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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Pilot your own travel with aviation lessons at Solberg Airport

While I was stuck at the airport last week brooding over a missed flight and praying that I would make it onto my next flight with my standby status, I had an idea: What if, instead of having to depend on unreliable commercial airlines, overbooked flights and missed connections, I could become a private pilot and go wherever — and whenever — I wanted to go?

Obviously, I’m not the only one who has thought of this genius idea. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), last year, a little over 47,000 people become aviation students.

This year, about 15 of them will become certified private pilots at Solberg Airport in the Whitehouse Station section of Readington’s Cessna Pilot Center Flight School, which has been training aspiring pilots since 1939.

“Flying expands your horizons, increases your radius and presents you with a whole new world,” said Gabi DiSanza, flight instructor at Solberg Airport who has been flying for six years and has about 530 hours of flight time. “Next week, I’m going to Cape Cod and Boston with a student within three hours. That isn’t a trip I could make in a car.”

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Peaches are plentiful at The Frog and the Peach

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/17/16

NEW BRUNSWICK – Throughout New Jersey, those with a penchant for the fresh are currently chasing after the Jersey tomato, which is at the height of its season from now until about mid-September.

However, there’s a much sweeter produce which gets much less attention that’s also budding at local farms right now until early September – the fuzzy, fruitful peach.

To celebrate the colorful favorite, The Frog and the Peach, at 29 Dennis St. in New Brunswick, launched its annual peach-themed tasting menu – the Festival of Peaches – on July 28. The menu will be available until mid- to late-September.

“I think there’s a lot of versatility in peaches – it’s a fruit that lends itself not only to sweet dishes, but also to those that are savory,” said Jim Mullen, general manager and wine director at The Frog and the Peach. “It’s a lot of fun to use the brightness, sweetness and acidity in our tasting menu.”

For the past 11  years, The Frog and the Peach has spotlighted its peach-themed tasting menu at this point in the season. But each year, the menu changes with only the first course, the peach carpaccio – crispy duck confit, spiced almonds, arugula and prosecco vinaigrette – as its constant.

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Taking a trip back in time through Wilmington

Although I can’t recall much about staying in my grandmother’s outdated bungalow in an area of Carolina Beach full of stumbling drunks and cigarette butts about six years ago, I do recall, quite vividly, our one day trip to Wilmington, about a half an hour drive north.

I remember strolling through the residential historic district, and, even though I couldn’t have cared less about what the tour guide had to say about iron gate styles or wraparound porches, I do recall feeling pretty mesmerized by these stately, colorful homes full of personality and bursting with history, intricate details, elaborate flowers and a deep, cool shade.

I also remember making our way to the commercial historic district, where we flitted in and out of niche boutiques and wandered throughout the cobblestone streets. For someone well acquainted with busy, modern cities like New York, I was pretty enamored with true-Southern Wilmington and its ancient charm at a time when I had yet to visit any other Southern destination.

The streets of Wilmington. Photo by Jenna Intersimone

The streets of Wilmington. Photo by Jenna Intersimone

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See the world from your plate at Destination Dogs

A few weeks ago, on our way to the Stress Factory Comedy Club, my boyfriend, Mike, and I were discussing where we would go for dinner before the show began.

“Why don’t we go to Destination Dogs?” he said.

I don’t really eat hot dogs (except for this one time, which you can read about here), hamburgers, French fries and the like. “Eh, I don’t feel like eating a hot dog,” I said, imagining eating a greasy fast-food item on a New Brunswick curb. I wanted to eat a real meal, at a restaurant.

“No, you don’t understand,” Mike said. “It’s not a hot dog like you’re thinking. They’re fine dining hot dogs, from all over the world.”

I still didn’t really believe him – I mean, how different can one hot dog from the next really be – but relationships are about compromise, so off to Destination Dogs we went.

And then, in a rare occasion, I had to admit that I was wrong.

“One Bite In Bangkok” left and “El Borracho New Mexico."  Ed Pagliarini/Correspondent

“One Bite In Bangkok” left and “El Borracho New Mexico.” Ed Pagliarini/Correspondent

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Why I will always fly direct

Although in normal life, I like my beds soft, my food hot and my hair clean, in travel, I recognize that these things are not always possible.

Instead, in travel, my mind automatically opens to being more accepting of unpleasant living conditions, dirty clothes and too-late nights. However, there is one thing I never scrimp on – a favorable flight.

I really hate flying. I hate being at the mercy of the airport, the rude flight attendants, bad yet expensive food and early mornings. So, within reason, I make every effort to fly in and out of the airport 20 minutes from my house at a normal hour on a direct flight.

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~File photo

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Pallin’ around Philly – in the daylight

Now that I’m 25-years-old, most of my friends (and I) are starting to find their way. Finally, those closest to me are escaping from the one-traffic-light town that we grew up in and are heading to New York City, across state lines, to small cities throughout New Jersey, and, of course, to Philadelphia.

Whenever another one of my friends packed up for Philadelphia, I cringed a little inside. It’s an uncomfortable hour-and-45-minute drive from my house and, possibly since I’ve mostly only been there under the cover of night, I’m used to odd happenings on shady streets and staying in dirty apartments. It’s a big, hipster change from my existence in ritzy, clean Morristown.

However, with not much else going on during a boring Sunday and having spent way too much time without seeing my best friend, Aaron, I buckled down in the car for the long journey to visit him for the day.

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East Brunswick native opens brewery to honor lost friend — and his food allergy

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/2/16

Just seven years ago, East Brunswick native Brian Kulbacki was working at his family business, Brunswick Memorial Home.

Today, as the owner of Departed Soles Brewing that opened in the summer of 2015 in downtown Jersey City, he is known as one of the first brewers of gluten-free beer in the state.

Many would assume that Kulbacki must be gluten-free to have started the first New Jersey craft brewery to offer gluten-free beers, alongside traditional ales. He’s not — but his late best friend, Chris Ward of South Brunswick, was.

“Chris got diagnosed with Celiac disease and I saw the amount of options for him,” said Kulbacki. “So many of our college memories involved beer, and he was kind of robbed of them. It dawned on me that he wasn’t the only one.”

~Courtesy of Brian Kulbacki

~Courtesy of Brian Kulbacki

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Disney, all grown up

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida has never been on my must-see list. In general, I try to avoid places that are filled with children.

However, when my best friend, Dona, invited me there for her birthday to stay in a timeshare that her family owned, I couldn’t really think of a reason to say no. I wanted to celebrate Dona’s 25th birthday with her, I wouldn’t have to book a hotel room and I could go for just a portion of the week that Dona was staying for with her college friends, so I could only take two days off of work. Plus, things have been stressful lately, and I figured I could use a few days away to decompress.

For only $250, I snagged a round-rip flight to Orlando. I can’t remember the last time that I felt so relaxed.

Dona (left) and I.

Dona (left) and I.

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Exotic car garages are car lovers’ dream

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 7/26/16

Every weekend, 12,000 car lovers flock to the New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) in Millville to race on two world-class road courses, go-kart on one of the top karting facilities in the country, watch races and take on-track driving instruction.

However, for 16 enthusiasts — a number that is ever-growing — NJMP has become their home-away-from-home after their purchase of an exotic car garage (ECG).

“I think that this is a dream for anyone who’s a car guy,” said Brandon Hull of Princeton, a venture capitalist who was the second person to purchase an ECG, which began being constructed at NJMP in 2014. “It’s sort of nirvana to be able to store all of your equipment right at the race track. And, it’s a privilege to do track days whenever your schedule permits.”

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The convenience of having all of their cars and supplies in one place makes it a worthy investment for some car lovers. (Photo: ~Courtesy of New Jersey Motorsports Park

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