Columns

Simply Jerk is Monroe culinary diamond in the rough

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/21/17

If you are one of the many people that call Monroe your home — at least from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at one of the township’s many corporate complexes — you’re probably aware that the local dining options are a bit lacking.

However, Simply Jerk Jamaican Grill, a quaint counter-serve eatery that can seat about 30 people in its colorful, tropical digs, is known as a roadside diamond in the rough with its authentic Jamaican cuisine run by the White family.

“It’s kind of a cultural wasteland here, and for many people, this is their first time having Jamaican food in the States,” said Rahsheid White, vice president of marketing and business development at Simply Jerk who lives in Howell and is son of owner Newell White and executive chef Eleith White, who live in Millstone.

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5 beautiful churches in your backyard

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/7/17

New Jersey churches may not get the kind of press that churches found in places such as Italy or Spain my receive, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not notable.

New Jersey has tons of beautiful churches, many of them right in our Central Jersey backyards, that are worth a visit for those who can appreciate colorful stained glass windows, historic structures and breathtaking columns.

Religious or not, if you’re an architecture buff, check out these amazing churches that can only be found in the Garden State.

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Roosterspin mixing LPs, Korean cuisine in New Brunswick

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 7/31/17

Most Americans with a picky palette would choose to shy away from traditional Korean fare such as kimchi, made with fermented cabbage; bulgogi, which are marinated slices of beef or pork; or even sushi, which features raw fish.

However, what if that kimchi was mixed with cheese in a french fry dipping sauce? Or if that bulgogi was on a burger with a red onion pickle and jalapeno mayo? Would you try sushi if it was filled with buffalo chicken?

This is the inspiration behind Mihae Cho’s Korean eatery Roosterspin, which opened its second location July 12 at 120 Albany St. in New Brunswick following the success of its Westfield location, which opened in 2014.

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Go back in time in Flemington with walking tour

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 7/25/17

Flemington, a borough which has a historic district that can boast that 60 percent of its buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, is a haven for history buffs.

And now, with the next Flemington Walking Tour set for Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 6:30 p.m., anyone with an interest in learning more about the history of the borough can do so with a $5 suggested donation.

“Flemington is special because of its historic district and on the tour, one can see the changes in styles and building techniques over the span of hundreds of years,” said Patricia Millen, executive director of the Hunterdon County Historical Society, which is hosting the tour.

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How to spend your Lehigh Valley getaway

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 7/18/17

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pennsylvania – With our friends jet setting off to exotic locales, sometimes it can be frustrating to have a lack of funds or time to head out for a well-deserved vacation in the summer.

However, if you’re looking for a weekend — or even just a day — away, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, which is less than two hours from the homes of most Central Jerseyans, makes for a great getaway as its home to picturesque parks, locally sourced dining options, wineries and breweries, as well as many attractions for family fun including the Lehigh Valley Zoo, The Crayola Experience, Sands Bethlehem, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom and more.

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It’s certainly no surprise that the area makes for an ideal getaway — the region receives 10.6 million day-trippers annually.

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Create traditional Japanese pottery at Somerville studio

SOMERVILLE – Raku, a 12th-century pottery-firing technique, may trace its origins to creating the wares for Japanese tea ceremonies, but you certainly don’t need to hop on a plane to try it yourself.

That’s because Country Squire Pottery, at 26 W. High St. in Somerville, can help you create the earthy tones and unique patterns that raku offers, a technique in which fire and smoke are used in an 1,800-degree raku kiln as a ceramic-firing process.

“I like raku because it’s a fast process that has instant gratification — in 30 minutes, you take your pot out of the kiln and you can make different effects with the post-firing production,” said Susan Amann, artist and founder of Country Squire Pottery.

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Red Bank film festival to showcase emerging indie filmmakers

Red Bank, a trendy and upscale hotspot on the Navesink River in Monmouth County, has always been known for its entertainment value. As the home of the Count Basie Theatre and Two River Theater, the borough breathes the arts.

This is also why it has attracted the Indie Street Film Festival, which seeks to discover films and filmmakers who prove story is independent of budget, for the second year in the July 26 to 30 festival.

“There’s a really creative vibe in the town that has been growing,” said Jay Webb, co-founder of Indie Street and festival artistic director. “We try to take the vibe that’s already here and bring it to the forefront of the community to allow people to discuss films and the arts.”

The festival, which will feature more than 60 independently produced narrative, documentary and animated films, will also host panel discussions, Q&A’s with filmmakers and special events — with a true-to-Jersey twist.

The Indie Street Film Festival will be held July 26 to 30 in Red Bank. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Indie Street)

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How to see balloon fest from new lens

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 6/27/17

Most Central Jerseyans who have flocked to the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning have eagerly crowded the fence at sunrise and sunset to watch over 300 balloons ascend over Solberg Airport.

However, not many of them have gotten the chance to see the balloons from the sky or from behind that fence in a behind-the-scenes experience at the festival, which is the largest hot air balloon and music festival in North America being held for the 25th year from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30.

But, for those who are handy with a camera, there is a way for them to get a unique view of the colorful balloon ascension — through Fairfield camera and video superstore Unique Photo’s photography workshop being held on each morning of the festival.

“Anyone can go to the balloon festival and take pictures, but we are looking to give people access to the shots that they normally couldn’t get,” said Scott Farestad, vice president of Unique Photo. “We take photos of the balloons ascending and the pilots blasting this inferno into the balloons which makes for some amazing imagery.”

~Courtesy of Unique Photo

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Foodie’s dream tour coming to Natirar

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 6/20/17

PEAPACK-GLADSTONE – Natirar, a 500-acre property once owned by a former king of Morocco, is a not-so-hidden gem of Somerset County.

The area includes Ninety Acres, an award-winning restaurant, a gala event venue, a farm, a cooking school and lush green space in Peapack-Gladstone, Far Hills and Bedminster.

And now, with the upcoming Epicurean Adventure at Ninety Acres at Natirar, which will feature a tour of the Farm at Natirar, an interactive cooking demo and tasting at the Ninety Acres Cooking School and a specially prepared lunch in the main dining room, visitors can see all that the property has to offer in one visit.

“Anyone who is interested in wellness, nature and sustainability would enjoy this kind of event,” said Michelle Mitterer, director of sales and marketing at Natirar. “We like to connect our visitors with the origin of food and educate them on the process behind the art of cooking.”

The front entrance of Ninety Acres, Natirar’s highly-acclaimed destination restaurant complex. ~ Courtesy of Alicia Savoly

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See Princeton by foot with this new guide

PRINCETON – Most Central Jerseyans who love a scenic day trip have headed to picturesque Princeton, where there are tons of eclectic shops, acclaimed restaurants and historic sites.

However, with the new book “Discovering Princeton: A Photographic Guide with Five Walking Tours,” published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. and written and photographed by Princeton residents Wiebke Martens and Jennifer Jang, those who want to spend some time wandering the cozy municipality can do so with some guidance.

“There are lots of books on Princeton that focus on just the university or architecture or just the natural walks around the town, but none that were walking tour guides,” said Jang. “This is one of Princeton’s greatest assets — people come just to walk the downtown, so we thought ‘Let’s help them.’”

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