Teylev brings international teas to Somerville

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 10/18/16

Although many of us in New Jersey chug down cup after cup of coffee to get through the day, in other countries, busy people go for coffee’s much more healthful sibling — tea.

Stephen Bonsu of Hillsborough has always been one of those people.

“I became a tea drinker long ago because coffee has a negative effect on my system — I’m energetic and I crash quickly,” he said. “I was always looking for a place to go that was tea-focused, since tea people have always been subject to coffeehouses which usually only have three or four types of tea and it isn’t good quality.”

Bonsu shied away from many of the typical Victorian-style tea houses because he found them to be too formal and dated. Instead, he searched for a place that would be more modern and relaxing. He found it — by opening his own shop, Teylev Café and Lounge, at 37 W. Main St. on the corner of Division Street.

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Lake George for the autumn tourist

Before New Jerseyans are forced to deal with our never-ending winter, we are blessed with fall, a season so packed with colors and activities that I refuse to go on any long-distance trips during September or October – to me, fall weekends are precious, and needed for pumpkin picking, apple picking, haunted hay rides and cider donuts.

However, for the last two years, my family and I have been taking a trip designed for fall – a long weekend getaway to Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. For a few days, we check out fall foliage, visit wineries throughout the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, stay in a rustic cabin and sail down the lake.

This year, however, Seneca Secrets, our usual hangout, was all booked up and we figured we would mix it up and head to Lake George, which has always seemed to be a favorite destination of New Jerseyans.



Retro arcade adds new tourism element to Metuchen

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 10/11/16

Most bustling downtowns have an abundance of popular restaurants and colorful retail shops. But in the age of the internet, there’s one component that can sometimes be left out — or more fittingly, at home — a business that can offer an experience or an activity.

Eric Berger, Metuchen Downtown Alliance chairman and property owner of Hailey’s Harp, Pub and Harp-Cade as well as several other properties throughout Central Jersey, thought that downtown Metuchen could use some more activities for locals. He also saw the success that Yestercades, a classic video game arcade, has enjoyed in Somerville at 29 Division St. since its May 2014 opening.

So Berger, who is also the property owner of Yestercades Somerville, brought up the idea of a classic video game arcade to Chris Flynn, owner of Hailey’s Harp and Pub at 400 Main St., about six months ago.

“I thought it was something the Metuchen downtown could really use because this kind of concept really draws people in,” he said. “It’s really important for a town to have experiences as well as shops. That does exist in Metuchen in terms of businesses such as our yoga studio or karate school, but this adds another piece to the mix — something that you can’t do online.”

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Meet the bread baker behind your favorite local restaurants

Written for MyCentralJersey.com

There’s nothing like a bite of fresh, homemade bread – crispy on the outside, warm on the inside – to start off a meal at one of Central Jersey’s flagship restaurants.

Jackie Mazza, owner and founder of Knead Baked Goods based in New Brunswick knows that – which is why she puts a little extra TLC in all of the bread products that she bakes, including hand-rolled German-style pretzels, creaked wheat fat boys, olive loaves with citrus and herbs de Provence, challah and brioche.

“Bread is your opportunity to knock it out of the park,” the Somerset resident said. “Everybody loves bread and as a society we have just started to accept kind of crappy bread. So when you get great bread, you know it.”

Mazza, who currently does all of her baking out of Elijah’s Promise’s kitchens at 211 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick, is the one you can thank for the delectable bread found at the Dinky Bar and Kitchen in Princeton and several restaurants in New Brunswick including the Frog and the Peach, the Dillinger Room, Inc. Restaurant, Destination Dogs and Destination Dogs’ new location in Philadelphia.

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Ironbound Wine and Food Expo showcases the best of Iberia

During one of the first dinners I ever had in the Ironbound, Newark’s bustling neighborhood filled with over 200 Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish restaurants, wine shops, bakeries and markets, I was shocked to have my dining companion, a Portuguese immigrant and frequent Ironbound visitor, abruptly pull my menu away from me.

“Trust me,” he said. “We are only going to need one entrée for the two of us.”

I didn’t believe him until our chosen dish — carne de porco à alentejana, otherwise known as cubed pork and clams braised in a garlic, white wine and fresh coriander sauce — arrived and I was greeted with more than enough food to feed two hungry people, for about $20.

This perception — that one can get a huge, nice meal for cheap — in the Ironbound is, as any Ironbound visitor knows, correct. However, as the Ironbound Business Improvement District (IBID) plans to prove through its first Ironbound Wine and Food Expo on Friday, Oct. 7, and Saturday, Oct. 8, there’s a lot more to Iberian cuisine in America than a low-cost meal.

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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


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)


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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