Passion and tradition reign at this hidden Italian eatery

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 6/28/17

If you sample the traditional Neapolitan-style Italian fare prepared by Joseph Gramaglia, head chef of Saly G’s Restaurant and Tavern, you’re bound to guess he has spent years in a culinary institute, training with top chefs and mentors.

And you wouldn’t be 100 percent wrong. Gramaglia, who is also the owner of the elegant Italian eatery at 169 Washington Valley Road in Warren tucked behind a strip mall, has been studying for years — alongside his mother and grandmother as he pored over cookbooks and cooking television.

“I read cookbooks seven days a week. I watch cooking shows every day of the week,” Gramaglia said. “I taught myself how to do this. I didn’t go to school for this — it’s straight passion.”

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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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6 sizzling steak restaurants to take dad this Father’s Day

On summer evenings, we can usually count on seeing a devoted dad or two slaving away at the grill, meticulously cooking up some steaks, ribs, chicken or just some burgers and hot dogs.

With Father’s Day right around the corner on June 18, it’s time to bring dad indoors and let someone else do the grilling for him — by taking him to one of the many steakhouses in Central Jersey.

Throughout the region, there are tons of eateries specializing in juicy steak, with every cut from tenderloin to a T-bone. Read on to find out where you can take your dear dad out for his special day this weekend.

The wasabi-crusted filet mignon from Arirang. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Arirang)

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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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No need for Napa — check out these 5 local wineries

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 6/6/17

Those not from the Garden State may think that our nickname couldn’t be further from the truth, but New Jersey residents are well aware — our state is full of rolling hills, picturesque landscapes and beautiful greenery.

New Jersey has also quickly become known among locals for its popular wineries situated on this scenery, with wineries spanning from Sussex to Cape May counties. This is especially true for Central Jersey, where the backdrops of our counties make for a Napa-esque locale for wineries.

To find out what wineries you can head this weekend for a local wine with a stunning view, read on.

Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes is nestled in the rolling hills of southwestern Hunterdon County. (Photo: ~File)

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New N. Plainfield sports bar features fresh, quality fare

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 5/27/17

With a reputation for unhealthy, processed foods and dingy surroundings, families and couples tend to steer clear of sports bars.

However, Arooga’s Grille House and Sports Bar, which will hold its grand opening at 1250 Route 22 East in North Plainfield on Sunday at 11 a.m., is paving the way to show that sports bars don’t need to sacrifice their food quality to make way for those looking for a cold beer.

Arooga’s conscientious food options make it so that the bar and grill isn’t just for those looking to watch the game — it’s for everyone, including families looking to bring the kids or couples out for date night.

That’s because visitors to Arooga’s can eat assured that their meal isn’t prepared by factory workers. All of their menu items are house-made and feature antibiotic-free and cage-free chicken and eggs paired with five award-winning sauces as well as 75 gluten-free items — with price tags ranging from $8.99 to $17.99.

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5 free activities in Central Jersey

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 5/30/17

With warm and sunny weather finally here, many of our friends, co-workers and neighbors are busy planning far-off getaways to beach destinations, summer homes and exotic locales.

However, here in bustling Central Jersey, you don’t need to go far to have a good time — and you also don’t need to open your wallet.

If you’re trying to put some cash away and you don’t have the funds to venture far, there are tons of free activities throughout Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon and Union counties that make for a great way to spend a day with friends or family.

Read on to discover how you can have fun — but still save — this season.

Duke Farms has acres of land for visitors to explore. (Photo: ~File photo)

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Foodies dine countywide at Taste of Somerset

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 5/23/17

Somerset County certainly has its fair share of foodies – and they came out in flocks to check out all that the local culinary world has to offer at the 25th annual Taste of Somerset.

Held at the Palace at Somerset Park in the Somerset section of Franklin on Monday, May 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the event benefited benefits the PeopleCare Center, a 33-year-old Bridgewater-based non-profit organization which provides a physical plant to house non-profit agencies and organizations at below-market cost.

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Jet-setting soon? Use these stylist’s packing tips

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 5/23/17

Summer is almost here, which means the much-coveted time for beach getaways, family vacations and exotic retreats has arrived. However, before you hop on that plane, you need to fly over one final roadblock — packing.

For those of us with a penchant for overpacking, overplanning and overshopping, packing can be a real pain — especially with airline luggage fees continuing to skyrocket. Nevertheless, with some thoughtful preparation, you can open your suitcase upon arrival and actually be happy with what you’ve packed.

Tiffany Pinero, fashion and brand stylist based in Scotch Plains, is known throughout the tristate area for her personal wardrobe styling, personal shopping and ability to help those getting ready to embark on a trip pack their bags with her Pack Light Pack Right service, which stemmed from her own experience as an overpacker.

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