Harvest Fest 2013: Brunch and More

I’m a bit behind in talking about this year’s Harvest Fest. Heck, I’m behind in talking about anything at ALL, I’ve been focused on stuff around the house and work and…other things I’ll talk about when I’m ready to. But anyway, Harvest Fest, aka The Best Fest in Bethlehem, Ever. I don’t know if it’s the smaller size, the smaller crowds, or the cooler weather, but Harvest Fest is definitely my favorite of all the events thrown by downtown Bethlehem. Oh, there’s also all the beer and tasty tasty soups.

But first, we brunched. We brunched our butts off.

I invited the usual suspects over for some pumpkin pancakes, bacon, and breakfast sausage.

I also had a few leftover pumpkin whoopie pies on hand, and of course some fresh fruit. It’s not brunch without a gigantic plate of fruit. I served strawberries, fresh pineapple, and a favorite this time of year – concord grapes. They taste like jelly!

For the pancakes, I used my regular recipe (minus the blueberries there, of course), and just added a cup of pureed pumpkin, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and some fresh ground nutmeg.

They’re a bit more moist than the plain pancakes, so give them another minute or so on the griddle before serving. To go with these pancakes, I had some spiked maple syrup that would make Mrs. Butterworth blush.

Just warm up the syrup (real maple syrup, not pancake syrup) in the microwave for a few seconds, stir in an ounce of good bourbon, and about a half teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, if you can’t acquire it), and you’re in pancake heaven. Serve with your favorite breakfast meat and your friends may never want to leave.

It tastes better than it photographs, trust me.

And thankfully, we had a whole day at Harvest Fest to walk those pancakes off.

It was a great day, spent with some of my very favorite people. (For a more in depth write up, including all the skinny on some of the great beers that were served, try this write up by The El Vee.) At the end of the day, a few of us decided to sit down for a drink and a bite to eat at one of downtown Bethlehem’s newest restaurants, The Twisted Olive. We sat outside and ordered some appetizers and a few cocktails. I had the Forty-Niner, a tasty bourbon drink with honey and lavender, the aranchini (cheese filled risotto balls, breaded and fried? What’s not to love?), and one of the most interesting appetizers I’ve ever had, french onion soup dumplings. Caramelized, beefy onions, wrapped in a dumpling wrapper, topped with a crispy crouton and melted cheese. On. A. Stick.

And these are just appetizers. I’m coming back for that cioppino that I spied on the menu, dudes. Mark my words.

 

Hopefully before Harvest Fest 2014.

The Ridiculously Long Rest-Of-My-Summer Recap, or: Shit, I Forgot I Had A Blog.

So I seem to have fallen off a bit, haven’t I? Just your luck I’ve decided to do a quick(ish) (though probably not really, it is me we’re talking about here) recap on the rest of my summer. It all went pretty nicely until one sucky week in August. But I’ll get to that in a while.

Firstly: High Tea with my favorite ladies at Jessica’s Tea Room

A group of my nearest and dearest and I were trying to come up with a way to celebrate my friend Vanessa’s graduation from one school and acceptance (including a full scholarship, thank you very much) to another. I got the idea from a coworker to take her to Jessica’s Tea Room at the Weaversville Inn. It just seemed so fun and out of the ordinary, and Vanessa just happens to love a nice cup of tea. Perfect! We all got dressed up very fancily and surprised her with high tea on a gorgeous Saturday in June. The food was delicious, the tea was refreshing, the service was outstanding, and the company, as always, was the best ever.

Of course when we got there, we had iPhones at the ready. Because why do something if you’re not going to Instagram it immediately?

We all opted for High Tea service, which included a pot of tea (duh) for each (hot or iced), scones and banana bread, soup or small salad, choice of two finger sandwiches, entree, and dessert.

The finger sandwiches weren’t quite what we expected and were the one dull spot in an otherwise fantastic meal. A little too heavy, a little too much bread.

I opted for the turkey, bacon, and cheddar puff pastry blossom for my entree. It was simple yet delicious, and I’m going to be copying this at home very soon.

Grilled chicken salad with apples and dried cranberries.

Of course I have no shots of our actual tea. However! There were a variety of mini desserts offered to finish our meal, of which we each were able to choose two.

 

The desserts obviously are not made in house but the rest of the menu is, and the service and experience alone were enough for me to overlook a couple frozen mini eclairs. If you’re in the mood for something fun or different to do in the Valley, or even if you’re just feeling a little fancy, I highly recommend checking them out.

Secondly: Five Courses/Five Chefs Benefit for the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival

A friend is on the board of directors for the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival, and they scored a major benefit this year with a five course meal prepared by five different Lehigh Valley chefs, all hosted at Molinari’s on South 3rd Street. When I saw the list of chefs I jumped at the chance to go and was not disappointed.

Fist things first, however: LOOK AT MY PRETTY DRESS. LOOK AT IT.

Ahem. Would it kill you to smile, Jenn?

(Apologies for the following few pictures, all I had on me for the dinner was my iPhone, and by the end of the meal, the light was nonexistent.)

First course was foie gras (there’s always foie at these things, isn’t there?) with banana bread and some sort of fruit gastrique, by Tim Wildrick from Edge Restaurant.

I’m not the biggest fan of foie on its own, it’s a little too rich and fatty for me. Combined with the other elements of the dish, however, this was pretty tasty.

Our soup course was a work of art. Tortellini with morels and proscuitto, with the broth poured over it separately. This is a trick you’d usually see at Bolete, but this night was done by Chef Mike Joyce of Molinari’s.

 

I don’t remember everything that was in it, but I do remember it was delightful. (Have you gone to Molinari’s yet? You really should.)

Next up, the most perfectly cooked scallop I’ve ever had over heirloom risotto with a pea puree, all by Chef Lee Chizmar of Bolete.

Chef Chizmar is a fricking genius, by the way.  You should head to Bolete, too, while you’re at it. Their tavern menu alone is outstanding.

On to the meat. Mmm, beef. Chef Domenic Lombardo from The Mint on West Broad knows his way around a steak.

That dry aged beef was outstanding. I’ve been lukewarm on The Mint in the past but I do believe this dish earned them a mulligan.

And finally…oh, my babies. Brace yourselves for this. This masterpiece of a dessert, by Alan Pitotti at Dolce Patisserie in Hellertown. Yes. Hellertown.

I remember lemon mousse. The fluffiest, most delicate lemon mousse. Tartly flavored, but not overly so. A strawberry sauce. And – on the right side of the plate – a chocolate pesto. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t understand how it all worked, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the most original, most outstanding dessert I’ve ever had. All of this food, of course, was accompanied by fantastic wines hand-picked by South Italy Imports. This meal was the single most amazing gastronomic experience of my life. Kudos to the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival for putting it all together, and thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the chefs who participated. It was a meal I won’t forget.

Thirdly: Haley’s High School Graduation

It’s really hard to think about the fact that it was just a little over 19 years ago that my baby cousin came into this world. She’s turned into an intelligent, strong willed, beautiful young woman and it’s been an absolute delight to watch her grow up. We’re all so proud of her and her accomplishments over the years.

Way to go, kid. I love ya.

Fourthly: Color Me Rad 5K and Musikfest 2013

In early August I volunteered to throw orange-tinted corn starch at people during the Musikfest Color Me Rad 5K. It was a fun, if exhausting, experience, even in the rain. However, given the crappy weather, the slippery, uneven ground conditions, and a shitty pair of sneakers, my ankle was not happy with me by the end of the morning. I could barely walk the rest of the day, which put the kibosh on my Musikfest plans for that evening.

As a matter of fact, pretty much ALL of Musikfest 2013 was shot to hell for me, between my inability to walk the first weekend and the worst summer cold ever during the week. I was able sneak over on the second Saturday for about 90 minutes before I started wheezing in the heat and humidity.

Ah, well. I got my Take-A-Taco, and that’s all that matters.

This made me so happy it was a little embarrassing. 

Fifthly: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z Legends of Summer Tour at Hershey Park

When I heard that JT and Hova were going on tour together I knew I needed to see them, no matter where or how much it would cost. As luck would have it, the tour had a random stop in Hershey, PA, and I got my hands on a couple of pre-sale tickets. Great seats, great show, amazing night. Justin is a wonderful entertainer, and Jay-Z is just incredible live. I’m so very glad I got to catch this tour.

You get that sexy on, JT.

Sixthly: I have a new boyfriend, and his name is Gabriel.

Look what my friends Susan and Danny made!

Snuggly new babies are the best.

And, finally, the last part of my summer was also the best part. I always consider the weekend which I celebrate my birthday to be the “end” of summer. This past weekend I turned 38, and I was able to spend time with all of my favorite people during it.

There is always Hello Kitty when I have a birthday. 

Yes, I made my own red velvet cake for my birthday. You would too, for this cake. 

It started with burgers, beers, and birthday cake with friends on Friday night. I had to work a bit on Saturday morning, but I got to see my bestie the few hours I was there.

Saturday night I hit the casino to see Russell Brand on his Messiah Complex tour, and it was ‘unbelievably satisfying’. I even got close enough for a few good pictures.

Sigh.

Follow all this up with dinner and mini-golf with mom and dad on Sunday and I was a happy girl this weekend.

Have I mentioned how freaking much I love this dress?

He cheats. 

Looking back, I had a pretty great summer. There were definitely more good times than bad, and that’s all we can really ask for.

Plus I got a tiara, and who doesn’t need a tiara, really?

Tunes

Getting Day 5 out of the way early, there’s Cinco de Mayo party prep to do!

Ten songs I’m (somewhat shamelessly) loving tight now, in no particular order, from the “Recently Played” list on my iPhone:

1. Christina Perri, Jar of Hearts

2. The Wanted – Glad You Came

3. Adele – I’ll Be Waiting

4. Kanye West – Love Lockdown

5. Bruno Mars – Runaway Baby

6. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

7. The Rolling Stones – Miss Amanda Jones

8. How You Like Me Now – The Heavy

9. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye feat. Kimbra (Yes, I know, EVERYONE loves [or hates] this song, whatever.)

10. Somewhere Only We Know – Keane (This is actually one of my very favorite songs, and I listen to it a few times a week.)

Apologies for the link-heavy post, I have absolutely no music on my little netbook.

What are some of your favorite songs right now? Join in!

Stuff I Meant To Tell You About Forever Ago: A Very Pinteresting Party

Back in February I had a few friends over for an Oscar-watching party. It’s the second time I’ve done this, and I’m thinking it’s going to become a yearly tradition. Food-wise, I like to do it up a little fancier than I usually do for parties (it is the Oscars, after all), and to help me find the perfect finger foods to serve I turned to my new favorite time waster, Pinterest.

Seriously, who doesn’t love Pinterest? It’s like a visual orgy of pretty. Pretty food, pretty decor, pretty clothes, pretty men (you. are. WELCOME.). I’ve gotten a ton of new recipes from it, and I’ve actually cooked a fair few to great success.

Like this recipe for Asian meatballs. Wonderful flavor, and a great “make ahead” option.

Mine weren’t quite as pretty as the website, but I’m okay with that.

These French Dip Crescents with Au Jus were a huge hit. I cut the crescents in half, though, to make them more finger food friendly.

I love alliteration. And the spicy kick of horseradish sauce in those crescents. Make those, you’ll thank me. And your friends will kiss you.

I also served these puff pasty squares with goat cheese and raspberry-chile chutney. I didn’t find the recipe on Pinterest, but had made them for last year’s Oscar shindig and loved them so much I wanted to serve them again. Crispy pastry, creamy tangy goat cheese, and sweet/spicy jam.

Perfection. In the background you’ll notice my requisite veggie tray, which I usually always serve so I don’t overload on the less healthy options (Two different sour-cream  based dips notwithstanding, of course). Ah! and the hollowed-out-bell-peppers-as-dip-bowls? Pinterest!

On to my crowning achievement, the dessert tower.

Isn’t it glorious?

Since I decided to do three different mini desserts instead of just one, and I only had two days of prep time (and I’m not a masochist), I took some shortcuts. The first treats I made were mini red velvet cupcakes from a box mix. I did make the cream cheese frosting from scratch because canned frosting just isn’t the same, taste-wise. Nor does it pipe as prettily onto the cupcakes. I added the silver and gold sprinkles for a little glitz.

O U FANCY HUH.

Next were these two-ingredient lemon bars. I read the comments on the website before baking them, so I knew they wouldn’t turn out like the lemons bars I love, with the shortcake-type crust on the bottom and the gooey lemon curd-like center, but these were decent. A good idea to keep the ingredients on hand to throw together should you ever need a desert in a pinch.

Last were these Chocolate-Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats, which were like manna from heaven. I could have eaten the whole tray by myself. I was never a big Krispy Treat person before (too sugary, I think. Which makes no sense since we’re adding mini peanut butter cups and chocolate in the mix but whatever, these rule), but I will make the hell out of these again and again and again.

Definitely before next year’s Oscar party. Maybe even for my upcoming Cinco de Mayo party.

Which I will totally tell you about. Before July.