Its hard not to fall in love with the South Jersey town of Cape May – from the amazing architectural aspects of the private homes and the Cape May Bed and breakfasts that made this town so famous, to the incredible beaches, shopping and yes, the food, wine and now the beer (Cape May now boasts it’s very own Brewery).
Here are a few of my favorite places in Cape May – I highly encourage you to check them out on your next visit to Cape May:
THE RED STORE Why it’s great: James Beard nominated chef Lucas Manteca and wife Deanna Ebner make a great team! The Red Store opened in 2012 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have a general store, fresh pastries/breads, sandwiches, coffee and smoothies that you can get to go. They are happy to accommodate Gluten Free, Vegetarian and Vegan requests, always a plus! Why you should check it out: Last year, Lucas and Deanna opened “The Counter”, their Chef’s Table. Limited to only 6 guests, Lucas interacts with customers while preparing their meal (6 courses), offering an explanation of the products he uses (many from their own local farm in West Cape May) along with the award winning techniques he utilizes. Reservations a MUST, BYOB, Cash only
GEORGE’S PLACE Why it’s great: Hands down some of the freshest, most delicious, no frills Greek/Mediterranean fare in Southern New Jersey. Why you should check it out: Guy Fieri, of Diner’s, Diner’s & Drives, featured them on the show last year and for a good reason. Chef John prepares simple, delicious fare - No cloying sauces or fancy gimmicks. Must tries, Saganaki (flaming cheese with Ouzo, whats not to like), the baby Greek lamp chops and the Gyros. Another bonus, average dinner entree is about $16.95 and its a BYOB, Cash only.
LUCKY BONES Why it’s Great: Open all year long – even on Tuesday night in January, this place is jamming (that says something right there). Because its open all year, this is a big local hangout. Friendly staff and great food. Why you should check it out: Overall the food is amazing, but one of the biggest drawls it their wood fired pizza (thin crust). The Pizza Positano features artisan sopressata salami, garlic oil, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. For the purist, try the Margarita or the American pie.
HOT DOG TOMMY’S Why it’s Great: They specialize in Hot Dog’s, need I say more. Why you should check it out: After waiting in a line that sometimes seems endless, your reward will be great. Customers can get any one of their signature combinations with either the traditional “Bad Dog” or the “Leaner Wiener” (a thinner dog with less calories). My favorites, the Texas Tommy and the Black Russian Bag Dog! Plus, what’s not to love about a man in a hot dog hat.
HAWK HAVEN VINEYARD & WINERY Why it’s great: Not many people think of Cape May, as a wine producing area. However, there are some great wineries in the Cape May area. In addition to Hawk Haven, there’s Turdo, Cape May Winery, Jesse Creek, Natali and Willow Creek. Why you should check it out: On Sunday, Hawk Haven has Sangria Sunday (May – September). Come try award-winning wines, their famous Sangria, while listening to some great live music from local singer-songwriters. A lunch menu from some local eateries is also available. If you are interested in touring all the vineyards mentioned above, I recommend checking out Tastings & Tours.
CAPE MAY BREWING COMPANY Why it’s Great: Your not there for the decor, your there for the beer with almost 20 beers on tap. Try their award-winning Cape May IPA. Why you should check it out: Cape May Brewery doesn’t serve food, but they do encourage you to BYOF (hmm, I think a trip to the Red Store is in order), hang out at the picnic tables and order up some great local beer.
THE MASON COTTAGE, CAPE MAY BED AND BREAKFAST Why it’s Great: Every morning Patti serves a full gourmet breakfast with a smile. Why you should go: If you are lucky enough to be there on a morning when Patti serves up her famous French Toast Souffle, then you will truly have experienced nirvana! In addition, Tea time is available to all guests of the Mason Cottage, Cape May B&B from 3 -4 PM daily. BONUS: Every October through March starts our Chocolate Decadance Tea time – where everything at tea-time is chocolate – Chocolate Oolong tea, Chocolate Mint Tea, Patti’s famous chocolate chip cookies, hand dipped chocolate dipped fruit, Oreo’s and nuts to name a few.
Yes, it’s cliche to do chocolate for February’s muffin, but with the addition of coffee, who wouldn’t love February’s Muffin du Mois, Mocha Chocolate Chip.
The addition of yogurt makes this muffin extra moist
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 tbsps instant coffee (I like to use the Starbucks Via single serve packets – I used two packets for this recipe)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
Ingredients for your Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 375 F.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
Combine your instant coffee with your yogurt; set aside.
Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add yogurt until combined.
Room temperature eggs beat up fuller and tend to make baked goods rise better
Gently fold in your dry ingredients (a cup at a time) until a smooth, thick batter just forms; Add chocolate chips. DO NOT over beat your batter – this will make your muffins tough and you don’t want tough muffins!
Use medium ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Using an ice cream scoop will keep all your muffins a uniform size
We hope you enjoy your Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins - Courtesy of the Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast
Guests of the Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast always rave about our Banana Walnut Spice Muffins – they will have you swinging from the trees!
Banana Walnut Spice Muffins
Muffin 1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (or spice blend, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
3 bananas, mashed
½ cup white sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (or spice blend, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup oats (optional)
¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 Tablespoons butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With cooking spray, lightly coat 12 muffin cups or line with muffin papers.
2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 ½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and oil. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Stir in chopped walnuts. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, walnuts, oats, 2 Tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes clean.
Cape May, NJ and Key West, FL, both at Mile Marker 0 (Cape May at Exit 0 off the NJ State Parkway and Key West at Exit 0 off U.S. Route 1) are towns truly unique in their own right and worthy of exploration. While getting to each of these towns involves a certain determination, after all, they are technically both at the end of the line; people still come year after year. There is a real love here, something that can’t be explained by words, it is something that you have to experience and then “you get it”!
If you are from the New Jersey/Philadelphia area, then you most likely have heard of or have been to Cape May, NJ – the great little seaside town at the southernmost tip of Cape May Peninsula where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Cape May is a town known for its beautiful beaches, charming shops, great restaurants and bars and the Victorian homes and bed and breakfasts that dot the landscape. The entire city of Cape May is designated a National Historic Landmark, due to the high concentration of Victorian buildings, dating back to the 1800’s.
While I am sure there are people who haven’t heard of Cape May, NJ, I think you’d be hard pressed to find one who has not heard of Key West, Florida. Key West, located at the southernmost point in the continental US, signifies good times, can anyone say Fantasy Fest? The area in Key West known as Old Town is also a National Historic District with houses and buildings dating back to the 1800’s. Many of the homes were brought over from the Bahamas, which is where the term Conch Style house comes from.
The Mason Cottage in Cape May, NJ
Businesses and homes located within these nationally historically registered areas in Cape May and Key West are required to maintain the original integrity of the property set up by historical preservation groups, such as the Greater Cape May Historical Society and the Historic Florida Keys Foundation. Personally, I am very thankful that these groups exist, if not for them, you can be sure the old saying “out with the old, in with the new” would lead to towns full of modern day high rises, thus completely destroying the integrity of these historic gems.
From devastating fires to new beginnings, these towns have risen from complete
An Old Postcard of the Ocean House Hotel in Cape May
destruction to become great destinations, seamlessly blending their past and present. How many times in history have we heard of a town succumbing to a Great Fire? Well, both Cape May and Key West are no exceptions and both are said to have been started by foul play. On November 9th, 1878 in the early hours of the morning, a fire was observed by a workman at the Ocean Hotel. It did not take long before thirty-five acres were in devastation and ruins – seven major hotels and thirty cottages and bathhouses were lost. It was speculated that arson was the cause of the fire – what better way to rid yourself of a hotel in need of expensive repairs. Samuel Ludlam, owner of the hotel, was seen leaving on an early morning train for Philadelphia on the same day of the fire. Ludlam was brought before court, but was never prosecuted due to lack of evidence.
Old Cigar Box Label
Eight years later, on April 1, 1886, the Great Fire of Key West ripped through the city. The fire ignited in a coffee shop next to the San Carlos Institute, a club erected by the cigar manufacturers and the focal point of the Cuban society in Key West. The fire was said to have been started by the Spanish Empire as a means to financially cripple the Cuban people. At the time, the cigar industry was the economic driving force in the town and the Cubans were dependent on Key West for this financial support. For Spain, the slap in the face was the fact they sold Key West much of the tobacco that was inevitably the financial means for the Cuban revolutionaries to continue the fight with the Spanish. It was a vicious cycle, to which the Spanish were suspected of setting the fire to destroy the Key West cigar industry, thereby destroying the financial support to the Cubans. In the end, 18 cigar factories, 614 houses and government buildings were destroyed in the blaze.
Today, tourism is the dominant industry in both of these coastal towns. The economy is dependent upon the thousands of tourists who come visit the many shops, restaurants/bars, lodgings and tourist attractions each year. Commercial and sport fishing are also important in both economies, while eco-tourism, such as marine mammal watching and bird watching have become equally important.
Both towns host an array of events throughout the year for its visitors. For instance, the annual Singer/Songwriter Competition celebrates up and coming talent and gives visitors a chance to unwind and listen to artists performances at local venues (occurs in March in Cape May and April/May in Key West). There is also the annual Taste of Key West (in April) and the Cape May Food and Wine Festival (in September); both showcase the flavors of the area with events held at local food and wine venues through the towns.
Visitors will also enjoy the many annual themed festivals that have become part of these towns culture. While Key West hosts the annual Fantasy Fest and Conch Republic Days, Cape May has their Victorian Week, Spring Festival and Christmas Candlelight House Tours. Please know that I am in NO way comparing these events (as there is no comparison), I am only showcasing these towns as a destination – a place where visitors can immerse themselves in the culture and participate in events that are unique to these towns alone.
There are still 13 rooms available in the Bed and Breakfast for the birds
In the three years since we have taken over the Mason Cottage Cape May Bed and Breakfast, there have been many changes. Some very noticeable and some more discrete. New landscaping, new paint inside and out. Rooms renovated and updated all the while maintaining the Cape May Victorian feel. The small touches to the major repairs, this old house is coming alive more and more each day. She celebrates the love that resides here in her walls, floors, flowers and dirt. 141 years of life and love in this house.
I don’t know what happened here before I moved in, but since March 27, 2009 this house has been my home, my work and my love. I have worked nearly every day in this kitchen creating cookies, scones, cakes, souffles, frittatas and quiches – new recipes, old recipes…alone with my music or dancing with friends and co-workers.
Cape May Beach Sunset
This kitchen, this house, this town has opened my eyes to so much about me. Things that were instilled deep within that didn’t have an outlet before. Maybe a test run here and there or a little dream or desire but never alive and kicking as they are now.
A new passion and love has emerged…photography. In two years, I managed to free myself of debt, fear, insecurities and 60 pounds of self doubt. So I decided to celebrate and bought myself my first digital camera. I’ve never taken pictures with a digital camera. My parents bought me my first 35mm point-n-shoot when I graduated from business school and my sister gave me my second camera…one that truly inspired me to take pictures…pictures that spoke to me and not just any old shot.
Cape May Church St. Peter's
To be honest, I didn’t take many pictures with that because I really couldn’t afford the film and the development. When I did find a reason and a purpose, I would snap away only to be disappointed when I developed them weeks later. So with my beautiful new camera and my fully charged battery, I set out on a walk around this beautiful town. I don’t look different from the folks here looking for birds, celebrating time with family and spending a romantic weekend with the person they love. I only know that when I look through the view finder I see a different world. The sunsets, the structures, the people, the trees, the art…it all takes on a different feel when you point the camera and push that button.
Boats at Sunset in Cape May New Jersey
I’ve discovered a love, a passion that may have always been deep within me. I’m slowly unwrapping this gift and cherishing the time with each discovery during the process. The most amazing part ofmy personal journey is the people around me that love and support it. From family to friends, employers to strangers, my love is being recognized and enjoyed. Be it my creations in the kitchen or behind the camera, it has always been a personal goal to share them with friends, family and guests. This job…this life has enabled that and today I celebrate the displaying of my work at the Mason Cottage Cape May Bed and Breakfast. Now after you enjoy the breakfast or tea time treats created in the kitchen, you can view my work from behind the camera that will now adorn the walls of The Mason Cottage Cape NJ May Bed and Breakfast. I look forward to sharing more and more kitchen creations and captured moments with all of you.
…the Mason Cottage takes 1st place in Cape May’s 2011 Victorian Week Chocolate Championship Tour and Tasting. This is the second year in a row that the Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast has won bragging rights for the “Best Chocolate Creation” during Victorian Week.
The Chocolate Championship Tour and Tasting is one of Cape May’s most popular events and took place on Saturday, October 8th from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.
Chocolate Decadence, 1st Place Winner
The event is sponsored by Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC) and is offered twice a year, both during the Spring Festival and Victorian Week. Tourgoers are offered the opportunity to visit several historic Cape May properties to sample and vote for their favorite chocolate creation.
There were more than 170 tourgoers who came out for this years Victorian Week event. The 2011 competitors, as well as their chocolate creations were, the Mason Cottage Cape May Bed and Breakfast with their Chocolate Decadence, the Puffin (Fudgy Mint Cheesecake Bars), Summer Cottage (Chocolate Covered Strawberries), Henry Sawyer Inn (Chocolate Raspberry Cookies) and the Physick Estate Tea Room with their Flourless Chocolate Torte.
This competition was a great way for the Mason Cottage to kick off their First Friday’s Wine and Chocolate Reception which is offered from 7:00 – 8:00 PM (October – March) in the parlor of the inn. This reception is in addition to their regular Chocolate Decadance Tea Time. So if you are a serious chocoholic and you are looking to get away for a few days, the Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast is a definite must try. For more information on the Mason Cottage, Cape May Bed and Breakfast, please call 609.884.3358 or visit us at www.themasoncottage.com
Mason Cottage’s Chocolate Decadence A dark, milk and white chocolate layered mousse
with a caramel whipped cream
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped finely 8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped finely 8 ounces white chocolate chopped finely 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional) 1/2 cup cold water 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin 10 large egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 2 cups half & half 3 and 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream *You will also need a piping bag
Combine 1/2 cup water and gelatin in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.
Place each chocolate in 3 separate medium bowls along with a separate spatula for each bowl.
Beat yolks and sugar in large bowl until mixture is pale yellow and very thick, about 5 minutes.
Bring half and half just to a simmer in heavy large saucepan. Gradually whisk hot half and half into beaten egg mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Remove custard from heat. Add softened gelatin; stir until gelatin dissolves. Strain mixture into large glass measuring cup. Immediately pour 1/3 of hot custard over each. Stir each chocolate with separate spoon until melted and smooth. Add Grand Marnier to white chocolate mixture.
If mixture cools before chocolate is completely melted, set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir just until chocolate melts. Cool chocolate mixtures to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Beat cream in large bowl until stiff peaks form. Divide whipped cream equally among 3 bowls of chocolate.Gently fold whipped cream into chocolate in each bowl. Pipe bittersweet chocolate mixture into clear long stemmed glass (like a champagne glass). Freeze until firm, about 12-15 minutes. Pipe milk chocolate mixture over bittersweet chocolate layer. Freeze until firm, about 12-15 minutes. Pipe white chocolate mixture over milk chocolate mixture. Freeze until firm, about 12-15 minutes. Cover with plastic and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, top each glass with Caramel Whipped Cream: 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 4 tbsp Godiva caramel liquor (optional). Combine all in a medium bowl and mix until stiff peaks are formed.