After a debilitating car accident left Elyissia Wassung’s mother, Barbara, unable to commute to work, she stayed busy in the kitchen, devising her own homemade chocolates. Nine-year-old Elyissia would then load her mother’s sweets into a shopping cart and sell them door-to-door around the neighborhood, learning entrepreneurial skills that would last a lifetime. After leaving a telecom job as an adult, Elyissia returned to selling chocolates by founding 2 Chicks with Chocolate (the other chick being her mom), teaming up with master chocolatier Patrick Coston and lead chocolatier Stephanie Vazquez. The dessert innovators create diverse flavors, such as spiced pear and caramel ganache, s’mores, and hazelnut praline, from scratch with spices and sea salt. Customers can also create their own bars online without venturing into the store, building on a selection of chocolate bases and toppings that range from pistachios to gummy bears. The store also hosts chocolate classes and enlivens parties with chocolate fountains and chocolate tastings.
Some might say that Brewed Awakening Coffeehouse is a caf? of the old guard, comfortable and intimate, a place someone might want to relax all day with a drink and a book. A mural of a lush mountainside and valley is painted behind the stage where acoustic musicians and billy goat trios are known to play. A glass-enclosed fireplace warms noses as bellies gain heat from steaming cups of specialty coffee or espresso drinks. Guests can also nosh on breakfast and lunch, with both hearty and lighthearted dishes such as eggs with chorizo, housemade chicken soup, and salads.
Located within Rutgers University’s Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Café Z’s chef and American Culinary Federation member Bruno Pascale crafts, stirs, and presses paninis, soups, and sandwiches for students and culinary connoisseurs alike. The restaurateur constantly crafts new paninis from recipes devised within the easy-bake oven of his mind, blending fresh ingredients such as ham and brie, or portobello, pepper, and mozzarella with thinly sliced bread for pleasing midday meals. Or embark on an epicurean expedition through Café Z’s menu of ever-changing entrees.
Christopher and Melanie Romano?s kids have long loved the music, iPads loaded with games, and fun flavors of Let?s Yo! When they?d frequent their neighborhood outpost, they felt assured they were feeding their kids a healthier alternative to ice cream. "Even in the winter, my kids wanted to go," Christopher says. "They would have gone every day if I'd have let them."
When the couple decided they wanted to quit the corporate world and open a business, Let?s Yo! seemed like a natural fit. They soon opened up shop, where customers self-serve 18 all-natural, organic flavors brimming with live active cultures. The flavors rotate regularly, with varieties such as sea-salt-caramel pretzel, red velvet cupcake, and California tart. Next, guests pile on premium toppings such as Andes mints, mixed nuts, and Kashi cereal?as well as about 10 different types of syrups, including Reese's peanut-butter topping and mango syrup. The staff members get fresh-fruit deliveries daily, which they chop up or splice via laser vision.
Along with iPads loaded with the latest apps, Christopher outfitted the shop with a flat-screen TV and free WiFi. He chats regularly with the customers who swing by for a cup or stop in after the gym for a yogurt protein shake. And he says it's definitely a change of pace from his Wall Street job. "The hardest choice you have to make is what topping you want," he says.
Though it only recently opened its doors, Blue Sky Cafe has already carved out a niche as a neighborhood hangout. The laid-back eatery doesn't rely on juice mixes and canned veggies?instead, it creates juices brimming with carrots, apples, oranges, and beets, and dresses its wraps and sandwiches with vegetables fresh from the ground or plucked directly from lettuce trees. The cafe uses freshly baked bread, brews coffee on site, and even caters to events, including meetings and graduations.
When Kevin Brennan bought his first vinyl at the age of 7, he dreamed of a future that would somehow revolve around rock 'n' roll. Brennan's entrepreneurial spirit led him on a quest for the next "big thing" as an adult, and he dabbled in various ventures before having an epiphany while traveling in 1989. He was in San Diego, and he visited his first coffeehouse.
Kevin fell in love with the simple coffeehouse concept and had a feeling that gourmet coffee shops would soon become a craze across the nation. He instantly knew that he had found his calling, but it wasn't until he sipped coffee while watching an Asia concert that he knew what would set his establishment apart from the rest: rock 'n' roll.
Today, his trio of shops showcases the marriage of a laid-back coffee-shop vibe with rock music and memorabilia, creating a caffeinated love child in a Led Zeppelin onesie. Each location also features rock-inspired drinks, such as the Van Halen and the Dark Side of the Moo, joined by sandwiches and salads prepared fresh daily.