I’ll never forget the best strawberries I’ve ever eaten. It was 1997; I was in Munich, Germany, strolling on the outskirts of the Viktualienmarkt (a farm market in the center of the old town), when I walked past a vendor selling strawberries that smelled so intoxicating that I couldn’t do anything else but stop. The berries lived up to their fragrant aroma; they were perfectly sweet and juicy, with just a hint of tang. What was so amazing about these strawberries was how they absolutely melted in my mouth. Typically, with supermarket strawberries, firmness indicates ripeness; a strawberry that falls apart while eating is too far on the wrong side of rotten.
Which brings me to Sugartown Strawberries, a small farm that’s about a mile south of Paoli Pike, on Sugartown road in Malvern. Perhaps best known as a purveyor of pick your own (PYO) strawberries (which was unavailable last year and isn’t available yet this year), SS offers fresh produce at a small farm stand Spring through Fall, including strawberries, of course, as well as asparagus, squash, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn and tomatoes.
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It’s on the main drag (Rt. 30), but not all that easy to notice. Located in the spot that most recently housed the Great Valley Deli (Collegeville Deli II), BuenaVista Mexican is a small, nondescript restaurant in a small, nondescript strip mall (that also houses Strawberry Bakery) along a nondescript area of Frazer. It is, however, worth finding this place, for hearty, homemade Mexican fare that stands above the more common fast-casual Mexican chains of the area.
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When news broke that Martini’s Italian Market was coming to the Paoli Village Shoppes, I’ll admit the name had me expecting a Carlino’s-style market that focused on prepared food and Italian products. In reality, however, Martini’s — which is run by relatives of the Martini’s who ran the eponymous restaurant in Devon for many years — is firstly a sandwich shop and cafe, with a wide variety of creative and interesting hoagies and sandwiches and a surprisingly ample seating area. There is also a small selection of prepared foods and dinners available to go, along with a small, interesting (if a bit haphazard) selection of pastas and other Italian goodies.
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Ashys Burgers & Fries is a little storefront operation in the Paoli Shopping Center serving up excellent hand-crafted, fresh (never frozen) burgers, lots of fries, as well as some Mediterranean specialties like hummus, falafel and stuffed grape leaves.
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The combination of fresh, local ingredients, creative, innovative Italian-American cuisine, comfortable-yet-refined ambiance and brilliant service make Restaurant Alba one of the most exceptional restaurant experiences in the western suburbs.
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