2020 Restaurant Redux – Part 2

by artfuldiner on December 21, 2020

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wining and Dining

For your dining pleasure, listed below in alphabetical order are synopses of final seven (7) of the fourteen (14) restaurants reviewed during the year 2020. Please be advised that, as of this writing, all Pennsylvania restaurants are closed for indoor dining until January 4, 2021.

 OLIVE TREE MEDITERRANEAN GRILL (March), 379 West Uwchlan Avenue (Route 113), Downingtown, Pennsylvania, (610) 873-7911, www.olivetreegrill.com: Tucked Olive Tree - Interioraway on the ground floor of a diminutive office building, the Olive Tree has been hiding in plain sight for nearly two decades. The interior is contemporary and sparklingly clean, boasting comfy booths and large wall murals. As you would surmise at a Greek-Mediterranean establishment, seafood plays a prominent role. Possibilities range from Baked Jumbo Shrimp in a garlic red tomato sauce to Char Grilled Lemony Salmon to Ionian Seafood Selection, an inviting seafood sampler. The Moussaka, of course, is always highly recommended… ditto Pastitsio, Greek lasagna that combines tubular pasta and seasoned ground sirloin flavored with tomato sauce and topped with a rich, rich, rich béchamel sauce. There are numerous appetizers from which to choose, but the most auspicious way to begin is with the Horgiatiki or Greek village salad, which is really an authentic Greek salad as it contains no greenery. It offers up a combo of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, and feta cheese splashed with olive oil & vinegar sprinkled with herbs. Excellent food… generous portions… reasonable prices… and excellent service. The Olive Tree is always worth a visit.

RED FOX INN & TAVERN (December), 2 East Washington Street, Middleburg, Virginia, (540) 687-6301, http://www.redfox.com:

Red Fox - Pecan Curry Crusted HalibutDuring our recent stay at the Salamander Resort & Spa, my permanent dining partner and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at the nearby Red Fox Inn & Tavern. Established in 1728, this charming inn has offered uninterrupted hospitality to travelers for more than 275 years. Owned and operated by three generations of the Reuter Family since 1976, the tavern’s menu highlights local ingredients and genuine homestyle dishes that are both lovingly prepared and beautifully presented. Currently, the only bill of fare is the kitchen’s four-course autumn tasting menu for $125.00 person. The Red Fox is also offering Virginia wine pairing with each course, and it is well worth the additional $38.00. Among the appetizers, the Lamb Meatballs, rife with feta & pine nuts surrounded by a sea of mint-infused yogurt, are not to be missed… ditto the Roasted Pear & Arugula Salad splashed with a delightfully creamy Champagne vinaigrette. Entrée options include such interesting items as Seared Duck Breast with apple & onion cider sauce, Filet Mignon, and Rack of Lamb companioned by parsnip purée and pinot noir sauce. For my money, though, matters piscatorial take center stage. The Curry Pecan Crusted Halibut (pictured), for example, is simply flawless with the Caramelized Sea Scallops running a close second. For dessert, the Caramelized Banana Bread Pudding is a real crowd-pleaser.

SALAMANDER RESORT & SPA (November), 500 North Pendleton Street, Middleburg, Virginia, (540) 751-3160, www.salamanderresort.com: If there was one thing that impressed us during our stay, it was the overall quality of cuisine. Whether the Gold Cup Wine Bar, the resort’s casual venue serving lunch & dinner on a first-come, first served basis, or Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill, the upscale steakhouse, food-wise, Salamander always delivers. (The resort also owns Market Salamander, a casual market/café serving American & Mediterranean fare, located at 200 West Washington Street in Middleburg proper.)

Gold Cup - Pumpkin CheesecakeGold Cup Wine Bar serves up such diverse items as artisan cheeses and charcuterie board, hand-tossed pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and limited number of entrees. Of particular note is the Crispy Sesame Cauliflower – roasted florets set on a bed of jasmine rice and tossed with a sweet soy ginger glaze and sprinkling of shredded coconut – an absolutely fabulous starter. Entrées are no less intriguing. My dining partner’s Shrimp and Grits, revved up with a spicy meat spread tasting similar to deviled ham, was a benchmark effort… ditto my Aged Cheddar Mac n Cheese accompanied by perfectly grilled chicken. Desserts turn significantly upscale and offer a number of interesting possibilities. The Pumpkin Cheesecake (pictured) sounded a bit downhome, but turned out to be anything but… As you note from the photo, this is really a dual presentation: half pumpkin cheesecake, half Turkish coffee mousse separated by a walnut sablé, a French round shortbread cookie. Cheesecake and mousse were both incredibly delicious garnished with local Catoctin Creek Whisky Powder and dollop of white chocolate ice cream. The Gold Cup also boasts not only a compact wine list by the glass & bottle, but also local wine flights, an exotic list of artisanal cocktails, whiskey flights, and a number craft beers.

Harrimans - Fruit Tart SharedSince Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill caters to the carnivorously-inclined, I would highly recommend the restaurant’s “Butcher’s Cuts.” The Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, for example, is incomparably moist and succulent, exhibiting a cut-like-butter tenderness. The Petite Filet also has a lot going for it. Prepared to a perfect “medium,” as requested, it also benefits from a complimentary Hunter’s Sauce, a winning combo of tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a savory veal stock reduction. And a “Side to Share,” Wild Green Onion Potato Purée spiked with crème fraiche, proved a most satisfying traveling companion for both pork and filet. Desserts, courtesy of Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reaves, are well worth the additional calories and expenditure. They range from Sweet as Salamander Honey, a luscious honey-banana pudding replete with choco-banana cake, to Raspberry Linzer with hazelnut shortbread, raspberry balsamic, and goat cheese ice cream. Chef Reaves also offers a sweet ending that is suitable for sharing by 2 – 4 guests. The evening of our visit it was an incredible Fresh Fruit Tart (pictured). The photo tells the story… Need I say more?

SILVERSPOON (October), 603 West Lancaster Avenue, Eagle Village Shops, Wayne, Pennsylvania, (610) 688-7646, https://www.silverspoonwayne.com: This innovative Silverspoon - Mezza Platelittle BYOB quietly continues its role as one of Wayne’s most popular eateries. Maine Line foodies know a good thing when they taste it; and – judging by the ebullient crowds – they obviously taste it here. Executive Chef Oen Kolva does a fine job with traditional salads like Caesar and Greek. And his Baby Spinach comes replete with such tantalizing items as feta cheese, strawberries, candied almonds, and splash of white balsamic vinaigrette. Another rare treat is the Burrata Cheese paired with marinated heirloom tomatoes and finished with balsamic vinegar & extra virgin olive oil. To start things off, however, nothing quite beats the spectacular Mezza Plate (pictured). Comprised of hummus, falafel, feta cheese, olives, vegetables, Mideast salads, and grilled pita, this colorful presentation is certain to appeal to the most discriminating of palate as well as the most ravenous of appetite. Entrées range from top-of-the-line Pan-Seared Pork Chop to the establishment’s more casual Silverberger served up on a brioche bun with all the usual accompaniments. My dining partner choose the Summer Risotto, seductively creamy arborio rice dotted with sweet corn & zucchini consummated with basil pesto and Pecorino-Romano. But my Soba Noodles, an evening special, stole the show. The noodles were served cold, awash with Asian-cut vegetables dressed in a spectacular soy sesame honey ginger vinaigrette that propels the dish into orbit. Desserts, all made in the restaurant’s kitchen, are worth saving room for.

 VALLEY FORGE TRATTORIA & LOUNGE (September), 1130 Valley Forge Road, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, (610) 935-7579, www.valleyforgepizza.com: This may look like VF Pizza - Garlic Knotsany other run-of-the-mill strip mall eatery, but the attractive dining rooms, comfy bar, and cozy covered patio belie the restaurant’s utilitarian exterior. The large menu runs the gamut… from a host of salads… to pizzas, Stromboli, and calzones… to classic pastas… to chicken, veal, beef, and seafood entrees… to a variety of sandwiches, croissants, wraps, grinders, and hoagies. The portion sizes are also quite generous and generally include a house salad and the restaurant’s irresistible Garlic Knots (pictured). Old-time favorites are clearly the way to go here. And the Veal Saltimbocca, a mainstay in Roman trattorias, is always a solid choice. Comprised of basically three ingredients: veal cutlets, prosciutto, and fresh sage (and often with an additional topping of melted mozzarella cheese), the rendition served here is one of the most satisfying I have sampled anywhere. The same may be said for the top-notch Eggplant Parmesan and my dining partner’s all-time favorite, Chicken Parmesan. Desserts, although not made in-house, are still worthy of consideration. And the Gourmet Turtle Cheesecake – New York-style cheesecake resting on a layer of fudge, topped with caramel cream, and sprinkled with chopped pecans – is definitely at the top my list.

VICKERS RESTAURANT   (October), 192 East Welsh Pool Road, Exton, Pennsylvania, (610) 363-7998, www.vickersrestaurant.com: Because Vickers - Bourbon Vanilla Bread Puddingof their proximity and certain ambient & culinary similarities, Vickers and the above mentioned Kimberton Inn are often compared. And a goodly number of diners, I was recently surprised to learn, prefer Vickers – I, however, am not one of them… For while their outdoor patio is nicely appointed and extremely pleasant for warm weather dining, their food, in my opinion, tends to fall short of the mark. A conspicuous-by-its-absence red wine vinaigrette left our Harvest Salad annoyingly dry. Entrées, unfortunately, didn’t fare much better. My Grouper, paired with a tasteless herb risotto, was drowned beneath a bland-leading-the-bland dill cucumber sauce. Dessert, namely the extraordinarily delicious Bourbon Vanilla Bread Pudding (pictured), was, without question, the highlight of the evening. Too bad the kitchen’s other offerings fail to demonstrate the same level of excellence.


VOLVÉR (May), 300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (215) 670-2302, http://philadelphia.volverrestaurant.com/: Volver - Trout MeuniereVolvér, which opened its doors in April 2014 and was first reviewed by this writer in November 2018, continues to serve up exquisitely plated, innovative seasonally-driven cuisine that is subtle in its preparation and as attractive to the eye as it is pleasing to the palate. The à la carte menu is just right for some spirited mix ‘n match grazing; and the three-course pre-theater menu, priced at $35.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity), is quite the bargain. The “Small Plates” range from the semi-simplicity of Winter Lettuces adorned with Macoun apples and a creamy Champagne vinaigrette… to the almost-too-clever bowl of Milk & Cereal, which tastes nothing like what you probably chow down for breakfast… to the utter decadence of the Savory Duck & Foie Gras Tart with roanne sauce. The current selection of “Large Plates” (entrées) includes Coq à la Bière (porter braised chicken), Roasted Lamb Chops, Tournedos Philadelphia, prime beef tenderloin, and several seafood dishes. A particularly interesting take on finny fare is the long-running Rainbow Trout Meunière (pictured) accompanied by braised lentils, Brussels spout leaves, lemon butter, and horseradish. For dessert, be sure to try the St. Honoré, a salted caramel tart garnished with maple marshmallow and candied peanuts.


Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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