Wednesday, December 22, 2010

private tasting of victory brewery's dark intrigue

On the morning of Thanksgiving Eve, November 24, as early as 7:30 am, beer fanatics flocked to Victory Brewing Company, in hopes to score a case of the brewery first-ever bourbon barrel-aged beer, Dark Intrigue.
Just one month ago, the brewery leaked, via their Facebook, that their upcoming release had made use of an attractive lineup of Heaven Hill Kentucky Bourbon oak barrels found in-house. 

Keeping up with the mystery of what one-off marvel would soon be available was an adventure in itself, and even more so, the excitement of only 80 cases available for purchase, at a limit of one case per customer—an amount that quickly sold-out in less than 45 minutes.
Recently accepting an invitation to sample the elusive brew aside the mad-scientist mastermind, Frank Iosue, a small beer-hungry crew and I became cozy in the brewery’s barrel-aging room, just hours after the sold-out mayhem.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

cd's place: rock and roll's delicious rumble with breakfast, lunch, & dinner

Nearly everyone resembles regulars at Boyertown's CD's Place—whether you casually waltz in for brunch, or if you are embracing your obsession with above-par diner food displays. The small town café, peeking from a corner of North Reading Avenue, comfortingly resides in one of three once-notorious “cup” ice cream stops assembled in Berks and Montgomery counties in the early 1940s. However, if you speed indoors, the illusion of a soda, milk-heavy spot is shattered—but only for something better.

Chris Dietz, owner & chef of CD's Place, unleashed his breakfast, lunch, and dinner café to the local dining scene eight years ago, come February, offering closeby empty stomachs simple, comfort cuisine that doesn't cut corners to affect the integrity of his food. From slapping fresh, never frozen slabs of beef and scrapple on his flat-top, to preparing his own 20-ingredient rub for his jerk chicken, Dietz tackles all the eatery's tasty concoctions himself, all while socializing and talking shop in an always-booming dining room.
Confessing that he knows over 90 percent of his everyday clientele, the local haunt also celebrates other small businesses doing simple stints, including supporting Bally-based Butter Valley Harvest, which provides the owner with fresh produce, even through winter. While he regularly trots specials that do include locally-produced goods, the standard CD's Place menu marvels in some of the area's best brunch bites, including the generously-sized Jamaican omelet that packs the New Hanover-native's jerk chicken cozily aside sautéed onions and the dutch-inspired three-egg beauty, the country-style potato, and onion roundup.
Of course, Dietz would be amiss to omit appropriate accompaniments for your morning platters, including his crinkled cottage fries, homefries, all necessary meats (bacon, scrapple, etc.), toasts and, if you live in hungry man's delight, short flapjack stacks, and even full stacks, done in regular, blueberry, or chocolate chip. His endless array of fresh, from-scratch soups, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and baskets will please all variations of personal taste preferences, and we hear that his “slaw dog,” made with mustard, onion, and the namesake, is a favorite amongst many.

The mouth-watering, guilty pleasured lineup is what keep patrons repetitively revisiting, but the dining room flooded with memorabilia from Dietz's other obsession—music—is what keeps CD's cushioned on being named one of the best decorated hub's in town. With black-and-white photograph-lined tabletops sourced from his own album collection, ticket stubs, concert posters, musical instruments situated on the walls, and even, a rock-and-roll mural painted by his daughter, Aleah Dietz, the whole eye-catching package of the past “cup” shop is successful in being a necessary, must-visit addition to the borough of Boyertown.

Find CD's Place at 237 North Reading Avenue or online at (he does catering, too).

Hours of operation are as follows—Tuesday & Wednesday, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Thursday & Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday,  7 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – noon.

( This post also appeared in print and on news, not blues. Enter a contest to win a $20 gift certificate to CD's Place, by clicking here. )

Thursday, December 16, 2010

from amateur chef to holiday kitchen crusader

I like to consider myself a fairly tuned-in taste-tester and quite a knowledgeable nosher, but despite donning such a title, I, myself, have yet to boldly cross into that wild frontier of skillful cooking.

Beginning at a young age, I was always given free reign of the kitchen. My mashing, chopping and most importantly munching went unrestrained as I assisted my grandmother in preparing her eye-catching feasts, perfectly lining a table that seated more than 20 family members. However, my way might not have screamed with neatness or efficiency, and I adore my grandmother for that.

But, as I speed past age 25, my mastery of absolutely zilch formal kitchen skills has transitioned from adorable to embarrassing, which led me to seriously entertain the idea of attending a cooking course to, at the least, acquire a smidgen of proficiency with a knife.

After shuffling through hand-outs and course catalogs of near-and-far brief culinary programs, I spied that Chester Heights' Hamananassett Bed & Breakfast & Carriage House offers several two-day cooking classes throughout the year, as part of their Brandywine Country Cooking School.

Friday, December 3, 2010

thanksgiving potluck at the hartman's

I am still dreaming the scrumptious spread I had the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, at a friend's arranged potluck. Gathering her group of friends together for an evening of amazing eats, while she prepared her first-ever 19-pound turkey, the 16+ person celebration was delicious and darling, and great conversations were had amongst new and old friends (new mostly to B & I, for we were only acquainted with the host). The night's feast was so darling, in fact, that we were even given place card settings, with "B" getting his notorious letter nickname, one known by all my friends.

I believe I am still brimming on bloated from my four Thanksgiving dinners as of last week, so please excuse me while I offer up just a photographic recap in reminiscing over my most-treasured holiday meal found in bowls and bowls brought by many fantastic chefs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

eco-etiquette: eat local—even in winter

My personal plea to support your local food movement
It is an irresistible endeavor to embrace Berks County's extreme array of fresh produce found easily hand-picked at farm stands, markets, and roadside stands throughout the prosperous months of May through October. As convenient as a trip to a supermarket may be, there is something reassuring about knowing where your food comes from, especially if it arrives on your plate sourced from somewhere as close as your backyard. 

Crafting meals solely around locally-grown and produced foods may seem like a difficult task, but not so, in gratitude of tackling the locavore movement—a title that came about a few years back, which applies to individuals who strive to ingest food grown within a 100-mile-and-under radius, an act that helps decrease environmental impacts and supports the local economy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

celebrating the season: the giving of thanks

In celebration of the just-passed season, I like to lend my hand in giving thanks. While I could post a roundup a million seas long of things I appreciate quite fondly, those petite and not-so-pocket-sized, I am going to keep this short & sweet.

I adore having Robert Rowe Scott so closely in life. He is thee greatest companion a girl could ever have, a best friend and a fellow beer-and-food appreciator. I wish for no one else to share my hustle-bustle of a life with. I sometimes consider myself like a one-woman army, but really, we all can't do everything ourselves, and he is so patient and perfect for me. We recently celebrated our two-year mark of our crazy little thing called love, and I couldn't be any more of peachy-keen about it.
 I, with never-ending open-arms, appreciate my friends and family, because without them, I would not be the person who I am today. I thank you all for that and your incredible friendships. It is invaluable how relationships have formed over the past years out of our similar interests, and I am honored to have you all in my life as my friends.

I am blessed to reside in an area booming with an incredible selection of homemade artisan cheeses. Chester County, home to its own cheese alliance, houses some of my top five cheese chunks, and having met all the makers and marveling in their masterpieces, I have to say there is something special about meeting the people behind the cheese, visiting their farms, and greeting the animals that are the source of such fine products.

'Tis the season, so I suggest y'all give a lil' thanks to your own slew of life-savers!

happy holidays & pumpkin pie pockets galore

 (photos by Jennifer Hetrick)

As I have been bogged down slaving away over my laptop's keys, for this and that publication, my lil' food-loving blog has taken brief breaths of fresh air, but that doesn't mean I was just writing! As baking is in my blood, I couldn't bare to dismiss this time of year, embracing the best pumpkin recipes I could grasp my hands on.

From milk chocolate chunk pumpkin fluffs and brown butter iced pumpkin cookies, to my personal pumpkin pie pockets sprinkled with raw cinna-sugar dustings (all of which are seen above), I could live forever on feasts of pumpkin-infused platters, and just because Thanksgiving has just passed, I will not conclude my compulsive pumpkin puree-splashed baking sessions any time soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

best of the bunch: schlegel run growers

After a seasonal internship stint with the urban growers of Harrisburg, Joshua Farm, Ben Davies and his wife, Karah, became inspired to merge their agricultural training into their own organic operation, aiming to accommodate local neighbors with a lineup of nurtured and distributed produce perfected in their backyard.

However, searching for an adept backyard became easier than they assumed, and soon, the Davies along with their young son, Ellis, packed up their temporary residence in Harrisburg and traveled back to ben's childhood home in Barto, Pennsylvania.

Monday, October 18, 2010

raved roadside retro: the jukebox cafe

Jukebox Café—since 1995—has put chrome-trimmed, elvis photo-decked diners to shame. nestled on a bend of south reading avenue, the nostalgic, above-average café celebrates all-day-breakfast in a snappy setting specked with leather-lined turquoise booths, pink countertops, an old-fashioned bubble jukebox, and of course, pin-ups of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Conceptualized by Sandy L. and John E. Hilbert, the area's 15-year-old go-to breakfast, brunch, and lunch spot has been a constant hustle since opening day, when the managing couple premiered their soda shop-inspired eatery to the Boyertown crowds, mashing their love for coffeehouses with the simple structure of a retro diner.

The black-and-white checkerboard-floored space opens everyday, Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., slinging original, luxe updates of fifties comfort food, while celebrating the best of the season peppered through various selections. For example, as fall is prime apple and pumpkin season, items like hot apple stuffed french toast, apple bread french toast, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin pancakes currently line their regularly-updated menu of specials.
Previous seasons also followed suit, including their attractive “Peach Mania” roundup as seen this past summer, that roundup, as seen this past summer with fresh slices pressed into sandwiches. 

Family-run and friendly, Jukebox Café also encourages visitors to savor bites at their counter space, available in addition to their up-to-four sleek booths and tables, for an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelet or a piping bread bowl flooded with one of their homemade soups, available also in to-go quarts. With well-done mainstays served aside continuously-new varieties, like Hungarian mushroom, tomato bisque, baked potato, italian wedding, and vegetarian chili, this nearby establishment swirls cordial soups on-par with grandma's best.
Considering they spout a moniker which marvels in the glory days of sock hops and triple-thick milkshakes, Jukebox Café also trots a classic assortment of burgers, fries, and meat and non-meat eater sandwiches, including melts and BLTs. Proud to not pack any of their menu items with canned creations, the always-fresh ingredients are locally-sourced, including goods found next door at Frecon Farms.

Better yet, if you have come to satisfy your sweet tooth, you may easily slip into a sugar coma. with this step back into the fifties, they bake all of their own perfectly-pinched pies, fruit-topped cheesecakes, traditional sticky buns, and multiple-flavored muffins.

Jukebox Café is no secret, as the lines for weekend brunch attest, and the service—manned by attentive, favorable females—leaves cozy diners dashing to squeeze more and more pop-ins into their wild work weeks.

Jukebox Café is cash-only, located at 535 South Reading Avenue in Boyertown and can be reached by phone at 610.369.7272. Operating hours are as follows: Monday—sSturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Take-out is available, as well, during operating hours.
(Also published on news, not blues. Swing over there to enter yourself for a free slice of pie from the Jukebox Cafe!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

saturday splurge at the brooklyn flea market

On a recent rendezvous in the 'hood of Brooklyn, what appeared top on my lady friends and I's must-visit lists was the Brooklyn Flea. A perfect mecca of vintage, independent street foods, artisan crafted eats, all things hand-picked and easily appealing to the eye, and much more, we trotted around the various vendors for a nice chunk of our Saturday morning, living to tell our favorite lunch bites we tackled in our weekend day away.
First thing, after a quick drive from the Philadelphia area, we had to grab some grub and half of us gravitated to the AsiaDogs due to their unique, appealing concoctions. Whether you prefer to load your bun with Chinese BBQ pork belly in plum sauces (I sure did, as seen on the WangDang) or, for your day away, crushed chips are in order (as seen on the Mash), these pups are the gorgeously delicious, and a refreshing picnicking treat.
Although we hadn't scarfed shaved ice from People's Pops, I sure regret not doing so. The huge slab booming from their booth is an attractive set-up, and do suggest any flea visitors to not repeat are lead, and suck down one of these frozen, fresh juice marvels.
Other notables, without a doubt, were McClure's Pickles' garlic dills, and after tasting a quick cube on a mini-stick, I know that their recipe is by far, one of thee best. (I also wish the flea was opened until late into the night, so I could have stocked up on armfuls of those zinging jars.) Of course, the perfect concluding treat, prior to having another chocolate tasting at Mast Brothers Chocolate, was a slew of samples from Fine & Raw Chocolate, who celebrate the amazing creaminess of raw chocolate mashed with the best use of ecology. 
With a mission to use blue agave nectar, with palm sugar, coconut oil and Himalayan sea salt, and "save the world through silliness and chocolate," I'd encourage everyone to experience Fine & Raw -- you're in for an incredible treat!