VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ - The aroma of evergreen, and gourmet foods floated on the air on Saturday as The Drunken Cherry Cookie Company invited the public to enjoy its holiday open house.
"We have the best Tomato Bisque," said store owner Sue Gregory, as she encouraged visitors to sample the bisque, her Loaded Potato Soup, Mac and Five Cheeses, and Pork Wellington.
Gregory pointed out some other delectables from behind her case at the store's counter, which were not for sample, but for sale, including: Stuff-in-muffins (the Mac and Five Cheeses with Lobster), full-sized Pork Wellington, fresh baked Brie with a truffle and wild mushroom pate, and quart-sized containers to take home of the store's soups.
"There is fresh lobster poached in our lobster bisque, with real sherry," Gregory told The Alternative Press as she gave a tour of the mouth-watering items.
One of the customers at the event was so enticed, she bought a quart to enjoy at home. Gregory, who is a Zagat-rated chef, suggested the client heat up the soup in a double boiler.
Gregory also recommended another way to indulge in the Lobster Bisque.
"My Surf and Turf Wellington is to die for," Gregory said to the customer.
According to The Drunken Cherry Cookie Company's menu, there are 16 varieties of Wellington the cookie/gourmet food/catering/unique gift store, specializes in.
"We serve Lobster Bisque on top of the Wellington," continued Gregory as the customer nodded. "It's deadly."
Maria Francavilla, who has worked with The Drunken Cherry Cookie Company since it opened a year ago, helped Gregory by carrying in freshly-prepared Wellingtons, baked Brie, and more into the store on Saturday, as Gregory cooked more in the store's offsite kitchen.
Gregory's son Justin, also one of the owners, manned the store, and encouraged customers to try the samples.
Peter Warren, and his wife Linda, were a couple of the customers who stopped by to sample and shop.
"It's nice to have a store of this diverse quality, merchandise, and good food," he said, as he looked around at the twinkling lights, Christmas trees reaching the ceiling packed with sparkling glass ornaments, and immense lifelike-looking stuffed animals staring down from their perched locations from higher shelves, including one up by the ceiling. "It's got an eclectic selection of merchandise, and a nice ambiance."
Linda Warren, who walked out carrying a small shopping bag from the register, described the whimsical atmosphere of the shop as "Christmas-y themed year round."
Gregory, who has a background in interior design, described the store's decor, which is the mix of items for sale artfully decorating it throughout, as reflective of her personality, and "rustic and elegant" at once.
"I'm a very big advocate of protecting the black bears, and the wolves," said Gregory, and many of the items she has for sale paid tribute to both animals.
Her love of dogs is also evident, and another part of her diversified background is that of a kennel owner, with her local Applewood Kennels. Gregory breeds championship Dobermans too, and her dogs participate in shows nationwide. Stuffed toy dogs of many breeds peek down on customers from shelves throughout the store as they browse. She sells allergy-free cookies for dogs, as well as Wellness brand dog food, the only commercial brand she will stock.
Of the dog cookies she sells, some are shaped like "doggie bagels," and others with Christmas themes, including small bags of coal. She joked how her dogs at home would be receiving the bag of coal cookies this year to snack on.
The dog cookies have the last laugh, as they are often sold out.
"We get wiped out," Gregory said of demand.
The highlight and theme however, are the cookies for humankind, most especially her store's namesake.
"It was a joke, it was a mistake," said Gregory of the famed Drunken Cherry, which she tried as an experiment by soaking sour tart cherries in Grand Marnier for several days. "I am a Zagat-rated chef, not a baker."
The "mistake" earned Gregory accolades with The Food Network for her recipe, as well as a local following.
"I'll take a pound of the Drunken Cherry Cookie," one customer requested at the counter, as he was handed his purchase of the dense cookie, taken freshly from a cooled environment in the back filled with chewy Drunken Cherries, and chunks of high-end chocolate.
Some of the other favorite cookies include: Peanut Butter Cup Chunk, Triple Chocolate Chunk, Malted Milkball Chunk, Harvest Oatmeal, Lavender-infused Pecan Shortbread, Rose-infused Macadamia Shortbread, and Double Chocolate Christmas Mint Chunk.
All of Gregory's cookies, which she described as "old-fashioned gourmet," can be shipped out, and a five-pound order of Drunken Cherry Cookies have become so sought after, they made their way "Down Under" to Australia recently.
"We are putting the gourmet back into the cookie," Gregory said.
Cookies and special catering orders are available for the holidays. Call: (973) 764-9744, or (973) 975-7900 for more information. The Drunken Cherry Cookie Company is located off of Route 515 in the A&P Shopping Plaza in Vermon. Click here
for the store's website.