Friday, February 12, 2010

A Dog’s Life

By Brianne Harrison

It’s a dog’s life—or, at least, it should be, according to the author/photographer team behind Dogplay: The Canine Guide to Being Happy, a charming little gift book that urges people to approach life the way our canine companions do (example: “Explore new backyards, but know your way home.”) The platitudes, while cute, aren’t exactly groundbreaking; the photography, by Little Silver-based pet portraitist Kim Levin, is the real winner here. Levin’s black and white pics catch man’s best friend at its cutest, happiest, and sweetest. It’s impossible not to have your heart warmed at least a little by this quick read.

The book is coming out in March (but can be preordered here), and Levin will be signing copies from 1-3 p.m. at the following locations:

Barnes & Noble, Holmdel, March 6
River Road Books, Fair Haven, March 13
Barnes & Noble—Monmouth Mall, Eatontown, March 20

Meanwhile: St. Hubert’s has taken its pet adoption campaign to the streets—literally, by posting digital billboards on some of the state’s major highways, touting the benefits of pet ownership and adoption. The new billboards, which were created by Branchburg-based Mint Advertising, can be seen on Routes 80, 287, 78, 280, and the New Jersey Turnpike.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stew for a Storm

By Brianne Harrison

This time of year, I’m a big fan of comfort foods, and there are few foods I find more comforting than stew. Which is why, this past weekend, as the first snowstorm of the week raged, I found myself gathering spices, chicken, and stock and wondering just what I should do with them. The spices and sweet potatoes in the resulting recipe add a kick and take this stew beyond the usual chicken and dumplings combo:

Spiced Chicken Stew
1 lb chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled & diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ c. flour
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp chili powder
3 c. chicken stock
4-5 leaves kale, chopped

1. Mix the flour and spices in a medium bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in the flour/spice mixture until evenly coated. Shake off excess flour.

2. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Brown the chicken in batches on all sides, and remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

3. Add more olive oil to the pot if necessary. Saute the celery, carrot, garlic, and onion until fragrant and the onion turns a creamy white color, about 3-5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and stir to combine with the vegetables. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Uncover, add the potatoes, recover, and simmer another 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the kale, recover, and cook a further 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
One of the greatest things about stews is that they tend to improve over time, making this a perfect dish to cook up over the weekend and set aside for a mid-week dinner.

Healthy Roundup:
Sweet potatoes and the spices used in this recipe are very high in antioxidants. Sweet potatoes are also high in dietary fiber and are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals.

Kale is exceptionally high in vitamins A, C, and K and has been credited with helping to fight cancer and other diseases. Like sweet potatoes, it’s a great source of antioxidants and dietary fiber

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Heart Wine

By Maureen C. Petrosky

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing I heart more than a thoughtfully chosen pour. You may think a wine writer would want anything but more wine, yet here it’s really the thought that counts. I’d happily skip the scentless roses in lieu of intoxicating perfumes from a special bottle of wine. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive sip you see in the store or the one with a love-laced label. It could be something that conjures up a wonderful memory, or maybe from a vintage that meant something to your and your honey. Think about why you love the one you’re with and then celebrate that with wine.

It doesn’t have to be a brainteaser. As far as vintage goes, here are a few ideas to inspire you: the year you first met, the year your baby was born, that year you spent finding yourself and your loved one still stuck by your side. If it’s a memory you would like to relive it could be as easy as a bottle that reminds you of a favorite vacation, or maybe just something that you shared on a great date.

If you’re a planner and want to really wow your Valentine, set up a flight of wine and walk down memory lane. Flights are simply smaller pours of several different wines, usually progressing from light to heavy or dry to sweet. You could pair each with a small morsel that matches the wine and end with a new sip to add to the memory making. For me a V-day isn’t complete without a little Brachetto D’Aqui from Banfi. I’ve spoken of these raspberry-infused bubbles before, yet I never tire of their alluring aromas spilling from the sexy silhouette of a champagne flute on Valentine’s Day.

Banfi Rosa Regale, Brachetto d’ Aqui, $21- If this were a dress I would definitely wear it on date night. It’s sexy, fun, and finishes with a sweet kiss. It’s ideal alone after dinner and is smashing when presented alongside a box of chocolates (artisanal of course-after all it is Valentine’s Day!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Healthier, Happy Valentine’s Day

By Brianne Harrison

It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend, and yes, there are lots of lovey-dovey events going on across the state. But as important as it is to show your honey you care, it’s also important to show yourself a little love every now and then. So, this weekend, why not check out one (or all!) of these events, which should get your heart pumping, bring a blush to your cheeks, and help you get a little healthier?

First up, on Saturday, is Fit for Cancer at the Hunterdon Health & Wellness Centers at Clinton and Whitehouse Station. What started as a grassroots event with a few spinners has exploded over the years, raising over $200,000 for Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center. Participants pledge to raise $250 and in return they get an intense three-hour workout. Choose from one of five programs, including Spin for Cancer—a high-energy, indoor cycling program that allows you to go on a virtual outdoor road race; a boot camp combining cardio and strength training; a biathlon swimming and running workout; a Zumba dance and fitness workout; or a senior water & walk class. For more information, visit

If you’re looking for a workout you can do with that special someone, take a trip to Unionville Vineyards, which is hosting Taste and Tango Lessons with Cliff Marino on Sunday the 14. Marino has been teaching all styles of ballroom and Latin dance for the past 20 years, and he trained with some of the best dance coaches both here and abroad. He’ll be teaching the Argentine Tango for starters to intermediates in the vineyard’s historic cave room. Afterwards, take a tour of the winery or treat yourself to a tasting of some of Unionville’s wines—remember reds have heart-health benefits! Visit for more information.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Uproot Yourself

By Pat Tanner

When I learned that Anthony Bucco, longtime chef at Stage Left in New Brunswick, is the executive chef at Uproot, a new restaurant in Warren, I wanted to check it out pronto. This meant not waiting to dine there in my official capacity as restaurant critic, but rather as a civilian – one of a group of six friends out for an evening on the town. What follows is a report on my experience, which differs from the norm because the folks there knew I was coming, there was no need for me to don the disguise I have used in the past, and I dined there on my own dime.

The name of the restaurant has both symbolic and literal meaning. Uprooting himself is exactly what Bucco has done. And the exciting design of the restaurant includes a whimsical take on an inverted tree suspended overhead. Believe it or not, the tree isn’t the most dramatic element in this sleek, sophisticated space that manages to be inviting and comfortable as well as ultramodern.

Service is pretty sleek, too. I sometimes forget what it feels like to have your every want and need anticipated, but was reminded of that here. As, too, when a restaurant pays attention to every last detail, including good, crusty rolls, an intelligent cheese plate, and excellent coffee.

Other pluses here: adult cocktails and an interesting wine list. Sommelier/general manager Jonathan Ross (formerly of Anthos in New York) found some impressive vintages within our $60 cap, including a 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape and a 2002 Alsace Riesling.

Every dish on the dinner menu piqued my interest. Even the complimentary amuse bouche provided excitement: crostini topped with elk tartare. Chef Bucco has a very special way with fish, so I ordered the special appetizer of local fluke with onion marmalade followed by black cod poached in grapefruit-accented broth and, in between, my tablemates and I shared a portion of lightly seared tuna. I smiled contently through all three courses while the meat-lovers in my group extolled the venison with rutabaga gratin and huckleberries.

Other dishes, while still good, didn't quite match the 'wow' factor of the above. Pear and bitter greens salad, gnocchi with Surryano ham, and roast chicken with root vegetables, for example.

These days, it is heartening to see a restaurant open that doesn’t stint on style or dumb down its menu in deference to today’s economic conditions. With seven out of ten entrees under $30, the folks at Uproot ‘get’ the economy while providing a welcome respite from the currently ubiquitous “upscale” comfort food.

9 Mt. Bethel Road