Friday, May 1, 2009

The Perfect Present

By Millicent K. Brody

These days the media is consumed with Mother’s Day. From shopping for her favorite perfume at the counter of your favorite department store, (where no doubt, they are offering a “free” gift), to selecting a bouquet of fresh flowers from the florist on the corner, or dining at any local restaurant, everyone wants YOU to come out and spend some hard earned dollars. In addition to it being Mother’s Day, spring appears to be the most popular time to celebrate an abundance of birthdays...which also means, of course, a present.

To be sure, restaurants are very much aware of Mom’s special day. Many are offering specially prix-fixe brunches, lunches, and dinners. Should you want to fete Mom at a special place, but really can’t see your way to spend, spend, spend, might I suggest you give the restaurant a call and ask if they are offering any incentives for the occasion? Another tip: Choose to celebrate Mother’s Day during the week, and take advantage of some worthy 3 course prix-fixe luncheons or dinners, then celebrate Sunday, May 10 at home with a family barbecue.

Do remember that whatever you choose to do will make your mom smile.

But what about the gift? I say, be practical. Almost everyone loves fresh flowers. What better way to fete your mom than with several hanging baskets or flats of varied colored plants to grow in her garden?

You could also volunteer your brute strength and offer to do the difficult jobs. Maybe spread the mulch, clean the garage, wipe down the porch furniture, plant a couple of rose bushes, or fill the bird feeders. (You could also gift her with a new bird feeder).

A dear friend is celebrating her birthday on the heels of Mother’s Day. She’s a savvy lady, and one who truly appreciates her garden. I know I could easily head to any of our favorite department stores or specialty shops and present her with a beautifully wrapped gift box. However, I decided, she really doesn’t need another sweater, necklace, purse, wallet, bracelet, or gold chain. I’m heading to our local nursery and treating her to several hanging baskets. I’ll be happy knowing she’s watching her garden grow.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shivering Myself Skinny

By Judith Garfield

Living in an old farmhouse has its rewards.

Because it is always cold inside during the winter months, I can eat pretty much whatever I want without gaining weight. How is this possible, you ask?

I shiver.

S. says this is a good weight loss technique that not many people know about.

“Just think of all the calories you’re burning,” he always reminds me, as I throw on yet another layer.

One day recently he came in looking concerned. His horse Paloma had lost a troubling amount of body weight in one night due to an unexpected cold front. She had been outside without a blanket.

Wow, I thought, we should tell Oprah about this. This could be a breakthrough in weight management. Apparently, scientists are catching on.

A new paper recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that nearly every adult has little blobs of brown fat that can burn huge amounts of calories when activated by the cold, as when sitting in a chilly room that is between 61 and 66 degrees.

Hah! You call this news.

We who live in drafty old farmhouses have known this for years.

And I bet before you know it, scientists will soon agree with my theory for the warmer months.

Live in a house with three stories and no air conditioning. Have a significant other who works and or plays in the dirt a lot. Make sure the washer and dryer is in the basement and under no circumstances hire anyone to help.

You will sweat. A lot. It should be no problem keeping that weight off.

For an entertaining read about keeping the weight off, cartoonist Carol Lay has a great new book called “The Big Skinny.” With wit and artistic talent, she charmingly chronicles her saga of finally learning how to eat right and stop dieting.

So remember: keep moving. Shiver or sweat. Your choice. Both are excellent calorie burners.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Taste of Summer

By Maureen C. Petrosky

It seems as though I was just writing about the unending cold and suddenly we are indulged with a tempting taste of summer. Instead of mild spring winds sweeping us into beach weather we got a heat wave. No complaints here--it was perfect for the Sauvignon Blanc I’ve been saving. There’s no better time than a hot, sunny day to sip a crisp, green, grassy cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Let me explain “green” here. First, as a cluster of grapes clinging to the vine, indeed it is a white grape but it is softly tinged with hues of green, and in the glass that same shade swirls around. Green here does not echo anything on the eco- friendly front, though there are plenty of organic producers out there, and you can definitely bring your own reusable shopping bag to carry home a few bottles. When I endow the term to this juice I simply mean young, vibrant, fresh, and last but not least- herbal.

As we continue the search for alternatives to the esteemed Chardonnay, inevitably the surge in Sauvignon Blanc’s popularity has also seen some backlash. Some critics (probably salty Chardonnay fans) deem it a watery, one note, lemon-laden sip. I couldn’t disagree more; this grape has lots of different ways to strut its stuff. Whether it’s the hands of talented winemakers or the flavors of the earth from which it sprung Sauvignon Blanc is far from one note. Don’t believe me? Pick up the three SB’s from Sauvignon Republic. The 2008 vintages from Marlborough, New Zealand, Stellenbosch South Africa, and California’s Russian River Valley each pour up their own interpretation of this little grape. Taste them side- by- side for a memorable lesson in terroir and find which Sauvignon Blanc suits you.

My fave- Sauvignon Republic, 2008, Sauvignon Blanc from—drumroll please--New Zealand, $20. I just couldn’t get enough of this one. It had tropical fruit flavors ribboned with minerality and a tongue-teasing acidity that made it too easy to go back for more. They all look great in the bottle and each have a unique identity but they all come with a screwcap--perfect for yard-work weary hands.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

40 Years Old and Looking Better Than Ever

By Brianne Harrison

In 1968, a group of women in Montclair decided to open a one-room schoolhouse devoted to progressive education. As with any venture, this one needed money to survive, so to provide funding, they also began an arts and crafts fair. The first event mostly featured a collection of handmade items displayed on card tables.

Now, 40 years later, that arts and crafts fair has exploded into a three-day juried exhibition that draws in some of the best artisans from around the country. Art in the Park, held at the Montclair Art Museum and still presented by the Montclair Cooperative School (which has outgrown its single room considerably), also brings in thousands of visitors and is a staple of the local calendar.

What can one expect to find there? Work by more than 80 artisans, chosen by a distinguished panel that includes the curator of decorative arts at the Newark Museum, the executive director of the American Craft Council, and a highly respected artist who has shown extensively both nationally and abroad. Works of art in sculpture, glass, metal, ceramics, and fibers as well as exquisite and unusual jewelry will be available for sale. For a preview, visit

For those who would rather take in the good weather than the art for sale, there will also be live musical performances throughout the weekend, including hometown band Parents who Rock. Applegate Farms will be providing a make-your-own sundae tent, and a Whole Foods barbeque will take place on Saturday. For the youngest members of the family, there will be arts and crafts activities, including doll making, beading, toobers and zots, and t-shirt decorating; as well as a rock-climbing wall.

The 40th Annual Art in the Park will be held May 1-3 at the Montclair Art Museum, 3 S. Mountain Ave., Montclair. Suggested admission for families is $10.00. Hours of operation are Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cardinal Sins of Restaurant Service

By Pat Tanner

If you patronize fine-dining restaurants you will find one section of Eric Ripert’s latest book, On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin (Artisan 2008) of particular interest: the list of 129 “cardinal sins” of restaurant service.

I found myself shouting “Yes!” as I read this quote from maitre d’ Ben Chekroun about ideal service: “I like it to be a very professional experience, but a little bit on the friendly side. Friendly-elegant. Not too much fanfare or ceremony. I want the staff – captains and front waiters especially – to learn how to read the guests, if they want to chitchat a little bit or be left alone. Guests should have amazing service, without noticing the waiters as they serve and clear. And ideally guests get the feeling that the staff is there to please you and are friendly from the heart, not because that’s what they have to do.”

Chekroun hands new hires the list of “sins.” I can assure you that I have encountered all 129 of them and I bet you have, too. Among those that warrant multiple exclamation points:
- Not acknowledging guests with eye contact and a smile within 30 seconds
- Not thanking guests as they leave
- Needing to be the center of attention. (Give the ego a break)
- Socializing with certain guests while ignoring others
- Not providing a place for meal debris [e.g., shells]
- Walking past items dropped on the floor
- Coffee in the saucer.

Other sins are more exacting, such as placing a cocktail napkin askew or upside down. It’s no wonder Le Bernardin is one of only three New York restaurants to receive three stars - the highest rating - in the 2009 Michelin Guide to New York. (The others are Jean Georges and Per Se).