Category Archives: Westfield NJ Community Information

Comedy For A Cause Hosted by the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield 3/24/17

Comedy For A CauseWant to eat, drink, and laugh until your sides hurt . . . all while supporting a great cause? Then get your ticket to the COMEDY FOR A CAUSE benefit hosted by the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield on Friday, March 24 from 7-11pm at the Scotch Plains Italian American Club.

This “Funnyraiser,” as it’s affectionately come to be known, will include stand-up comedy, live music, a full buffet (provided by everyone’s favorite Five-Star Catering), unlimited wine/beer/soda, tricky tray, auction, raffle, and more! Proceeds from the Funnyraiser will benefit High Expectations Inc., a NJ-based nonprofit that provides recreational sports programs for the special needs community.

Event Co-Chair Mary-Eileen Fay explained how High Expectations was chosen as the beneficiary of the Funnyrasier: “Every year the club invites a few nonprofit organizations to our May meeting and we vote on which charity we will support through our major fundraiser. This is always a difficult decision because we wish we could say yes to all of them. We all were so moved by High Expectations, which is dedicated to the enrichment of the ‘whole person’ by providing developmentally disabled individuals and their families with access to athletic, recreational and social activities to supplement their educational and vocational training.”

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Mary-Eileen went on to say, “Both my twin nephews are affected by autism, and if it were not for High Expectations, my nephews would not have played sports. They look forward to practices and games where they could be themselves and never feel judged. It has provided life-long friends for them and their parents. My nephews also love to perform and tell jokes, and that’s how I was inspired to incorporate comedy into the fundraiser.”

After catching one of his hilarious stand-up shows, Mary-Eileen selected renowed comic Rich Vos as the headlining entertainment for the Funnyraiser. Rich has been featured on HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, and countless other media outlets. He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, so it’s great to have a comic who truly understands his audience.

Live music at the event will be played by the local KGB Band. Comprised of former high school friends, the KGB Band has become widely known as a top cover band in the Cranford-Westfield Area. And in case you were wondering, KGB stands for Kevin’s Garage Band! Kevin is also the director of Westfield’s Washington School Show band. 

Tickets to the Funnyraiser cost $75 per person. You can purchase your tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2770089. If you have any questions or would like to become an event sponsor or donate a tricky tray prize, email [email protected]

For more information about High Expectations, visit their team website: http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=highexpectations.

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What Are “Ono Bowls”? They Are DELICIOUS!! And They Are In Westfield!

I don’t know about you, but I’m LOVING all the healthy choices you can find in Cranford and Westfield eateries nowadays. With my busy work schedule, I often grab meals on the run, and it’s a bonus if I can eat healthfully while still enjoying the convenience of quick meals. Ono Bowls recently opened in Downtown Westfield, and it has become a favorite spot for a fast but healthy and yummy meal! 

Tricia Caminos launched Ono Bowls this past November, but she’d been enjoying smoothie bowls for many years beforehand! A Cranford resident who’s been juicing since she was 19, Tricia is married to a native Hawaiian, who introduced her to the juicing trends of Hawaii. Tricia said, “I was eating smoothie bowls for 10 years. They became popular in Hawaii and California, and are only just becoming a thing on the East Coast. ‘Ono’ means ‘delicious’ in Hawaiian!” 

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Ono Bowls is located at 107 Quimby Street, next to the forthcoming Salad House. The menu has raw juices and smoothies typical of a juice bar, but the ono bowls are truly what set it apart. Each ono bowl consists of a thick smoothie base (often made with acai or pitaya for added heath benefits), topped with granola, fresh fruit, honey, and other delightful toppings. I sampled the PB&J ono bowl while I was there, and it was super tasty and filling. Tricia uses organic and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.

Something I loved about Ono Bowls besides the great menu is the atmosphere! There’s a large room in the back with plenty of comfy seats for lounging, a table where you can enjoy your ono bowl while getting some work done, and even cute coloring books and such strewn about for kids (and kids-at-heart)! It has a definite “chill” California vibe that is such a welcome addition to Westfield. 

I was thrilled to hear that Ono Bowls has been super busy since day one of opening! Tricia said, “All the kids come in after school throughout the week. We’ve even hosted parties here for Girl Scouts and other groups. We’re looking into offering catering services in the future.” 

You might spot some of Tricia’s family members working in Ono Bowls–two of her three kids work there part time! I love supporting local businesses that are a family affair. 

Ono Bowls is open Monday through Saturday from 9-6, Sunday from 10-5. Look for expanded hours in the spring. You can follow Ono Bowls on Instagram @ono_bowls and visit their website http://www.onobowls.net/index.html to view their full menu.  

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Westfield Resident Pens a Page-Turner

Few things bring me as much pleasure as a GOOD BOOK, and when I enjoy one, I like to spread the word about it. You might have heard of the bestselling novel “The Memory Box,” but did you know it was written by a Westfield resident? I caught up with the author to get the scoop on how her riveting debut novel came to be!

Eva Lesko Natiello Eva Lesko Natiello has lived in Westfield for the past 15 years with her husband and two teenage children, and only started writing creatively 12 years ago. Eva said, “I actually never planned on writing a book, but one day I read in the ‘New York Times’ an article about people Googling themselves. This was back when people just started Googling themselves. The article told the story of a teenager who Googled himself and discovered he was on a missing persons list. He didn’t know that he was kidnapped when he was two years old, until he Googled himself. When I read that article I thought it would be a great idea for a psychological thriller. ‘The Memory Box’ is about a NJ suburban mom who Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn’t remember.” If that isn’t a great premise for a suspenseful novel, I don’t know what is!

Eva revealed that living in Westfield greatly influenced “The Memory Box.” She said, “‘The Memory Box’ is a fictionalized version of Westfield, which I called Farhaven. The opening scene at the schoolyard was inspired by the grounds of Franklin School. Some streets in the book were unintentionally named after streets in Westfield. When I was in the throes of creative inspiration and the writing was coming fast, I would use street names from town just as place holders for when I’d have time to really think about names. I never wanted to interrupt writing flow with naming, but in the end I never went back to change them. People think that some of the characters are based on locals, and they will stop me in the grocery store or at a party to tell me their theory of who the characters are based on. That’s always funny for me. None of the characters in the book are based on real people. But they are definitely relatable.”

Admit it: if you haven’t already read the book, you want to now!

The Memory BoxI enjoy interviewing creative people, because I get a sneak peek into the inner workings of their minds, almost like a magician revealing the secrets behind his tricks. Eva described a little of her writing process to me: “My current routine is to write 1500 words a day, and I usually write first thing in the morning and I will typically stop by noon. After noon, I work on the business side of being an indie author: marketing, public relations, distribution, etc. I also blog, so that needs to be fit in somewhere. I do have loose outlines for the novel in progress. It keeps my first draft organized and on target, but honestly, once the writing flows it can take me in directions I’d never planned. So it’s important for me not to stay too committed to the outlines. The characters always have their own ideas!”

If you’re an aspiring writer, you’re sure to be motivated by the story of how “The Memory Box” came to be published, because it did NOT happen overnight. Eva recounted, “When I finally finished writing and editing ‘The Memory Box,’ I queried literary agents in hopes of getting representation. Unfortunately, after about three years of writing to agents, I was rejected 81 times and could not find one to work with. This was a tough time for me because I thought if I couldn’t get an agent, the book would never be published. So I put it away for over a year and worked on other projects. Then one day a book called ‘Gone Girl’ was published, and after reading that book and seeing its success, I realized ‘The Memory Box,’ which is in the same genre, had a potential audience out there. That’s when I decided to self-publish. It took a long time to learn about self-publishing and cover designing, and copyediting, and distribution, marketing etc. It finally was published in June 2014 and is available worldwide. I have also started to sell the foreign rights to the book, which is very exciting. And last spring, the audio book rights were sold at auction. You can imagine how happy I am that I didn’t leave it in a desk draw to collect dust!”

“The Memory Box” went on to become a New York Times bestseller and even reached #1 on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com,  and it’s been one of the top ten bestselling books at The Town Book Store in Westfield for three years running. Eva had this to say about the wild success of her novel: “Honestly, it has surpassed my wildest dreams. And I’m additionally proud of its success because it’s self-published. It’s very difficult to author a book and then do all of the business behind it as well. Indie authors, these days, are called authorpreneurs. It’s the perfect name for what we do.”

So many of us are members of book clubs (which is where I first learned about ‘The Memory Box’), and Eva is no stranger to them and has visited with dozens of book clubs to discuss her book. She makes sure to acknowledge those that have contributed to the success of ‘The Memory Box.’ “I am very grateful to the community for all of their support. I am sure that ‘The Memory Box’ would not have been as successful without the enthusiasm of the community, book clubs, and readers who have been so excited to spread the word. Thank you, readers!”

You can follow Eva and read her blog on her website: https://evanatiello.com. If you’re a fan of ‘The Memory Box,” please comment! 

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“Wood”n’t You Love A Handcrafted Gift?

One of my favorite words is HANDMADE. I admit I’m quick to fall in love with pretty much anything that’s been made by hand with tender loving care. I’m not crafty in the slightest, and maybe that’s why I’m all the more impressed by the talented local artisans we have in our midst, like Stephanie Mattielli of Westfield, whose woodworking business is taking off. 

westfield woodworkingStephanie’s business–eponymously named Stephanie Mattielli Woodworking–officially launched this past October, but her experience with woodworking goes way back. Stephanie said, “My dad taught me how to use tools at a young age, so I’ve always had an appreciation for building and tinkering in the workshop. My family actually built my parents’ house, and it took us five years. We worked on the weekends and after school. It took us six months alone to clear the land of the trees. My dad would cut the trees down, then into fifteen-inch sections, which would then be split into firewood. So part of my chores growing up would be to split and stack wood. I also worked with my dad in the summers in his business as his ‘apprentice’ working on everything from decks to roofing. I think because of this I’ve always enjoyed just putting on a tool belt and going to work.”

I have so much respect for anyone who works with their hands. And to be a woman excelling in a formerly male-dominated field like this . . . well, that just knocks my socks off! 

Using her woodworking expertise, Stephanie creates a variety of rustic-chic pieces that compliment any decor, including wooden slab trays, hostess trays, platforms, chargers, coasters, and stump tables. “My hairpin tables seem to be a fan favorite,” she said. 

All of the wood used in Stephanie’s pieces comes from her parents’ land in South Jersey; most of the wood is oak, but some pieces are made with cedar or birch. Stephanie cuts all the wood in her father’s workshop, but then she adds the finishing touches in her Westfield home. I was curious to know what tools she uses to create these beautiful works of art. “We use just about everything depending on the piece; chainsaw, planer, table saw, band saw, router, drill press, different sanders, etc. I probably spend the most time sanding as it feels like it’s a job never quite done.”

Wood is a material that will never go out of style, and if you browse Pinterest, Houzz, or design magazines, you’ll see just how popular natural wood furniture and accents are right now in the world of interior design. Stephanie said, “I love the joy in natural wood, which is everything from the grain to knots to organic cracks, and my work shows that. With my stump and hairpin tables, no two pieces are alike as they come from different parts of the tree so they can’t be recreated.” Stephanie’s pieces are unique conversation-starters, but they are also practical, and that combination makes them such wonderful additions to any home. 

You can shop the Stephanie Mattielli Woodworking collection on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StephanieMattielli. Follow her on Facebook @stephaniemattielliwoodworking for updates on new products that might be coming down the pike, such as cutting boards and coffee tables. If you have something in mind that you don’t see on her Etsy site, contact Stephanie, because she gladly takes on custom orders! 

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Open House 8/28 1-4pm 5 Bedroom Westfield Colonial!

646 Fourth Ave Westfield

646 Fourth Ave Westfield

OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY 8/28 1-4PM

This beautiful 5-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath classic Westfield colonial (646 Fourth Ave) has all the charm and character of an older home combined with stylish updates and spacious additions for today’s buyer. The recently painted exterior oozes curb appeal, while a rocking-chair front porch welcomes you home. Inside you’ll find exquisite woodwork, from the gorgeous chestnut columns to the timeless hardwood floors with inlays. A large living room opens into the dining room with exposed beams. The bright kitchen has been updated with butcher block countertops and stainless steel appliances. Just off the kitchen is a cozy breakfast nook that opens onto a welcoming deck. The first floor continues with a fabulous expansion that includes a powder room, an expansive master suite (currently being used as family room) with gas fireplace and cedar-lined closet, and a gorgeous en suite full bathroom. This could easily become an in-law suite.
Four more bedrooms and a full bath are located on the second floor, and the huge walk-up attic offers limitless possibilities for expansion. The living space continues on the lower level with a massive recreation room featuring hardwood floors and high ceilings, which opens onto the picture-perfect patio and fully fenced yard with lush, level lawn. A generous mud room and an oversized unfinished storage and laundry area complete the lower level.

With its convenient location close to NYC transportation, downtown, and schools, this home has everything you’re looking for and is priced to sell at $609,000.

 

See the MLS information below:

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 3331369 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

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INDIGO ART STUDIO IS ONE OF THE HOTTEST PARTY PLACES IN OUR AREA!

I’ve been asked this question by several friends and blog readers: Where are the BEST PLACES TO HOST A PARTY in the Cranford-Westfield Area? Well, there are quite a few, and I’m happy to report that there’s a beautiful new spot in Westfield where kids’ and adult events alike are becoming the talk of the town! It’s called Indigo Art Studio, and I know you will love it.

IndigoLocated on the second floor of the stunning Arcanum Hall building on the corner of East Broad and Elm Street, Indigo is family-owned and operated by siblings Sam Korkmaz and Bee McGee. According to Sam, “Our family has been living in Westfield for 18 years. We also own Roman Boutique and Roma Tailor in the same building. We love Westfield and it was the perfect location for us to open Indigo.”

Naturally I was curious about the name of the business–Indigo. Sam said, “The name Indigo was inspired from a restaurant and lounge in Hawaii. The place was whimsical, magical, and we felt the euphoria as soon as my sister and I walked in. Our studio space is so eclectic and beautiful that the name Indigo was the perfect choice.”

Sam went on to talk about the treasured past of Arcanum Hall. “Our building is a historical building. It was built in 1893 and has so much history. President Teddy Roosevelt gave his Whistle Stop speech on the third floor balcony in 1912. We had to share the history and this beauty with the community. And Indigo has the most enchanting view of downtown Westfield. Its whimsical and exquisite decor coupled with its history and the view make Indigo one of the most unique locations for special events.”

So what types of parties are being hosted at Indigo? Sam said, “We wanted to create a concept where EVERY age can enjoy. We decorated the place and made it very whimsical and different. We now host kids’ theme art birthday parties, sweet sixteens, bridal showers, corporate events, fundraisers, cocktail parties, and any special events. We’ve hosted pop-up art classes for kids and adults. We also rent out space to art vendors, cake decorators, and anyone who wants to showcase their talents and events. Our motto is, we don’t simply host events, we create amazing memories.”

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As you can see from the photos, Indigo has already hosted a bevy of beautiful parties and events. Sam told me that the most rewarding one so far was a fundraiser for the Lederman Strong foundation. “We helped a family in need and had a swabbing station for bone marrow donors. It was wonderful to see our community coming together for a great cause.”

Make sure you follow Indigo on Facebook (@indigoartstudiowestfield) and Instagram (@indigowestfield) to find out about upcoming events. To learn more about booking an event at Indigo, call (908) 917-9867. 

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The Cranford-Westfield Area Makes the Perfect Family Staycation!

 

If you didn’t get to travel anywhere for a vacation this summer, or if you already went somewhere but still have vacation days to take this month, why not enjoy a CHEAP and SUPER FUN STAYCATION before school starts up again? The Cranford-Westfield Area has so many great options for family fun (much of it FREE) … you truly don’t have to go far to have an amazing summer with your family!

Here is a list of just some of the fantastic outings you can take without even leaving Union County. If you know of other interesting places or events nearby, feel free to comment and share!

CARNIVALS & FESTIVALS

It ain’t summer without zeppoles, am I right?? Check out these festivals in our area.

Cranford Street Fair & Craft Show

August 21st, 11am – 5pm

Downtown Cranford

Over 200 food and craft vendors, plus kids’ attractions.

Kenilworth Fire Department Carnival 

August 15th-20th 

St. Theresa’s School

540 Washington Ave., Kenilworth

Hours: 

Old-fashioned fun including rides, food vendors, games, beer garden, money wheel, and pay-one-price wristband nights Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday!

https://m.facebook.com/KenilworthFireRescue/

St. Bartholomew Italian Festival 

2032 Westfield Ave., Scotch Plains

September 2nd-5th

Hours:

This beloved annual festival features exceptional live music nightly, games, Italian food, raffles, and more!

http://www.sbuitalianfestival.com/#2778

Cranford Canoe Club

 A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:


A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:CRANFORD CANOE CLUB

250 Springfield Ave., Cranford

Hours: 

Not just canoes but also kayaks are available for rent at the Canoe Club. Paddle your way through a scenic and very calm stretch of the Rahway River, and you’ll be reminded of why Cranford was once called “The Venice of New Jersey.” Life jackets are included with your rentals. The snack bar serves some seriously yummy ice cream and snacks as well. This should be on everyone’s summer bucket list!

http://www.cranfordcanoeclub.com/

 

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

ECHO LAKE PARK

Enter from Sprinfield Ave. in Westfield or Mountain Ave near Route 22 in Mountainside

You can spend a whole day at this gorgeous park by bringing fishing rods (the pond is well-stocked), renting paddle boats (only $10 for an hour!), visiting the shady playground, and enjoying a picnic (they have BBQ grills available, plus a full snack bar at the boathouse). And if you have a four-legged friend, bring Fido along to the great dog park at Echo Lake! 

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

LIBERTY HALL MUSEUM

1003 Morris Ave., Union

Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am to 4pm; closed Sundays 

This is such a fantastic option for a rainy or too-hot day! Liberty Hall is very kid-friendly and always has exhibits that appeal to the younger set. Check out the TOYS THROUGH TIME exhibit, where kids can actually play with toys from decades past! Plus there are frequent family-friendly events going on at the museum grounds. Call the museum to reserve a tour. Admission is $12 per adult, $8 per child age 3-17, FREE for children under 3. Call 908-527-0400.

http://kean.edu/libertyhall

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

OUTDOOR MOVIES

There’s just something about watching a flick under the stars! Some of these movie showings will feature food trucks and even free popcorn!

FanwoodTuesday August 16th, 8:30pm at LaGrande Park, showing “The Good Dinosaur.”

Scotch Plains: Fridays August 19th (“Up”) and 26th (“Zootopia”) at dusk on the Village Green.

SummitMonday August 22nd at dusk, 356 Broad Street, showing “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

OUTDOOR MUSIC

I’m continually blown away by the talent of local musicians. BYO lawn chairs and blankets and listen to great music!

Clark: Summer Arts Festival, featuring yoga and live bands at Oak Ridge Park, Wednesdays August 17th and 24th, 6:30 pm. Rain cancels.

Rahway: Summer Concert series, Thursdays August 18th and 25th, 7:30 pm in front of Union County Performing Arts Center. Beer garden on site! If raining, concert is moved inside to the main stage.

Westfield: Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival, Tuesday nights through August 30th, 7 pm. Rain cancels.

REEVES-REED ARBORETUM

165 Hobart Ave., Summit

Hours: open from dawn till dusk 7 days a week

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

This is a hidden gem of Union County–13+ acres of lush gardens and woods, perfect for leisurely hikes and bird-watching. Once inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, the arboretum is now listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Join a FREE TOUR of the grounds on Saturdays at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm from now until October. Kids will enjoy the DISCOVERY SATURDAYS on August 20thand 27th in the Stackhouse Education Center: drop in anytime from 9 am to 1 pmfor stories, games, crafts, and a mini exploration! Discovery Saturday events are free for members, $5 per non member child; children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Here are THREE different spraygrounds to choose from in our area, and all of them are FREE to visit. Heck, you could probably visit all three in a day! Generally, the sprayers turn on when temps reach 82 degrees.

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Ponderosa Park

Cooper Road, Scotch Plains

Huge spray area and sprawling playground structures for all ages, restrooms, shaded picnic benches, and bike path. The ice-cream truck visits almost daily. Note: there is no shade in the playground area so bring hats and ample sunscreen and beware of hot playground equipment! Water shoes might be a good idea for the kids.

Snyder Ave Park

240 Snyder Ave., Berkeley Heights

Adorable fenced-in spray area adjacent to a cute playground, plus restrooms. Note: there is zero shade!

Warinanco Park

Entrance at St. George’s Ave in Roselle

Such a great park featuring a large, newer sprayground, plus two playgrounds and a pond with paddleboats (which you can rent for $10 per hour). 

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

TRAILSIDE NATURE CENTER

452 New Providence Road, Mountainside

Hours: Open 12-5pm, 7 days a week

With over 4,000 square feet of nature, history, and animal exhibits, Trailside is a great place to spend a rainy day with the kiddos! And in nice weather you can make a day of it by visiting the ginormous Watchung loop playground or taking a hike into Watchung Reservation.

http://www.ucnj.org/trailside/

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The Westfield Farmers Market Offers Much More Than Local Produce!

farmer's marketIf you’re anything like me, you try to SHOP LOCAL and EAT LOCAL whenever possible. Well, you can kill two birds with one stone by visiting the fabulous WESTFIELD FARMERS MARKET, open every Saturday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm from now until October 29th! You’ll find everything from Jersey Fresh produce, baked goods, dog treats, fair trade coffee, cooking spices, and take-home Italian meals–what’s not to love??

The Westfield Farmers Market sets up on the south side of the Westfield train station, where there is still plenty of free parking spots available on Sundays. Here’s a list of the terrific vendors:

Chickadee Creek Farm – certified organic vegetable, flower and herb farm

Donaldson Farms – fresh produce

Skeba Family Farm – fresh produce

A & M Naturals – natural soaps, body butters, lip balm, and candles

Gourmet Nuts and Dried Fruits

High Mountain Foods – frozen pastas such as ravioli; focaccia; pickles; fresh mozzarella

Lithuanian Bakery – breads, pies, and donuts

Little Bear’s Biscuit Barkery – gourmet organic dog treats

Mo’Pweeze Bakery – delectable and divine allergy-free cupcakes and baked goods

Neil’s Sharpening Services – bring your kitchen knives, scissors, and tools (3rd Saturday of each month only)

Nicola’s Pasta Fresca – artisinal homemade pasta

Paolo’s Kitchen – frozen prepared Italian-style entrees

Patricia and Paul – artisans of fine oils and balsamics

Reign Coffee – specializes in Organic Fair Trade coffee from Central America

Top of the Mountain Honey Bee Farms – 100% pure and natural local honey

Wildtree Organic Spice Blends with Fran – rubs, seasonings, dressing, and marinades

WildtreeI caught up with Fran Prybylski, who runs the “Wildree with Fran” booth. After sampling her yummy offerings, I could see why people rave aboutWildtree products, even non-cooks like myself! Fran sells Wildtree certified organic spice blends, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings, as well as an array of flavored grapeseed oils (all products are peanut-free!). They’re designed to make cooking easier, as they are all matched up with simple recipes.

According to Fran: “The Wildtree products help families prepare and serve healthy meals on the table quickly. Since they’re made with certified organic ingredients,  the flavors are bright and delicious. Even in my own home, Wildtree always provides an answer to the mealtime dilemma of ‘What’s for dinner?'” A Westfield resident, Fran is no stranger when it comes to cooking, and said, “I love to mentor and inspire people to cook delicious food in their kitchens or outdoor grills.” Fran frequently hosts cooking workshops where participants make 10 hearty take-home freezer meals using Wildtree seasonings and oils.

At her Farmers Market Booth, Fran’s customers love sampling the different marinades, salad dressings, and sauces. “My top-selling products consistently are: Asian Ginger Plum Dressing & Marinade, Wicked Good Slow Cooker Sauce, Rancher Steak Rub, and the Scampi Blend seasoning. However, the Outrageous Orange Sauce, Spicy Thai Chili Sauce, and Happenin Hot Pepper Jelly have become super popular this season at the Market.” Ummm, I’m pretty sure I’d eat my own hand if it were cooked in that Wicked Good sauce!

I asked Fran about the vibe among the vendors at the Farmers Market. “There is such a nice camaraderie here. I make an effort to greet all the vendors at some point throughout the day. My first friends at the Farmers Market were the members of the Greater Area of Westfield Chamber of Commerce. The Market’s Director, Chris Devine, has been supportive and so much fun to work with. I always appreciate Tim York, Mary, and Gene’s weekly visit to check in on me. My favorite neighbors are the A&M Naturals ladies that sell handmade soaps. Sam from Chickadee Creek Farms is an inspiration to watch as she soley sets up and breaks down her gorgeous organic produce stand. I’ve enjoyed watching Mo’Pweeze bakery’s success as a true allergen-free bakery in NJ. And Nicola’s fresh pasta creations are so delicious and my weekly lunch.”

See! Even the vendors themselves shop at and enjoy the Market! So if you’re in town this Saturday, make a point of heading to the Westfield Farmer’s Market, where you’ll not only find great food but meet some great people too.

You can reach Wildtree with Fran at (917) 226-1958 or visit her Facebook page: Meal Plan with Fran.

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Fine Dining at Westfield’s Acclaimed Chez Catherine

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I recently revisited one of the most highly regarded restaurants in New Jersey and enjoyed an absolutely incredible meal. Chez Catherine in Downtown Westfield is a classic in every sense of the word, and I’m already fantasizing about my next phenomenal meal there. 

For more than 30 years, owners Didier Jouvenet and his wife, Edith, have wowed every critic from the New York Times to the Star Ledger and everyone in between. Prior to opening Chez Catherine, Didier worked at the venerable La Grenouille and the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. Edith is responsible for the timeless decor of Chez Catherine, right down to the stunning flower arrangements in the restaurant that were plucked from their very own garden. 

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When I dined at Chez Catherine for a recent lunch, I was delighted to discover that they offer a prix fixe lunch menu. Authentic, impeccably prepared French cuisine can make a considerable dent in one’s wallet, but Chez Catherine’s prix fixe lunch and dinner menus offer the same delicious food (and several courses of it!) for a very reasonable price. A two-course lunch is just $25, and three courses is $35. 

I was immediately charmed by Maitre d’ Stéphane Bocket, who has been with Chez Catherine for 11 years, and who will soon be taking over the helm as owner of the restaurant. Stéphane’s thick French accent did not prove hindersome, and he had both me and my lunch date cracking up with laughter at his wry sense of humor. 

I asked Stéphane why Chez Catherine continues to be one of the most lauded restaurants in New Jersey–or anywhere!–year after year. Stephane said, “We have always kept the same high standards here. We make sure the customer is happy, and there is a nice balance between delicious food and personalized service.” 

You can see from my photos that the food is plated as beautifully as it tastes. And the portions are anything but small, (some restaurants skimp on the portions of prix fixe menus–not Chez Catherine!). We enjoyed salad appetizers, crispy duck and perfectly cooked steak, fluffy profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce, and one of the most interesting desserts I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating: “Ile Flottante de ‘Catherine'” (a whisper-light, marshmallow-like meringue topped with vanilla sauce, caramel, toasted hazelnuts, and almonds … truly to-die-for. 

We gorged ourselves on the scrumptious food, and at the meal’s end, Stéphane jokingly warned us never to say “Je suis finis” at the end of a French meal. “It does not mean ‘I am finished,” he said. “It translates to ‘I am dead.'” Duly noted, Stéphane!

Chez Catherine is located at 431 North Avenue West, next to the Westfield Inn. FREE PARKING is located behind the Inn. Reservations are recommended: 908-654-4011.

LUNCH HOURS:

Tuesday – Friday

Noon to 2:30 PM .

DINNER HOURS:

Tuesday – Thursday

5 PM to 9 PM

Friday and Saturday

5 PM to 9:30 PM

Closed on Sunday and Monday (except major holidays)

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Grilled Cheese Shoppe Opening Celebration TODAY in Westfield NJ 5/3/16

IMG_5763People often use the phrase “It’s as American an apple pie.” But I think we should start saying “It’s as American as GRILLED CHEESE!” Because who the heck doesn’t love grilled cheese?! The folks at the soon-to-be-open Grilled Cheese Shoppe in Downtown Westfield know just how much we all looooove grilled cheese, and they have one for every taste under the sun!

Owner Nick Louros hails from North Jersey, where he grew up amid the restaurant business. “I was a typical Greek diner kid, spending countless hours in my uncles’ diners, and working at one through college.” Nick got his degree in accounting, and he worked in that field five years, but eventually he wanted a change.

Nick began scouting locations for a restaurant, and had considered Ridgewood, but Westfield just “checked off everything on our list,” and with the closing of Robert Treat Restaurant, Nick found the perfect location.

When I asked Nick why he chose to start a business around grilled cheese, he said, “What I really wanted was to serve family comfort food, something that was a staple in most people’s childhoods. Something simple but still gourmet at the same time, with different flavor profiles. And something that would bring families together.”

Grilled cheese is the perfect meal to embrace what Nick was searching for–at its core it’s one of the most simple sandwiches, but it can also be embellished and changed into something extraordinary.

IMG_5762Nick himself created most of the recipes for the Grilled Cheese Shoppe. What’s on the menu, you ask? Well, you can always order a basic grilled cheese (aka the “Cheesy Kid”–good for those pick eaters out there), which is American cheese served on thick sourdough bread. But also on the menu are fried chicken and waffles, 6 different bread selections, several different varieties of cheese, and even grilled dessert waffles. Some of the sandwich names include “Buffalo Blue,” “Green Envy,” and “French Onion.” In addition to the savory and sweet grilled cheese sandwiches, there will be soups, salads, gourmet coffee drinks, and of course hand-spun MILK SHAKES, including one called the “Peanut Butter Dream.”

Are you salivating yet??

The interior of the Shoppe is sleek and fresh and totally hip. It was designed by well-known Vanessa De Leon Associates to appeal to the young and young-at-heart, and Nick hopes the place will quickly become “the town hangout.”

Here’s another great thing about the Shoppe–it will be open 7 days a week! There aren’t too many eateries you can say that about. I, for one, am looking forward to their “Cheesy Brunch” on Sundays.

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Follow the Grilled Cheese Shoppe on facebook for updates about their grand opening celebration happening TODAY! The Shoppe is located at 113 Quimby Street.

Hours:

Monday-Thursday 11-8

Friday 11-9

Saturday 9-9

Sunday 9-4:30

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