October 7, 2011

Stony Hill Puts the Farm in Farmers’ Market

Stony Hill Gardens and Farm Market has been in business for 25 years, but owner Carol Davis’s love affair with farm life started long before that. For a kid born and raised – at least the early part of her life – in Newark, N.J., Davis had country in her blood.

As a young child Davis and her siblings would spend every summer at her uncle’s farm in Pennsylvania. And that’s where her heart remained.

Those experiences, Davis said, “made me love farming.”

Upon returning home at the end of summer, Davis said she and her siblings would lobby their father for a farm. In 1966 when Davis was nine-years-old, her father finally agreed, and the family moved to a farm on 50 acres of land in Chester, N.J., where Stony Hill Gardens sits today.

Back then the farm was limited to hay and corn, cattle and chickens, and it was operated as a side venture for the family. Once Davis married, however, she and her husband wanted to use the land for their livelihood and started an orchid business on the farm. They soon realized “orchids weren’t going to provide a way of life.” Davis added, “We had to diversify.”

September 30, 2011

Growing a Farm Into a Business

You could say Snoep Winkel Farm started out as a 4-H project. Although at the time the owners were simply looking to enroll their children in a wholesome activity. Unlike most who fall for a couple of cute baby bunnies and some fuzzy chicks, the family wound up with a whole stable of farm animals.

The Van Boerums harbored no secret desires to become farmers, but the more they and their sons learned about conventional industry methods of raising cattle through the 4-H Club the more they realized they wanted to eat healthier, naturally produced meat.

So they sold their home in a suburban New Jersey development and found an eight-acre piece of property out in rural Sussex County. It was a bold move given they had no prior experience farming, but the decision was one they haven’t regretted.

“For us it was worth it because we wanted to get the kids involved in positive things,” Basia Van Boerum said. She added, “How many kids can say they’ve seen a lamb being born?”

August 26, 2011

Dessert Now Being Served at the Farmers’ Market

Although Maria Lange started her business, Maria’s Biscotti, just four years ago, she has been making biscotti “for a very long time.” Ever since she was a young girl watching her mother bake in the kitchen, actually.

As a kid, Lange doesn’t remember a week going by without her mother baking for family and friends. With all the work that went into it, Lange’s mother recruited her to be an assistant. Back then, Lange recalled, she was just in it to see “who would get to lick the mixing bowl before it went into the sink.”

But Lange grew to share her mother’s passion and carried on the tradition of sharing her own homemade biscotti with others. “I had a passion for making biscotti, and I saw how it made other people happy when I made it.”

August 25, 2011

Fresh at the Farmers’ Market: Italian Dishes

Ever since he was a little kid working in his father’s bakery, Paolo Vieira has been cooking. But it took 20 years working professionally in the industry before his friends and family convinced him to bring his cooking directly to the people.

He finally did in 2008 when he opened his catering business, Paolo’s Kitchen, with his wife, Paula. After quickly making a name for themselves in their New Providence community, the couple started branching out to bring their fresh, rustic Italian dishes to towns across New Jersey.

“We do everything by hand,” said Paula Vieira, who noted while she enjoys cooking her husband is the chef behind Paolo’s Kitchen. “He likes to do everything from scratch. He’s always done everything in its true, rustic form.”

August 23, 2011

Motherhood Memoir Brings SOMA Native Back Home

When the Columbia High School alumna, Lisa Catherine Harper, graduated and went on to study in the creative writing program at Princeton, get a masters in Creative Writing and then a Ph.D in English from University of California, Davis, she hadn’t envisioned writing a memoir. But once she discovered she was pregnant, Harper embarked on the project “almost immediately.”

In her new award-winning book, A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood, Harper tells both the personal and the universal story of motherhood. Using her own experience along with medical research, Harper examines the biology of pregnancy to illuminate the monumental transformation all women go through.

“It’s about the process of becoming a mother and how everything changes so profoundly,” said Harper, who will be discussing her book at Words Bookstore this Thursday.

August 22, 2011

The Man Behind the Pizza

For 15 years only one man has made the pizza at Belle Gente. A man without one drop of Italian blood.

So how is it this man, a Peruvian immigrant who grew up in a pizzaless land, can put out the best pizza this side of the Hudson River?

If you were to ask the pizza-maker himself he would be dismissive, saying, “I just make pizza.” But that modesty belies the true talent, Oscar Herrera, master of pizza, employs when crafting his inventive, delicate, freshly made, thin crust pizzas.

“Oil, salt, yeast, water – all the ingredients are the same,” Herrera said, denying he had a secret recipe.

The difference, then, must be in the maker – something any pizza-loving patron of Belle Gente Trattoria & Ristorante on Bloomfield Avenue in Verona can tell you. They know Herrera’s pie by taste.

August 20, 2011

Farm Fresh Isn’t Just for Produce Anymore

Fontanarosa’s Gourmet Specialty Foods might not have “farm” in its name, but it definitely deserves its spot at the Caldwell Farmers’ Market.

In true farmers’ market style, owner Anthony Fontanarosa works with local farmers and merchants to get the freshest ingredients to make his tender, doughy pasta, light, fluffy gnocchi and 60 different types of ravioli.

“We try to do everything as local as we can,” said Fontanarosa, who buys his dairy products locally as well. “We try to stay sustainable.”

And, he works with the harvest of the moment to create his myriad combinations of seasonal ravioli fillings.

“Last week green garlic was in so we did a green garlic and shrimp ravioli.” When Fontanarosa suggested serving it in a cream sauce with a half a teaspoon of Old Bay seasonings, it felt like he was divulging a secret family recipe.

June 22, 2011

At Home with His Honey

Along Courter Street a couple of yards from the Hilltop Reservation in North Caldwell sits a small home turned honey bee haven. There, Joseph Lelinho, the local leading expert on beekeeping and honey making, keeps close to a million bees.

Lelinho spent a sun-drenched Saturday schooling a captivated crowd on everything they ever wanted to know about the secret life of bees. Well, almost everything, anyway.

“This year we’re having a great year here in New Jersey,” said Lelinho, owner and operator of Hilltop Honey. “We’ve had losing years for past several years. This is the first year we have not had a loss.”

Lelinho who has been keeping bees for the past 17 years, went on to explain the fragile and intricate process by which we humans come to enjoy the sweet and sticky product of the hardworking honey bees.

“Every bee has a job from a baby on up,” Lelinho stated, explaining the first 17 days of a bee’s life is dedicated to its education on life in a hive—guarding the hive, cleaning the cells, feeding babies, and making wax. After that she will either spend her days collecting pollen or tending to the hive.

April 15, 2011

A Place of Hope for Homeless Teens

You may have walked by or caught a glimpse of the place as you’ve driven down Bloomfield Avenue. The house isn’t far from the corner, just down South Willow Street. You’ve probably never noticed it. The plain, beige Montclair home seems rather ordinary. But inside you won’t find your typical family.

Instead, you’ll find a group of young adults — kids really — faced with extraordinary challenges. This group of homeless teens and young adults come to Nancy’s Place to take refuge and find renewal. They come looking for a chance, a chance to find stability, community, support and guidance. A chance to have a life they may have never thought possible.

The home, which just celebrated its second anniversary last week, is run by Covenant House, the shelter system for runaway, throw-away and at-risk kids under age 21. Nancy’s Place is one of three transitional-living houses operating under the Crisis Center in Newark and was specifically developed to serve homeless youths suffering with mental health issues. According to Covenant House’s Development Manager and Volunteer Coordinator Janette Scrozzo, it’s the only one in the tri-state area to serve this population, and it’s open to young adults from across the state.

“About 85% of homeless teenagers at Covenant House have been diagnosed with a mental illness, often depression or anxiety that are a natural result of living on the streets or with abusive families,” said Covenant House’s Tina Kelley.

The kids who come to Nancy’s Place typically have more severe symptoms and, according to Scrozzo, “really need one-on-one care.”

April 13, 2011

A Blessing from the Bronx: One family’s experience with the Fresh Air Fund.

Lynn Grice with Cashmere

Hosting a child from the Fresh Air Fund is something Lynn Grice always wanted to do. Ever since she was a child growing up in bucolic Long Valley and saw neighbors host a child, she determined she would one day do the same.

Decades have a way of erasing memory and Grice forgot all about the Fresh Air Fund until six years ago when she spotted a poster hanging in her company’s hallway. All her old memories came back.

Strangely, a short time later she ran into a childhood friend who was hosting a child. Grice didn’t waste another moment. She filled out the paperwork online so quickly, in fact, she didn’t have time to mention it to her husband.

“Thank God he thought it was a good idea,” said Grice when she got around to telling him they would be having another child living with them for two weeks that summer.

But a two-week commitment to give a New York City kid a summer vacation turned into a lasting bond.