Cape May food, wine, spirits, beer

The annual Cape May Food & Wine Celebration in mid-September concentrates the flavors of fall’s bounty into 10 amazing days of deliciousness

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

(CAPE MAY) — Who knew when I first started working at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) in August 2011, I would be immersed in a culture of culinary delights. As Communications Coordinator (now Director of Media Relations), I soon learned that Cape May — and Cape May MAC — takes its food quite seriously.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine has dubbed Cape May “One of America’s Best Food Cities.” With its lively food, craft beer, spirits and wine culture, top restaurants, and local wineries, distilleries and breweries growing by leaps and bounds, Cape May is a foodie destination. Cape May MAC is Cape May’s premiere cultural, history and arts organization, offering tours, activities and events that share the town’s love with the world. The Annual Cape May Food & Wine Celebration is one of the organization’s most anticipated times of the year.

When I started my foray into this amazing organization at the end of summer in 2011 it couldn’t have been more tasty. I dove right in, tasting delicious wines, exploring Cape May’s Fisherman’s Wharf, hosting Scotch and whiskey dinners, riding along on Chefs’ Dine-Arounds via trolley (in which guests experience five restaurants serving a different course, guided by a wine expert pairing the dish with very special wines, and traveling by trolley from door to door), and writing about all these events.

It was heaven, and still is.

This year, the 23rd Annual Cape May Food & Wine Celebration, Sept. 13–22, 2019, promises new and amazing opportunities to revel in the flavors that Cape May is famous for and I urge you to join us for one or more. While not all events are sold out, many are. But there are some great choices still to be made. They certainly are selling quickly. Check these out:

Harvest Brew Fest

This free event is a fundraiser to support Cape May historic sites. Enjoy craft beers at the Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., and celebrate South Jersey during Harvest Brew Fest, an all-day festival on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This outdoor festival spotlights all things local: local food vendors, local artisans and crafters, local craft beers and local musical talent, including Capers, Animal House, and Paul Garguilo. Taps flow beginning at 10 a.m. Admission is free. Parking is available on the street near the estate or off site. A free trolley shuttle runs from the Washington Street Mall Information Booth to the Physick Estate and back until the last run from the estate at 6:45 p.m. The Harvest Brew Fest is possible thanks to generous support from Paramount Air Service.

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

Grilling at the Vineyard

Spend a luxurious afternoon al fresco with winemaker Todd Wuerker at his family’s vineyard, and Kara catering, during Grilling at the Vineyard on Sunday, Sept. 15 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Relax as they grill on the crushpad at Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery, 600 South Railroad Ave., Rio Grande. Savor some of Todd’s favorite wines. Enjoy culinary demonstration, stationary hors d’ouevres and a salad course. Graze on salmon, chicken, pork and beef as they come off the grill. Cash raw bar and cash wine bar. Admission is $65.

Chefs Dine-Around

Ready for the crème de la crème? Chefs’ Dine-Arounds are unforgettable five-course gourmet feasts and a chance to taste culinary delights from some of the best chefs in Cape May. Five premier Cape May restaurants each serve a course paired with a different wine from the evening’s sponsoring winery. A winery representative accompanies the group and explores the subtleties of the pairing with each dish. A trolley shuttle transports you between courses. Reserve early for these very special evenings; limited to 34 people per night. Chefs Dine-Arounds are offered Sunday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. (Monday, Sept. 16 and Thursday, Sept. 19 are SOLD OUT). Admission is $125 (gratuity included).

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

Gourmet Brunch Walk

Work up an appetite during the Gourmet Brunch Walk Monday, Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. Stroll through a portion of Cape May’s Historic District on this guided walking tour ending at the famous Mad Batter restaurant. Enjoy a gourmet brunch in New Jersey Monthly’s choice for “best brunch and lunch” spot. Reserve early; limited to 40. Admission is $25 adults; $15 children (ages 3–12).

Fisherman’s Wharf Tour & Lunch

New in 2019! Enjoy lunch at one of the eastern seaboard’s most iconic seafood restaurants, The Lobster House, 905 Schellengers Landing Road, with a fascinating tour of Fisherman’s Wharf included, during Fisherman’s Wharf Tour & Lunch, offered Tuesday, Sept. 17 and Thursday, Sept. 19 at 11 a.m. Cape May is the largest commercial fishing port in New Jersey and one of the largest in the nation. You’ll learn how seafood gets from the Atlantic Ocean to your dining table. After your guided tour, enjoy a Lobster House lunch of clam chowder, with a lobster salad or chicken sandwich, French fries and coleslaw. Admission is $30.

Good Earth Organic Eatery: Italian Vegan

New in 2019! Experience West Cape May’s veggie-centric healthy dining spot, during the Good Earth Organic Eatery: Italian Vegan event, offered Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m. Good Earth Organic Eatery, 600 Park Blvd., offers a 4-course Italian vegan dinner, including soup, salad, entrée and dessert, accompanied by a lecture on “Healthy Eating in the Modern Era.” Touching on curative foods, methods of preparation and ways to avoid the toxins of our times, the owners will share their passion for “food as medicine.” Noted in 2018 as a “Hidden Gem of the Jersey Shore” by food critic Craig LaBan. Beverages available at additional cost. Admission is $50 (gratuity included).

Small Bites & Flights Pairing Dinner with Mudhen Brewery

New in 2019! Mudhen Brewing Co. is named after the first passenger train in 1883 that chugged precariously across the marshlands into Wildwood, carrying passengers from Cape May Court House to Anglesea. Recently opened in 2018, this brewery is one of the region’s newest destinations. Discover its flavors during the Small Bites & Flights Pairing Dinner with Mudhen Brewery, on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. Guests will receive a tour of the brewery as well as their Flagship Flight (four 5-oz. tasters) paired with two small bites of the chef’s choice, and a Brewers Choice Flight (four 5-oz. tasters) paired with two small bites of the chef’s choice. Admission is $50.

Wine Blending & Pairing at Cape May Winery

Have you ever tried blending wines? Vintners create and bring to market new blends all the time. During Wine Blending & Pairing at Cape May Winery, on Friday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m., you will learn the refined art of choosing the best wines to blend during this two-hour tasting and blending experience, with light plates and dessert included, at Cape May Winery, 711 Townbank Road. Admission is $75.

GoNOMAD Senior Travel Writer Christopher Ludgate attended last year’s Wine Blending & Pairing at Cape May Winery event. Check out his story.

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

Fisherman’s Wharf Tour

Take a guided tour of Fisherman’s Wharf Saturday, Sept. 21 at 11 a.m. at the renowned Lobster House, one of the area’s most recognized landmarks, and learn how seafood gets from the Atlantic Ocean to your dining table. During the Fisherman’s Wharf Tour, you will see some of the largest vessels fishing on the East Coast that are home-ported in Cape May. Admission is $10 adults; $7 children (ages 3–12).

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

Chocolate Lovers Feast at the Washington In

Chocolate lovers unite! Savor an amazing buffet of fabulous chocolate desserts during the Chocolate Lovers Feast at the Washington Inn on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. Your server will also suggest wonderful pairings of wine with your chocolate. It’s all at one of Cape May’s most renowned restaurants, The Washington Inn, 801 Washington St. Admission is $40.

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

Champagne Jazz Brunch at Aleathea’s

Experience one of America’s great traditions, the jazz brunch, in Cape May during Champagne Jazz Brunch at Aleathea’s! Linger over a delicious Sunday morning champagne brunch buffet at Aleathea’s Restaurant at the Inn of Cape May, 7 Ocean St., and enjoy jazz standards from The Great American Songbook, featuring Mary Lou Newnam, saxophone, clarinet and flute, and Ray Malach, piano. Admission is $35. Call 609–884–5555 to purchase tickets.

Grillin at the Vineyard highlights Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery wines with winemaker Todd Wuerker, shown here at right, accompanying a delicious grilled feast by Kara catering.

The 23rd Annual Cape May Food & Wine Celebration is presented by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), in conjunction with Cape May’s restaurant community. Participating restaurants include Aleathea’s Restaurant, The Blue Pig Tavern, The Carriage House Café & Tearoom, The Ebbitt Room, FiNS Bar & Grille, Hemingway’s Restaurant, Lucky Bones Restaurant, The Mad Batter Restaurant & Bar, The Merion Inn, Peter Shields Inn & Restaurant, SeaSalt Restaurant, Seaside Cheese Company, Union Park Dining Room, The Washington Inn. Participating restaurants are subject to change.

Purchase tickets in advance for these events online, at www.capemaymac.org, in person at the Washington Street Mall Information Booth or the Hill House office or the Carriage House Visitor’s Center at the Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., during hours of operation. Some events are purchased directly from the venue. For more information or to purchase tickets by phone call 609–884–5404.