contributed by Katy Morris; photos: Liz Rueven
Farm to table is right up Jeff Borofsky’s alley…literally.
Jeff is the proud founder of Skinny Pines, LLC, Fairfield County’s only farm to table focused mobile wood-fired brick pizza oven. He uses only local, seasonal ingredients to create simple and fresh concoctions whilst incorporating sustainability in every aspect of the business. I sat down with Jeff recently to get the skinny on his concept and unique pizza.
What a great concept, Jeff! Tell me how this all originated.
We started about five years ago when we purchased our first mobile brick oven in Boulder, Colorado. The idea was to have something casual, portable, and family friendly rather than starting just another traditional restaurant. We also knew we didn’t want to be just another food truck. Our open-aired set up with the brick oven creates a really intimate and unique experience.
We can just bring it wherever we need to for our customers. We now have two mobile ovens and 6 part-time employees during the busy season (summer) to make it all run smoothly.
Being mobile surely sets you apart from typical food joints, but what else makes you so different and popular?
What really sets us apart is our dedication to using only locally sourced produce from CT and NY farms (the only exception being our Grande cheese, which comes from Wisconsin), most of which are certified organic. This means our menu is never the same and depends on what we can get from our farmers. About our cheese – we are starting to incorporate Mystic cheese as well, which I am very excited about (especially the soft ripened Melville). And yes, I make my own ricotta (recipe below)!
From the very beginning, we have always sourced from Sport Hill Farm, Fort Hill, and Riverbank, and since then, we have tried out other farms around the area to add to our list. This year, Gilbertie’s in Easton, CT grew a lot of our seasonal produce for us, which was great.
We really care about how we prepare our food and what we are serving. Our goal is to try to make it as delicious and wholesome as possible. In fact, I spent about 3 years trying to nail the dough formula to get it just right. I was able to work with other owners of mobile wood-fired ovens from across the country to get tips and tricks and I think we’ve finally mastered it. We get our 100% whole-wheat grain milled to 00 through the Wild Hive Grain Project, which is set up in a CSA model [Community Supported Agriculture]. We make our tomato sauce out of crushed tomatoes from a certified organic farm in Washington, CT called Waldingfield Farm.
And you are big on sustainability as well, right?
Yes…from the locally sourced ingredients in every dish and our involvement with CSA (which I think is a fantastic model for our kids and really helps build community), to the wood we burn in our oven, and even the renewable, biodegradable paper goods and plates, everything we do incorporates sustainability in some way.
That is so great! Tell me a little about your menu.
We do not have a set menu as it depends on what ingredients are available from the farms each season; however, we always have a variety of pizzas, frittatas (which are made with eggs from Ox Hollow Farm in Roxbury, CT), and gluten-free wraps, but of course the toppings change week to week. We always have lots of vegetables and greens available; examples include kale, arugula, onions, tomatoes, and much more.
We do make desserts as well. Right now, we are serving up S’mores made in the oven and assorted cups of Gelato Guiliana, which is made in New Haven, CT [dairy-free options available].
Yum. What is the most popular item?
Our pizzas are definitely our best sellers and our customers come out even in snowstorms to get them in the winter! My favorite vegetarian pie is one we make with shredded mozzarella, organic red onion, kalamata olives, Gilbertie’s rosemary and extra virgin olive oil. Our most popular one when we are at markets is our classic cheese, but our customers really do enjoy all of our seasonal creations…anything with fresh seasonal heirloom tomatoes from Sport Hill Farm, Fort Hill, or Riverbank is always a winner.
Where can we find you?
We are at the Westport Winter Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 10am-2pm at Gilbertie’s (you can find us right outside firing up our pizzas and other items bundled up under a tent…snow or shine!) and then we will be doing the New Canaan Farmer’s Market as well. You can check in on any other events we will be at on our website. We also do catering for parties with 30-300 people.
What are the next steps for Skinny Pines?
A lot of folks ask if we will open a restaurant at some point. For now, Skinny Pines will stay the way it is as a unique mobile oven, but we are thinking up ways to expand, so stay tuned.
Could you provide some suggestions for making their own pizza at home?
My tip for people who want to make their own pizza at home would be to source the best ingredients from your local farmer’s markets and use those to create artisan pizzas. I can’t recommend a specific store-bought dough since I make my own, but I’d imagine calling up your favorite local pizzeria to get the dough would be a good start as they often sell it. Our favorite crushed tomatoes for a sauce is the Jersey sourced ones of La Fede from Whole Foods.
Jeff also gave us some of his favorite veggie combinations that make great pizza toppings – all can be accompanied by shredded mozzarella and a bit of parmesan:
- Olive, onion, arugula or kale – tastes great with or without sauce
- Sweet potato or winter squash, chili powder, red onion, and sage
- Simply fresh tomatoes with pesto
- Roasted thinly sliced potatoes with pesto
Want to try your hand at making your own ricotta cheese? It tastes infinitely well, milkier, than store bought. And the creamy texture cannot be compared to anything you’ve ever tasted.
Traditionally, ricotta is made by reheating the whey after making cheese from ewe’s milk. This simple variation uses whole milk instead of whey; the resulting ricotta has a good flavor and a high yield.
- 1 gallon whole milk (Jeff uses Sankow’s Raw Whole Milk)
- 1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup cool water
- 1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- Combine the milk, citric acid solution, and salt (if using) in a large pot and mix thoroughly.
- Directly heat the milk to 185 – 195 F (do not boil). Stir often to prevent scorching.
- As soon as the curds and whey begin to separate (make sure there is no milky whey), turn off the heat. Allow to set, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
- Line a colander with butter muslin. Carefully lade the curds into the colander. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese has reached the desired consistency.
- For a creamier consistency, add the cream and mix thoroughly.
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
From Ricki Carroll’s “Making Cheese, Butter & Yogurt”