Tidbits: Spring 2017



In his 2009 book, Born to Run (Vintage, 2011), Christopher Mc-Dougall examines the centuries-long extreme-running culture of Mexico’s Tarahumara people. On rugged trails threaded across the Sierra Madre, runners cover hundreds of miles at a stretch. The secret to their stamina? Iskiate, a drink made from soaked chia seeds.

With the rise of Chia Star, first launched in 2012, Morris County– based wellness entrepreneur Sara Erb intends to popularize this tiny powerhouse closer to home with her line of chia-based drinks that merge fruit flavors like blackberry lime or peach green tea with chia-based hydration. A holistic nutritionist with a track record in the wellness space—she launched one of NJ’s first full-service organic grocers in the 1980s—Erb honed in on the seed just as medical journals began to extoll its benefits.

“It’s amazing that a single seed can be so packed with antioxidants, calcium, fiber, B vitamins, strontium, and omega-3 fatty acids,” Erb says.

A wellness focus may be part of Erb’s DNA: Her aunt was an organic farmer and rancher, and organized California’s first organic farmers’ market in the 1960s. Erb herself was raised in a health-minded household where cooking and gardening were favored over TV. While she was tending her childhood garden plot and reading Prevention and Organic Gardening magazines, her lifelong interest in health and nutrition was born.

In 2016, Chia Star extended its brand to include coconut-chia shakes, and new fruit flavors are on deck for 2017. Chia Star products can be found at Whole Foods Market, Kings Food Markets, and other specialty grocers. Full disclosure: Chia Star may not turn you into an ultra-athlete. It will, however, leave you a better hydrated, more nourished human. Not bad for a small seed. —Jenn Hall






When husband and wife Andrew Bares and Kelly Lavorgna came to Cape May in search of a shore house, opening a bed-and-breakfast was not exactly what they had in mind. After looking at three or four shore houses, Bares suggested investing in a B&B instead. The couple purchased the former Summer Cottage Inn in March 2015 and fully remodeled the property.

“We have an interior design company, and we also upcycle furniture. We saw it as an opportunity to do something fun and bring together all of our skills,” Bares says. The B&B turns 150 this year: It was originally built in 1867 as a summer cottage for Samuel Harrison, a wealthy Philadelphian.

In October 2016, the couple purchased the Pharos Inn, a B&B next door, and now operate both houses as The Harrison Inn. “When we met the owners for dinner to discuss purchasing their driveway and garage, they joked, ‘If you buy the garage and driveway, we’ll throw in the house for free,’” Lavorgna says. They quickly reached a deal, and the Pharos at the Harrison now brings this year-round B&B to a total of 16 bedrooms and bathrooms.

The Harrison offers a rotating hot breakfast menu and daily cold staples such as yogurt and fresh fruit, as well as afternoon tea. Savory items include eggs Benedict with salmon or sausage-and-spinach quiche, while sweet items might include banana pancakes or waffles topped with berry compote and dulce de leche ice cream. Afternoon tea includes Lavorgna’s personal favorite—blueberry scones (made with fresh Jersey blueberries) topped with lemon drizzle.

The Harrison’s newest venture will include an afternoon British tea that will be open to the public, which Bares and Lavorgna hope to launch in April. The tea will feature scones, sandwiches and canapés for Cape May visitors to enjoy in the Harrison’s English garden, in two dining areas or on the inn’s wraparound porches. Springtime also brings April’s Exit Zero Jazz Festival (visit exit0jazzfest.com for details); relax at the Harrison for afternoon tea in between performances by the area’s best jazz artists. —J. Mullaney

The Harrison Inn
613 Columbia Ave, Cape May



When food historians seek insight into time and place, they often turn to church cookbooks. With the November 2016 release of The Global Banquet Cookbook: Recipes from the Global Grace Café Community, the Reformed Church of Highland Park is opening a delicious window onto its diverse constituency.

Befitting a congregation of 44 nationalities and counting, the church is home to the Global Grace Café. Spanning foodways during weekday lunch—Syrian or Indian dishes might be on the menu one day, Nigerian or Jamaican the next—it may be the most inventive restaurant in town.

Both café and cookbook were a natural progression for a diversifying church community where roast-beef dinners have given way to global feasts. “We saw the great pride people had in putting their best self forward through food,” says Reverend Seth Kaper- Dale. “Our cookbook says that this is America. It’s a place where everybody belongs.”

Put simply: “Food is hope.”

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, people gather for Syrian cuisine from chef Najla, whose fatoosh salad draws raves. “It’s always a little bit different, and it’s always a fan favorite,” says café manager Emily Randall-Goodman. (The cookbook includes a version.)

The food alone justifies a visit. Most amazing, though, is the mission: The ministry raises funds for a broad immigrant and refugee support initiative. In November 2015, the church and other area faith-based organizations launched Interfaith-RISE, resettling nearly 30 refugees directly and in partnership. Some now work here, gaining invaluable job training while sharpening their English skills.

Najla is surprised yet thankful to be among them. Born in Syria, she spent years in the United Arab Emirates working in the insurance industry. When her residency was abruptly revoked, she was granted asylum in the United States in late 2015 with her husband and young daughter. Two sons, 18 and 20, remain in limbo. Sharing pictures, she prays for a reunion, viewing her work here as a form of outreach.

“I hope people learn about my country—how we live, how we make food,” Najla says. “When I’m cooking, they see something about the Syrian people.” Above all, she’s struck by the church’s welcoming nature. Her Congolese coworker, Yvonne, concurs: “These are very, very nice people.” —Jenn Hall

Global Grace Café
9:30am to 2pm, Monday – Friday
The Reformed Church of Highland Park
19 S. 2nd Ave., Highland Park



Comments are closed.