The restaurant business is rough. Really really rough. Make it through a year, and you’re ahead of most. Five years and people start to forget that you even exist. Make it to ten years in a town that has become a magnet for food lovers in the region, you have to be something special.
In simple words, The Tortilla Press in Collingswood is something special.
Recently, we were graciously invited to try the prix fixe dinner Chef Mark Smith put together for Farm Fresh Collingswood Week. A major supporter of local farms and farm-to-fork cooking, Chef Mark is in his element when it comes to taking the fruits (and veggies) of the local farmers’ labors and puts his Mexican-twinged mind into preparing approachable and satisfying food items. There is a comfort level that exists at The Tortilla Press that puts one at ease right away. You can just relax and enjoy.
When Lisa and I dine out, we always like to not choose the same items. It promotes sharing. And it was easy to do with the menu presented, because there were plenty of enticing things to try. For our first course, Lisa went with the grilled sweet corn, while I had the mini portabella and zucchini tacos. The corn and the zucchini came from Springdale Farms in Cherry Hill, while the mushrooms were from Kennett Square PA (the mushroom capital of the country). The corn was liberally coated with a garlic chili butter (more garlic twang than chili kick) and melted queso fresco, but it was the sweetness of the corn, carmelized by the grilling, that broke through and made it wonderful. The tacos were ‘beefy’ enough from the mushrooms to make you not miss the fact that this was a vegetarian dish.
Course Two was lighter in pace. Lisa went for the gazpacho (brought to you by tomatoes from Springdale Farms), while I had the fire and ice salad. While certainly not the thick and garlicky version from Spain that we really groove on, the freshness of the tomatoes carried the day with Lisa’s soup. My salad was more refreshing than fiery, and I was not disappointed by that.
Then things got a little whacked for our next course. We evidently switched bodies at some point, because Lisa went for the grilled pork tenderloin and I chose the vegetarian lasagne with eggplant and soy chorizo. I’m usually the pork guy, and Lisa would be infinitely more likely to order a veggie lasagne. But when you’re relaxed and trusting, you can get out of your element and sample something new. Lisa’s entree was rock solid: the pork was juicy and the peach salsa along with the glaze of peach cider and ancho chili played nicely with the meat. Sweetness and pork work well together, and having fresh peaches from Schoeber Orchards certainly didn’t take away from the meal. As for my lasagne, I wasn’t missing the heaviness of the typical Italian-American style of this dish. The roasted toato salsa that served as Sunday gravy had its own richness in flavor that mixed well with the rest of the veggie party on my dish that included eggplant from Flaim Farms.
Dessert finished the meal on a very strong note. Lisa had the peach cobbler with cinnamon ice cream. The peaches (again, from Schoeber Orchards) and cinnamon melded nicely. The ice cream was not over-the-top cinnamon-y, so to avoid overpowering the cobbler down below. And for me, I was doing a little dance of joy in my seat as I gobbled down the raspberry and mascarpone empanada that had no prayer of making out in any shape or form. A little caramel drizzle, as little vanilla ice cream on the side…and voila, what a delight! As relaxed as I was, I was reserved enough to not lick the plate (as much as I wanted to, quite frankly).
We have known Chef Mark since the early days of our website. We think highly of him as a chef and as a person. It would be a hard thing to talk about if the food at Tortilla Press was not up to par. Thankfully, that day has still not arrived, and hopefully will never come. If you have not been to The Tortilla Press lately, you need to get back there again.