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Golden Forks 2012

by Erica Bauwens, Allie Harcharek & Peter Proko; Photo by Jason Varney

…From the pages of South Jersey Magazine…

Featuring 50 of the best dishes in South Jersey, from appetizers to desserts, plus where our local chefs are eating.

We have a secret we’d like to share with you. We love food. As in, we really, really love it. Which is why we look forward to traveling throughout South Jersey’s vast dining landscape each year in anticipation for our annual culinary celebration: the Golden Fork awards. We may not have some of the name recognition you’ll find across the bridge, but make no mistake, our talented crop of chefs are doing anything but flying under the radar.

This year, we chose a different direction, paying homage to specific dishes at the area’s finest eateries. From appetizers to desserts, we stuffed our faces all in the name of solid reporting. The hardest part? Whittling down so many mouthwatering plates to just 50 selections. Here, we offer the results, a list of can’t-miss food from Mount Holly to Pitman.

We also spoke with several South Jersey chefs to find out where they like to nosh when off the clock. Check out their answers; you may be surprised to learn where your favorite cooks are chowing down.

Bon Appetit.

TRUTA ALMENDRAS (pictured)
Barcelona Bistro
We’d walk the length of Broadway to tell people in Pitman about this seafood dish, where fresh trout is pan seared in an almond liqueur and topped with roasted almonds. It’s not the only reason to visit Barcelona Bistro, but it’s certainly why we go. 126 S. Broadway, Pitman, (856) 270-2352

SICILIAN ANTIPASTO
Zeppoli
This masterpiece made for two, of colorful raw and marinated vegetables, Sicilian salads, cured meats and cheeses, is so good you might not want to share. 618 Collings Ave., Collingswood, (856) 854-2670

CHICKEN KORMA
Monsoon
Garam masala, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Exotic smells waft throughout the magnificent dining room, where you’ll find this classic curry, with juicy chunks of chicken enrobed in a subtly spiced yogurt sauce. 4180 Deerborn Circle, Mount Laurel, (856) 234-0080

CANNOLI
Iliano Cucina Mediterranea
Though this cucina’s Italian specialties are noteworthy, it’s the sweet endings that really catch our eyes. Heavenly ricotta filling is hand-piped into a crisp, chocolate-coated cannoli shell in this iconic dessert done right. 200 Tuckerton Road, Medford, (856) 985-2975

SPAGHETTINI INTEGRALI ALLA SICILIANA CON GAMBERI
Nunzio Ristorante Rustico
Chef Nunzio Patruno is responsible for this masterful creation consisting of whole wheat spaghetti, which after being prepared is sautéed with shrimp, breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins and finished with a little extra virgin olive oil. If you think whole wheat pasta is bland, you haven’t eaten this. 706 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, (856) 858-9840

SWEET POTATO, SMOKED SAUSAGE CORN CHOWDER
Sweet Lula’s
One of the most unique soups we’ve had the pleasure of tasting, the hidden Pitman café blends sweet potato, smoky bits of pork sausage, and sweet pops of corn kernels in an incredible display of seasonal flavor. 28 S. Broadway, Pitman, (856) 589-2400

CAMPANELLE CARBONARA
Brio
When comfort is what we crave, we turn to a plate of this go-to satisfaction. Trumpets of pasta are tossed with grilled chicken and ribbons of sautéed spinach in a cream sauce, and gemmed with crisp bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon? 901 Haddonfield Road, Cherry Hill, (856) 910-8166

STUFFED FIVE-CHEESE SACHETTI
Filomena Lakeview
This unusual pasta comes wrapped up like little gifts, just for you. Start with perfectly cooked purse-like sachetti, filled with five cheeses, then toss with ribbons of prosciutto and a creamy pink vodka sauce. 1738 Cooper St., Deptford, (856) 228-4235

CHICKEN VOLDASTANO
Scaturro’s
With our offices being in such close proximity to Scaturro’s, we can’t drive by without conjuring up cravings for this poultry perfection courtesy of Chef Dave Levecchia. Salty prosciutto, creamy mozzarella and fresh asparagus are stuffed into boneless breasts and then covered in a Marsala cream sauce for a unmistakably rich finish. 841 Route 73 S., Marlton, (856) 985-4560

VITELLO ALLA MARSALA
Tarantella Ristorante
From the same sacred restaurant family that brought us Femmina Grill, Tarantella’s serves robust, family-style portions so large you’ll want to bring some home, if you can manage to stop. Here, morsels of veal are bathed in an earthy Marsala flavored with tender mushrooms and sundried tomatoes. 128 Route 70, Medford, (609) 714-9050

PAN-SEARED WASABI TUNA
Little Tuna
So good, maybe this is where the restaurant’s name originated. A wasabi-seasoned tuna steak, with deftly seared outsides wrapping cool sashimi-pink insides, is served in a sesame ginger soy broth at this chic Haddonfield bistro. 141 Kings Highway E., Haddonfield, (856) 795-0888

CHICKEN MARSALA
Giumarello’s
Chicken gets the star treatment in this over-the-top flavorful dish, adorned with jewels of jumbo lump crab alongside sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, and finished in a Marsala wine sauce. 329 Haddon Ave., Westmont, (856) 858-9400

THAI MUSSELS
Max’s Seafood Café
When a restaurant reaches its centennial year, you know they’ve been doing something right. Max’s serves heaping bowls of gleaming Maine mussels served five ways, though we love the Thai-style sauce, with notes of coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger in a dip-worthy sauce. 34 N. Burlington St., Gloucester City, (856) 456-9774

PORK CHOP
RiverWinds Restaurant
This place wows with a camera-ready dining room and wonderful views of the Delaware, as well as with this house selection—a 12 oz. center cut pork chop sweetened a bit by a port demi-glace. 1075 RiverWinds Drive, West Deptford, (856) 579-7900

SINGAPORE RICE NOODLES
Chez Elena Wu
Though South Jersey restaurant icon Elena Wu has moved on from the eponymous Voorhees location, her legacy remains in the kitchen, where signature Chinese specialties like Peking duck or whole black bass are impeccably prepared. It’s the Singapore rice noodles that deserve a second look, though: feather-light strands of chewy noodles, stir-fried with shrimp, scallions, peppers, crisp little bean sprouts, slivers of egg and a distinct touch of curry. 910 Haddonfield Berlin Road, Voorhees, (856) 566-3221

ZUPPA INGLESE
Ristorante Fieni’s
The charmingly cozy dining room brightens at the mention of dessert in this sophisticated Voorhees spot. Though the dessert tray is laden with treats, like the light pineapple cheesecake, we prefer the rich, creamy zuppa inglese, layered with liqueur-soaked lady fingers, chocolate and vanilla puddings, fresh cream and chocolate chips. 800 S. Burnt Mill Road, Voorhees, (856) 428-2700

BARBACOA
La Esperanza
From the restaurant’s rosy exterior to its authentic home-style Mex­ican cuisine, La Esperanza knows how to do bold. Perhaps the boldest is this house specialty, a hefty cut of goat, slow-baked in a secret blend of herbs and spices until meltingly tender. 40 East Gibbsboro Road, Lindenwold, (856) 782-7114

YOKOHAMA ROLL
Yokohama
Among three dozen specialty sushi rolls, platters of the highest quality sashimi, and a separate room for the hibachi lover, Yokohama’s heavy-paged menu holds selections as impressive as the sleek, romantically lit dining room. In this roll, salmon, yellowtail tuna and white fish are artfully arranged, dusted with peanut powder, pops of crunchy spicy tuna, and slivers of avocado. 300 S. Lenola Road, Maple Shade, (856) 608-8812

EMPANADAS
El Sitio
They’re served in various styles, but any empanada will do in this Ecuadorian steakhouse. Try them with flaky white corn dough wrapped around a cumin-scented beef and pea filling. Or the gooey mozzarella and Asiago-stuffed variety, made with plantain flour dough. Or go Argentinean-style with garlicky chicken or seasoned beef filling. 729 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, (856) 240-1217

GRILLED GROUPER
Carolina Blue
Local peach wood from Heritage Farms imparts the signature sweet-smoky flavor at this Pitman grill, where smoked barbecue, spare ribs and wings hold the spotlight. But for something fresher, we love the thick fillet of grouper, perfectly seasoned and grilled, made ever more excellent with chipotle lime vinaigrette. 692 Lambs Road, Pitman, (856) 582-8586

DUCK CONFIT AND WILD MUSHROOM STRUDEL
High Street Grill
Not many chefs in South Jersey flex such culinary creativity as Chef John McDevitt does at this quaint Mount Holly pub. Witness this plate with the tender strands of gamey meat coexisting with the earthy mushrooms, blanketed by puff pastry and made complete with Maytag blue cheese. 64 High St., Mount Holly, (609) 265-9199

SAUSAGE AND FIGS
Tre Famiglia
Sweet sausage is grilled just right and then blended with figs before being semi-cloaked under a balsamic reduction. It’s salty, sweet and one of the most addictive dishes we’ve ever tasted. 403 N. Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, (856) 429-1447

GNOCCHI POMODORO
La Posata
Imagine a pillowy pasta deftly filled with ricotta cheese and bathed in a tomato sauce with just a kiss of cream. Now, stop dreaming and head to La Posata. 892 N. Route 73, Marlton, (856) 596-6885

CARPACCIO DI CARNE
Sapori
There’s something to be said for a chef who can create such a memorable dish without actually cooking anything. In this case, credit card-thin filet mignon is cured in olive oil and a lemon emulsion, then finished with greens and shaved parmesan for a traditional Italian specialty. 601 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, (856) 858-2288

ANNATA EGGROLL
Annata Wine Bar
We love this tapas hotspot in Hammonton for its impressive vino offerings, but we love it more for the stylish small plates being turned out of the kitchen. Such is the case with the namesake eggroll, where sweet Italian sausage with fennel, eggplant, arugula and Fontina cheese are stuffed into a crisp, fried wrapper. 216 Bellevue Ave., Hammonton, (609) 704-9797

PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED DIVER SCALLOPS
Terra Nova
Not just a place for creative crudo and an impressive wine list, you’ll also find small plates, like the pan-seared diver scallops, wrapped in salty slices of prosciutto, over a bed of cherry tomato and asparagus cous cous. 590 Delsea Drive, Sewell, (856) 589-8883

SHABU SHABU
Fuji
This leisurely dish for two is as exciting to prepare as it is to eat while you place raw slices of rib-eye and vegetables (carrots, tofu, cabbage, scallions, shiitakes) into a tabletop steaming copper pot. For an added boost, make sure to try both the accompanying ponzu and sesame sauces, and add in some glass noodles. 116 Kings Highway E., Haddonfield, (856) 354-8200

BAKED BRIE
Zinc Café
A timeless classic is shown just the proper amount of finesse at this Medford mainstay. The wheel of soft-as-velvet cheese encased in puff pastry is showcased on a plate with sliced apples, toasted almonds and sweet honey, and when combining all four ingredients on your fork, it makes for one of the more delicately delightful appetizers in South Jersey. 679 Stokes Road, Medford, (609) 953-9462

MINI INDULGENCES
Seasons 52
For the girls’ night out when we can’t decide what we want, the waiters here will graciously bring one of everything. Though the menu touts the appeal of 475-calorie-or-less dishes, these shot glass-sized desserts pack just enough indulgence—like our favorite, the layered red velvet cake with cream and berries, or the glass of tart key lime cream layered with graham cracker crumbs—without feeling heavy. 2000 Route 38, Cherry Hill, (856) 665-1052

RATATOUILLE
Dream Cuisine Café
Like most of chef/owner Vincent Fanari’s Provencal cuisine, this French staple is simple in nature but sophisticated in flavor. Sautéed eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and bell peppers are finished with basil and thyme for a rustic taste of Fanari’s hometown of Nice. 1990 Route 70 E., Cherry Hill, (856) 751-2800

MONGOLIAN LAMB
Trés Yan and Wu
You can order this entrée with beef and pork as well, but for our money, nothing is as rewarding as the tender, incredibly moist lamb that swims perfectly in the spicy, but not too spicy, sauce. It’s northern Chinese-influenced cook­­ing at its best. 3131 Route 38, Mount Laur­el, (856) 608-8888

GELATO
Al Dente Italiana
When you enter Al Dente, you are immediately drawn to the counter off to the right encasing all the current flavors made in-house (pistachio and chocolate-peanut butter to name a few). Go ahead and take a few samples, just remember to save room for dinner. 1690 Nixon Drive, Moorestown, (856) 437-6593

PORCINI- RUBBED DELMONICO
The Capital Grille
We love the kona-rubbed sirloin here, but this mushroom-crusted cut of beef is a worthy diversion, taken to another level thanks to mouthwatering drops of balsamic aged for more than a decade. 2000 Route 38, Cherry Hill, (856) 665-5252 n

FUSILLI E FAGIOLE
Da Soli Trattoria Rustica
This months-old Haddonfield eatery has impressed us on several levels, but our current obsession is this corkscrew pasta dish, where cranberry beans mingle with sausage (made on site) and arugula in an olive oil base for a clever take on an Italian favorite. 116 E. Kings Highway, Haddonfield, (856) 429-2399

ZUCCHINI CRAB CAKE
Fischer’s Pelican Restaurant
With chef/owner Bill Fischer being a lifelong commercial fisherman, one would expect him to take his seafood seriously. Which is why you won’t find any filler here, just delicate, meaty jumbo lump crab coated in zucchini that’s been julienned and crisped with the help of Japanese breadcrumbs. 508 Hurfville-Cross Keys Road, Sewell, (856) 589-6969

ROASTED BEET GNOCCHI
Andreotti’s Viennese Café
We have to admit, the first time we sampled this dish, we did so out of pure curiosity. Since then, every visit to Andreotti’s has meant ordering up at least an appetizer portion of the pink-filled pasta nestled in a truffle cream sauce with spinach and mushrooms. 1442 Route 70 E., Cherry Hill, (856) 795-2233

BRAISED SHORT RIB
Braddock’s
To think of Braddock’s solely as a place to grab a pint and some pub grub would mean you’d be missing out on the chance to sample this sublime comfort food. Slow cooked. Fall onto the fork tender. Pan drippings. Need we say more about this dish that comes with an aromatic mix of hearty vegetables like carrots, celery and onions? 39 S. Main St., Medford, (609) 654-1604

AUSTRALIAN RACK OF LAMB
Café Madison
From the preparation of the protein to the Michelin-star worthy plating, this entrée is a total knockout. Ideally cooked just this side of rare, the lamb is succulent and melts away with each forkful. The fig marmalade gives the perfect balance of sweet and savory. 33 Lafayette St., Riverside, (856) 764-4444

SNAPPER WITH TANGERINE CEVICHE
Casona
As much as we love South Jersey, sometimes you need a little escape. That’s where this Collingswood eatery comes to the rescue with bright Cuban flavors, like in the towering, citrusy tangerine, pickled jalapeno and snapper ceviche. 63 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, (856) 854-5555

SOUP DU JOUR
Robin’s Nest
We don’t care what Chef Robin Winzinger is cooking a pot of that day, we just know we must have a bowl (or two). Winzinger combs the area for fresh, seasonal ingredients to produce standout soups like her sweet potato and butternut squash, and those with a more unique flavor profile, like blueberry. 2 Washington St., Mount Holly, (609) 261-6149

COCONUT-CRUSTED LOBSTER TAILS
Ritz Seafood
We know, we know; everyone that goes here raves about the coconut cream pie. Well, they should also be raving about this indulgent seafood plate. Served with pad thai, each bite transports you to a place that feels a lot further away than Voorhees. 910 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Voorhees, (856) 566-3222

SIRLOIN AU POIVRE
The ChopHouse
This cut of beef gets the royal treatment from our Top Chef winner Markese Beverly. First, it is dry-aged in-house for weeks before getting a crust made from a blend of five peppercorns. Once cooked, the steak is covered in a cognac cream sauce, giving the meal a hint of fruity and nutty overtones. 4 S. Lakeview Drive, Gibbsboro, (856) 566-7300

SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
Treno
It may not sound flashy, but sometimes when we eat out, we just want a classic dish done right. At Treno, the attention to detail shines through in the pomodoro sauce clinging to the strands of spaghetti and topping the fluffy meatballs. You could make this at home, but probably not as well. 233 Haddon Ave., Westmont, (856) 833-9233

RAGU OF RABBIT
Blackbird
Like a lot of talented chefs, former James Beard nominee Alex Capasso changes up his menu as often as he can source new ingredients. Maybe we can convince him to leave this pasta dish on the menu forever. The subtle sauce allows the rabbit to be the star of this dish as it is intertwined with long ribbons of ruler-wide pappardelle noodles for a truly tantalizing dinner option. 714 Haddon Ave., Collings­wood, (856) 854-3444

PRIME NEW YORK STRIP
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
The New York strip is the most popular steak in the country and, at Fleming’s in Marlton, it’s an instant crowd pleaser. A closer inspection beneath the crust of this 20-ouncer reveals a juicy, meaty center that will leave you savoring each bite. 500 Route 73 N., Marlton, (856) 988-1351

MOLE POBLANO
Mexican Food Factory
Mole is one of the more complex sauces in the culinary world and here, nuts, raisins, chilies and, of course, chocolate are just some of the ingredients that go into the liquid blanket atop a grilled boneless chicken breast. It’s authentic, it’s delicious and we’d like more please. 601 Route 70 W., Marlton, (856) 983-9222

PAN-SEARED FOIE GRAS
Nonna’s
Considered the ultimate delicacy by some, but certainly not for everyone, the foie gras here is expertly prepared over a leek tartare. The sherry adds to the richness without overpowering, spotlighting where taste meets technique. 211 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Cherry Hill, (856) 795-1778

SPICY TEQUILA BRAISED CHICKEN
Los Amigos
This specialty dish uses the liquor to form juicy, tender poultry that is complemented with spinach, gruyere cheese and Los Amigo's signature hot sauce for a satisfying plate that brings some serious heat. 461 Route 73 W., West Berlin, (856) 767-5216

GYOZA
Sagami
Before dipping our chopsticks into an order of the (addicting) pickled vegetables or the glistening bowls of chirashi at this longtime Collingswood sushi spot, we like to begin with something a bit more substantial. In addition to pristine cuts of premium fish, Chef Shigeru Fukuyoshi serves these excellent pan-seared gyoza: rich, chewy, meat-filled dumplings with just the right amount of crispness on the edges. 37 West Crescent Blvd, Collingswood, (856) 854-9773

TUNA CARPACCIO AND CRAB AVOCADO SALAD
Caffé Aldo Lamberti
Though the Lamberti family is known across South Jersey for its decadent pastas and contemporary Italian cuisine, this light and fresh starter will start your meal off right, with jewels of Yellowfin tuna and creamy avocado, blended with peppers, cucumbers, arugula and a touch of citrus. 2011 Route 70 West, Cherry Hill, (856) 663-1747

We asked some of the best chefs in South Jersey where they like to chow down when they’re off the clock. Here’s what they had to say.

I really like Pietros in Marlton… It is an Italian Pizzeria. They always serve fresh, hot food.
Chris Sammons, Zinc Cafe in Medford

Usually when I go to eat I like exotic restaurants, and I really like Coriander [in Voorhees]….I like Indian food in general, but I really like the way they do it there. It’s really well made. I used to work in London and there is a lot of Indian there and Coriander reminds me of the flavors from my time in London.
Vincent Fanar, Dream Cuisine Cafe in Cherry Hill

My favorite place is Casa Brazil BBQ in Delran. I’m Brazilian, plus the food is very good and very reasonably priced, so it’s convenient in every way possible.
Mark Nascimento, Barcelona Bistro in Pitman

I’m actually not from around here so I don’t eat at many restaurants, but I like to eat at Coriander. The ingredients, flavors are great. I’ve always had a great meal there.
Markese Beverly, The Chophouse in Gibbsboro

I go to Joe’s Peking Duck house [in Marlton] because I’m a big fan of Asian food and theirs is the most authentic Asian food in the area. It’s delicious.
Ian Palagye, Riverwinds in West Deptford

Being a chef you don’t tend to go out too much because you’re always working but I really like to go to Tortilla Press in Collingswood. It has very fresh ingredients in their food and its BYOB which I love. You bring in the drinks and they make the cocktails there for you. I love the freshness.
Tiffany Giove, Al Dente in Moorestown

That’s tough, [because] there are a few restaurants that I love to visit… It’s always good for me to out to get a new perspective on other things. When you’re always stuck in the kitchen you get tunnel vision, but it’s good to get away from what you always do… I like Anthony’s in Haddonfield. It’s got really fresh food and I love Italian food, which is what they specialize in.
Saul Cordova, La Esperanza in Lindenwold

I like La Esparanza [in Lindenwold]. It’s a place where you can always find good food. It’s always a lot of fun, and the atmosphere is very relaxing.
David Levecchia, Scaturros in Marlton

Blackbird in Collingswood. It’s creative cuisine that’s always well done. The food is always good
Richard Marsh, Andreottis in Cherry Hill

I like to go to Norma's Restaurant in the Barclay Shopping Center (in Cherry Hill). Have for years. It's always the same; lamb kofta, tabbouleh, tzatziki, hummus, falafel. Fresh, light, clean flavors of the Mediterranean.
Todd Fuller, Treno in Westmont

There’s a little place in Washington Township called Arugula. It has fresh food, its close by, with a nice atmosphere. The food is prepared very well.
Robert Cipollone, Tre Famiglia in Haddonfield

I work at an Italian restaurant five days a week, so I definitely don’t want to go to another Italian restaurant on my days off. I really like burgers… and for that I like to go to the Cheesecake Factory.
Ivan Coppola, Tarantella's in Medford

Usually when I’m off I go P.F. Changs a lot. I’m very much into the Pan-Asian cuisine, and it’s a really consistent restaurant.
Chris Horn, High Street Grill in Mount Holly

The Pop Shop in Collingswood. It’s simple: the black and white milkshake. I mean any milkshake will do, but they do that right. All their food is wonderful, but the real treat is in the fountain sodas and the milkshakes.
Josh Varquez, Max's Seafood Cafe in Gloucester City

I like Asian food so I like P.F. Changs. I like the freshness of the food and the family style of it. Its lighter and it’s not as greasy. Service is great, and I’ve never had a bad experience there.
Joe Vento, La Posata in Marlton

Sagami, which is also in Collingswood. It’s been open for well over 20 years and it has the best sushi in the area. It’s authentic, with good service. The food is always fresh and consistent.
Alex Capasso, Blackbird in Collingswood

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 11 (February, 2012).
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