The Thanksgiving that almost sucked…but didn’t.

28 Nov

There is always one casualty on Thanksgiving besides the turkey.

I’ve been burning the candle at three ends these past few weeks.  Between working on my own business during the day, I also sandwich in preparing a presentation for a grad certificate course and a second job in the evenings.  Oh wait, and this is all on top of another huge stinking mound of metaphorical personal dog poo that I’ve been wading through for the past couple of months.

So, as you can gather, I’ve been a little stressed.  And I certainly wasn’t overly concerned about Thanksgiving.  Until the day Thanksgiving actually came.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I usually don’t have to do too much for.  I don’t have to cook for a family.  I don’t get excited over the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I cringe at the thought of Black Friday/Small Business Saturday (WHO CAME UP WITH THIS NEW MARKETING PLOY??? DAMN YOU!)/Cyber Monday, and turkey just really isn’t my thing.  The only tradition that I’ve maintained over the  years was wearing a hideous fall-colored striped tunic sweater that is reminiscent of a turkey (I actually thought that sweater was cool when I bought it back in college.)  I mis-placed the sweater though.  And I’m pissed that this year, I broke the 13-year streak.

Mom and Dad are living la vida retired in Florida, and it didn’t make sense for them to come up to NJ since they are coming back to the Garden State in mid-December.  Most of my extended family is scattered across the country.  So this year, Thanksgiving was left to my little brother’s and my devices. And it was almost an epic FAIL.

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This Thanksgiving, pay it forward with a Delicious Orchards pie…or a flock of geese…or a camel.

20 Nov

I’m still in a warm and fuzzy half-life mood since my outing to Ichiban on Wednesday (see my previous post about our amazing pre-Thanksgiving maki miracle).  Simple human kindness can really stem from any number of ways.    This week I’ve been paying a little more attention….holding doors for people…actually remembering to send birthday cards (I’m really terrible at this…and usually realize until it’s way to late to even send a belated birthday card)…surprising a random someone with a coffee treat at Starbucks Coffee during the Starbucks Buy One Get One coffee event (ends tomorrow 11/21).

I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a total holiday epiphany (I won’t be serving Who-Hash to little Cindy Hoo-Hoo in Who-ville while wearing a Santa hat anytime soon…I’ve always been a little “Grinch-y” about the holidays).  But I have remembered that there is kindness in the world, and I’m trying to keep that cycle going a little bit.  And the holiday season seems so apropos for this sentiment.

I am still inspired to “pay it forward”.     If you are inclined to do the same, I have a couple good suggestions.

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This is how we (maki) roll…AKA “It’s a freakin’ miracle on Highway 35” (a pre-holiday story)

17 Nov

Ichiban Sushi Maki Roll

Sorry, readers,  the Delicious Orchards post is going to have to wait till tomorrow.  Tonight, I witnessed such a touching Pay It Forward human moment that preempts an (anticipated) post about apple cider yeast donuts and the East Coast’s most amazing pumpkin pie.   Clap your hands if you believe in fairies, kids.

(LONG POST, BTW)

Every year, my best friend, Heather, celebrates her birthday with her mom, a couple close friends and me.  It’s a tradition that’s over 20 years strong.  The cast of characters changes each year…a crazy grandmother, crazy grandmother’s drunk boyfriend , crazy aunt…you get the idea.   But one thing has always remained constant.  We celebrate at a hibachi restaurant.

Tonight, we celebrated at Ichiban, a sushi/hibachi restaurant that now occupies a former McDonald’s restaurant on Highway 35 South in Oakhurst, NJ.  They kept the Mickey D’s sloped roof, and you can tell that the parking lot was designed for drive-thru runs.   But I have to say, the owners have done a very impressive transformation.  Very chic interior, sexy lighting, great bar…Ichiban strives to serve its patrons a different kind of Happy Meal.  And their Happy Ending usually involves a tempura ice cream sundae.

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We don’t stink as much as you think we do – JerseyDoesntStink.com

15 Nov

The grassroots campaign that is standing up to uphold New Jersey‘s good name – JerseyDoesntStink.com

I have to thank my one of my besties, Maureen, for giving me the inspiration for today’s post. 

She and her awesome hubby, Barry, were driving back towards their home in Brooklyn this past Sunday, after an enjoyable day of suburban shopping in the Garden State.  (Tax-free clothing purchases in NJ, y’all…TAKE THAT, HATERS!)  She noticed JerseyDoesntStink.com billboards dotting the NJ Turnpike somewhere around Newark Airport/Port Elizabeth  (Which really, JerseyDoesntStink.com people, was a sh***y place to put that billboard up.  Actually, it DOES stink there.  Didn’t you know that the city of Elizabeth is affectionately referred to as the “armpit of New Jersey”?)

I decided to check it out.  If a grassroots campaign devoted to praising NJ is taking out billboards on the Turnpike, they must have something to say. Continue reading

A slice of home…Jersey’s Taylor Ham Pork Roll

14 Nov

Pork Roll in a Skillet

Ok…it just didn’t feel kosher for me to write this post on Taylor Ham (pork roll…a beloved New Jersey delicacy) yesterday.

Yes, I am a “Jewbie” (my self-appointed moniker as a recent convert to “The Tribe”), and I have been known to enjoy bacon now and then. (Why is it that bacon makes everything taste better???  Hmm…some habits die hard).

And I think it would have been a major no-no to write a post about a pork product (read: NON KOSHER) on the Jewish Sabbath.

But, I would be remiss and irresponsible blogger if I did not share with you the NJ culinary treasure that is indeed Taylor Ham Pork Roll.

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WTF?!? Angelina Pivarnick from Jersey Shore releases new rap single, “I’m Hot”

13 Nov

Ummm…there are really no words to describe this.   Angelina Pivarnick, the most-hated Snooki-fighting, gold-digging, obnoxious roommate from MTV’s hit show Jersey Shore, has decided to capitalize on her fleeting 15 minutes of fame by releasing this atrocious single…”I’m Hot”.

Disclaimer: Please let me clarify by saying that Angelina is NOT from New Jersey (sorry, Staten Island…you can have her)…and that her otherwise “talents”, do not embody the awesomeness that is the REAL Jersey Shore.   And apparently, even Angelina thinks the song is atrocious, as the New York Daily News indicates.

I’d say for Angelina to stick to her day job…but I’m not really sure what that day job is!

What do you think of Angelina’s new single?

Stuck in the 90’s with you…the Inkwell Coffee House

12 Nov

Inkwell

As a teenager back in the mid-1990’s (remember those days?), my friends and I always went to the Inkwell Coffee House in Long Branch, NJ. 

It was pretty gross…sticky floors, dirty tables, heavy cigarette smoke, and goth-wannabe servers with the appropriate touch of ennui and disdain.  However, the Inkwell was open till 4:00am, made an amazing drink called “Dutch Coffee” (coffee, vanilla, cinnamon and butter…it’s good, you just have to be there), and offered “freshly cut apple slices” as a menu item. 

I can still hear the strains of Nirvana Unplugged, Patty Smyth and the Cure piped in on the jukebox, while my friends and I (attired in berets and decked out in black nail polish) cadged cigarettes from the older patrons (the 18 year olds) and complained about how our parents were soooo out of touch.   It was the official meeting place for white, suburban teens and suburban teen angst.  God, I miss those days.

Driving past the Inkwell last week, I noticed a sign that advertised free Wi-Fi.  I’ve been working on a grad project for the past few weeks, and have been looking for a study place that was not in my house, where I am easily distracted by people, house projects and my Yorkie.  I decided to give the Inkwell another try.

The place has since gotten a new owner, and has had a minor re-do.  Going up the rickety stairs into the “foyer” I was greeted with a large poster of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters from 1990’s classic Pulp Fiction.  “This is promising”, I thought. 

The clientele still has that touch of dirty I remember…mostly kids from nearby Monmouth University these days.  The music is piped in from an alternative XM channel.  Non-smoking restaurant laws have since gone into effect.  The coffee house now serves chai.  I think the board of health actually gives the Inkwell as passing grade now. And the Inkwell now accept credit cards. 

I sort of felt like a fossil…a relic from a storied chapter in the coffee house’s history.  The college kids bitched about class, bitched about their lovers and roommates.  I zoned out and typed until midnight. 

But they still serve Dutch coffee and sliced apples.   And the service still sucks.  And for me, those are reasons that still make me want to go to the Inkwell.

The Inkwell Coffee House is located at 665 Second Ave., Long Branch, NJ 07740. 732-483-0444 http://inkwellcoffee.com/

Nicole Atkins – some of the best music you’ve never heard returns to NJ

11 Nov

Nicole Atkins

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is born and bred here on the Jersey Shore, and will be performing at the South Orange Performing Arts Center this Saturday, November 13.  And, no I’m not talking about Bruce (although I realize he would probably be the first one to come to mind).

I’m referencing Nicole Atkins, born in Neptune City, NJ and currently residing in Asbury Park.    She has a fantastic voice…deep, soulful and a little 1960’s retro.  Critics have dubbed her a singing style a cross between Roy Orbison and Jenny Lewis.

Atkins career gained momentum after Columbia Records scouted one of her many her open mic performances in NYC’s Lower East Side.  In 2006, she assembled a band, Nicole Atkins & The Sea, and released an EP, Bleeding Diamonds.  The following year, an LP, Neptune City was released, as well as a cover LP, “Nicole Atkins Digs Other People’s Songs”.  A new LP, “Mondo Amore” will be released in January 2011.

I’ve seen her twice; once in 2008 at the Algonquin Theater in Manasquan, NJ, and once in 2009 at Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony.  Both times, Nicole gave performances that were simultaneously electric, lively and grounded.

This weekend, she’ll be supporting Aimee Mann (another songwriter who I love) at the South Orange Performing Arts Center in South Orange, NJ.    I won’t be able to attend this time, but if you’re looking to hear some new talent, be sure to check it out!


 

Jersey Shore Restaurant Week Kick-off – Asbury Park Trolley Tour

3 Nov

Greetings From Asbury Park postcard

One of the Jersey Shore’s most famous towns gets to kick-off this year’s Jersey Shore Restaurant Week roster of events with a culinary trolley tour.

Sponsored by Don Q Rum, 901 Tequila and Tito’s Handmade Vodka

When: Thursday, November 4th.

Location: Starts at Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park Time: 6pm Cost: $75 drinks, dinner and trolley (tax and gratuity extra on dinner).

Details: Hop a trolley at The Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park and enjoy cocktails, hors d’ouevres and live music at Langosta Lounge and Trinity and The Pope before returning to the Dauphin Grill @ The Berkeley for a delicious 3 course dinner and more cocktails.

Music Lineup :

Langosta Lounge– Sonni Shine and the Underwater Sounds

Trinity & Pope– The Wandering Bards,

Dauphin at the Berkeley – Nuvo Jazz Quartet.

P.S. There is still time to purchase tickets!

awwww yeah…it’s Jersey Shore Restaurant Week Nov. 4-14!

2 Nov

Jersey Shore Restaurant Logo

One of my favorite events on the Jersey Shore is Jersey Shore Restaurant Week (*), which is taking place this year from November 4-14.

As a Jersey Shore “Local” (year-round resident), I love the quiet months of October thru May, when summer tourists, summer residents and the “Bennies” pack up and leave.  Not that I don’t appreciate how they stimulate a mostly tourist-based economy, but I appreciate the silence, the shorter lines and the lack of New York license plates.

Jersey Shore Restaurant Week is like a “thank you” to the Locals and me.  In exchange for putting up with all the summer craziness, I get one week of access to over 65 amazing restaurants (that actually serve great food) at cheap prix-fixe pricing.

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