By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times
Imagine a throng of food artisans gathered together in one convenient food hall, beckoning you to try out their many tasty creations. That’s what Saturday mornings are like at West Chester’s Artisans Exchange.
The Exchange is a community of more than 50 entrepreneurs who serve up hand-crafted foods while helping the community connect to locally made goods. Nearly all hail from Chester County and on any given Saturday, you can sample and purchase an array of their foods including heritage breads, local cheeses, fresh ground coffee, tempting sweets and desserts or dishes made from heirloom recipes including American classics, Mexican, Italian, Hungarian, Argentinian and Chinese specialties among others.
A visit to the Exchange is not your ordinary shopping experience. In addition to offering
delicious goods, each crafter has an engaging story to tell, whether about the origins of their cookery or their aspirations for their businesses. The longevity of their businesses varies, from newcomers operating for as little as several months to established veterans with years experience in food preparation. Principal Frank Baldassarre who also operates Golden Valley Farms Coffee Roasters with wife Maryann, calls the food hub a collaborative due to the commitment to shared success among the participants.
Christine Rotteveel of Anastasia & Patricia’s Hand Crafted Cheesecakes opened at the Exchange a little more than a month ago. She says the business, named for her Russian and Boston grandmothers, is close to her heart after 17 years of perfecting the cheesecake recipes. She hopes to grow to the point of being able to hire people who have had a rough start so they too can learn the food business. Her four cheesecake varieties are all made from-scratch in small batches.