Winner of the JerseyArts.com 2009 People's Choice Award for favorite Professional Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse has been opening the curtain on top-quality musical theater and plays since its debut in 1938. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Tony Award-winning musical comedy, follows the travails of a group of young students participating in their countywide spell off. With hilarious tunes and frequent fourth wall demolition, the musical expertly tickles audience funny femurs while filling their ears with the harmonious euphony of the Tony-nominated score. Groupon buyers will leave the theater with a Paper Mill Playhouse cup (a $5 value), allowing patrons of the arts to signal their theater affiliation to rival gangs of symphony and museum cup holders.
The rich scent of real hickory, apple, cherry, and oak wood drifts from low smoldering fires, infusing the racks of meat above with flavor in a Southern Pride smoker. Drawing inspiration from all over the south, SuzyQue?s BBQ & Bar?s cooks apply spicy dry rubs to every ounce of meat before slow-smoking them, then diners can either enjoy it au-natural or slather plates with one of their signature sauces. Their sauces are inspired by recipes from Texas, North Carolina, and St. Louis and built upon a Vinegar, Tomato, or Molasses base. They also whip up an Orange Habanero sauce full of peppery spice.
The resulting mountains of melt-off-the-bone ribs, smoked wings, sausage, and brisket come to table alongside fine dining entrees, including rib-eye steak, fried chicken, and grilled salmon. Eight on-tap and 18 bottled beers lodge at the full bar, along with glasses of craft cocktails and wine, preparing palates for dessert and punctuating the sound of live bands, comedians, and poker games.
For Sam Mickail, food is autobiographical. Born in Cairo, the first spices he smelled were hearty Mediterranean blends. He then spent most of his childhood in France surrounded by the cooking of world-class chefs, eventually leaving for Switzerland to turn his love of food into a bona fide culinary craft. Now, in America, he channels all of these influences and global experiences into cooking, lending his talents to numerous restaurants and further exploring all the cooking styles that inspired him throughout his life. This surfaces most clearly in Sam Mickail?s CUT Steak House & Bistro, where he?s free to put international twists on the time-honored tradition of cooking delicious steaks.
Sam coats his filet mignons and porterhouses in delicious b?arnaise, au poivre, or perigourdine sauces, according to his customers? wishes. He also serves fresh oysters at his raw bar, slathers lobster tails in butter, and batters escargot with a champagne crust, a creation he calls drunken snails for their complete inability to slither in a straight line.
When Eugene Gillespie left Ireland to visit his brother in New York in 1972, he didn't know that he would be inspired to stay. The Irish economy was down, so Eugene decided to pursue the American dream by moving to the Mid-Atlantic region. He didn't leave Ireland entirely behind him though, and Eugene proceeded to spend the next several decades opening traditional Irish pubs and restaurants throughout New York and New Jersey.
With two locations, Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub demonstrates a commitment to the flavors of Ireland. The menus feature familiar comfort foods—certified Angus burgers and thin-crust pizzas—including a number of Irish favorites, such as beer-battered fish and chips and stews filled with Guinness-braised beef. To achieve an even more authentic taste, the chefs occasionally import ingredients such as Irish cheddar cheese, Irish sausages, and Irish rainbows.
The menu's iconic dishes contribute to the pubs' cozy, inviting ambiance almost as much as accents such as the stone fireplaces or the bar made of imported red mahogany. Spirits remain lively and the mood stays festive thanks to the live entertainment hosted throughout the week. Live bands perform contemporary hits as well as traditional Irish songs.
Plumes of fragrant steam swirl above bowls as waiters deliver hefty portions of paella to red-linen-topped tables inside Vivo Tapas Lounge. In the paella, clamshells, shrimp, mussel shells, and pearly scallops pop amid a heap of golden saffron rice. The eatery’s paella complements a list of hot and cold tapas, all of which exemplify the restaurant's Zagat rating of very good to excellent food. On small tapas plates, chefs arrange tiny patties of spanish tuna or mushrooms stuffed with onions, bacon, pine nuts, and mozzarella cheese. After meals, the crowd can get to their feet and dance the night away amid colorful beams of light and exposed-brick walls. Sheer curtains cordon off private seating with tufted, high-backed banquettes for VIP parties and laid-back tax audits.
Like other Mediterranean cuisines, Portuguese fare incorporates aromatic doses of olive oil, garlic, onions, and wine. But unique to this cuisine is its intercontinental flair; you'll find rice from Asia, hot peppers from Africa, and cinnamon, cloves, and ginger from India, all influenced by the Portuguese colonies once spread across the globe. PortuCale Restaurant & Bar brings all this together in a festive and welcoming space. The seafood-heavy menu features six variations on shrimp, a lobster, clam, and scallop entree doused in the chef's secret hot sauce, and tilapia and salmon filets rubbed in zesty lemon sauces. Specialty meat dishes such as braised Portuguese steak topped with an egg and pork loins with mushrooms, clams, and Spanish potatoes add a robust, meaty element to the proceedings. And dishes like mac and cheese and chicken fingers keep kids from getting cranky and eating their homework.
The space is festive and distinctly Mediterranean?think dark-finished wood furnishings set against light exposed brick. Bartenders make pitchers of Sangria, stock wines from Portugal and Spain, and keep 20-year-old Porto wines on hand. They also sell fine cigars that guests can bring to the outdoor patio?itself a draw for its castle-like stone walls, waterfalls, and faux-moat?and take puffs from between sips of single-malt whisky and cognac from the bar.