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These articles by Jamie Saxon were prepared for the June 9, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
What do knitting and martial arts, meditating and fly fishing, baby massage and women’s self defense have in common? Virtually nothing, you might say. Until you meet P. Casey Barish. Inspired by a martial arts master she studied with for 10 years, Barish, who also runs Casey, Inc., a small business management company for engineers, architects, and contractors, has lit on her own idea of nirvana in opening Studio Zen.
Barish, whose husband is Bill Barish, president of Commercial Property Network at 29 Emmons Drive in West Windsor, offers a dizzyingly broad range of more than 40 classes and workshops a week. It’s not just yoga. Or aromatherapy. Or reiki. Virtually anything can happen in this 1600-square-foot slice of serenity, as long as it falls under Barish’s umbrella philosophy – "a place of restoration and enlightment."
"Students can get a taste of every little thing," says Barish, gears the studio towards adult education. "No kids," says Barish, who gets plenty of exposure to those as the instructor of the children’s karate program at the Princeton YWCA.
The idea for Studio Zen was born out of Barish’s observations that instructors in the healing arts, be they Bach Flower Essence experts or jun shin jyutsu masters, couldn’t afford to open their own studio. "I’ve assumed the risk of the overhead so I can assist the instructors in charting their own course. I set this up to bring in people who have wonderful knowledge, and in turn I’m giving them the opportunity to play a role in their own financial plan. It’s the zen philosophy: It can be as simple or as complex as we want to make it."
Right now, Studio Zen’s simplicity is apparent in its clean-cut fee structure. For the summer, students pay a flat $13 per class or $286 for an unlimited summer pass good from June through August.
You can try Thai massage, creative writing, intuitive painting, laughter meditation, tai chi, adult guitar, acupuncture, krav maga (the practical self-defense techniques used by the Israeli special forces), sunrise chi gong (at 5:30 a.m.), even a class called yoga smoothie. Barish also has a Korean Long Bow master signed up to teach a workshop. As for the studio space, formerly a corporate kitchen that Barish found in total disarray, "it transformed itself," she says, hinting that the studio’s positive energy was already contained within the room; it just needing a little freeing up. Barish hired muralist and painter Rachel Styner to do the walls. "All I told her was that I’d like to see mother earth – all things come from her," says Barish. The result is a beautiful fluid painting of rich sunset hues suggesting an ephemeral female figure, part muse, part goddess, whose hair morphs into a rainbow of colorful swirls that flow across two walls. Jewel-toned saris purchased on eBay hang from the ceiling and walls. "Even the lighting fixtures are eBay," says Barish, an avid visitor to the online retailer.
So what’s with the fly fishing? "Men will always say, ‘there’s nothing for me here,’" says Barish. "But I found the hook-line for men: fly fishing. It’s meditative." Sharing her favorite example of the zen energy she’s convinced surrounds the studio, Barish says she was handing out flyers at Badger Bakery in Hopewell when she struck up a conversation with a gentleman about fly fishing. (There’s a creek right down the street and some of the practice work could take place in the studio.) Turns out the guy’s a master fly fisherman. The only problem is, like some sordid twist on Rumpelstiltskin, Barish left knowing only his first name. "Harold, we need you to come back! Please print that."
If you’re an ex-New Yorker pining away for the Greenmarket in Union Square, we’ve got good news. Greater Princeton now has three new farm markets. OK, so you might not bump into Peter Hoffman, chef and owner of the Savoy in SoHo, who goes to the Greenmarket three times a week, according to a recent New York Times piece, but you will find Jersey fresh tomatoes, greens, baked goods:, flowers, and most of all, that indescribable home-y farm market ambience.
It’s a little bit of Bombay, it’s a little bit of Paris. At Hot Breads, the new bakery just off Quakerbridge Road on Lawrence Square Boulevard South, you can get chicken tikka croissants but also real French pastries like eclairs and fruit tarts.
Lawrence Square is having its own Bollywood scenario, cuisine-wise anyway. Palace of Asia, two doors down, provides all the meat fillings for Hot Breads’ breads and pastries, baked on site from scratch by pastry chef Alcris Miranda and baker Anthony Ferrao. Next door is Rice and Spice, an Indian market.
Co-owners Amit Shah, from Barroda, India, and Pradeep Malhotra, from Bombay, are capitalizing on the growing Indian population in this area, but you don’t have to be Indian to enjoy their breads and pastries.
Shah says the clientele is 10 to 15 percent Americans, thanks to foot traffic fromother stores in the mall. "One American father and son come in three times a week for bread and stuffed pastries," says Shah, who got his B.S. in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson in 1987 and has also worked in pharmaceutical sales. He eyeballed the Lawrence Square site when his friend, Palace of Asia owner Nick Manekshaw, moved his restaurant there.
Hot Breads is a franchise that started in Chennai, India, then spread to the Middle East, London and Paris, and then the U.S., first in San Jose, Dallas, and Houston, then Edison. Shah says that Indian-Americans were traveling from as far away as New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to the Edison store, so he figured the Princeton area would be a prime location.
In addition to chicken tikka croissants, you can get paneer (cottage cheese) puffs, jeera (cumin seed) cookies, aloo capsicum (potato and green pepper) buns, vegetable braided bread, kheema (mince) puffs, and khari biscuits, a traditional salted tea biscuit.
Shah says the bakery caters to second-generation Indians who have American sensibilities and palates. "I’ve been brought up here for 32 years. Even though I’m an Indian, I think in a different way." To wit: In a couple of weeks, Hot Breads is introducing an Indian twist on the grilled panini sandwich – a vegetarian concoction of chutney, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato – which Shah says a typical young Indian-American couple might eat for a light dinner, and Indian ice cream in flavors like rose, mango, gulkand, and lychee.
In more bakery news, foodies will be happy to hear that the baked goods and artisan ice cream (in globally-correct flavors like Sicilian blood orange sorbet) at the Bent Sppon, which just opened on Palmer Squre, are made from scratch with no artificial colors or flavors. The real icing on the cake? Co-owners Gabrielle Carbone and her husband, Matthew Errico, both formerly of Small World Coffee, use local organic ingredients when possible.
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