New Jersey is one of America’s most scenic states. Its 8.7 million residents are never far from any one of the 10,300 farms that stretch out over 733,450 acres and make up more than 15 percent of the officially nicknamed Garden State. So, it should come as no surprise that New Jersey boasts a roster of five star restaurants that feature the freshest of locally grown and raised ingredients. Dine at four of the most consistently praised establishments in this prestigious category.
Named “Best of the Best” by New Jersey Monthly, Scalini Fedeli--which is a housed in a 260-year-old farmhouse--features Northern Italian cuisine with a French flare. For starters, the magazine raves, is an “exceptional” mushroom and black truffle napoleon, “with rich and creamy mushrooms served between crisp, delicate wafers of beet and garlic.” Equally appetizing is the capellini in spicy tomato sauce with anchovies, olives and capers. As for entrees, chef Michael Cetrulo’s tuna Milanese with an arugula, fennel and tarragon salad can’t be beat, except perhaps by his thinly sliced duck breast in port and truffle sauce with seared foie gras.
Scalini Fedeli 63 Main St. Chatham, N.J. 07928 973-701-9200 scalinifedeli.com
Its unappetizing name notwithstanding, Rat’s is a study in culinary excellence. The French chateau inspired restaurant has been repeatedly ranked No.1 by Zagat’s directory of New Jersey restaurants. That, no doubt, is for its hors d’oeuvres like butternut squash risotto with scallops, chickpea puree with roasted peppers and endive salad with roasted beats, walnuts and goat cheese. Dittos entrees like berkshire pork with red wine apple puree and cippolini onions and filet mignon with green beans, horseradish and bordelaise sauce. As for its name, Rat’s is in fact a reference to a rodent, though an always hospitable one; Ratty from Kenneth Grahame’s timeless children’s tale, The Wind in the Willows.
Rat’s Restaurant 16 Fairgrounds Rd. Hamilton, N.J. 08619 609-584-7800 ratsrestaurant.org
Il Mulino New York
Two words: Classic Italian. Two more words: Done exquisitely. That pretty much sums up Il Mulino New York, Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal eatery that was recently ranked No.1 newcomer by Zagat’s directory of New Jersey restaurants. Antipastos include fried calamari, clams casino, and buffalo mozzarella with sliced tomatoes and basil. Among the pasta dishes are homemade cannelloni, capellini arrabbiata and tortellini alla panna. Meat entrees, meanwhile, run the gamut from chicken parmigiana to veal osso bucco.
Il Mulino New York Trump Taj Mahal 1000 Boardwalk Atlantic City, N.J. 0840 609-449-1000 trumptaj.com
Not many eateries can lay claim to a 408-acre backyard that’s brimming with pristine hills, valleys and streams. Highlawn Pavilion, however, boasts just that--in the form of Eagle Rock Reservation, which was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, the same landscaping firm that created Manhattan’s Central Park. It also boasts a menu that has been praised by New Jersey Monthly for its “excellent” poached lobster appetizer with black trumpet mushrooms and asparagus tips and for its and equally high-rated grilled filet mignon with roasted shallots and red wine sauce. Among Highlawn’s other delicacies are organic chicken stuffed with vegetable mousse, Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes, and T-bone of Colorado lamb with French white beans and margues sausage.
Highlawn Pavilion Eagle Rock Reservation 1 Crest Dr. West Orange, N.J. 07052 973-731-3463 highlawn.com