Roses, romantic meals and heartfelt gifts are nice, but everyone — whether single or married to the love of their life — knows that the best part of Valentine’s Day is the amazing chocolates that we finally have an excuse to indulge in.
No matter if you plan on enjoying some truffles on your living room couch on Feb. 14 or if you’re giving them to your sweetheart, finding amazing, quality chocolates is a must on Valentine’s Day.
To find out where you should pick up a box, check out the chocolate shops located throughout Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties.
Tons of restaurants are launching small plate menus where diners either on-the-go or looking for a little sampling can try everything that an eatery has to offer.
Now that AJA Asian Cuisine and Lounge is open in Montgomery and New Brunswick, Asian eats have gone shareable, too, with dishes that fuse Asian flavors and those from other cultures such as berries duck breast draped over Asian pears and mixed with blueberry and cherry sauce ($15) and yuzu sake with sliced pepper salmon layered with mango, pine nut and coconut yuzu sauce ($15).
“If you focus on just one type of food, everyone will get tired of it,” said Edison resident Cindy Lim, manager of the Montgomery location since day one. “But here, we think that everyone should have the chance to try something new.”
Many of us hunkering down on our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier have been left staring at our plates with dread, unimpressed by yet another salad.
However, the Clinton-based Clean Plate Kitchen, which serves fare that is organic and sourced sustainably and locally whenever possible, is showing its customers that eating clean doesn’t have to mean eating boring.
“We are doing our small part to provide a choice for people to make healthy decisions and feel good about eating food that makes themfeel good,” said Nicole Piazza, who co-owns the Clean Plate Kitchen with her husband, Anthony. “It’s a real treat for us when people come in here and we are able to change their opinions about healthy eating. It’s not just sticks and twigs.”
Working for a car insurance company in 1989, David Martone, now the owner of Classic Thyme Cooking School in Westfield, used to dream about what he would do when he “grew up.”
At 31, the newly married new homeowner dreamed of following his culinary dreams but saw no way to do it with a wife and mortgage — until he fatefully met a pharmacist-turned-attorney.
“I was out to dinner with my friend, Rick DiDonato, and George Jurecky, an attorney we worked with at The Archers Ristorante, a very nice restaurant in Jersey City at the time,” he said. “I told them that I loved to cook and wished I had gone to culinary school, but how could I now that I was newly married and just bought a house?”
Jurecky laughed. He said that he had come to the United States from the Czech Republic as a pharmacist, and he finally decided to act on passion for law and go back to law school. Martone felt so inspired that within two weeks, he was registered at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we’ve all got chocolate on the brain.
However, Jean-Paul Hepp, founder and co-owner of Chocodiem, and Katherine MacDonnell, creative director of the Belgium artisan chocolate local chain, are thinking fine chocolates every day of the year.
The company’s high-end “Old World” Belgian chocolates are hand-made from locally sourced, fresh ingredients from farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey when possible.
With items such as red wine truffles using Tolino Vineyards cabernet sauvignon ($42 for 12), craft beer truffles infused with cacao porter from Shawnee Brewery ($2.40 per piece) and espresso truffles made with Fieldstone’s Kickin Goat espresso ($2.20 per piece), it’s impossible not to taste the difference.
As the home of the Union County Performing Arts Center, art galleries, dance studios and cultural programs, Rahway has become known as the Central Jersey hub of the arts, bringing in those with a creative spirit from all over the state.
However, no show is complete without a top-notch meal, and with Rahway Restaurant Week coming for the third year Monday, Jan. 22, to Friday, Jan. 26, when about 20 restaurants will offer a prix fixe menu of $40 or less, visitors will be able to sample meals at a bargain price.
“Not only do we have a thriving arts district, we also have amazing restaurants with great walkability from one another,” said Ann Marie Williams, managing director of the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership and Rahway resident for about 13 years. “People come for the destination and the restaurants have been a huge part of that. They want dinner and a show.”
The holidays may be over, but the spirit of giving and sharing is alive and well in Princeton with the addition of Two Sevens, a lively Latin eatery with a focus on sharing plates in an unpretentious and playful atmosphere, at 277 Witherspoon St.
The Fenwick Hospitality Group restaurant, which also operates Agricola, Cargot Brasserie and Dinky Bar, opened its doors Dec. 20 with a menu of dishes such as octopus tostada ($10), short ribs with fresh tortillas, rice and beans ($25), arepas with braised chicken, black beans and queso fresco ($9) and housemade tacos with meats such as marinated pork shoulder, fried oyster mushrooms and crispy white fish ($4 to $4.50).
There’s a good chance that Catherine Lombardi, an upscale restaurant staple of New Brunswick nestled next to Stage Left, brings back some homey and tasty memories for Italian-American New Jerseyans.
Outfitted with warm red walls, cozy fireplaces, real family photos, couch seating and even a gaudy lamp in an intimate space, the 11-year-old restaurant — which can seat 100 people can serves about 650 people a week — may look a lot like your grandmother’s living room.
That’s because the eatery, which boasts comfort dishes such as veal parmigiana, wild boar and ricotta ravioli and long fusilli with walnut basil pesto cream, is channeled straight from the Brooklyn home of co-owner Mark Pascal’s grandmother, Catherine Lombardi. The family matriarch was known for her Neapolitan-style home cooking and coveted Sunday dinners.