Tag Archives: New Jersey

Jersey Tomatoes Fresh Off the Farm

It’s time for tomatoes, vines and buckets full of plump, ripe Jersey tomatoes. Ask us New Jerseyans about our tag as the “Garden State,” and right now is when we most passionately can back up that designation.

Growing up, I never consciously realized when tomato season came around, but I registered it on some level. For a time each year, the tomatoes on our counter were a deep red and more luscious than ever. They burst with color and looked primed to explode — which they were. One bite or cut would confirm that when juice, flavor and everything good in life came rushing forth. In hindsight, I have always associated the unrivaled flavor of an in-season tomato with the taste of summer winding down, crisp weather at the onset of fall and back-to-school, a time ripe with opportunity.

 

The 'U-Pick' section at Lee Turkey Farm, by Karina for TKGO

 

Tasting a Jersey tomato is both blessing and a curse. Your understanding of the spectrum of a tomato’s flavors is forever altered, because no tomato has ever tasted so sweet, fresh and fleshy. Then you spend the rest of the year chomping on shipped, pale, watery-tasting versions; in other words, pathetic excuses for what you now know tomatoes or capable of being.

After reading this article about tomatoes in The New York Times Magazine, I was reminded of how perfect a fruit (or vegetable; I really don’t care what you call it as long as you enjoy it!) can be and overcome with my need to have one. I revisited Lee Turkey Farm, which is the farm adjacent to my neighborhood my family has frequented for fresh produce for years. I planned to purchase some pre-picked tomatoes from the stand, but was caught up in a nostalgic childhood reverie and decided to pluck my own.

 

Tomatoes at Lee Turkey Farm, by Karina for TKGO

 

I brought the tomatoes home, and we’ve been popping the cherry tomatoes in our mouths like candy. I could point you in the direction of countless recipes that adulate the great Jersey tomato, but my personal preference is more about tomato purity. My favorite ways to savor a tomato are the simplest, because a perfect tomato really needs no special treatment. I like my tomatoes in a bed of lettuce with a light vinaigrette and perhaps some goat cheese, or on top of a piece of French bread first dipped in olive oil, like my family and I ate last night for dinner. For something more unconventional, I did enjoy The Bent Spoon’s heirloom tomato and peach gelato flavor, which contains zero preservatives or artificial flavors and goes far to maintain the tomato’s integrity. And just an f.y.i., Jersey peaches also are delicious…

 

Cherry tomatoes, by Karina for TKGO

 

Maybe I am getting a little worked up about a piece of produce, but what if I told you Rutgers University runs something titled the “Rediscovering the Jersey Tomato Project” (and it’s not run by me)? True story. Also, read the above mentioned article and you’ll be considering tomatoes as the most sensual food in existence.

If you’re in the Jersey area and looking to taste the divine, here’s a resource from the NJ Department of Agriculture to help you locate farms and markets. If you’re not in the Jersey area, well, maybe it’s time to plan a trip!

Farmers’ Markets

Pick-Your-Own

Roadside Markets

Karina for TKGO

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Shot of the Week

When Tara and I lived together in New York City in spring of 2009, our West Village apartment was just a short walk from the West Side Highway. The path stretching along the water is a favorite escape and running trail for New Yorkers, and the same was true for us. This photograph is from one Sunday sunset walk; the skyline is New Jersey’s.

Karina for TKGO

From ‘Eat Pray Love’ to Two Buttons

Author Elizabeth Gilbert and her husband own an imports store — Two Buttons — in Frenchtown, New Jersey

The ultimate movie for wanderlusters (especially female ones) like Tara and me is currently out in theaters: Eat Pray Love. Chances are you’d heard of the story before Julia Roberts even took on the role; Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of the same title was released in 2006 and hit number one on the New York Times best-seller list. In it, she ventures to Italy, India and Indonesia on a journey that is as much cross-continental as it is internal.

The film version of Gilbert’s yearlong trip is out now, but it took place a handful of years ago. What has she been up to since? Well, we know from her most recent book Committed, she married the man to credit for the “love” part of Eat Pray Love. And thanks to my mom’s friend, I learned the couple own an imports store called Two Buttons in Frenchtown, N.J., about an hour from my home.

Curious and hopeful for a run-in with my absolute favorite author — which actually happened! See below for photo proof — I visited the store with my mom this past weekend. (By the way, we saw the movie last night and all I can say is, it’s beautiful. Beautiful Julia Roberts, beautiful cinematography, beautiful places and of course, beautiful Javier Bardem.)

The Two Buttons warehouse is an exquisite collection of predominantly Southeast Asian relics from the travels of Gilbert and her husband. Each piece seems as though it has been thoughtfully selected for the store, including adorable little stuffed elephant key chains, unique Indonesian fishing furniture, handmade decorative goods, colorful woven purses and Buddhas of all shapes and colors — including a 7,000-pound one out front. I am convinced anyone with a taste for travel would walk out of Two Buttons thrilled with a purchase, especially since the goods are very fairly priced. My find for the day was an artsy black ring, which you can spot in the last photo of my Two Buttons slideshow posted below.

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Two Buttons, 62A Trenton Ave. (also called Route 29), Frenchtown, N.J. Click here for a YouTube video of Elizabeth Gilbert showing Two Buttons.

-Karina for TKGO

The Beautiful Jersey Shore

New Jersey, that great state I call home, suffers a less than stellar reputation. When I’m out of state, whether at Northwestern or traveling, I find I spend a lot of time defending its largely unwarranted notoriety. (“Where else can you live that you’re one hour from New York City, one hour from Philadelphia and 40 minutes from the beach?!” I always say.)

The stereotypes were already bad enough, I thought, when this little show called “Jersey Shore” debuted. Forget that only two members of the cast hail from the Garden State — it still cemented and created new stereotypes about my beloved NJ. But the truth is, one of our main reputation saboteurs is also one our top attractors.

People from up and down the East Coast flock to the Jersey shore coastline every summer from states as far south as Virginia. “Jersey Shore” features Seaside, one of the grittier beach towns we boast, but there is a reason people choose to make the Jersey shore their lovely summer home year after year. The following beaches, which are some of top in NJ, are all reasons why.

Atlantic City

Atlantic City, courtesy of NJCasinoDealer.com

Before I start, a caveat: Don’t go here solely for the beach, because it’s definitely not our nicest. Still, Atlantic City is like Las Vegas on the ocean. Get your night started early with a walk on the boardwalk, or detox post-gambling on the beach. There’s even a cultural draw here, which Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame mentioned in a recent Budget Travel article.

Cape May

Cape May, courtesy of BestofTimesTravel.com

Cape May, which is in the south of the state, is undoubtedly the most charming of New Jersey’s shore havens. The architecture is Victorian, and the beaches picturesque. Cape May also claims Avalon, a hamlet with a slew of private beaches and some of the most expensive real estate on the East Coast.

Belmar

Belmar, courtesy of Wikimedia user Girdi

Belmar is a favorite day-trip spot and the beach I have frequented most, so I feel obligated to include it. Belmar is one of the more accessible NJ beaches for a day trip, and you might lay your towel next to a sweet family or a gaggle of gossiping tweens. Hang around 16th street and you’ll see a watered-down, daytime version of what MTV exploited in “Jersey Shore.” There’s no obnoxious boardwalk, though, and only a subdued nightlife so things stay pretty low-key.

Island Beach State Park

 

Island Beach State Park, courtesy of the official site

The near 10 miles of beach on this barrier island are close to nature; they’re populated with ospreys and more than 400 types of plants. The shore is sheltered and serene, and on a walk you’ll find marshes and well-preserved sand dunes.

Spring Lake

Spring Lake, courtesy of TheNewYorkCityTraveler.com

Apparently, Spring Lake morphed into a prime destination for the high society folk of neighboring New York and Philly during the Gilded Age, leaving some lasting architecture. I remember Spring Lake as one of the most serene beaches I’ve ever visited. Many of the beaches are reserved for people who own homes shoreside, but swaths are accessible to day trippers.

Karina for TKGO