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Blue Pear Bistro
275 Brinton’s Bridge Road
West Chester, Pennsylvania
(610) 399-9812,
www.eatdowntown.net

Prices
Small plates $6-$13.50, medium plates $9-$21.50

Recommended dishes
Bacon-and-egg salad, wild mushroom crepe, bouillabaisse

(above) Blue Pear’s mushroom crepe with wild mushroom and
Swiss chard ragout, spiced squash purée and pickled
chanterelle mushrooms
(photograph by Steve Legato, www.stevelegato.com)

Once upon a time in the culinary capital of France, a bistro was defined as an everyday neighborhood eatery that served low-budget fare with highbrow style. Prices aside, Blue Pear Bistro in West Chester comes close to the real thing. A terrific alternative to its parent, the Dilworthown Inn, Blue Pear achieves a casual flair and rustic elegance through smaller portions and a minimalist menu without giving up the richness and detail of selections the Dilworthtown has built its reputation on.

Under a starry sky on a mild evening, the bistro welcomed us with candlelight and gold-hued walls. Its cozy porch was dotted with a smattering of couples taking advantage of weather that was perfect for dining al fresco. Beyond the front door, the tiny bar buzzed with a diverse mix of patrons, the chatter and laughter melding with the soft, steady murmur of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.”

Blue Pear’s blend of simple, earthy color schemes pays homage to the building’s 18th-century heritage (with a nod to the Pottery Barn color palette) and is accented with just the right number of Art Deco touches, such as white cased-glass pendants and gold-sparkle wallpaper. Topping it all off were a few modern accoutrements. Hand-blown glass lamps dangled over the bar, which is home to two appropriately sized flat-panel televisions.


Conviviality reigns at the Blue Pear’s bar.
(photograph by Steve Legato,
www.stevelegato.com)

The bar’s cozy-sleek look—crushed gold glass, square edges and mellow mahogany tones—and up-front placement begs one to grab a stool. But on occasion, that might be easier said than done. A table in the back of the room might be best when the house is packed.

Chef David Fogelman’s short-and-sweet menu—French-American with a hint of the South—gets its panache from locally
grown ingredients and a vivid display of contrasts. Fogelman’s ability to illuminate individual
textures and flavors is topped only by what he achieves when combining them. The coquettish dance of flavors brazenly defied our tastebuds and kept us guessing throughout the meal.

A robust purée of butternut squash and roasted pumpkin intoxicated with its Thanksgiving-like aroma, swirl of crème fraiche, nap of pressed pumpkinseed oil and toasted pumpkin seeds. Even better was its buttery caramel flavor, which was unencumbered by cream or cornstarch.


The bacon-and-egg salad is made with a soft-boiled egg, pork
belly, spicy greens  and assorted beans in a tarragon vinaigrette.
(photograph by Steve Legato,
www.stevelegato.com)

Another delectable ensemble was the bacon-and-egg salad, an exquisite combination of tastes, texture and simplicity. The deep-fried egg’s soft yolk sweetened both the accompanying tarragon vinaigrette and the pork belly. The greens weren’t as spicy as advertised, but the combination of al dente black-eyed peas, edamame, and beans (pinto, Great Northern and cranberry)
rendered the point moot.

The simple presentation of a crepe with wild mushrooms and Swiss chard belied its trove of contrasts and flavors. The soft, flaky crepe burst with earthiness and a distinctive sweetness, thanks to a pile of pickled mushrooms that
enlivened the mildly salty, more meekly spiced squash purée. A heaping bowl of plump mussels were worthy of Belgium. The slightly tart, almost creamy orange-scented tomato broth imparted a mellow, earthy undertone that allowed the flavor of the perfectly cooked shellfish to shine through. A generous ladle of the stuff would’ve helped the mussels on top, which had noticeably less luster than those swimming undersea.


Chicken nuggets with white-truffle honey-mustard sauce
(photograph by Steve Legato,
www.stevelegato.com)

A firm, buttery halibut dressed up a bouillabaisse of steamed cockles and mussels over fingerling potatoes, fennel and tomato confit. Steeped with crushed red pepper flakes, bits of Niçoise olives and olive oil, the broth livened the taste buds.

Fogelman channeled his Southern relatives with a take-me-to-the-hospital combination of barbecued short ribs and ultra-creamy grits. (Thankfully, the portion was reasonable. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it out the door.) The meat was tender, nearly shredding on its own as I sunk my fork into it. Peppery watercress countered the silkiness of the grits.

The steak and frites more than satisfied. The bio-dynamically raised sirloin was fanned over sweet, sautéed fennel and
a perky sauce bordelaise. Firm but tender, the beef had a fresh flavor that complemented the sauce and fennel. Wrapped in parchment and served in a conical iron stand, the frites were slender and light on oil, which helped them stay crispy for the duration of our meal.

In a spontaneous move, the wait staff delivered a side of collard greens. Cooked home style, the greens had just the right amount of zing, a dizzyingly delicious smokiness imparted by ham hocks and a velvety texture that matched perfectly with the grits.

The poached pear crumb dessert was melt-in-your-mouth soft. It was served with a wafer-thin slice of candied pear protruding from the frozen crème anglaise, which was amazingly rich and smooth. Crumbled, caramelized sugar provided a crunchy-sweet contrast.

The coconut Arborio rice pudding with passion fruit sorbet and basil syrup proved a little too funky. The sorbet was overly tangy, the rice pudding had the texture of cottage cheese, and the basil syrup clashed with the other ingredients.


Precision plating by chef David Fogelman
(photograph by Steve Legato,
www.stevelegato.com)

A warm chocolate brownie, however, put the D in decadent. With its combination of cocoa, cool, creamy vanilla bean-pistachio ice cream and wine-poached oranges, the brownie was a solid finish emboldened by a round of La Colombe espressos and cappuccino.

Yuengling, Tröegs HopBack and Dogfish Head were among the beers on tap, along with a short list of wines. The Oberon Shiraz was a worthy accompaniment to our meal.

Considering the Dilworthtown Inn’s reputation, the pressure is on at the Blue Pear. But even the pickiest diner would find it hard to knock the service. The staff was quick on its feet, and we were never left unattended for long.

Of note was the perfect pacing—especially given that we didn’t sit until close to 9:30 p.m. (Blue Pear serves until 10.) Not once did we feel pressure to hurry.

Fogelman’s experience as sous chef at Blue in Philadelphia and exquisite Savona in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania, as well as a home gardener, has instilled a deep appreciation of all things organic, local and seasonal. Luckily for those who live nearby, the menu will be full of surprises.

 

 


(photograph by Rob Nicholson, http://humbledeyesphotography.com/)

Flower Power
Go ahead. Take a minute. Stop and taste the flowers. They’re not just for smelling anymore, as Sharon Carson can attest. Carson grows edible pansies, nasturtium, violets, clover blossoms and more from her Sharon’s Natural Gardens, a community-supported farm in Delmar. Marigold and dandelion petals add color to Carson’s salad mixes, nasturtiums explode with a spicy, mustard-like tinge, and rose petals add a distinct, subtle flavor to anything they touch. “They’re delicious and healthy and available year-round,” Carson says. “Dandelions are good for your liver, and people say rose pedals have spiritual qualities.” Fun with edible flowers doesn’t end with a salad fork. Carson turns violets into jelly and jam, wherein the flowers turn a brilliant shade of magenta. She also likes to glaze them, along with mint leaves, in egg whites and sugar to make striking cake decorations. Though Carson has found many uses for flowers in her 18 years of farming, she says men are a little squeamish when it comes to popping pansies. “Men seem nervous about eating flowers,” she says. “I don’t know why, but the idea almost seems to scare them.” Our suggestion: marigold-encrusted rib eye, served with a rosewater pale ale.                   —Matt Amis

 

 

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