Friday, April 18, 2014


It’s the first road trip of the year as Laurie and I packed up her car with her gps set for various locations in the Brandywine Valley area of Pennsylvania-Delaware.   Most of the trips’ action was centered on a district in Pennsylvania known as Kennett Square, a small home town with much to explore.

Our first destination was to a Dupont owned estate known as Winterthur.  With its preeminent collection of American decorative arts, naturalistic gardens, and a tour of some of the most notable spaces in the 175-room house, among other things, my soul purpose was in seeing one exhibited collection.  All was curated by three members of the staff including Maggie Lidz who went to London, not to ride the ponies, but to choose costumes. 

Downton Abbey may have ended its season.  Not so as I was able to view “The Costumes of Downton Abbey”.   It featured 40 historically inspired costumes and accessories worn upstairs and downstairs by the characters.  “Upstairs” are the wealthy folks who live there while “downstairs” are the staff.  

The exhibition, running until January of 2015, is organized chronologically as I was able to move through the times of day.  There are several sectioned off rooms many with a backdrop of a scene or a vignette from the series that relates to the costumes.   Depending upon how much you are into the series or even simply the history of England is how you will view each costume with a sign that gives an explanation.  I also noticed a working recreation of the bell system.   My itinerary didn’t allow me ample time for all.  At least I have the DVD’s to watch.  

Afternoon teas and English brunches are held in the Garden Café at Winterthur’s Visitor Center.  We did have lunch but not quite the menu that the special brunch offers.   Check their calendar for dates and times as well as some scheduled events or lectures relating to Downton Abbey.  Perhaps we will return for an early summer tour of Winterthur.

We now head for Kennett Square to visit Sweet Christine’s Bakery located at 132 West State Street.   State Street is the local name for Baltimore Pike.  What is special about Christine’s Bakery is that the goods are all gluten-free.   Sampled a brownie, cupcakes and later, a lava-cake.   Brownie pretty good but certainly not better than a Fairytale Brownie.

Tuckered out a bit we check into the first of three accommodations, this one being Pennsbury Inn located in nearby Chaddsford.  Owners Cheryl and Chip are there to greet us as well as the "house pooch" tucker.   This is one of those inns with a long history, dating back to 1714, that Chip will gladly share as you take a tour.  What gets my attention is the wildlife.   Chip gives us the logistics on the cute dog.  “If he wants to go out, let him out”.  “Don’t call him to the table”.  

The living room area extends past the dining room where there was a great view of the back yard.   I watched a squirrel stealing food from the bird feeder while the little bird looked on waiting for its departure.   

There are many common rooms to view at this inn, one of which houses a piano.  Sleeping rooms are minus tvs and telephones as the modern day brings the visitors with cell phones.  Our room, named The Longwood had two twin beds with white picket fences as the headboards.  The bathroom was quite sizeable and had an old fashioned pull chain toilet. 

A full breakfast is served that started off with a poached pear deluxe, followed by Southern Corn Bread with Cheryl’s own jams and apple butter.  The “main course” was Pineapple and Crème French Toast served with Spinach and Asagio Cheese Chicken sausage.

I found the least expected “event” was having such a totally high class and delicious dinner in this small town.   Portabello’s of Kennett Square has a most passionate chef, Brett Halbert who is quite picky about the products that he uses as well as having the knack of being innovative in his cuisine.   The name might suggest an Italian restaurant.   Think about the mushroom instead.   This area is the known as the Mushroom Capital of the World and rightly so.   I’ll get into that at another time.  
Thirsty for something cold and tasty, Brian, our knowledgeable waiter, suggested this Raspberry Iced Black Tea from a company that produces a brand called Tei.  Pretty addicting. 

Portbello’s has options in their menu that include gluten-free.   Thus, they are able to offer bread bought from Christine’s Bakery.  We also had “Brooklyn Bread” accompanied by two spreads.  I turned down the roasted garlic scallion butter opting for the roasted mushrooms with gorgonzola cheese hummus. 

As we waited the first course of the chef tasting, a white Reisling wine was offered as well.   Portabello’s is a byob.  The wine comes from Flickerwood Wine Cellars Tasting Room, across the street.   It’s a reciprocation with a byof…bring your own food, when you visit the tasting room.  Later on that one as well. 

Exotic Mushroom Crepes had shitake, mitaki, oyster and porcini mushrooms in the crepe with a madeira cream atop.   Being a lover of mushrooms I thought that this was so totally good until the roasted mushroom soup arrived.  Assortment of roasted mushrooms are chopped and then slices of mushrooms are placed in the soup as well.  It was clearly an OMG experience. 

Brett’s choosy reputation was showcased with Crab Cakes.   No breading used, excellent choice of seasoning and the lump crab was evidently high quality.  Best crab cake I’ve ever eaten.  

A few other appetizers such as Portabello fries and Firecracker Shrimp (which was just a bit too spicy for me) were presented. 

Salad being a must, Brett prepared one made with organic baby lettuce, mango, candied almonds, ginger Stilton cheese, citrus vinaigrette.   

I then had chicken parmesan with a tomato sauce that went perfect with the chicken and pasta. Some roasted veggies accompanied it.

As for dessert, again some foods are gotten from local specialty companies.   There is an ice cream store called La Michoacana that makes both some unusual creations such as corn ice cream.  I did not have that.  Instead there was an assortment of flavors: peanut butter fudge; strawberries and cream; and toasted coconut with chocolate chips.   I’m full!

Sandra Morris is married to Chef Brett. She takes care of the of the front of the house. 

Walking back to the car I spotted a place called Kennett Design – with a splash of wine.  This art studio is a space for people to wish to learn how to paint. I entered to see what was going on.  Everyone was painting the same piece of artwork.  The classes seemed to focus on choosing a piece of art and having an artist gives you lessons on how to reproduce it.  

The “splash of wine” aspect is that it is another byob.  They don’t serve wine or have a liquor license.  However, you are welcome to bring in your own wine.  Where is the best place to buy it?  Flickerwood Wine Cellars Tasting Room is across the street and offer a discount to those attending a class.  You don’t have to bring wine.  Just your favorite drink and snacks as well. 

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