I have lived in New Jersey all my life. It’s the 4th smallest state in the country, and you can drive from one end to the other in just a few hours. Yet there are many regions I have yet to explore, and I am sure you could say the same!
Last week I shared my end-of-summer bucket list with you, and on it was a day exploring Milford, NJ. If you are anything like me, you probably thought, “what the heck is in Milford?” The answer: the perfect Saturday. From the agritourism and the beautiful vistas to the great wine and food, Milford provides an excellent weekend escape for the NYC and Philly dwellers and everyone in between! So on a comfortable not-too-hot August day, we drove up along the Delaware River to Milford, and started our day at…
Mad Lavender Farm. This small farm has rows of lavender that you can pick yourself and an adorable European-inspired caravan shop full of locally made lavender apothecary goods such as sachets, sprays and candles. A few families were out there picking their own lavender, while we focused our attention on the adorable Nigerian dwarf goats. We were allowed in the pin to play with them, and they spent their time hopping around and nibbling anything they could get their mouths on! For a more Zen-like experience, the yogis out there need to visit for their insanely cute goat yoga.
Next we drove the winding back roads to Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, where we had a tour and tasting planned. When we arrived, the Australian Cattle “guard” dog sauntered over to welcome us. When we walked into the operation, it was complete sensory overload. The smell of bread baking immediately made our mouths water. Then we saw the cheeses laid out for a tasting. Suddenly, we were not sure if out car was going to be big enough to haul back all the things we wanted to buy.
We started off our tasting with a sampling of their 100% grass-fed cow’s milk cheeses. Each cheese had such a unique flavor, unlike any of the cheeses I have ever tried before. It was sumptuous, melt-in-your-mouth cheese, where you can really taste the characteristics of the milk.
Next we met our tour guide, a cheese maker, who brought us up a hill along a ravine, to an empty pasture. He explained Bobolink’s pasturing practices, which ensure healthy cows and sustainable land.
We continued even further, and up in the distance I could start to see cattle. A huge herd of cattle – cows of all different sizes and colors. Some with horns, some without. Our tour guide pulled the wire down and invited us to hop over. Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by all of these amazing animals that were all just chomping away at the grass. It was a surreal experience, as I listened to the cheese maker talk about the process of how the cheese is made and how the cows play their role. What I loved about their practices was that the cows are left to their own devices to live their lives as they please. They develop their own social order and care for their own calves. The way they treat the animals leads to much longer lifespans than your average dairy farm, where the cows may not live past 4-6 years old. Our guide showed us a cow that was 24 years old!
I’ve noticed that Bobolink Dairy Farm has some serious fans at the farmers markets, and now I understand why. We left the farm with over a pound of cheese, some cheddar biscuits, and their infamous cranberry nut bread.
After we had our cheese fix, we drove over to Alba Vineyards, which has a Milford address but is actually in Warren County. The vineyard rests between the elevations of 250’ and 650’ above sea level. The land has been farmed since the 1700s, but was used originally as a dairy farm. Because of this, their vineyards are the first cultivation of the land, resulting in healthy soils never before subject to intensive farming.
The slopping terrain was beautiful to look out at as we enjoyed a tasting and bottle of wine on their terrace. The live music was a nice bonus, and so were the meatballs being served by Osteria Morini. The vineyard had a great crowd, and you could tell that many of the people were regulars! When I asked the woman giving our tasting where everyone typically came from, she told us, everywhere!
Our favorite wines from the tasting (of the wines made from grapes grown on the property) were the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So if you go for a tasting, be sure to check those off on your sheet.
After I had learned that it was National Oyster Day, our final stop was a must: The Milford House. This restaurant used to be known as the Milford Oyster House, a historic hotspot since 1985. Since changing hands last year, the restaurant was renamed, but the oysters still remain a big draw for seafood buffs.
Located in an old stone house, the restaurant has white tablecloths, giving off a sophisticated vibe. But the front of house was warm and friendly, which made the place feel casual and fun. The oyster menu had 6 varieties, with several from New Jersey. As you can guess, I was most excited about these. We tried the Blue Points, Swan Points, Rose Coves, Wellfleets and Cape May Salts. While the Blue Points and Wellfeets were delicious, I felt the New Jersey oysters won out, especially the Rose Coves and Cape May Salts (my favorites).
According to Forty North Oyster Farms, oyster growers around the world tumble their oysters manually. But oysters grown in Rose Cove tumble naturally. Southerly sea breezes create constant wave action that create a strong and smooth shell. A beefed up adductor and a constant influx of ocean water makes them the perfect balance of salty and sweet.
Whew, that was a lot of information! But it was all crucial information to build my case for a visit to Milford. Visit before the summer is over to experience some of most unique experiences in New Jersey.