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Firefighters Will Heat Things Up During Ultimate Fire Department Cook-off

Cranford firefighters browsed the aisles of a local supermarket Jan. 25 in preparation for a cooking competition set for next week.

Carrots or asparagus? Fresh herbs or dried? How about those potatoes? Four off-duty browsed the aisles of the Garwood ShopRite Wednesday, pondering produce and critiquing canned goods as they prepared for next week's Ultimate Fire Department Cook-off.

The second annual event will take place during the Cooked and Uncorked Food and Wine Festival benefiting New Jersey State Firefighter’s Mutual Benevolent Association and Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation. The cooking competition is part of the culinary event, where participants will be able to experience the tastes and flavors of more than 39 New Jersey restaurants, caterers and dessert shops all in one location. This festival, which draws people from throughout state, will be held at The Pines Manor, 2085 Route 27, Edison from 6 to 9 p.m.

Firefighters Matt Lubin, John Dillon, Matt Steitz and Dean Russamano chatted colorfully as they pushed their shopping cart throughout the supermarket, stopping to discuss the ingredients they will take with them to the competition. Talking about the merits of using various types of wines in the dish, and mulling over presentation of their culinary creation, Cranford's bravest sounded like seasoned chefs on a mission.

Stopping by the butcher counter, the guys were greeted by their trusted butcher, Tony Leone, whom they affectionately call their "paisan," or good friend, for those who aren't familiar with the Italian terminology. The firefighters mingled with other employees as they chatted about the various cuts of beef. Their conversation about how to properly sear meat was enough to make famed grillmaster Bobby Flay drool. Ending their visit to the butcher counter with a handshake, the guys continued through the store, stopping at the bakery counter as they worked to decide on a game plan for the cooking contest.

The Ultimate Fire Department Cook-off will be an integral part of the Cooked and Uncorked festival. In addition to Cranford, Fire Departments from Bayonne, Belleville, Carteret,  Elizabeth, Hamilton Township, Linden, New Brunswick, North Hudson, Roselle, Trenton and Union will heat things up as they compete against each other to see whose culinary creations are the best.

Among the Cranford Restaurants that will be showcasing their wares at the festival are , Ill Gabbiano, , , and .  , and have donated gift cards and baskets to the cause as well.
Tickets for the event are $50 and can be ordered by calling Beverly Foster at 973 322-4344 or order online with a credit card at www.cookedanduncorked.com. The website also lists participating restaurants, wine/spirits and for more information.

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