When you think of Jersey food, you probably think of diners or boardwalk grub or pizza slices. We are a state that offers excellent cheap eats, for sure. But for foodies seeking something a little better, we’ve also got plenty of first-rate options that don’t require braving the bridge or tunnel. The recent New Jersey Food & Wine Festival showcased many exciting culinary destinations within our own Garden State lines, serving Jersey-fresh food with real flair.
There were more than 20 restaurants offering a dizzying array of tastings at the event I attended, and my husband and I bravely sampled them all. There were also more than 30 wineries (not to mention Scotch, tequila, beer, and vodka vendors) but even I, a stressed-out mom on a rare, carefree, kid-free date night, couldn’t tackle that many. The ones I did sample were delicious, though, and paired beautifully with the food bites as well as the gorgeous desserts and Valrhona chocolates available for nibbling. Happiness!
As the majority of the chefs in the room were men (talented, creative, and some downright charming men!), I wanted to give a special shout-out to the two women restaurateurs—both amazing do-it-all Jersey Moms—whose samples that night were both standouts:
Ariane Duarte: After competing on Bravo’s Top Chef in 2009, Ariane Duarte and her Montclair eatery, CulinAriane, gained a devoted following. Even in such a destination-dining town, the restaurant continues to be a hot ticket. Ariane herself is half the reason—she’s expansive, welcoming, funny, and talented. She stood out at the tasting in her pink chef coat, and her succulent crab cake, resting in a pool of smoky cream sauce, was scrumptious. The restaurant website promises “from the cornmeal crusted oysters to the warm blueberry cobbler, only the freshest, top quality and often rare ingredients are masterfully combined.” I can’t wait to go!!
Adele DiBiase: Currently running her fourth restaurant venture with her husband, Adele DiBiase offers the perfect mix of old-school Italian and modern sensibilities. At her Bona Vita Osteria in Summit, she showcases both the cooking legacy handed down by her grandmother and the pastry chef skills that got her dubbed Queen of Desserts. The “chocolate soup” she was ladling into espresso cups at the festival featured a cube of fresh pound cake and sweet strawberry slices. As I fumbled for a way to dip into it without losing it all down the front of my dress, Adele sagely advised that I just knock it back like a shot. There’s a true Jersey Girl for you! The chocolate bubbling in her gleaming tureen, infused with brandy and who knows what other sweet secrets, was irresistible.
Rock on, Jersey Mom chefs! With Mother’s Day just around the corner, and a bunch of Restaurant Week events in progress and kicking off in the coming week (including Jersey Shore Restaurant Week, April 1-10, and Morristown Restaurant Week, April 4-16), it might be a good time to book that babysitter and make a reservation to try out someplace fabulous and new, no matter which exit you choose.
This is an original Jersey Moms Blog post. Deanna Q’s full recap of the New Jersey Food & Wine Festival appears on JerseyBites.com. Deanna is a New Jersey mom.