On November 17, Julie and I welcomed Jakob Laurence Brown to the world. The last two-and-a-half months have been the best of our lives, but one thing has been missing during that time. Julie and I haven’t had a night out to ourselves.
With Julie’s birthday falling at the end of January, we had the perfect excuse to change that. And we had the perfect place for our date night: Savory Grille in Seisholtzville.
Seisholtzville is about as far removed from Downtown Reading as it gets in Berks County. The tiny village sits in the shadow of Bear Creek Mountain Resort near the border of Berks and Lehigh Counties. (Despite being inside the Berks County line, it has a Macungie ZIP Code).
The drive wasn’t bad, though, as we drove about 40 minutes north from our Wyomissing home, driving Route 12 past Pricetown before taking a series of back roads that led to the small village.
Savory Grille, opened in 1997, sits at one of the two intersections in the village in the Seisholtzville Hotel, a stop for travelers since the 19th century. The restaurant has two dining areas – the main dining room with the bar where we checked in for our reservations and the Arbor Room, a modern attachment to the historic hotel where we were led to our seats. The two dining areas are connected by a window where the bartender hands out cocktails to the wait staff in the Arbor Room.
Reading reviews on Yelp and other sites, the Arbor Room was listed as the place to be, and it was no wonder. While the main dining room was small and noisy – conversation seemed to echo off the walls and amplify – the Arbor Room was quiet, yet cozy. The original exterior wall makes it feel older, but the modern wood framing insulates the room enough to keep guests warm on a cold winter’s night.
The first thing to arrive at our table was the amuse-bouche, an excellent grilled chicken risotto that set the tone for the meal to come. Though only large enough for one bite, it was perfectly prepared and bursting with flavor. The buttery rice and the spice-laden chicken worked so well together that if it were an entree option, I would have had our waitress change my order.
Next to arrive at the table was the bread. Normally, I don’t mention the complimentary bread, but the oatmeal stout bread was definitely worth mentioning. The slice was heavy and grainy, but with a deep flavor that was greatly enhanced by the alcohol infusion.
This being a special occasion, we decided to get the full experience and order one of the evening’s nine appetizer options – a grilled flatbread with sliced steak, fennel frond pesto, shaved manchego and fig compote.
It was an outstanding starter that was at once sweet, salty, savory, creamy and earthy. The flatbread was light and airy. The steak – cooked rare, was the perfect pairing for the sweet figs. And every bite just melted away.
Next out was the salad, served with one of three house dressings. For mine, it was the blackberry yogurt.
This was the one and only part of the meal that let me down. The dressing was fine, a thick raspberry vinaigrette that was more sour than sweet. But there was just too much of it, my lips puckering more with every bite.
Julie’s orange-thyme dressing was lighter and more enjoyable with a sweeter taste that was easier to take.
After the salads, there was no more disappointment. For my entree, I ordered the five spiced duck breast. Our waitress wanted to be sure that I knew what I was getting. “That is served medium rare, is that ok?” she asked.
“I guess it has to be,” I replied.
Generally, I shy away from anything served less than medium-well, but the dish sounded too appetizing to pass up.
Let me tell you, this duck was cooked to perfection. The duck was served on a bed of mashed yams with blueberry compote and sauce gastrique.
With the spice rub, the duck breast could have held up on its own, but with the sauce – a sweet and sour blend – and the blueberries, it was hands-down one of the best dishes that I have tasted on my Berks County Eats journey. A blueberry would burst with nearly every bite, adding sweet and tart notes to the dish. I can’t speak highly enough about it.
The smashed yams and the vegetables on the plate were after thoughts. They were simply prepared with no frills or addition – though the green beans were tied with a sliver of onion in a beautiful presentation.
Julie’s dish was all about the sauce. Her pork tenderloin was served on a bed of toasted barley and butternut squash, but it was the caramelized onion sauce that really popped. Without it, the pork – though cooked tender and juicy – was rather plain. The onion sauce, though, added a little sweet and a strong flavor that carried through the dish.
The toasted barley added needed texture to the dish, counterbalancing the soft squash. The dish was also served with the same vegetable medley as mine, with green beans, carrots and broccolini.
When celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion, one thing is for sure: we order dessert. The list that our waitress read off was long and filled with tempting items – crème brulee and coffee cake were among the selections – but we went for something a little more chocolatey.
The chocolate tart was a pastry filled with chocolate ganache and topped with caramel, vanilla bean ice cream, fresh mint and a sugar cookie, garnished with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.
It was quite the indulgence, each layer seemingly sweeter than the next. As the ingredients slowly melted together, it was even better. Though not found in every bite, the mint really stood out and added a light refreshment to the otherwise heavy and decadent dessert.
On our celebration dinners, I always expect to spend around $100, and our total at the Savory Grille was just shy of that. But for what was a two-hour dining experience with excellent food and atmosphere, it was money well spent.
Savory Grille provided one of the most memorable meals that we have had on a Berks County Eats visit, and with a menu that changes almost daily, new experiences are waiting for us on every future visit.
And I have no doubt that there will be future visits.
Ambiance: Excellent (in the Arbor Room)
Price: Expensive, but Fair
2934 Seisholtzville Rd
Macungie, PA 18062