by Edie Weinstein
Gorgeous scenery. Passionate locals. Farm fresh food. The Delaware River Towns has become a mecca for local food purveyors and consumers. Though just a short drive from New York City and Philadelphia, the sprawling farm lands of the region allow foodies to immerse themselves in a delicious, farm fresh food paradise.
One such place to do that is at the Stockton Market in scenic Stockton, New Jersey, a year-round indoor Farmers Market, where among dozens of food purveyors you’ll find the talented Megan Jones-Holt – both a foodie and front woman for Market Pizza.
We had the chance to connect with Megan to learn more about her passion for pizza and the local food movement in the Delaware River Towns.
Warning – just hearing about the culinary treat will guarantee to make your mouth water and have you wishing you could snap your fingers and transport yourself to the location and immerse in pizza heaven!
DRT: Congratulations on so quickly earning a top reputation for serving up some of the best pizza in the region! How has your relationship with food influenced your decision to get into the field?
MJH: I’ve always loved to cook and grow my own food. I never saw myself going into the biz and this gig found me at the right time. I really don’t look at it as a restaurant but more like art. Pizza art that is. And I’ve always been an artist whether it’s drawing, painting photography or food.
DRT: Is it something that was part of your life early on?
MJH: I grew up in a foodie city; New Orleans. I learned from some of the best cooks in NOLA what tasted good and to play with different combinations. Most great cooks have a sixth sense as to what will taste good. A no- rules-applied attitude. I remember sitting down with Paul Prudhomme a long time ago at his restaurant when it was family style. He came out and sat with me and we talked food. I was in heaven.
DRT: Many people have a love affair with pizza. What makes Market Pizza exceptionally alluring?
MJH: It’s funny you say that because we do get people who are pizza connoisseurs. They have traveled all over the world eating pizza. The best compliments are from these folks who say we rival the pizzas they have had in Italy or even Pizzeria Beddia in Philly. The owner’s name is Joe Beddia and the restaurant won an award for Best Pizza in America in 2015, according to Bon Appetit magazine
First is a great base. Your dough has to be flavorful. Ours is hand-made weekly and you know it is by the bubbles. The comments are that it’s the best crust they have ever had referring to the flavor and bubbles. It’s the fresh quality products used. Then it’s the creativity used for the weekly specials and me convincing them to open their minds and give it a try. I like to get your taste buds jumping by using spicy, savory, and sweet all on one pizza.
DRT: Are your pizzas adapted to meet special dietary needs?
MJH: If I’m allowed to play with my food then why not let everyone else? We have pizza lovers who cannot eat dairy or they are vegan or vegetarian. We let them change things around with some suggestions from me, of course.
DRT: The Delaware River Towns has a thriving farm to table community. Can you tell us about why that community and concept is an essential component of your offerings?
MJH: Farm to table is a food source that is grown within a local region and not shipped across the country or overseas. Supporting the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area farmers impacts the local economy, thereby creating a sustainable food source for Market Pizza. These products that go into the pizzas we make are one of the reasons that keep customers coming back. It’s not so much that they know it’s local but it’s the quality, the freshness that makes us stand out. We are in a quasi-farmers market, so the farm to table idea is extremely important. I eat that way so I should cook that way for my friends. Locally grown or produced food can be healthier. From the time a farmer picks or produces a product to it being consumed is shortened thereby enhancing the freshness, flavor and nutrition. The Stockton market provides a year- round connection between local products and consumers.
DRT: Who are some of the local vendors whose ingredients go into making the pizza?
MJH: In gardening season, I grow and use my own herbs and produce. The meats (bacon, Italian sausage, etc.) come from Manny’s Grass Fed Meats. The mushrooms are from Mushrooms etc. I will also use Cottage Spice, Blue Moon Acres, Zach and Zoe honey, Bread n Spoon and Pulled Fork BBQ when creating weekly specials.
DRT: Are they part of the Stockton Market?
MJH: All of the above vendors are in the market. It’s a true market experience. I like to support my fellow vendors and it makes life easier to be able to buy right there.
Other local vendors Fulper Family Farms for cheese. Griggstown Farm for eggs, Readington Buffalo Farm for a bison special I did. I use local as much as possible.
DRT: There is no doubt amazing local food purveyors throughout the region. What sets the Stockton Farmers Market apart as a destination?
MJH: It’s a true foodie destination and attracts a wide range of people. Locals who come regularly not only do it to shop and eat, but to socialize. They have become friends and not just customers. Then we have those who live an hour away who come at least once a month because they know it’s a destination that will give them a great experience and great food.
DRT: And it seems to be a community gathering place.
MJH: I’ve owned business in the past and I can truly say that I love the people who come to this market. We’ve come to be family. The vendors and the customers. Market Pizza’s customers belly up to the pizza bar for some great food and conservations. It’s like the TV show Cheers. We have gotten to know them and what they like to order. People love that about us.
We sell our hand- made dough for those who want to DIY at home. We sell par bakes (pizzas not fully cooked so they can be finished off at home) which are much better than reheating a fully cooked pie. We offer dough stretching classes on Friday mornings.
There are also Chef specials. Each week I create a special that is not on our regular menu. I’ve partnered with the Stockton Fine Wine store next door and they create a wine or beer pairing.
I look at the dough as a base or canvas to hold the “meal”. I don’t look at it as a pizza so much. When I create them, I think about what I like. For instance, being from NOLA I love shrimp and grits and my favorite sandwich is the muffuletta. So why not on a pizza? Each week I post on our Facebook page what the special is. We have customers who ‘like’ the page just to get the specials. There is a couple that come in every week and always get the truffled mushroom (their fav) and the special.
DRT: Okay- we’re officially hungry now! We’ll make sure to visit the Stockton Market (19 Bridge Street, Stockton, NJ) when they’re open Friday, Saturday, or Sunday soon. Save a pie for us!