of sauce at FIC’s 23,000-square-foot facility, where
many of its clients prepare and package their prod-
ucts. Added his wife, “We didn’t know the product has
to stay fresh for two years on the shelf. We didn’t know
we had to check Ph levels [which relate to shelf life].
They’ve helped with all of that.”
The first face newbies see is usually that of Julie
Elmer, FIC’s associate director of food technology. “I
help people optimize their ingredients, figure out nu-
trition facts, scale up their recipes,” she says.
Can the fledglings rightly be called entrepre-
neurs? “We think of an entrepreneur as somebody
with a great idea and gumption, willing to think out-
side the box,” says Islam, who receives about 300
inquiries a year from prospective clients. “Strictly
speaking, most have not started a business, but we
like to define entrepreneur more broadly.”
Since the big Bridgeton facility opened in 2008
(FIC previously had a small office in town), about
600 people have attended a Food Business Basics
seminar, out of which came about 75 contracts. So far
38 products have reached market—or been “birthed,”
as FIC staffers like to say. Among the most success-
ful, says Holtaway, have been Princeton-based First
Field, whose all-natural gourmet ketchup (made
from Jersey tomatoes) is available in 11 states and
many Whole Foods stores, and Fair Lawn-based
FatBoy Cookie Company, whose Frozen Outrageous
Cookie Dough is in dozens of stores from New Jersey
to Ohio, including several Whole Foods markets.
The center also works with food and pharmaceutical companies from the U.S. and abroad that
want to introduce new products or refine existing
ones. Corporate clients pay higher fees than individuals for services that include taste testing, product development and market research. About 35
percent of FIC’s clients are corporate.
The center reaches out to farmers as well—“to
help them get grants,” says Islam, “and get them
thinking about value-added products—instead of
just selling fresh peaches, making a peach salsa.”
The FIC doesn’t try to be all things to all aspirants.
If someone has a great idea for a dairy product, FIC
But those who have been through
the FIC process feel like alumni and
often return with new ideas or just to
visit. “We get to catch up with them,”
says Holtaway. “And to feel proud that
we helped.” ■
AMBIENCE: Hipster honky-tonk
on a lakefront
SERVICE: Ebullient, occasionally overwhelmed
WINE LIST: Full bar, 15 beers on
tap; 10 in bottle
DINNER FOR TWO: $74
HOURS: Dinner: Tuesday
through Thursday and Sunday,
4 PM to midnight; Friday and
Saturday, 2 PM to 2 AM. Lunch:
Tuesday through Sunday, 11: 30
AM to 3: 30 PM.
AX, D, DC, MC, V, ;
172 Lackawanna Drive, Stanhope
(973-347-BONE ; downto-thebonebarbecuecompany.com)
JEFF FELDSTEIN IS SERIOUS about his smoke. He grew up on Long Island helping his dad grill in the backyard. He later joined his father’s court-reporting firm and became the GM, but with the economy tanking in 2009, he
left and took a barbecue course with respected pitmaster Konrad Haskins.
“I learned the Texas barbecue way,” Feldstein says. “The essence is the
meat, the taste of the beef and pork. The smoke, rub and sauce are secondary.
When you’re tasting the extras, you’re not tasting the meat.”
After earning certificates in management and kitchen technique from what
is now the International Culinary Center in Manhattan, “I spent over a year
traveling to regional barbecue events and festivals, competing in tastings and
eventually selling my sauces,” he says. When a longtime bar and grill on Lake
Lackawanna in Sussex County came on the market, Feldstein pounced. Hav-
ing earned his college degree in industrial design, he had the waterfront space
outfitted with two decks, handsome booths, gleaming wood tables and bar, and
enlivened the walls with funky old signs and other country color. In April 2012,
Down to the Bone started smokin’.
The menu is vast (borderline bewildering), packed with combos and mixed
grills in appetizer, entrée and family-size (“feast”) portions, plus a host of salads and ’cue-sauced “barbecue fusion” items like wraps and pastas. Barbecued
meat can be added to virtually any item.
Doing due diligence, we discovered a couple unlikely winners. Pulled-pork
egg rolls sounded like a send-up—barbecue channeling Chinese takeout—but
no joke, they were irresistible. Barbecue pizzas (oval flatbreads made with
pizza dough) were another happy hybrid. We made short work of the DTTB
pizza, a generous scattering of meat—brisket, pulled chicken or (our choice)
pulled pork—topped with Jack cheese, fried onion straws and Mild Madness,
one of Feldstein’s two proprietary barbecue sauces. (The other is Sweet Heat.
Both finished in the Top 10 in the 2011 New Jersey Barbecue Competition.)
Unfortunately, the pizzas appear only on the lunch and late-night menus.
My table demolished a plate of crisp fish and chips made with basa, a catfish
cousin, as well as a pair of meaty crab cakes we swabbed with a lively mango
aioli. Bone Fire Wings have more than a catchy name. Smoked and deep fried,
they were plump and flavorful. Some items failed to live up to their intriguing
handles. Topsy-Turvy sautéed shrimp, served on toast, delivered little flavor.
Spitfire Chili Sticks proved to be sodden fries heaped with yawningly mild chili
and gooey cheddar, a failed spin on loaded nachos.
The best meat is the succulent pulled pork from Texas purveyors Smithfield and Hatfield. Pair it with the better sides—sweet Southern-style cole
slaw, creamed collards (new to me, made with heavy cream, pork and hot
chile peppers) and bourbon-tinged baked beans that leaped to attention with