Hunterdon County Art Tour offers glimpse inside local studios

Written for 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


99 Ranch brings Asian cooking to NJ homes

Written for 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Battle and Brews brings in history buffs looking for cold one

Written for 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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

Written for 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

Written for 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Hotel Bethlehem takes guests to Gatsby era

Written for on 3/16/17

In today’s world full of crisp, black and white modernity, people are relishing speakeasy-style venues — equipped with jazz music, secret doors and vintage attire — more than ever before.

Although many bars and restaurants have dressed themselves up to be of the 1920s Great Gatsby era, Hotel Bethlehem, a historic hotel in downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the real deal — and they are celebrating the era through a slew of Roaring ’20s events throughout April.

The month’s events will culminate on Friday, April 28 with the hotel’s second annual Roaring ’20s Ball, where guests are invited to dress in a ’20s theme to enjoy a four-course dinner prepared by Chef Michael Adams with a cocktail hour and open bar from 6 to 11 p.m. in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom while they listen and dance to the Hot Club of Philadelphia, a well-known jazz band, and watch the MagnoliaSadies, known for their authentic performances of ‘20s-style dancing.

April’s 1920s-themed events at Hotel Bethlehem will culminate with the second annual Roaring ’20s Ball on Friday, April 28. (Courtesy of Hotel Bethlehem)


Indoor rock climbing offers workout with rush

New Jersey may not be anywhere close to places like Wyoming or Utah where rock climbers have their pick of all sorts of interesting and challenging climbs, but those in the Garden State looking for a different sort of workout still don’t have to venture too far, thanks to local indoor rock climbing facilities — which are also ideal in chilly weather.

“Indoor rock climbing is a great one for the wintertime because it’s indoors, but you are still able to be active, which is also great for kids who are cooped up inside all day,” said Amity Warme, manager at Rockville Climbing Center in Trenton, who has been climbing for five years. “For climbers who are more advanced, it’s also a good way to stay in shape in the wintertime.”

Rockville Climbing Center, which pulls in about 1,000 visitors a week, 150 of whom are newcomers from as far as two hours away, offers a $5 harness rental fee and a flat-rate day pass for $16 per child and $18 per adult, which allows customers to come and go as they rock climb for as long as they want in a 24-hour period, besides some of their other pricing and specials.

Rock climbing is suitable for those of all ages. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Michael Fortunato)

Rock climbing is suitable for those of all ages. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Michael Fortunato)


Celebrate Carnevale like Venetians with fine food and wine

Carnevale, a colorful, over-the-top “carnival” traditionally held in Venice, Italy, that ends on the day before Ash Wednesday, is known for its showy costumes, elaborate masks and decadent Italian food to let loose before the 40 days of Lent.

Jersey City may not have a lot in common with the “Floating City” besides its own canal-like neighbor of the Hudson River, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t celebrate the age-old tradition.

Pasta Dal Cuore, a fresh pasta factory and modern Italian eatery in Jersey City, will be hosting a five-course Venetian dinner alongside Cool Vines, a Jersey City unfussy wine shop, to celebrate Carnevale with festive masks, live classical music, fine Veneto wines and, of course, authentic Venetian food.

The dinner, which costs $95 per person and includes wine, the dinner, tax and tip, will take place on Mardi Gras on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. and will seat about 40 people. Plenty of spots are still available and interested guests can reserve their spot by emailing or by calling 201-448-8657.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Tumulty’s Pub reopens with same Irish charm

Written for on 2/14/17

Tumulty’s Pub, an iconic Irish pub in the heart of New Brunswick, has always been known for its Old World charm, complete with original wooden beams, iron chandelier fixtures and a train set chugging along the interior of the space.

Even though the pub has passed onto new ownership to Sheila and Richard Weber of East Brunswick, the friendly neighborhood restaurant and bar still possesses all of those things — as well as some modern upgrades.

The Webers, who also own the Brunswick Grove in East Brunswick, a wood-paneled game-day spot offering familiar American grub and craft draft beer, purchased Tumulty’s in August 2016 and closed the restaurant for three months for their floor-to-ceiling renovations before reopening Nov. 14.

“We were looking to expand, since we have owned the Brunswick Grove for 15 years, which has been the neighborhood bar where people go for family outings, team meetings and things like that since it opened in 1934,” said Sheila Weber, who visited the old Tumulty’s as a teenager. “We grew up around the area and we wanted to be part of what’s happening in New Brunswick with all of the revitalization.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.