A couple of weeks ago was "Small Business Week" in Scotch Plains. As I've previously mentioned I used to have a small business when we were living back in Portugal - a beauty store that sold cosmetics and perfumes. I loved the "people" aspect of having my own store. Getting to know people and recommending the best products for them was something that I truly loved and enjoyed. With that usually came a more personal conversation and, eventually, I became friend with a LOT of my costumers.
I always try to remember that when I have to buy something now and, even though, I don't do it as often as I would like to I made an effort this past week to buy locally. In Scotch Plains we have Park Avenue which is filled with businesses, from beauty services to an amazing butcher, different kinds of restaurants and small shops. There is also East Second Street with a good amount of shops and services, so if you happen to have some time available, please, look around and enjoy the great spring weather while browsing through our local community businesses.
My mindset was to try and get my produce and meat shopping done here instead of doing it at the supermarket. It was also a fun way to get to know places where I had never gone before and it was an excellent opportunity to meet great people and to see some of them back again.
I started my produce round on Monday - I try to always meal plan and to get everything I need for the whole week as early as Monday or Tuesday. I went to "Tom the Green Grocer" after looking the place up online and thinking that it had a good variety of produce and some extra grocery items that I was going to need. I also noticed their plant and flower section which was just blooming with different colors and varieties - what a great way to start the day!
I was also looking for a place to get great quality, organic, certified meat and I decided to, finally, check out "John's Meat Market". Every time I'd go to the farmers market on Saturdays I would say to myself "I have to check that place out!" but convenience has spoken louder for me and supermarket butcher has been the most easy and fast choice. Not from now on, it won't!
That same week happened to be "Teachers Appreciation Week" and I called my Brazilian friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" to get me some small Acai Bowls to offer my children's' teacher at school. It was great because, due to the nuts allergy situation, Desire was able to get me the bowls with just the Acai and the fresh fruit, without the nut portion that is usually included! You can personalize your order and you can be sure that, at Oba Brazil they will make sure that you get exactly what you ask for. Also, I was still on the soft diet and I didn't get the chance to buy some of the amazing appetizers that you can find there, like the "coxinhas" which are amazing! Can't wait to have those again!
Another place that I went to is a favorite of my kids and husband who have a pretty active sweet tooth! "The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" at East Second Street has a great variety of baked goods and bread and you can also have a cup of coffee while you're there. The kids got some decorated cookies and I also bought some raisin scones. Will go back, for sure.
Last but not least, I have to mention a place where I go twice weekly - the 'Robert's Dry Cleaners", also on East Second Street. I love when people always great me with a smile and a happy face and that happens here every single time!
Tom's Green Grocer
I was surprised when I got to the parking lot with the variety of flowers and plants. Talk about a great greeting card! I entered the store and the first though was the the space really was a bit hidden from plain sight. It's a small store and, maybe because of all the flowers outside which make it grand the inside of the store really is peculiar. I was greeted by the cashier, a very nice gentleman that made sure that I was comfortable enough to ask for help, if I needed to.
There is a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and, once again, the colorful aspect really brings the store alive. I came home with tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and some apples. There is also a good range of pantry item like pasta, jar sauces, spices and snacks.
There's a section of ready made food which is super convenient when you're in a tight spot on those busy weekdays! Soups, stews, pasta dishes and vegetables you can choose from a well stocked supply! The sandwiches are also famous, as I've noticed from reading the reviews online. There are several choices between sandwiches ($5.95 - $9.95), wraps ($6.95 - $7.95), Panini ($6.95 - $8.95) and salads ($6.95 - $7.95) with several different dressing to choose from.
I don't usually buy prepared food because I really like to cook and I'm used to it. I'm sure that I'll need something quick by summer time and I'll be sure to check some of these options because they really looked tasty. There was also a selection of baked goods and tarts and I bought a salad fruit cup for the kids' school snack for the next day and I also grabbed a scone for the husband on my way out.
The service was great and everyone was very nice which is a really important aspect in a local store where people need to feel welcome!
John's Meat Market
This was a place that was planning on visiting for a very long time. Getting my diet on track, first with the Whole30 and now with the Paleo approach lead me to look for healthier and safer choices, both in the produce department and in the protein department. Making sure that I buy good quality fish meat and eggs has become a priority so buying certified meat on a renounced establishment like this one seemed the perfect choice. This butcher has been in Scotch Plains since 1939 and has costumers that, even tough have moved to other towns, still come back to get their meat and that says a lot to me about the trust that I can put on this business.
I met Mr. Vinnie (I hope it's the right spelling!) who made me feel utterly welcome and confident enough to ask for advice when choosing my meat products. Please feel free to ignore my messy hair (don't care!) or lack of make-up because when I'm around on my daily errands I'm really in a hurry and just really don't care about how I get it done! I had a great time at the butcher, I'll tell you that!
So, the first thing I did was to look around the store to get a general idea of what they offer. After all, this butcher was voted NJ's best butcher 4 wears in a row, I really have been missing something! They have the "regular"meat but there are also pre-marinated meats and separate marinades for those who prefer to do it on the spot, which is a great idea!
There are also several varieties of sausages, hamburgers, including veggie burgers, duck, organ meat, quail, lamb and oxtails, for example! I mean, I could be here and pick one of each and I'd be a pretty happy cook! Just looking at the meat you can see that it really is fresh, the color is something that is not altered here and what you see is what you get.
There's the freezer section where you can find something for everyone. I got my eye on the buffalo steak (which I never had), the rabbit (which we used to eat frequently back in Portugal, with slow cooked rice) and the rack of lamb. With so many choices I just kept thinking about the delicious meat dishes I could cook up and it felt amazingly perfect to have such a gem in our community. I'm really sure that I'll come back in a couple of weeks, after finishing what I've bought on this shopping trip.
One of the things I was looking for just bumped into me at the counter! I have a weekly budget for grocery shopping which includes everything from food to cleaning products. I wanted to start using a third of that to buy the protein every couple of weeks and try that system to see how it would work out. Would it be enough? Would I spend more? If so, I'd at least know that it was good sourced meat and that would be fine by me.
With that in mind I found out that this butcher has several pre-made packs in the sense that you have a particular set of cuts of meat that comes out a little more economical than if you would get your meat items separably. This was the perfect opportunity for me to try out that plan - I already had some beef at home and what I really needed was chicken, so I bought the "Chicken for days package" which seemed perfect for what we usually eat at our house.
As I'm writing this blog post we already had the whole chicken (roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies, over the weekend), the chicken sausages (I grilled them and they were amazingly delicious - will get some in the future, definitely!), half of the bone in breast (I cooked it in the InstantPot and made some chicken soup) and half the chicken cutlets (very tasty and juicy, the kids loved them). The verdict can only be one - 100% approved and will get back next week to try some of the cuts that I got curious about.
Also, I love meat organ, which is one of the richest cuts of meat you can eat so I'll be sure to ask for cows liver, kidney, heart and tongue. It might sound strange but I was used to eating this foods since I was a kid. My mom used to make a braised cows tongue with a tomato and vegetable sauce which was to die for. I'll make sure to ask her the recipe to see if I can cook it up for my kids - they have tried it but I don't know if they remember it. It will be nice to cook something familiar and with such a sentimental value since this was one of my comfort foods growing up.
Moving on there are other packages, like the BBQ one which is perfect for the Memorial Day Weekend that's coming up! Also, the "Cooking in a Pinch Already Prepared" is perfect for people who have little time to cook and need something really quick, yet delicious, to put on their plate! I'm sure that, even if you don't like or want something on the package they'll try to accommodate your request and change it for something of an approximate price.
I had my eyes on an "oxtail package" and was glad to bring it with a well received discount from Mr. Vinnie! The attention to detail was another thing that made me love this place from the first minute I stepped in and the fact that they even helped me bring the meat to the car was another charming and promising sign. Loved the personalized service and, in my opinion, it's the image of perfect costumer service.
There is also the deli section with different kinds of cheese, hams and bacon and also a refrigerated section with soups, cooked meats and fast choices, like crab cakes or chicken tenders.
I really hope that I was able to capture the soul of this business and its personal core because when you buy meat you need the perfect assistance and I really found that here, at "John's Meat Market". I would love to know if you were already a costumer or if, by reading this blog post, you became curious enough to go there and give it a try!
If you leave in Scotch Plains, please, comment and show these businesses some love!
"John's Meat Market" is located at 389 Park Ave, in Scotch Plains and can be reached on the following telephone number: (908) 322-7126.
For "Teachers Appreciation Week" I decided to call my friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" after noticing, on the business's Instagram feed that she had done some Acai bowls for her daughter's school. I thought it was a great idea and something out of the ordinary to gift the teachers! Also, it was healthy and something that I thought would be more personal. The only thing was that I had to ask to skip the nuts, for allergy issues, and Desiree had these beautiful and delicious bowls delivered at my doorstep!
Personal service at its best!
When someone goes above and beyond to make sure that the service is well done it shows the commitment level and I was really appreciated for the last minute arrangements and for the adorable bowls that I got to offer my kids' teacher and aid.
Thank you, Desire!
You can visit "Oba Brazil" at 2507 Route 22 West.
Besides the Acai bowls you can choose from smoothies and yummy appetizers like "coxinhas" which are delicious chicken appetizers or "pao de queijo"or cheese bread, so good!!!!
Also, make sure to check their Instagram feed so you can look at some beautiful creations with healthy and refreshing ingredients!
The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe
I had only been at this pastry shop a couple of times in the almost three years that we've lived here, in Scotch Plains. We loved it, at the time, specially the kids! The pastries were really good and there was a pretty good variety. We just ended up not going out looking for pastries mainly because I usually bake something at home. This time I got some cookies for the kids and a couple of raisin scones.
I went there in the morning and there was a line at the door! It's always a good sign when you have people lining up at a store, it can only mean that the products are good! There were people ordering pastries to go, some ordering to eat in and I order to go too - I gave up gluten after discovering that it was my trigger for migraines so what I bough was for the rest of the family.
Of course the family loved everything I got and they even asked if they could go the next time! As you can see from the pictures they have several kinds of pastries, donuts, muffins and cupcakes. They also sell cookies, cakes and several kinds of bread and bagels.
Everything looked fresh and was very well presented.
The "Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" is located at 1711 East 2nd Street, Scotch Plains and can be reached by phone at the following number: (908) 322-4751.
This is the dry cleaner that I usually go to and I'm pretty satisfied with their service. Every time I go there they are super nice and polite, always asking about my kids and they also pay attention to detail which I think is a must in this particular kind of service.
I don't have anything negative to say about them, just positive input!
If you're looking for a new place to switch this is a great choice.
They are located at 1832 East 2nd Street, in Scotch Plains with the phone number (908) 322 6538.
These were my picks of the week and, as you can see for yourself, we DO have a good variety of local businesses and we CAN help our community by shopping local.
Where are you going to be shopping during this next week?
After the busy holiday season I was finally able to catch up with my local business spotlight! I love getting to know all these wonderful people that are an essential part of our community and that make an effort to stand out from the competition by printing their own footsteps and making their own path.
Last Saturday I met Ms Feng and we had the most relaxing and fun chat over a cup of tea! It's funny how we can get so familiar with someone who we don't know but that as something in common with us. I know what it's like to have a business and to want to see it thrive and flourish. In Ms Feng's case it is, indeed, flourishing!
Let me tell you a bit about this captivating young lady!
Ms Feng has a Bachelor of Music Degree with Distinction in Music Education on Piano and Violin from the Eastman School of Music. She was awarded the George Eastman Merit Scholarship and the Schlenkler Merit Scholarship. Continuing her education she received her Master of Music Degree in Music Education from the Eastman School of Music which also earned her the Kanable Scholarship and the Eastman Department Assistant Award. As you can see that in itself is an extraordinary sum of academic achievements.
Besides all of the academic titles, Ms Feng has extensive experience in conducting and performing music. She was in the NJ All-state orchestra Committee for five years and was honored as one of the Governor's Award Judges for five years. Her passion for music and for teaching our youth she became the Orchestra Director of the Affettuoso Tour Ensemble for three years, performing across NJ and the Conductor of the Garden State Philharmonic Prep Orchestra. Please look up Ms Feng further accomplishments over the school's website so you can get the full scope of her professional experience.
Apart from teaching music in the public school system Ms Feng felt that something was missing from her life. With the drive and passion that are a natural part of her personality she decided to open a music school where she could teach, obviously, but that could also give her and her students a greater sense of community. Here, at the Royal Stage School of Music the purpose is to bring people together, through their community and through joint efforts to help other communities even across borders. In each performance there is always the purpose to help a different organization.
When they say music comes from the heart it really means that - music can be the vehicle to achieve greater things, either through church activities, organized donations to people in need or even just focusing on ourselves and how can we become better people with music and through music.
If you go to the school's website here you can access the log of donations and charitable work that has been done since 2015.
If you're interested in knowing a bit more about the Royal Stage School of Music let me tell you that there are several classes from which you may choose:
Both Community Orchestra and Community Band practices take place at the Fanwood Presbyterian Church.
An interesting thing to do is to take your kids to the Parents Night Out that happens once every month at the Royal Stage School of Music and see what the kids come home with! Let them tell you all about their experience and their own curiosity and ideas about music. What's better than let them tell us what they think about music and what they feel after getting to have more contact with it? During these 2 hour events the kids get to try and play some instruments to get a notion of what it feels like. It's an interesting and fun way to see if they are excited about it and if they have a favorite musical instrument! Also, they will be with other children, having fun and the parents get to relax for a while!
Also, I must not forget to mention the prestigious awards that the Royal Stage School of Music has been receiving through the past years. The School has won "Most loved music lessons", from Hulafrog 2017 and students have won competitions and performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Both orchestras won 1st place superior and concert orchestra and received highest overall score award out of the entire competition.
I think we've covered the basis of the school, it's values and how it is structured in different levels and classes to fit everyone. Now, it is your turn to get clicking on the website here and start looking for specific information that might be helpful to you and your children, since the school teaches both adults and children.
I hope you became curious enough to look up some more information about the music school and I would love to have someone leave a comment about their experience, either personal or with their children!
We have a great new place around Scotch Plains to get some delicious and nutritious snacks! I heard about this place on the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Neighbors Facebook group which shows that even us, locals, don't keep up with everything going around us! I decided to take a look and get to know the place so I scheduled a meeting with the owner, Desiree.
To get to Oba Brazil you need to get in the YETI MMA, right next to Bowcraft, on Route 22. As soon as you get in you get a cozy feeling from the simple but tastefully though of decoration. The owner, Desiree, is Brazilian and it was extremely refreshing for me to able to speak Portuguese with someone around here! It's amazing how you can get so familiar with someone just by coming from brother countries, like Portugal and Brazil.
So, with all the warmness typical in Brazilian people, Desire showed me the place around. There are a few tables and chair to sit down and you can sit down at the counter too, if you want to be closer to the action! Behind the counter you can always count on seeing a lot of fresh fruit, organic whenever possible, but always fresh which is key to a business that is focused on fresh produce.
You can choose from a pretty good variety of pitaya and açaí bowls, depending on what you like the most. The frozen pitaya and açaí used are 100% organic and can really boost your metabolism - help promote skin and heart health, contain healthy fatty acids, are powerful energy and immune system boosters and are packed with vitamins.
At OBA Brazil you can choose between five different bowls:
I tried the "Salada de Fruta", salad fruit bowl and it really was something! The fruit really is extremely fresh and super tasty. The whole thing ended up looking like a piece of art. Just take a look at it!
Do you see that flower on top of the bowl? It's super cute and delicate and it's made from frozen peanut butter. Desiree also had ones made from chocolate and I think it's the perfect final touch for such a beautiful creation. It truly adds a personal touch which is what keeps me coming back to a pace like this - feeling like the person there is really committed to it and tried to pass along something personal, besides the product that is being sold.
Shakes are also part of the menu and the flavors are all so interesting that the real issue is which one to choose! I went there with my kids, after this day, and they loved the smoothies, are we're most used to calling them. Desiree is all about costumer service and getting things done the way the client likes it; my daughter was able to get a personalized shake because there are some ingredients that she dosen't like that much so she had one specially made for her! How cool is that? If you have a particular ingredient that you don't like just tell Desiree about it and she will change it for you, for sure!
There are 6 different shakes and, although they all have protein powder on them, you can ask them without it if you don't want it, just ask!
As you can see it's like a tropical paradise by Scotch Plains!
There are also some truly delicious treats to eat alongside the shakes. There are "coxinhas de galinha" which are a kind of salty chicken appetizer, available in different flavors, like buffalo, broccoli or plain. They are covered in bread crumbs and fried and they are sold like bites (individual size snacks). You can get a dozen for $12 and you're able to mix and match the flavors. If you're planning a get together try these out. They won't last long and everyone will ask you where to buy them!
There's also "pão de queijo", Brazilian bread cheese. A delicious and mouth watering appetizer that comes straight out of the oven and melts in our mouth! These are sold by $1.5 for 3 units. When I was there Desiree also had these Brazilian dessert called "brigadeiros" - a chocolate bite size dessert for the chocolate lovers! There's also something new to try out at OBA Brazil!
I hope I was able to get everyone curious about the new smoothie/bowls place and that I'll get some of the locals to try these delicious treats. Pa a visit to Desiree, she's extremely nice and always ready to welcome new costumers. Also, if you've never been there she will offer you a discount for your first purchase!
With the cold days ahead get some nutritious shake or bowl and warm up with a Brazilian hot snack! Trust me, try it out and let me know what you had. I'll just leave you my bowl again for your own delight!
Carrying on with the purpose of getting to know the people in our community I found out about Soothcare through Facebook. I got to know Samantha and we had a really pleasant morning sipping a cup of coffee and just chatting about life and about the product she created.
Samantha is a certified Holistic Health Coach, having received her training from the Institute for Integrated Nutrition in New York City. She is married and a mother of 3 children. We discussed the importance of healthy eating and healthy habits in children being that the both of us are so interested in food and health.
Soothease is a brand of natural candies created with a specific purpose: having been through a very hard time in her life, Samantha battled against cancer and today she is, proudly, a cancer survivor! We all know of someone who's been through this disease and hear about all the side effects of treatments. While going through chemotherapy for cancer she experienced several side effects, as it is typical with this kind of therapies. One of the main issues was the mouth discomfort - the permanent feeling of dry mouth and the recurring mouth sores became a struggle.
Dysgeusia (changes in taste) is pretty much common during chemotherapy and radiation therapy and it can occur in up to 50% of patients. The changes can be caused by damage of the taste buds, dry mouth, infections or dental problems. In consequence, foods may seem to be tasteless or may not taste the way they did before the treatment.
Being a holistic chef, Samantha believes in the power of natural and earth-based foods and has been practicing a vegan diet in her household for a long time. Getting the correct, safe and beneficial foods can get us to a more healthy place, both spiritually and physically.
After several experiences with many organic ingredients, Samantha came up with a great tasting candy that promotes comfort and supports the human body's ability to maintain normal taste sensation.
Every ingredient of these candies is organic, natural, non-GMO and was carefully chosen for it's natural supportive properties. If you would like to know something more about these products and where to buy them, look up here the store locator.
You can also order Soothease candies online, on Amazon (affiliate link):
At the moment, there are 4 flavors available. The present challenge is to take out the sugar from the recipe and replace it with something healthier. I'm sure Samantha will be able to get a perfect substitute and offer a no-sugar variety in the near future. When you're a chef you are constantly trying to find different combinations of ingredients to improve your ideas!
Samantha was kind enough to offer me a package of the Chocolate Flavored Brown Rice heart candies and I tough it tasted great. A very smooth flavor that even my kids loved! I think it's great for anyone that is looking for some kind of comforting solution for the mouth. I tried it after burning my tongue when tasting food (I'm always in a hurry!) and it helped me to get a feeling of relief.
Chocolate Flavored Brown Rice -
Made with ingredients that help sooth the mouth: organic sugar, Aloe Vera water, organic brown rice, organic cocoa powder, organic dried dandelion root, organic dried chamomile and organic dried calendula.
Orange Flavored Barley -
Made with ingredients that help support the body's ability to regain the sense of taste: organic sugar, Aloe Vera water, organic light corn syrup, organic barley malt syrup, organic orange extract, organic dried dandelion root, organic dried chamomile and organic dried calendula.
Honey Lavender Flavored -
Made with ingredients that help sooth the mouth: organic sugar, organic honey, Aloe Vera water, organic lavender extract, organic dried dandelion root, organic dried chamomile and organic dried calendula.
Peppermint Flavored Barley (New!) -
Made with ingredients that help sooth the mouth: organic sugar, Aloe Vera water, organic light corn syrup, organic barley malt syrup, organic peppermint extract, organic dried dandelion root, organic dried chamomile and organic dried calendula.
All of the varieties are available in heart shape and lollipop shape
I hope this post will help everyone to get to know this candies because I'm positive that most of us know someone that will benefit from them. Even for ourselves, not having a medical condition, taking these candies may be a way to help our mouth to be comfortable and to have a soothing experience on these cold months ahead.
I had a great time getting to know Samantha and learning about her life story and I hope we can all keep sharing about all our great entrepreneurs that we have in the Scotch Plains and Fanwood area.
About two weeks ago I was thinking about how life has surprised us, with its twists and turns. Moving from Portugal to the US about a couple of years ago and having had my own business really were turning points in my life.
I used to own a small business, a small beauty store, selling makeup, cosmetics, perfumes and accessories, in a small town. I loved all the aspects of the business - managing the store, making sure that the store was fully stocked, having brand representatives at the store for marketing campaigns but, essentially, talking to people and helping them choose the best products for themselves and helping them to feel happy about it!
It lasted seven years and then the European economic crises hit and we were no longer able to compete with the big department stores that are always filling the market with lower prices and bigger promotions. The store closed and I became a stay at home mom for my two beautiful children.
My love for small and local business remains and it got me inspired to use my blog as a tool to share local businesses around me, in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, New Jersey. Since we've moved here we came to know a bit more about this community and everything about the place really is appealing for families and, truly, the people that live here ARE this place!
Not so long ago I noticed a new business in Fanwood and it immediately caught my attention. From the exterior I could see the inside through the glass windows and door and it looked like a welcoming place, perfect to take my family out to lunch! It was crowded which is always a good sign when we're talking about diners and restaurants.
I contacted the owner of the Fanwood Grille, John Mooney, who was extremely open to the idea of having his place reviewed by me and posted on the blog and on social media. After all, even I had heard wonderful things about their food, on Facebook!
All the opinions expressed are my own and, although I didn't pay for any of the products I tasted, I'm writing my sincere and honest opinion on the subject.
The place has a really cozy feeling, not overcrowded with tables and mainly decorated with wood accents which always gives that comfort feeling. The brick wall, I thought, is also a very nice feature and complement perfectly the rest of the decoration. It's somewhat a new, modernized version of a diner, with the home made food and welcoming environment.
When we go in we can immediately spot the kitchen area, which is always a good sign! If someone's comfortable enough for the costumers to see what's happening in the kitchen, all the time, it can only mean that the ingredients and the food have great quality and there is absolutely nothing to hide!
There's also the counter area where you can see a display of several items depending on the special of the day. Salads, soups, fresh fruit cups or parfaits. I'm only using photos with no people on them to protect people's privacy, after all, I'm reviewing the establishment and I didn't intend to disturb anyone.
The menu has all the usual items that you can find in such eateries like burgers, hot dogs, breakfast options and also "Signature items" that promise to surprise and excite your taste buds! From the lobster roll to the crab cake, the Gerry Cooney Prime Steak Sandwich, the Cowboy Tony Hot Dog, the Waldorf Salad with Guinness cheddar cheese there are plenty of options to satisfy the most demanding costumers. The overall prices are pretty good ranging from $5 to $18 and, of course, the most expensive dishes are the signature items due to the great quality ingredients that are used.
So, let's talk about the food! For starters I tasted three soups. All soups are made from scratch at the Fanwood Grille. They're made fresh every morning and with careful picked ingredients to guarantee the best tasting soups and great quality from start to finish.