A few thoughts about pie…

You never know what you’re going to find in the incredible galaxy known as the World Wide Web. When I was looking for more info. on Company Cakes for the prior post, I came across this Mercury article from January about National Pie Day. I had never heard of National Pie Day or the American Pie Council, but I am completely on board. I occasionally daydream about how Pottstown might take advantage of its rich pie heritage, namely as the place where Mrs. Amanda Smith started her empire.

When I went away to college, and people asked ask where I was from, I’d say, “Pottstown, PA,” and they’d kind of give me a blank look. Then I’d add, “It’s where Mrs. Smith’s pies come from.” And they’d immediately perk up and get all excited and say, “Really? Cool!”

Pie is happiness. Pie is magic.

Apparently, the Great American Pie Festival is being held for the 9th year in a row in Celebration, Florida this coming weekend. They’ve got a lot of nerve — it should be held in Pottstown!

I gather there’s an Apple Pie Bake-Off at the Schuylkill River Festival. Are there contests for other kinds of pies, too – shoo-fly, funny cakes, and everything in between? In the Mercury article, Mark Neiman, an owner of Company Cakes says, “This was the pie capital of the world.” Can Pottstown rise to such prominence again? Could Pottstown be the epicenter of next year’s National Pie Day?

Just some pie-in-the-sky thoughts from a proud P-town girl…

Comfort Food

Still the very best!
I rolled into town last Friday night, battling allergies or a spring cold, and needed some quick and simple sustenance to get me through a meeting that would start in less than an hour. First off, for anyone from out of town, do you realize that on-street parking in downtown Pottstown is free? And even if you can’t find a spot on the street, parking in the lots around town is incredibly cheap? So I parked in the Shop & Park lot at High and Charlotte, slid a quarter in and headed for The Very Best, Pottstown’s oldest restaurant, open since 1921, where they’re still kickin’ it old school. As soon as I sat at the counter, I was greeted with, “How ya’ doin’, sweetheart?” And I knew I was home.

I ordered a grilled cheese and cup of hot tea. The bill, including tax, was $3.87. Seriously. Where I live in NJ, parking’s always a hassle, no one calls me “sweetheart” and dinner never costs $3.87. I felt like I really ought to get something else.

The cakes along the counter looked tempting – banana, chocolate with cream cheese frosting – and I asked if they were baked on-premises. No, they came from Company Cakes, a bakery on Charlotte Street that I’d passed a couple times and have on my list of places to visit. A hand-written sign touted a slice of chocolate cream pie for only $1.85, and I couldn’t resist. The creamy, dark chocolate mousse filling was complemented by a layer of lighter chocolate mousse on top and then bits of dark chocolate sprinkled on top of that. The crust was thin and, more importantly, didn’t detract from the chocolate, which is as it should be. For just a few moments, all was right in the world.

By time I’d finished, it had gotten cloudy and cooler, and rain was threatening. Now fortified, I zipped up my coat and was on my way.

The Very Best
252 East High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464
(610) 323-5224

Company Cakes
26 N Charlotte St
Pottstown, PA 19464
(610) 705-9450

Trash Talk

Although I’ve done my share of trash-talkin’ on basketball courts in PA and NJ, this post is actually about real trash 🙂 This Saturday from 8 am – noon, there will be neighborhood clean-ups happening around Pottstown. The clean-up was organized by Councilman Mark Gibson and Bill Sharon of the Codes Department. Details can be found on the Borough website & in The Mercury. The gist of it is that you can get trash bags at Borough Hall or Empire Hook & Ladder at Franklin & Chestnut. Fill the bags with trash from your neighborhood and leave them on pre-approved street corners, where they’ll be picked up later in the day. (Exelon has donated two dumpsters for the stuff.) And don’t forget to stop by Empire afterward for free refreshments, donated by Genesis Housing Corp.

For information contact: Bill Sharon 610-970-6507 or Mark Gibson 610-960-9445

And now for another kind of trash-talk…

The current exhibit at The Gallery on High is “Ecoart,” and it features pieces made from recycled, re-used and salvaged materials. It’s free and open to the public and runs until April 24. Check it out. Who knows? You might pick up something Saturday morning that you’ll want to turn into a work of art!

The Gallery is at 254 E. High St. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday 10am to 4:30pm; Friday 10am to 5:30pm; Saturday 10am to 3pm. Closed Sunday and Monday

US Rails at Tri-Pac this Friday, 4/16

The indie folk/rock group US Rails is performing at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center for one show only this Friday, April 16th at 8 p.m.

If you’re not familiar with US Rails, they are Ben Arnold, Scott Bricklin, Joseph Parsons, Tom Gillham and Matt Muir. Here’s how they describe themselves at their MySpace page:

“Echoing some of the great folk, pop and rock unions of the 60’s and 70’s as well as the newest super-groups and dream bands spanning the globe these days, US Rails emerges as the underdog collective of songwriters, singers and musicians who deliver not just a night of cool songs and great harmony… It’s in the sum of the parts, not the star of the show… US Rails is five distinctive personalities who met originally while living in and around Philadelphia, PA but have since scattered all over the map to France, Germany and Austin, TX… Their first recording, produced in a cottage house just South of Paris, will be released overseas this spring.”

Sounds pretty cool, huh? It definitely intrigued me enough to click through and listen to some of their tunes. The folk influence is evident in “Rainwater” and “Burning Fire, ” the latter of which is filled with sweet harmonies. And “Simple Plan” is light rock – the electric guitar and back-up vocal harmonies reminded me of the overall sound of Elton John’s 1970 Tumbleweed Connection album. (FYI, to me, invoking the great Elton John is the highest praise possible!)

Ticket prices for US Rails:
Adults: $17
Student & Seniors: $15
Children 12 and Under: $13

Tri-Pac is at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464
(610) 970-1199

Authentic Mexican cuisine now available at Juan Carlos

The last time I was in Boyer’s Shoe Store at the corner of High and Penn, I think I bought a pair of Earth shoes. Who’d have thought the former shoe store would make an ideal location for a restaurant? Ron Garza, chef/owner of Juan Carlos Fine Mexican Cuisine knew it as soon as he saw the interior’s stone walls, the brick-arched windows and the cobblestone road running up Penn Street.

“I wanted a place with a real urban feel, not a shopping center,” he said.

On a recent spring day, when Juan Carlos had only been open about a week, I stopped by and did a double-take inside. The decor is chic, yet the stone and brick, the walls painted terracotta, and the Spanish guitar music coming through the speakers made for a warm, inviting atmosphere. Now let’s talk about the food…

I’d had a late breakfast and only had room to sample a couple appetizers. Red & blue tortilla chips dipped in creamy guacamole (with just a hint of cilantro) were out of this world. It’s made fresh for each order and it shows. Then I tried a mini-chimichanga – chicken and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla, lightly fried and served with ranchero sauce. The chicken and cheese just melts in the mouth.

Chef Garza describes the menu as authentic Mexican, with a South American flair, that includes elements of modern Mexican cuisine. Mexico is a melting pot of numerous Latin American cultures, and Garza incorporates dishes and flavors from Brazil, Argentina and Cuba. And there’s something for every price range.

“We’re a casual, elegant restaurant. There are menu items for a casual night out or for a very special occasion.”

Juan Carlos is BYO, but offers one complimentary glass of sangria for guests who order any steak or fish entree for dinner on Tuesday through Saturday. They also provide margarita mixers for your favorite tequila.

By July, Garza plans to remove the display windows out front to make space for fair-weather outdoor dining, which will be a first for High Street. They’ve got a private party & meeting room downstairs, which is accessed by an original, Amish pegged wood staircase. The room has WiFi and a 12-foot ceiling and can seat 25-30 people. Check it out.

Juan Carlos Fine Mexican Cuisine, 235 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464; 484-624-4931; www.jcmexicanfood.com. Lunch:Tues-Sat 11:30am to 2:30pm; Dinner: Tues-Thur 5:00pm to 9:00pm; Fri and Sat. 5:00pm to 10:00pm; Closed Sundays and Mondays, except for private parties.

Bon jour! Get your tix to Fashion Plates 4!

The Gallery School’s major annual fundraiser – Fashion Plates 4: An Afternoon in Paris – takes place this Sunday, April 11 from 1-4 pm at Brookside Country Club. Tickets must be purchased in advance & the deadline is noon tomorrow – Thursday – April 8th!

Tickets are available online, in person at The Gallery at 254 E. High Street, or by phone (610-326-2506).

Your $60 ticket ($55 for members, $30 for kids 12 & under) gets you:
* selection of food with a Parisian flair, prepared by Brookside’s chef
* a seat at the show featuring fashions from the Philadelphia Premium Outlets
* music by Magical Sight & Sound
* a Paris flea market-style silent auction.

Best of all, you can feel good about supporting arts programming in the community all year long. Merci!

Welcome… and a few shout-outs!

Welcome to Positively!Pottstown, the blog for all the good stuff happening in town! The increasingly vibrant arts and business communities are capitalizing on the Borough’s rich history, beautiful and affordable real estate, walkable downtown and waterfront park… and I think the world should know about it! Apparently, I’m not the only one.

When The Mercury recently put out a call for local bloggers, the idea for Positively!Pottstown crystallized for me. I’d started some volunteering in my hometown and had been thinking about a way to effectively tell “the glass-is-half-full” stories about the revitalization scene. When I made the call to Nancy March, editor at the paper, and pitched the idea, she said that she and Evan Brandt had been thinking of just that sort of blog and they would have called it… you guessed it… Positively Pottstown.

A half-hour later, I stopped in at The Gallery School and Gallery on High, and mentioned my idea to Erika Hornburg-Cooper, who said that singer/songwriter Mike Holliday had just set up a MySpace page for… yup… Positively Pottstown. It lists music and cultural happenings, so definitely check it out, bookmark it, join and, most importantly, attend the events!

And, finally, as I set up this blog, I discovered that the domain name positivelypottstown.com is owned by none other than Tom Carroll, now president of Preservation Pottstown.

So, all of this is by way of saying that I’m not so clever as I thought. And maybe I just got caught up – like a lot of other people – on the breeze of positivity that’s blowing through 19464 these days. Hope you’ll let yourself get carried along, too!

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