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Dining Out: The next phase of immersion in seasonal cooking

Twelve years and 10 cookbooks after opening Canal House studio in Lambertville, N.J., Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton have moved on to the next phase of their immersion in seasonal cooking: a restaurant.

Canal House Station opened ever so quietly this summer in a converted train station in Milford, N.J., serving breakfast and lunch four days a week, plus a multi-course meal on Sunday afternoons.

“It was the next step,” Hamilton said recently as the duo moved easily around their bright, open kitchen where counters are filled with fresh ingredients.

After years of writing recipes with engaging texts for books that share their cooking experiences ranging from how to boil an egg to how to make duck and lamb sausage, they are sharing them by serving home cooking to their customers.

The casually elegant restaurant may have opened without fanfare, but their fans quickly found them, some coming back each week to try different dishes on the seasonal, local farm-inspired menu.

While this is basic homestyle cooking for Hirsheimer and Hamilton, it’s a step above what most of us expect for breakfast and lunch. Some of the recipes come from their books, while others are newly developed and destined for the next book they will write.

“The menu is what we like to eat,” explains Hamilton, and what they like is made from the best ingredients they can find.

The menu is fluid, depending on what is available at local farms and elsewhere. The apples, peaches and plums they used in tarts were grown locally, while avocados destined for smashing on toast came from a small grower in California.

A fried chicken sandwich served on a brioche bun has been a customer favorite since the doors first opened, and will remain on the menu, while the soups and salads of the day depend on local availability.

Omelets also are a customer favorite, served for both breakfast and lunch. Recent offerings included kale or ham with comté cheese, and eggplant with zucchini. Their country-style paté is made using multiple meats, with a ribbon of liver running through the center.

With so much fruit in season lately, tarts and cobblers have been the desserts of choice, with the tarts make lighter by the use of phyllo dough for the crust.

On Saturday mornings the menu is limited to Hirsheimer’s grandmother’s recipe for buttermilk pancakes served with butter and maple syrup and a side of bacon, while the Sunday afternoon dinner is multiple courses and requires a reservation.

The Canal House Station café has an understated elegance both in the charming surroundings and the carefully created menu. It is a rare opportunity to be able to dine on dishes crafted by your favorite cookbook authors who are showing they really do know what they are writing about.

2 Bridge St., Milford, N.J.

Wed.- Sat., 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday lunch noon-4 p.m.

Breakfast $5-$12, lunch 8-$12, Saturday pancake breakfast $12, Sunday dinner $42.

Fried chicken on a brioche bun, omelets, Saturday pancakes, avocado smashed on toast, country paté, and soups of the day.

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