Have you ever wondered what city food tours were like? Well today’s post is giving you the inside scoop.
Over the course of the next few months, I think you’ll see some content shifting and small changes to Behind the Plates. I’m in the process of a small re-branding to start really focusing on what I love most and more importantly what you readers favor, recipes and travel. I’ve dipped my toes into a bunch of other content related pools but, I these are really the heart of Behind the Plates.
This post is the beginning of that evolution. I’m hoping to bring you travel inspiration features that really speak to people who travel like me! So what does traveling like Missy entail? Well, I’m often on the hunt for the best food related experience I can find find. Sometimes I plan ahead; sometimes I stumble upon them in our explorations. The most obvious is restaurant experiences but what about tours, street carts, classes, etc.? For the traveling food lover, like me!!, I think you’ll appreciate the ideas I’ll share along my journeys.
This first experience was a more local day trip that I took to Jersey City. For anyone in the Tri-State area looking for an afternoon activity, listen up!!!! It’s also a hop, skip and a jump (well, a 9 minute Path train ride) over from New York City, for all you out of towners visiting the Big Apple.
Jersey Girl Food Tours was created by two girls who live after my own heart. Their passion for food and local culture encouraged the idea for a walking tour of their town, Jersey City. They have built relationships with over 45 local restaurants and continue to expand the enterprise. And their expansion isn’t just limited to Jersey City anymore. They recently launched their Rutherford, NJ tour and they plan to explore other cities around the state to bring a similar experience to those local and visiting crowds.
While I can’t speak to all of the Jersey City locations they work with, I did get a first-hand experience of the tour with five of the participating locations. A group of twelve of hungry tour guests (their average tour attendee count to keep it personalized) met at WÜRSTBAR to kick off the tour. We were introduced to one of the owners of Jersey Girl Tours, Alessia. We quickly reviewed the expectations of the tour and our map of food stops. After that, the tasting began.
WÜRSTBAR served up two of their creative sausages and a cider from their extensive beer and cider menu. The chef came out to discuss his menu, restaurant vision, and the dishes we sampled. I realized early on that our tour was not going to be an “eat and run” tour. We only had five stops in three hours. We took the time to truly experience the dishes we were trying, talk about the restaurants with the owners and/or chefs, and in some cases take tours of the restaurant facilities. This tour is not to experience the tourist stops and cram in as many restaurants into as little time as possible. This tour is geared to the true food lovers (or those that aspire to learn more!), the ones who appreciate the art of cooking and eating.
After WÜRSTBAR we made our way to Porta. It’s a trendy, industrial style pizzeria. It’s one of the few true Neapolitan certified pizza restaurants you’ll find. Part of that equation is their wood-fire stoves. It heats those airy dough pies up in just 90 seconds. While the pizza is the star at Porta, the other dish we tried is a MUST for cheese lovers. Their handmade Mozzarella (made in house daily) melts in your mouth and the drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt to top it off will knock your socks off.
Vanhook Cheese and Grocery was next up and this was my favorite stop on our list. It’s a small gourmet and artisan shop that focuses around cheese. We spoke to the owner whose passion for the craft beamed through while he explained our five cheese tastings paired with prosecco (apparently a great alcohol to have with most cheeses….start popping bottles everyone!). If a shop like this opened near me, I would be in serious trouble (for the gluttony that would ensue of course!). I bought some goodies to take home at this stop and most of my fellow tourists did the same.
Pasta Dal Cuore lives right across the street from VanHook and it lives as a fresh pasta shop by day (no table service) and restaurant by night. The owner and chef, Elena Cartegena, fell in love with pasta while studying culinary in Italy. Her dream came to fruition with this restaurant. Our plate of fresh pasta was light, al dente, and dressed to perfection. She takes regional Italian right from Italy and brings it to our plates in Jersey City. This will be a restaurant I absolutely return to.
5th and Final Stop!
Our last stop on the trip had the most intriguing history behind it. The building that houses Talde restaurant used to be where all of the phone lines running from New York to New Jersey ran through (Back when phone lines were actual phone wired lines!). You can still see the remnants of the wires in their basement Speakeasy lounge, Miss Wongs. In addition to the phone wires you can also see the original Police headquarters interrogation one-way window (It became the police headquarters after the telephone company earlier in the 1900s). We were able to tour this small club and it’s a beautiful and interesting location.
Turning back to the food, Dale Talde, who has made three Top Chef Appearances, opened up this restaurant in 2015. It features Asian American food with Talde’s flair. The story that inspired with our #6 Bao bite was that it is a spin on his favorite fast food dish, the Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich. Well Dale, that just happens to be my favorite too but, I think your Bao may takes its place! We toasted here with Strawberry Moscow Mules and took a group shot to remember our tour.
We were sent on our way with a “To-Go” goody from Bang Cookies, a local bakery. The salted chocolate chip cookies were a sweet ending to a wonderful and very filling afternoon.
Have I enticed you to try the tour yet? Well, I hope I have. I know I am already working to grab friends to go again. It’s such a fun afternoon experience. You learn, you eat, you drink, and you’re with good company…what’s not to love.
My tips for the tour:
- Come Hungry-it may seem like a given, but it’s a lot of food and you don’t want to die out early. You paid to try everything!!
- Add on the alcohol option. The tour is $75 but for just $15 more you can do alcohol pairings at each site. It’s not only worth the price (you get full drinks at each spot), but it makes the tastings.
**On that note of drinking- either drink tons of water paired with those drinks or take public transportation so you can fully enjoy!
- Dress for the weather. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day. While there isn’t too much waking on the tour, you’ll will be outdoors for some of it so you’ll want to go prepared.
- Ask Questions- you have the chance to talk to a local (your guide) and the chefs and owners of great restaurants. If you are passionate or curious about something, speak up!
You can book your reservations for a Jersey Girls Food Tour here: http://jerseygirlsfoodtours.com/
…all for the love of the dish