I love a good Belgian Tavern because the beer is in a class of its own, and the food, starting with moule frite, is always so good. Last night at Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, PA was a delightful discovery, and not having to schlep into Philadelphia means I will be back.
Maybe the best thing about Teresa's Next Door is the service. From the moment we sat, our server was there to take care of us, whether recommending a beer, delivering the courses in a timely but not rushed way, or whatever else was needed. There was a real genuine desire to make this a great experience for all the diners. At the table next to ours, our server brought out a flight of typical Belgian beers for a patron to educate her palate to the differences in styles. It
was a nice touch.
At Teresa's cheese is half off on Sunday, so how could we resist starting with a couple. First was a beautiful artisanal cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. Green Hill is made from cow's milk. Soft with a bloomy-rind, it is a beautiful Camembert-like double cream with a buttery flavor, and mild grassy undertones which come from the cows' grazing habits. The second cheese was from Cabot Creamery in Vermont, their Clothbound Cheddar. Made from pasteurized cow's milk, this is a mild, slightly nutty, buttery example of cheddar with just the slightest hint of caramel, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to my favorite Belgian brews. The final item of cheese course was possibly the best salami I've ever sampled. The Argumi from Salumi in Seattle is a new pork salami with citrus and cardamom. This may have been the porkiest thing I have ever tasted, reminiscent of good quality gaunciale, and the addition of the spices is with such a practiced hand, I would venture to say this is maybe the best cured meat maker around. I would expect nothing less from the father of Chef Mario Batali. Teresa's sourcing of the very best cheeses and salamis is just an hint of their commitment to deliciousness.
Moule frite--mussels and fries--is one of the quintessential Belgian dish with the mussels cooked in a broth composed of beer or wine, herbs, and if your adventurous porky deliciousness in the form of bacon. The frite must be crispy with plenty of potato taste accompanied by a mayo based dipping sauce. Teresa's pulls it all together with panache. The Drunken Mussels immediately caught my attention. There is nothing subtle in this preparation, it is all big flavor. The base of the broth is Abbey Dubbel--a dark beer--which will bring lots of flavor tot he party. Add to that chroizo, red pepper flakes, shallots, garlic, and chervil, and you have a broth that is slurp-worthy. The mussels were plump and meaty, and in this drunken style I could have eaten a bushel of them.
Mussels were not the main course, but they would be a hard act to follow. I opted for another classic, Schnitzel. This pounded and breaded pork loin chop, was sauteed to golden but remained juicy. It was accompanied by a mustard cream sauce that blew my mind. Another over the top flavor burst with bacon and caper. Mushrooms on top, the schnitzel sat on tasty potato pancake with a dilled cucumber salad on the side. This was not the shoe leather schnitzel I have had from other restaurants. Like every other dish, Teresa's made this with competence and love of good food.
The night was topped off with a peanut butter and chocolate chip bread pudding topped with a fluff gelato. A happy twist on my favorite fluffer nutter, and there was no complaint from me.
After my visit to Teresa's Next Door, I have a new favorite Belgian brew for the moment, Bosteel Pauwel Kwak. A unique beer with 8.4% alcohol, this dark ale is has great sweetness in caramel notes with fruit like pineapple and banana and yeast and great maltiness. I'm looking forward to trying Bosteel's Tripel Karmeliet and DeuS when the chance arises.
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