April 2014

Pennsylvania meals are easy on the palate

by Jeff Heilman

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Centered in Pennsylvania’s coat of arms are symbols of the state’s agrarian strength: a plough, three sheaves of wheat and a cornstalk crossed with an olive branch. This fertile heritage goes with the Keystone State’s bountiful culinary, brewing and viticultural offerings (with 12 wine trails), making the Pennsylvania menu “common wealth” for all groups to share.

Eastern Edibles
From Philadelphia to the Poconos, epicurean adventures abound in the state’s eastern regions.

Gastronomy reigns supreme in Philadelphia, where the number of fine-dining restaurants has more than tripled since 1992.

Along with the portfolios of serial restaurateurs Stephen Starr (13 establishments, including Barclay Prime, home of the $100 cheesesteak) and Jose Garces (eight eateries, including Village Whiskey, home of the foie gras-topped Whisky King burger), other superior choices include modern Israeli winner Zahav, with private space for up to 75, and Viet-Thai dazzler Fire & Ice, with a full-service event team.

In suburban Merion, Pa., Citron and Rose is an innovative kosher restaurant with private space and a catering division.

Wine trails and country flavors tempt groups fanning out to Philadelphia’s Countryside Region. Offering sweeping valley views and a deep underground cellar, event-capable Sand Castle Winery is one of nine on the Bucks County Wine Trail.

The Brandywine Valley, with its own seven-stop wine trail, boasts a global restaurant row in lively Media, Pa., and themed culinary experiences at the uniquely inviting Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast (see “Zoom In” Q&A).

Along with a smaller wine trail, Montgomery County’s culinary coordinates include The Farmer’s Daughter at the IACC-certified Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center, and Pacific Prime and Viviano at the Valley Forge Casino Resort. At the event-capable Woodside Lodge at Spring Mountain, Executive Chef Michael Kenney previously cooked for actor Will Smith and family, and members of Aerosmith.

Innovating beyond its mighty steelmaking past, the Lehigh Valley, home to Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, has its own nine-member wine trail, along with a developing ale trail. Seating 200, the Allentown Brew Works brewpub (also in Bethlehem) houses Fegley’s, a production brewery completely powered by renewable energy. All three venues host events.

Gourmandizing groups in the Poconos can dine Relais & Chateaux-style at the exquisite 16-room Hotel Fauchere in revitalized Victorian-era Milford. Hosting private dinners and events for up to 65 people (or more tented outside) in the Delmonico Room, the historic property also offers space at its adjacent Patisserie; at nearby Foster Hill Farm, home to the hotel’s greenhouse and organic garden; and at the 575-acre camp-style Dwarfskill Preserve, located five miles from town.

In Luzerne County, dining options include the restaurant collection at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre.

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