Years back, a delightfully eccentric friend at the BBC had my wife and I over for an intimate dinner of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding -- classicly boring dishes. Yet, what we experienced was food alchemy. Using powers normally reserved for the Almighty, he transformed this most pitiful of offerings into a spectacular and memorable feast.
It appears that the Almighty has journeyed across the Pond. I stumbled across the Blue Moose while searching for a simpler alternative to our regional favorite, Brian's in adjacent Lambertville. Blue Moose's menu certainly doesn't impress, with nary a trace of exotica or molecular manipulation. However, such seemingly boring staples as shepherd's pie and pork shank land on your table as culinary masterpieces. Ingredients are local, oozing freshness, and no shortcuts need apply. Even the beef in the shepherd's pie, normally a dumping ground for leftover bits, has nary a trace of fat, gristle or tendon. But this is just a foundation from which emerges succulence and a melding of subtleties into a delicious whole. Alchemy, or something close, has found a new home.
When my wife went to the loo and eyed a posted review, things became clearer. The chef, Skylar Bird, is barely out of his teens. As a promising 14-year-old, Bird had participated in the founding meetings of the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance, a slow food group which has since gone on to stimulate regional wholesome agriculture and establish farmers' markets. Bird then opened a small restaurant in his parents' home, initially obtaining produce from the Wrightstown Farmer's Market.
With success came the move to a tastefully converted row home in central New Hope. It's staffed by kindred souls -- young, chipper, helpful and friendly. In all, it's the sort of food experience that would be creating serious buzz if it were in, say, San Francisco. Except here, at $25 prix fixe, it's priced so almost everybody can afford to participate.
Downsides: 1) Word's gotten out, so it's not always easy to get in; 2) parking can be difficult and is metered until 9 PM (bring lots of quarters); 3) cash or check only; and 4) the website bills the Blue Moose as "the youth-run restaurant," giving it the appearance of a superior place by kiddie standards when in fact it is top drawer by the most exacting adult yardstick.
If you consider Alice Watersism to be the Buddhism of the food world, then Blue Moose is closer to Zen than is Brian's. Both are outstanding disciples, yet treading different paths. Try both.
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