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USA and Denmark Friends Unite Over Love for Animals

Published April 9, 2017 by Maryanne

Her photoIben (left) and Maryanne at Mundo Vegan in Montclair, NJ 

Yesterday was an incredibly special, happy day. I finally got to meet my lovely friend Iben, who is visiting the USA, from Denmark. And her 14-year-old son, Mads, who is wise beyond his years and an all-around great kid.

Two years ago, Iben and I bonded online, over our love for animals. Cecil the lion was just killed and, of course it bothered us both terribly.

This was the summer of 2015. A short time later, Iben told me she’d be visiting the USA in 2017, so we planned to set a date to meet.

Yesterday I met Iben and Mads for the first time at a train station in Cranford, New Jersey. They’ve been staying in NYC, enjoying their holiday.

After two days of rain, we lucked out with a warm, windy day, perfect spring day. First stop was Montclair. We first went to an indie bookstore, then enjoyed a fabulous lunch at Mundo Vegan: http://www.mundovegannj.com/

We couldn’t rave enough about how great the meal was. I had organic quinoa salad and pumpkin “cheese” cake for dessert (made with tofu, almond crust, pumpkin and cashews). Delicious!

Afterwards we did some shopping in Montclair, then went for a walk around the gorgeous Verona Park. There, we coincidentally started a conversation with a woman who was from Denmark, living in the United States for 60 years! What are the chances of that?! And her brother lives in the same town as Iben.

And why did we start talking to the woman to being with? Because she had two cute dogs! It’s always hard to resist stopping to meet dogs, especially in a park.

We all ended our beautiful day with a last stop to my house so Iben and Mads could meet my kitty Nicholas. Nicholas is definitely a “people kitty.” Nicholas loved my new friends and did his “Circus flips” for them (which my husband taught him).

I’ve been so high since yesterday, meeting two incredible people. Fresh air, good food, and great conversation. So much fun!

I wish Iben and Mads a beautiful, safe trip while they continue their visit in the USA. And thanks to Facebook, we’ll be in touch, ’til we meet again! ❤

Montclair - MadsMaryanne and Mads, Montclair, NJ 

Verona ParkVerona Park (Photo by Iben) 

Shape Shop ‘Angel’ Tours with Living Legend Punky Meadows

Published March 24, 2017 by Maryanne

Barbara Serbes

Here’s an article I wrote about Asbury Park Shape Shop owner, Barbara Serbes, touring as back-up singer with Punky Meadows: http://www.shapeshopasburypark.com/single-post/2017/03/20/Shape-Shop-%E2%80%98Angel%E2%80%99-Tours-with-Living-Legend-Punky-Meadows

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

Published February 20, 2017 by Maryanne

tommy-james-photo-from-carolTommy James (Photo used courtesy of Carol Ross-Durborow)

This article originally appeared in The Verona/Cedar Grove News (New View Media)

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Tommy James, said he is “very honored” to be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame, which will be held in Asbury Park in May. The Cedar Grove iconic musician has 23 gold records, nine platinum albums, and over 100 million records sold worldwide.

“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Draggin’ the Line,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Hanky Panky” are just a few of his many hit records. His songs have been covered by other famous artists like Prince, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Dolly Parton, REM, Carlos Santana, and The Boston Pops.

James’ music is heard in 31 films to date and numerous television shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Aquarius.” You can also hear James’ songs in commercials. His “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is now the theme song for Crystal Cruise Line.

Born in Ohio and brought up in Michigan, James has been living in New Jersey almost 45 years. He’s lived in Clifton, and now resides in Cedar Grove. “I love it in New Jersey,” he said. “The weather’s moderate. The people are fun. It’s right by New York, where I have to be. I don’t think I can operate anywhere else. You’ve got the ocean, New York, Philadelphia. You’re in the center of the universe. Nothing is like New Jersey.”

While James has spent such a long time in New Jersey, he’s been in the music business even longer – 50 years! Regarding his endurance in the biz, he said, “I look at three generations of people in concert audiences. The music has never not been on the radio. I’ve been very blessed.”

James started playing music when he was 4-years-old and his grandfather brought him a ukulele. “I learned everything I could,” he said. “I started singing right away.”

His mom, who played piano, got James an acoustic guitar after he saw Elvis on TV. “The ukulele went out the window,” he said jokingly.

In addition to Elvis Presley, James was greatly inspired by the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll. “Gene Vincent … Buddy Holly,” he said. “Then The Beatles came along.”

Always encouraged by his folks, James taught himself to play acoustic, then graduated to playing an electric at the age of 10. He started his first band at 12, and got his first gig at 13. James graduated high school in 1965 and by 1966 his first hit, with The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” exploded.

“That’s how the good Lord works,” said James.

As a writer of so many hits, James says that inspiration for a song can come from anywhere. “I’m always looking on billboards for a little phrase,” he said. “I like to start with chord progression and it will tell you where it wants to go. ‘Crimson and Clover’ started with a title.”

He feels lucky to have had so many other notable musicians’ interpretations of his music. “I’m very flattered,” he said. “It’s always interesting to hear how another artist covers your songs.” His favorite is Prince’s version of “Crimson and Clover.”

James’ critically acclaimed autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music,” was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Music Memoirs” and is now in the development for a film, with producer Barbara De Fina, whose credits include “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Cape Fear,” “Color of Money,” “Hugo,” and the most recent, Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence.”

Matthew Stone just finished the screenplay for the film. His credits include “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Man of the House,” and “Big Trouble.”

James may have a cameo appearance in the film. “I may be a corpse,” he said jokingly, referring to his career which is now spanning 50 years and still thriving.

Now working in the studio on a new album, “Alive,” James expects an April release. “This is an album with eight new songs and four remakes,” he said, “A lot of nice little surprises.” One of the surprises includes an acoustic remake of “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Being able to thrive in the music business for 50 years and still have fun makes James feel so lucky. He said, “It’s been an amazing journey to be a lifer in this business. The fans, and the good Lord, I thank for the longevity and staying focused. That has meant a lot.”

For more information, visit: https://www.tommyjames.com/

 

 

Dreaming Big with Drew Nieporent

Published April 21, 2016 by Maryanne

DrewHighRes-1Photo courtesy of Drew Nieporent

This article originally appeared in the spring edition of DiningOut (Bergen/Hudson County, New Jersey edition).

Dreaming Big with Drew Nieporent

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

“You have to dream large if you’re gonna win.”

That is sound advice from America’s legendary restaurateur, Drew Nieporent, founder of the Myriad Restaurant Group, which operates: Tribecca Grill, Nobu New York City, Nobu Fifty Seven, Nobu London, Nobu Next Door, Bâtard, and Crush Wine & Spirits.

In addition to opening and operating over 35 restaurants worldwide, Myriad most recently helped open The Daily Burger at Madison Square Garden.

Born and raised in New York City, Nieporent had fond memories of his Jewish grandmother’s “amazing matzo ball soup,” though his actress mom, who entertained often, liked making frozen food. “…typical sixties mother,” he said.

Growing up in the 1960s, Nieporent was inspired by the confidence of Muhammad Ali, known for his quote, “I am the greatest.” And it was Joe Namath making it into the Super Bowl in 1969 that got Nieporent’s wheels turning that he, too, wanted to be a success.

Nieporent’s father worked for NY State Liquor Authority in the 1960s and exposed his son to diverse restaurants. “Chinese, French, Italian … I took to it right away,” said Nieporent. “I always knew I wanted to open more than one restaurant.”

Early on Nieporent said he was fortunate to work on cruise ships and began his management career at New York City’s Maxwell’s Plum and Tavern on the Green. He went on to work at French restaurants Le Périgold, La Grenouille and Plaza Athenee’s Le Regence.

The Montrachet was Nieporent’s first restaurant, which opened in 1985 and earned three stars from The New York Times. Robert De Niro came to Montrachet as a guest and asked Nieporent if he wanted to do another restaurant in Tribecca.

Jokingly, Nieporent said, “You talking to me?” referring to De Niro’s famous movie quote from “Taxi Driver.”

Together Nieporent and De Niro opened up Tribecca Grill in April, 1990. Investors included Bill Murray, Sean Penn, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Four years later, off the success of Tribecca Grill, they opened Nobu New York City, with Japanese celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa as chef and owner. Matsuhisa is known for his fusion cuisine, blending traditional Japanese dishes with South American ingredients. Black cod in miso is Matsuhisa’s signature dish.

Today there are 32 Nobu restaurants around the world. “The flavors are amazing,” said Nieporent. “Nobody really puts out the food in the unique fashion that Nobu does.” Nobu menu favorites include: yellowtail with jalapeno; and tiradito made with special citrus.

In 1994, in collaboration with De Niro, Robin Williams, and Francis Ford Coppola, Nieporent opened Rubicon in San Francisco.

Now, so many years later, Bâtard won best new restaurant in May, 2015.

Of all Nieporent’s restaurants, he is quick to say he doesn’t have a favorite. “I always say I relate to my restaurants like I relate to my children,” Nieporent said. “I don’t play favorites.”

When asked if he has plans for opening a new restaurant Nieporent said he didn’t. “I take them as it comes,” he said. “The reality is I’m content with what we have. In the restaurant business, you have to keep an eye on what you have. The most important thing is that we stood the test of time. I think what’s really important is looking over our shoulder and keeping the restaurants strong and vibrant.”

When asked what advice he’d give to someone who was considering going into the restaurant business, Nieporent said to “Think long and hard about doing it. Today the odds are stocked against you. Costs are up … food costs … payroll … You have to dot ever ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ … you have to be accurate of your bookkeeping when it comes to your staff and payroll.”

On his down time, Nieporent loves to cook at home, typically for the holidays, adding, “I love barbecuing pork chops on the grill.”

During the winter months, like most others, Nieporent enjoys warm, cozy meals. He said, “Nothing’s more delicious than a good stew or a good chili … a beef stew with a good cut of meat and lots of chilies. My wife makes a delicious Texas style chili that I love. We do an onion soup with a melted cheese at Tribecca Grill that’s very comforting.”

When dining out in Piermont, New York, where he lives now, still close to Bergen County, just over the border in Rockland County New York, Nieporent favors the Italian restaurant, Confetti. He also enjoys Peter X. Kelly’s restaurant in Yonkers, Xaviars X2O. “It’s really a special place,” he said of the exquisite glass framed French/Italian/Spanish influenced dining salon with a 25 foot vaulted ceiling and three walls of glass frame offering views of the George Washington and Tappen Zee bridges.

And when dining out in New Jersey, Nieporent loves Arturo’s in Midland Park; Brasserie Brandman in Park Ridge; and Dim Sum Dynasty and Latour in Ridgewood, where he was a longtime resident until he recently moved back to New York with his wife so they’d be closer to her parents.

Nevertheless, Nieporent has fond memories of life in Bergen County. “It was the perfect situation,” he said. “My kids had great schools … We had a beautiful yard … It was easy to get around.”

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an award-winning journalist and public speaker. She is available to speak at libraries on healthy dining out. She can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

 

Almost Spring in New Jersey

Published March 12, 2016 by Maryanne

SAM_9724Happy “Almost” Spring!

This winter was an unusually mild one for New Jersey, with only one snowstorm.

Now I’m a gal who loves all the seasons, so I love living in New Jersey, but I must say I favor the clothes you get to wear in the spring, summer, and autumn. It’s just so liberating to not be wearing hats, scarves, and boots, though they are cute for a season.

So, spring is almost here, and so comes all the simple pleasures that spring brings: more work because people get motivated, more luncheons with the girls because people want to get out and enjoy life, car shows, bike rides, using the bird feeder again, looking for four leaf clovers, opening the windows, and so on.

Is it spring yet in your area? What do you favor about the spring?

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “Love Cats” — available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback versions: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513

My Favorite Colour is Autumn

Published November 2, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_9136My husband’s PT Cruiser from restaurant window

Energized, alive, and ecstatic!

Here in New Jersey, we are enjoying the best autumn we’ve had in ages. The weather has been absolutely the best it’s been in a long time. Days are warm, yet crisp, ranging between 50 and 70 degrees. And, yesterday, the day after Halloween, so many houses and venues still had decorations up, so my husband and I basked in the Halloween joy of the season!

SAM_9142Waiting for my food at Beana’s

Still celebrating the Halloween weekend and approaching Cinco De Mayo, it seemed like a perfect time to grab a Mexican meal. We pigged out at Beana’s in Rahway (http://www.beanasmexicanrestaurant.com/). I had shrimp fajitas with a side of guacamole. Sitting across from me is my handsome husband, who doesn’t like having his pictures on the internet, but take my word for it, he’s super! ❤

SAM_9130Caldwell Chiropractic

We LOVE this clever chiropractic advertisement! But luckily since I started using Young Living Oils over a year ago, I haven’t the need to see a chiropractor or an acupuncturist! At 52 I have the back of a 20-something! If I sleep wrong, I just mix a bit of Pan Away with some coconut oil and I am good to go! That can be YOU! Email me and I’ll hook you up: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

SAM_9134Pumpkins!

Whether they’re real or fake, pumpkins are just the cutest part of the season. Last night my husband and I went to a “Pumpkin Sail” (yes, a pumpkin sail, not sale!) Children carve pumpkins then send them down the lake on a platform with a votive candle inside. It was so pretty watching them float along the river, heading down to the little falls.

And, finally, in Halloween spirit, we visited the house of The Watcher in Westfield, New Jersey.

If you Google, “The Watcher, Westfield, New Jersey” you’ll come up with a crazy story about a phantom watcher who writes anonymous notes to residents. The most recent residents were terrified and are suing the people who sold them the home because they weren’t told about what’s been happening at this house for ages.

My husband was brave enough to go up to the doorstep. I stayed behind. From where I stood it looked like the mailbox was full of mail. The vibe was creepy. Not a soul to be seen and an empty driveway. However, the homes around The Watcher house were full of life, lights on, Halloween decorations and cars in the driveways.

When my husband reached the doorway, the floor of the porch creaked!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “Love Cats” available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513

 

Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and The Lovin’ Spoonful at Ocean Grove Auditorium

Published August 30, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_8375Felix Cavaliere

For the third time, my husband and I saw Felix Cavaliere! This time at Ocean Grove’s Auditorium.

The opening act was The Loving Spoonful! We never saw them before and it was awesome hearing their hits: “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Nashville Cats,” “Do You Believe in Magic,” and “Summer in the City.”

Here is their website: http://www.lovinspoonful.com/

Last year I wrote about Felix Cavaliere’s show at Point Pleasant: https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/tag/felix-cavaliere/

This was another fabulous show from one of the greatest song writers of the 1960s. My two all time favorites are “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “How Can I Be Sure,” and “Groovin’.”

For more info on Felix Cavaliere, visit: http://www.felixcavalieremusic.com/home

SAM_8378Felix Cavaliere set list

For more information on the Ocean Grove Great Auditorium, visit: http://www.njoceangrove.com/ocean-grove-auditorium.shtml

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available in paperback on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X