After it was announced that acclaimed Chef Christine Nunn was to become the Executive Chef of a new venture in Bergen County, I couldn’t wait to visit. As the former Chef and Owner of Picnic in Fair Lawn where she earned accolades from various publications, Chef Nunn has garnered a cult following that was in evidence the evening my party visited.
Restaurateur Brian Powell, the owner of Grange, is a native of Bergen County who has Orchard + Vine (Southampton), Chakra (Paramus) and America bar + restaurant (Tenafly) on his résumé. His vision for the restaurant was to create a place that is casual but still provides a fine dining experience.
Grange, which means ‘barn’ in French, offers a rustic atmosphere with its exposed wood beams, casual feel and charming vibe. I don’t typically comment on restaurant restrooms, but the one at Grange is simply adorable. Not only is it sparkling clean, it offers the same aged wood beams the dining room does and the Maison diffusor in ‘Coast’ fragrance brings it all together (yes, I looked and noted the brand).
Chef Nunn uses French techniques to create sophisticated dishes that are a little playful yet elegant. The menu is broken down into categories named “Nibbles to Share”, “Appies” and “The Main Event”.
On the evening of our visit, my party nibbled on Deviled Eggs and Chicken Liver Pâté. The eggs weren’t overcooked, as is the case with most versions of this dish, and the egg yolk stuffing was zesty. The pâté was rich and creamy and what all chicken livers should aim to become after they’re cooked.
Our appetizers were the White Wine and Gruyere Fondue and the BLT sliders. The fondue is perfect for sharing and apples, baguette, duck and boar sausages are served with the rich cheese for dipping. The sliders featured pork belly in place of the typical bacon, butter lettuce, heirloom tomato, and tarragon mayo. Both dishes were decadent and I hope are on the menu when I return to Grange. Another appetizer I want to try on my next visit is the slow-roasted marrow bones with red onion and tenderloin marmalade which were unavailable the evening I was there.
Our entrées were the Chatham Cod, Cue from Summer, Indiana Farm Duck Breast and the Rabbit Stew. The cod was saltine-crusted and served with Meyer lemon, green beans, forbidden rice. Most things served over forbidden rice are pretty okay with me. In this case, the fish doesn’t lose center stage to it with its pristine freshness. Chef Nunn’s take on barbecue is cinnamon-smoked pork medallions, sweet potato purée, chard and stone fruit habanero barbecue sauce. The pork was fork-tender and the sauce should be bottled for guests to take home. The duck was seared beautifully and presented with blackberry thyme pan jus, sweet potato fritters and wilted greens. The rabbit wasn’t as much stew as it was flawlessly browned pieces of tender rabbit served over simply perfect barley ‘risotto’ with fava beans, morel mushrooms and baby carrots. The dish was sauced with just the right amount of liquid but not bathing in it as a typical stew would. It might have been the star of the evening.
The play on classics continues with desserts. We sampled the Zeppoles, fried dough covered in powdered sugar and paired with a side of cream cheese “frosting” for dunking.
A summer menu was recently announced, “I get bored easily with the same dishes” kids Chef Nunn during my visit, and some of the new dishes guests can expect to see are: Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Blackened Crabcake and Mixed Greens for starters and Seared Diver Scallops, Earl Grey-Brined Moulard Duck Breast, “Gazpacho” Pan Roasted Arctic Char and the Down East in Westwood lobster boil for main courses.
For additional insight into Chef Nunn’s cooking style, she’s the author of The Preppy Cookbook, a compilation of 125 recipes that “exemplifies the preppy lifestyle”.
The restaurant is a bring-your-own-booze so pull out a special bottle or two and visit Grange for a masterly-prepared, refined meal in a casual atmosphere.
31 Westwood Avenue, Westwood, NJ
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.