Monday, December 29, 2008

Bottoms Up New Jersey!

By Pat Tanner

New Jerseyans take pride in many firsts, not least among them being home to America’s first distillery: Laird’s, which has been producing applejack for almost 300 years now. Today the company, based in Scobeyville, Monmouth County, is headed up by an eighth generation Laird. In addition to its famed AppleJack, it produces three longer-aged brandies, including 12-year-old Rare Old Apple Brandy.

Mixologists around the country are rediscovering the charms of applejack and apple brandy, and when Laird’s is in the mix the resulting concoctions pay tribute to Jersey in the name. Here, just in time for the New Year, are some fine examples. The Jersey Julep was concocted by the chef at the newly revived and restored Rocky Hill Inn Tavern & Eatery in Rocky Hill. Cheers!

Evan Blomgren, Rocky Hill Inn

2 sprigs fresh mint
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) Woodford’s Reserve Bourbon
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Laird’s 10-Year Apple Brandy
Splash of Sprite

Shake the mint, Bourbon, and brandy in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a silver julep cup or highball glass filled with crushed ice and add a splash of Sprite.


1-1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) Laird’s AppleJack
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Cointreau
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) fresh lime juice
2 dashes (12 drops) cranberry juice

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Adapted from

1 gallon cranberry juice, chilled
1 quart Laird’s AppleJack, chilled
2 quarts apple cider or apple juice, chilled
1 apple, cored and sliced thin

Combine liquids, gently, in a large punch bowl. Carefully add a block of ice and float apple slices on top of punch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gobble Up New Jersey Gifts for the Holidays

By Pat Tanner

Gifts of food and drink from the best of New Jersey’s artisans are always welcome. But this year, given the state of the economy, they seem especially apropos. They’re practical yet indulgent, come at many price points, and help support the local economy. Be sure to check delivery dates on these, my favorites (expedited shipping may be necessary).

Book: Talk about low-cost dining! Fans of the Star-Ledger’s Munchmobile, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, will dig right into “Jersey Eats” by Munchmobile maven Peter Genovese.

Coffee, chocolates, and biscotti from the most famous name in New Jersey chefdom, Craig Shelton. They don’t come cheap, but connoisseurs of every stripe will thank you.

Classes in the art of cheese making from two fine practitioners, Eran Wajswol of Valley Shepherd ( and Jonathan White of Bobolink ( White combines his with bread baking at his open-air hearth.

Potpies wholesome, delicious, and frozen from Griggstown Farm Market ( and Twin Hens, whose all-natural pies are available through Dean & Deluca:

LinkBaskets of Jersey-grown and produced comestibles from Terhune Orchards, including apples, honey, and baked goods, come in two sizes and can be shipped throughout the U.S. They are among ten selections at the farm store on

Support your local restaurant: Who wouldn’t appreciate a gift certificate to a favorite eatery? Almost every restaurant is happy to oblige. Independent, locally owned restaurants especially deserve our support in these tight times.

You do good/your friends dine well. Discounted tickets to the 17th annual Taste of the Nation Princeton, which will be held the evening of April 20, are available through December 31. 100% of the ticket price goes to fighting hunger. Enter discount code HOL at or call 800.969.4767.

For more gift ideas, see our Gifts for Food Lovers and Gifts for Wine Lovers on

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Eat Local" Holiday Farmers' Market

By Pat Tanner

The term “winter farmers’ market” may seem like a cruel joke in the Garden State, but there are plenty of local, seasonal products available throughout even the coldest months. To take advantage of this, Slow Food Central New Jersey and a group of like-minded organizations are sponsoring monthly “Eat Local” indoor markets. The next one – just in time for the holidays – is scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 13 at the beautiful Johnson Education Center at the D&R Greenway in Princeton.

Those of us who mourn the end of each farm season can snatch up locally produced cheeses, breads, poultry, jams, mushrooms, condiments, meat, pies, pickles, and, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables – even wine and holiday greenery.

Terhune Orchards, Valley Shepherd Creamery, Village Bakery, Krowicki Farm, Hopewell Valley Vineyard, Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms, and ER & Son Organic Farm are among the participating vendors. There will be live music and cooking demos by local chefs each hour starting at 10:30 a.m. Shoppers can also check out the juried art exhibition by the Garden State Watercolor Society titled “A Brush with Nature.”

In January and March, the market will move to Tre Piani restaurant in Princeton’s Forrestal Village, while the February location is the Museum of Agriculture at Cook College in North Brunswick. The markets are a collaboration of Slow Food Central NJ, the Lawrenceville Main Street Farmers’ Market, the Rutgers Gardens Farmers’ Market, and the West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market.

The “Eat Local” Holiday Farmers’ Market will take place on Saturday, December 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the D&R Greenway Johnson Education Center off Rosedale Road in Princeton. Directions can be found at A $2 donation per group is suggested. For information visit, or call 609.577.5113.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Naturally Delicious, Naturally Nora

by Pat Tanner

Ever read the ingredients list on a box of cake mix? “Natural” is not a word it conjures. On the other hand, no one is more skeptical than I when it comes to “all-natural” versions of what should be deliciously decadent convenience foods. Which is why I hesitated before agreeing to sample the mini-cupcake that a perfectly nice couple was proffering at last summer’s Fancy Food Show in New York.

Nora Schultz of Princeton and her husband, Steve, assured me that their all-natural cake and frosting mixes taste as good as homemade. The Schultzes left the corporate world (she, Campbell’s Soup; he, Colgate Palmolive) in order to launch the Naturally Nora line of five cake mixes and four frostings, all made without artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, and no hydrogenated oils. Plus, all are certified kosher.

Clearly, I wouldn’t be telling you all this if my test cupcake of “Cookie Cookie” (yellow cake embedded with bits of chocolate cookie) with Cheerful Chocolate frosting hadn’t been scrumptious.

Fun flavors like Surprising Stars and Alot’a Dots make them perfect for kids’ parties – especially if your kid has certain allergies. The mixes themselves do not contain dairy, nuts, or soy – although some sort of milk product is added during home preparation. (Vanilla soymilk and some margarines are nondairy alternatives.)

Naturally Nora mixes are available at Whole Foods markets in Princeton and Marlton, at 26 Acme stores in NJ, online at, and in nine other states and DC. For more info visit E-mail Nora there for details on how your school’s PTO can receive a donation of Naturally Nora products for a school bake sale.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fashion Forward: Maxi-mize Your Spring Look

By Leigh Boriskin

One of Spring's freshest looks is the easy, breezy, and oh-so-pretty maxi dress. With a long and lean shape, the maxi will be your go-to frock when you just don't know what to wear.

For a cool shade of color, purchase this Aqua Printed Max Shirred Tube dress, available at Bloomingdales. This fashionably frugal must-have, at a mere $98, will be perfect for a ladies lunch during the day, or a summer evening down the shore, when minimally accessorized with a pair of silver flat sandals, a thin hoop earring, and a brightly-hued clutch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Chef's Coffee Company

By Kimberly Baldwin

If you live in New Jersey and enjoy fine dining, then there's no doubt you are familiar with Chef Craig Shelton and his former venture, The Ryland Inn, the world famous top Zagat- and New York Times-rated restaurant featuring superb cuisine and an impressive 1,000-bottle wine list.

Ryland Inn customer's were quite passionate about food, and even more so about coffee -- so much, in fact, that there were so many requests to buy the coffee, Chef Shelton decided to launch the Chef's Coffee Company to market and sell this original blend. This effort has since expanded beyond his initial expectations and includes additional unique blends like the Yachtsman (a bold, robust blend that holds its flavors in outdoor marine environments) and the Mountain (a specially formulated blend suitable for higher elevations).

Using his culinary and biochemistry knowledge (he did, after all, graduate from Yale with degrees in
molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry), Chef Shelton has created truly amazing taste combinations where the coffee blend reacts to different environments, tailoring the coffee taste to the lifestyles and surroundings of the coffee drinker. As the Chef says, "What makes us different is that we recognized long ago that the environment can dramatically change the taste of the coffee. The same cup of coffee will taste completely different on a beach, a mountain top, at a horse race, or at a restaurant. So we take that into account as we formulate proprietary blends and roasting techniques to create specific blends for various situations. Each blend we have created is designed to shine in a particular surrounding. This is an outgrowth of my 25 year passion for marrying food and wine".

The gourmet blends and perfectly paired chocolates and biscotti are available through or at fine retailers like
Chef Central (Paramus) and Wine Library Springfield.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Monday Muse: The Aljira Fine Art Auction 2008

By Kimberly Baldwin

Aljira, the premier Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, is set to host its hugely popular annual Fine Art Auction on Thursday, April 3 at 5:30 p.m. in its Newark galleries.

This year’s auction will feature 120 works, including those by artists from New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, such as Willie Cole, Cindy Sherman, James Siena, and Catherine Opie.

As in previous years, the live portion will be under the rousing gavel of Harmer Johnson of the popular PBS series Antiques Roadshow. Master of Ceremonies will be Jeffrey Norman, Vice President, Public Affairs at Newark’s own New Jersey Performing Art Center.

The auction will take place via online, silent, and live platforms. The online auction will feature 40 works available exclusively through Additionally, all of the works featured in the live and silent portions of the auction will be on view and available for advance bids online.

On the evening of Thursday, April 3, the silent auction will begin at 5:30 p.m., 591 Broad Street in downtown Newark. The live auction will begin at 7 p.m. sharp. Tickets are $75, and can be purchased by calling Aljira at 973.622.1600 or e-mailing

All proceeds from the auction support Aljira’s exhibitions and public programs.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Food Finds: The Flaky Tart

By Pat Tanner

I can’t say what I adore most about this bakery-plus that opened in Atlantic Highlands last August, but the cheeky name ranks right up there. There is nothing flaky about proprietor Marie Jackson, who followed up a business degree with learning to cook at the NY Restaurant School, but she does have a magical way with tarts, as well as all her sweet and savory gems, from macaroons to mac and cheese.

This is how good the latter is: most days it comes out of the oven around 11 a.m. and is gone by 11:30. Her croissants have been rightly deemed as good as any in Paris, yet they vie in popularity with her cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, and scones, which have a perfect balance of heft and airiness. (The ginger-pear scone is a revelation.)

While perched at the sunny counter at her cute little shop, I and a friend sampled as much as we could manage and took home a passel of goodies, failing to find anything less than stellar. Selections change daily, but among the typical offerings are ham and gruyere croissants, lemon meringue tartlets, pain au chocolat, raspberry sandbars, blueberry muffins, and mini carrot-cake cupcakes.

Prices are lower than in my neighborhood - and probably yours. A goodly serving of homemade beef chili comes with cheddar, crème fraiche, and a buttered baguette – all for $6.

The Flaky Tart

145 First Avenue

Atlantic Highlands


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Book Beat: Book Signings at Bookends!

By Kimberly Baldwin

Bookends is a small bookstore in Ridgewood offering an impressive roster of author discussions and signings. Here is a sampling of their busy (and star-studded!) April line-up:

The former slugging outfielder with the Oakland A's and controversial author, Jose Canseco, will be on hand to sign his latest blockbuster, Vindicated, on Tuesday, April 1 at 3:30 p.m.

Hollywood icon Julie Andrews will sign Home: A Memoir Of My Early Years also on Tuesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. Take note: This is a ticketed "first come, first served" event.

Gene Wilder, star of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein, will be signing The Woman Who Wouldn't, on Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m.

Linda Francis Lee, former Texas Junior Leaguer, debutante, and author of the wickedly funny, The Devil in the Junior League, will discuss and sign her newest release, The Ex-Debutante, on Thursday, April 3 at 7 p.m.

The mother and daughter New York Times bestselling dynamic duo, Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, will discuss and sign their latest thrillers: Where Are You Now? and Zapped.

Bookends is located at 232 E. Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood. For more information, call 201.445.0726 or visit them online at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fashion Forward: Make a Statement with a Cocktail Ring

By Courtney Jones

Once regarded as a novelty item, the cocktail ring is now updated, revamped, and high-fashion. Recently seen adorned on the hands of many of fashion's elite, it is destined to become a must-have for this summer. They can be worn with nearly anything, and matching the ring to your outfit isn't necessary. Cocktail rings easily transform your look from casual to dressy by adding drama and glamour to any outfit. Available in more styles and prices than you have fingers to put them on, there ís a dazzling jewel to fit every taste and budget. Whether you choose a subtle or stand-out ring, this chunky trinket is sure to make you sparkle from miles away.

Magpie Jewlrey's turquoise/amber cluster ring ($168) is meant to stand out. This statement-making bauble is not for the faint of heart.

Amrita's elegant sterling silver and gold oval-shaped ring ($225, shown above) has a beautiful black onyx stone in its center.

This gorgeous Roberto Cavalli ring ($200) has a large pink glass stone with elegant detailing along its band.

If you're looking for understated elegance, try Monica Vinader's incredibly simple ring ($250). It has over-sized aqua chalcedony with a simple gold-plated border.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Sal Lauretta for Men

By Kathy Shaskan and Kimberly Baldwin

Sal Lauretta For Men, a high end clothing shop in Midland Park, has started carrying the "Whatever it Takes" line of t-shirts. The aim of the organization is to raise a minimum of $3 million over three years to fund charitable projects in developing countries, contribute to the protection of the environment, and other charitable causes. These products, designed by celebrities, statesmen, artists and more, have raised over 1 million dollars so far. Above: the design by Giorgio Armani.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Monday Muse: Film Shorts to Benefit Hunterdon Museum of Art

By Kimberly Baldwin

Nicole Cattell is a 2003 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2004 NYFA Fellow, and an award-winning documentary producer/director. Named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the "25 New Faces in Independent Film," she will be appearing at the Hunterdon Museum of Art for an evening of documentary shorts to benefit the museum's education programs and exhibitions.

Two of her films will be screened: Come Unto Me, a portrait of one artist who created a massive outdoor artscape in the heart of Detroit's blighted East Side, which received an Emmy and three Best Documentary awards at Sundance, and Revolucion: Five Visions. This film reframes the Cuban revolution through the art of photography, focusing on the personal stories of five Cuban photographers whose lives and work span nearly five decades of revolution in Cuba.

VIP reservation is $50 per person and includes a pre-screening reception with Ms. Cattell at 6 p.m., the film screenings at 7:30 p.m., and then a Q & A session with the documentarian. Call the museum at 908.735.8415 ext. 10 to RSVP, preferably by March 21.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Food Finds: Winter Farmers Market

By Pat Tanner

It seems like a wacky idea: a farmers market in the dead of winter in frosty New Jersey. But three years ago when organizers of two market organizers approached Jim Weaver, head of the Central NJ chapter of Slow Food, to turn over his restaurant, Tre Piani, to the venture, he agreed to open up all three floors (“tre piani” in Italian) on a blustery March Sunday.

To everyone’s delight, about 400 people -- obviously hungry for fresh Garden State produce; eggs, dairy, and meat from pastured animals; artisanal cheeses, breads, ice creams; and other local goodies -- came out that first year. More attended the second and, the organizers now expect, even more will show up this Sunday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Participating farms include Terhune Orchards, Cherry Grove Farm, Valley Shepherd Creamery, and ARC Greenhouses, the producers of Mr. McGregor’s herbs, among other wonders. Also on hand: Farmer Steve Organic Popcorn, Cape May Salt Oysters, Jersey Clams, and Bent Spoon Ice Cream. Prepared foods by Chef/owner Weaver and Tre Piani’s staff, and NJ wines and beers will be available for dining in or taking out. The restaurant’s first floor will resonate with live jazz and will feature cooking demos by Jersey Fresh chefs every hour beginning at 11:15.

Tre Piani Restaurant
Forrestal Village (Route 1)
120 Rockingham Road

For directions, visit

For more information, phone 609.577.5113

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Book Beat: Book Sale!

By Kimberly Baldwin

Thousands of book, DVD, CD, video, and video game bargains can be had at the regions largest and most popular event of its kind, the East Brunswick Friends of The Library's 34th Annual Bargain Book and Media Sale, opening Monday, March 31, at the Brunswick Square Mall in the court outside of JC Penney, 755 Route 18 South, East Brunswick.

This year’s sale marks two historic firsts: Opening day admission is now free. What’s more, there’s no waiting until nightfall: Shoppers eager to snap up those bargains can start doing so when the mall opens at 10 a.m.

The sale continues through April 6 during mall hours: weekdays and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cash and checks are accepted for purchases; sorry, no credit cards. An ATM is located within the mall.

Proceeds benefit the Friends of The Library, a nonprofit organization that helps support The Library. For more information, call 732.390.6767 or go to The Library’s website at and click on “News & Events.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fashion Forward: Eco-Friendly Fashion

By Courtney Jones

Researchers have found pesticides and chemicals at dangerously high levels in harvested cotton, but you don’t have to sacrifice style for safety. Going green doesn’t have to start with your gas pump -- it can start right in your closet.

Following the recent "go green" phenomenon, many designers are doing their part to contribute to the eco-friendly movement. Everything from bathing suits to denim can be found in earth-conscious materials so you can do your part to help the earth and look stunning while doing it.

Sworn Virgins is a three-year-old line that makes super-soft knits from a mix of pure bamboo and spandex. Their flowing Melanie dress comes in a beautiful shade of plum, and is the perfect evening dress at only $133.

Del Forte specializes in denim, and offers a wide selection of all the latest washes and styles. Their clothes are made from 100% organic cotton. Del Forte’s Flora Estrella wash has a classic look and fit, and is currently marked down to $99 from $190.

Complete your nature-inspired wardrobe with chic accessories. Ananas offers stylish bags made from abaca, a natural fiber found in a plant located in the Phillipines.

Strap yourself in for Beyond Skin’s shimmery T-strap Poppy sandal made from biodegradable synthetic leathers and spun polyester, which has a considerably lower impact on the earth than viscose. This earth-friendly and absolutely lovely shoe can be yours for $546.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Luxe Link

By Kathy Shaskan

If you saw the recent TV reports showing scientists testing the bottoms of women's handbags for dangerous bacteria (and finding alarming quantities), you'll like this little accessory. It’s called the Luxe Link. It’s a hook-like gadget that unwraps and attaches to tables (perfect for restaurants), keeping your bag off the floor. The Luxe Link is available at Beval Saddlery in Gladstone.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Monday Muse: Now is Then: Snapshots from the Maresca Collection

By Kimberly Baldwin

From now through May 11, 2008, view vintage images from America's golden age of snapshot photography at the
Newark Museum. From early portraits to contemporary voyeurism, the 150 works in this exciting exhibition chart the evolution of snapshot art and form an extraordinary document of American life in the first half of the 20th century.

After viewing the exhibition, take notice of the flat-screen monitors on the museum's walls -- these are digital snapshots submitted by the public. Here you'll find present-day documents of our lives, as well as evidence that, while photographic technology changes continually, our needs for snapshots remains constant. Submit your own photograph, or view the current submissions at

The Newark Museum is located at 49 Washington Street, Newark, 973.596.6550. Suggested admission is $9 adults, $6 children, students with valid id, and seniors. Winter-spring gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m., and weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Image above: Untitled (Dancing Couple), 1945 – 49, gelatin silver print, Gift of Frank Maresca, 2002

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Food Finds: Better Living Through Quinoa?

By Pat Tanner One of the liveliest workshops I attended at last month’s conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey was one led by a tag team from Hopewell: Sharon Vecchiarelli, a private health counselor who teaches organic baking and cooking at Mercer County Community College, and Will Mooney, whose restaurant, Brothers Moon, was among first in the state dedicated to using local, sustainable foods.

While Mooney put the finishing touches on a quinoa salad, he confessed, “I have been an awful eater my whole life. Until last year I used to eat at fast food burger joints and go on fad diets, only to gain back more weight than I lost.” What changed? “I found it increasingly hard to get up in the morning. My bones ached and I was gaining weight. So, I decided to start eating the good foods I was making at the restaurant.” Not only has he lost weight, but he no longer snores and he swears that his hair is growing back!

Mooney's salad reminded me how much I like quinoa, an ancient grain from the Andes. Vegetarians and vegans like its high protein content, while individuals with Celiac Disease rely on it because it’s gluten free. I’m partial to its fluffy texture and mildly nutty flavor - and that it’s no harder to prepare than rice.


Will Mooney, Chef/Owner, The Brothers Moon, Hopewell

2-1/2 cups cooked quinoa

2-1/2 cups roasted red peppers, diced small

2-1/2 cups cooked green beans, diced

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 2 quarts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Beat: Ridgewood Library's 28th Annual Author Luncheon with Lisa See

By Kimberly Baldwin

Lisa See, journalist and author of the critically-acclaimed international bestseller Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, has seen her most recent release, Peony in Love -- a novel about the bonds of female friendship, the power of words, the desire that all women have to be heard, and those emotions that are so strong that they transcend time, place, and perhaps even death -- climb the New York Times bestseller list. (You can read the first chapter here.)

The author will be making a special appearance at the Friends of the Ridgewood Library's 28th Annual Author Luncheon on Wednesday, March 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Venetian, 546 River Dr., in Garfield. There will be a book signing and silent auction. Call 201.670.5600 ext. 180 for more information or directions, or visit the library online at

Bonus: If you purchase Snow Flower and the Secret Fan or Peony in Love from Bookends (232 E. Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood), be sure to mention the luncheon. Bookends will donate a portion of the proceeds to Friends.

Fashion Forward: The High-Waist Skirt

By Courtney Jones

One of the best investments a woman can make in her wardrobe is having an item that gives her several options and maximum mileage. The high-waist skirt is the perfect staple item. It manages to accomplish being both retro and high-fashion. With a handful of tops, and a sleek high-waist skirt, the possibilities are endless.

The high-waist skirt is certainly a fashion must-have for the season. Its versatility makes it a wardrobe essential in every woman’s closet. Its timeless elegance can take a woman from business attire to evening-chic, and can carry you through any season, seamlessly.

For a professional look, the high-waist skirt can be paired with a short-length jacket or bolero and round-toe heels for an incredibly feminine look. For a party-perfect look, the high-waist skirt can be complimented by your favorite evening top, a long necklace, and knee-length boots. Certainly, almost any shoe can be worn with the high-waist skirt which makes any outfit you choose extremely easy-to-wear and completely customizable to your favorite look. With this trend becoming so popular, skirts are available in any color, fabric, and pattern you can imagine. From A-line to pencil, there’s a skirt to fit any shape.

For a classic look, try Rebecca Taylor’s basic black knit pencil skirt. For a shorter-length skirt, try Camilla Norback’s high-waist skirt. It features pleats and buttons that create an ultra-feminine look. If you’re looking for a splash of color, check out Sutton Studios wool pencil skirt in vibrant violet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Fuzzy Nation Giveaway!

By Kathy Shaskan and Kimberly Baldwin

Jersey Girl Jennifer Liu, owner and founder of Fuzzy Nation, has provided two of her adorable "doggie bags" for two lucky New Jersey Life Blog readers. Fuzzy Nation is a hot new company whose handbags are really taking off nationally. The company recently opened its first retail store in NJ, at Olde Lafayette Village in Lafayette. Want a bag? Be the first to post the correct answer to one of these questions (you can only win one!) in the comment field below:

1. What famous lifestyle guru designed the Morris Plains home featured in the New Jersey Life March issue?

2. Which island, noted for giving the Garden State its name, was featured in our March issue?

Hint: Don't have the March issue? Check out the current issue online!

We'll let you know if you won, and will get the bag -- valued at $59 -- out to you faster than you can say "Lassie!"

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Monday Muse: Art Around the State

By Kimberly Baldwin

From classic to contemporary, New Jersey's art scene is as vibrant as ever. Here is a sampling of current and upcoming exhibitions worth checking out.

Proudly We Serve: Our African American Military Experience, From the Civil War Forward, 1/19-4/6
An exhibit that highlights the contributions of African-Americans in photographs and artifacts -- from military uniforms and American flags to photo albums and written accounts. $2 or free with any Physick Estate Tour. Call for gallery hours.
Mid-Atlantic Center For the Arts, Cape May, 609.884.5404,

The Nature of W. Carl Burger, 2/1-5/9

Master of mixed media W. Carl Burger sticks to the basics and says, "You should never tire of some of the ordinary things, such as nature." His current exhibit features large scale paintings of Southern New Jersey. Admission $4, Seniors and Students with ID $3, Members and Children under 6 free. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Noyes Museum of Art, Oceanville, 609.652.8848,

An Educated Eye, 2/23-6/15
The Princeton University Art Museum celebrates its 125th anniversary with an exhibition featuring many of its important works selected from among the museum's distinguished holdings. Free. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, 609.258.3788,

Gretchen Ney Laugier: A Retrospective, 3/1-31
Taking cues from her father, the modernist painter of the abstract, Lloyd "Bill" Raymond Ney (1893-1965), Gretchen Ney Laugier has avoided the pressures associated with being an occupational artist by simply choosing to not make it her profession. Here, her vibrant paintings are on display -- many for the first time. Free. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Riverrun Gallery, Lambertville, 609.397.3349

Kristin Lerner/Jules Shaeffer, 3/1-4/13
The contemporary figurative paintings of Kristin Lerner are paired with the surrealistic sculptures of Jules Schaeffer. Free. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Ellarslie Mansion at the Trenton City Museum, Trenton, 609.989.3632,

Young at Art, 3/3-30
Perkins Center's Young at Art Annual Exhibition, one of the center's most popular exhibitions, gives young artists in grades K through 8 the chance to exhibit their work in a professional setting. Free. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Perkins Center for the Arts, Moorestown, 856.235.6488,

An Italian Sense of Place II, 3/4-4/5
When shown together, the pivotal Italian color photography of Luigi Ghirri, painter Franco Guerzoni's collaborative photo-sculptural collage meditations, and the delicately apposite photo-projections of American Nancy Goldring create a rich understanding of the idea of Italian Landscape from within and without Italy and the Italian sensibility. Free. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
George Segal Gallery at Montclair State University, Montclair, 973.655.3382,

Dreams, Fantasies and Wondrous Curiosities, 3/5-4/26
This exhibition, curated from the Rutgers-Camden Collection of Art, explores the artistic imagination in a selection of works that present elaborate visions, quixotic states of being, mysterious encounters, fantastical landscapes, among others – sharing in this pervasive urge to present an alternative to the natural world. Free. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Stedman Gallery, Camden, 856.225.2700,

Friday, February 22, 2008

Food Finds: Supertaster?

By Pat Tanner

It seemed like a good idea at first, but when the day came to be tested I had serious misgivings. I had met Dr. Beverly Tepper, director of Rutgers' Sensory Evaluation Lab, through friends, and when I learned that her area of research involved taste perception, I thought it only natural – fun even - to offer up myself as a test subject. And to subsequently report on where I fall on a scientific scale that measures, in effect, the sensitivity of one’s taste buds.

But as the appointed hour approached, I began to fret. Where would I test out along the spectrum of supertasters, tasters, and nontasters? What if I, a food writer and restaurant critic, had to confess to being a nontaster? Not a smart move.

Tepper uses a compound called PROP to measure the ability to taste bitterness. It turns out that perception of bitterness is a genetically based indication of how sensitive a person is to a whole range of tastes, including sweet, fat, and spiciness. Research indicates that supertasters – those whose sensitivity to bitter is highest – also have more taste buds.

So supertaster is what I wanted to be, or so I thought. Supertasters, it turns out, typically dislike a lot of foods, in part because they experience them so intensely. A typical supertaster dislikes the bitterness of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and dishes with hot chilies. Hmm…not the best qualifications for a food critic.

Where people fall depends on their response when a piece of paper embedded with the PROP compound is placed on their tongues. Supertasters experience an overwhelmingly unpleasant, acrid sensation. Tasters detect some bitterness, but not to the same get-this-abomination-off-my-tongue degree. Nontasters wonder what all the fuss is about, since they detect nothing at all.

Tepper says that research has consistently shown that 25% of Caucasians are nontasters, 50% are tasters, and the remaining 25% are supertasters. “Other ethnic groups have different breakdowns,” she says. “The split around the world is quite different.”

Learning all this did little to ease my tension as I walked into her lab. She tried to reassure me by saying, “If you are a nontaster, it’s OK. Being a taster - or not - has no bearing on flavor detection,” since, as she pointed out, the majority of flavors we perceive come through the aromas our noses pick up.

It took just a few moments in the testing booth before I got the (wait for it) bitter results. I am, in fact, a supertaster.

Tepper can explain this apparent contradiction. “I have come to realize that supertasters fall into two behavioral categories: those who are adventurous eaters and those who are not.” Well, I am nothing if not adventurous. (Oatmeal-toasted mealy worms, anyone?). My own theory is that adventurous supertasters probably enjoy the intensity – the frisson – of pushing the limits of their sensitive taste buds. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Want to know if you’re a supertaster? A kit, containing two tests per order, is available commercially for $4.95 at:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Beat: Lisa Scottoline's Lady Killer

By Kimberly Baldwin

Between teaching Justice and Fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, appearing in Court TV's crime series,
Murder by the Book, and writing a weekly column called "Chick Wit" for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lisa Scottoline has found time to be a New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels.

Her latest, Lady Killer, features Philadelphia attorney Mary DiNunzio -- the trademark Lisa Scottoline heroine with strength, smarts, and plenty of attitude who first appeared in Killer Smile. In this novel, Mary is plunged into a nightmare -- one that threatens her job, her family, and even her life -- as she goes on a one-woman crusade to unmask the killer of her high school rival. Lady Killer can be best described as Grey's Anatomy for the page; a compelling story line laced over ever-evolving friendships, relationships, and coming to terms with one's self. Read an excerpt from Lady Killer here.

Meet the author at the Freehold Barnes & Noble (3981 US Highway 9) tonight at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fashion Forward: Get Your Flat On

By Leigh Boriskin

Nothing feels like spring more than bright, bold, and fresh-looking accessories. And although the lovely ballet flat has been hitting the style scene with vengeance, this year's crop leans toward eye-popping hues that scream sunshine!

Bloomingdale's has stocked a slew of chic flats including BCBG's Carmen, an adorbale, woven patent leather, accessorized with a burgeoning flower; the essential slip-on is updated in juicy shades, as seen in the Reva by Tory Burch; and Via Spiga's sweet and sassy perforated Monica that keeps its elegance with a pointed toe and silver hardware.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Prom time!

By Kathy Shaskan

Every girl knows that the dress is 'way more important than the guy' when it comes to enjoying your prom. Pick well and you'll feel like a star all night. Choose poorly and you'll spend the evening tugging on your hem, adjusting your straps and slinking off to a corner. To make the search for that one perfect frock easier,
Gotham City Clothing in Millburn has opened a new dress lounge for girls. All pretty and pink, it's filled with the latest dresses, plus bags, shoes, and jewelry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Monday Muse: Frida Kahlo at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

By Kimberly Baldwin

Organized in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth, Frida Kahlo is the first major Kahlo exhibition in the United States in nearly fifteen years. This exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents over 40 of the artist's most important self-portraits, still lifes, and portraits from the beginning of her career in 1926 until her death in 1954.

Rendered in vivid colors and realistic detail, Kahlo's jewel-like paintings are filled with complex symbolism, often relating to specific incidents in her life. In her iconic self-portraits the artist continually reinvented herself. Paintings like The Two Kahlos (1939, shown above) demonstrate her penchant for self-examination, and works like Henry Ford Hospital (1932) and The Broken Column (1944) express her struggles with illness throughout her life.

The exhibition opens February 20 and runs through May 18, 2008. Tickets for this exhibit are issued for a specific date and time, and include an audio tour. Buy online anytime or by phone 215.235.7469, 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m

Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th St. and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Book Beat: Full Book Access Online ... and it's FREE

By Kimberly Baldwin

In hopes of boosting book sales, HarperCollins has started offering free electronic editions of some of its titles. Right now, and through the month, you can check out: Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello; I Dream in Blue: Life, Death, and the New York Giants by Roger Director; Mark Halperin’s The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Where They Come from, and How You Can Choose; Mission: Cook!: My Life, My Recipes, and Making the Impossible Easy by Robert Irvine; and Warriors: Into the Wild, the first volume of the bestselling children’s series by Erin Hunter. Did I mention that you can view these books in their entirety ... as in the same way you might flip through the pages at your favorite bookshop? Additionally, HarperCollins is helping create some pre-sale buzz by offering up to 20% of its many new titles online at least two weeks before the actual "on sale" date. No excuses, get reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fashion Forward: Grab A Bag

By Leigh Boriskin

Not only are you set with their fabulous denim, but now, grab a hold of True Religion’s new spring/summer 2008 handbag line that came out with stylish vengeance in January.
Supple tumbled, woven, and vintage Napa leathers, along with stamped python, patchwork denim, and narape have made their debut just in time for updated, fresh and light frocks for the warm-weather season.

esigned 14-year-old designer, Leslie Hsu, the luxurious, boho-chic collection is as bright, beautiful, and bold as they come. And, she's had some practice: Her creative vision previously went into her bag lines for Calvin Klein, Tahari, and Ugg Australia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Destination Maternity

By Kathy Shaskan

Pregnant women, start your engines! In March a new Destination Maternity Shop will open in Cherry Hill, offering what they promise will be
"The most extraordinary and largest selection of maternity fashion and accessories ever in South New Jersey!" There will be a $1000 wardrobe giveaway on opening day and the first 100 shoppers receive a special gift with a minimum $50 purchase! Destination Maternity also features a learning studio which will offer a wide variety of events and classes including prenatal yoga, belly dancing, breast feeding 101 and gatherings such as, “I’m Pregnant, What’s Next?," an opportunity for newly pregnant women to gather on the first Thursday of every month. The store will be located at Town Place at Garden Place, 901 Haddonfield Road (off Route 70) in Cherry Hill.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Monday Muse: (AUCTION) RED

By Kimberly Baldwin

An art auction to love -- about love -- takes place this Valentine's Day at Sotheby's. Hosted by (RED) co-founder Bono and artist Damien Hirst, the auction will feature donated works from more than 60 contemporary artists, including Hirst, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Matthew Barney, Cecily Brown, Takashi Murakami, and Banksy (who thoughtfully defaced a Hirst piece just for this special sale).

Every penny of the estimated $21 million raised will go directly to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Damien Hirst said to the Independent newspaper, "Money is a key and what we raise from this auction will make a huge difference for a lot of people. For a relatively small amount of effort on each artist's part we can actually save many lives. It's great to be able to give something back and make a difference." I'd personally love to see auction sales go through the roof.

Wondering what's behind the parentheses or brackets used by (RED)? It's there to denote an embrace.

Pre-sale exhibition (through Feb. 13):
Gagosian Gallery
522 W. 21st St.
New York, NY

(Auction) RED (Feb. 14, 7 p.m.):
1334 York Avenue
New York, NY

Friday, February 8, 2008

Food Finds: Pierogi Plus

By Pat Tanner

Once a month the good people of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Hillsborough cook up a dinner of authentic dishes from their Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and Slovakian heritages. From when the doors swing open to the public at the unfashionably early hour of 4 p.m. and until they close at 7, about 400 diners feast on tasty, made-from-scratch stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa, potato pierogi topped with sour cream, buttery bowtie pasta with cabbage - even mashed potatoes and gravy. A downright steal at $11 ($5 for children) this bargain meal is rounded out with salad, rye bread, sheet cake, and hot and cold drinks.

The driving force behind the dinners is Ted Petrock, the church’s resident executive chef, who is also a parishioner and who runs the church’s catering arm, Heavenly Catering. He learned to cook in the military – at the Pentagon cooking for the likes of Colin Powell and Caspar Weinberger – then attended culinary school in New York, and was at one time executive chef at Rutgers University.

St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church is at 1900 Brooks Boulevard, Hillsborough. The next Slavic dinner takes place on Wednesday, February 13, from 4 to 7 p.m. Just show up hungry – very hungry - on the appointed day and time and eat hearty. For more information call 908. 725.0615.

Want to try your own hand at making pierogi? Or any of 100 varieties of filled dumplings, pockets, and little pies from around the globe? Then Edison-based author-photographer Brian Yarvin’s newest cookbook A World of Dumplings (Countryman Press 2007) is for you. His color photographs are invaluable for demonstrating dough making, shaping, steaming, and frying.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Book Beat: Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly

By Kimberly Baldwin

My daughter Storey thinks butterflies are simply exquisite. And so does Fancy Nancy -- as we learn in this magical new story from bestselling duo Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser.

Nancy, like her literary predecessors Eloise and Olivia, is a glamour queen dropped into a boring world, where nobody is "fancy" at all. In the newly-released Bonjour, Butterfly, our favorite princess gets a surprise lesson from her grandparents. (Looks like fancy runs in the family after all!)

Meet Fancy Nancy's posh creator Jane O'Connor on Sunday, February 10 at 1 p.m. at the Clinton Bookshop, 33 Main Street, Clinton. (Feathered boas not required.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fashion Forward: Necessary Basics

By Leigh Boriskin

When transitioning from the blustery weather of fall and winter to the sunny, and uplifting spirits of spring and summer breezes, nothing like basic, cotton blends feel as good next to your skin.

Michael Stars brings us those silky essential from tees, to tanks, and flirty dresses.

My favorites for the new season include the lovely Maggie dress in a juicy red hue, the Raglan scoop neck with 3/4-length sleeves, and the Beater Heather striped tank, an essential layering piece.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New and Noteworthy: Candice Olson Wall-coverings

By Kathy Shaskan

Popular TV designer Candice Olson has a new line of sophisticated wall-coverings from York Wall. Shown above is the dotted paisley pattern. York wall-coverings are available through many New Jersey retailers.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Monday Muse: Paul Stanley

By Kimberly Baldwin

Who knew that KISS front man Paul Stanley had such a passion for painting? Certainly not me! Turns out "The Starchild" made his debut as a painter in 2005 and continues to create emotionally charged compositions, citing Kandinsky, Mondrian, Klee, and Rothko as influences. And collectors are gobbling his works up; Stanley's art sales exceeded $2 million for 2007.

Stanley will present his work at two special appearances at the Wentworth Galleries in Hackensack on Friday, February 8 and Short Hills on Saturday, February 9. Both events are free and open to the public, but require an RSVP.

Friday, February 8, 6 to 9 p.m.
Wentworth Gallery – Riverside Square Mall
171 Riverside Square
RSVP: 201.488.7661

Saturday February 9, 4 to 7 p.m.
Wentworth Gallery – Short Hills Mall
1200 Morris Turnpike
Short Hills
RSVP: 973.564.9776

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday Finds: All Seasons Chamber Orchestra

By Kathy Shaskan

A who's who of New Jersey corporations and philanthropic organizations, including Nordstrom, Target, Bank of America, the Verizon Foundation, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, provided funds so that the popular All Seasons Chamber Players could put on a series of 15 free concerts throughout the state. There are 8 performances left between now and May, so you still have time to catch a show. Check their site for the schedule.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Beat: Delightfully Unusual Fruits & Vegetables

By Kimberly Baldwin

Eminently beautiful fruits and vegetables are profiled in the charming book 75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden by expert gardener and garden designer Jack Staub. Discover produce you'll likely not see in your supermarket, including Asparagus Bean (a tropical cousin to the black-eyed pea), Green Zebra Tomato (a handsome yellow, amber, and deep green striped variety), Turkish Orange Eggplant (an ornamental heirloom), and many more. Staub seeks not only to infuse our backyard gardens with color and variety, but to enlighten and amuse with amiable text, surprising history, scraps of unexpected lore, and tidbits of culinary insight.

His stunning follow up, 75 Remarkable Fruits for Your Garden, provides a rich history of each plant, thoughts and tips on growing it, and ends with a simple recipe for serving up these mouth-watering fruits in salads, side dishes, breads, and desserts. Grab these books now -- it's the perfect time to start thinking about your summer garden!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fashion Forward: Man Love

By Leigh Boriskin

It’s hard to believe that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but it really is! This year, forego the predictability of a terrycloth bathrobe, or a DVD in favor of something a bit more stylish for your fashion-forward man.

Paul Stuart is known for elegant simplicity for both men and women. From clean and classic shirts, to dapper shoes, and weekend essentials, a gift from here will surely have your honey smiling.

Bring the love out in him with either the handmade 7-fold tie in silk satin ($197.50), or a handsome pair of Angel & Devil 14kt gold cufflinks ($347), pictured above. Both a little sassy, but surely sweet, on the 14th, show him some fashionable adoration.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New & Noteworthy: Simon Pearce "Barre" Collection

By Kathy Shaskan

If you're a fan of Simon Pearce's hand-blown glass and handmade pottery, you'll love the company's new line called 'Barre.' It's notable for its soft curves, muted colors, and matte finishes. Simon Pearce products are carried by a number of retailers in New Jersey.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Monday Muse: Robert Mahon

By Kimberly Baldwin

Photographic artist Robert Mahon has spent nearly three decades incorporating chance into the process of creating conceptual multi-image portraits. When using even a single element of chance in or out of the darkroom -- from determining which lens is used, the shutter speed, or the printing techniques -- an apparently ordinary image is rendered into something unforseen. Mahon says, "I keep in mind Robert Frost's remarks about making poetry ... 'If there's no surprise for the writer, then there's no surprise for the reader.'"

Mahon's latest work -- Merce Cunningham at 88 -- combines photos of Merce Cunningham, moonflowers, and text fragments from the writings of John Cage, who was Cunningham's life partner and Musical Director of the Cunningham Dance Company for over 50 years until his death in 1992.

Mahon photographed Cunningham, who is often referred to as America's greatest living dancer and choreographer, in 2006 after a long morning of teaching. Shown in a wheelchair, Cunningham appears serious and introspective, and still very much a force of nature.

While watching Cunningham's dancers, Mahon was reminded of moonflowers he had photographed in his garden the previous year. "After a night of being in full bloom, the delicate white flower slowly contorts and folds in on itself under the morning light. The movement stops when the moonflower finally curls into a taut irregular sphere and falls from the vine." Paired with Cunningham, the association of movement is exquisitely conveyed.

Merce Cunningham at 88
, photocollages by Robert Mahon, are on view in the gallery at Holsome Teas, 27 Witherspoon St., Princeton, through Feb. 29. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Finds: New life for old guitars

By Kathy Shaskan

If you have any old acoustic guitars and would like to see them put to good use, listen up: A non-profit group in Homdel is collecting instruments for a music program at a school in Uganda.
Sylvia's Children, founded by Sylvia Allen, reports that the students who have already received guitars are "enthralled" with their music lessons. Instructor Tony Costa is pictured above.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Beat: More fun than reading the Bard

By Kathy Shaskan

I clearly recall the dread with which I approached each entry in that cursed tome, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. If your tweens and teens are of similar mind, take them to see the new production of MacBeth at the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank. It's way more fun than reading the play. Teller, the silent genius of Penn & Teller fame, worked on the production, giving it the feel of a horror movie. There's blood galore, spurting from stab wounds and spreading across Lady MacBeth's sullied hands, so leave the littlest ones at home. Through February 17.