Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jun 7, 2012 12:45 AM

Anyone familiar with New Jersey area? Need culinary ideas

Am to send a surprise gift to someone in New Jersey not far from Atlantic City. I was thinking of something culinary related, but is there anything in San Francisco, that can't be found in NJ or isn't the same?
Was wondering if any of you SF Bay Area Chowhounds had lived in New Jersey and had some ideas or maybe there's some transplanted New Jerseyans out here.

Would appreciate ideas and yes, I posted this on the New Jersey board too.
Thanks in advance.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yah, I lived and worked there for a while, but on the north Shore, which is culturally a bit different from the AC area. There is much, much that SF has that NJ doesn't (most of NJ is typical American strip mall country), but as far as packaged goods go, I'm not sure a person from NJ would have trouble obtaining anything, or at least I can't think of much. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that wouldn't get ruined in transit is that handmade beef jerky that they sell in the Oakland farmer's market. I forget that dude's name; I'm sure someone else can think of it.

    It's not culinary, but the Bay Area also has a fair number of artisanal soap guys, who make the soap by hand in their kitchens, using lavender that they grow themselves and all that. That's something I never used in NJ and I like them a lot; you can find those guys at farmers' markets all over the Bay; I know there's a guy Michael who does it in various farmer's markets who also makes his own bath beads, candles, body sprays, lip balms, whatever else.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dunstable

      Marin Sun Farms has excellent jerky. Vientian's Lao style jerky is also excellent.

      There have been some previous threads on gift ideas, some oriented toward the Ferry Building IIRC.

    2. If you're going to overnight it, send sourdough bread.

      The south bay is known for stone fruit. Send dried apricots or cherries from Olsen's or Apricot KIng.

      6 Replies
      1. re: 512window

        stoned fruit in Jersey is aplenty.

          1. re: 512window

            If you are sending dried fruit, you are sending last year's crop. Even *if* the fresh fruit has some different qualities from the fruit that is available in New Jersey, once it is shipped and sits in some truck, it will not have the flavor it once had.

            The Chinese grocery stores may not be as well stocked in Jersey as here. If they like fun drinks you could package up some boba, boba straws and drink mixes like taro or matcha. How about a cookbook from one of the famous chefs in the area? Rancho Gordo beans and the Rancho Gordo cookbook plus a clay beanpot. Dagoba makes a great hot chocolate mix with chili in it. How about a bunch of international teas and a nice teapot from the tea lounge in SF or one of those grow your own mushroom kits from Far West Funghi. Oh! Olive oils-- there's a shop in DowntownCampbell where you can taste any number of different oils from all over the world and then bottle as much as you like.

            1. re: Tumkers

              There's plenty of boba in NJ. I like the olive oil idea and the Rancho Gordo bean idea. Also, you might consider sending a package of artisan salumi. Boccalone has some nice (albeit pricey) gift packages that they'll ship overnight — things like lardo or guanciale especially nice if your friends like to cook.


              1. re: abstractpoet

                There is a salumeria (we call them pork stores) on every corner here. Could be due to the high number of Italians in NJ. Who'd have guessed? Lol.

                I'd vote for CA cheeses, Sourdough bread and chocolates. We do not have Cioppino here but I have no idea how that would work...


            2. re: 512window

              Stone fruit, in season in New Jersey, is far superior to any stone fruit grown in the Central Valley. The issue is availability and shortness of season. Apricots are not plentiful, however.

              I would, assuming it's season and I could overnight it, send figs, wine, bread and cheese.

        1. Coffee is always easy assuming your someone drinks it. Lots of bean choices here: Blue Bottle, Ritual, Four Barrel, Sightglass, Peet's, and so on. Although I've spent no time in NJ, BA easily trumps most of what I can get when I travel east.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rubadubgdub

            Actually yeah, coffee is an outstanding idea. Most of NJ is convinced that the best coffee in America comes from Dunkin' Donuts.

          2. You could try chocolate: Ghirardelli, Guittard, TCHO, XOX and all the boutiques/artisan makers. Too bad Scharffen Berger left/was sold. If nothing else, you could send See's Candy since they don't get it on the East Coast.

            1. New Jersey is pretty sophisticated: Lots of local fruits, produce; plenty of fresh seafood due to its long coastline and proximity to New England (fish, clams, crabs, Lobsters, oysters); access to Europe's best olive oils goes without saying; and so on.

              In short, a San Francisco "foodie" care package to the Garden State has the potential to be weakly received at best, comical at worst, although I'm sure the recipients would be thankful and very polite. A meal at their favorite local restaurant might be a better alternative.

              just my $0.02/

              18 Replies
                1. re: steve h.


                  Not to over romanticize NJ, but the truth is, it's a small state wtih some 9,000 family farms.
                  The quality of produce at roadside stands -- even when not organic -- by far exceeds many organics in Calif in taste and aroma. Those juicy and flavorful tomatoes, peaches, sweet white corn etc. are really quite good.

                  1. re: escargot3

                    Ah, tomatoes.
                    UC Davis is to grapes as Rutgers University is to tomatoes.
                    The Garden State is pretty cool.

                  2. re: steve h.

                    Fair points, all of them. But as a New Jersey native, I'd still say the SF food scene is superior in just about every area that's not bagel or pizza related. I've not found the local produce in NJ to be all that great, and if the OP's friends live in suburbia, well, then it's mostly all chain restaurants and Starbucks and big-box supermarkets. There are farmers markets, but few of my friends in Jersey frequent them with any regularity. Even the Safeways here are >>> to your run-of-the-mill New Jersey grocery store.

                    All that to say that I wouldn't discount the idea of putting together a gift package of Bay Area food products...

                    1. re: abstractpoet

                      San Francisco is a wonderful city. I visit a minimum of four times a year and enjoy every minute. Having said that, a care package from San Francisco to the Atlantic coast of New Jersey is just plain goofy and could be considered condescending in the worst possible way.

                      A pre-paid meal at a favorite local restaurant, half a day on a party boat (fishing is always a good idea), maybe a private box at Monmouth Park Racetrack for a day or a round of golf at Seaview would be better appreciated. I've done these things many times and like them. I'm a New Jersey native. I appreciate the Garden State.

                      1. re: abstractpoet

                        Well, I would ask you, were were you getting your produce? Because we have much better tomatoes, corn, peaches, blueberries, cranberries and apples than anything I have ever tasted out there.


                      2. re: steve h.

                        Just curious, what would people in Jersey send to California for a gift basket?

                        I'm sure there's good produce in NJ but comparing it to California, I'm a bit skeptical.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          That's a fair question:
                          I'd send a gift certificate to Cotogna; a five-day Muni Passport; a copy of Jeremiah Tower's book, California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution; tickets to an A's game; a confirmed tour reservation at Anchor Brewery; so much more.
                          I wouldn't send food to either coast. I would, however, toast them both.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            smoked fish from the deli would be great.
                            salt water taffy is the classic gift.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Peaches that actually taste like peaches; the best tomatoes in the country; bagels that are not round pieces of whole-wheat bread; Taylor ham; appetizing; water ice mix.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  I'm sorry (and I don't want to get off topic), but where exactly in New Jersey can I buy the "best tomatoes in the country"? I'm asking not to be a jerk, but because I'm going to be there this summer and am willing drive any number of Turnpike exits to seek them out.

                                  I've been eating the peak-season tomatoes here in NorCal for the past several years and never ever had anything close in all the years I lived in NJ. Same goes for peaches.

                                  Taylor ham, I'm with you.

                                  1. re: abstractpoet

                                    It's too early right now, but definitely go to farm stands in South Jersey, anywhere near the shore. I'd recommend my tomatoes from my parents' backyard, but we want them all. Good luck--

                                    1. re: abstractpoet

                                      Yo Abstract P,

                                      Maybe you should post this query on the Jersey board.

                                      But a few summers back, I spent a week visiting a friend who "summered on the Jersey shore" and the little hole in the wall market that sold fresh produce had the most amazing peaches and tomatoes.

                                      Sometimes we get a little bit myopic here in the Bay Area.

                                      1. re: escargot3

                                        Cheers. I'm not going to pursue the topic further here, lest this devolve into yet another East Coast vs. West Coast debate. Like I said, I wasn't saying it as a challenge — that just hasn't been my experience. And I lived in NJ / on the East Coast for 20+ years and go back to visit every year or so.

                                      2. re: abstractpoet

                                        I'm assuming this will be split by the mods to New Jersey, but until then...

                                        First of all, nearly everyone in the state just grows their own. I grew up in Middlesex County and I remember the lines at the garden stores (and at Rutgers' Cook campus) when seedlings were ready to be planted in the ground.

                                        Since that won't work for you, my suggestion is to seek out farm stands. There's one near the Home Depot in Colonia, but I'd drive south—and inland. Turnpike? Please. The Parkway is what you need. Get off on 34 south and keep driving. Stop when you feel like it, usually Colts Neck or so. If you make it as far as the Brielle Circle (which I understand has been replaced by something that is not a circle), head west on 70.

                                        You'll need to do this in August, preferably late August. Tomatoes are not ripe in July in New Jersey.

                                        1. re: abstractpoet


                                          List of all farmstands/farmers markets. Come to Toms River on a Wednesday or Lacey Twp on a Friday for the Farmers Markets. Or go to the Pick Your Own Farms out in Wrightstown, Jackson, or Freehold.

                                      3. re: ML8000

                                        Brooklyn Lager and Dunkin' Donuts coffee (it's a thing. Difficult to explain...). For some reason, these things are not readily available in SF.