By JOHN T. WARD
Somehow, though, it seems no one had thought to ask the most iconic beachfront restaurants for their top recipes, with the idea of sharing them in book form.
It took a Jersey Girl from Red Bank with an insatiable palate to finally tie it all together. Smith’s book, above, features a lobster salad recipe by Ama’s Chef Chuck Lesbirel, below. (Photo above by John T. Ward; below by Chuck Lesbirel. Click to enlarge)
This month, food blogger and Deborah Smith published “The Jersey Shore Cookbook,” a collection of signature recipes from well-established coastal restaurants, some of which have drawn diners for generations — and all of which have some story to tell about surviving Sandy.
Her book promises “fresh summer flavors from the boardwalk and beyond” — but not too far beyond. Smith limited her survey to restaurants in bayshore and oceanfront towns from Keyport to Cape May in order to maintain a tight focus.
“It’s not boardwalk food,” Smith told PieHole. “I wanted to showcase the real Jersey shore —fresh fish, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit.”
But neither is it all linen-tablecloth. The 50 restaurants featured include “everything from diners to fine dining,” said Smith. Those nearest Red Bank are Ama, in Sea Bright, and Bahrs Landing, in Highlands.
The aim was to identify the best of the best while assembling local lore into an anthology that might make for a great gift or or coffee-table volume, said Smith.
“I wanted to know what the locals know,” she said. “What’s the best seat in the house? What’s the best thing on the menu? When’s the best time to show up to avoid the crush?”
Also included are accounts of how each establishment managed to survive or recover from Hurricane Sandy, which spotlight the determination and resilience of their owners, she said.
Smith (nee Houck), grew up on Peters Place in Red Bank and graduated from Red Bank Regional in 1984. And she has deep roots on the Greater Green. Her late grandfather, Bev Anderson, founded Anderson’s Appliances, a now-vanished Broad Street retailer, as well as a precursor to the now-gone Tradewinds beach club in Sea Bright. Her mother, Lonnie Gordon, still lives in town, as does her uncle, Jack Anderson, owner of Jack’s Music.
Now a resident of Point Pleasant Beach, Smith appears to have inherited the entrepreneurial gene. She’s the founder and publisher of Jersey Bites, a food blog with 30 contributing writers from all over New Jersey, and runs her own social-media marketing business.
She’ll be next door to her grandad’s former beachclub site when she appears at Ama from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday for the local debut her book. A $50 ticket ($75 for two) gets you an autographed copy (retail value, $22.95) plus a tasting and a cooking demonstration by Ama chef Chuck Lesbirel, whose lobster salad is featured in the collection.
The book “is for everybody who loves the Jersey shore: the people who live here, the people who visit, the people who used to live here,” Smith said. “One reviewer called in ‘nostalgic,’ which I really liked.”