The Arts and Crafts of Dining
A city guy goes country for the gustatory delights of farm-to-table cuisine in the heart of the Poconos.
There are rolling hills, and then there are rolling hills. Motoring along the scenic byways of the Upper Delaware River Region, tucked into the far northeast corner of Pennsylvania, my wife and I are so smitten with our surroundings that we toy with the idea of buying a little retreat of our own. En route to our destination, the Settlers Inn, we amble through quaint Victorian towns, past bucolic dairy farms and infinite patches of corn, soy and fruit trees. We open our windows, ease back the sunroof, and take in successive whiffs of skunk, barn and pine. This must be heaven, we sigh, giddy from a long day's drive.
|Photography by Douglas Trattner|
Innkeepers Grant and Jeanne Genzlinger weren't much younger than us when they purchased the Settlers Inn, a majestic Tudor manor built in 1927. They were "naive," Grant recalls, about what it would take to run the place. "But we always liked making people feel good. Unwinding people. We still enjoy doing it after all these years."
The Genzlingers, longtime residents of this area just a half hour north of the Pocono Mountains, are authorities when it comes to the region's bounty of recreational activities. Hotel guests have easy access to autumnal leaf-peeping drives, waterfall-hopping expeditions and some of the sweetest brook trout fishing around. The Genzlingers will even pack a picnic lunch to bring along for the ride.
Throughout his 26 years as chef and innkeeper, Grant has fostered committed relationships with small family farmers and regional producers. The inn relies on some 25 suppliers - all within an hour's drive - for much of the kitchen's needs.
"We're very invested in direct farm-to-table relationships," says Grant. "And with more people interested in buying a small property and undertaking sustainable farming, it's getting easier and easier." Each week (in season), 80 all-natural, pasture-raised chickens are delivered to the hotel. Trout come from the nation's oldest hatchery. European red deer and Gloucestershire old spot pigs have a short journey from field to plate. Amish cheese, heirloom tomatoes, high-bush blueberries, even mushrooms come directly from nearby farms.
Grant's farm-to-table philosophy is not lost on the Settlers Inn clientele, many of whom are vacationing from New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. "More and more people are interested in where their food comes from," Grant explains.
The structure that is home to the Settlers Inn was completed just in time for the stock market crash of 1929. It sat empty throughout the Great Depression and World War II. It finally opened to the public in 1948, and until 1980, when the Genzlingers purchased it, the building had gone through a succession of owners and renovations. Grant and Jeanne spent a decade stripping away the medieval and Italian desecrations to return the inn to its striking Craftsman style.
In the dining room, an arts and crafts gem outfitted with dark-wood tables, Tiffany-style lamps and stocky chairs salvaged from a Philadelphia church, guests start their day with a lumberjack-approved breakfast of farm-fresh eggs, sausage, home fries, toast and jam. On the other end of the cholesterol spectrum lies the house granola, a proprietary blend of organic grains, yogurt, seasonal fruit and a dusting of brown sugar. Either route, the coffee is strong, the service sweet.
After an inspirational day surveying the countryside, and some quality time in the bubble bath, Kim and I return to the dining room and prepare for our farm-to-table dinner by ordering an Oregon pinot. Our meal begins with a fluffy mousse that Grant makes from brook trout he smokes on the premises. It's served with pumpernickel toast, horseradish cream, red onion and minced egg. The salad course is a rainbow of ridiculously ripe heirloom tomatoes layered into a parfait glass and drizzled with a whisper of lemon vinaigrette. An herb-roasted half chicken has a depth of flavor that evokes Grandma's Sunday bird.
Back in our well-appointed room, my wife and I peruse the local paper as we polish off the last of the red wine. Unavoidably, we turn to the real estate section and scan its contents. "Charming, one-room schoolhouse with original maple floors on three unspoiled acres. Stream running through property. Ideal for small family farm." What's your fancy, I ask Kim, goats or pigs?
food & drink
12:00 AM EST
October 19, 2006