A Sunday Afternoon Culinary Tour in Kennett Square
By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times
On a recent Sunday, ten food adventurers and I met in the dappled shade of the locust trees on Kennett Square, the mushroom capital of America. We spent three hours meandering the town’s three block long Main Street, chatting with local chefs and tantalizing our taste buds with dishes from some of the area’s most popular restaurants.,
Guided by Ann Vaughan, owner of Taste Kennett Food Tours, we stopped in to visit eight of Kennett’s diverse food establishments. Ann and her husband were inspired to start up this business in May 2014 after participating in food-focused walking tours in New York City and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. They wanted to share their fondness for their hometown with others and demonstrate why Kennett Square was voted among America’s coolest small towns.
“People think they know this area,” Ann said, “but then they are surprised to encounter places they had never visited or to learn the back-story behind local eateries. When people hear about Kennett they think mushrooms and the annual Mushroom Festival. While mushroom growing is totally ingrained in our heritage there is a lot more here to discover”
Ann had warned me in advance to taste, not inhale. We had, after all, more bites than steps scheduled for the day. Nevertheless, my mouth was watering even before we began. So we ambled, browsed and stopped in 20-minutes increments in these kitchens to watch and listen to chefs holding forth on the inspiration of their dishes.
Finally we tasted – crunchy fish tacos accompanied by spicy dipping sauce,. Thai chicken crepes dressed with red cabbage, toasted sesame seeds and rice vinegar, roasted artichokes drizzled with truffle oil. And, of course, this being Kennett Square, we tucked into a remarkably rich mushroom soup. We sampled Pennsylvania wines, some made right in Chester County, and enjoyed refreshing strawberry lemonade. Our final stop was dessert at La Michoacana Ice Cream shop, which is famous for its corn ice cream.
While we munched, chefs shared their secrets. Chef Hulbert at Portabella Restaurant declared that black pepper ground fresh every day is the sole spice he uses to liven up his dishes. He told us that he discards any that is not used during the day’s service because it no longer can provide that unique kick to his dishes.
Elizabeth Davis of the Y’or So Sweet creperie in the Liberty Marketplace demonstrated how she makes crepes on her 16-inch diameter griddle. She claimed that it was easy to pour a uniform, amazingly thin layer of crepe batter on that sizzling plate and then slide it gently onto a plate and enfold it with sweet strawberry Chantilly filling or savory hot and spicy chicken. While I haven’t tried it yet at home, I don’t believe it’s as easy as she claims.
In three hours we ate and sipped our way through eight restaurants, winery shops and food markets Chefs shared generously and my tour companions chatted throughout about their own cooking experiences. At the end, the corn-flavored ice cream sprinkled with chili powder was the day’s winning dish. Portabella fries got some serious traction, though. But for me, a with a taste for all things Mexican,, the fish tacos were the hit of the day.
A $45 fee per person includes an afternoon of visiting six of Kennett Square’s unique restaurants, as well as two local winery tasting rooms. Contact Taste Kennett at 484-734-0740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.