Archive for November, 2008

Driving down Swamp Road in Doylestown yesterday, we saw the Cross Keys Diner is open again. This is good news.

Until it closed suddenly early this summer, the Cross Keys was one of our favorite places. The food was good, the waitresses got to know you quickly, the crowd of regulars was cordial, and we could usually find a place at the counter even on the most crowded Sunday mornings. If two stools weren’t adjacent to one another, folks would usually shift around to make room. In late May or June, it closed for the owners’ personal reasons. By coincidence, Lynne and I were there for breakfast on the last day it was open, and we’d noticed an air of tension that we’d never felt there before.

We’ve missed the Cross Keys Diner. We hear it’s being re-opened by someone who’d cooked there before, and we see from scanning the Intelligencer’s classifieds they’ve been hiring for all positions. Sometime soon, we’ll get over there to check it out.

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I’m still new enough to Wycombe that discovering a nest of deer bedded down in the hedge is a thrill. My neighbors, who are careful gardeners, are less thrilled, as is Cody, whose only thought is to get the intruders out of his territory. Two of the does scampered off as soon as we wandered abreast of them, but the third, the biggest of the three, remained as she was, watching us steadily and making it clear she had no intention of moving, no matter how much she was yapped at. Cody would have stayed out there yapping all morning, but I needed coffee and he needed breakfast, whether he remembered it at that moment or not. Once he was fed, I settled in with the paper and came across this article in the New Jersey section celebrating the notion of locally grown food. Outside of elections and sports, the Times doesn’t write about Pennsylvania much, so most of the coverage here is about farms and chefs across the river, but some of them – like the Honey Brook Organic Farm and Hopewell Valley Vineyards, both in Pennington – are close enough for an easy visit (though you have to be a member of the farm in order to harvest there).

One cook who is going all out, however, is Sherry Dudas, 44, who operates Honey Brook Organic Farm in Hopewell Township with her husband, Jim Kinsel, 50, and will get nearly everything, including lemon balm for tea, from her farm or others in Mercer or neighboring counties. She will pick turnips from her fields and get cranberries from Haines Berry Farm in Pemberton and honey and cultured butter from nearby farms. She will even buy flour milled from local grain at Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville to bake homemade bread. There’s a playful aspect to her provisioning; when she drives to Pemberton for cranberries, for instance, she’s not far from Brendan T. Byrne State Forest. “I work in a hike,” she said. “The trip is fun.”

And certainly, it’s easy enough to find similar venues here in Bucks County. Lynne and I are getting our turkey from the Happy Farm in Kintnersville, and the vegetables will come from a variety of farms within a few miles of our house.

Sunday being lazy, we made it just in time to watch the winners of the gobblers contest at Davis Feed Mill in Rushland, sponsored by the Middletown Grange. I’m not sure which was more impressive – the size of the winners, none of whom would have been as sanguine around Cody as the deer – or the way their growers herded them around the yard.

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Shoppers are cutting out luxuries, scaling back on dinners out, and cooking at home again. Fortunately, there’s a silver lining in the timing of this recent market meltdown:It coincides with the start of soup season. Keith Blalock, the chef and co-owner of Pennsylvania Soup & Seafood House in Doylestown, takes the Courier-Times’ Betty Cichy shopping at Doylestown Produce Outlet, then back to his restaurant to meet the challenge: Could he come up with several meals that could satisfy four hungry diners — for $10 or less?

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