Month: January 2016

A romantic getaway across the river in Bucks County

As Valentine’s Day creeps out to brighten up our otherwise dismal New Jersey winters, many of us find ourselves yearning for a weekend getaway with our better halves.

Unfortunately, a quick trip to the Shore — a favorite of New Jerseyans in the summertime — isn’t much of an option in freezing temperatures.

However, Central Jerseyans will find that if they look to the west, rather than to the south, they will find an idyllic and relaxed destination with a faraway feel right across the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that has plenty of both indoor and outdoor options for couples looking to turn up the heat.

Read on to discover several Bucks County attractions to keep you and your honey happy all Valentine’s Day-weekend long.

The view from Cock 'N Bull Restaurant, the flagship restaurant of Peddler's Village. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

The view from Cock ‘N Bull Restaurant, the flagship restaurant of Peddler’s Village.
(Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

1. Shop downtown New Hope and Doylestown

New Hope is home to some seriously eccentric shops, making it quite the stopping point for those looking to pick up something different. Visitors should wander River Road, Ferry Street and Bridge Street, some of the most scenic and historic streets, which feature the largest concentration of interesting stores.

Some of the shops that travelers shouldn’t pass up are Farley’s Bookshop, which offers a diverse collection of books young and old; Love Saves the Day, a vintage shop that holds collections of nostalgic clothes, toys and trinkets; and Suzies Hot Shoppe, which has enough hot sauce to have you running next door to Fran’s Pubfor a cold drink. However, the best way to find the coolest shops in New Hope is to simply take a walk down the street.

Downtown Doylestown has a similar vibe with historic buildings and a colonial air filled with locally owned shops, boutiques and restaurants. To check out some of the most popular shops and restaurants, head down West and East State Street, North and South Main Street and West and East Oakland Avenue.

During your venture, don’t miss a stop at the Tubby Olive for specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars, the Doylestown Food Co-Op for locally grown and organic products, as well as Notoris Clock & Coin to see vintage clocks, coins and other antique items.

Historic downtown Doylestown is a very walkable area.  Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo

Historic downtown Doylestown is a very walkable area. Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo

2. Grab a flight at Doylestown Brewing Company

For a break from meandering through Doylestown, as well as to escape from the chill, visitors can plan a stop at Doylestown Brewing Company, at 22 S. Main St. nested inside of an open-air marketplace with a reputation for simple yet quality beers in a rustic, European pub setting.

Brewery President Joe Modestine said, “We try to keep it simple but different at the same time. Each beer has a unique style and taste without overpowering your taste buds.”

Modestine, who brings 66 years of his family’s brewing experience to the bar, keeps 10 beers on tap and serves food from Andrea’s Cheese Shop and Spuntino’s Pizza, located upstairs in the marketplace.

The brewing company, which opened last May, offers flights a 3-beer flight for $7.50 and a 5-beer flight for $12.50 and will also be hosting Love and Lager Night on Saturday, Feb. 13, for Valentine’s Day, which will present a five-course dinner with beer and wine pairings for $75 a person or $140 a couple.

The Doylestown Brewing Company opened last May. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

The Doylestown Brewing Company opened last May. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

3. Climb Fonthill Castle

Finally, for an educational break from romance, couples should head to Fonthill Castle at 525 E. Court St. in Doylestown, which was the home of Henry Chapman Mercer, archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian who built his home as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints.

The building — a mazelike blend of Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles — is a National Historic Landmark that can be toured for $14 a person.

“I think people who have a sense of wonder and perhaps a bit of the romantic in their soul would enjoy a visit to Fonthill Castle,” said Edward L. Reidell, site administrator “It is pretty common for us to hear from guests that they were not looking forward to another house tour and within a couple of rooms, they were completely hooked.”

Fonthill Castle is located in Doylestown. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Fonthill Castle)

Fonthill Castle is located in Doylestown. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Fonthill Castle)

4. Stay at a charming country inn

Bucks County may only be a short drive from Central Jersey, but the best way to complete a vacation-next-door experience is to stay at one of the area’s historic inns or bed and breakfasts.

The Golden Pheasant Inn of Erwinna, which currently has rooms ranging from $205 to $295 on a weekday and $220 to $395 on a weekend, was built in 1857 and is recognized on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Brittany Faure Booz, co-owner of the family owned inn, said, “The Golden Pheasant Inn is believed to be one of the longest-continuously-operating commercial properties along the Delaware River. We are also lucky enough to have the Pennsylvania Canal right out the back door.”

With stellar views of the Delaware River, an in-room fireplace in the Delaware Suite and romantic touches for Valentine’s Day such as the gift of a dozen roses and special menu items such as Hudson Valley foie gras, Lancaster County lamb shank and fresh East and West Coast oysters, the Golden Pheasant Inn is an ideal stop for couples looking to get away for a night or just a meal.

Other local inn options include the recently renovated, refined Old World-touchGolden Plough Inn, located in Peddler’s Village, which includes a welcome bottle of wine from Chaddsford Winery and complimentary breakfast with every overnight stay for $135 to $225 a night.

The Doylestown Inn is another option for guests looking to extend their Bucks County Valentine’s Day stay for $170 to $235 a night. The 11-guestroom boutique hotel, which has previously served as a hattery, cigar shop, shoe store, restaurant and speakeasy since the building’s 1871 inception, now features the The Hattery Stove & Still, a modern-American tavern restaurant with an industrial and vintage flair.

For Valentine’s Day, the Hattery will be offering two menus — a $60 per-person four-course prix fixe menu, as well as a $350-per-couple seven-course tasting menu.

The Delaware suite at the Golden Pheasant Inn. (Photo: ~Courtesy of the Golden Pheasant Inn)

The Delaware suite at the Golden Pheasant Inn. (Photo: ~Courtesy of the Golden Pheasant Inn)

5. Wander historical Peddler’s Village

Nestled in historic New Hope at 2400 Street Road, Peddler’s Village, the third-most-visited destination in the Greater Philadelphia region, offers 65 distinctive shops and boutiques inside colonial-style buildings among award-winning gardens and winding brick pathways.

“We are the classic Philadelphia region destination — a shopping, dining, lodging and family entertainment village with wonderful architecture, landscaping and gardens reminiscent of colonial America,” said Eve Gelman, director of communication and relationships of Peddler’s Village.

While shopping for family and friends (or yourself), don’t forget to stop at Hewn Spirits for local whiskey, rum and moonshine, Lace Silhouettes Lingerie for top-of-the-line intimate apparel and Pine Wreath and Candle for candles and Christmas goods.

If you get hungry wandering through the Village, stop at Cock ‘N Bull, which serves American classic comfort foods — including at a popular Sunday brunch — such as prime rib, beef burgundy and chicken pot pie. The Village is also host to four other restaurants.

For Valentine’s Day, Peddler’s Village is offering a Chocolate Lovers Tea, a Rose Petal Sunday Brunch, a murder mystery dinner and a Valentine’s Weekend Dinner.

Peddler's Village is home to 65 specialty shops. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

Peddler’s Village is home to 65 specialty shops. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

6. Tour and taste at Sand Castle Winery

The Sand Castle Winery at 755 River Road in Erwinna, otherwise known as “Napa East” due to the romantic, relaxed setting of the 1974 winery, may not have Napa Valley weather, but it certainly has the same quality wines, perfect for a tour and tasting for a couple looking to escape the chill.

The winery solely produces wines from vitis vinifera (meaning “in wine is the truth”) grapes, which, as Joe Maxian, co-winemaker with his brother, Paul, said, “have been perfected for thousands of years to produce God’s gift with help of human hands. The quality of these wines is comparable to the best of the wine countries of the world.”

However, the pricing and Maxian’s demeanor is anything but snobbish — wines range from $15 to $40 and tours cost $10, which include a tasting of the 12 current wines and a tour of the facility, shaped like a large sand castle, overlooking 15-mile views of the Delaware Valley.

“I stand on a ladder with a ruler and explain all of the wines to everyone,” said Maxian, laughing in his booming voice and Czech accent. “We have a lot of fun in here.”

For Valentine’s Day, the winery will be offering a wine, cheese and chocolate pairing on Saturday, Feb 13, at 2 p.m. Details will be announced on their website shortly.

February long-distance travel isn’t ideal for New Jerseyans, who frequently become bogged down with unexpected snow and cold. However, you don’t have to stay at home for Valentine’s Day just because of the chill. Instead, pack your bag and drive less than hour for a destination that feels old-world with all of the comforts of home.

The Sand Castle Winery is known as “Napa East” due to the romantic, relaxed setting of the 1974 winery. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

The Sand Castle Winery is known as “Napa East” due to the romantic, relaxed setting of the 1974 winery. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

Walk into the West at the Colorado Cafe

A mechanical bull that people flock to for a one-minute, adrenaline-filled ride. Line-dancing lessons on a 3,000-square-foot dance floor with music blaring. Live cover bands that pack a bar stuffed full of country and rock fans alike.

Could this be in Nashville, Tennessee, Houston, maybe Denver?

Nope. Actually, it’s in Watchung.

The Colorado Café, which offers a modern take on the classic experience of country in a state not exactly known for cowboy hats and bull-riding, is “not like anywhere else around here,” said Alan Bauerle, general manager.

The same can be said for when the Café was founded 22 years ago by Bauerle and partners. “We wanted to open a bar, restaurant and entertainment complex that was different than anything else in the area,” he said. “Country music was growing in popularity and as we looked at different locations, we found this 13,000 square-foot banquet house on seven acres of property in a high-income area.”

A challenger rides Buck Off, the state's only mechanical bull. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Colorado Cafe)

A challenger rides Buck Off, the state’s only mechanical bull.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Colorado Cafe)

Clearly, the Café struck a whip for the 2,500 people that visit weekly.

Lindsey Irwin of Roxbury, who visited the Café last winter, said, “I liked the Colorado Cafe because the atmosphere is different than the majority of bars around New Jersey that I’ve been to. There aren’t many Western-style places on the East Coast so it is nice to do something different.”

Irwin, who has visited bars in Denver and Park City, Utah, said that she thinks the Colorado Cafe does a good job at bringing the Western-feel people would experience if they visited the true west.

Even though the Colorado Café mimics a country experience, it’s unique in the fact that many venues in the Midwest don’t have a 3,000-square-foot dance floor, which presents the opportunity for line and couple dancing classes, which take place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels from 4 to 7 p.m.

Plus, line dancing in the Midwest tends to be two-step line dancing, while the Colorado Café teaches choreographed line dancing that ventures from Garth Brooks to Lady Gaga.

Line dancing classes are offered three times a week. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Colorado Cafe)

Line dancing classes are offered three times a week. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Colorado Cafe)

“There’s so many things to do with country and now the stars aren’t the Garth Brooks of the ‘90s – they’re much more pop,” said Bauerle. “We are the enhanced experience of a classic experience of country. We try to embrace everyone’s taste in music.”

The line dancing classes, taught by about half a dozen instructors, garner 75 to 125 people each night of the sessions, which are included in the Café’s cover charge – $5 on Wednesday and Sundays and $10 on Saturdays.

Besides the line dancing classes, another huge pull of the Colorado Café is its mechanical bull, Buck Off, who is the only mechanical bull inside a venue in the state. All riders must be at least 21-years-old on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (and 18-years-old on Sundays), less than 240 pounds and must sign a waiver. However, Bauerle said the bull is very safe and the intent is to entertain people and create a show, not to create an impossible challenge.

“We’re not looking to throw someone off in eight seconds,” said Bauerle. “We want people, if they’re up for it, to stay on the bull for a minute or so and get a fun video taken by their friends.”

Half-pound burgers are famous at the Cafe. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Colorado Cafe)

Half-pound burgers are famous at the Cafe. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Colorado Cafe)

The operator adjusts the bucking and spinning mechanism depending on the rider’s comfort level and his judgment.

Rock and country cover bands also head to the Colorado Café on Saturday nights, including country cover band Big Hix and rock cover bands Blame it on Richie, the Guy Smiley Band and Mr. LoveJoy. On Friday nights, the Colorado Café is an open dance floor of top 40 hits. Karaoke also takes place on Friday and Sunday nights.

The restaurant at the Café serves American fare bar food such as with finger food appetizers, half-pound burgers, pizza and wrap sandwiches. It is a 21-year-old and older venue.

The Colorado Café is also a host to weddings and other parties, all in country-style, of course.

“We wrap everything up and we’re not just this standard banquet-style place to go to,” said Bauerle. “This is a fun venue in a country theme.”

THE COLORADO CAFE

Where: 154 Bonnie Burn Rd., Watchung

Contact: Call 908-322-7200 or visit coloradocafe.com

Offerings: Line dancing classes, dancing workshops, mechanical bull rides, full bar and restaurant, banquet-style events

4 wedding ‘destinations’ in Central Jersey

Written for MyCentralJersey.com

With people still struggling to find stable employment, layoffs afoot and costs skyrocketing, the idea of traveling to a faraway destination for a grand wedding is anxiety-inducing, and even impossible, for most people.

However, those living in pictureesque Central Jersey, which is full of rolling hills, romantic venues and elegant eateries, don’t have to spend their nest egg on a wedding to say their ‘I do’s’ in style.

Instead, they can just check out some of these top wedding venues right at home in Central Jersey.

Read on below to discover some of the most romantic wedding ‘destinations’ — right down the street from your house.

The Ryland Inn can accommodate up to 220 guests. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Kuhlken Photographers)

The Ryland Inn can accommodate up to 220 guests. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Kuhlken Photographers)

Ryland Inn, 115 Old Highway 28, Whitehouse Station

The 1796 inn, which has been the venue for stagecoach stops, down-home cooking and family picnics, is also a wedding destination that can accommodate up to 220 guests in its Grand Ballroom.

With prices per person ranging from $155 to $225, the Ryland Inn is known as a destination that is romantic, refined and luxurious, but also cozy and comfortable.

“Unlike other venues that have hopped on the farm-to-table bandwagon, it’s the only way we’ve ever done things here,” said Carla Camargo, director of marketing and public relations. “Even before we took over the property, the Ryland always partnered with local farmers, artisans and their families.”

Included in the price is a cocktail hour, five-hour open bar, full-course meal, customizeable wedding cake, tables, chairs and linens.

Call 908-534-4011 or visit rylandinnnj.com to learn more.

Ria Mar is a venue that caters to the middle class. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ria Mar)

Ria Mar is a venue that caters to the middle class. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ria Mar)

Ria Mar, 25 Whitehead Ave., South River

Want the milliondollar wedding without the milliondollar price tag? According to Rui Baptista, general manager, this is what Ria Mar delivers, as it caters to the middle-class person in a sophisticated yet comfortable space that offers great food and service.

“We have the upscale, elegant facility minus the lakes and gazebos, so you can get your dream wedding without having to break the bank for $65 to $120 per person,” said Baptista.

Ria Mar can accommodate up to 180 people in its space, which can offer packages that include top-shelf open bar, a surf and turf dinner and cocktail hour. However, it also offers less-demanding packages that can be completely customized.

“We don’t have any preset pieces of paper,” said Baptista. “Every booking begins with a conversation — we want to know what you want to achieve at your wedding.”

Call 732-257-1100 or visit ria-mar.com to discover more.

Forest Lodge is known for its combination of indoor and outdoor space. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Forest Lodge)

Forest Lodge is known for its combination of indoor and outdoor space. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Forest Lodge)

Forest Lodge, 11 Reinman Road, Warren

If you’re looking for a wedding with an outdoor twist, then Forest Lodge is your place — the large venue has a combination of parklike space that can accommodate 400 people, as well as a cozy, elegant indoor space in the Sherwood Room that can accommodate 180 people.

“We have had events with a country twist and we have also transformed this space into a nightclublike setting,” said Linda Taylor, vice president of Forest Lodge.

Plus, only one event is hosted at a time, making for a private affair ranging from $65 to $100 per person that includes an open bar, complete dinner and cocktail hour and a wedding cake.

Call 908-754-7300 or visit forestlodgecatering.com to learn more.

The Imperia can accommodate 50 to 550 people. (Photo: ~Courtesy of the Imperia)

The Imperia can accommodate 50 to 550 people. (Photo: ~Courtesy of the Imperia)

The Imperia, 1714 Easton Ave., Somerset

With three grand ballrooms that lend the opportunity to host intimate events or large all-day weddings that can accommodate 50 to 550 people, the Imperia specializes in modern, upscale and elegant weddings that range from $110 a person to $160 a person.

The venue, which was built less than 10 years ago, features accents of wood, water, light and stone set against a grand staircase, private stone patio and waterfall garden. Plus, it has two sister hotels for guests — Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott of Somerset and Springhill Suites by Marriott, which will open on Cedar Grove Lane this year.

The price of an Imperia wedding includes valet and coat check, cocktail hour, full dinner, custom wedding cake, unlimited five-hour open bar and a private bridal suite and attendant.

Call 732-469-2522 or visit theimperia.com to find out more.

 

Unleash your inner artist with glass of wine

Drinking and decompressing from a long work week has been an activity reserved for dark bars stuffed full of loud music and chattering people, with only a hangover to take home afterward.

However, what if you could enjoy a glass of wine in a much more well-lit room with a piece of art to take home at the end of the night?

Thanks to wine-and-paint studios such as Pinot’s Palette, Paint Nite and Wine and Design, which have been popping up throughout New Jersey during the last two years, those looking to reconnect with friends can enjoy their glass (or two) of wine while also creating homemade paintings under the instruction of a local artist in a class setting.

“People are looking for something different to do,” said Courtney Osgood, communications manager of Paint Nite, which has five license agreements throughout New Jersey. “We are in such a digital age that this is a great activity where you can put your phone down for two hours, disconnect and then reconnect with new people.”

Wine-and-paint studios don’t teach people how to paint or expect them to know how – they show them how to recreate one particular painting in small, manageable steps. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Paint Nite)

Wine-and-paint studios don’t teach people how to paint or expect them to know how – they show them how to recreate one particular painting in small, manageable steps.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Paint Nite)

This “something different” has another edge that makes it ideal to be paired with wine and friends — it’s therapeutic.

Hali Crystall, studio manager of Wine and Design Rahway, said that people often say that the studio’s classes are like therapy — sessions that they attend over and over again, as many customers are repeat visitors, some of which attend once a month.

“They can relax, be themselves and forget about the stress of the day,” she said.

In this respect, wine-and-paint studios do not require a certain level of artistic ability, although many feel some apprehension when they walk through the door and see that the painting they will soon be recreating appears complicated.

Wine-and-paint studios such as Pinot’s Palette, Paint Nite and Wine and Design have been popping up throughout New Jersey during the last two years. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Wine and Design Rahway)

Wine-and-paint studios such as Pinot’s Palette, Paint Nite and Wine and Design have been popping up throughout New Jersey during the last two years. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Wine and Design Rahway)

“You can hear people chattering and saying, ‘There’s no way I will be able to do this — my painting is not going to look like this,’” said Osgood. “People haven’t picked up paint brushes since elementary school, so there’s a little bit of anxiety. However, by the middle, people are loosening up and complimenting their friends’ work and even the work of people they met that night.”

This is because wine-and-paint studios don’t teach people how to paint or expect them to know how — they show them how to re-create one particular painting in small, manageable steps, which Carmella Bassolino, owner of Pinot’s Palette Somerville, said is a common misconception.

Since these classes are about entertainment, not learning painting as a skill, class instruction isn’t just about being able to show the average person how to re-create a beautiful painting. Instead, Crystall said, “instructors are entertainers, people who have big personalities and are comfortable talking in front of large groups.”

Wine-and-paint studios do not require a certain level of artistic ability, although many feel some apprehension when they walk through the door and see that the painting they will soon be recreating appears complicated. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Paint Nite)

Wine-and-paint studios do not require a certain level of artistic ability, although many feel some apprehension when they walk through the door and see that the painting they will soon be recreating appears complicated. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Paint Nite)

About 85 percent of those who attend wine-and-paint events are women, mostly between ages 21 and 34, but many older women and couples are also heading to the studios.

Pinot’s Palette Somerville, one of 14 New Jersey locations, receives about 350 to 400 visitors per week, while about 200 people attend New Jersey Paint Nite events per week, and Wine and Design Rahway, one of four New Jersey locations, receives about 330 visitors weekly.

All of the studios have one set price that includes all supplies, including smocks, paint, brushes, easels, napkins, plates, bottle openers, etc. Wine and Design and Pinot’s Palette two-hour classes of 36 both cost $35, while Pinot’s Palette also offers a three-hour class that costs $45. Attendants of Pinot’s Palette and Wine and Design events are encouraged to bring drinks and snacks.

All of the studios have one set price which includes all supplies, including smocks, paint, brushes, easels, napkins, plates, bottle openers, etc. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Wine and Design Rahway)

All of the studios have one set price which includes all supplies, including smocks, paint, brushes, easels, napkins, plates, bottle openers, etc. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Wine and Design Rahway)

Paint Nite’s two-hour $45 events, however, are a little different. They are not hosted in a single studio, but instead are at local bars and restaurants, including the Garden State Ale House in New Brunswick, The Boathouse at Mercer Lake in West Windsor and the Edison Hotel in Edison. Attendees, ranging from 25 to 40 people, purchase food and drinks from the vendor rather than bringing their own.

Customers of all studios select their classes based on the particular painting offered that day, selected by studio owners from catalogs of thousands of paintings based on past popularity and the season. Bassolino said that when selecting paintings, she asks herself if that painting is one that she would like to see in her own house.

“Anyone can go to a bar and drink and talk,” said Bassolino. “But here, you’re interacting and doing something.”

Wine and paint studios

Pinot’s Palette Somerville is at 196 W. Main St., Somerville; call 908-393-4847 or visit pinotspalette.com/somerville

Paint Nite events can be found by visiting paintnite.com

Wine and Design Rahway is at 88 Route 27, Rahway; call 732-943-7334 or visit wineanddesign.com/locations/rahway.