With this unusually cool August weather it is pleasant to sit outside just about anywhere. But some places are particularly pleasant.
Last Sunday evening we had the pleasure of eating on the terrace at the Golden Pheasant Inn, just beside the canal, in Erwinna. A couple of good friends, fine food and a cocktail or two made it very pleasant indeed.
We have been meaning to have dinner at the Golden Pheasant ever since they completed their beautiful renovation last fall (see our previous post). The Inn had an impeccable reputation for fine French cuisine for 26 years under chef Michel Faure and his wife, Barbara. All of their children – four daughters and one son – grew up working in the restaurant.
After the Faures decided to retire, three of their daughters stepped up to take over the reins. In the kitchen are Blake Faure, and her partner, Jon Ramsey, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs. Sisters Brittany Booz and Briar Mewbourne run the front of the house and the four room inn above the restaurant.
The menu has a strong seasonal influence, with many ingredients coming from small, sustainable nearby Pennsylvania and New Jersey farms.
Elba potatoes from Terhune Orchards in Princeton. Mainly Mushrooms, based in Doylestown, contributes their wild foraged and exotic mushrooms to the menu. Fresh cheeses from Fulper Farms, located just outside of Lambertville, and Flint Hill Farm in Coopersburg. Aged artisanal cheeses from Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley, NJ. And even Kelchner’s horseradish from right on Main Street in Dublin.
The difficult decisions began with the appetizers. Go for the Heirloom Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella Salad? A safe choice for this time of year at almost any restaurant because of easy availability of decent tomatoes and basil. Ah. But this was made with field grown heirloom tomatoes, house grown basil, fresh mozzarella, yellow peaches, and yellow and red watermelon – all fresh and local – and finished with balsamic reduction. Hmmn.
Or the Swallow Hill Farm Romaine Salad with fresh grated Pecorino cheese, herbed croutons and an anchovy- Dijon mustard vinaigrette dressing? How can you lose?
But then there was the Traditional Charcuterie Plate (and I love charcuterie) consisting of a house-made apricot and pistachio studded pheasant pâté, shaved prosciutto, assorted mustards and chutneys, and grilled artisan bread.
Diners from the old days at the Inn will be happy to see Chef Michel’s Traditional French Onion Soup is still on the menu too. But I’ll save that for a cold winter evening in February.
In the end, I went for the rarer choice, something I’m not going to get everywhere and that I can be assured will be treated well in the Golden Pheasant’s kitchen. Grilled Spanish Octopus, marinated in fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon with a spicy yuzu mayo dipping sauce and a side salad of fresh sea beans and local cherry tomatoes. The fish had a just the right smokiness from the grilling, and was balanced by the sea beans and tomatoes. Nobody at the table wanted a bite, but so what? More for me.
But when it came to the entrees, I was jealous of my dining companions’ choices. Not that I didn’t like mine, but I wanted a nice chunk of everyone else’s too. (And they weren’t willing.)
I thought for sure that Mark would go for the Grilled Lancaster County Beef Strip Steak with smashed elba potatoes, creamed spinach, and béarnaise sauce. But he pulled a fast one on me at the last minute and went for the Roasted Duck Breast with wild rice, pear brie almond phyllo dough rolls, and an apricot, ginger, rum reduction – which was truly delicious and tender.
Our friend, Marc, chose the Braised Domestic Rack of Lamb, served with sautéed collard greens, big chunks of hickory smoked bacon, shallots and roasted fingerling potatoes. That was also really good. He refused to give me more than a bite, which I felt was a little stingy.
Niki, Marc’s partner, got the Grilled Stonington Maine One Pound Lobster with grilled corn, fava beans, roasted blue potatoes and a house grown kumquat butter sauce. I left her alone because we get fresh lobster up in Maine every year, and, well, she was on the other side of the table and it would have been awkward sending my fork into her dish.
I chose the Vegetable Strudel for my entrée, which is a little unusual for me. But we had gone out for my mother’s birthday the night before at a Brazilian steak house and I was quite satiated with meat. The strudel was full of seasonal vegetables, mixed with fresh ricotta in a flaky filo dough. Light and perfect for a summer evening.
The Tavern is warm and inviting, and offers a separate menu of soups, salads, mussels, oysters and burgers, including Meadow Brook Farm’s grass-fed beef, offered with cheeses from Bobolink Dairy and Old Chatham Ewe, a ground duck burger and a grilled Portabella mushroom burger. I think that will be our next meal at the Golden Pheasant.
This past Mother’s Day we got to experience brunch at the Inn too. My mom and I had the Grilled Petite Grass Fed Sirloin, served with béarnaise sauce and a sunny-side up egg on top.
The egg came from local, pastured hens, and was an intense orange-yellow color, a good sign that there was plenty of vitamin A in there. My mother was even impressed. The brunch is a $28 prix fixe and includes soup or salad, and dessert. You can peruse the menu here.
However you choose to experience the Golden Pheasant, please do so. The Faure daughters have put their stamp on the Inn and a new phase of an old landmark is off to a great start.
Dinner: Wednesday – Saturday from 5:30 pm, Sunday from 3:30 pm
Brunch: Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm