Thursday, June 19, 2014

New on Newark Food Tour

A couple of months ago, I joined what was Garden State Food Tours for a tour (full disclosure: it was a trial run and I paid a discounted price).Since then, Garden State Food Tours has evolved into Jersey Girls Food Tours and while the name has changed, the tours are staying!

The one I went on is called New on Newark and it focuses on several of the new restaurants and cafes that have opened up along Newark Avenue in downtown Jersey City. While the locations can be subject to change depending on availability, you can count on hitting several major spots like Union Republic, Left Bank Burger Bar, Tea NJ & more.
On our tour, we gathered at Left Bank around 6:30pm where introductions were made and drinks were enjoyed. As the food came out, there was a little bit of trivia about Left Bank and conversation about what we could expect from the night. We were given a couple of appetizers to start us off: housemade pork rinds which were surprisingly light and mac & cheese pops. There were plenty for everyone and I liked being able to have a couple of bites without filling up so it was a nice start to the evening.

The next stop was Tea NJ, where William (the owner) came out and talked about his tea and the history of the shop. His enthusiasm rubbed off on all of us as we enjoyed the two teas he poured for us and the selection of all-vegan, soy-free hot dogs he offered. There were even toppings and dressings all laid out for us. My favorite was the devil dog - very spicy and flavorful. After that, there also came a large slice of vegan lavender cake for us to try which really rounded out the entire experience.

From there, we proceeded on to Union Republic where there was a beautiful table set up and ready for us. Gregory Torrech, chef and one of the owners, came over and talked to us for a while about the space, the thought process behind Union Republic and happily answered several questions about everything from the plant life on the walls to the menu. We were served house-made agua frescas and a (sizable) tasting portion of a scallop and beet mazemen (essentially a brothless ramen) they were serving that day. The scallop was beautifully cooked with a nicely crisped exterior, but tender and sweet with every bite. There had clearly been a lot of thought put into the dish and to meet the creator at the same time made it feel very personal.

Our final stop was at Third & Vine (although I believe this has been changed on the reincarnation of the tour) where they had set out both red and white wine and a plate of four cheeses with their pairings. Jamie Mayne, fromager, and Brian Rothbart, beverage director, were on hand to discuss what we were eating and drinking, telling us about where everything came from, and how they created different pairings. Everything was excellent and it was really fun to hear why each ingredient was paired with a certain cheese.

The evening ended with a dessert-to-go from Cholita Dessert Bar. That was actually the first time I'd ever had anything from Cholita and I've been a fan ever since. It was one of the best cupcakes I've ever had and although I was pretty full at that point, it was the perfect sweet ending to the night.

Besides all the food, I really enjoyed being able to meet and talk to so many of the owners/chefs/people behind the food and see their enjoyment in what they were doing. It was incredibly informative to hear them speak and our tour guides - the women behind Jersey Girls Food Tours - were also full of information about the restaurants, the food scene in Jersey City, and the history of Jersey City itself. The entire night really was an edible education.

The New on Newark Tour is one of three tours currently being offered by Jersey Girls Food Tours and tickets are available for all three here.

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