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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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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RED BANK: PATRIZIA’S AMBROSIAL SIDE

090814 patrizias dessertA sampling of desserts from Patrizia’s. Below: the caramel cone. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

090814 patrizias caramelIn a perfect world, calories would not count and sugary treats would be good for us. But this is not a perfect world, and so we have to be selective about when we allow ourselves to indulge in desserts.

At Patrizia’s on Broad Street in Red Bank, the pizza and pasta are not to be missed. But it would be a good idea to leave a little extra time, and room, for dessert when you visit.

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SEA BRIGHT: FRUITY JAMS WITH ZING

082814 jollyjam2Holly Hindin at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market last Thursday. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumWhat’s the difference between jelly and jam?

“Jelly is clear, while jam contains pieces of the fruit it’s made from,” Holly Hindin explains from across her table at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market, one of three local markets where she sells her Holly Jolly Jams.

And while the 40-year-old Fair Havenite has an array of fruity jams to entice shoppers and samplers, she also makes some with real zing.

“The Apple Pie jam, Balsamic Fig jam, and the Jalapeno Jelly are probably my best sellers,” she said, “but the Cowboy Candy is maybe the most unusual.”

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SEA BRIGHT FARMERS MARKET: DIVE DEMO

082814 sbfarmrs mkt1Dive chef Kyle Hopfensperger and sous chef Daniel Ciameroni at the Sea Bright Farmers’ Market. Their salsa, below. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

082814 sbfarmers mkt2Last week, the still-new Sea Bright Farmers’ Market added a weekly feature: local restaurant chefs’ demonstrations and tastings.

First up were Dive chef Kyle Hopfensperger and sous chef Daniel Ciameroni, both 29 years old, who brought youthful exuberance and a vat of salsa for shoppers to try.

Not so much a demonstration as a tasting, the event gave the pair a chance to offer suggestions on what to buy at the market and how to use it.

“The fresh white peaches and watermelon in the salsa came from two local farms,” Hopfensperger said. Jalapeno peppers – pickled in-house at Dive, across the street on Ocean Avenue – gave the salsa a spicy kick. Finely chopped white onion added additional bite, making the salsa less sweet than you’d think.

“We’re bringing  bar food to a new level,” Ciameroni said.

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RED BANK: SMUT AND WEED AT THE MARKET

082414 rbfarmers mktCorn smut, or huitlacoche,  for sale at the Twin Pond Farm table.   (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumThe Red Bank Farmers’ Market can be counted on as a great source of fresh-picked tomatoes, corn on the cob and sunflowers, all of which and more PieHole found in abundance last Sunday.

And then there were the oddball items, one of which came with an eyebrow-raising name.

“Corn smut is what it’s called,” said Jen from Twin Pond Farm in Howell,  referring to the strange amalgam on the table between us. We looked from her to the container and back, thinking maybe we didn’t hear her correctly. “Corn smut is a fungus and a delicacy that came from some blue Peruvian corn we are growing,” she added.

Returning home, we found recipes for corn smut in a Mexican cookbook, and it is, indeed, considered a delicacy. Used in a quesadilla with cheese, it isn’t that different from a mushroom.

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RED BANK: CHECKING IN ON BOULANGERIE

081514 boulangerie 2Ayca User of Antoinette Boulangerie with a platter of croissants. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumWhat could be better than café au lait and a fresh-baked croissant? How about a coconut chocolate croissant specially made for the season?

This is just one of the delectable sweets to come out of the kitchen at Antoinette Boulangerie on Monmouth Street in Red Bank. Opened just eight months ago in the middle of a snowstorm, the French pastry shop has garnered serious attention and appreciation from the local public. It is often busy, particularly on the weekends.

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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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WHATS FOR LUNCH? PANINI AT PATRIZIA’S

080814 patrizias vegThe grilled vegetable panini hero shown above is vegetarian friendly. Below, the burrata. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

patrizia's 073014“It’s like going to your grandmother’s house on Sunday,” manager Santo Saitta said of the food and ambience at the week-old Patrizia’s on Broad Street in Red Bank.

If your grandmother has a dining room in a former bank building with a sky-high vaulted ceiling, a raging hot copper-clad pizza oven and remarkably good food, well then yes, it would be like that.

After a lunch here, you might want to visit nonna more often.

The suggested Burrata All’ Amalfitana appetizer ($13.95) – silky, salty, creamy and lightly seasoned with a smidge of olive oil – was terrific on its own, but the piquant caponata accompaniment made it a sexy, delicious starter.
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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: KICKING-OFF A WEEK OF COCKTAILS

081014 kickoff cocktail 1 Jamie Gray prepares a cocktail at red‘s upstairs lounge bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumThere’s a party going on in Red Bank over the course of the next week, and it’s going to be a bit of a booze-filled frenzy.

At the kickoff of Cocktail Week Sunday night, bartenders prepared specialty drinks made with Leaf vodka, just one of several sponsors for the event organized by Red Bank Flavour.

Bartender Jamie Gray of red restaurant on Broad Street squeezed fresh limes for the Thai basil martinis while Matt Monaco was busy muddling mint for the Hendrick’s Gin mojitos served with cucumbers.

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RED BANK: BELATED GOODBYES TO A DINER

taylor sisters 072214Sisters Sarah and Claire Taylor came to the Broadway Diner from Ocean Township with their mom on Tuesday not knowing it had closed. Below, the diner’s famous buttermilk pancakes are now a memory. (Photos by John T. Ward and Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

072214 diner pancakesThe promise of a “Diner Open 24 HRS,” proclaimed in neon, ended in Red Bank Monday morning without an opportunity for fans even to say goodbye.

For 18 years, the Broadway Diner on Monmouth Street was a vital and consistent part of the community, as reflected in the degree to which both staffers and customers felt blindsided by its abrupt closing.

“I am in mourning,” said 18-year-old Colts Neck resident Jess Soden, who came into town with a friend Monday afternoon jonesing for the diner’s waffles, but ended up theatrically curled into a fetal position on its front steps. “They were just so crunchy, yet so fluffy on the inside.”

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SEA BRIGHT: CATCHING THE BIG ONE AT YUMI

070614 yumi sb rollThe fresh and aptly named Sea Bright roll at Yumi (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallA horde of moviegoers filled the public beach in Sea Bright with assorted lawn chairs and blankets Sunday night. The occasion: the annual Shore Flicks showing of “Jaws,” which was rained out last year.

Keeping in the theme of the evening, dinner before the movie had to be seafood at Yumi on Ocean Avenue.

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WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? INBETWEEN BREAKFAST

062014inbetweenThe Inbetween aces the hollandaise sauce on the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

062014inbetween2Sharing a table at Red Bank’s Inbetween Café is par for the course. This little luncheonette is much too busy to stand on ceremony, and even if you do manage to nab a table, unless there are six in your party, a stranger is likely to sit down right next to you.

Such is the happy situation we found ourselves in on our latest visit to this English Plaza institution. The two young strangers sitting at the table with us were familiar, and yet, I couldn’t place them.

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RED BANK: MUSTARD IN A STEIN? JAWOHL!

mustard 061214Alstertor Düsseldorf Style Mustard comes in a 250-mililiter beer stein.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

morsels medium“Crisp clean and sharp taste, this smooth German mustard is a classic.”

So says the website of – we kid you not – the National Mustard Museum (“Home to the World’s Largest Collection of Mustards and Mustard Memorabilia”) in Middleton, Wisconsin, about Alstertor Düsseldorf Style Mustard.

We found this appealing little curio of a condiment in neither Wisconsin nor Düsseldorf, but atop the meat case at Monmouth Meats in Red Bank.

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RED BANK: A BIT OF A KITCHEN GRIND

061314 spice market 2Lisa Prepon, seen here with husband Howard Bernstein, will tell you all you need to know to grind it right at the Spice & Tea Exchange. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels mediumMortar and pestle sets in 2014?

Well, they seem downright at home at Red Bank’s Spice & Tea Exchange, a Monmouth Street shop styled after an 18th-century trading post.

Made from marble, ceramic or wood, they also remain a necessity, even in the modern kitchen.

“They work better than a mechanical device, because they don’t pulverize the spices, when what you really want to do is release the oils and the flavors the old-fashioned way, which is the better way,” said Lisa Prepon, who owns the store with her husband, Howard Bernstein.

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RED BANK: PERFECTING PASTA AT GAETANO’S

Gaetano's class 052014Tom Cappello, second from right, above, with sous chef Miner Barquero, right, and students during a recent cooking class. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

052014gaetanos pastaSchool’s in session at Gaetano’s Restaurant on Wallace Street in Red Bank, and owner Tom Cappello is clearly in charge.

Working a dining room with 15 guests and students gathered around a long table, Cappello and sous chef Miner Barquero demonstrate how to prepare a meal from scratch. Fresh pasta is always included in the menu, this month’s choice being fettucine.

Opening up the monthly class, Cappello mixes history and practical kitchen knowledge in a lighthearted way that puts everyone in attendance at ease, asking where everyone was from, and following up with a surprised, “there are a lot of men here tonight.” One man quipped that they heard there would be food there.

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RED BANK: THE HEAT IS ON AT TEMPLE

temple spring roll1Hot, crunchy, spring rolls at Temple Gourmet. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

morsels smallSerious crunch found at dinner this week.

Temple Gourmet Chinese in Red Bank makes terrific spring rolls that are vegetarian friendly.

Dragging the spring roll through a bit of duck sauce and then dipping it into the mustard sauce, my daughter (a vegetarian) and I were surprised by the flavorful but strong mustard.

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