As a lifelong resident and explorer of New Jersey, Vaughn Tiedeman possesses an intimate familiarity with the region’s natural beauty and hidden entertainment gems. He started Living Adventure Tours to get folks out of the city and exploring the natural majesty of the northeast. He and his guides lead an endless array of seasonal activities such as hiking, kayaking, and hot air balloon tours during the warmer months. As winter sets in, they lead snowshoeing journeys and wine- and beer-tasting tours of the vineyards and breweries nestled throughout the scenic countryside.
Little Town NYC unabashedly hearts New York. Of its three restaurants, two are located in iconic Manhattan spots: one in Union Square, the other on Theater District’s Restaurant Row. Little Town’s fancy for the Empire State shines through on the menu, too, with homestyle dishes such as the Adirondack chicken pesto and an Angus beef burger topped with crispy Berkshire bacon. The Suburb Backyard BBQ platter is piled high with enough buffalo wings, Nathan's hot dogs, and other locally inspired fare to feed a family of four.
Little Town NYC also takes great pride in its beer list, which features more than 100 local brews, including IPAs and amber ales that hail from breweries in Long Island, Ithaca, and Saratoga Springs. At the Restaurant Row location, you can enjoy a pilsner from Coney Island while sitting in a booth constructed from the beach’s old wooden boardwalk.
Bitter & Esters brew maestros shepherd beer aficionados 21 and older through the basics of crafting their own libations during the two-hour introductory brewing courses. These knowledgeable instructors sprinkle their lessons with useful tidbits as their students immerse themselves in the process, communally brewing a bubbly batch of hops-laden liquid like witches on Super Bowl Sunday. Classes cover need-to-know facts about extracts, malts, grains, and yeasts as well as common trouble-shooting methods for when batches go awry. The hands on lesson includes all the necessary ingredients and reference materials required to whip up a hearty brew, with starter kits available for purchases if students want to continue fashioning beer in their home or underground speakeasies. Classes conclude with students sampling the fruits of previous home brewed labors, opening their taste buds to all the different possibilities craft beer making affords.
Andre's is a humble, family-run Euro-American eatery, which Zagat members recently named one of the Top Restaurants in the United States. Andre de Waal, chef and owner of Andre's, and his wife Tracey opened their restaurant in an old storefront building in 1998, adorning the exposed brick walls with their wedding photographs and paintings by local artists. Their eatery offers a rotating menu that is inventive, elegant, and comforting. Though the situation may turn at the drop of a switch, diners can currently begin the evening with house-cured salmon, cucumber salad, and fresh herbs ($8.50) or duck confit, penne pasta, and black truffles ($9) before they are ready for rare-roasted tuna and white-bean chorizo ($29).
When Anthony Riccio traced his American roots to Italy and discovered his family name on a bottle of Italian wine it sparked his interest in opening his own vineyard. Anthony named Cava Winery & Vineyard after the Italian word for mine, which calls forth his Mediterranean pride while also reflecting the mining history of his home New Jersey turf. Behind the winery entrance's old, weathered, wooden door, this mining theme carries throughout the tasting room where yellow walls bear artifacts such as old axes, lanterns, and black-and-white photographs depicting miners. A stone angel sculpture stands guard over freestanding wood barrels in this same tasting hall, and in the barrel room, oak vessels sit snugly between rough-hewn-stone walls.
Inside the atmospheric confines, guests sip libations while nibbling on specialty pizzas, seasonal Italian-style tapas, and bountiful meat and cheese platters harvested from nearby meat and cheese fields. A calendar of events excites palates year-round with dinners, wine-and-food pairings, and festivals, which invite guests to mingle inside or spread out over the winery's rolling fields.
Experienced oenologist Deneah Bledsoe employs UC Davis training to fashion wines from the vineyards' varied varietals of grapes, all grown in high-mineral-content soil. The roster of reds and whites, as well as fruit wines, ferment and bide their time, penning memoirs as they age in oak and stainless-steel barrels. Each wine can also achieve its own identity through Cava's custom labels, which patrons design with their own artwork and heading fonts.
Manhattan native and restaurant industry veteran Ed Reinle worked in Thai restaurants for much of his career. There, he developed a palate and an appreciation for the balanced flavors, healthy eating, and vibrant colors of that country's cuisine. Each meal is a visually stunning, artfully arranged paean to Thai authenticity, with dishes such as red and green curry, crispy tamarind duck, and veggie-peppered fried rice and noodle dishes. Salads and small plates entice visitors with crispy green papaya, grilled chicken satay, and lightly fried spring rolls, and tom kha and tom yum soups tickly olfactory senses with aromas of galangal and lemongrass.
Reinle works alongside his wife, Toula, cultivating a friendly, laid-back lounge atmosphere. The duo pour Thai-inspired cocktails such as cosmopolitans made with spiced rum and ginger and dessert martinis made with sweet, creamy thai coffee.
At Wine Legend, owner Mahesh Lekkala and his team of wine enthusiasts introduce oenophiles and first-time sippers to sundry varietals from around the world. The shop’s selection features a massive inventory of reds and whites from Italy, France, Australia, and California. Wine Legend’s consultants help patrons pair wines with meals or tiny ships to build inside the bottles. Wine tastings are available in the shop on Saturday afternoons and can set up tastings at offsite events in homes or offices, paired with house-prepared platters of cheese, crackers, and breads.