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rehearsal dinner - Salento or Porcini

I am helping organize a rehearsal dinner for my son's wedding party. We will have 20 or possibly 22 people and would like it to be in the Rittenhouse Square area so we can walk to it after the rehearsal. Private rooms are available for a party our size at both Salento and Porcini. Any thoughts about which one is better? Or any other suggestions? (I also tried Branzino but they would not do a party of 20 in their private room since it seats 45).

Jul 06, 2010
zelbee in Philadelphia

Changing Scene in Downingtown

We had the opposite experience at Jasper. Went there Thursday night and had their prix fixe dinner (they offer on Weds & Thurs and if you sign up on their e-mail list they send you the menu). It was fabulous: first an amuse bouche of a delicous crab soup, followed by spinach salad with cherries and Maytag blue cheese, House smoked salmon with asparagus and tarragon aioli, shrimp and scallop bread pudding, roasted lamb chop with fresh heirloom tomatoes and local goat cheese, and banana stuffed crepes for dessert. Everything was delicious. Service was good but not as good as the service we've had at Birchrunville or Majolica. The prix fixe cost is $40/pp and was definitely worth it.

Jul 06, 2009
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Celebratory dinner for ~20 in Philly

My stepson is getting his PhD at Penn in July, and we want to plan a nice dinner for family and friends to celebrate this momentous event. It will be mid-week, probably about 20 people, and we would prefer somewhere not too noisy, possibly a separate room. I'm thinking something in around the $30/person range. We're flexible about the kind of food as long as it's really good. Maybe a Chinese banquet?

May 06, 2009
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Glasbern Inn - Fogelsville, PA (near Allentown)

We have been there a couple of times and it was fantastic. Last time we went was for a special "al fresco" wine dinner, which was outstanding. We stayed overnight and the next day had a great breakfast, and then got a tour of the farm and greenhouses, and then went swimming in the pool. The guy who owns it (I think his name is Al) is trying to run the farm the way Joel Saletan runs his (described in Omnivore's Dilemma). It's a really special place. Also, a BYO except for the special wine dinners they have.

May 06, 2009
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Henry's Cafe in Pottstown

Someone told me it has closed. Does anyone know if this is true? It was one of our favorite local places, and if it has closed, it's the second (after Mosaic) to do so in the past 6 months or so.

Apr 19, 2009
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Great Beer Restaurant in Limerick

We went to Craft last Friday and were very impressed. Great selection of beers and the food was really good. We loved our mussels, and then I had the roasted salmon, which was perfectly cooked and served with delicious sides, including brussel sprouts with bacon and I think sauteed spaetzle or something like that. Also, the service was great... our waitress was really helpful in picking out beers and brought me several tastes of different things. It was crowded and we had to wait, so people may want to call ahead!

Mar 05, 2009
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Christmas Eve Traditional Food

We have done the Feast Of Seven Fishes (an Italian Christmas Eve tradition), and my sister tells me that in Mexico, tamales are traditional on Christmas Eve.

Dec 16, 2008
zelbee in Home Cooking

Freezer failure - defrosted fruit

Hi Chowhounds,
Our freezer failed, and I now have a ton of defrosted fruit - sour cherries, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and a few bags of raspberries. I think we'll be getting the canner out this weekend. Any suggestions?

Dec 16, 2008
zelbee in Home Cooking

What happened to Cafe Mosaic?

Yes, sadly Cafe Mosaic is closed. I drove by last night and in its place is a little Italian restaurant. My husband and I were regulars at Mosaic and will especially miss the wine dinners that Chef Mike Pezzillo held every month or two. He is an excellent chef and I hope he will show up somewhere else soon.

Aug 25, 2008
zelbee in Pennsylvania

What's happening to Birchrunville Store Care

I just read this on the phillynews foodandddrinq blog:

<Francis Trzeciak of Chester County’s Birchrunville Store Cafe has quit his short-lived executive chef’s job at the luxe Inn at St. Peter’s, near French Creek State Park.

“I am happy where I am,” Trzeciak said. “It was too much for me.”

Chef de cuisine George Cook takes over the kitchen.>

Aug 06, 2008
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Grass-fed beef

We have been delighted with the beef we got at Tussock Sedge in Souderton. http://www.tussocksedgefarm.com/
After reading Omnivore's Dilemma, I contacted the Charlotte Rosenberg at Tussock Sedge to find out if the beef was completely grass fed, and she told me that it is mostly grain finished, but that she also had just read OD and they planned to finish some on grass this year.

The only problem with TS is that you have to buy large quantities: sampler pack (12 lbs), variety pack (30 lbs), or a quarter, half, or whole steer. We got the variety pack, which had ground beef, steaks, roasts, etc. All of it was FANTASTIC (I just braised the rump roast this past weekend, and we long ago ran out of the ground meet, which made the best hamburgers ever). I would like to buy a quarter so I would get some of the other cuts that aren't available in the sampler pack, but not sure my husband and I can eat that much beef before it gets freezer burned. We may have to buy it and share it with our four kids (who don't live at home). I'm sure they would be very happy if we did that!

Also, I think Hendricks Farm & Dairy carries Tussock Sedge beef, and I assume you could buy individual cuts there, but I'll bet it's quite a bit more expensive. We had gotten very good beef at Hendricks before we discovered Tussock Sedge (someone at Hendricks told us about it), and we still like to go to Hendricks for all the other great stuff they have.

May 13, 2008
zelbee in Philadelphia

What's happening to Birchrunville Store Care

Last night we went to the Inn at St. Peters for dinner. We originally had reservations at Birchrunville, but they were cancelled because the restaurant is closed this weekend as they focus on getting going at St. Pete's. No one would tell us what happened to Martin Gagne (chef/owner at St. Pete's) other than that he's no longer there (it all sounds very mysterious). They told us that Francis is now partnering with the other owner of St. Pete's, but that he will still be at Birchrunville. At St. Pete's he's listed as the executive chef, and there is another guy, George something, who is the Chef de Cuisine. The new menu at St. Pete's looks just like a BSC menu. Among other things, it's a little less expensive than the previous St. Pete's menu.

Our dinners were good, but not great. I had branzino with a salsa cruda, in which the fish was totally overwhelmed by the sauce (one spice, possibly cumin, in particular). My first course of diver scallop mousse was excellent, however. My husband ordered lamb saddle, but was served a lamb shank (waitress brought the wrong thing), which was very good. His first course was lobster dumplings which were good (not fantastic). We shared a very good dessert, lemon-lime mousse with strawberries and raspberry sorbet.

Service wasn't nearly as good as at BSC, but the staff was dealing with a new menu, new chef, etc., so that will probably improve. The atmosphere is modern, not warm and cozy like BSC.

Then, there's the fact that it's not a BYO. They do have some lower priced wines (less than $46) in addition to their regular wine list. I wasn't impressed and would have far preferred to bring something from home.

We live only about 1 mile from St. Pete's, so we would are really rooting for it to be a success. But for a great dining experience, for now we'll continue to go to Birchrunville.

May 03, 2008
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Good Tacos in Philadelphia?

The best tacos, IMO, are from the taco truck Don Memo, which is on 38th just south of Chestnut. It's probably only open on weekdays and during the day, and there is often a long line, but it's worth the wait. Their tacos al Pastor are the best around.

May 03, 2008
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Best Philly Italian BYO

My birthday is coming up and I'm planning to go out to dinner with three of my favorite people. We are thinking perhaps of Tre Scalini. Must be a place that takes reservations (eliminating many of the great places such as Melograno).

Any suggestions?

Nov 14, 2007
zelbee in Philadelphia

Best and worst on the Outer Banks

We were also very disappointed with The Pelican. Went for lunch and only the outside part was open and we were constantly battling flies. Service was terrible. I had stuffed shrimp, which were good, but the hush puppies were dry and hard, and the other food was just so-so. It was too hot to try the she-crab soup. All in all a very unpleasant experience.

Aug 28, 2007
zelbee in Southeast

Need recommendations: Bay Area Hound coming to Philly Area

Philly definitely has a lot of great restaurants, but I would also encourage you to go west and try Majolica (if you can get a reservation) in Phoenixville or restaurants in Malvern and West Chester. From KofP, either of those areas are just as close as Philly and don't require driving on the Schuylkill expressway, which at any time of day or night CAN be a problem (but isn't always). In Malvern, we recently ate at Cosimo, which is a wine bar/restaurant and very good. In West Chester, we like Avalon and I've heard that Marshallton Inn and Gillmore's are very good. Also High Street Cafe is supposed to be good for cajun/creole food.

Coming from Calif you may not be too aware of the whole BYO culture in PA, but if you decide to do that (which I recommend), you need to find a good specialty wine & spirits store. They are scattered about the State, and I don't know what is in KofP. If you go into a non-specialty wine store in PA, the selections will be very limited, but the specialty stores are usually much much better.

Have fun!

Aug 16, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Locally raised, grass-fed lamb and beef

I have been searching for a good source of organically and locally raised, grass-fed lamb and beef out here in Chester County (and surrounding areas). I've bought both at Hendricks <http://www.hendricksfarmsanddairy.com> in Telford, but would like to find a place where I can buy a half or whole lamb, and a half or quarter beef.

We're about to try Tussock Sedge <http://www.tussocksedgefarm.com/Home.htm> for beef, and I have been talking to a place called Woodsong Hollow Farms (in Boyertown) for lamb. One question that came up is whether lamb that has been raised on grass but also given some grain is OK.

Does anyone have experience with either of these farms or any others nearby that raise beef and/or lamb? What do you think about the grass vs. grass+grain issue? There is a long thread about this on another board (Not About Food), which has a lot of great information about the husbandry and health aspects of grass vs. grain with regard to beef, and I assume the same issues are true for lamb. I'm just wondering if people on this board have experience with our local farmers on this issue.

Aug 16, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Reading or Morgantown, PA

Saturday night we ate at Frank & Diannah's Arbor Inn in Reading (actually St. Lawrence). It was excellent and we had terrific service. Frank, the chef, had made a special appetizer of crawfish etoufee, which we shared along with a couple of other yummy appetizers. I had duck breast for my main course and it was perfectly cooked and with a very tasty sauce. The only negative IMO is that it is NOT a BYO and their wine list is small. We had a party of 6 and the total bill was about $120 per couple including tip (only one bottle of wine, but a couple of people had mixed drinks), so that should give you an idea of their prices.

Aug 13, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Any word on Salento, 22nd and Walnut?

We went to Salento on Friday night and had a great dinner. Everyone (4 of us) was really pleased with their choices. It's a little bit less expensive than many of the restaurants in Philly and takes reservations. Other than being loud (tile floors, hard surfaces on the walls), it was great, and we will definitely go back.

Aug 06, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Birchrunville Store Cafe

This is our favorite restaurant. We live only about 15 minutes away, so it's also convenient and it's a really lovely drive if you go when it's daylight. Usually when we go, we make a reservation for about 6 weeks later for our next visit, because it is difficult to get reservations, especially on Saturday night. We've probably been about four times and each time it has been excellent. The chef really pays attention to details, so even simple things are prepared to perfection.

BTW, it used to be hard to find because there was a bridge out or something, but now you can just turn onto Flowing Springs Road directly from Rte. 100 (heading east), and the restaurant is at the corner of Flowing Springs and Hollow Road. The directions on their website are, IMO, much more confusing.

Aug 03, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

First Friday dinner in Old City

We are planning on going to Old City for First Friday tomorrow night. Any recommendations on restaurants? Would prefer something not TOO expensive.

Aug 02, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Cooking in Cancun

My family is going to Cancun in mid-August, and I would like to cook a few delicious meals while we are there rather than going out every night. Where can one find fresh fish, produce, and other high-quality ingredients.

Jul 21, 2007
zelbee in Mexico

Real Farms Near Philly

Jack's Farm in Pottstown is small, but has some good things and they are open 7 days a week during daylight hours. http://www.jacksfarm.net/

I was especially impressed with their selection of different lettuces. They also have eggs and I think chickens.

Jul 19, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Friday night dinner in the burbs?

We've been to Funky Li'l Kitchen a few times and haven't been impressed. I think Cafe Mosaic, http://www.cafemosaic.info/, is much better.

Jul 19, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

PASTA PASTA PASTA! where should we go?

We had a wonderful meal at Gnocchi. For a party of 6, they offered to serve us family style and we had enough food for at least a few more people. All of the pastas we had were excellent.

Jul 17, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Friday night dinner in the burbs?

Have you tried Henry's Cafe in Pottstown?. It's really good and a lot of fun. At times it can be hard to get a reservation, but last time we were there they said it's a little slower in the summer, and we had no trouble getting a last minute reservation on a Friday night. It's a BYO and they do specialize in fish, but have other items on the menu.

Another place we go to alot is Cafe Mosaic, which has a Pottstown address and is in North Coventry. It is also a BYO and excellent. They don't take reservations (I think) but if you call ahead they'll reserve a table for you.

Majolica is great, but hard to get a reservation. Black Lab Bistro (next to Majolica) is also good, but noisy. They have a huge menu. The frisee salad is awesome.

Our absolute favorite place in the area is Birchrunville Store Cafe, but you need to book way in advance. Every time we go there, we just make another reservation for a future date (usually about 6 weeks ahead). We usually go on Friday because Saturdays are booked way way way in advance. It is definitely worth it.

Getting more into Berks County, we like Emily's in Morgantown, which is not a BYO. In a few weeks, we're going for the first time to Sweet Bay Cafe in Reading, which our friends tell us is excellent.

Have fun!

Jul 17, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

New taco truck on 38th, West Philly

Thanks for the tip! I went there today and it was YUMMY. I had a taco al pastor and carnitas taco. Both were excellent. They are a little slow, but not many customers yet. They also have burritos, tortas, and tostadas, and today they had a quesadilla special. I will definitely go back.

Apr 18, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Graduation dinner in Philly

I'm looking for a place in Philly to celebrate my son's graduation from Temple. It need not be in the Temple area. Requirements are great food and I would prefer a BYO. There will be about 7-10 people in our party and I can't afford anything TOO expensive.

Apr 17, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

Reading or Morgantown, PA

We ate at a place called Emily's, which is on Rt 10 (Morgantown Road) in the Green Hills area. It was excellent, great service, nice people. I had a delicious red snapper and could only eat about half of it. Not a BYO, but the wine list was reasonable. We had a Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, which is something we have purchased several times at the State store for about $9 or $10; and it was $20 on the menu. The chef apparently was formerly at Dans' before that restaurant went through some big changes recently. Emily's has a new owner since about 6 months ago. He and his wife also own Yellow House in Amity.

Another great place in Reading is Hong Thanh on Chestnut Street downtown. Vietnamese and Chinese food... extremeley tasty. BYO.

Mar 12, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania

West Chester

We went to Doc Macgrogans on Saturday night and it was disappointing. They told us an hour wait, which turned into only about 20 minutes, so that was nice. Oysters were very good. My husband ordered a "clam bake", which was supposed to include lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, corn on the cob and I don't know what else. It came with only lobster and corn. So he sent it back and got a second serving with all the parts, and all of them overcooked. I had tilapia, which was pretty good. Service was marginal. I don't think we'll go back. There are so many other choices in the area!

Mar 12, 2007
zelbee in Pennsylvania