Readington River and Harper’s Table: A Day to Remember
Courtesy of Jennifer Shafer, JerseyBites.com
Driving along the country roads and farmlands of New Jersey, it is commonplace to see paddocks of horses and cows grazing in pastures. Sheep, goats, and even alpacas have become ordinary sights. But, take a drive along the unassuming County Road 523 just outside of Flemington and you just might do a double take as you pass herds of bison grazing at Readington River Buffalo Farm.
Bison: the Other Red Meat
Bison is a popular choice of protein for many people who, like me, are looking for a healthier approach to red meat outside of beef. Or for those who have read unsavory things about the business of commercial animal husbandry.
Some consumers just want to branch out and try something new. But, whatever the reason, Readington River Buffalo farm is the only farm in New Jersey to offer such a unique (and tasty!) experience for over 25 years.
Scroll down to check out a recipe for red wine braised bison short ribs.
Where the Buffalo Roam
No stranger to farming, proprietor Erick Doyle grew up on a farm just a few towns away. He eventually moved to Colorado. Bison farms in Colorado are expected, but raising bison in NJ is far from conventional.
When the opportunity came along to purchase the dairy farm that would become Readington River, Doyle moved back to the Garden State to make it happen. The idea slowly became reality. While the farm also has eggs, beef, and occasionally locally made pies, it is the bison products that drive the business.
More than a Farm
A visit to Readington River is not like a stop at any other farm. Bison are not animals that you can pet or feed by hand, like a horse or a goat. They are truly majestic creatures. I am in awe at the sight of them whenever I go there.
The farm provides educational experiences by offering tours to school trips. The focus of these trips is not just to look at the bison. They provide children with the opportunity to learn about local agriculture and the environment.
Readington River Buffalo Farm also hosts events for all ages throughout the year, which Kristen Doyle plans and promotes.
Every May, visitors come for Red Dog Day. At this event, they can spot the youngest bison, known as red dogs. These bison were born in the spring.
Other annual events include harvest days, pumpkin hayrides, and a corn maze in the fall. Readington River is also a destination for yoga at the farm.
On my most recent visit to Readington River, Erick hinted that they may add some new summer events to the farm’s upcoming schedule.
Looking for More?
You can make a complete day out of a visit to the farm. For this, I recommend a winter hike. There are many hiking trails, for all levels of ability, close to Readington River.
A Climb with Mountain Views
Less than a mile away is the Peter Buell Trail (orange blazes), which is part of the Round Mountain Trail System. I found this trail, rated as “moderate,” to be well-marked and easy to follow. But it was also rocky and winds its way up the mountain for over 200 feet.
A Few Tips:
- Allow enough time for completion
- Dress warmly and in layers
- Bring water and a snack
- Do not attempt if you are unsure of your hiking abilities
The Easy, Yet Scenic Route
For beginner hikers or if you’re looking for a shorter trail, the Bouman-Stickney Farmstead Trail (orange blazes) is located 2.5 miles from Readington River. This trail includes a little bit of everything, including woods, meadows, open fields, and a small stream crossing. You will also spot historic farmstead buildings along the way.
You’ll find many other trails local to Readington River, and in the general area. Check the websites and virtual trail tours listed below to find one best rated for the abilities of your group.
Ready for Lunch?
With a farm visit and a hike under your belt, you might be wondering if it is time for lunch. I know I was quite hungry after my mountain hiking adventure! Luckily, Harper’s Table is just a quick drive from either trail location.
Local Eats: Harper’s Table
I have been following Harper’s Table for a while on Instagram and was happy to be in the neighborhood to try it. The casual spot offers local beer and a menu of both one-of-a-kind and familiar appetizers, pizza, entrees, sandwiches, and more.
Tomato and roasted red pepper bisque special.
The tomato and roasted red pepper bisque special was a great way to warm up from the cold. It was creamy, flavorful, and very comforting. I was torn about what to order next.
The beet Rueben was calling my name, but the pickle bacon pizza with honey mustard and mozz sounded like such an interesting combination! In the end, I went with the beet Rueben served with fries. This includes roasted beets, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and melted Swiss on rye. I enjoyed this excellent combination and I would love to make something similar at home.
Beet Reuben at Harper’s Table
Ever curious about new options to try, I did ask the server about the pickle pizza. He described it as a popular order and said he likes it. Maybe next time.
If you get over to Harper’s Table and try out the pickle bacon pizza, let me know what you think!
Find more great destinations here!
Readington River Buffalo Farm
937 County Rd 523
Flemington, NJ 08822
For hours, upcoming events, and product availability, follow Readington River Buffalo Farm on Facebook.
The Township of Readington
This link includes parking and trail locations, and information about the hikes mentioned and other local hikes.
New Jersey State Parks Service
Additional recreation areas worth checking out:
1316 NJ-31 North
Annandale, NJ 08801
For restaurant hours, current menus, and specials please visit the website or find Harper’s Table on social media.
Try Something New!
If you would like to try a bison recipe but are unsure where to start, I suggest short ribs.
With just a little prep, you will have a comforting winter meal that is worthy of company, a special occasion, or a quiet night in. This dish has become a Valentine’s Day tradition in my house.
Red Wine Braised Bison Short Ribs
(Technically serves 6, but in my house, it serves 2 with delectable leftovers)
Adapted from a NY Times recipe
- Neutral oil
- 5 pounds bone-in bison short ribs
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 1 chopped white onion
- 3 chopped carrots
- 3 chopped celery ribs
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 cups of dry red wine (I use burgundy. Nothing expensive, but use something you would drink.)
- 2 cups of beef stock (if store-bought, I prefer low sodium)
- Fresh thyme
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Preheat the oven to 275° F.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy bottom, oven-proof pot with a lid. Pat the bison short ribs dry with a paper towel and season all sides well with salt and pepper. Sear all sides of the meat until nicely browned. Do not overcrowd the pot, work in batches if needed. Transfer browned meat to a plate.
Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of oil from the pot. Lower heat to medium. Place the garlic cut side down in the pot and cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Stir the seasoned vegetables in the oil and drippings until well coated and cook until they are getting soft, about 5-10 minutes, stirring to not allow them to over-brown. Add the tomato paste and cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring everything together until the paste starts to caramelize.
Add the red wine and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the fond and caramelized edges into the liquid. Simmer and reduce the liquid slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add the beef stock, thyme, bay leaves, bison short ribs, and any accumulated juices from the plate. Take care to place the short ribs fully into the liquid. Add more stock or water, as needed, to allow the meat to stay submerged. Bring the pot to a simmer, cover it, and place it in the oven.
Cook until short ribs are tender and falling off the bone. This should take 3 ½ to 4 hours depending on the size of the ribs. Start checking at the 3-hour mark and every half hour after. Carefully take the pot out of the oven and transfer the meat from the pot. Strain the braising liquid to remove the solids and herb stems.
Finish and Plate:
While the meat is cooking, take the time to prep and time out your sides. Roasted vegetables, melting potatoes (Jacques Pepin or Foodnetwork.com), mashed potatoes, and polenta are all excellent with this dish.
I like to serve this dish family style, with the bison short ribs and gravy spooned over a creamy starchy side, a variety of salt and rosemary roasted root vegetables, and crusty bread to mop up the braising liquid. Leftovers keep perfectly and taste even better the next day.
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