ENTREE NEW

Cookbook

The Asbury Park Press has published a cookbook produced by its staff that features “signature recipes” of entrees made by chefs at 40 Monmouth and Ocean county restaurants.

Three Red Bank restaurants are featured in the book, titled “Shore Gourmet.”

According to a recent item in the Press, the cookbook…

offers sumptuous dishes ranging from butter-poached lobster to wild boar to seafood and pasta in a white wine sauce. Featured restaurants include Nicholas in Middletown, Doris and Ed’s in Highlands, David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson and Villa Vittoria in Brick.

Each chef-prepared recipe is highlighted by glossy photographs of the finished dish and a description of the restaurant.

We haven’t seen it. But we thought our readers might like to know which restaurants from the area we call The Green (and slightly beyond) are represented in the book.

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GIVING A TOP-SHELF CAT SOME SKIN

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Ralph Gatta, aka “Johnny Jazz,” did not set out to become an institution. It was never his intent to transform what had been a simple family-owned butcher shop into a working monument to what he considers America’s greatest art form.

All he wanted, really, was to be able to continue experiencing the wonders of jazz after life threw him a curveball back in 1963. With the death of his father, Johnny Gatta, Ralph’s freewheeling Saturday nights at Birdland and other clubs in New York and Newark came to a sudden halt, as he and his mother, Helen, put in 12, 13 hours a day keeping their Shrewsbury Avenue grocery going.

So onto the turntable in the back room went the LPs. And out of the speakers above the shelves of cereal and canned goods and sacks of rice came Bird, and Miles, and Coltrane. All day long. Sometimes at volumes that Helen thought unnecessarily high. But Gatta couldn’t help himself. This is a man who, at 69 years old, still becomes visibly pumped when he hears a great horn riff and sprinkles his speech with references to “top-shelf cats.”

“The bottom line is, without my mother and the music—the music —I couldn’t have done it,” says Gatta. “I just did it for myself, to tell the truth. Because if you’re going to put music in a store, it wouldn’t be real jazz.”

On Sunday, Feb. 18, Gatta will be honored by The Source, an outreach program for students at Red Bank Regional High School.

Why Johnny Jazz? Not because he’s got anything to do with The Source, exactly. But simply for doing what he’s done, which has been to help preserve an art form by infecting his customers, including generations of kids, with his sense of devotion.

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SHARMA COPS TO BOOZE CHARGE

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Best Liquors owner Sunny Sharma and an employee of his Leighton Avenue store have each pleaded guilty to one count of selling alcohol to a minor, according to Police Chief Mark Fitzgerald.

But Sharma’s legals woes are far from over. He and a second employee are still contesting two pending charges in Municipal Court proceedings that have been adjourned until Feb. 1. And at some point, Sharma is expected to face off against the Borough Council, which has been making noises about yanking his liquor license in response to a long list of complaints and resolved offenses.

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BEST LIQUORS TRIAL POSTPONED

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The Borough Council’s trial-like hearing on a series of seven allegations against the liquor license of Best Liquors has been postponed for a month, according to today’s Asbury Park Press.

The reason: store owner Sunny Sharma’s hiring of a new lawyer, Mitchell Ansell. Word of the new counsel reached borough officials Monday, and they agreed that Ansell should have time to prepare his defense against the allegations, which include five counts of selling liquor to minors.

From the article:

“The party in the case just reached us and asked us for an adjournment,” Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. said. “I’d ask we grant that adjournment so we can afford him due process.”

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RESTAURATEUR: GIVE SMOKERS THE CHAIR

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You’re on your way into a restaurant you’ve been dying to check out, and just as you near the door, it hits you: the cloud of nicotine exhaust you have to pass through thanks to the cigarette junkies huddled against the cold near the entrance.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Solution: Give smokers the chair. And a table. Preferably as far from the door as possible.

That’s the gist of an idea that Buona Sera Ristorante owner Chris Mariani pitched to the borough council in a recent letter.

He wants the borough to allow restaurants that offer outdoor seating through the warm months to do so year-round to entice smokers to less-trafficked corners of their properties.

“Just keep them away from the front door so it doesn’t look like a factory,” says Mariani, himself a cigar smoker. “It opens it up a little bit. Spread ’em out.”

Mariani’s idea quickly took to the air. Within minutes of its first mention at Monday’s council meeting, most of the governing body had endorsed it.

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SOUP, SAUSAGE AND STAYING POWER

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Ten quick questions for Gary Sable, owner and sole employee of That Hot Dog Place, 30 Monmouth Street (next to the Dublin House). Gary’s 54, married, lives in Hazlet and has two grown daughters.

Did you have another career before you started this business?
Yeah. Before this, I had bar & restaurant in Perth Amboy called The Triangle Café with my brother, Scott, for 23 years. It was a family business. My father bought it in ’66, and then he started getting sick. I went in in’73, and my brother came in two years later.

The bar business is good when you’re young, but once you get past 35, you don’t want to be in that business anymore. The hours will kill you. Absolutely kill you.

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GO WEST, YOUNG MENNA!

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Two weeks after his election, and six weeks before he’s to be sworn in, Mayor-elect Pat Menna moved to put his stamp on Red Bank Monday night, introducing a plan to expand the special-assessment business district known as RiverCenter to the West Side.

Casting the move in terms of rising competition with nearby towns for shopping and entertainment dollars, Menna and RiverCenter executives said the plan, if approved by the Borough Council, would push the western edge of the Special Improvement District west along Monmouth to Bridge Avenue.

On Bridge, the district would reach south to Chestnut Street and north to the Navesink River. Also included would be the Oyster Point and Molly Pitcher hotels, and the new Hovnanian headquarters.

Excluded entirely is Shrewsbury Avenue.

Given what he termed the “positive” reception to the idea, Menna says he hopes to have an ordinance introduced, passed an enacted before he takes office on Jan. 1.

“The only time to move is the present,” he told redbankgreen this morning.

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COUNCIL ‘NEUTRAL’ IN SHARMA SQUEEZE

Elected officials suddenly went into lips-zipped mode on the topic of Best Liquors last night, asking citizens to refrain from discussing or inquiring about the case of the controversial West Side retailer during the public portion of the borough council’s bimonthly meeting.

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The reason? To avoid any appearance that the council might have prejudged a hearing, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6, on whether to revoke or suspend the store’s liquor license for a variety of alleged offenses that have had neighbors demanding a shutdown of the store for months.

That trial-like civil hearing on the status of the store’s liquor license will be prosecuted by Assistant Borough Attorney Thomas Hall, who takes his marching orders from the council. The council itself, several of whose members have openly discussed possible ways to terminate the store’s license, will rule on the matter.

Now, though, Mayor Ed McKenna says council members should stay mum on the subject to avoid giving the impression that the hearing won’t be fair, or give store owner of Sunny Sharma grounds for an appeal should the council rule against him.

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WINE-CRAWL AUCTION ACTION

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What a terrific idea for a fundraiser.

First, gather a couple of hundred well-heeled folks in blue jeans in the greenhouse at Sickles Market in Little Silver.

Hold a series of silent auctions for bottles of fine wine and gourmet foods as a warm-up.

Then, auction off “wine crawl” dinners, at which some of this region’s finest private wine cellars are thrown open, chefs from some of the best area restaurants provide signature dishes, and the winning bidders get limousined from one stop to the next in a head-spinning moveable feast.

Stand back. These folks will be waving their wallets and elbowing each other aside for a shot at the primo vino.

According to spokeswoman Karen Irvine, last year’s installment of the Sickles Market Wine & Cheese Tasting and Fundraiser “was a sort of quasi garage sale of the upper oenophile stratosphere” in which the crawls accounted for $9,000 of the $45,000 raised.

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TAKE-OUT TROUBLE?

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The West Side property that’s the site of Best Liquors has been home to retail businesses for 90 years. For a good part of that history, it was a grocery, but since 1965, it’s been a liquor retailer, says store owner Pankaj ‘Sunny’ Sharma.

Sharma, who’s 30 years old, drives a red sports car and could pass for a matinee idol, has had the store for just three years. But in that time, he says, he’s been diligent about upgrading and maintaining the property.

He matched public funds to pay for a colorful mural along the store’s exposed southern wall. He installed halogen lighting outside and a camera system so he could keep an eye on things from his cash register. Recently, after complaints from neighbors, he hired someone to come by twice a day to pick up wrappers and other debris that customers drop on the sidewalk.

“All of this stuff, the store didn’t have before,” says Sharma. The effect, he says, has been to improve both the look of the corner and the safety. “Even the police chief said that in the last five years, crime is down 70 percent at this corner,” he says.

But Sharma’s neighbors, all of them homeowners, aren’t buying it. Citing a welter of complaints about noise, littering, public urination and prostitution that they say is getting worse—and which they link directly to the store’s presence—they insist that it’s time for the shop’s long run to end.

No matter what it takes, they say, it’s time to shut Sunny down.

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AND NO, DESSERT ISN’T INCLUDED

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If a $50 bag of groceries gives you sticker shock, wait until you hear what Bonnie Lane Webber says about the actual cost of raising and transporting the food that ends up in your refrigerator every few days.

The way the part-time Rumson resident sees it, if the “hidden” costs of pesticide and herbicide impacts, soil decimation and ozone depletion weren’t dispersed across society—or deferred to future generations—you’d be ringing up charges totaling thousands of dollars every time you visited the supermarket.

That pound of steak you pay $10 for now? That would cost you $815. The tomato on your salad? Well, if it’s not of local origin, that little baby not only won’t taste as good as a Jersey, but it might cost $374. A typical load of groceries could set you back $32,000.

Try using your FoodTown bonus points to trim that bill.

Webber acknowledges that there’s a lot of “poetic license” in the figures, which aren’t derived from any particular study. But they’re meant to get consumers thinking beyond the health issues that usually frame the debate over modern versus organic farming techniques, and to focus attention on the pocketbook as well.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

‘Sue from Fair Haven’ lassoed last week’s ‘Where,’ which turned out to be a bucking bronc that threw a number of readers.

The idyllic image of cows and other livestock in a pasture is from a mural painted on the side of What’s Your Beef restaurant on River Road in Rumson.

“Nice mural, though I don’t necessarily need to be reminded of where my meal comes from right before I eat,” Sue writes. “I also steer (no pun intended) away from restaurants with big steer on the rooftops or comical chickens in their ads.”

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We see your point, Sue. But how do you feel about Charlie the Tuna? See, he wanted to get caught by StarKist, but StarKist wasn’t looking for a hepcat tuna with good taste; they wanted tuna that tasted good. So he was a symbol for what you wouldn’t find in a can of StarKist…

Anyway. Recognize this week’s entry? E-mail your answers, please.

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WHAT? THE DUCKS DON’T MIND!

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A Trenton lawmaker is proposing a ban on foie gras, the cracker-meat that comes from, well, read for yourself, from the story in the Atlantic City Press:

“To produce the delicacy, poultry farmers force-feed ducks or geese through metal tubes pushed down the birds’ throats, so the birds’ livers expand to several times the normal size.

The result is a duck or goose liver with a rich, buttery taste.”

That’s just “cruel and barbaric,” says Assemblywoman Joan Voss, D-Bergen. “To intentionally induce pain and suffering on these birds just to create a gourmet appetizer is appalling.”

As is often the case, of course, there’s someone to claim a purported commercial interest that should trump any concerns about barbarity. Ariane Daguin, who owns D’Artagnan, a national foie gras distributor based in Newark, tells the Press that prohibiting Garden State farmers from producing foie gras will put them at a competitive disadvantage against other states.

But the Press notes that:

No foie gras farms currently exist in the state. In fact only three such farms operate in the U.S., one in California and two in upstate New York.

Well, that takes care of that non-issue.

Still, D’Artagnan defends the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese as something they tolerate well, and wants to deflect attention to the way other fowl are treated. “Go see how chickens are being raised,” Daguin said. “It’s terrifying. It’s bad. It’s cruel.”

Why, yes, we see your point, Ariane! Let’s start force-feeding chickens, too! It’s the only humane thing to do!

Chicago recently banned the sale of foie-gras, and a California ban will become effective in 2012. Worldwide, 16 countries prohibit the production and/or sale of foie gras, according to a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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GREAT FOOD: $35. WORLD-CLASS JAZZ: PRICELESS.

First, if you want to eat—and you probably will—it’ll cost you $35. The food promises to be terrific, and the money goes to a worthy organization.

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But if you can’t swing the $35, or have other gustatory plans, don’t let the price of a food-access wristband keep you away. Because the main event is a free jazz concert. And this should be one hell of a show.

In fact, it may prove historic. It’s the kind of event that has real potential to boost Red Bank’s national and even international profile.

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HOME-GROWN IN THE PARKING LOT

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Eight years ago, when the Red Bank Farmers’ Market opened in the Galleria parking lot, it had only two vendors.

Today, there are 30, and every week more merchants ask to be let in, some hoping to hawk goods that have nothing to do with the market’s self-defined mission: to promote locally-grown produce. “I had a guy come here once wanting to sell rain gutters,” says Jim Sourlis, who manages the market. “He was so insistent, I had to call the police to get rid of him.”

The gutter guy probably couldn’t have cared less about the origins of the market, where the corn and tomatoes come from, or the feeling of community that springs to life on the blacktop here every Sunday in the summer. But Sourlis, whose family owns the Galleria mall, does. He says the market came into being to help support small farmers, who get first consideration in terms of space allotment. That’s what Jim’s mother, Elaine Sourlis, intended when she dreamed the place up, he says. (Elaine was vacationing in Europe until recently and was unavailable for an interview.)

“We pride ourselves on being a farmers’ market first,” Sourlis says. “The number-one thing is New Jersey farmers. It has to be from here.”

In addition to its weekly crop of vegetable and flower growers, the market features purveyors of honey, organic foods, fresh eggs, handcrafted jewelry, ravioli, a chiropractor, Lithuanian baked goods, stained-glass mobiles, tea, soap, frozen treats and hurly-burly paintings.

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A POUND OF COLTRANE, PLEASE

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‘To roam the two narrow aisles of Johnny’s Jazz Market for the first time is to wonder what in hell kind of phantasmagoria one has wandered into. This may be the only grocery store in the world that, simply by walking in, you get an unimpeded view into the head of its proprietor. Except that Johnny Jazz would tell you that it’s the contents of his heart, not his cranium, that are on display.’

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HALF THE MAN

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Steve Bidgood, a co-owner of the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson, is featured in a story about gastric bypass surgery in today’s Asbury Park Press.

Gastic bypass operations shrink the stomach to the size of a golf ball and re-route the digestive plumbing. Two years after the minimally-invasive gastric bypass procedure Bidgood opted for, which included the insertion of an adjustable cinch around his stomach, he’s close to 200 pounds under his pre-surgical weight of 422 pounds.

Press writer Michael Riley notes that weight-loss surgery is only for the morbidly obese, carries serious risks, and requires psychological screening to determine if a patient is up for the lifestyle changes that the surgery demands. Riley also cites data on the long-term effectiveness of the operations.

The American Society of Bariatric Surgery (ASBS) says weight loss usually reaches a maximum between 18 and 24 months postoperatively. But what about the ability to keep the weight off?

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The ASBS states the after five years the loss of the excess weight ranged from 48 to 74 percent for gastric bypass and from 50 to 60 percent for banding procedures. What that means, according to [Dr. Frank Borao, of Monmouth Medical Center], is that on average, a patient who needs to lose 100 pounds will have lost anywhere from 50 to 75 pounds…

In a study of more than 600 patients following gastric bypass, the amount of excess weight loss still still exceeds 50 percent at 14 years.

Bidgood tells the Press that he used to be on his feet all day, in pain, popping up to 10 Aleve a day. He’s got no regrets about the surgery. “I see the operation as a tool to help me maintain this lifestyle change,” he told Riley.

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LEDGER PACKAGES RED BANK

Today’s Star-Ledger has an eight-page pullout guide to Red Bank in its “Ticket” section, and a more extensive version at its website.

The section doesn’t aim for depth (thus we’re reminded, repeatedly, that 20 years ago the town was known as “Dead Bank”). But it does have overviews of the arts, dining, nightlife and shopping scenes that visitors will find helpful.

Noteworthy is an interactive map that shows the locations of art galleries, restaurants and other attractions. Kudos to the Ledger for making the map so big and for encompassing everything from Two If By Sea and The Little Kraut on the West Side to Design Front on the east. (Rok+Lola, just few doors east of Design Front, may have a differing opinion.)

The package also includes a terrific slideshow of pictures by staff photographer Aristide Economopoulos. They’re not included the dead-trees version.