 2, but its more likely that once you start eating them, you’ll want so much more.

Sidenote: because I used crimini mushrooms, you’ll need more than 24, the recipe almost reaches 50 mushrooms worth. The bite sized nature of the criminis and flavor make it for a better choice, I think.


Whole Wheat Dough:

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

Stir in olive oil and salt in the yeast mixture. Then mix in whole wheat flour. Mix in roughly 1 cup of the white flour.

Knead dough out on a floured surface until all the flour has been absorbed. Add more if the dough is too sticky.

Cover loosely with a towel and let stand in a warm place until dough doubles in size.

Cut into two pieces and roll out to desired thickness. Put your toppings of choice on.

Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden at the edges and cheese is melted.

The human body


One amazing trick the body can do is make things you need taste better. Low on protein, easy some high protein dish and your body will make it taste amazing. Low on certain vitamins, eat something rich in it, it’ll be the best mall you ever had. Well, I’m low on it all, and this dish actually taste sweet right now.



Celebrating independence day with honey jerk chicken, spinach and rice… Needs some peas for this rice… Well, shouldn’t be doing rice at all. But it’s independence day

Its a cheat day


I don’t know what that means, but I’m cheating hard. Tgi Fridays, then upstairs for drinks. Guess i need to purchase a scale soon. But i got a ceiling fan instead.


My girlfriends says I should eat breakfast. It’s probably the best idea for your metabolism, jump starting it with a real meal within an hour of waking up.
So, today, though late, I’m having breakfast… Maybe tomorrow it’ll be a healthy one. Lol. Sausage, egg white on a roll

#BreakingBad (habits)


Breaking bad habits requires a lot. And clearly I failed. But, I did replace the unhealthy snack with a granola bar… Getting there. I only have the one beer left, of I don’t buy more, i can’t have more… right?