Month: June 2016

Take tantalizing food photos with this NJ photog’s tips

Written for on 6/29/16

Thomas Robert Clarke, freelance photographer who shot the appetite-inducing images for “The Jersey Shore Cookbook: Fresh Summer Flavors from the Boardwalk and Beyond,” is no stranger to leaning in close to a plate to get that perfect entree shot.

However, as any Central Jersey restauranteur can also agree, there is a fine line between snapping a great food shot to make your Instagram followers envious and feeling the need to stand up on a chair to get that perfect photo, which Clarke has actually seen people do.

“The biggest mistake you can make is taking yourself too seriously,” said Clarke. “If you’re passionate about that gooey cheeseburger right in front of you, it’s going to show, even if it’s not perfect.”

Although the average person snapping iPhone photos of their meal is no expert, Clarke certainly is. The Ewing-based photographer, who calls the book of 50 recipes contributed by Shore restaurants and written by Deborah Smith “his baby,” has been doing food photography for 11 years for publications such as Edible Jersey, BucksLife and Princeton Magazine.

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Staple of Elizabeth history is in grave danger

Written for on 6/28/16

The city may have about 20 listings on either or both the National and State Historic registers, but only one of them is in such dire need of help that it was placed on Preservation New Jersey’s annual list of the 10 most endangered historic sites of 2016, released on May 12.

The Whyman House, 705 Newark Ave., dates to about 1860 and is one of the last examples of an Italianate villa home in Elizabeth. The property, owned by the Central Baptist Church, was placed on Elizabeth’s Abandoned Property List on April 12.

When a property hasn’t been legally occupied for more than six months, “is in need of rehabilitation in reasonable judgment” and “has a presence of vermin, accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure or grounds that has created potential health and safety hazards and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remove the hazards,” it is placed on the list, according to a letter to the Central Baptist Church from Eduardo J. Rodriguez, director of planning and community development of Elizabeth.

The eroded fountain can be seen here. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Leo Osorio)

The eroded fountain can be seen here.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Leo Osorio)


A traveler’s home is her stuff

Today, I was hanging out in my kitchen when my roommate, Alex, came home after going on a hike with our friend Megan. As only roommates can do (because no one else cares enough to listen), we began chatting about the most minute details of our day.

“I hadn’t seen Megan since before I got back from vacation (about one week ago),” Alex said. “And, of course, even though I put it in my bag, I forgot to give her the bracelet I got her.”

I told her how much that drove me nuts too. I hate having other people’s stuff in my house, I hate it when people leave things behind and, of course, I hate leaving my own things behind.

I like knowing that everything I need can fit in this backpack.

I like knowing that everything I need can fit in this backpack.


Cocktail Caravan raises ‘bar’ for outdoor events

Written for on 6/21/16

The last time you saw a ’60s-style trailer, you were probably getting ready to be packed in with your gaggle of loud siblings, on your way to yet another campsite with your parents for a weekend of mosquito bites and overcooked hot dogs.

Today, if you happen to see one of these trailers driving on the Parkway, you may have just spotted the Cocktail Caravan, a mobile, fully staffed bar that brings everything hosts need, with alcohol provided by hosts, to keep guests’ thirst quenched at an outdoor event or party.

Modeled after a 1960’s travel trailer, Cocktail Caravan’s design features a sleek, round outer shape with a traditional wooden bar ledge, pop-out windows, two keg taps, ice sinks for beverage storage and service, a seated bench and rustic décor. The bar travels with additional features to complete a rustic-chic look including wine barrel tables, bar stools and vintage lighting.

~Courtesy of Ashley Mac Photography

~Courtesy of Ashley Mac Photography


Sip away the heat with these 11 summer cocktails

Written for on 6/15/16

With temperatures climbing into the 90s, there’s only one thing to do to cool off after the sun goes down (or while it’s still in the sky) – enjoy a refreshing summer cocktail from one of Central Jersey’s many bars and restaurants.

Local bartenders and restaurateurs are already planning for a season of breezy, fruity and crisp cocktails with bar menus that reflect the need to relax after a long, hot day in New Jersey’s humid weather.

To find out where you can head this summer for a specialty cocktail that offers just as much as the sunny season does, check out the seasonal drinks offered at the bars and restaurants below.



7 things to do in Asbury Park without beach tag

Written for on 6/14/16

Asbury Park, which frequently has made news for robberies, murder and more, has had a bad rap with summer tourists over the years.

However, on a reinvented side of the tracks in the city, streets are buzzing with niche bars, cutting-edge restaurants and cool activities that can be found just waiting for visitors — all without the purchase of a beach tag.

Asbury Park is much more than a city with crime or a city with a beach. Check out our roundup below to find out what you can do in one of the closest shore towns to Central Jersey, all without ever changing into your swimsuit.

~Gannett file photo

~Gannett file photo


Tessuto brings European shopping to Somerville

Written for on 6/7/16

Ernst Michel and his sons, Asheley and Jordon, aren’t dressed like many of the men walking just outside their door at 9-11 W. Main St. in the borough.

The trio, who own and manage Tessuto Menswear, a high-end men’s shop that sells fine European clothing and accessories, can usually be spotted in crisp Italian suits, vibrant patterns and fine leather dress shoes.

The store, which has been at its current location for about 3½ years after moving to the larger location from 33 W. Main St. after 10 years, is one of the only local shops that carries such a collection of high-quality European clothing, most of which is Italian and the rest Swedish, German and French.

“It’s hard to find that kind of quality in a small boutique and even in a big department store, where most of the products are made in Asia,” said Ernst Michel, owner and founder of the store, who manages it alongside Asheley, manager, and Jordon, assistant manager.

Ashley, Jordan and Ernst Michel, owners of Tessuto.  Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo

Ashley, Jordan and Ernst Michel, owners of Tessuto. Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo


Old and the new create a delicious seafood duo

It’s 9 p.m. on a Wednesday.

If you think that means you’ll be eating alone at Uncle Vinnie’s Clam Bar at 5 E. Somerset St. in Raritan, you’re wrong.

Instead, the 50-seat restaurant, which serves fresh seafood with an Italian slant to about 1,000 people a week and 200 on a busy Saturday night, will be packed, as it is every night of the week.

Uncle Vinnie’s, which has been a staple of Raritan since 1989, prides itself on community involvement and compassion, which may partially be the reason for its loyal following.

“We are really invested in the lifestyle of our clients,” said Lois Ricci, general manager of the family-owned establishment, one of family’s three operators who is always on-site. “My family has a very hands-on involvement with the restaurant’s customers. We know what ballpark their grandkids are playing at that night.”


New passport, same me

The average person has several coveted milestones in their life – the prom. The graduation. The first job. The wedding. The baby. For those who travel, there is also another important milestone – the first time that they must get a new passport.

Since I got my passport when I was 16 years old rather than 15, I narrowly missed the five-year-renewal mark, and instead, I got to keep my horrifying passport photo for an extra five years, leaving airport security to seriously question my identity when they saw a photographed face slightly similar to mine, only much more pimply, braced and skinny (thankfully).

However, upon my return from my trip to San Juan in early March, I knew it was time – with a bit more than six months left on my current passport, it was time to renew.


Korean barbecue sizzles in Central Jersey

One of my favorite restaurants in Central Jersey is on the corner of a strip mall advertised with only a half-lit sign that says “SUSHI.”

However, on most nights when you walk into Kimchi Hana, a Korean barbecue eatery at 6101 Hadley Road in South Plainfield, the dining area is filled with customers — most of whom are Korean, eating marinated meats cooked over an open char broiler on their tables, accompanied by 10-plus plates of traditional side dishes including kimchi, or fermented and seasoned vegetables.

Over the past few years, Korean barbecue has slowly been making its way down from New York and Bergen County into Central Jersey, where Korean and non-Korean customers have begun clamoring for the tasty and savory meats marinated with soy and teriyaki sauces, including beef short rib, sliced pork loin and beef tongue.