#SCBDEventRecap: Forks & Corks: Pop a Cork for the Algonquin Arts Theater

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Arlene Gaona and companion were fortunate enough to attend Forks & Corks: A Food, Wine and Beer Tasting at The Mill at Spring Lake Heights on Monday November 18, 2013. This was the first annual event to raise money for the Algonquin Arts Theater in Manasquan, NJ.

The event was sponsored largely by our friends at JerseyBites.com. Each vendor was there to show off a highlight and in that respect…they shore did. Yup, the shore is on purpose. This whole event was less than a mile from the beaches previously destroyed by Sandy.

Let me invite you to walk with me as I recall what we ate and drank. Lots of the vendors were eager to chat with us about their product and we were eager to learn. We began downstairs, and decided to try the cognac infused vodka by Exclusive Vodka. Perfect for all the cool nights ahead and the straight vodka was top of the line as well. This may have been our first stop but it was also our BIG DEAL of the night. Either one is available for the big deal price of $10!

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Ragin Cajun had jambalaya and chicken gumbo. Spicy like Cajun food should be, just enough heat to taste all the flavors. Sweet Tease had tasty little baked goods. 3 kinds of pie, pumpkin, apple and blueberry and carrot cupcakes. They told us that they didn’t use a lot of sugar, therefore these pies tasted like real pie and fruit. They were great! Beach Haus Beer had two kind of beer to try. There was a pilsner and a lager. The lager was dark, with chocolate and other notes. They were both darn good beers and I think we’ll be picking some up for the holidays. Chocolate Bar, is located in Manasquan locally, but YES, it is associated with the one in NYC and other spots globally. They had an array of goodies. Pumpkin cookies, deluxe and spicy brownies and a winter hot chocolate. Who thought hot chocolate could be better than the regular warm yummy stuff we already drink? Well, they did here. If it weren’t for other things I would have drunk this all night.

Scarborough Fair as always, had delicious food. Fins showed their flare for the inventive as they do every day. They had a fresh blue corn mini tortilla with lobster and a Polynesian luau glaze. The texture of the corn tortilla with the creamy lobster, was out of this world. Sure hope this gets on their everyday menu!

Then, it was time to go upstairs. You could smell deliciousness on the way up.
First stop for us was Brandl, they were serving a 24 hour sous vide bacon with apple, gorgonzola and maple vinaigrette. Oh my gosh! If that doesn’t make you want to make your next reservations there, I don’t know what will. In chatting with the fellows from Brandl, my companion discussed whether they should cook our turkey or if we should do our own. They said,” Oh, you don’t want to do it, let us.” Almost hypnotic.
Carton Brewery, is in Point Pleasant Beach and they have some darn good beer. The one offered to us, BDG, Brunch Dinner Grub, was quite tasty. They make a number of other beers including a 12% beer called Decoy, for those of you who like the high alcohol content beers.

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Chef Michael’s Café got my companions vote for best food of the event. Chef Michael was there making a prosciutto di parma, gorgonzola bosc pear lollipop and a tequila lime shrim tostada. I was thinking, ok this is the next restaurant to go to that we haven’t been to yet. That was, until I checked his brochure and found he is open for breakfast and lunch, Monday –Friday. Umm, I’m a teacher, those are my work hours. Hmmm, I’m thinking lunch over winter break. Sure hope he is open then! The Committed Pig is a restaurant that has been feature on the website before. During this event they served meatloaf, in the shape of a meatball, over whipped potatoes. What a tease, I’m not a big meatloaf eater, mainly because I like my own, but I’d order this because now I need more. That taste was just not enough of their good food.

Doolan’s Shore Club has become my family spot for Mother’s Day brunch, they really outdo at the event. I always run into at least one other mom I know there and they are just as pleased with Doolan’s as I am. Fratellos Restaurant and Lounge a spot we often visit during restaurant week, had a sumptuous eggplant rollatini, tender enough for small plate standing and eating. Kaya’s Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant. I admit, I am no vegetarian, but they had two soups to offer. I chose the Thai sweet potato soup. Absolutely delicious, I took the menu and it is really an updated vegetarian restaurant. What I mean by that is that there are items on the menu that would be in a meat eaters restaurant, but vegetarian alongside traditional vegetarian items.

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Krave Spirits was different from the rest of the vendors. They had many choices of drinks, i.e. red and white sangria, egg nog and cider to which they add their liquor, Love Potion #9. I had the cider and it was delicious. Langosta Lounge had a sweet for us to try, Merlot Truffles. A nice change to eat wine and chocolate instead of drinking it. I could see myself buying this as a gift, for sure. McLoone’s restaurants had a carving station. This brought a party air to the event, not to mention some quality meats.

The Mill got my vote for the best food bite of the night. They served short ribs on creamed turnips. I mean, really, there is nothing The Mill does badly, so I should not be surprised, but this really hit the mark. Short Ribs so tender, there was for sure no need for a knife. I sure hope your mouth is watering now, because mine is.
Spirit of ’76 Wines and Liquors were offering a few different wines. In chatting with them I found out they liked our name since they are a business of Chicks as well! Owned, managed and run by chicks. Gotta love that, as well as the large selection they keep in stock.

Taka offered an asian twist to the short rib that wowed by companion. It is easy to understand why they are expanding to a larger space. The owner was there and he told us it will be 4x the size. Looks like we will all be able to go! Woodchuck’s BBQ was serving their popular pulled chicken and pork. It is obvious to see why it is so popular. Tender, juicy BBQ. Perfect for any season. Then, it was time to leave. What a night, it was visions of restaurants, not sugarplums that danced in my head that night.

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