WHATS FOR LUNCH: SLIDERS ON SURFBOARDS

091914 woodys2Brisket sliders and an Orange Crush on a surfboard-themed table at Woody’s Ocean Grille in Sea Bright.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

092014 woodys sbMeeting a friend for lunch at the beach is one of the biggest perks to living on the greater Green. So, dispensing with the usual idea of running into Red Bank, we opted for the more relaxing sandy beach locale of Sea Bright, where Woody’s Ocean Bar and Grille stands among the reopened restaurants decimated by Hurricane Sandy almost two years ago.

Decorated true to its name, the driftwood and lacquered-surfboard styling gives this place a comfortable beach vibe. Upstairs, in a loft overhanging the bar, a long banquette with comfy little pillows made us feel like we were sitting on a sofa rather than a bench. The skylight adds to the outdoorsy ambiance. (For more on the design, check out redbankgreen‘s 2013 feature on designer Jeff Cahill.)
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SEA BRIGHT: DIVE BAR DIVES RIGHT BACK IN

091214 dive2A bright and colorful interior to Dive into in Sea Bright. Below, the vegetarian black bean burger. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091214 dive3 Dive owners and newlyweds Christina DiIorio and Steven Graniero  start and finish one another’s sentences.

“We called it Dive so people would feel comfortable to come here,” Graniero said. “Diving into Sea Bright, diving into the food, and just diving into the new place,” DiIorio added.

After Hurricane Sandy, Dive – which had been open only two years – was closed for 20 months. In that time, the couple worked on refurbishing the restaurant and got married. “We opened Dive on out honeymoon” in early July, DiIorio said.

They hired Sea Bright locals, Kyle Hopfensperger as executive chef and Daniel Ciameroni as sous chef. Both 29 years old, they have restaurant experience in the area, and either ride their bikes or skateboards to work. They have also been friends since they were two years old.

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SHREWSBURY: GARDENERS EAT THEIR OWN

091414 shrwsbry gdn feast3Community gardeners celebrating their harvest at the garden, located adjacent to Borough Hall. Below, Pam MacNeill and Maureen Collins in the gazebo. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

091414 shrwsbry gdn feastSipping wine amid tables festooned with bouquets of flowers, the Shrewsbury community gardener’s celebrated the end of the growing season with a potluck dinner recently.

In the gazebo, a table laden with casseroles and salads made from this year’s harvest looked like a picture from a home and garden magazine.

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GETTING FRIED ON THE GREEN

062714 zucchini barnacle billsBarnacle Bill’s fried zucchini with tangy dipping sauce is a perennial favorite, while deep fried pickle spears (below) from the Globe are a newer menu addition. (Photos By Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

DSCN2037

Eat your vegetables, you were told as a child. They’re good for you. But your mama probably didn’t mean the deep-fried veggies that have been popping up on tavern menus all around the Green.

Belly up to the bar, boys and girls, to try a less healthy but way more fun way to fill your pie hole with roughage. PieHole leads the tour…

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SEA BRIGHT: SO LONG, SUMMER THRONGS

sh beaches 090114 2sb surfer 090114 1Beachgoers thronged the sands of Sandy Hook, above, and Sea Bright, right, on a hot, muggy Labor Day that marked the unofficial end of summer Monday. For locals, of course, a new season of free access to wide-open beaches begins.

More photos after the jump… (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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RED BANK: MOONSHINE REPLACES NEON

rb crate's 082614 2A display of moonshine products at Crate’s Liquor in Red Bank. (Photos by Rachel Weston. Click to enlarge)

By RACHEL WESTON

rb crate's 082614Neon signs may be endangered, but the light of the moon shines more brightly in Red Bank after Crate’s Liquors installed a new window display last week.

Russell Burlew, owner of the North Bridge Avenue bottle shop, was among the retailers who received a confusing letter from borough hall this spring directing them to remove illuminated and neon signs from storefront windows. The signs violated borough ordinances, they were told.

After an outcry by business owners, some of whom have had their signs for decades, enforcement of the orders has been halted by the borough council, which is reviewing the sign ordinance.

Meantime, though, Burlew went ahead and removed 15 signs that advertised beer and other beverages and found a new use for the space: a moonshine display.

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RED BANK: THE SWEET AFTERTASTE

081514 cutie pops pomericoMelanie Pomerico, owner of Lil’ Cutie Pops, holds a bouquet of cocktail-themed cakes. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge.)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumCocktail Week, a townwide party that showcased the bars and bartenders in Red Bank, had some sweet support from borough bakers.

Lil’ Cutie Pops on Monmouth Street made three flavors of its signature cake pops: Bailey’s Irish Cream, Guinness Dark Chocolate and Margarita. Although they were baked especially for the themed event, all three treats are often in stock or can be special-ordered, shop owner Melanie Pomerico said.

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RED BANK: COCKTAILS FOR A CAUSE

TasteCocktailsThe popular lounge at Taste is the setting for a Wednesday evening of food and drink specialties dedicated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monmouth.

Red Bank Cocktail Week may have come and gone, but this Wednesday evening the popular bar at Taste in the Galleria will mix up a special one-night-only promotion, designed to help one of eastern Monmouth’s longest-established youth-oriented nonprofits fund its ongoing slate of recreational and cultural programs for area kids.

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COCKTAIL WEEK (SORRY) MUDDLES ON

081314 cocktail mixoff4Bartenders, preparing to compete at Taste Tuesday night. Chris Paseka, below, emceed the well-attended event. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

081314 cocktail mixoff3A feeling of autumn was in the air Tuesday night at Taste in Red Bank.

A Laird’s Applejack mix-off, a continuation of Cocktail Week, was in full swing, featuring nine enthusiastically adept bartenders and their apple-inspired concoctions.

Dressing up table displays with brightly colored fall motifs, the imaginative bartenders mixed cinnamon apple margaritas – and muddled everything from sage to peaches – while dipping the rims of tiny shot glasses in cinnamon sugar.

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SEA BRIGHT: FRESH-PLATED BY YOUNG CHEF

080714 Chuck lesbirelChef Chuck Lesbirel in the dining room of Ama. Below: a seasonal salad of Jersey peaches, Jersey tomatoes and lobster.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

080714 ama lobster2How does a 26-year-old become an executive chef?

For Chuck Lesbirel, now presiding over the kitchen of Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright, it starts with an impressive résumé that goes back to a 14-year-old kid washing dishes at Palate Pleasers in Keyport.

Working in restaurant kitchens, Lesbirel watched and learned the chef business with stints at a kosher restaurant, a few small places, an educational rounding-out at the Culinary Education Center at Brookdale, and then a big jump to sous chef at David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson.

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RED BANK: COCKTAIL WEEK? IF YOU INSIST…

dee downtown 072514 2Downtown bartender Dee with some of his output, including a blackbery cosmo, below.  (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

downtown cocktail 072514 2To watch the one-named bartender Dee when the drink orders are coming in at Red Bank’s Downtown is to a witness unflappability amid a blur of glasses, garnishes, bottles and stainless-steel shakers.

“I have to be very quick,” Dee tells PieHole while rapidly muddling ingredients for a cucumber vodka mojito. Over 10 years of mixing and pouring, “I’ve developed speed,” says Dee. “Not every bartender likes to muddle, but I love the labor of this job.”

Starting August 10, the restaurant promotion group Red Bank Flavour plans to spotlight the town’s watering holes and the bartenders who keep their libations flowing with the first-ever Red Bank Cocktail Week.

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SEA BRIGHT: A MARTINI RIPE WITH SUMMER

beau keegan 072214Ama mixologist Beau Keegan adds a dash of grenadine to give his white peach martini the look of a peach. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

ama peach martini 072214Kitchens and dining rooms aren’t the only areas of restaurants caught up in the growing interest in locally sourced artisanal food products.

At Ama Ristorante in Sea Bright, the bar has become a place of labor-intensive cocktails prepared with carefully chosen fruits and flavorings, says Beau Keegan, who runs the beverage operation.

“A generation ago, it was all about liqueurs, but there’s been a revolution in the last 10 or 15 years of people making their own purees, syrups, bitters,” he says. Driven by customer interest, “everybody’s kind of pushing each other” to find new, and fresher, ingredients, he says.
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