Since buying our house, most of our spare time (and spare change) has gone into furnishing, finishing and improving our space. Skyler has been working tirelessly on finishing the basement, which will give us some much-needed additional square footage for entertaining, and I’ve been doing my best to make our house feel like a home and maximize said square footage. Say what you will, but choosing textiles and furniture and decor that will give you a beautiful and well-loved home isn’t as easy as it may seem! (If I see one more Live, Laugh, Love sign while searching for the perfect piece for an empty wall in our kitchen, I might lose my mind.)
When charged with the task of choosing a restaurant for a work-related meet-and-greet dinner, I was thrilled. I love choosing restaurants, and since moving home, I had created a list that had yet to be explored. So, through a relatively uninspired process of elimination, I chose The Millworks, a restaurant in Midtown, completely sight unseen.
Skyler and I were the first to arrive, and as we stepped through the front door, I was struck by something I wasn’t expecting to find inside of a restaurant: art – and lots of it. It turns out, The Millworks is home to 31 different artists, each with an open-concept studio. Guests are able to peruse the entire 24,000 square foot space, watching artists create a variety of pieces. Some artists’ studios are even visible from your seat at the bar. Find something you like? Well, you can purchase a myriad of goods from gallery.
As the rest of the gang trickled in, we took our seats in the dining area. Our waiter came over, and launched into a brief history of The Millworks, including its steadfast focus on local and sustainable food, sourced from growers in the Central PA region. Nearly 50% of the materials required in construction were recycled or repurposed. The table we sat around was made from lumber that occupied the building at purchase; the bricks surrounding the fireplace were from an 1830s farmhouse in Perry County; few of the light fixtures were taken from Broad Street Market circa 1920s. Every part of the decor spoke to the sustainability of the building as a whole. Even our water glasses were made from recycled wine bottles!
We ordered the Urban Picnic as an appetizer – a charcuterie board filled with freshly baked bread, locally cured and smoked meats, local grass-fed dairy artisan cheeses and pickled vegetables. My winning combo? Bread, mustard, soppressata, goat cheese and pickled carrots. Sounds odd, tastes delicious.
For dinner, I ordered the House Made Pastrami Sandwich, which wasn’t a far cry from my go-to Reuben. (Not pictured, because it was ugly. Seriously – not photogenic.) Skyler went with the Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwich (look at that adorable ramekin of ketchup!), and my boss ordered the Slow Roasted Meatloaf. Everything looked/tasted uhhhhmazing.
And because no dinner is complete without dessert, we ordered two for the table: Peach Cobbler (my choice because, duh – peaches), and a Vanilla Bean Custard. The perfect end to a well-rounded dinner.
PS: Quick nod to The Millworks’ own beer offerings… I couldn’t keep my hands off of the Farmhouse IPA Skyler ordered! Delish.
I’ll openly admit it: one of my biggest hesitations about moving back home was the food. More specifically, the lack thereof. I love food, and that’s not an exaggeration. I love the taste, the smell, and mostly, the experiences that come along with a great meal. And, well, I grew up here – it’s an area where people congregate at the local diner or a nearby Applebee’s for a night out. If they want something a little fancy, they drive a few extra miles to the nearest Red Lobster or Olive Garden. This area offers little else besides the stereotypical splattering of uninspired chain restaurants.
At least that’s how it was when I left in the fall of 2008, and I never really bothered to look beyond that or expect much else.
But, now that I actually live here, I’m realizing that over the past 8 years, central Pennsylvania has stepped up its culinary game ever so slightly, and there are some hidden gems nestled somewhere in between the TGI Fridays and Red Robins.
Enter: Char’s Tracy Mansion.
Harrisburg, PA has climbed its way into the level of cool that a city must reach to host a Restaurant Week. While it has not quite developed into the all-out crowd-drawing food fest that cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia offer to its residents, it’s a start.
I shot my mom a quick text, followed by a link to all of the restaurants that were participating in Restaurant Week, she chose the venue and we set a date for a Girls Night. I’ll admit, I had never heard of (or even noticed) Char’s Tracy Mansion, even though it’s the only restaurant in Harrisburg situated on the Susquehanna.
The mansion was built in 1913 as a Tudor Revival home for an industrialist. It was a sprawling 30-room home, equipped with hardwood floors, fireplaces, an iron cage elevator and a coal bin so large it was later used as a dining room. In 1951, it was converted into a osteopathic hospital, and later into mental health facility, before it was finally purchased in 2012 with the intent of turning it into a restaurant.
We were fortunate enough to score a seat on the front porch with our chairs angled forward towards the river. The sun was setting, the air was cool – it was a beautiful night!
The Restaurant Week menu was predetermined; each guest could choose from three options for each of the three courses offered. My mom chose the beef tenderloin roll, served with a side of horseradish cream, as her appetizer. I’m a sucker for a good egg roll, and this one was downright delicious. For her meal, she went with chicken and eggplant parmesan, served on a bed of fettuccini noodles with marinara sauce. The eggplant melted in your mouth and made me realize that I really don’t eat enough of it. Yum. For dessert, she chose the peanut butter pie, made with an Oreo crust and accompanied by a caramel sauce: decadence in its tastiest form.
I, being a creature of habit, chose the spicy shrimp taco as an appetizer. The spice of the seasonings was off-set by the avocado aioli, tomato, greens and pickled red onion – I truly could have eaten 100 more of them. I love tacos. (Heart-eyed emoji.) For my second course, I went with the grilled pork tenderloin, which I’ll award the winner of the night. It was coated in a dry coffee/cocoa rub, and served with Yukon mashed potatoes, braised cabbage, onion and green beans, all atop herbed pork jus. I honestly could have licked the plate clean. For dessert, I chose the apple-cinammon bread pudding drizzled in creme anglais, and enjoyed it very much after I picked out all of the raisins. Ick.
Cheers to you, mama, and thanks for introducing me to this hidden gem!
For a few years, my dad has been raving about the Federal Taphouse in Harrisburg, a restaurant most notably known for their extensive craft beer offerings. And by extensive, I mean 100 unique craft beers, each written across a larger-than-life chalkboard just inside the front door. You read that correctly. 100.
So, this year for Father’s Day, the whole family piled into the car and headed to the Federal Taphouse for Sunday brunch. As soon as we were seated, I ordered a mimosa. In Pittsburgh, that’s the thing to do. Peas and carrots, peaches and cream, salt and pepper, black and white, brunch and mimosas. It’s just a thing. But at the Federal Taphouse, I got a few side eyes for my choice… A mimosa? Wait, you’re not ordering a beer? There are literally a hundred options. Challenge accepted.
When it came to food, to no one’s surprise, I ordered the Breakfast Burrito. (But huge shoutout to the Shrimp & Grits and Breakfast Poutine, both of which almost swayed me from ordering my brunch “usual.”) Loaded with eggs, chorizo, pepper jack cheese and avocado, it was everything a breakfast burrito should be. Not to mention, the Binding-Brauerei Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen-Mix Grapefruit Beer I ordered… amazing. Seriously.
My dad ordered the Breakfast Pizza, which was a sizeable pie topped with carmelized onions, breakfast sausage, farm eggs and cheddar cheese. Sarah went with the Wood Fired Mushroom Frittata, made with roasted mushrooms, carmelized onions and fontina, and if I’m being honest, this may have been the brunch winner. I typically don’t get down with mushrooms, but this? This was the epitome of happiness dancing on top of my tastebuds. Yum. Tyler leaned more towards the “unch” part of brunch with a Bleu Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burger, topped with avocado, tomato, bacon and a garlic aioli. It was fine, but brunch in my world never actually means lunch. Like, never.
Brunch or no brunch, I felt happy to be able to spend the day with all of the most important men in my life: my dad, Tyler, Evan and Aron. Thanks for being such an amazing role model — couldn’t ask for a better dad than you.