Dining Spotlight: Food festivals Throughout the state, there are plenty of ways to eat, eat, and eat some more!

Searching for a food festival? Well, you’ve come to the right state! This summer in the Garden State, there are a host of events that highlight a multitude of cuisines. After all, what would you expect from New Jersey, with its unmatched cultural and ethnic diversity?

Prepare to eat, eat, and eat some more. Some of the following festivals may be even closer than you think.

June 9-11: Portuguese Festival
Early September: Brazilian Festival

The Ironbound district of Newark will host two major festivals this summer: The Portuguese Festival, entering its 26th season, and the Brazilian Festival, in its fifth year. Both events are held on Ferry Street, one of Newark’s main thoroughfares.

“The Ironbound has always been an immigrant melting pot,” says Seth A. Grossman, executive director of the Ironbound Business Improvement District. “Our festivals provide a chance to experience authentic cultural aspects of the various immigrant groups, and both festivals are an opportunity to immerse yourself in the cultures of Portugal, Spain, Brazil, and South and Latin America.”

The Portuguese Festival is hugely popular for barbecued sardines, chicken, and various codfish dishes. The Brazilian feast offers rodizio, barbecue foods, and specialty drinks such as the caipirinha. Beers of both nations will be featured as well.

Also, keep an eye out because Newark’s Ironbound district has an Ecuadorian Festival in the works.

June 10-11: New Jersey Seafood Festival

The New Jersey Seafood Festival, sponsored by the Belmar Tourism Commission, is incomparable. Now in its 20th year, the attendee count of 100,000 grows each year.

Delectable seafood is offered by shore eateries – 40 or more vendors exit their establishment doors to participate in the function. A host of activities takes place, including a non-perishable food drive to benefit the food bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties.

This year’s event will include, for the first time, a chef’s demonstration tent, featuring cooking techniques, wine pairings, tips on shopping for the best catch, and an introduction to seafood for kids. Chef James Conroy of Conroy Hospitality Services will be the emcee.

“The chef’s demonstration tent will take the festival to a new level, and I can’t wait to see how much fun people will have enjoying the presentations,” says Belmar Tourism Commission head and 2006 festival organizer Patricia Provenzano.

Planning for the event is a year-round project, and “it’s a lot of work and a labor of love,” according to Tourism Commission member and food vendor organizer Mary Brabazon.

“Feeding and entertaining 100,000 people takes humor, imagination, attention to detail, and nerves of steel,” Brabazon says.

July 20-26: St. Ann’s Italian Festival
Sept. 7-10: Hoboken Italian Festival

The city of Hoboken is home to two separate Italian festivals each summer.

Now in its 96th year, the annual St. Ann’s Italian Festival is a biggie in Hoboken. Homemade Italian-American specialties are available to devour, like sausage, ziti, and parmigiana meals of every type.

But the highlight is the Saint Ann’s Guild-prepared zeppoles. Just don’t ask how they’re made – Madeline Saulino, chairperson of the Zeppole committee, guards the “good as gold” recipe.

“Our famous zeppoles are the best ever,” claims Marie Totaro, consultant and festival coordinator. “People come from all over. Last year I met people from North Carolina and Virginia who were up here and attended.”

Past attendees at the St. Ann’s Italian Festival include Frank Sinatra and President Ronald Reagan, along with Al Martino, Jerry Vale, Connie Francis and Danny Aiello.

The younger of Hoboken’s two Italian festivals is the Hoboken Italian Festival, now in its 80th year. The festival is derived from the Feast of the Madonna Dei Martiri.

Sinatra Park is the spot, and 60,000 people come from all over the tri-state area to attend. Last year, Louis Prima’s daughter, Lena, and Dean Martin’s daughter, Deanna, closed out the feast with a performance on the final evening.

Who will be the headliner this year? Attend and see. Nothing can beat great food and music right “on the waterfront.”

July 24 to Aug. 4: Hudson Restaurant Week

Hudson Restaurant Week confirms Hudson County as a dining hotbed. Reduced price, pre-fix meals at some of the hottest eateries in the Hoboken and Jersey City area have attracted 10,000 diners throughout the event. Tamara Remedios, organizer of Hudson Restaurant Week, notes that the event started in January 2005 and that, “due to its quick success, it’s now a bi-annual event.”

This past winter’s function featured a Valentine’s Day “Love Thy Neighbor” dinner for families of the local food pantry, created by contributing eateries.

The 10-day attraction takes three months to plan, and due to its rapid growth, it’s quite an undertaking to coordinate the 35 restaurants. But for Remedios, the legwork involved with marketing and promoting the event leads to great results.

“Once the program begins,” Remedios claims, “it’s time to eat and enjoy!”

Aug. 3-6: Highlands Clam Festival

The Highlands Business Partnership will host the 12th Annual Highlands Clam Festival at Huddy Park on Bay and Waterwitch avenues, which promises to be bigger and better than ever.

“My personal joy in organizing the Clam Fest is that it is an event which residents are very proud of, and I too am a resident,” says Carla Cefalo-Braswell, president of the Highlands Business Partnership.

Rows of vendors for restaurants and seafood retailers line up along the marketplace, offering the best of the area.

Clams – fried, stuffed, steamed or on the half shell – are the favorite here, but soft shell crab sandwiches, shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, lobster, scallops, gumbo, jambalaya, chowders and mussels are also offered, not to mention ribs, corn on the cob, hot dogs, burgers, fries, sausage, pizza and cheesecakes.

The festival, a huge success thanks to the tireless work of Mayor Rick O’Neil, his family, and 50 other volunteers, also features the Baking Company’s pie-eating contest; a world-class clam-shucking contest sponsored by the local seafood market, the Lusty Lobster; and the All You Can Eat Clam Contest. Residents from all over the state take part, and in the past a few years, folks from Baltimore, Maryland entered – and they thought their seafood was good!

Aug. 12-13: Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival

The Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival, presented by the Garden State Wine Growers Association, in conjunction with the Central New Jersey Chapter of Slow Food and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, is back – bigger and better than ever.

Participation by 16 award-winning wineries, about a dozen popular restaurants and celebrated chefs, the talents of the Mercer County Community College’s Culinary Institute, farmers and their local produce, and the best seafood, poultry, and beef, promise to make this one of the largest the state has seen. Farmers’ and seafood markets’ tents are on site, so you can take some of the feast home with you.

The admission charge of $20 includes a wine tasting, souvenir wine glass, cooking demonstrations and seminars, local cheeses, fresh-baked breads, cookbook authors, honey producers, displays from the Mycological and the Garden State Seafood associations, a Jersey Fresh sampling tent, and dozens of fun activities.


June 9-11
Portuguese Festival
Ferry Street, Newark
(973) 491-9191

Early September
Brazilian Festival
Ferry Street, Newark
(973) 491-9191

June 10-11
New Jersey Seafood Festival
Silver Lake Park, Belmar
(732) 747-4449

July 20-26
St. Ann’s Italian Festival
St. Ann’s Square, Hoboken
(201) 200-5505

Sept. 7-10
Hoboken Italian Festival
Sinatra Park, Hoboken
(201) 200-5505

July 24 to Aug. 4
Hudson Restaurant Week
Throughout Hudson County
(732) 599-3522

Aug. 3-6
Highlands Clam Festival
Huddy Park, Highlands
(732) 291-4713

Aug. 12-13
Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival
Hopewell Valley Vineyards, Pennington
(609) 588-0085


More festivals…

A great food festival is probably going on near you right now!

June 3
Hungarian Festival
Somerset Street Mall, New Brunswick

June 4-5
Michael Arnone’s 17th Annual Crawfish Fest
Sussex County Fairgrounds, Augusta

June 10
Strawberry Harvest Festival
Peaceful Valley Orchards, Pittstown
(908) 730-7748

June 10-11
New Jersey Fresh Seafood Festival
Historic Gardiner’s Basin, Atlantic City
(609) 347-4386

June 18
Taste of the Wildwoods Summer Kickoff Celebration
Wildwoods Convention Center, Wildwood
(609) 522-2444

June 24
Baymen’s Seafood and Music Festival
Tuckerton Seaport, Tuckerton
(609) 296-8868

June 24
Whitesbog Blueberry Festival
Whitesbog Village, Browns Mills
(609) 893-4646

June 24-25
Blueberry Bash
Terhune Orchards, Princeton
(609) 924-2310

July 14-16
New Jersey State Barbecue Championship
(609) 523-6565

July 21
Merchants in Venice Seafood Festival
Ocean City
(609) 525-9300

July 22
New Jersey State Ice Cream Festival
Toms River
(732) 946-2711

July 30
Jersey Food Festival
Monmouth Park Racetrack, Oceanport
(732) 222-5100

Aug. 5
Peach Festival
Dutch Neck Village, Bridgeton
(856) 451-2188

Aug. 9-13
Ocean Township Italian Festival
Joe Palaia Park, Ocean Township
(732) 517-1040

Aug. 12-13
Anderson House Seafood Festival
Deer Path Park, Readington
(908) 534-5818

Aug. 17
Peach Festival
Whitman Stafford Farm House, Clementon
(856) 784-1105

Aug. 19
Peaceful Valley Orchards Peach Festival
Peaceful Valley Orchards, Pittstown
(908) 730-7748

Aug. 19-20
Seafood Festival
Bellview Winery, Landisville
(856) 697-7172

Aug. 19-20
German-American Festival
Schuetzen Park, North Bergen
(201) 865-0868


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