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Birchrunville Store Cafe


philadining
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The Birchrunville Store Cafe has been one of my favorite places for several years, and I was surprised to see that we hadn't started an actual topic for it.

Here's the official info:

1403 Hollow Road

Birchrunville, PA 19421

610.827.9002

http://www.birchrunvillestorecafe.com/

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Six of us hired trained wilderness guides and made the daring trek out to deepest Chester County for a really wonderful dinner at the Birchrunville Store Cafe.

OK, it's not really all that remote or hard-to-find, but it's a bit of a drive from almost anywhere, and the restaurant, located in a formal General Store, is just about all there is in Birchrunville, besides a few houses and some sheep.

I'm not kidding about the sheep.

But it's worth making the trip, even from Center City, as a few intrepid members of our party did. Those us us from Chester County left wondering why we don't eat here every week...

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, they offer 5 or 6 course tastings, as well as a regular a la carte menu. The six of us did the 6 course tasting. Percyn managed to wangle a menu out of them the night before our dinner, but we basically resorted to the saturation-bombing school of wine pairings, bringing entirely too much wine, and then drinking a terrifying amount of it!

At some point we toasted PLCB Chairman Newman, as we enjoyed several Chairman's Selections, along with some more obscure bottles courtesy of Katie, Percy, Capaneus and myself. I'll let Katie add wine details, as she was taking careful notes, as well as showing us how the real professionals do a horizontal tasting:

gallery_23992_1465_1640.jpg

They say that the tasting menus change daily, here's what we had:

Amuse:

gallery_23992_1465_22242.jpg

Grouper ceviche with black ink.

This was a wonderfully refreshing, cleansing start: fresh, tangy marinated fish, presented with slices of cucumber, spicy micro radish greens and a surprising hot twist, from tiny pieces of chile pepper.

gallery_23992_1465_32964.jpg

It was a lovely presentation, although we couldn't help wondering if it might have been even more attractive without the ink.

First Course:

gallery_23992_1465_34939.jpg

Ahi Tuna with Aged Balsamic Glaze

Calamari stuffed with crawfish, organic tomato coulis

Lobster with Langoustine and Bourbon Sauce

The Tuna was nicely seared, giving a real textural gradation from the crusty exterior to the rare center. It was seated in an intense, reduced balsamic vinegar sauce that complimented the earthier spicing on the fish.

Small, perfectly tender squid were stuffed with a savory minced crawfish mixture, reminiscent of a loose sausage, and seated in a summery, smooth tomato sauce.

The Lobster claw meat was luxuriating in a creamy, bisque-like sauce, perked-up by an unmistakable touch of whiskey.

Second Course

gallery_23992_1465_42953.jpg

Crispy Pheasant with Seared Foie Gras, Roasted Fig and Champagne Grapes

This was really delicious. The last minute addition of the foie added an extra level of indulgence, and was much appreciated, even though the tender, just slightly gamey pheasant breast and intense, dark sauce could probably have done just fine on its own. The foie was a nice touch though...

Third Course

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Vol au Vent with Sweetbreads and Wild Mushrooms

Airy puff pastry held crusty roasted sweetbreads and an almost overwhelming array of wild mushrooms. The fungi were so tasty that the sweetbreads were almost secondary, but the decadent little nuggets had a satisfying crust and just-barely creamy interior.

Fourth Course

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Rabbit Tenderloin with Burgundy Sauce and Wild Blueberries

This mild meat had just a hint of gaminess, but the wine and tiny blueberries gave the needed kick to the tenderloin's domesticity. This was perfectly cooked, even finishing up the last final moments of the process in front of us, as we were instructed to start from the thin end, promised that the thicker section would be just right by the time we got there. And indeed it was!

Fifth Course

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Venison Filet with fresh Morels and Barolo Sauce

Tender, ultra-lean meat brought to an ideal medium rare, enlivened by a signature intense sauce, and earthy mushrooms.

Sixth Course

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Cappuccino Creme Brulée, Banana Mousse Cake with Sesame Nougat

The thick head of whipped cream somewhat obscured the crunchy caramelized top of the creme brulée, but it was worth it for the visual analogy to a frothy cappuccino. The mousse and surrounding cake were both airy, as one would hope, with just enough sweetness.

I thought all of the food was excellent. If I had to pick a personal fave, it might have been the pheasant, but all the courses were quite enjoyable. And each was amplified by some excellent wine pairings, which we managed by bringing way more than we could ever drink, covering a wide range of styles, and making snap decisions as the food arrived. Of course it didn't hurt to have Katie at the table!

Service was very friendly and professional, nicely paced, attentive without being intrusive. Frequent changes of flatware, (including flashy Sabatier Laguiole knives) and good quality wineglasses (and we were keeping them busy with stemware changes!) made for a smooth, elegant experience. But the feel here is nicely unstuffy, befitting the laid-back country location.

This six course tasting menu cost $70 (plus coffee, tax and tip) which felt like an excellent value. The regular menu is more affordable, and offers the same caliber of food, if not the exact same dishes. It's a pretty small restaurant, so reservations are necessary, and not easy to get, especially on weekends, so call now, and be ready to wait several weeks for a prime table. All this at a place that's not really easy to find! There's a decent map on their website, and some slightly ambiguous driving directions, so you might want to Mapquest it if it's your fist time. But it's worth the traveling time, if you get there early just sit on the porch and start in on your wine. Life could be worse.

Big thanks to percyn for making this dinner happen!

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Nice review!

No surprise really....Francis & Jane put that kind of food out each and every night.

They are true professionals that have quietly built a casual, fine dining establishment and quite a following....as evidenced by the difficulty in getting a reservation even on Wednesday & Thursday nights.

I'll be interested in hearing the wine pairings since some of what is on the tastings sometimes show up as nightly specials.

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Is it anywhere close to Longwood Gardens, by any chance?

Not really. Birchrunville is quite a ways north from there. Longwood is in the same general part of the world, but pretty far south and a little west. But if you drove up 202 North, to 100 North, and jogged a little east on 113, then a couple miles west on 401, you're almost there. That might take you 45 minutes from Longwood. But make sure you have a reservation, it's not a large place so they're often full. And it's not as if there's a back-up restaurant in Birchrunville.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Philadining,

It was my pleasure to set this up. As expected, this trip was fun and I am looking forward to Katie adding the wine notes for the 8 (or was it 9) bottles we consumed.

Pensage, welcome to eG and if you are local to Chester County, PM me if you are interested in future outings.

Cheers

Percy

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Did you get the menu in advance for the pairings or did you wing it? Was this tasting menu set up in advance for you guys or that was what was being served that night to all?

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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Did you get the menu in advance for the pairings or did you wing it?  Was this tasting menu set up in advance for you guys or that was what was being served that night to all?

Evan

We got a copy of the menu pretty late the night before. I think there was one other party doing the tasting menu that night, as well. We had a boatload of wine and kind of winged it before each course. The restaurant had incorporated wine bottle corks as part of their decor. We made sure our corks got placed in the window display (although i'm not sure the screwtop from the Muscat got in there). :)

The meal was wonderful. The chef made a few last minute changes, but they were changes for good, not evil.

The staff did an amazing job keeping up with our use of stemware.

Lauren

"The perfect lover is one who turns into pizza at 4am."

Charles Pierce

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Excellent report.  I'm gonna stop next time I'm in the area.  Is it anywhere close to Longwood Gardens, by any chance?

If you're planning on going on a weekend, reserve two months in advance. No kidding.

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I am looking forward to Katie adding the wine notes for the 8 (or was it 9) bottles we consumed.

:cough: Was it really that many?? :blink:

Well, I suppose it helped that we were sending the "leftover" glasses of wine back to the kitchen and staff to <ahem> lubricate them as we went along. :biggrin:

As an aperitif

Taittinger Domaine Carneros, CA

I love this stuff. So sparkly and refreshing. Makes your mouth water and revs up your appetite. Just like it oughta. :smile:

Grouper ceviche with black ink.

Warner Vineyards "Grapes of Love" Liebenstrauben, MI

A most interesting and riesling-like wine from the shores of Lake Michigan. Very light and refreshing and my first taste of Michigan wine! Thanks Percy! That was very cool!

Ahi Tuna with Aged Balsamic Glaze

Calamari stuffed with crawfish, organic tomato coulis

Lobster with Langoustine and Bourbon Sauce

Graf Hardegg Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay 1999, Austria

I'd smuggled this bottle back from Austria in 2001 and had held onto it waiting for the appropriate moment and good company with whom to share it. A very pale straw colored wine that had subtle spice, a nice pear-y flavor and lots of that telltale Austrian minerality (like licking the slate patio tiles). Quite tasty with this course and much better with the food than without.

Crispy Pheasant with Seared Foie Gras, Marsala Reduction, Roasted Fig and Champagne Grapes

Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir 2000, CA

This wine was perfect with this course. The rich earthiness of the Pinot Noir went really well with the slight gaminess of the pheasant and the foie gras and fig. Lots of bright red fruit flavors. This wine reminded me of a more "new world-y" and voluptuous Côte-de-Nuits.

Vol au Vent with Sweetbreads and Wild Mushrooms

Arrowood Syrah "Le Beau Melange" 2001, Sonoma, CA

The last sips of the Pinot Noir was good here too, but this dense inky unfiltered Syrah blew it away density-wise. A very tasty wine that is yet another of the wonderful Chairman's Selections (Thanks Mr. Chairman!)

Rabbit Tenderloin with Burgundy Sauce and Wild Blueberries

Flora Springs Trilogy 2000, Napa, CA

Percy had stealthily hidden this in his cellar and saved it just long enough to have it make an appearance with this rabbit. YUM! Really lovely Meritage that shows that Napa can compete with Bordeaux for elegance. Again, a bit more voluptuous than it's French counterpart would be, but silky and a good match with the blueberry sauce and bunny wabbit.

Venison Filet with fresh Morels and Barolo Sauce

Montes Alpha Cabernet 2001, Santa Cruz, Chile

La Jota Vineyard Howell Mountain Cabernet 2000, Napa, CA

Oh yeah! We were eating Venison and it was time for the North American vs. South American Cabernet Smackdown! This is the source of that silly picture of me doing the "horizontal tasting" above. (I got plenty horizontal when I got home too!) Interesting contrast on these two wines. Both quite full bodied, I'd give the oak and fruit edge to the Chilean wine and the fruit and briar edge to the Californian. The La Jota also seemed to desplay a bit of that aroma of violets that fine Cabernet-based Bordeaux do from time to time. Both were delicious and went very well with this course. It was quite interesting to do the side-by-side comparison.

Cappuccino Creme Brulée, Banana Mousse Cake with Sesame Nougat

Yalumba Museum Muscat "Victoria Dessert Wine", Australia

Jeff was kind enough to bring this along from his private reserves and it was a great finish to an obscenely wonderful meal. The muscat is very honeyed and intensely fruity and played well with the fruitiness of the banana mousse.

What a wonderful dinner! What lovely dining companions! I hope to be breaking bread with this crew more often. These folks sure do know how to have a good time!! :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Philadining,

            It was my pleasure to set this up. As expected, this trip was fun and I am looking forward to Katie adding the wine notes for the 8 (or was it 9) bottles we consumed.

Pensage, welcome to eG and if you are local to Chester County, PM me if you are interested in future outings.

Cheers

Percy

Let me add my thanks. It was a dee-lickerish evenin'. I was particularly thrilled with the lobster, especially the sauce; the pheasant; the sweetbreads; and the venison. Which means my favorites account for half the menu - and really, there wasn't a bad bite the whole evening. Truly amazing food. Chester County. Who knew?

The wines... we started with Jeff's bubbly (Dom. Carneros?). We followed up with Percy's crypto-Riesling - was there a second white?. Then we had a bottle of the '00 Saintsbury Pinot. A bottle of the '01 Arrowood Sylah Le Beau Melange. The Montes Alpha and a LaJotta Cabernet. And wrapped up with a half bottle of an Ozzie sticky supplied by Jeff.

I know I'm forgetting at least a bottle, but those were some of the wines, and the order. It roughly tracked to the service, but there was some overlap. Loved the Arrowood (just bought another half-case - 19th St seems to have got additional stock), was really pleasantly surprised by the Montes Alpha, I think because I haven't tried much in the way of higher-end Chilean offerings. Although, as with the food, there wasn't a clunker in the lot.

Anyhoo, just wanted to get the ball rolling until Katie sobers up :raz:. Sorry about my memory gaps.

Pedro

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Anyhoo, just wanted to get the ball rolling until Katie sobers up  :raz:. Sorry about my memory gaps.

Pedro

A-hem! Seems I sobered up enough to get my long post in before yours, buddy. :raz:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Anyhoo, just wanted to get the ball rolling until Katie sobers up  :raz:. Sorry about my memory gaps.

Pedro

A-hem! Seems I sobered up enough to get my long post in before yours, buddy. :raz:

You must have cheated! I bet you used your Uncanny Admin Powers to sneak past me at the finish line. Confess, wicked woman!

:wink:

Besides, I never claimed *I* was sober. It's been a very very slow day.

Edited by Capaneus (log)
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I am looking forward to Katie adding the wine notes for the 8 (or was it 9) bottles we consumed.

:cough: Was it really that many?? :blink:

I think all my emails in the previous days included some reference to "there's ONLY six of us, we don't need ALL that much wine." What was I thinking?

This just kind of summed up the mood of the night, and this was only part way through the evening:

gallery_23992_1465_10619.jpg

Thankfully the meal was pleasantly casual in its pacing, so we were there a LONG time (almost 5 hours), which allowed us to detox sufficiently for the drive home.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Anyhoo, just wanted to get the ball rolling until Katie sobers up  :raz:. Sorry about my memory gaps.

Pedro

A-hem! Seems I sobered up enough to get my long post in before yours, buddy. :raz:

You must have cheated! I bet you used your Uncanny Admin Powers to sneak past me at the finish line. Confess, wicked woman!

:wink:

Besides, I never claimed *I* was sober. It's been a very very slow day.

Actually I was composing that reply all day and going back and forth to it. I suspect we were both writing at the same instant and I hit send before you did. :raz:

I did feel fine today, although I woke up obscenely early (6:30 AM) with a tiny bit of indigestion. All that rich food on a basically empty stomach will do that to me. You'd think I'd learn. But it was well worth it. I went back to snoozin' for another few hours and woke up none the worse for wear.

It was a very leisurely meal and as Jeff's photo attests, we definitely added to the collection of wine corks in the front window!

What a lovely restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Who knew? Well, Percy and Jeff knew, but I remain amazed. Such fabulous food and gracious service. The waitstaff was wonderful as well. I hope they enjoyed all the wine we left for them. There was at least a glass or two of each that I hope made it to our very sweet waitresses.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I liked all the wines, a few really stand out in my memory:

Warner Vineyards "Grapes of Love" Liebenstrauben, MI

This was indeed quite a nice wine, Pedro's term "crypto-riesling" is apt. It was sweet but not cloying, very refreshing. I was feeling the love.

Graf Hardegg Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay 1999, Austria

This was quite a contrast to our previous white, complex and minerally, austere and elegant. I liked it a lot. (And yes, it tasted like slate, but making us go lick the front steps was a bit strong of a teaching tool Katie....)

Arrowood Syrah "Le Beau Melange" 2001, Sonoma, CA

This was one of my faves of the night, it was luscious and fruity, dense enough you could probably paint your house with it. I'm going to get some of that, unless Pedro's bought all of it.

Montes Alpha Cabernet 2001, Santa Cruz, Chile

La Jota Vineyard Howell Mountain Cabernet 2000, Napa, CA

This was indeed an interesting contrast: the wines were like identical twins separated at birth, recognizable as close relatives, but clearly the product of different school systems. Each was a quintessential Cab, but on opposite edges of what that might mean. The Californian was open and happy and fruity and delicious. The Chilean was WAY more tannic, structured and complex. I really liked them both, but the Montes Alba was very impressive, interesting, deep and serious. The La Jota was more like that fun neighbor who's really great to hang out with, but will probably forget to water your plants while you're on vacation. You'll find it hard to stay mad.

Big thanks to Katie, Percy and Pedro for sharing those treats.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 4 months later...

Percyn and I had the chance to fill a last-minute cancellation at the Birchrunville Store Café tonight. It's gotten pretty difficult to score a table there lately, but it's totally worth the trouble. This time we ordered off the regular menu and were every bit as impressed as we were at our epic tasting menu excursion a few months ago.

And a note about the tasting menus, they haven't updated their website to reflect this, but they only offer the 6-course tasting now, and only at the 6pm seatings on wednesday or thursday. I'm pretty sure it's $75 per person. Make arrangements when you call for a reservation.

And remember, it's cash or check only, no credit cards, and it's a long way to the nearest cash machine.

The kitchen here is operating at a VERY high level of sophistication, I really couldn't find fault with anything we ate, it was all imaginatively conceived, expertly executed, and used high-quality ingredients.

We had several of the specials which, mysteriously aren't on the printed menu. This wouldn't be unusual except that they print a menu each day, it has the date at the top. So, like, put the specials on the menu!!!

Actually, I don't really care how they tell me about the food as long as it's this delicious.

We just couldn't narrow it down any further, so we ordered three apps:

Country Duck Paté

This was a good deal more elegant than the name suggests, an only slightly chunky terrine of delicate duck meat, served with toasts, cornichons, caramelized onions, and what I think was a cranberry compote. It's one of the better patés I've had, light yet flavorful, creamy, but with a slight rustic texture. I'd get it again anytime.

Lasagne of Wild Mushrooms and Peas.

I was expecting a bit more bold of a pea presence, but I wasn't too disappointed by those flavors being pushed-aside by the excellent dark essence of fungi. There were loads of chanterelles and their relatives interleaved with sheets of tender pasta and a thick brown sauce. Absolutely perfect on a damp fall night. And really good with the LaTour Muersault.

Veal Cheeks...

well, I'm sure there was more to the description, but I stopped listening after the words "veal cheeks." I could have gone home happy after eating just this, it had that indulgently gelatinous mouthfeel, and an amazing depth of flavor. A highlight among highlights.

As a complimentary intermezzo from the chef:

Seared White Tuna with Balsamic Reduction

This was a cube of delicate fish, firmed from a quick encounter with the fire, glazed with a syrup of reduced vinegar. It had a nice mild flavor that meshed well with the sweet balsamic. We were caught mopping--up the sauce with the rolls...

As entrées:

Pistachio and Herb Crusted lamb Loin

Two absolutely perfectly medium-rare loins were elevated from their sometimes too-mild state by the crunchy, salty, herby coating. That was almost enough, but Chef has a way with an intense wine sauce that seems to magically amplify the natural juices of a meat. It's a trick he uses for many of his preparations, but I never tire of it, those classic reductions are just so satisfying. Potatoes Dauphine accompanied, which were basically hush puppies that had gone to finishing school in Europe: crunchy, fried dumplings of creamy mashed potatoes. Man, those were good... Still-snappy haricots vertes and a superfluous, but welcome, potato rosette finished the plate.

Wild Boar Tenderloin, Stuffed with Prunes, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary.

Just like with the lamb, what could be a pedestrian dish is elevated to something exemplary by sheer skill and insistence on fine ingredients. Pork tenderloins are so often a big yawn on contemporary menus, but the added flavor and density of wild boar, and aggressive flavorings made this truly memorable. The meat was wrapped in this sheets of something porky...prosciutto, or something similar, and the stuffings of prunes, garlic and herbs rendered this juicy and complex on the palette. Well-spiced, smooth puree of sweet potato gave an autumnal accent. The same vegetables as appeared with the lamb accompanied, and seemed every bit as appropriate.

We didn't really have room for dessert, but we were on a roll...

Caramelized Apple Tart

This was basically a tarte tatin, but with a lighter hand, not quite as darkly rendered, with an airy, delicate puff-pastry. But it packed all those familiar flavors, the edge of burnt sugar, the crunch of crust, the deep mellow sweetness of soft apples. Adding Vanilla gelato might have been gilding the lily, but I never complain about that if it involves gelato.

Croissant Banana Bread Pudding

A paradoxically light bread pudding, somehow the leafy layers of bread maintain their airiness amidst the custard, managing to float above the pool of Creme Anglaise.

Coffee was merely good. Aha!!! Finally, something to whine about!!! I don't feel like such a suck-up anymore!!

Well, OK, it wasn't bad actually, just not quite as good as the rest of the meal. And admittedly it was getting late...

Oh, and the rolls. They're good, but not at the level of the rest of the cuisine here. Small quibble.

We've had the good fortune to have eaten some serious food lately, and many of the offerings here at Birchrunville Store Cafe can easily rank among the best of it. This would easily be considered one of the best restaurants in Philly if it got teleported into Center City, but the bucolic locale and relaxed feel is part of the appeal of the place, so I'm glad it's where it is.

It requires a bit of a drive from almost anywhere, and some planning ahead due to this small place's popularity. But if you make the effort, not only do you get outstanding food, but at an almost incomprehensible bargain. We had three apps, an intermezzo, two entrees, two desserts and two coffees for $85. A little over $50 per person after tip for all this food, all of it excellent, seems almost like we're taking advantage of the place... Not that I'm complaining!!

In fact it's a significant part of the charm, that prices are reasonable enough to make it a frequent stop, and clearly many of the customers are regulars, greeted by name, and sent off with a see-you-soon. Even we were remembered from our group excursion there as reported upthread, a waitress saying that she had enjoyed reading about our experiences.

It's a very comfortable, friendly, casual-feeling place, more like a small neighborhood joint. But we have the good fortune that this local spot just happens to serve fabulous food!

Sadly, the vast majority of you will become helplessly lost trying to find the place, never to be heard from again. So just forget about it. Stay home. It's hard enough to get a table already. Nevermind what I wrote above, i was probably crazy from the Meursault.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Veal Cheeks...

well, I'm sure there was more to the description, but I stopped listening after the words "veal cheeks." 

I’m the same way about duck. It sets off this Pavlovian reaction.
Sadly, the vast majority of you will become helplessly lost trying to find the place, never to be heard from again. So just forget about it. Stay home. It's hard enough to get a table already. Nevermind what I wrote above, i was probably crazy from the Meursault.

It must be the Meusault. It made you so loopy that you must have forgotten that you thoughtfully provided their website, which gives directions. :laugh:

Thanks for the review, philadining. It definitely sounds like a place that makes it worth getting lost.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Wild Boar Tenderloin, Stuffed with Prunes, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary.

Just like with the lamb, what could be a pedestrian dish is elevated to something exemplary by sheer skill and insistence on fine ingredients. Pork tenderloins are so often a big yawn on contemporary menus, but the added flavor and density of wild boar, and aggressive flavorings made this truly memorable. The meat was wrapped in this sheets of something  porky...prosciutto, or something similar, and the stuffings of prunes, garlic and herbs rendered this juicy and complex on the palette. 

i think i just got an idea about what to do with these pork chops i have for dinner...

anyway, i may have asked this before, but how long do you think it would take to get there from philadelphia, assuming one could get a reservation?

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anyway, i may have asked this before, but how long do you think it would take to get there from philadelphia, assuming one could get a reservation?

When the traffic gods are smiling, only about an hour. Katie and Pedro came out over the summer, and I think it only took them about that long. The trick is that the most direct routes from the city involve the Schuylkill and 202, which are hard to rely on, and there's a bit of poorly-marked country-road navigation, it took me a few trips to feel confident.

(edited to add) the directions on the restaurant's website are generally correct, but have one tragic flaw: the section explaining how to get there from rt 202 indicates that one should exit on rt 401, then make a right on St Matthew's road in about 2 miles. It's WAY more than two miles, it's about two miles after crossing rt 113 which is about 6 miles up 401 from 202. So the turn onto St Matthew's Road is about 8 miles after exiting 202 onto 401. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.

mapquest does OK, it can't find the exact location, but if you get into Birchrunville, it's hard to miss...

But if you need a guide.... I know a guy...

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I agree with Philadining...this meal was a homerun. Each selection was bursting with flavor and perfectly seasoned.

Here are some of the accompanying pics...

Percyn and I had the chance to fill a last-minute cancellation at the Birchrunville Store Café tonight.  It's gotten pretty difficult to score a table there lately, but it's totally worth the trouble. This time we ordered off the regular menu and were every bit as impressed as we were at our epic tasting menu excursion a few months ago.

And a note about the tasting menus, they haven't updated their website to reflect this, but they only offer the 6-course tasting now, and only at the 6pm seatings on wednesday or thursday. I'm pretty sure it's $75 per person. Make arrangements when you call for a reservation.

And remember, it's cash or check only, no credit cards, and it's a long way to the nearest cash machine.

The kitchen here is operating at a VERY high level of sophistication, I really couldn't find fault with anything we ate, it was all imaginatively conceived, expertly executed, and used high-quality ingredients.

We had several of the specials which, mysteriously aren't on the printed menu. This wouldn't be unusual except that they print a menu each day, it has the date at the top. So, like, put the specials on the menu!!!

Actually, I don't really care how they tell me about the food as long as it's this delicious.

We just couldn't narrow it down any further, so we ordered three apps:

Country Duck Paté

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This was a good deal more elegant than the name suggests, an only slightly chunky terrine of  delicate duck meat, served with toasts, cornichons, caramelized onions, and what I think was a cranberry compote. It's one of the better patés I've had, light yet flavorful, creamy, but with a slight rustic texture. I'd get it again anytime.

Lasagna of Wild Mushrooms and Peas.

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I was expecting a bit more bold of a pea presence, but I wasn't too disappointed by those flavors being pushed-aside by the excellent dark essence of fungi. There were loads of chanterelles and their relatives interleaved with sheets of tender pasta and a thick brown sauce. Absolutely perfect on a damp fall night. And really good with the LaTour Muersault.

Braised Veal Cheeks with red lentils

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well, I'm sure there was more to the description, but I stopped listening after the words "veal cheeks."  I could have gone home happy after eating just this, it had that indulgently gelatinous mouthfeel, and an amazing depth of flavor. A highlight among highlights.

As a complimentary intermezzo from the chef:

Seared White Tuna with Balsamic Reduction

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This was a cube of delicate fish, firmed from a quick encounter with the fire, glazed with a syrup of reduced vinegar. It had a nice mild flavor that meshed well with the sweet balsamic.  We were caught mopping--up the sauce with the rolls...

As entrées:

Pistachio and Herb Crusted lamb Loin

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Two absolutely perfectly medium-rare loins were elevated from their sometimes too-mild state by the crunchy, salty, herby coating. That was almost enough, but Chef has a way with an intense wine sauce that seems to magically amplify the natural juices of a meat. It's a trick he uses for many of his preparations, but I never tire of it, those classic reductions are just so satisfying. Potatoes Dauphine accompanied, which were basically hush puppies that had gone to finishing school in Europe: crunchy, fried dumplings of creamy mashed potatoes. Man, those were good... Still-snappy haricots vertes and a superfluous, but welcome, potato rosette finished the plate.

Wild Boar Tenderloin, Stuffed with Prunes, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary.

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Just like with the lamb, what could be a pedestrian dish is elevated to something exemplary by sheer skill and insistence on fine ingredients. Pork tenderloins are so often a big yawn on contemporary menus, but the added flavor and density of wild boar, and aggressive flavorings made this truly memorable. The meat was wrapped in this sheets of something  porky...prosciutto, or something similar, and the stuffings of prunes, garlic and herbs rendered this juicy and complex on the palette.  Well-spiced, smooth puree of sweet potato gave an autumnal accent. The same vegetables as appeared with the lamb accompanied, and seemed every bit as appropriate.

We didn't really have room for dessert, but we were on a roll...

Caramelized Apple Tart

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This was basically a tarte tatin, but with a lighter hand, not quite as darkly rendered, with an airy, delicate puff-pastry. But it packed all those familiar flavors, the edge of burnt sugar, the crunch of crust, the deep mellow sweetness of soft apples.  Adding Vanilla gelato might have been gilding the lily, but I never complain about that if it involves gelato.

Croissant Banana Bread Pudding

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A paradoxically light bread pudding, somehow the leafy layers of bread maintain their airiness amidst the custard, managing to float above the pool of Creme Anglaise.

Coffee was merely good.  Aha!!! Finally, something to whine about!!!  I don't feel like such a suck-up anymore!!

Well, OK, it wasn't bad actually, just not quite as good as the rest of the meal. And admittedly it was getting late...

Oh, and the rolls. They're good, but not at the level of the rest of the cuisine here. Small quibble.

We've had the good fortune to have eaten some serious food lately, and many of the offerings here at Birchrunville Store Cafe can easily rank among the best of it. This would easily be considered one of the best restaurants in Philly if it got teleported into Center City, but the bucolic locale and relaxed feel is part of the appeal of the place, so I'm glad it's where it is.

It requires a bit of a drive from almost anywhere, and some planning ahead due to this small place's popularity. But if you make the effort, not only do you get outstanding food,  but at an almost incomprehensible bargain.  We had three apps, an intermezzo, two entrees, two desserts and two coffees for $85.  A little over $50 per person after tip for all this food, all of it excellent, seems almost like we're taking advantage of the place... Not that I'm complaining!!

In fact it's a significant part of the charm, that prices are reasonable enough to make it a frequent stop, and clearly many of the customers are regulars, greeted by name, and sent off with a see-you-soon.  Even we were remembered from our group excursion there as reported upthread, a waitress saying that she had enjoyed reading about our experiences.

It's a very comfortable, friendly, casual-feeling place, more like a small neighborhood joint. But we have the good fortune that this local spot just happens to serve fabulous food!

Sadly, the vast majority of you will become helplessly lost trying to find the place, never to be heard from again. So just forget about it. Stay home. It's hard enough to get a table already. Nevermind what I wrote above, i was probably crazy from the Meursault.

Alas, these bottles were not our donation to the cause...

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  • 2 months later...

This post comes rather late, I had the pleasure of experiencing another tasting menu toward the end of November, but it came right in the midst of a flurry of activity, and I just hadn’t had time to write it up with the attention this excellent meal deserved. But I made some notes and consulted with my dining partner, so I think my memories are fairly accurate.

I’m really sad that my camera was in the shop during this dinner, as there were several quite beautiful presentations. Also, the meal was quite long, and toward the end featured some similar ingredients, so my dining partner and I ended up exchanging emails for a few days later, trying to reconstruct everything: “wait, was that a quail with the stuffing, or was that the squab?” Some photos might have helped!

But to the best of my recollection, it went something like this:

We did not get an menu in advance, and so, just showed up with several bottles of wine, and ended up drinking more of them than I expected! Following advice from the chef, we started with a Ravines Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes of NY (I know, I’m in a rut, but it’s a good rut….) which actually went very nicely with the first few dishes.

To get us started, an Amuse: Arugula lightly dressed with a truffled oil, alongside Duck Prosciutto. The greens would have made a very pleasant salad on their own, but the cured, concentrated duck added a wonderful salty, just slightly chewy, accent. That prosciutto could have stood on its own too, but the combination was especially good. A great start!

Our first course was a quite beautiful presentation of several ceviches: A delicate Salmon brightened with a lemony dressing; Grouper dyed black with squid ink, which, in contract to its dark appearance had a light, fresh, gingery edge; a tender and rich tuna topped with American caviar; a spicy scallop that had quite a surprisingly bold chile kick, despite a creamy sauce. All were very good, especially the tuna and the scallop.

The second course was a Pompano filet, crusted with a shrimp and olive tapenade. The fish was served over a pretty, but fairly subtle-flavored swirl of red and yellow pepper sauces. I really can’t comment on this dish as it was intended, because I had to remove that crust from the fish, and that component of the dish surely held some of the more interesting flavors.

(I chose to do that rather than sending it back: I have a shrimp allergy, which I had mentioned at the time of reservation, and again when I confirmed a few days before the dinner, but I had failed to bring it up again that day. I’m quite sure that this issue wasn’t ignored, rather, just overlooked in a last-minute adjustment of the menu. I really should have reminded them again as I arrived, especially when I could tell they were improvising with the menu. I certainly could have just sent the dish back if I thought it would be life-threatening, but I could see that the offending elements could be removed quite neatly, and I could thereby avoid throwing-off the pace of the kitchen and our own meal, which as-is stretches out to several hours. And it’s not like I was hurting for good food!)

I’d like to think my impression of this dish as being lackluster was due entirely to my not eating part of the presentation, but my dining partner seemed to think that crust added more texture than flavor, more of a breadcrumb topping with some salty accents, rather than strong with shrimp or olives.

Right around this time in the meal, we switched to a really lovely light red Burgundy, a 2002 Cote de Nuits Villages "La Pretiere" Domaine Olivier & Anne-Marie Rion. This wine supported the next couple of courses quite nicely without overwhelming them.

Next we were presented with an amazingly moist and flavorful Pheasant breast, accented with pomegranate sauce. But it was hard to see it, hidden as it was under a huge slice of seared foie gras. A tangle of wild mushrooms and a watercress salad with pomegranate seeds completed the plate. This was just outrageously good, with the acid of the pomegranate both matching the gaminess of the pheasant and cutting the richness of the foie.

The fourth course was Quail with an earthy stuffing, served over barley. This too was juicy and tender, not always the case for these little birds in less-meticulous hands. The pheasant/foie is a tough act to follow, but this was still quite delicious.

Somewhere mid-quail, we decided we needed a wine with a little more heft and opened the good-old Arrowood Syrah “Le Beau Melange”

In an interesting technique, our server came and commandeered a glass of the Syrah and took it back to the kitchen, to be integrated into an intense, rich sauce for our final course: Squab, served over a bed of tender haricots vertes. Now there’s one way to assure a sympathetic wine pairing! It was an interesting exercise to experience three game birds in a row, each with its unique attributes, served with very different accompaniments. The squab had a very nice, strong flavor, and the syrah sauce, surely enriched with some demiglace or other kitchen alchemy, made it a bold ending statement. We were both expecting something more terrestrial as a final course, but I can’t say we were disappointed with the survey of avian flavors.

Dessert consisted of individual Baked Alaskas, a charmingly retro choice, an airy ending to a large and luxurious meal. The cool meringue held some too-hard frozen raspberries, but it was otherwise tasty and a fun change of pace.

As we were finishing this up, a generous diner from another table offered us a taste of his dessert wine, a truly delicious TBA from Alois Kracher.

Overall, yet another terrific meal at the Birchrunville Store Café. Both the waitress and the chef remembered that Percy and I had posted here on eGullet a few weeks earlier, they had seen that post, and the earlier one when our big crew did a tasting a few months earlier, so I was not completely incognito, but it was obvious that we were not getting special treatment. Oh – except – in my last post I complained about the rolls, so, without my saying anything this time, chef sent out some quite lovely, herby bread instead! (I did like it better… )

I recently read some posts on another internet forum recommending this restaurant, but saying that it was a charming place with only OK food. I find this opinion mystifying, as most everything I’ve had here on many visits has been outstanding.

The composition of this particular tasting menu, with three courses of game birds and nothing more conventionally “meaty” was surprising, but not disappointing, as all the offerings were quite delicious. The only downside was that the last few did blur into one another a bit, the next day it did take a few email exchanges for my dining partner and I to feel confident that we weren’t mixing up the components of the various bird courses.

But one could have worse problems than being a little unclear about exactly what was so delicious…

And again, at the risk of sabotaging a good thing: this restaurant charges almost unbelievably reasonable prices. The 6-course tasting menu is $70 before tax and tip, an amazing deal for food of this quality, prepared with such skill. Ordering off the menu offers similarly good value. I’m NOT suggesting they should raise the prices, I really enjoy getting a good meal without feeling that I can’t do it again for a year, which has been the case for me with a few places downtown.

As has been noted upthread, there’s an understandable demand for tables on weekends, plan on reserving several weeks ahead. Even weekdays are often full, but it’s worth planning ahead for some of the most satisfying food I’ve had anywhere in the area, at any price. Tasting menus are only done by advance arrangement on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and pretty much take all night, so block-out 6pm-11pm, you’ll need it!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I consider this one of the best BYOBs in the entire Philadelphia area, not just the ‘burbs. I’m thankful that it’s located out in the middle of nowhere, at least there’s some chance I can still get a table now and then!

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Following advice from the chef, we started with a Ravines Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes of NY (I know, I’m in a rut, but it’s a good rut….) which actually went very nicely with the first few  dishes.

That's no rut! Riesling, IMHO, is the great all purpose food wine and the best NYS rieslings, though not easy to find, are fine wines in their own right. But you already know that!

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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  • 1 year later...

After a fair bit of prodding, a dinner at Birchrunville was arranged for a few eG members. There were 7 of us - 6 partook in the tasting menu while one ordered from the menu (and was gracious enough to still share with the ones who went for the tasting menu!!).

I will get us started with some pics to which Philadining can add his superior pictures. I was not the designated wine scribe this time around, so hopefully someone was taking notes.

Settling in

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Amuse Bouche - Veal Cheeks - braised to perfection with a demi glace which amplified the veal flavor

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Wild mushroom and pheasant lasagna - delicious dish. The aroma of the porcini wafted from the plate to tease the palate.

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Pumpkin gnocchi with porcini cream - WOW !! These were the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi I have ever had!! Subtle pumpkin flavor could be detected as the gnocchi literally melted in your mouth. I could have eaten a big bowl of these all night...and morning...and... Chef, you should think about making this a regular item on the menu.

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Country Pate - Duck, rabbit and Venison (thanks for the reminder Mrs Duck). This was not part of the tasting menu, but how can we only restrict ourselves to 6 items for dinner??!?? Good though not particularly memorable.

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Escargot bordelaise with wild mushroom cigar

For some reason I missed taking a picture of this, as I was too busy taking this pic of some of us enjoying the pumpkin risotto the chef sent out for a member of our dining party who had a dairy allergy. Unfortunately the risotto was topped with cheese, so he could not partake.

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Crispy Japanese (Suzuki) sea bass, artichoke hearts, bourbon tomato coulis - Few items are more delicious than a nice crispy skin of fresh fish. It was served with bright, flavorful tomato coulis, which accented the sweetness of the fish. Not sure if it was just my piece, but I found that the relative thin pieces were just a tad dry and could have been a bit more moist.

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Roasted Partridge, huckleberries and shiraz reduction - Enjoyed the patridge, though I was not super crazy about the huckleberry sauce. I would have preferred a simple shiraz or gigonda reduction (inflused with foie :wink: )

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Formage - Don't ask me to remember all of them, the wine was taking its toll by now.

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Caramelized fig tart napoleon with Tahitian vanilla gelato - Very nice dessert. Loved the caramelized figs and pastry. Some enjoyed the passionfruit puree more than others.

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All in all another hit meal, leaving me with a desire to go back...today in fact.

Edited by percyn (log)
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