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.
Visit this four-and-a-half acre playground on the Camden Waterfront where kids can let their imaginations run wild. Bring the whole family for brunch with Santa, hot chocolate, and a kids’ Polar Express ride.
Call ahead for reservations & details: (856) 365-8733
Wear your ugliest sweater for a chance at a $100 prize. Bring a new, unwrapped toy or gently used winter clothing for a free beer. Visitors will also enjoy holiday crafts, live music, food trucks, and more. Santa will be there from 3 – 6 pm.
A new eatery serving up Dominican soul food recently opened in Willingboro.
Burlington County can add another cuisine to its repertoire. Sol Sazon, which opened in Willingboro in September, specializes in Dominican dishes with a modern twist.
A small, family-owned BYOB, Sol Sazon serves up traditional Dominican soul food like mofongo, a Puerto Rican staple also popular in the Dominican Republic. Mofongo owes its origins to traditional West African fufu, a dish that arrived on the Carribean islands during the sixteenth century.
Made from mashed plantains and chicharrones (fried pork skin), mofongo is a dry food usually stuffed with a second protein like chicken, beef, or seafood and served with a sauce or gravy. Sol Sazon offers their mofongo with your choice of chicken with alfredo sauce or shrimp with creole sauce.
Other Sol Sazon specialties include fried empanadas, loaded yucca fries, and pasteles (Dominican tamales). Sol Sazon’s owner says the pasteles’s mushy texture might take some getting used to on an American palate.
Empanadas and even yucca fries – which resemble thick french fries in both appearance and taste – provide a more conservative introduction for less adventurous diners.
Housed in a small strip mall off Route 130, Sol Sazon’s family-friendly, brightly-lit interior is decidedly casual. As diners wait for their meals, they have the option of playing Dominos, a game the owners have available for visitors.
Menu prices range from $2 to $18 for appetizers and $10 to $30 for entrees, which you can order in individual portions or family-style. To drink, bring your own wine or beer, or order the kids a morir sonando, a sweet drink made from orange juice and milk.
On Saturday, December 15, 2018, I dined at Sol Sazon with a few other food bloggers.
To fully experience Sol Sazon’s menu, we ordered a variety of appetizers – including beef empanadas, salmon empanadas, chicken empanadas, pasteles en hoja, shrimp mofongo, chicken mofongo, and loaded yucca fries.
I enjoyed the empanadas – particularly the beef variety. As Sol Sazon’s owner mentioned, the pastelito’s texture was a bit mushy for me, though it was flavorful. The rest of the food was on the bland and dry side for my liking. Being a newcomer to Dominican food, I’m unsure whether these characteristics are typical for other restaurants serving similar cuisine.
A quick Google search revealed other reviewers describing Dominican food as ‘bland.’ So my suspicion is that my complaint has more to do with my unfamiliarity with Dominican food – along with a personal preference for spicier cuisines – than a failing on the part of the restaurant.
Sol Sazon’s friendly, welcoming staff was open to our feedback. As a new establishment, Sol Sazon is still working to refine its taste and work out kinks. Because food is so subjective, I firmly believe people should try things for themselves rather than taking someone else’s opinion as fact.
I know I’ll be giving Sol Sazon – and Dominican cuisine – a second try.
BYOB offering takeout, dine-in, and catering in South 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.
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.
Do you know the difference between bechamel, veloute, alfredo, and carbonara? Find out here – and learn where to enjoy quality white sauce in South Jersey.
White sauce. Alfredo. Bechamel. What’s the difference?
That’s what I wondered earlier this week.
I had just whipped up a quick dinner for my family. I stirred together some milk, butter, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, chopped up some spinach and canned salmon, tossed it all over a box of linguine, and finished off the dish with some freshly grated parmesan.
When my four-year-old son Elliot asked me what our meal was called, I hesitated. I wanted to say “linguine and salmon with bechamel,” but I was unsure.
“Alexa, what’s the difference between bechamel sauce and Alfredo?” I asked.
Alexa replied with some confusing nonsense where she basically repeated my question back to me. (Rest assured: artificial intelligence is not going to take over the world just yet.)
I vowed to do a little research to settle my confusion.
Behold a brief guide to white sauce:
‘White sauce’ is a generic term that can refer to any kind of creamy sauce made from milk, butter, wine, or cheese.
Bechamel’s origins are rooted in political history. In 1533, Catherine de Medici of Italy married a French duke named Henri. When Medici came to France, she brought her Italian chefs with her.
Back in Medici’s homeland, Tuscans had already been eating their own version of white sauce – besciamella – since the Renaissance. No one quite agrees on who exactly invented bechamel, but Medici’s arrival in France paved the way for the sauce.
Bechamel sauce is named for Marquis Louis de Bechamel, a businessman and steward of King Louis XIV. During the 1800’s, a French chef named Marie Antoine-Carême described four French “mother sauces” – including bechamel – in her book Le Guide Culinaire.
Today, cooks make bechamel using a roux of flour and butter to which they add milk, salt, black pepper, and often – nutmeg. (If you’ve only eaten nutmeg is sweet desserts, you need to try it in savory white sauce dishes.)
If you want to make a basic bechamel sauce at home, I recommend using this recipe from Epicurious. I double the recipe, add a pinch of nutmeg to it, and pour it over cooked tortellini or linguine.
If other white sauces are too heavy for you, behold the light, milk-free veloute. The word veloute derives from the French word ‘velour,” a reference to the sauce’s smooth, velvety consistency. Veloute is another of the four original mother sauces Marie Antoine-Careme outlined in the nineteenth century.
Like bechamel, veloute begins with a flour and butter roux. In lieu of milk, clear stock made from unroasted chicken or fish is added, making for a lighter sauce that is then poured over fish or vegetables.
The earliest known mention of carbonara sauce can be found in Richard Hammond’s 1957 book Eating in Italy: a pocket guide to Italian food and restaurants. Many people believe carbonara, which originated in Rome, was introduced to Americans at the end of World War II. American troops stationed in Italy had little to eat. But they added cured pork to dried pasta to create something similar to carbonara sauce.
‘Carbonara’ roughly translates to ‘charcoal burner,’ so another theory holds that carbonara was first created as a dish for Italian coal miners.
However, some historians doubt both theories. No one is entirely sure when carbonara was first created. Today, spaghetti alla carbonara is a popular Italian-American dish made with creamy white sauce, pancetta, egg yolks, and an Italian cheese like pecorino or parmesan.
Alfredo, one of the simplest white sauces, is made from butter and parmesan cheese over fettuccine pasta. Fettucine alfredo is one of the most common dishes you’ll find at American restaurants.
While Americans might consider it a quintessential Italian dish, fettuccine alfredo is not a common sauce in Italy – though it was invented there.
A Roman restauranteur named Alfredo di Lelio first made the dish for his pregnant wife. American actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate at di Lelio’s Ristorante Alfredo and told their friends back in Hollywood. Celebrities like Sophia Loren and Jimmy Stewart soon came to love fettuccine alfredo, helping to popularize the dish in America.
Where to Find Good Cream-Based Pasta in South Jersey
If you don’t feel like whipping up your own, head out to one of these South Jersey restaurants for quality white sauce.
Ristorante Toscana Fire Grill and Bar (Cherry Hill, New Jersey) – My former workplace held our annual holiday party at Toscana every year. I recall loving their Champagne Pear Sacchetti, which their menu describes as “Toscana’s Speciality.” The sacchetti pasta is stuffed with pears and ricotta and tossed in a rich, creamy walnut-champagne sauce. Yum.
Theresa M. Hinke, a public relations professional, recommends three South Jersey restaurants for quality pasta of any kind:
Allora (Marlton, New Jersey) – Allora’s new “Pasta Your Way” menu includes two different white sauce options: carbonara and truffle cream.
Linda Pelaschier Mihlebach, a home cook and Instagrammer, suggests Filomena Lakeview (Deptford, New Jersey). While not a white sauce fan, “I never had a pasta dish there I didn’t like,” she says. Their menu includes a seafood and tortellini butter sauce.
Mihlebach also enjoys the Bronzino Francese at Chubby’s Steakhouse (Gloucester City, New Jersey) – which is made with butter, lemon, and white wine.
Angel Merrill’s family, which has owned and operated Merrill’s Colonial Inn (Mays Landing, New Jersey) since 1959, has passed down recipes for generations. Their homemade spaghetti with white clam sauce is a customer favorite.
In good conscience, I couldn’t leave Hammonton off this list. Located in the Pine Barrens, Hammonton is home to a large Italian population. I attended high school in Hammonton and have never had bad Italian food there.
While I can’t recall ordering any white sauces, I have always enjoyed Marcello’s (Hammonton, New Jersey) which has been serving up homemade Italian specialties for more than two decades. Marcello’s “Special Sauce” is made with cream, mushrooms, and peas. Their menu also includes carbonara and alfredo sauces.
Where’s your favorite spot in South Jersey for delicious white sauce pasta?
Rastelli Market recently hosted their 5th annual Nog Off competition. Judges selected three winning eggnog recipes. A holiday sampling event followed the contest.
Does good eggnog need to contain eggs?
No – at least not according to the judges of Rastelli Market’s fifth annual Nog Off competition, which was held at their Marlton location on Saturday, December 8, 2018.
For the second year in a row, Catherine Nichole Gray was the reigning champion of the competition. The event’s three judges – Rastelli Executive Chef James Liuzza, Philly cheesesteak mogul Tony Luke Jr., and Philly food truck ambassador John Cohl – awarded Gray’s vegan recipe first place.
For Gray, baking is a “side trade.” She originally created the winning eggnog recipe for her vegan customers. Gray’s award-winning, coconut-based nog contains Puerto Rican rum and is similar to Christmas coquito, a traditional Puerto Rican, eggnog-esque beverage.
Gray’s was not the only entry with a multi-cultural influence. One participant included the dry ingredients from savory mole sauce, a Mexican cuisine staple containing chocolate and chili peppers. The participant – one half of an Instagram duo self-described as “home cooking enthusiasts” – topped off his recipe with tequila and Mexican hot chocolate.
In total, sixteen South Jersey home chefs participated in the competition, all putting their own unique twists on the classic holiday beverage.
For several participants, eggnog making carries across multiple generations. There was even a young child who entered the competition – with the help of his father. Their eggnog, of course, was alcohol-free.
This year marked an entrant named Angela’s first time making eggnog without the help of her mother. Her eggnog tradition began 70 years ago when her grandmother began making the drink. Every year, her family updates the eggnog with a new kind of alcohol. Their 2018 recipe uses bourbon infused with honey liquor.
Participant Barry Bachman’s family eggnog tradition began 45 years ago with his father. His son now helps with the eggnog recipe, which – like Angela’s – includes bourbon.
Nog Off entrants used a variety of liquors to create their eggnogs. A participant named Colleen, whose family is Irish, combines Irish Whiskey with brandy and spiced rum. After twelve years of practice, she is confident about her blend. “I turn people who are not eggnog drinkers into eggnog lovers,” Colleen says during the event.
“I turn people who are not eggnog drinkers into eggnog lovers.”
Second-place Nog Off winner Lori Kusevk makes her eggnog using a rich blend of peanut butter, dutch chocolate, and vodka, which the judges compared to the taste of a Butterfinger. Al Irons, who was awarded third place, blends coffee and cream for a white chocolate mocha eggnog.
More than one participant cited the Nog Off as helping them to cope with grief or to overcome obstacles in their lives. Food is uniquely tied to memory and emotion, and it’s difficult to remember food without also remembering the loved ones with whom we’ve shared it.
This past August, Pam Ingram Walsh lost her brother to a four-year battle with colon cancer. In previous years, her brother had placed first, second, and third in the contest. “I’m here today to carry on his tradition,” she says.
Visitors take comfort in Rastelli’s homemade foods and family traditions. “This is the place to come if they’re going through some things,” remarks the Nog Off’s emcee.
Participant Emily Dawson’s grandmother began making eggnog because she believed it could help cure illness. She made it whenever her children got sick. When Dawson fell ill herself, she followed her grandmother’s wisdom and started making eggnog.
Many of the Nog Off’s entrants have participated in the event during previous years. After last year’s competition, Jeff Bravo resolved to “focus” harder on his eggnog game. To hone his recipe, Bravo experimented through a process of trial and error – or, in his words, “tasting and tweaking.” All that tasting necessitated a lot of alcohol consumption.
“I definitely stayed in that evening,” Bravo says of his eggnog experiment.
For Bravo and another participant named Linda Falcone, high-quality ingredients are a must for eggnog making. Bravo credits the quality of his eggnog to vanilla bean paste, a gamechanger for anyone who likes to bake – according to Bravo. Falcone believes the key to great eggnog is quality nutmeg, which she purchases directly from Barbados.
Each participant took home a $25 Rastelli’s gift card. Gray claimed a $300 grand prize gift card. Kusevk took home a $200 gift card, and Irons was awarded a $100 gift card. When Gray received her first-place prize last year, she spent it “just sampling everything” on offer at Rastelli’s.
Event attendees also sampled many of Rastelli’s dishes on Saturday. During the Nog Off, Rastelli Director of Culinary Joe Muldoon and other Rastelli staff handed out samples of Rastelli’s own family eggnog, which contains whiskey and rum.
Following the competition, Rastelli Market hosted their annual holiday sampling event, where children enjoyed a visit from Santa Clause. Shoppers sampled Rastelli favorites like gourmet meats and cheeses, crab cakes, rib eye roast, shrimp pasta, and baked ziti. Rastelli staff distributed informational brochures detailing Rastelli’s catering services – including their Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner.
During the celebration, shoppers also had the opportunity to enter a free raffle. The lucky winner will take home a 22-pound Panettone cake.
As for my personal favorite attraction of the day, I enjoyed Irons’ second-place white chocolate mocha eggnog the most of any I sampled. Its coffee flavor put me in the mood for Rastelli’s house-roasted espresso drinks.
Rastelli’s makes the best lattes in South Jersey – at least of the ones I’ve sampled. As the barista crafted my latte, the alluring aroma of the store’s coffee beans roasting nearby enticed my husband to order a cup of coffee too.
We vowed to visit Rastelli’s more often. Their coffee beans alone are worth the trip. While I’m there, I might just pick up ingredients to whip up some eggnog of our own.
A special ‘thank you’ to Amaris Pollock for sharing her photography talent and to John Cohl and Tony Luke for giving me the chance to talk about Fork in the Pines during the competition.