Jersey Bites is proud to once again partner with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Jersey Fresh program. Throughout the summer, please check in for Jersey Fresh Fridays, as we cover the latest and greatest about restaurants statewide that celebrate—and cook—Jersey Fresh. If you share or comment on any of it on social media (please do!) be sure to use #JerseyFreshFridays!
After seven years of working pastry magic together at The Flaky Tart, Matthew Rosenzweig and Laura Martelli are fostering another magical talent—as the new owners of the Atlantic Highlands bakery. Now with the full creative freedom that comes with ownership, the two have blended their love of artistry and seasonal produce with a flair for social media. The Flaky Tart is emerging as a pied piper of Jersey Fresh, if you will. Instead of a flute, Rosenzweig sends out their sweet messages with daily posts to Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #JerseyFreshLove. Wooed by hunger-pang-inducing photos, customers can’t seem to resist following their eyes (and stomachs) into the elegant shop that was a 2016 James Beard award semifinalist for Outstanding Baker.
The strawberry is the star of their siren’s song at the moment. During the all-too-fleeting peak strawberry season here in New Jersey, these chefs are using them in any way imaginable—strawberry shortcakes, tarts, scones, cheese cakes and even in salads. Chef Laura’s strawberries and cream cake is a dreamy confection made with yellow buttermilk cake soaked with vanilla bean syrup, layered with local strawberries and a fluffy cloud of fresh whipped cream. The cake is available as a special order or by the (generous) slice at the pastry counter. In other recent cake creations they paired strawberries with hibiscus and a rich chocolate devil’s food cake.
Rosenzweig has been stocking the pastry case as fast as he can with strawberry brioche. Even on a quiet Wednesday morning these puffs of tender pastry filled with crème fraiche custard and fragrant strawberries were a sellout before noon (see photo at top). Just when you think they created enough temptations, they roll out mini tartlets that tenderly hold glistening berries like ruby rings in a cream, velvet-lined jewel box.
An accomplished forager of wild berries and other edibles in the Garden State, Rosenzweig also likes to seek out local produce for the bakery directly from the source. The strawberries they use are coming in from McCormack Farms in Middletown, a family-owned farm that’s been in operation since the 1880s. They sell their berries and other produce at their roadside farm stand.
And the Jersey Fresh love at the Flaky Tart is certainly not limited to strawberries. Lately, Martelli has gone to great lengths to use as much Jersey Fresh asparagus as possible. “This is what asparagus should taste like,” she tells customers as they eye a delectable tart brimming with goat cheese and verdant spears of asparagus just harvested at McCormack Farms.
At lunchtime, customers can find a selection of salads, frittatas, sandwiches and foccacia breads that highlight fresh local ingredients. Customers could not resist the call of the recent rhubarb specials: foccacia laden with rhubarb and sweet Italian sausage and a rhubarb upside-down cake.
This spring farmer Meg Paska of Rumson has been supplying the Flaky Tart with produce that they use in salads and on top of focaccia breads that quickly sell out once Rosenzweig posts a few mouthwatering photos. “Just yesterday we had a salad with Meg’s greens and radishes that we sold out in record time,” he said. The bakery started purchasing from Farmer Meg after she stopped in to introduce herself and told them about her farm, which is just five minutes away.
“I like to seek out restaurants and chefs that make food I really like,” Paska said. “It’s important for me to have face time with people. It’s really fun to have a dialogue back and forth there. They post what they are doing with my produce and it inspires our customers to try new things at home, too. ”
Martelli encourages more farmers to approach the bakery directly. “We always try to promote local farms,” she said. “Definitely reach out to us. We’d love to use more local and be inspired by whatever comes our way.”
The upcoming summer season will be their first as owners. “Seasonality is a priority,” Rosenzweig said. “It is something important to me. There is a bigger push for us to be local and seasonal. We have a great farmers market here in Atlantic Highlands on Fridays.”
Martelli added, “As it gets warmer we have more to choose from and we take advantage of that.”
From the sounds of their menu plans the duo has plenty of inspiration. When sour cherries are ripe in June, Rosenzweig plans to pick them himself at Battleview Orchards in Freehold. He is also a fan of the ground cherries grown by The Farm in Freehold. While in the area he stops into From the Garden in Freehold for Jersey Fresh honey and honeycomb. Laura is already envisioning foccacia topped with Jersey peaches and blue cheese, heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese or brushing them with a tangy plum barbecue sauce. There is talk of a watermelon panna cotta and dreams of tarts piled high with blackberries, currants and raspberries.
We can only wait for patiently for their sweet messages to beckon us to come see and come taste their take on Jersey Fresh Love.
The Flaky Tart’s Top Places to Shop for Jersey Fresh Produce
Atlantic Highlands Farmers Market, Atlantic Highlands
Battleview Orchards, Freehold
Dearborn Market, Holmdel
Earth Friendly Organic Farm, Clarksburg
Farmer Meg, Rumson
From the Garden, Freehold
McCormack Farms, Middletown
Sickles Market, Little Silver
The Farm, Howell
The Flaky Tart
145 First Avenue
Photos by Rachel J. Weston unless otherwise noted.