AP PHOTOA vacation or your mouth is within reach with the new hand-crafted chocolate and caramel extravagances made fresh in Asbury Park by Jack Petronella, owner, Manhattan Jack Confections.

“I wanted to make something special and totally original, just like this city,” said Jack, a five-year Asbury Park resident and graduate of the fancy-pants Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  “After working for a bit at a country club, I travelled to observe some of the best chocolatiers in Italy, France and Mexico.  Creating chocolate is a science – I came home and experimented in my kitchen laboratory for two years until I created Chocolate Sushi and Caramel Sushi.”

The treats do look like sushi – a one inch diameter piece of the finest quality chocolate or caramel, rolled in select ingredients to resemble the Japanese staple. 

“I use only the absolutely the finest ingredients,” said Jack, who sells more than 100 pounds of his desserts each week which take approximately three days to make, using exacting standards, from start to finish.  “Pecans from Louisiana, chocolate from Oregon, peanuts from West Virginia, Macadamia nuts from Hawaii – quality is what counts.”

From the richness of the chocolate to the precisely-sized chopped nuts to the perfectly sweet and succulent caramel, you can sense Jack’s passion. 

Each bite is worth the extra time on the treadmill.   

“True flavors make the best chocolate and caramels,” said Jack.  “Caramel should melt in your mouth in three bites – you should taste Bourbon, vanilla, brown sugar and butter.  Fine caramel should never stick to your teeth.” 

One of the other most popular items in Jack’s repertoire is his chocolate covered pretzels.  I understand the top seller is the White chocolate pistachio drizzled with toffee.

“These are fantastic,” said Donna Arroyo visiting from northern New Jersey, enjoying a pretzel on the boardwalk she just purchased from the Baker Boys shop in the Grand Arcade.  “You can taste that these are good and different.”   

Jack’s confections are so popular the QVC network has an open invitation for Jack to come on the network to sell his pretzels. QVC expects to sell 30,000 pretzels and hour and, right now, Jack does not have the workspace to guarantee quality control for that type of volume.  More to come with that. 

Manhattan Jack Confections are available in our area at The Baker Boys, Belmonte’s, Watermark, Il Pavone, Langosta Lounge and Windmill (Ocean Grove, pretzels only). 

Manhattan Jack Confections, 732.768.6561.

Briefly:  Three fireworks displays in seven days here this year – Wednesday (7/1 and 7/8) Madison Marquette is sponsoring fireworks – as they are all summer long.  Saturday, the Fourth of July, the City is sponsoring the show.  AP FIREWORKS

“There will be two groupings of fireworks a few hundred feet away from each other on the beach set off simultaneously,” revealed Garret Giberson, regarding the City’s show.  “It’s going to be incredible.” 

All fireworks begin at 9 pm.

And – on the completely opposite side of chocolate and caramel – imagine being a dentist with decades of experience walking in to see a patient crying because he is about to get his first crown – and I am not talking about a headdress from a beauty pageant.  The patient was me recently and I must give cheers to Dr. Sebastian D’Amico of Sunset Dental on Sunset Avenue and his team cheers for their experience, patience, dedication, follow-up and overall ability to make a new situation comfortable for a fearful guy.  Major kudos from this difficult patient.