Locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients make chef Dan Woods’ menu shine.
We almost don’t want to tell you about the dining room in Grace Winery’s Manor House. Seating is already limited; dinner is served only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The prix fixe menu created by executive chef Dan Wood (and set at a reasonable $75 per person) changes monthly, but is always filled with locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients excellently crafted into concise choices: two appetizers, three entrees and two desserts.
Add Grace’s wines to the meal, set the whole experience in a charmingly historic house in the middle of the Brandywine Valley, and you have the makings of an unforgettably exquisite evening.
Our dinner began with house-made focaccia that arrived with olive oil and peppers that emanated subdued heat. On the advice of Jamie, our excellent server, we opted for the wine supplement, which paired a different wine with each dish.
November’s menu starts with the appetizer choice of salad or fritto misto. We had both. In the salad, ribbons of kale are accented by apples, walnuts and cubes of Birchrun Hills blue cheese. Grace’s Dragonfly – a Syrah-cabernet sauvignon blend – plays beautifully off of the tannins in the walnuts and the rich of the cheese.
The fritto misto’s perfectly battered, fried seafood and vegetables were reminiscent of tempura and came with a delicious, slightly spicy sambal aioli. Grace’s pinot gris was a great match for the dish.
Of the menu’s three entrée choices, the venison loin was a stand out. Served medium-rare, the venison’s flavor was accented by the sweet tang of huckleberries and richness of parsnip puree and kabocha squash that accompanied it. A full-throated glass of Cabernet Franc was an exclamation point to a dish that sang of fall and Wood’s commitment to seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.
Our second entrée was striped bass served with kimchi and braised vegetables. Wood’s kimchi is the real deal. It packs a pungent heat that is counterpunched by sweet, earthy notes of turnips and pomegranate. Grace’s chardonnay had just the right amount of oaky assertiveness to enhance the plate’s impressive riot of flavors.
Wood’s vegetarian entrée takes full advantage of Pennsylvania’s mushroom harvest. Chicken-fried hen-of-the-woods mushroom is glossed with a sunchoke sauce, porcini and spigiarello kale.
Desserts are sweetly seasonal. A narrow brick of pumpkin semifreddo came with a sheen of dark chocolate and a crumble of granola, plus a glass of sparkling wine. An individual apple cobbler was strewn with toffee, peanuts and melty vanilla ice cream, the fruit and dairy matched by the tropical acidity of Grace’s sauvignon blanc.
The intimate dining room – its historic charm a perfect counterbalance to the menu’s modernity – is both romantic and appropriate for dinner with friends. Our knowledgeable server was generous with her attention but not overly doting, allowing us to enjoy the reverie unique to Brandywine Valley’s autumn evenings, when a chill in the air brings out the warmth of the environment.
Reservations are required, and will soon be hard to acquire. Our hidden gem is about to receive a lot of attention, so make haste in getting to Grace. Dinner is served on most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Check availability on Grace’s calendar.
50 Sweetwater Road, Glen Mills (610) 459-4711
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