Truman Capote had his Black & White Ball; Karen Rivera-Gorski of thepaintedcake.com in Millington (Morris County) has her black & white wedding cake, among other designs that are as artful outside as they are scrumptious inside. She airbrushes “edible shimmer dust” over vanilla fondant. Her $280 basic cake feeds 40. She also makes custom cupcakes, which she says more brides are opting for.
There are plenty of reasons to go to Corrado’s—ultra-fresh produce, exotic herbs, winemaking supplies, all manner of ethnic delicacies, everything at bargain prices. Our favorite treat at this vast international market in Clifton is the creamy-fresh, whole-milk ricotta formed into large cakes. The counterman will slice as big a piece as you want. Great in lasagne, spread on bread, or scooped on a spoon and drizzled with honey.
Newark’s Ironbound is famous for this all-you-can-eat feast of grilled meats. But at Seabra’s the selection includes exotics like ostrich, wild boar, and alligator.
Web Wine Store
The Wine Library has a megastore in Springfield, but oenophiles around the country swear by its great Internet selection, prices, and shipping. Gonzo Gary Vaynerchuk’s Web wine videos are a hoot, but the guy has a discriminating palate.
Not Just Kid Stuff
The Pop Shop in Collingswood is a nifty ‘50s-style eatery, with vinyl booths, jukebox, cotton candy ice cream sodas, banana splits, espresso pancakes, and 30 kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. Recently the Pop Shop was featured on TV’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
Tie: The Pear Sidecar at Daryl Wine Bar in New Brunswick, and the Peach Breeze martini, with peach purée, champagne, and mandarin vodka, at Redstone American Grill in Marlton.
Grilled Pineapple & Cracked Pepper martini, with lemon juice and chamomile, at SM23 and Mehndi in Morristown.
Braised oxtail with fried polenta and roasted shallot jam at Ox in Jersey City.
Weber’s Drive-In on Route 38 in Pennsauken is a time portal to the ‘50s. Hot dogs, onion rings, draft root beer in frosted mugs, all served on a Plexiglas tray hooked to your car window.
Smith’s Marina and Clam Bar, aka Smitty’s, in Somers Point is a shack practically falling into Great Egg Harbor. People line up for a stool at the outdoor counter or a seat in the dining room for chunky chowders, matchstick fries, and crispy-moist fried clams—and oh that flounder. BYO: Waitresses will hand you big paper cups.
Not a misprint. Instead of cupcakes, Dixie Picnic in Ocean City makes upcakes—crownless, paperless, upside-down treats covered in natural-ingredient frostings (coconut, blood orange, chocolate…). The strawberry frosting, made with real berry pulp, is even speckled with seeds.
The Bistro, in Cherry Hill Mall, is that rarity, a mall pit stop with actually good food. Brick-oven pizza, great tomato soup, and bountiful salads. We love the Asian Caesar, with grilled yellowfin tuna and Caesar dressing spiked with plum sauce.
Strollo’s Lighthouse in Point Pleasant Beach uses real fruit pulp, which is why elusive flavors like blueberry, cantaloupe, and cherry are so vivid and enjoyable here.
Indulgence with Coffee
At Gina’s Panificio in Montclair, baker Gene Walters thick-slices his excellent brioche loaf, infuses it with orange syrup, tops it with a yummy crust with slivered almonds, taps on powdered sugar, and stands back as the Brioche Toasts fly out the door.
The brilliantly renovated and expanded Stone House in Warren has a unique private room, glass-walled with machined-steel framing and a window into the kitchen, where chef Jerry Villa is dishing up excitement.
Princeton’s Triumph Brewery has the most dramatic and unusual interior, with interesting beers, but for quality and range of brews and food, the nod goes to Trap Rock Brewery in Berkeley Heights.
Jersey-bred Junk Food
The Panzarotti, invented by Pauline Tarantini, an Italian immigrant grandmother in Camden, is a widely available gastro-intestinal Satyricon—sort of a pizza folded up (with things like pepperoni inside) and deep fried. Should be served with a side of Lipitor.
It’s not just the 54,000-bottle list that nails it for Restaurant Latour in the Crystal Springs Resort in Hardyston. It’s the depth and breadth of selection, the fascinating, grotto-like cellar itself and the fact that the list brims with bargains, especially in Rhone wines. It’s not hard to appreciate the value in a 2003 Côtes-du-Rhône, Guigal, for $19. But is a 1983 Chateau de Beaucastel for $118 or a 2001 Janasse, Vieilles Vignes, for $146 a bargain? Actually, they might be steals.
No less an authority than Alan Richman, the multi-James Beard Award-winning food and wine writer, calls Latour’s 1952 Chateau Petrus at $2,536 “a fair price;” the 1949 Chateau Cheval Blanc for $1,800 “cheap;” and the 1970 B.V. Private Reserve at $195 “ridiculous.”
Amazing Hot Dog, of Verona and now Bound Brook, is not open for breakfast, but their Jersey Breakfast dog wrapped in bacon, with melted cheese, and fried egg is worth waiting for.
After you have the gumbo, garlic crawfish, etoufee, and jambalaya at Drew’s Bayshore Bistro in Keyport, you’ll know what it means to miss New Orleans.
So many worthy contenders, but only one all-around champion, Balthazar Bakery in Englewood. Try a dark Pain de Seigle, or the ineffable ciabatta. You’ll see.
If you’re of the Surface Area School of onion ring infatuation, hustle to the Famished Frog in Morristown, a watering hole where you get a haystack of ultra-crispy onion straws for $4.99.
Vitamia’s in Lodi is a legendary deli where the aroma of salami, cheese, and fresh semolina bread hits you the moment you step inside. The terrific ravioli, made daily on premises, comes in dozens of varieties, some too crazy for us (lobster and mint?). But the basic cheese ravioli is the best seller for a reason. And it goes great with Vitamia’s fresh red sauce “gravy.”