Hanging With The Best of the Main Line

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Best of the Main Line party, which celebrated the winners of the Best of the Main Line Awards that were featured in Main Line Today magazine.  The event serves to showcase the winners of each of the categories, and although the awards cover the hottest finds in shopping, dining, and lifestyle, I was there intent on seeing the faces and places behind what Main Line Today deemed to be the best food to be found on the Main Line.

Upon entering Drexelbrook, the immense 25,000 square foot corporate event center that hosted the party, I was inundated with an explosion of sight and sound.  To my left, a Moroccan-inspired seating area featured pork tenderloin served over Jamaican-style spicy rice.  In the opposite corner, shot glasses were filled with a pillowy  rendition of key lime pie.  On the other side of the hall, a chuckwagon served as the cooking and display area for a wide pan of chili, served with all of the appropriate accompaniments.  So many options to pick from, and I had yet to enter entered the main event space.

With the elevated stage and dance floor as centerpieces, the band rocked out over the proceedings, while the throngs of attendees milled up and down the aisles consuming samples and chatting with the winners.  One of the first vendors we encountered was Margaret Kuo’s of Wayne, winner of the Readers’ Choice for Ethnic Cuisine.  It usually takes a lot of skill to carve a Peking Duck tableside and serve it in the traditional accompaniments of pancake, scallion, and hoisin sauce, but these guys made it look easy, even in the confines of a small vendor space.  A little further down the row, chefs from the Blue Pear Bistro were spinning out plates of their award-winning braised short rib with a sweet potato puree.  The short rib was so artfully prepared, I didn’t even mind sampling what would otherwise be a winter dish at the height of summer.

Over the course of the evening, I had the pleasure of trying no less than three different crabcakes.  One, from Patty Mac’s Cafe in Berwyn, was the traditional interpretation – a ball of crab and breadcrumbs, deep fried to a crispy brown crunch.  This contrasted with the other two crabcakes, from Brodeur’s and D’Ignazio’s Towne House, both in Media, which leaned towards more of a pure-crab composition, held loosely together with minimal filler.  For pure decadence, however, the lobster roll on brioche, presented by the Desmond Hotel, was one of the best samples on offer at the party.

Main Line Today did a fine job of recognizing new establishments.  The accolade for New Thai Restaurant went to Jazmine Authentic Thai Cuisine of West Chester, which represented itself well with samples of Pad Thai and a refreshingly cool rice paper roll spiked with a nice hit of fresh cilantro.  Alison Barshak was on the receiving end of best Brand Extension for her second restaurant, the aptly named Alison two in Fort Washington.

For those with a sweet tooth, The Best of the Main Line party offered a treasure trove of finds.  Georges’, having taken the prize for Best Brunch, made a wise decision to forgo on-site omelet prep in favor of  an extensive assortment of its freshly baked tarts, breads, and other goods.  The Sweet Potato Cafe and Bakery, located in Media, had the longest presentation – nearly thirty feet of table space, every square inch weighed down with pies, pastries, and cakes of all sorts.  A request for a sample of cake resulted in a hand-sized slab of creamy, layered goodness that rendered one unable to pick up anything else until you were done with it.  Craving chocolate?  The Painted Truffle offered samples of its handmade chocolate truffles, in such surprising and astounding flavors as Midnight in the Garden of Chocolate (70% single origin dark infused with vanilla) and The Holy Grail (caramel and vanilla, touched with sea salt).

Finally, the worlds of beer, wine, and cocktails were well represented at the party.  Victory Brewing Company was on hand, offering samples of their four top brews, while Iron Hill Brewery enjoyed its own corner of the exhibit hall, offering beer, pulled pork sandwiches, and samples of bisque.  Ron’s Bar and Grille, winner of the Best Beer Selection, lived up to its title by offering at least a half dozen samples of beer, from Stone Levitation Ale to Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout.  But perhaps the most enlightening, refreshing cocktail sampler came from James Kennedy, Teikoku barman and the holder of the title of Best Bartender.  His Strawberry Sake Mojito will cool you off and have you seeing stars in no time flat.