As usual, I've parlayed my business travels into a foodie mission to discover some of the local flavor of the areas I call on. And these Philly suburbs didn't disappoint. Here's 2 to brag about, and for you to put on your list, if you ever find yourself in the 'Burbs of Brotherly Love...
On a rare break from my TV stint on Q, I headed to the charming, bustling, vibrant downtown hamlet of West Chester, PA to find Carlino's (http://www.carlinosmarket.com/). Part market, part bakery, part restaurant, Carlino's specializes in artisinal bread and recipes that have been handed down for three generations of Italian cooking and baking. A portrait of the family matriarch, Mama Carlino, hangs lovingly on the wall, thanking you as you check out. I immediately made a dash for the rear of the place, knowing I only had time for a sandwich. Like any good deli counter/sandwich shop, the day's offerings are handwritten in chalk, and the specialties of the house have down home names that make you want to order each one. I opted -- on the good word of the man behind the counter I ordered with -- for Mama's Meatball Hero. While he was preparing it, I strolled the aisles and saw how a bounty of fresh, local veggies, meats and cheeses, and deliciously tempting prepared sides, many of which would look good next to my grinder. I chose the roasted red peppers, and went back to claim my meal.
This sandwich didn't disappoint. First off, it was BIG. The hoagie roll was toasted, but you could tell the bread was super-fresh, and it soaked up a good portion of the homemade marinara sauce that was simmering under a generous helping of fresh mozzarella. The star(s), of course, were the meatballs. Not too big that you'd dislocate your jaw trying to bite into one, but certainly a healthy size, they were moist, and seasoned to perfection. Mind you, this was taking place as the staff was stacking chairs and closing down for their 7:00pm curfew. That says something to me. The crunch of the loaf was offset by how soft everything else was inside. I really appreciated that the sauce was not scalding, and the cheese was perfectly melted so it was not too gooey, and each bite came off clean. A sign of a talented sandwich maker, as much as it is the ingredients they use.
Stuffed but never satisfied, I had to try some of their homemade gelato and sorbetto, settling on a combo of coconut and vanilla sorbetto. A cool, tasty way to cleanse the palette and top off an authentic Italian meal...
Flash forward to the next morning. I am operating on a total of about 5 hours sleep over the last 2 1/2 days, so I know my body needed a solid wakeup call before heading to the airport.
I'd heard about the Classic Diner (http://www.classicdinerpa.com/) in Malvern from a couple of QVC'ers, and it was close enough to my hotel that it was an easy choice.
A crowded parking lot greeted me -- always a good sign on a Sunday morning at 8:30. The diner has a homey, cozy look to it, as it's clearly a converted house (I dug the white, beadboard wainscot inside). But the decor, and even the menu, have a decidedly trendy vibe. This was definitely not your NY/NJ/PA truck stop/greasy spoon diner.
From a quick study of said menu, I could tell I liked what I saw: upscale riffs on breakfast classics. First order of business -- coffee. I love a place with big cups, and this was certainly one of them. A good start. Then, the ordering. A tough call, since this is my favorite meal of the day, and there were so many I could've gone for. I ultimately went for a twist on a Hollenberg family fave: Banana and Peanut Butter... but Classic Diner makes it with French Toast!
I ordered mine with a side of something I only recently learned about, from friends who used to live in PA: scrapple. This would be my first time trying it. (for those of you not familiar, scrapple is basically all the leftover pig parts that don't make ham, bacon, or sausage... YUM!)
The scrapple came out first -- the best way to enjoy it is fried in a skillet and that's they way they did theirs. Two thin, rectangular slices, rather SPAM-looking. Tasty, for sure. Reminded me a slight bit of corned beef hash without the texture, and with a bit more spice to it.
The main entree arrived and was a gorgeous presentation. It tuned out to be a huge sandwich of brioche French toast, with a heaping helping of warm, melty Skippy peanut butter and bananas in between, and more bananas on top for garnish. A drizzling on the side of maple syrup for a hit of sweetness.
Way too much for even me to clean my plate, and I probably would've loved it even more if there was a better PB:'nanner ratio. The Skippy was a bit overpowering, making each bite, with the thick slabs of brioche and the banana slices, kinda difficult to work through. With that said, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and homemade-ness of it.
Undeniably satisfied, it was time to get to the airport and get on home...
(And, by the way, if you don't know the TV show which is the title of this posting, check your local listings for what channel FX is in your town and Check. It. Out!!! -- the funniest thing on TV, alongside Family Guy, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.)...