My Kitchen Witch is the brainchild of Karyn Jarmer. She works her magic in the kitchen to provide her customers with high quality brunch. You have a lot of options available to you with the eggs and omelets, pancakes, cereals or breakfast sandwiches. This eatery is also open seven days a week, so you can enjoy brunch whenever you want. Fall under a spell at My Kitchen Witch.
"Congratulations! The readers of Monmouth Health & Life, the Good Living Magazine, have voted My Kitchen Witch one of the best local eateries in our Annual Best of Monmouth Readers' Choice Awards."
So started the letter that informed Karyn Jarmer, Owner and Head Chef of My Kitchen Witch, that her restaurant had won in the Best Brunch category. "Many thanks to our loyal customers for taking the time to vote - it made all the difference," says Karyn.
In 2015, Jarmer received a similar letter letting her know that the Magic Potion Juice Bar had won in the Best Juice Bar category.
Not only do the cafe customers enjoy the delicious brunches. Recently, while many of us were watching Wimbledon, the Seabright Lawn Tennis and Cricket Club, one of our catering clients, was enjoying "Club Breakfast at Wimbledon" with scones with clotted cream and preserves, legendary French toast, or delicious omelets. Founded in 1877, the Seabright Lawn Tennis and Cricket Club is one of the oldest active clubs of its kind in the United States.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Karyn Jarmer decided it was time to reinvent her life.
The Neptune native was an accomplished cook, living in New York City and catering the sets of numerous soap operas as well as TV shows hosted by such celebrities as Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, Maury Povich and Rosie O'Donnell.
"I lived in a five-story walk-up on the Upper West Side and remember feeling so isolated after that tragedy. I wanted to come home to the beach, woods and animals," Jarmer, 48, said. "I needed to be around people and nature."
Jarmer ultimately moved to Monmouth Beach and, two dogs and eight cats later, decided to launch My Kitchen Witch Cafe, a breakfast and lunch eatery that showcased all of the things she'd loved and learned in her own house growing up.
"My mother would make my sister and I special things to eat and we always felt loved. I grew up working in different restaurants, including Schneider's in Avon, and loved how you could work your way up the ladder and learn so many things," she said, noting that she knew early on in her life that making copious amounts of delicious food for people to enjoy "was what I wanted to do."
Inside the cafe, which seats 50 indoors and another 40 on the patio outside and employs a team of 15 who have been with the establishment since it opened nine years ago, Jarmer delights in "playing music from the 1940s like my grandmother did and making comfort food that people remember from their childhood - with a healthy twist."
Such dishes include savory French toast, homemade granola, buttermilk biscuits with strawberry butter, whole-grain pancakes, and super-size salads featuring vibrant greens like kale and spinach served with fresh fruit, beets, avocado, vegetables, nuts, and other popular add-ins; steak, chicken, and shrimp dishes along with hearty gourmet sandwiches and sides further ensure that "there's something for everyone," she said.
Jarmer's whimsical affinity for witches has led to the creation of several signature menu items - including the Toil and Trouble Omelette, Eggs Bene'witch, a variety of "sandwitches" and the Cauldron Salad. She has inspired scores of devoted patrons to contribute to her collection of witch-themed items, which help decorate the nooks and crannies of the restaurant. "We're all a family here and I love when our customers call me 'Witchipoo' or 'Witchy Woman,' " Jarmer laughed. "It's cute and fun."
Though menu items like hearty egg dishes and meatloaf sandwiches may smack of the diner model that New Jersey is famous for, Jarmer insists that she's not competing with diners.
"We don't serve rye bread or English muffins or home fries here - our food is better, healthier and higher quality," she said, a claim that longtime customer Anna Maria Kalinowski of Monmouth Beach can attest to.
"My Kitchen Witch is such a wonderful place - everyone is so friendly there and the food is outstanding, creative and completely homemade," said Kalinowski, 50. "Karyn has so much positive energy and is passionate about what she does; her success is a reflection of her talent, upbeat style, and the way she treats everyone - like family."
In addition to the cafe, Jarmer recently took over adjoining space next door vacated by a former travel agency to install a market in which she sells popular homemade menu items such as her pancake mix, granola and coffee as well as "grab-n-go" dinners featuring a choice of a freshly-made entree and two sides for $8.95. Another arm of her business - her thriving catering enterprise - supports a variety of local customers and events as well as an ongoing lineup of movie and TV clients, including the sets of "The Colbert Report," "Project Runway" and Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."
"Heidi Klum always requests my carrot cake!" Jarmer said of the "Project Runway" host.
"In the end, in good times and in bad times, it's all about the food," Jarmer said. "We're a very friendly, casual place with great comfort food where everybody runs into neighbors and makes friends."
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Karyn Jarmer has created a wickedly good place to eat at the Jersey Shore - with an angelic twist.
Jarmer, the chef-owner of My Kitchen Witch Cafe in Monmouth Beach, said she offers comfort food that is healthier than traditional recipes and makes many dishes that are accessible to those who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free.
"It's my challenge to make comfort food more healthy," she said, explaining how she uses SkimPlus milk in her macaroni and cheese to spare her customers half the fat of the regular dish.
Her fried eggplant is breaded with cornmeal rather than breadcrumbs. The switch, she said, was based on an experiment to satisfy a customer with celiac disease. "I just tried it one day, and it worked," she said, adding that cornmeal stays crispier and firmer and doesn't absorb as much oil as breadcrumbs. "It's fantastic."
Jarmer, 48, of Oceanport, grew up in Bradley Beach and the Shark River Hills section of Neptune. She started in the restaurant business at age 15, learning the art of home-cooking at Schneider's Restaurant in Avon. She moved to Manhattan the day after graduating from Neptune High School in 1983 and began working at the Fulton Fish Market, shucking clams and working her way up to manager at a South Street Seaport cafe three years later.
Jarmer founded Bedrock Catering in 1993 in Manhattan, quickly building a reputation in the television and film industry. Her first big client was "Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee." "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and other talk shows and soap operas soon followed.
"When you do a good job, word gets out," she said.
The city changed, however, after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Jarmer was out of work for a month. Frequent bomb threats, reduced parking spaces and intense security checks made deliveries very difficult. Deadlines were much harder to meet.
"I couldn't take the stress anymore," she said.
Jarmer, who lived on the Upper West Side, said she recalled sitting alone on a couch in her apartment after the attack. She didn't know any of her neighbors. She had kept a place at the Shore, and started spending more and more time there from that point on.
"The emphasis here is on healthy choices and quality ingredients, with the kind of little touches - strawberry butter with the biscuits, seasonal fruit atop the pancakes and French toast - that raise My Kitchen Witch above the cafe crowd."
One sign proclaims "The Witch is in." Another reads "Broom parking." You can get a "sandwitch of the East" (on greens) or a "sandwitch of the West" (on choice of bread).
The music on her cell phone recording? From "The Wizard of Oz," what else?
Okay, Karyn Jarmer, how much of a witch are you?
"When I worked in the city, my nickname was the Witch because I was fast and I could quickly adapt to situations," she explained.
The Neptune native ran a catering business in New York for 15 years with many high-profile clients - Regis and Kathie Lee, Regis and Kelly, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," "All My Children," Nickelodeon, MTV and more. "Once I got on Rosie, everyone wanted me," she said. "Everything she touches turns to gold."
But the stress of working in the city post-9/11 made her seek refuge in her familiar Jersey Shore; she opened My Kitchen Witch in May 2005 - on Friday the 13th, no less. She retired from and then resurrected the catering business, but the 45-year-old cook can be found at least five days a week in her country-cute cafe, with hardwood floors, indoor and outdoor seating, and assorted knickknacks and tchotchkes on the walls and ledges - rolling pins, peach baskets, food signs and one "Bewitched" lunch pail.
"I love junk," Jarmer said. "Other people's junk is my treasure."
The emphasis here is on healthy choices and quality ingredients, with the kind of little touches - strawberry butter with the biscuits, seasonal fruit atop the pancakes and French toast - that raise My Kitchen Witch above the cafe crowd.
Nearly all of the sandwiches sampled turned out well. Highly recommended: The Broomstick Hilda Salad (shredded chicken with red seedless grapes, apples, craisins, onions, $8.95) and the Tuscan tuna (tuna, capers, red onion and mayo, $8.95). The grilled cheese (with white cheese, spinach and tomato on Texas toast) is comforting and yummy; you decide whether it's worth the $8.95 price tag.
Another good choice: the grilled chicken sandwich with apple, brie, bacon and raspberry dressing ($8.95). The turkey in the roast turkey sandwich (with bacon, goat cheese and raspberry dressing, $8.95) seemed lackluster, though.
The bread - particularly the ciabatta and multigrain rolls - are first-rate. The scones ($2.50) are run-of-the-mill, but the biscuits accompanying the egg dishes are not your usual by-the-numbers, straight-from-the-box biscuits. They're sturdy and irresistible: I could eat them for breakfast eight days a week.
The There's No Place Like Home Omelette ($8), with Vermont cheddar and apple, is hefty but tasted dried-out. The cinnamon French toast, though, is a winner - thick slices of bread topped with seasonal fruit ($6.50).
The Magical Mediterranean Salad (feta, olives, diced red onions, roasted red peppers, English cucumbers, $9.95) manages to be different with its dollop of tasty low-fat hummus, but the salad was drowned in balsamic vinaigrette. A lighter hand, and a better salad overall, appeared in the Cauldron Salad (baby greens, oranges, apples, pears, grapes, sundried cranberries, feta and candied walnuts with a low-fat poppy seed dressing, $9.95).
The chicken with stars soup ($4.95, with biscuits) is thick with chicken - thick, period, and a surefire cold-weather warmer.
On Friday nights, there's a candlelit five-course dinner. It's by reservation - sort of.
"I like to cook," Jarmer said. "If there's a table (open), you can sit."
My Kitchen Witch Cafe 29 Beach Road, Monmouth Beach, NJ 07750
(732) 229 3033 | email@example.com