As summer winds down, we of the great Northeast return from our coastal abodes...back to the hibernal embrace of our more urban homesteads. Philadelphians are no exception. This time of year, they leave behind the sand-caked flip-flops and boardwalk pizza to re-haunt the cityscapes and suburbs of the Delaware Valley.
Bound for the pursuits of academia? Re-focused on professional aspirations now that Monday mornings are no longer spent nursing that Sunday night commute hangover? Or simply returning to the loving glow of neglected Netflix que? No matter why, you'll soon find yourself stuck between the post-Labor Day summer haze and the promise of more urbane adventures of autumn.
We're suggesting the perfect bridging for your post-shore gap—a Jersey Shore themed dinner party. All you need is Deborah Smith’s The Jersey Shore Cookbook, your crew, a small sample of the trendiest pumpkin micro-brews, Colin Hay’s Pandora Station and viola! End-of-summer blues healed. If winter’s an old man, Fall is a salt and pepper cougar looking to mingle!
But wait! Wow your guests further with some background info on the dishes you're serving. Here’s the perfect super-smart convo starters to complement your “Jersey Shore” menu. You can sound like a regional history aficionado in just three easy steps—and American history is so delightfully bi-partisan!
The Menu Item: Appetizer: Avalon’s The Diving Horse Tomato Salad
The Secret to the Dish: “Tomatoes are a touchstone of New Jersey summer.” (p. 69)
The Story You Tell: Did you know that the most famous Atlantic City Horse Diver was blind?
The rider, not the horse, but it’s true. Not only that, the performer was blinded during one of her horse dives. In the late 1920s, Sonora Webster Carter was one of the shore’s biggest draws. The young lady simply answered a newspaper ad for the resort’s iconic Steel Pier, and later that day, she found herself horseback, jumping off a sixty-foot platform into an eleven foot pool of water. How’s that for a job interview? Over the decade, Carter would become one of AC’s most famous local celebs, drawing millions to Doc’s Diving Horse shows. In 1931, though, Carter suffered a terrible accident during a dive when she hit the pool wrong. Hitting the pool face-first, the water surface impact detached both of her retinas. Despite the accident, Carter continued to dive her famous horse off the platform until 1942, though she was completely blind!
The Menu Item: Appetizer: Sweet Corn & Buttermilk Soup from Louisa’s Cafe in Cape May
The Secret to the Dish: “A refreshing soup that’s a favorite on hot summer nights.” (p. 63)
The Story You Tell: The famous Victorian architecture of Cape May may not exist today if a fire hadn’t destroyed the town DURING the Victorian period.
It won’t take you much time in Cape May to realize that the town is super-proud its Victorian roots. Though Cape May was a thriving resort through most of the Victorian Age, its vaunted architecture is completely a product of late-Victorian influence. That’s because a sweeping inferno known as The Fire by the Sea destroyed the town almost entirely in 1878. (The structure that now houses the restaurant whose soup you’re serving was one of the few survivors!)
A few tasty tid-bits from this historical event to wow your guests? Though the town was almost completely leveled, but not a single person perished. This was due, in large part, to the brave actions of Cape May’s finest and a well-prepared Victorian citizens’ bucket brigade. Also, following the fire, many structures that did not contain the now famous Victorian architectural elements rebuilt in a more uniform fashion. In other words, they followed the lead or more Victorian neighbors and adopted a similar architectural style. This lends an air of authenticity to the town’s design. Without the influx of “newly re-built” Victorian structures of that period, the town may not have retained its most famous claim.
The Menu Item: Main Dish: Summer Vegetable Ratatouille inspired by Cape May’s The Blue Pig Tavern
The Secret to the Dish: “...as long as the vegetables are fresh, it will end up delicious.” (p. 111)
The Story You Tell: Did you know that New Jersey has it’s very own version of the White House?
The Blue Pig is in iconic Congress Hall, perched in one of the Southeastern-most corners of the cape. The gigantic hotel was the summer home to four standing United States presidents during the later part of the 19th Century (before the automobile gave rise to the popularity of Atlantic City and its aquatic nags). Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant & Benjamin Harrison all conducted official state business from the venue. Harrison went so far as the call it “The Summer White House.” John Phillips Sousa even wrote a song about it—give it a play to put some patriotic bounce in your guests' steps!