September 17, 2010

A fancy book club meeting

This month, my friends and I had our Book Club meeting at a wonderful restaurant called The Hyeholde. The story of The Hyeholde is an enchanting one, beginning in the late 1920's. So the story goes, a young man promised his beautiful, young bride he would build her a castle on the crest of a cornfield right where they stood.

In 1931, the young couple, William and Clara Kryskill, began building this massive home with their own hands, using wood and stone from old barns they purchased. They dismantled these barns themselves, piece by piece.

The young couple planned for their home to be part restaurant, part living quarters. Finally, in 1938, after 7 years of hard work, they opened their restaurant and served their very first meal. It was said that the restaurant was an instant success and the owners continued to build on to their home.

In the 1970's the restaurant was sold to someone outside the family, but was repurchased in 1991 by the original owners' daughter, Barbara McKenna. Finally, the restaurant was back in the hands of family. The daughter still owns and operates the restaurant to this day. In fact, we met the lovely woman during our visit. We were first greeted by her at the back of the restaurant where we had parked. She was carrying an arm full of pears and I assumed she was headed into the back door of the kitchen. She immediately greeted us with a warm and welcoming smile and asked if we were here for Hye Tea. She must have read the look on our faces as we looked rather unsure of exactly where to enter. She directed us through a small tunnel that goes under the building and around the front to the entrance.

As we approached the entrance, we were greeted by a friendly woman coming down the front walk. She graciously welcomed us to Hye Tea and escorted us through the front door into the parlor. Immediately upon entering, I could feel that this was going to be something very special. We were led to a small dining room and seated at a beautiful table all set in white. Our server presented us with a wooden box filled with many kinds of tea. We waited as our server disappeared to fetch our individual tea pots, full of steaming, hot water. Classical music was playing in the background and my friend and I were giddy. We kept looking at each other and whispering as if we did not want to make a sound or be disrespectful in any way. I whispered to my friend, "now I know what it feels like to be rich" to which she replied with a flushed grin "I know!" I truly felt special, like I was SOMEONE, like I deserved to be waited on and taken care of. I have never experienced such service and special care. I have never had a meal at such an exquisite, yet relaxed and charming place. The air did not feel uptight at all, but I did have a sense that I should take extra care to use my best manners. I felt like I was SOMEWHERE and that SOMEWHERE was very special.

The restaurant has the look and feel of a old French Chateau and sits on 4 acres of beautiful wooded land just north of Pittsburgh in Moon Twp, Coraopolis, PA. It has earned the prestige accolade of being 1 of 21 legendary American restaurants! I am astounded that they have been open for business for 72 years! There are 6 rooms that can cozily and comfortably seat 100 people. The decor is filled with heavy, rustic antiques, medieval tapestries and beautiful paintings.

There are also working fireplaces that are used during the colder months that add to the ambiance. I can't wait to go back for a visit during the bone chilling months of winter and request, if I may, a table near the warm, crackling fire.

The executive chef at Hyeholde has been with them for 17 years, starting at the tender age of 21. His style of cooking is New American cuisine with a classic French influence. I really wouldn't know that myself, but I do know that it tasted delicious! I also know the chef uses locally grown fruits and vegetables when possible...some of which come right out of the little vegetable garden located on the property. I also noticed a beautiful fig tree growing around the back of the house. I have read the chef also uses some locally raised meats as well. His creative menu consists of wild game meats, such as quail and elk, which I would LOVE to try one day! I also noticed some rather delicious and seasonal vegetarian dishes available as well.

So finally, I want to tell you about the wonderful meal my friends and I ate at the Hyeholde. There was three of us and we had reservations for what is known as Hye Tea. Basically it is a sampling of the chef's choice, served in three courses.

Please don't ask me to recall the name of each of these tasty, heavenly little treats, but I can give you a basic little description. I have to say, this was the most flavorful, delectable food I have ever tasted. I was delighted with every single morsel that made it's way onto my plate!

For our first course, we were presented with an assortment of little heavenlies! The soup was a delicious corn chowder with what I believe to have tasted, a bit of a tomato base. It was to die for! We all agreed we would have loved a second helping of that! Going clockwise from there, a tiny roll with shrimp adorned with a thin slice of cantaloupe was very tasty! I'm sure that little roll has a wonderfully fancy name, that of which I cannot recall. Next, was a cute little tea sandwich which I believe was filled with a fancy chicken salad. It was so flavorful! Mixed into the sandwich were cut grapes and chopped apples giving it that touch of sweet and crunch. Then finally, last but not least, a small slice of brie with a tiny drizzling of honey, adorned with a sweet, but tart, black raspberry.

Now, for the really, really delicious part...lamb riblets with peach barbecue sauce and grilled peaches. I really love the taste of lamb and I knew this dish would not disappoint! The meat slid right off the bone with barely a touch and completely melted in my mouth! I cannot express to you how GOOD it was! The sauce was smokey and sweet at the same time with a subtle infusion of peaches. Of course the grilled peaches alongside the lamb were sweet and succulent. The sauce was a wonderful accompaniment to the smokey, sweetness of the peaches.

I should mention, at this point, I was really getting full...but...then, the dessert was presented to us! Oh my goodness gracious! How could I resist! Of course, I could not resist and I wasn't about to resist! I had no intentions of resisting! I did however, have EVERY intention of tasting every little morsel of these beautifully crafted desserts presented to us on a lovely white porcelain pedestal. There was a very light, chocolate mousse piped onto a tiny, vanilla flavored, cookie-like boat, a mini, multi layered, dark chocolate, cream and vanilla cake with a fleck of edible gold, and finally, an ever so light and fluffy, lemon butter cream filled into another one of those vanilla, cookie flavored boats. We ate each tiny treat slowly as to savour each and every bite. I think my eyes were closed half the time reflecting my sheer pleasure to the palate!

One last thing that I have to mention...these pretty, petite, raspberry scones. I cannot say enough about these. The texture was crumbly and dense with a sweet hint of raspberry to tickle your tongue. A course, white sugar sprinkled atop gave it just the right amount of sweetness.

To go with our sweet little scones, we were presented with these charming, vintage, chicken shaped, pedestal cups filled with homemade, raspberry plum jam and Devonshire cream. I had never tasted Devonshire cream and was quite impressed with the taste being that of a sweet, heavy, thick spreadable cream.

okay...are you following me here! Do you see why I am gushing on and on about The Hyeholde! Each course was truly a work of art and it was so obvious everything was prepared with heart and passion. It's no wonder this restaurant is legendary and I am priveleged to say that I have experienced the whole thing. I am a foodie, and I really appreciate all the time and the details that go into a meal such as this.

I know this is a long post, but I really wanted to share my experience. I wish all of YOU, my blogger friends, could have been there to share it with me.

P.S. If you are wondering if we ever discussed our book...being that this was supposed to be a book club meeting....well, yes, we did! We had a great discussion of our book "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova, and were all in agreeance that we really loved the book. It's a fictional story about a 50 year old woman who is a brilliant Harvard professor suffering with the effects of Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. I whole heartedly reccomend this book to anyone! Especially those who have a loved one suffering with this terrible, uncurable disease.

So...where will our book club meeting take us next month? I have another special place in mind...but, until then, you'll just have to wait and see!