"Fresh" Restaurant in The Hills Part of Green Restaurant Association

Those seeking organic or naturally raised ingredients gravitate to small cafe off Allen Road in The Hills.

There are other restaurants in the area that list at least some organic ingredients and natural foods on their menus, but only one in Basking Ridge — — that has received certification from the nationwide Green Restaurant Association.

Fresh is located in a small cafe setting in the Highlands Village Center in The Hills, and the construction of the bright interior was part of what earned the restaurant's GRA certification. 

The bamboo floors, use of paint that doesn't emit toxic fumes and decor with wood shutters recycled from an old barn all helped the restaurant obtain GRA certification back when Fresh opened about two and a half years ago, the staff said.

Fresh remains one of about a handful of New Jersey eateries listed on the GRA website.

Nevertheless, the number of restaurants seeking to identify themselves as "green," "natural," or offering fresh local produce and meats might be expected to grow, as consumers concerned about the environment transfer that concern to the food they eat.

Avianna Ponzi, who owns and operates Fresh with her husband, Erik Wolfe, said that "green" eateries with a menu designed to be healthy is perhaps the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant business.

But she said the new version of "green" restaurants are not the old-fashioned health food "sprout restaurants" from an earlier era. 

Fresh's fans are "foodies," as well as being health conscious and concerned about the environment and ethical treatment of animals, Ponzi said.

Even though dishes might include organic greens, meats and milks produced without hormones or antibiotics, Fresh's menu also is designed to be appealing, said the staff.

And while some dishes would meet the standards of vegetarians, vegans or those who only eat gluten-free selection, Fresh also serves meatloaf (made with "all natural" beef and including applewood bacon),  burgers, fries, organic hot dogs and a turkey reuben made with roasted organic turkey. 

The menu also includes a wide variety of desserts, including gluten-free red velvet cupcakes.

"We all love food," said Fresh manager Stacey Stout.

She said that Fresh attracts a sizable number of customers who want a "healthy lifestyle alternative" to the usual restaurant menus.

"We have healthy options and we have delicious options," Stout said, but all of the options are designed to be delicious.

The restaurant mainly relies on a menu of cold and hot sandwiches, salads, soups and daily "Blue Plate" specials.

On Friday's the Blue Plate Special is the "Catch of the Day," but Fresh only uses fresh fish caught under certain conditions, Stout said.

For example, she said Fresh serves salmon caught in fresh waters, not raised on farms. And the tuna in the restaurant's Salad Nicoise is advertised as being "pole caught" rather than caught in nets that bring in other ocean life and byproducts, she said.

Stout said the restaurant receives constant feedback from people who say they are glad to have an eating option such as "Fresh" in Basking Ridge.

As further proof that Fresh's approach is going more mainstream, Ponzi said the restaurant's catering business has been growing steadily. She said Fresh has catered private and corporate events. "We are filling an interesting niche in the catering world," she said.

She also said the restaurant is launching a new composting operation, collecting ingredients that will then be taken away by a hauler and placed in compost heaps.

Other areas in the area including organic, gluten-free or natural, locally raised ingredients on their menus include Ninety Acres at Natirar, in Peapack-Gladstone and in Hillsborough, owned by a Basking Ridge resident Geeth Jayaraman.




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