I had the pleasure of dining at Owamni in Minneapolis earlier this year, before it received the James Beard Award for best new restaurant but after it had already received accolades. The unique concept ensures a menu that you’ve likely not encountered before: all ingredients must have been used by indigenous people prior to the colonization of the Americas. No dairy, no beef, no chicken, no egg. Non-vegetarians can order fish, bison, turkey, or elk. For the bulk of the menu, Owamni uses ingredients such as berries, corn, wild rice, beans, and maple syrup, making it largely vegan-friendly. Wines come from Mexico and Central America because of the regions’ use of non-European grapes.
Our recent curbside pickup from Torre, our local higher-end Mexican restaurant, served two purposes: supporting a small business and giving me a night off from cooking. It gave us a break from the now-normal routine of life in the time of coronavirus. As I wrote in an earlier blog, you can create a special date night out of curbside pickup. In this case, we chose another ambience. Different food, different mood.
If you don’t live near Center Valley, PA, find your own local restaurant to support. They will appreciate it.
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Torre
Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA
Pickup Hours: Wed. – Sat. 4:30-7:30 pm; Sun. 3:30-6:30 pm
Recommended music: Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (Joaquin Rodrigo, composer)
After my fifth or sixth visit, I decided it was time for World Oyster’s review of the Sergeantsville Inn. The restaurant, located on the corner of a quaint New Jersey town, occupies an old stone building with sections built in the 1700s. In the winter, you can sit next to a blazing fire in one of the original fireplaces. The Colonial American structure combines upscale dining with a business casual atmosphere. If you want a more casual menu, you can opt to eat in the tavern. Even better for my extended family, the chef includes three vegetarian entrées, two of which can be made vegan.
Ambience: Cozy American Colonial
Dress: Business casual for the dining room; casual for the Tavern
Best entrées: Waygu steak, soy duckling, wild-caught salmon (menu changes)
Best Appetizers: Any salad, including specials
Vegetarian/vegan options? : Yes
The Sergeantsville Inn specializes in pasture-raised meat, wild-caught seafood, local produce, and other sustainable ingredients. Because of this emphasis, you can find some unusual meats such as wild boar, pheasant, buffalo, and venison. For the less adventurous, more common meats and fish round out the menu: short ribs, Icelandic cod, beef steak, veal chops, and shrimp.
My husband and I recently ate brunch at The Marshal in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York. One thing I can say for sure: The Marshal is fearless in the face of cholesterol. Most items come with cheese or bacon, and often both. The restaurant serves duck bacon, pork bacon, and sausage. For an extra charge, even the butter can come with bacon. As for cheeses, you can find dishes with Swiss, burrata, blue, mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta, and “farm’esan.” Because the chef embraces local products, many of the above come from New York state.
Ambience: Local casual
Alcoholic beverages: Yes
Best Non-Egg Dishes: biscuits, mac and cheese
Most popular based on other tables: Short rib hash with poached eggs; stuffed French toast; deviled eggs
When I visited the Netherlands earlier this year, I wanted to carefully plan where to eat in Amsterdam. Sometimes I chose by location. Other times, I wanted to satisfy my inner foodie. Not familiar with Dutch cuisine, I had no idea what to expect. On my visit I discovered that while Dutch cuisine, even at a Michelin-starred restaurant, embraces different ingredients and styles than I’m used to, the food can be delicious.
You can’t go wrong with any of the below. From Michelin-starred restaurant to casual bar, each offers quintessentially Dutch ingredients prepared in a style unique to the establishment.
During our last trip to Florence (Firenze), the staff at our hotel recommended that we try Rosso Crudo for dinner. The location suited us, being only a block from our hotel, the Domux Home Ricasoli, on a day when we hadn’t slept much the night before. We wanted something nearby but delicious as our culinary entry into the city.
Specialty: steak and pasta
Dress: Business casual
Price: antipasti 5-19 Euros; primi platti (pasta) 8-12 Euros; Steaks 17-24 Euros or, for premium cuts, 5-8 Euros per 100 grams.
What to order: steak, pappardelle cinghiale, proscuitto e melone
My review of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis highlights an excellent farm-to-table restaurant. Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere. This trendy establishment, located in the Warehouse District, offers innovative dishes for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Its companion bar, Marvel Bar, hides around back and, in true speakeasy style, can be found by only those in the know.
Recommended dishes: Duck breast, housemade cheese with smoked honey, popovers.
Most surprising: The “secret” Marvel bar and its back staircase into the restaurant
Dress: Business casual
Décor: Vintage warehouse combined with country
Price: $27-38 for entrées
While technically a separate establishment, any review of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis should include Marvel Bar as a prelude to dinner. If you go around back of the restaurant and down a few stairs to what looks like a delivery entrance, you’ll find it. Unmarked, of course. Open the heavy metal door and step inside. You’ll likely have to blink a little to adjust to the dark, beamed interior. If you’re lucky, you can score one of the booths, but you can also cozy up to the bar or set your drink on one of the barrel tables.
Specialty cocktails are unusual and delicious. Of course, you can always order traditional cocktails. If you have reservations in the restaurant above, your server will show you to the back staircase after you settle your tab. You are free to carry your drinks upstairs.
The Bachelor Farmer
As much as I love to begin dinner with a cocktail from Marvel Bar, I look forward to the real attraction, dinner at The Bachelor Farmer. We almost always start out with one of the toasts. The housemade cow’s milk cheese with smoked honey, warm apricot “mostada,” and pine nuts makes a great appetizer to share or to keep for yourself. We always order popovers as starters as well. During my last dinner there, my husband and I shared a foie gras appetizer that came with a radish and peashoot salad.
The vegetarians who dined with us ordered the wild rice, soft-boiled egg, shiitake mushroom, and hazelnuts entrée. I’m not an egg person, so I take their word for it that it tasted delicious. The walleye with pancetta and argula cream and the grilled lamb with wilted greens were both excellent. Because the menu changes seasonally, you can’t always expect to see what you ordered the time before. On my first visit, I ordered duck breast, and it was the best duck breast I’ve ever had. The second time, I didn’t see duck breast on the menu.
In a city with many great dining options, The Bachelor Farmer remains one of the best. Its emphasis on local ingredients and “Northern food” makes it an apt restaurant for visitors and residents alike. Make sure to check out Marvel Bar either before or after dinner.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann
On a brief trip to Auckland, New Zealand, my husband and I dined at some of the city’s best restaurants, from casual to upscale. Not surprisingly, we discovered that dining in Auckland New Zealand can rival that of any major international city. I named two of the restaurants below, The Grove and The Sugar Club, as two of the best restaurants I visited in 2019.
If a friend had not told me about Cascade The Restaurant at Durham Springs, I would have never tried it. Without this recommendation, I would have missed out on the finest dining available in upper Bucks County, PA. Located in the country amid rolling hills, this restaurant offers innovative dishes that change weekly, perhaps even nightly.
Recommended dishes: Everything. No kidding.
Most surprising: The location, seemingly in the middle of nowhere
Cuisine: Innovative American
Dress: Business casual to dressy
Décor: Modern rustic
Price: Expensive for the area
Under New Ownership, in rural Bucks County
I’m shocked that such a fabulous restaurant exists only a few minutes from my home, in the country no less. I’ve had comparable meals in major cities such as San Francisco, Auckland, and New York at higher prices. Of course, the rent/property costs are much more expensive in those areas. That’s not to say that Cascade the Restaurant is cheap.
Many local residents know the building as the Cascade Lodge; however, new ownership has transformed it and stepped it up to a new level. Its new name, Cascade the Restaurant at Durham Springs, evokes the past while signaling the change. Owners Dan and Ian are hands-on management. Chances are, one of them will stop by your table to inquire about your experience. Kudos to them for hiring chef de cuisine Jon McCain, who has a palate for interesting flavors and an artistic eye. After all, when you’re paying for an upscale meal, you want the food to look as beautiful as it tastes.
Service is unpretentious, attentive, but sometimes awkward. I attribute that the newness of the restaurant. Still, the wait staff could use some better instruction on the menu items.
Seasonal Ingredients, With Artistic Flare
We’ve been to Cascade the Restaurant several times now, and each time the menu has been different. Chef Jon McCain uses seasonal ingredients to highlight the freshest flavors available. For instance, at one visit, I had a blow-me-away sweet corn risotto with crabmeat and shrimp, topped with fiddlehead ferns. At another visit, my husband ordered seasonal wild-caught sockeye salmon with late spring’s rhubarb underneath. My beef filet was adorned with a pansy flower for an edible pop of color.
Although I’d recommend ordering anything on a given menu, some dishes don’t rise to the level of others. For example, on a Wednesday night pris fixe menu, my scallops were slightly overdone. The rosemary sugar under a full burrata didn’t add as much interest as I had hoped. Despite those disappointments, everything else over four visits has been delicious and perfect.
The Events Center
Owners Dan and Ian have preserved and updated the events center for weddings and parties. Just outside the doors and next to the brook, they have graded a two-tier lawn area that extends to the duck pond.
Although I have not been in the events center itself, I’ve looked into it via the windows in the dining room. It carries over the same décor theme from the restaurant in a larger, open area.
Cascade the Restaurant at Durham Springs offers free valet parking in a gravel lot just across the road. Recently, they’ve announced the upcoming opening of a roof top café with lighter fare and more casual atmosphere.
The restaurant has a full bar. Although the cocktails are excellent, the wine list is limited, particularly in the by-the-glass offerings. Given the caliber of the restaurant, I wish they’d employ a Coravin to offer better wines by the glass. A Coravin allows restaurants to serve wines at per-bottle prices (that is, bottle price divided by five) without risk of a wine going bad over time. Even without a Coravin, however, the bottle list should be larger.
Make a reservation. Although the dining room hasn’t been completely sold out on our visits, accolades and word-of-mouth might change that. You don’t want to drive into the country, only to find out that you cannot get a table. Most of all, though, prepare yourself for an elegant and unpretentious dining experience.
— Debbie Lee Wesselmann