Cookie Jars at the Country Deli
Cookie Jars at the Country Deli

It was one of those cold, frigid winter days when you want to stay inside with a nice wood fire.  My son and  I were preparing to run some errands, when I heard a little voice say  “can we first go to that place with the really good hot chocolate?”  I knew just what he meant, and I’m an easy mark  because I love The Country Deli. It seemed logical that we should prepare ourselves properly before proceeding with the boring task of Christmas returns. Request granted.

The Country Deli, Gradyville, Pa.
The Country Deli, Gradyville, Pa.

If you’re not from the area, you would likely never know about The Country Deli.  And if you are from here,  you still might not know about it!  If you travel Route 352 between West Chester and Media, you pass it every day.  It’s easy to miss, so once you find it you will want to add it to your favorites on your GPS.  It was not until I wrote this that I realized the restaurant is actually in Gradyville, not Edgmont. But it is Edgmont Township. I can remember when I first discovered this charming restaurant.  It was after a delicious breakfast with my husband, our son still in his carrier, that I  listed my first property right around the corner.  For weeks I would drive up and down Route 352, trying to find it again, always driving past the sign a few times before I found it. It was fitting that the sellers and I celebrated their sale with lunch at the Country Deli.

Cookie Jars at the Country Deli
Cookie Jars at the Country Deli

The Country Deli  has been owned and operated by Don and Constance Butler for the past twenty five years. Their daughter and son-in-law, Bryan and Dawn Carroll, are continuing the tradition and now manage the business on a day-to-day basis.  Drive by at lunchtime or any weekend and the packed parking lot will tell you all you need to know–they are doing something right.  But, if you like concrete reviews, you don’t need to look to hard to find them on line.

During the week,  The Deli serves as a meeting spot for new moms, hikers coming from Ridley Creek State Park, grandparents, businessmen and everyone in between. The Deli is most well known for its delicious breakfasts and lunches and they also offer dinner two nights a week–Wednesday and Friday are pasta nights and it’s BYOB.  It’s also nice to know that if you live in Middletown, Thornbury or Edgmont township, going out to breakfast doesn’t need to be a three hour affair.

Country Deli waitresses
Country Deli waitresses

I’ve been to restaurants where the focus is more on atmosphere and less on the food. But, to the locals who have been coming here for 20+ years,  everyone agrees that their recipe for success is good food at affordable prices served by people who genuinely care–and the atmosphere is great!  Every time you go you see the same people. There is something very comforting about that, like coming home to grandma’s kitchen.

Cookie Jars at County Deli
Cookie Jars at County Deli

What  makes this place even more endearing is its well-known cookie jar collection. There are about 150 cookie jars throughout the dining area. The collection was started by Don and his wife,  picking up a jar up here and there and it grew over time.  Occassionally they will receive a donation from someone cleaning out their home, in the hope that the cookie jar is not that far away and the donor can come back and “visit”  it from time to time.

Monk Cookie Jar
Monk Cookie Jar

If you go, I recommend off-peak times for a relaxed and less crowded experience. My favorite menu item is the grilled turkey breast on Russian black bread.  Not great for the waistline, but good for the soul.  Hmmm, I may just need to go back and double-check my facts!

The Country Deli, 1176 Middletown Road, Gradyville, Pa.

Hours : Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
from 6:30AM until 2:30 PM. On Wednesdays and Fridays, hours are 6:30 AM until 8:00 PM.

Happy Eating!

Gradyville, Edgmont and Glen Mills are great places to live!

Click Here to Search for Homes in Edgmont!

Pamela Cloud is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Preferred in Media, Pa.

Ridley Creek State Park
Tree with Snow at Ridley Creek State Park

Each time it snows, I eagerly await the following morning to photograph my favorite places while the snow is still pristine and the light is  just right–it is one of my favorite things to do. On this day I headed over to Ridley Creek State Park early, knowing my afternoon would be consumed with sledding –something we don’t get to do nearly often enough.

Much to my delight and surprise, I was a lone spectator at the park. Sometimes I just can’t believe that everyone is not out here catching these fantastic views! There I was: just me, myself and I–with this awesome tree. I want to turn to somone and say “WOW, can you believe this?” but, my family was in bed and the only other car in the parking was the ranger’s car.

I’m glad I was able to capture my memory of this tree, and the feeling I had when I took the photo: sheer joy.  I have photographed this tree in fall, with its brilliant yellow-orange leaves and today I was struck by the stark beauty of the snow against its bark; not too much to conceal it, but enough to highlight it’s imposing structure standing guard over the parking lot.

Hidden Valley Farm at Ridley Creet State Park
Hidden Valley Farm at Ridley Creek State Park

Turning out of the driveway, another scene took my breath away was the pasture at Hidden Valley Farm.  Again, this is the kind of picture perfect scene that post cards and inspirational posters are made of. What made it even more perfect was the fact that  there was not a soul in sight and mine were the first footsteps in the snow. This kind of quiet is like none other I have experienced. Where can you go in an area with over half a million people and still find this kind of solace and stillness? What a gift. This is one reason why I continue to support The Friends of Ridley Creek State Park and other organizations like it. The value of this land cannot be measured in dollars, but how it contributes to our health and happiness, and joy it provides to the million plus visitors who come here each year.

Mansion in Snow at Ridley Creek State Park by Pamela Cloud
Mansion in Snow at Ridley Creek State Park

The Mansion at Ridley Creek State Park, designed by architect Wilson Eyre,  is another place I can never get enough of. Every time I see it, I imagine what it must have been like to live there. It’s a true country estate–still today it is surrounded by approximately 2600 acres of wilderness and tucked away from all traces of modern day life. It’s hard to believe that Philadelphia is only  13 miles away. If you’ve never been to the mansion, you can take a look at the Visual Tour I created a few years ago. It’s a real work of art (the Mansion, not my tour!)

Ridley Creek State Park by Pamela Cloud
Formal Gardens at Ridley Creek State Park

At the time the mansion was built, it must have seemed even more remote, as most of the areas around Edgmont and Upper Providence had not yet been developed.  The fact that this home was given to someone as a wedding present I suppose was not uncommon for the wealthy of that time, but it is still mind-boggling.  The photo above is the entrance to the formal garden that sits adjacent to the mansion. Being here instantly transports me to another time. It is impossible not to admire, slow down and just breathe. It’s no wonder why people people choose this spot to propose and get married. This quintessential “backdrop”  seems even more magical in the snow.

Here’s hoping for at least one more good storm before spring so I can get to the other half of the park!

Until then, Happy New Year!

Pam

Hillside Farm, Media PA
Pick your own veggies at Hillside Farm in Media, Pa.!

There is a stretch of land along Route 352 in Middletown Township, right before Elwyn Road that I’ve been wondering about for some time.  I recently listed a property around the corner at 8 Woodbriar Drive, so I took a closer look and to my delight, discovered Hillside Farm, just one of the many great attributes of Middletown township.

Hillside Farm, Media PA Barn & Field
Barn, Field and Greenhouse at Hillside Farm

Hillside Farm is a ten-acre, community-based farm, run under the direction of Greener Partners.The farm does not call attention to itself; it’s actually quite the opposite.  Although the farm is on a long stretch of 352 with thousands of cars rushing past it each day, you won’t find a sign or entrance there.  To get there, take 352 South of Route 1, make a left onto Elwyn Road towards the Elwyn Train station, another left into Elwyn’s campus, then follow the signs to the farm.  If you don’t have the time, space or inclination to grow your own vegetables but like the idea of local and organic, Hillside Farm may have what you are looking for.

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Blackberries at Hillside Farm
Blackberries! Yes, I sampled them and they were delicious!

This produce found here is not like it’s pampered cousins–beautifully staged and gently misted in a display at The Fresh Market or Whole Foods (don’t get me wrong, I love both places for lots of reasons)– there will be no calligraphy beckoning you to buy. Just a sign that says “U-Pick” or  “Eggplant,” for example.  This is the real deal: this is produce you literally go in the field and pick yourself or select from a tub in the barn. There is alot to choose from: beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, chard as well as sunflowers and zinnias to brighten your table. Flowers and vegetables displayed en masse in their natural environment is breathtaking.

With increased awareness about the downside of processed and genetically modified foods,  more people are taking control over what they consume. As a result, community farms (CSAs) are popping up all over the country.   A CSA is a partnership between the consumer and farmer where the consumer shares in the harvest for a “share” in the farm.  Locally, the mission of Greener Partners is not only to grow vegetables, but also to educate adults and children about farming and the health and environmental benefits of organic and locally grown produce.

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Compost Sign at Hillside Farm
A friendly reminder that most of our trash is a gardener’s treasure!

Hillside Farm is in its fourth year in Media and serves about 250 share owners. Shares vary from full to medium, according to the amount of food you need.  When I spoke to Justin Donaldson, manager of the farm, about why he chose to go into farming he said “I do it for a lot of reasons; I grew helping my family in the garden and think it’s important to bring farming back, not to mention the health and environmental benefits of organic farming.”

The biggest difference between conventional and organic produce is chemicals. If you’ve ever wondered why organic foods cost more than conventional food, the answer is in the weeds: instead of spraying crops with chemicals, organic farmers handle weeds with predator bugs, limited and approved sprays and the old fashioned way—they pull them.

Justin Donaldson, with interns Alicia Bong, Brian Malon, Andrew Puglia, Mike Emmens and Jen Malkoun
Farm Manager, Justin Donaldson, with interns Alicia Bong, Brian Malon, Andrew Puglia, Mike Emmens and Jen Malkoun as they “hoop hoe” the field.

Nobody knows that better than the farmers at Hillside Farm, who work about 60 hours a week.  The day I visited Hillside, this devoted group of farmers were using “hula hoes”  to clear the weeds starting up around a crop of celery.  It was 90 degrees, felt like 12o, humidity was high and the sun was blazing. I was sweating just taking the pictures, but these guys have been at it for hours and were still smiling.

Being a part of a CSA, or even shopping at a farmer’s market, requires patience and planning.  This is the opposite of a “convenience store.”  It usually involves driving to an out of the way place, buying on a day or time that might not be perfect for your needs or schedule, or even picking the vegetables yourself.  For the people that patronize the farm, however, this is a pleasurable activity, and an especially great experience to share with children.  “An important distinction of the CSA  model is that
members support the farm (signup and pay) before
the season begins to get the farm the money it needs to buy preseason
supplies,”  added Donaldson.

Buying produce at Hillside Farm, Media PA
Ann from Radnor weighs her peppers before checking out.

I expected to find members from Media or Aston, but to my surprise, the first person I ran into was Ann, who drives from Radnor to pick up her weekly share at Hillside Farm.  Radnor has lots of places to buy organic food, so I asked her why she comes all this way to buy vegetables.  Ann likes the fact that the vegetables grown on the farm are completely organic.  Plus, she has split her share with another couple so they alternate weeks in picking up vegetables.

If you are not an share-owner in Hillside Farm, but would like to meet the farmers or try out the produce, you can do so any Thursday at the Media Farmer’s Market or Wednesday at PRC’s Newtown Square Farmer’s Market (formerly the Edgmont Farmer’s Market).  Starting this Friday, Hillside Farm will have vegetables for sale on Elwyn’s campus.

Hillside Farm hosts events and Lost Arts workshopsto educate community members about nutrition, healthy living and a host of home-scale sustainable practices such as composting and home food preservation. They also host a summer camp for kids – something to think about for next year!

Mexican Sunflowers at Hillside Farm in Media, PA
The farm boasts a large selection of cutting flowers such as zinnias and yellow sunflowers to these scrumptous Mexican sunflowers.

If you live in Media, Aston, Brookhaven, Chester or Glen Mills, this farm is within your reach. Go for a visit, talk to the farmers and see what it’s all about!

Hillside Farm, 115 South New Middletown Rd.,Media, PA 19063. Phone:(412)310-0956

About Middletown Township: Situated one mile west of downtown Media, Middletown Township offers housing for sale in a wide price range, relatively low taxes. Rose Tree Media is the School District.  As of this writing, there are 71 residential listings ranging from $64,900 (2BR Flat) to $799K (5BR Single), with the average price being $422K.

Click Here for a List of Homes for Sale in Media! Call me to narrow your search!

Click Here to Contact Me About Selling Your Home.

   About Me: I am an area resident and full-time real estate agent with Keller Williams Real Estate, serving Chester and  Delaware counties with expertise in Media, West Chester and Glen Mills. I love to photograph landscapes, architecture and areas of natural beauty while providing insight into the community. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with me or just learn more about the market, please feel free to contact me on my cell at 484-883-8231 or email me at pamcloud@kw.com.

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