Editor’s Note: Heirloom’s owners have decided not to renew its lease, and the restaurant closing after New Year’s Eve Dinner, December 31, 2016.
One of the great things about Berks County Eats is being able to promote local businesses in Berks County and our neighbors.
While there is certainly a place in this world for large corporations, it is the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities.
When it comes to locally owned restaurants, some go even further, using locally sourced ingredients in all of their meals. And it is this farm-to-table attitude that really got me excited when I first read about Heirloom, a fine dining restaurant that opened near the village of Palm in Hereford Township back in October.
Heirloom is tucked away in the easternmost part of the county, where Berks, Montgomery and Lehigh converge. It’s only a short drive from Allentown, Quakertown and Pottstown, just off Route 100 and not far from the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
For those of us on the other side of Reading, it may as well be the other side of the world. Our trip there was a scenic drive along Route 12 and a never-ending series of backroads through the scenic countryside, a land of stone houses and picturesque farmland that seemed so far away from Wyomissing.
When we finally arrived, the sun had already set so I couldn’t get a good glimpse of the building. But with the interior door framing a stained glass window (one of several stained glass panels in the building), it was hard to miss the beauty inside the historic building.
Heirloom, which opened in October, is a true farm-to-table restaurant with a menu that is constantly changing based on what’s in season and what’s available from local farmers. This also means that the menu is small—just one page, about eight appetizers and six entrees, all of them prepared from scratch.
One constant at the restaurant is the fresh-baked bread, served with every dinner.
The latest addition to the appetizers was the red quinoa salad, leafy greens piled atop a bed of quinoa and grapefruit, topped with cow’s milk chèvre cheese. It had a perfect blend of elements: a nice texture from the quinoa, a little sweetness from the grapefruit and a hint of sour from the vinaigrette. But what really set it apart was the creamy chèvre that just melts in your mouth. Hands down, this was the best salad I have ever eaten.
When looking down the menu for my entree, my eyes never made it past the first word, “bison.” The description said the cut was 1 1/2 inches thick, but I really didn’t comprehend how large my portion would be until the full plate was set before me.
As she delivered my plate, my waitress informed me that today was the first day that the bison was on the menu, and that I was the first guinea pig to try it. The slab of bison was covered in shredded fried carrots and surrounded by potatoes, mushrooms, and diced turnips. The meat was tender, and with the vegetables and juicy broth, it reminded me of extra lean pot roast. And it certainly tasted like something that should remain on the menu moving forward.
While my salad was new to the menu, the Heirloom salad that Julie ordered has been a permanent fixture since day one. A look at the ingredients makes it easy to see why: mixed greens, radish, onion vinaigrette, pickled onions, bacon lardons, goat cheese and fennel pollen.
For the main course, Julie went with the rack of lamb, served with fingerling potatoes and mushrooms in mushroom sauce, garnished with kale leaves. The sauce was a pleasant surprise. Almost broth-like in its consistency, it really enhanced the flavors of the meat rather than mask it.
Despite having more than our fair share already, it didn’t take much convincing to be talked into dessert. After hearing descriptions of many decadent options (including flourless chocolate cake, Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, and pumpkin funnel cake with cinnamon ice cream), we opted for a homemade s’more.
Don’t confuse this with the campfire treat. The s’more started with a base of Mexican chocolate ice cream infused with chili peppers, which was topped with a homemade marshmallow. It was drizzled with chocolate syrup and graham cracker dust, then toasted on top to give it some beautiful color. I almost felt bad for the chef who prepared it because I’m sure we finished it in half the time it took to prepare because it was that good. The marshmallow melted on the tongue while the chocolate ice cream had just the tiniest hint of pepper that didn’t burn, but woke up the taste buds to everything else on the plate.
Heirloom is not a place that many can afford to make a weekly or even monthly visit to, but it isn’t meant to be that kind of restaurant. Though our check came to $100 (At $40 and $32, our entrees were the two most expensive on the menu), I can say we got much more than we paid for.
The complimentary homemade espresso truffles that arrived with our check certainly didn’t hurt either.
The whole experience was exceptional, from attentive service to fantastic food. As excited as I was to try Heirloom for the first time, I will be even more excited to go back again.