Visit Clinton Town, Hunterdon County’s autumn gem

There aren’t many places left in the world where you can stroll down a quaint, pastel-colored Main Street, grab lunch from a restaurant that’s been locally owned for 30 years, shop for leather goods, books and clothes and then hit a museum — all within one block.

However, Hunterdon County has its own picturesque destination such as this that’s reminiscent of a “Norman Rockwell painting,” as Tim Betz, assistant director of the Red Mill Museum Village, said.

“Clinton is like this perfect small town,” Betz said. “When you walk down Main Street, you are walking down the classic American Main Street.”

Clinton, which has a population of about 2,700 and pulls in another 2,500 visitors in the fall and winter seasons, has a downtown area mainly composed of its Main Street, which is filled with businesses such as the Clinton Book Shop, the Hunterdon Art Museum, the Red Mill Museum Village, the Clinton House Restaurant, Fourchette cheese and olive oil shop and much more.

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The day of the downtowns

Even though Monday was a pretty rainy and dismal day, with a busy week ahead, I was determined to visit Clinton, a small, picturesque town in Hunterdon County, to at least get a taste of it to prepare for my upcoming column about it.

With fall (supposedly) on the horizon, I figured it would be a great destination feature, and I could get some nice photos, of the town nestled in the deep Hunterdon woods with a 1950s-feel and the signature Red Mill Museum Village overlooking the river.

Photography by Michael Politz

Photography by Michael Politz

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6 fall menu items that bring the season right to your plate

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 9/21/16

Although it’s always a bittersweet goodbye to bid farewell to colorful salads, light meats and summery seafood, those ready for the fall season are gearing up for big changes at their favorite local eateries.

Central Jersey restaurants have been busy as they revamp their autumn menus with hearty stews, flavorful meats and fall vegetables.

If you’re ready to embrace all that autumn has to offer the culinary world, check out what these six hotspots have planned for the season.

Shiitake dusted 50 day dry aged beef terrine from Stage Left. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Stage Left)

Shiitake dusted 50 day dry aged beef terrine from Stage Left. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Stage Left)

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NJ’s first virtual reality arcade brings the world to Somerset

FRANKLIN (Somerset) – Have you ever wondered what Vesper Peak, along the North Cascades in Washington state, would look like from its summit?

How about Venice on a crisp spring day?

Or what Raufarholshellir Lava Tube, an Icelandic lava cave, would look like from deep inside?

Thanks to Arcane Reality, New Jersey’s first virtual reality arcade at 220 Davidson Ave. in the Somerset section of Franklin, now you can — all without ever stepping inside a plane.

At the virtual reality arcade, visitors, who must book their virtual reality experience in advance from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. any day of the week, pay $15 and have 30 minutes to explore about three to five games developed by Arcane Reality and other developers such as Valve Software and Futuretown — small-sized developers trying to take hold of virtual reality, which is budding in popularity.

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Local brewery joins forces with Sam Adams to create Jersey Fresh beer

Flounder Brewing, a township brewery founded in 2013 by Jeremy Lees, was once known as the smallest licensed brewery in New Jersey with the ability to brew 31 gallons of beer at a time.

However, partly due to the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship, which provides one craft brewer annually with hands-on brewing and business coaching, that has changed since Flounder Brewing first opened.

This year, Flounder Brewing was the recipient of that experienceship after being chosen from a pool of 15 other budding breweries from across the nation.

The program, which seeks to help fellow craft brewers get the capital and resources they need to succeed, resulted in Lees and Flounder Brewing co-owners Dan Lees and Billy Jordan receiving a two-day trip to the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery to be coached by Samuel Adams experts, a collaboration with Samuel Adams to create a new beer, a trip to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, publicity, including a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, and $103,000 in loans to support expansion.

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Natirar’s Ninety Acres restaurant serves as springboard for new resort

PEAPACK-GLADSTONE – Every New Jersey foodie has heard of Ninety Acres, the award-winning upscale New-American restaurant situated among 90 acres of Natirar, a 500-acre Somerset County park that was once owned by a former king of Morocco.

What those foodies — and restaurant regulars — haven’t seen yet is the developed Natirar resort, which will include a 66-room boutique hotel, 24 residences, a gala event venue, spa and existing pool, tennis courts and fitness center surrounded by 400 acres of lush green space and trails in Peapack-Gladstone, Far Hills and Bedminster.

“We want to take our dining experience and those amazing views to the next level by weaving our farm and the resort together,” said Bob Wojtowicz, founder. “When we started, we had this idea of Ninety Acres being farm-to-table, but over time, we are now thinking of it as a table at the farm.”

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How a Somerville restaurant totally screwed me

I really love sushi. But being that I’m also poor, the sushi joints I go to tend to be a little shady, all-you-can-eat, 50 percent off when you pay cash and housed in dingy corners of town.

On most nights when we are craving sushi, my boyfriend, Mike, and I tend to head to Kumo Asian Bistroa much-untapped sushi restaurant in downtown Somerville that offers all-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi for $23 per person on a weekday and $25 per person on a weekend. The huge restaurant, which has incredibly fresh fish for what you pay, tends to be mostly empty, quiet and relaxing.

However, last night, I really wanted to try Shumi, a high-end Somerville sushi eatery that has frequently been called New Jersey’s best sushi restaurant. Mike told me, “Just so you know, it’s a little expensive,” but we had no idea the hits our wallets would be taking until much later.

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This is not Shumi sushi. But it was also still great.

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Get away from the grind at Lake Ariel

Having grown up in Long Valley, N.J., which is possible the most boring place in the entire world, I usually can’t appreciate towns that run a little bit slower and take a journey just to make it to the nearest supermarket. Instead, my Long Valley upbringing has simply made me into a bona fide city dweller who needs to constantly be within 15 minutes to the nearest mall, plethora of restaurants, gas stations, airport, bars and other attractions.

However, when my boyfriend, Mike, invited me to visit his parents with him in Lake Ariel, Penn., a small village in Wayne County about an hour and 45 minutes away from my home in Morristown (which is about my cap for time I can spend in the car) I was pretty psyched. It had been a stressful couple weeks and I figured it would be nice to spend a relaxing few weeks in the countryside.

Cobb's Lake. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

Cobb’s Lake. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

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Explore art in its natural habitat at Grounds for Sculpture

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/30/16

HAMILTON – Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor contemporary art gallery that is home to more than 250 sculptures on 42 acres, doesn’t have much in common with a typical art gallery.

No one will tell you not to run.

No one will tell you not to speak.

No one will tell you not to touch.

And, perhaps most importantly, you won’t feel like you need a degree in art history to understand what you’re looking at.

That’s because the gallery, which was opened in 1992 by J. Seward Johnson, a sculptor and philanthropist, aims to make contemporary art approachable for the average person.

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Duo reunites after 23 years to feed Rutgers students

Robin Varga, co-owner of Fritz’s, a fast-casual eatery in New Brunswick with a fresh, homemade and seasonal menu, always knew that fellow co-owner Jonathon Guarino would own a restaurant one day.

That’s because the pair goes back 23 years – when Guarino went to school with Varga’s children and Varga and Guarino worked at the now-defunct St. Peter’s Elementary School concession stand together, which was only a few blocks from where Fritz’s stands today at 115 Easton Ave.

“He always liked to cook and he would invent all kinds of stuff to eat while we were working,” she said. “If you could put it in a deep fryer, he would.”

At the concession stand, which operated for the elementary school and the high school, they would make items such as mozzarella sticks and egg sandwiches and would also help out at school events, such as pancake breakfasts or spaghetti dinners.

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