Dilly’s Done Different
Anyone familiar with Dilly’s Corner – the beloved walk-up hot dog and ice cream shack in the New Hope, PA area that had always closed down for the winter – will be astonished by a cold-weather transformation that began last year. On weekends from November to March, the shack magically transforms into a homey, charming, and surprisingly accomplished restaurant, not unlike Cinderella after the bippety-boppety-boo. Friends who prefer to think of Dilly’s Done Different as a sort of culinary Brigadoon finally got me there this past weekend.
Several surprises struck me from the start: the warm greeting for my friends by Tom Massa, who owns Dilly’s with his wife, Nancy; tables set with smooth white linens, quality wine glasses (it’s byo), and one big, yellow rose in a bud vase; and a moderately priced menu of appealing modern American fare.
I started with the soup du jour: shellfish stew with a rich (but not too rich) tomato-cream base, which I think cost something like $6.25. Like everything else, it was a good-sized portion and a wonderful combination of earthiness and finesse. So too my main dish of grilled, sliced teres major (an inexpensive, tasty, and bafflingly underutilized cut of beef) with a potato gratin that Escoffier would approve for both its flavor and good looks, and roasted asparagus – those ultra-skinny spears we’re seeing a lot in restaurants these days. Up til now, I’ve considered them silly and underwhelming in flavor. Somehow, these had been roasted so as to enhance their inherent flavor – a first for me. I finished up with a dense, rich, sticky hazelnut-espresso torte.
Meantime, I was feverishly swapping plates with my companions, and have to say that I was just as pleased with their selections, which included:
A big bowl of steamed mussels in red tomato broth/sauce
Pork schnitzel (a thick chop butterflied but still on the bone) with fresh fettuccine
Braised short ribs with smashed potatoes
Fettuccine with fresh vegetables
Three-cheese lasagne with homemade meatballs on the side
Lemon poppy-seed pound cake topped with meringue
Next time I’ll try the pan-roasted salmon ($26) or the roasted half-chicken ($22). I’m told that running Dilly’s year-round kitchen are two young chefs who conceived Dilly’s Done Different as an off-season way to give their cooking chops a workout. I hope that Kevin Gilbreath, a CIA grad and executive chef, and Steven Schwier, sous chef, feel that need for years to come.
Things you should know before going: Both incarnations – Dilly’s Corner and Dilly’s Done Different – are cash only. Dilly’s Done Different operates roughly from November to March, offering dinner on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings and brunch on Sunday. Reservations are pretty much required because seating is limited and, as you might expect, the place is becoming very popular. Although the address is given as New Hope, Dilly’s is technically in Solebury Township, immediately across from Stockton, NJ. In fact, on the unusually balmy Saturday night of my visit we parked in Stockton and walked across the Center Bridge to the restaurant.
Two NJ Slow Food Chapters Holding Winter Farmers Markets on the Same Day in January
Whether you live in North, Central, or South Jersey, mark your calendar for Sunday the 27th.
That day, from noon to 4 pm, the Northern NJ chapter will be hosting no fewer than 21 “farmers, food artisans, and friends” at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown. These include two of our state’s premiere cheese makers: Bobolink and Valley Shepherd. A $3 entrance fee supports the chapter’s school vegetable gardens program. For the full line-up, directions, and other details click here.
Also on the 27th the Central NJ chapter of Slow Food will hold the second of three markets scheduled for the winter of 2012-2013. This one will run from 11 am to 3 pm at the gorgeous Johnson Education Center at the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton. They’re also hosting two fab cheese makers – Bobolink & Cherry Grove. Here’s the complete line-up:
Birds and Bees Farm (NJ raw honey)
Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse
Cherry Grove Farm
Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms
Good Times Kettle Corn
Hopewell Valley Vineyards
Jersey Jams and Jellies
Pure Indian Foods (organic ghee)
Shibumi Farm (exotic mushrooms)
Stony Brook Orchids
WoodsEdge Wools Farm
A $2 donation to the chapter is suggested. For directions click here.