Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Éclat à la Mode

The perfect accompaniment to my gingersnap gelato was some broken bits of Éclat Chocolate’s Caramelized Hazelnut bar.  Chocolatier Christopher Curtin’s creations at Éclat Chocolate are some of the finest and uniquely flavored sweets I have encountered.

While Curtin trained in France at le Companion du Devoir, he decided to make his home at the shop on High Street in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  All of his chocolates are made at the West Chester location, yet you can find his products at Dean and Deluca and DiBruno Bros. as well as your local gourmet shop.  Or, visit the online store at http://eclatchocolate.com and browse the delicious truffles, caramels, mendiants and bars.

I enjoy the “Destination Bar” collection, from the traditional Dark Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate to the exotic Toasted Corn.  For my fall-flavored gelato of ginger, molasses, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, I decided on the Caramelized Hazelnut bar – a blend of caramelized Spanish hazelnuts and 65% dark chocolate.  The hazelnuts provided a delightful crunch to my decadent ice cream – a dessert of great éclat.

Gelato Cup

Winter at Junto BYOB

Last night we enjoyed another excellent meal at Junto Restaurant and BYOB in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  We first dined at Junto last spring and decided to sample the winter menu, which continues to showcase local ingredients.

Some favorites from our first visit remain on the menu.

  • “The Roots” salad of pickled kohlrabi, sunchokes, radishes and beets is a fresh and pleasing alternative to a standard green salad.
  • The wild mushrooms served in a pea consommé with Crowder peas and goat cheese toast is a light yet satisfying starter.
  • The beef cheek still melts in your mouth but it boasts some wintery accompaniments – “Sugarkraut”, currant, capers and saffron potato chips.  We enjoyed the range of tastes in this dish, from the sweet to the salty.
  • The grilled sturgeon is alder wood smoked and served with romanesco, fermented celery root (instead of wax beans) watercress and a lemon verbena emulsion.  It’s no wonder that this unique preparation is still a star on Junto’s menu.

There were also several delicious new additions.

  • The “Duck Pocket Pie” is a generous envelope of flavorful, shredded duck.  The perfect bite included some shredded ginger fermented root vegetables, onion crème fraiche and caraway.
  • The smoked chicken croquettes were an elegant version of the diner staple.  The apple snitz, green tomato jam and sorrel gravy were a perfect complement to the crunchy yet delicate rounds of chicken.
  • The simple root beer float featuring Bassett’s Philadelphia vanilla made for a homey dessert after a meal full of deep and varied flavors.

Junto Restaurant and BYOB

Junto

Junto Restaurant and BYOB is a new dining treasure in the Brandywine Valley.  Chef MacGregor Mann, who worked with Iron Chef Jose Garces, opened this cozy restaurant in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in May of this year.  The menu showcases local ingredients as well as seafood from the Atlantic as far north as the Hudson River down to the Chesapeake Bay.

Last week at Sbraga’s third anniversary celebration (a fabulous seven course dinner!), some fellow foodies recommended Junto as their go-to BYOB.  This weekend, my husband, friend and I tried it for the first time, and our experience proved to be the best dinner out in this neighborhood in quite a while.  The restaurant offers a chef’s tasting; however, we decided to order from the variety of dishes on the menu.

We started with three very distinctive starters: “The Roots” salad, which was a mosaic of pickled kohlrabi, sunchokes, radishes and beets along with green chickpea hummus and goat kefir ranch sauce; the wild mushrooms served in a pea consommé with Crowder peas and goat cheese toast; and, the slow cooked beef cheek with lima beans, heirloom tomato, sorrel and saffron potato chips.  The salad was light, refreshing and colorful, while the mushrooms were savory and comforting.  The beef cheek melted in my mouth, and the fresh lima beans balanced out the dish with a crunchy texture.

For a pasta course, we decided to share the egg yolk ravioli served over crispy smoked pork, sassafras pork jus, red kale, peaches and shaved walnut.  As we cut into the ravioli, the egg yolk melted into the pork jus, creating the perfect blend of flavors.  The peach added a sweet note and made for a pleasant transition from a summer to fall menu.

Our main courses were the “Forager’s Pasta” of black garlic fettuccine, summer market vegetables, foraged herbs and tomato water emulsion; the black bass with baby fennel barigoule, pasta neck clams, grilled scallion and lovage; and, the grilled sturgeon, which was alder wood smoked with wax beans, fermented Crowder pea, watercress and a lemon verbena emulsion.  All were cooked to perfection and attractively plated.  The most striking of the main courses was the sturgeon for its mild smoky flavor and creative presentation on the alder wood board.

We could not resist a cheese plate of Farm Fromage Cloth Bound Cheddar, Tomme Delicious and Galens Good Old Gouda – all from Pennsylvania and served with raw honey, spiced walnuts and raspberry butter.

For a sweet ending, we chose the Shoofly profiteroles to keep up the Pennsylvania theme to the very end.  The chocolate molasses sauce was the ideal, not too sweet, ending to the superb meal.

The service was excellent, and, the fact that Junto is a BYOB makes the already reasonable prices even more appealing.  With an average cost of fifty dollars per person for all of the above courses, this elegant meal would be impossible to beat in the Brandywine Valley/ Delaware area.