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.

Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Fest Grand Tasting Complete with Blurry-Ass Pictures and my Fuzzy-Ass Memory.

I decided to divide my LV Food & Wine Fest write up in two parts while I was writing the Burger Bash post since it was starting to get too big (that’s what she said). I hit the Grand Tasting event that Sunday afternoon, right when the doors opened; which, for someone who dislikes crowds like I do, was an *excellent* strategy.

Ahh, wide open spaces. I didn’t spring for any “extras”, like the champagne or whiskey tastings, mostly to save on cost, but also because I didn’t have a DD, and setting me loose in a room full of whiskey is just asking for trouble.

I attended the Saturday Grand Tasting last year, and while I had a good time and enjoyed some delicious foods, I noted that there were definitely some better offerings on Sunday, the second day of the festival. And it seemed to be the same this year; a friend of mine attended the Saturday Grand Tasting and alerted me that most of the “better” restaurants would be featured the next day. I was excited to be able to taste foods from many different Lehigh Valley restaurants that I’ve been wanting to try out, including Maxim’s 22, Mesa Modern Mexican, and Cosmopolitan.

But enough exposition, let’s get to the good stuff. And oh, boy, was it good.

This pork tostada from Mesa Modern Mexican in Easton was so good I went back for seconds. Because I forgot to take a picture the first time, you see. Cough. Related: I NEED to go to Mesa, and soon.

The offering from the Hampton Winds restaurant (Northampton Community College Culinary students) was duck confit on scallion pancake, and was of course one of the best dishes of the day. You can always count on something delicious from them.

Pulled pork sandwich from….ugh, somewhere in the Sands. I’m sorry, I need to write shit down. From what I recall, this was the same sandwich that this restaurant (Carnegie Deli?) served at the Burger Bash on Friday, and…meh. Honestly the only thing I remember about it was that the slaw was tasty but the roll was stale as hell.

 

Both of these plates were from Maxim’s 22 in Easton. First up is duck confit over puffed pastry with a cherry demi glace. The duck was good, but not super flavorful, and the puff was too much puff. Smaller puff next time, Maxim’s. Next is a pate with mustard and jelly. The pate was tasty on its own but got a bit overpowered by the mustard.

The offerings from Yianni’s Taverna in Bethlehem. On the left is eggplant and…avocado(?) puree on pita bread, which was quite tasty, and I am not a fan of eggplant. On the right is something else I’ve never been a fan of either, but this was the best baklava I’ve ever tasted, sweet, flaky, moist…amazing. I’m definitely adding Yianni’s to my to-do list.

This chilled pea soup was light and refreshing, with a touch of herbaceousness. Just don’t ask me who made it.  NOTES, JENN. NOTES ARE HELPFUL.

The sausage tortellini from Bravo at the Lehigh Valley Mall was actually quite tasty, just the right amount of spice in the sausage. There was also a yummy dessert offering from them, but my photos unfortunately didn’t do it justice.

The pork nacho & chick pea fritter from Pearly Baker’s were both so good that I was inclined to circle back to the booth & tell the chef how much I enjoyed them. Seriously, Easton restaurants, (most of) y’all brought your “A” game this year. Well done.

Apologies for this crap picture, I didn’t have the greatest lighting here. This was the standard offering from Emeril’s Chophouse, a NY Strip (or was it a ribeye?) with some microgreens & a mini banana cream “pie”. The steak was good but didn’t wow me. Banana cream pie was, as always, excellent. Even if you never go to the Chophouse for dinner, just please go for coffee and dessert and order that damn pie. You can thank me later.

This was an asparagus and arugula salad from Cosmopolitan in Allentown. Another welcome light & refreshing bite in the midst of some richer dishes. Cosmopolitan had my absolute favorite dish last year, a chilled cherry soup. I was a little disappointed not to see it this year but I understand and appreciate the difference.

I had a few other plates before I got full, but none really that memorable. Tuna tartare? Not a fan. Lamb slider and limp/cold fish taco? You did it SO much better last year. Unfortunately it seemed that some of the restaurants I enjoyed the most at last year’s tasting left me a bit in the cold this time around. It was a little disappointing, but the other tasty surprises I found around the rest of the room more than made up for it.

Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Fest Burger & Beer Bash

Two weekends ago, the 4th Annual Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival was held at the Sands Event Center. The event was held over two and a half days, starting Friday afternoon and continuing through Sunday. I attended Friday night’s event, the Burger & Beer Bash (if I’m not mistaken, this is the first year they’ve held this event), and the Grand Tasting on Sunday (Next post).

The burger bash was held in a tent just outside the casino in the north parking lot. I found this a bit confusing, seeing as I had purchased my ticket at the Sands Event Center and as far as I could tell, there was no indication on my ticket that the event would take place on the north lot, nor did I see any signs that indicated where it was being held when I drove onto the casino grounds that night. I walked into the hotel and out around the Event Center looking for the Burger Bash before speaking to someone that actually knew where it was being held (note: this person had no affiliation with either the casino or the F & W event whatsoever, the one staff member I did flag down to speak to had no idea). Once I moved my car and parked in the parking deck, I then found out I had to walk into and through the casino to access the tent. A bit of a frustrating start to my evening.

But maybe it was just me and my infinite stupidity unable to find the tent, because by the time I actually got into the Bash it was pretty well packed, with lines at all the burger and beer tasting tables not 30 minutes into the event. There were a number of different restaurants offering up burger choices, ranging from Roosevelt’s 21st and Copperhead Grill to Pearly Baker’s and of course all of the Sands restaurants. Beer choices ranged from the mundane (Coors, Yuengling) to the more craft brew type (Goose Island, Victory).

Entertainment was provided by the Amish Outlaws, and if ArtsQuest is listening, they’d do well to book the Outlaws for a show at Musikfest because they are a hell of a lot of fun. They played covers ranging from country to hip hop and everything in between. My personal favorite was a cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger”. Yes, you read that right.

The venue was quite packed, which led to a longer wait at a few of the more popular burger stands, and, despite the size of the tent, there was some bottlenecking to get through the crowd at certain areas – specifically if there were two popular tables across from each other, but from all appearances the event seemed to be quite successful. I didn’t get to taste all the burgers, there were simply too many and personally, when I’m alone at a super crowded event like this I’m more of the “get in, get done, get home” type, so I didn’t linger. I was able to taste a good amount of the burgers, mainly focusing on the offerings from the Sands restaurants and other places that I’ve been meaning to try, like Sagra and Spuds. My personal favorite was the bruschetta burger from Emeril’s Italian Table, with the crab-stuffed burger from Spuds coming in second. The voters’ overall favorite, however, was the offering from Roosevelt’s 21st, which I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to sample. I think I’ll try to tag team this event next year and split all the burgers in order to be able to taste them all.

That way I can go back for seconds.