FOOD

Cake That! in Manahawkin

AAAAGH! Get me out of the house!

After a long frozen wintery stretch, the prospect of an unseasonably warm Saturday gave my wife and I the impetus to throw the little ones into the car and get the hecks out of Dodge. Where? Anywhere! Just as long as it was outside.

One of our favorite local spots to bring the kids is the “pirate” park down in Barnegat (also known as Project Playground) by the high school. On this day, our AAAAGH!s became ARRRRR!s as we ran around after our children, watching them scale a real pirate ship! Alright, so it wasn’t a real pirate ship, but it was a real pretend made-of-wood pirate ship-looking thing, so you just hush.

Anyway, here’s the thing about playgrounds: they tend to be rather wet after a recent melting of snow. And muddy. As much as you may try to keep yourself neat and clean, you help your younger youngster down from a high ledge, get her shoe dragging across your clothes, and now you look like you’ve been rolling around as much a they have. But who cares? ARRRRRR mateys!

After an afternoon of sailing the high seas for adventure, there’s nothing a band of pirates wants more than cupcakes. Yes, I said cupcakes, so you just hush…again. We piloted our ship to a little cupcake place in Manahawkin called Cake That! The place may have been little, but the cupcakes were normal-sized. And wonderful.

Truth be told, calling Cake That! a cupcake place is selling it rather short. They do make regular cakes (which are anything but regular – check out their work on their site) as well as doughnuts, cookies and biscotti. Coffee is avalable in different flavors and styles, thanks to How You Brewin’? Coffee Company from LBI providing their locally-roasted beans. But it’s their cupcakes that have brought acclaim to Cake That! They got the finals of “Cake Wars” on Food Network, and their cupcakes were part of the festivities leading up to The Big Game this past February.

But back to the hungry and dirty band of pirates. Upon arrival, a plentiful display of standard and specialty cupcakes awaited us in clear cases. Vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, chicken and waffle…chicken and waffle? Oh yeah, a chicken nugget perched upon a mini-waffle, which was perched upon a spiral of butter cream, which was perched upon the cupcake itself, which had a base of another mini-waffle. All kinds of wrong, with all kinds of you-know-you-want-to-eat-this attitude eminating from it (yes, cupcakes can have attitude – do you need to be hushed a third time, because so help me…). The woman at the counter was very enthusiastic about my selection of the chicken and waffle cupcake. People working in cupcake places should be happy; cupcakes are nothing if not little bundles of happiness with frosting.

Chicken and waffle cupcake

Was it good? Difficult to eat, but worth the effort. A subtle touch to the overall effect was the fact that the cake itself was not overly sweet. The flavor was more in line with a buttery biscuit.

Meanwhile, our daughter had a double chocolate cupcake. Eating for her is still very much a total-body experience, so there was cupcake pretty much everywhere. And with the dirt she had tracked in from the pirate park, you couldn’t tell where the dirt ended and the cupcake began on the floor below her.

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We apologize to the folks at Cake That! for the mess. But it’s hard to be upset with someone as cute as this.

Filled with tasty treats, our pirate band headed back home. Colder days may come still, but it is a comfort to have bright beams of light such as Cake That! to warm you up when you need it.

Hello, Again (OK, So I May Be Posting More Stuff)

Last October, Lisa wrote a wonderful ‘goodbye for now’ post, essentially telling everyone that we were moving on from our website. At the time, it felt altogether fitting and proper to do so.

From my perspective, I was feeling as if the website was running me, and not vice versa. It was becoming less and less enjoyable. And, truth be told, I wasn’t really doing a whole lot of writing. Collecting and collating info, yes, but very little actual writing.

We took a break, and it gave us time to think about where we wanted to go with this food writing business. For Lisa, she has decided to take a longer break altogether. You will still see her weekly nightlife article in the Courier-Post, and maybe down the road she will post a thing or two here. But for now, her thoughts and inspirations are taking her elsewhere. And I am so looking forward to see where they will take her.

As for me, I am going to start posting here again. The fact of the matter is that I enjoy writing and love having an outlet for it. Expect future posts to be a little different than in the past. Expect them to be more wordy and less pic-y. As far as keeping you up to date on upcoming foodie events in South Jersey, I will continue to keep up on Twitter with the South Jersey Daily Nibble. I am also back to posting (on occasion) on the Jersey Bites site and have been helping them out with the weekly Foodie Things to Do post. If you follow Jersey Bites, you may have noticed more South Jersey events getting mentioned.

I will be working on getting this site in better shape. Lots of pics did not make it over during the coversion, so there’s that project.

The BIG project I will be working on this year is a book. The subject is on Cape May food, past and present. Look for the book on the shelves of your local bookstore sometime next year, hopefully by Memorial Day. It is a very exciting project for me, combining my love for food with my love for local history. Along the way I will post about my experiences putting the book together.

So hello again, and I look forward to sharing my food adventures with you.

FOOD

The Best Things We Ate in 2013

2013 was another fun and exciting year for food in South Jersey. So many new places to try, so many great dishes being served. While we couldn’t possibly get to every single one of them, here are ten memorable dishes and meals we had during the course of the past year. I posted these on our Facebook page, but here they all are in one shot.

(Hey…I thought you guys weren’t posting anymore! What’s up with this? More on that soon…)

* There’s a little churrascaria in Bayville called Fire Pit Grill that is cooking up some tasty things. One of the tastiest would be their yucca fries with francesinha sauce and cheese. Disco fries have lurid dreams at night with desires of being this good.IMG_0041

* It was nice to sample an eatery that gives fusion a good name for a change. The cauliflower avakaya pizza from Bombay Local Pizza in Voorhees was a surprising treat. Definitely worth a visit.

* From early on in our blog history, we became fans of Chef Mark Smith of Tortilla Press in Collingswood. Five plus years later, and we’re still big fans. Earlier in 2013 we enjoyed a special farm-to-table menu that had a raspberry and marscapone empanada for dessert. If that sounds divine and inspired to you, it was even better when we tasted it.

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* 2013 was The Year We Discovered Cocktails. Before then, we were basic beer folk. But now, the mixological sky’s the limit. I personally found myself attracted to bourbon, and sought out cocktails featuring this great American spirit. And at Sax at The Reeds in Stone Harbor, I was served an Old-Fashioned at Sax at The Reeds in Stone Harbor. One sip and I got it. Cocktails are magical. And Ed, the main bartender there, knows his business.

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* Atlantic City Bottle Company was arguably the coolest place to open in 2013. Love the concept and the execution. And Chef Kevin Cronin is sneaky brilliant. He made us a dish that included sunflower ‘cheese’ balls. No cheese used at all, but meant be a substitute for cheese. You know what? They really did taste like cheese. Really. Amazing.

* My kingdom for soup dumplings! Finally, a place that’s close to home that’s serving honest-to-goodness soup dumplings: Yuboka at Revel in Atlantic City. Been missing these delights for so so sooooo long. Thank you Chef Garces!

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* Obis One. Obis One! One of the best afternoon experiences I have had since getting into this food-writing racket. Patrick and Lisa Lloyd are on a different and higher trajectory than most of us, and their historic farm in Pennsville is much, much more than their black garlic. The meal they served us was just an unexpected joy.

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* Chef Alain Allegretti of Azure made Lisa a beet salad. Here’s the story: while at Taste of Revel sampling chocolates and wines with Chef Luke Palladino, a discussion of foods we don’t care for came up. Across from us was Chef Alain. Lisa brought up her hatred of beets. “They taste like the bottom of a lake,” she told us. Well, Chef Alain told her he would make her love beets. We show up at the appointed time, and we were presented with this simple and wonderful salad. And Lisa loved it.

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* Amada at Revel. After chasing Spain for some many years, it’s wonderful to have it so close to home. Yes, I know – Amada is old news now. But so what: the meals there are consistently top-notch. Thank you Chef Garces…again!

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* Rarely does a restaurant live up to the hype. Zeppoli in Collingswood actually surpasses it. Chef Joey makes the simple profound. Flawless…completely flawless. And he’s a really nice guy, too.

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We’re On To The Next Adventure!

ThankYou

Five and a half years is a long time.

It was long enough to witness the pregnancy and birth of our daughter, and watch her grow into her beautiful preschooler self. Long enough to build a small following with a little foodie website (no one was more surprised than us!), and learn so very much about South Jersey food and the people who grow it, cook it, sell it and eat it. Long enough to discover ourselves as writers, venture out of our little nest in cyberspace, and contribute to various publications we’d never dreamed we would see our bylines in.

Yet, now, after five and a half years, there is a discomfort for Eating In South Jersey, much like the discomfort of a grown child who is restless and needs to leave the home they have known and move on. Try as we might, we simply cannot sustain the amount and quality of content that we would like with the time, money and manpower that we have at our disposal. It has been causing a prolonged disruption to our family life/work balance for a while now. We attempted to solve the problem by switching to a paid-subscription model (since the advertising model didn’t work), thinking we could hire quality writers to provide increased content and part-time employees to do the endless logistical and technical legwork required to keep the site going…but it was a gamble that did not pay off as we had hoped it might. So once again, we are at a crossroads. We could follow the model that many other sites do (paid content, restaurants as advertisers, etc.), or post sketchily (as we have been for the past few weeks) and let the site become less than we would be proud of…or, like a good parent, we could recognize when it is time to let go. Knowing who we are and what we want to contribute to this world, we think the sign posts are clear.

So it is with much sadness that we are announcing that we will no longer be posting on our website, effective immediately. We will be leaving the existing content up to be perused at everyone’s leisure free of charge until the end of November. To those of you who have subscribed, we will be refunding your money in full (the last few months are on us, loyal readers).

But are we done for good? Not by a long shot!!! You can still read our foodie posts and reviews on our friend and colleague’s site, Jersey Bites. We will certainly post things of interest from time to time on our Facebook page and will keep on tweeting away on Twitter (@EatingInSJersey and @lhowardfusco). Our time will now be free to contribute to more publications…and we’ll even float a rumor that we might even have a few locally-minded foodie books in the works.

Tears will be shed around our household, yes… but, in the words of Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” We are truly grateful for your readership and support over the years, and we hope you will be on the lookout for us as we transition into the next chapter of our food-writing lives.

In Service and Gratitude,

John and Lisa Howard-Fusco

BEER

Beer Me This Week in South Jersey

Forgotten Boardwalk

That darn cat!

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing in Cherry Hill, while still not open yet, introduced their logo. Pretty nice, eh? But the kitty doesn’t have a name. That’s where you, the drinking public, come in. You can go to their website and give them your suggestion.

Hey – look who’s letting microbrews take over their taps: it’s Daddy O on LBI! Tuesdays will be the day, and it starts with Yards this week.

The Ebbitt Room and Cape May Brewing are teaming up for a special Steers & Suds dinner on Thursday night. The cost for the dinner is $75 per person.

Cape May Brewing is also the official beer at TownBank Volunteer Fire Co’s Oktoberfest, which will take place from October 18 to 20.

Friday night Ott’s Medford is having Otts-toberfest, which will include a stein hoisting contest and the serving of Sam Adams Utopia.

On Saturday, you have a new Oktoberfest celebration taking place at Robert J Miller Air Park in  Berkeley Twp from 1PM to 6PM. Tickets are $10 a person. You also have The Great PumpKing Event taking place at PJ Whelihan’s locations in New Jersey, The Pour House and Treno.

And congrats to Flying Fish for winning silver at the Great American Beer Fest for their OktoberFish!

FOOD

Celebrate Food Day in South Jersey on October 24

Eat Real!

That’s the message that’s being sent out in events around the country this October 24. That day is Food Day, a day of celebrating “healthy, affordable and sustainable food” through locally-organized events. This includes events taking place right here in South Jersey. See what’s taking place:

* The biggest of the local celebrations is Slow Food South Jersey Shore’s all-day affair at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County in Cape May Court House. The festivities run from 11:30AM to 5:30PM and include classes on organic farming, beekeeping and canning, a lunch, and a presentation from RAH (Rutgers Against Hunger). The lunch is $5, and the canning class is also $5, and yopu do need to reserve in advance. Please check out Slow Food South Jersey Shore’s website for all of the details.

* Sustainable Cherry Hill is holding a panel discussion at the Croft Farm Arts Center from 7PM to 9PM. The panel will be talking about current food policies on a local and national level and what positive changes can be made in both.

* At ShopRite in Glassboro, dietician Cassandra Golden will be providing food, recipes and other information on nutrition, and having fun things for the kids to do from 12PM to 3PM.

FOOD

Saying Goodbye to The Sweet Life

Last Saturday, we said goodbye to a bakery.

Our friends Jill and Stephen at Sweet Life Bakery, after six years of fighting the good fight with pastry, decided to call it a day at their Vineland location. The realities of a second child on the way and Stephen working full-time as pastry chef at the Ritz Carlton in Philly simply made it impossible to keep the bakery going. Thier last day open for retail business was Saturday (they still have some wedding cakes to supply until the end of the month), and we felt the need to go and visit and wish them well.

This is not the end of their story, but simply the end of this particular adventure. In talking to the both of them, they have plans for the future. What will those plans be? Oh no – that would spoil the surprise. You’ll find out when we can talk about them.

We use the word ‘love’ a lot when it comes to food writing. Overly so, maybe. But I can say without question that we loved Sweet Life Bakery, and we loved the craft and the quest of Stephen and Jill – to be staunchly local, to use the best that the area offers in terms of raw materials, and not to compromise. It was an unexpected joy to have stumbled upon them in 2008, a complete honor to write a short piece about them for Edible Jersey in 2012, and a bittersweet moment shared with them this past weekend. When you meet people who are on a higher trajectory than most, you can’t help but be in awe of the view.

And I even bought a T-shirt.

Good luck to you guys!

BEER

Beer Me This Week in South Jersey

First, A bit of updating:

* Things are moving along for Rinn Duin Brewing in Toms River, who is looking to have a soft opening date this month.

* Big 55-gallon stainless steel drums arrived for Village Idiot Brewing in Mount Holly this week.

* More construction photos from Glasstown Brewing in Millville. Drywalling – well, ok, maybe not the most riveting stuff. But it’s progress.

All you zombies show your faces this Thursday in Mount Holly for the Mount Holly Zombie Bar Crawl. The crawl goes from 6PM to 9PM and High Street Grill and Ott’s will be a part of the beer festivities. Expect plenty of pumpkin brews to be available.

Still plenty of Oktoberfest action to be had. Friday night is the Oktoberfest Dinner at Artisan’s in Toms River as well as the Oktoberfest Beer, Wine and Food Festival being held at Courtyard by Marriott Glassboro this year.

Friday and Saturday is Dubh Linn Sqaure’s Oktoberfest celebration at their Bordentown and Cherry Hill locations.

On Saturday, you have the Wildwood Craft Beer ‘n Music Festival at Cattle ‘n Clover from 12PM to 4PM. The cost is $35 per person. Later in the day in Burlington it is Geraghty’s Cigar Dinner Part 2 starting at 4PM. The cost to eat, drink and smoke is $50 per person.

And Flying Fish will be at Kitchen Kapers in Moorestown for a special Cooking with Beer class from 6:30PM to 8:30PM. The registration fee is $65 per person and $110 per couple.

BEER

Beer Me This Week in South Jersey

The big big news this past week is that * fanfare * Flying Fish will be brewing a special beer for New Jersey’s 350-year anniversary which is next year! What a great honor for Flying Fish, and they are asking for your help in suggesting what ingredients should go into the beer. But don’t wait! The beer will be released early next year.

* Passion Vines in Somers Point is having a Great Pumpkin Tasting on Tuesday at 6:30 for $25 a person. Taste a number of pumpkin beers and enjoy pumpkin desserts from Steve & Cookie’s in Margate.

* Homebrewers rejoice! Bring your brew over to Geraghty’s in Burlington this Wednesday for Homebrew Night starting at 7PM. Have a night of sampling and chatting with fellow homebrewers.

* Wednesday is also the Beer Dinner at DiPaolo’s Italian Ristorante in Penns Grove. Dinner starts at 6:30PM and courses will be paired with beers from Samuel Smith.

* On Thursday Great Lakes Brewing is coming to High Street Grill in Mount Holly for a tap takeover and tapas evening.

* Yards is crossing over the river again and taking over another tap! This time, it’s Ott’s in Medford on Friday starting at 6PM.

*AND – this weekend is chock full of Oktoberfest events. Check out our post about Oktoberfest events for the details!

Get Your Daily South Jersey Nibble on Twitter

So…your morning has started, you want to do something foodie-like later on, but you’re lacking inspiration?

FEAR NOT!

We’re delivering a little sumthin’-sumthin’ to you on the Twitter every morning, every day. It’s called the Daily South Jersey Nibble. It could be about a food event, a dinner special…anything that’s going on in the South Jersey food scene that day that may be of interest to you. If you follow us on Twitter, you’re already seeing the updates. If you’re not following us, don’t you think it’s time you started…hmmmm???