Dubbed “America’s Original Seaside Resort,” the laid-back, Victorian mansion-lined town of Cape May, New Jersey, has been drawing travelers to its sandy shores since the mid-1700’s, and these days continues to be an easy getaway for visitors from East Coast hubs like Philadelphia and New York City. The coastal town also has a great food scene, and several of its most popular restaurants and bars are fueled by ingredients harvested locally at the 62-acre Beach Plum Farm, which is also home to five lovely guest cottages. This fall, the Farm has launched culinary weekend packages that celebrate the season, so I recently checked in to one of the cottages learn more about that—and ended up finding everything needed for the perfect Covid-era retreat, including privacy, autonomy, outdoor space and kitchens stocked with fresh, flavorful items grown or made just steps from my door.
Founded about 14 years ago to grow produce for the Cape Resorts group, the sustainable Beach Plum Farm has expanded to house everything from chicken coops, pig pens and beehives to gardens lush with over 100 types of vegetables. It’s also got nature trails, picnic spots and a gourmet market and restaurant that feature home-grown items. A couple of years ago, the restaurant began offering chef-led farm-to-table dinners, and as popularity for those boomed, the owners (who also own Cape Resorts) added the five cottages to welcome overnight guests. Sleeping between six and twelve people, these accommodations include an original 18th-century Whaler’s Cottage, complete with spiral staircase and kids’ loft; an original 1930’s Sears, Roebuck home; and an 1850’s carriage house.
My home for the weekend was Hill Barn, a newer cottage built by an Amish family in the traditional style, without a single metal nail. Done up in a sort of “mid-century farm” style, the cottage features three bedrooms, each with fluffy, Belgian linen-topped beds and custom bath product inspired by herbs found on the farm (like rosemary, mint and lemon verbena). There are two furnished screened-in porches—one with a gas fireplace—an upstairs deck, a washer and dryer and a private outdoor area with a raised wood-burning fire pit. The hub, though, is the kitchen, which comes fully stocked with cookware and dishes. For guests booking this fall’s all-inclusive American Harvest weekends, the kitchens also come loaded up with fresh provisions, and mine had such goodies as a dozen eggs from the house chickens, artisanal pastas and cheeses, house-label pasta sauce, blackberry jam and jalapeño ketchup, a loaf of Challah bread and just-picked veggies like red and green tomatoes, garlic, orange peppers, kale, eggplant and turnips. (More items, including wine, can be found in the on-site market.)
As it turned out, I was able to bring many of those groceries back home with me, since there was plenty to savor both at the Farm and in the area during my two-day stay. The American Harvest package and the adults-only Rooted: Culinary Escape weekends (both available through November and December) include a farm-to-table dinner, and mine came in the form of a three-course meal delivered—course by course—to my cottage, with all safety precautions in place. Face masks and social distancing were also in place during my guided farm tour and garden-set cocktail class, both of which are also part of the Rooted experience (you can even get your hands dirty and help with harvest, if you’d like, and all guests are welcome to pick herbs and edible flowers and collect eggs during their stay).
Each cottage also comes with a golf cart and bicycles, making it easy to head into town. (Complimentary golf cart parking is offered at the sister Cape Resorts hotels.) I jumped in my cart to enjoy an al fresco lunch at The Blue Pig Tavern and a terrace dinner at award-winning The Ebbitt Room, both of which use Beach Plum Farm products. In dishes like salads of arugula, butternut squash and grapes, risotto topped with roasted root vegetables, tempura broccolini and pumpkin-spiced cake, I was able to see the Beach Plum Farm bounty come to life—and got some ideas of how I might be able to use my own harvest when I got home. Available during select weekends in November and December, the Rooted: A Culinary Escape package starts at $2,858 for two adults, and the American Harvest: All-Inclusive Farm Weekend starts at $1,855 for two adults.
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