Over the last couple of years, the craft beer craze has rolled into Nicole’s Ten in Randolph like a Jersey shore high tide.
Then it rolled right through the 24 taps and on to the plate.
You won’t find a bigger New Jersey beer advocate than Nicole’s Ten chef Chris Masey. There are always at least 12 taps dedicated to Garden State craft beers and the goal (someday) is to grace all 24 with local craft lagers and ales.
Why not carry that commitment from the bar to the menu? Sure, anyone can do beer and food pairings. In a few cases, restaurants will even incorporate beer into some of the recipes. Masey certainly does those things but he’s thinking outside the keg.
His uses beer ingredients in his dishes.
At the Big Brew Fest at the Morristown Armory back in February, I was introduced to Nicole’s Ten chicken strips, which are breaded not with bread crumbs, but with malt. Malted barley is the flavor backbone of beer. It also contributes color and sugar, which the yeast will eventually convert to alcohol. Making that simple change transforms an otherwise pedestrian bar menu staple into an extraordinary treat. Masey calls it “creative comfort food.” He believes in educating the palate and what better way to learn about beer than to taste food that highlights its basic ingredients.
Masey told me his inspiration came from Chip and Jacqui Town of Rinn Duin Brewing in Toms River. They use malt in the bar mix at their tap room. Chip mentioned that to Chris during a brewery visit and the lightbulb came on: malt as food.
Wait a minute. What’s a chef from Randolph doing at a brewery way down in Toms River? Doing research and making friends, that’s what. His Rinn Duin visit paid off—and so did a trip to Pinelands Brewing all the way down in Little Egg Harbor. The result? Chris Masey has another new friend and you’ll find his beer on tap at Nicole’s Ten. In fact, Pineland’s brewer Jason Chapman is the one who told me about Nicole’s Ten’s commitment to local beer.
Commitment indeed. Nicole’s Ten is rolling out a new bar menu totally focused on beer and the ingredients that make it great. Can you say “Hop-cheese, please?” Rinn Duin’s own St. John’s Irish red ale makes its way into the onion soup and you’ll find a little beer in just about everything thing they do. You’ll also find a menu inspired by the very brewers whose creations ornament the tap handles!
246 Route 10 West