A Secret Garden🍴

Take me to another place, take me to another land, make me forget all that hurts me, let me understand your plan. There are times in life where we come into a moment and that moment seems so reminiscent of a song that we once heard; and when I walked into Terrain Glen Mills Garden Cafe, in Glen Mills Pennsylvania I was transported to another place. It felt as if I walked into a beautiful yet magical land, the smells caused me to think no more of all things that may have hurt me, and as I took in the scenery I found myself quietly saying to myself in a whisper, Lord , my mind is clear and I am ready to understand your plan.

Dang, that is magical….could you imagine going to a place like that just for an afternoon? If you can’t,  I strongly suggest you do. If for nothing else than to simply recalibrate your sensory receptors so that you can be present in the world to know when you see something beautiful.

You see the Terrain Glen Mills Cafe is inside of a garden or super amped up nursery of sorts with a Cafe in the back. All things flowers, all things gardening, all things botanical, all things self-caring, simply all things enchanting, and the topper you get to eat after you have perused or shopped.

So first up on the list for lunch was the Lavender Lemonade, yes I am writing about the drink which in most of blogs I do not, but this was a special that I felt inclined to try. I always find myself trying foods that in mind commemorate something, and with this being Memorial Day weekend, the onset of summer, my way of doing things shouted you must celebrate with a drink that is not only refreshing, but with remnants of requiescence, and for me the official sign of summer…lemons. Oftentimes when you order  lemonade from a cafe that has its foundation on the more organic side of things, the taste leaves little to be desired, but this lemonade was delicious, it was sweet as lemonade should be, it was tangy, it was cold with no ice, and it was fragrant.

Second up was the Artisanal Cheese Board; I have to write that ordering the cheese board gave me the immediate feeling that I was amongst the ladies who lunch club. I felt so sophisticated, so adult, so refined, and so rich, that was a powerful cheese board. With the seasonal cheeses with super fancy names, and the waitress coming to explain each cheese to a tee, with the aromatic honey, the house made pickles that looked like ribbons of cucumber and tasted better than any vlasic pickle I have ever tasted, the slight complement of strawberries and blueberries and grain mustard, was unpretentiously enchanting.

Last up was the Grilled Cheese on sourdough bread with camembert cheese, fig mostarda, honeycrisp apples and a side of french fries….essentially a ladies who lunch grilled cheese. If you didn’t know camembert cheese is a soft creamy cow’s milk white cheese with a nutty taste, yet with a fruity backdrop. Needless to say this is not your grandma’s government cheese and when you pulled it apart it was very apparent. There was no stringy pull which I believe is essential for every grilled cheese, the cheese was not fully melted, and the fig mostarda was a tad on the pungent side. 

Terrain I think it is imperative to understand, there is a fine balance between palatableness and conception. The key is not only to keep the essence of grilled cheese, but to ensure that the fundamentals are still present and those fundamentals are super melty cheese, the cheese should not look like it was just sliced, and if it does, it is because it has not melted sufficiently, the cheese should not be so thick that it is virtually impossible to get a cheese string pull, and the cheese probably should have more of a buttery slightly salty taste just to balance the fruitiness and nuttiness all out.

Terrain in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania although I was not impressed with the grilled cheese and probably will not order again until you change your choice of cheese, the ambiance of this cafe and the preludes to grilled cheese was only what I can describe as a dream that I didn’t want to awake from. The name of the cafe is perfectly fitting, you took me on a Terrain to a place that was serene, to a land that was a little bumpy, but so aesthetically pleasing, and when I left there I felt mentally better for it🍴

Pretty on Outside, Not so good on Inside

There are some restaurants that are the same as photo filters. The filter has the ability to make you think that beauty exists, the images often convey a place of exuberance and facade of decadence. But as we all know there is a real image behind every filter, oftentimes it can be a close correlation between reality and the filtered world or they can be as far as the east is from the west.

Avenue Kitchen in the Glen Eagle Shopping Square in West Chester, Pennsylvania wore a bit of a filter on my visit to them for an early dinner. Now before I proceed I come from a background where I was trained to start every potentially constructive comment with an affirmation. So let me start with a favorable comment. The ambience in Avenue Kitchen was what I like to call a cutie patootie, it was bright, it was airy, it was inviting, it was upbeat, it was a place I wanted to sit my caboose down and I get excited about the grub in which I was about to partake. The waiter assigned to the table was great, he was everything a waitstaff should be, attentive, but not pushy, patient and not slowly annoyed, happy but not incessantly so, I honestly could not have asked for a better waiter.

The menu was chocked full of amazing choices, and with each item I felt the salivation begin and my fervor surge. So first up on the table were the crab beignets. I chose these crab beignets, because I was intrigued on how this restaurant was going to take the lightness of a beignet, the sweetness of the dough, the powdered sugar acting as a backdrop, and form it into a crab beignet. When a chef opts to recreate a culinary delicacy which seems so simple when executed perfectly, what they are endeavoring to do is to pay homage to its origin all the while leveling it up a bit with their own personal spin. It is in this endeavor that not only individualism is essential, but sublime, and the taste of the product be in the realm of magnificent.

When the beignet was brought to the table I found my countenance display confusion; understanding that you eat with your eyes first, what I saw was not a beignet, it was not in the shape of beignet, it was not the color of beignet, it was obviously not light as a beignet. Taking my first bite, my tongue’s memory alerted me immediately and it clearly reminded me that what I was eating was a fritter more importantly a crab fritter or a glorified hushpuppy. There was no sweetness, there was no light doughnut consistency, but it was a deep fried ball that was crunchy on the outside, and I must admit good crab in the middle, with a small amount of breading for what I assume was to act as a binder. With each dip into the aioli sauce I felt compelled to take another bite, it was large and it was an in charge appetizer, and although deep fried it did not hide the crab meat, in my opinion that was the challenge that the chef won. 

While I am being transparent about Avenue Kitchen it wasn’t the taste of the crab beignet that tripped me up, it was the name. When reading the menu my mental rolodex began to recall the taste of a beignet and what I received was in total conflict and although I had a strong penchant toward it, my consciousness was left feeling disoriented. In this particular case Avenue Kitchen there is certainly an easy fix to this edible problem and the answer is….change the name.

Next up was the short rib grilled cheese. There is something special about a grilled cheese, a grilled cheese has super powers, it has the capability to draw your mind back to a simpler time in your life, it has the wherewithal to rapidly take you down memory lane where you remember grilled cheese on a special day. So when someone orders grilled cheese what they are really saying is, in this moment I want to feel nostalgic, but when I get short rib on it, I want it to be known that I am a grown up who wants to heighten their experiences.

The short rib grilled cheese came out with a nice helping of perfectly seasoned and sized fries on the side. At first sight the short rib didn’t look like short rib, but resembled a shredded corn beef, but I digress. At first taste, I tasted a buttery bread, delicious stringy cheese, but no short rib. I took another bite right where I could clearly see the short rib and still I tasted nothing. On my third bite, because I am not a quitter, I recognized that the short rib was tender, but it was flavorless, it was bland, it was boring, it was simply humdrum. When a chef opts to place short rib on a classic grilled cheese what you have conveyed to the patron is that you are prepared to come with the heat, you are qualified to deliver intense flavor, that you have taken this portion of beef and contrived it into an undeniable flavor bomb that will not only give you comfort, but it is wrapped up in intensity. But you fell short to the degree that it felt wasteful for you and for me.

Avenue Kitchen the culinary experience is what I can only describe as lackadaisical, there were points where I saw your potential, but even in that you couldn’t identify it properly, there were times when I saw your goal which was to elevate, but execution fell by the wayside. The experience reminded me of that slogan…close but no cigar.

Avenue Kitchen, it is not likely that I will return for a second run at this, but I am blogger who believes life is all about progression and you can get better, what I would recommend is following through on your goals to the end, remembering that good is the enemy of best and that greatness comes from those who can take feedback. Good Luck on your future food endeavors🍴

It’s the Experience for Me

To be able to go out to eat after being in lock down for over a year is not only a palate parade full of joy, but it is a different experience. For some restaurants it seems as though the wait staff is completely overjoyed with this new environment of restauranting, no more physical menus, you have to read a menu by scanning a QR code, no more face engagement with the patrons due to mask, so now every wait staff must adopt the power of the Smize created and perfected by Tyra Banks. No more salt and pepper on the table and no more freshly grated parmesan cheese being done at the table. So what does this all boil down to? It boils down to an experience being lost. Dining is so much more than the food, it is totally about the experience, the small slither of time where we can actually put our phones away and engage with our fellow food partners, it’s a time to feel a little self-indulgent, it’s a simply a time to feel like we are leveling up in experience.

Covid-19 instituted a lot of mandates in this season, and sure we must all adhere to them not only for the benefit ourselves, but for the benefit of our fellow man, and I do believe that restaurants have a challenge on their hands, and that challenge is: How do you make the indoor restaurant patron not feel like they should have gotten take-out?

It is my opinion that they should take a page out of the menu from The Blue Crab Grill in Newark, Delaware. The Blue Crab Grill instinctively grabbed hold of my sentiments and delivered an indoor dining experience that was not only gratifying but sumptuous.

If you opt to name your restaurant after a seafood, then the food should be filled with seafood from beginning to end, no fillers, no imitation, just seafood through and through and The Blue Crab Grill delivered.

First up, the crab deviled eggs with an edible adornment of parmesan crisp; now people tend to think that deviled eggs are a non-exquisite appetizer, but a relatively simple one that deserves to be left in the corner like Baby in Dirty Dancing. But, I have you know that deviled when done correctly, can engage your appetite for more with every single bite. Especially when they are filled with crab, and not just any crab I suspect, but the legs of a blue crab, where the meat is a little more briny, a smidgen more salty, and the texture a bit lighter. When you couple that with the parmesan crisp, you get crunch, you get sharp cheesiness, and texture, then you are off to the races for the next course.

I am always of the mindset that when you try a new restaurant you tend to stick with your old faithful items. Meaning you select food that has tongue memory, you have a framework on how it should taste, you can recognize rather rapidly if there is a twist in the new dish, and if this simply measures up or exceeds your expectations.

With that being written second up was the Lump Back-Fin crab cakes with a vegetable medley and mac and cheese with asiago cheese, provolone cheese, and cheddar cheese. To start, when they stated lump crab cakes they did not lie, it was all meat, no fillers, no bread, just sweet, swank, slightly buttery crab meat, and slightly toasted atop. Crab cakes should taste fresh at the same time they should taste light, with the inherent ability to ensue a smile in a way that only crab cakes can.

Because, every plate should have vegetables I guess with the goal of fulfilling the food pyramid in some form of fashion, they provided a medley of broccoli, in which I am a broccoli lover, butternut squash, and zucchini, all of the conventional companions with a seafood dish. 

Then the extra side, the mac and cheese, it was good, not remarkable like the mac and cheese at Cut by Wolfgang Puck, but certainly good, it was cheesy, they made a bechamel sauce and stirred the macaroni in and lightly baked the top. So when I write about this, it is purely about preference, I individualistically prefer a tighter texture to my cheese, not necessarily a saucy texture. But it landed in the land of good and good is definitely not bad and I would certainly order it again as an accompaniment as I believe it went very well.

Last up, the flourless chocolate torte, where only chocolate lovers will begin to salivate at this reading. There is something special about flourless, it makes the torte dense, and the chocolate more profound tasting, then when you put it in a torte, you get that dainty feeling, that compulsory feeling to hold one pinky up in the air while taking your first bite. This torte was unquestionably decadent, delectable, and simply heavenly. This is the desert that you get to go, so you don’t have to share.

The win here for The Blue Crab Grill is not only was the food made to order, perfectly hot upon arrival, the service was 5-star, I can hear the inflection of the waitresses voice they subtly appreciated our presence, there was salt and pepper on the table, there were actual menus that were nice heavy to give you the impression that you were about to engage in a dining experience and not a grab and go one, and an absolutely delightful one at that.

This was a true find, and I have officially dubbed this as my spot for great seafood, fab service, and amazing desert.