The Other Farm & Forge

I love walking through Berks County’s downtowns.

Julie, Jakob and I are fortunate to live within walking distance of West Reading and the shopping and dining district that is Penn Avenue.

But venture to the county’s eastern edge and you’ll find a downtown on the rise. Boyertown is anchored by incredible attractions in the Colebrookdale Railroad and the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. The latter was our destination on an early spring day.

With time to spare and empty stomachs, we decided to take a walk through town and find a new place to try for lunch. It was early – only 11:30 a.m. – but lunch service had begun at most places, including The Other Farm Brewing Company

Farm & Forge is the brand used by the brewery for its restaurant and bar along Philadelphia Avenue. The tagline is “Food. Drink. Music. Community.” The first part was really the only one we cared about it.

Sure, we were a little early, but it was obvious that the Other Farm is not a lunch spot. There were only a handful of others in the restaurant – and that number only grew slightly during our visit. The impressive stage in the back of the dining room says that this a place for nightlife, not mid-day.

The food menu isn’t huge but there is decent variety among the salads, wood-fired pizza, “smaller plates” and “bigger plates.”

Among the bigger plates was a lamb burger that sounded too good to pass up. It was topped with roasted tomato chutney, sautéed spinach, fontina cheese and roasted garlic aioli.

It was an excellent burger. First, ground lamb makes an excellent base – it’s more flavorful and richer than beef. And the toppings were perfect – especially the tomato chutney which was sweet and a little tangy and made with cherry tomatoes so the big flavor came in big bites.

Of course any great burger must be served with great fries, and I can say the truffle Parmesan fries (an upgrade I couldn’t pass up) were truly great. They were loaded with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley for an herby finish that was made a perfect partner for the burger.

Across the table, Julie ordered a chicken bacon ranch pizza, one of her favorite specialty flavors. It was topped with cheddar and fontina cheeses, red onion, and of course grilled chicken and ranch dressing.

It feels like every restaurant in Berks County now offers wood-fired pizza, but that’s not a bad thing. I much prefer the crisp crust produced by the wood-fired oven. It provides a much sturdier, and oftentimes, more flavorful base for the toppings.

The toppings on this pie were strewn about while the ranch was drizzled on in a spiral. Each bite was different, but all were very enjoyable.

Even our toddler enjoyed the slice that his mommy shared with him.

One other thing that I enjoyed was my soup. I had ordered the soup of the day as an appetizer, and it came served with delicious pita chips. The soup was creamy and a little nutty – unfortunately I never wrote down the exact description and because it was the soup of the day, I couldn’t find a description anywhere.

(I did send a Facebook message to Other Farm a week after our visit but only received an auto-response. Though I can’t blame them for not answering a crazy person asking about their soup).

Everything we had was very good, and it was pretty reasonably priced at around $40 for the whole meal.

Boyertown is home to many great restaurants (some we’ve visited include Firefly Cafe, CD’s Place and Jukebox Cafe) and you can count the Other Farm among those.

At this point, Boyertown’s dining scene may be an attraction in and of itself.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

The Other Farm & Forge
128 E. Philadelphia Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512

Breweries & Wineries Reviews
1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

1787 Brewing Company

1787 Brewing Company

I’m sure I’ve said this before on the blog, but one thing everyone should know about me is that I love bar food. The only problem is, I don’t drink beer.

Because of that, I always feel a little awkward going to bars, especially microbreweries where most of the people coming in are coming for the craft brews.

1787 Brewing Company

Oftentimes, my love of food wins out, which is what happened on a recent visit to 1787 Brewing Company in Hamburg.

1787 opened in May 2018 in the former Miller’s 5 & 10 in downtown Hamburg. The old-time general store was a fixture along Fourth Street in the borough’s business district until it closed in 2015.

1787 Brewing Company

The name 1787 Brewing Company comes from the year the borough was founded, so it’s only right that it now takes up a historic building in the heart of town.

1787 Brewing Company

Julie and I were amazed by how deep the building actually is. The front bar is fairly large, but it opens into a larger dining room overlooking the brewing vats. Throughout the dining room there were nods to Hamburg’s history, including old signs from local businesses new and old, including Spokes Bike Shop, Schlenger Motors and the Windsor Press.

The food menu is certainly not robust, but it is well-curated, featuring a mix of burgers, sandwiches and flatbreads.

In addition, 1787 Brewing Company offers weekly specials. That’s where I found the honey ham flatbread.

1787 Brewing Company Honey Ham Flatbread

It was topped with ricotta, shaved ham, fig puree and cranberries, and it looked beautiful when it arrived with bubbly, slightly darkened cheese.

1787 Brewing Company Honey Ham Flatbread

And it tasted as good as I had imagined – a wonderful sweet and salty blend that was hearty and savory. The ham was (mostly) under the cheese which kept it from getting burnt. The fig puree ensured every bite had a note of sweetness, but the bites with the cranberries were the best. I look forward to trying more flatbreads from 1787 in the future.

Among the main menu selections are two “dietary accommodations.” One veggie burger with cheese and one vegan black bean burger. The latter was Julie’s selection.

1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

The black bean burger was topped with guacamole, salsa, romaine and red onion on a sweet potato bun.

Black bean burgers are a mixed bag. They are flavorful in a very different way from meat, but they don’t hold their shape very well. The patty was definitely soft and started to fall apart, but it had a great flavor, especially with the salsa and guac to complement it. The sweet potato bun was also very good and would be a great addition to any burger.

1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

Neither of us are vegans, but we would definitely order it again.

On the side, Julie upgraded her chips to fries. They were thin-cut and fried to a dark brown, but not burnt. They were a nice side to complete a good meal.

Looking at the restaurant’s website, I knew 1787 had a kids menu, but I had no idea how accommodating they would be. Not only did they have ample high chairs, they offered us a choice of crayons or Play-Doh for our little 15-month-old.

1787 Brewing Company Chicken Fingers

Unfortunately Jakob was more interested in eating the crayons than the chicken fingers from his kids meal. I ended up eating some while we were there – not bad, but they were pretty basic (they are all-natural from Bell and Evans so that’s a definite plus). We took most of it home and Jakob did enjoy the leftovers, without the distractions of the restaurant.

We didn’t order beer – trust me, you wouldn’t want me reviewing beer anyway – but we did order a couple drinks: iced tea for me, soda for Julie. Along with our food, that brought our total bill to a little more than $35.

Truth be told, if Jakob had been more settled, we would have splurged on dessert. Lava cake, specifically.

But that will have to wait for another time. And there will be another time because at 1787 Brewing Company, the food is definitely worth it, whether you are a beer drinker or not.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Service: Excellent
Price: Very Reasonable

1787 Brewing Company
43 S. Fourth St
Hamburg, PA 19526

Bars & Pubs Breweries & Wineries Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery

folino-estate-exterior

The end of January is a time of celebration in our house.

Every January 27, Julie knows I’m going to take her out for her birthday dinner. Each year I try to find a new place for my wife and I to enjoy a romantic evening in her honor.

This year, that place was the Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery.

Folino Estate opened in the fall of 2015 on a sprawling tract along Old Route 22, just off the Krumsville exit of Interstate 78 in northern Berks County.

Pulling up to the building for the first time, you would never know that it is just a little more than a year old. It was built to resemble a historic estate in Tuscany, and it accomplishes that.

folino-estate-interior-1

Even the lobby, the Piazza Folino, feels like something out of an Italian street scene, complete with sidewalk-style tables and chairs.

The restaurant, though, feels exceptionally modern. From the large fireplace in the middle of the dining room to the open kitchen, Folino Estate does well to avoid clichés.

The menu is distinctly Italian, but it is definitely not clichéd either. Folino Estate features some wholly unique offerings that you won’t find on the menus at Berks County’s other Italian restaurants.

folino-estate-italian-onion-souop

Italian onion soup is just one example. I’ve enjoyed many a cup of French onion soup, covered in melted gruyere cheese. But this was different.

For one, there was no melted cheese on top. Instead, mozzarella and fontina cheeses were melted on toasted Italian bread pieces that took the place of croutons in the soup.

Did it remind me of French onion? Of course. But it was different, and I enjoyed this Italian twist. The soup, itself, was a little salty, but I enjoyed it, especially the addition of the mozzarella.

folino-estate-mozzarella-and-tomato

Julie’s appetizer was the tomato and fresh mozzarella, a typical caprese salad with the unexpected addition of a mass of olives.

For most guests, pairing dinner with a glass of Folino’s own wine is a highlight. For me, a non-drinker, I decided to take my wine in my food.

folino-estate-drunken-pasta

Drunken pasta sounded like nothing that I have ever tried. The tagliatelle pasta was infused with red wine, giving it a purple hue. It was also cooked in red wine, with olive oil and roasted garlic. Our waitress made sure to ask, “Do you like red wine?” because the flavor was going to be ever-present in this dish.

And it was. The pasta was delicious, holding the distinct flavors of red wine throughout. I also especially enjoyed the shaved pecorino Romano cheese that topped the dish, adding a sharp, salty note to the dish.

I added chicken to the dish only so that I would have a protein. It didn’t add much except to make it a little more filling.

folino-estate-italian-soda-and-wine

Julie is not one for wine pairings, either. She orders whatever wine she likes, and she really liked her glass of moscato, fruity but slightly dry so it wasn’t too sweet.

folino-estate-crab-cakes

Her meal was a pair of crab cakes with Brussels sprouts and red potatoes.

The crab cakes were almost all meat with just enough filler to hold them together. The red wine dijonaise sauce perfectly complimented the fresh cakes, one of which she saved for later.

In my opinion, the best thing on her plate was the Brussels sprouts in pancetta jam. They featured big chunks of salty pancetta (almost bacon) and a sweet jam that was just perfect.

folino-estate-baklava

We couldn’t stop there – we were celebrating, after all – so we took a look at the dessert menu. Our waitress suggested to order off the specials because they are always incredible. Among the specials was baklava, Julie’s favorite. So there was no doubt what we were getting.

The baklava was served warm and the nuts and honey filling oozed out from the start. Dark chocolate shavings were a nice addition to the dish, melting in your mouth with the flaky pastry.

It was a memorable ending to a memorable birthday meal.

At the end of the evening, our final total was $70, a very reasonable price for three courses and a glass of wine.

Folino Estate provided quite an experience, exactly what we were hoping for on this special occasion.

Happy birthday, Julie.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Reasonable

Folino Estate Winery & Vineyard
340 Old U.S. 22
Kutztown, PA 19530

Breweries & Wineries Dessert Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Kutztown Tavern

kutztown-tavern

Kutztown’s Main Street is one of the busiest in Berks County. An array of storefronts: shopping, services and restaurants (with a few residences thrown in) line the blocks from the edge of Kutztown University’s campus to the railroad tracks that bisect the town.

The more than a dozen eateries along Main Street cover just about every type of cuisine you could want: Chinese, Italian, sushi, barbecue, sandwiches, salads: you name it, and you’re likely to find it.

One of the most popular restaurants downtown, the Kutztown Tavern offers one of the most diverse menus in town.

Known simply as “The Tavern” to residents and students, alike, the Kutztown Tavern is housed in one of the largest buildings on Main Street. With a seemingly endless bar, a nice sized dining room and large upstairs event space, the restaurant is expansive. In addition, the building (which is actually two connected buildings) includes Shorty’s Bar, the Tavern Take-Out counter service and the Golden Avalanche Brewing Company.

Brewery equipment becomes part of the decor in the bar area as the system of vats and pipes that create the signature brew are in plain view just inside the front door.

kutztown-tavern-cream-soda

Not being a fan of beer, myself, I was pleased to see Kutztown Red Cream Soda—a personal favorite of mine—on the beverage list.

A deep menu provides a wide range of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees. Everything from soft pretzels and 10 flavors of wings to Black Diamond steaks and seafood scampi. For me, a 9-ounce burger topped with Avalanche chili sounded like a winning combination.

kutztown-tavern-burger

The burger arrived on a toasted sesame seed bun. Chili poured over the edges and onto the plate below. All tavern burgers are served with lettuce, tomato and onion on the side, and I was more than happy to pile them on.

The burger was cooked perfectly with a nice little char around the outside. The mild chili added more flavor without being overwhelming (messy, yes; overpowering, no). And I certainly did not regret the curly fries, perfectly crisped, zesty additions to an already full plate.

Among the multitude of menu options are the “house smoked” offerings, three barbecue selections that are smoked in-house at the tavern. One of those—the brisket, cheddar and onion—caught Julie’s eye immediately.

kutztown-tavern-brisket

Meat and cheese more than filled the toasted ciabatta roll. The brisket was flavorful, with a fair amount of fat left on for extra flavor. The sharp cheddar worked well with the sweet barbecue sauce and grilled onions to create a delicious sandwich.

The only part of our meal that I thought could have been better was the price. The $2.89 charge for fries (instead of the standard potato chips) brought our total bill up to $35.00 for the two of us. I guess that is the cost of quality, however, as we were treated to excellent food and surprisingly speedy service.

For the past 15 years, the Tavern has been a popular go-to spot along Main Street. After our visit, it was easy to see why. When food, location, ambiance and service come together all come together, it makes for a great restaurant.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Kutztown Tavern
272 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Kutztown Tavern on Urbanspoon

Bars & Pubs Breweries & Wineries Lunch & Dinner Reviews