Hunterdon County Art Tour offers glimpse inside local studios

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 4/25/17

Artists and art lovers have always known that Hunterdon County, filled with beautiful greenery and charming downtowns throughout its 26 municipalities, is a hotspot for the arts with its plethora of studios, art museums, arts events and theaters.

However, after the Hunterdon County Art Tour holds its first countywide self-guided driving and walking art tour May 6 and 7, the committee of volunteers made up of artists, art lovers and longtime Hunterdon County residents hopes that everyone else will know, too.

Throughout the weekend, 37 local artists’ studios will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., when visitors can peruse and purchase artwork and learn more about mediums such as ceramics, glass, jewelry, painting, printmaking, sculpture and textiles — in their very own backyard.

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‘The Big Easy’s’ annual Jazz Fest is finally here

Written by Guest Blogger Donato Soranno

New Orleans has been called “The Big Easy” – and justifiably so.

I have been attending The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival since 1990 since here, you can find the best musicians, the best chefs and some of the oldest history in the United States.

New Orleans during Mardi Gras. (Photo by Donato Soranno)

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Visit this otherworldly Hindu temple in NJ

If you see photos of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple that is adorned with intricate Italian Carrara marble hand-carvings and images sacred to the Hindu faithful, you may think that you’re looking at the image of a structure thousands of miles away.

But this otherworldly temple is right around the corner in Robbinsville, Mercer County, and has been attracting those of the Hindu faith as well as those interested in its architecture and significance since it was built in 2014.

“For the Hindus, this is a place to see God, purify themselves and increase their faith in God,” said Lenin Joshi, a mandir volunteer who lives in Lawrenceville and visits the mandir about twice a week. “For those who are not Hindu, they feel that coming here calms their minds and they experience peace. They learn the messages of tolerance, nonviolence and coexistence, and many also find the strength to give up addictions when they come.”

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99 Ranch brings Asian cooking to NJ homes

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 4/11/17

In Central Jersey, those with Asian and non-Asian backgrounds have the blessing of being surrounded by delectable Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino restaurants they can flock to anytime they have a craving for sushi, dumplings or spring rolls.

However, thanks to specialty food markets such as 99 Ranch, an Asian supermarket chain that opened its first New Jersey location at the Wick Shopping Plaza at 561 Route 1 in Edison in January, those with a constant craving for Asian dishes have new choices for their favorite meals.

The largest Asian supermarket chain in the United States with 49 locations since its establishment in 1984 in Westminster, California — also known as Little Saigon — with many more on the way, 99 Ranch expanded to Edison because of its large Asian population, said Virginia Tan, marketing manager for 99 Ranch.

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A surreal tropical paradise found in Tahiti

Written by Dr. Donato (Dan) Soranno 

Tahiti, Bora Bora and the group known as the Society Islands can best be summed up as the definition of tropical paradise.

To get there, we flew across the United States to Los Angeles and then the next day, we took Air Tahiti Nui to Tahiti. Upon arrival we were taken immediately to our cruise ship, The Paul Gaugin. This was rated the best cruise in the world and after spending a week on the boat, I have to agree.

Bora Bora. (Photo by Donato Soranno)

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Battle and Brews brings in history buffs looking for cold one

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 4/5/17

Battle of Bound Brook Living History Weekend, an annual event scheduled for April 8 and 9 that explores Bound Brook’s colorful history as a Revolutionary War hotspot, has brought in history buffs since 2001 who are excited by the event’s battle reenactments, historic house tours and special presentations and exhibits.

For the first time, however, the Bound Brook Council and the Bound Brook Revitalization Partnership are ensuring that they also attract millennials and others looking for a cold beer and some good food for Living History Weekend this year — by hosting Battle and Brews, a free pub crawl through Bound Brook that will be held Saturday, April 8 from 1 to 4 p.m.

“Bound Brook is the oldest town in Somerset County and was the host to Battle of Bound Brook, so in a historical sense, the area is very important,” said Abel Gomez, Bound Brook Borough Council president. “In bringing in the brews portion of this, we also wanted to highlight our reinvention of the town and its coming out of a negative connotation. We figured this would be a great way to get out-of-towners in and also spotlight our bars and restaurants.”

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Dig your way to the NY/NJ Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 4/4/17

Most mineral, gem and fossil shows in New Jersey take place in church basements or municipal parking lots. Although the events are fun, participants and vendor numbers are modest and attendants don’t venture very far to attend.

The same definitely cannot be said for the three-day New York/New Jersey Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show, held every April inside the 150,000-square-foot New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, 97 Sunfield Ave., Edison.

This year, anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 people are expected to attend the April 7 to 9 event, eager to check out the 350 vendor booths and seven exhibits, including those from the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History and more.

People come from all over the tristate area to attend the cash-only show, which costs $10 for children 4 to 10, $15 for all over 12 and free for those under 4.

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East Brunswick doctor’s zany waiting room inspires Travel Channel show

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/28/17

If you step into ophthalmologist Dr. Mark Leitman’s waiting room in East Brunswick, you may spot a couple of magazines in the corner — but you probably won’t need to read them.

That’s because Leitman’s 300-square-foot waiting room is packed with over 1,000 colorful, zany, odd and intriguing objects — including minerals, dolls, clowns, butterflies, shells and photographs.

Leitman’s kaleidoscope of an office recently inspired the Travel Channel’s new show “Weird America” to stop by. On the show, Irish comic Kevin McGahern explores the weirdest sights in the United States.

The show premiered on Saturday, March 18, with a segment on Leitman, who lives in East Brunswick, as well as Margate’s Lucy the Elephant and the 50-pound Mount Olympus burger at the Clinton Station Diner.

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Sample the best of the region at Taste of Middlesex

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/27/16 

It’s no secret that Middlesex County is host to tons of amazing eateries, sporting cuisine from every corner of the world, each with their own spin on the restaurant industry.

Taste of Middlesex, which will take place on Monday, March 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., will give attendants the chance to try them all.

The 20th annual event hosted by the Edison Chamber of Commerce and the Pines Manor is offering tickets for $50 per person and $55 at the door, which allows attendants an all-you-can-eat pass for all of the participating restaurants. Since there are alcohol vendors participating, only adults 21 and over may attend.

Taste of Middlesex, which will take place on Monday, March 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m., will give attendants the chance to try them all. (Gannett file photo)

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Meet our new guest blogger

My name is Dr. Donato Soranno (otherwise known as Dr. Dan) and I have known Jenna for a long time as a patient and friend. She has visited my office monthly and I would tell her of my world travels.

I have been to the top of Machu Picchu, swam with sharks around Bora Bora and the Great Whites off the tip of Africa. I have been on the Amazon River to observe pink dolphins.  I am very fond of Italy swell as many other European countries.

Elephants along the Chobe River in Africa. (Photography by Dan Soranno)

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