Earn Turning Point gift cards and other prizes this weekend at the restaurant’s annual fundraiser benefiting pediatric brain cancer research.
South Jersey resident Kortney Rose Gillette lost her battle with brain cancer in 2006. She was nine years old. Just five months prior to her passing, Gillette was a healthy, vivacious youngster with a love for sports, water slides, and laughter.
Through the Kortney Rose Foundation (KRF) – named in her honor – Gillette’s legacy lives on. With a mission to “Help Get Brain Tumors Off Kids’ Minds,” KRF supports much-needed pediatric brain tumor research. Brain tumors are the number one cause of disease-related deaths in children.
For the tenth year in a row, Turning Point has partnered with KRF. Their annual “Great Food for a Great Cause” fundraiser will take place on Saturday, February 23 and Sunday, February 24 between 8 am and 3 pm. Diners who donate to the foundation during the event will receive Turning Point gift cards and other prizes (see list below).
Despite the prevalence of childhood brain cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) allocates only about 4% of its funding toward researching pediatric cancers. Of that 4%, just a tiny percentage is put toward brain tumor research.
KRF works to raise research funds for the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC). CBTTC, a collaborative initiative, unites sixteen worldwide research institutions dedicated to pediatric brain cancer research. Locally, CBTTC helps support the Neuro-Oncology Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Recognizing the need for research funding, Turning Point has raised $314,000 for KRF to date. This weekend’s event will take place at sixteen Turning Point locations, a dozen in New Jersey and four in Pennsylvania (see list below).
Donation levels & prizes:
Donate $25 to receive 2 free entrees on your next visit
Donate $50 to receive 4 free entrees on your next visit
Donate $60 to receive 4 free entrees on your next visit plus a Turning Point mug
Donate $100 to receive 8 free entrees on your next visit. The first two $100 donors at each location will also receive a custom doormat.
For your appetizer, choose between soup or salad. For your main course, bite into a 7 oz. filet with mashed potatoes and asparagus sides. For dessert, treat yourself to a decadent chocolate torte – all for just $30.
3 courses: $30
Call ahead for reservations: (856) 456-CHUB (2482)
Looking for a family-friendly way to help tackle hunger in South Jersey? Check out COMMUNITY.
On Sunday, February 10, South Jersey nonprofit COMMUNITY [sic] hosted an event at LourdesCare in Cherry Hill. Founded in November 2016 by a group of friends, the organization aims to bring people together to serve local communities in need.
This Sunday, volunteers assembled 400 bagged lunches that were then delivered to Project Home, Anna M. Sample Women’s Shelter, and underserved populations in Camden. The bags contained bagels with cream cheese; turkey and cheese sandwiches, granola bars; bananas; apples; and bottled water, items donated by volunteers.
I recently learned of the program through my friend Chetna Macwan, a local chef and culinary instructor who volunteers at COMMUNITY with her children. She explained that COMMUNITY events, which often take place on weekends, are family-friendly.
Because I brought my four-year-old son with me, I was relieved to see other young children at the event. By the time we arrived, the room bustled with busy volunteers. We were greeted by friendly faces who directed us toward kid-friendly ways to help.
We stayed for an hour, during which time my son helped place label stickers on the brown lunch bags. We also got to help put food items into the bags. The organization was kind enough to provide snacks and juice for the kids in attendance.
My impression of COMMUNITY was of a well-run organization with a sincere mission to help local communities. Finding kid-friendly volunteer opportunities isn’t easy, especially since I wouldn’t want our attendance to be a hindrance to any charity.
We felt welcomed at COMMUNITY, and I found the event to be a good opportunity to introduce the idea of hunger to my son in an age-appropriate way. He enjoyed having the chance to help out, and we hope to attend more COMMUNITY events in the future.
Want to help? Check out COMMUNITY ‘s Facebook page, which provides a listing of upcoming events. High school and college students can also apply for an internship with COMMUNITY through their website.
Set between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, South Jersey’s restaurant scene continues to diversify and innovate. In 2018, South Jerseyans welcomed a number of new restaurants.
To ring in the new year, we take a look back at a few of the best new restaurants to hit South Jersey during the past twelve months.
I crowdsourced this article by polling other South Jersey food bloggers on Instagram and Twitter to see which new restaurants they loved most. I’ve included an asterisk in front of the places I’ve personally visited and enjoyed.
One thing I learned from writing this article: I have a lot of new restaurants I need to try in 2019.
(Cherry Hill) – In 2008, Paul Altero and Bill Hart opened the first Bubbakoo’s location in Point Pleasant. After several years in operation, Altero and Hart set an ambitious goal to open hundreds of regional Bubbakoo’s shops. Today, Bubbakoo’s boasts more than two dozen locations – all sporting a surf-skater vibe – throughout the Garden State. In 2018, they opened one of their newest shops in Cherry Hill. With a menu that includes modern, customizable options like tacos, burrito bowls, and nachos, Bubbakoo’s quickly earned a reputation for fast, mouthwatering Mexican-American cuisine.
Online ordering available at some locations. Offers kids’ menu. Discount student meals (with valid ID) also offered.
56 Haddonfield Rd. Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Monday – Sunday: 11 am – 9 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Bubbakoo’s Cherry Hill location.
(Sewell) – Burger Barr calls itself a BYOB, but you can leave the booze at home. In this case, BYOB stands for “Build-Your-Own-Burger.” Burger Barr wants their customers to get creative. Using a highly customizable burger menu, diners can select from their choice of meats, cheeses, buns, sauces, and toppings to create a burger perfectly suited to individual tastes. Unique menu standouts include Kobe wagyu beef; pretzel buns; and truffle aioli.
(Merchantville) – Enjoy a variety of crepes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Charlie’s Crepes. Co-owners Charles Koory and Lisa Ciacciarelli Koory, husband and wife, launched their crepe business at a South Jersey farmer’s market. Today, they remain committed to seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. Try traditional, savory crepe staples like Ham and Cheese – or order one of their more adventurous options like Sherry Shallot Mushroom Crepes with garlic lime crema. When you’re craving something sweet, Charlie’s also sells creative crepe desserts, like their Schober Orchards Vanilla Bourbon Peach Crepes with candied pecans and salted caramel.
(Cherry Hill) – Offering globally-influenced, modern American cuisine, Denim American Bistro opened in October in the historic Cherry Hill landmark that once housed La Campagne. Chef David Murray innovates with dishes like Ahi Tuna Crudo and Vegan Beetloaf. Visitors who remember La Campagne might be surprised – and pleased – by some of the changes to the restaurant’s interior, which include refinished hardwood floors and wells decked out in blue. When you come, bring a pair of jeans to donate and score a free dessert. Denim donations support Teens for Jeans, a nonprofit that helps clothe homeless youth.
312 Kresson Road Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Romantic, intimate ambiance for date nights. Offers a kids’ menu; gluten-free menu; and vegetarian menu. Food-allergy-friendly. BYOB. Wine available for purchase.
(Collingswood) – Cozy meets creative at this Collingswood BYOB, which has been lauded for its quality fare and romantic ambiance. Chef Dominic Piperno uses locally-sourced ingredients to create contemporary meat, seafood, and pasta dishes cooked on a wood-fired hearth in front of customers. Visitors rave about Hearthside’s attention to detail – in both food and setting.
Locally-sourced ingredients. Romantic, intimate setting good for date nights.
(Palmyra) – In 2018, Philadelphia’s The Farmacy gained a second home in Palmyra. Chefs Ross Scofield and Danielle Coulte seek out sustainable, seasonal, and local ingredients for the comfort food they create. Visitors especially love their weekend brunch menu, which includes items like Cannoli French Toast and a Salmon B.L.T.
Locally-sourced ingredients. Vegan options.
307 W Broad St. Palmyra, New Jersey
Friday: 9 am – 2 pm Saturday: 9 pm – 2 pm Sunday: 9 am – 2 pm
(Cinnaminson) – Amazon natives have been eating acai berries for thousands of years. But it wasn’t until recently that health-conscious restauranteurs popularized acai as a trendy breakfast item. In 2016, a recent college graduate and Jersey resident named Brooke Gagliano opened the first two Frutta Bowl locations in Freehold. Serving acai bowls, pitaya bowls, smoothies, and other health-inspired treats, the franchise now has locations all over the eastern United States – including ones in Marlton and Cinnaminson.
Note: I had two minor gripes with Frutta Bowls during my visit. They don’t offer a kids’ menu, which can get expensive if you’re a parent. Secondly, they don’t publish their nutritional information, which I feel should be standard at a health-inspired chain. Still, I kept them on this list because their bowls were delicious, and they’re offering something new and innovative.
195 Route 130 Cinnaminson, New Jersey
Monday – Sunday: 9 am – 8 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Frutta Bowl’s Cinnaminson location. Read her guide on where to find acai bowls in South Jersey.
(Somers Point) – In 1908, the building that now houses Josie Kelly’s Public House was built as a grocery store before becoming a restaurant called Mac’s in 1924. As they renovated the historic building, co-owners Dermot and Kathleen Lloyd modeled the restaurant and bar in the tradition of a coastal Irish pub and named it after Dermot’s Irish grandmother Josephine. They envision it as a welcoming, neighborly place where people can come together for drinks and good food.
(Marlton) – South Jersey has no shortage of Italian eateries, and this strip-mall BYOB’s standard Italian-American menu is nothing exceptional. But what Korner Bistro lacks in originality it makes up for in quality. Although it opened just a few months ago, the restaurant has already established a reputation for exceptionally tasty fare. Korner Bistro offers brunch all day long, every day, in addition to their lunch and dinner menu.
(Collingswood) – In 2018, Collingswood topped USA Today’s list of the “Best Small Town Food Scene” in the country – and for good reason. Whatever you’re craving, you won’t go hungry in Collingswood. Macona BBQ is one of the newest arrivals to the town’s restaurant scene. With walls adorned in murals painted by local artist Chuck Styles, this casual eatery specializes in southern-inspired comfort foods like smoked brisket and ribs, homemade pickles, and macaroni and cheese. Even if you’re an herbivore, don’t write this one off your bucket list: Macona also offers seitan-based, vegan options.
Casual. Vegan options available.
577 Haddon Ave. Collingswood, New Jersey
Monday – Saturday: 11 am – 9 pm Sunday: 11 am – 4 pm
(Pennsauken) – A hot trend throughout the country, food trucks continue to innovate by offering food to match every craving. With Italian takeout specialties that include flatbread, sandwiches, pastas, salads, and of course – homemade meatballs, Mama’s Meatballs began as a food truck before opening their store in Pennsauken. While Mama’s specializes in meat, vegetarians shouldn’t shy away from this popular eatery: Mama’s also serves up a vegetarian “Veg-Da Ball” made from beans and vegetables and fried in soy oil.
Takeout. Vegetarian options. Catering with online ordering option available.
2673 Haddonfield Rd. Pennsauken, New Jersey
Monday – Friday: 11 am – 9 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Mama’s Meatballs. Read her full review on the PhillyGrub website.
(Hammonton) – When a baker’s popularity outgrows her own food truck, she’s probably doing something right. In 2014, Gabriella Tomasello Mannino launched her cannoli food truck business. By 2016, The Daily Meal had named Mannino’s one of the top 100 food trucks in the country. While she continues to serve the tri-state area from her food cart, in 2018 Mannino also opened her brick-and-mortar shop along Hammonton’s newly revitalized Bellevue Avenue. Mannino’s offers a variety of cannolis, cakes, espresso beverages, and creamy Italian gelato in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. Grab lunch at one of downtown Hammonton’s many noteworthy eateries – and don’t forget to stop in at Mannino’s for dessert. Bonus: they carry spumoni gelato, a flavor that’s proven difficult to find in South Jersey.
(Collingswood) – Score another victory for Collingswood – and Stephen Starr. BYOB Porch and Proper has earned five-star reviews from diners and critics alike. Seasoned veterans in the restaurant industry, co-owners Jason and Casey Simkins have previously managed other Stephen Starr restaurants like famed Buddakan and Morimoto. At Porch and Proper, Executive Chef Ryan McQuillan sources his ingredients from local vendors. McQuillan uses seasonal vegetables and herbs – including those grown in Porch and Proper’s own picturesque garden – to create their gourmet dishes, which include items as diverse as Seared Fois Gras and Smoked Cauliflower Steak. The restaurant – set inside a historic building – has also been lauded for its beautiful design, which is the brainchild of local artist Hillary O’Carroll.
Seasonal, locally-grown ingredients. Al fresco seating available. Intimate, romantic ambiance ideal for date nights. Offers vegetarian options.
(Mullica Hill) – The epitome of “farm-to-table,” Rastelli Market’s newest location sources most of their ingredients directly from an on-premise farm. Even the wood used to smoke Rastelli’s meats comes from the trees at bucolic Hill Creek. To obtain ingredients unavailable on the farm, Executive Chef James Luizza and the rest of the Rastelli team work with local vendors to secure the highest quality products they can. The rustic Loft Cafe – set in the upper level of the store – features cozy seating, a large-screen television, and a cafe. Inside the lounge, relax with a bottle of Hill Creek Apple Wine – available for purchase – or head downstairs for freshly baked donuts, prepared foods, meat, and seafood. Or bring the kids and spend the day: Hill Creek Farms also offers hayrides and other seasonal, family-friendly activities.
Kids’ menu available. Local, seasonal ingredients. Wine available for purchase. Family-friendly activities offered seasonally.
1631 State Highway 45 Mullica Hill, New Jersey
NOTE: Due to state regulations on seasonal farm markets, this Rastelli Market location will close during the months of January and February. They will reopen in March 2019.
Read my full review of Rastelli Market at Hill Creek Farms.
Disclosure: In November, Rastelli Market at Hill Creek Farms invited local food bloggers for a free tasting.
(Medford) – Not long ago, Medford residents had to drive to Hammonton to score quality Mexican food. Then came Cielito Lindo, and Tacos el Tio quickly followed. Both eateries were worth the wait. After years as a successful Mexican restaurant in Egg Harbor, in 2018 the owners of Tacos el Tio Cantina opened a second restaurant in Medford’s newly revitalized Taunton Forge plaza. Like their first location, Medford’s Tacos el Tio quickly grew as a popular place to enjoy delicious Mexican cuisine and drinks. Eat indoors, have a drink at the bar, or when the weather’s right – take advantage of the restaurant’s beautiful outdoor seating.
Includes bar. Kids’ menu available. Offers takeout. Al fresco dining available.
(Haddonfield) – Marcello De Feo’s grandparents and their children came to America from Abruzzo, Italy. Having grown up around an endless supply of mouthwatering fare, Valente has passed his family’s tradition of homemade Italian cooking onto his children. After years of working in the restaurant industry and participating in farmer’s markets, De Feo opened his first retail store. At Valente’s Italian Specialities, he sells homemade pasta, bread, premade meals, coffee, kitchenware, and other culinary-inspired gifts. In addition to Valente’s imported specialty items, Valente sources the ingredients for many of his Italian foods from local vendors.
Locally-sourced ingredients. Catering available. Offers classes for kids and adults.
7 Kings Ct. Haddonfield, New Jersey
Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm
Thank you to Marilyn Johnson of PhillyGrub for recommending Valente’s. Read her full review of Valente’s on the PhillyGrub website.
Edit: Thank you to David Stewart for recommending Central Taco and Tequila (Haddon) be added to this list. I will post a brief summary of it in the coming week.
Anywhere we missed?
Love a new (opened in 2018) South Jersey restaurant that’s not on this list? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add it when I get a free moment.
Head to Winslow Township where you can relax with friends as you listen to live music at Sharrott Winery. Choose between indoor and outdoor seating while you enjoy wine and food from Sharrott’s wine bar.
Outside food or beverages are not permitted, and seating is first-come, first-serve.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities presents a series of educational programs that explore issues relating to the Victorian era. This Saturday they will hold the final program of the year.
Cost: $20 per person (includes lunch buffet)
Registration required: (609) 884 – 5404 – I do not know if they still have space at this event.
Famed chef and television host Lidia Bastianich will be at Zallie’s ShopRite of West Deptford to sign her new memoir, “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food, Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian or Lidia’s Favorite Recipes,” which will also be available for purchase.
Bastianich’s pasta sauces will also be available for sampling.
If you attend, be sure to tag your social media photos with #LidiaatShopRite.
45 Parkville Station Rd, West Deptford, New Jersey
Head to Winslow Township where you can relax with friends as you listen to live music at Sharrott Winery. Choose between indoor and outdoor seating while you enjoy wine and food from Sharrott’s wine bar.
Outside food or beverages are not permitted, and seating is first-come, first-serve.
Need some zen this holiday season? Join certified Tea Specialist Deborah Raab of Tea for All for a guided mindfulness workshop. As a part of the Perkins Center’s Tastefully South Jersey workshop series, this class will also cover Wabi Sabi and other principles of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Purchase locally made goods for everyone on your shopping list while you listen to music performed by Dave Kelly. Enjoy food from vendors like Mecha Artisan Chocolate, The Baking Harlot, Royal Mile Coffee, & more. Santa will also be stopping by this free event.
Fernbrook Farms and Properly Fueled are family-friendly destinations offering locally-sourced, healthy food and fun.
Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield, New Jersey (near Bordentown) offers a CSA program, kids’ summer camp, hiking trails, and a farm market selling produce and other locally-sourced goods
Downtown Bordentown boasts a vibrant downtown area with a number of restaurants, including Properly Fueled
Properly Fueled serves locally-sourced, healthy breakfast and lunch items, kids’ meals, smoothies, coffee, tea, and baked goods. They also cater.
This year, I discovered something new. Well, really only new to me. I’ve lived in New Jersey my whole life, and until 2018, I’d never explored Bordentown.
It started as a quest to find a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program. In the spring, we went to Smithville Park’s annual Earth Fair where we met the friendly people from Fernbrook Farms just outside Bordentown. At their vendor table, we learned about Fernbrook’s CSA. After reading some positive reviews about their program, our family enrolled.
Fernbrook isn’t close – about a forty-minute drive – to where we live in Medford. But throughout the whole season of shuttling back and forth to Fernbrook for our CSA share once a week, I never minded the drive. In fact, although I usually loathe driving, I almost always looked forward to the scenic trip up Route 206.
Yesterday was our last visit to Fernbrook for the year. I’ll miss cooking with the fresh produce we got there each week, but our final haul was much bigger than I expected. In fact, I hadn’t realized just how many crops could still thrive in New Jersey when the temperature drops so low. My son and I brought home bags of deep green kale, cabbage, butternut squash, potatoes, parsley, sage, turnips, radishes, carrots, and celery.
When we arrived for our final CSA pickup, the Fernbrook Farms staff had a campfire burning outside. As always, they greeted us upon our arrival. Beside the campfire sat a picnic table offering free samples of lavender-spiced cookies. (I’m still undecided on whether I like lavender in food.) Beside the basket of cookies sat a decorative fall centerpiece and a few bourbon pecan pies for sale. Inside the shop, Fernbrook also sells locally-sourced goods like dairy products, meat, frozen ravioli, eggs, potato chips, iced tea, coffee, and barbecue sauce.
Before we picked up our produce, my son (who is almost four) wanted to go hiking one last time despite yesterday’s bitter temperatures. (Okay, maybe not bitter, but I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold.) Fernbrook does a lot more than just grow vegetables. In fact, they do a little of everything – from weddings to summer camp for kids. The farm’s’ property is also home to a number of scenic hiking trails, and as a result of walking the trails each week, my son has a newfound passion for hiking.
Fernbrook is also home to a number of farm animals. Earlier in the season, we got to see the pigs they raised for meat. Explaining to my son why they were no longer at the farm in an age-appropriate way provided a bit of a challenge, but I’m glad he knows that his food doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store. The rest of the animals at Fernbrook – goats, sheep, chickens, a cow, ducks, and rabbits – are for educational purposes only. We said our final goodbyes to the animals as my son petted the friendly goats.
Driving away from the farm, I got one last look at the unique historic buildings on the farm (shown above). By the time we left, we were both famished. Over the summer, we had enjoyed a meal at Properly Fueled in downtown Bordentown, so I suggested we dine there again. After I reminded my son about their kids’ fruit kebobs, he agreed.
Bordentown has a beautiful and vibrant downtown area. Although we had to park a distance up the street from Properly Fueled, we didn’t mind the walk. But once we got to Properly Fueled, we were grateful for how quickly our food arrived.
Properly Fueled is a small, cozy cafe-style eatery that specializes in locally-sourced health food like quinoa and vegetable bowls. Their menu also offers breakfast items, smoothies, sandwiches, and seasonal specials. A wall in the cafe boasts a list of their local partners that supply everything on their menu – from honey to vegetables to coffee. (Fernbrook, of course, is one of their local suppliers.)
My son ordered his kids’ Fruit Kebobs ($5) – strawberries, bananas, and apples served with a side of sweetened cinnamon yogurt for dipping. I opted for their Rad Thai Bowl ($10.50). Although I didn’t enjoy it as much I enjoyed the Asian bowl I ordered there earlier in the year, it was still a tasty choice. To drink, my son had iced water served in a Mason jar, and I had a mug of hot jasmine green tea. Before we left, we both ordered to-go items: a gluten-free smores cookie for him and a decaf coffee for me.
Right now, we’re undecided on whether we’ll join Fernbrook’s CSA again next year. As my son gets older and participates in more activities, a weekly forty-minute drive might prove too hectic for our family. However, I highly recommend Fernbrook to anyone who lives close to Bordentown (or who doesn’t mind driving there each week.) The CSA is not only affordable but also great for families who want to teach their kids more about where food comes from.
You can signup now for Fernbrook’s 2019 CSA program, which costs $660 for 26 weeks, from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving, approximately $25 a week. We always had plenty to eat each week – and some leftovers too.
Even if we don’t join the CSA again, I’m positive we’ll be back to Fernbrook for a visit in the spring. Afterward, I look forward to another relaxing lunch at Properly Fueled. If you love to eat local, make the trip to explore Bordentown. I can’t imagine anyone would regret it.
Everyone from the New York Times to the Food Network has raved about the homemade sweets at Penza’s Pies at the Red Barn Cafe on Route 206 in Hammonton. The quaint, family-owned shop is housed in a red barn where you’ll feel more like you’ve stepped into your grandmother’s kitchen than a restaurant.
Penza’s is open seven days a week from eight am to six pm for pies and flowers, but they only serve breakfast and lunch between eight am and two pm. When I was a kid, my family and I rode our bikes through Waterford and Hammonton to have breakfast at Penza’s a couple times, but I was too young to remember much of those trips. This past Sunday, my husband, son, and I headed to the Red Barn for a late lunch.
Set amidst forest and farmland, the shop’s old-fashioned windmill and floral displays invite drivers to stop and savor the scenery. Outside the shop sits a greenhouse. A wooden sign advertises apple cherry pie, and the colorful mums remind you that fall is, indeed, finally here. When we entered Penza’s, we saw two dining sections: an “outdoors” area in the enclosed porch, and an indoor area in the bake shop. Since the weather was chilly, we sat in the indoor section.
The shop is worth visiting for its charming rustic decor alone, both inside and outside the cafe. Even the pies on display lend an artistic touch to the setting. Old black-and-white photographs of the farm and newspaper clippings highlighting the cafe’s media coverage over the years adorn the walls. Wooden bookcases, cloth placemats, and a tiny kitchen where you can hear the waitress delivering your order to the cook create a cozy, down-home ambiance.
Farmhouse decor lend the indoor dining area a cozy ambiance.
The “outdoor” dining area is located inside an enclosed porch in the Red Barn.
Like many families in Hammonton, owner Evelyn Penza is Italian, the descendant of a farmer who immigrated here from Sicily in the early twentieth-century. In the 1970’s, Penza and her husband began to experiment with turning the old barn into a business. By the mid-1980’s, Penza and her two sons opened Red Barn. Today, Penza owns and operates the entire operation – including the cafe and pie shop.
Still, her family helps with the shop when they can. “Although the boys have their own businesses, they are an enormous asset and help,” Penza says of her sons.
As we waited for our menus, several families came into the bake shop from out-of-town and gushed over the shop’s eye-catching pies. Behind the counter, Penza sold the pies along with instructions on how to “care for” them at home. She also sold pepperoni bread and other savory baked goods. When Penza asked one man what he wanted, he admitted he was unsure because everything looked so appealing.
The cafe’s autumn menu lists just a few items available for breakfast and lunch, including eggs, quiche, omelets, pancakes, hamburgers, soup, and grilled cheese. The cafe doesn’t have a kids’ menu, but our three-year-old gobbled down an order of peach pancakes served with a side of cranberry-apple sauce. My husband ordered grilled cheese and chicken soup, and I ate a cheeseburger with chips and salad. Our waitress informed us that the cafe is cash-only. As people who rarely carry cash, we were relieved to learn they an ATM.
Fresh dill flavored my salad as well as my husband’s soup. We both enjoyed the taste and appreciate fresh herbs in our food, and our meals were definitely homemade. I expected my salad to be the standard, uninspired iceberg-lettuce with bottled Italian dressing that a lot of diners serve as a side. I was wrong. My salad was a refreshing mix of fresh cucumbers, peppers, onions, and plenty of seasoning. We ate every bite, and since we figured our son had ingested enough sugar that day between leftover Halloween candy and pancakes, we declined a dessert course.
Penza’s is nestled in rural farmland, just minutes from historic Batsto Village. Batsto features numerous hiking trails, a mansion, a sawmill, a museum, a lake, and a nature center. They also host educational events throughout the year. In the fall, Batsto bustles with activity as photographers snap photos of babies discovering Batsto’s orange and yellow landscape. Throughout the season, couples beam for engagement photos beside a dam where iced-tea-brown cedar water flows beneath a wooden footbridge.
Having savored our lunches at Penza’s, we embarked on a hike at Batsto. My son learned about the Pinelands’ native wildlife and a bit about what life was like for the original inhabitants who lived in Batsto beginning in 1766. The nature center even offered some information on the legend and lore of the Jersey Devil. After seeing the mock Jersey Devil “replica” inside the nature center, we had to remind our son a few times that the Jersey Devil isn’t real (although many locals would disagree).
Our pace slowed as we walked back to our car and watched the sun set behind the Batsto mansion. Daylight savings time ended that weekend, and our bodies hadn’t adjusted yet. What a difference an hour can make on your circadian rhythm.
“Why we don’t come here very often?” my son – who woke up at 5:30 am that morning – inquired. (He’s definitely in the why stage of child development.)
“I don’t know,” I said. “I think we’ll start coming more often, though. Would you like to come more often?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“That sounds good to me,” I said as we drove away.