We were greeted by giants. Sixteen-feet tall and dressed in patriotic attire, the towering characters ushered our car into Franklin Common’s parking lot on Thursday, June 14. The event organizers did not take lightly to using the word “Grand” in their celebration title.

Even before entering Phoenixville’s best mixed-use educational, corporate and recreational facility for the re-opening event, we were treated like guests of honor. The complimentary valet service took care of every attendee with the utmost generosity from the Phoenixville Mayor, Leo J. Scoda, to community supporters and Phoenixville reporters. The Franklin Commons was celebrating their new partnership with Drexelbrook Catering and Innovative Catering Concepts, which will open an opportunistic door for the venue that already had so much to offer!

My guest and I descended down the stairs into their large art filled gallery. One of a kind paintings covered every wall and hung from the industrialized rafters near the ceiling. It’s a wonder I didn’t trip with my eyes fixated on the colorful creations, ears distracted by the lively crowd, and nose carefully evaluating the enticing scents throughout the space.

Once down the stairs I was immediately drawn to a large interactive food display where a Drexelbrook chef was creating mozzarella right in front of our eyes. For someone who gets nervous about “where their food comes from,” my nerves were settled and senses focused on the aftermath, a tasty mozzarella, cherry tomato and blueberry balsamic reduction cocktail. A sucker for the traditional caprese, I was pleased with their take on the dish and could have slurped each reduction up with a straw it was so delightful.

The food station activity didn’t stop with the mozzarella madness. At the end of the gallery a service personnel prepared Seared Sesame Crusted Ahi-Grade Tuna Loin atop an Asian Pear Salad and Crisp Watercress, drizzled with a Ginger Lime Vinaigrette. The dressing was light, summery and pushed the tuna’s flavors to their maximum potential. I most likely would have grabbed seconds, if it weren’t for the crowd gathering around what I imagined was the best painting in the entire gallery.

I saw the frame and people approaching it but nobody walked away empty handed. Could it be interactive art? Was there a person through the wall handing out treats? Not quite, but it was very close. This was an uncommon case of Wall Art Kabobs. Elegantly framed and hanging from the wall were two popular kabob variations. I picked the Five Spiced Filet Tip first with Roasted New Potato and Portobella Kebab. It jutted from its shiny backdrop, surprisingly still covered with all the right seasonings which danced in my mouth while I reached for the other option. Although both delicious, I was partial to the Citrus Seared Scallops with Green and Yellow Zucchini Wheels.

Somehow I managed to try all this food before visiting the spectacular bar. Four sided and decked out in bright red linens, guests swarmed to get their hands on the special spirits. The professional mixologists held their own, meeting every need of the thirsty crowd and occasionally adding vodka upon request into the pink lemonade mix. I think it was the most popular unplanned drink of the evening, but competed heavily with the Maui Wowi smoothies (rum and vodka infused of course).

Once the majority arrived and over 300 guests picked their way through the scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, a large crowd meandered onto Campus Walk where facility owner, Marian Moskowitz shared insightful words about Franklin Commons. Her genuine speech followed a patriotic performance and was finalized with a ribbon cutting and streamer fireworks from Tonz of Fun. The crowd was like a derby, eager to herd off toward the food once the streamers sounded.

Many dashed for the closest food bar which served as a slider station with beef, turkey and even veggie sliders. All the sliders were served on a plump brioche roll. Greek pita chips with homemade hummus sat at the end of the table where guests easily grabbed hearty helpings to pair with their mini BBQ favorites.

Also served outdoors was a Slow Roasted Braised Short Rib with Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce and a Summer Couscous Salad. I foolishly filled my hands with a camera, an assortment of foods, and a beverage so finding a seat seemed necessary. Several bistro tables were conveniently set for groups of four and placed along the Campus Walk. When a special event isn’t taking place, locals are welcome to enjoy the peaceful patio setting, built away from the usual Bridge Street hustle and bustle. The Franklin Bistro has many items to choose from for breakfast or lunch. However, the butlered mini cupcakes we received on the Grand Re-Opening evening weren’t regular offerings. They were courtesy of Cupcakes Gourmet and served as a teaser for her Ice Cream station waiting inside.

Although my date kindly snagged a carrot and oreo mini for us to share, the full dessert experience didn’t occur until after the Pasta and Taco Station in the Bistro room. Another four-sided raised bar was set inside and it made me realize how nicely the event was flowing, beginning in the gallery, moving to Campus Walk and Franklin Bistro, then finishing up in Franklin Hall. The crowd was evenly dispersed throughout the evening, never overcrowded in one area or sparse in another.

Understandably, the largest crowd I did see all night was near the dessert tables where guests could grab the freshest ice cream, made on the spot with with liquid nitrogen, a piece of personalized Franklin Commons Cake from Doughmain Baked Goods, Cupcakes, Sweet and Savory Crepes or mini shot glass desserts. A specialty champagne and barista bar were available for washing down the extra decadent desserts.

While I tasted everything, the sweetest moment of all was hearing Marian’s excitement about the facility.

“It’s amazing what this partnership with Drexelbrook and Innovative Catering Concepts will do for us. I mean, basically, if you dream it, they can do it. People have already started to book the space for their weddings.”

I imagine this is because of the stellar reputation both catering companies already have and rightfully so. The cuisine we consumed that evening was exceptionally delicious and the service personnel performed magnificently, making sure every guest was comfortable at any moment in time. Innovative Catering Concepts even handed out complimentary Philly Cheese Steaks from a food truck to enjoy on the drive home.

It was a combination of customer service and the extra level of creativity that will keep me coming back for more. Don’t be surprised if you catch me in the newly renovated Campus Hall, overlooking the lovely grassy knoll, while I gulp down a Bistro sandwich and utilize all the free WIFI a foodie writer could ask for.