NOTE: The following blog post is my "formal" entry to join The Star-Ledger's Munchmobile crew. To learn more about the Munchmobile and the contest, click here

To "Eat & Be Mary" readers: Your support would mean the world to me. Please feel free to leave a comment, letting the selection committee know that they NEED to save me a seat on the Munchmobile.


I wasn't always a fan of New Jersey. Blasphemy, I know, but hear me out. This is a good story.

Even after growing up in the Meadowlands area with easy access to about 5 malls, some of the best diners in the country, and Medieval Times, I still wanted out, badly. After graduating college, I took the first job that gave me a ticket out of the Garden State. It took five years of living in Connecticut and Delaware to make me realize what I had left behind: good food.

Now, don't get me wrong; my time away from New Jersey was something I'd never take back. I got to see what was beyond the Turnpike and stumbled across some culinary gems in the process. However, the most important thing I found during this whole experience was my ability to connect with people through food. Food is essentially my love language (Someone call the author of "The Five Love Languages" book and tell him that he missed the sixth one.).

Whether it was asking my neighbors for recipes, reaching out to my co-workers for restaurant recommendations, or inviting people from church over for dinner, food was always the common denominator. As nerve wracking as it was taking the first step towards connecting with complete strangers, in the end, I was rewarded with friendships with people who were just as passionate about food as they were about their local communities. Living outside New Jersey made me a firm believer that food is the best "people-connector". After five years away, I was ready to come back and put my belief to the test in my home state. So, I returned, moved to Jersey City, and I fell in love...with New Jersey, not with anyone in particular (That's a whole other blog post for another day.).

Like all modern day love stories, mine started with help from the internet. No, was not involved, but I did use social media and user review websites to get reacquainted with New Jersey. I met other Jersey City residents at Meetup gatherings. I scoured Yelp reviews for highly rated eateries. I used Facebook to reconnect with old hometown friends who showed me what had changed and what had stayed the same (Goodbye, Jim Dandy's in North Arlington. Hello, Topaz Thai in Belleville.).

Eventually, my "online phase" of getting to know New Jersey led to some pretty interesting "first date" experiences. My parents and I enjoyed getting together at least twice a month to check out a different Filipino restaurant just to get back in touch with our roots.

Typical Filipino Lunch at Max's Chicken in Jersey City w/ Pop and Mom. 
We eat dessert first in our family (halo-halo in this case).

When funds ran low (because I ate out often, of course), potlucks with friends became the new brunch get-together and gave me an excuse to turn on my stove.
Fact: Jersey girls can cook. 

Even when taking the risk of dining by myself just to check out a new restaurant, I made a new friend as we dined at the countertop (Shameless plug: Read blog post "Getting Lucky at Sam AM".).

News of my foodie-ness even spread around work where one of my coworkers supported my bacon obsession with my all-time favorite tumbler:

They know me TOO well at work. 

And during all these adventures, I somehow managed to sneak into this ad for last year's New York City Wine & Food Festival (Yes, I'm bragging.):

That's me in the blue shirt,
trying to keep it together next to Iron Chef Morimoto.

I've been attempting to capture this new-found love for my home state and these food connections through my "Eat & Be Mary" blog. In hopes that I would continue sharing stories about my food obsession and too-funny-to-be-true social experiences, my friend from Delaware created this blog with complete conviction in me and my writing. Sure, it's not the best blog in the world. It's not updated frequently, the writing isn't riveting, and 97.2% of the pictures came straight from my iPhone. Yet, it's been a catalyst for me to get out there, explore, eat, and be myself. I get to show that it's not just about the delicious delicacies that New Jersey has to offer; it's also about the amazing people I've met along the way over a good meal.

Jersey City has been the perfect playground for these adventures. It's getting itself on the food map (See here, here, and here.). My new zip code's even got its own Buzzfeed article. JC's made it, folks. 

But Jersey City's just the beginning. I'm ready to add a couple new chapters in my love story with New Jersey. I want to go beyond where PATH trains can't take me, and I think hitching a ride on the Munchmobile can help with that. I'm willing to talk to complete strangers. I'll share my food! (That's actually a lie. I'm an only child. You know the drill.) I'll even try to parallel park the Munchmobile (That's lie #2. Is that vehicle even covered by insurance?).

From one Jersey fan to another, I'd be extremely honored if the Munchmobile was part of my story. 


  1. mary is the biggest foodie i know! that girl lives to eat and, i suppose, eats to live. we're going to europe and all the girl wants to do is eat! eiffel tower be damned! she'd be awesome on your munchmobile. she'd make tons of friends and laugh loudly. trust me when i say that to eat a meal with mary is an experience that you have to do at least once, if not hundreds of times!

  2. I cannot agree with Andrea more! Mary has a huge appetite for food (obviously), has no fear in meeting new people, and just lives a passionate life in general. She is pure light and anyone who is around her for a second can easily see how incredible she truly is! Mary would be a keystone player the Munchmobile Team and make this summer's experience a unique and unforgettable one!!

  3. Mary is meant for the Munchmobile! She's a lover of food, people, and life in general. With her foodie experience, Mary is sure to be an asset for the Munchmobile team! Everyone I know loves her, and the Munch team will too!

  4. Joseph CirilloMay 1, 2014 at 8:17 AMMary is my go to girl for dining in NJ. If I need a restaurant for a date, I call Mary and she has never let me down yet. Friends from out of town are coming, I call Mary. Want to experience a new restaurant myself, yes you guessed it, I call Mary. Neither weather, nor illness will keep her from her prize. On top of being a foodie legend, Mary also can instantly light up a room with merely her smile. I've never heard of a person who wasn't drawn to her magnetic personality as I know the munch team will be. She is a must have passenger on this food journey and a perfect fit for the munch mobile. You must pick Mary!

  5. Mary Mary quite contrary... uhm, wait, not contrary at all. In fact you'll find yourself laughing along with her almost immediately. She wasn't kidding about food being her love language! But she was kidding a little bit about not sharing food. Mary, you have an infectious spirit, you bring energy, fun, and adventure into the room. I couldn't see how they could have this munch-mobile without you!

  6. HEY Munchmobile!!!! Pick this chick up and take her around NJ ! Mary was born to spread her love of food and laughter. She even brings her own tupperware (BYOT).

  7. She has menus on her coffee table as reading material. Mary knows food. When Mary is around, all I do is laugh and eat. She will gasp and need every detail if you mention you heard about a new restaurant. I've never known anyone more passionate about food, and I know a few chefs personally! Mary's hobby is food, her passion is eating, and she's super people-loving, super sweet, and sharp as a tack. Also quite hilarious and easy to be around. Just talking about Mary makes me want sushi STAT!

  8. As I think back to the first time I met Mary, I smile really really big! We were new graduates and working together. I am a vegetarian and Mary, obviously, is not. One day in our training class, I was standing in line for lunch and realized there was nothing for me to eat. I didn't want to be that weird girl, the "pesky veggie," so I kept my mouth shut trying to figure out my plan of action. And directly in front of me was Mary, eyeing the food excited to try a little bit of everything. As am brooding over my lunch, I heard Mary giggle then let loose one of her amazingly infectious laughs and then I knew, at that moment, we were destined to be more then just coworkers. I got the courage to ask this complete stranger to pick the cold cuts off my sandwich. Not only did Mary happily agree, didnt question or judge me but she asked if she could have my leftovers!!! We were the perfect pair from that moment forward. Pick Mary bc shes not only one of my best friends but bc shes a sweet, caring soul who naturally knows a ton about food!

  9. Mary brings joy and fun to anyone and everyone she comes in contact with! I met Mary at a birthday dinner for a mutual friend and it wasn't until she and I connected on Facebook and she saw all the food I made and posted on there that we became foodie buddies. Our friendship started around food and I would not have it any other way. I have had so many adventures centered around food. We are always trying new restaurants and meeting new people from PA to NJ and places in between. Mary adores life, food, fun, adventure' and cherishes her friends. She would be the perfect food companion for anyone. Pick her!!!!!

  10. The first time I went out with Mary, we barely knew each other at that point, just worked together for a little while. We decided to go to PF Chang’s for dinner. During that dinner she mentioned dim sum, and I had no idea what that was, completely clueless. Well she totally instructed me! She told me that we should go out for dim sum on a Sunday in Philadelphia. I readily agreed, eager to try food I’ve never experience before, and I told her “I’m bringing my girls because they’ll eat anything.” This past March we celebrated our 4th annual dim sum day, so looking forward to the fifth! We have to do that one in style. My friendship with Mary has turned into sisterhood, and she is always my partner in crime for any food adventure. She has been the one that has helped me expand my experiences with food, and I love that we can always go exploring new ones together. Mostly new to me, because she most probably has already tried it twice! The Munchmobile will be so much more fun, if Mary is in on the adventure.

  11. Mary is a foodie to the core. If the Food Network is willing to use her fabulous face to help promote the Food & Wine Festival, she surely deserves a spot on the Munchmobile! Pick (Eat and Be) Mary!

  12. I couldn't imagine a better person to hop on the Munchmobile! You've guided me to many great eateries in our area and I look forward to many more future food adventures. The readers of the Star Ledger would be lucky to benefit from you're opinions!!

  13. You would literally be crazy not to pick Mary to do anything food-related. This girl can EAT. And she's the best person ever, as evidenced by the testimonials above. Don't be dumb, pick her!


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