Belvedere Inn Short Ribs

Road Trip: The Belvedere Inn

Belvedere Inn

In the first five years of Berks County Eats, we have taken 19 road trips to select restaurants around Pennsylvania – some near, some far; some good, some bad – but all of them notable.

We’ve done less road trips recently – only two in 2018 – but there are a select number of noteworthy restaurants still worth traveling for and writing about.

One of those is Lancaster’s Belvedere Inn.

Belvedere Inn

The Belvedere was recently ranked as one of the Top 100 most romantic restaurants in the country by users of OpenTable so it seemed like the perfect place for a pre-Valentine’s Day dinner.

Among the growing downtown dining scene in downtown Lancaster, The Belvedere is the elder statesman. The Victorian-style mansion was converted to a restaurant in 1998, long before the city’s recent restaurant Renaissance.

The restaurant sits on the corner of Queen and Lemon Streets, and while it doesn’t offer private off-street parking, there’s a public garage right behind the restaurant (we spent $4 to park).

Belvedere Inn

Candlelight and mirrors add glow to the dining areas. Highlights of the dining room – really two or three rooms that have been opened up to create a space that spans the depth of the building – include a stunning chandelier, a large fireplace and the leopard print carpet (still trying to understand that one).

The Belvedere’s menu is fitting of a romantic restaurant: higher end entrees with a range of appetizers and desserts and a robust drink list.

Belvedere Inn Roasted Vanilla Pear

As we were celebrating, Julie ordered a roasted vanilla pear. The mixed drink was made with vanilla vodka, St. Germaine, roasted pear puree, pineapple and citrus soda with a ring of sugar around the glass for even more sweetness, which is what she was looking for.

I had been to the Belvedere once for a business meeting so I knew all about their famous grilled Caesar salad, and I was thrilled to see that they had a petite version on the dinner menu so we could both order it as an appetizer.

Belvedere Inn Grilled Caesar

Caesar salads are always enjoyable, but the Belvedere’s grilled Caesar is on another level. First, grilling the Romaine just adds such a different feel to it and somehow enhances the flavor that’s already there. The dressing is excellent, and it’s topped with plenty of croutons and cheese.

On my first visit six months ago, I had the full version as a lunch entree (with grilled chicken). I thought I had overhyped it for Julie, but she was not disappointed. It’s an excellent start to a meal – or a meal in and of itself.

Belvedere Inn Short Ribs

Getting it as an appetizer allowed us to try some of their other entrees. I decided on the four-hour braised short ribs, served with red wine demi, green beans and three cheese macaroni gratin.

The meat was excellent with enough fat to make it flavorful but not too much to take away from the meat. The demi was semi-sweet and really helped highlight the flavors of the meat. It was very well done and very satisfying.

I enjoyed the macaroni gratin – a grown-up mac and cheese with a flavorful crust on top. The green beans were fine and made better by the fact that they were also sitting in the red wine demi. Overall, I was very happy with my choice.

Belvedere Inn Stuffed Lobster Tail

Julie was also happy with her decision to order the crab-stuffed lobster tail, a special of the day.

It was one of the best lobsters she has ever had. The crab and lobster were both very good and neither overpowered the other. And she was thrilled to not find any crab shell in the filling.

It was served with fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Both were simple but enjoyable.

Belvedere Inn Chocolate Mousse

As is usually the case when we enjoy a romantic night out, we couldn’t leave without sharing dessert. All of the options sounded decadent, but we decided on the layered chocolate mousse.

It featured chocolate mousse, vanilla cake, Grand Marnier, orange zest and raspberries. It was sweet and satisfying. The mousse was chilled, making it much denser and more solid. The cake was nice, but my favorite part were the bites with raspberry. The fresh berries just added a nice flavor note.

Belvedere Inn Rolls

The meal was close to perfect. The only real hiccup was that the assistant server didn’t bring the rolls and butter around until after our entrees. Honestly, though, we could have done without the rolls. It’s not that they weren’t good, but we had more than enough food with what we had ordered.

On special occasions like Valentine’s Day, we always expect to spend more than we would for almost any other meal, and that was the case here. Our final total was $120, and while we won’t go out of our way to spend that on a meal, we don’t mind it once or twice a year.

Between the food and ambiance, it is easy to see how a restaurant like the Belvedere could make it onto anyone’s list of most romantic restaurants.

After our visit, it certainly makes our list.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Ambiance: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Price: Expensive

The Belvedere Inn
402 N. Queen St
Lancaster, PA 17603

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Carrot cake for dessert.

4 Favorite Desserts of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. This time, we’re talking sweets. Here are our four favorite desserts we tried in 2017.

Editor’s Note: There are only four desserts on this list because we only splurged on dessert four times in 2017. For more information on why, check out my Food Blogger vs. Fat series.

Willoughby’s on Park – Carrot Cake

Neither of us had any room for dessert after finishing our steaks at Willoughby’s. But it was our anniversary, and we couldn’t help ourselves. The giant slice of cake was drizzled with caramel and garnished with whipped cream and strawberries. I’m a real sucker for carrot cake, and this was a good one. Read Full Review

Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery – Baklava

Julie’s birthday dinner ended with one of her favorite desserts: baklava. The layered pastry was served warm and the filling oozed out with the first forkful. The dark chocolate shavings added a bittersweet flavor to counteract the sweetness of the honey, and everything just came together beautifully. Read Full Review

Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy – Vanilla Milkshake

No road trip to this Schuylkill County institution is complete without Heisler’s famous ice cream, and I enjoyed mine in the form of a milkshake. There’s something about drinking a shake after enjoying a burger and fries that just feels right, and Heisler’s makes a mean milkshake. Read Full Review

Reading Hospital – Chocolate Trilogy Cake

Julie and I celebrated the birth of our first son on November 17, and we ended our hospital stay with a surf and turf dinner for two. And that dinner ended with a slice of chocolate trilogy cake – three layers of chocolate mousse that were absolutely decadent. The cake isn’t worth a two-night stay in the hospital, but baby Jakob was. And his arrival made the entire meal more memorable. Read Full Review

Best of Berks County Eats Desserts

Reading Hospital

If you’ve followed Berks County Eats, then you know that Julie and I have been expecting the arrival of our first child. Well, last Friday, he decided it was time.

On November 17, 2017, at 8:21 p.m., Jakob Laurence Brown was born at the Reading Hospital.

Mommy and baby came out of it happy and healthy, and we arrived home on Sunday evening, but not before Jakob joined us for his first Berks County Eats review.

After completing a three-week birthing class two months ago, Julie’s reward was a coupon for a celebratory dinner for two after the arrival of our baby.

On Sunday morning, just a few hours before we were scheduled to leave the hospital, a special menu was delivered to our room.

“You’re Expecting the Best. We Deliver.” When you’re delirious with joy at the birth of a child, you forgive menu puns, even bad ones.

The meal included a tomato mozzarella salad (also known as Caprese), choice of entree – either steak and shrimp or vegetarian stir-fry – and a three-layer chocolate mousse cake for dessert.

For the salad, our bowls were lined with thick-sliced mozzarella, which was then filled with cherry tomatoes, drizzled with a thick balsamic and topped with basil leaves for garnish.

The salad was very good, but way too much. We each only ate a very small amount so that we had room for our main course and dessert (we managed to sneak the rest home with us for later).

My diet had been thrown out the window over the previous two days, with meals that included:

  • Friday Lunch: McDonald’s chicken strips and fries
  • Friday Dinner: Famous Amos cookies and Icy Tea
  • Saturday Breakfast: French toast and home fries from Reading Hospital
  • Saturday Lunch: Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots from the PA Dutch Farmers Market of Wyomssing
  • Saturday Dinner: A giant chocolate chip cookie

So while steak and shrimp was appealing, I thought the hoisin vegetable stir-fry was a more sensible option.

It was actually really good, all things considered. It wasn’t anything special, but the sauce had a nice flavor – a typical sweet and salty Asian stir-fry. The menu listed soba noodles as part of the meal, but they were missing. So it was all vegetables – peppers, squash and onions. I certainly wasn’t going to send it back (it’s a one-hour wait from order to delivery).

Julie, on the other hand, did all the work so no one was going to deny her the surf and turf dinner that she earned.

It included a small filet and shrimp with a baked potato and mixed vegetables (the same medley that was used for my stir-fry.

The steak was topped with gravy (meh) but was fair. It certainly was nothing like eating in a steakhouse. The steamed shrimp was ok, too, but nothing outstanding.

The hardest part about the meal was having to stare at the chocolate trilogy cake. The best part of the meal was eating it.

It was fantastic. The layers of white, milk and dark chocolate mouse melted together. There was the thinnest layer of cake on the bottom to add a little texture. And the pieces of dark chocolate on the top were the icing on the cake, so to speak.

If only we didn’t have to be in the hospital to enjoy it.

For anyone out there looking to deliver in the Reading Hospital and unsure about whether to take the birthing class: take it. If only for the chocolate trilogy cake.

While we ate, Jakob lay in his crib – a clear, plastic tub that we had wheeled next to us. It was our first real sit-down meal as a family, and Jakob’s first official Berks County Eats review.

It wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had. But it is easily among the most memorable.

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

The Knight’s Pub at Stokesay Castle

the-knight-s-pub-knight

A few months ago I had an opportunity to attend a mixer at Stokesay Castle. It was my first visit to the landmark restaurant on the eastern slope of Mount Penn.

Everyone who attended the mixer had a chance to tour the historic building, but also a chance to sample the food. The bite-sized hors d’ouvres were so good that I could not wait to return.

Last week I decided to take Julie across town for a mini-date night. It was a quiet Thursday evening, at least in the Knight’s Pub where less than half of the tables were filled when we arrived.

The Knight’s Pub is Stokesay’s everyday restaurant. Located on the back side of the building, the Pub is attached to the brick patio. In warmer months, the folding glass doors open up to create one large, outdoor dining area.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather we’re having this December, the windows remained closed during our visit, though a few people did pull up a chair by the fire pit outside after they finished their meals.

I could not wait for dinner to arrive so I talked Julie into sharing an appetizer with me. The words “house made” in the menu description are what sold me on the bruschetta. And it was every bit as good as I had hoped.

the-knight-s-pub-tomato-bruschetta

Thick chunks of creamy mozzarella rested on top of a crunchy crustini bread with diced tomatoes and pesto. The balsamic drizzle is what really makes the bruschetta. It mixes well with the tomatoes to give it that rich sweet and sour flavor.

My main course was a little more manly. When I looked at the menu on the Pub’s website, I saw a picture of the steak and potato tower and instantly knew what I would be ordering when we arrived.

the-knight-s-pub-steak-and-potato-tower

The tower consisted of alternating layers of steak filets and deep-fried mashed potatoes, topped off with a red wine demi-glace.

First, the steak was done perfectly with a nice char on the outside that kept the flavor inside. With the sweetness from the demi-glace, all four cuts of steak went down so smooth.

Then there were the potatoes. The menu only described them as “potato cakes” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From the outside, they looked like onion rings, but inside was mashed potato. I took some with my steak and some without. It was hearty and filling, but once again the demi-glace made it easier to clean the plate.

In my haste to order, I had forgotten to consider what my sides were so I blurted out roasted potatoes and brocolli. The last thing I needed with my tower was more starch, but I truly enjoyed the bite-sized red potatoes. Cooked to a crisp with a variety of herbs, they were probably better than the potato cakes that were in the tower.

the-knight-s-pub-crabby-pretzel-melt

Julie opted for just a sandwich, but her meal was just as rich and hearty as my own. Her crabby pretzel melt was exactly what it sounds like: lump crab meat with melted cheddar (plus the standard LTO) on a toasted pretzel bun.

There plenty of crab meat that it didn’t get lost. Instead, it blended beautifully with the salty sweet pretzel roll. The only problem with the sandwich was that it was a little wet, but once Julie flipped it upside down, there were no more worries about whether the bun would be able to hold it.

Being that this was a date night, we decided to splurge with a little dessert. All seven of the seasonal desserts on the tray sounded amazing, but we settled on the pumpkin spice cake. It was layered with mousse and whipped cream (all pumpkin spiced) and topped with graham cracker crumbs and caramel.

the-knight-s-pub-pumpkin-spice-cake

Each layer was a little different than the next. The farther down into the glass that we dug, the colder all of the ingredients were. The bottom layer of mousse was highly concentrated and packed with the most flavor, making it easier to finish, despite our stomachs telling us “no.”

As always happens when we treat ourselves, I ended up eating more food than I should and spending more money than we usually do. Our total for the evening came to just over $60, but it was worth every penny.

As we left the Knight’s Pub, we took a walk along the patio and admired the building. The architecture looked beautiful, even in the dim lighting of the fire pit.

It is said that when Mr. Hiester built Stokesay Castle in 1931, his wife hated it. But I think if she came back today, she would love the Knight’s Pub.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Reasonable

The Knight’s Pub at Stokesay Castle
141 Stokesay Castle Ln
Reading, PA 19606

Stokesay Castle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
The exterior of Emily's facing south on Route 10

Emily’s

emily-s

A romantic dinner means something different to everyone.

For me, it’s pretty simple. It’s a special night out with my wife where we splurge a little for finer food, drinks (she drinks, I drive) and the ambiance of a nice restaurant.

So when it came time for our third anniversary, I was charged with finding a place for a romantic dinner for two.

Fortunately, Berks County has no shortage of restaurants that could be considered “romantic,” and on this occasion, that led us on a short drive south along Route 10 to Emily’s.

The historic building that Emily’s calls home has stood along Morgantown Road for nearly 200 years. At one time, the restaurant served as a local post office, a history that is celebrated in the uniquely appointed Post Office bar room, with PO Boxes lining the shelves and “Mail Pouch Tobacco” scrolled across the far wall.

backyard-emily-s

We were led past several intimate dining rooms, through the bar and out the back door to the creekside porch. Our table was along the rail overlooking the backyard, which doubles as event space for receptions and parties, evidenced by the worn out grass where a tent would generally be set up. A family of bright yellow finches enjoyed their own supper at the four feeders set up along the creek, which was merely a small trail of water as it trickled past the building.

lamb-sausage-flatbread-emily-s

We started our dinner by sharing an order of lamb sausage flatbread. The triangular flatbread pieces were topped with two kinds of cheese (Fontina and Mozzarella), caramelized onions and red currant syrup, garnished with fresh herbs.

The first thing you notice is the chunks of sausage, but the first thing you taste is the red currant. Red currant is a variety of European gooseberry, and when pureed into the syrup, it provides a very sweet flavor. Mix that with the slightly spicy lamb sausage and the mild cheese, and the ingredients combined for one of the best appetizers I have had.

house-salad-raspberry-vinagrette-emily-s

In between the flatbread and our main course we were served our house salads, which were offered with one of four homemade salad dressings, including raspberry vinaigrette. It was thicker than I had expected with a beautiful purple color and just a hint of sweetness to balance out the sour of the vinegar.

Emily’s has more than a dozen entrees and several more pasta options that include everything from chicken and ribs to duck and scallops, but it was the Two Peas in a Pasta that caught my eye.

two-peas-in-a-pasta-emily-s

The namesake peas, spring peas and snow peas, were tossed with fettuccine pasta, prosciutto and leeks in a parmesan sauce. The sauce was thick and creamy like an alfredo, but with a lighter flavor. The prosciutto, which was chopped into tiny pieces, added a little bit of salt. Instead of being served al dente, the peas were cooked soft so that as I twirled my fettuccine, a pea pod would often find its way onto my fork as well. It was heavy and filling, but also very good with excellent flavor.

On the other side of the table, my wife enjoyed Emily’s pork rib cap steak, marinated pork steak topped with chorizo sausage and smoky lime aioli, served with a mixed vegetables and wild rice.

pork-rib-cap-steak-emily-s

The pork was cooked tender with just a little bit of fat remaining. The heat of the chorizo was tempered by the sweetness of the lime and the rice, which was tossed with walnuts and cranberries, the latter providing a hit of sweetness in almost every bite. With the two meats, it was like eating two entrees at once, both of which were very good.

chocolate-brownie-parfait-emily-s

In true romantic fashion, we decided to share a dessert to end the evening. Even though neither of us were hungry anymore, we couldn’t pass on the chocolate parfait, a tall glass layered with chocolate mousse and brownie. The brownie was crumbled so that you had a little bit of the cake in every bite. It was very rich, but so delicious and satisfying.

With entrees that ranged in price from $15 to $30, our $60 check (which also included a mixed drink for my wife) was on the lower end of a meal for two at Emily’s and worth every penny.

It was a slower weeknight so we sat and enjoyed the cool evening air for a few minutes after our meal. The finches were fighting for space on the feeders as the sun was just beginning to set. As we sat, full and content from our meal, it was the perfect ending to a romantic night out.

And I was already looking forward to our next romantic dinner.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Reasonable

Emily’s
3790 Morgantown Rd
Mohnton, PA 19540

Emily's on Urbanspoon

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized