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Cape May Wine & Food Experience

Source: newjerseywines.com

In a couple of days, what we knew as the Cape May Wine Festival, will be underway from 12pm Saturday, October 8, 2016 through 5pm Sunday, October 9, 2016 at the NASW Aviation Museum of Cape May. We are very much looking forward to this year's event!

A group of us went last year and had a fantastic time. Our friends Drew and his then-fiancée, now-wife, Sue made the trek down here. (Did I mention we had so much fun at their wedding?) At any rate, our entourage at the wine festival also included our friends, Kim and Michelle, and Sean's mother, Marcie.

The hangar at the airport where the event has been held the last couple of years was quite spacious and there were wineries from all over the area. We sipped, laughed, shopped, and had a great time. Here's a tidbit of information, that wine festival was actually the inspiration for us to start our own online store selling wine accessories, Cork & Plate.

When you enter the event, at least as it was last year, you were handed a listing of all the wineries and the wines available so you could keep notes which came in handy as there were, obviously, a lot of wines available. As we made our rounds to all of the tables, Sean stumbled upon a variety of wine he hadn't tried before and fell in love with, Cabernet Franc. This particular wine he sampled was by Cedarvale Winery in Logan Township, NJ. Take a guess as to what one of his Christmas presents was last year? Myself, I came across a wine called Harmony by CodaRossa Winery in Franklinville, NJ and was amazed at how much it tasted like grape jelly. Yes, I did have it with breakfast a time or two!

Seventeen wineries are expected to be present and they include: Auburn Road Vineyards, Bellview Winery (try the Fiesta if you like a sweeter wine), Cape May Winery, Cava Winery, Chestnut Run Farm, Coda Rossa Winery, DiBella Winery, DiMatteo Vineyards, Hawk Haven Vineyard, Heritage Vineyards, Monroeville Winery, Plagido’s Winery, Sharrott Winery, Tomasello Winery, Valenzano Winery, Villari Vineyards, and Wagonhouse Winery. Unfortunately, Cedarvale Winery does not appear in the list so I'm not sure if it was accidentally left off or they really will not be there. Sean will not be happy.

What really excited me to hear of the rebranding for this year's event is a greater emphasis on food. Food and wine together are quite an experience and this year, from what their website says, there will be special chef demonstrations over the two days. Scheduled to appear are Diane Henderiks, Erik Weatherspool, Mike Colameco, and Marilyn Schlossbach.

If you jump on it, like right now, you can get advance tickets for $25 + fee until 10/6/16 by clicking here or it is $30 at the event. The price includes a free souvenir glass and sampling. Rain or shine we will be there walking around getting our sample on.

Around the festival grounds there will be classic Cape May airport airplanes and if a member of your group is not so big on wine, very nearby is the Cape May Brewing Company, where we continued our sampling last year after the event. They have done some great renovations since we posted our review earlier in the year and we're sure you will be very pleasantly surprised. I recommend the Mop Water, a great-tasting beer, perfect for fall. Another one to try is Devil's Reach, which is usually how Sean starts out his visit there!

So, have a wonderful time at the festival, tag us on Instagram @corkandplate or Twitter @cork_and_plate, we'd love to see you having fun! Even better, we might see you out there!

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BREWERY REVIEW #3: Slack Tide Brewing Company

We have been meaning to get up to visit Slack Tide Brewing Company outside of Avalon for some time now, but unfortunately their hours generally don’t match up with our schedules. Luckily, as a result of something else being cancelled, yesterday we finally were able to make the short trip up the Parkway to try it out. The tasting room is perhaps the smallest of those we’ve seen yet, but it’s roomy enough and nicely decorated, with the wooden planks nailed to the ceiling being a particularly pleasant touch. Unlike other area breweries, the mandatory pre-tasting tour is actually guided by one of the proprietors, though we would imagine increasing business will eventually cause a change to this policy.

We opted to each get a flight of 4 beers to get a good idea of what was on offer, and found all of them to be quite tasty. First up was the Stone Harbor Wheat. This one had a strong bitterness about it, but still was pleasantly refreshing and imminently drinkable, winding up perhaps being my 2nd favorite of the 4. Next we gave the Bucktail a try, and found it to have enjoyably strong chocolate flavors. 3rd, and my favorite, was Bell Buoy, which had the classic beer flavor everyone comes to expect, with hints of vanilla. Lastly was Treble Hook, the strongest beer on offer at 10.5% alcohol, which tasted similar to the Bell Buoy, only less sweet.  There was something about it that I couldn’t quite place, but which reminded me vaguely of cheddar cheese, and made me think they would make a perfect pairing.

All in all we found everything we tried to be pretty delicious. The atmosphere was fun, relaxed and comfortable and the staff was both knowledgeable and very eager to help. It was a great experience that we wholeheartedly recommend you try. Slack Tide is a worthy addition to the local brewery scene and we look forward to drinking some more of their beer soon.

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DINING REVIEW #3: RIO STATION

After a recent day of visiting breweries, we found ourselves starving in Rio Grande, a town with very limited options for anything beyond fast food (and with only one bar!). As such we headed to the Rio Station for dinner and more drinks. I’ve previously enjoyed lunches there but can’t recall the last time I ate dinner in the establishment, and as such I was curious as to how it would be.

Upon entering we were promptly greeted and sat in a comfortable booth under a metal train station awning. The railroad themed décor gives the Rio Station a sense of fun without being overbearing or tacky and we all quite enjoyed it. The menu is designed like a newspaper, which we also thought was a cute touch, even if it initially confused us slightly (we had been drinking beer for a while prior to arrival after all). Our server, Jim, arrived shortly thereafter and got us our drinks in a timely manner. The selection of wines by the glass is a bit more robust than many fancier restaurants, with some impressive options and remarkably reasonable prices. The pinot noir our friend Deb ordered was very well-received, and I loved the pinot grigio.

We were all quite happy with our meals as well. I ordered the “Stuffed Under the Sea”, an assortment of shrimp, scallops, and flounder, all filled with their signature crab mix. Everything was well-cooked and nicely seasoned and their crab was tasty enough to be worthy of the praise they give it throughout the menu. Our friend Deb opted for the “Local Black’N Scallops” which were both plentiful and thoroughly enjoyed, while Patrick and our other guest, Ed, opted for choices from the “Small Plates” menu, neither of which seemed especially small on arrival. Ed started with the French Onion soup and was very happy with it, and then enjoyed the Chicken Francaise. Patrick was also very satisfied with his plate of “I’m Back Chicken Parm”. The only real complaint was that the baked potatoes that 3 of us ordered were not especially hot when received, though were still quite tasty.

The service was excellent. Jim was very attentive and quick to get us whatever we needed. His personality was charmingly quirky and won all of us over, and he rather impressively remembered Patrick and I from a lunch visit that had to have been nearly a year ago now. The food isn’t overly fancy and full of things you’ve never heard of or seen attempted before, but one doesn’t always need that. For a simple meal done well, in a fun, casual atmosphere, this is one of the better choices in the area. And I think our next visit will be sooner than another year from now.

GRADE: B+

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DINING REVIEW #2: SHAMONE

Immediately upon hearing of this new restaurant’s concept, I was intrigued. For $30 per person, you are given 15 “courses” of the chef’s choosing. Having a curated dinner experience with all the decision making left in the hands of the kitchen is a unique experience, and one I was eager to have for myself. So it was, that Brett, Patrick and I excitedly made this our next dining destination.

The first “course” was a homemade herbed butter and bread, which was very good but did feel vaguely like cheating, since complimentary bread is somewhat expected wherever one goes. Things got more interesting immediately after that. You may note that I have been putting the word course in quotations. This is because each round is really more of a taste than a full course as we Americans have come to imagine it, and because in some cases, multiple “courses” were presented simultaneously. I in no way mean that as a complaint however, as when all was said and done, we were all quite full, and every time more than one dish arrived at the same time, there was a clear logic to presenting them together.

I absolutely loved every bite presented to me, with the standouts being the sausage soup shooter, pork pâté, the charcuterie courses, and a chicken wing that was cooked perfectly and served with a delicious Asian-influenced sauce. The salad was also a delight, consisting of radishes, onions, cucumbers, and soft bread croutons that soaked up the dressing, providing bursts of flavor each time I bit into one.

The service was very pleasant and knowledgeable, always providing a thorough description of each item presented. The chef even makes it a point to come out and talk to each group, which adds a pleasantly personal touch to the whole evening. The décor is unlike anything I’ve seen in any other local restaurant and gives the place a special, quirky charm. Between the quality of the food and the manner it’s presented, I feel like I now know what it must be like to be a judge on “Top Chef” on a day when all the contestants are really on point. This was a dining experience I won’t soon forget and one I hope to replicate again soon.

GRADE: A

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Tomorrow's Kitchen Utensil Rest

When you think of a spoon rest you usually picture the typical ceramic or porcelain spoon rest. We discovered unique ones with a new take on such an indispensable tool for your kitchen, the Utensil Rest by Tomorrow's Kitchen, and we're in love.

Manufactured in a cool green color, these utensil rests add a bit of playful funkiness to your kitchen. You don't get a holder for one utensil, you get one parking space for four utensils! It really does reduce the amount of space needed when you've got a number of pots going and don't want one spoon mixing with the others and inadvertently getting added to the pot. If you usually forego the spoon rest for the quicker and more straightforward napkin or paper towel option can we just say...that's so gauche! You're classy so look the part while cooking.

Furthermore, the juices or sauces that you're working with usually soak through the napkin or towel leaving a mess but no more with the Utensil Rest. In addition to the four slots, the wide, square bowl has a small lip around the edges that catches any drips. When the cooking is done, place your Utensil Rest in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.

utensilresttop                     utensilrestbottom

The silicone Utensil Rest measures approximately 5 1/2" square. Each slot measures 1/2" wide and approximately 1" deep, which is also wide and deep enough to keep most spring tongs in place. The rectangular bowl to catch any drips measures 3 1/4" by 5". The manufacturer even claims that it is non-slip, even on slick surfaces.

So needless to say, the Utensil Rest is very handy and makes cooking less messy. The main reason we started carrying them at Cork & Plate is because I wanted one for myself. Our original inventory of them sold out pretty quickly but don't worry, we have them back in stock!

BUY IT HERE

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DINING REVIEW #1: IRON PIER CRAFT HOUSE

I have many happy memories of Martini Beach, which used to be in the space now occupied by The Iron Pier Craft House in Cape May. As such, it can be somewhat sad to walk into the restaurant and remember what used to be. But things change over time, and while we shouldn't forget any of the people, places or events that made us happy over the years, no good can come from living in the past. So it was, having heard some early buzz, that I, Patrick, and my younger brother Brett decided to give one of the town's newest establishments a try.

Getting seated on the balcony overlooking the beach as a minor storm rolled in, in a half-circle shaped table which essentially had everyone facing the scenery, was the first pleasant surprise. The service was wonderful and friendly, with much care taken to ensure we enjoyed our evening. But however nice the atmosphere and staff were, the real star was the food.

We were presented with a complimentary bowl of Old Bay popcorn right after ordering. It was a cute touch, and was seasoned just right, though admittedly we didn't eat much of it, preferring to wait for what we had ordered. The wine we selected, a 2015 Torrontés / Riesling blend from Argentinian winery Amalaya was an excellent choice, perfectly crisp and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness, which wound up pairing wonderfully with the food that followed.

The first item to arrive from our choices was the Bavarian Pretzels plate. The pretzels themselves were closer in size and consistency to dinner bread, but with a pretzel crust. When paired with the included cheese sauce or mustard it was a tasty way to start things off, if not the most exciting of our selections. Next came the Crab Cakes. Things immediately became more impressive at this point. The filler was minimal so the crab really shone through, while the corn salad and lime crème fraiche chipotle aioli that they were served with complimented them perfectly. Quickly after that the Scallops plate arrived. Each was cooked perfectly and only made more delicious by the sea beans, sauce, and vegetables surrounding them on the plate.

At this point we were already thoroughly impressed by the food we had received. Little did we know how great the sushi would be. The quality of the seafood was higher than any I have ever had in the area and each was perfectly thought out and executed. The Iron Pier Roll (spicy tuna and avocado, topped with seared sashimi tuna and sesame) was superb, with fish so fresh it practically melted on the tongue. The Fujiyama Roll (shrimp tempura, cucumber, and jalapeño topped with kani salad) was absolute heaven, with each flavor combining in perfect harmony, and an unexpected warmth that only enhanced our enjoyment. I can honestly say that the quality of the 2 rolls we were served has at least temporarily spoiled all other area sushi for me.

We capped the evening off by sharing a soft pretzel bread pudding with fresh berries for dessert, in a way coming full circle on the meal. It was a unique take on the classic dessert that, despite being quite full, we could barely stop eating. It was a fantastic dinner that none of us will soon forget, and I suspect we will be coming back to make more memories here in the near future.

GRADE: A+

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BREWERY REVIEW #2: Cold Spring Brewery

Historic Cold Spring Village here in Cape May County, accurately billed as a "living museum", might initially seem like an odd place to find a microbrewery, but it turns out to be a perfect fit. Upon entering, one feels like you've wandered into an old roadside tavern after parking your horse outside (or like you've entered one of the inns in Skyrim). There is a good amount of room to sit and enjoy one of the 4 beers they have on hand at opening. Just look at those bar stools!

For this first visit I tried the Cold Spring Red, and I have to say I loved it. It had a complex flavor that started out smooth and fruity and ended on a pleasantly bitter note. At 6% alcohol/volume it isn't an exceptionally strong brew, though it did leave me feeling pretty happy, so it does seem to pack an outsize punch. Patrick had the Hildreth German Wheat and said it had a nice tartness and bitterness to it. A staff member even introduced us to a beer rating app called Untappd which we immediately signed up for to rate the beer.

Here is a picture of the bar top which is absolutely beautiful and a picture of the footrest.

Cold Spring Brewery BartopFootrest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since we were there during Celtic Festival this weekend we just had to take a picture of the Scotsman in a kilt and what I presumed to be a claymore. (Reminds me of a Black Adder episode.)

Scotsman

Between the atmosphere, incredibly friendly staff and the beer, I can easily see this becoming another of my favorite area hangouts and one I will definitely be visiting again, probably later today!

Note: Patrick and I both contributed to this post.

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A Great Wine Podcast

There is so much information about wine out there and knowing how to differentiate them when picking up a bottle or two for dinner, a family get-together, or a party can be very intimidating. Luckily, there is Laurie Forster, a certified sommelier.

A couple of weeks ago I downloaded a podcasting app and as I was searching through podcasts to start listening to I came across The Sipping Point by Laurie Forster. You can visit her site, The Wine Coachhere. I was very impressed as it felt like you were listening to a friend, albeit a very knowledgeable one, talking about wine. 

What I find very inviting is Laurie's style. She is very personable and the podcast has a laid-back feel to it. The rapport that she develops with her guests is also quite enjoyable. In a recent episode she spoke about Rosé wines from Provence with David Keck. He is a recent Master Sommelier and co-owner of Houston's Camerata. They seemed like old pals. The episode was illuminating as you learn about the region and its nuances.

Another episode had Laurie speaking with Jean Trimbach of Maison F.E. Trimbach of Alsace. At the end of the episode Laurie asked him what he likes in America that he cannot get in France. One of his favorites was Oregon Pinot Noir, which is also one of my favorites. I specifically love Willamette Valley Vineyards' Whole Cluster Pinot Noir.

If you are looking for a podcast that is entertaining as well as educational, definitely give The Sipping Point a listen. You'll be glad that you did!

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WINE REVIEW #5: Jacqueline Bahue Albariño 2015

I was not very familiar with this variety of grape so I wasn’t certain what to expect of this wine, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The first aroma I noticed was reminiscent of Bleu cheese, which makes me wish I had some on hand as it would likely make for a good pairing. The wine itself is dry, smooth and fairly mild, with a pleasant tartness to it. It went down easy while sitting next to the firepit, and may wind up being my go-to wine for the Summer. GRADE: A

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WINE REVIEW #4: Matthews Winery Iaconi Monterey County Riesling 2015

I am not a big fan of sweet wines, and as such, I don’t usually care for most Rieslings. This turned out to be the exception however. While it was certainly still sweet, it wasn’t cloyingly so. It had a very smooth, mild and refreshing feel, perfect for sipping in and around a pool, as I was. The flavor had notes of fruit and honey and at times tasted similar to fresh, chilled apple juice. Easily one of the better Rieslings I’ve ever had and a perfect Summer wine. GRADE: A-

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