Girlfriend Getaways

GIRL TALK: After a long day of sun, sand and shopping, girlfriends Jacobs, Ward and Curlee relax and sip champagne in the Pipeline room at Bungalow.

BATHING BEAUTIES: Curlee, Ward and Jacobs get beach ready at Bungalow. The luxury boutique hotel's lobby has pool and foosball tables along with a bar that’s open 4 pm to midnight during the summer.

SUMMER SPIRIT: After hitting the shops at Pier Village, girlfriends and cast- ­­mates of The Biggest Loser, season 11, Hannah Curlee, Olivia Ward and Jen Jacobs grab a fruity cocktail at Avenue Restaurant in Long Branch.

With the backdrop of the sparkling Atlantic, tony boutiques, the chic Bungalow Hotel and the Parisian-inspired Avenue restaurant and nightclub, Long Branch is an ideal destination for a ladies’ weekend getaway.

That’s what Jen Jacobs, a three-year resident of the seaside town, was thinking when she invited her friends and former castmates of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Hannah Curlee and Olivia Ward, for a reunion weekend. Jacobs knew they’d have plenty to do while catching up on each other’s lives since the show wrapped.

The girls spent their first morning scouting at Pier Village, where 100,000 square feet of upscale shops and restaurants offer a bevy of unique goods. The Bee, a female fashion boutique, boasts styles from French Connection, Juicy Couture, Trina Turk and more, ranging from edgy to elegant. The Stone Hut offers handcrafted pieces from artisans around the world, including Native American jewelry, sterling silver and semi-precious stones. Nirvana, a denim emporium that carries contemporary brands like True Religion, Rock & Republic, Citizens of Humanity and LaCoste, is a top stop for Jacobs. “It’s hip, it’s young, it’s fun,” she raves. “They always have the trendiest clothing.” For Curlee, the Pier Village one-stop-shopping experience was a thrill. “I was able to buy my new favorite pair of jeans, a formal pair of heels to go with a gown and a beautiful bottle of olive oil all in the same day,” she says.

With some fashionable finds in hand, the ladies headed over to Avenue for drinks and a light lunch. A Parisian brasserie with dramatic high ceilings and classic banquettes in ocean hues, Avenue was a smart choice for the newly trimmed trio.

Jacobs, who was coupled with her father, West Orange resident Jay Jacobs, lost 114 pounds during her 20-week stint at the Biggest Loser weight-loss ranch in Calabasas, California. Her girlfriends, Ward and Curlee, who are sisters, lost 129 and 120 pounds respectively and took first and second place that season.

At lunch, the slim sisters noshed on Greek salads. “I always say you eat with your eyes first,” says Ward. “It’s nice to look at a plate that has lots of different colors.” The salad’s presentation—deconstructed rather than chopped and mixed, and topped with a large wedge of feta—was pleasing for the weight-conscious pair. “It makes you feel very extravagant, having this big, beautiful piece of cheese, but still it’s not busting your calorie budget,” she says.

Jacobs tried the Avenue salad (mesclun tossed with shaved vegetables, fennel, grilled shrimp, avocado and lemon vinaigrette). “It was light and incredibly colorful, and we all know the more colorful the food is, the more nutritious it is,” she says. “And the shrimp was a great protein addition to the salad.”

Avenue’s general manager Thierry Carrier is proud of Avenue’s light classic French fare. “I wanted this to be a place where people could eat three or even five times a week,” he says. “We use a little bit of butter here and there, but most of our dishes are very light.” Carrier and executive chef Dominique Filoni are mindful when adding dishes to the menu—if they wouldn’t feed it to their children, they won’t serve it at Avenue, says Carrier.

Chef Filoni, a native of St. Tropez, France, learned the importance of using fresh, seasonal ingredients from his stints at well-regarded restaurants in the French Alps, French Riviera and Paris.

By nightfall, the group was ready for a taste of Southern France’s party scene, Jersey Shore style, at Avenue Nuit. Designed by renowned London architect David Collins, the nightclub boasts a rooftop pool, outdoor fireplace, oversized seating and VIP tables. Entertainment is provided by well-known deejays, some of whom hail straight from St. Tropez.

After a long day of deals, dining and dancing, the trio retired to a private oasis in one of Bungalow’s comfy quarters. While all 24 rooms/suites boast a fireplace, flat-screen TV, iPod-docking station, kitchenette and café table (some with ocean views), each has a unique theme and displays mixed-media art handcrafted by British artist Ann Carrington. Bungalow’s summer guests can access Le Club, Avenue’s private beach, and mingle with members at the rooftop pool and lounge.

A rejuvenating visit to Long Branch is the perfect summer treat—sans the calories!

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