Take Your Gluten-Free and Vegan Friends For A Delicious Dessert At Papa Ganache in Matawan, NJ

About a month ago, my boyfriend Luke and I were driving through Matawan, NJ when I noticed a sign that said, “Bakery Amazing Delicious Vegan Treats… Gluten-Free Too!” When I pointed it out to Luke, we immediately looked at each other and said “Let’s try it!” It wasn’t until after we turned into the parking lot when I realized that it was the new location of a gluten-free bakery I’ve been dying to try — Papa Ganache.

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I first heard of Papa Ganache a few years ago from an old co-worker who was vegan. One day he brought in a slice of their vegan sponge cake and allowed me to try a small piece. It was delicious but it never gave me the incentive to go and check out their other desserts. I wasn’t gluten-free at the time (or vegan, but I’m not vegan now), so I didn’t think there was a need to go when there were plenty of regular bakeries around. Now that I’m gluten-free, it’s an entirely different story!

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Before I get into all of the delicious treats I had, I want to mention how awesome the atmosphere is in this place. It’s perfect for the cafe junkies, especially the ones who inhabit Starbucks on a daily basis. It’s quiet and comfortable; perfect for a study session a work environment (if you telecommute), or a place to bring clients for a lunch or a snack. I would highly recommend this place for any of these instances or any occasion really!

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Now, about these desserts! It was really hard to choose from so many options (imagine a case full of snacks, I was in gluten-free heaven!), but I decided on a gluten-free red velvet cupcake and the chipwhich (one of Papa Ganache‘s specialties!)

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The red velvet cupcake was moist that it practically melted in my mouth. It was so delicious that I seriously wish I had gotten two of them! The chipwhich was also great, but I had a lot of problems finishing the entire cookie. As you can see it’s huge and it was also too sweet for my taste! I definitely think that they should make smaller portions of it, like some of the other cookies I saw on their shelves.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first official Papa Ganache gluten-free experience! If you call the Jersey Shore home, I highly suggest you stop by their new location at 106 Main Street, Matawan, NJ! It’s a beautiful environment, filled with the most delicious goodies! I definitely plan on going back and dragging my friends and family along with me!

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Fraternizing at Fratello’s- Jersey Shore Restaurant Week

Jersey Shore Restaurant Week (JSRW), where to go, where to go? For those of you not familiar with Jersey Shore Restaurant Week, they have it fall and spring. This past fall event was cancelled due to Sandy’s arrival. Living in Monmouth County, so hard hit by Sandy, I’m always trying to help our local businesses and Restore the Shore. As a writer for Small Chick, Big Deals, I just HAVE to love the offers of $20.13 and $30.13 for 3 course lunches and dinners and the fact that many restaurants and/or chefs choose this time to ‘show off’ a little something special.

Our first choice this year was Fratello’s, 810 The Plaza, Sea Girt, NJ. Since it was JSRW we knew it was a good idea to go early. On a Sunday we got there about 5:45 and there were already 2 tables filled in the front dining/bar area. There is also a back dining room, but I like to see the bartenders in action. We were greeted at the door by a hostess who gave us a choice of seating. We chose a booth on the side. The busboy came and poured water in small goblets and the waitress came shortly after and asked if we wanted something else to drink aside from the water. I asked about their house white wines and she was very knowledgeable. She went through every house white and a little description. I knew then we were in for a fine evening. I chose a Pinot and my companion chose an unsweetened iced tea. She also asked if we were familiar with JSRW, as there is a separate menu. We said we were and had chosen Fratello’s because of its larger selection than many of the other JSRW restaurants. She smiled and agreed.

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While she went to get our drinks, the bus boy appeared and gave us a plate of brushetta. It was yummy, not over garlicky so it set the tone for the food to come. Shortly after, the busboy stopped by again with warm Italian bread and butter, in a covered basket. We ordered our appetizers and entrée at the same time. The waitress said she would ask us for our dessert choices later. (Some JSRW venues ask for your entire meal choices at once). Our appetizers were shrimp angels, which were butterflied shrimp covered with angel hair pasta and a very complementary horseradish and dill sauce, was that cognac in there? The other appetizer was mushrooms stuffed with sausage and fontina cheese and a hearty brown sauce. It is clear they know what they are doing in this kitchen!
In between appetizer and entrée we were asked if we wanted another drink. My companion asked for a 2nd unsweetened iced tea. We were surprised to a charge for refills on our bill. Not many places charge for that today.

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Our appetizers were cleared and our entrees arrived. My companion ordered the Seafood Della Casa. And man, they were not kidding about that fish. Shrimp, scallops and what seemed like unending pieces of lobster. All this served with angel hair pasta and asparagus in another delicious sauce. I had ordered something a little out of my usual choices. It was a veal chop and shrimp dish called Veal Chop and Shrimp Scapreciatta. I was just amazed that a veal chop could be as tender as a veal scallop. And let me tell you it was huge, this was a no skimpy chop and again, rich brown gravy covered it. The shrimp were tender and seasoned well and it was accompanied by seasonal veggies, carrots, zucchini and mashed potatoes. What a wonderful meal!

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Of course, since it’s JSRW there is a dessert to be had. My companion picked the apple cobbler and I chose the chocolate chip cheesecake. Both of these were apparently made on premises. The apple cobbler came warm and was more of an apple cake with a crumb topping. It got a very positive reception from my companion. And I have to say, my chocolate chip cheesecake had to be one of the best cheesecakes I’ve eaten. It came with chocolate syrup and just enough whipped cream.
While there are so many choices during restaurant week, we just might go back to Fratello’s once more before it’s over.

#SCBDExclusive: Interview with Abbey & Lindsay, Owners of Cake Couture NJ!

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Cake Couture NJ is a home-based custom cake company founded by two Jersey girls from my hometown of Howell, Lindsay Mauser and Abbey Lanz. Last time I was home I had the opportunity to interview them on the company, their cakes, and more!

cupcakes

SCBD: How long have you been baking and cake decorating?

CCNJ: We’ve been baking as long as we can remember. We started getting into cake decorating by taking classes at Michael’s when they had them locally. Abbey received her degree in pastry from the Culinary Education Center of Monmouth County in 2011 where she performed in pastry competitions too. She’s always been more passionate about cakes rather than general pastry, you can see it in our work.

SCBD: Who came up with idea to start Cake Couture NJ?

CCNJ: We started making cakes for family about 4 years ago and then came up with the name and really started our business three years ago. When we first started it was Abbey and my (Lindsay’s) sister Erin but Erin wasn’t as passionate about it after a while so I stepped in and we’ve been successfully working together since. We feel that our cakes aren’t just any cakes so we felt that Cake Couture was the perfect name for us.

SCBD: What is special about your recipe compared to others?

CCNJ: Well, you can’t really compare us to any other cake or cupcake out there. We’re very creative and are constantly coming up with new recipes to try. We love coming up with new recipes for flavors we like.

SCBD: I’ve seen pictures of your cakes and the artwork looks so professional. How did you learn this?

CCNJ: We learned the most by doing it all the time and through trial and error. It’s all about finding the right temperature, etc.

21st birthday beer cake

21st birthday beer cake

SCBD: What’s a new flavors are you working on?

CCNJ: We are currently working on summer flavors, our latest creation is working on some summer cocktail cupcakes like margarita, and more!

SCBD: What’s the most popular cake flavor order you get?

CCNJ: Our vanilla with vanilla butter cream and red velvet with cream cheese frosting are our most popular.

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Cupcakes with faces of Aunt & Grandma

SCBD: What’s the most unique order you’ve had?

CCNJ: Our most unique order so far was for cupcakes with our client’s grandma & aunt’s faces on them. It took a lot of work but it was fun to do and rewarding at the end.

sweet 16

21st birthday cake

SCBD: What was your first order? Who was it for?

CCNJ: Our first order was for a 21st birthday at a big banquet hall, we were pretty nervous but it was a success. The cake had pink quilted zebra print on it.

SCBD: What’s a quote you both live by?

CCNJ: “She who leaves a trail of glitter, is never forgotten.”

SCBD: What’s Cake Couture NJ‘s motto?

CCNJ: “Made with Love” which we always have on all of our orders and “Edible Art For Magical Moments”.

SCBD: Where do you see Cake Couture NJ in five years?

CCNJ: We have high hopes and would love to be doing bigger events and have it turn into our full time job. We are looking forward to having bigger orders and to be in demand in the tri-state area. We are  working with the Ronald McDonald house on their event in May and donating a cupcake tower to their silent auction on May 19.

SCBD: Last, what do you want SCBD readers to know about Cake Couture NJ?

CCNJ: Nothing is impossible for us, we are willing to take any order. We take our time with every order and are very critical of our cakes. We do consultations and tastings for cakes for any event.

Harry Potter cake

Harry Potter cake

Make sure you like Cake Couture NJon Facebook  follow them on Twitter @CakeCoutureNJ! I’m definitely looking forward to working with them more because they have such a great thing going!

Cheers– let’s eat cake!

Sara SCBD Logo Edited

Mexico Lindo-translation –Pretty Mexico, Beautiful Mexico, the choice is yours.

Looking for some authentic, yes….really authentic Mexican food at a price you just can’t beat? Then Mexico Lindo at the Monmouth/Ocean county border is where you want to go. It’s in a little unassuming building in a little unassuming strip mall on a busy road at 1135 Burnt Tavern Road in Brick, NJ. 732-202-1930

When you walk in the door it seems like everyone knows everyone and you feel welcome to the party, too. It is decorated in the colors of Mexico and there are pictures and decorative items from Mexico as well. On this visit we sat near a poster with ingredients for tamale detailed on it! It was fun to read while waiting.

We really did not wait long for anything. Our waitress came right over and asked if we wanted something to drink. Mexico Lindo is a BYOB and they are happy to help you with whatever you bring, but they also have a tempting array of Mexican sodas. Tonight we both chose Mango. They serve it to you in the bottle with a side glass of crushed ice. And just as quickly they bring you homemade chips….still warm, with homemade salsa. Most times I’ve had the red, but on occasion they will serve the green. It is fresh and tasty, middle of the road spicy. Since they make all their own here you can ask for what level you’d like. The same goes for the food heat, too.

dinner

Fajitas

We debated about an appetizer, but really wanted to save room for the desserts on this trip, so we went right to main dishes. My companion always gets the same thing, the shrimp burrito. You might ask why would someone get the same thing all the time. I would guess, why mess with perfection? That is what their shrimp burrito is, perfection. I’d have to say it’s about a foot long and 3 inches round and filled with rice, beans, veggies and lots of decent sized shrimp. It’s definitely a knife and fork type of burrito, and plan on half of it for lunch for the next day. Yes, it’s that big! And I think the price is ridiculously low at $8.95. My choice was a bit more difficult to make. I’ve had some of their dishes that are traditional Mexican dishes in the past, such as chilaquiles, which are tortillas, broken up and marinated in a creamy green sauce and picante (spicy) . However, tonight I thought I would try a Mexican restaurant staple, the fajita. Now, everyone knows that good fajitas come in 2 parts, so first came the tortillas, in a tortilla holder to keep them warm, and with a plate on top to keep the steam in. on top of that plate was all my fajita goodies. There was guacamole (homemade), sour cream, pico de gallo and yellow rice. Next, came the steak, red and green peppers and onions on a sizzling platter. It was hot, hot, hot! Now, anyone can tell you, the steak is the test of a good fajita and this steak was hot, juicy and full of flavor. It was delicious just to eat alone. Also, the tortillas are fresh, very fresh and that makes a difference as well. I have to say these were the best fajitas I’ve ever had.

dessert

Usually we are way too full to have dessert, but with half the burrito packed away for lunch the next day, we decided to try something. Our server knew the desserts and their descriptions by heart. Ya gotta love that. We decided on the sopapillas. These were lightly fried tortilla chips with honey, cinnamon, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. All this for $3.50.  A nice light, sweet finish to our meal and certainly enough dessert for 2 or more.  A nice meal of real food for the price you now pay for fast food. Whatever we get rarely costs us over $30. Now, that’s a deal!

#DealAlert Tacos & Tequila at Tenth Avenue Burrito

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This month, I’ve been going home every so often to clean my room since I’ve moved out since I have time, and to just get my thoughts together. Oh yeah, can’t forget of course spending time with friends & family. Last week, one of my best friend’s, Sam who is in graduate school was coming home for her spring break so we decided we’d hang out since I had time and didn’t mind coming down. I saw her earlier in the afternoon and had to pick a place for us to grab dinner that night along with our friend Katie.

 I was scrolling through Facebook that afternoon and saw that 10th Ave Burrito (which has been featured in Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) had a $10 All You Can Eat (AYCE) Taco Special. That sounded great and since Christie granted the places that have their seasonal liquor license early since the Belmar St. Patrick’s Day parade was the week earlier, they had their liquor license. Going by the beach followed by tacos, tequila, and a three musketeer reunion (what my girls and I call ourselves), what could be better?

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Before we went to 10th Ave Burrito we wanted to see how Belmar looked since Sandy, it was devastating– the boardwalk was barely there. We saw what we wanted and were starving. When we first arrived we were seated immediately, we each took a look at the drink menu and ordered our tequila cocktails. I started off with The Oaxaca Old Fashioned which was served in a martini glass, it was really delicious and a deal for only $7. Katie & Sam each got the Tequila Sunrise ($6) which they loved!

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Next, we ordered our AYCE tacos– Katie & I started with steak tacos and Sam stuck with chicken the whole night. The way the AYCE tacos works at 10th Ave Burrito is that you start off with two tacos of your choice, when you feel your getting low and want to order your next round, you can (any kind of taco excluding shrimp). Sam stuck to chicken but I tried the chicken, fish, and chorizo. Katie tried the chorizo and chicken. We both liked steak best and Sam really enjoyed the chicken tacos. The three of us sort of had a contest of who could eat the most, Katie & I were close but I won.

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We got to the meet the owner of 10th Ave Burrito while we were there. He was incredibly friendly and is constantly making sure everyone is enjoying their meal there. Our waitress was very attentive and was always there when we were ready to order another round of tacos. The tequila cocktails are great and are reasonably priced for what you get. The tacos are delicious and you get a ton of food, especially if  you eat a lot for $10!

I had such a great experience and loved dinner so much that I definitely want to come back when I’m home again soon!

Cheers!

Sara SCBD Logo Edited

10th Ave Burrito is located at 801 Belmar Plaza in Belmar, NJ

Sandy may have hit but we will stand #JerseyStrong

Last night, I’ll admit I watched Restore the Shore on MTV. No, I’m not a fan of the show Jersey Shore but I love where I grew up and it was the only way I could see some of the damage. I held back tears, the beaches may be gone but my memories will always have a special place in my heart. But it’s not just the beaches that have been hit, up where I live in Bergen County, Moonachie & Little Ferry have been flooded. Traffic and what used to be normal commutes have not been the same.

First, I want to start with good news! I hosted a Sandy Fundraiser mentioned in this post with fellow Bergen County blogger Boozy Burbs. Thanks to all the local vendors who graciously donated to our raffle and brought food to the event. You can see the full list & event details, here. View pictures taken by Bergen.com, here.

I’m proud to announce we raised a total of $4,216 that will go to the Moonachie Relief.  Thanks to all who attended & donated to help with such a great cause! It was great to be part of such a great, successful event in the county I reside in!

But places still need help, so here is my handy guide of ways to help those affected by Sandy:

DINE LOCAL

I can’t stress it enough! Many businesses lost power which means they lost a ton of money, especially those in areas hit the hardest. Go to local restaurants & dine, don’t forget to tip well too!

DINNERS, EVENTS & FUNDRAISERS

“Sing for Hoboken” tomorrow night at Las Olas Sushi in Hoboken starting at 7PM. There is no cover but all proceeds that night will go to the Red Cross to help those affected by Sandy.

Interested in attending Brother Jimmy’s Hurricane Relief Party?
YOU MUST RSVP to vip@brotherjimmys.com 

The Manzo brothers will be guest bartending at Village Pourhouse Hoboken this Tuesday and donating their tips to relief efforts! See more information in the flyer above!

On Thanksgiving Eve, Biggies Clambar will be donating a $1 from every purchase of any signature item to the Moonachie Fire Department.

The School of Rock Montclair will perform music from the classic film The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Unitarian Church of Montclair (67 Church Street) on Friday, November 30, 2012 from 7 pm to 9 pm. Sponsored by Fairway Market, the live concert, originally planned for Halloween but postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, will benefit Toni’s Kitchen, a food ministry that serves low-income residents in the area. Each ticket buyer at the show will receive a goodie bag that’s filled with promotional items and special offers from such local sponsors as Proponent Federal Credit Union, Best Friend Photography, and Ah Pizz.  There will also be prizes for the best “Rocky Horror” costume provided by The Bellevue Theater and a free raffle for a $50 Ah Pizz dining card. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door on the night of the show.  For more info, contact School of Rock Montclair at 973-337-5296 or visit Montclair.SchoolofRock.com.

In addition, Fairway Market will hold a shopping night on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 in its Woodland Park store (1510 Rt. 46W) from 4 pm to 10 pm, with 25 percent of proceeds from registered shoppers also going to Toni’s Kitchen.

Session Bistro in Maywood, will be holding a Sandy charity dinner on Wednesday, November 28. It’s $30 a person, 3 courses beginning at 6:30pm. $5 of each meal will go to those affected by Sandy, there will also be a donation box at the restaurant that night.

RESTORE THE SHORE IN STYLE

The Jersey Strong design (above) represents how New Jersey is in our hearts and gives a little shout out to our beloved beach towns. We need to stick together and do whatever we can to help those in need! 100% of the profit will be donated to restoring and reviving our communities.

DONATE…

Those are just some of the many ways you can help those affected by Sandy in my home, the Garden State. Stay posted by following me @smchickbigdeals  and stay updated & become a fan on Facebook!

Happy Donating 🙂

Sara Monica, Founder

At the young age of 23, Sara is the founder and head editor of Smallchickbigdeals.com aka #SCBD. Sara is a Jersey Girl raised by the shore, currently residing in Northern New Jersey. When she is not working, she is finding something new to post and share with her readers whether it be a new food product, recipe, restaurant review or another interview. Read her full bio, here. Read the full story behind #SCBD, here.  When she is not writing for #SCBD she also contributes to Jersey Bites,Carter Int’l Concierge, & New Fork City. Follow her @SmChickBigDeals!

#Sandy hits home in many ways for #SCBD

Sandy has hit home for me in many ways. My hometown, Howell is about 15 minutes from the Jersey Shore’s well known beaches such as— Belmar, Manasquan, Lavalette, Seaside Heights. These beaches gave me childhood memories with my family, moments of peace throughout my young adulthood and were a haven for me constantly. I can’t even tell you how many times I used to go to the Manasquan inlet just to think and take a deep breath of the ocean and relax. It was my getaway that wasn’t too far from home and now it’s gone. I also met my boyfriend and shared numerous memories at the Point Pleasant boardwalk which is now destroyed. It breaks my heart in so many ways.

My best friends & I on Manasquan Beach before Hurricane Irene last year. 😦

The Mansaquan Inlet post-Sandy

Point Pleasant boardwalk post-Sandy

Sandy brought me home. First off, I haven’t been home since I’ve moved out officially into my apartment which is actually 4 months ago this weekend. Due to the loss of power in my new apartment in Bergen County after four days of surviving on gas & hot water (which we were fortunate to have) with my boyfriend Jason, his dog Aby, and my roommates we decided to come home. I’m now safe in my hometown Howell which has power, visiting my grandma’s who weren’t doing too well, and trudging through trying not to cry. My boyfriend is now home still waiting for power in his town in Somerset county now. As far as I know one of my roommates is safe somewhere with power while the other also waits in Northern Monmouth county.

Sandy hit my other ‘homes’– NYC & Hoboken. As you may know I am constantly commuting into the city and/or Hoboken constantly. I was actually supposed to go do an interview with the owner of Sweet Revenge in NYC the Sunday Sandy hit but due to high winds I had to re-schedule. I’ve seen so many posts of New Yorker’s pulling through and it makes me which I could I #DineOutinNYC in a flash but I am so far away and have no way in. I actually just got a haircut for a deal I will be telling you about when appropriate in Hoboken last Friday. The salon is now damaged and will need to be rebuilt. Hoboken has it the worst in North Jersey. It saddens me so much, I’m lost for words.

Hurricane Sandy’s toll on Hoboken

PATH station destroyed

The waiting game. As I wait for power to come back to my apartment and fortunate to have power where I am at home. All I want to do is help but I don’t know where to start, there are so many options which I will mention in my next posts or two. It’s uplifting to see so many people coming together in the area in a time of need.

Gas lines. The gas lines are crazy up in Northern Jersey especially near my apartment,  the gas lines are ridiculous and were long before the rationing even begun. It’s also bad near my school in Morris county. Rationing has effected all the counties I have and/or currently reside in. I never imagined this happening but I know it’s effective.

This post is very personal for me, this is just a local’s point of view on Sandy’s destruction to the places that mean a lot to me. Take this post however you’d like but it comes from a deep place.

The bright side. The bright side is that there are ways to help whether it be a donation, volunteering, eating local, giving family/friends a place to stay warm and charge up or even a warm meal. It’s so great to see residents of New Jersey & New York come together.

Before I start posting multiple ways to donate the easiest and most effective way is through the Red Cross, you can see this link on the side of my page & throughout my next few posts. If you can afford to donate, please do, anything helps:

On that note, please look out for my posts regarding Sandy within the week, ways to donate in New York & New Jersey which are hurting bad. I will resume my normal reviews, recipes, interviews, etc in a few weeks when I feel appropriate but until then look out for post- Sandy dining destinations both locally & nationally, organizations to donate to, post-Sandy recipes for those of us who may no longer have anything in the fridge (like me), comfort food recipes, and more.

Be well, stay blessed & strong…after every dark night there is a brighter day.