Friday, December 11, 2009


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

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 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 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.

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 (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. 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.