If you ask my mother, she’ll tell you that the “best meals she’s ever had” are the ones that she didn’t have to make or serve herself. (And my mother happens to be a wonderful cook!) I think a lot of people share her same sentiment and it’s why so many of us enjoy dining out, but simply going to a restaurant doesn’t guarantee quality food, service, or ambiance. Therefore, many of us get stuck in a rut of going to the same old restaurant time and time again, if we go out to eat at all. There is nothing wrong with having a favorite restaurant (I certainly have a few of my own), but it’s a good thing to expand your horizons every once in a while and try out someplace new.
Searching randomly online or driving down the street looking for “cute” places are options, of course, but they aren’t the best ways to find the quality dining experience you’re ultimately looking for. You could try asking friends or coworkers where they recommend going, but chances are that they’re stuck in their own ruts and aren’t the greatest of sources. Well then, what do you do? If you’re anywhere close to the Jersey Shore, you check out Jersey Shore Restaurant Week and follow their suggestions.
Founder of Jersey Shore Restaurant Week, Jim Flynn, grew up in the Jersey shore area and loves restaurants. While traveling with his wife, Flynn noticed advertisements for various Restaurant Weeks and wondered why there had never been such an event around the Jersey shore. Seeking to immediately remedy this oversight, Flynn established Jersey Shore Restaurant Week and quickly began collaborating with the 56 restaurants that would participate in his first, week-long event back in November of 2009. Three course dinners at participating restaurants cost either $20.09 or $30.09 because Flynn “wanted to give the consumers real value” whether they were interested in casual or formal dining.
In April of 2010, 75 restaurants participated in the second, week-long event (when prices were $20.10 and $30.10), and six restaurants hosted special events including Brandl in Belmar, NJ. After consulting with the list of restaurants and events on the Jersey Shore Restaurant Week website, I signed up for the Sam Adams Beer Pairing event at Brandl – four courses (all prepared by Chef Brandl himself), each matched with an award-winning Sam Adams brew. And to sweeten the deal even further, $5 from each ticket sold was donated to a local food bank.
Each table at Brandl, a compact and uncomplicated restaurant with a checkered floor, red walls, and blue painted tin on the ceiling – known for its “innovative cuisine,” was full when I arrived (a little late) for the beer pairing. The staff was welcoming and accommodating and the food started coming out right away. The evening’s focus, of course, was on the beer as well as the food, and not knowing much about beer, I was excited to learn something new. Representatives from Sam Adams were on hand to advise diners about why the beers were paired with each course and answer questions.
We were first served the Black Lager along side a cheese plate with a variety of tastes and textures including Humboldt Fog goat cheese on truffle toast, apple compote, and assorted nuts. Next, was a delicate course of warm Cesaer salad and the Coastal Wheat. The main course, served with the Boston Lager, was (melt-in-your-mouth) braised, slow cooked short ribs, with a port wine demi glace, potato puree, passion fruit, and grilled scallions. For dessert, a special beer of the Imperial Series, the Double Bock, was served with a warm chocolate souffle.
Having had such a good time at Brandl, I am already looking forward to what Flynn and the Jersey Shore Restaurant Week have cooking November 5th through 14th for the third, week-long event, (when 100 restaurants are expected to participate). Though, I’ll also have to go back to Brandl to see what their Lazy Lobster Sundays are all about!
The Jersey Shore Restaurant Week special events sold out last time, so you’ll need to make sure to book early if you see one you’d like to attend. And don’t worry if there are multiple restaurants that you want to visit; Flynn says that many patrons actually go out three or four times during Restaurant Week! Of course, if November seems like a long time to wait for one of the “best meals you’ve ever had,” made and served by a Jersey Shore restaurant, you can always visit this list of participating restaurants put together by Flynn and know that each one comes with his expert approval.
The Jersey Girl
703 Belmar Plaza 9th & Main
Belmar, NJ 732-280-7501