THE FARM-TO-TABLE MOVEMENT has become all the rage around the U.S., and Pennsylvania is no exception. Many restaurants in the area have teamed with farmers and other food producers to deliver fresh, locally grown food to their patrons. For event planners concerned about their carbon footprint, there are plenty of restaurants throughout the state to hold events and meetings that feature fresh eats straight from the farm.
A Seasonal Menu
Habitat Restaurant in Pittsburgh is a big supporter of the sustainable food movement; local, seasonal dishes have always been the driving force behind its menu. And it certainly helps that the restaurant is just miles from beautiful Pennsylvania farmland.
“I believe that using seasonal ingredients—and ideally local and organic—produces the best quality dishes,” says Executive Chef Jason Dalling. “When you start with great ingredients and prepare them simply in a way that highlights their natural flavors, it’s hard to go wrong.”
On any given day, Habitat’s menu can feature everything from organic chicken, trout, produce, eggs, bread, mushrooms, grass-fed beef and more, depending on what’s in season. Over the summer, chef Dalling featured a wild mushroom risotto with local mushrooms, a salt-cured duck breast from Pekin Paradise in the central part of the state and an organic pork chop from Cunningham Meats in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
“Our dinner specials change daily depending on what we are able to get. It’s a good thing because it challenges us as chefs to constantly innovate and be creative,” he says. “It’s also a good thing for the guests because they don’t really get the chance to become bored with our menus. There’s always something new and exciting.”
There are two options for semiprivate events at Habitat. The first is its glass area, which can accommodate up to 25 for a reception and 20 for dinner. The second option would be a buyout of the open kitchen area, which seats up to 50 for dinner or 60 for a reception.
For the past 34 years, The Settlers Inn Restaurant in Hawley has offered locally grown and produced food to help preserve the area’s tradition of small family farms. “We have 25 growers and producers that we buy directly from, as well as seasonal wild foragers,” says chef/owner Grant Genzlinger. “We also buy from specialty food vendors and from our own specialty food store that focuses on locally grown and made products.”
Those products include farm-fresh eggs, pasture-raised poultry, brook trout, venison and bison, all of which are mainstays on the menu.
The restaurant’s 1,800-square-foot function room fits up to 125, has a fireplace and also opens up to a garden.
Keeping it in the Family
Jeanette Vennell, general manager of the M Restaurant—situated inside the Morris House Hotel in Philadelphia—sources some food from the owner’s own farm in Frenchtown, New Jersey.
“The owners bring in items they have growing on their property, from chive blossoms to squash to asparagus. They have also built relationships over the years with people who harvest and forage their own ingredients, like farm-fresh eggs and wild onion grass,” Vennell says. “We know that everyone is becoming really aware of where their food is coming from, so we love to work with local farms, producers and foragers and talk to our guests about where we’re sourcing our food.”
A professional event planner is available at the restaurant to help plan a party in its main dining room and bar, which accommodates 30 for dinner or 60 for cocktails. The Courtyard Garden offers 160 stations for a 112-sitdown or 200-guest cocktail party.
Keeping it Fresh
For Liz Long-Furia, owner of Elizabeth’s: An American Bistro, offering a farm focused menu means embracing change.
“We’ve been changing our menu seasonally since we opened 17 years ago, but we have found that with using more local produce we may change a month into a menu or we keep our menu wording simple to be able to vary the ingredients that we receive locally,” Long-Furia says.
The restaurant uses Landis Poultry Farm in Watsontown for chicken sausage, eggs and turkey and Dries Orchard in Paxinos for local lettuce, rhubarb, corn, stone fruit and more.
Off-site catering is available via the restaurant. Planners can reserve the entire space on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, or a portion during normal business hours on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. An upstairs dining room is also available and can hold 23 guests.
Events at the Golden Pheasant Inn feature astounding views of Bucks County and boast farm-fresh food from Phillips and Weaver Farm, Terhune Orchards, Traugers Farm and Peck Farm.
While using local fare results in healthier, better food, Blake Faure, co-executive chef, believes it’s also a way to give back to the community.
“The less distance that your produce or meat needs to travel, the fresher it is and the better it tastes; it’s as simple as that,” he says. “We have so many great artisans and farmers to source from locally that it makes sense for us to highlight these resources so as to help the community grow and support other local small businesses.”
The restaurant can accommodate gatherings in a single dining room or the entire property with space for groups of up to 100 people.
Getting to Know You
“You look at food differently when you see firsthand where it comes from,” says chef Ryan Sulikowski of Lotus Farm to Table. “Depending on the season, the signature dish could be as simple as an heirloom tomato with sea salt and olive oil, or as intricate as a spring salad featuring a little bit of everything.”
“I feel this is the coolest part about Lotus because we are only using the freshest ingredients we can literally get our hands on. It’s nice to work with different produce as often as possible so things don’t feel routine or boring.”
Event space is available for up to 44 guests with an à la carte or family-style menu.