road trip

Collingswood

By / Photography By James J. Connolly | December 29, 2017
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Frangipane Tart at Dulce Artisanal Pastry
Frangipane Tart at Dulce Artisanal Pastry

Main Street is friendly, and offers urban sophistication
 

When people hear that you live in Collingswood, there is a near-universal response: “Collingswood! Amazing restaurants, and we love that they’re BYOB.” Nestled between Haddonfield and Camden, the town draws eaters of all stripes, and for good reason. Restaurants that ascend the state’s best-of lists share street space with funky-fresh upstarts like Constellation Collective, which offers a DIY spin on seasonal eats.

Bonus: Philly is only a 12-minute train ride away.

Truth be told, this could be considered Philly’s secret Jersey suburb. Italian restaurants abound, from Nunzio to The Kitchen Consigliere, adorned with Cento-inspired paintings and mobsterchic art. Most notable is Zeppoli, helmed by James Beard Best Chef Mid-Atlantic nominee Joey Baldino. (If you haven’t been, make a reservation now, and order the Sicilian Fisherman Stew.) Numerous Philly spots also have outposts—Circles Thai, Sabrina’s Café, IndeBlue, Sweet Freedom Bakery—bringing city flavors to those that fled to the ‘burbs.

Yet the town maintains its own identity: cool yet casual, and friendly to boot. This is the kind of place where neighbors are on a first-name basis and kids run the block until they’re called home for dinner. On snowy days, you’ll see folks shoveling their older duplex-mates’ walkways. A bit urban and a bit Main Street America, Collingswood offers well more than a day’s worth of culinary experiences. Here’s one way to dig in.

"Biancomangiare" Almond Milk Pana Cotta at Zeppoli
"Biancomangiare" Almond Milk Pana Cotta at Zeppoli

9am: Caffeinate

The revolution must be caffeinated, and all the better when the beans are locally roasted. Look for the “Blue Man” sculpture on Fern Avenue and you’ll know you’re in the right place. Nearly five years ago, Revolution Coffee Roasters set up shop in this converted deco theater dubbed The Factory Workers, and they have been caffeinating the town’s movers and shakers ever since. Literally. A maker’s collective, The Factory offers wood- and metalworking memberships, plus studio space. Take your pick from the day’s light and dark roasts, or bring home a cold-brew growler. Watch for the smooth Sulawesi Toraja from Indonesia, and for friendly co-owner Steve McFadden. He’s a fixture at the Westmont and Collingswood farmers’ markets.

9:45am: Get Your Biscuit On

Weekend mornings, you can line up at Sabrina’s for brunch . . . and wait. Save it for lunch and head here. Valentina Fortuna and Maura Rosato, owners of Constellation Collective, are as adorable as they are talented, serving scratch seasonal fare, including a killer biscuit sandwich, times two. Trendsetting types savor the Nashville Hot Chicken, tame enough but still zingy. Or go for house-made sausage and gravy. It’s pure comfort, and fuel for an extended walk. Lest you think everything involves a biscuit—not that this would be bad—the Collective makes smart use of seasonal veg, from rainbow- hued avocado toast to hand pies. Speaking of, their custardy, salted honey rendition delivers all of the flavor. “There’s a handmade vibe and four girls in this kitchen,” Fortuna says. “We really care about what we do.” It shows.

Joey Baldino, chef and owner of Zeppoli
Joey Baldino, chef and owner of Zeppoli

Steve McFadden (seated), co-owner of Revolution Coffee Roasters, chats with customers
Steve McFadden (seated), co-owner of Revolution Coffee Roasters, chats with customers

11am: Shop Food

Each year for my birthday, my husband brings home treats from Cipolli Cannoli. Hidden in a wee, pink-and-seafoam house where only a handful of customers fit, the family operation crafts them in the old style using mascarpone and fresh-fried shells. Proprietor Mike Cipolla is said to have whispered the secret to the filling into his grandsons’ ears at birth. Take advantage of winter’s refrigeration, and buy a kit to bring home. (Filled cannoli shouldn’t sit for more than three hours.) A sweet tooth is also well served at the Mecha Artisan Chocolate counter inside Occasionette, a curated gift shop from Philly. Crafted by husband-and-wife team Melissa and Charles Crandley (get it?), chocolates and caramels push bounds with flavors like spruce tree and smoked habanero, along with a PB&P (peanut butter and pretzel) that will convert Reese’s fans. Around Valentine’s Day, watch for red-hot cinnamon hearts and rosewater chocolates.

In nearby Westmont, head to Preservation Provisions. Mother- and-son team Chef Ryan and “Jersey” Gina Harrison serve pickles with proper crunch, creamy garlic-dill pickle dip and “Pickleback” brine. The latter, made with the remains from the dills, is technically for pairing with whiskey shots, but does well in a dirty martini. Ryan also recommends exploring the French technique of se remarier, or “to remarry” by creating your own batch of pickled wonderment from the mother brine. Check the website for preservation cooking classes and pop-up dinners. Ryan, a CIA-trained chef, has worked in the kitchens of Michael Mina and other high-profile chefs.

12:30pm: Back to Sabrina’s for Lunch

You get a sense of the philosophy here from the chalk-art message strung over the dining room: “Life is short. Lick the bowl.” With picture windows overlooking Haddon Avenue, Sabrina’s Cafe spins up riffs on American comfort food in an airy space with high tin ceilings. (Thank its former life as a Woolworth’s five-and-dime.) A Philly import, this location has been fully adopted by Collingswood locals. During weekend brunch, they sip La Colombe Louisiane coffee at communal tables, digging into Mexican-inflected egg dishes or the famed stuffed challah French toast. Yet there’s reason to stray from those pleasures, including a formidable burger with parmesan fries. The best kept secret here is the breakfast bar hidden behind the hostess stand. If you don’t mind peering into the hall, you may bypass the wait.

Dulce Artisanal Pastry offers a taste of Paris by way of Puerto Rico, from which pastry chef Josué Santiago Negrón hails. His croissants and viennoiserie shimmer


Top to Bottom: “Dig This” on Haddon Avenue; Josúe Santiago Negrón, pastry chef and owner of Dulce Artisanal Pastry; A fresh batch of baguettes at Dulce Artisanal Pastry

2pm: Shop Vintage

Mid-century enthusiasts will indeed dig the vibe at Dig This, which rescues pieces from stateside and Danish designers. Expect teak, velour and lamps that take you back to grandma’s den in the best way. Clutter Vintage sells smaller wares, from costume jewels to art. Into wearable throwbacks? Frügal Thrift & Vintage has you covered.

3:30pm: Pastry Break

On to the town’s most enchanting window. Dulce Artisanal Pastry’s wooden shelves offer a taste of Paris by way of Puerto Rico, from which pastry chef Josué Santiago Negrón hails. A Steven Starr restaurant group alum, his croissants and viennoiserie shimmer, cascading toward the glass. Steam-baked baguettes bear tell-tale hatch marks, elegant and slender. But on weekends, Pan de Mallorca is the star. Rich and a touch sweet, it’s a bread best unadorned, just as Negrón ate it as a child. Should you have leftovers, make a jamon y queso sandwich, with Swiss. In a town packed with great bakeries, Negrón’s pastry skills sing. “It’s just flavor, that’s what I’m drawn to,” he says. Walk the narrow kitchen to see him work, a soft smile dusting his lips. Then head to the pastry case. The frangipane tart, soft with almond, is not to be missed, and coconut macaroons (besitos de coco, or “coconut kisses,” back home) are pure indulgence.

Truth be told, one could spend an entire day bakery hopping. Fourth-generation McMillan’s Bakery dates to 1939. It hearkens to the corner bakeries of that era, right on down to the ceiling- hung string dispenser that makes fast work of tying up pastry boxes. Their cream donut is not for the faint of heart. Across town, Amber Grain specializes in German bakes and naturally leavened sourdough that’s perfectly tart. Try the Bauernbrot, a hearty farmer’s- style rye that echoes the traditional bread found in German bakeries. Or visit on a Saturday morning for their bialy. A bagel’s Polish cousin, its center is filled with onion and poppy.

5pm: Happy Hour Times Two

Need a reboot? In Westmont, Heart Beet Kitchen’s kombucha happy hour runs from 4–6pm Tuesday through Friday, featuring rotating drafts from Philly’s small-batch fermenter, Inspired Brews. “Rooted” is earthy with beet and carrot. If this feels too virtuous, vegan, gluten- free treats (try the whoopie pies!) offer a sweet form of balance, as do the free yoga classes on Saturday mornings. For more kick, head to Devil’s Creek Brewery, the first to grace this dry town for centuries. (The town changed its laws to welcome them.) That devil would be the one from Jersey. And tongue-in-cheek fascination with the myth adds humorous accents to the otherwise modern space where Anthony Abate turns out a roster that goes well beyond IPAs. The 1888 Old Ale is a nod to the borough’s incorporation, made with Marris Otter Malt and treacle. Order by the flight or 10-ounce chalice.

7pm: Dinner by the Wood Fire

Make this reservation in advance. Opened in September by alums from Zeppoli and Philly’s Vernick and The Fat Ham, Hearthside is a grown-up space, where a bellows-shaped sign offers a hint of what’s in store. Inside, chefs Dominick Piperno and Aaron Gottesman tease sophisticated dishes from wood fire. The prevailing theme is modern American meets Italian, yet notes from Gottesman’s time at The Fat Ham bring Southern flair. (Think silky collards and smoked ham broth.) Order dishes to share, then watch as your meal emerges from flame. Duck confit is anise-scented, with a soft, palate-cleansing frisee. Gilled half chicken evokes Iberia, beautifully brined and charred. If it’s still on the menu, order the beef carpaccio, lemon-scented with crunch from rosemary-panko breadcrumbs. Fair warning: You will fight over the Cipollini agro dolce. This food is confident but not fussy, and a welcome addition to the town.


KNOW YOUR FARMER; KNOW YOUR FOOD
 

Featuring over two dozen vendors on a regular basis and many more on a rotating schedule, the Collingswood Farmers’ Market has grown to become one of the most popular farmers’ markets in New Jersey since it launched in 2000. It runs every Saturday from early May to before Thanksgiving, 8am– noon. If you’re visiting Collingswood during market season, its definitely a must-do. Located along Haddon Avenue and the High-Speed PATCO line. collingswoodfarmersmarket.com


1 Revolution Coffee Roasters
13 Fern Ave.
856.240.0640
revolutioncoffeeroasters.com

2 Constellation Collective
685 Haddon Ave.
856.240.7787
theconstellationcollective.com

3 Cipolli Cannoli
1150 S. Atlantic Ave.
856.858.3510
cipollicannoli.com
(Limited hours: Friday 4–7pm, Saturday 9am–3pm)

4 Mecha Artisan Chocolate Counter
724 Haddon Ave.
609.410.2738
mechachocolate.com
(at Occasionette)

5 Preservation Provisions
24 Haddon Ave., Rear Building, Westmont
609.356.2399
preservationprovisions.com

6 Sabrina’s Café
714 Haddon Ave.
856.214.0723
sabrinascafe.com

7 Dig This
717 Haddon Ave.
856.425.6050
icandigthis.com

8 Clutter Vintage
697 Haddon Ave.
856.833.1112
cluttervintage.com

9 Frügal Thrift & Vintage
740 Haddon Ave.
856.858.0700
frugalresale.com

10 Dulce Artisanal Pastry
740 A Haddon Ave.
856.942.0254
dulcecollingswood.com

11 Heart Beet Kitchen
29 Haddon Ave., Westmont
856.240.1106
heartbeetnj.com

12 Devil’s Creek Brewery
1 Powell Ln.
856.425.2520
devilscreekbrewery.com

13 Hearthside (BYOB)
801 Haddon Ave.
856.240.1164
hearthsidebyob.com

Article from Edible Jersey at http://ediblejersey.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/collingswood
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