Valentine’s Day has always been a big deal for Julie and I. With our anniversary being in mid-August, Valentine’s always marks the halfway point in another year for us.
It’s also a great excuse to find a new place around the county for a romantic dinner.
This year was a little different for us. Yes, we stayed in Berks County – the city of Reading, to be precise – but we didn’t go to a restaurant. Instead, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with dinner at the Inn at Centre Park, a bed and breakfast and event space in the Centre Park Historic District.
Each month, the Inn at Centre Park opens for dinner – usually on the third Friday. In February, the monthly dinner was moved up a week in honor of Valentine’s Day (and Saturday dinner service was added). The meals are all prix fixe; in this case, it was a four-course meal with appetizer, salad, entree and dessert.
There was only one seating for the meal – 6:30 p.m. We were among the first to arrive which gave us a chance to look around at the elegantly appointed rooms throughout the first floor of the inn.
Known as the Wilhelm Mansion, the building that now houses the Inn at Centre Park was the home of Charles Wilhelm for more than 50 years. However, it was originally built and occupied by Reverend Mark Anthony DeWolfe Howe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese. Our table for two was nestled at a door that featured original stained glass windows that depict two angels, one blowing a horn, the other singing.
Every nook and cranny of the house is filled with incredible detail, from the tall archways to the intricate moulding. This was certainly the lap of luxury in the late 19th Century and remains so today.
After satisfying our curiosity, we settled in for the first course: fried goat cheese with crispy prosciutto and pear jam.
It was a perfect beginning to the meal with a variety of flavors and textures. The soft, creamy goat cheese was countered by the crunchy, salty prosciutto. The pear jam sweetened the whole plate. The balsamic drizzle added another layer of sweet and sour.
The first course really blew us away and set the stage for a great meal.
In between courses, we were served fresh-baked rolls to enjoy with our salad. Homemade honey butter was already waiting on the table. Ours didn’t last that long. The soft, pillowy rolls were too good. With the sweet butter, they just melted in your mouth.
Our second course was a Waldorf salad, and while it wasn’t a revelation the way the fried goat cheese was, it was still delicious.
It was a traditional Waldorf with apples, grapes, celery and walnuts, but it was just done very well. And it was served atop large leafs of Bibb lettuce which was a nice choice for the greens.
The entree course was a surf-and-turf plate with filet Mignon and seafood cake served with green beans and mushroom risotto.
The filet was served with a simple herb butter, and it was good, but it didn’t really stand out compared to the rest of the meal. It was cooked well, but there wasn’t a “wow” to it like there was to the other three courses.
I would say the same for the risotto and the green beans. (I am not a seafood fan so I have to take Julie’s word for the seafood cake, which she felt the same about). Filet Mignon is always good, and I will never complain about eating it. It just felt “safe” compared to the other courses. That’s the best way I can describe it.
Dessert, though, was definitely a highlight. The fourth course consisted of chocolate “domes” with a ganache and raspberry center. The heaping dessert was sinful and delicious from the first bite to the last.
What really set the dish apart was the dusting of raspberry salt. Sweet and salty always works for me, and the concentrated raspberry flavor really added to the chocolate base.
Really, I can’t think of a better way to finish the meal.
The four-course meal cost $60 per person, which seemed like a very good price for the amount and quality of the food that we had. Non-alcoholic beverages were included in the price (for those looking for a little something more, the dinners are BYOB). Also, there is very limited space so reservations are must for the Inn’s public dinners.
I’m sure the Inn does a good amount of catering events throughout the year because the staff seemed very much on top of their game. Everyone’s food arrived within minutes of each other and always tasted freshly prepared. The servers worked as a team and were very attentive throughout the meal.
And, of course, the venue was amazing. It’s an ambiance you can’t get anywhere else in the county.
Everything combined to make this one of the most special Valentine’s Day dinners yet.
Food: Very Good
Price: A little pricey (but worth it)
The Inn at Centre Park
730 Centre Ave
Reading, PA 19601
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