As a vegetarian I’m used to compromising a little bit on blogger trips. I genuinely enjoy side dishes, usually more than whatever special vegetarian concoction is whipped up in my honor. So I try to stay quiet about it, and am always happy if I have more than one main dish to choose from on the menu, especially when that one thing is “Selection of Steamed Vegetables.” As if being vegetarian automatically means that I want no butter, no calories, and no taste.
Well. This was one trip where absolutely no compromise was necessary. In the short time I was in Cape May earlier this month, I got to sample a couple of great Cape May restaurants plus an amazing lunch al fresco, right there in the middle of the farm where Congress Hall’s veggies are grown.
The Rusty Nail
Our first evening in Cape May we took a short walk over to The Beach Shack, a hotel owned by the Cape Resorts Group. This is the same company that owns Congress Hall, where we were staying. This hotel is even more relaxed than Congress Hall, with a fire pit and outdoor restaurant, as well as mini kitchens in the rooms complete with fridges, microwaves, plates, and flatware. A huge plus for families.
Our big group had dinner at The Rusty Nail, home of the longest bar in Cape May (they measured!). The first thing I noticed was all of the kids’ meals being served at other tables. Why did they catch my eye? Because they’re served on Frisbees, which the kids get to keep!
Remember what I said about enjoying side dishes? Despite there being some yummy looking pasta and a grilled vegetable sandwich on the menu, I was salivating over the huge side dish menu! I ordered several and was not sorry. The vegetables were so fresh, as if they’d come straight from a farm (uh, more on that the next section…).
The vast majority of our party were not vegetarians, and they all seemed pretty happy as well, eating things like Surf & Turf, Steak & Cake, and Fish Tacos. You can see the full Rusty Nail menu here.
Beach Plum Farm
The next afternoon we took a very short drive to Beach Plum Farm, an easy bike ride or even a nice walk from the heart of Cape May.
Know what I’m holding in that picture? Asparagus. It had just been picked a few minutes before, and we were grabbing it from a bin like it was candy. I’d never tasted raw asparagus before, and it was so tender and yummy! They cut asparagus for eight weeks last year and couldn’t use it all, so they blanched and froze the extra to use in winter soups.
There are about fifteen acres being farmed, which is roughly one-quarter of the farm (half of the land is marsh). All of the properties of the Cape Resorts Group share the produce. Now in its fourth year of being farmed, Beach Plum is producing all of the greens and herbs used by their hotels, as well as grapes, four or five kinds of berries, lots of different vegetables (including those famous Jersey tomatoes), and even Christmas trees! There are two bee hives, and lots of flowers are cut for use in the hotels (owner Curtis Bashaw likes to arrange them himself).
There are pigs on the farm that eat all of the leftovers from the restaurants. That’s kind-of brilliant. There’s even a new chicken coop, built to look like the cutest little schoolhouse ever. Of course, I totally forgot to take a picture of the outside in my rush to get inside and see the cute little chicks, but you can see it on Ellen’s post – she was smart enough to get a great picture of it (and also took the picture of me and my asparagus). By the end of the summer these chicks will be producing eggs.
Owner Curtis Bashaw (below) answered our questions and explained to us what a learning experience the farm has been for the kitchens of the different properties, as the chefs figure out who gets what. Everything we saw on the tour was simply picture-postcard beautiful.
After our tour we were treated to a lunch that was like something out of a movie. It was the most beautiful setting, with the freshest ingredients, and was served to us by cowboys. Yes, you read that right. Lots of pictures were taken by middle-aged moms with rodeo fantasies. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because my husband reads my blog.
Our fabulous lunch was made for us by Chef Lucas Manteca, who is the executive chef for the Cape May Group. That’s him at the head of the table below, describing to a bunch of hungry bloggers in mouth-watering detail what we were about to eat.
The potato salad – which I think I had three servings of – was the best potato salad I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of potato salad. It was made with crème fraiche instead of mayonnaise, and I will pry the recipe out of Chef Lucas’ hands and post it if it’s the last thing I do.
Visiting Beach Plum Farm wasn’t just a fantastic perk for bloggers on a press trip. Hotel guests are welcome to check out the farm for themselves at certain times, and bike tours and picnic packages are also offered. Check with the hotel staff for details.
Sad as I was to get up from the table and head back to town, I had a massage appointment to get to at the fabulous Sea Spa, so don’t feel too sorry for me.
The Blue Pig Tavern
After my relaxing massage I met the group at the Blue Pig Tavern, Congress Hall’s restaurant. The smartest thing I’ve ever done was sit next to Ellen, and we shared several dishes so that we didn’t have to do too much deciding, since our brains were still mushy from the spa. I highly recommend the macaroni and cheese. The Blue Pig’s menu is huge, and there really is something for everyone.
All in all this was a fantastic two days of food. I can’t wait to bring my husband, who loves seafood, since everyone was raving about how fresh it was. There’s a restaurant to fit every budget and style, which is important, because when I go on a beach vacation I don’t usually want to dress up or do any more primping than putting my hair in a pony tail. I was able to stay in beach casual clothes the entire trip while still eating like I was in a fancy restaurant.
Special Offer for my readers: Book a stay at Congress Hall, or one of its sister properties, The Virginia Hotel or The Beach Shack, using the code MOMBLOG before July 31st (for travel anytime in 2011) and receive a $100 resort credit. Complete details of this offer can be found here.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 7. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.