Category Archives: Walnut Street

Montclair Bread and 4th of July Pie

Waiting to Taste

I can’t think of a better way to start a Montclair 4th of July weekend than a retro bake-off hosted by Montclair Bread Co. It’s no secret that the Montclair Bread Company bakes and sells amazing breads, muffins, croissants, and last but not least, their famous, delicious, and decadent doughnuts. But part of what makes this company special to me is their involvement in our town and their passion for community events. Whether it’s hosting their annual doughnut run, a sidewalk story time, or a Mom’s Night Out, owner Rachel Crampsey continues to make valuable contributions to this community. So when I saw an event in my Facebook feed that had the words, “Montclair Bread” and “Retro Bake-off” I got so excited! Not to mention, all of the event proceeds were benefitting Tony’s Kitchen. I asked Rachel how she came up with the idea and her response was so fitting and completely in the spirit of the Montclair Bread Company. I hope she doesn’t mind if I quote her word for word, because I love this story. “So…do you remember that Mom’s Night Out thing that I hosted for Mother’s Day? Marissa Rothkopf Bates was one of the moms selected. She and I started talking about our childhoods and the desserts we grew up with. Mine was Strawberry Pretzel Salad…I actually had it at my wedding!! She had never heard of it. The next day, I made some and delivered it to her doorstep. She showed me her collection of vintage cookbooks. Then we thought it would be really funny to introduce all these crazy old recipes to Montclair (home of organic, all-natural everything!). We both have connections to Toni’s Kitchen. Just like that…the contest was born.” So there you have it, the first annual Retro Bake Off back story. The entry form for the contest included 6 categories:
1. Made with Jello – includes molded desserts & sweet salads
2. Cakes – classic layers, poke, dump & ice box
3. Buckles, Bettys & Pies – if it’s baked with fruit, it probably goes here
4. Candies/Fudge – you don’t have to leave out the marshmallow fluff or Velveeta!
5. Red, White & Blue – it’s not the 4th of July without a Jello Berry flag!!!
6. Kid’s Competition – open to aspiring bakers aged twelve and under

I decided to enter Chocolate ice box pie into the contest. I grew up in Texas and my siblings and I would love going to Luby’s Cafeteria. The most exciting part of the experience was choosing our own dessert (and the fact that we were allowed to get dessert every time). While the restaurant doesn’t call their desserts retro, they are the one menu item that hasn’t changed in at least 30 years. I adapted it straight from the Luby’s Cafeteria recipe. I thought it fit both the retro theme (especially since marshmallows are an ingredient) and had sentimental meaning. This meant it would be fun to not only bake, but introduce to this part of the country. I documented some of  the process for your viewing pleasure.

Mmmm, Chocolate.
Mmmm, chocolate.
Adding Whipped Topping
Adding Whipped Topping
Adding Whipped Topping
Adding Whipped Topping

Whipped Cream

Spoon lickin' good. The only part of the pie my kids tasted.
Spoon licking good. The only part of the pie my kids tasted.
Adding Chocolate Shavings
Adding chocolate shavings
Inside Ice Box Pie
Someone Ate Some

On Saturday July 2nd, I showed up at Montclair Bread’s Label Street Bakery (early as instructed) where crowds were already gathering to purchase a taste (10 tasting spoons could be purchased for $5).

Bake off beginning
Bake-Off & Sale

When I took my pie inside I was delighted to see so many delicious desserts displayed with pride and care. Seeing all of the bakers in their vintage dresses and aprons, setting up their desserts was a most beautiful sight. Rachel told me there were approximately 50 entries in the contest.

Pie Table
Pie Table
Jello Category
Jello Category
Kid's Table
Kid’s Table

After a few minutes of oohing and ahhing over the treats, we were asked to step outside so that the judging could begin. Until that moment, I only cared about the fun of participating. But everyone was talking about the judging and I got a bit nervous and competitive. Especially since my 5-year-old (who wouldn’t even taste my pie) kept saying, “I want you to win Momma.” The judges included Rachel’s grandmother (who tasted every entry), Liz, a representative from the historical society, Hani from Haniela’s – a baking blog and YouTube channel,  Amy from Toast, and Montclair Bread’s own pastry chef, Carolyn.  Marissa & Rachel oversaw the process and stepped in to break a tie.

Retro Jello Desserts
Retro Jello Desserts

While the judging took place, spectators and contestants were are able to purchase treats from Montclair Bread Company, including ambrosia salad and pistachio jello salad. They also had retro jar desserts with layered jello. And of course, no Montclair Bread Company event would be complete without doughnuts. The Creativity Caravan was there making “Montclair Sunsets” a fruity minty punch and Toast was selling root beer on tap with an optional scoop of ice cream.

Making "Montclair Sunsets"
Making “Montclair Sunsets”
Listening to winners
Listening to Winners

After each category Rachel Crampsey would emerge from the judging area to announce the winners and hand out prizes. By this point there was a large lively crowd and participants were anxiously awaiting to hear results and taste the entries. I was on the outskirts of the crowd and all of the sudden heard my name. My wonderful friend who came to support me was probably more thrilled than I was. It was an honor to be named first place pie! I must say, I got pretty into holding the title.

My daughter and I accepting the prize from Rachel.
Me, Rachel, and Daughter
Golden Spoon!
Golden Spoon!

There was also a grand prize winner, Lindsey Wormald who won for her very cherry coke cupcakes and was crowned (with an actual crown) retro baking queen. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a photograph, but you can see the retro baking queen, here.

The following is a list of all the contest winners:

1.  Granny’s Haystacks – Alice Magdziak
2.  Cheesecake Fudge Brownies –  Sara Carmona
3. 4th of July Crack – Kim ranges
Buckles & Pies
1. Chocolate Icebox Pie – Amber Haas
2. Oatmeal Cream Pie – Lindsay Jones
3. Key Lime Pie – Danielle Raymond Neff
1.  Cousin Isabel’s Secret Recipe Cake- Liz Githens Coyle
2. My Mother’s Chocolate Cake – Jill Raleigh
3.  Vera’s Orange Layer Cake- Hillary Walter
Made with Jello:
1. Pistachio Fluff – Judy O’Rourke
2. Strawberry Pretzel Salad – Laura Ellman
3. Green Jello Mold – Lindsay Wormald
For kids
1. Lemon Almond Cake: Ava Chickering
2. Tropicups: Jarrett Chickering
3. Wacky Crazy Cake: Kids at Toni’s Kitchen


Kid's Table
Second Place Winner!

After the judging was finished, the crowds were let it to taste.



Now I have one more thing to add to my list of Montclair 4th of July events to look forward to. Rachel also told me that plans are already in the works for next year and they will be adding a band and including a people’s choice portion of the judging.

The Aftermath
The Aftermath

Thank you Montclair Bread Company! I am happy and proud to live in a town where our business owners are inventive, involved, and inspiring. It is companies like this one that make this town unique and make this large and ever growing town of Montclair, keep it’s small town feel.

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Walnut Street Welcomes Montclair – Central Montclair

Two weeks ago Friday marked the first day of May in Montclair and the start of a busy town calendar. With the first day of the Montclair Film Festival on Friday, and Glen Ridge Avenue and Walnut Street fairs, the town was bustling and the sun was shining. Welcome to Walnut street, a street festival just 3 years young, took place on Saturday May 2nd and successfully captured the vibe of one of my favorite neighborhoods and food destinations in town. I’ll be honest, it’s taken me so long to write this because instead of enjoying everything this street fair had to offer, interviewing vendors, and taking great photos, I was experiencing this fair with my family. Experiencing something with your family when you have a 4 year-old and an almost 2 year-old is kind of like trying to “experience” your wedding day. You have people (in this case tiny humans) pulling you in different directions while really cool things happen around you and you attempt to taste really good food, but end up watching other people (in this case tiny humans) eat the food instead. And someone always ends up melting down or falling asleep. So I will attempt to paint a picture, although I have to admit that my experience was somewhat limited because we had the nap time clock ticking from the moment we arrived.

We arrived on Walnut Street on a perfectly beautiful day with the boy in  his stroller and the  4 year-old pushing the stroller into the street. My wife bribed our daughter with a donut because for some reason, a street fair didn’t sound fun to her that day. So of course the first thing we had to do was get a donut. As we entered Walnut street, I started drooling over the beautiful art, antiques, and other cool vintagey items that I had to walk quickly by, so we could get the 4 year-old her donut. We immediately recognized friends outside the Montclair Baby location and stopped to chat.

Poofy Organics Table

Montclair Baby Walnut Street Fair

But of course after 5 minutes we were reminded of donuts and Montclair Bread had a genius donut decorating table for the kids. So not only did my kids get a donut, but they got to do something interactive. Here are some kiddos decorating donuts in front of Montclair Bread.

Montclair Bread Donut Decorating Donut Decorating at Montclair Bread

She finally got her donut. She had to wait a whole 5 minutes. The torture…

Donut Eating

Her brother ate his donut in 10 seconds and wanted another while she was still taking dainty little bites.

Boy Eating Donut

But there was so much more than donuts. Walnut Street really has become a destination for food. With Gina’s, Montclair Bread, Le Salbuen, Red Eye Cafe, Corso 98, Mac Attack, Babo Teahouse, and the long-standing Egan and Sons and Halcyon, all in a three block stretch, Walnut Street has become dense with fine foods and rich flavors.

Le Salbuen Sampling

In addition to permanent food options, Walnut Street hosts the weekly Montclair Farmer’s Market, which opens the door to even more fresh food and of course, food trucks!

I spent a good 15 minutes in the taco line and lost my family. Good thing for me, I ran into friends and then eventually reunited with my family. Also, good, the tacos from Taqueria Autentica (taco truck)!

Taco Truck!

There were also crafts and activities for kids that were really fun and entertaining, but I have no photos because I was chasing my children and eating tacos in the kid zone. My daughter painted a rock and helped create some weird sculpture-like thing with big sticks. I was able to grab a bubble tea from Babo on my way out and sample delicious cake from Gina’s, as my son was fading and whining for his nap.

Welcome to walnut food sampling

Walnut Street is a special place in a special town. My favorite thing about this whole experience is the sense of community I feel when I go to these events. My friend Stephanie and  her husband Logan actually told me they had a bet going on to see if they could guess the number of people they would know at Welcome to Walnut Street. She guessed more than 9.5, which was their betting number, and he said less. Well their final count was 21! I love this because Montclair really is a small enough town where you actually see people you know on a regular basis. But it’s also large enough to have something for everyone and large enough to meet and see new and interesting people all the time. It may have been a bit of a whirlwind with the kids, but I’m so glad they had the opportunity to attend this event and I’m glad they will have so many more opportunities to attend town events in the future. This is a town where so many people are welcome and where the town embraces community and variety and makes you feel like everyone is a part of it.

I would say that Welcome to Walnut was a success. I thoroughly enjoyed attending this event with my family. And I loved watching my kids absorb everything that was going on around them. But, there were things, like the “poem ladies” (photo below) as I call them, that I would have loved to wait in line for, if I had a bit more time that day.

Poem Ladies

Music on WalnutWelcome to Walnut Street

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