Sleepy Milford, New Jersey, is suddenly the epicenter of the Mid-Atlantic foodie universe.
Back in July, James Beard Award-winning cookbook writers Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer quietly opened their first restaurant, Canal House Station, in a once-abandoned railroad station in Milford that dates back to 1870.
Introducing the Canal House Station
Locals had the place largely to themselves until August, when Food & Wine featured the opening. The buzz only intensified with the release, September 10, of Hamilton and Hirsheimer’s latest cookbook, Canal House: Cook Something (Recipes To Rely On).
The loaded question, “what’s for dinner?” looms over our heads most days. Cook Something aims to make it less of a trigger by being a “helping hand to guide you through the process” of cooking at home.
Comprised of 300 unfussy-yet-special recipes—a style Hamilton and Hirsheimer have perfected—stories, and tutorials from their collective century of cooking experience, Cook Something covers the gamut of everyday home-cooking dilemmas, from boiling an egg to making fresh pasta.
The road that led to the railroad station
In 2006, Hamilton and Hirsheimer founded Canal House, a publishing, design, and culinary studio based just down the alley in Lambertville, NJ, from the revered Hamilton’s Grill Room, which was owned by Hamilton’s father, the late Jim Hamilton.
Nine years later, they moved to a more secluded outpost, but it proved to be a more isolated existence than they imagined. “We realized that even though we think of ourselves as quiet and private, we missed the people, we missed the garden,” Hirsheimer told Food & Wine. “I guess what you’d say is we really missed life.”
Soon after, they discovered the railroad station in Milford. The ensuing restoration took about two years.
Lives lived in the pursuit of good food
Thus far, Hamilton and Hirsheimer are operating their restaurant according to the same principles they’ve described in their cookbooks. Namely, they buy their ingredients from a neighboring farm, or nearby farm stands or markets, and prepare them fairly simply.
“We’ll drive 30 miles because the fish is good there,” Hirsheimer said. “That’s how we shop in our own lives anyway.”
Canal House Station is open for breakfast, lunch, and, because the women don’t like brunch, Sunday dinner, from noon to 4 p.m., instead. “It used to be that families gathered together on Sunday afternoon, the grandparents, aunts, and uncles,” Hirsheimer said. “Maybe people could come and do that here—enjoy themselves, and sit for a while. We could create that kind of vibe.”