Archive for December, 2008

On the road again…

We’ll be away for the next week doing “research” in England, visiting my sister and brother-in-law in the Cotswolds. If we can manage it, we’ll let you know how the local ale and delicacies compare to Bucks County. Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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Paul Markert, Jr. and Scott Edwards, new owners of the Cross Keys Diner

Paul Markert, Jr. and Scott Edwards, new owners of the Cross Keys Diner

When the Cross Keys Diner in Doylestown went dark last summer, its regulars were shaken. So abrupt had been the closing, people couldn’t help but worry about the owners, Steve Auslander and Ann Boyer, though they’d promised things would return to normal soon.

As the weeks then months passed, thoughts turned more selfish. How could this Doylestown landmark, in business for over ten years, suddenly evaporate from our lives? What would we do for lunch? For weekend breakfasts? Don’t even mention some of the alternatives. Chain restaurants aren’t diners.

Then a whisper of a rumor began. Someone was buying the diner. Although it took a little longer than expected (restaurant openings always do), the Cross Keys Diner reopened on November 24th. At the helm are Paul Markert, Jr. – a line cook at the diner for the last eight months – and Scott Edwards, a friend and culinary colleague of many years.

Paul and Scott have worked together at the Carversville Inn and the Centre Bridge Inn. Although both have backgrounds in fine dining, they’ve always loved the Cross Keys.  “I have loved this place from the very beginning,” says Paul, whose sister Amanda Markert has worked there for six years. Before joining the diner’s staff, “I used to be a regular,” he notes.  Scott, too, had a regular spot at the counter.

That’s all fine and good, but as a regular myself I wanted to know more about who they were, and their “philosophy” of diner eating. Were things going to change?

After the diner reopened a few weeks ago, Mark and I had breakfast there. As we settled in at the counter, we glanced around, checking things out. After studying the menus, the specials board, even the crowd, we turned to each other with the same conclusion: Nothing had changed.

That’s pretty much the way Paul and Scott intended it. They recognize the value of the trade Steve and Ann had built up over the years. “Most of our business is regular, so when we went into it, one of our main focuses was to keep the regulars happy,” says Scott.

“Our main idea is to try to get the place running the way it was and then go from there,” adds Paul. The menu is the same, just reprinted. The produce vendor, Amoroso breads and rolls, Ellis True Blue coffee (“We didn’t want to touch the coffee; the coffee’s wonderful here.”), and Haring Brothers meats are all the same. Even Nancy MacNamara and Amanda are working the tables, clearly happy to be back themselves.

“We wanted people to feel, ‘we’re back home again.'”

Like the previous owners, Paul and Scott will introduce new items through the eclectic specials board. A new menu may come in the summer, incorporating past “specials” into the regular lineup to make room for new Blue Plate specials and diner comfort food. And: A dinner menu may be in the future.

Among the changes Scott and Paul have made: The home fries are homemade now, and the french toast has been upgraded to Challah French Toast (made with Jewish egg bread).

Reassured that my old diner was back, I asked how things were going. Was business good? How did the opening go?

Paul and Scott laughed at the question. “It was like turning over an old car that hadn’t been run or maintained for five months” says Paul. “Everything broke,” recounted Scott. “The coke machine – eight times. The dish machine, the ‘Good Eats’ sign. The coffee wasn’t right. And the sink just broke today.”

But business is good. On their first day, no advertising, they hosted 160 customers. “We’ve been very fortunate,” Paul says. “Everyone’s been great. Everyone seems to be really happy.”

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Rouget Gets a Shout Out

In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Craig LaBan lists Newtown’s Rouget as one of the excellent new restaurants in the area, calling it “quite possibly the best restaurant in Bucks County.” Here’s his full review, published in June.

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Sunday was one of those nights: Too cold and windy to go out, and two weeks of avoiding grocery shopping had caught up with us. So it was going to be a simple supper, pulled together from whatever we happened to have around. Although that included beef – a New York strip in the refrigerator, a sirloin in the freezer, both from Haring Brothers – I’d reached my limit for huddling over the grill and decided it would be a good time to give the broiler a try.

Haring Brothers sells a “Montreal Burger and Steak Rub,” a concoction of salt, spices and (dehydrated) garlic that has a way of bringing out the flavor of meat.

Modestly submitted, my Sunday night recipe, with notes.


1 New York strip steak, about 3/4-inch thick
1 Sirloin, about 1/2-inch thick
Haring Brothers Montreal Burger and Steak Rub

  1. Pat the steaks dry on both sides, then sprinkle with a thin layer of rub and let sit for 30 minutes. (If the steaks have been frozen, I like to let them sit on paper towels, so a bit more moisture wicks out. Less moisture should mean less smoke when broiling.)
  2. Preheat the broiler to high setting. Set the oven rack so the meat will be about four inches from the heating element.
  3. Put the steak in the broiler, anticipating five minutes a side.
  4. After five minutes, flip steaks, note smoke in oven.
  5. Ignore smoke alarm. Note popping in broiler.
  6. Acknowledge nervousness with popping.
  7. After one minute, move steaks down to lower rack. Turn on lower oven. (We have a stacked Magic Chef.)
  8. Turn off broiler. Set lower oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Put steaks in lower oven and allow to bake for seven minutes.
  10. Remove steaks from oven, let stand ten minutes.

The steaks actually came out pretty well: The thicker New York strip a perfect medium rare, the sirloin slightly more cooked, but still juicy. I served them with sides of Dreamfields rotini tossed in Wegmans basting oil and parmesan cheese, and spinach.

Next time I’ll try setting the broiler to low and putting the steaks a bit further from the heating element. Much as I prefer grilling, it’s only December, and I’m sure there’s more cold weather in our future.

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A recent piece in the Intelligencer tells us the farm market formerly run by Delaware Valley College may reopen this spring, to be run by the owners of Shady Brook Farm in Lower Makefield. This is great news for folks around Doylestown. The “new” farm market is a beautiful facility, and the folks at Shady Farm do a nice job running markets, including a stand at the Wrightstown Farmer’s Market. It sounds like a good match.

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What is it about walking into a bar or restaurant where they know your name? Am I dating myself, by referring to the old refrain from Cheers? Perhaps. But now that I’m older, I do think it captures something.

Our grandparents, and even parents, grew up in tight communities. Family and friends were close by – next door, or two doors down.  I bet the word “community” wasn’t even used. Maybe you don’t have to refer to something that you just take for granted; it’s like wallpaper  – there but hardly noticed.

But today we belong to many communities. We belong to a work community, maybe even more than one. An “old friend” community. Maybe a community based in a house of worship. Or one based on a hobby or interest. And even, one based in a bar or restaurant. The kind of place where when you walk in, they recognize you, greet you by name, and get your drink ready.

Why is this so nice?

We’re fortunate to have found this at a couple of restaurants in Bucks County. Since moving to Wycombe, the Pineville Tavern has become our neighborhood hang-out. Mark and I happen to enjoy eating at the bar – or counter in the case of diners – and look for places where this is comfortable to do. The Pineville, or PVT, definitely fits the bill.

There are regulars at the PVT bar. I once heard one of them chastise the bartender for allowing cheddar cheese to arrive on his cheeseburger. “How long have I been coming here?” he demanded.  “I always get American cheese!” Returned the bartender, pointing to the customer’s friend: “You said you wanted the same as him.” When his pal – and everyone else at the bar – confirmed this, the customer settled down.  (The bartender did get him American cheese, though.) It was just part of the give-and-take you find between staff and regulars that everyone actually enjoys.

The Pineville has a casual menu that runs from burgers to ribs, salads and pasta. The specials bring in a bit more variety. There’s always a fish entree, homemade pasta and a steak dish. The prices range as well, so if you “just want a burger” you don’t have to spend a mint.

Another of our favorite places is the Cross Keys Diner, which recently reopened after a five month hiatus. Here, too, we usually settle in at the counter, where we can read the paper, chat with the wait staff as they run back and forth, and generally enjoy the hubbub.


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I liked this feature in the Intelligencer letting us know what restaurants are open on Christmas Eve. It’s by no means comprehensive, but for those of us not visiting families (to celebrate the holiday) or eating Chinese food (because our holiday starts a few days earlier), it’s nice to know there are options.

Notable restaurants serving are the Center Bridge Inn and Marsha Brown in New Hope, the Washington Crossing Inn in Washington Crossing, and Earl’s Prime in Lahaska.

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