Viva La France

The Bistro on the Brandywine returns to culinary tradition.




(page 1 of 5)

The braised beef short rib is served atop gnocchi. (Photograph by Thom Thompson)Bistro on the Brandywine
1623 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa.
(610) 388-8090
www.bistroonthebrandywine.com

Prices:
Appetizers $6.95-$11.95
Soups and salads $6.95-$10.95
Entrées $15.95-$19.95

Recommended dishes: Coq au vin, braised beef short ribs, steak frites, moule frites

The Bistro on the Brandywine is in the right place at the right time. Situated across the parking lot from its big sister, Brandywine Prime Chops & Seafood in Chadds Ford, the 70-seat restaurant satisfies the area’s hunger for a laid-back establishment serving well-prepared dishes at affordable prices—a hefty advantage in these lean economic times.

When I visited, no menu item topped $20, and you could bring your own wine. The $5 corking fee is waived if you buy a second bottle from the restaurant.

Owner Dan Butler—who also owns Brandywine Prime, as well as Toscana Kitchen + Bar and Deep Blue Bar and Grill in Wilmington—again shows a knack for bringing out the best in a space. The Bistro was built in the late 19th century as a general store, and it most recently housed an antiques shop.

Butler relies on the surrounding environs and the building’s character to tie into the Colonial appeal. An exposed stone wall and the quaint front porch gently remind you that you’re in Wyeth country. But the kiwi-colored booths and soothing sage walls create a palette that’s more 2008 than 1776.

The Bistro has another modern characteristic: a loud buzz. Like so many restaurants today, it has little to absorb sound—no linens, no heavy curtains. I didn’t notice the music until the bulk of the diners had dispersed. The good news is that you needn’t worry about your neighbors overhearing you talk about your boss. They’re too busy trying to hear each other.

Chef Seth Harvey, who previously worked at Deep Blue, offers a menu comprised mainly of French-influenced fare. It’s the kind of cuisine whose flavor bounces happily around your mouth like a pinball in a machine. Here you taste a trace of wine. There you note a hint of caramelized onions laced with thyme.

Gaelen Nelson plates hearth-baked pizzas. (Photograph by Thom Thompson)Creating that complexity is a time-consuming process. The six gallons of chicken stock used to make coq au vin, for instance, is reduced to one gallon for a concentrated flavor. “It’s classic French,” Harvey says.

Harvey’s coq au vin rests on a foundation of rendered pancetta, chicken stock and mirepoix. It simmers and perks for hours, becoming rich and fragrant. Red wine turns the sauce a deep, deep garnet.

Though the dark-meat chicken was tender, we were more impressed with the fingerling potatoes, whose crunchy bronze skins encased a creamy flesh. Each bite was a happy snap. Harvey smartly prepares the vegetables separately and adds them before serving to maintain the textural contrast.

What is not to love about the braised short rib, resting in a savory sauce studded with asparagus, tart cherry tomatoes and grilled onions? The flattened crispy gnocchi were a tad tough, but that didn’t spoil the dish. For winter, the Bistro will return to gnocchi with gorgonzola cream.

Harvey—who has also worked at 821, where the short rib was a work of art—brines the meat for four hours in an herbal bath. With every bite, you can taste the careful infusion of thyme and the reduced red wine that gives the dish its full, rounded flavor.

A cake of coriander-crusted tuna betrayed Harvey’s background at Deep Blue. It was cooked expertly, leaving an interior that was still glossy pink. The fish was as meaty in its way as the grilled marinated hanger steak, which was the best I’ve had in some time. That’s saying a lot, considering how many menus now have some version of steak frite on the menu. The thick cut, caressed with a shallot demi-glace, wore a charcoal dark coat over its rosy, juicy flesh.

Mary Schleuter delivers the moules frites. (Photograph by Thom Thompson)The accompanying mound of fries would have been even more addictive if I hadn’t already overdosed on the pile that came with the moule frites. Dip one crisp fry in the roasted garlic aïoli and you’re lost. The mussels, meanwhile, bobbed in a sublime saffron cream that’s best taken in small doses. Too much of this rich stuff and you’ll spoil your dinner. One nit: The mussels were on the small side.

Like Toscana, the bistro offers individual pizzas baked in a stone hearth. Anchovies and Nicoise olives duke it out on the pissaladiére, a take on a pizza-like dish made in southern France. The authentic version rarely has cheese, but Harvey added pecorino, mozzarella and Parmesan to please the American palate.

Forget the Battle of the Brandywine. This is the Battle of the Brine. Since subtlety is neither ingredient’s strong suit, perhaps a lighter hand would help. Either way, you will definitely taste what you order.

On another pizza, chunks of goat cheese sat like pillowy clouds over strips of eggplant and sweet roasted peppers. Both pizzas’ crusts had a lovely golden sheen, and they aptly handled their toppings without turning soggy.

If you dislike Brussels sprouts, the Bistro’s version might convert you. Blanched then sautéed with bacon and caramelized onions, the generous serving was garnished with tasty leek “hay.” A bright-tasting touch of mustard played off the earthy, smoky flavor.

Mustard also enhanced the sherry vinaigrette that was doused over the spinach salad. But the heavy splash was just too much of a good thing. I had forgotten that the salad came tossed with duck confit, because it mostly appeared in threads rather than chunks. It was hard to appreciate the handiwork that goes into a nice confit.

You might want to save the tempura-battered Brie for dessert. The spicy berry confiture was cloyingly sweet and potent.  Then again, pastry chef Victoria Carpenter’s confections are simply too good to pass up for Brie.

Sous chef Joe Dougherty (left) and chef Seth Harvey. (Photograph by Thom Thompson)Adding a fried, cinnamon-dusted wonton to the strawberry Napoleon was brilliant, proving that a good dessert truly is a study in contrasts. The lemon-buttermilk pound cake in the peach melba reminded me of crumbly, buttery shortbread. It was bliss.

Bistro on the Brandywine has some good wine selections, though you may pay more for a bottle than you will for an entrée and dessert. Welcome to Pennsylvania. The BYOB philosophy, therefore, is a smart tact. But I definitely missed starting my meal with a cocktail. Beer, wine and a special mojito were all that was available. Management is considering adding a few liquors.

There are lots of dishes here I’d still like to try. A neighboring table’s crepes—neatly packed with spinach, ricotta and caramelized onions—looked delicious. Certainly the customer thought so. She tucked into it with gusto.

The Bistro, which also has a to-go section, proves that food needn’t be flashy to get attention. Like anything French, it just needs to have style—and exquisite taste. —Pam George
 

Page 2: High Steaks | Bonz is a gamble that will pay off for Harrington

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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host Lymphedema support groups on the third Thursday of each month at the Seaford Library and Cultural Center from 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM. This free support group is...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Seaford Library & Cultural Center
600 N Market St, Ext
Seaford, DE  19973
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Sponsor: Nanticoke Health Services
Telephone: 302-629-6224
Contact Name: Robert Donati
Website »

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Looking for something different for your children to do this summer? Look no further than the Summer Camp Fair at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. This free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery will be hosting bariatric support groups on the first Tuesday and third Thursday of each month from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at Nanticoke Memorial...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Sponsor: Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery
Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 8810
Contact Name: Shelly Geis

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Rebecca Kobrin of Columbia University will discuss her paper, “Credit to the Nation: Jewish Immigrants, the World of Immigrant Banking and American Finance, 1873–1914.” The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Copeland Room of Hagley’s library building
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

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Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
Website »

More information

Freud’s Last Session centers on a hypothetical meeting between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and young, rising Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London on the day England...

Cost: $18 online, $20 at the door

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N Broom Street
Wilmington , DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Bootless Stageworks
Telephone: 302-887-9300
Contact Name: Rosanne DellAversano
Website »

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Pup-Purr-i...A little bit of everythng for pet lovers The PAWS for People 7th Annual Winter Conference is designed for pet enthusiasts, owners and all those who love animals.  Cost of admission...

Cost: $45 through 2.6; $50 after 2.6

Where:
Nemours A. I. du Pont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: PAWS for People
Telephone: 302-351-5622
Contact Name: Clarice Ritchie
Website »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Create and innovate at Hagley! Enjoy a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness in celebration of the Maker movement. It will feature demonstrations from area...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
2
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Hailed by The New York Times as "a young piano visionary" and "one of the leading figures in the current renaissance of performer-composers," pianist Michael Brown, a 2015 Avery...

Cost: $30. Free for ages 10-18 & accompanying adult. $10 for students 18 & older.

Where:
Bethel United Methodist Church Hall
Fourth & Market Streets
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
Website »

More information

The St. Elizabeth High School Alumni Association is hosting an art exhibition and auction on Saturday, February 20, 2016. The event will be held in the newly refurbished Grant Hall...

Where:
Grant Hall at St. Elizabeth Church
809 S Broom St.
Wilmington, DE
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More information

Featuring Diane Monroe, jazz violinist in "What Is This Thing Called Freedom? The Transforming and Timeless Songs of Protest." Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at 7:30 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Episcopal Church
1108 N. Adams Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Jackson ImmunoResearch
Telephone: 302-652-8605
Website »

More information

A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
Website »

More information

Freud’s Last Session centers on a hypothetical meeting between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and young, rising Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London on the day England...

Cost: $18 online, $20 at the door

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N Broom Street
Wilmington , DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Bootless Stageworks
Telephone: 302-887-9300
Contact Name: Rosanne DellAversano
Website »

More information

Direct from TAO’s successful, sold-out, world-premiere run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this brand-new production, "TAO: Seventeen Samurai," stops at The Playhouse on its...

Cost: $33–$39

Where:
The Playhouse
1007 N. Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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