Hi, yes, it’s me again, talking about food. But now that I’m free to blab about this cool assignment I was on in the spring, during which I was sworn to secrecy, I just can’t help it!
The August issue of the Star-Ledger’s Inside Jersey magazine features a Best of NJ “Food Fight” article that calls out the best burgers, pizza, subs, desserts, and ice cream in the state. Each category was investigated by a crack team of hungry Jerseyans who had the insanely challenging task of sampling five locations (pre-determined by the article editor – Mr. Munchmobile himself, Pete Genovese) in North, Central, and South Jersey in the course of one month.
Plucked from a pile of hungry (and clearly unhinged) applicants, I was selected for the Dessert Team and—yes, indeed—ate a seriously indecent amount of baked, frosted, glazed, fried, dipped, and powdered items from 15 bakeries to determine the best of the best. There were highs and there were lows (the numbers on my bathroom scale not among the latter), but overall it was a mighty good time.
Pick up the mag on newsstands, or check out the article here, for the full scoop from all the teams. In the meantime, I wanted to share the top five scrumptious treats I tried. Sugar-dusted drumroll please …
- Almond Joy Tart, Just Desserts, Hawthorne. Crazy-delicious moist coconut filling in crushed almond crust, smooth dark chocolate layer on top. Also had a gorgeous array of cupcakes from this place. It’s a little hard to find (it looks like somebody’s house) but well worth the trip!
- Coconut Custard Pie, Emery’s Berry Patch, New Egypt. I literally did not know where the hell I was when we drove to this place deep in South Jersey, but it is fresh pie mecca! This was the silkiest, most luscious pie I tasted, maybe ever. Looks like a great spot for berry & pumpkin picking, too.
- Chocolate-Dipped Caramel Swirl Cookie (not the official name!), Argentina Bakery, Union City. The pastries in this bright little local shop, in a non-trendy working class neighborhood, were a nice change of pace from standard bakery fare, many with caramel, custard, and unusual guava and mince fillings. The winner was this small pastry with a cookie base, caramel center, and dark chocolate coating swirled like a tiny frozen custard. It was AWESOME! Their Tres Leche cake was also a good pick: smooth, light, and perfectly sweet, literally dripping with milk.
- Macaroon Kiss, The Flaky Tart, Atlantic Highlands. The overall winner of Best in State, this place had soooo many good things. The killer Macaroon Kiss is a small macaroon topped with chocolate ganache dipped in dark chocolate. The towering layered Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake is also supremely chocofantastical.
- Vanilla Bean Scone, The Scone Pony, Spring Lake. Amazing, amazing scones. Get them fresh from the oven—so moist and cakey; a beautiful variation on a breakfast pastry, nothing like a standard, dry, heavy scone. The Vanilla Bean is absolutely divine. I also sampled Coconut and Orange Cranberry. The very thought triggers a Pavlovian response.
I’m sorry I don’t have photos of each item to share, but I was too busy stuffing them in my mouth (and fighting off my friends and family!) to grab hold of my camera. Trust me, they were gorgeous as well as delectable. I highly recommend all the places on this list, as well as most of the others we visited (though a 3-1/2 hour wait for Carlo’s in Hoboken for very average Italian bakery goods? Never again.) and give a big shout-out to the talented bakers doing such great work all over the state.
Be sure to hit these sweet stops on your next road trip … or plan a whole trip around them. What a way to go!
This is an original Jersey Moms Blog post by Deanna Q, a New Jersey mom. You can also follow Deanna Q’s walks along the state’s culinary backroads at JerseyBites.com.