Last week I embarked on a short vacation and was introduced, for the first time, to one of the hidden treasures of our country, New Jersey! My girlfriend Laurie, who is a lifelong resident of the Garden State, was my tour guide for this visit.
In my 52 years I have been to New Jersey primarily only in “passing through” mode, with the exception of a few events I’ve worked in Atlantic City over the years. (Oh yea, and sometimes connections through Newark Airport)
New Jersey residents are proud of their state, and rightly so. There are many wonderful attributes to this part of the Atlantic Coast. Here are the highlights of my visit:
- Amazing Food — One thing I learned quickly in NJ is people here like to eat…. My kind of people. I am always intrigued, when traveling, at the distinctions with food, from place to place. Since Laurie is pure italian, I gained the added benefit of some great home cooked Italian cuisine.
- Manicotti (pronounced “Man ih got“) made with crepes instead of pasta, and filled with luscious Ricotta cheese, topped with Italian gravy (Us Irish guys call this “sauce”) and sausage/meatballs.
- Taylor Ham Breakfast sandwiches — this ham is out of this world, particularly when grilled. Add Eggs cooked over easy and melted cheese on a fresh bun and you have a winning combination.
- PNC Bank Arts Center — On Thursday afternoon we headed to the PNC Bank Arts Center for a tailgate party and then the Rascal Flats concert. What a terrific complex this is. The parking area is flanked by shady parkways of trees with areas for concertgoers to enjoy food and drink before the event. Laurie broght these “to die for” sandwiches made with fresh french bread and a variety of cold cuts including Prosciutto ham, fresh mozzarella, Roast Beef, Swiss cheese and Turkey breast.
- The Jersey Shore — No trip to New Jersey is complete without a visit to the Jersey Shore. On Friday we headed there to meet a mutual friend of ours in Point Pleasant Beach. Not only are there stunning homes in this area along the beautiful beaches, but some other fun things as well.
- New Jersey Diners — New Jersey is famous for its diners… there are a zillion of them. They all look similar in appearance, have essentially the same menu and are mostly operated by Greek families with amazing culinary talent. On Saturday morning we treated ourselves to a late Breakfast at the Tic Tock Diner. This really is comfort food at its best!
- Full Service Gas Stations — Amazingly there still is a place in this world where you can have your gasoline pumped for you … it is New Jersey! In fact, there are no “self service” gas stations in the Garden State. On top of that, gasoline is about $0.50 per gallon cheaper than Chicago… whats up with that?
- Third Annual Sausage Festival, Arlington, NJ — Hosted by Twitter/Facebook friends Jessica Levin and Vicki Lindgren Rimasse we went to a “sausage festival” on Saturday. There was quite the food spread featuring yes, Sausage and a variety of other culinary treats. Prior to departing for the next event, had some of the best key lime pie ever… made by Jessica!!!!!!
- Stockholm — From the Sausage Festival we headed up into the local mountains to an area called Stockholm. It was really a beautiful drive and lots of trees, hills and rocks. There we joined a “Bear Watch BBQ” in full swing featuring many of Laurie’s high school buddies. Once again endless choices of food including some very yummy bbq’ed skirt steak. A good time was had by all and we spent a good portion of the evening sitting around a campfire sipping cocktails, listening to classic rock, and trading stories.
- Tony Soprano’s House — OK, I admit it, I am a huge fan of this TV show which of course was based upon a setting in New Jersey. On Sunday afternoon we drove to the infamous neighborhood where his TV show Mansion is located. I was awestruck by the homes located in this area…absolutely beautiful!! And… like the true tourist geek I am, have pictures to prove it.
Absolutely this was an inspiring trip full of pleasant surprises. Next time you are on the East Coast, check out the Garden State, you won’t be disappointed!
Do you know of a special place that is relatively unknown to most people. Let us know what that place is and I will feature it on this blog.
Happy Fourth of July Everyone!