When your favorite person says the three words you most long to hear, "let’s eat out," your first thought is probably not a strip mall next to a cornfield. However, you could do worse than choose from the offerings at Quakerbridge Village Commons at 4110 Quakerbridge Road, just past the mall. This new row of shops boasts two sit-downrestaurants that provide a real change from the usual eateries, plus a couple of chains for a quick bite.

Elements Asia has been well reviewed by several newspapers recently and is definitely worth the visit. The decor is comfortably elegant, terra cotta tones with dark wood tables accented by the graceful shapes of teapots in niches. The front room window is screened from the parking lot by sheer drapery so the passing parade of cars is not obtrusive. The ambiance is upscale enough for a semi-serious date but simple enough to encourage bringing the whole family. And don’t miss the delightfully surprising fixtures in the restrooms – ‘nuf said.

The cuisine may be a challenge for younger children since its focus is on the myriad styles of Asian cooking with a twist. While the basicsare there, the extensive specials highlight fusion. I tried a Thunder Roll ($13.99) which combined eel and tuna with jalapeno pepper and three colors of caviar served with a honey lime sauce – definitely not a combination I’d run into before. In fact, several of the specials feature a novel use of Mexican accents in the sushi.

The old standards are presented well and generously. My favorite, Pad Thai, was moist and fragrant.

The pricing is moderate with most entrees in the $12 to $19 range. Peking Duck is offered without the usual 24 hour pre-order requirement and is pricey at $34 ($29.99 at lunch). But order the Peking Duck salad which is only $9.99 and a great way to get a taste of that succulent treat. Appetizers are under $7 for the most part. The Spring Rolls are light and richly flavored and the Shrimp Tomyam soup is a real kick in the sinuses (a wonderful thing).

Elements Asia is BYO and they are very attentive to the empty glass, keeping things cold in the kitchen without the ubiquitous wine bucket to fall over (or without you having to reach into a paper bag sitting under the table).

At the other end of the mall, Java Moon offers elaborate, gourmet, main-course sandwiches, salads, and pastas, as well as full meals. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is something for every time of day. The cheery decor is welcoming and it is appropriate for all members of the family. The eggs benedict are a worthy brunch and the coffee cups are enormous, a fun look but one that leaves you with cold coffee long before you reach the end of the cup. The teas and coffees are a rich assortment, so leaving a half finished cup is a shame. Appetizers are pricey, ranging from $7.50 to $13.95 but the sandwiches are reasonable ($7.95 to $15.95) considering the two sides that accompany the large, almost architectural creations.

Java Moon is a small chain with locations all over New Jersey. They are BYO, but wine only.

Also at the Commons: A Quintos for a quick stop and a Dunkin’ Donuts for a flying pick-me-up on the dash from Quakerbridge Mall to the Hamilton cinemas.

Elements Asia, 4110 Quakerbridge Road, Quakerbridge Village Commons. 609-275-4988; fax, 609-275-4866. Home page: www.elementsasia.com.

Java Moon Cafe, 4110 Quakerbridge Road, Quakerbridge Village Commons. 609-275-7447.

Stephanie Plum Mania

If you’re a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, set inTrenton, you know that Evanovich is all about contests – she holds them monthly on her web site, www. evanovich.com. Now you can immortalize your name in the next Stephanie Plum novel and help support Crime Stoppers of Greater Trenton.

Buy a $10 raffle ticket in the "Name That Character Raffle" by logging onto www.TrentonCrimeStoppers.com, on or by Monday, September 12. The grand prize winner will have a character named after them in the next Stephanie Plum novel. The drawing date is Tuesday, September 13.

The winner will also get a two night stay for two at Trenton Marriott, dinner for two with Janet Evanovich; transportation for two to/from Trenton (not to exceed $1,000), and an autographed copy of a StephaniePlum novel.

Ten second prize winners will each receive an autographed copy of the next Stephanie Plum novel.

Auditions

Playhouse 22 auditions and performances are cancelled until further notice. During the process of moving to a new facility, the season will be on hiatus.

Call for Entries

MGP Studio Arts Gallery invites artists to enter work in "The Painterly Print" for original works on paper in any media except photographs and digital images. Work must be matted, framed, and ready to hang. The fee for up to three entries is $25. Delivery dates are Sunday and Thursday, September 25 and 29, from noon to 4:30 p.m. at 430 Union Square Drive, New Hope. Call 215-862-9690 for information.

Benefit Raffle

Crime Stoppers of Greater Trenton and Janet Evanovich announce a "Name that Character" raffle to benefit Crime Stoppers. Tickets cost $10 and the winners will be drawn on September 13. For information visit www.TrentonCrimeStoppers.com. See story page 22.

Volunteers Needed

Friends of International Center seeks volunteers for tutoring and host programs to help international graduate students, visiting scholars, and their spouses meet the daily challenges of living and studying in the United States. Visit www.princeton.edu/icfriends or call 609-258-1170. There is an open house on Wednesday, September 21, 7 p.m. at Murray-Dodge Hall on Princeton University campus.

Rockingham State Historic Site seeks docents to lead tours and assist in the building. Call 609-683-7132

Raritan Valley College Theater seeks volunteers to act as ushers, helpwith bulk mailings, special events planning, and assisting during corporate meetings. Call Cindy Alexander at 908-231-8801.

ARTWORKS and Mercer College begin non-credit courses for every level of artistic ability including pastels, oil painting, figure drawing, clay sculpture, and watercolors. Classes are held at 19 Everett Alley, Trenton. ARTWORKS for Kids classes beginning September 10 include "Drawing Basics," "Introduction to Painting," and "The Art Sampler." For information visit www.mccc.edu or call 609-586-9446.

Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County offers ESOL group conversation classes in Hamilton on Wednesday evenings. Tutor training courses begin on September 6 in Princeton. Prison literacy orientation workshops also begin in September. Call 609-587-6027 for information.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve offers a volunteer naturalist training program with monthly programs from October through February. Orientation is Saturday, October 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit www.bhwp.org or call 215-862-2924.

Princeton HealthCare System offers an eight-week volunteer training course in Monroe Township beginning mid-October for the hospice program. Call Helaine Isaacs at 609-497-4959 for information.

Mothers Arms, a national non-profit organization of safety-conscious women, seek women to being a Mercer County chapter. Visit www.mothersarms.org or call 800-464-4840.

Classes

Princeton Senior Resource Center presents "The Evergreen Forum" daytime courses for adults beginning September 26. Classes feature literature, art, music, drama, geography, and science. $50; $35 each additional course. Www.theevergreenforum.org or call 609-924-7108.

Dancing by the Peddie Lake, a six-week class in swing, foxtrot, waltz, and Latin dancing taught by Candace Woodward-Clough. $120 per couple. Visit www.dance.homestead.com or call 609-443-8990.

Faith

Community Christian Choir seeks singers of all ages and abilities for a Christmas musical. Register at Allentown Presbyterian Church, Route 539, 20 High Street, ALlentown, on Thursday and Friday, September 1 and 2, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Visit www.ccchoir.com or call 609-587-7076.

Beth El Synagogue seeks people who want to help build a sukkah or are interested in a "Sukkah Hop" on Tuesday, October 18. Call 609-426-8640.

The String of Pearls, the Reconstructionist Jewish congregation in Princeton, is accepting applications for Hebrew School. Call Lorraine Fisch at 609-799-2510.

Religion Newswriters Association invites journalists to the Lilly Scholarships in Religion program that provides up to $5,000 for college tuition, books, registration fees, and parking. Deadline are October 1, January 1, April 1, and July 1. Visit www.religionwriters.com or call 614-891-9001, ext. 3.

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