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Alyson Lupinetti Takes On the Male-Dominated World of Barbecue

Alyson Lupinetti “mans” the grill, tending to her award-winning ribs as part of ‘Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ’. Photo courtesy of Alyson Lupinetti

Alyson Lupinetti is proving that “like father, like daughter” definitely applies to barbecue. Not only does the 27 year-old Mount Laurel pitmaster follow in her late father Butch’s footsteps all over the country, she wins awards like him, too. On the road for seasonal competitions with the Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ  team, Lupinetti already has 100-plus awards to add to her father’s lifetime of over 600.

The family talent isn’t a surprise: Butch grew up Jersey Italian on a farm in Pemberton. “There was always cooking going on,” says Lupinetti. “He grew up cooking pigs underground.” For her part, Lupinetti grew up assisting her dad in low-and-slow school night cook-outs and—occasionally—sharing the backseat of the family car with a whole pig (see below).

We caught up with Lupinetti a couple days before she left for the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship in Wildwood to ask what it was like to learn from her dad, how she came into her own as both a legacy and a woman in the male-dominated world of barbecue, and what could possibly be next when you’re already a proven pitmaster under 30 (it’s not what you think).

Alyson with her dad Butch in Trenton in 1996. Photo courtesy of Alyson Lupinetti

Table Hopping: Tell us about your journey into barbecue.
Alyson Lupinetti: My parents used to do pig roasts for catering, around 45 a summer. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in the backseat next to this whole pig wrapped in plastic. I used to fall asleep on it! I would name it and make it my friend. It never really freaked me out. Then my dad started doing these events on weekends. He was traveling a lot, and my mom let me go to the ones closer to home. I had a blast. My dad would set me on the counter. He called me his “Little Mascot.”

TH: When did you really start to get hands-on with the barbecue in a serious way?
AL: I definitely started being way more involved when I turned 16. My mom was letting me travel with my dad during the summertime, so I went to a lot more events. I was 18 when my dad passed away. I took the whole business over. I won my first award at the first event I did without him—got second place, “Best Sauce.” It was actually an award they named after my dad because he’d won “Best Sauce” something like 20 out of 22 times there!

TH: You do award-winning St. Louis style ribs, among other things. And the barbecue team does “North Carolina” style. What does that mean?
AL: It means we cook with dry rub only. We let you add your own sauce. A lot of times, people don’t want to cover their meat in sauce—they want to taste the flavor of the actual meat and seasoning and process. We find a lot of people try to hide their mistakes with sauce. If things dry out, you put sauce on it. If it’s too smoky, you add sauce.

TH: I read you sometimes use New Jersey hickory. Why? Besides Jersey pride, anyway.
AL: We always use New Jersey hickory! As long as it’s available to us, anyway. It has a nice, light, smoky flavor that adds to the meat and doesn’t overtake it. A lot of people love cherry and apple; they’re not my favorite, I’m not keen to the way it makes the meat taste.

TH: You’ve probably been asked a lot about being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Do you think it would have been harder for you to be accepted as a woman if you weren’t Butch Lupinetti’s daughter?
AL: Absolutely, unfortunately. It’s starting to change now, obviously there’s a lot going on in the world. But it’s been hard for people to branch into a situation where they’re not the norm. When you think of “barbecue,” you think of an older man, not a younger girl. I faced a little bit of trouble even though I had all these connections! Some people were still giving me a bit of a hard time.

It was difficult. It sort of felt like they were waiting for me to crash and burn. But a lot of people were offering to help me any way they could. I sort of felt like I needed to prove myself. I wished I was proving myself for myself, and not for other people. Now I think I’ve proven myself. I think they know to take me seriously. I’m not going anywhere!

Alyson sharing some of her award-winning ‘cue expertise. Photo courtesy of Alyson Lupinetti

TH: In addition to seasonal competing, you guys also have a truck for catering and events?
AL: Yeah, we built a food truck a couple of years ago. “Butch’s ‘Smack Your Lips’ BBQ.” It’s a year-round thing. My husband and I really enjoy doing barbecue, but I don’t want to be gone that long. We can do food truck events an hour or so away from home, get out, do what we love, and come home to be in our own bed!

TH: What about products? There’s a line of “Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ” sauces. Any chance you’ll come out with your own?
AL: We’re actually working on a sauce right now! We really enjoy it on steak—it’s a heavier molasses base, pretty different from the rest of the sauces in our lineup. I started to develop sauces with my dad. On the label, it’s going to have him and me. I never want to not have him associated with it! I’m so proud to be his daughter.

TH: So you have this weekend in Wildwood coming up, a busy summer, and a year-long food truck. I’m afraid to ask if anything else is on the horizon.
AL: My husband and I actually also flip houses. He’s a general contractor. We own apartment complexes. And we’re getting ready to open a brewery towards the end of the year. We definitely like to stay busy!

TH: No kidding. Can you tell us anything about the brewery? Will you be brewing?
AL: I think I’m gonna leave that to the professionals. We hired a really great brewmaster—Ingrid Epoch. She’s very innovative. A lot of people in the South Jersey area know who she is. But the idea wasn’t ours. We have two partners, who came to myself and my husband wanting my husband to do contract work for the brewery. We believed in the business plan so much, we decided to invest. What goes better with barbecue than beer?

You can order any of Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ sauces, “Magic Dust” dry rubs and even some T-shirt swag here. They also offer a catering menu for larger events. If you’re feeling ambitious, here’s the recipe for “Butch’s Whole Hog” (no kiddin’).

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Remembering Jim Bouton, Yankees Pitcher and Tell-All Author of “Ball Four”

Photo courtesy of Amazon

[Editor’s note: Former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who was born in Newark and grew up in Rochelle Park and Ridgewood, died this week at the age of 80. Bouton, whose notorious tell-all memoir
Ball Four, published in 1970, made him a baseball outcast, spoke with New Jersey Monthly correspondent Tom Wilk in the spring of 1994 upon the publication of his first novel. Here’s that story, from our June 1994 issue.]

As a pitcher who played with four pro ball clubs, Jim Bouton knew the value of trying something new. When a sore arm robbed him of his fastball, he turned to the knuckleball to extend his career.

Now, 24 years after publication of Ball Four, his best-selling diary of the 1969 baseball season, Bouton is following that same philosophy with the release of his first novel Strike Zone, co-written with Eliot Asinof. “I never thought I could write a novel,” says Bouton, a resident of Teaneck. “But I found it more liberating than straight reporting.”

Asinof wrote the book Eight Men Out, the story of the Chicago White Sox players accused of fixing the 1919 World Series. Gambling also plays a pivotal role in Strike Zone.

The novel’s premise is an intriguing one. The Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies are tied for a playoff spot on the last day of the season. With a pitching staff wracked by injuries, the Cubs turn to Sam Ward, a journeyman knuckleballer, to get them into the playoffs. Unbeknownst to Ward, home-plate umpire Ernie Kolacka, in his final game before retiring, has agreed to fix the outcome so the Cubs lose, as a favor to a friend deep in debt.

Through the characters of Ward and Kolacka, respectively, Bouton and Asinof tell the story in alternating chapters, in a narrative propelled by the game’s increasing tension.

“We sat down and mapped out the game, batter by batter, but we wrote our chapters by ourselves,” says Bouton. “We served as each other’s editors.”

While Strike Zone is unlikely to rival Ball Four’s mammoth sales figures (5 million copies to date), Bouton felt a kinship with Sam Ward. “I saw myself as Sam Ward, if it had taken me ten years to make the majors instead of three. It was hard to sell where he left off and I began.”

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When Dentistry is a Family Affair

Kevin Lehnes with his wife, Stephanie Rossy, and sister-in-law Danielle Rossy, left. Photo by Scott Jones

Danielle & Stephanie Rossy, sisters
Pediatric Dentistry

Kevin Lehnes, husband of Stephanie

OFFICES: Randolph and Newton (Kevin only)

FAMILY FACTS: Danielle and Stephanie co-own Rossy Pediatric Dentistry, but they’re not the only ones with a sibling in the field. Stephanie’s husband, Kevin, has a twin brother, Greg Lehnes, who is a dentist in Voorhees. Kevin and Stephanie met at Stephanie’s orientation for dental school at UMDNJ (now Rutgers), where Kevin was also studying dentistry. His crush was immediate. Stephanie and Kevin live in Randolph with their four children, ages six and under. Danielle and her husband, George Mazpule, a surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center, live in Denville. They have a 2-year-old and another baby on the way.

Danielle and Stephanie, how did you get into dentistry?

Stephanie: It was her idea, but I stole it. Danielle and I shared a room growing up. I’m four years older, but Danielle started running around at age two saying she wanted to be a dentist. As we grew up, I thought, That’s a good idea! But since I’m older, I got to do it first. I always knew I wanted to work with children, and I loved the pediatric dental rotations in school. So when Danielle got into dental school, I was like, “You have to check this out.” She loved it also. That’s how we both wound up in pediatric dentistry.

What is your working relationship like?

Stephanie: We love it. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else. It’s fun—you’re doing what you love with people you love.
Danielle: Our relationship engenders that family vibe in our office. We’ve found that everyone feels like family—the office staff, everybody.
Stephanie: And that’s our big thing with our patients. In this day and age, you get to know your hygienist. The dentist comes in and counts your teeth and says, “Goodbye”! People are really responsive to us spending time with them and treating them like they’re in a family place.

Stephanie and Kevin, do you bring your work home with you?

Kevin: Our dinner conversation is very boring. The funny thing is we have a large number of patients in common, and the patients we see in the practice are people we interact with in the community. They’re people we’ll see at gymnastics or at birthday parties. A lot of times, it boils down to what happened in someone’s mouth that day.
Stephanie: It’s fun to have other people to talk to who understand your quirkiness. Like, if I see a crazy thing at work, and I was to call somebody else and say, “I saw this molar that was wild,” they would be like, “What?” But if I say it to Danielle and Kevin, they’re like, “Really? Show me a picture!” We actually learn a lot from each other that way.

Do you differ in the way you interact with your patients?

Danielle: The big difference is that when Steph sings, kids love it. If I sing, they start to cry.

Photo by Scott Jones

Lauren & John Archible, wife & husband

OFFICES: Phillipsburg and Annandale

FAMILY FACTS: John and Lauren met as dental students at the former UMDNJ (now Rutgers) 16 years ago, then did a general dentistry residency together before taking turns going back to school to learn their specialty, root canals. When they started to practice together in Phillipsburg in 2015—Annandale came a year later—the community had high expectations: Lauren’s father, Bruce Jiorle, was an orthodontist in the same building. He recently retired after more than 30 years of straightening teeth. 

How does working together affect your marriage?

Lauren: We work together only one day a week in Phillipsburg, so we’re not together all the time. For the most part, it’s been really good, because we have a built-in support system, and we feed off each other’s strengths. Like, if we have any questions about any cases we’re working on, we talk about it. Four eyes are better than two. And in terms of running the practice, he sees my strengths and I see his strengths, and we put them together. 

How would you characterize those strengths and weaknesses? 

John: Lauren’s strength is that she really puts people at ease. She talks to them in depth about everything under the sun before she even worries about the tooth. She’s friends with the person by the time she starts working. Me, I’m more direct. I get down to business. Besides doing root canals, I’m pretty good at the management side. 

Do you feel the need to pursue separate hobbies for space?

Lauren: We have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old, so our social life is geared mostly toward them and whatever activities they have going on. But we have the same interests. We both enjoy going to Long Beach Island in the summer—that’s where John is from—and we have the same friends.
John: Everybody needs balance in their life between the person that they love and their business partner, but I’ve got both in one person. That makes my life really simple. We hang out with each other and make each other laugh.  

Do you talk about work at home? 

Lauren: We’re definitely able to compartmentalize those things. Work doesn’t really carry over. If it does, we put the kibosh on it and move on. But when the extended family is together, teeth can come up. My dad’s an orthodontist, and my younger brother is an endodontist in Washington, D.C.
John: Her dad is a legend in Phillipsburg. Everybody who comes in asks her, “Are you Bruce’s daughter?” And they’ll say to me, “Are you Bruce’s son-in-law?” It’s helped with familiarity. 

Would you recommend working together to other couples? 

Lauren: Yes. One of the great things about it is, we’re able to do stuff with the kids and still have coverage at the office. Like, I can be a chaperone on a field trip while John is with patients. Or if there’s a snow day, they can come to the office. It’s a huge benefit.

Photo by Scott Jones

George Papasikos, father

Jacy Papasikos & Arianna Papasikos, siblings

OFFICES: Montclair (all) and Bedminster (George only)

FAMILY FACTS: Arianna and Jacy grew up in Morristown in a tooth-conscious family. Their mother, Corinne, is a dental hygienist and educator; she works in George’s Bedminster office. Arianna is three years older than Jacy. George has been practicing 35 years, Arianna, 7, and Jacy, 6. Jacy’s wife, Samantha, is the office manager in Montclair.

Jacy and Arianna, how did your father influence your decision to get into dentistry?

Jacy: We grew up going to my father’s office, and I have great memories of spending time in that environment. I always had an interest in the field. And then as far as lifestyle, we had a father who was able to spend time with us, because he set his own hours.
Arianna: And he seemed to enjoy what he did.

George, did you encourage them?

George: I was very happy they made the choices they did. There’s a great mix of work and home and education in what we do.

Jacy and Arianna, you decided to study orthodontia. How does that work in the office?

Arianna: Not going into the same specialty my father chose was more challenging. But it’s been advantageous in terms of caring for patients.
Jacy: Oftentimes, patients have two different issues to treat, and it’s easy for us and for the patient to communicate between the different fields.

Do you all keep up with dental technology? Or maybe one of you introduces the others to the latest gizmos?

George: We have cone-beam scans, but Jacy and Arianna do a little more scanning than I do, because there are more patients in orthodontia who need scanning.
Jacy: But I would say for someone of his age….
George: Careful!
Jacy: I would say that he has kind of set the bar for us. He takes continuing education classes more than anyone I know. You’d think he’d reach a plateau, but he’s actually always bringing new techniques into the office.

Do you make a point of seeing each other outside the office?

Arianna: I have two kids under the age of two, and Jacy is expecting twins. So we have a lot to juggle outside of work. But in that respect, working together benefits us because one of us can keep the office open when the other can’t.
George: We took a family vacation to Greece a few years ago. We closed the office for that.

What is the benefit to patients, if any, of coming to a dental practice run by doctors who are family?

Jacy: We’re constantly communicating with each other. But maybe more important is that we’re so invested in our practice. Each of our names is on the door. It’s our family name.
Arianna: We’re in this long-term.

Are there ever sibling squabbles?

George: There’s only one challenge for me as a parent having siblings in the office, and that is I have to remember at work that they’re not my children, they’re highly trained professionals. At the beginning, when someone mentioned they needed orthodontic work, I would say, ‘Oh, you can see my children for that!’ There was always a big laugh. They’re not my children, but my colleagues.

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This Company Wants to Help Hudson County Compost Leftover Food Scraps

Food scraps in a Community Compost Co. five-gallon bucket. Photo courtesy of Community Compost Co.

Food waste is heating up.

As in, it’s literally contributing to the warming of our planet (food makes up a major chunk of what gets dumped in landfills). It’s also heating up in the sense that there’s a growing hunger to do something about it. While buying less food and fighting food waste in the kitchen are productive starts, some leftover food scraps are inevitable. After all, most modern home cooks and chefs don’t have the time to jam, pickle and repurpose every last peel or crumb.

Enter compost. The process, essentially nature’s recycling, takes food scraps and yard waste and turns them into an earthy, crumbly, darker-than-dirt material that gives soil a boost of extra nutrients. But doing it yourself at home can be close to impossible for urban dwellers or businesses without outdoor space (not to mention intimidating for those who do). For would-be composters in Hoboken and Jersey City, there’s Community Compost Company, a service that recycles subscribers’ cucumber skins, egg shells, apple cores and other food scraps for them.

It works like this: Similar to trash and recycling pick-up services, Community Compost Co. collects bins residents and restaurants place outside weekly or bi-weekly with their truck. They then pile up this discarded food at their one-and-half acre facility in the Hudson Valley, shepherding the natural process of creating compost out of broken down food scraps.

That’s 1.6 million pounds—and counting—of scraps diverted from landfills, says Andrea Rodriguez, Community Compost’s sales and marketing manager. Now a team of six women, all of whom Rodriguez describes as “passionate environmentalists,” the business started as the brainchild of New Jersey native Eileen Banyra. A city planner with three decades of experience (and a New Jersey native), Banyra switched gears in 2013, getting Community Compost off the ground through an incubator program in New Paltz, New York.

Two years later, Banyra wanted to expand beyond the Hudson Valley. She landed on Hoboken and Jersey City—both diverse, green-minded, urban communities with lots of New York transplants familiar with composting—as starting points in her home state. Drumming up interest by creating compost drop-offs at farmers markets, they then launched the pick-up service, handing out their signature five-gallon green buckets to home cooks (there are currently close to 300 household subscribers; it costs $29 or $19 per month for weekly or bi-weekly pick-up respectively.)

You may see Community Compost Co. buckets more around Hoboken and Jersey City. Photo courtesy of Community Compost Co.

Restaurants and chefs, too, have been an important part of Community Compost’s growth. In Hoboken, the company has partnered with the city to offer free compost pick-up for restaurants twice a week (other businesses and schools are eligible as well). Picking up scraps from eateries such as Choc-O-Pain, cooking school Hudson Table, Black Rail Coffee, Grand Vin and Simply Juiced has been a natural match. “Chefs really see the importance of good, healthy ingredients,” Rodriguez says. “With composting, you’re only helping to create more awesome ingredients to cook with later on.”

Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato owner Jen Kavlakov saw working with Community Compost as the logical way to come full circle, as she says her small-batch gelato shop, which opened in Jersey City in 2015, places a premium on sourcing local, seasonal ingredients. Community Compost’s first restaurant client in Jersey City, Kavlakov has recommended them to other area cafes and restaurants who want to recycle kitchen prep scraps and customer leftovers. “It’s about sustainability,” she tells peers. “It’s about doing what is right for the future.” In Jersey City, Subia’s Vegan Cafe, Barcade, and Busy Bee Organics also compost with Community Compost Co.

More communities, restaurants and home cooks are clamoring to get in on compost pick-up or communal drop-off locations, Rodriguez says. But she says there are steep hurdles for Community Compost and other small and mid-size businesses like theirs to take root or expand.

Just obtaining permits to recycle food waste in New Jersey is a costly, inflexible and lengthy process, explains Matthew A. Karmel, founding board member of the NJ Composting Council and an attorney in the Environmental Practice Group at Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland, Perretti LLP in Morristown. By his count there are only four facilities in the state with traditional food waste permits and an additional three with temporary research, development and demonstration permits, which Karmel says is not nearly enough when compared with the growing demand for such services in the state. Legislation passed at the end of June does require establishments generating large quantities of food waste to recycle this waste. The loophole? Landfills and incinerators count as recycling centers. In light of this, environmental and industry groups like Karmel’s are urging Governor Phil Murphy to veto the measure.

Because Community Compost Co. takes the scraps they collect over the border to a Kerhonkson, New York farm, they avoid much of this tricky legal landscape (New Jerseyans’ trash often gets carted to landfills much further away, Rodriguez is quick to point out; Hoboken’s garbage, for example, ends up in West Virginia), but Rodriguez says they are fighting for change in New Jersey so that “there more options, and more and more communities can get on board with composting.”

In the meantime, she says their focus is on their current New Jersey and New York locations and on educating communities and food businesses. They partner with community gardens and farmers markets, sell their compost at a handful of area markets and garden stores (they’re bagged under the name Hudson Soil Co.; subscribers can also get a container of compost back each fall and spring) and have worked with concerts, film and TV productions and festivals in New Jersey to compost catering leftovers, too.

Above all, Rodriguez says she encourages people “to try to not look at food as garbage.” Is composting, at home or via pick-up and drop-off services, extra effort? Yes. Does it take some getting used to? Sure. But, she says, “it’s really a resource that helps our soil to grow healthy food for us to eat again.”

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Stockton Market Sold to New Hope Restaurant Owner

Photo courtesy of Stockton Market.

—Stockton Market in the small-but-charm-packed town of Stockton (just south of Trenton) has been sold. Fans of the market shouldn’t worry too much; the new owner Steven Lau was responsible for bringing The Salt House restaurant to New Hope (Pennsylvania), emphasizing market-fresh, seasonal cuisine. Not that everything will be about preservation: Lau’s nothing if not ambitious (he was in the music industry and opened his own Napa winery prior to attending the Culinary Institute of America). In the very least, Lau will likely seek out new vendors to add the Stockton’s very well-curated roster. Needless to say the late summer/early fall season should be extra exciting (and delicious?) this year. The Stockton Market, 19 Bridge Street, Stockton; 609-608-2824


—After closing the original West Philadelphia location of The Farmacy earlier this year, Ross Scofield and partner Danielle Coulter made the sudden—and surprising—announcement that The Farmacy in Palmyra is now also closings its doors. (Surprising as in our review of the restaurant went up on Tuesday.) Possibly more unexpected is the fact that Scofield essentially offered the restaurant space (and name) up to the best (most community-oriented, fiscally-solid) offer via Facebook on July 7. Per the post, as Scofield cleaned out the restaurant, he realized the place had potential for the right future tenant: “Fully inspected, fire systems tagged, certified for outside seating, new cooking equipment/ refrigeration, POS system, phone/internet, new tables, new flatware, and all.”

Scofield seemed to earnestly desire a new restaurant tenant for the neighborhood and landlords, so much so he was willing to (gratis?) assist a potential new tenant: “I can help write menus and show the new team the ropes.” No word yet on whether that deal was done, though the comments did reveal some of the reasons why both Farmacy locations are now closed. As one saddened regular asked “Why?” Coulter chimed in to explain a two-fold decision: “We had a better opportunity presented to us,” she said, adding, “We have been restaurant owners for [seven] years. We have a 2-year-old. And we want to live a normal life.” That “better opportunity” may refer to another restaurant concept (with a liquor license) the team was reported to be working on in conjunction with Scofield’s parents, also restaurateurs, somewhere in South Jersey. The Farmacy, 307 West Broad Street, Palmyra. 856-543-4411

—Egg Harbor Festhaus & Biergarten has abruptly closed for business. The German restaurant and beer hall made the announcement on July 2 via the restaurant’s Facebook page, saying only “EGG HARBOR FESTHAUS IS CLOSED FOR BUSINESS. We would like to thank our many customers, friends & employees.” The close seems especially abrupt, as only a few days earlier they’d posted a regular weekend-teaser pretzel/schnitzel/wurst photo array. Not much else is explained, though the closure announcement did end with the promise: “Future news will be posted here.” Egg Harbor Festhaus & Biergarten, 446 St. Louis Avenue, Egg Harbor City; 609-593-6524


Last week we reported on the midday fire on July 1 that shut down Hobby’s Deli in Newark, but it looks like the iconic restaurant is already—at least partially—getting back to business. In fact, it was only the next day that the delicatessen and restaurant was announcing it would be reopening Wednesday, July 3 with delivery and takeout (the dining room remains closed, pending repairs). Among other small miracles of resilience, a lone bottle of Cutty Sark whiskey survived the blaze (maybe no coincidence, it was a favorite of Hobby’s Deli founder Sam Brummer, whose sons Marc and Michael currently run the show). Stay tuned to their Facebook for developments, or other Scotch-related anomalies. Hobby’s Delicatessen & Restaurant, 2723, 32 Branford Place, Newark; 973-623-0410

In the Works:

—Capital Craft in Green Brook is getting a second location in the former home of the Macaroni Grill in East Hanover. The restaurant—which emphasizes eclectic, creative gastropub food and plenty of craft beer—will seat as many as 300 guests, with two separate bars, 30 craft beer lines, an outdoor space and coal-fired pizza. Considering the scope of the ambition here, and that it’s only the second iteration of a proven successful restaurant concept, the East Hanover location is likely to swing for the hospitality fences (when it does open—likely closer to several week from now—be prepared for a good time). Capital Craft, 138 Route 10, East Hanover; no phone yet.

—Hoboken’s Green Pear Café is expanding; the funky, warm, ultra-neighborhoody restaurant is on the cusp of opening its second location in another neighborhood, nearby Jersey City Heights. The second location will only serve dinner—during the day, the space will be dedicated to Green Pear’s catering company—but considering its location on a booming strip of the Heights neighborhood, it’s likely to start off at full speed when it opens. Dinner menu is still TBD, but you can expect similar mixture of eclectic, seasonal, and hearty (think Suckling Pig Sandwich and Grilled Atlantic Salmon and Vegetables). Green Pear Café, 93 Franklin Street, Jersey City; no phone yet.

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Meet the Congressman from the Jersey Shore

Lifelong Long Branch resident Frank Pallone Jr., seen here in Asbury Park Convention Hall, has been re-elected 16 times to represent the Shore area. Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein

Frank Pallone Jr. is, first and foremost, the congressman from the Jersey Shore. To drive home that point, his name shows up in the news every year as the guy who helps replenish the sand on our beaches—an estimated total of 163 million cubic yards of the stuff over the last three decades, at a cost of $1.2 billion to the federal government.

The lifelong Long Branch resident has served since 1988 in the House of Representatives, and has been chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee since the Democratic Party took back control of the House last year.

When the House is in session, he spends four to five days each week in Washington, D.C. When he’s not in the nation’s capital, Pallone, like most members of Congress, comes home to be with his family and to spend time with constituents.

On one recent spring day, Pallone met with the father-and-son management team at Foley Cat, a family-owned franchise operation in Piscataway that sells and services heavy equipment. He toured the facility, then headed to a meeting with the Middlesex–Somerset County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council at their union hall in Sayreville. The union guys mostly complained about a lack of respect from the Trump administration and the president’s lack of an infrastructure plan.

Next came an emotional meeting in Pallone’s New Brunswick office with two Salvadoran women, Asbury Park residents who have been in this country for more than two decades but who face deportation in January when the Temporary Protected Status program expires.

Pallone supports the program, but offered little hope that the Trump administration will extend the status of the two women, even though one of them is an entrepreneur and both regularly pay their taxes. If deported, one of the women will have to decide whether to bring her 13-year-old daughter, who was born here and is a citizen, back to El Salvador.

Pallone can’t solve every constituent problem that comes his way, but his new chairmanship does provide significant influence. His committee has jurisdiction over health care, including Medicare and Medicaid; consumer protection, including food and drug safety; energy policy, the environment and climate change; and telecommunications and the Internet. That means about 40 percent of all bills introduced in the House are referred to Pallone’s committee for hearings. The committee also oversees five cabinet departments and seven independent agencies. The committee’s scope is so vast that the late John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and a former Energy and Commerce chairman, has been quoted defining the committee’s reach with the quip that, “If it moves, it’s energy, and if it doesn’t, it’s commerce.”

Pallone’s stature makes him a power back home, too. After Superstorm Sandy, he pressured insurance companies to meet their obligations and sponsored federal legislation to reform the flood insurance program. More recently, he introduced a bill in the House that would provide grants to pay part of the cost of removing toxic chemicals from New Jersey’s drinking water.

On another front, Pallone and his 11 New Jersey colleagues in the House co-signed a letter encouraging the Interior Department to abandon plans to allow companies to drill for oil and natural gas off the Jersey Shore. “There’s only about two weeks supply of oil out there,” he says. “There may be more, but it’s just not worth it. The risk is that you have a spill and you destroy the whole tourism industry.”

Pallone’s committee, it sometimes appears, is the only House panel not preoccupied with investigating President Trump. Instead, he has pursued an ambitious agenda that often has the committee’s staff scurrying. In just the first few months of his chairmanship, he steered measures through his committee and the full House on net neutrality, health care affordability and prescription-drug pricing, as well as a bill to keep America in the Paris Climate Agreement. Things don’t usually happen that quickly in Congress.

The bills passed in the House, but have little chance of becoming law as long as the Senate has a Republican majority and Donald Trump is president. Pallone remains undaunted. He’s establishing a traditional Democratic agenda for the day when, he hopes, Democrats once again control both houses of Congress and the White House. And even as the young progressives in his own party are making their voices heard, the pragmatic Pallone is more interested in preserving Obamacare and existing environmental regulations than in pursuing goals that he sees as not only divisive, but potentially politically dangerous for Democrats.

The preservation of Obamacare is something of a legacy issue for Pallone. He was chairman of the Health Subcommittee when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. But he also sees little benefit in handing the Republicans a cudgel they can use to beat Democrats in moderate House districts in 2020. He predicts that, if his party adopts the pet projects of the new progressive members, “Republicans will say, ‘Let’s just talk about Medicare for All and the Green New Deal,’ so they can beat us up with them.”

Pallone’s current agenda didn’t end with passage of his initial package of bills. In response to an Environmental Protection Agency ruling to allow the use of asbestos in some manufacturing, he introduced a bill that made it clear that “anything less than a full ban is unacceptable.” Proposing new laws isn’t the only tool at his disposal. He also reached out to Facebook executives for an explanation about why it was exposing health information, including substance abuse, about some Facebook customers. Committee members later followed up with a meeting with Facebook.

Pallone has a secret weapon for getting things done. Unlike many other New Jersey political figures, he is neither confrontational nor obsequious. People like him instantly, and he rarely does anything to alter that initial impression.

The son of a policeman in Long Branch, where the congressman’s brother John was elected mayor in 2018, Pallone earned degrees from Middlebury College, the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Rutgers-Camden Law School. He practiced maritime law and was elected to the Long Branch City Council in 1982, at the age of 30, and to the New Jersey State Senate in 1983. When Congressman James Howard died suddenly in 1988, Pallone won his seat in a special election. He has been reelected to 16 full terms since then. “I actually enjoy campaigning,” he admits. A bachelor when he was first elected, Pallone married Sarah Hospodor, a Jersey native, in 1992; they have three grown children.

The district Pallone inherited included Shore communities in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Three redistrictings have pushed his constituency northward and inland. As a result, his district shed Republican-leaning Ocean County and gained more Democratic Middlesex County.

The geographical shift made Pallone’s elections easier. Since 1994, he has earned at least 60 percent of the vote in all but five elections.

Still, he is not immune to constituent complaints. When he met with Kim and Jamie Foley, chairman and CEO, respectively, of Foley Cat, and the AFL-CIO leaders in Sayreville, they all wanted to know why Democrats and Republicans in Washington can’t stop fighting and pass an infrastructure bill that would benefit both business and labor.

Pallone doesn’t blame congressional Republicans for the inaction. “We get along better than people imagine,” he says. “We socialize more than people think.”

The blame for capital gridlock, he says, rests squarely with President Trump. “You can’t make a deal with him,” says Pallone. “He’ll agree with you one day, then change his mind the next day. You can’t work with that.”

Pallone’s efforts meet with almost universal praise. Business leaders laud him. Rich Weeks, the CEO of Cranford-based Weeks Marine, Inc., one of the nation’s largest dredging companies, first met Pallone at state Senate hearings in the 1980s, when both worked to clean the beaches of medical waste. Weeks says that, while he and Pallone “don’t always agree, he’s a good listener, and we talk all the time.”

Advocacy-group leaders have a similar response. Cindy Zipf, executive director of Long Branch-based Clean Ocean Action, also goes back with Pallone to the 1980s. She calls him “a champion of the marine environment, not only for New Jersey, but for the entire nation.”

Fellow Democrat Vin Gopal, a state Senator and former Monmouth County Democratic chairman, praises Pallone’s political commitment. “I can’t tell you how many calls I get from him about local issues,” he says. “He is so good at politics because he understands people and is in every end of the district.”

Union County lawyer Frank Capece is even more fulsome with his assessment. “Pallone feels no need to tell everybody he’s the smartest guy in the room,” says Capece, “even though he usually is.”

After 30 years on the job, Pallone is unlikely to develop an overinflated ego, and he’s even less likely to forget the importance of the sand. As long as New Jersey has beaches, Pallone will see to it that the Army Corps of Engineers keeps the sand coming. And the press will be there to make sure everybody knows who made it happen.

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Watch Out for This Sneaky Type of Skin Cancer

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“When patients ask me what to look for in skin cancer, I tell them that pink is the new black because so many harmless-looking pink lesions ultimately turn out to be melanomas,” says Dr. Lauren Cooper of Affiliated Dermatologists and Dermatologic Surgeons in Morristown, Mt. Arlington and Bridgewater. “Sometimes we biopsy skin-colored moles and freckles, and even we dermatologists are surprised that they are early skin cancers.”

It’s known as amelanotic melanoma, a serious and often difficult to diagnose type of skin cancer in which the cells do not make melanin or pigment. Because of this lack of color, diagnosis is tricky and is often delayed until the lesion becomes more prominent in an advanced stage.

“We try to identify these types of skin-colored melanomas early. Just as a baby doesn’t look like an adult, an early-stage, pink melanoma doesn’t always fit the typical description of an advanced melanoma,” says Cooper.

So what should skincare-savvy folks be looking for? “Skin cancer can form anywhere, especially on the face,” she says. “We worry about the ugly ducklings—moles, lesions and freckles that are larger than a pencil eraser head and look different than anything else you already have.”

Often these sneaky melanomas can remain flat for a year, unlike the large, ominous melanomas some might expect. Some forms of skin cancer even appear as a subtle smudge, and could be pink, red, brown, black or a combination of colors. But they will typically look unusual and will appear as a new spot on the skin, Cooper adds.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends scheduling an exam with a board-certified skin doc who will examine you from head to toe. An easy way to keep track of your annual appointment is to schedule a review of your birthday suit each year during your birthday month.


  • Apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen, at least 50 SPF—on cloudy days, too!
  • Reapply sunscreen when perspiring and when coming out of the water.
  • Wear sunglasses and protective clothing. The bigger the hat, the better.
  • Avoid tanning beds—ultraviolet light can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Learn more at

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Pasha Mezze Grill Adds to Lake Hiawatha’s Dining Options

Kibbeh. Photo by Shelby Vittek

There’s no shortage of great Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants in Lake Hiawatha, an unincorporated community located within Parsippany-Troy Hills. In the span of a few blocks of North Beverwyck Road (the town’s main street), you’ll find excellent Turkish food at Bosphorus Restaurant, Afghan-style halal meats that attract a crowd at Kabab Paradise, and now, a medley of flavors at the new Pasha Mezze Grill.

Opened late last year, Pasha is housed in the restaurant space that was formerly home to Fazzolare’s Italian Bistro. Located on a corner, the BYO restaurant features large windows along two of the walls, with a light touch on decorations, making the space feel bright and airy.

The menu features dishes from all over the Mediterranean, representing Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, Italy and Cyprus. To start, the mezze selection includes 10 cold options (hummus, tzatziki, labneh, etc.) and 11 warm options (grilled octopus, falafel, borek, etc.). We started with stuffed grape leaves and an incredibly rich and smoky, complex and creamy babagannoush ($7), which we scooped up with small rounds of pita that came warm in a basket. Next, we broke into the deep-fried balls of bulgar, minced lamb and pine nuts called kibbeh ($12) served atop a smear of fresh yogurt.

Babagannoush and stuffed grape leaves. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Skirt steak with carrots and a chimichuri sauce. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Lamb skewer with rice. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Entrées were large and filling, leaving plenty for lunch the next day. I ordered the lamb skewer ($18), cooked to a perfect medium and served with rice pilaf and a fresh herb salad. My only complaint was that it seemed like a small portion of lamb for what it cost; down the street, you get at least three skewers for the same price.

My dining companion opted for an 8-ounce skirt steak ($23), which we both enjoyed. It came with a bright and spicy chimichurri, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots that were the surprise hit of the night. Other entrée choices include adana kebabs, kefteh, a burger, branzino and whole trout.

We were too stuffed for dessert, but we’ll be back again soon. I had originally been worried that a restaurant serving similar dishes as the town’s most popular spots wouldn’t last long, but for once, I’m happy to report I was wrong.

Pasha Mezze Grill, 94 North Beverwyck Road, Lake Hiawatha; 973-265-4982; BYO. Open daily; brunch served on weekends.

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VegFest Heads to Atlantic City This Weekend

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Atlantic City VegFest
Friday, July 12—Sunday, July 14

The 2019 New Jersey VegFest in Atlantic City runs Thursday through Sunday, but if you want to get the most bang out of your limited buck or tight schedule, check out Food Truck Friday, running from 2-10pm. Admission to Friday’s festival is only $8 plus processing fees (about $10 total), and that gets you access to all manner of vegan vittles—the improbably vegan Grilly Cheese, Terri Sacchetti’s revamped Fabulous Fig food truck, Delaware’s only completely vegan food truck Nude Food, and of course the trailblazing vegan-on-wheels Cinnamon Snail. Prices vary per food truck, but the music, AC ambiance, and good vegan vibes are all free. Showboat Hotel Atlantic City, 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City; 609-487-4600

Secrets of BBQd Class with a Pitmaster
Saturday, July 13, 11am – 12:30pm

Fortunately for barbecue lovers in the Garden State, Alyson Lupinetti chose to take after her father, the late great pitmaster Butch Lupinetti; a Pitmaster in her own right, Alyson learned the family trade of exquisitely low-and-slow-cooked meats from an early age (her father won 600 trophies in his career; Alyson currently has over 100). Lucky you can learn from the pitmaster herself on Saturday at her “Secrets of BBQ Cooking Class” at the New Jersey State Barbecue Championships. For just $22, you’ll learn how to take ribs from raw material to lip-smacking meat miracle. Pulled pork is also potentially on the class syllabus; just come prepared with an appetite. New Jersey State Barbecue Championships, 201 Jersey Avenue, Wildwood; 609-523-6565

Bastille Day Dinner at Chez Catherine
Sunday, July 14

Whether or not you celebrate the 1789 Storming of the Bastille, fans of grand French gastronomy should head over to Chez Catherine in Westfield this Sunday. The restaurant will be serving up a very special Bastille Day prix fixe menu. Yes, it’s $125 for dinner and a cocktail (plus $55 for wine pairings), but the night promises to be gustatorily grand: starting off with a cocktail and canapes, the night moves from melon and ham to Grilled Tuna with Avocado and Pineapple, Black Angus Filet Mignon, and even old school show-stopper dessert, Baked Alaska. Call to make your reservation ASAP; spend the rest of the week practicing your “Vive la France!” Chez Catherine, 431 North Avenue West, Westfield; 908-654-4011

Beer Pairing Dinner at Tre Pizza in Freehold
Thursday, July 25, 7–9pm

Tre Pizza is already serious about its craft beer, but on the 25th, they’re putting one brewery front and center: Cape May Brewing Co. (one of our Top 16 breweries) is bringing four very different beers for four very different courses from the Tre Pizza kitchen for a beer pairing dinner. The night starts with “Catch the Drift” New England IPA with Crab Dip & Soft Pretzels, moves on to “The Bog” (a light, tart cranberry Shandy) with a Blackened Tuna “Salad” with Cranberries and Orange; next is a “Coastal Evacuation” Double IPA with a Seafood Steampot and Cajun Rice, and finally a Honey-Porter Nitro with Cherries Jubilee on Waffles. Tickets are $60 for the whole deal; call to make a reservation. Tre Pizza, 611 Park Avenue, Freehold; 732-751-4422

Stateside Vodka Cocktail Dinner at Blue Morel
Friday, August 2, 7pm

Wine dinners are (fortunately) fairly commonplace. This four-course pairing of sophisticated cuisine and vodka cocktails? Less so. Not only that, but this isn’t just any vodka—from Federal Distilling in Philadelphia, Stateside Vodka is distilled no fewer than seven times (i.e. hyper-smooth)—and these aren’t just any cocktails. 2018 Iron Shaker competition winner Carlos Ruiz will be mixing up the cocktails, all of which will be designed to match Chef Dennis Matthews’ menu. Call for tickets, which are $59 before tax and tip (considering vodka’s summer-appeal, they’re likely to go fast). Blue Morel, 2 Whippany Road, Morristown; 973-451-2610

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4 Great Shore Adventures You Shouldn’t Miss

All illustrations by Ali Macdonald

Barnegat Light

Interest in oysters is on the rise. They have complex flavors, a local connection, pair well with cocktails—and they’re supposed to make you kinda randy. The bivalve, once plentiful in New Jersey’s tidal waters, is making a comeback thanks to a new generation of resourceful oyster farmers. You can get a new perspective on modern oyster farming—literally waist deep—thanks to Barnegat Oyster Collective’s oyster farm tours. Founders Matt Gregg and Scott Lennox—both pioneering oyster farmers—take turns leading the tours that start at Van’s Boat Rental in Barnegat Light. The tours start with a five-minute scenic cruise on a 25-foot flat-bottom skiff with seating for eight (on shellfish crates). Your destination: a 12-acre oyster farm on Barnegat Bay. Here, oysters are raised in 400 steel-netting cages. Amid the salty summer air and sunshine, the farmers show the different stages of oyster growth, from juvenile oysters to market size. Oysters are then popped open for tasting—the freshest seafood you’re going to get, all while standing in the crystal-clear bay water. “It’s just a unique experience,” says Gregg. “You’re not just learning where oysters come from, you’re getting your hands and feet wet. Everyone we take out there says it was the best experience of their summer.” Oysters are filter feeders, which means they eat the microorganisms that can choke our bays of oxygen. The renewed interest in oysters has created careers for these young baymen. In short, oysters are good for both the local ecology and the economy. The 90-minute tour is $65 and requires advance booking. Tours run twice daily every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend, or weekdays by appointment. Check the website for exact times. You’ll need everything you would for a day at the beach—bathing suit, shades, towel, snacks, drink and sunscreen—as well as a pair of old sneakers or water shoes for walking in the bay. A fresh lemon and a jar of cocktail sauce also come in handy. —Jon Coen

801 Bayview Avenue; 609-450-9005

Cape May

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Rollin A. Fritch is designed in part for intercepting smugglers. Sitting at her home berth at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May Harbor, she needn’t worry about me. As my kayak passes within 20 feet of her stern, all I’m carrying is a sealed float bag with two bottles of water, a turkey sandwich and a granola bar. By this point in my tour, I’ve become acclimated to my kayak, thanks to my guide, Jeff Martin, owner/operator of Aqua Trails. It’s a summer weekday, so the broad harbor is relatively quiet. Still, Martin (in a separate kayak) takes care as he leads me along the margins of the harbor, then across the choppy channel. Families of osprey watch our movements from their nests atop the channel markers. The morning breeze picks up, sending ripples across the water as we paddle around a sandbar. “You can almost set your watch by the breeze,” Martin tells me. A local high school marine-biology and oceanography teacher, Martin has an encyclopedic knowledge of these waters. We take a break on a small beach, and he explains the natural and man-made forces behind the creation and maintenance of the harbor. On the mudflats behind us, three kinds of seagulls and a pair of American oyster catchers with distinctive orange bills browse for insects and small crustaceans to lunch on. Back in the kayaks, we paddle past a clam factory and enter the calm waters of Upper Thorofare. The paddling is effortless here. We proceed under two low bridges into Mill Creek, an unadulterated salt marsh that serves as a nursery for numerous species of fish and a sanctuary for the local avian population. For several thrilling minutes, a parade of 3-inch-long menhaden (known locally as bunkerfish) skitters across the water’s surface like a shimmering wave. Any closer and they’d jump right into my kayak. In the distance, a common tern dives for food. A snowy egret wades patiently in the shallow water. Martin points out a semipalmated plover and several sandpipers. Stacks of mussels cling to the seaweed along the banks. Finally, the salt marsh empties back into the harbor. We cross the channel again and return to our starting point, having covered about five miles in two invigorating hours. My tour, packaged by Congress Hall, cost $60 and included lunch and a ride to and from the hotel. Or you can sign up directly with Aqua Tours for $45. Aqua Tours also offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, sunset and full-moon tours, and camp for kids. —Ken Schlager

1600 Delaware Avenue; 609-884-5600

Gateway National Recreation Area

This easy, self-guided, 12-mile ride up the spine of Sandy Hook is ideal for a family outing. The paved, multiuse path (also fit for runners or walkers) winds past oceanfront beaches and the rocky edge of Sandy Hook Bay on its way to Fort Hancock, the ghostly army base at Sandy Hook’s northern tip. The ride starts at parking area B, just beyond the entrance to the national recreation area (parking fee, $15). Cedar, juniper, cherry and holly trees shade much of the path. About two miles in, we pass two vintage Nike missiles on their launchers, vestiges of Sandy Hook’s incarnation as a military outpost. Tours of the Nike Missile Radar Site are available on a handful of select dates this summer (check the website). Eventually, the trail opens onto the grassy expanse of Fort Hancock, a former U.S. Army installation. At its peak during World War II, the fort—it’s more like a small town—was home to more than 7,000 soldiers. Its main military role was to protect New York Harbor from invasion by sea. In the Cold War era, the Nike missiles were installed to defend the entire East Coast. The fort was decommissioned in December 1974. The stately, yellow-brick living quarters of the fort’s Officers’ Row face the bay in various states of disrepair, their porches collapsing beneath the ravages of time. At the end of the row, the former Lieutenants’ Quarters serves as the History House (open 1-5 pm daily, through August). Behind Officers’ Row, the 103-foot-tall Sandy Hook Lighthouse watches over its surroundings, as it has for 250 years (tours available from 1-4:30 pm daily). The visitors’ center is located in the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters (open from 9 am-5 pm daily). The ride continues past the U.S. Coast Guard station, following the path to the right, then left toward the concrete-and-steel remains of the Nine-Gun Battery. The paved trail ends just beyond the battery. Here, we dismount and continue on foot up a sandy path to the North Beach observation deck for a view of lower Manhattan, about 15 miles across the open water. Turning back, we retrace the trail past the Nine-Gun Battery and head toward Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook’s clothing-optional area. (No worries, you can’t see the beach from the trail.) We continue on Atlantic Drive, which brings us back to the main path south of Fort Hancock. From here, it’s a quick four miles back to our starting point. —KS

The A.J. Meerwald was built to carry loads of oysters dredged from the floor of the Delaware Bay. Its dredging days long behind it, the graceful, two-masted gaff schooner, originally launched in 1928, now serves as an educational and tour boat. Throughout the warm-weather months, tours are available on the Meerwald from several New Jersey ports. Built in New Jersey, the Meerwald has had a bumpy and complex history. When it began its seagoing career, New Jersey’s oyster industry was booming, and the ship’s owners, the Meerwald family, thrived. Then came the Great Depression and World War II. During the war, the ship was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard and converted into a fireboat. The Meerwald changed hands several times in the ensuing decades. Eventually, the ship was donated to its current owner, the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, a nonprofit that raised the funds to restore the Meerwald and now operates it out of Port Norris, still on the Delaware Bay. In 1998, the Meerwald was declared the state’s official tall ship. The Bayshore Center utilizes the A.J. Meerwald for onboard educational programs, summer camps and charter trips, which help to fund its overhead expenses. Morning, afternoon, evening and themed (birding, oystering) sails—with Captain Johann Steinke at the helm—are available through early October from such New Jersey ports as Beach Haven, Cape May and Bivalve. Tickets for two-hour cruises range from $17.50 to $37.50. —Dominique McIndoe


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