Archive for the Philly BYOB Reviews Category

LA VIOLA

Posted in La Viola with tags , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2012 by ballymote

  Center City Philly on a Sunday evening as Gerry and Joann continue their quest for a suitable location for a Rehearsal Dinner for the December wedding of their son, Keith. Since my wife, Kathy, and I need little excuse to join good friends for wine and food, we were only too eager to attend.

 Early 5:00 PM reservation makes us one of the first parties to be seated and what appeared to be an all male staff of servers showed immediate and attentive service. Our wines were opened and I was happy to see that Gerry had brought with him, not only his lovely wife, but a bottle of the wonderful, 2007 Merus, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It would appear to me that my 2009, Educated Guess, Napa Valley, Cabernet looked just a tad weak next to the big, brawny Merus. Even my second bottle (which never got opened…what a shock, huh Gerry?) the 2004 Sebastiani, Cherryblock, Sonoma Valley, Cabernet would have had to take a back-seat to the Merus. Lots of black cherry fruit, scents of leather and licorice with a mouth filling texture would make this the wine of many nights.

 

 

 As we looked over the extensive menu at La Viola, our server announced the many interesting and varied specials that were being offered this evening. So many of them sounded so good that we put down our menus and each of us chose both appetizers and entrees from the “specials”. My wife started with the Puree of Leek Soup which was chock full of flavor and served at just the right temperature.

 

 

 

 I had the Insalada Capricciosa partly because it sounded good and partly because I LOVED saying it! Apples, arugula, gorgonzola cheese, roasted peppers, tomatoes and fresh basil in a tangy dressing. It was an excellent salad.

 

 

 

 

 We all decided that Gerry had taken top honors with the appetizers with his selection of the roasted broccoli rabe with sausage and fontina cheese. This one would have made a nice entree. All of the ingredients forming the perfect marriage of meat, veggie and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 The ladies had no trouble making their choice as both of them chose the heart-shaped pink ravioli filled with fresh lobster meat and topped with some nicely cooked shrimp in a lemon garlic butter sauce. Fortunately my wife shared a small portion with me and that helped to explain the satisfied sounds they were making with each bite of this colorful and flavorful dish.

 

 

 

 

 Gerry found the perfect piece of meat to really bring out the flavors of the wine when he decided on the Stuffed Pork Chop. A huge piece of the “other white meat” filled with prosciutta and cheese served with carrots and green beans and covered in a wonderful raisin and zinfandel sauce. I also got a small sample of this one and it was delicious as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 I certainly had no complaints about my entree. It was a wonderful piece of red snapper in a white wine and peach sauce served with shrimp and resting comfortably on the bed of carrots and green beans. The flavors were excellent with the thinly sliced peaches proving to go perfectly with the tender white fish.

 Throughout the meal, the service was attentive without being overbearing and the restaurant seemed to fill very well for an early Sunday evening.

 

 

 Although the portions were enough that all of us were contentedly happy to pass on dessert, we had to reconsider when Gerry revealed that he had also brought with him a bottle of the 2008 Kapcsandy, Vino del Sol, State Lane Vineyard, Dessert Wine. This one was purchased during our visit with Lou Kapcsandy last year in Napa. This is a Port-style dessert wine made from merlot, cabernet, cab franc and petite verdot and has the aroma of baked figs, plums, warm bread and sweet spices. In the mouth it explodes with peaches, cherries, plums and apricots with a dash of honey. It went perfectly with our desserts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Once again the girls chose the same item, Tartufo, sweet Italian ice cream housed in a chocolate ball and coated with nuts.

 

 Gerry and I shared a Dark Side of the Moon, which was not a Pink Floyd CD, but rather a sumptuous piece of chocolate cake with alternating layers of dark chocolate and creamy chocolate mousse. Both dishes were perfectly complimented by the great dessert wine we shared.

 

 

La Viola had passed the test and Gerry and Joann have found the spot for their son’s Rehearsal Dinner in december. It’s quite possible that a return visit to La Viola may well be in the cards prior to the end of the year. It was that good!

BELLA CENA – BYOB

Posted in Bella Cena with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2012 by ballymote

 Bella Cena on a Friday evening. My wife and I along with our friends Gerry and Joann didn’t actually need a reason to be at this restaurant at 15th and Spruce, but we did have one. Their son, Keith, is getting married this coming December and he and his bride to be, Becca, had some sentimental attachment to Bella Cena as it was the scene of some memorable dating moments. Gerry and Joann were considering this BYOB as a possible site for their Rehearsal Dinner.

 I don’t normally read reviews on a restaurant before dining there but for some reason I spent some time reading past reviews on Bella Cena. Most commented that they had no problem with the food but that the service was very uneven. The general consensus seemed to be that this eatery was always appeared to be short two or three servers and that resulted in a sense of chaos. Well, the reviews were correct.

 We spotted our friends and sat with them on entering. Drink service was slooooow and one drink never arrived at all. One of the harried servers suddenly remembered the drink had not arrived but, by that time we had our wines open and it wasn’t that important. It is a nice feature that although Bella Cena has bar service you can bring your own wine with no corkage charge.

 

While in France in October of last year Gerry and Joann had a case of wine purchased there shipped home. Their bottle tonight was from that shipment. It was a 2005 Chateau  La Castelot, St. Emilion Grand Cru. This one showed leather and earth with hints of dark berry fruit. Certainly a drinkable wine but not outstanding. My wine was a 2006 Oso Vineyards,”Emblem”, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I confess I knew nothing about this wine at the time. I have since learned that Emblem is the creation of the father and son team of Michael and Rob Mondavi. It was well-balanced with some nice blueberry and caramel notes with flashes of earth and vanilla. The wine retails for $50.00.

 My entree selection was the New York Strip Steak served sizzling on a terracotta stone topped with provolone cheese and served with a side of gnocchi in a marinara sauce ( a little out-of-place with my steak, I thought) and some kind of green veggie. The meal was OK. I did like that the hot stone kept the meat warm throughout the meal and when Gerry set a nice portion of his risotto on a small plate for me it eventually got cold and I was able to heat it up by placing it on the magic stone. The portion was large enough that I was able to bring enough home for another meal.

 Gerry had the Lamb Shank served over a bed of saffron risotto.

The wives had a shrimp dish and, I believe, the tilapia.

We finished off our meal with some desserts mine was an orange sorbet.

 Overall, the food was OK and the service erratic. The strange thing was it seemed to us that the service would be easily fixed with just a few adjustments but the reviews pointing out these flaws go back several years so it may just be that it really is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. The final decision was that Gerry and Joann will not be holding the Rehearsal Dinner at Bella Cena.

THE SILVERSPOON – BYOB

Posted in The Silverspoon with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by ballymote

 Along with my wine-drinking buddies, Gerry and John, we have scoured Philly’s Main Line for interesting BYOB’s for our monthly wine dinners. We are not quite sure how we missed the Silverspoon all this time but we are certainly glad we found it last Thursday night. It’s not like The Silverspoon is hiding, or that it’s location requires guide dogs and a new GPS. It’s located in the Eagle Village Shoppes on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne, PA.

 On Thursday last, we were among several tables for our 6:00 P.M. seating. The restaurant has a pleasant, homey feel and our waitress, Caroline, welcomed us and provided us each with three wine glasses prior to opening our wines for the evening.

 As usual, we had some nice wines to enjoy with our meal. The very dark bottle on the left belonged to John. He has a tendency to bring very heavy, dark bottles because, apparently, someone told him that they LOOK expensive. This particular dark, heavy bottle was the 2006, Ehlers, “1886” , Napa Valley, Cabernet. This one scores well on Cellar-Tracker (almost a 93 average) and was the heaviest wine of the evening showing great color and dark flavors that mellowed a bit as dinner progressed. Gerry brought the 2005, E. Guigal, Chateauneuf du Pape with its classic Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre combo that was drinking quite well with our meal. My contribution was the 2009, EnRoute, “Les Pommiers”, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir. Nice flavors on this one with evidence of tart cherries and baking spices with a nicely balanced smooth finish. The EnRoute Pinot Noir is made by the folks who make the excellent Far Niente wines. This one went especially well with each of my dishes.

 I almost feel a bit silly in raving over a $4.00 “starter” that was simply Sweet Potato Chips with a smoky blue cheese dip. These little tempting morsels of goodness were absolutely perfection on a plate. The chips looked so delicate and yet they held together well enough to absorb the “dip” which was out of this world. I seriously considered ordering a repeat and I have thought about this treat every day since we have been there. What a pleasant way to begin a meal!

    Gerry began with a Mushroom Bisque, seasoned croutons and an orange-fennel oil. He thought the soup was great. John had a dish of the marinated mixed olives. I have a picture of it but, seriously, it’s just a dish of mixed olives so use your imagination.

 If you thought I went slightly ga ga over the sweet potato chips (and maybe I did), you will find it hard to believe that my salad was, quite possibly, the most delicious salad I have ever eaten. That is an amazing compliment coming from me who was totally convinced that there were few things better on this earth than a fresh chunk of iceberg lettuce, with just the right amount of Maytag Blue Cheese dressing and smothered with tangy bacon bits and ripe tomatoes.

 This one at The Silverspoon was baby arugula, honey roasted pears, goat cheese and herb vinaigrette. Wow, I savored each fantastic bite of this salad. My entree had not even made an appearance and I knew I could go home happy from this dining experience.

 My entree was good. I know that sounds like faint praise after my starter and my salad but it would have been nearly impossible to surpass those two items. Had they not been so superlative, this sentence might have started  “my entree was really good.” I ordered the Hazelnut-crusted trout, red bliss potatoes, haricot verts, sherry pommery mustard sauce. The fish was tender and flaky, the mustard sauce a great enhancer of the fish and the potatoes and green beans good. If I might throw in a very minor complaint, I would have preferred a few more red bliss potatoes on the dish. I ran out of what was there long before my trout disappeared. John gave me some of his garlic fries which was a help.

 This would be where his garlic fries that he shared with me came from. It’s the Tender Baby Filet of Beef with port wine shallot and smoked blue cheese butter with exotic mushrooms and house-cut garlic fries. For some reason, John didn’t use the port wine shallot sauce or the smoked blue cheese butter through the first half of his meal. I think he was trying to “eat healthy”. When he gave in to temptation and added those items to his filet, I think he really enjoyed the second half of his meal. I know the fries were delicious.

 Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Gerry was devouring his entree, the Lamb Crepenette (I heard Caroline describing what this was but it was lost on me), with green onion pureed potatoes and haricot verts. Gerry thoroughly enjoyed his dinner choice.

                Although none of us needed it, we ended our meal with a dessert, an espresso flavored Pot de Creme. It was rich and flavorful and left us with little room to breathe. All three of us were absolutely thrilled with our discovery of The Silverspoon. The menu is interesting and diverse and Chef Tim Courtney, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, should be rightfully proud of what he creates each evening at this excellent Main Line BYOB.

333 BELROSE (NOT A BYOB)

Posted in 333 Belrose with tags , , , , , on January 21, 2012 by ballymote

 This was another restaurant I had wanted to try for some time. I pass it every day on my way to work and, more importantly, my nephew works in the kitchen helping to prepare each days menu. Four couples converged on this Main Line eatery in late November. We had to scramble to find a parking space but that may be due to the fact they had two VERY large parties, one of 40 and the other 32, dining there at that time. Our table for eight was located and the only deterrent was the noise but that might be expected when 40 family members are gathered to celebrate a birthday just a few feet from our table.

 

333 Belrose, not being a BYOB, we perused the wine list (most bottles coming in at about 3 times retail) and selected a couple of bottles of the 2008 Chappallet, Mountain Cuvee, a blend of cabernet and merlot that offers rich fruit flavor with hints of cinnamon and other spices. It went well with all of the entrees chosen and on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Several in our party selected the Wood Grilled Jail Island Salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and broccolini. I thought the fish was tender and cooked to perfection and the sauce added just the right additional flavor. The garlic mashed potatoes were sumptuous.

 

 

 

 

 Those who didn’t opt for the salmon gravitated toward the Char-grilled Filet Mignon. Some had it as pictured here with steak fries. My wife substituted the fries for blue cheese mashed potatoes which she raved about. She gave me a sample and although they were good I thought the intense blue cheese flavor slightly overpowered the meat. But, hey, what do I know??

 

 

 

 

 My nephew popped out of the busy kitchen just long enough to present our table with a complimentary sampling of some of their excellent desserts. We all shared a couple of plates of their New Orleans style bread pudding with a warm whiskey sauce, a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and creme fraiche and a third tasty item that I don’t quite remember its name.

 

 

 

Overall, it was an excellent evening. The noise died down somewhat and what could have been a kitchen disaster with 70 to 80 orders arriving at the same time was handled flawlessly by the staff. 333 Belrose is certainly a Philly Main Line  restaurant that deserves more frequent visits.

A LA MAISON – BYOB

Posted in A la Maison (3rd review) with tags , , , , , , , on January 21, 2012 by ballymote

  It had been a few months since my friends Gerry, John and myself had met for one of our wine dinners. Since the two of them like to smoke a good cigar before dinner at The Tinderbox on Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore, it made sense that A la Maison would be the right choice for our meal. We had been there a couple of times already and always enjoyed the experience.

 As usual, I arrived before the smoke fiends and was seated and having my wine opened when they walked in. The cork broke during the process and the wine had to be decanted, not a bad thing considering it was 15 years old. Our wines for the evening were the aforementioned, decanted, 1996 Steltzner, Stag Leap, Merlot, a 2007 Black Coyote, Reserve, Napa Cabernet and a 2003, Arrowwood, Sonoma County, Cabernet. All of them were wonderful and the owner stopped by our table for a lively discussion of primarily French wines. Ted Miller is a very interesting guy. He owns several restaurants and has partial interest in a couple of Napa wineries. He extolled the virtues of several little known appellations in France and was kind enough to open for us a bottle of the 2003 Chateau Hourtin Ducasse, Haut-Medoc. We enjoyed both his wine and his company and it seems we always have interesting encounters with folks when we dine at A La Maison.

I will interject here that I started this review in late November and it is now January 21st and I am attempting to complete it and several others where time has further warped an already fading memory. Thus, the next few reviews will be a bit brief as I once again struggle to catch up and KEEP up with this blog. A sincere thank you to the many loyal readers who still sneak back here to see if I have added anything new.

 

  John had the Beef Short Rib Bourguignon with braised aromatic vegetables and pommes puree. I have had this dish before and John thoroughly enjoyed it as had I on other occasions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Gerry’s Lamb Chop looked delicious and he confirms that it was every bit as good as it looked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I was not quite as happy with my choice. The problem started earlier when the server took my order for the Steak Frites, filet mignon. pommes frites, sauce maison. As she walked away from the table I asked her if she was going to ask me how I wanted my filet cooked. She replied. “the chef always cooks the filets medium rare.” I politely informed her I would prefer mine medium and if it went a little further toward medium-well, that would be OK, too. I will have to give her points for her honesty. The chef must ALWAYS cook the filets medium-rare, even when requested NOT to do so. I struggled thru most of it and despite the under-cooking which I could have lived with, it wasn’t the finest piece of meat I had ever seen. Additionally, I thought the frites were bordering on inedible. This may just be a personal objection as I much prefer the thick steak fries to the skinny one with little potato inside.

Other than not being happy with my own choice, my companions were happy with theirs and it’s always a good time when we share wine and have great conversation.

333 BELROSE – NOT A BYOB

Posted in 333 Belrose with tags , , , , on November 26, 2011 by ballymote

  333 Belrose is a restaurant that I would pass by daily on my way to work in King of Prussia. It was a place I always wanted to try because it is in the area (Radnor, PA) where my wine buddies and I would have frequent wine dinners, we always went somewhere else  because it wasn’t a BYOB.

I recently learned that my nephew, Ryan, worked at the restaurant. In addition, researching the menu online, it appeared to offer some interesting entrees and on top of all this, the review from diners were invariably very good. So, when I suggested the site as a possibility for some of our friends, there was no dissent.

We made reservations for a Friday evening for a party of eight (8). Parking near the restaurant on weekend nights can be a bit of a hassle but we found something nearby and arrived right on time. We had a nice table in the corner of the bustling eatery and while the others conversed, I reviewed the not very extensive wine list, which consisted of about 12 reds and 12 whites, a few by the glass with most bottles being priced between 2 and a half and three times retail.

 

We settled on a couple of bottles of Chappellet, Mountain Cuvee, a $25.00 red blend listed at $63.00 on the wine list (THIS is why we love BYOB’s). Made up of mostly cabernet and merlot, this one had vibrant fruit flavors with hints of spice and cinnamon and went well with both the meat and fish dishes on the menu.

 

 

I should point out that we arrived at 333 Belrose just as a party of forty (40) were entering to celebrate a birthday. In addition, another party of thirty-six (36) were seated adjacent to us in another room. Although this could have thrown a wrench into service for the evening, I would offer serious kudos to the kitchen and service staff for handling things well.

Several of us began our meal with the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salad, applewood smoked bacon with blue cheese dressing. As I have mentioned many times, any variation of the Wedge Salad is tops in my book and this one with its fresh produce was no exception and a great way to start the meal. Those who chose to forego the BLT Salad selected the Belrose Butter Lettuce Salad which consisted of crumbled blue cheese , candied walnuts and shaved Granny Smith apples.

 

With lots of interesting items on the menu and a couple of nice “specials” it was difficult to settle on an entree choice. After a lengthy deliberation I decided to go with the Wood Grilled Jail Island Salmon served with Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes, Garlicky Broccolini and Sauce Bernaise. The salmon was nicely charred, full of flavor and went perfectly with the absolutely delicious sour cream mashed potatoes. The broccolini was fine although not my favorite choice of a veggie.

 

 

Several in our group chose the House Cut 14 oz. Strip Steak with crispy salt & pepper steak fries, grilled asparagus and 333 steak sauce with truffled aoili dressing.

My wife had the Char-grilled Filet Mignon with blue cheese mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots and a cracked-pepper brandy demi-glaze. She thoroughly enjoyed her steak and even shared a portion of her meal with me. I thought the steak was great but felt there was too much blue cheese flavor in the mashed potatoes, As usual, she thought I was nuts!

 

 My nephew surprised us with a complimentary dessert tray he had created featuring the New Orleans Style Bread Pudding with Warm Whisky Cream Sauce, a New York Style Citrus Cheesecake and a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce and Chantillty Cream.

It was just the right ending to a wonderful meal.

 

If 333 Belrose were a BYOB we would be making frequent trips to Radnor to sample more of their enticing menu. For those of you who are not as finicky about being able to bring your own wine to a restaurant, 333 Belrose should be one of your choices for fine dining on the Main Line.

AUGUSTO’S – BYOB – WARMINSTER, PA

Posted in Augusto's Restaurant with tags , , on November 15, 2011 by ballymote

  Augusto’s in Warminster is a place we have enjoyed on a few different   occasions.  When we had friends return to the area from for a visit from their new home in Colorado it proved to be the perfect location for us to celebrate their brief stay.

 Augusto’s menu has a lot of great selections and you can always count on a few tempting specials.

 

 

 

 

 I had a nice bottle of the 2006 Catena Alta, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. Lots of spice and peppery notes intermingled with the dark berry flavors made this a good wine for many of the entrees available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of those tasty entrees was the Lamb Chop. 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Hawaiian Butterfish was one of the evening specials and it was cooked perfectly and served on a bed of couscous. A wonderful dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The filet was another selection that a few in our party ordered and rave reviews were heard in between bites.

 

 

 

 

                                           This was one of the mouth-watering desserts offered on Augusto’s menu.

 

It’s a great BYOB if you are in this area of Philadelphia and a place you will want to return to again and again.

SCANNICCHIO’S RESTAURANT

Posted in Scannicchio's Restaurant with tags , , , on November 12, 2011 by ballymote

 Scannicchio’s at Broad and Porter in South Philadelphia is a dependable BYOB not far from the Sports Complex. My sons and I had tickets to the USA – Mexico soccer match at Lincoln Financial Field on a warm summer evening and decides to have dinner there prior to the game.

 

      I provided the wine for the evening. A 2007 La Posta, Pizzella Family Vineyard, Malbec, Argentina and a 2007 Angels Landing Cabernet Sauvignon. Both of these dark reds proved complimentary to the hearty Italian food.

 

 

                                                                                                         My sons, Frank and Brian started off their meal with Mozzarella Fritta. I would have to consider them as experts on fried mozzarella as they seem to choose if for many of their meals. They both declared this one to be exceptional with a nice coating and a quality cheese that held together well.

 

 

 

 

I began with a plate of tasty home-made meatballs served with broccoli rabe. The meatballs were delicious and proved to be the perfect appetizer.

 

 

 

 

   Brian selected the Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken. He thought it was terrific.

 

 

 

 

    Frank loved his Lobster Ravioli in a Rosa Vodka sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

  I was not disappointed at all in my choice of the Pollo Alla Milanese Italiano, breaded chicken cutlet topped with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and sharp provolone. I can’t remember if I attempted to take some home but I do know the portion was large enough for two meals.

 

 

 

Having filled our stomachs with a hearty meal it was off to the stadium to watch the USA score a second half goal and ear a 1 – 1 tie with Mexico.

GIGI RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE

Posted in Gigi's Restaurant, Philly BYOB Reviews with tags , , , on November 12, 2011 by ballymote

 It was 4th of July Weekend and our friends Gerry and Joann had some buy one – get one coupons for Gigi’s at 319 Market Street in Philly. We opted for the outside dining. I must confess that prior to going here I read quite a few reviews on Yelp and the place did not get very good reviews. Consequently, there was a bit of apprehension upon arrival.

My concerns were alleviated immediately as our server, whose name I no longer remember welcomed us cheerfully and took our drink orders. I think we must have had coupons on the drinks, too as we had brought some good wines with us.

                                                                                              This is a picture of our nameless server who made us feel comfortable from the moment we were seated.

 

 

Here are our opening cocktails. I recall that Gerry’s was undrinkable and he returned it for another choice without any problems.

   

It would have been difficult to find two better wines than the ones we had with us on this festive Saturday evening. Gerry had brought along a 2007 Alpha Omega, Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley. This was one of the producers that we enjoyed an intimate visit with during our Napa trip last year and virtually all of their wines are first=rate. The Proprietary Red being one of the stars of their line-up. My choice, and I knew it was one of Joann’s favorites, was the 2006 Lillian, White Hawk Vineyard, Syrah. This is one of my all-time favorite wines and was an equal companion to Gerry’s selection.

As usual, with these mini review “catch-ups”, I’m not totally sure what we all had to eat. Again, I will post the photos and fill in where I can.

THE FARM AND FISHERMAN – BYOB

Posted in The Farm and Fisherman, Wine Dinners with tags , , , on May 30, 2011 by ballymote

 I have had a habit recently of delaying my reviews way beyond what they should be. I guess all writers experience these droughts and if I were really smart I would continue this pace of delayed sharing when it comes to the dinner that four of us had on Friday night of this 2011 Memorial Day Weekend. We dined at the very recently opened The Farm and Fisherman at 11th and Pine Streets in center city Philadelphia. Anyone reading this would be doing yourself a huge favor if you stopped now and made your reservation prior to what I am about to write. The reason I make that suggestion is because The Farm and Fisherman is an undiscovered gem on the Philly restaurant scene. This 30 seat culinary temple is the creation of Josh Lawler and his wife, Colleen.

Josh and Colleen have spent the last 10 years in New York with Josh doing the honors as Chef de Cuisine at the highly acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns which Food and Wine Magazine declared “One of 10 Life-Changing Restaurants”. Colleen runs the front of the house and she is an accomplished chef herself having a culinary degree from Drexel University and experience at many New York restaurants including BLT Market at the Ritz-Carlton and Picholine. They have returned to their home town to fulfill their dream of having their own restaurant.

We arrived for our 7:30 reservation and I have to confess to a certain amount of pre-dinner apprehension. I had studied the menu in the days leading up to our dinner and I wasn’t totally convinced this was going to be my kind of place. Chef Lawler’s committment to farm fresh food and local ingredients had some items listed that weren’t exactly encouraging to a “meat and potatoes” guy like myself.  The Farm and Fisherman features a three course menu with four items available under each course. That’s a total of 12 offerings and the four of us managed to damn near try them all. Here is how we started.

 I began with the Bloody Beet Steak, yogurt, shallots, pan drippings, bull’s blood. My wife, Kathy, was slightly shocked that I would order beets but I decided as long as I was here I would be open to the adventure. The dish was outstanding and the flavor of the beets mixed with the yogurt and the drippings made for a delicious start to my meal. I tried to tell the others how good my selection was but I couldn’t get them to listen because they were too busy being effusive over how good their first course was.

Kathy and Carol had chosen the Bucks County Head Lettuce, fromage blanc, pistachios and spring vegetables. They raved about how good their salad was and I actually heard Carol say between bites “maybe the best salad I have ever eaten”. There was no question we were off to a good start with our meal.

 Joe had selected the Jumbo Asparagus, mache, apricots, chive blossom and green garlic sauce. I wish I had taken a picture of his plate when he was done because there wasn’t the slightest indication that anything had been on this clean, white plate. It was solid testimony to the fact that he LOVED his dish. He let each of us sample a portion and it really was great. Carol even though it MAY have been better than the salad she had just declared “the best she had ever eaten”.

 Carol next selected the Chilled Carrot Soup, angelica, local ginger and buttermilk. She was making little noises indicating she was enjoying something really special. I was wondering what could be THAT good about a chilled carrot soup but when I tasted a sample spoonful I could see that Chef Lawler had worked some special magic on this offering. Maybe it was the buttermilk?

Kathy had the Jennings Farm Egg and Oxtails, whole wheat toast, asparagus and pickles. You would have had to twist my arm to get me to order that one but she declared it wonderful. I can’t get past eggs as simply a breakfast meal so I am missing out on a lot of the trend in haute cuisine.

 Anyway, I had no time to dwell on an egg that I wasn’t having because my Barnegate Light Scallops, Hakurei turnips, wild spinach and green tomato sauce was sitting perfectly plated and prepared in front of me. Great flavor combinations and just the right seasoning made this plate a special treat. By now, all of our fears had dissipated and we were just enjoying something really special.

I should add that the meal began with a piping hot Parker House roll with just the right hint of salt in the warm crust and some excellent house butter that just melts beautifully into the warm bread. We each asked for and received another roll during our meal. The Farm and Fisherman does not rush their course one after another. You have ample time to enjoy your wines and engage in conversation. We were there for two and a half hours and Colleen was engaging and conversing with each table. I haven’t mentioned our wines for the evening.

 Both Joe and I must have been thinking along the same lines that the food appeared to be a bit lighter than the steaks and chops that would require a cabernet as we both brought Pinot Noirs. Joe’s was the 2009 Belle Glos, “Meoimi”. Pinot Noir. This is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from Sonoma, Monterrey and Santa Barbara Counties and offered sweet cherries and blackberry notes with floral tones. It was a nice easy drinking wine.

Much the same could be said for my 2008 Evening Lands, Seven Springs, Pinot Noir. Light strawberry and lavender flavors offered a nice accompaniment to all of our dishes.

The first two courses had set a standard of excellence for the evening and we couldn’t wait to find out if our entrees would continue the parade of great food.

 Kathy and Carol each ordered the Shady Brook Farms Organic Chicken, asparagus, turnip-raisin puree, spring onions. Hey, who else is doing a turnip-raisin puree?? The women thought the chicken was perfectly prepared and were both happy with their selections.

Joe had the Livengood’s Farm Lamb, Spring pasta salad, asparagus, currants and pine nuts. The pasta salad was a unique presentation, the lamb was perfect medium and Joe was totally happy with the entire dish.

 I had considered the chicken, as I almost always do, but went with the Braised Berkshire Pork Cheeks, farmer’s cheese spaetzle, bok choi and wild garlic mustard. The pork cheeks were incredibly tender, the spaetzle a perfect marriage with the meat and the sauce just made this entire dish something truly remarkable. For me, this was the perfect ending to a great dinner.

 We ordered two desserts to share. On the left is strawberries and creme fraiche in a puff pastry sandwich. This was possibly the only thing resembling a miss the entire evening. It was fresh and looked beautiful but there wasn’t a lot of taste in this one. The other dessert, a panna cotta with berries and glazed sugar crumbles, was mush more flavorful and we all enjoyed that one.

What a wonderful evening of great food and comfort. The Farm and Fisherman changes their menu slightly each evening and probably dramatically as the seasons change and Josh and Colleen take advantage of what is currently available from local farmers. My only fear is that this place will soon be discovered by the true “foodies” in the Philly area and reservations will be hard to come by. I strongly suggest you make yours NOW.

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