04 May County Lines Magazine
Hear ye! Hear ye! At the venerable Marshalton Inn, with roots going back to the days when town criers yelled their version of “listen up,” a talented and passionate chef is serving superb seasonal fare with lots of French country charm. Cheese reigns supreme, from bubbling fondue pots with top-notch cheese, including Stilton with beef tips or fingerling potatoes for dipping, to a classic cheese course with an excellent array of artisanal cheeses. The French onion soup features four cheeses to match the four onions in this bistro dish, and there are five European cheeses in the macaroni and cheese appetizer that’s been praised for its “creamy luxury and pungent tang”
Speaking of roots, new chef and co-owner David Cox grew up in this area and returned last fall after chalking up impressive culinary credentials that include two New York City hot spots. The fromagerie Artisanal and Picholine Nouveau, which has received Zagat’s highest rating.
He works magic with root vegetables, too. When we visited on a Saturday evening, it was salsify–think parsnip–that showed up on the menu and that delighted. Its subtle but distinct flavor reminds me of artichoke hearts; others taste oyster nuances, which is why it’s also known as the oyster plant.
Delectable salsify soup–the Soupe du Jour–combined the best of comfort food and haute cuisine. In the center of its creamy, earthy goodness floated a small profiterole encircled by a carefully placed band of pureed foie grass. The delicate pastry was courtesy of the in-house pastry chef, Wendy Cox, whose desserts match the excellence of her husband’s creations.
I was intrigued by the “salsify Three Ways” offered with Sea Scallops. Different seasoning and textures made each enjoyable in its own right. Curly strips, deep-fried and crispy, balanced the pureed preparation and the small caramelized chunks. A lovely orange emulsion, slightly sweet and tart, amped up the appeal of the scallops, golden-edged form perfect searing, as well as the salsify trio.
Many good things made the Autumn Pear Salad a total winner, most notably the fine camembert. It topped the esteem pear and persimmon slices, candied pecans, pomegranate seeds and good greens, dressed with a tasty blend of pear cider and pomegranate reduction. Another crowd-pleasing appetizer was the Jumbo Lump Crab Blintz. The taragon-flecked crepe held simply seasoned crab, served with a refreshing salsa of avocado and grapefruit.
Other appetizer options include parmesan gnocchi with broccoli rabe and fennel sausage; wild burgundy snail pithiviers(puffed pastry rounds) with pistachio and garlic butter: hummus and crudite, including tapenade and grilled flat bread; beet salad with endive, walnuts and goat cheese; and organic mesclun salad.
Succulent Braised Short Ribs slowly braised in a Riesling sauce until meltingly tender and mahogany-colored, were perfectly matched with parmesan pommes gratin, layers of sliced potatoes in a pungently cheesy sauce. Another full-flavored and tender entree, Saddle of Rabbit, was stuffed with wild mushrooms and sauteed kidneys and served with house-made pappardelle pasta and roasted root vegetables. (For inquiring minds, the “saddle” is the rabbit’s back from the first rib to the beginning of the legs.)
The wine list was small but will grow, promised Cox, who had presided in the Marshalton kitchen a mere four months when we visited. “We’re in the process of building it to the next level,” he said, and by the time you read this, he probably has. We were happy with our by-the-glass choices: a ripe and slightly spicy Australian shiraz from Barossa Valley Estates and a crops Italian pinot grigio from the Principato Winery.
Dessert brought more delicious eating, with more heavenly cheese pairings. Rich cheddar-enhanced pastry encased apples that had been caramelized with Calvados for an exceptional Apple Tarte Tatin and the Artisinal Cheesecake with pecan praline crust managed to be both Beautifully rich and light.
We applauded the idea of the small Pastry Packages that came with our check as perfect for those who want just a bite of something sweet. A morsel served at the end of the meal instead of the amuse-bouche, which is presented before the hors d’oeuvre or first course, was a nice surprise. We considered foregoing them but simply couldn’t pass up a taste of the three small rolled pastries, pure indulgences of almond cream and raspberry wrapped in filo. They were worth every calorie.
My two companions, who’ve long treasured historic houses, drank in the ambiance of this roadside inn, the front section dating back to 1792. Checking out the heavy, three color molding, in our dining room (one of several), they agreed it was Victorian, yet the arched deep-set windows are Colonial. “Old houses are not pure, “one said with a smile. But they are sure charming. We enjoyed the fireplaces, the wide-plank floors, the candlelight and early American art on the walls.
Being on the only road that connected Philadelphia with Pittsburg, the Inn saw many travelers pass by in it’s early incarnation. Whether it was to stop for a drink and bite to eat for themselves, or if it was to rest their horses, the Inn was always there for travelers and residents alike.
The solid stone inn, a Chester County classic, once had the luxury of a captive audience, Today, there are many more roads between the two Pennsylvania cities, so it can no longer rely solely on traffic. But The Marshalton Inn’s food is so good, it should thrive as a destination restaurant.
The patio scene we encountered When we left the Inn was a pleasant surprise, considering it was winter. But there was big old wooden rocking chairs set up around two chimineas. Wood fires burned brightly in the freestanding fireplaces. A staffer invited us to use the wooden sticks standing in a basket to toast marshmallows. Now I knew why there were rolled-up blankets on the bench in the entryway.
Cox said the patio is a popular gathering spot, but he’s looking forward to spring when the front porch will be open for dinner service. It’s sure to be charming, but the Inn’s food alone is enough of a draw for me. Back to Press Page