Hand-rolled gnocchi with braised short ribs and red wine sauce. All photos by Amy Strauss.
Just last week, the Main Street at Exton shopping district welcomed a fresh restaurant concept to its neighborhood: Forage American Brasserie. Formerly Vella Grill, the new mod-American BYOB features inventive, high quality creations served at satisfyingly affordable price.
The recent restaurant reconceptualization arrived by way of Vella’s owner Derrick Wheeler, who tapped seasoned restaurateur and chef, Ralph Fernandez, to redefine the Woodcutter Street space. The duo, who shares a vision and passion for progressive American cuisine, restructured the restaurant’s concept to be in sync with their “buy fresh, buy local” mission. Adamant about sourcing only the best, Forage has already developed close partnerships with local farms like Shellbark Hollow, Milky Way Farm, and works with Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op.
From LEFT: Cracked grain salad, lemon tart and white chocolate croissant bread pudding.
“Everyone is chained out in the suburbs, but they don’t need to go to the city,” discussed Fernandez, an Exton resident himself, who operates at Forage with a laundry list of culinary accomplishments, including stints at White Dog Cafe and Moshulu. “We care what people put in their bodies. We’re using high quality ingredients and producing honest food.”
On a recent lunch visit to Forage, the seasonal menu, which will change four times a year, beamed with approachable dishes prepared with innovative touches. Classically inspired dishes (Fernandez has an impressive French cooking background) dance with modern-day whimsy. Start your meal with a heaping bowl of organic white cheddar popcorn that’s tossed with brown butter and chive blossoms. Navigate over to the BLT Steak House Wedge constructed with double-cut, house-applewood-smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes and crispy shallots, and never—I repeat, ever—skip the Hawaiian Ahi tuna tartare crafted on a base of wasabi avocado with darling chunks of ultra-fresh yellow fin tuna, and a light citrus soy vin.
Other highlights? Sharable fresh-baked breads (ciabatta, sourdough, focaccia) layered with crab-stuffed squash blossoms, smoked tomato jam, truffle wild mushrooms, and so much more. The cheese and charcuterie boards are equally a delight.
Dare we say only a week in that chef Fernandez is championing the local food movement? Grab a bite of his salt and pepper shrimp with Thai veggie slaw or fork into his duck confit-topped cracked grain salad, and you’ll have yourself the answer.
Forage will host its grand opening on May 1. Find Forage American Brasserie at 120 Woodcutter Street in Exton; reservations available at (610) 524-3334. More information available at www.forageexton.com.
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