Wooden Spoon Southern Kitchen & Saloon: Country Comfort Food With Soul

BY  |  Thursday, Oct 19, 2017 11:45am  |  COMMENTS (0)

If you find yourself jonesing for comfort food now that the nights have turned chilly, then Bloomfield’s new Wooden Spoon Southern Kitchen and Saloon has got your fix. Here, you’ll find a large menu of Southern specialties plus authentic Southern BBQ, prepared by executive chef and owner Donald Erickson, whose dream has been to bring a touch of the South to New Jersey.

Open since late summer in the space formerly Senoritas, Wooden Spoon has a comfortable natural-wood accented dining room and bar, with a large dining room and a 10-screen sports bar tucked away upstairs.

We recently stopped and tried the chef’s signature dishes — Southern fried chicken and creole shrimp and grits.

The shrimp and grits plate is beautiful to look at: a big bowl brimming with andouille slices, large shrimp, vegetables in a richly seasoned wine, mild chile, herb sauce, layered with flavor. Underneath it all, a silky, creamy cushion of grits that envelops every bite. This dish is perfectly prepared with loads of nuanced flavors and contrasting textures. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Continue Reading

Marcel Bakery & Kitchen Brings Convenient Deliciousness To Upper Montclair

BY  |  Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 2:48pm  |  COMMENTS (2)

Marcel Bakery & Kitchen, now open in the space that was The Cozy End, brings convenient deliciousness to Upper Montclair for breakfast, lunch and more, with an Israeli-Mediterranean twist.

The space, bright, open and welcoming (transformed by Jesscia Benari Designs), gives you the option to choose from bakery items, “grab and go” freshly made salads and prepared dishes, to made to order sandwiches, pizzas and more for take away or to enjoy inside, at an attractive long communal table. The food itself is simply amazing.

Chef/owner Meny Vaknin of the popular MishMish Cafe, who named his second eatery after his grandfather, showcases a tempting selection baked goods at Marcel, surprising and delighting with flaky pastries filled with chocolate and halvah. You’ll struggle to choose from almond stuffed danish, brownies, croissants, fruit scones, or one of four different flavors of silky babka. Not a bad problem to have. And all pair deliciously with excellent Jim’s Organic coffee.

On the savory side, Vaknin has more winners. Israeli style bourekas are golden pastry pillows of light flaky dough filled with your choice of three cheeses, spinach and feta, or slow cooked beef with caramelized onions. Individual size flatbread come out of the oven with a light, blistered crust topped with mushroom and ricotta or a “shakshuka” topping (herbed tomatoes, feta, Israeli spices and egg). This is the Vaknin version of a Middle eastern pizza – the perfect, satisfying, comfort food. Continue Reading

Artists Interpret Climate, Race, Gender Identity at Montclair Art Musuem

BY  |  Monday, Sep 25, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Montclair resident and nationally renowned contemporary artist Philemona Williamson has her first ever solo exhibition of 20 thematic oil paintings at Montclair Art Museum now, through January 7.

Philemon Williams (b.1951) Eventual Autumn, 2003. Oil on Linen 62×50 in. Courtesy of the artist and June Kelly Gallery, New York

Large and colorful, children populate her 20 wildly enchanting, entertaining and thought provoking canvasses. The works span Williams’ career from 1988 to the present. Often autobiographically inspired, there is action, play, emotion and of course her own narrative on the fluidity and ambiguity of age, race, class and gender – a frequent topic for these days.

The familiarity of her characters and the symbolism in her art is striking and accessible. One painting which stopped me in my tracks, “Eventual Autumn” (2003) depicts two adolescents who have dropped their toys in a backdrop of falling leaves. Are they two boys, a girl and a boy? You can’t really tell by their clothing or facial features, which seem mismatched. And the muted skin tones leave ethnicity and race in question. The two friends are holding hands; it seems the artist depicts identities and relationships in transition, yet to be defined. Does it matter? You may have seen this painting displayed on the exhibition’s flag banners around town – go see the painting for yourself.

Philemona Williamson (b. 1951) In the Studio, 2017. Composite photograph printed on Poplin. Photographs by Peter Jacobs Fine Arts Imaging. Image courtesy of the artist.

Passing through the exhibition’s first and second gallery, visitors are treated to the museum’s beautiful atrium which always affords artists a unique space for display. Williamson does not disappoint, with her first sculptural works conceived specially for the space. A collection of four large abstract “Topsy-Turvy Dolls”(2017) occupy the alcoves – folk art dolls without the typical dress – laying bare the textile figures of contrasting skin colors though of dubious gender. The message of unity and inclusiveness is clear – portrayed in a happy, comforting way.

Philemona Williamson (b. 1951) Limbs, 2016. Oil on linen. Collection of Philemona Williamson. Image courtesy of the artist.

The largest painting, “Limbs” (2016), takes a more impressionistic form showing the artistic process on the canvas of unpainted areas of faces and clothing, overlapping lines, and a rich palette – all which lends movement of children’s limbs in the limbs of a tree.

Finally, don’t overlook Williamson’s gigantic composite photographic mural occupying the museum’s Laurie Staircase. Here again the artist has taken advantage of the space to create a photographic collage of her personal sources of artistic inspiration, letting us all in on elements that touch her soul and by design, ours as well.

New York artist, Charles Burchfield, exhibits a different kind of inspiration for a lifetime of paintings, drawings and watercolors – a sampling of which, on loan from the Burchfield Penny Art Center in Buffalo, is featured at MAM – also through January 7.

Sunburst, 1929–31. Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) Oil on canvas. The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Works by Charles E. Burchfield, 1994. Reproduced with permission from the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation and the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Weather patterns, in all its permutations, is what directed the artist’s vision. As weather and light are constantly changing during the day, all of Burchfield’s works contain unmistakable motion and progression – you see wind, rain, heat, cold, sun, shade, light, darkness often all in one painting. A keen observer of nature, Burchfield said the best work is done in retrospection. Continue Reading

Bloomfield 4th Graders Learning to Shop Healthy at Brookdale ShopRite

BY  |  Tuesday, Mar 07, 2017 3:40pm

If you were picking up groceries this week at Brookdale ShopRite, you might have seen dozens of little shoppers doing some serious shopping — filling a cart full of “go” foods on a $25 budget.

The shopping spree is a follow-up field trip to the nutrition and healthy eating talk presented to 4th graders in Bloomfield public schools by Brookdale ShopRite’s registered dietician and nutritional consultant, Jessica Serdikoff, RDN CPT.

The new Student Shopper program kicked off in February at five Bloomfield elementary schools – Oak View, Brookdale, Demarest, Watsessing, and Franklin. Serdikoff’s audience was 4th grade students.

Continue Reading

Montclair’s 578 Grill: Think Middle Eastern Meets Chipotle

BY  |  Friday, Nov 11, 2016 2:30pm


Looking over the menu at 578 Grill, my first thought was “this can accommodate every one in my family with no problem and we’ll all be happy.” Not a small feat, considering we have eaters who are vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, slow carb, and low fat. Of course, if none of those restrictions apply to you, you will just have that many more choices at this casual new Middle Eastern eatery.

Similar in concept to a Chipotle, each person builds his own platter combining ingredients from four food categories, and then some, to end up with a personalized meal for under $10 per person.

As a first timer, the challenge is what to choose. Continue Reading

Partners In Caring Day “Help Bag Hunger” at ShopRite

BY  |  Friday, Sep 23, 2016 2:15pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia cutting the ribbon with Neil Greenstein

Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia cutting the ribbon with Neil Greenstein.

Wednesday September 21, Tri-State ShopRite stores celebrate Partners In Caring Day – which at the Bloomfield and Newark stores feature guest appearances of celebrity baggers you know, the Mayors and town council members bagging to fight hunger.

Back for a repeat appearance yesterday morning, owner Neil Greenstein welcomed back Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, Councilman Nick Joanow, and rookie bagger Town Administrator Matt Watkins.

Continue Reading

Now At MAM: Janet Taylor Pickett’s The Matisse Series

BY  |  Thursday, Sep 15, 2016 12:25pm

Janet Taylor Pickett

Montclair artist Janet Taylor Pickett has been chronicling her life with Matisse for the past several years through her multimedia art. She says that as a little girl she dreamed of becoming an artist, and when she discovered the art of Henri Matisse, she fell in love with his colors and images, and wanted to live inside his rooms.

In The Matisse Series, Taylor Pickett has meshed elements of art not only from Matisse, but the Dutch masters, and her own personal life experiences as an African-American female artist in a vibrant and captivating show of her works, now on exhibit at Montclair Art Museum through June 18.

On a recent walk-through of the exhibit with the artist, Taylor Pickett, warm, passionate, and engaging, explained her method and her muse – and the inspiration behind diverse templates such as 3-dimensional blue dresses, accordion booklets, 76 collages, and her milestone installation Sixty-six Dresses: An Odyssey (2014/15).

Continue Reading

The Max Challenge: My Big Fat Fitness Obsession

BY  |  Monday, Jun 27, 2016 12:30pm

Annette, center, with her 8:30 a.m. class after completing her challenge.

Annette, center, with her 8:30 a.m. class after completing her challenge.

Behind ACME supermarket, in the former location of a Chinese restaurant, a new fitness business, The Max of Montclair, is changing lives. Baristanet’s Annette Batson donned her workout gear — learned what a burpee was — and discovered how a combination of cardio and camaraderie, weight training and kickboxing, turns into such a transformative (and fun!!!) experience.

I’m a Max disciple. Now in my 15th week, I can’t adequately explain what an empowering, life altering, spirit awakening and effective physical strength building program this is.

Annette, (center) with her Max workout friends.

Annette, (center) with her Max workout friends.

I’ve been dieting on and off for 50 years, have tried all the diets and exercise trends, with dubious short-term success. What I now know is that our DNA, our own biology fights against weight loss and makes it hard to keep off anything we do lose. It’s all about metabolism. All calories are not equal; hours of exercise will not necessarily be productive. Right when I started the Max of Montclair’s 10-week fitness challenge, the New York Times published a discouraging report on how difficult is to keep those pounds off, especially if we continue to eat and age. Guilty of both — but tell me who isn’t. Continue Reading

#MFF16 Jon and Tracey Stewart Bring Star Power For Animal Rights and MFF’s Screening of “Unlocking the Cage”

BY  |  Tuesday, May 10, 2016 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Unlocking the Cage

Last Sunday afternoon, Jon Stewart arrived for Montclair Film Festival’s screening of “Unlocking the Cage” at Bellevue Theatre with wife Tracey and friends Stephen and Evie Colbert to shine a spotlight on an issue which is near and dear to his heart – compassionate and humane treatment of animals.

Addressing the audience, Stewart explained how, thanks to Tracey, the importance of animal rights has been a learning experience for him and his mind has been opened. Having purchased a 12-acre farm in NJ to harbor abused farm animals, and now about to partner with Farm Sanctuary,  the Stewarts often get the question “how can you talk about animal rights when people don’t have their rights?”  Tracey’s response is  “can’t society do two nice things – by doing that it will elevate all of us”

Unlocking the Cage

“Unlocking the Cage” tells the story of animal rights lawyer Steven Wise who for 30 years has championed animal rights in the courts, and has recently filed multiple lawsuits attempting to change the legal status of  chimps in captivity from a thing/animal with no rights to a “person” with legal protection to grant them freedom. Wise makes his case with affidavits from primatologists around the world affirming the high functioning cognitive abilities and self consciousness of chimpanzees and gorillas.

The sad stories of Tommy, Kiko, Merlin – chimps in captivity as pets in NY state – are difficult to watch.

And while some may find the idea attributing personhood to a chimp outrageous, Wise clearly differentiates the legal meaning of personhood from human being.

Whales, dolphins and elephants are also grouped as cognitively complex, however Wise’s strategy, as explained in the film, is to kick the door open on this issue, one species, one state at a time.

The documentary is a wild ride and begs the viewer to look at these sentient beings through a different lens, suggesting that they are worthy of respect and humane treatment.


After the screening, filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, and attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project Elizabeth Stein, spoke about making the documentary – and the court room drama depicted in the film. Pennebaker sat with me later discussing his work, saying that the making of this documentary was a “life-changing” experience. “Because of Steve’s work, animal rights is now taught at over 100 law schools in the country. It’s going to take a long time to make people change, but I think that in maybe 50 years, we won’t be eating meat.”

Steve Wise and Jane Goodall are on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which, according to its website is “the only civil rights organization in the United States working to achieve actual LEGAL rights for members of species other than our own.”  Kevin R. Schneider, Executive Director, was in the audience and told me years have been devoted to legal research and now there’s room for volunteers of all backgrounds to participate..”sharing the information on social media, grass-roots movements.”

If you missed this documentary, watch it on HBO, coming this July.

Cocktails At Fin! Montclair Liquor License Sold For Close to $1.2 Million Will Also Cover New Gastropub (UPDATED)

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 06, 2016 4:42pm  |  COMMENTS (19)


Update: The office of the municipal town clerk tells Baristanet that the actual price for the license Cerrigone purchased was $1,150,000. The clerk’s office also confirms that Dick Grabowksy purchased Cecere’s license at auction for $1,236,000 in August 2015.

Gerry Cerrigone and Bobby Gaccione, restaurant owners of Salute, Salugo, and Fin Raw Bar & Kitchen, have purchased a liquor license from the former South Park Restaurant for a whopping $1.2 million. “$1.2 million for a Montclair liquor license is just ridiculous,” says Cerrifgone, “when other [past] licenses were bought for around $700,000.00.”

This purchase followed his initial attempts to purchase the liquor license from Richard Cecere’s. Cerrigone’s plans fell through when the license was court ordered to be sold at auction.

Cerrigone plans to open a full bar soon, at his signature Fish eatery, FIN, on Glenridge Avenue in Montclair.
The target date to open the full bar service is Tuesday, April 26, with a full selection of wine, craft beer, champagne, and cocktails. Continue Reading

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I'm struck by how much attention is being paid to the details of a parking lot, as opposed to the attention paid to the future impact of the monstrous projects being planned.

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