Wednesday Food: The Sweet Life Bakery

When you hear - New Jersey.....what comes to mind?  Asbury Park? Atlantic CityKevin Smith moviesJersey Shore?  Well since visiting there a few times, the thing that comes to my mind is agriculture.  Are you surprised?  Well you haven't seen all of Jersey then!  South Jersey is home to a LOT of great farmland, home to our friends, Stephen and Jill, and also their business The Sweet Life Bakery.  Now, this is a place where they take great advantage of their "Sweet" local produce!

 We first met Stephen and Jill at the Culinary Institute of America.  Stephen was always a very outgoing and friendly guy, and Jill happened to be my RA in the dorm.  Later on, my husband Eric and Stephen were roommates and became great friends.  So great in fact, that Eric took a cue from them and decided to join them after graduation in San Francisco, CA.  And well I, being in love, had to follow my heart and join them also!

San Francisco was a very different city for me, being a NY girl.  So, S&J showed us around, helped me find great jobs, and always let me bend their ears whenever I needed someone to talk to.  San Francisco wouldn't have been nearly as fun without them to go out for a great meal with (ahem, Naan and Curry).  We all grew so close that when they got married, Eric was Stephen's best man and I was honored to perform their wedding ceremony (my first of three so far!)

Back when I was a hot blonde

Oddly enough we all decided to leave San Francisco around the same time.  Eric and I planned a road trip cross country, and then on to Boston.  Stephen and Jill were planning a 6 month tour of Europe to do research in order to open their bakery in Vineland, New Jersey (Jill's hometown). And if leaving San Francisco at the same time wasn't coincidence enough, we got to meet up with them in their European travels.  Eric's mother is German, so we were visiting his Oma and Opa (grandma and grandpa) in Karlsruhe, before settling into Boston.  We were able to meet up with S&J in Strasbourg and Berlin where our culinary travels continued, and parted way when their journey took them further into France.  

Eric and I with Jill (about 5 months pregnant) and Stephen

Now, S&J are the proud owners of The Sweet Life Bakery (TSLB).  They started in a small but cozy space in 2007 and by 2010 expanded, and have a pretty awesome set up!  Not only did they expand their space, but also their offerings.  Along with doing the favorite muffins, tarts, pies, scones, coffee and espresso drinks, cookies (even ones shaped like NJ), and AMAZING cakes - they are now serving up all different kinds of fresh breads, sandwiches and soups.

There are many reasons why I love TSLB so much, other than the obvious.  For one thing, whenever we've set foot in the bakery, it's like your walking into your own home.  Such a comfortable atmosphere and everyone is so friendly.  Stephen and Jill know almost everyone that walks through the door and even if they don't they still make you feel like family.  They always introduce us to their customers, and we all chat like old friends!  
Stephen and Jill have accumulated quite a collection of recipes over the years, and they really know how to use them!  They make everything from scratch and with quality ingredients.  And as I wrote earlier, when local produce is available and in season, they are all over it!

 Much like my earlier post about El Rayo Taqueria, Stephen and Jill take care of their employees and treat them like family too.  For the past couple of months, TSLB has done a program called Cupcakes for a Cause.  One employee each month concocts a super special flavor of cupcake and for every one that is sold, a portion of the sales goes to that employees choice of charity.  Great idea & a wonderful way to keep their employees engaged!

They have done collaborations with other local businesses, such as the Bellview Winery.  They support tons of local stores, restaurants and even other local bakeries!  The amount of community support, and support from other businesses is such a wonderful and uplifting way to do business!  Going to TSLB gives me hope that we can rebuild an economy with locally owned, quality businesses.  It always gives Eric and I chills up our spines to see all the good feelings and love that shine out of TSLB and Vineland.

S&J recently added a new chapter to their story with the birth of their baby boy, Berkley!  We haven't gotten the chance to meet him yet but we know that he'll be the coolest kid!  Such a lucky little guy, I could only imagine growing up in such a "Sweet" bakery!!! 

Stay tuned for next weeks Wednesday Food!  Will it be a recipe?  A food memory?  Or another restaurant/bakery to put on your list of places to visit?  You'll soon find out!


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