Indulge Your Guests

Let Oystertainment® make your next event unforgettable

By Sue Baldani

People who have never eaten oysters are often intimidated about trying them. They may think they’re slimy or taste like seawater. But that is not the case, especially when dealing with high-quality oysters. For those in the know, these small shellfish are an absolute indulgence.

At your next event, why not treat your guests to Oystertainment®, a unique and fun service offered by Red Oyster? Instead of a stationary raw bar, Oystertainers, clad in their signature oyster-shucking uniform and bucket, will individually shuck oysters for each guest.

“It’s a unique experience that someone personally shucks the oyster for you,” says Angelique van der Made, vice president of Red Oyster. “It makes you feel very special.”

The professional and personable Oystertainers don’t only shuck oysters, they also educate. They explain how you should eat an oyster, where an oyster is from, and why a particular oyster from Maine tastes different than one from Prince Edward Island. They can also recommend how to eat these delicacies and the condiments that go well with them.

Red Oyster prefers to serve oysters from Northeastern waters, such as those found in Massachusetts and Maine and up to Prince Edward Island in Canada. “The oyster farmers ship to New York every night to a supplier in Brooklyn, and we get our oysters from there so they are always fresh,” says Angelique.

Red Oyster provides oyster catering and oyster shuckers in New Jersey and New York, and have also done parties in Philadelphia and on Cape Cod.

Have them come to your next event; it will be an incredible experience! https://red-oyster.com/.

Red Oyster tips:

Use the right condiment. Hot sauce can be too overpowering and cover up the taste of the oyster.

Do not slurp it down. Chew it a few times to bring out the best flavor.

Make sure the oysters are fresh. The sooner they are eaten after catching, the better they will taste.

Oysters from colder waters in the Northeast, such as those in Maine, Massachusetts, and up into Canada, have a strong shell and a nice combination of salinity and brininess, which gives them much more flavor.

Have Oystertainers come to your next wedding, cocktail party, backyard get-together, or corporate event to give your guests a truly unique and interesting experience. Even those who have never tried an oyster, or think they don’t like them, may come to appreciate this delicious delicacy.

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Welcome to the Club

A social club that feels like a second home

By Sue Baldani

The Park Avenue Club in Florham Park would like to say “Welcome Home” to its current members and those who are looking to join. Now that places are opening up, the club is ready to once again offer a place to relax and socialize in a comfortable, restorative atmosphere. Its luxurious grounds include gardens and a koi pond.

“We are our members home away from home,” says Executive Creative Director Rich Silivanch. With its many social clubs, such as the Wine Enthusiast Club, a Cigar Club, and its Golf Club, Park Avenue provides its members access to a network of people with similar interests.

Live music is often offered on its beautiful patio, so members can dine outside while being entertained. “Our dining experience is rustic elegance, with food that is inspired by Chef Arnold and his culinary team that follows the season and offers a good variety of fresh meals,” says Silivanch.

There are also special dinner events. “With our Wine Enthusiast Club, there is a wine pairing with dinner,” he adds.

Members get to enjoy not only the Park Avenue Club, but also access to reciprocal clubs around the U.S. and internationally. “If they are traveling, we can offer a continuum of a certain level of sophistication and exclusivity.”

Levels of membership vary, which opens the door to a greater number of people who can enjoy its advantages. In addition, says Silivanch, membership allows the club to carry out its mission of helping to fund 13 nonprofits, which he says is key.

Park Avenue Club

184 Park Avenue

Florham Park, NJ 07932

973-301-8233

http://www.parkavenueclub.com/

Written for Vicinity Magazine in New Jersey.

American and Italian Specialties to Delight Your Palate

Buon Appetito!

By Sue Baldani

Calandra’s Italian Market & Deli has always offered its customers fresh, delicious food, but now its menu is better than ever. Executive Chef Robert Caravaggio has totally revamped it to provide items that you would be hard pressed to find in an average deli.

“We now have close to 150 menu items,” he says. “We make 90% of everything in-house and 100% from scratch, and the other 10% is imported from Italy.” Fresh bread is made multiple times a day just for the deli alone, and fresh pastas and sauces are available to take home.

The menu boards have also been redone to give the deli a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and the breakfast and lunch choices found on them are a foodie’s dream come true. To start your day, there’s a Brûlée French Toast made with baguettes that are soaked in a custard for 24 hours. “And our pancakes are not only huge, but have fresh fruit baked into them,” says Chef Robert. “Our portions are really great – you’re getting quality and quantity.”

For lunch, along with the usual paninis and wraps, you’ll find Italian specialty sandwiches such as a Roman-style porchetta which is slowly baked for six hours and an Italian roasted pork done three ways. It’s marinated for 24 hours and then roasted for four. Mouth-watering!

In addition to fresh foods, there are a variety of imported treasures on its shelves. “I reached out to importers from different regions of Italy, so now when you come in, you’ll see items from the Piedmont and Tuscany regions as well as from Sicily,” he says. “We have items on our shelves that no one around has.”

Everyone receives a warm greeting upon entering, and since 75% of its customers are repeat visitors, the staff prides itself on knowing many of them by name. “Everybody talks about guest services, but it’s another thing to be able to connect with your guests,” says Chef Rob. After being in the food and restaurant industry for 30 years, he says taking care of people is in his and the Calandra family’s DNA.

Calandra’s Italian Market & Deli

234 Bloomfield Ave

Caldwell, NJ 07006

973-226-8889

Written for Suburban Essex Magazine in New Jersey.

BOO! SHOO THOSE MYTHS AWAY

No More Horror Stories When It Comes To Black Cats

By Sue Baldani

By Sue Baldani

It’s Halloween, a time for carved pumpkins, spooky ghosts, bags of candy and scary black cats. While these aspects of the holiday can be fun, those decorative displays of hissing black cats with their arched backs give black cats a bad rap all year long.

What’s Halloween without a black cat? Nowhere near as spooky. Witches’ familiars they may be, but black cats don’t deserve their evil reputation.

Some people see them as spooky, or linked to witchcraft, or as harbingers of bad luck. And if there is a cat to be found in a horror movie, you can be sure it’ll be black and diabolical. Think Edgar Allan Poe’s disturbing short story “The Black Cat”, which became a popular film in the 1930s, or the fearsome black cat in “The Legend of Hell House.”

And, of course, witches are often portrayed with their menacing black cats by their sides. Even pretty Sabrina the Teenage Witch had a black cat named Salem. Salem, hmm, what does that bring to mind? Let’s face it, these movies and shows just wouldn’t be as scary or fun with a white angora or an orange tabby purring delicately in someone’s face.

There are some cultural differences when it comes to black cat superstitions. It’s been noted in Japan that when a black cat crosses someone’s path, it’s a sign of good fortune to come. But in many Hispanic cultures, it can be seen as the ultimate curse. Americans tend to go both ways; while some love black cats and their sleek panther-like moves and looks, others tend to avoid them at all costs.

Speaking of panthers, according to a study done by seniorcatwellness. com, Marvel’s movie, Black Panther, greatly increased black cat adoptions when it came out originally in 2018 and the trend has prevailed. It has given black cats a 10th life, you could say – they’re now elevated to action-hero status.

And Halle Berry could not have been sexier as a lethal Catwoman. Her black-cat ensemble was far from soft and furry; hard-edged and threatening was her on-screen image – not unlike the misperception of black cats in real life. So Hollywood, maybe it’s time to start making more movies with cool black cats and likeable feline characters.

Don’t confuse allure with danger. The truth is, black cats are just as smart, just as sweet, and just as lovable as other lighter-hued cats. Many have the most beautiful, glossy coat and sparkling green eyes. Even with all this beauty going for them, they don’t always photograph well, which leads to them being more often and easily scrolled by on adoption websites. A study presented at an International Society for Anthrozoology conference a few years back found that coat color influences people’s perceptions of personalities of pets. Participants were shown pictures of cats of varying colors, and the researchers discovered that white cats were considered the friendliest, orange cats the second friendliest, and black cats, the least friendly. And, in a survey by Petfinder, their member shelter and rescue groups reported that most pets are listed for 12.5 weeks on Petfinder, whereas less adoptable pets (such as black, senior, and special-needs pets) spend almost four times as long on the site. That’s way too long for these feline friends.

For sure, hissing black cats are often seen as fearsome creatures that haunt us on Halloween. But menacing image aside, give a black cat a chance!

So this Halloween, while getting ready for those tricks or treats, go ahead and decorate your home with scary ghosts and goblins and dress up as your favorite scary character, but give black cats a break. Maybe leave those hissing cat decorations stored away in the basement, or better yet, throw them out. And if you feel so inclined, and really want a great treat, stop by your local animal shelter and meet some beautiful, loving and kind, black cats waiting patiently for their forever homes. You might end up leaving with one. Think of a black cat as a healthier alternative to all that candy you and your family are likely to consume on Halloween. Instead of cavities, you all  will get plenty of love. Snuggle up with a black cat and no trick, cuddles will be your treat. What could be more scrumptious?

Black cats need wonderful, loving homes, just like other pets. Choose a pet who fits your personality and lifestyle, regardless of its color, and you’ll live very happily together all year long. Take it from me. This author has two wonderful black cats named Boo and Grover who fill her life with kisses, not hisses.

Happy Halloween!

Written for Pet Lifestyles Magazine in New York.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Don’t forget – get checked

The statistics are frightening. According to cancer.org, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2021 alone, almost 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. But, if diagnosed at a localized stage, meaning it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, there is a 5-year relative survival rate of 99%. 

Luckily, we have one of the best cancer detection and treatment centers nearby. The Center for Breast Health and Disease Management at Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston has the most updated equipment and care available.

“We have digital mammography with tomosynthesis,” says Dr. Linda Sanders, the medical director of the center, “This allows radiologists to see in more detail possible masses that may be hiding.” She adds they’ve also just received funding to upgrade to 3DQuorum tomosynthesis, which enables the reduction of radiation during screenings. This new tool is expected to be available sometime this fall or shortly thereafter.

The breast center also has a dedicated MRI, so instead of patients having to go to another department or building, it can be done quickly right there.

For diagnostic mammograms where there is a suspected issue, patients are always given their results before leaving. Or, if a patient is elderly or lives far away and would have difficulty returning if a problem is identified, they are given the results of their screening mammograms immediately as well.

“Otherwise, and we are one of the few places in the entire country who do this, patients will get their results by email [or by mail if requested] at the end of the day,” she says. “It’s amazing, and I pressed hard for this because patients get anxious while waiting for results.”

The breast center also has a high-risk monitoring program. Patients are given a history sheet to complete which determines their risks of breast cancer. If the percentage is 20% or higher, they will recommend further imaging with breast MRI.

“You want to catch your in situ cancer before it becomes invasive; you want to catch your invasive cancer before it spreads to your lymph nodes; and you want to catch cancers that have spread to your lymph nodes before they spread to the rest of your body,” says Dr. Sanders. “You want to catch it at the earliest stage since your prognosis will be better and the treatment less harsh. So, you might need less surgery, less chemotherapy and less radiation, or none of the above, if you catch it early enough.”

She says women need a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Men would only need a mammogram if they are at risk or feel a lump.

But, younger women are at risk too, which Stephanie Quinton knows all too well. When she felt a lump on her breast a few years back at the age of 28, and was told by her primary doctor not to worry about it, she went to the Center for Breast Health and Disease Management and was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. She worked with what she calls her “dream team” of oncologists, breast surgeon and plastic surgeon and is thriving today.

Make your appointment today. Go to https://www.rwjbh.org/barnabas-health-ambulatory-care-center/treatment-care/breast-care/ or by calling 973-322-7800.

[Fact 1]

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It is estimated that in this year, approximately 30% of all new female cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer. (breastcancer.org)

[Fact 2]

At the time of diagnosis, approximately 63% of breast cancer patients have local-stage breast cancer, 27% have regional stage, and 6% have distant (metastatic) disease. (cancer.net)

[Fact 3]

If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 86% and if the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 28%. (cancer.net)

Throughout the month of October, look for information to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and mammography in partner stores at the Mall at Short Hills.

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Redesigned and Raring to Go

This isn’t your father’s SUV

By Sue Baldani

The Ford Bronco is back and it’s better than ever. With seven different models to choose from at various price points, there’s a fit for everyone and every lifestyle. While it’s rugged and ready for action on back-country roads, it also has high-end features that make it a great drive around town with a smooth and quiet ride, comfortable seats and a high-tech instrument panel.

With its great selection of colors and sizes, ladies can go from a cub scout meeting to glamping in the woods, and men can take their buddies out on an off-roading adventure that they’ll never forget.

The timing couldn’t be better. After being cooped up for so long, people are ready to get together with family and friends, and are spending more time outdoors than ever before. With plenty of space for fishing poles, bikes, tents and other outdoor gear, the Bronco will get you and your stuff where you need to go, and you’ll never have to sacrifice storage for comfort.

Another cool aspect – everyone who purchases the new Bronco will get free passes to the Bronco Off-Roadeo, an off-roading and outdoor adventure playground located at four amazing locations across the United States – Austin, TX; Moab, UT; Gilford, NH and Las Vegas, NV. These thrilling arenas will help expand your skills, build your confidence, and encourage you to push the boundaries of fun with your new Bronco. Get Out, Get Living, and Get your Adrenaline Pumping!

To find out more, go to https://www.ford.com/bronco/.

Options include:

AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control)

Trail Control (requires 10-speed transmission) 

Trail Turn Assist (requires 10-speed transmission) 

Trail One-Pedal Drive (requires 2.7L engine and 10 speed auto)

SiriusXM® with 360L

Written for Topeka Lifestyle magazine in Kansas.