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Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Restaurant

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Pennsyltucky Veggie Awarded, Best Restaurant 2011

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awarded, Best Restaurant 2011

What a splendid year of dining out 2011 has been. Sometimes accompanied by our friends and family, Jim and I have tasted foods from all over this region (see map here). The most difficult part was when we interrupted our dining experiences to actually photograph, write down, and try to subjectively judge the food and restaurants. We hope that the sharing of it has been interesting, maybe even helpful, for a few veggie folks who may want to eat out in this area.

Elk Creek Café + Aleworks, mentioned as noteworthy in the Vegetarian Specials award this year, is the winner of Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 – Best Restaurant. This is the second year running they have won for best overall restaurant.

Turnip + Lentil Stew with Roasted Beets

Turnip + Lentil Stew with Roasted Beets

Innkeeper of this laudable restaurant in Millheim is Tim Bowser and he has crafted the perfect balance of color, flare, seasoning, rhythm and down home goodness all under one roof. The feel of the place is hospitable, everyone from granny to toddler is welcome, and every member of the staff treat the customers with care and high regard. Assistant General Manager Genny Uhl sees to everyone’s needs with gentle conduct and a caring smile.

If live entertainment is your thing, there are high quality performers brought in a few times every week and celebrations that embrace local events. Art buffs can look forward to receptions or enjoy the works of art displayed on the cheerful main dining room walls. These are some of the pluses that have kept Elk Creek Café + Aleworks king of the heap.

The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar, Carlisle

The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar, Carlisle

It is true that there are other regional restaurants that have a rotation of quality local art, fine musical groups and outstanding staff. The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar in Carlisle is such a place that is a burning close second place for this 2012 award. Executive chef Pippa Calland can create culinary magic with local and sustainable resources that are regularly vegetarian and vegan. The interior is charming, a perfect place for the local balletomane soiree or family dinner celebrating their Dickinson grad’s accomplishments.

Elk Creek Cafe - Soba Noodle + Seaweed Salad Special

Elk Creek Cafe – Soba Noodle + Seaweed Salad

What still sets Elk Creek Café + Aleworks apart for 2012 is that it offers a more complete spectrum of hospitality for vegan, localvore foodie, pub hanger, and city slicker all under the same roof. World travelers and sophisticated diners have been known to choose the vegan bowl specials over what was offered on the regular menu because of Chef Mark Johnson’s carte du jour mojo. Such patrons share the same pleasure as the kiddos at the next table munching Belgian-style Hand-cut Fries and their parents marveling at the perfectly prepared Walleye Fillet on the plates the smiling server just placed in front of them.

It is only at Elk Creek Café + Aleworks these myriad diners can sit happily together and raise a glass of head brewer Tim Yarrington’s finest together. Bring your whole family out to celebrate this fine establishment’s 5th anniversary this month or go by yourself and cozy up to the friendly bar. Either way you will then personally be able to smile and know why this is the best stuff in Pennsyltucky, especially for us veggie folks. Cheers for winning the Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 – Best Restaurant!

BiNaH_Hex_2012RestaurantHave you enjoyed a restaurant better than Elk Creek Cafe? Share it with me so it can challenge the best for 2013! If it’s in central PA (see map here) let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Soups & Suds

Soups & Suds

Over the past week I have finally been enjoying some good autumnal soups and locally crafted brews. The ones I will touch on today are from the best micro breweries around, Otto’s Pub and Brewery and Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks.

Both locations have very fine brews and one of my favorites this summer included Otto’s Pilsner Lager. Yeah – don’t expect me to go on in the traditional fashion about how it has a beautiful golden color with a 1cm crystal white head that laces beautifully as I enjoy the saaz hop aroma and the crisp finish. All that is true but more importantly is that it’s a wonderfully drinkable summer beer. My heart sunk the other day when I saw it was taken off the board; goodbye summer, goodbye Otto’s Pilsner.

On to Oktoberfest beers of which I have none photographed in my slideshow below. Between these two breweries this season, I am preferring Elk Creek Cafe’s Crick Fest. Copper with a nice malty nose, I tend to like it because of the lesser carbonation and bready grains. It makes the coming of the colder months much more acceptable when I warm with a few mouthfuls of Crick Fest.

Another outstanding beer is Elk Creek’s Home Grown Hop Harvest Ale. Wet and dry hopped with local hops, it is reminiscent of Otto’s Flying Squirrel Ale. Not pretentious, downright earthy and organic in flavor.

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Now for the soups. We know we can always rely on a daily vegetarian soup at Elk Creek Cafe and have enjoyed the Mushroom Soup there lately. It is always rich with earthy goodness and just a little garnish of truffle oil on top. Tasty and classy.

We also just enjoyed a remarkable Le Puy Lentil Stew with Tait Farm Peppers, Radish Leaves and a Radish Leah Pesto(!!) on Crusty Bread. The stew was organically sweet with tiny red lentils and a tomato base. The Radish Leaf Pesto was a fresh reminder of leafy summer mellowed by sunflower seeds. Another breathtaking Elk Creek Cafe meal – really.

I have to watch the specials carefully to catch the veggie soups at Otto’s. Lately I have lucked out with 3: Broccoli Cheddar, Tomato Florentine and Vegetable Chili. I am thinking I got the very dregs of the Broccoli Cheddar (not in slideshow above)because it tasted a little burnt. It was ok, I did let my waitress know and I guess my appetite wasn’t fully there to begin with so I didn’t finish it.

The Tomato Florentine was a much better soup but seemed more like a Tomato Basil since it had no discernible dairy in it. The tomato flavors were bright and full and the basil was very flavorful. A great soup at anytime of year and my guess is local tomatoes were used since it’s September.

Best for last, the most recent Vegetarian Chili at Otto’s. We couldn’t determine the heat but our best guess was more of a powdered chili, perhaps poblano. Very nicely seasoned (included cumin, garlic, basil) and treading a tricky line with the Pennsyltucky pallete. The seasoned broth was thin but was chock full of chunks of zuchini, yellow squash, corn, carrot, celery, onion, tomato, bell pepper, black beans and kidney beans. A beautiful festival of local harvest this soup was a perfect welcome to Autumn!

A quick end of 10-2-11 week addendum, we had another amazing soup at Otto’s. You know it’s Fall when places start carrying Butternut Squash soup and Otto’s has always had a great one! Years ago, the day I became a Pub Club member actually, Leah served us a couple of bowls of this soup and tuned us on to adding a little of the Hurricane Mary wing sauce. It’s a favorite combo of ours!

Two great spots for soup and suds! We are lucky to have these restaurants so close to us!

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