On a chilly Saturday, yelp had a community event at the Mana Contemporary art space in Jersey City. The event featured a large variety of restaurants and local foodie businesses, ranging from Indian, to hotdogs, to beers, to delicious baked goods. The sky was very blue and clear, but autumn was definitely in the air. The setting was an awesome, old warehouse factory building, which houses the multidimensional Mana Contemporary. It was large, stark and varied, with a very cool and industrial vibe. A really great place to get a whole bunch of cool, outspoken and food enthusiasts together. The venue really entertained various tastes, like art, dance and the whole business of art, while it was transformed for that day into a food adventure maze.
And that it was, both a maze and an adventure.
Outside in a little courtyard area, that probably once was the home of a truck loading dock, nestled the “welcome table,” with smiling faces and name tags. The table was also laden with plenty of great information about Mana Contemporary, the services they provide and the art events that happen in the space.
Once passed the “welcome table,” you were thrown right in with the food and announcements of a burlesque show. Right outside, only footsteps away were some really great food options, ready to be tasted.
The Taco Truck (one of my favorites… check out my yelp review), was offering three different kinds of tacos; one vegetarian, one chicken and one pork. My plus one and I opted to try the pollo asado and the carnitas options, so we could taste the variety. I adore the Taco Truck, so it was really exciting to try something new (for me from their menu). I was a big fan of the pollo asado taco, the chicken was well marinated and the pickled onions added a nice tart tang. The pork carnitas taco, had far too many onions for my taste, and was less succulent than the chicken. This deffo inspired me to try something different the next time I visit the Tack Truck (which should be very very soon!).
There was also so a booth set up representing Windmill in Hoboken, where they were handing out customized hotdogs. There were bunches of toppings you could get on it, like sauerkraut, or cheese, or chili, all I know is that each dog was heaping with goodies.
Cheeseboy also made an appearance at the event. This fast food, well fast grilled cheese, chain, produces a variety of grilled cheese set combinations, as well as a create your own option. It is amazing that something as simple as grilled cheese can become complex, delicious and filling. The people working the stand were also giving out great information on the company, as well as several smiles.
Jim Beam came out for the event, advertizing different flavors of whiskey, like “Spiced,” “Honey” and even “Black Cherry.” The flavors were very present and pungent, but the Spiced whiskey was definitely my favorite. The taste echoes fall with the spiciness and also with the sweetness. I could imagine this whiskey tasting delightful in a Hot Toddy or even on the rocks.
Just at the other end of the little courtyard area, was an enclosed space that was deemed the Beer Garden. This was the space where the burlesque performances were happening, as well as whole bunch of different local beer companies set up shop. The beer companies are all local and Jersey oriented, focusing on local ingredients and processes. They were the New Jersey Beer Company, East Coast Beer Company, Climax Brewing, Flying Fish and Spodee Wine. I did not get a chance to taste all the different beers, but local goodies are always exciting. At least now I know they are out there, and I can patronize.
Inside on the first floor, was the home to many different ethnic restaurants, hailing from Hoboken and Jersey City. It was nice to come in from the cool fall temperatures and smell the great tastes, flavors and aromas of the selection of vendors on this fist floor.
Like the newly opened Matt & Meera on Washington Street in Hoboken, flaunting a unique take on Indian food and a fresh atmosphere. They were handing out samples of some of their samosas, as well as the ever-popular yogurt lassi.
Max’s of Manila Restaurant features the cuisine of the Philippines, a region I have yet to explore, and now because of this yelp event, I am really excited to try my luck. I was able to try their garlic fried rice and their famous fried chicken. Both were super delicious, comfort foods of the Philippines. The chicken succulent and juicy, spiced just right, and the rice, was almost as garlicky as they come, but soft and a really great base. I have been looking at the menu over and over since the event, googling dishes and already planning my meal for when I decide to visit.
Hummus Bar, Gypsy Grill and Taj Mahal were there on the first floor as well, dishing out samples ranging from falafels to curries. Everything smelled delicious, and the lines were full of people chewing, chatting and laughing in between.
The fourth floor of the large art space, was bumping with a dj and a lot of different kinds of treats from Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken to the Pie Store in Montclair.
Aaah, yes, Carlo’s Bakery has its “Cake Boss” claim to fame, but the delicious sweet bites that they brought to this even were excellent, no “Boss” needed. Being a resident of Hoboken, I avoid the lines and even that block of Washington Street, because it is usually flooded by tourists and visitors. It has been ages since I ate anything from that bakery because of the flocks (except a cannoli at the last Italian Feast), but given this opportunity, I have reopened the door. Their basic yellow cake with a dollop of piped vanilla frosting was delectable; the cake moist and the frosting super sweet, just like the best birthday cakes. And the pumpkin cheesecake nibble we tasted has pervaded my dreams since; great balance of fall flavors including spice and pumpkin, with the classic immortal cheesecake. It was all pretty spot on.
However, the Pie Store, boasting sweet and savory pies, ranging from the British Shepherd’s pie to Coconut cream pies (only on the weekends), did not have the same memorable effect. The samples looked delicious, and drove me to chase down their location, like the crustless pumpkin pie in a tiny aluminum tin, topped with a tiny burst of whipped cream, or the mini plum apple pies, that looked perfect. But after tasting one of the sweet potato, blue cheese and onion pasties, we were not so sure. The pasty looked delicious, but somehow there was a strong disconnect with the flavors, and resulted in crusted chaos. The pumpkin pie was not sweet enough, and lacking all the fall time spices that make pumpkin more palatable. The tiny apple and plum pie, might have been the best of the bunch, but still could not compete. Despite it all, I would want to try some more of their “savouries” and “afters.”
SenseFOODability Café, Mana Contemporary’s own café, was also dishing out deep dished pizza pieces. The pizza was very bready, and when we got to it, hardly warm. But the essentials were there. The crust was pretty dense and heavy, but mildly salty. There was a nice amount of tomato sauce, but not nearly enough cheese to hold the whole thing together. Ricotta and zucchini spotted our slice. Even though it was cold, I found it addictive and easy to keep munching on.
The boutique catering kitchen of Chef Charles of One World One Kitchen, showed off pretty little amuse bouche like appetizers. The small bite was created on a large cracker like plate, topped with tuna tartar, spiced with a kick of wasabi. The wasabi never really left the tongue, almost masking the tuna too much. But the contrasting crunch created interest, along with the delicate scallion garnish.
Senor Sangria and their locally produced bottled sangrias spiced up the atmosphere. After trying both the red and the white varieties, the white was my clear winner. It was lighter and so refreshing, after fighting the crowd and tasting all the delicious treats. I was loving the peach flavors in the sangria. The red on the other hand was much heavier, almost luxurious. The convenience of these sangrias in a bottle is absolutely incredible, especially since they do not taste so massed produced and fake. The brand is not that hard find in my Hoboken/ Jersey City area (check out where the product is sold and served).
All the different tastes and cuisines made this yelp event super fun and super eye opening (I also went home super stuffed). It was a really great way to taste around Jersey City and Hoboken, learn about places and restaurants and local companies, that I would never have been exposed to otherwise. The event was such a great way for companies of the area to get exposure, especially because yelpers know where all the action is at and have a lot to say. I am also so excited to be a part of such a great community; vibrant, fun and foodie. I have a new list of places to try and I am so ready!