Roots of Inspiration: Richard A. Botto & Lisa Botto Lee

Richard A. Botto • Niatross • Oil • 36” x 48”

 

Father and daughter artists have existed for centuries of art history, although daughters weren’t recognized back then. As a result of groups such as the feminist Guerilla Girls, the daughters eventually received credit for their own masterful work. Not the case with Richard A. Botto and Lisa Botto Lee, who fit the description by an unknown author: “Not only a father is an example for a daughter, but a daughter is a great inspiration for a father.” Richard and Lisa are both classically trained and are representational artists who embrace narrative realism. What a great and eternal bond!

 

Lisa Botto Lee • Last of the Breed • Oil • 30” x 48”

Richard A. Botto • Dynamic Symmetry Oil • 30” x 18”

Richard A. Botto • Dynamic Symmetry II Oil • 23” x 19”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Botto Lee • Beyond the Window • Oil • 30” x 24”

Lisa Botto Lee • A Wrinkle in Time Graphite • 30” x 22”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard A. Botto • Releasing Lindy • Oil • 24” x 36”

Richard A. Botto • Blind Fury • Oil • 24” x 30”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Botto Lee • Highlander • Oil • 12” x 12”

Lisa Botto Lee • Ewe & Me • Oil • 28” x 22”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard A. Botto • No Nay Never • Oil • 24” x 30”

Lisa Botto Lee • Walk Easy • Oil • 60” x 40”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Artists

My father and I have never exhibited together,” says Lisa Botto Lee, a New Jersey native now of Weston, FL. “We’re so excited to see our work side by side.” She and her father, Richard A. Botto, of Ridgefield Park, have many accolades. Both do portraits, nature, wildlife, and figurative work. Richard specializes in equine paintings. Says Richard, “It’s been a privilege to paint some of the greatest harness champions,” among them are Moni Maker and Marion Marauder, a Triple Crown winner. A graduate of Pratt Institute, Richard studied at the Art Students League, his work has been exhibited in the National Academy of Design, NY, The Trenton Museum, Bergen Museum of Arts & Sciences, NJ, the Butler Institute of American Art, OH, The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame and other prestigious venues.

Lisa, a fifth-generation of muralists of Northern Italy, won awards in regional, national, and worldwide competitions and has exhibited in the Versace Mansion, Miami, Salmagundi Club, NY, The National Arts Club and The Art Center Renewal (ARC) and other venues. And speaking of family, Lisa’s mother, Marguerite, is a watercolorist and former art teacher. She and Richard traveled throughout the US, Canada, and Europe to photograph horses. The Botto family continues a mighty line of masters.

—Tova Navarra

5 Minutes With… Tovah Feldshuh

Your new memoir, Lilyville, explores the evolution of your relationship with your mother, Lily, interwoven with the evolution of your acting career. It was not always an easy relationship, was it?

No. My mother was born on a table in the Bronx in 1911 and believed that you shouldn’t praise your children too much, lest they grow too proud and evil should strike them down. This wasn’t just a Jewish tradition, it was a peasant tradition, I think from her family’s roots in Eastern Europe. Training your child, correcting your child, fixing, preserving and protecting your child was the priority—and it was a priority I absolutely did not understand or appreciate, in the sense that I could not equate that with love. By contrast, my father had unbridled, unconditional love for his children. My mother and I struggled. It was tough. When I turned 18, I asked her if she loved me—it was right out of Fiddler On the Roof—and she said, “Who sat in the station wagon while you were at your piano lessons? Who took you to Hebrew school? Who takes you to the voice lessons you insist on having? Who carts you all over the place to fulfill your desires? That’s me.”

Did she approve of your career choice?

I did not have her approval. There was no support. She was very transparent in not wanting me to go into theater. My older brother David had gone into theater so that was one child “down the tubes,” and now her second child…what did I do to have these two kids in the arts? Well, in my case, I had to construct this whole fantasy life just to feel good!

Did that change with your success on Broadway and all your awards?

No. The first confluence of our values was the day I married. She said, “You can do anything you want now…you married a Harvard lawyer!” She had married a Harvard lawyer, so she could finally breathe a sigh of relief. However, as our lives progressed, and I became a mother, my mother and I had more and more in common. She lived long enough for us to solve all of our problems.

What changed?

Part of the reason was that I wanted to. I didn’t sit there waiting for fate to come my way. When I turned 40, she asked, “How much longer are you going to blame me?” I said, “Not another minute.” Our journey was so enormous that, rather than writing a memoir about my life, I thought it would be more interesting to relate it to this woman who lived 103 years, to give my readers, my audience, a rich overview of having a mother who was born before women’s suffrage and who lived through the Spanish Flu, Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression—during which she put herself through NYU—and World War II, when her husband was drafted at 32. I loved my mother. She was hilarious. On her tombstone it says Mother Grandmother Matriarch Comedian.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted while Tovah was on a six-mile bike ride around Central Park. For another five minutes (and then some) on Lilyville and the mothers and daughters she’s played, visit edgemagonline.com. Lilyville is published by Hachette Books.

Temperature Control

Our favorite products for turning up & turning down the heat.

 

OCCOPA 

Portable Hand Warmer • $30  

A rechargeable and USB-friendly solution for cold hands, arthritis and Raynaud’s sufferers. 

 

LOOFTLIGHTER  

Electric Fire Starter • $75  

Starts charcoal glowing in under a minute and works in fireplaces and pizza ovens. 

 

LG  

LP1419IVSM Portable AC • $650 Cools and dehumidifies a big  room efficiently when a window  unit isn’t quite right.

 

 

 

SALOMON   

XA Running Cap  • $20  Features a moisture-wicking headband and extra venting for hot summer days.

 

 

MARMOT  

Midgard 4-Season Tent • $350

A popular two-person tent  that performs equally well  in summer and winter.

 

WEATHERBEETA  

300D Deluxe Parka • $50  

A fetching reflective parka that’s warm, waterproof and breathable.

 

DARN TOUGH    

Hiker Micro Socks  • $25  

Cool in summer, warm in winter, durable, high-performing and guaranteed for life. 

Feeling the Burn

Exercise your right to take a culinary stay-cation this summer.

 

Overseas travel may continue to be a challenge in the rush to get everyone vaccinated. However, you can still enjoy a taste of a country’s cultural identity through its national dish. Whether picking from a dine-in or takeout menu, or shopping in one of New Jersey’s now-ubiquitous international markets, feel perfectly free to cobble together your own culinary itinerary. We’ve picked out six of the spiciest signature dishes—three you can find easily, and three that may just turn out to be your gateway to adventure.

Kimchi

The “five elements” theory of Korean culture is embodied in kimchi, fermented cabbage that combines sweet, sour, salty, bitter and knock-your-socks-off spicy. It’s an ancient staple that has crossed over into American kitchens and restaurants in many creative forms—in main dishes, stews, side dishes and condiments—and its availability is no longer limited to Asian markets. In South Korea, kimchi is served with almost every meal, including breakfast.

Mole

Mole (pronounced Mo-lay) is Mexico’s curry, kind of—there are countless versions, with limitless complexity. Mole pablano is the most common served in the U.S. What they all have in common is bittersweet dark chocolate, which is flavored with chilies, garlic, onions and a dozen or more spices. The caffeine in the chocolate releases endorphins, while the capsicum in the peppers provides a shot of adrenaline. It’s a rush. Mole is often part of the most expensive dishes on Mexican restaurant menus for a reason. Expect spicy not sweet, if you order it and be aware that it often contains ground nuts.

Pad Thai

The signature dish of Thailand has rocketed to prominence over the last 25 years and now ranks among the most popular foods on the planet. And yet pad Thai is less than 100 years old, the result of a competition in Siam during the 1930s to create a national dish. It’s made with stir-fried rice noodles, fish sauce, roasted peanuts, tamarind, scrambled eggs and just about any combination of meat and vegetables. Simple as pad Thai sounds, in the U.S., every restaurant seems to have its own slightly different take—so if you like spicy, it’s always helpful to let your server know. The translation of pad, if you’re interested, is “fried” (most people think its “noodles”).

Ema Datshi

So on your next visit to your friendly neighborhood Bhutanese bistro, make sure to order Bhutan’s signature dish, an intriguing combination of tear-inducing chilies and soft cheese in a tomato-and-onion stew. Actually, there are quite a number of Bhutanese immigrants who have made their home in the U.S.—between 100,000 and 200,000, in fact—and many have settled in the northeast, from Pennsylvania up through Vermont and New Hampshire. Many are refugees who traveled through Nepal to get here, and are thus classified as Nepalese. Your best bet to locate this dish is in a Himalayan restaurant, of which there are more than a few in the tri-state area.

Machboos

The Kingdom of Bahrain achieved independence in 1971, so if you don’t know exactly where it is, you may be giving away your age. For the record, Bahrain is an island nation in the Persian Gulf, connected to the Arabian Peninsula by a 25-mile bridge. Its national dish—often consumed with family members on Fridays—Machboos, is a spicy chicken meal strongly influenced by Persian and Indian cuisine. It is popular throughout the Middle East and is actually fairly easy to make at home. In addition to chilies, classic ingredients include ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. So yeah, it’s super-aromatic.

Pepperpot

If you’re partial to Caribbean peppers, the national stew of Guyana is one you ought to try. Its signature ingredient is cassareep, a dark, syrupy extract from the cassava root that probably dates back to Guyana’s indigenous inhabitants, who used it as a preservative. The meat is whatever’s available, but typically beef, goat or oxtail. Roughly a quarter-million Guyanese-Americans live in the US, with most residing in New York’s outer boroughs (as well as northern New Jersey), so finding a good pepperpot isn’t as hard as you might think.

A Life Well Lived

In Live Like Sean, a New Jersey father reflects on lessons learned from his special-needs son.

 

Father’s Day 2019 was a difficult day for the Nelligan family. Sean Nelligan passed away at the age of 29, leaving his parents, TJ and Maggie, and sisters Meghan and Moira with a profound void they would struggle to fill. Sean was a special-needs child whose intellectual and developmental issues, the Nelligans were told, would keep him from living a meaningful life. As it turned out, Sean packed far more meaning into his 29 years than most of us do in a lifetime.

While composing his son’s eulogy—a collection of heart-warming vignettes he planned to recount at Sean’s memorial service—TJ Nelligan realized that the young man who was unable to read or write had created a legacy of life lessons that he wanted to share. On the day of Sean’s funeral, Nelligan told a room packed with hundreds of friends and loved ones, “Live like Sean every day and you will make the lives of others so much better…and it will make you feel better, also.”

After the service, Steve Adubato, a family friend, suggested to TJ that he consider extending this message to a wider audience by writing a book. Adubato introduced him to Theresa DiGeronimo and together they produced Live Like Sean, published in 2021 by Greenleaf Book Group Press ($19.95).

“When Sean was born we took home what we thought was a perfectly healthy boy,” Nelligan recalls. “Over the first two months he started having leg spasms, which later were determined to be seizures. Over the next two years his development was delayed—it took him a long time to walk, a long time to talk—but I was in denial. I was like, Everything will be fine. A friend connected me to the foremost child neurologist in the world and we went to his office. He took Sean for about an hour and came back and basically told us that our son had intellectual disabilities, that he would never live a normal life…and probably never fit in with normal mainstream society…and that, as he got older, these disabilities would become more pronounced. It was like getting punched in the face, and like Mike Tyson used to say, everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Years of physical therapy and speech therapy followed. The Nelligans learned how to deal with the seemingly endless private and public issues involved in raising a special-needs child. Then, when Sean hit his teen years, something marvelous happened.

“Suddenly he became this amazing personality,” says Nelligan. “He was funny. He was kind. He would laugh at everything. He loved life. He loved sports and, because I worked in college sports marketing, we went to tons of sporting events over the years. I bought Sean an iPad and he memorized all of the college sports logos, which I was amazed by.”

One day, while father and son were watching ESPN and the scores were scrolling across the screen, Sean began telling his dad who was winning each game. What’s going on here, TJ wondered—how could he possibly know all these things? At a Giants game, Sean said, “Giants are winning 7–0…if they score another touchdown it’ll be 14–0.”

“I was like, How does he know that?” Nelligan remembers. “I asked him what seven plus seven was, and he just looked away. That’s what he’d do if he didn’t know the answer to something. He was doing what we called ‘sports math.’”

Special Olympics programs provided Sean with a physical outlet for his interest in sports, and also enabled him to build friendships and camaraderie with his teammates—and he became quite good at basketball. Nelligan was all-in on Special Olympics and ended up spearheading the effort to bring the Special Olympics USA Games to New Jersey in 2014, serving as its Chairman and CEO.

Live Like Sean is, first and foremost, a heartwarming and inspirational story about a life well lived in the face of daunting challenges. It also doubles as an invaluable handbook for families of special-needs children. Its reach, however, extends beyond what one might assume is “baked-in” readership to engage and inform a much wider audience. Hence the book’s title. The authors build their story on a framework that devotes each chapter to a simple, clear life lesson that Nelligan absorbed from his son: Be Present, Be Friendly, Be an Inspiration, etc. Words to live by, for certain.

“One of the most important things Sean taught me—and this was difficult for a guy with a Type-A personality—was to have gratitude,” says Nelligan. “He couldn’t spell gratitude…but he lived it every single day.” Not surprisingly, Chapter One in Live Like Sean is entitled Be Grateful.

Like so many families of special-needs kids, the Nelligans started their journey believing they had to protect Sean and teach him about life. By the time he reached his twenties, they realized he had taught them far more about life than they could ever teach him.

“In the beginning of that journey,” says TJ Nelligan, “you wonder How are we going to live like this? Now that he’s not here…I wonder How can we live without him?”

Editor’s Note: Longtime Montville resident TJ Nelligan is a marketing and sales executive who has worked as a tireless advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He founded (and later sold) Nelligan Sports Marketing and served on the board of New Jersey Special Olympics for more than a decade. He also raised millions of dollars for the Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex in Lawrenceville. For more information on Live Like Sean visit tjnelligan.com.

It’s Complicated

There is simply no explaining some of history’s weirdest trends.

 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Until the imitators suddenly realize how stupid they are. Our cultural history is littered with absurd trends that enjoyed a shining moment of mass fascination, only to wind up as objects of ridicule. Most have been mercifully laid to rest for all time, yet others inexplicably continue to rise from the crypt, rediscovered or reinvented by a new generation. The following trends have yet to return—thankfully, but perhaps not permanently. Just remember, as you read about them and chuckle, there is no telling what can happen when a few million of us decide together that some thing is the next big thing.

Color Me Dreadful

The 1970s may be remembered for outlandish fashion and funky, eye-popping design, but that is more a product of retro TV commercials and revisionist history than reality. Clothing, carpeting, drapes, furniture, countertops, cabinets, appliances and even cars were drenched in drab, dreadful burnt oranges, dark walnuts and two of the ugliest colors ever yet realized: Avocado Green and Harvest Gold.

Those who claim there is “no accounting for taste“ might be surprised that a good deal of accountability for these nauseating hues lies right here in New Jersey. For more than a half-century, a select committee of 10 people, whose identities have never been disclosed to the public, has met twice a year with executives of Pantone, a company based in the Bergen County town of Carlstadt. Founded in 1963 by Lawrence Herbert—who created a system for identifying, matching, and communicating colors for consistency across all design industries—Pantone has a mind-numbing 1,925 colors in its current catalog. Its Color Institute studies how “color influences human thought processes, emotions and physical reactions, furthering its commitment to providing professionals with a greater understanding of color and to help them utilize color more effectively.” Avocado and Harvest were Pantone creations; their sister colors included Navajo White and Selective Yellow, which sound vaguely racist today.

I was a pre-teen in the early ’70s, and I swear that almost everything that came in more than one color also came in Avocado Green and Harvest Gold. My objection to these colors is perhaps more visceral than it ought to be. One weekend in 1972, my parents rented an enormous Avocado Green Plymouth Fury station wagon (with matching interior) while waiting for our little white Audi wagon to be repaired for the umpteenth time. Halfway through the 100-mile journey to our summer house in the Catskills, the noxious smell of the Naugahyde, combined with the nauseating color scheme, literally made me vomit. It was the last time that I remember ever being carsick. Now you won’t find a single Avocado Green object in my home. Well, except for actual avocados, which I love. Go figure.

 

Beanie Weenies

We all grew up with Jack and the Beanstalk, the tale of a boy who trades his family cow for a handful of magic beans. In most versions, Jack comes out on top of this transaction. This was not the case for the countless millions who exchanged fists full of cash for a different type of bean-based promise. This story begins in 1986, when Ty Warner, the top salesman at Dakin & Co.—the world’s largest maker of stuffed toys—suggested to the higher-ups that using plastic “beans” as filler instead of stiff cotton would make the toys more flexible and posable. He was thanked by being fired.

Warner pressed on with his idea and, in 1993, founded Ty Inc. to produce Beanie Babies. Warner saw the product itself as secondary to the marketing. He priced Beanie Babies at an affordable $5, but sold them only in limited quantities to small specialty shops and toy stores rather than big-box chains—to raise desirability by creating scarcity. Consumers could never find an entire collection of Beanies at one single store.

In 1995, Warner started “retiring” certain Beanie Babies, triggering explosive interest in the secondary collector market. Prices for these originals surged past $20. Meanwhile, Warner’s overseas factories were pumping out boatloads of non-retired ones. By 1998, Ty Inc. was making more than $1 billion in profits.

By the turn of the 20th century, rabid collectors and misguided investors, uninterested in trivialities like supply and demand, had become obsessed with collecting Beanies as an investment. The arrival of eBay around this time only fueled their madness; some of the rarest were selling online for as much as five figures. In 1999, Warner officially “retired” several more Beanie Babies, but this time there wasn’t any market response—no notable increase in value or spike in demand. It was the beginning of the end.

Collectors panicked and flooded eBay with tens of thousands of them and their value blew away like sand in the Sahara. In desperation, Warner ordered all production halted by the end of the year, but his announcement did nothing to stop the big bust. By the early 2000s, most Beanies were worth between 1 and 5 percent of their former prices and wound up in truck-stop claw machines. Don’t be too quick to shed a tear for Warner, however. In 2020, the 76-year-old ranked 359th on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America, with a net worth of $2.3 billion.

Record Breakers

Half a century ago, before the internet, cable and even VCRs, the big three national broadcast television networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) produced pretty much all there was to watch. When they struck gold with a hit TV series, they often attempted to leverage their stars’ popularity by ushering them into the recording studio—whether or not they had even a shred of singing talent. Not to worry, they could always cut a spoken record. With very few exceptions, the result was a hilariously awful novelty single or, worse, a full-blown album. And, of course, they sold like hotcakes. These ill-conceived celebrity records are collectible kitsch today, but back in the 1960s they could be found in almost every home in America. These celebrity recordings are a few of my personal favorites. All can be found online:

A 1965 episode of The Addams Family featured Ted Cassidy (aka Lurch) as an overnight teen idol pop star. Cassidy teamed up with Gary Paxton—producer of “Alley-Oop” and “Monster Mash”—on a Motown-style dance single entitled “(Do) The Lurch.” Cassidy actually performed it on the popular variety shows Shivaree! and Shindig! for Halloween.

Sebastian Cabot, who is best remembered today for his role as Brian Keith’s butler, Mr. French, on Family Affair—and as the voice of Bagheera in Disney’s The Jungle Book—recorded a full album of poetic interpretations of Bob Dylan songs in 1967. Sebastian Cabot, Actor featured a full orchestra, and included “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Blowin’ In the Wind” and “It Ain’t Me, Babe.”

Lorne Greene, who played frontier patriarch Ben Cartwright on Bonanza, had a #1 hit on the US Billboard charts on December 5, 1964 with “Ringo”— a 45 from his album Welcome to the Ponderosa. Singing satirist Allan Sherman re-recorded the song as “The Ballad of Ringo Starr.”

In 1966, when Batman was the top-rated TV show in the US and “Bat-mania” was sweeping the country, MGM Records signed Burt Ward (aka Robin) to release “Boy Wonder, I Love You” and “Teenage Bill of Rights”—written and arranged by none other than Frank Zappa and performed by The Mothers of Invention. “It was one of the weirdest projects I’ve ever been involved in,” Zappa later reflected.

On the subject of weird, among the most famous/ infamous celebrity albums was a 1968 LP entitled The Transformed Man by TV’s Captain Kirk, William Shatner. It included a disturbing version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as dramatic readings of Shakespeare. George Clooney once included The Transformed Man in his “desert island disc” collection as an incentive to get off the island. Shatner’s rendition of “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” was once voted the all-time worst Beatles cover.

Unsafe at Any Speed

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, nothing was cooler than motorcycles and sportscars. Steve McQueen said so! Naturally, kids wanted bicycles that looked like both. So in 1963—the same year that Chevrolet began using the same name for its Corvette—Schwinn introduced the Sting-Ray (below), touting it as “The Bike with the Sports Car Look.” Schwinn’s R&D director Al Fritz was inspired by middle schoolers in Southern California, who customized their old bikes. The concept was quietly ridiculed by upper management… until the entire first production run of 45,000 sold out in two months.

Fast-forward to 1969, when Easy Rider grossed 60 million dollars worldwide. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were nominated for Oscars, but the real star of the movie was Fonda’s “chopper,” which was fitted with Angel Forks that extended the front wheel far forward, with no front brake. Fonda couldn’t turn or stop it, but he sure looked good trying.

My 5-speed Sting-Ray was a dream ride: banana seat, ape-hanger handlebars, a fat rear tire, chrome flared fenders, hand brakes and a “Stik-Shift” mounted to the top frame bar. After Easy Rider, I was one of the countless kids who added Angel Forks to their Sting-Rays. The challenge was learning how to keep from jack-knifing on turns. It took a lot of nasty falls on unforgiving blacktop before getting the hang of it.

That same year, in Britain, Raleigh launched its competitor to the Sting-Ray: The Chopper. Loaded with many of the same features as its American cousin, it was also designed specifically for popping wheelies. Back heavy and inherently unstable (the front wheel was 20 percent smaller than the rear), it wobbled dangerously at even moderate speeds and was prone to flipping “arse over tea kettle.” As with the Sting-Ray, its solo-polo seat and sissy bar encouraged double riding; its stick shift was nicknamed the “Impale-o-Matic.”

A few years ago I wrote a story for this magazine that reminisced about potentially lethal toys from the 1960s and ’70s. The Chopper didn’t quite make the cut, but it provided some painful lessons in physics for its young owners. Despite an alarming number of near-fatal accidents being reported in the press—and public safety experts decrying the Chopper as “a dangerous toy”—sales jumped 55 percent in two years and remained robust until the 1980s, when the BMX craze arrived, replacing one cool trend with a safer one that included pads, helmets and other sensible items.

Both the Sting-Ray and the Chopper are fondly remembered today by 50- and 60-somethings. Why the nostalgia for all those face-plants and near-castrations? As Hunter S. Thompson wrote of this generation in his book Hell’s Angels, “They shun even the minimum safety measures that most cyclists take for granted. You will never see one wearing a crash helmet. Anything safe, they want no part of.”

Pole Cat

Alas, some trends truly defy reason or explanation. In 1924, a Hollywood theater owner hired merchant sailor, movie stuntman and childhood human fly (how’s that for a résumé!) Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly to perch atop his building’s flagpole, as a publicity gimmick, for 13 hours and 13 minutes. It worked…all too well. Almost instantly, Kelly became a national celebrity and flagpole-sitting became an American obsession. For the rest of the decade, young people were scaling flagpoles hoping to set new records and attract newsreel cameras for a few flickering seconds of fame.

Kelly pursued his new vocation with zeal for the remainder of the Roaring ’20s. He appeared in 28 US cities, continually raising the height of his flagpoles, duration of his performances and, of course, his appearance fees—to a jaw-dropping 100 dollars an hour. His crowning moment came in 1930 here in New Jersey, on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, when he sat on a 200-foot pole for an incredible 49 days and one hour, which is still a world record.

Daredevil stunts fell out of favor during the Depression, and Kelly soon came to be regarded as a public nuisance. His last hurrah was in 1939, when Dunkin’ Donuts sponsored him to consume its product while doing headstands on a wooden plank outside the 54th floor of the Chanin Building on 42nd Street in New York City. Kelly rejoined the Merchant Marines during World War II. After the war, he became destitute. He collapsed and died in 1952 on a street in Hell’s Kitchen, where he’d grown up as an orphan, holding a diary of his more than 13,000 hours of flagpole sitting. He had titled it The Luckiest Fool on Earth.

Editor’s Note: Luke Sacher is a documentary film maker who has authored several articles for EDGE, including loving looks at mad scientists, catastrophic business decisions and the aforementioned dangerous toys. He also interviewed Jerry Lewis and his son, Anthony, for the magazine. Luke actually does own one of the truly rare Beanie Babies, although it is no longer worth thousands; his mother bought it at a garage sale for less than a dollar.

Home Sleep Home

Trinitas monitors slumber from afar.

 

Humans are good at a lot of things, but sleep isn’t always one of them. There are any number of non-medical reasons why we don’t get enough sleep—life stress, work stress, breastfeeding, bad dreams, noisy neighbors, a pet nesting on the covers or a partner hogging the sheets. Some issues you can address, others you can’t. Whatever the cause, losing sleep means you’re not rested or alert during the day, which can diminish focus, slow productivity and dangerously impair judgment.

If you are missing out on restorative sleep because of sleep apnea, however, that’s definitely a problem you can solve. Also, know that you’re not alone.

More than 23 million people in the United States have undiagnosed sleep apnea, which is kind of a staggering number given how simple testing has become. The Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center at Trinitas, located at the Homewood Suites by Hilton, in Cranford, was seeing a steady stream of patients prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. While seeing patients and monitoring their sleep on-site became problematic in the spring of 2020, the center was able to shift gears and ramp up its home testing for sleep apnea thanks to a portable diagnostic device called the WatchPAT®, a small piece of equipment with three components. The PAT stands for Peripheral Arterial Tonometry, which measures arterial pulse volume changes to detect apnea events.

“It comfortably sticks to the chest with a small sensor, straps on your wrist like a watch, and slips onto your pointer finger,” says Dr. Vipin Garg, Director of the Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center. “While you sleep, information is collected by the device and sent through the WatchPAT app to your doctor. Theoretically, if I was your doctor, I would be able to look at the results of your sleep test as soon as you woke up and hit send on the app from your phone.”

 

Sawing Wood

Nearly half of all adults snore occasionally. About a quarter snore regularly. Often, snoring is the result of a treatable condition, such as a sinus infection or a deviated septum. The culprit may also be bulky throat muscles or a soft palate or uvula. And, of course, in cases when loud snoring or gasps are interspersed with pauses in breathing—sometimes 20 or 30 an hour—sleep apnea is a strong possibility.

One more annoying thing about growing old is that we are more likely to snore as we age or go through physical changes. Middle-aged men and postmenopausal women are more likely to snore where they hadn’t in the past, and weight gain is connected to increased snoring.

Whatever the reason, the sleep deprivation that often goes hand-in-hand with snoring can come with its own health and wellness issues, and has been linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

 

So who are these 23 million undiagnosed sleep apnea sufferers? If you snore, you may be one of them…and a candidate for a sleep apnea test. Snoring in and of itself is bad enough, even if it can be blamed on your anatomy, allergies, your sleep position or something else entirely. Snoring is unhealthy because when you stop breathing your oxygen level drops and makes it difficult for your brain and heart to function properly. With sleep apnea, you actually stop breathing—possibly several times per hour—which means interrupted sleep for you and anyone within earshot.

Dr. Garg says snoring “isn’t the only red flag to look out for.” There is also morning headaches, dry mouth, mood changes, pauses in breathing, snorting or gasping, insomnia, irritability and depression. Sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, cardiac problems, asthma, COPD and diabetes mellitus. It also causes a low oxygen level known as hypoxia, which creates a fight-or-flight response, meaning that your quickening heart beat also narrows your arteries. Undiagnosed sleep apnea also raises your risk of stroke by two or three times. You may also be at a higher risk of cardiac issues if you are older than 60, have 20 or more episodes of sleep apnea per hour and have an oxygen level of less than 78 percent while you sleep.

There are three types of sleep apnea that Dr. Garg and his sleep center staff look for when they test. Central Sleep Apnea means your brain isn’t signaling your muscles to breathe. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is most common, is a blockage in your airway. Complex Sleep Apnea syndrome is a combination of the two.

If you need to be treated for sleep apnea, the choice with which most people are familiar is the CPAP, short for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It’s a small, portable machine that keeps the upper airway open when you wear a small mask over the nose. A nasal mask is attached to the machine with tubing. It’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds and it’s most definitely the kind of thing one can get used to—and actually prefer to sleep with—to make breathing easier. The global CPAP market has been estimated at over $2 billion annually, with more than a quarter sold in the U.S.

There are some instances where surgery is the best option. For instance, removing the adenoids and tonsils—which is the most common treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in children—nasal polyps or anything else blocking the airway can solve the problem. You may also be a candidate for an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) to remove the excess tissue from the back of the throat.

No matter what you and your doctor decide, the path to a better night’s sleep begins with testing. And testing begins at home.

 

 

Editor’s Note: The Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center at Trinitas was the first hotel-based sleep center in New Jersey. For more information call Dr. Garg at (908) 994-8694.

 

Crazy 8

In a day and age when social media and family drama pulls us in so many directions, and the line between work and home is increasingly blurred, the idea we grew up with—“everyone needs eight hours of sleep”—would almost seem quaint if it didn’t sound so crazy. And while some people can truly thrive on five or six hours a night, sleep experts maintain that the traditional range of seven to nine hours a night is still a solid number. Seniors can get away with slightly less, while children actually need more for proper growth and development. So when your teenager is heading into his or her tenth hour of unconsciousness, don’t take it personally. It’s just nature doing its job.

If you sense that you’re not getting enough sleep, trust your instincts and talk to a doctor. Research shows that six hours or less can increase anxiety, affect your decision-making and create a general fog that is unpleasant and potentially dangerous. Sleep apnea is not a slam-dunk diagnosis. It may be that you play a lot of sports or have a labor-intensive job, or that you’re hitting the caffeine a little too hard. There may be a coexisting health issue.

Fever Pitch

An insider’s guide to taking your temperature.

The most-measured quantity on earth is time. That makes sense. However, did you know that the second most-measured quantity is temperature? Think of all the devices that monitor hot and cold in your life, from the ones that regulate your heating and cooling system and your car, to the ones in your kitchen appliances and your computer. And, of course, there is one of the most important pieces of medical equipment in your home—the clinical thermometer—which measures body temperature and is the subject of this story.

Interestingly, what all of the aforementioned measuring devices have in common is that they share a single ancestor, one that looked a lot like the old glass-and-mercury thermometer, which, not for nothing, should no longer be in your medicine cabinet (but probably still is). More on this in “Getting Rid of Mercury” on page 43.

Taking your temperature (or someone else’s) doesn’t involve much in the way of experience or artistry. However, there are a few hard and fast rules that are easy to forget if you’re not feeling well. For example, if you’re taking your temperature orally, wait a good 15 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking to get an accurate reading. If you’ve taken a medication designed to lower a fever, like Tylenol, wait six hours before using a thermometer to ensure your numbers are correct. And if you take your temp under the armpit, remember it must touch skin and not clothing (a surprisingly common mistake).

“Normal” temperatures for an adult range between 97 and 99 degrees. The range is slightly broader for children—95.9 to 99.5—while the normal range for infants is a tick higher at 97.9 to 100.4. According to Cheryl Meyer, RN, CEN, Assistant Director of the Trinitas Emergency Department, an infant with a temperature above 100.4 should be seen right away by a medical professional. The same goes for children with a fever above 102 and an adult with a temperature north of 103. A low-grade fever lasting more than a few days is also worth a call to your physician.

What does a fever mean? It means your body is fighting an illness (such as a virus) or infection of some kind. Fevers are often accompanied by other symptoms—typically chills, headaches and body aches, but also more severe symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea and convulsions. COVID-19 symptoms, as we all know by now, are often characterized by a dry cough, exhaustion and breathing difficulty. There are ways to check for a fever without a thermometer, but they are unlikely to be accurate, especially if you are feeling your own forehead.

What does a high temperature reading tell you?

“It is usually indicative of infection and/or sepsis,” says Meyer. “However, a high temperature also could reflect an exposure to heat—such as when a child is left in a car…or if someone is left exposed to the heat for a long time, due to a medical emergency or accident, and they can’t seek shelter. Whatever the cause, you need to seek immediate medical attention.”

What can an unusually low temperature tell you? Meyer says that it can be the result of exposure to the environment—“such as our homeless population or someone who maybe was confused and got lost in and was exposed to the cold.” Be aware that it also can be caused by sepsis and/or infection, she adds.

Thermometer Basics

Thermometers take a patient’s temperature in five different ways, and each has a name: Oral/Sub-Lingual (under the tongue), Axillary (under the armpit), Rectal (in the rectum), Tympanic (in the ear) and Temporal (on the forehead). There are two essential parts to any medical thermometer, the sensor and the means of converting the result into something readable. For glass or plastic thermometers, the sensor is that little bulb located on the business end of the thermometer. For infrared thermometers, a pyrometric sensor gathers the data. Once a reading is complete, you get a number—either as a digital readout, or using those hashmarks on an old-school thermometer.

Okay, let’s get this part out of the way. The most accurate temperature reading is the rectal one. It is still the method of choice for infants. And also animals. Most people find oral temperature-taking boring or unpleasant, but for adults and children capable of keeping the thermometer under the tongue, this is the method of choice. If a person is unconscious or coughing heavily, sub-lingual may not be the answer, even with fast-reading digital models. In these cases, medical professionals choose between the ear and the armpit. An axillary reading can take five-plus minutes to be accurate and, even at that, many doctors mentally add a degree.

 

Getting Rid of Mercury

Do you have an old-school mercury and glass thermometer in your medicine cabinet? If so, be aware that it contains half a gram of elemental mercury. That’s not enough to kill you (or even seriously harm you) if you somehow swallowed it (the vapors from the mercury are actually far more harmful), but all the mercury adds up when people start throwing their old thermometers away by the tens of millions. To properly dispose of a mercury thermometer, place it inside a plastic container or glass jar, fill the container with something oil-absorbent (like cat litter or sand) and mark it “Contains Mercury” with a Sharpie. Your town or county will have a hazardous chemical drop-off site where you can dispose of it properly.

 

Temporal thermometers are simple to use and very accurate between 97 and 100. Which, if you’re curious, is how that random dude at the front of Trader Joe’s became, literally, a front-line worker last year. A similar device is now being used on wrists instead of foreheads. Recent studies have shown that it is 95% accurate in terms of fever-screening ability—the same or better than forehead readings. Wrist scanners work because the artery is very close to the surface of the skin.

The Road to 98.6

Most of us have been ingrained with the knowledge that the ideal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Did you ever wonder who decided this, and how? It was a German physician and psychiatrist named Carl Wunderlich in the 1860s. He averaged out over a million (mostly armpit) readings and determined that the temperature of healthy people fell between 97.3 and 99.5, with an average within that range of 98.6.

Medical professionals are quick to point out that your temperature is usually lower in the morning than in the afternoon, often by a degree or more, so there is no reason to be wed to 98.6, other than it has been drilled into our heads since childhood. Many believe the more accurate average number is between 97.5 and 97.9. Why the drop? In the century-plus since Wunderlich’s time, humans have gotten fatter and have lower metabolic rates. The less heat your body has to make to keep all its parts going, the lower your temperature will be.

While we’re on the topic of history, it’s worth noting that the basic principles behind the thermometer were known in ancient Greece more than 2,500 years ago. However, the first device you’d think of as approaching a “modern” thermometer was pioneered by Santorio Santorio (right) at the University of Padua in the early 1600s. Galileo, who was on a first-name basis with the professor, is believed to have had some input—as did other scientists who were exchanging ideas in Venice at the time. Temperature-taking was all the rage in 17th century Europe, it seems. Santorio’s invention used the expansion of water, not mercury, to show changes in temperature and was called a thermoscope. It became a thermometer after a standardized scale was added. The first scale measured only eight different “degrees.”

Over the next century, scientists tinkered with non-water liquids, including brandy. In 1701, Isaac Newton proposed that thermometers be standardized to measure the difference between the melting point of ice and the temperature of the human body, with 12 degrees separating the two measurements. In 1714, a Dutch inventor found mercury to be the most reliable and sensitive thermometer-filler. His name was Daniel Fahrenheit and he made a nice living manufacturing mercury thermometers. In 1742, a Swedish physicist proposed a new temperature scale, which used 100 to express the freezing point of water and 0 for the boiling point of water. His name was Anders Celsius (right), and his colleagues loved the idea…with one small tweak: They flipped the script, making 0 the cold end and 100 the hot end. Outside of the academic community, almost no one in America has the faintest idea how Celsius works, so don’t feel bad.

The first doctor who stuck a thermometer into a person as part of his patient practice was Herman Boerhaave (left), a Dutch chemist and physician who founded the first European teaching hospital at the University of Leiden in the early 1700s. His patients were none too thrilled about the idea—it took up to a half-hour to obtain an accurate reading, so no matter the input, the process was tedious and unpleasant. And if you think that’s a long time, consider that it took 150 more years to cut the temperature-taking times down to five minutes.

That breakthrough came after years of tinkering by a British scientist named (I swear I am not making this up) Thomas Allbutt (right). Just as thrilling was the fact that his clinical thermometer was only six inches long—half the (yikes) standard length during the early 1800s. Later in life, Allbutt was rewarded for his ingenuity by being appointed a Commissioner of Lunacy for England and Wales. Oh, and by the way, if you think wearing a mask and getting your forehead scanned is annoying, imagine waiting in line to get into Whole Foods only to encounter a 12-inch thermometer at the front door!

New Temp Tech

Thankfully, about 20 years ago, the temporal artery thermometer was unveiled by Exergen. A two-second forehead scan is all that’s needed to obtain an accurate temperature now. Dr. Frank Pompeii, who has a wall full of degrees from Harvard and MIT, developed this technology in the 1990s. Before forehead-scanning devices became affordable, you may recall that electronic ear thermometers—which measure blood temp with an infrared probe—were very popular. They came on the market in the late-1960s, courtesy of a German doctor named Theodor Benzinger, who emigrated to the U.S. after World War II and went to work for the Navy. He was actually experimenting with ways to measure brain temperature without the use of electrodes. Benzinger determined that the blood vessels coursing through the ear drum are shared with the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. The drawback to ear thermometers is that they can fail to detect a fever if a patient has significant wax build-up, or the probe records the temperature of the external ear canal and not the part containing the ear drum’s blood vessels.

In conclusion, and to underscore an earlier point, the newer, safer methods for temperature-taking have made the mercury-and-glass thermometer entirely obsolete. Starting around 20 years ago, states began banning their sale and the National Institute of Standards and Technology stopped calibrating mercury thermometers a decade ago.

Although mercury is arguably the most beautiful and captivating of the elements, it also happens to be a neurotoxin that is almost impossible to clean up once it escapes its container. It’s bad stuff, so please say goodbye to your mercury thermometer if you haven’t already. 

 

 

Editor’s Note: From the “Don’t Try This at Home” Department, the highest recorded human temperature was 115.7 degrees. Willie Jones of Atlanta set the record during a summer heat wave in 1980 and suffered no apparent ill effects. “Based on studies,” his doctor told reporters at a press conference, “Mr. Jones should not be sitting here next to me. He was as close to death as anyone gets.”

 

Seeing Red

Mercury isn’t the only substance used in thermometers. Think of all the souvenir and advertising thermometers you’ve seen in your life. Some people actually collect them. The red stuff they contain is dyed alcohol or ethanol. It’s not as accurate as mercury and is not dangerous if the thermometer breaks. The substance is accurate up to 172 degrees, so it’s really only good for measuring air and body temperature.

Elizabeth Perkins

The ability to light up a screen is not the exclusive province of A-List, big-box-office mega-stars. Some actors have learned to wield that quality with understated strength and subtlety—and parlayed that power into long, distinguished entertainment careers. If you’re wondering why Elizabeth Perkins is so relentlessly good in everything she does, you may have just answered your own question. For three-plus decades she has turned in luminous performances in heart-tugging dramas and smart comedies that include About Last Night, Big, Avalon, The Doctor, He Said She Said, The Ring Two, 28 Days and Must Love Dogs—as well as unforgettable TV series like Weeds, Sharp Objects, How to Live with Your Parents and Truth Be Told. She also played Nemo’s mom in Finding Nemo. Perkins has inhabited screen characters that run the gamut from dark to daring to devilishly funny. But as she tells Gerry Strauss, in her current FOX series, The Moodys, she is playing a version of someone fans have never seen before: herself.

EDGE: In the FOX series The Moodys, you play Ann Moody, an alcohol counselor. There’s a personal story behind that.

EP: I asked them to let my character go back to school and become a counselor because of what my mother had done. She was a pianist and then she became an alcohol rehabilitation counselor. She had played in a series of bars and was in that scene, became a full-blown alcoholic throughout most of my childhood, and then got sober when I was 18 or 19 years old. She completely turned her life around, went back to school, got her degree and became a counselor. Sobriety has been a big part of my life, and so is recognizing that and honoring that in people and in my family, and in myself. It was a real inspiration for my character on this show for that very reason.

EDGE: Your mom was an entertainer at heart. Did that influence you early on?

EP: Oh, 100 percent. My mother used to play the piano and I would stand next to her and sing. She always encouraged me to do the things that she couldn’t—or wouldn’t, or didn’t—and was really an impetus for me to get on stage. She introduced me to local theater in our small town in Massachusetts and was always my inspiration. She would say to me, “I wish that I had done that when I was your age.” Because she was a natural performer…and the funniest person I’ve ever known in my life. She was sarcastic and raucous and bawdy. She was just no-holds-barred, with a great deal of confidence. I think that my sense of humor comes directly from her mouth. For sure.

EDGE: You began your career as a stage actress, correct?

EP: Oh, absolutely. I went to drama school in Chicago at the Goodman School of Drama, which now has been incorporated into DePaul University. But when I went there, it was a conservatory, and I think we had a graduating class of 12 people. When you’re in that kind of training program, specifically back then, they weren’t training you for television and film. We didn’t have on-camera classes or how-to TV audition classes. It was primarily performing on the stage. I had really not thought about film and television. When you come from a conservatory mindset like that, it’s all about the theater. I was lucky enough—and I’ll use that word lucky, because luck does play a huge part in any actor’s life—to be seen. I went to New York solely to do theater and was cast on Broadway. That was 100 percent luck and being at the right place at the right time. I was proud of myself working on Broadway, being young in my twenties, in New York.

EDGE: Then came About Last Night (above), with Rob Lowe, Demi Moore and Jim Belushi…

EP: Again, I just lucked into that first film audition, which I think it was 1985. It had never occurred to me to do film and television, and I was perfectly fine without it. I just fell into it. When I did About Last Night, I’d never been in front of a camera before. I’d never done a commercial or a day part. I’d never even done a student film before, so I sort of faked my way through it. I remember arriving on the set and they were using terms that I’d never heard: your mark, the POV, the cheap shot, over-the-shoulder. I just was like, “I’m going to just fake it till I make it.”

EDGE: And you did. You were listed as one of the “12 Most Promising New Actors of 1986” in Screen World, which was a huge deal back in the pre-Internet and pre-IMDB days. Did you feel some pressure at that point to keep the momentum going?

EP: I felt a little overwhelmed. The film got a lot of attention and the way I looked at it was like, “Well, that’s intense.” But it resulted in me getting more work. I had been living in New York in my twenties and everything was expensive, and I wasn’t making any money. It just translated into, “Oh, I can buy my mom a car!” That’s when I started buying my mom her cars, and I bought her a new car like every five years for the rest of my life, until she passed away a few years ago. Then I remember thinking, “I can buy my mom a house…I can do all these things. I can now help take care of my mom the way she always took care of me.” So it was a blessing. I was 26, but I think I had a pretty good head on my shoulders about it, and I knew these things come and go so quickly. It’s like that great line in Notting Hill: “Today’s newspapers are going to line tomorrow’s canary cage.”

EDGE: Not everyone in that situation would respond that way.

EP: If you’re in it for a certain amount of notoriety, yeah, that could sway how you respond to that attention. A lot of actors who think, Oh, I’m the hottest thing right now—and they actually think that’s going to last—just aren’t really living in reality. Hype is so fleeting, and all you can really do is focus on the work. I’m from a really small town in Western Massachusetts, so all of this was just great [laughs]. I’ll take whatever I can get! I remember when I was making The Flintstones with Rosie O’Donnell, she was hanging out with Madonna at the time and she said, “You could just be so much more famous than you are. You should come out with me and Madonna… you could be super famous. Your career could be so much better than it is right now.” And I remember thinking to myself, I like my career right now. [laughs] I work all the time, but I’m not one of those people who’s surrounded by paparazzi. I work with great people. I make good money. I’ve got four children. I support myself. I’ve supported my parents. Yeah, I guess you could be wanting to be in that level of superstardom…or you can just be really grateful for what’s in front of you. I think that’s sustained me. I’ve been doing this for over 35 years, and I’m good.

EDGE: One of your earliest film roles was opposite Tom Hanks in Big. In 1988, it was an innocent family-friendly fantasy film. Do you think the relationship between your adult character and Josh, who was still a 12-year-old boy, would be done the same way?

EP: Oh, I get questions about this all the time, because we have sex in the movie. He kisses me and touches my breasts, and it was a whole thing. Yeah…we wouldn’t shoot that movie like that today, 100 percent. I’m not sure I feel strange about it in hindsight. That scene was primarily to set up the joke of the next day at the office, when the elevator opens and he walks out like, Oh, I’m a completely changed human being. It in no way indicated any kind of untoward, Oh, she’s having sex with a minor. Based on how we have grown for the good as a society, that scene would probably not be acceptable, period, so I own that. And I’m sure Penny [Marshall, who directed the film], before she passed, would own that as well.

EDGE: Do you view the heightened sensitivity towards entertainment as being a change for the better?

EP: I think when change happens, societal change happens. It goes to the extremes in many different directions and then eventually it finds its home. The change that’s going on now is very necessary, but I do think we’re all still finding our footing there. In terms of certain norms that have gone on for decades, it’s a hard change for everyone, particularly people who’ve been writing or directing or creating for years. But it’s a necessary one. My daughter works in development at the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media and she’s my touchstone for all of it. I’m 60 years old. I’ve been doing this since I was in my early 20s. And every time I have a question, I call her and I say, “What do you think about this?” It’s all a big change for me, too. I really applaud my daughter, because she’s at the forefront of working for an institute that is dedicated to equality and inclusivity and diversity. And it’s really needed, and it’s overdue at this point.

EDGE: Is comedy something that you’ve always enjoyed digging into, or was it more of an acquired passion?

EP: Oh, I adore doing comedy. If I could do comedy all the time, I would really be in a sweet spot. Sometimes I feel like I’m always given the job I need at the moment I need it. Prior to doing The Moodys with Denis Leary, I had done all these really dark things. I did a show called Sharp Objects with Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson. That was so dark. Then I did a show with Aaron Paul and Octavia Spencer that was just Nazis and prison and racism. And then Trump was in office and the pandemic hit, and I’m doing comedy. If you just stay in these dark pieces, you bring it home with you. I do, anyway. So I just feel blessed that I’m making a comedy in the middle of all of this stuff. I’m like, “Okay, universe, you’re giving me exactly what I need.” [laughs]. It’s great to wake up in the morning and know that you’re going to go to work and laugh—I’m so blessed to be working with Denis and Jay Baruchel, who plays our oldest son. Jay is just wicked good. He’s incredible. We’re having such a good time that none of us wants to leave.

EDGE: What specifically hooked you into The Moodys?

EP: Denis Leary. Denis and I grew up about 30 miles away from each other. Chelsea Frei, who plays our daughter, grew up another 30 miles away, and Jay Baruchel is from Montreal, which is like four hours away. So all of us really have this same sort of—I’ll use the word “wicked” because that’s New England lingo— sense of humor, and we’re all from working-class families. So, when the creators sent it to me, they said, “There’s not a lot on the page right now, but we’d love you to do this.” And I said, “Well, can I make her like me?” And they were like, “Yeah.” So they were gracious enough to let me infuse my own life into it. I feel like this is the first time that I’ve created someone who’s really based on me, a woman with older children who are still in and around the house, who’s trying to reinvent herself all the time—which happens when you go from being a mother to being an empty nester. I was able to infuse parts of my mom into it, and so it was the first time I’ve been able to have open season on a character that the creators really allowed me to make my own. At my age, it was really a little gift for me. I took it and ran with it, and I’m having a ball.

EDGE: Would the prospect of creating your own character have frightened you earlier in your career?

EP: Oh, yeah. But everything is scarier when you’re younger.

EDGE: Why does it work so well now?

EP: When you get to be a certain age, you don’t care what people think anymore. You just don’t. You’ve been around for long enough to just say, “I am who I am, and I’m proud of who I am.” I love these parts of myself, and I want to share them because I think I’m really great. I do. I love my life. I love my husband. I love my kids. I just feel like I’ve been given so many gifts. And now I’m getting to play a really great part of myself. A lot of people don’t get an opportunity like that, so I adore my creators and Denis for bringing me along on this. They’re allowing me to be nutty and obsessive and fun—a woman who maybe has too many glasses of wine, or maybe overdecorates the house at Christmas, who might be a little bit cloying at times when it comes to her children. These are all real facets of me.

Coming in Hot

What’s fueling the rush to install home pizza ovens?

One of the triumphant survivors of COVID-19 in New Jersey was the old-school pizzeria. Only a handful of these stores shuttered and many actually saw an uptick in business. The curbside pick-up/home-delivery model had already existed for decades when thousands of restaurants in the state were forced to adapt or die. This gave pizza-makers a huge edge when everyone went into hunker-down mode.

But I know another reason why pizza-makers made it through with flying colors: We learned just how impossible it is to make a decent pie in a standard oven.

Some of us have come tantalizingly close, but it’s never quite right, is it? Even the most talented home chefs with “professional” equipment and designer kitchens eventually arrived at this conclusion. In fact, I’ll bet they were the first to pick up the phone and order out once it was safe. So how do you make an honest-to-goodness pizza-parlor pie at home? With an honest-to-goodness pizza oven.

Your first steps on this journey begin with finding an oven that meets all the necessary criteria and lines up with your budget, kitchen space and other needs. If you’ve got a buddy in the business, obviously that’s an excellent place to start, but for most of us the Internet is where the search begins. Google “pizza oven suppliers” and you’ll notice that the word forno—which translates as “oven”—appears in many trade names. Examples include Forno Bravo, a company that builds and ships from Monterey; Forno Piombo, a father-and-son team that annually produces only 160 custom ovens (starting at $9,500) that are inspired by Tuscany but handcrafted in the Napa Valley; and Fontana Forni, which offers made-in-Italy models using techniques crafted by generations of the Fontana family.

 

 

Pie Chart

Three billion pizzas are sold in the US each year accounting for $40 billion in revenues. During the pandemic, Pizza Hut and Domino’s saw delivery and off-premises sales soar by 21% and 36% respectively. Here are some other fun facts about pizza in America…

  • 41% of Americans have pizza at least once a week
  • About 12% consume pizza on any given day
  • The average American will consume more than 6,000 slices in a lifetime
  • There are roughly 2,000 pizza restaurants in New Jersey and nearly 70,000 in the U.S.
  • In a recent poll asking consumers to name their favorite food, pizza finished fifth—behind hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, and Oreos.

 

More important than finding a cool name is determining the type of oven appropriate for your situation. These are your four basic choices:

  • Brick Oven A centuries-old wood-fired method capable of reaching 700-1,000°F with a rustic look and taste of days gone by. These ovens can also be heated with gas or coal, or a combination of sources.
  • Deck Oven When space is at a premium, offers one to three decks made of stone heated by a gas or electric burner; not quite in the same league as a wood-fired oven, but it will look familiar if you frequent your local pizza place.
  • Convection Oven You may have one already; if not, you may want to consider one on your next remodel. It circulates hot air from the bottom, which gives you a fighting chance to produce a crispy, thin crust—but it’s not made specifically for pizzas, so lower your expectations.
  • Impinger Oven Uses specialized radiant cooking technology to distribute hot air from both the top and bottom to penetrate the pizza quickly and cook it in five minutes or less. You don’t typically find these in homes, but it doesn’t mean you can’t.

Ask any pizza aficionado and you’ll almost always be told that an authentic Italian pie can only come from a wood-fired oven with a traditional stone base. Although these ovens are not unheard-of in residential kitchens in New Jersey, you’re far more likely to find one a few steps outside the kitchen, on a patio or as part of an outdoor entertainment area. Would it surprise you to know that one of the top people in the outdoor pizza business is located in New Jersey? Decades-old Backyard Brick Ovens is right in the neighborhood, in Edison. Its owner, Scot Cosentino, is not only a master builder of wood-fired pizza ovens, but he takes pride in billing himself as a World Champion Pizza Maker. For more than 30 years, Cosentino has been designing, engineering and producing pizza ovens for sites ranging from private backyards to commercial restaurants.

Today, the company focuses on outdoor and stand-alone installations. Its brand name is Forno Bello and its most popular model is the Neapolitan. That oven is priced at $2,800, with an additional $300 set-up fee. Cosentino offers videos to his customers with instructions on setting up, lighting up, doughing up and dishing up his favorite recipes. He confirms that the pandemic has hardly dented the business, as many New Jersey families chose to invest in their homes over the past year: “Backyard ovens sold like hot pizzas during the pandemic.”

Okay, let’s stop for a second. I have never experienced daily cravings like I did while researching this story, so let’s talk about the kind of pizza that comes out of a great oven. The most basic traditional pizza is a margarita, which at its best is prepared with a thin crust generously topped with patiently simmered fresh tomato sauce and finished with generous slices of fresh bufalo mozzarella and an aromatic chiffonade of basil leaves. A less common, but equally traditional option often found on more sophisticated menus is the Pizza Quatro Stagioni. To live up to its label, this pizza is divided into four quarters, each symbolizing one of the seasons by featuring a vegetable typical of the time of year (e.g., artichokes for spring, mushrooms for fall, tomatoes and basil for summer, and prosciutto and olives for winter). Once again, all ingredients are crowned with a fresh tomato sauce drizzled over a thin crunchy crust.

If neither of these more orthodox versions excites your palate, the variety of pizza toppings available is limited only by the creative spirit of the resident pizzaiolo. Your pie of choice might reflect your mood (“I feel like…”), your budget (Wait, 30 bucks for what…”), or even the time of day (“I’ll have the Florentine breakfast pizza with bacon, eggs and spinach…”). I learned there is such a thing as a dessert pizza, too.

When I mentioned to my son how hungry this story was making me, he showed up with my grandson and a Ninja Foodie and we shopped for ingredients to create a couple of small, homemade pies on my countertop. Although certainly not wood-fired and perfect, they were okay. Which is something we all love about pizza: even when it’s just okay, it’s still pretty good.

A Slice of History

We all know that pizza originated in Italy, but where does the name come from? Etymologically, the word pizza is derived from the Latin pinsere, which means to pound or stamp—which became pinza and then pizza. Anyone who has watched a pizzaiolo (or pizza master) at work appreciates that making pizza requires much serious pounding of dough, followed by skillfully draping it over the closed fists of both hands and rotating it to stretch it to the proper circumference and thinness.

The first description of pizza dates back to a 10th century Latin manuscript from a town in Southern Italy. Although many Sicilian-Americans claim owner-ship on this basis, the modern pizza actually traces its roots to Naples. In fact, a non-profit organization,

The True Neapolitan Pizza Association, was founded in 1984 to safeguard Napoli as the true pizza source. As a further fact, in 2017 UNESCO awarded the Neapolitan pizza its seal of approval by listing it as “intangible cultural heritage.” It is no surprise that actor Stanley Tucci, for the first episode of CNN’s Searching for Italy, opened with a visit to Naples for meetings with a family of mozzarella cheese makers, several San Marzano tomato experts, and some very famous pizzaioli as a proper introduction to the authentic roots of pizza in its native habitat.

Back to business. If you prefer an indoor pizza installation, the options at the low end begin with electric, compact, and countertop ovens that can start as low as $299. The Ooni Fyra is a popular pick at that price point. If you are willing and able to make a $999 investment, the Breville Pizzaiolo model qualifies as a very high-temp “smart” pizza oven. With no unique set-up involved, these ovens can sit on any flat surface in the kitchen to quickly turn out crispy 12-inch pizzas, whether you’ve made them yourself or grabbed one out of the freezer.

Although there are more sophisticated indoor ovens available, their installation requirements are more complicated and therefore more expensive. Typical kits are available from $1,500 to $2,500, but if kitchen remodeling is necessary to install, the average costs to the homeowner is likely to fall into the $15,000 to $20,000 range, which includes carpentry, tiling and electrical costs, as well as permitting and compliance with local ordinances. And as anyone who’s redone a kitchen knows, you can easily blow through that number if you look at a contractor wrong. The outdoor option may be a bit less intrusive, but is still likely to set you back between $5,000 and $20,000.

A final thought on “cost.” As anyone who spent time in a college dorm can tell you, the price of pizza is measured both in dollars and pounds. Think of all the empty freezer cases during the height of the pandemic; those carbs had to go somewhere. Maybe that’s why Pelotons were on back order and people started buying those black-mirror home gyms. Alas, the uncomfortable truth about our favorite comfort food is that consuming a typical pie—whether all at once or as reheated leftovers—can easily surpass 2,000 calories…and depending on the quantity of cheese on the pie, more than 200 grams of fat.

Is every bite worth the calories? Maybe not—if it comes out of a cardboard box from your local delivery joint or supermarket freezer. On the other hand, if you’ve crafted each ingredient by hand and it emerges bubbling from your own wood-fired, charcoal-fueled or top-of-the-line convection oven, I just have two words for you: buon appetito!

Scorchers

Twenty memorable movies to take your temperature by.

 

Is it getting warm in here, or is it just that a semi-normal summer seems within reach? After a year of bread-making, diet-busting and binge-watching, it’s hard to know what’s hot and what’s not anymore. If you’re looking for a new thread to tug on, we suggest working your way through this collection of unforgettable films.

 

Ball of Fire • 1941

Gary Cooper plays against his brooding film hero persona in a movie about a group of musty academics grappling to understand contemporary slang as their decade-long encyclopedia project reaches the letter S. Barbara Stanwyck lived up to her billing as a ball of fire, while Cooper displayed remarkable comic timing.

 

 

White Heat • 1949

James Cagney transforms a low-budget gangster flick with a six-week shooting schedule into a masterpiece with a tour de force performance. His character, Cody Jarrett, was one of the first to draw a line between mental illness and criminal behavior

 

 

 

The Flame and the Arrow • 1950

Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo co-star in this 12th century swash-buckling drama. Warner Brothers offered $1 million to anyone who could prove that Lancaster didn’t do all of his own stunts—and someone took them up on it!

 

 

 

 

The Big Heat • 1953

Glenn Ford stars as a police detective who takes on the mob in a moody and visually captivating story directed by the great Fritz Lang. Jocelyn Brando (Marlon’s older sister) played Ford’s wife and a young Lee Marvin was excellent as a psychopathic gangster.

 

 

 

The Long, Hot Summer • 1958

Paul Newman plays a Deep South drifter in a film that marked the return of director Martin Ritt from the blacklist. Newman, who was named Best Actor at Cannes, married co-star Joanne Woodward during production. Orson Welles, Angela Lansbury, Lee Remick, Richard Anderson and Tony Franciosa make up a remarkable supporting cast.

 

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof • 1958

Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman play Maggie and Brick in the toned-down film adaptation of the controversial Tennessee Williams drama. Williams and Newman were both disappointed that studio censors cut out key parts of the play, but the film still earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.

 

 

 

Some Like It Hot • 1959

Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe are brilliant in this gender-bending screwball comedy. Writer-director Billy Wilder never imagined the luminous Monroe would take the part, but to her enduring credit she saw how playing a ditzy “straight man“ to the inspired lunacy of Curtis and Lemmon would make the film great.

 

 

 

Fahrenheit 451 • 1966

Francois Truffaut directs a chilling adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s tale of a dystopian future in which “firemen” are tasked with destroying all literature; Julie Christie plays a schoolteacher who convinces a fireman to read the books he’s burning. A 2018 remake starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon lacked the oomph of this earlier production.

 

 

In the Heat of the Night • 1967

Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger originate the roles later occupied by Howard Rollins and Carroll O’Connor on the TV series of the same name. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Steiger took home the Best Actor Oscar.

 

Body Heat • 1981

Kathleen Turner and William Hurt are at their smokey, sexy best in a drama inspired by film noir classic Double Indemnity. Body Heat marked the film debut of Turner—who was best known for her role on TV soap The Doctors—and featured a supporting cast that included soon-to-be stars Ted Danson and Mickey Rourke.

 

 

Chariots of Fire • 1981

Of all the movies on this list, the story of two English runners at the 1924 Olympics easily has the most memorable score. It also won Best Picture. The title was inspired by a poem by William Blake, who borrowed the idea from passages in the Bible.

 

Streets of Fire • 1984

An utterly original retro rock musical, Streets of Fire is full of holes and weaknesses, yet it helped launch the movie careers of Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Rick Moranis, Bill Paxton and Robert Townsend. A little known fact is that it also inspired the Street Fighter video game franchise.

 

 

St. Elmo’s Fire • 1985

This “Brat Pack” classic stars Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Andie McDowell, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy and Mare Winningham. The film, an attempt at a Big Chill meets Breakfast Club vibe, did well at the box office but did not win over the critics. Amazing that no one made it into a TV series.

 

 

 

Mississippi Burning • 1988

Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe co-star as FBI agents investigating the disappearance of three freedom riders. Hackman and Frances McDormand earned Oscar nominations, and the film was up for Best Picture and Best Director.

 

 

 

 

Hot Shots • 1991

Charlie Sheen stars in this Desert Storm era spoof a la The Naked Gun. The superb comedic timing he demonstrated a dozen years later on Two and a Half Men is on display in this popular farce.

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire • 2005

The fourth installment in the Harry Potter series, Goblet of Fire shows a more mature side of Harry and his Hogwarts friends. The film killed at the box office and featured teenagers Robert Pattinson and Katie Leung, who played Harry’s first love interest.

 

 

 

Mad Hot Ballroom • 2005

The lone documentary on this list, Mad Hot Ballroom introduces us to the ballroom dancing program in the unlikeliest of places: the NYC public school system. Fifth graders tango and fox-trot their way into our hearts as they converge on the citywide finals.

 

 

 

 

Hot Fuzz • 2007

Loveable goof balls Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in an inspired send-up of the action film genre. Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Stephen Merchant, Cate Blanchett and Olivia Colman make up one of the all-time great supporting casts.

 

 

Burn After Reading • 2008

Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand play a pair of moronic gym employees who become hopelessly entangled in an intricate spy plot. George Clooney, John Malkovich, J.K. Simmons and Tilda Swinton co-starred in this screwball comedy penned by Joel and Ethan Coen.

 

 

 

Hot Tub Time Machine • 2010

John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and Rob Corddry pass out after downing Chernobyl, a Russian energy drink, and wake up in 1986—with a stern warning from a hot tub repairman not to alter the future. A cast of likeable actors and a relentlessly ridiculous script make this movie difficult not to enjoy.

 

EPHOTO CREDITS

Ball of Fire • Samuel Goldwyn Productions

White Heat • Warner Bros. Pictures

The Flame and the Arrow • Warner Bros. Pictures

The Big Heat • Columbia Pictures

The Long Hot Summer • 20th Century Fox

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof • MGM

Some Like It Hot • The Mirisch Corp.

Fahrenheit 451 • Anglo Enterprises/Vineyard Film

In the Heat of the Night • The Mirisch Corp.

Body Heat • The Ladd Company/Warner Bros.

Chariots of Fire • Allied Stars/Goldcrest Films/The Ladd Company

Streets of Fire • Universal Pictures/RKO

St. Elmo’s Fire • Columbia Pictures

Mississippi Burning • Orion Pictures

Hot Shots • 20th Century Fox

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire • Warner Bros./Heyday Films

Mad Hot Ballroom • Nickelodeon Movies

Hot Fuzz • StudioCanal/Working Title/Big Talk

Burn After Reading • Focus Features

Hot Tub Time Machine • MGM/United Artists/New Crime Prod.

The Fermentation Factor

Cheese, wine and bread…this trio is life’s essence, a microcosm representative of its nourishment and joy.

 

I’m not a highly curated, picture-perfect human. I’m a quirky, line-drawing, scribbles person. Also, I would operate at lightning speed if I could. Thankfully, I’ve found an antidote to this haste: fermentation. When things aren’t moving fast enough for me, fermentation reminds me of the value of waiting. Feeding my sourdough starter every morning, brewing a new batch of kombucha weekly…at the risk of sounding like an unhinged hipster, these are the routines that ground me. The practice of fermentation is as old as civilization itself, but the splendor of it found me in my early thirties while exploring cheese, wine, and bread in England, Italy and France.

Fermentation is under our noses, but is only now entering most people’s awareness. It is the process by which a substance breaks down into a simpler substance, altering food with microbes rather than by cooking it with fire. If this produces the most essential, delicious foods on earth, what can the same process do for us, as humans? Our lives ferment; we all have awkward, smelly phases along with delicious, robust ones—mine certainly has.

Cheese, wine, and bread, I think you’ll agree, are three of life’s most delightful things. They can be found worldwide, each place informing them with its own unique history and stories that extend far beyond the delicious dance on the plate. These are three of my favorite recipes…

Stilton Scones with Cranberries

Scones are as English as Stilton. If you’re American, you probably pronounce it scoan, like “stone.” In England, it’s pronounced scon, like “con.” However you say it, scones are an essential part of the afternoon-tea tradition (and also wonderful any time of day, in my opinion). Cranberries and blue cheese are a winning combination, and especially Christmasy. Another of my favorite variations is to swap out the cranberries for 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped hazelnuts; if you do opt for the hazelnuts, try the scones with a smear of red onion and port marmalade or another fruity jam to bring the sweet kick.

6 tablespoons (¾ stick/90 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing

2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour

¼ cup (50 grams) sugar

4 teaspoons (15 grams) baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2⁄3 cup (160 milliliters) whole milk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons (about 20 grams) dried cranberries

6 ounces (180 grams) Stilton blue cheese, broken into large chunks (about 1 1⁄3 cups)

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease a sheet pan with a little butter.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined and lump-free.
  3. Add the butter and use your fingertips to rub it into the dry ingredients until the butter is fully incorporated. The mixture should have the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add the milk, egg, and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the dough comes together.Gently fold in the blue cheese chunks until just incorporated (you want those chunks to remain intact, not break down into smaller crumbs). The dough will be fairly wet.
  4. Using a tablespoon, take a heaping scoop of the dough (about 2 inches/5 centimeters in diameter, a bit smaller than a tennis ball but bigger than a golf ball) and place it on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the dough, spacing the scoops 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) apart. (The dough spreads as it bakes, so if your pan isn’t big enough to space out the scones, you’ll need to use two.)
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 5 minutes more. They’re done when they’re golden, with some browned bumps on the uneven surface. Bake for 2 to 6 minutes more, as needed.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the scones to a wire rack. (Some of the melted cheese will have escaped and gotten crispy on your baking sheet—that’s the cook’s treat to nibble on!) Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Spaghetti all’Ubriaco (Drunken Pasta)

When Italians discovered the joy of using their favorite beverage (wine) to cook their favorite food (pasta), variations of this plum-colored pasta dish became a standard meal. Spaghetti all’ubriaco—“drunken spaghetti”—isn’t as inebriated as it sounds: the heat burns off the alcohol in the wine. In cooking the pasta with the wine, however, the noodles are imbued with a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor. A medium-bodied dry red wine works well here, but honestly, I’ve used a wide variety of leftover reds. (The origin of this dish is considered to be Tuscany, so if you want to stay regional, you could uncork a Chianti or some other wine made primarily with sangiovese grapes, one of the most important grapes in Italy and grown abundantly in Tuscany.) Ideally, it would be a delicious red wine you would happily drink—and sometimes I do pour myself a glass and cook with the rest—but I also think the adage “waste not, want not” is perfectly applied here: If you have an opened bottle that’s past its prime for drinking, this is the perfect use for it. I make this version with nuts, cheese, herbs, garlic, and red pepper flakes. I love garlic, so I use a lot. If you don’t love a garlicky pasta, use fewer cloves. Ditto with the red pepper flakes. These simple ingredients are all you need to put together an addicting, lip-smacking plate of pasta. I find these deep-plum strands of spaghetti completely irresistible, as sexy as a satin sheet.

Coarse sea salt

12 ounces (340 grams) dried spaghetti

¼ cup (60 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil

4 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup (250 milliliters) red wine

½ cup (1.6 ounces/45 grams) freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

¼ cup (45 grams) finely chopped nuts (I like pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds)

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sprigs of parsley, for garnish

  1. Fill a large pot three-quarters full of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of coarse salt (the adage “It should taste like the sea” is a good gauge of how much). Cook the spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the package for al dente. (You don’t want it to be completely cooked because it will continue cooking in the red wine later.)
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Pour the wine into the pan with the garlic and stir. Remove from the heat while the pasta finishes cooking.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup (about 250 milliliters) of the pasta water.
  4. Add the pasta to the pan with the wine and garlic over medium heat and stir. Cook, occasionally stirring gently, for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the wine, taking on a plum hue.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the cheese and nuts. Stir in a tablespoon (or more) of the reserved pasta water; its starchiness mixes with the fat in the cheese to create a silky coating on the noodles. Finish with the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you think the dish is asking for it.
  6. Serve garnished with parsley and topped with more cheese, and enjoy slurping down the drunken noodles.

Susie Q’s Sour Cream Challah

When I started writing Cheese, Wine and Bread, I asked my mom where she initially got her challah recipe, and learned that “mom’s loaf ” has evolved over time. This current iteration, which she’s made consistently for over a decade, was adapted from a dinner roll recipe from a 1990s issue of Cooking Light.

2 (¼-ounce/7-gram) packets active dry yeast (4½ teaspoons)

½ cup (125 milliliters) warm water (around 110°F/43°C)

½ cup (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (105 grams) sugar

1 cup (240 grams) sour cream

2 large eggs, whisked

5 cups (600 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 egg white, beaten, for the egg wash

Poppy seeds, for garnish (optional)

  1. Combine the yeast and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Cream the softened butter and sugar in a medium bowl using a whisk until smooth. Gradually stir in the sour cream until combined. Set aside.
  3. Add the eggs to the yeast mixture and mix well. Add the sour cream mixture and stir until smooth. Add 1 cup (120 grams) of the flour and the salt. Gradually mix in the remaining 4 cups (480 grams) flour until you have a shaggy dough.
  4. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Tip the shaggy dough out onto the surface and sprinkle with a couple more pinches of flour.

Knead the dough with the palm of your hand (avoid poking it with your fingertips), adding flour as needed to prevent it from sticking to the work surface and your hands, until the dough is smooth, not sticky, and gently springs back when pressed with a fingertip (also called the “poke test”), about 5 minutes. (Another way to check that the dough has been kneaded long enough is by performing the “windowpane test”: Cut off a chunk of the dough—around 50 grams—and stretch it gently between your fingers into a thin sheet. If it breaks too easily, it needs more kneading, but if you can stretch the dough thin enough to see your fingers through it when it’s held up to the light, it’s good to go.)

  1. Pour the canola oil into a large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl and rotate to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place in a warm (75 to 80°F /24 to 27°C), draft-free area for about 90 minutes, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Remove the dish towel and punch down the dough. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide it into two equal portions. Cut each portion into thirds so you have 6 portions. Roll each of these portions into a rope on a clean workspace (or just in the air, rolling the dough between your palms) about 15 inches (38 centimeters) long. Working with three ropes at a time, braid the ropes, pinching the ends to make sure they don’t unravel during the second rise, to form two loaves.
  3. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place each shaped braid on its own pan. Cover each with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for 30 to 45 minutes, until they bulk up in size a bit (but are not doubled).
  4. Near the end of this proof, arrange two racks in the oven—one on the bottom notch and the other second from the top—and preheat the oven to 375° F (190°C).
  5. Prepare an egg wash by whisking the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl until frothy. Uncover the dough and use a pastry brush to brush the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the poppy seeds, if using.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the loaves are a dark golden brown and sound hollow when you knock on the underside. Make sure to switch the sheet pans’ position on the oven racks and to rotate the loaves 180° degrees halfway through to ensure even baking.
  7. Transfer the loaves from the sheet pans to wire racks and let cool thoroughly. Then enjoy!

The draw of these foods is that they take time to be transformed almost magically by the microbes within, which is a comforting prospect, and a necessary antidote to our live-tweeting culture. For instance, when you post a photo on Instagram or Facebook, do you automatically refresh the page as the likes pop up? Imagine if you had to wait two weeks, or two months, before you could see the responses, but when you received them, those responses, although not instantaneous, were somehow able to endure, like a lingering hug or a letter that’s traversed an ocean to land in your mailbox. Rather than the quick high of a digital fist bump, you receive a warm embrace. To me, that’s akin to the satisfaction fermentation offers.

If fermentation is the preservation of food, those same principles of change and transformation must apply to us. We bring a bit of our past selves with us, and a hope for the future. When a new obstacle, opportunity, or question arises—as one always does—all we need to do is take a deep breath and let things ferment. Don’t overthink it. Just let it ferment.

 

Editor’s Note:

Katie Quinn’s new book Cheese, Wine, and Bread: Discovering the Magic of Fermentation in England, Italy, and France ($29.99) was published in April by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. In it, Quinn shares the stories and science behind cheese, wine, and bread, along with dozens of classic recipes. Part artisanal survey, part travelogue and part cookbook, it features more than 100 pieces of art, including watercolor illustrations and color photographs.

The Warming Trend Issue
Ask Dr. D’Angelo

Surf’s Up! What’s your Beach IQ?

Countless thousands of Garden Staters will head to the Jersey Shore this summer to enjoy a day at the beach. For an unlucky few, that will translate into a night in the ER. Or worse. Truth be told, luck has very little to do with beach-related emergencies. Playing it smart while you play in the water not only keeps you and your family safe, it can help prevent long-term medical issues, too.

How much sun is too much sun?

Emergency Department physicians deal with the pain experienced by patients who have gotten too much sun exposure. I’ve heard some dermatologists say, “A good tan could be the first sign of skin cancer.” That is an extreme statement, but the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes. Wear sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and reapply it often.

How often is often?

Every 2 to 4 hours, especially after swimming or sweating. That’s also true far from the beach, particularly at higher elevations.

What other precautions should I take?

Seek shade, especially during the midday hours [10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) when the sun is strongest. Wear a hat to protect your head and clothing to protect exposed skin. Also, wear sunglasses with UV ray protection to protect your eyes.

How about kids?

Keep babies less than 6 months of age out of the sun, and do not put sunblock on them. The chemicals in sunblock could potentially harm babies. Otherwise, the same basic sunscreen and sun-exposure rules for adults apply to children. It’s really important, by the way, to teach them the importance of protecting their skin, because you won’t always be supervising them when they are outdoors.

How dangerous is the water along the Atlantic Coast?

I worked in Florida for the first 6 years of my career and had the unfortunate experience of witnessing the unthinkable, so trust me when I say never, ever turn your back on the ocean, or underestimate its power—even on the most placid beach days. Drowning is the fifth-leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. It is the leading cause of death among boys 5 to 14 years of age worldwide and the second-leading cause of injury-related death among children 1 to 4 years of age in the United States.

What are some precautions I can take when my kids are in the water?

Supervise young children at all times, even when they are only near the water. And by water I am including creeks, canals, rivers, lakes, hot tubs, pools and bathtubs. It can take only a matter of seconds for a child to accidentally drown. At the beach, make sure each child is swimming with a “buddy”—not another child, but an adult who is designated to enter the water with them. Obviously, you want to teach children to swim and make sure they understand basic water safety. For example, they should know that if they are swept up by a rip current to swim parallel to the shore instead of fighting against it. Adults should know this, too. Many don’t.

In a potential drowning emergency, what do I do?

Identify your surroundings and call for help—make sure a lifeguard or someone with a phone calls 911 to initiate an emergency response medical team. If an unconscious victim is in shallow water (where you can stand) administer five short rescue breaths while still in the water and then proceed to land. Once on land, the victim should be placed on his or her back, airway open. Check to see if the victim is breathing. If not, give another 5 rescue breaths and check for a pulse. If there is no pulse, begin CPR: 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths, then repeat the cycle. If vomiting occurs, turn victim onto his side to clear the airway.

Wait, I have to learn CPR?

Yes. Not only for your children’s sake, but for the safety of everyone at the beach. You don’t have to become an expert in ocean rescues—remember, you need to be a strong swimmer before attempting to rescue a swimmer in distress or you could become a victim yourself—but you should be able to administer CPR to a near drowning victim.

Isn’t that the lifeguard’s job?

Yes, again. Which is why you want to swim near areas that have lifeguards on duty whenever possible. But there could come a time when you are the person standing between life and death, and it might be a friend or family member in need of attention.

What are some common water safety mistakes boaters make?

Alcohol consumption is a big one. Consuming alcohol impairs cognitive function which can lead to poor judgment. Another is not having a sufficient number of Coast Guard approved life jackets for the passengers aboard. Make sure there are age-appropriate life jackets for children, and do not accept foam toys or air-filled toys as substitutes for life jackets. A classic mistake boaters make is not checking the weather conditions before heading to the water.

RED MENACE

When it comes to protecting the skin from the sun, some people need to be more cautious than others. You are likely to be at highest risk for melanoma—the third most common skin cancer—if you have…

• a history of multiple sunburns
• lighter skin color*
• red or blond color hair
• multiple moles on your skin
• a suppressed immune system
• a personal history of skin cancer
• a family history of skin cancer

* The risk of melanoma is 10 percent greater for light-skinned people than for dark-skinned people, but everyone should protect their skin— and schedule routine skin exams by a physician or dermatologist.

Did You Know?

Your eyes are covered with ‘skin’ called the cornea. It too, can burn and suffer irreparable sun damage. A good pair of sunglasses in summer should be as important as carrying your cell phone.

 

Editor’s Note: John D’Angelo, DO, is the Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. He has been instrumental in introducing key emergency medical protocols at Trinitas, including the life-saving Code STemi, which significantly reduces the amount of time it takes for cardiac patients to move from the emergency setting to the cardiac catheterization lab for treatment.

Warming Trends

Curtain Call

UCPAC is a blast from the past.

By Mark Stewart

The year was 1928. Nearly 1,500 people settled into their seats on a Tuesday evening to hear the first notes played by the great Chet Kingsbury on central New Jersey’s newest entertainment attraction, a $20,000 Wurlitzer pipe organ. Above the audience sparkled a magnificent, 13-foot tiered-crystal chandelier. Before them was a full orchestra pit, its musicians ready to accompany the two films scheduled to play, one starring Dolores Costello and Conrad Nagel, the other Myrna Loy. It was opening night of the million-dollar Rahway Theatre.

Later that evening, as patrons exited the building under the 2,500-light marquee, it was difficult to imagine the fun would ever end. The Rahway Theatre was a state-of-the-art entertainment palace built at the height of the Roaring ’Twenties. It could accommodate moving pictures, vaudeville revues, stage plays and concerts. No expense was spared. It even had a nursery to look after children while their parents were enjoying a show.

Upper Case Editorial Services

And yet, there were changes in the wind. The stock market crashed, movie studios started turning out talking pictures and vaudeville died. The Rahway Theatre soldiered on, providing an inexpensive diversion during the Depression and World War II. It hosted rock n roll shows in the 1950s and continued to thrive as a movie house well into the 1960s. Little by little, however, the venue lost its glittering opulence and fell into disrepair. By the 1980s it was in danger of falling to the wrecking ball.

In 1984, title to the Rahway Theatre was transferred to Rahway Landmarks, Inc. A major restoration effort was initiated and one year later it was renamed the Union County Arts Center. First the interior was restored. Next the façade underwent a facelift. As the theatre regained its footing, the city’s Arts District grew up around it. Now called the Union County Performing Arts Center, the theatre is actually one of three performance venues under the UCPAC umbrella—including the 60-seat blackbox-style Loft and the plush 199-seat Hamilton Stage down the street.

“This theatre has served as a community cornerstone for nearly nine decades,” says UCPAC executive director Lawrence McCullough. “Our mission is to present programming that is diverse and accessible and fosters the new generation of young artists and audiences.”

First-time visitors to the old building today have the same reaction as audiences did back in the 1920s: a sense of wonder and awe at its golden-age grandeur. And yes, the old Wurlitzer is still there. It sounds better than ever.

Editor’s Note: For a schedule of upcoming events at all three performing arts center venues, log onto ucpac.org or call (732) 499-8226.

The Chef Recommends

EDGE takes you inside the area’s most creative kitchens.

The Office Beer Bar & Grill • Truffled Tots

728 Thompson Ave. • BRIDGEWATER 32–34 Chestnut St. • RIDGEWOOD 1–7 South Ave. • CRANFORD 61 Union Pl. • SUMMIT
619 Bloomfield Ave. • MONTCLAIR 411 North Ave. West • WESTFIELD

Not your average tater tots, these are handmade tater tots infused with herbs and fried until they are crispy golden brown. They are served with white truffle aioli and sprinkled with sea salt.

Paragon Tap & Table • Beer Brined Pork Chop

77 Central Ave. • CLARK
(732) 931-1776 • paragonnj.com

Our pork chops are brined for thee days and served on top of a creamy bacon mac and cheese. It’s one of the highlights of our gastropub menu.

— Eric B LeVine, Chef/Partner

The Black Horse Tavern & Pub • Goffles Farm Chicken Breast

1 West Main Street • MENDHAM
(963) 543–7300 • blackhorsenj.com

Prosciutto wrapped Goffles Farm Chicken Breast with roasted new potatoes, marsala herb butter & crispy sage. 

— Kevin Felice, 40North Executive Chef

Piattino Neighborhood Bistro • Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon

88 East Main Street • MENDHAM
(973) 543-0025 • piattinonj.com

Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon paired with a lemon herb risotto, piccata butter and crisped baby arugula.

— Kevin Felice, 40North Executive Chef

George and Martha’s American Grille • Crispy Jumbo Lump Crab Croquettes

67 Morris Street • MORRISTOWN
(973) 267-4700 • georgeandmarthas.com

Crispy Jumbo Lump Crab Croquettes with Lemon infused Aioli and Roasted Corn Relish.

— Kevin Felice, 40North Executive Chef

The Office Tavern Grill • Maryland Blue Crab Dip

3 South Street • MORRISTOWN
(973) 285-0220 • officetaverngrill.com

Maryland Blue Crab Dip Sour Dough Bread Bowl filled with Jumbo Lump Crab Dip, served with Old Bay Flour Tortilla chips.

— Kevin Felice, 40North Executive Chef

Daimatsu • Sushi Pizza

860 Mountain Ave. • MOUNTAINSIDE
(908) 233-7888 • daimatsusushibar.com

This original dish has been our signature appetizer for over 20 years. Crispy seasoned sushi rice topped with homemade spicy mayo, marinated tuna, finely chopped onion,  scallion, masago caviar, and ginger. Our customers always come back wanting more.

— Momo, Chef

Publick House • Roasted Long Island Duck Breast

899 Mountain Ave. • MOUNTAINSIDE
(908) 233-2355 • publickhousenj.com

New to our menu this season is the roasted long island duck breast. The duck is seasoned with salt and pepper and slowly roasted to temperature. Paired with creamy, sweet celery root puree and earthy oven roasted portobello mushrooms, the balance of flavors compliments the fat of the duck breast perfectly.

— Bernie Goncalves, Owner

Morris Tap & Grill • Tuna Tartare Flat Bread

500 Route 10 West • RANDOLPH
(973) 891-1776 • morristapandgrill.com

Fresh ahi-grade tuna tossed in a light ginger scallion sauce served on top of a wasabi brushed lavash crisp.

— Eric B LeVine, Chef/Partner

Thai Amarin • Duck Rad Prig

201 Morris Ave. • SPRINGFIELD
(973) 376-6300, (973) 376-6301 • thaiamarinnj.net

A customer favorite, our crispy boneless duck topped with a sweet and spicy chili and garlic sauce is unique only to us. Topped with aromatic basil and lime leaves, our Ped Rad Prig will have you wanting more.

— Amy Thana, Owner

Café Z • Hot “Z” Shrimp

2333 Morris Avenue • UNION
(908) 686-4321 • CafeZNJ.com

Jumbo shrimp encrusted with panko bread crumbs served with our hot and spicy marinara sauce that we make here.

— Patricia Inghilleri, Owner

Chestnut Chateau • Black Seabass

649 Chestnut Street • UNION
(908) 964-8696 • chestnutchateaunj.com

As the cold weather is in full swing, everyone bundles up and likes to stay warm. I embrace the cold and use the best fish caught in the deep blue waters of our east coast. Black seabass is great whole or filleted. The flaky white meat is served with a browned butter sauce that’s garnished with capers, baby croutons, parsley and lemon supremes.

— George Niotis, Chef

Mario’s Tutto Bene • Vinegar Pork Chops

495 Chestnut Street • UNION
(908) 687-3250 • mariostuttobene.com

Our vinegar pork chops feature three thin-cut Frenched chops that are coated with Italian breadcrumbs and sautéed with sweet vinegar peppers, prosciutto and garlic. They arrive with house-made roasted or mashed potatoes. Our regulars love this entrée.

— John Garofalo, Owner

The Manor • Surf and Turf

111 Prospect Avenue • WEST ORANGE
(973) 731-2360 • themanorrestaurant.com

I pair pan-seared prime filet mignon with a butter-braised lobster, along with fresh seasonal vegetable accents. An airy shellfish emulsion and the creamiest mashed potatoes you will ever taste make for the perfect partners to this classic dish, which has helped The Manor successfully define the art of fine dining for over a half-century.

— Mario Russo, Chef de Cuisine

EDGE is not responsible for any typos, misprints or information in regard to these listings. All information was supplied by the restaurants that participated and any questions or concerns should be directed to them.

Foundation People

BANKING ON THE VALUE OF PARTNERSHIPS

Carmen Rivera, Branch Manager of Investors Bank in Elizabeth,(center) presented a $5,000 check to Nadine Brechner, Chief Development Officer and Vice President, Trinitas Health Foundation. As the first of three installments, the bank’s grant will assist with the purchase of a CT scan for the Emergency Department. At right is Jamie Rudolph who recently joined the Trinitas Health Foundation as its Director of Corporate Partnerships. He brings to the Foundation fundraising experience with an emphasis on creating successful public and private partnerships.

Interested in joining Investors Bank as a partner with the Trinitas Health Foundation? Contact Jamie at jrudolph@trinitas.org or (908) 994-8423.

BIG BOYS DON’T CRY

The 2014 football season was painful for New York’s Giants and Jets. But, when you are a die-hard fan, a Tailgate party can help to heal your wounds.

With that in mind, the Trinitas Health Foundation put on its helmet and shoulder pads and hosted its first-ever “Tailgate with Trinitas” in December where fans enjoyed one of the Giants’ only victories of the season as they faced the Tennessee Titans. Former Giants greats mingled with guests and shared stories about their time in the NFL. All five players spent most of their careers with the New York Giants and have an impressive seven Super Bowl rings between them. In the Tailgate huddle with Nadine Brechner, Vice President, Trinitas Health Foundation and Chief Development Officer, and Gary Horan, President and CEO, (center) were Giants greats Bill Neill, Bart Oates, Stephen Baker, Billy Ard, Perry Williams.

GRANT PLANTS SEEDS FOR THE GARDEN AND TOOLS FOR THE KITCHEN

Young people at the Trinitas Residential Treatment Center at the New Point campus are thanking their lucky stars. Thanks to a generous grant from Starlight Children’s Foundation® NY•NJ•CT, the teens and tweens will be able to grow their own fruits and vegetables. And they’ll have new kitchen appliances so they can experiment with new dishes.

A successful grant submission from the Trinitas Health Foundation resulted in nearly $7750 from Starlight NY•NJ•CT for the Center’s Culinary Arts Program. The young residents will gain experience in gardening by cultivating fruits and vegetables for their table. The funding for the gardening component will help purchase a greenhouse for year-round growing. Widely recognized as extremely therapeutic for many psychological and emotional disorders, gardening has increasing appeal for kids at the Center. Since 2012, many of the Center’s residents have enjoyed cooking shows on the Food Network, and Starlight’s funded enhancements will help improve engagement and personal satisfaction through the Center’s Culinary Arts program.

The new greenhouse will give them a chance to work together to cultivate and harvest what they cook for the Center’s table. And that food preparation and cooking will be done in a kitchen equipped with a new oven and a new refrigerator/freezer.

With little or no family ties, these young people benefit from being with other kids in a place where they can have positive interpersonal experiences and learn valuable life skills. Cooking and gardening fill those needs for nourishment on a variety of levels.

Submit your EDGE People event at www.edgemagonline.com

 

Roosterspin

“I want to take everyone I know to this restaurant…‘This is how we should be eating!’ I want to shout.”

By Andy Clurfeld

Roosterspin Wine Bar & Eatery

251 North Avenue, Westfield. Phone: 908.233.7333

Open for lunch and dinner at 11:30 am 7 days a week: Sunday thru Thursday until 10:30 pm and Friday & Saturday until 12:30 am. For more information log onto info@roosterspin.com.

Defending Jersey’s restaurants is so 20th century, but we do it anyway. We do it because attacks are frequent and the attackers a mix of the ignorant with strong cravings for superiority and the wise who know our state’s chefs and restaurants could really, truly do much better.

This is our collective issue: the dichotomy in restaurants that brings us both brave brilliance and sorry retreads. Restaurants such as Cucharamama in Hoboken, A Toute Heure in Crefending Jersey’s restaurants is so 20th century, but we do it anyway. We do it because attacks areanford, Drew’s Bayshore Bistro in Keyport, and Zeppoli in Collingswood fortify our pride as we learn from, and feast on, the visions of their pioneering chefs. The same-old, same-old menus of countless copycats, be they Italian or Asian, traditional American or globally influenced, do little but provide the busy or the bored a supper away from the stove.

That’s why the emergence of a restaurant with both verve and vision—and extremely delicious food—is cause for celebration. Roosterspin in Westfield, which opened last fall as the sibling of Mono + Mono in New York under the stewardship of owner Mihae Cho and chef Hyun Han, may take off from an uber-trendy genre of modern Korean restaurants with must-offer dishes, but it does it with singular style and technical prowess in the kitchen.

Roosterspin rocks.

Often, literally. There are LPs galore as decor and a deejay at a computer taking requests. I somewhat hesitantly ask for John Coltrane and, within a minute, get a couple tracks of Coltrane. We take menus from a tuned-in server and receive a concise, but not condescending primer on how to navigate a rather novel bill of fare. We dig into a series of dishes that connect the accessible to the adventurous and fall in love with Roosterspin’s cuisine—and concept.

I want to take everyone I know to this restaurant, sitting pretty in a multilevel woody-modern/industrial-cozy space in the downtown district conveniently near the train station. “This is how we should be eating!” I want to shout. This is food we should know and food we can learn from, taking riffs from Roosterspin’s plates into our home kitchens. This isn’t rocket science, either; it’s fun eating, with some new ingredients and twists on techniques making that happen.

Take a simple dish, something as familiar as fries. Season them, give them a dipping sauce pumped with the taste of spirited kimchi, and let folks dig in to something old energized by something new. There is a drizzle of tame cheese to smooth the way, but the novice eater is already craving more.

It is time for another small plate, which is how you can start here or dine straight through. Slurp map chae, sizzling skinny sweet potato noodles spliced with beef, wild mushrooms and shards of Asian vegetables. Bright and unexpectedly light are the seafood patties known as seafood jeon, packed with calamari, shrimp and vegetables and bound by egg. If you are looking for something hearty, snag galbi LA cut, a signature dish here, is a perfect partnership of silky short ribs with rice cakes and vegetables served with a nod to beloved Korean barbecue. Looking for light? The mango salad, flush with pretty beets and sweet potatoes and dressed with sesame, is a dandy mix of flavors that you will have a hard time separating ever again.

OK, but the real reason you come here is to find out what all the fuss is over this Korean fried chicken business. Deep-fried twice to ensure super crispy skin and a desirable burning off of the fat, this is chicken at its best. You can get it with a soy/garlic sauce or a fiery hot sauce. Request a half order with one and a half with the other. Why choose?I took it with a side of fried pickled radish and smiled as I ate.

Roosterspin’s range does not stop with the basics. It serves forth Korean rolls such as the kimchi, with shrimp, kimchi, cucumber, crab and beets given a smack of crunch, then dappled with a smoky spicy màyo. Delish. Roosterspin does sliders in rice buns that demand attention—a spicy tuna tartar with cherry tomatoes and greens and a pop of addictive Korean red pepper paste, a beef bulgogi given the crunch of pickle and the zing of wasabi, and a chop of shrimp and calamari topped with calm tartar sauce.

I do not want to lose the lingering flavors of Roosterspin’s savory fare by ordering dessert, but we need to, right? Soba noodle pudding is serviceable and the green tea mochi de rigueur. No interference, thankfully.

You can be one of the Jersey restaurant bashers, sporting a chip on your shoulder, or you can support a truly thoughtful concept and check out Roosterspin. New is nutrition for the taste buds.

SEOUL FOOD

If Roosterspin whets your appetite for more traditional and authentic Korean fare, you might want to head toward southeastern Bergen County, to Palisades Park or Fort Lee.

Over the past two decades, Palisades Park has transformed itself into New Jersey’s unofficial Koreatown. Three in five of the 20,000-or-so residents are of Asian descent, with the vast majority hailing from South Korea. In terms of density and percentage, Palisades Park is now America’s “most Korean” municipality. The most popular restaurant in Palisades Park is probably So No Nan Jip on Broad Avenue. It features authentic Korean barbecue and is usually packed—often past midnight. However, you can duck into almost any eatery along the town’s main drag and find an authentic Korean meal.

Palisades Park’s next-door neighbor, Fort Lee, also boasts a large Korean population, as well as a robust commercial section featuring Korean shops and restaurants, which stretches from just south of the George Washington Bridge north to Englewood Cliffs. Two of the best are Gammeeok on Main Street and Dong Bang Grill on Palisade Avenue. Besides traditional Korean fare, Dong Bang Grill also does a brisk business at the sushi bar—which is saying something, considering the number of excellent Japanese restaurants in Fort Lee.

Editor’s Note: Andy Clurfeld is a former editor of Zagat New Jersey. The longtime food critic for the Asbury Park Press also has been published in Gourmet, Saveur and Town & Country, and on epicurious.com. Her post-Sandy stories for NBCNewYork.com rank among the finest media reporting on the superstorm’s aftermath and recovery.

Somewhat closer to home and also quite popular are Kimchi Hana, located in South Plainfield, as well as New Keum Ho Jung and Chung Sol Bat,both in Edison. —M.S.

Me Time

For more and more vacationers, wellness is the issue.

By Lavinia Lee Mears

You’re going where? To do what? It was November of 2000. I had just told my (then) better half that I was departing the next day for Costa Rica to meditate on a mountaintop for a week. His reaction was, well, let’s just say he wasn’t thrilled at my spontaneous decision.

I was tired. Extremely tired. I had just come off a year of back-to-back trials as a new assistant prosecutor. Taking a few days off to rest at home had not worked for this work-a-holic who couldn’t resist picking up her phone or checking her emails. It was too early in my legal career to be a burned-out lawyer; I needed to be in a place where there were no distractions from my sole focus: rest. And so off I went to a yoga and meditation retreat, not quite knowing what to expect.

I arrived in Costa Rica and spent the next week with strangers. I meditated and practiced yoga every day. Despite being a meat-and-mashed potatoes girl, I found myself enjoying the healthy vegetarian meals. I slept like a normal human being and devoted one entire day to silence. Ten days later I returned, rested and relaxed, and had even shed those stubborn five pounds I had been trying to lose for years. I didn’t have that “need a vacation from my vacation” feeling. I looked good and I felt good. I was hooked.

That is how my love affair with the wellness vacation (aka well-cation) was born. In the ensuing decade-and-a-half, my precious time off has been devoted to vacations that nurture my mind and body. I’ve said good-bye to the gluttonous, all-inclusive resort and hello to the all-you-can eat vegetarian meal plan.

The biggest benefit of a well-cation is the jump-start it offers toward reaching your wellness goal. Staying on-program is much easier when the stresses of everyday life are removed and only healthy activities and meals are offered. And since guests share the same outlook, they support one another to stay committed toward reaching their wellness goals. The investment in a wellness vacation continues to pay off when new habits take hold after the vacation has ended. This may explain why the number of people who are investing their time and money in wellness-related travel has been on the rise. The worldwide wellness tourism market—estimated by some at over $400 billion—has been growing steadily since 2007, increasing nearly 13 percent last year.

Choosing the right well-cation, whether here in the U.S. or abroad, depends upon your personal wellness goals and budget. The process begins with an understanding of the different options out there…

Destination Spas

If rest and relaxation is your goal, destination spas offer guests the ultimate pampering experience, usually in a resort-like setting. Overnight accommodations, meals and access to the resort’s facilities are included in the fee. Guests are offered specific spa services geared toward rest and relaxation at an additional cost. Facials, massages, manicure/pedicure treatments and body wraps are offered in a tranquil environment. Prices range from $300 to more than a $1,000 per night.

The world-renowned Canyon Ranch in Arizona offers its 3-night “Spa Sampler” package at a cost of $3,840 per person. Guests can allocate $145 of that amount toward spa services. A less expensive local option is Deerfield Resort and Spa. Located in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Deerfield is less than a two-hour drive from most parts of New Jersey. A three-night stay costs under$900. Accommodations, meals and a 50-minute Swedish massage are included in that rate. Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County and the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Monmouth County, are hotels that have full-service day spas available to resort guests and day visitors. Crystal Springs offers guests 2 spas, 6 golf courses, 12 dining options, a water park and a ski resort. Neither Ocean Place nor Crystal Springs offers an all-inclusive option; rates depend on the level of accommodations chosen, as well as the time of year.

Weight Loss

If your goal in 2015 is to lose 5 to 20 pounds (or more), a weight loss retreat can jump-start you toward that goal. Guests adhere to a strict menu, which is rich in vegetables and vegetable juices. Exercise programs are geared to accommodate various fitness levels. Stays range from three days to three weeks and weight loss varies from a pound a week to a pound a day. Since food that isn’t part of the program is outlawed at the retreat as “contraband,” the temptation to cheat is removed. A weight loss retreat is a bullet-proof way to ensure immediate results. Most programs incorporate cooking, exercise and health education classes to teach guests how to stay on-program when they return home.

There are a number of weight loss retreats in the region, including the Copperhood Retreat & Spa in the Catskills. It has been touted as one of the best in the world. The three-night detox plan costs about $1,500, while the 21-day “Break Your Bad Habits” plan rate is about $8,000, depending on what level of accommodations is chosen.

Detoxification

“Detox” vacations aim to rid the body and mind of toxins and tensions. While programs vary in cost and available services, you can expect most detox programs to include:

  • All-you-can-eat raw, organic vegetables and juices
  • Steam rooms, hot tubs and dry sauna therapy
  • At least one day devoted to a water or juice fast
  • Spa services such as colon hydrotherapy, lymphatic drainage massage and detoxifying body-wraps
  • Exercise and meditation classes

The Hippocrates Health Institute’s 21-day “Life Transformation Program” teaches guests how to detoxify their bodies and enlightens them to the benefits of a raw, “live-food“ vegan diet. Located in West Palm Beach, Florida, tuition for the program ranges from $7,000 to $30,000 depending on the accommodations and services provided.

Fitness

If you already are in great shape and want to bring your fitness to a higher level, fitness vacations (aka Boot Camps) may be the answer.  As the name implies, these places are not for the faint of heart. Keeping up with the rigorous program requires stamina and excellent physical health. Your doctor’s approval is recommended, and in some cases, required. Guests commit to a demanding fitness regimen with activities and/or classes offered from dawn to dusk. Mountain climbing, hiking and surfing are among the leisure activities offered, depending on the climate and geography. Classes on nutrition and healthy eating are included in the fee, as are meals. Accommodations vary from luxurious to rustic.

One of the best known Weekend Warrior boot camps is Utah’s all-inclusive Red Mountain Resort, with rates starting at $295 a night. The resort’s “Adventure Concierge” assists guests with planning activities such as hikes to explore the red rock canyons and cliffs, scenic mountain biking and outdoor excursions such as horseback riding, kayaking and wild-mustang tours.

Yoga

Yoga ashrams offer a quiet respite from the crush of professional life, focusing on stretching, breathing and meditation. Rates can be as low as $50 a night and accommodations are often dormitory-like settings, with shared restrooms and showers. Meals are basic vegetarian and guests are required to follow the daily schedule of yoga and meditation classes, which likely start at dawn.  You may also be expected to help with up-keep of the facility by gardening, cooking and assisting with cleaning up after meals—a practice called “karma yoga.” You may also have the option of learning the art of “mindfulness” by devoting one or more days to complete silence.

Needless to say, there are many resorts and holistic centers that offer the amenities and luxuries of a destination spa along with their yoga classes and meditation instruction. For instance, the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California has a six-day “Perfect Health” retreat beginning at $2,875, not including accommodations. Closer to home, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts offers retreat weekends with various self-improvement courses throughout the year starting at $375.

There are countless wellness vacations options in the United States and throughout the world. The best one will be customized to help you meet your personal wellness goals. If you know what you want and what to look for, you can also do it yourself. For help planning a wellness vacation, contact a certified wellness travel agent or an agent experienced in planning wellness vacations.

Editor’s Note: Lavinia Lee Mears is a Westifeld attorney with a passion for writing and a love of wellness vacations. A mother of two school-age boys, she has lived in Union County most of her life. In addition to her legal work, Lavinia is an advocate for gifted children with learning differences.