Chef Mike Stollenwerk of Two Fish BYOB has pivoted his French restaurant, The Little Hen, into a gourmet sandwich concept with imported gifts and goods.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 3, 2020
When Mike Stollenwerk and Felice Liebowitz opened the doors of The Little Hen in Haddonfield last summer, the rustic French BYOB was conceived as an intimate dining experience.
The couple designed their 18-seat, open-kitchen concept to take advantage of seasonal al fresco dining on the broad sidewalks at the corner of King’s Highway and Haddon Avenue.
But colder weather makes outdoor fine dining difficult to muster, and capacity restrictions established for public safety during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have cut indoor limits at the location to fewer than five guests.
So less than 18 months after opening its doors, the couple has reimagined the space as a gourmet market with soups and sandwiches freshly prepared with the same expertise behind its BYOB, Two Fish.
“It was a take on French street food,” Stollenwerk said; “simple, quality ingredients on a really straightforward sandwich. It’s light and it’s packed full of flavor.”
Or, if you prefer: “It’s like a one-handed charcuterie board,” the chef said.
Sandwiches are served on a small loaf of white French bread, cold or toasted.
Guests build them up with the veggies of their choice, starting with arugula, caramelized onions, mushroom fricassee, tomatoes, olives, and pickled cucumber relish.
Then, add a cheese (comte, brie, or French blue), condiments (Dijon mustard, garlic aioli, apricot jam, olive oil, or butter), and your choice of protein.
The selection here includes specialties you won’t find at a typical deli: duck confit, Bayonne ham, chicken breast, olive-oil poached tuna, or roasted tri-tip beef.
(Stollenwerk’s favorite? Chicken breast with comte, garlic aioli, olives, and arugula.)
To complete the experience, they’re wrapped in wax paper with a French newsprint design, and served with a side of fingerling potato salad, prepared with sauteed onions and garlic, tarragon, whole grain mustard, and olive oil — “just a little surprise when you open it up,” Stollenwerk said.
House-made soups rotate daily, and have included shellfish bisque with crab, boeuf bourguignon, and country chicken and vegetable.
The same care has gone into the selection of market items for sale in the storefront. Open up the cold case, and you’ll find imported French and Spanish cheeses, spreads, dry cured sausages made from boar, pork, and duck; and house-prepared chicken liver mousse with shallots.
Hudson Baking Company bread, delivered fresh daily, provides an excellent complement to the charcuterie.
Dry goods include specialties like Jean Reno’s olive oil, tarragon and champagne vinegars, fruit spreads, and MAST gourmet chocolate bars from Brooklyn.
Since the concept launched in October, reception has been good, the couple said—and a lot better than picking through the fall and winter months with two seatings per evening.
“If this were still to be a restaurant, it would be one table, and a lot more prep, and a lot more on-hand to go bad,” Stollenwerk said.
The Little Hen Market is open for takeout 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Monday.
Stollenwerk and Liebowitz are still hosting dine-in service at Two Fish BYOB, just a half-block away.
With limited capacity seating, reservations are recommended.
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