Annual events have a tendency to become stale and in time mundane. An exception is the happily titled Beer, Bourbon, BBQ, Year of the Chicken, a suburban, backyard food and drink extravaganza that sprang from the minds of Sissy and Rick Norman. That spark of an idea would become an epic conflagration — with the help of Dave Mayhew and his wife Jen — into the 2017 celebration of professional chefs, bartenders, beer brewers, and entertainers seen in the pictures below.

Norman and Mayhew, bartenders at Jamian’s Food and Drink in Red Bank, NJ have acquired many friends over the years and I am fortunate to fall into that category. Their unshakable enthusiasm for trying new and unusual ingredients along with their love of culinary tradition is contagious. So much so that the original party has grown from a handful of like-minded foodies to about 200 people last year, to this years astonishing attendance of 400.

This year, Rick, Dave, and Andrew Rasizer (general manager at B2 Bistro and Bar in Red Bank, NJ) brewed a Brett pale ale at Jughandle Brewery in Tinton Falls, NJ. Named Pink Shorts, the brew with an ABV percent of 4.7 is currently sold at Jamian’s and B2.

 Additionally, cocktails were served at the bar by Kacey Corsentino, Michelle Roe, Lauren Mass, Robin Morris, Jason and Anna Norman, and Mike Niosi. Sheri Wilson, owner of the Harlem Tavern, Row House, and Crazy Annies — all in Manhattan — supplied the bar with ten gallons of Sangria, “Hot Enough to Last” jalapeño bourbon cocktails and pineapple mojitos.

Ask any of the guests and they’ll tell you with mouths still full of food that they can’t talk to you right now because there’s something good to taste. And, drink. But it’s also about the live entertainment supplied by Pat Guadagno and Richie Blackwell this year. Separately, each component is extraordinary, but together, this is what “the real Jersey Shore,” is all about. Locally sourced ingredients, recipes prepared by many of the guests as well as the pro’s, and camaraderie that is exceptional.

Food options set up buffet-style ran the gamut from slaws, salads, and rice-based vegan friendly dishes to a sweat-inducing chili made by Bruce Ericson. My contribution was a gluten-free, Cabot cheddar and  jalapeño flecked corn bread. Everyone brought their A-game as it takes a heap to impress those in the restaurant industry. Ben Mayhew, Dave’s brother and a professional chef and master gardener at the University of Rhode Island showed up with 300 Salt Pond Oysters. He also roasted the pig in a Caja China Roasting Box.

Enormous, U13 head-on shrimp were grilled on a flat-top BBQ by Matt Cosenzo in a spicy tomato based sauce but it was the addition of African blue basil grown by Ben Mayhew in his community garden that got my attention. It was a pungently noticeable inclusion and a fresh surprise to the dish.

Bob Travis brought “Grandpa’s Chicken,” to the outdoor kitchen. Its aroma elicited a mouth-watering-groan and not to be outdone by the other chefs his wife Lisa told me that he basted the bird pieces with sprigs of fresh mint.

Laercio Chamon — aka Junior — executive chef and owner of Graze Restaurant in Little Silver, NJ took his turn on one of the many grills with a Portuguese rendition of grilled clams, mussels and chorizo. The garlicky mix popped with big flavors. His hyper-local farm-to-table restaurant is a favorite for us. The knowledge of who grew/raised the food the chef prepares is a precious thing. Chamon also contributed braised ribs.

Missing in the pictures are additional dishes such as venison made by Bob Soden, brisket made by Dave Mayhew, Sliders made by Brendan Day (of which my husband Bruce said that was the single most delicious slider he’s had all year) and ribs made by Jessica Parker. Andrew Rasizer made a guava braised lamb leg with barbacoa sauce and Nick Estephan, owner and chef at FIG Catering in Monmouth County, NJ graced the table with a Mangalista rib loin marinated sous vide and grilled.

By the numbers, there were 300 oysters, 400 hot dogs, 100 hamburgers, 200 sliders, 60 lbs of pig, 30 lbs of lamb, 40 lbs of brisket, 40 lbs of chicken, 5 lbs of bacon, and countless side dishes. Three cases of booze, 10 gallons of premixed cocktails, 40 cases of beer, and 1 keg… and over 500 lbs of ice.

An interesting side note: Working in a hot-as-hell environment over countless grills in the outdoor kitchen, professional chefs and first-rate amateur cooks must have left their egos at home because all we saw was good will and agreeable spirit.

A testament to good taste in friendships forged and combined, the little spark of a pig roasting on the grill has grown to an astonishing day in the suburbs. Our hosts hope to monetize the event next year, planning to raise funds to support a charity of their choosing.

Opinions, ideas, or if I left anyone out, please leave comments to add to this post. Your contribution was appreciated and we’d like to give credit where it is due.

Photo’s and food from last years blast can be seen here.

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Sweet and minty, these brownies were made with creme de menthe by Linda Vanderslice, a former neighbor and friend on the street we just moved away from. They represent years of experience in baking and if what they say about food equating to love is true, then the cocoon of a cul de sac that we lived on was a truly blessed place.

Across the street neighbor’s, Mary and Ray Paolantonio chose Saint Patrick’s Day to throw us the most festive goodbye party. The fact that we moved a mile away wouldn’t stop our neighbors because we have always related best through food, parties and celebrations.

Hit or miss unsanctioned block parties, backyard celebrations and the traditional Sunday evening before Christmas open-house dessert party which I expect we will return to the street to celebrate.

Whiskey, wine and beer added good cheer to the send-off. And a birthday cake for the kid who just turned the quarter of a century corner. Neighbors who remember when your children’s birthdays are? Priceless!

Truth be told, I don’t miss the house, which I hear has only one wall left standing and is being rebuilt into the dream-home of another family. I’m fine with that. I will miss stopping on my morning walk to chat with Christine and her sons. I will miss watching the children grow. I will miss waving at busy neighbors as they trim bushes and edge lawns. I will miss our next door neighbors. I will miss the relationships that have developed over twenty years. And I will miss the woman who grew up on our street, moved away, and then sent out postcards to see if any houses would be coming up for sale. She wanted to raise her family on the same street. A testament to the special vibes.

Living on Oaklawn was exceptional — out of the ordinary, really in neighborhood experiences. I thank everyone on the block for being the generous and kind souls that they are. I hold dear in my heart every single one of you! With love and gratitude…..


032817josef1Paté spread courtesy of Sickles Market in Little Silver.

It was a foggy Monday night when guests, chefs, and culinary students converged on the Navesink Country Club for the annual Jocef, Joe Romanowski Culinary Fund Raiser. A veritable who’s who in the local food scene, Flavor Chronicles brings you pictures of some of the most beautiful creations you’ve ever seen.

032817josef BCC creationsPoached pear, spicy shrimp, smoked duck on pumpernickel triangles and a beautiful tossed salad were made by Brookdale Culinary College students.

032817josef50Not out of school yet and already cooking and serving like pros. 

Once overlooked by guidance departments in high schools, culinary education is becoming mainstream. Making scholarships possible for those in need is the point of this fund raiser. It is also a grand opportunity to meet, great and chat with executive chefs. Seeing the latest creations and tasting new flavors is a big bonus.

032817josef teak and bistroGeorge Lyristis brought yellowfin poke — a Hawaiian delicacy — to the exhilarating buffet. We’re told that this is a new addition to the menu at The Bistro in Red Bank. Edamame dumplings are on the menu at Teak, also in Red Bank.

032817josef3Carpaccio, in its most elegant guise was served at the Raven and the Peach table. Their executive chef Rachel Cicalese is a graduate of BCC Culinary.

032817josef mumfordsIf at first you eat with your eyes, then Mumford’s Culinary Center in Tinton Falls takes the prize for natural goodness. The fresh colors were just outstanding. But that can be expected when the restaurant and cooking school tends to their own garden.

032817josef litchKitch Organic, the gluten-free all organic haven on Leighton Street in Red Bank brought tasty delights for all to enjoy. Friends and relatives with special needs diets find true bliss when they walk in the door of this restaurant. I’ve been told more than once that finding a place where they can order “anything on the menu,” means more than we will know.

032817josef danny murphyDanny Murphy of Danny’s Steakhouse on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank brought a little sweetness to the party with cauldrons of butternut squash soup. Each cup was embellished with a swirl of whipped cream.

032817josef grazeUnforgettable depth of flavor that still makes my mouth water came from the sauté pan on the table at Graze. I’m told by chef Junior, seen in the lower left photo with Chef Brian and his wife of Picolo Italia, that you need to use some surprising porcine parts for this luscious dish. Not surprising since he’s been teaching a monthly class on how to breakdown an entire pig. Graze can be found in the Markham Street shopping center in Little Silver.

032817josef b2bistroAlways exuberant, B2 Bistro on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank brings their A-game with more than one bite muffuletta sandwiches. This is a sandwich I hope to see on the menu next time I stop in because 2 bites weren’t enough. Their food never disappoints! 

032817josef41Culinary genius Pat Trama continues to wow us with a mozzarella bar. I called it an antipasto buffet but was corrected. It is innovative, brilliant really and appealed to so many hungry souls. From the fresh mozzarella to the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes it is beautiful to look at and just flat out delicious. At the end of the table you see tiny bulbs or pipettes of olive oil, vinegar, and balsamic. Trama’s Trattoria is located on Brighton Avenue in Long Branch.

032817josef12D’jeet in Shrewsbury produced tiny mouthfuls of heaven. Crunchy cups filled with a salmon tartare mixture were inspiration itself from chef Casey Pesce.

032817josef3Yumi, located on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright couldn’t get their sushi on the table fast enough for the swarming crowd. Their artful displays are always super-fresh and top-notch.

032817josef2The freshest fish in town or in this case the Highlands on Bay Avenue comes from Lusty Lobster. Although they didn’t have wandering shucker’s this year, they did have plenty of guests waiting to grab a mollusk or two. 

032817 josef vintage cakeNever last or least, when it comes to pâtisserie or The Vintage Cake, I always make it a point to stop at their table first. Excellence in every single spoonful and bite is what we’ve come to expect from these bakers. The white chocolate mousse is a transcendent cup of bliss. It is an understatement to say that it was almost impossible to get near this table at the end of the evening. That is why I’m telling you to go to this amazing fund raiser next year and eat dessert first.

032817josef8In Long Branch, Tuzzio’s on Westwood Avenue has been serving home-style Italian food since 1965. I’m pretty sure they get the longevity award. We have loved sliding into a booth in this restaurant for as long as we’ve lived here. That would be twenty seven years. What can you say about a place that means comfort food? I’m so glad they’re there and it was lovely to see them at this fund raiser. Those meatballs were served with slices of garlic bread. Yeah, stopping at this table brought big smiles to everyone’s faces.



At what point in the English language did lemons become a metaphor for life? Eggs in my opinion make more sense. My life has become scrambled, or things are going over-easy. Maybe life has become deviled or hard boiled? We’ll go with lemons though.

Six months ago, through a series of events, our household became business not-as-usual. Fortunate or not, life moves forward and we roll with the changes.

One change that I have been craving for quite a while is the sale of our house. It was the perfect place to raise children. A cul de sac location in a seaside borough where kids ride their bicycles to school. It served its purpose and my husband and I wanted to be free of the hassle of taking care of house, gardens and lawn.

We didn’t expect our real estate agent to have offers for us the first weekend on the market. But there we were. Three days in and we have the offer we were hoping to get.

The buyers wanted a six week closing and the deal was just too good to walk away from.

So six weeks after we took their offer, we find ourselves lightened by the enormous amount of energy it takes to run a big house. We have also lightened the load of our belongings. An estate sale run by a professional helped.

navesink viewWith no time to look for or even consider a new home we were incredibly lucky to find an apartment in the same building that our daughter and her boyfriend live in. A perfect, mid-century two bed, two bath with gleaming parquet floors and a river view.

You are now up to date. Food articles will be written from a new place with culinary creations coming out of a new kitchen. Flavor Chronicles/ Chefs in Motion resumes this week with a good-neighbor going away party post.

When life gives you lemons, squeeze them into a Bloody Mary. Sit down, enjoy the view and savor the opportunity to try something new.


Who are the people in your neighborhood? It’s an old Sesame Street song but fitting, particularly on Halloween. Our neighbors host an annual party that brings out some ghoulish culinary moments.

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