going to france for dinner via chester county

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We have this sort of unofficial supper club with some of our Chester County residing Shipley friends. Last night, we were treated to dinner at the home of one of these friends.  We all went to France via Chester County because another guest at the table was renown local chef, (an actual honest to goodness amazing French Chef)  Sylvie Ashby.

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Chef Sylvie 

Chef Sylvie lives in West Chester. She was born and raised in Normandy, France. She always wanted to share the love and passion for French cooking and comfort food the French traditional way by only using seasonal fresh produce and meats from the local markets.

Last evening’s dinner was one of my favorite meals ever.  I grew up on bœuf bourguignon or beef Burgundy or bœuf à la Bourguignonne is not some ordinary stew, as delicious as they may beef.  It is elevated far beyond that and if done properly like last night, the meat does not disintegrate but melts in your mouth. Last night, it was probably hands down the best I have ever had.

We started with hors d’oevres of belgian endive boats piped with a light and fluffy goat cheese, goat cheese toasts, and one of my favorite purely French treats I have never made, gougères!Related image Gougères are these fluffy puffs of warm pastry made with Gruyère cheese.  (Check out this recipe for gougères from Alain Ducasse.)

After our main course of bœuf bourguignon we had a marvelous salad with fresh greens and a delightful vinaigrette with an amazing blood orange infused olive oil from a Taste of Olive in West Chester. And the bread? Amazing as always from La Baguette Magique in West Chester.

The beef and cheese were also locally sourced.  I forget whose goat cheeses we had, and

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Chef Sylvie Courtesy Photo

I do not know the farm name for the beef but for some reason I think it was from down near Landenberg.

And dessert? Channel your inner Julia Child, it was Floating Island! Floating Island is a light as a feather dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise.  The crème anglaise is custardy and delicious.  Chef Sylvie finished the dessert with a light caramel drizzle.

This dinner was a true mini vacation to France.  I love when we get together to have dinner with our friends, and we loved being introduced to Chef Sylvie.

And guess what? You too can hire Chef Sylvie to bring the taste of France to your home for intimate gatherings.  Chef Sylvie specializes in French country cooking, bringing France to the comfort of your own home for private dinner parties.  And her prices are emminently reasonable. She also will cater events like birthday parties, Girls ‘night out, Crepes bar party, Book Clubs, Wine Clubs…her website is cuisinedesylvie.com . You can also find her on Facebook Cuisine de Sylvie.

One thing I did not ask her is if she teaches cooking classes.  I think that would be super fun!

Stay safe in the snow and ice!

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decay in black and white

The farmhouse owned by Clews and Strawbridge in Malvern, East Whiteland Chester County. They must be immune to how sad this once marvelous Chester County Farmhouse looks, huh?

How about an adaptive reuse?

Or some day will it just cease to exist?

kicking off the holiday season life’s patina style

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I love Christmas and was so excited when my friend Amy suggested we attend the Holiday Tea at Life’s Patina on Willowbrook Farm in Malvern.  The tea was today and it was an amazing event! (In all fairness, EVERY Life’s Patina event is amazing!)

Mind you, my day did not have an auspicious start as I locked myself out of the house accidentally this morning dealing with pets.  Not only did I lock myself out, but I was in my nightgown with wet hair.  I had to march myself across the road to my neighbor’s to call my husband to get back into the house.  (Have I mentioned I have awesome neighbors? I do! I am sure the sight of me in my nightgown has scarred them for life, but anyway.)

So after the trauma of locking myself out of our house in my nightgown, I managed to be ready in time to go to the tea.

I love the Life’s Patina events!  The proprietress, Meg Veno, is an amazing woman.  She has the biggest heart, is just so darn nice, and has an eye that gets me into trouble every time I attend a barn sale.  Seriously, the woman has an amazing design aesthetic and is super creative and finds the perfect things.  Her holiday events are among my favorites because, well, it’s no secret I love Christmas!

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This morning when we walked into the holiday preview tea, it was sensory overload.  The holidays were beautifully spilling out of every nook and cranny of the barn.  This was a lovely and exclusive event complete with a delicious luncheon for all of us who subscribed.  I especially liked the Quiche and the little smoked salmon sandwiches and the peach tea.

It was like a little bit of holiday magic in that barn today. People were happy. Holidays are festive times for friends and family, and this was a very nice reminder of times to come.

Another component to today was the charity Meg chose to receive a portion of the sales.  She pays it forward in that way with her events.

Today’s charity recipient was the Women’s Resource Center of Wayne, PA. This non-profit has the mission to help women and girls  successfully navigate life’s transitions and to inspire others to do the same.  By providing resources, tools and support for today, we create hope for tomorrow. The Women’s Resource Center serves Southeastern, PA including Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, and Delaware counties.

Founded in 1975, the Women’s Resource Center began when five women placed an ad in The Suburban and Wayne Times calling for a meeting on women’s issues. Forty-five women attended the initial meeting, indicating a strong demand for an organization that was dedicated to the special needs of women. The original group established three goals that remain in place to this day:

1) To provide information and referral services to women & families;
2) To offer supportive programming and workshops; and
3) To maintain a physical location from which to serve the greater Philadelphia community.

This is a very worthy non-profit and I was happy to do my part and purchase some really fun things for the holidays.  I will admit I bought some Christmas ornaments and the world’s funniest holiday cocktail napkins.

Also today was the unexpected surprise of running into old, familiar faces at the tea and shopping preview.  I saw someone I basically had not seen in over five years.  We were friends in another lifetime.  It was nice to catch-up and meet her new friends.

I was truthfully amused by all of the Main Liners and city dwellers who made it out “to the country” to attend this preview.  I hope they all saw and appreciated the fall splendor of Chester County today.

Willowbrook Farm is an absolutely magical property with majestic trees donned at present in fiery reds, oranges, and spectacular yellow.  They have a huge Ginko tree which is captivating this time of year.  You just do not see many Ginkos anymore and the only other ones of similar height and majesty are on the path leading to the Haverford College Nature Trail that runs behind the one side of Haverford Friends School.

You too can see the magic in store this season at Life’s Patina.  There are holiday events coming up! Christmas magic doesn’t even begin to describe what is coming up.

Holiday Barn Sale – New Dates (postponed because of flooded fields)

November 16 – November 18 FREE ADMISSION! 10 AM – 4 PM

German Christmas Market at Life’s Patina

December 8 – December 9 FREE ADMISSION but asking for donations to  MainLineFreunde and T&E Care  3 PM – 6 PM  (Follow German Christmas Market on The Main Line HERE on Facebook.)

Willowbrook Farm and Life’s Patina are located at 1750 N. Valley Rd
Malvern, 19355 BUT this is a private residence, NOT a store so you can’t just show up.  The fabulous dairy barn full of magic is only opened to the public for special events.  Feel free to follow them on Facebook .

Here is a sampling of the Christmas magic I found today at Life’s Patina which also included discovering Stony Hill Farm out of Pottstown:

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like visiting an old friend: going back to baldwin’s book barn

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Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, have a passing thought, go back to sleep?  Well, my weird passing thought in the wee small hours overnight was I had not been to Baldwin’s Book Barn on Lenape Road in literally about 20 years!

I am and always have been a bibliophile. A bookworm. A book hoarder. I love my books.  They have moved with me thoughout my life. Even books from my childhood. Books from my parents. Cookbooks. History books. Gardening books. Fiction by Laura Ingalls Wilder to Daphne DuMaurier to Elizabeth Goudge to Marguerite de Angeli to Dickens to Robert Frost and the list goes on.  I married another bibliophile.  We love out books and they are all over the house in various bookshelves.

Growing up I loved the book store at Bryn Mawr College known as The Owl.  The college disbanded the beloved Owl years ago to make way for progress. There is still The Title Page in Bryn Mawr (which was started originally by ladies who were at The Owl), and that is amazing, but for those of us in Chetser County, and book nuts in general, there is nothing like Baldwin’s Book Barn. Nothing.

And yes, when I popped awake in the middle of the night last night, my mind was on a big stone barn full of books…Baldwin’s Book Barn. What’s not to love? A giant Chester County stone barn built in 1822 filled to the rafters with books? Used books, out of print books, rare books, fun books, paperback books, bags of specially priced books….it’s book Nirvana…and it’s Chester County tradition.

As per their website:

William and Lilla Baldwin established their used book and collectible business in 1934 in nearby Wilmington, DE. In 1946 they moved to “The Barn”. The old milking house was converted into a residence for the Baldwin Family and the stone barn became the bookshop and for some years, a country store museum. We are located deep in the heart of the enchanting and historical Brandywine Valley. Baldwin’s Book Barn is one of America’s truly distinctive bookstores. Step inside and you are transported to another time and place. Today, our store is stuffed to the rafters with a treasure trove of 300,000 used and rare books, manuscripts, maps as well as fine paintings, prints, estate antiques, and other valued collectibles.

Store Hours: 10AM – 6PM Every Day
Except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Baldwin’s Book Barn
865 Lenape Road, West Chester, PA 19382
Phone: 610-696-0816        E-mail: info@bookbarn.com

So when I woke up woke up this morning and my husband asked what else I would like to do today, I said “let’s go to Baldwin’s Book Barn.”  So to the Book Barn we went. And it was like visiting a fondly remembered old friend.

Ahhh the smell of books greets you still even with the door just cracked!!!  And the door still creaked the same was going in. Still the same smell of woodstove fires. And still the same floor to ceiling books! I will note they still have a terrific Wyeth section and Chester County section.

We went from bottom to top, top to bottom. I bought a couple of cookbooks. It is nice that some things remain the same in this life.

I will note as an aside as I overheard this, that they could use firewood for their woodstove cut to 14″ or 15″ lengths if you can GIVE them any.  There are enough woodstove folks in Chester County and so many people with firewood, how about paying it forward a little?

Here are some photos I took.  I will note with amusement that I never knew Paris Hilton wrote a book. I had a lovely time and won’t wait 20 years to go back. Go buy a book!

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unacceptable behavior in malvern borough

This was sent to me by one of my readers to me this morning at 8:05 AM. This is the Flying Pig in Malvern Borough. On the corner of King and Bridge. A nice local business, a staple of the borough community, and beloved by so many in the extended community.

Graffiti.

Tagging.

The irony is Malvern Borough does a lot of murals, so if somebody wanted to paint on walls they could volunteer and paint on walls proactively.

This graffiti is wrong. It’s not hip, it’s not cool, it’s wrong. This is hard-earned money out of the pocket of any small business that has to deal with this.

If anyone knows who did this, or if anyone has external outdoor security cameras that may have captured who these people were going to and from the site, I hope they pay it forward and go to the police. In turn, I hope the police don’t come down like a hammer on anyone apprehended for this, but instead give them something proactive like community service so they can learn and move forward.

I get the people wish to express themselves, but this is not the way to do it. Don’t punish small businesses like this. Don’t punish residents like this. Slow your roll and find another way.

To the Flying Pig and other businesses with exposed walls especially, as we learned years ago when facing a sudden onset of graffiti in Ardmore, PA (Lower Merion Township) it isn’t a bad idea to invest in anti-graffiti paint or anti-graffiti sealer coats.

At the time we were dealing with this in Ardmore, residents used to come together and help the small businesses clean up the graffiti and repaint. I always found it heartening that something that was pure vandalism could bring a community together, even for a short time.

Malvern Borough is a treasure. I am really sorry to have to report on this sad act this morning.