On the Way to Cape May I Fell in Love with...“Farm Stands”Our annual family vacation to the Jersey shore is always a great trip. I embark on the back roads and stop at farm stands. Do you love to stop and shop at farm stands too? A chef at a farm stand is like watching a kid in a candy shop!

I stopped at a few stands along the way; the first one I stopped at was mediocre at best, their selection was small and only of fair quality. I asked the cashier if there were any other stands around and she pointed me in the direction of Al’s Produce off Route 9 in Cape May County (4 Scott Lane, Ocean View, NJ; phone number: 609-624-3506).

As soon as I walked into Al’s, I knew I was in the right place. They carried local produce with at least six varieties of Jersey tomatoes, everything from Cherry to Heirloom. I was greeted by Ollie, with her contagious smile and sweet disposition. She was helpful with hints and produce knowledge, which made it so worthwhile. I spent close to an hour with Ollie. She showed me produce I had never seen before, like yellow Canary melons (a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew), yellow seedless watermelons and yellow donut peaches, and suggested easy and simple recipes she’s been making for years.

Ollie from Al's Produce

Ollie from Al’s Produce

When seeking out a good farm stand, check the following:

1) It carries local produce

2) Is clean and organized

3) Carries fresh picked great quality produce. Produce should not have bruises, be overripe, have mold or pesky fruit flies.

4) Good variety to choose from

5) Knowledgeable and friendly staff

6) Always a plus if they are farmers

7) The best tip, of course is: if the produce doesn’t look fresh, move on, farm stands are on almost every back road during summertime – dotting the many traveled roads.

Cupcakes from Chocolate Face

Cupcakes from Chocolate Face

Rte 9 turned out to be full of treasures: Mamma Mia’s on Rte 9 in Marmora has excellent pasta. I found a gem of a little bakery called Chocolate Face, specializing in cupcakes and brownies. The bakery is really unassuming but, when you walk in, the cupcakes are nothing short of art, displayed in glass cases. Your eyes can’t help being drawn to the visually stunning and adorable mini cakes with names like Dreamsicle, Lilly Vanilly and Irish Tater. They are decorated with homemade butter creams and homemade candies in the shapes of hearts and shark fins (homage to Shark Week!).

I couldn’t resist buying one of each and walked out with a dozen of the most adorable cupcakes. The real test would come that night at dessert time, in a house full of teenagers, the ultimate cupcake connoisseurs! I guess this Chef/Mom done good; the squeals from the girls was a round of applause to my ears!