It all began when Angela A. Potts was walking her dog. Alright, maybe it started a bit before then, but that was the beginning of Hearth, the new vegetarian restaurant in New Hope.
For those of you who follow the restaurant scene closely, you may have heard that chef Vincent Peterson was slated to open a vegetarian restaurant called the Kindle Café (named after his previous “pop-up” café in Lambertville some years ago) in New Hope in late April. That didn’t come to fruition. What did happen is that Steve Frank, owner of the venture, put up a notice on the restaurant’s menu post that he was looking for a vegetarian chef. Angela, who had worked up a business plan for a new restaurant already, saw the note while walking her dog. The rest, as they say, is history.
“The space inspired me to do more down-to-earth food,” explains Angela referring to how the historic building influenced her choices. Hearth sits in the old ferry toll house on Ferry Street in New Hope, a warm space with wooden floors, rustic stonework, exposed beams and a beautiful bar tiled in earth tones. A lot of people refer to it as the “old” Martine’s because Martine’s was there before they moved down to the river. It’s been through a couple of incarnations since but the building can handle it. It’s seen a lot in its time.
Angela describes the menu as “elegant peasant food.” What does that look like? Simple, locally sourced, seasonally-inspired, nourishing food, she explains, presented beautifully.
I should mention at this point that Hearth is not completely vegetarian or vegan. They also serve fish, sourced from River & Glen, a local purveyor of sustainably fished seafood. But most of the menu is geared to vegetarians and many of the dishes are vegan, or can be made so upon request. Ditto with gluten-free.
Angela is a local girl, currently living in Bristol Borough. She grew up in Levittown and Yardley. But she spent several years traveling the world, mostly in Southeast Asia, Central America and South America. She has been to thirty countries – “I’ve traveled to places that grow coffee” – and has worked on farms and side-by-side with native cooks.
Her cooking resume is interesting too. She spent time living in Western Massachusetts, cooking at the Kripalu Yoga Center and People’s Pint Restaurant & Brewery. She also worked in the kitchen at FARMiCia in Philadelphia, known for its emphasis on “simply crafted,” organic food, using artisanal, local producers. This will be her first stint as executive chef and she is thrilled to be doing it back home.
“It’s not just about cooking the food, it’s where it comes from,” explains Angela. She sources her ingredients as much as possible locally, enjoying the relationship with small farmers and the quality of the product. She looks for area farmers who practice organic and sustainable farming methods.
“Ideally I want organic but I can’t always get it,” she explains. “And I don’t want to get it from California if local farmers have it.” That’s a sensibility shared by many local chefs. When push comes to shove, they’d rather go local than buy organic from thousands of miles away. But Angela is still using a lot of organic ingredients like olive oil, milk and cream, herbs and spices, and canola oil (non-GMO).
The menu is seasonally-influenced, changing as needed. It’s very reasonable too. “Small Bites,” or starters, range from $5 to $11, and they are not that small. When we visited recently, my husband, Mark, had one of the customer favorites on the menu, the Cauliflower Floret, a floret seared and plated with a romesco sauce ($9). My carnivore husband was blown away and scraped up every drop on the plate.
I had the Asparagus Boquerónes, fresh asparagus spears with white anchovies, a hardboiled egg and a sparkling lemon vinaigrette ($9), and was extremely happy. Some other choices included a Tuscan Kale Salad, Polenta Piperade and Halloumi with Fig. The small bites are offered all day long, so if you feel a bit peckish mid-afternoon, drop by.
The entrees were equally pleasing. I had the Gravlax Tartine, a house-cured salmon, laid on herbed crème fraiche, with cucumber and radish, all on toasted pumpernickel, and served with a fresh side salad. The gravlax was buttery and delightful. It was all of $12. Not that money is the most important thing, but it’s nice when you can go out for a good meal without making a dent in the bank account.
Mark chose the Smashed Chickpea on Dark Bread, Mediterranean spiced chick peas, “hardly smashed,” with a peppadew tapenade, roasted fennel, shaved celery, arugula, fried shallots and leeks, also on toasted pumpernickel with a side salad ($12). Did I mention my husband is a meat-and-potatoes kind-of-guy? He loved every bite and keeps asking me when we can go back.
Another favorite among the Hearth’s growing fans is the Roman Cambodian, a sourdough sandwich with fresh green peppercorn, Dijon, Thai basil aioli, crisp tempeh bacon, hard-boiled egg, baby spinach, and roasted red peppers ($12). Or the Jicama-Grapefruit Salad, with jicama, grapefruit and avocado, over micro greens and a citronette dressing ($7). The Spring Harvest Pasta, made with zucchini, yellow squash, semolina capellini pasta, peas, asparagus, fava beans and an herbed cashew cream has also been a big hit. Although one vegan diner insisted there must be dairy in it because the sauce – likened to an Alfredo – was so creamy.
Angela’s partner in running the restaurant, Anna Davis, manages the front of the house and so much more. Credit her with the warmth of the ambiance and service. She even used her green thumb to design the beautiful flower boxes outside. “We only met at the end of March,” says Angela, “but we worked so well together that we were able to put the whole place together and soft open by mid-April!”
The restaurant is BYOB which might sadden some folks who have fond memories of hanging out at the lovely bar inside. But Anna has used her herbal knowledge to create some tempting non-alcoholic drinks that would mix well with someone’s bottle, like a Strawberry Basil Fizz made with fresh strawberry juice, basil and San Pellegrino, or a Rosemary Limeade.
Hearth has 34 seats, which includes a small space downstairs and a larger room upstairs. In nice weather, there are tables outside, where you can watch New Hope walk by (always interesting). We had dinner there on a Friday night and it was a great spot to watch the fireworks.
Angela would also like to connect to the local community. “The building has so much history and means a lot to many people.” She is thinking of holding special events on Mondays and Wednesdays, like a book club, or a “Sprinkle and Pour,” a tasting event where people can try different combinations of herbs, spices and food (you can see Anna’s touch there too).
“It’s really about the full experience. Fresh, deliciously prepared food, in a warm, inviting location,” she says. “I want people to leave here nourished and pleased.”
7 East Ferry Street
New Hope, PA 18938
Hours: Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Open for lunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Open for dinners Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Update 8/9/13: Hearth has started Farm Market Mondays as of August 12, 2013. Every Monday enjoy a specially designed three-course Local Farm Prix Fixe menu for $30.
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