This story was originally published in the May 2017 Princeton Echo.
It took much longer than it should have, but Princeton finally has joined the wildly (and justifiably) popular Korean fried chicken craze. Hobin Chicken opened mid-April at 180 Nassau Street — the space that last had been Naked Pizza. Korean fried chicken differs from its American counterpart in that it is not battered. It is, however, fried twice, which, predictably, results in a crispier, crunchier skin but, not so predictably, is less greasy. The skin is lightly seasoned with spices, sugar, and salt before and after frying.

At Hobin Chicken, customers choose between a final brushing of sauce, either spicy or soy. Wings and drumsticks are the perfect vehicles, though half and whole chickens are also available. Like most Korean fried chicken purveyors, Hobin utilizes small- to medium-size chickens.

I tried an order of three wings and two drums (“small,” $8.99), which comes with a side of lightly sweetened pickled daikon radishes and was impressed with both the crunchy, flavorful skin and the tender, juicy meat.

Ironically, looking at Hobin’s half-page, two-sided takeout menu — complete with full-color photos — it’s easy to miss that the eatery even features Korean fried chicken! It’s tucked down at the bottom of the back side, and without reference to its being anything other than typical fried chicken. Dominating the menu instead are Japanese dishes: udon, teriyaki, katsu, tempura, and ramen. (Although not on the menu, the place also offers fries, which make an ideal accompaniment to the chicken. $3.99 for a very generous order.)

Hobin Chicken’s casual, cheerful space has six tables for two for eating in, and a slick ordering system for takeout through their website or their app.

‘Compost man’ turns kitchen waste to gold

Through his landscape business, Kevin Carroll of Titusville has taken on projects big and small over the last 12 years. But his newest mission is to turn your household food waste into rich compost. His nascent program collects food waste from restaurants and residences in Mercer and Hunterdon counties and delivers it to an area farm, where it is turned into compost and applied to the farm’s fields.

Carroll’s long-term goal, though, is a more ambitious one: to close the circle by returning the finished compost to his customers for use in their own gardens. “The overall goal is to cut down on food waste, which my current project accomplishes,” he says. “My long-term goal, though, is to also provide a viable, premium-grade soil amendment that (a) far surpasses the quality of compost in the area and (b) gets returned to the homeowner.”

He has modeled his private collection system on the municipal program that has been in place in Princeton since 2011. (He does not offer his service within Princeton, so as not to compete.) “I provide the carts, containers, bags, and guidelines on saving food scraps, and I do pick up twice a month,” Carroll explains. He then takes the scraps — food waste such as eggshells, bones, fruit and vegetable peelings, etc., as well as food-related paper goods and garden waste — to the farm, where it is composted and applied to the farm’s own acres.

Currently, Carroll has about 15 private clients and three restaurants that use his service. The latter are: Brothers Moon and Nomad Pizza in Hopewell and Blue Fish Grill in Flemington, which currently uses it for waste from their nearby coffee shop, Factory Fuel Company, but which plans to soon contribute restaurant waste, too.

For information on his lawn care, landscaping, and compost services, call Kevin Carroll at 609-955-0924 or e-mail him at kevin.carroll13@gmail.com

Submit food, drink, and dining tips to dinewithpat@gmail.com.