Short Weekend: Cape May, NJ

If ever there was a time to “get out of dodge” for the weekend, these last 10 days of September are it. Pope Francis, the “well-loved man about town Pope” descends on our humble city in just 5 days, and Philly has basically declared martial law in order to organize for it. Honestly, you would think there was category 5 hurricane on its way to destroy the entire city with the preparations that are going on. Since we can’t park in our neighborhood, drive on our streets, access public transportation, or put trash out, we thought last weekend was as good a time as any to make moves away from the utter chaos that’s about to ensue.

Luckily, my friend Christina invited us to start our 10-day exile at her lovely home in Cape May, New Jersey. As a kid, I spent many summers on the southern most tip of the Jersey shore, but I had not been back to visit in almost 20 years, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Cape May had made some great strides in the “Sam” direction. Boutiques with kitschy home goods, organic farms and wineries, craft chocolate shops, and preserved Victorian architecture? Yes, please!

With just about 28 hours to spend we really had to make our time count, and of course get in some relaxation along the way. We arrived at 2pm and got a quick snack at a place that was less than memorable so we’ll skip right past it. By 3pm we were on the Cape May Point Nature Trail, roaming our way through board-walked marshland, down to the stunning beach. On the way we passed the Cape May lighthouse, which was just about my favorite thing to wonder through as a kid. We ended right around Sunset beach, the only place in the world to get your hands on some Cape May Diamonds, “stones of pure quartz crystal that wash up on the beach due to the strong title flow against the hull of the sunken concrete ship, the Atlantus.”

After a quick shower and a glass of wine to start the night we were off to Louisa’sCape May’s first farm-to-table restaurant. The small, nautically decorated restaurant has been a staple in Cape May since 1980, and continues to serve excellent, simply cooked seafood and local produce. It’s a BYOB (which as you all know at this point, is my favorite thing about restaurants in this area of the country) so after a few bottles it was time to head next door to Louisa’s Chocolate Bar AKA my personal heaven.

A good chunk of money later….I won’t say how much, but no one in their right mind spends that kind of money on chocolate, we took a walk over to the newly refurbished Congress Hall hotel for a drink, and a rock in their iconic rocking chairs.

Back at the house, we crashed. With early breakfast reservations and a full-day ahead sleep was in order. The next morning, we awoke bright and early and headed right down the country road to The Red Store. Following on the farm to table theme, The Red Store, a picture perfect old General Store, makes their breakfast with fresh, local ingredients and bakes their world-class pastries in-house. Our crew was crazy for the chocolate and almond croissant, and the Buttered Bun, and my “bacon steak” well-done was the best bacon I have ever had, hands down.

Next, we headed over to Beach Plum Farm. Expecting just another little farm stand, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a gorgeous, sustainable, farm on multiple acres that you can walk, or bike through at your leisure. The crowning building on the farm, the barn, was built just this past Spring in a little over a day by the Amish Rhiel’s brothers from Lancaster, PA. The building itself was raised completely by hand with no nails, only pegs and wood. It was truly a work of art.

Walking along the farm’s winding, wooded trail we came across chickens, ducks, bees (for pollen) pigs (and piglettes!), and any number of delicious looking, organically grown fruits and vegetables. It was so uplifting to see animals being raised for livestock and treated humanely, and wondering to spend some time swinging in the sun, and frolicking in the fields.

Right next door to the farm, you can bike, walk or drive over to Willow Creek WineryI was a bit wined out from the night before, but they have a lovely patio where you can sit outside and order a little picnic of meats and cheeses. Dream and the rest of the crew sipped on their grapes, and we spent a leisurely few hours chatting away amongst the vines.

Towards the end of the day, we headed over to the Washington Street Mall for some fudge and window shopping. My childhood memories of the mall being a haven for tourists, and cheesy shops, was taken over by the addition of funky new stores, bringing a higher-end vibe to the town, which was really nice to see.

With not much time left, and half the crew needing to leave to make the trek back to Pope-town, we hit our last spot, the place to hit on your way out-of-town, The Lobster House. Another institution in Cape May since the early 1920’s, this is the place to unwind with a beer, some local clams and oysters and of course a lobster. Forget the fancy restaurant inside and head out to the back deck Raw Bar where you can order at the take-away bar, and watch the ships pass on the dock.

It was right around sunset when we got our lobsters, and the end-of-summer sun shinning off the water with the smell of seafood in the air, almost brought tears to my eyes. What a perfect last weekend of the summer get-away.