By Critic's Review by Artful Diner in NJ.com, November 21, 2005

Holiday dining is special in many ways. Not only does it afford us the opportunity to enjoy the bounties of the table, but also the joys of gathering together with loved ones and friends. And while we still seek out excellent cuisine, ambiance also plays an extremely important role in our dining choices. We tend to frequent those establishments that are able to warm our hearts as well as satisfy our hunger. Listed below are just a few of the many Garden State restaurants that will help us enjoy the warmth, peace, and festivity of this wonderful season of the year. Wishing you and yours the very best...

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Domiciled in the diminutive storefront jewel box that was home to Jocelyne's, Lorena's has already succeeded in making a significant splash on the New Jersey dining scene. Chef/proprietor Humberto Campos, Jr., and his fiancee, co-proprietor Lorena Perez, who charms patrons at the front of the house, carry on Jocelyne's tradition of serving up exemplary French-inspired cuisine wrapped in a warm, tastefully understated ambiance. Mr. Campos, a graduate of the CIA and alumnus of such illustrious Garden State kitchens as Nicholas and the Ryland Inn, weaves together an exquisite culinary tapestry lovingly and imaginatively imbued with the freshest possible seasonal ingredients. His style is innovate yet refined; he understands intuitively what will work and - perhaps even more importantly - what will not. Begin with such superlative syntheses as watercress salad embellished with warm duck confit, black Mission figs, and Roquefort consummated with roasted shallot vinaigrette and heady port wine reduction, pumpkin ravioli with sage, or orange-crusted veal sweetbreads. And entrees are no less enticing: sauteed striped bass with olive tapenade and verjus rouge emulsion; medallions of pork confit companioned by caramelized apples, chestnuts, baby carrots, and Calvados reduction; Colorado venison loin; and Manchester Farms pheasant breast finished with black truffle game jus. Desserts are something of a must here... but don't forget to BYOB. Lorena's will be serving on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, but will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

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