Thursday, December 31, 2009

Little Shelter, Big Cause


By Brianne Harrison

This week, we’re going to take a little trip north, to the Long Island-based Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center. Little Shelter is notable for being one of Long Island’s oldest no-kill shelters, having spent the last 82 years rescuing and rehousing strays and abandoned or abused cats and dogs. But now, this admirable and much-loved institution finds itself in a precarious situation.

Like many shelters across the country, Little Shelter has been inundated with animals due to the bad economy. Heartbreakingly, unemployment, wage decreases, and foreclosures are forcing many loving owners to hand over their pets. The economy has also led to the closure of two Long Island shelters—Bid-A-Wee and Animal Haven, bringing even more homeless animals to Little Shelter, which is now caring for more than 400 cats and 50 dogs. This is, understandably, putting an immense strain on the shelter’s own resources at a time when donations are down 30%. As a result, Little Shelter has had to cut back on services such as animal medical care and its numerous community animal care services.

In an effort to raise much-needed funds, Little Shelter has extended its Holiday Donation Drive through January 7, 2010. Even a small donation can help this shelter keep going for another year. Why is this shelter worth your donation? Consider what Little Shelter offers: besides providing homes for many homeless animals, Little Shelter is also committed to rescuing senior and special needs animals, as well as some of the pets left behind during Hurricane Katrina (such as Walker, pictured here). Little Shelter also maintains a foster home network and an animal soup kitchen that helps people in low-income households keep and care for their pets in these difficult times by providing them with food and medical supplies. How’s that for a worthy cause?

This is the season for giving, and even a small amount can make a difference. Maybe you’ve had your eye on a new outfit or pair of shoes or book—nothing wrong with that! But take just a moment to consider what else that $20 or $50 can buy, and maybe you can find an extra $10 or $20 lying around that can help support these helpless, homeless animals.

To donate to Little Shelter, visit
littleshelter.com/fundraisers/donations.htm
or send a check of any amount to:
Little Shelter Animal Rescue
Dept. HD
33 Warner Rd.
Huntington, NY 11743

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Hangover


By Maureen C. Petrosky

It’s been almost a week since Christmas and I still feel hungover. In the days preceding the holiday season, even before Thanksgiving kicks off, we seem to get this superhuman energy which allows us to decorate, shop, cook, entertain, go out several nights a week, wrap, return, clean up, generate unbelievable amounts of trash, and yet we rally one last time for the final count down of 2009. This is all in addition to our daily demands of work and home. I have to believe I’m not the only one feeling less like super woman and more like sleeping in this week. So instead of babbling about my favorite bubblies* for your new year’s bash, I figured I’d give you something sippable to kick start your resolutions of health and beauty for 2010.

These days green tea is showing up in everything from chocolates and chewing gum to facials and moisturizer. The idea is that you can get your antioxidants in lots of yummy alternatives to the teacup. This tea, hailed for its medicinal properties, has also donned some sexier barware--good news for those who want to get their antioxidants and their groove in one glass. However, if it’s the good stuff your seeking, skip the cocktail shaker. “When you drink alcohol with green tea it neutralizes the antioxidants,” says Dr. Charles Simone, internationally renowned medical oncologist and director of the Simone Protective Cancer Institute right here in Lawrenceville, NJ. Dr. Simone, along with the National Institute of Health, also shared that green tea is no better for you than black tea. So what’s a girl to do? Celebrate, that’s what. With all of the flavors and choices out there just waiting to be claimed as your new fave, it’s time to clean off your kettles and grab your favorite mug to ring in the new year with something steamy. Great teas, green and otherwise, can be found right at your local grocer. Wegmans and Whole Foods have excellent selections. As with all drinks it’s a matter of taste, so get sipping.

*Check out the blog archives for loads of luscious bubbly recommendations.

My pick me up: Matcha Green Tea Latte & Frappe Mix from Mighty Leaf, $8.95
I’m taking my cue from the Japanese here and going for an intense green tea experience. Matcha is premium green tea powder--think top shelf here--made in Japan from the whole green tea leaf. It delivers a more concentrated degree of green tea antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll. It also contains high amounts of L-theanine, a natural amino acid found almost exclusively in green tea. Matcha has made a name for itself by boosting energy while simultaneously relaxing the mind. It’s ideal for any holiday hangover.

To order online:
mightyleaf.com

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quality Time


By Brianne Harrison

The week between Christmas and New Year's is usually an opportunity to relax, enjoy your gifts, and get in some quality family time (since most schools are closed). At a certain point, though, pretty much everyone wants to get out of the house for a little while, so why not try out some of these family friendly activities happening this week?

Holiday Fun Week runs through the 30th from 12:30 to 4:30 at the Newark Museum. You can catch art and science workshops, scavenger hunts, planetarium laser shows, music, plays, and a puppet show. Why not learn a little while you're on vacation?

For the history buffs, there's Patriot's Week, held annually from December 26-31 in Trenton. Patriot's Week celebrates the city's unique and pivotal role in the American Revolution, with art, music, literature, battlefield reenactments, and living history events. For more information and a schedule of events, visit patriotsweek.com.

For those hoping to ring in the New Year en famille, Morris County and Ocean City are hosting First Night Celebrations. These family friendly, non-alcoholic events feature crafts, music performances, magic shows, concerts, and more. For more information, visit firstnightmorris.com or firstnightocnj.com.

This week is also your last chance to see Historic Smithville's Holiday Light Show, which features more than 100 Christmas trees, floating on Lake Meone, lighting up to the rhythm of playing music. The show ends January 3. Visit smithvillenj.com for more information.

Have a happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Jersey, Times Three, At the Beard House


By Pat Tanner

In coming weeks three eminent Garden State chefs will take over the kitchen at the esteemed James Beard House, putting their best foot forward and doing the state proud. Making reservations now provides us foodies something delicious to look forward to in the dull, dark post-holiday days ahead.

First up, on Saturday, January 23, is Michael Giletto of Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman. This television-savvy chef, whom you may have caught on an episode of “Chopped,” or assisting “Iron Chef” Cat Cora, is mounting a fennel fete. Every dish in his five-course-plus dinner, for which one of his “Chopped” competitors is producing the dessert, features either fennel the vegetable or fennel pollen. How does Fennel Aspic with Caramel Brioche, Fried Salsify, and Tarragon Mayonnaise sound? And that’s just one of the hors d’oeuvres! Cost: $165 ($125 for members of the James Beard Foundation).

Following on Giletto’s heels, on Tuesday evening, January 26, are the Pluckemin Inn’s Juan Jose Cuevas and Joseph Gabriel, who will focus on farm-fresh New Jersey products, among them Pluckemin Mozzarella with Marinated New Jersey Cauliflower and Buttermilk-poached Griggstown Chicken Breast with Rice Polenta and Black Truffles. As with all these Beard House meals, this one will be paired with exceptional wines: Champagne to start and, for the chicken dish – the poultry course in a meal of seven or eight - Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les Beaune 2006. Cost: $165, or $125 for JBF members.

Next up, on Friday, February 19, is lunch at high noon by Hoboken’s Anthony Pino. Although best known for the Dining Room at Anthony David’s, Chef Pino will feature dishes from his newest enterprise, Bin 14, a very cool and very delicious wine bar-trattoria. Among the starters is Rocchetta [arugula] Gnocchi with Chianti Cherries, while the centerpiece of the four-course luncheon consists of Baby Lamb Chops with Brussels Sprout Petals and Autumn Polenta. Zeppole with Espresso Semifreddo caps off this midday festa. Cost: $90, or $75 for JBF members.

All three events take place at James Beard’s Greenwich Village townhouse at 167 West 12th Street, New York. Reservations must be made in advance. To see the full menus and to make reservations, visit jamesbeard.org/events or phone the Beard House at 212.627.2308.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dog Days


By Brianne Harrison

In all the holiday bustle, there’s one thing that a lot of people tend to overlook—in a couple of weeks, 2009 will end, and that calendar on the kitchen wall is going to be rendered obsolete. Which means, of course, that you’ll need a new one. Now, there’s no shortage of calendars out there for pet lovers—stores are fully stocked with “Adorable [insert breed of choice] Puppies of 2010”, but if you’re a New Jersey dog lover, why not be a little different and grab the 2010 Dog Days of Lambertville calendar instead?

The calendar (which was sadly absent last year) is the brainchild of Adrien Gerson, a Lambertville local who wanted to showcase the many dogs that live in the area as well as the town’s charming Victorian architecture. Adrien, who was diagnosed with MS 9 years ago, finds inspiration in Lambertville, its canines, and the humans who love them.

The Dog Days of Lambertville features 69 dogs from in and around town. Some of the notable new additions include Charlie D.O.G. Jones, the calendar’s first disabled dog (not that he lets having only three legs stop him!) and Emma, a formerly shy rescue dog who’s blossomed into a happy, bossy pup who delights in herding her four feline companions.

The calendar can be bought for $10 at Rojo’s, Tirpok Cleaners, Homestead Farm Market, Lambertville Animal Clinic, Picky Paws, Sojourner, Pet Shop Girls, No. 63, Secondhand Sams, Boxwoods, and Blue Raccoon in Lambertville. It can also be purchased online for $10 + $4.95 shipping and handling at lambertvilledogs.com. One hundred percent of the profits from the sale of the calendar is donated to Animal Alliance, Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter, and Make Peace with Animals.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gifts Gone Bad


By Judith Garfield

Gift giving time is upon us once again, and although I know it’s the thought that counts, sometimes ya just gotta say “What were they thinking?”

You know the thoughts I’m talking about. Like chocolate for the diabetic, wine for the tee totaler, or peanuts for those who suffer from allergies. So many well-meaning gifts never see the light of day after their initial opening. They are immediately shuffled to the re-gift collection to await recycling to some other hapless giftee.

I don’t know why people are so averse to giving gift cards. Or money. Two things that never go out of style and are always appreciated. My relatives feel it is impersonal and looks like you didn’t care enough to select something heartfelt. From my unofficial survey I can report that this is not true. People love getting money or gift cards. They are thrilled they can actually go pick out something that they really like. Not something they have to pretend to like.

The worst presents to get are those that have no tags or discernible place of purchase. Is that brooch true vintage or is it a piece of junk from some yard sale? Alas, we will never know. We can’t help buying pieces that reflect our personal taste, which is not necessarily the taste of the recipient. It’s inevitable you’re going to get one or more bad gifts this season. You are not alone. Take a look at badgiftemporium.com to see how yours measure up. You can even try to sell the unwanted stuff here. Like they say, one man’s bad gift is another man’s bad gift.

That is why I like gift cards or cash, although you do run the risk of giving cards to stores that the person doesn’t like, or worse, goes out of business before it is used. And some have expiration dates. The gift of cash is accepted by any store, is completely transferable, and never expires. If you want a cute and personalized way of giving money log onto originalgiftcard.com. They sell money holders in different colors with stickers that you can use to make each envelope unique.

So think outside the gift box this season. Remember, ‘tis better to give and receive!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Crib Sheet for Santa



By Maureen C. Petrosky

Everyone has a wine lover on their gift list, or maybe you’re just looking to convert your beer-loving buddies to the wine side. Here’s a cheat sheet sure to help you check off lots of those presently present–less people still lingering on your list.

A Romantic Gift for Her—Definitely Viognier here! Ask for something floral from California (like Miner) or something with class from Condrieu France. Either way you’ll win her over with this white.

A Romantic Gift for Him—Aria Sparkling Pinot Noir. With its racy red label this bottle reeks of sex appeal from its dress to its dazzling raspberry-colored bubbles. It’s not sweet but it’s most definitely flirty and delicious.

For Your Boss—You might be thinking Scotch here, but as far as booze goes it’s fun to add something new to the bar, plus it shows you put a little thought into it. If they have a fun side you can’t go wrong with Crystal Head Vodka (previously mentioned in October). It’s the smoothest around, plus it will remind them of you each time they open the freezer and see it staring back at them. Or go for a bottle of vintage Champagne. This may cost you a bit more, but it shows you’re a serious employee.

For the Host/ Hostess--Don’t go overboard here. Remember, this is a token of thanks not something that’ll make them feel like they need to return the favor. Stay in the $10 to $15 range. Hit up Argentina or South Africa for a big, bold red. These wines make great gifts and great conversation starters.

Teacher’s Gifts—I gave wine last year and they couldn’t have been more thankful. Even if they are teetotalers, this will arm them with something to offer to those unexpected guests who pop in over the holidays. Ask your wine shop owner for a Sancerre or a Chenin Blanc. If you aren’t going to give the gift yourself and plan on sending it in with your kids, go for a wine book instead. A copy of The Wine Club or Great Wine Made Simple are great go to’s.

For Your Favorite Blogger—Just kidding. Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Carol(s)


By Brianne Harrison

It’s a great week for music lovers. And really, even if you’re not particularly musical, isn’t there something about holiday tunes that still makes you want to join in (or at least get caught up in the spirit)? Here are just a few of the most “noteworthy” events:

Classical Christmas Concert: Internationally recognized pianist, composer, and conductor Siegfield Tepper and his son, critically acclaimed violinist Christer Tepper, will be performing at the Flemington Assembly of God church in Flemington on December 18 at 7 p.m. Call 908.782.5232 or visit flemingtonassemblyofgod.org for more information.
Kids Helping Kids Concert: Heading up to the city? Catch Red Bank-based band Six Volt headlining this concert, which features young artists from across the country performing to raise money to help feed homeless children over the holidays. For tickets, go to theatermania.com/content/show.cfm/show/161885 or call 212.352.3101

Celtic Holiday Classic: The Pipes of Christmas: The Pipes of Christmas will celebrate its 11th season with two performances in Summit this Saturday (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and one performance in Manhattan on Sunday (2:30 p.m.). For more information or to order tickets, visit pipesofchristmas.com or call 212.868.4444.

The Masterwork Chorus Performs Handel’s Messiah: The Masterwork Chorus will be performing one of Handel’s most celebrated works at 8 p.m. this Saturday at the Community Theatre at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown. If you miss the show, you can still catch them at Carnegie Hall on the 23 at 8 p.m. Visit mayoarts.org or carnegiehall.org for more information.
PSO Pops! The Holiday Concert: The Princeton Symphony Orchestra will present its annual family holiday concert at 4 p.m. December 19 at Richardson Auditorium. For more information, visit princetonsymphony.org

Homegrown for the Holidays: Grab dinner and a show at McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park this weekend. This concert benefits ReVision Theatre. Visit ReVisionTheatre.org to order tickets.

Candlelight Carol Service: Yearning for a good old-fashioned holiday service? The First Presbyterian Church of Englewood is holding its 98th annual Candlelight Carol Service, featuring the Cancel Choir, soloists, violin, harp, and the junior choir leading traditional carols. The event is Sunday, December 21 at 4 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A German Christmas Eve


By Pat Tanner

I’ve known Maren and Werner Pinnow of Hamburg, Germany from when their two young daughters, now grown, arrived for pre-school at the Princeton Waldorf School - without understanding a word of English. The youngsters amazed us all when, within a month, they were comfortably chatting with their classmates. The Pinnows stayed on in the U.S. years longer than they intended, returning home only when they feared their daughters might forever lose touch with their heritage.

I recently got a glimpse into that heritage when I received an email from Maren describing the family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebrations. “On the evening of the 24th we begin by opening presents. Then we have our traditional dinner: potato salad with German sausage. Werner and I had this kind of dinner even when we were little – maybe because it can be prepared in advance and you don’t have to spend so much time in the kitchen. It’s very common, especially in the north of Germany.”

In fact, that dinner sounds just right for any night during the busy holiday season. This year, I will combine German tradition with New Jersey specialties by serving assorted sausages from my favorite farms – Griggstown and Cherry Grove – and whipping up my version of German potato salad, which replaces the usual boiled potatoes with fluffy baked ones. I’ll serve beer from a New Jersey brewery and end the meal on a German note with a platter of pfeffernusse. Who knows: if time allows, I may even make the cookies myself.


GERMAN POTATO SALAD
Serves 6

5 large baking potatoes
Vegetable oil, for rubbing on the potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (you might want less)
1/4 cup minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce each potato once with the tines of a fork. Rub a small amount of vegetable oil over the potatoes and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Meantime, combine onion, garlic, mustard, and parsley in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the olive oil, vegetable oil, and white wine vinegar in a saucepan. Heat until mixture just begins to boil (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and carefully pour over the onion mixture. Stir and set aside.

Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the insides, forming chunks. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and combine gently.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two-Fur


By Brianne Harrison

“Mother Nature really screwed up when it came to cats,” a fellow shelter volunteer once commented to me. And it would seem she’s right: feline fecundity has led to an immense number of stray cats and kittens, and with cold weather moving in, area shelters are desperately trying to find homes for these former strays, as well as for the many animals being turned over by owners who can no longer afford to keep them.

In an attempt to adopt out as many cats as they can, some area shelters are offering deals. St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center is doing a “two for one” deal for anyone interested in acquiring more than one pet. Adopters pay the usual fee for a single cat ($150 for an adult cat and $175 for kittens) but can choose to take home two cats or two kittens. The cats are all spayed or neutered, up to date on vaccinations, and microchipped. Adopters also receive 30 days of free pet insurance.

Monmouth County SPCA is offering a similar deal—two kittens up to four months of age are two for the price of one. Adult cats older than one year can be adopted for any donation, as long as the adopters meet the shelter’s criteria for adoption.

Can’t adopt right now? Shelters throughout the Garden State are accepting donations of money and supplies (which can be as simple as a roll of paper towels). Every little bit helps! To find a shelter near you, visit petfinder.com.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Charms of Asbury Park


By Jessica Vogel

If you're looking for a classic New Jersey shore town rich with history and culture, you might want to try Asbury Park. The town, once considered the entertainment epicenter of the state, suffered recently from an economic turndown. Thankfully, it is now being revitalized by a community that is not willing to compromise what Asbury is known for: its deep-rooted musical scene, artistic background, and trendy nature. I recently spent a weekend exploring the area and all it has to offer.

The town provides hours of entertainment in a few square miles. The downtown area has an extensive variety of shops, from the fun housewares of Shelter Home to the custom glassware at Candy’s Cottage. Vintage clothing shops, unique furniture stores, pet boutiques, and antiques stores also line the streets.

The appreciation and creation of art are an enormous part of the town’s atmosphere. Art galleries and outdoor sculptures dot the streets and classes in glass fusing, glass blowing, and pottery are offered at local shops.

Gourmet dining at an affordable price is another great aspect of Asbury Park. I had a meal at Old Man Rafferty’s, but there are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops where you can grab a meal or listen to an open mic night.

Although music is a major presence throughout Asbury Park, the real musical scene thrives closer to the boardwalk, at historical venues such as The Stone Pony and The Wonder Bar, and newer places such as Tim McCloone’s. On any night, you can be sure to walk along the shoreline and hear anything from hard-pounding rock to classic jazz.

After all the time I spent in Asbury Park, I still don’t think it was enough. I could have spent a few more hours scouring the antique shops for the perfect find and I certainly could have listened to another song by a local band. Any guest of the town can find something interesting, whether it’s shopping, art, dining, or the musical scene. Asbury Park is definitely worth the trip.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wine for Writers Block



By Maureen Petrosky

…Or any old block for that matter. I sat down today to tell you something hilarious, something inspiring, something informative, and all of a sudden, STALL. Here’s what I got: Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing…blah blah blah- argh give me something!

Each week I hope the wine blog acts as a little pick me up for your day. If nothing else, it is a perfect reason to procrastinate just a little longer. But deadlines can be scary, so much so, in fact, that they invoke stage fright, or in my case today, writer’s block. This time of year, with the amount of additional items swimming in our heads, it’s a wonder anyone can be productive let alone creative. The luxury in my line of work is that it’s completely acceptable to crack open a bottle any time of day to get the juices flowing. So that’s just what I did. Luckily for you, this is what I found: “Cuvee Syrah, Conference de Presse” Faillenc, ’06.

This may sound totally obscure and something that won’t be available, but I am thrilled to debunk the naysayers amongst you. Corbieres is a region in the south of France that I fell in love with during my visit last summer. I knew this wine, just being from that sun-struck place, would inspire me. Maybe you couldn’t take that vacay this year, or perhaps you’re giving up your holiday bonus and won’t be able to take one next year either. The great thing is you can visit the south of France from the comfort of your couch. This wine is on Balthazar’s wine list (one of my favorite restaurants in NYC) for a mere $37 a bottle. Translation: we can buy it at the wine shop for about $15. Hands down a crowd pleaser full of fruit, earth, and a hint of spice. If your local shop doesn’t carry this exact bottle, look for these other amazing wine places to buy from: Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Corbières, Fitou, or any from the Coteaux du Languedoc or sporting the red and blue emblem and the swords Sud du France. They are “wow” wines with even more unbelievably low price tags, making them perfect for your next holiday party, or maybe to just help you get over that hump! Cheers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gifts Galore


By Brianne Harrison

It’s that time of year when many of us are staring down a list of gift recipients and wondering just what we’re supposed to get them. Sure, you can hit the mall or troll the internet for some inspiration, but if you’re really looking for something unique, there are two events this weekend that will ensure you give a gift they’ve never seen before.

If there’s a bibliophile in the family, be sure to swing by the 18th annual Antiquarian Book Fair. More than 60 dealers of rare books, prints, maps, and ephemera will be gathering at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in East Hanover to offer their best wares. Find literature that covers all the bases, from history to law, Americana, sports, travel, and music. Even if the giftee isn’t impressed by being handed a first edition, they’re sure to enjoy receiving a book on their favorite subject that can’t be found at Barnes and Noble. Visit newjerseybookfair.com for more information.

Forget the crowds and frustration of the mall—head over to Tuckerton Seaport this weekend for Christkindlmarkt. Sip mulled cider and munch roasted chestnuts while listening to strolling carolers and shopping for unique gifts from the many crafters and vendors in attendance. There’ll also be ice cutting demonstrations, decoy carvers, a wine tasting by Valenzano Winery, and children’s rides, so everyone can have some fun! Visit tuckertonseaport.org or call 609.296.8868 for more information.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Visions of Chocolate


By Pat Tanner

Who doesn’t like to give or receive a gift of chocolate? With that in mind, here are delectable ideas for the devoted chocoholics in your life.

Support your local chocolatier. No matter where you live in the Garden State, some local confectioner is whipping up chocolate bonbons, truffles, and holiday-themed candies. Forego the big-name chocolates this year in favor of helping a talented community artisan to thrive.

Restaurant Guys Chocolate. That said, you might just want to look into these chocolates for the over-the-top chocolate gourmand on your list. These “American-size” chocolates (i.e. bigger than most) from New Brunswick-based restaurateurs Francis Schott and Mark Pascal come in four interesting flavors: elderflower, Austrian roasted pumpkin seed with Maldon sea salt, Irish cream (made with real Irish whiskey), and the diablo, which gets its kick from chilies. restaurantguyschocolate.com

Kallari Chocolate. For those who insist on a clear conscience while chomping on chocolate, the bars from this Bridgewater-based company can’t be beat. Their cocoa beans are Rainforest Alliance certified, organically grown, and harvested by a cooperative of more than 900 Kichwa family farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. 100% of the profits are returned to the growers. The bars are sold at Whole Foods, Zabar’s in NYC, and Rojo’s Roastery in Lambertville and make excellent stocking stuffers.

Bent Spoon European Hot Chocolate Mix. Think you’re too old for hot chocolate? You’ll think differently once you taste this Princeton ice cream shop’s exceptionally thick, rich hot chocolate mix. The 16-ounce cans make terrific gifts and come in classic and habenero flavors. Plus, owners Gab and Matt put a Bent Spoon and New Jersey tattoo prize inside every can, for the child in all of us.

Inhalable chocolate. For the chocolate lover who has everything, a Harvard science professor, now living in France, developed aerosol chocolate you puff via a contraption similar to an asthma inhaler. “Le Whif” is virtually calorie free, comes in three flavors, and has received mixed reviews. Check it out at lewhif.com. (Orders placed before December 10 will arrive by Christmas.)

Visit a big-city chocolate café. Why not incorporate chocolate into a fun day trip?
In New York, start with free ice skating at the Bryant Park pond and then indulge at Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Café right inside the park. Every hot drink comes with cozy, European ambiance and a complimentary chocolate from this Irish candy company. lilyscafenyc.com. In Philadelphia, Naked Chocolate Café has three locations in neighborhoods close to tourist and culture hotspots. Plus, the cafés have bona fide Jersey chocolate roots: Tom Block, a founder of Thomas Sweets (which happens to be my local confectionery), created Naked Chocolate with his daughter, Sara. nakedchocolateonline.com.

Friday, December 4, 2009

There’s no I in Team


By Lauren Johnson

What do you get when you combine art and altruism? Something truly great.

On November 21st, I had the pleasure of experiencing said greatness at an art show in Trenton sponsored the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). The group of artists are part of a cooperative called the A-TEAM Artists of Trenton, which is comprised of individuals that use the services of the soup kitchen, and is run by volunteers that focus on helping them develop entrepreneurial skills while encouraging camaraderie and support.

The show was hosted at Artworks, and consisted of about 20 different artists’ work ranging from drawings and paintings to handicrafts and sculptures. All of the pieces were extremely unique, and each style told a distinct story about the person behind the work. To set the mood, music by The FunkTASKtiks (comprised of TASK patrons and volunteers) played a vast selection of pop, funk, and soul that had everyone swaying to the beat. The band was formed through TASK’s Performing Arts Program, called The SHARE project, which offers musicians of any skill level the opportunity to participate in organized band practices and take music lessons.

One group of work that I really enjoyed seeing was a series of carefully handmade dolls (pictured) by an artist named Brook Beatty. Each of her dolls had a unique persona — while some were beautifully simple, others were fantastically dressed in brightly colored beads, accessories, bits of fabric, and costume. Each doll came with a little paper nametag carefully tied to their feet, and were inspired by either celebrities or people she knows.

The show is located at Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton and can be viewed through January 2nd. All proceeds go directly to the artists.

For more information on upcoming A-Team shows, visit trentonsoupkitchen.org/ateam.php

Image photo credit: wilkinsonmedia.net

The Holiday Spirit


By Brianne Harrison

As we noted in our most recent issue, the holiday season seems to bring out people’s charitable sides. We donate our pocket change to the Salvation Army, or perhaps a gift to a needy child. Some, like seven-year-old Jake Rothstein, go a little further.

Jake is a second grader at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School, a Woodbridge resident, and a major animal lover. While picking up his newly adopted cat, Felix, from Angel PAWS in Colonia, he noticed the many other needy animals housed at the shelter and decided to do something to help them. So, Jake is organizing a collection of supplies the shelter needs at the BarronArtsCenter’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, which takes place today from 5-7 p.m.

Items the shelter needs include cat and dog food (wet and premium dry), litter, paper towels, paper plates, cleaning supplies (bleach, soap), towels, pet beds, toys, bathroom throw rugs, plastic garbage bags, grooming items (q-tips, cotton balls), and office supplies (paper, pens, etc). The collection box will remain at the ArtsCenter until December 31.

Santa Paws
Why should kids get all the fun? Take your pets to see Santa and have their pictures taken this weekend!

The Morris Animal Inn (120 Sand Spring Rd., Morristown) will have holiday pet photos on Saturday, December 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Morris K9 Campus (1 Aspen Dr., Randolph) will have photo sessions on Sunday, December 6, also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photos will be taken by professional photographer, Hugo Juarez. A $10 sitting fee includes one 5 x 7 photo. Additional images may be ordered. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey. For reservations, call Morris Animal Inn at 973.539.0377 or Morris K9 Campus at 973.252.5100.

Santa will also be stopping by the Jersey Shore Animal Center (185 Brick Blvd., Brick) this Saturday and Sunday from 12 Noon to 3 p.m. for pet photos. Cost is $10 per photo and all proceeds benefit the homeless animals at the Center. For more information, call 732.920.1600 or visit jerseyshoreanimalcenter.org.

Princeton-based SAVE, a Friend to Homeless Animals, is hosting Photos with Santa at PetCo in the Mercer Mall on December 5 and 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the animals at SAVE.

Happy Howl-idays!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Closet Case



By Judith Garfield

I’ve recently discovered a great new shopping destination that I can’t get enough of.

My closet.

Diving deep into the forgotten realms of my wardrobe has been rewarding and cost effective. Of course, this is not an original idea. It is an increasingly popular past time for those of us who have discovered we really don’t need to buy a new outfit every time we get an invitation to a party. Take the advice of the experts and “shop your closet.”

I was amazed at the goodies I found. Like that burgundy tweed suit from a few years ago that all of a sudden looks spectacularly fresh. And there are no annoying salespeople hovering over me, giving me that look of disdain as I carefully inspect the offerings. I pretty much like everything I see here. Nothing too young, nothing too matronly. All perfectly appropriate pour moi.

If you are contemplating this shopping experience I suggest the first step is a purge of all those dismal outfits you never wear and probably shouldn’t have bought in the first place. Some people actually hire individuals who come to your closet and tell you what looks really dreadful, what can be resurrected, and what you should buy to help update what you are keeping. Don’t bother. Just corral your BFF (best fashion friend) and together decide what to use and what to lose.

My other suggestion is this-huggablehangers.com. Honestly, I never thought I could be so in love with a hanger, but these space-saving flocked hangers keep even the most delicate and slippery of tops from falling off. And yet, they are sturdy enough for winter coats. I resisted buying them for years but now that I have them I can never go back. I can now actually find things that have been M.I.A. for months.

To get you started, you might want to pick up a copy of “Shop Your Closet” by Melanie Fascitelli. She’s a professional who will guide you in your attempt to organize your wardrobe and perhaps save you from more unnecessary purchases. As for me, I plan to visit the basement emporium. I haven’t been there for a while and I hear inventory is at an all time high.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Genius in a Bottle


By Maureen C. Petrosky

Long before the reign of Madison Avenue’s Mad Men, a marketing mastermind created what we now call Beaujolais Nouveau, basically, a brilliant idea born in a bottle. Beaujolais is a winemaking region, but to set itself apart from all the other juice, these producers have successfully created worldwide anticipation of its annual release. The light- bodied, fruity, easy drinking red wine is released every November, and is celebrated with such gusto and reverence you would think it a newborn baby. In some ways it is. Today, one of, the if not the most famed producer of Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf, could be called the father. His bottles dominate the shelves in the U. S. market and this year they’re already dressed for the holiday season in a stunning gown of gold and red, which also makes an ideal tabletop addition to any seasonal soiree.

No doubt this reasonably priced red’s dramatic release is perfectly timed each year right before Thanksgiving. It always catches the eye of once-a-year wine shoppers as well as those stocking up to entertain over the holidays. In the world of wine reviews this pour can cause serious sippers to become bitterly cantankerous. It is thought of by some as nothing more than bulk juice with a fun label. Truth is, wine connoisseurs need something to hate on. My take: More for us! Relax, see Beaujolais Nouveau for what it is, and love every sip. It’s not supposed to be a serious example of Old World charm. If anything, Nouveau is totally New World, meaning it is perfect for the American palate and pocket book. Ringing in at around $13/bottle this year, it makes for a great party wine or a lovely hostess gift.

Georges DuBoeuf, Beaujolais Nouveau, 2009, $13
Nouveau always has a hint of what I can only describe as waxy flavor. It’s like déjà vu of those perfumes that used to come in a compact or the heavy scented Estee Lauder lipstick my Grandmom loves. For me the past couple of vintages the B.N. have been overshadowed by this attribute, but I was delighted that upon first swirl and sip of the 2009 the fruit came first. This is what you’d call a young wine, notice no heavy tannins and not much structure here. So don’t try to age these. Drink them new- thus the Nouveau celebration. This wine didn’t even last an hour in my house. Tis’ the season, so bottoms up!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Happenings



By Brianne Harrison

The holidays are here, and there are plenty of ways to get into the spirit this weekend. Here are some of our favorites:

Jingle All the Way Holiday Run, 12/3: Jog off some of your holiday indulgence and raise money for Special Olympics New Jersey. Dress up in your most festive running gear (prizes for the best outfits!), bring some friends or family members, and join the fun!

Festival of Trees, 12/2-1/10/10: Morven Museum & Garden in Princeton is dressing up for the holidays. Trees decorated by area businesses and organizations will be gracing the museum’s galleries—stop by and be inspired!

Holiday Light Show, 12/3-1/3/10: Be amazed as over 100 Christmas trees, floating on Lake Meone, light up to music in an orchestrated show. There will also be a Christmas Train, a Magical Talking Tree, and Story Time with Mrs. Claus every weekend in December.

“A Dickens of a Weekend,” 12/4-5: Catch a trolley in Spring Lake and enjoy costumed carolers, a scavenger hunt honoring Dickens’ Mr. Fezziwig, a Dickens-themed cocktail party, and a performance of “Scrooge”.

Cape May’s 36th Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours, 12/5, 12/12, and 12/19: What better way to see Victorian Cape May than by candlelight? Explore at least 14 homes, inns, hotels, and churches decorated for the holidays while listening to carolers and strolling musicians.

Model Train Exhibit and Tree Lighting Ceremony, 12/4-29: The Barron Arts Center turns on their lights at their annual Tree Lighting Ceremony this weekend. There will also be collections for the Mayor’s Food Bank and for Angel PAWS, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding homes for stray, homeless, and abandoned animals.

Sister’s Christmas Catechism, 12/5: CSI meets Bethlehem as the Sister of Late Nite Catechism takes on The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold.

Messiah-A Sacred Oratorio by George Frideric Handel, 12/6: The New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra partners with the State Theatre to perform one of Handel’s most celebrated works.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Year’s Best Baking Book…


By Pat Tanner

…for holiday gift giving and receiving, at least in my opinion, is Karen DeMasco’s “The Craft of Baking.” Although she is an award-winning restaurant pastry chef who honed her craft at Tom Colicchio’s Craft, Craftbar, and ‘wichcraft, the recipes in this book are eminently reproducible. They are true to DeMasco’s style, which combines home-baked appeal with modern restaurant sophistication.

Exhibit one: Apple Fritters with Caramel Ice Cream and Apple Caramel Sauce
Exhibit two: Pine Nut Tart with Rosemary Cream
Exhibit three: Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream Filling

I could go on – the beautifully photographed book contains hundreds of equally tempting muffins, scones, quick breads, doughnuts, cookies, brownies, candies, tarts, pies, cobblers, crisps, cakes, cupcakes, custards, puddings, ice creams, sorbets, fruit compotes, and sauces. And it’s hard to go wrong, since every technique and instruction is painstakingly elaborated.

Each season’s bounty is given its due, from spring’s Fresh Strawberry Tart with Lemon Cream to summer’s Sour Cherry Turnovers to fall’s Concord Grape & Pear Crisp with Marcona Almond Strudel. Wintertime and holiday favorites include chocolate babka, homemade truffles, marshmallows in lemon, mocha, and coconut varieties, and steamed toffee pudding (steamed in the oven).

Below is a recipe to get you started on your holiday baking. Please heed the instruction to use a large saucepan, since the hot, molten sugar mixture will rise and bubble.

GRANDMA RANKIN’S CASHEW BRITTLE
From “The Craft of Baking” by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) salted roasted cashews

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Stir together so that all of the sugar is wet. Cook the mixture over high heat without stirring until it turns a dark amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Carefully whisk in the baking soda, followed by the salt; the caramel will rise and bubble. Using a wooden or metal spoon, fold in the cashews. Pour the brittle onto the prepared baking sheet, and using the back of the spoon, spread it out into a layer about 1/2 inch thick. Let it cool completely. Break the brittle into bite-size pieces, using a mallet or the back of a heavy knife.

The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 1-3/4 pounds.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two Toasts for Tom


By Maureen C. Petrosky

Each year we wine writers are asked what is the best wine for Thanksgiving. In short, my answer is usually a Beaujolais Cru or a Pinot Noir. Both wine types tend to be crowd pleasers and also marry well with the mélange of flavors in the traditional Thanksgiving spread. This year I’m excited to say our traditional Tom Turkey is taking on some new sidekicks. My sister-in-law and niece, both originally from Venezuela, always lend a little spice to our family soirees, but this year their extended family is joining us, turning the typical Petrosky affair into our first international feast! The addition of empanadas, arepas and Pabellón Criollo is sure to add pizazz to our mashed potatoes and peas.

We all know the first Thanksgiving was a clash of culture and cuisine resulting in one of the few non-secular holidays everyone in this country enjoys indulging in. Whether your table will be full of the usual suspects or you’re adding a new dish or friend to the mix, I think it’s only right we toast Tom for bringing us all to the table. This year we’ll be starting with an aperitif that suits the season and the celebration: Pomegranate Champagne.

Pomegranates are abundant this time of year, and not only does the addition of this ruby-colored fruit makes for a fabulous centerpiece, it also makes for a sensational sip. So, if you’re looking to tip off turkey day with something pretty and pretty delicious or to top off your food-induced coma with a sweeter sip, here are two ways to wow your guests this Thanksgiving.

Pomegranate Champagne
1 ounce PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
3 ounces Champagne
Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Add the PAMA to a champagne flute. Top off with the Champagne and add a couple of Pomegranate seeds for garnish.

If you’re looking for a sweeter sip, maybe something to go with that apple pie a la mode, try this instead:

PAMA and Champagne
3 ounces PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 ounce Champagne
Granulated sugar to rim the glass

Dip the rim of a chilled champagne flute into the sugar. Pour the PAMA in and top with the Champagne.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Festive Feasts and Family


By Brianne Harrison

As we’re fast approaching a holiday dedicated to feasting, it seems only fitting to mention Festive Feasts and Culinary Creations, a new exhibit at the Monmouth Museum that runs through January 3.

Festive Feasts is the museum’s annual holiday exhibition, and it features trees decorated by local garden clubs and the Friends of the Museum, stories and family-friendly activities, and their traditional, ever-expanding model railroad. The museum also has several holiday and food-related activities scheduled throughout the month. Activities include a festival of songs with Maureen McCrink on November 29; Chocolate Fairies with Don Magee—a chocolate tasting featuring bittersweet chocolate popcorn and fountain dipped chocolate pretzels on December 6; stories of festival feasts with Joan Jannerone on December 13; and Who Says You Can’t Play With Your Food? where participants learn to make crafts with food items, on December 20.

Holiday programs are held from 2-3:30 p.m. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $7 per person (children under 2 and Monmouth Museum members free). Visit monmouthmuseum.org for more information.

Don’t Miss…
The Thanksgiving Family Festival on November 27. Find buried treasure, uncover ancient stories, and learn to make pottery at the Newark Museum.

Annual Tree Lighting at Palmer Square on November 27. Enjoy music by Holiday Brass and the Princeton High School Choir as well as a reading of The Night Before Christmas before the 65-foot Norwegian spruce is lit by Santa Claus. Festivities will continue every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in December and on Christmas Eve.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Visions of Gingerbread


By Pat Tanner

Every year I have the same fantasy: that I will finally make a perfect gingerbread house. This never happens. I’ve come to the conclusion that what it takes are equal parts baking expertise, artistic flair, and engineering acumen. I come up short on at least two of these.

If you’re like me, don’t despair! I’ve found the perfect solution. And if you’re not like me, I encourage you to show off your skills while competing for some pretty nifty prizes. First, the solution.

At last summer’s Fancy Food Show I came across Virginia-based Gingerhaus Baking Kits, which even I cannot mess up. The genius is that you bake the pieces on a cardboard template – an armature, if you will - that includes tabs. You mix the dough (included in the kit and developed with the King Arthur Flour people), cut out the flat panels, flip them over, and bake. The kits include royal icing mix and decorations, and you apply them to the baked flat panels, and then assemble via the tabs. I’m partial to the deluxe house, which resembles a Bavarian town hall, but the smaller chalet is awfully cute. The big kit comes with panels for trees and gingerbread boys and girls as well. Decorations include peppermint sticks, peppermints, and candy hearts, but you can be creative and add your own. (That much should be doable, right?)

An all-natural version of the chalet kit is carried by the Whole Foods chain. Standard Gingerhaus kits are available at surlatable.com and kingarthurflour.com, but the best price I could find for the full-sized house is at amazon.com. [$19.95]

Once you’ve made your house - whether using a kit or your own ingenuity – you can enter it into the 5th annual contest taking place this Saturday (Nov. 28) at Grounds for Sculpture, as part of their Lights On! celebration. There are four categories: child, family, adult, and visitor’s choice. The gingerbread house drop-off period is up to 3 p.m. that day and winners will be announced at 4:30. The judges are Grounds for Sculpture staff and yours truly. Prizes include free memberships to Grounds for Sculpture (GFS), gift certificates to the museum shop, tickets to upcoming concerts, and GFS t-shirts, calendars, and mugs. Grounds for Sculpture is located at 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton. To view the official rules and for more information about all the other activities surrounding the Lights On! celebration, which runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. that day, visit groundsforsculpture.org.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Miracles of Modern Science


By Lauren Johnson

When one typically thinks of indie rock, the word “charming” may seem an unusual adjective. But when the indie rock band consists of a violin, cello, double bass, mandolin, and drums played by five graduates from Princeton University, one may change their mind. And when I saw the Miracles of Modern Science perform a few weeks ago, “charming” seemed a perfectly fitting word, especially since the performance took place amongst the artful grandeur of the Princeton Art Museum.

I heard about these guys only a few days before, after browsing the museum’s event calendar for interesting happenings. Having never been to the Princeton Art Museum, I was excited by the prospect of getting a double dose of art in one night. The band is comprised of Evan Younger (double bass/lead vocals), Josh Hirshfeld (mandolin, vocals); Kieran Ledwidge, (violin), and Geoff McDonald (cello). They met at Princeton, formed their band in 2004, and soon after became a quintet with the addition of their drummer, Tyler Pines, who joined them in 2005. They recently got a significant publicity boost by being written up in Spin Magazine as being one of 2009’s “25 Must-Hear Artists.” I knew seeing them would be a win-win.

I arrived in Princeton with my husband on a chilly night, and scampered through the campus in an effort to both keep warm and avoid being late. Upon arrival, two large glass doors gave way to a large open reception area. Straight ahead was a long table with a pancake stack of very homemade looking CD’s with the track titles hand-written with a note next to them that said “Sign up to be on our mailing list and take a CD.” (Charming marketing tactics to boot?)

We hurried up the steps and found a swarm of young college students surrounding a group of four equally young men (their drummer could not make it to the show). After a few last-minute tuning plucks on the double bass and mandolin, and with a fiery Peter Paul Rubens as their backdrop, the band opened with their first song, called “Luminol,” which begins with a trilling cricket-in-the-night high note on the violin, peppered with perfect little chirps from the mandolin. The sound is instantly unique, and the song quickly builds into a catchy, peppy, indie rock ballad (I should mention here that all the instruments are plugged into amps). Each piece they played thereafter was a creative, whimsical, experimental song that delighted both the eye and ear (have you ever seen someone play riffs on a cello?).

The song I loved the most (and subsequently had in my head for days after), was called “524,” a rumbling, Johnny-Cash-Western-saloon tune about a man who doesn’t fight, but whose only willful defense is out-whistling anyone who dares confront him.

The Miracles of Modern Science are a sight to be seen (and heard!), and after the show, we drove home, whistling the entire way.

Listen to MOMS and download their free EP at:
myspace.com/miraclesofmodernscience

Double Duty


By Brianne Harrison

Holiday shopping is about to go into full swing—so what do you get for the animal lover who has everything? How about a copy of Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health, which comes with the added bonus of helping animals in need?

Those animals are the ones currently crowding (seriously crowding!) the shelter in Darlington, South Carolina. The Darlington shelter will take in approximately 5,000 unwanted animals this year alone, and the massive influx is leading to shortages of food, medicine, space, and funds.

The plight of the Darlington shelter came to the attention of Dr. Louise Murray, author of Vet Confidential and director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. In an effort to help, Dr. Murray will donate all author royalties for every copy of Vet Confidential that’s sold between November 15 and December 15 to the Darlington shelter. The book is a consumer’s guide to health care for pets, covering everything from vaccines to heart conditions, with information on the risks of certain medical procedures and the types of specialists who should conduct them. This excellent resource for pet owners will now be serving double duty—helping owners learn more about their pets’ health and helping the Darlington shelter feed and house its many animals. To learn more about Vet Confidential, click here. To learn more about the Darlington shelter and how you can help, click here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Real Housewives Smackdown


By Lauren Clay

When I walked through the doors of Bergen PAC on October 17, I wasn’t sure what the night would bring, I only knew that I was there for a night of “Dishing and Debates” with cast members from the Real Housewives of New Jersey and New York. My first thought was that I’d be witness to a night filled with catfights, so imagine my surprise when the night turned out to be less Jerry Springer and more The View.

Before the women even went on stage, the audience was told to cheer for who they were there to see – New York or New Jersey. It was no surprise when New Jersey won that competition by a mile. From that moment on, I knew Jersey had this debate in the bag.

Jill and Alex from New York were the first to take the stage. Even from far away I could tell that these women were all about appearance and glamour. They both looked beautiful, but I was secretly hoping that the New Jersey women would outdo them. I was not disappointed. Caroline walked out first and looked very striking in an understated but gorgeous dress. Then Teresa entered and wowed everyone in a sparkling silver mini-dress and matching heels. When she announced that just had a baby five weeks earlier, I was in total shock. If only all women could bounce back that quickly from a pregnancy, but we can only dream.

The one thing I liked about all of the women was their strong sense of pride for where they come from. When asked what they thought the big differences were between New York and New Jersey, I think Caroline said it best:

“New York has the glitz and the glamour, but on New Jersey, we’re not afraid to go on TV without makeup. We’ll put it all out there – the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy, the sad – I think we have no fear. What your see is what you get.”

When asked about why they love New Jersey, Caroline talked about how in New Jersey, “everything is a blink away” – she can be in Manhattan in 15 minutes and the shore is only 45 minutes away. Jill chimed in by praising New Jersey for not taxing clothes.

Although the night didn’t turn out to be quite the debate I thought it would be, it was a lot of fun to say the least, especially during the audience Q & A, which turned into people asking questions about the upcoming seasons and Jill, in true New York style, cutting in to say “she can’t talk about that, you’ll have to watch and find out.”

All in all, it was a great evening and in my opinion, the Jersey women represented us well and proved what I’ve known for years – New Jersey is definitely better than New York.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology at the Table



By Maureen C. Petrosky

Sunday night dinner at my mom’s is an informal affair where the siblings come if they can and no dress code is required. It’s casual, comforting, and always delicious. This past Sunday night my mom, known for being a straight shooter, nonchalantly asked, “So, what do you think of technology at the table?” I blushed as I put down my i-Phone, and was equally ashamed to see my brother scrolling through his and my sister- in-l aw with hers placed delicately next to her knife. Can we really not get through one meal without knowing the score, reading a text, or upping a bid?

I’m guilty all the way around. I find myself anxious and edgy if I’m not connected all the time. The phone has become a natural extension of my hand. Even as I write this I see how silly it seems to use the word connected. If we’re all staring at a screen we are definitely not connecting. If we were, Sunday night dinner could be conducted over SKYPE. Maybe we’d actually pay more attention. Individual phones have created some strange ripples in how we socialize. Many of my friends, even though married or in a relationship, still seem single to me. You see as more people skip the extra trouble and expense of landlines and choose to have their own phones, there’s no chance I will accidentally have to make small talk with their spouses, thus creating odd moments to actually connect when we get together in person. The cell phone isn’t something you answer for someone else, it’s private and with that comes serious social boundaries.

With the biggest dinner event of the year being next Thursday, I suggest you turn off the technology at least long enough to enjoy the turkey and mashed potatoes, as well as those you’ve chosen to share them with. If you’re wondering about last Sunday night’s dinner, don’t—everything came up roses anyway. With this gorgeous fall weather we were able to play in the leaves, kick around a soccer ball, and sip some rose. These pinks aren’t just for summer. In fact, they are perfect for swirling in fall when you’re not quite ready for big reds. Here’re two to try before or with your turkey.

Parallele 45 Rose, 2008, $12.99 This is a dry pink that’s perfect as an aperitif or alongside oven roasted turkey or pork loin. It’s full of cherries but has added interest with its minerality.

Castello Monaci Kreos Rosato, 2008, $12.99 I was tricked by the Kreos, thinking at first this was a rose from Greece. But I was not disappointed to find this little Italian pink was juicy, with a round body full of luscious juicy fruit.

*Taste these side by side to learn a little about how different pinks are from around the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finders Keepers



By Brianne Harrison

Talk about a treasure hunt! Starting today, Devon Fine Jewelry will be giving away 30 pieces of jewelry worth more than $25,000 to thank Northern Bergen County for its support over the past 30 years.

Some companies are content to celebrate 30 years with a cake and perhaps a party for some favored clients, but Devon’s owner, Nancy Schuring, decided to take it a bit further. She placed 30 pieces of jewelry (one for each year Devon’s been in business) in Devon shopping bags with “Finders Keepers” tags on them. The bags have been left all over Devon’s home town of Wyckoff and the areas surrounding it.

“Everybody loves surprises and getting gifts! With our Finders Keepers Event, we’re putting the two together,” Schuring says. “It's been a fantastic 30 years in business and we appreciate the loyalty of Wyckoff and the surrounding communities. We wanted to express our gratitude by giving back in a unique way.”

The bags contain a wide variety of jewelry, from white and yellow gold rings to pendants, bracelets, an d even some diamond necklaces! The pieces’ worth ranges from a few hundred dollars up to $3000 for a platinum sapphire and diamond ring. All Schuring asks in return is that finders share the story of where and how they discovered their bags.

The bags may be found anywhere, from grocery stores and shopping malls to libraries and beauty salons, so keep your eyes peeled!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not Your Grandmother’s Stuffing



By Pat Tanner

We cooks never know where our next good recipe will come from. Usual sources include a neighbor or co-worker, the Internet or television, a new cookbook, or a magazine or newspaper column. But a tourism calendar? Not so much.

Yet this stuffing recipe, from a calendar my neighbor presented to me last winter as a thank-you gift for collecting her mail while she lounged on the pink sands of Bermuda, captured my attention. I tested it and pass along the recipe for a couple of reasons.

One, you may be among the many who do not make turkey for Thanksgiving, either because you don’t like the taste or because the size of your gathering calls for a smaller bird. This stuffing is a perfect complement to chicken, duck, game hen, or other fowl.

Two, I suspected that the tropical flavor of mango mixed with fluffy white rice had major potential to produce a lighter, brighter alternative to traditional bread stuffing. And, boy, was I right.

The stuffing can be made ahead of time (just refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to stuff and roast the bird). And it couldn’t be easier. If you can cook rice and peel a mango you’re good to go. (If you’re hesitant about peeling and cutting mangoes, which can be tricky, google “how to cut a mango” for a slew of step-by-step video instructions.)


Bermuda Mango Rice Stuffing
Adapted from 2009 Bermuda Calendar, Tropic Traders Ltd. (Hamilton, Bermuda)

To stuff a 4-pound chicken or duck:

2 large or 3 small ripe mangoes
4 cups cooked rice, cold or room temperature (made from about 1-1/3 cups raw rice)
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2 whole cloves

Peel mangoes, remove stones, and mash to a pulp. (I used a food processor.) Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill for several hours to blend the flavors. Remove the cloves just before stuffing the bird. Stuff and roast as usual. (Heat any extra stuffing in an ovenproof bowl, covered, alongside the bird.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rabbit Rescue



By Brianne Harrison

Many of us believe that the people who owned animals that needed to be rescued must be monsters—how could any feeling person neglect an innocent, trusting animal? But the truth is, oftentimes these people aren’t monsters. Many are ill and can no longer care for their pets properly, but like many animal lovers, they’re reluctant to relinquish those pets they love so much.

This was the case with a recent rescue by the Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital and the New Jersey House Rabbit Society. An elderly owner had become ill and could no longer care for the 14 rabbits in their care. The rabbits were living outside and lacked adequate food, water, and shelter.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. The rabbits were rescued and taken to the Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, which is now caring for them, giving them medical exams and performing spays and neuters. They will be available for adoption starting Sunday, November 15.

Anyone interested in adopting a rabbit may visit the candidates at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital (225 Monmouth Rd., Oakhurst) from 3:30 to 6 p.m. In addition to showing the rabbits, Dr. Michael Doolen, a veterinarian with the hospital, will give a presentation on rabbit health care. The event is free, but anyone interested should RSVP to tturner@oakhurstvet.com.

Pet Health Alert
PetSmart is voluntarily recalling Dentley’s Bulk Cattle Hooves and Dentley’s 10 Pack Beef Hooves due to potential salmonella contamination. If you purchased either of these products between Oct. 2 and Nov. 3, please return them to your nearest PetSmart store for a complete refund for exchange.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Right Stuff(ing)


By Judith Garfield

Ready to buck tradition and surprise your family with a new and exciting stuffing dish this Thanksgiving?

I think not.

There are as many variations on stuffing (or dressing as they politely call it in the South) as there are imaginative cooks, but that’s no reason for me to abandon my remarkably simple, delightfully ordinary, completely delicious bread stuffing. Stuffing is a personal thing and we all have our ideas of what tastes best. People can be quite attached to their childhood favorite and would never think of trying something new.

I must admit I fall into this camp. I liken my stuffing to the quintessential little black dress. Simple, classic, and unadorned. You will not find any thing resembling fruit, nuts, or sausage in my loveless stuffing. No cranberries, water chestnuts, mushrooms or olives. And cornbread is out of the question.

Sure, you could probably make a tasty stuffing with one or more of those ingredients, but for me, less is more. One Thanksgiving my friend brought her stuffing that she couldn’t stop talking about-cornbread, apples, walnuts, etc. I made my version and both were passed around the table. You know where this is going. First helping-tie. Second helping-loveless by a knockout.

Here’s my recipe. As usual, proportions are approximate. Serves 10 to 12.

1/2 stick of butter
2 c. chopped celery
2 med. onions, diced
a loaf of white bread (20 ounce size)
a loaf of oatmeal or whole wheat bread
turkey liver (take it out from inside turkey)
2 eggs
1 c. water or chicken broth

Toast the bread lightly and cube it. Sauté the turkey liver, onions, and celery in the butter. Add this mixture to the bread with the eggs and water. Mix well. Hands work best. Season with salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of dried sage. Stuff your bird and put any leftover in a baking dish. Cook the extra with the turkey for last thirty minutes.

I usually never have leftover stuffing to eat with my leftover turkey, but if I did I would put it on a nice sourdough roll with cranberry sauce and herbed mayo- Thanksgiving on a roll.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Table Whining


By Maureen C. Petrosky

If your family is anything like ours there’s always wine on the table. Nonna’s favorite is Prosecco, and Pop is happy with whatever you’re pouring. The rest of us have dramatically different tastes when it comes to what we choose to put in our glasses, just as our views on politics, relationships, and life in general vary considerably. With the holidays at our heels the inevitable family feasting and fevered table topics are just a beat away. This year I’m looking for light and lively conversation and a wine to please the masses.

My nightly ritual of polishing the glassware, getting the wine key--yes I still prefer the good ol’ fashioned kind--and picking which wine to review is so engrained I often forget that everyone doesn’t do this. I can go for days sipping simple wines that are fine but without anything special or striking, and I can also hit streaks of wine more worthy of cleansing the sink drain than my palate. It’s the bottles that surprise me that I always hold in my heart. This one in particular went under the radar. Lacking a fancy label, steep price tag, and ridiculously heavy bottle this simple red from the South West of France made me smile at first sip- Les Vignes Retrouvees, Saint Mont, 2006, $11.

When I asked my husband and tasting partner what he thought of it, he responded, “ It’s good. It’s like a table wine.” I was surprised he missed the supple mouth feel, the soft and soothing body, and the finesse in the finish. The fruits were ripe, red, and harmonious with the tannins. Indeed, it was a perfect table wine--one that won’t offend most foods, and one that is sure to entice many into a second or third pouring. While at first I took offense to his comment, I came around to see that it was a huge compliment to the wine, not a crack at it. Able to amicably finish the bottle in one sitting, we decided it was the perfect fit for our next gathering of family and friends. More importantly, it made me so excited to discover what else is pouring from the South West of France!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Perfect Party


By Brianne Harrison

The holiday season is upon us once again, which means parties, which means stress for the host(ess). But if you’re going to be in the Princeton area Friday evening, you may want to check out an event that’ll help make your next soiree a smoother affair.

CoolVines is joining forces with Miele Gallery to present “The Perfect Holiday Cocktail Party: Easy Appetizers and Wines.” Holly Curry, Miele’s Home Economist, and Mark Censit, the owner of CoolVines, will be on hand to teach you how to make some simple yet delicious hors d’oeuvres and pair them with your favorite wines.

Sample blue cheese dip with kettle chips, spicy grilled Brazilian shrimp, Manchego and tomato toasts, and berry mascarpone cream with cinnamon sugar chips while you learn about this season’s hottest vintages in Miele’s beautiful gallery.

Cost is $15 per person. Register with Vicki Robb at 800.843.7231 x 2515 or e-mail vrobb@mieleusa.com. Miele Gallery, 9 Independence Way, Princeton.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Border Crossings


By Pat Tanner

Goodness knows I relentlessly extol the virtues of New Jersey restaurants and chefs to anyone who will listen - in print, in person, over the airways. But I also dine regularly in the megalopolises to our east and west, and the two outstanding and especially well priced meals described below give me a reason to tout our state for something often used to disparage it: being a mere “crossroads.” To me, we get the glories of New York and Philadelphia without the hassles of living in a big city.

Anthos, NYC. The handsome contemporary surroundings and accomplished modern Greek cooking of chef/co-owner Michael Psilakis are enough to make this midtown spot a draw. Add in a three-course pre-theater dinner at only $35 and it’s a no-brainer. Choices are limited but appealing across the board, and they include such high-end proteins as roast saddle of lamb (flavored, btw, with cinnamon and accompanied by cauliflower and stuffed grape leaves). Chicken poached in olive oil is to die for, and the olive oil ice cream that accompanies chocolate pudding cake will have you wishing for more. Add in a platter of complimentary mezes, a fabulous breadbasket, and utterly accommodating service and it’s hard to find a better bargain the Big Apple. anthosnyc.com

Bibou, Philadelphia. When my favorite finicky Frenchman recommends a French bistro, I know I’m in for a good meal. Even going in with high expectations, this tiny b.y.o.b. on South Eighth was able to wow me. Owners Pierre and Charlotte Calmels are, between them, alums of Le Bec-Fin, Daniel, and Brasserie Perrier. Between his cooking and her spot-on dining room management, the place practically levitates. Imagine impeccable consommé with sweetbreads for $8, foie gras over pain d’epices and with caramelized quince for $15, and pig feet stuffed with foie gras for $25. Nightly specials round out the short menu, and on my visit included a soulful pheasant stew over pillowy spaetzle. Fresh plum tart, “Mimi’s” chocolate cake with crème anglaise, and excellent French press coffee made me feel like I was in Paris. biboubyob.com. Note: cash only.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Three New Restaurants to Challenge Your Appetite


By Millicent K. Brody

Supper at Ana Beall’s Tea Room in Westfield

Nancy Baker, proprietor of Ana Beall’s Tea Room in Westfield, recently announced that on Friday, the 13th of November, the Tea Room will be open for supper. Be one of the first lucky guests to come and enjoy appetizers of Louisiana crab cakes with sweet corn relish and red pepper remoulade, chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo on a bed of aromatic Carolina white rice, and hush puppies with a spicy-sweet orange dipping sauce. Entree specialties include chili-lime spice-rubbed hanger steak with fresh melon salsa, pan-fried catfish with red pepper remoulade, crab and asparagus shortcakes with tasso gravy, and a vegetarian trio. For dessert, try the banana bread pudding with chai chocolate sauce.

The tea room is open for breakfast, lunch, tea, weekend brunch, and now for supper. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Thurs., 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Available for showers and special occasions. Ana Beall’s Tea Room, 415 Westfield Ave., Westfield. Call for reservations: 908.264.4221.

Drewby’s Raritan is Where You Want to Be
Drewby's Grill Pub, located at 16 S. Main Street in Manville, celebrated its 5th Anniversary in early October. Folks stop by for steaks, seafood, thin-crust pizza, fresh pasta, and their fabulous raw bar.

Happily, Drewby's owner Bill MacKenzie opened his second eatery, Drewby’s Raritan, on November 4. The menu boasts tapas, grilled steaks, seafood, and his special fresh pasta.

For starters, come by and check out the tapas menu, which includes duck confit and white beans, buffalo turkey wings, and grilled chorizo. Entrees include beef short ribs, New York strip steak, hangar steak, and seafood. Desserts are prepared by house pastry chef Jackie B. Just for the record, Bill loves her apple crumb cheese cake.

Priding himself on dealing with local purveyors, MacKenzie’s produce arrives from local farms.

BYOB and come on down. Drewby’s Raritan is located at 18 West Somerset St., Raritan. Hours: 5:30 p.m. to closing Tuesday to Saturday. Sunday brunch starts November 16th at 10 a.m. Casual dress. Party room available for 25 to 30 people. Call for reservations: 908.725.2500.

Mangia Ristorante Opens in Somerville
Imagine my surprise when I drove by N. Gaston Ave., in Somerville and noticed a new sign at the former location of La Scala. It's now owned and operated by Paul Pankuch; manning the kitchen is Chef Raul, who trained under Chef Omar Aly.

Heading the menu is a 20 oz rib eye topped with exotic mushrooms, finished with Dijon brandy cream sauce and black truffle essence. Resembling veal shanks, turkey osso buco is prepared with all of your favorite ingredients. Salmon lovers will appreciate a filet of wild salmon served with fresh leaks, tomato, basil, and capers in white wine.

“All of our dishes are prepared fresh daily,” says Pankuch who served as head waiter and general manager of La Scala for many years. “Folks look forward to dessert. Along with our pastry, we make our own gelato and sorbet.”

With two distinct dining rooms, come casual and enjoy dinner with the kids on the first floor, or head upstairs for a more formal meal. Hours: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday. 4:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call for reservations and information. 908.218.9300. Mangia Ristorante, 117 N. Gaston Ave. Somerville.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

‘Wining’ not ‘Whining’


You know, I’d been thinking that there just aren’t enough opportunities for me to combine my love of a nice wine with my desire to help homeless animals (no, really, I was actually thinking that), when lo and behold, two such events come to my attention. Kismet? Serendipity? Whatever it is, it’s nice to be able to try a few good reds and whites while helping out animals in need.

The lineup:
First up is the Wine Tasting for St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, scheduled for Friday, November 6 at the Morris Museum. A $45 ticket gets you samplings of more than 100 wines from around the world, hors d’oeuvres provided by area restaurants, and access to the museum’s exhibits, which currently include Invitations to a Wedding: Bridal Gowns from the 1820s to the Present; Horseplay: A History of Equestrian Sports in New Jersey; and Sculpture by Sassona Norton and from the Collection of the Morris Museum. Tickets can be purchased online at sthuberts.org or at Main Street Wine Cellar at 300 Main Street in Madison.

Up next is All Star Pet Rescue’s First Annual Wine Tasting on November 20. Swing by the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson to enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a Tricky Tray raffle, and entertainment. All Star is currently accepting donations for the Tricky Tray. For more information, e-mail AllStarPets@comcast.net or visit allstar.petfinder.com.

This economy is hitting everyone hard, but animal shelters have been having a particularly difficult time of it—funding and donations are down, and more pets than ever are being handed over. So why not spend an evening living it up and helping out? It’s a decision you’re very unlikely to regret.

Pictured: Frankie, Noodles, and Panther, three dogs available for adoption through All Star Pet Rescue