Rare wines from around the world offered at Bernards Inn tasting

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 9/18/17

The Bernards Inn, a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant, is known for its extensive wine collection — with more than 1,500 varieties in its cellar, the ever-changing wine list is a must-see for any Central Jersey wine lover.

Now, once again, the semiannual Around the World Tasting will allow these wine lovers to try more than 100 wines from some of the most celebrated wine regions in the world encompassed on the award-winning wine list, which has brought home wine awards year after year.

Courtesy of Bernards Inn

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Where to go apple picking in Central Jersey

Now that autumn is nearly here, it’s time to head to Central Jersey farms to pick just the right Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or McIntosh apples right from the orchard.

Throughout Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Morris and Mercer counties, there are a multitude of farms that offer apple picking through the season, accompanied by fresh apple cider, wagon rides, petting zoos, fall décor shopping and more.

Here are five destinations that offer everything you need to make your own apple pie or apple crisp, or just pick up some apples to snack on.

The family-run Melick’s Town Farm has 25,000 apple trees and 120 orchards spread over 650 acres. The farm, which has two locations that offer apple picking, is the largest apple grower in the state. (Courtesy of Melick’s Town Farm)

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NJ’s culinary stars unite to benefit autistic adults

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 7/7/17

It’s no secret that New Jersey’s farms are some of the best — as every resident (and foodie) knows, we can get some truly mouthwatering produce, meat, milk, cheese, eggs, bread and more right here in the Garden State from farmers we know by first name.

Oasis Farms, operated by Oasis Therapeutic Life Centers, a public charity founded in 2007, is one of those such farms — with locations in Middletown, the properties are full of goats grazing, fields flush with vegetables and fruits, hens roaming, a wood-burning oven where pizzas and breads are baked and artwork and fine crafts on display.

The one difference between Oasis Farms and other Garden State farms is that throughout the spaces, visitors will notice students everywhere, tending to farm chores and practicing the life arts, since Oasis Farms houses 22 autistic adults who live and work on the 21 acres, as well as on an additional leased 20 acres, to help them excel at meaningful work and community interaction.

Oasis Farms is a working farm for autistic adults to live and work at. (Photo courtesy of Oasis Farms)

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Tea rooms offer trip back to Victorian era

These days, many of us are used to enjoying our tea after rushing out the door with it in the morning and then sipping on it as we sit in typical bumper-to-bumper New Jersey traffic.

However, thanks to local tea rooms, some tea drinkers are now taking their tea to Victorian digs where they can sample homemade teas in an elegant, refined environment.

“Visiting a tea room is an experience,” said Kathleen Hippeli, owner of One Steep at a Thyme, an intimate Jamesburg tea shop that offers a two-hour tea service by reservation only four days a week at two seatings per day. “You come in and enjoy the ambiance of a Victorian home, have a seven-course tea service over two hours and enjoy a simpler way of being social.”

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Work in tourism? Meet other pros with Skal group

In a working world filled with people employed in industries such as finance, medicine and more, sometimes those working in hospitality and travel can be left feeling a bit on the outskirts.

However, if you become a member of Skal International, the largest professional travel and tourism organization in the world with approximately 450 clubs in 85 countries, you certainly won’t feel that way for long.

That’s because the Northern New Jersey chapter of Skal International (NNJSI), which has monthly meetings usually on the second Tuesday of the month at centrally located venues (such as at the Spanish Tavern in Mountainside, the location of its Sept. 12 meeting), costs about $45 a person from 7 to 9 p.m. and is filled with about 50 local leaders in the tourism world looking to promote goodwill and friendship among those in the travel industry.

~Courtesy of Skal International

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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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New Fanwood Grille revives the retro luncheonette

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/16/17

FANWOOD – John Mooney, a 20-year Fanwood resident, recently stumbled upon a 1979 article where the Courier News declared the Fanwood Corner Store as the heartbeat of the community.

He believes it — as a kid, he always appreciated a spin on a retro luncheonette counter seats.

“I always thought it was a shame that the Fanwood Corner Store had this lunch counter but it was never in operation,” said the restaurant public relations consultant, who also owns TapInto.com Scotch Plains-Fanwood. “When the Corner Store went out of business, I said to Paul Watterson, who owns Nick’s Pizza in Fanwood, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if someone opened a grill here?’ And he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

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Hometown favorite Lory’s Lakeside gets a face lift

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 8/9/17

Visitors to Lory’s Lakeside, a warm, family-friendly restaurant featuring an “anytime menu” of American favorites, may relish in its lakefront charm – but will also be surprised to know the restaurant that once stood in its place offered zero lakefront views.

“I was looking for a restaurant to buy and I found this unbelievable property – an acre and a half on a lake that had been an eatery for 50 years,” said Todd Lory, owner and chef at Lory’s Lakeside, who also resides on the property. “When I walked into the restaurant formerly called Whalebones, though, I realized they were doing everything wrong – you couldn’t even see the lake.”

Lory scooped up the property 22 years ago and immediately changed and added items to the menu, renovated the interior, revamped the exterior, accentuated the lakefront views and also added bar-friendly elements such as a pool table.

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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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