Archives for March 2013

Restaurant Review: Styer’s Garden Cafe

A few years back, the brains behind Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie transformed an old-fashioned nursery in Glen Mills into a home and garden store called Terrain. Somehow, they managed to take all of the most gorgeous flowers, plants, furniture and accessories and get them all perfectly arranged under one roof. It’s amazing.

Terrariaums, photographed on a prior visit to the shop

Terrariaums, photographed on a prior visit to the shop

I want to buy. All. The. Things.

But, there are a few problems:

  1. My house is tiny.
  2. My yard is made out of concrete, and finally,
  3. All the things I fall in love with are crazy expensive.

So, for now, I have to settle for buying a pretty greeting card or other paper product that doesn’t cost half my monthly salary and fantasizing about the day when I have my sprawling dream home and disposable income to go with it.



One of the other major attractions at Terrain is the Garden Cafe, tucked into an antique glass greenhouse towards the back of the shop. It was always pretty crowded on my previous visits during the peak weekend shopping hours, so I was excited to have the opportunity to try it out for dinner one Friday evening with my friend Shannon.

Stepping through the wooden door of the greenhouse was like walking into a night time garden party. Plants and vines hung from floor to ceiling and everything was sparkling with the light from hundreds of little twinkling white lights and candles on the tables. I wanted to move in.

Styer's Garden Cafe, by day. Photo courtesy of Red Balloon Public Relations

Styer’s Garden Cafe, by day. Photo courtesy of Red Balloon Public Relations

Although the restaurant is BYOB, the menu also features a selection of non-alcoholic options, such as herbal teas, espresso drinks and herb-infused spritzers served in mason jars. Since both of us are expecting at the moment, we loved that we were still able to enjoy a “fancy” drink.  While we considered our options, our server dropped off a warm loaf of bread served in a clay flower pot, accompanied by a creamy, salted maple butter.

Executive Chef Keith Rudolf changes the cafe’s menu with the seasons to take advantage of the produce, meat and dairy products available from farmers in the surrounding area. Dishes range in price from $14 to $30, but we chose the five course chef’s tasting menu ($50 per person). Two dishes came with each course, so we got share them and try much more of what the menu had to offer than if we ordered a la carte.


Cheese Plate. Photo courtesy of Red Balloon Public Relations

Each dish featured a variety of ingredients that might seem overwhelming as servers rattle them off; but, they all come together on the plate to complement, rather than compete, with each other. Some of our favorites included the chickpea stew, the spiciness of which was tempered by a dollop of cool creme fraiche and broccoli and cauliflower seasoned lightly with garlic, salt and pepper and topped with melted gruyere cheese. A flavorful curry sauce and grilled radiccho made the simply grilled trout a standout dish. The tender pork tenderloin served with creamy polenta and wild mushrooms and the chicken roulade stuffed with a sweet prunes and served atop a nutty barley risotto both captured the hearty, earthy flavors of the late winter. Dinner ended on a sweet note, with a warm souffle-like chocolate cake, topped with coffee ice cream and a cornmeal waffle with a winter fruit compote and vanilla ice cream.

Loved the adorable details, including bread pot and mason jars. Photo courtesy of Red Balloon Public Relations.

Loved the adorable details, including bread pot and mason jars. Photo courtesy of Red Balloon Public Relations.

As the spring weather makes it’s way into the Philadelphia area, it’s worth the 30 minute drive out of the city to explore Terrain and all it has to offer. Our server noted that many visitors treat the sprawling garden center like its Longwood Gardens and spend entire afternoons wandering around. The cafe and grounds are also available for private events, and would be the perfect location for a bridal shower, wedding, or just a casual afternoon with a group of friends. Reservations are recommended at the Garden Cafe, especially for weekend brunch.


Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

If you are planning a festive meal for today, I highly recommend whipping up a batch Irish soda bread. The traditional version of this dense, hearty bread features just four ingredients–flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk–but you can doctor it up with just about anything you want to enhance its flavor and texture. For example, serve it as a dipper for stew or soup or try adding sugar, honey and dried fruit (I used golden raisins since I had a box in the cabinet) to the dough to sweeten it up. The possibilities are endless, and the loaf comes together quickly and easily.

If you ask me, the best way to enjoy this bread is to keep things simple and top a slice with a generous smear of salted Irish butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

From: Baking Bites

What you will need:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together. It will look shaggy, (almost like a shortcake dough) and will be moist and a bit sticky (I recommend adding the buttermilk slowly to make sure that doesn’t become too wet and hard to handle). Add the raisins, if using.
  4. Once dough comes together, knead for a minute or two in the bowl and form into a round ball. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Cut an “X” in the top of the bread (about an inch and a half deep). This will help the inside of the bread to bake.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown
  7. Remove from oven. Transfer to wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

During the past week or so, avocados have become of my main ET-related cravings. Twice over the weekend, I decided what to order in a restaurant based on the fact that avocado was advertised as an ingredient in certain dishes.

So, imagine the meltdowns that almost ensued when the avocados were left out. Both times. Chester can tell you that it wasn’t pretty.

I mean, do you think I ordered that stupid roast turkey sandwich because I actually wanted roast turkey? No. I ordered it because what I really wanted was the avocado and that was the only thing on the menu that promised I could have it.


As traumatic as these two incidents were, this post isn’t really about avocados. But, I have a point. And, that is: when you want to eat a particular kind of food, nothing else will do.

Which is why I had to console myself with chocolate chip cookies. They never disappoint.

There are millions of recipes out there for chocolate chip cookies, but this is the first one that I’ve tried that just about replicates the Nestle or Pillsbury varieties that we all scooped out of those plastic tubes of refrigerated dough when we were kids. A generous helping of brown sugar and a healthy dose of chocolate syrup gives these cookies their crispy edges and chewy centers. A cold glass of milk is a must.

The only tweak I would make next time around would be to add an additional half a cup or so of chips, because I like to have that chocolately flavor in each bite. I felt like there were not nearly enough to go around, especially as  I scooped out the last six or so cookies in the batch. (My go-to brand of chips–and any kind of baking chocolate, for that matter, is Ghirardelli–because they have the richest flavor and they can stand up to the heat of the baking process).

This recipe comes from the Milk and Cookies cookbook, which features recipes from the  Greenwich Village bakery of the same name. It’s the first recipe that I’ve tried from the book, which contains about 90 recipes. I like that the author gives the recipe for the base dough in each section (vanilla, peanut butter, double chocolate, etc.) and then several variations. So, once you have the basics down, the possibilities are endless!

Cookes 3_Checkter favorite

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

From: Milk and Cookies by Tina-Marie Casaceli

Makes about 2 dozen

What you will need

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup chocolate syrup
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  3. Put butter in bowl of electric mixer and beat until light and creamy
  4. With mixer running, gradually add both sugars and syrups.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat to incorporate. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Add dry ingredient mixture and beat until just combined. When dough is still streaky, remove bowl from mixer. Stir in chocolate chips
  7. Using a cookie scoop, place dough two inches apart on baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes or until brown and crisp on the edges and set in the center.
  8. Remove from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Guess What?

Confession: I am terrible at keeping secrets.

So, it’s been killing me for the last couple of months that I’ve had kind of a big one that I’ve been keeping under wraps.

So, without further adieu (drumroll, please)…


Chester and I are thrilled to announce that we are expecting a baby! Our new addition will arrive on or about September 8th.

I spent the majority of the first trimester worrying about everything, consulting Google for all kinds of worst-case scenarios, battling all day queasiness and aversions to most foods. The latter problem is why I’ve been a bit absent from this little corner of the Internet. I didn’t think it would interest you all to know that around 6 weeks in, I almost murdered someone for a Quarter Pounder and a milkshake from McDonald’s and how from about 7 weeks to the present all I’ve really been able to stomach have been Cheez-Its and chocolate milk.

I’m told that the second trimester is a bit easier and I’m hoping that that is the case. Mostly, so that I can incorporate some real food back into my diet and I don’t have to worry about my baby being born with a slightly orange hue. But, at least then I’ll have my own cautionary tale to share on those crazy pregnancy message boards.

Regardless, we are ridiculously excited about starting our family and I look forward to sharing a bit more about what is to come with you all. I get creeped out when I see ultrasound pictures and belly shots on social media or the Internet, so I won’t be posting any of those. But, I will leave you with this visual of what our little one looked like when I saw him/her for the first time during an ultrasound around six weeks:


Yes, for those of us who are children of the 1980s, that’s ET from the Atari video game. And, for the moment, that’s our little one’s nickname. I’ve gotten so used to calling him/her that, though, that I have a feeling it’s going to stick.