Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Linda Quinn new director of Long Valley Arts

Once a teacher, always a teacher. At least that's the case for Linda Quinn.

She retired from Long Valley Middle School, where she worked for 28 years as a band director, and now has taken the post as director of Long Valley Arts.

She also still oversees the Color Guard for West Morris Central High School.

"I'm trying to pick up the slack where the schools cut out because of the budget cuts," Quinn says. "We're also trying to make it reasonable enough so that all kids can participate."

Long Valley Arts is a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 to cultivate the arts in the area and to support local cultural organizations. It's an all-volunteer group, so it needs people from the community to come together and teach for free, and that's where Quinn comes in.

"I get it all organized," Quinn says, "I got the teachers, I chose them, they had to create a (brochure), and they put it on a website."

Quinn, who has been working with the town for a long time, always promised that when she had the time to do it, she'd take over as director.

"So the minute I said I was retiring, I took over the Long Valley Arts."

Even though Quinn's field is music, she says that music won't be the only activity that Long Valley Arts has to offer. For example, tutoring and learning how to sew also will be available. Other activities that are creative and even physical will be available as well.

"We have crafts, and we have Zumba classes," Quinn says.

The group will offer music lessons "because the schools are no longer teaching it," she added.

Quinn always has had an interest in teaching music. When she was in middle school, music was her favorite class, and when she went to college at William Paterson University, she got her bachelor's degree in music. She then got her master's degree in music education for kindergarten through 12th grade at Montclair State University.

She had not meant to retire at the time that she did, but because of changes in the state's education system, she didn't want to lose her benefits. Still, that hasn't kept her from being with the children.

"I had to retire from teaching, but I don't want to separate myself from the kids," Quinn says, "I enjoy being with them too much."

Anyone interested in being a part of Long Valley Arts can visit the group's website at

Check out their signature sandwiches

What goes well with wine? Well, cheese, of course. But why stop there, when you can get a gourmet roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayonnaise, lettuce and marinated onions. Or how about a turkey salad with cranberries, celery and fresh dill to go along with your Chardonnay or Merlot?

"We make unique signature, gourmet sandwiches," says the sole sandwich-maker at Chester Wine, Spirits and Gourmet, Michelle Piraneo. "And our quiches are to die for. People come far and wide to come and buy our quiches."

Piraneo, who has no formal culinary experience but learned everything she knows on the job, has been serving some of the best sandwiches in the area for almost a decade now.

"I started here nine years ago selling wine part time," Piraneo says. "I gradually migrated to (food), they tapped into my culinary creativity and talents, and that was that," she says with a laugh.

She attributes her transition from selling wine to making food as a part of being both a lover of food and a mother.

"You learn to multitask and get creative," Piraneo says. "I'm a foodie at heart; more of a live-to-eat rather than eat-to-live kind of person."

Her love for food has transferred to the food she makes. Piraneo has been dabbling with many different flavors to come up with some of the great selections offered in the store.

"I make all the salad dressings here, so we have a sandwich that's grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, homemade balsamic vinaigrette and field greens," Piraneo says. "Another sandwich that's a favorite is turkey, mango chutney and French brie."

Because it is a wine and spirits shop — with wide selections of cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, for example — cheese also is a huge factor at the business, and Piraneo has quite a bit of knowledge to offer in that area, as well.

"Learning cheese is as complex as learning the varieties of wines — the aging process and the molds," Piraneo says. "It's just a huge, huge topic, and while I have lots of choices, it's just a smidgen of the whole cheese world."

That said, Piraneo offers a nice selection of cheeses that complement the wines in the store and she knows which wines work best with which cheeses. She even has a printed guide that she can lead customers with.

"I always have a folder handy to have the cheeses at my fingertips to complement the wines that customers are looking for," Piraneo says. "I did a wine and cheese tasting myself once, and it was amazing. You could just go hog wild because there's so many wonderful marriages between (wine and cheese)."

Customers at the shop can request a sandwich, cheese or soup, and Piraneo welcomes all comers to her counter.

"I try to accommodate everybody," Piraneo says. "There is no 'no' here. Customer service puts a smile on everybody's face."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pizza? It's all in the family

If you want old school, New York-style pizza, then you probably want it from a place that's earned its reputation for making some of the best in the area — like Sorrento Pizza, a place that's been a fixture in Mendham for over 40 years.

Sorrento's owner, Jarrod Poggi, said that his father, Bob Poggi, owned what is now the Colonial Pantry. When the opportunity arose to purchase the pizza restaurant, "He switched from that to this, and it was a good transition then. It was something that he was passionate about, and he still is today."

Bob Poggi might be the oldest, still-working businessman in Mendham. He works at and visits both his shops, Sorrento and Village Pizza, which is in the Mendham Shopping Center and now owned by his other son, Guy.

"I've had it for about 18 years now, so it's a family-run, family-oriented pizzeria and restaurant," Jarrod Poggi said of Sorrento.

"We're involved in the community a lot," Poggi continues, "so we have parties that we do for people, the town and different events. We donate pizzas for different things, so as far as that goes, it's very good for the community."

Jarrod Poggi started working in Sorrento back when he was 11, at first cleaning up and then moving on to making pizzas and eventually owning the restaurant.

"When I first started, I was little, so all you really did was clean the tables, you did little tasks," Poggi says, "and then it grows to eventually being a pizza maker, and cooking dinners."

Like his dad, he likes the idea of having a family-run business, so he's already got his children excited with prospects of one day working at the shop.

"It's fun, because they love coming here," Poggi says, "so I love bringing them, making pizza, talking to their uncle — it's nice."

The menu has all the favorites that you want at a pizza shop: pizzas, calzones,strombolis, as well as some things you might not expect; Sorrento is willing to cater to many different needs.

"Some people come in for special things. We get a lot of people who want pizza (with) no cheese or no sauce, which is almost like a grilled cheese," Poggi says. "But we do a lot of different things for people, and we have a lot of regulars who come in for the same type of thing, and we'll do it different for them, and they like that."

Because he and his brother, Guy, use pretty much the same recipes, it's become a bit of a matter of preference for pizza aficionados in the Mendham area to choose between Village Pizza and Sorrento.

"It's interesting to talk to people and find out what they think about it," Poggi says. "It might be (that one place is) heavier on the sauce, a little bit lighter on the cheese. Some people flock to different places for different reasons."

Whatever the reason, it's all in the family for Poggi, who believes that family always comes first.

"I get to see my father and my brothers almost every single day because they're right here," Poggi says, "So that's a real important thing."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Got a hankering for chocolate? Hanker no more.

Few things in life are as good as chocolate, and if you're in the Mendham Shopping Center near King's Supermarket, you have a great opportunity to rev up those taste buds with the wide assortment of savory sweets at the Chocolate Shoppe.

"We have a wide variety," says Erin Carrajat, the store's manager. "We have liqueur cherries and almond butter crunch that we make all ourselves from scratch, simple things like chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate-covered potato chips, [and] we make our own truffles."

The Chocolate Shoppe started in Washington in Warren County before Carajat's mother, Darleen Wizorek, decided to open another shop in Mendham, where a previous chocolate shop once was.

"My husband and I have lived here for five years, and we knew the other chocolate shop that was here, at this exact same spot," Carrajat says, "When it went out of business, I just said to my mom: 'I think we can make it.' "

And so far, things have been going well in this cozy little spot, as there are customers coming in to pick up a plethora of different items and not just chocolate alone.

"We sell candy buttons, rock candy, fireballs, all that kind of stuff," Carrajat says of some of the other candies sold in the shop that isn't their homemade chocolate.

"We have a wide selection of gifts as well," Carrajat continues. "What's really been popular right now is that we sell a lot of signs. We contract with about four U.S. companies (that make) signs that you just hang on a wall, like 'Enjoy life, this is not a rehearsal,' or 'Life's a beach,' things like that."

Front and center at this store, though, is the chocolate itself. Carrajat was the first to really get involved with making it, and her sister and mother took an interest in it as well, making it a passion of theirs that they would both pursue along with Carrajat.

"My parents are really the owners of the shop, and my sister and I work for my parents," Carrajat says.

"If you're familiar with Mangel's in Chester, the previous owners, Bob and Sandra Bisk, were our mentors. We worked there for several years under them before we went out and bought our own shop," Carrajat says.

In addition to their dessert trays and sweets, they have sugar-free chocolates as well. They have pretty much everything that you could want from a chocolate shop and more, and Carrajat attributes their success to the fact that they're family owned and run.

"We really pride ourselves on (being) a small mom-and-pop shop," Carrajat says.