18.) The Month To Be Irish

While the Emerald Isle is green all year long, March is the time for a flurry of green in cold, dreary NJ. Working in Spring Lake, otherwise known as the Irish Riviera, makes this Irish guy feel right at home. My ancestors emigrated from Ireland and my siblings and I are still proud to celebrate our heritage. St. Patrick’s Day is coming up. The Belmar St. Patty’s Day Parade is this Sunday, March 5, and I am feeling particularly festive.

One way to celebrate is by visiting downtown Spring Lake’s very own Irish Centre. (Our SL Ward Wight Sotheby’s office is right across the street!) As you approach, you hear the lilting Irish music playing. You are warmly invited into the shop, owned by Moya & Aiden, who hail from Ireland, themselves. The experience in The Irish Centre is authentic. You’ll find traditional Irish wool sweaters, hats, scarves, and more- for both children and adults. There is a wide variety of clothing.

The shop has gifts for many special occasions and life events. If you’re looking for a wedding gift, the Irish Center carries brands like Belleek, Waterford, and Simon Pearce. Gifts can be found for Baptisms and First Holy Communions, like rosaries, jewelry, frames, plaques. Other religious items are sold here, too.

When shopping you’ll be surrounded by Claddaghs, Celtic knots and crosses, family crests, trinity symbols, Irish flags, and the like. They’re all really nice call backs to Ireland’s culture and rich history. The back of the store is full of candy, food, and snacks that you normally can only get in Europe- such a treat!

Another cool thing is that they have a live cam on their website– take a look at the hustle and bustle this St. Patrick’s Day season (and all year round, honestly).

Even if you’re not Irish, it’s a fun place to stop by and appreciate all things Irish and to get your green on. You’ll be doing March THE SKEA WAY!

17.) Batch on Main

As summer winds down here at the Jersey Shore, I know I am getting in my last iced coffee orders. For this blog I’d like to highlight Batch on Main in downtown Manasquan. Not only is this business a success story, but the coffee is delicious. And who doesn’t love an iced coffee drink to kick start a hot summer day?

The shop has an extensive coffee and tea menu, ranging from a classic cup of joe to a beet root latte. I started my morning with a large iced vanilla latte with milk. It hit the spot. In keeping with the beverage options, Batch offers fresh pressed juices and original carbonated drinks.

Bakery items are baked fresh daily. The menu also includes wraps, toasts (avocado, almond butter, hummus) and tasty grab-and-go snacks. Gluten free and vegan items are readily available, too. I think their food and drink selections bring creativity, nutrition, and delectability!

While you wait for your order to be ready, you can peruse the shelves of merchandise curated by local artisans- candles, jewelry, accessories, plants, decor. Or you can take a seat in the warm, bright, inviting front window.

Batch is women-owned and was opened during the pandemic. Business seems to be thriving for them, because they will be opening another location in Point Pleasant in 2023! Until the second shop opens, try out an iced drink in Manasquan- you’ll be doing it THE SKEA WAY!

16.) The French Market

Quiche? Oui!

Among the many delectable treats at Rumson’s The French Market, my favorite is the rich, homemade mini quiche. Don’t make me choose a flavor, though!

Upon entering the intimate French bakery, you first smell the fresh scents of baked goods- both savory and sweet. Then you see their offerings behind quaint glass display cases. From there, you are able to order from the cases, have a sandwich or salad made from their unique menu, or just gaze longingly at the blueberry tart you probably shouldn’t have (but you only live once, right!?)

Image from The French Market Instagram

The French Market has outdoor seating for those who want to eat their quiche immediately (like me). They also have a little garden bistro space with tables and chairs, flowers, and gifts for purchase where you can eat, as well. It is very cozy and transports you to a delicate boulangerie en Paris.

If you’re in a rush, you can order any item to-go. If you need to grab a quick baguette for dinner, want to bring some mini cheesecake to a book club get-together, or sip on a freshly brewed cup of coffee for a mid-afternoon jolt, this is a great stop! They also have another location in Colts Neck. Plus, The French Market offers catering services.

Give it a try if you’re in the area. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Have a quiche THE SKEA WAY! Oui!

15.) La Mondina

I can’t end the year without giving a shout out to La Mondina in Brielle. Since the pandemic began, times have been tough for individuals and businesses, alike. However, La Mondina has made the most of it (and has helped me to make of the most of it, too)!

When the world began to reopen in the Summer of 2020, La Mondina took outdoor dining to the next level. They installed a huge, beautiful tent in the parking lot of the restaurant. It was adorned with decorative lights and chandeliers to make it feel cozy. There was faux grass to make you forget you were in a parking lot! The tent had flaps for windy or rainy days. And there were heat lamps for cooler evenings and nights that lingered into the Fall. It was great. This is when my wife, Maureen, and I began our weekly La Mondina visit.

We have eaten dinner at La Mondina almost every Friday for the last year and a half. Crazy, right?! Not to us. Our reservation was something to look forward to, especially when COVID really had us all down and out. We’d work hard all week and get ready for Friday night dinner- either just the two of us, or with another couple. It’s now just become part of our routine. Ok, so what’s so great about it?

The food! It’s the best around. The menu changes slightly with the seasons; everything is fresh and delicious. Favorites are the meatballs, the burrata, the bucatini cacio e pepe, the pork chop scarpariello- just to name a few. The drinks are great, too. There is an extensive wine selection and a number of local and international beers to choose from. The cocktail list is special, and is also changed seasonally.

(Image from lamondinabrielle.com)

When we eat at La Mondina, we are treated like family. We are greeted warmly by the friendly servers, managers, owners, bussers, bartenders, and hosts, alike. We just rented the space upstairs for my mother-in-law’s 87th birthday party. It was beautiful and private. We had a great time and we have the staff to thank for that. We also are planning to have my son’s rehearsal dinner in the back portion of the restaurant next month. We know that we will not be disappointed- and neither will our guests.

If you’re still more comfortable eating at home, La Mondia also offers take out with the option to order online- food AND cocktails! Otherwise, make a reservation today. You’ll be doing it THE SKEA WAY. Plus, there’s a good chance I’ll see you there!

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

14.) Autumn at The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore is not just beaches, shore lines, boardwalks and seaside shops/ restaurants. Just a few miles west in Howell Township lies the Manasquan Reservoir.

The Manasquan Reservoir, part of the Monmouth County Park System, is a great place to visit all year long. However, I find that during the Fall, its beauty is what attracts its visitors.

The reservoir is surrounded by a 5 mile path, which is strewn with wildlife and a canopy of tall, mature trees. The blazing reds, oranges, and yellows of the leaves make for an inspiring experience on the trail. Whether you’re biking, walking, running, exercising the pups, or birdwatching, you’ll find a spot to connect to nature AND to use the opportunity to work toward those 10,000 steps!

You can see from the video that the reservoir has docks and boat ramps, making the preserve appealing to boaters, kayakers, and fishermen, alike. For the kids, there is a playground and a short 1.1 mile trail and ice skating in the colder months.

Aside from an environmental and activity-filled attraction, “The reservoir [itself] is an important part of the water supply in Monmouth County. Water from the Manasquan River enters and exits the reservoir through the inlet/outlet tower in the front of the main dam. With a 4 billion gallon water capacity and a maximum depth of 40′, the reservoir can supply up to 30 million gallons of water a day.” The reservoir and its facility are vital for the betterment of our water supply. What a versatile pocket of Monmouth County!

I highly recommend an Autumn walk around the reservoir. You’ll be doing it THE SKEA WAY by enjoying the crisp air, the crunchy leaves, and some good exercise. Happy Fall to all!

13.) Pascal and Sabine

If ambiance (and good food) (AND good drinks) is your thing, Pascal & Sabine in Asbury Park is your spot. My daughter always says when she drinks or dines at Pascal & Sabine, she feels instantly transported from Asbury to somewhere like NYC or Paris. I agree!

My wife and I frequent Pascal & Sabine. We’ve gone for birthday dinners with our kids, we’ve gone to celebrate our anniversaries, we’ve gone with other couples to catch up over a nice meal, we’ve gone just to grab a quick cocktail at the bar. It’s a special place.

Let’s get to the good stuff: food and drink. It’s best to start off with a cocktail like Pascal’s Manhattan (topped with a flamed orange peel) or the Spring Nina. They have a great drink/wine/beer menu. A platter of oysters or escargot as an appetizer allows you to dive deeper into the European- inspired vibe. Dishes like the Steak Frites, the Mr. Smith Burger, or the Coq au Vin are ones that you’ll think about until you can order them again. Finishing off the meal with the Creme Brûlée or the Beignets and a hot cup of coffee really rounds out the full Pascal & Sabine experience.

Photos courtesy of @pascalandsabine on Instagram

Make a reservation to ensure you get a table. Hit the town THE SKEA WAY! Bon appetit!

12.) Mary’s Place & Manor by the Sea

This is the first video I’ve posted to my blog. Though it’s important to be grateful all year long, Thanksgiving is a great reminder for us to pause and reflect on our gratitude. I have much for which to be thankful. That’s not to say, however, that this year has been easy. The pandemic has affected us all- personally and as members of society.

I share with you a transparent glimpse into the last few months of my life. This vlog notes for whom I’m thankful, for what I’m thankful, and why I’m thankful.

I filmed this video in my backyard next to a wind chime given to me by a friend after my mom passed. It reads, “Listen to the wind and know I am near.” Notice how the wind picked up when I began talking about Mary’s Place & Manor by the Sea. Hi, Mom.

If you’d like to demonstrate your gratitude, show Mary’s Place or Manor by the Sea some love. That’s one way to do it THE SKEA WAY. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you.

11.) Watermark At Home Cocktails

We’re living in times when we are forced to change how we interact with others and how we behave in public places. Restaurants and businesses have had to modify how they operate in order to accommodate safe and healthy conditions for patrons. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least.

However, Watermark in Asbury Park has certainly taken necessary precautions to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for their clientele. They have even adapted an At Home Cocktail program for those who are unable to get a reservation or for those who prefer to stay home.

I can tell you from personal experience that these cocktails are DELICIOUS. They’re perfectly balanced, mixed and poured by the creator of the At Home Program, Greg Schaefer. I drank a Violeta in my backyard and it made me feel like I was on the North deck of Watermark.

Even Tuxedo attempted to enjoy a Punch Up for himself!

The cocktails available are:

  • In the Buff- Bourbon
  • Uncle Bobby- Rum
  • Pepino Picante- Tequila
  • Violeta- Vodka
  • Watermark Lemonade- Vodka
  • Punch Up- Gin

12oz cocktail bottles are sold individually for $30 each and serve 2-3 drinks. Or, the bar offers a Cocktail Kit, which includes a bottle of vodka, gin, tequila, rum, or bourbon (your choice!), a signature Watermark mixer, and garnish for $150. The Kit serves 12-15 drinks.

To order, call 732.788.3887 Friday-Sunday. Greg will hook you up and you’ll be winding down the summer THE SKEA WAY! Bring Watermark home. Cheers!

10.) Jersey Boy Boutique

Well, the Stay At Home order is still in full effect here. Many are itching for change, normalcy, and socialization. While others are finding respite among the chaos. Either way, a silver lining I’ve found is the outpouring of support for small businesses. These businesses and small town entrepreneurs have been particularly affected by this pandemic, yet with local patrons taking advantage of curbside pick- ups and porch drop-offs, we’re hoping these small shops will stay afloat.

One business I recently purchased from is Jersey Boy Boutique. The owner and creator, Vic, is a master embroiderer and has a keen eye for color, detail, and design. Specializing in custom, embroidered pillows, Jersey Boy Boutique can make designs of all kinds. I first heard about Jersey Boy Boutique when my daughter told me the business was generous enough to donate a 08750 (Sea Girt) beach badge pillow to a non-profit fundraiser she was working on. From there, I always kept this shop in the back of my mind.

Over the summer I worked with clients who were selling their beloved family home in Spring Lake. Theirs was known as “the house with the pink door”. For their closing gift, and as a way to remember the beauty of their home, I asked Vic to replicate a photo of the house on an embroidered pillow. My expectations were far exceeded!

Not only that, but when I presented the gift to my clients, their eyes welled with tears of joy. They were so genuinely thankful. The pillow featuring “the house with the pink door” is prominently placed in my clients’ new home. Thanks to Vic and Jersey Boy Boutique, my clients received so much more than an embroidered pillow; they were given a token of nostalgia and a visual reminder of the fond memories made on Monmouth Ave.

Jersey Boy Boutique nods to the Jersey Shore in its work- this company certainly does things THE SKEA WAY!

9.) I Welcome You To…

My blog is meant to be an insider guide to all things Jersey Shore. However, this post is going to be about appreciating where you live and where you find yourself in the here and now. I invite you to welcome this opportunity to celebrate your community. But first, let’s acknowledge our reality.

If we haven’t been directly affected by the international COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that we know someone else who has been. This is a tough time for a number of reasons. We’re worried. Businesses- large and small- are suffering. Bank accounts and stocks are fluctuating. Parents are balancing kids, school, and working from home. The global community has an ever-present anxiety about avoiding the virus, overcoming the virus, or coping with losing loved ones to the virus, and this is trickling down to our own personal communities. The news and social media are inundating us with statistics and emerging dos and don’ts. The uncertainty is unsettling.

There are also some trivial, yet legitimate questions/concerns. Amazon Prime is taking more than two days for deliveries. Will toilet paper become currency for Lysol wipes and chicken? The lines for “happy hour” are blurred: when does it begin? Does it even matter? What day is it? We have cabin fever.

So let’s put a positive spin on all of this. How can we welcome this as an opportunity to celebrate our community in a state of social distancing?

  • Go for a walk. Yes, the dog is probably sick of walking around the neighborhood, but you’re the boss! Trees and flowers are in bloom. Take some pictures and appreciate the Spring. Maybe there is a trail or a route you’ve wanted to explore for a while but haven’t. Now could be the time. Make memories in a new, local spot. *Jersey Shore readers can explore the Manasquan Reservoir or Hartshorne Woods Park.
  • Take a drive. If you live near the water, like I do, get in the car and ride along the ocean. Drive through the mountains, along the countryside, through your formerly- bustling downtown, or to a local historical site. Snap some more photos and put them on Facebook for friends to appreciate from afar.
  • Exercise. Yes, many gyms are offering classes online or through platforms, like Zoom. But fitness comes in many forms, which can be done outside, appreciating your neighborhood, town, or state. Ride your bike with your family . Skateboard on the driveway. Run on a different route. Swim (for those of you in warmer climates). Chase your kids around the backyard. Rekindle your basketball, soccer, or baseball skills- that could be good for a laugh! LOL Think outside the box. *Locals, consider updating your workout wardrobe at Barefoot Athleisure– they’re doing porch drop-offs!
  • Order take out from restaurants that are providing delivery or pick up options. Post a picture of your meal on social media and give the restaurant a shout out! They need you now, more than ever. This also saves you a treacherous trip to the grocery store. *Some local faves: Spring Lake Tap House, Cardinal, Speakeatery, La Mondina, Federico’s– to name a few.
  • Clean and organize your space. Show your home some love! Gather clothes, household items, books, toys, etc that you can prepare to donate to a local charity or non-profit. (This is also great for those of you planning to sell your home in the coming months.) *Jersey Shore charities to consider: Coastal Habitat for Humanity, Interfaith Neighbors, or the VNA Thrift Shop.

Welcome the opportunity to show love for where you live by bettering yourself and stimulating your local economy now and in the future. So much can be done by staying home. Be well, be healthy, & be safe. Celebrate your community THE SKEA WAY!

In light of the state of our world, I still welcome your calls, emails, social media engagement, and any questions you may have about the current market. My clients- past, present, and future- are my professional priority. I will always welcome the opportunity to be Your Trusted Real Estate Advisor at the Jersey Shore.