Eating In Essex County

Montclair Farmers' Market

Saturdays are busy days for me, so sometimes I just plan to stop by for a pickle. The pickle vendor sells pickles on a stick (the half-sours are legend!) and it just feels good to walk through the market and see everyone abuzz.

But I can't evIMG_6313er get away with just a pickle. The blueberries were only $2.50/pint this    week, and the tomatoes were literally calling my name. "Lina," they screamed. "Bring us home! We need to be with you and your basil and maybe a little mozzarella. A chunk of that bread wouldn't hurt either."

Who among us can resist the cry of a ripe red tomato? So through the market I trekked, collecting tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, eggplant, garlic, fresh eggs, a loaf of bread, some sunflowers, peaches, blueberries and, yes, a pickle.

The Montclair Farmers' Market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine. At this time of year it transforms the whole Walnut Street business area into a food-lover's street fair, with artisan food trucks and lots of breakfast goodies from Walnut Street eateries - Montclair Bread Co., La Salbuen, The Red Eye Café, Gina's Bakery and newcomer-that's-bound-to-be-a-hot-spot, The Corner. In the winter, there's a scaled bIMG_6317ack version, and far less al fresco dining, but it's wonderful to have farm fresh produce available all year long.

And because Montclair is so full of foodies, the Farmers' Market has even expanded to include a Tuesday venue on South Park Street from 1-7 p.m. from June through November.

The Saturday market is centrally located, so many people walk there or bike there. Sometimes there's live music or a pet adoption event. If we're looking at houses together on a Saturday, try to stop over. You'll walk away with a real taste of what Montclair is like. (Get it?)

Comedians in Sneakers in Montclair

comediansThe day Jerry Seinfeld was in town to shoot his web show with Montclair's Stephen Colbert, it was big news. I read about it at NJ.com and I think it was also mentioned on the Montclair Watercooler, our popular local online message board where people discuss everything from dog parks to parking decks.

If you're not familiar with Seinfeld's often delightful web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the title could not be more accurate. In each episode, Jerry drives a fancy car to pick up a funny friend and they go somewhere and grab a cup of coffee. Frequently, hilarity ensues.

Our local media sites -- Patch and Baristanet -- have pieces up today. I don't think the media buzz is simply about a famous person showing up - Montclair is home to many high profile personalities - but rather because they filmed a big part of the episode at the Bluestone. Bluestone is my go-to coffee shop; it's a quick walk from my house and a favorite breakfast destination, both for meeting friends and doing business. I could have easily been in there while they were filming, but alas I wasn't.

If I had been, I would have leaned over to Jerry and said, "Listen, if you ever want to move to Montclair, you can ditch the car altogether. This is a walkable suburb, you know." And then I would have suggested a slight title change: Comedians in Sneakers Getting Coffee.

However, without my input, the show apparently carried on as it was originally conceived, and the episode is premiering tonight. Even without the sneakers, I'm pretty excited to tune in.

In Montclair, Everything Old is New Again

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece called "The Death of the Fringe Suburb." The author, Christopher Leinberger, discusses the collapse of outer-ring suburbs and return to popularity of urban and inner-suburban housing. As a New Jersey Realtor, I feel sadness and concern about the decline of any housing market. I find it fascinating, though, that this trend--occurring in markets all over the country-- is a total reversal of the national post-WWII housing shift from cities to suburbs.

Back in the 1950s, cities emptied out as a car and a backyard came to exemplify the American dream.  In succeeding decades, McMansions took root in exurbs, as homeowners sought more and more house on more and more land. According to Leinberger, demand for this type of housing has collapsed and will not recover, due to generational shifts. Baby Boomers (born from 1946-64), are retiring at exactly the same time as Millenials (born from 1979-96) are ready to strike out on their own; neither group is looking for a large house in outer suburbia. Boomers are downsizing from their suburban homes, and Millenials tend to favor urban environments, both for the cultural attractions and the convenience of not needing a car.

Leinberger cites Pasadena, CA and Bellevue, WA as examples where mixed-use developments with good public transit access have been built where strip malls once stood. He also calls for greater public investment in bus and light-rail systems, bike lanes, and pedestrian walkways. His suggestions would provide jobs and help the environment, both of which the U.S. could really use.

For those of us living in Montclair, Maplewood or South Orange, we are fortunate to have much of this infrastructure already in place.  For those who are not, would you give up your 2 acres for a smaller lot and a shorter commute?  Would you trade your Olive Garden for Osteria Giotto? How about your Multiplex for the Wellmont Theatre?

Can You Walk to a Restaurant from Your Montclair Home?

Walkablilty makes no sense unless we have somewhere interesting to walk to. Walking around the neighborhood in loops is only valuable if you're looking for an exercise regimen. Destination walking is where it's at and shops, stores and restaurants are at the top of the list. Have you ever tried to find parking in downtown Montclair on a Friday or Saturday night? Well, it takes some strategic planning to score a prime spot across from your favorite haunt. Imagine those lucky ducks who just stroll out their front door, walk a few blocks and BAM!- they're in the hub of Montclair's dynamic restaurant scene with 130 of New Jersey's most fabulous places to eat.

Well guess what? It turns out commercial real estate benefits from walkability too.  Not that I'm surprised.  According to The Harvard Business Review, an increase of 10 points in walkability out of a score of 100 increases the value of the property by 9%.  What does this say to me?  That houses and retail have a symbiotic relationship and it's good when they're not too far away from each other.

Montclair NJ is a great example of how well this works.  Montclair has 5 thriving business districts all of which are nicely nestled among our neighborhoods.  From north to south there's Upper Montclair Village, Watchung Plaza, Walnut Street, Montclair Central and South End Village. If you live in Montclair, what restaurant do you walk to?