Good Greek Fare, Lackluster Service at Olive & Ivy Mediterranean Kitchen

Octopus appetizer at Olive & Ivy. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Our meal at Olive & Ivy Mediterranean Kitchen, a Greek-inspired BYO in Eatontown that opened earlier this year, got off to a rough start.

I was meeting my good friend Julia, a native Jersey girl who grew up in Monmouth County but now calls Los Angeles home, while she was back in town visiting family. It was a Tuesday evening and the large, modern restaurant wasn’t even half-full. Yet we were seated off in a corner, away from the rest of the tables—and as such, out of the single server’s sight.

It took several minutes for him to greet us, and even longer before he poured us water. When I put our BYO bottle of wine on the table and asked for two wine classes, he demanded to see our IDs. I thought he was joking, as male servers sometimes do when you’re a table of two younger women. But he didn’t back down, not even after I told him I’d just purchased the bottle of wine down the road at Circus Wines in Red Bank.

Five minutes after being carded, which felt more like a way for him to learn our names or where we lived, he finally remembered to bring us wine glasses, disappearing before we could put in an order for appetizers. The exchange irked me, making me feel like an unwelcome guest. But I didn’t want to ruin the few hours I had to catch up with my friend, and so we delved into the food.

Olive & Ivy boasts a Mediterranean menu of mezze, mousaka, kebabs and seafood. There’s also more American items, like burgers, pork chops and steaks. We started with the saganaki ($12), flaming Greek kefalograviera cheese that’s lit tableside and drizzled with lemon olive oil; and the grilled octopus ($18). The cheese hadn’t fully softened before the flame went out, but it was still cheese, and so we devoured it. The octopus was slightly overcooked, chewy and tough instead of tender and soft.

Scallops and Shrimp Santorini at Olive & Ivy. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Our mains quickly followed. Julia ordered the scallops ($30), which came with five pan-roasted scallops over small rounds of polenta and basil. She remarked about how happy she was to be eating good East Coast scallops again, which you don’t find easily on the West Coast. But the entrée didn’t seem substantial enough, plated more like an appetizer than a main event. I opted for the Shrimp Santorini ($30). Served in a cast-iron dish, it consisted of prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce over rice, with crumbled feta on top.

Almost two hours had passed since we’d walked through the doors, and while the food was fresh and enjoyable, our hospitality experience hadn’t improved. We passed on dessert, and asked for our check, which was over $100. If that’s what it costs for an average dinner for two, with no alcohol included, a restaurant should really pay more attention to their guests, and treat them as such.

After settling up, we decided to continue catching up over a beer at an Irish pub in Red Bank, where we were greeted with a warm, friendly atmosphere and more.

Olive & Ivy, 78 Route 35, Eatontown; 732-389-0000. Open Tues-Sun for lunch and dinner.

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Camden incentives squabbles overshadow RFQ for Riverfront State Prison site

The specifications and descriptions of the property in the RFQ were reasonably precise:

  • Riverfront property, views of Philadelphia skyline;
  • Approximately 8.75 acres of prime land, close to a newly established public park, roadway improvements;
  • Large-scale environmental cleanup that involved capping the property with clean fill, topsoil and vegetation;
  • Seemingly ideal location for commercial or mixed-use development.

If interested, the EDA release says (bolded and ALL CAPS as it was presented):

Qualifications must be received by 2 p.m. on September 18, 2019 in a securely SEALED envelope or carton.

Here’s what the Request for Qualifications for those interested in redeveloping the former Riverfront State Prison Site in Camden doesn’t say:

Will the developer or any companies using the site have access to any Economic Development Authority-sponsored tax incentive programs?

Will those using any potential incentives become pawns in the growing war involving Camden — a war Gov. Phil Murphy’s team says it did not want, but it has, thanks to a task force many in Camden feel (rightly or wrongly) was constructed with an eye on them?

Will — and it’s becoming increasingly easier to question — there be any incentive programs actually on the books when it comes time to advance the process?

And, finally, if there are no incentives available, will that be an acknowledgement that the previous incentives for Camden did what they were supposed to do: create an urban environment where incentives are no longer needed to attract development?

If the EDA’s release of the RFQ for the former prison site was intended to show the Murphy administration is committed to development in Camden, it may have fallen short.

Firms are not racing to do business in Camden right now.

“The EDA is toxic,” one developer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “No one wants to be associated with it right now. That’s not good.”

There is a lot of uncertainty.

And tension.

Earlier Friday, Camden Mayor Frank Moran (along with city council President Curtis Jenkins and state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez) issued a tough-talking news release regarding Murphy’s planned visit to the city — only his second since taking office, they said.

“Gov. Phil Murphy is swooping into Camden to attend a small group event out of the eye of the public, but he won’t come here to talk to the leaders of the city about why he’s attacking it or the potentially devastating impacts his attacks could have on the amazing progress Camden is making,” Moran said in the release.

“That’s why it’s so important that he understand from those of us who were elected to represent the people of Camden a simple message: He’s not welcome here unless and until he stops attacking the city and talks to the people of Camden and the leaders who were elected to represent them.

“Using Trenton attack dogs to try to destroy any of the more than two dozen companies which are making major investments in Camden makes it harder to attract new ones here, and that hurts the people of Camden.”

Darryl Isherwood, a spokesperson for the EDA, took exception to Moran’s words, and reiterated the governor’s interest — and efforts — in Camden. Efforts, he said, are demonstrated by the RFQ.

“The focus of the task force has never been about one geography or one company or one person,” he said. “It’s always been about determining if taxpayer dollars — including those paid by the residents of Camden — have been spent wisely, and to ensure that the program works for everybody, not just a select few.

“Gov. Murphy continues to make the well-being of the city of Camden a priority,  in areas like education where we have allocated more than $310 million to school funding, the most in recent memory; transportation, where we have distributed more than $54 million to the county; and property tax relief, where more than $180 million has been earmarked under three separate programs.”

Isherwood said the governor is eager to get his new incentive programs passed.

“The governor has proposed a robust package of tax incentives that we’re still hopeful will be passed into law by the Legislature,” he said. “Those incentives certainly would benefit developers interested into the site.”

The process figures to be a long one. The RFQ is just the first step.

But it’s the first step into a situation some are hesitant to get into.

This much is a clear: A highly desirable piece of real estate (and a good part of that desirability comes from the investment that has come to Camden) is available. But it comes with many more questions than can be answered right now.

And that’s not good for New Jersey.

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Local Teen Uncovers Family Histories—and Secrets—for Curious Clients

Medford Lakes High School senior Eric Shubert has made a business of genealogy, researching family trees for more than 1,000 clients. Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Eric Schubert’s friends call him “the world’s oldest teenager,” and maybe they have a point. The 17-year-old senior at Shawnee High School in Medford Lakes runs a thriving business in a field that’s more likely to attract people planning for retirement than fielding college acceptances. When he isn’t studying or volunteering (he helps oversee two nonprofits), he spends his time tracing family histories and tracking down long-lost relatives. He launched his company, ES Genealogy, in early 2016, and over the past three years has unlocked family mysteries for hundreds of clients across the country.

Those mysteries might have been unsolved were it not for a bout of pneumonia Schubert suffered in fourth grade. Stuck at home for days, he felt as sidelined by boredom as by his illness. His mother saw an advertisement for the genealogical website and suggested he check it out to pass the time. “I was always interested in history,” says Schubert, who had already committed to memory all the presidents and their terms of office in chronological order. “As soon as I figured out that genealogy was history, I was hooked.”

Initially, he concentrated on tracing his own family history, discovering, for example, that his family surname wasn’t originally Schubert, but Grzegorzewski. (“Thirteen letters, very Polish,” he says. “My grandfather changed it before he got married.”) But after four years, he figured he had learned most of what there was to know about his personal ancestry. He might have given up his hobby for good, but luckily, he needed a job.

“At 15,” he says, “there wasn’t much I could do.” So either he or his mother—the two can’t quite agree on this point—decided he should find out if folks in the community might want to hire him to research their family trees. “I thought it was a great idea,” Schubert recalls, “but I didn’t think there would be that much interest. Boy, was I wrong.”

Soon he was riding a wave of genealogical fascination generated by sites like Ancestry and MyHeritage and DNA services like 23 and Me. In fact, based on data from 2016, genealogy is America’s second most popular hobby (the first is gardening). Since launching his business, Schubert has delved into the family histories of more than 1,000 clients, compiling custom scrapbooks and family trees. He’s learned that the Internet will take him only so far, and that sometimes, only an old-fashioned letter will secure the information he’s seeking. Among the secrets he’s uncloaked are a client’s relative born at the same time and in the same small Austrian town as Adolf Hitler, and for an adoptee, the unsettling fact that her birth parents died by murder/suicide.

He hopes he can keep the business going over the next four years while he attends Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. “I can never stay away from it for too long,” he says of an enterprise that’s also clearly a passion. At college, he plans to study social studies education and—no surprise—history.

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N.J. rejects Trinitas’ application to become a Level II Trauma Center

Trinitas Regional Medical Center’s application to become a Level II Trauma Center was rejected by the state Department of Health on Friday, ROI-NJ has confirmed.

Officials at Trinitas said they are currently reviewing the seven-page rejection letter (which can be read below).

Requests for comment from the Department of Health were not immediately returned.

Trinitas, which has been in a prolonged fight to earn Level II designation, appeared to be moving in that direction in January, when its efforts received approval from the state’s health planning board.

Trinitas, which is in Elizabeth, began its latest effort to become a Level II Trauma Center in the fall of 2017, when the state asked hospitals in Union County to apply for the designation — recognizing that the county did not have a Level II center in its borders.

Trinitas CEO Gary Horan openly argued his case for the designation, citing — among other reasons — that Elizabeth is one of the 10 most violent cities in the state and Trinitas’ emergency room is one of the busiest in the state — one that handles many extreme trauma cases, such as wounds from gunshots and stabbings.

Trinitas’ application was met with opposition from officials at University Hospital in Newark, as well as Newark elected officials, who argued that granting the designation would result in a loss of business and financial harm to University Hospital.

Officials at the hospital and more than a dozen elected officials in the Newark/Essex County area sent six letters of opposition to the Department of Health last April.

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Texas HR services firm names N.J. exec

BenefitMall, a Texas-based provider of benefit and payroll services, has hired a payroll sales director for New Jersey, it announced this week.

The company, which has its New Jersey office in Somerset, said John Watson joins after more than a dozen years with Paychex in a variety of roles, including district sales manager. He has more than a decade of payroll, HR and employee benefits sales experience, BenefitMall noted.

“BenefitMall is thrilled to introduce John Watson to our payroll sales team,” Michael Garcia, vice president of Eastern payroll sales, said in a prepared statement. “His extensive experience in payroll and employee benefits sales with small to medium businesses will make him an excellent leader for our sales team in New Jersey.”

In his new role, Watson will over see BenefitMall’s New Jersey human capital management and payroll sales efforts, leading the Garden State teams.

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How success of Kearny Point project was key to $3M infrastructure grant for Kearny

The town of Kearny has received a $3 million federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Public Works program to redevelop and improve Hackensack Avenue into a high performing “green” street, seeing as the stretch of roadway serves as the primary entranceway to Kearny Point, a collection of more than 3 million anticipated square feet of coworking and flexible-use office space on 130 acres in South Kearny.

“To say that I am impressed with the local vision and the collaboration taking place here would be an understatement,” John Fleming, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, said Thursday on site at Kearny Point. “Through your efforts, this land is being reborn as a center for the pioneering companies of the new economy, providing a flexible, modern workplace and home to a diverse community of today’s creators.”

The EDA’s investment also will be matched by $1.3 million in local funds, Fleming added.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, from left, with John Fleming, assistant secretary of commerce, Hugo Neu CEO Wendy Kelman Neu and Hugo Neu Director of Development Mike Meyer.

“This is the type of true public-private partnership that the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration is eager to invest in,” he said.

Fleming attributed the success of one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the country to Wendy Kelman Neu, chairman and CEO of New York City-based Hugo Neu Corp., with the ongoing redevelopment representing an expected $1 billion in public and private investment into the site over the next decade.

Hugo Neu Corp., a recognized global leader in recycling, is the owner and redeveloper of Kearny Point.

“It is through your commitment and wisdom that this former maritime facility is being transformed into a cutting-edge, world-class innovation district and manufacturing hub,” Fleming said.

Neu said the announcement Thursday marked the celebration of an incredible milestone not only for Kearny Point but also for the long-term economic development goals of Kearny, as the funding goes toward a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-designated Opportunity Zone.

“We would not be here today without the hard work of the many stakeholders that understand that in addressing the infrastructural needs to support growing businesses at Kearny Point, we can take critical and meaningful steps to protect and enhance our natural environment,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said the federal grant was a wise investment in New Jersey infrastructure.

“The modernization of Hackensack Avenue will not only safeguard the area from future storm-related flooding, but will strengthen pedestrian and biker safety and lay the foundation for the economic revitalization and improved quality of life that this community deserves,” Booker said in a statement.

According to Mike Meyer, director of development at Hugo Neu Corp., the redevelopment of the roadway will include the planting of more than 20,000 square feet of grass, plants and trees; the creation of designated paths for both pedestrians and cyclists; new street light poles; and the implementation and improvement of overhead electric services and underground gas distribution system piping.

Designed by Bohler Engineering and Arterial Design Studio, the project also will reduce flooding and limit nonpoint pollution of the Hudson-Raritan watershed by rebuilding the roadway’s underground water distribution, stormwater and sewer systems.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said the roadway improvements, which are expected to be completed within a year and a half, are just the beginning.

“We will be submitting more applications and we will be able to show you results,” Santos said. “Bringing old industrial centers back to life to create more jobs should be our collective goal irrespective of state or party.

“We should be about economic growth in a responsible way that creates jobs — and Kearny Point is meeting that challenge.”

Kearny Point is the modern answer to developing the new economy, Neu said, made possible by the scrap metal trading business her late husband, John Neu, started with his father, Hugo Neu, in 1947.

Through various subsidiaries, Hugo Neu Corp. had developed more than 9 million square feet of industrial properties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California over its many decades in business, including the former Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. warehouse and distribution facilities in South Kearny.

Building 78 at Kearny Point.

When Hurricane Sandy left the site under four feet of water in 2012, the Neus decided to demolish and construct newer industrial buildings for distribution and logistics purposes. But with the passing of her husband in 2013, Wendy Kelman Neu, who had been working for Hugo Neu Corp. since 1980, unexpectedly assumed complete control of the historic riverfront site.

Neu ultimately decided to partner with Steve Nislick, former CEO of Edison Properties and now chief financial officer of Hugo Neu Corp., to reposition the company to invest, build and manage innovative businesses in recycling and real estate, starting in 2015 with the renovation and construction of four floors of flexible-use office space between 200 and 3,000 square feet at Building 78, a 200,000-square-foot building at Kearny Point.

Starting at nearly $500 per month, small to medium-sized businesses now have 24/7 access not only to high-quality, scalable office space in which to grow, but also coworking space, rooftop event space, a café and bar, internet technology services, printer, scanner and copier services and package delivery and receipt services for a fraction of the cost of what they would find in New York City, Newark, Hoboken or Jersey City, Nick Shears, director of leasing and marketing for Hugo Neu Realty Management, said.

Having reached more than 95 percent occupancy within a year and a half without the use of brokers in 2017, Building 78 at Kearny Point now hosts more than 200 businesses and nearly 500 employees, Shears added, with the majority of tenants being women- and minority-owned companies.

Building 78 has proven so successful, in fact, that an annex consisting of 90,000 square feet of small flexible-use office space is currently being constructed to expand the building’s footprint by the end of this year.

According to Hugo Neu Corp. representatives, subsequent phases of the project will also involve the renovation and demolishment of older buildings on-site to create more than 3 million square feet of WELL AP-certified flexible-use office space ranging from 200 to 10,000 square feet; the construction of a gathering hall with retail and dining components; a waterfront park and living shoreline at the confluence of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers; an outdoor amphitheater; and more than 25 acres of open space for both the tenants and the public.

The goal, Neu said, is to create nearly 10,000 jobs on site.

“But this is much larger than 130 acres,” she said. “What we hope to do here is create a model in Kearny that then will be transferable to other locations.”

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Ørsted signs agreement to support Rutgers research on offshore wind power

Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind has signed a memorandum of understanding with Rutgers University to support academic research related to offshore wind power, the two announced this week.

The MOU was signed through Rutgers’ Corporate Engagement Center, a joint venture of the university’s Office of Research and Economic Development and the Rutgers University Foundation.

Under the agreement, Ørsted will make an initial contribution to the university, with additional funding contingent upon its being granted approval by the state Board of Public Utilities for its Ocean Wind project, which would be the state’s first offshore wind farm.

The BPU is expected to rule on the December 2018 application in the summer.

“Rutgers University is a premiere institution that can provide us with ongoing research that will help propel the New Jersey offshore wind industry forward,” Thomas Brostrøm, CEO of Ørsted, said in a prepared statement. “We are very happy to partner with them as we progress with our Ocean Wind project.”

The research being supported will be conducted at the Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership, part of the Department of Marine and Coastal Science.

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House passes bills to protect ACA, including requiring study of state-based health exchanges like N.J.’s

The U.S. House of Representatives passed bills late Thursday night that would protect Affordable Care Act provisions that have recently been threatened or stripped by President Donald Trump’s administration, as well as promote greater generic drug use.

The bills include the following provisions and amendments:

  • Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide outreach and education about federal health insurance exchanges in a variety of languages, extra focus on expanding navigators and outreach in vulnerable populations, including veterans and high health risk regions, set annual enrollment targets, provide annual reports on spending on outreach and enrollment;
  • Prohibit the HHS secretary from ending autoenrollment each year for existing exchange enrollees, and from restricting the practice of insurers adding surcharges to silver-level plans, which in turn boosts subsidies for individuals 400% below the poverty line;
  • Require biweekly public reports on the status of the health insurance enrollment period;
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to do two studies, one on the effects of the administration’s cuts to ACA outreach and navigator efforts on the cost of coverage, and the other on the effects of state-based health exchanges (like the one recently set up in New Jersey);
  • Extend federal assistance for state-based exchanges to 2023 and extend the requirement that state-based exchanges be self-sustaining by 2025;
  • Require HHS to submit a report analyzing how harmful the cost increases of commonly used drugs have been to those who forgo treatment as a result;
  • Direct HHS, the Department of Labor and Department of Education to do outreach to higher education institutions about promoting awareness of use and availability of generic drugs;
  • Commission the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a study of the amount of federal funding and research used in developing drugs by pharmaceutical companies;
  • Require drug companies to provide samples to generic manufacturers.

All 12 representatives from New Jersey voted for the measures in the MORE Health Education Act.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) has received some credit for including the provisions, through a bipartisan effort, that address state-based exchanges.

“This is the No. 1 issue on people’s minds in Burlington and Ocean Counties,” he said. “We came together as a Democrat and Republican to introduce this legislation and worked to get it passed. The Senate should look to our example and do the same. Our neighbors don’t have time for partisan games. The time is now to act on lowering health care costs.”

The provision to boost navigators and outreach will reverse the trend of insurers and health care providers picking up the slack from reduced funding in the last few years.

Between 2016 and 2018, federal navigator funding in New Jersey dropped 79 percent — from $1.9 million to $400,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Americans elected the new House to provide a careful balance of oversight combined with an aggressively positive agenda,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

“With today’s vote, the House is fighting back against Donald Trump and Republicans’ repeated attempts to destroy the ACA and weaken health care for millions. Furthermore, for too long, Americans and their families strangled by high drug prices have cried out for their elected leaders to lower prices. Our legislation delivers reforms to ease that burden.”

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) said people continue to buy drugs from outside the country because of the high cost.

“When sick, the ability to afford a prescription — or whether your plan offers the coverage you need — should be the last thing on your mind,” she said.

“This bill takes credible steps to improve our health care system and restore critical funding to help New Jersey families sign up for the health care plan that best represents the needs of our families.”

The measures must next be voted on in the Senate.

“There is broad, bipartisan support for efforts to increase the availability of generic drugs by increasing competition — and I’m relieved we voted to advance these common sense proposals,” said Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.).

“Plus, we’re proactively making fixes to help keep premiums low and the number of uninsured Americans down. I strongly urge the Senate to put partisan politics aside and vote for these measures that help save lives.”

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8 Veggie-Centric Cocktails to Try This Spring

The Three Little Birds, right, from Porta. Photo courtesy of Porta

Regardless of whether you get your spring vegetables from your abundant kitchen garden or the abundance of your well-stocked local produce section, there’s another, slightly unexpected way to have your seasonal fill of spring vegetables: cocktails. That’s right, thanks to the wiles of some of the Garden State’s most creative mixologists, you can drink your veggies this spring. From carrots and bourbon to peas and tequila to beets and gin (and vodka), New Jersey bartenders are taking delightful, high-ABV liberties with the same tender spring produce your kids refuse at dinnertime.

Here are 8 places to veg out this spring. 

What Grows Together Goes Together at the Kitchen Step

Maybe it’s no surprise mixologist Ray Keane at the Kitchen Step in Jersey City goes culinary in his cocktails—he’s the former pastry chef at the three Michelin-starred Alinea in Chicago. But he definitely takes it next level with the wild-yet-elegant What Grows Together Goes Together, with tequila, carrot, spring pea, sage bitters, and garden aroma. For a deluxe second nip, you can always ask Keane to mix up the I Hit Pay Dirt, which digs deeper into the garden patch with olive leaf liqueur and earthy black truffle bitters. The Kitchen Step, 500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City; 201-721-6115

Dirty Ramp Gibson at the Farm and Fisherman

The only difference between a Martini and a Gibson is the cocktail onion garnish. The difference between a Gibson and this Gibson is a bit more significant. The drink from the team at the Farm and Fisherman Tavern & Market in Cherry Hill is London Dry-style gin, garden vermouth, orange bitters, and, most notably, ramp brine subbing in for that pickled onion (and showcasing yet another use for the adored-but-fleeting seasonal ingredient). The Farm and Fisherman, 1442 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill; 856-356-2282

The Desperado at Barrio Costero

Perhaps the least familiar ingredient here is the Génépy de Alpes, a Swiss Après Ski-style liqueur made with an herb cousin of wormwood (called génépy) that’s described as Chartreuse-ish, aromatic and herbacious. But it’s the tomatillo shrub that caught our eye—the genius of showcasing the fragrant tang of tomatillos in a vinegary shrub. Poblano liqueur and gin add heat and punch to the drink (the one looking innocent in the foreground here). Barrio Costero, 610 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park; 732-455-5544

The Un’Beet’Able, left, at Agricola. Photo courtesy of Agricola

Un’Beet’Able at Agricola

For it’s Un’Beet’Able cocktail, Agricola uses the trailblazing, slightly mind-boggling non-alcoholic “spirit” Seedlip Garden 108. Uncanny, maybe, but delicious: the brainchild of a Brit with generations of gardening in his soul; the flavors—English pea and hay—are distilled in alcohol, which is ultimately completely removed. The rest of the cocktail is organic beets, agave, cream, and egg white. (Which is to say, it doesn’t drink like you’re missing out.) Agricola, 11 Witherspoon Street, Princeton; 609-921-2798

Who Framed Roger Rabbit at INC

We were secretly hoping for a rabbit reference in a spring veggie drinks list. This entry on the Spring Drinks Menu from the good folks at INC in New Brunswick gets a lot of dimensionality from a few powerful ingredients: bourbon, carrot juice, ginger beer, and a fragrant note from thyme—making for a tall, spicy-savory spritzer with enough Beta Carotene to power your sight should the night last longer than planned. INC, 302 George Street, New Brunswick; 732-640-0553

The Basil Lemon Drop at the Ebbitt Room

What would a vegetable garden be without (way too much) basil? While the rest of us make half-hearted pesto plans, the wise folks at the Ebbitt Room in Cape May figured out how to turn all that green into the fragrant-savory edge of an updated Lemon Drop cocktail. Limoncello, vodka, and fragrant elderflower liqueur add a touch of bright and floral. The Ebbitt Room, 25 Jackson Street, Cape May; 609-884-5700

Three Little Birds at Porta

Some of the flavors of the seasonal Three Little Birds at Porta in Asbury Park are on the lighter side of spring—chamomile lavender tea, honey syrup—but the thyme is the decisive flavor. Another spring herb accent to the vegetable garden, here used to give a savory depth to the vodka-based drink (second from the front), with fresh lemon to lift the final flavor like a ray of sunshine. Porta, 911 Kingsley Street, Asbury Park; 732-776-7661

Beet Me to the Punch at South House in Jersey City

Turns out Agricola’s not the only spot risking beet stains for good drinks. At Jersey City’s multi-southern-tinged South House, the Beet Me to the Punch pits beet juice against Brockman Gin and Figenza Vodka (which is fig-based, but by the time it’s vodka, that’s essentially moot), with a dash of cranberry, lemon juice, and basil. South House, 149 Newark Avenue, Jersey City; 201-209-1316

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Juniper adds Pa. senior housing community to its portfolio

Bloomfield-based Juniper Communities has added to its portfolio of managed and owned senior housing communities, with the acquisition of a Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, residence.

The Terrace at Chestnut Hill adds 70 personal care units and 33 memory care units to Juniper’s portfolio, becoming the company’s 12th senior housing building in Pennsylvania.

“We are very excited to extend our signature programs to benefit residents and their families, the team of associates and the professional health care community,” Juniper founder and CEO Lynne S. Katzmann said in a prepared statement.

The community employs 95 people, and Juniper said it is striving to retain them.

“Expanding our presence in the Pennsylvania market enables Juniper to consolidate market share and pilot additional ancillary services within a concentrated hub,” Katzmann said.

The property at 495 E. Abington Ave., will now operate as The Terrace at Chestnut Hill, a Juniper Managed Community.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

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