This is a very Jersey-esque blog…but what can I say – I’m a Jersey girl, and sometimes, I gotta do what a Jersey girl’s gotta do.
There’s this event – called the Red Bank Flavour Food & Wine Walk, in the heart of Red Bank, NJ (USA) every summer. It’s held on select Sundays from June through October, and is the most indulgent, decadent, and fun walk you will ever have though a very happening town in Jersey central. Be there, or be square (and hungry!).
Every year, the over-twenty participating restaurants may vary slightly, but there are the consistent purveyors that should not be missed. Here’s how to hit all of the hot spots and get your money’s worth before you reach stuffed-us maximus and have imbibed more than your portion of complementary cabernet, an assortment of sangria, and batches of beverages that pair exceedingly well with the mouth-watering tastes of the establishments along your journey.
1 – Have a plan, and have a back-up plan. This is only going to be fun if the sun is out. It’s no fun ducking into restaurants and dodging rain during a four-hour eating extravaganza where you are supposed to walk around between bites and beverages. Right from the get-go, my friend and I had said we would attempt the July event; and if Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, August was our back-up baby. We lucked out and had the most perfect weather on July 21 for walking about town in attempt to convince ourselves we were actually burning off the calories as we consumed them. My suggestion is to try to plan to participate on your first available third Sunday of the month, and if it must monsoon, reschedule your visit for the next decadent date in the line-up.
2 – Get there early. Plan on arriving approximately 30-45 minutes in advance of the time that the bracelets go on sale – and I’m not talking about some golden bangles. See, there are a few restaurants like (Red, Danny’s Grill and Wine Bar, and Teak) that sell admission bracelets to this event in advance of its 2pm kick-off. The bracelets sell out fast. If you snooze, you lose.
There is limited free lot parking around town, so to secure your parking space, and then your place in line to purchase your $35 paper wristband that you will flash at bartenders and waiters alike - don’t dilly-dally. You will see crowds start to form at the entrances of the bracelet brokers. At 1:30pm the doors will open and you can pay cash for your afternoon entry. The event is open to adults only.
The best part is that you won’t be bored while you wait around for the official 2pm starting time. There are plenty of stores to shop (and window shop) at around town while you anticipate your first taste of the town, such as high-end, fashionable designer clothing store Coco Pari, The Tasting Room, the new bangle and earring broker Alex and Ani, or the more casual Urban Outfitters.
You can even grab a cup of coffee for some extra energy over at Starbucks. (We had a pre-walk toast over at The Tasting Room, which offers $3 pours of champagne on Sundays.)
Once the restaurants sell out of wristbands for the food and wine walk – they’re out. And when they’re out; they’re out. Last year there was such a demand that as people were finishing their tour d’ taste, there were those walking the sidewalks offering to pay a premium for the time left on the bracelets being abandoned as people walked towards their cars ready to leave.
3 – Plan your route. There are always a few food and wine walk participants every year that consistently shine as the stars of the show. You don’t want to miss these. Live and learn because if you start on the wrong street, you will be too stuffed to truly enjoy the plats du jour that make your taste buds sing and your stomach celebrate.
In order, I recommend starting at Red. Red gives generous pours of wine. Last year they did a mix of red and white wines; while this year they stuck to a prosecco. Red also sells the wristbands for the walk, so you might as well stay stationery and start here.
After, head over to The Cheese Cave. Nothing pairs better with wine than cheese - except for maybe chocolate. This year The Cheese Cave had served what I call heaven on bread. It was a luscious melted mix of brie, raspberry curd, and semi-sweet chocolate on toasted brioche. O.M.G. The Cheese Cave is generous in their half-sandwich portion sizes that are orgasmically good. Hit them up early because once they’re out – they’re out – of their well-stocked sumptuous sandwiches.
Once you devour the delicacy offered by The Cheese Cave, work off (a few of) those calories by jogging over to The Cupcake Magician a few doors down, because they have sample size mini-cupcakes in flavors ranging from red velvet to carrot cake, cannoli, and more. It’s dessert time!
Didn’t get enough dessert? Go to Lil Cutie Pops right after. They have dipping delights in sweet sauces, and you can grab a cake pop to go. This year they had a churro-style bite on a stick that knocked my socks off. So it’s dessert first, followed by more food…and wine.
At this point you want to cut across to The Wine Cellar and try both a red and a white sampling of wine.
You have to walk (but no one said it had to be in a straight line – ha ha!) to Teak after that. You just do. Teak comes up with incredible sangria year after year served with an Asian-style appetizer. This year I wanted seconds of their sweet peach sangria, it was so good!
Jamian’s is just a wobbly hop, skip and jump away, and they always have a good showing. Just flash your bracelet at the bartender and you’ll be taken care of.
The veterans of the event always are prepared for the crowds by 2pm, and you can see their wines pre-poured in glasses lining the bars and the food raring to go. (While we waited at Red, we laughed when the clock struck two and the crowd flocked to the bar. It felt like we were at the starting gate!) There are some places that need to do some prep work in advance of the 2pm mad dash, though. Walking into Readie’s Café was disappointing when at 2:30pm they still didn’t have food set out and we felt lost in - well - no sauce.
Other must-do’s on your way are Buona Sera, The Boondock’s Fishery (they had alligator sausage this year and the view of the Navesink River is relaxing while you eat), and Siam Garden (the portion size is enough for a complete lunch and is sooo good you will wish you could bring a doggie bag home).
If you still can stomach more, go right ahead and cover all of the other ground listed on your guide.
4 – Pick up water on your walk. It’s important to rehydrate as you wine and dine in the sunshine. There are delis, coffee shops and the like along the way where I highly suggest you pick up a bottle of water for yourself to sip as you go. If you don’t, you’ll wind up with a hangover and a headache, which won’t add to your experience, for sure.
5 – Pace yourself. If you try to tackle all of the restaurants at record pace, you will feel like you will pop way before you have to stop. Taste, chew, sip, swallow, sit, and relax. It’s not a race. Set your pace. You have four hours to eat and drink your money’s worth – and you will. The food and wine walk goes from 2pm – 6pm so walk, shop, sip, and enjoy the scenery.
6 – Allow for enough time to sober up before you drive off. That may seem self-evident, and it’s really not meant to be lecture-esque, but rather a reminder to plan your day so you have enough time to stay before you start your evening. When I had finished the food and wine walk this year, the sun had dipped below the tree line, and the temperatures cooled off a little. The breeze blew, and it was perfect for grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting along the Navesink River watching the boats go by. This also allowed for the opportunity to make sure that no one would drive anywhere until the effects of the alcohol wore off. Unless you can walk home, plan on staying a while before you drive off into the sunset safely.
Sunday, August 18
Sunday, September 15
Sunday, October 20
Wristbands $35 each, on sale starting 1:30pm on the day of the event.