Monday, May 18, 2009

Crazy for Crawfish at The Station Bistro

The cozy Station Bistro in Kimberton has found its groove. And yesterday, that groove was decidedly Cajun with a chorus of spicy crawfish singin' loud and proud. The sleepy little Chester County village was enveloped in the seductive aromas of Louisiana cooking. Folks traveled from as far away as Havre de Grace, MD to chow down on big red trays of juicy, salty, fiery mudbugs, earthy jamabalaya and Sly Fox beers. Man, what a good time.

The kids and I made the 90 min. trek early Sunday afternoon, and when we got to Kimberton, the restaurant was packed.

Owner Nancy Miller arranged a small table near the fireplace with coloring books, puzzles and Legos, and Ben and Sophie quickly settled into coloring with the Miller's two sons, WIlliam and Edward.

Over 450 lbs of the critters were flown into Philly on Saturday, and boiled up in small batches by Chef Craig Miller every 15 min. or so all Sunday afternoon. Craig worked two boil kettles under a tent outdoors all afternoon, carefully adding the peppery boiling spices at just the right moment, tossing red potatoes and corn-on-the-cob chunks and onions in at another moment, carefully tending to the process like the secret Cajun master that he is. The crawfish were big and meaty, still a bit of work for the reward, but the other highlight of this special event was Miller's jambalaya, with complex layers of flavor and generous slices of real andouille. The dish could stand on its own every day, and I hope they add it to the Station Bistro menu permanently.

I chose a Sly Fox Dunkel with my tray of bugs, and what an inspired pairing: malty and mellow, it was just the tasty foil I needed for those hot crustaceans. I opted out of stopping at the nearby Sly Fox Brewpub in Phoenixville for a growler or two, owing to the 90 min drive back home and my priceless passengers in the back seat. A growler of any Sly Fox beer is tempting temperence.

Rolls of paper towels were stationed on every table, and you really did need a lot of them. The boiling spice on the crawfish found every gardening nick and paper cut on my fingers, and my forehead was moist with sweat after just a half tray of munching. At least I wasn't alone; at almost every table, people were sweating and whooping and whistling and laughing. Lots of Sly Fox and Victory growlers on those tables, too, a good sign. Some folks opted for platters of the restaurant's excellent baby back ribs instead of crawfish, but the vast majority of eaters were groovin' on the crawdaddies.

Nancy made hot dogs and fries for the kids; they wanted no part of the mudbugs, especially after Nancy took the kids into the kitchen freezer and showed them crates of the crustaceans still wiggling. I figured Sophie, who loves spicy food, would try a few, but she was firm with her dad: "Get them away from me," she said very seriously.

But what do kids know? The Crawfish Boil was fantastic, and the Station Bistro made a lot of new friends and surprised some of their regulars. I hope we can persuade Craig Miller to cook Cajun more often. Man has a gift.

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