Archive for August, 2017

FORAGING IN THE WOODLOCH FOREST

My parents introduced Woodloch Pines to me in the late 70s, and Woodloch and I have been having our summer fling ever since (with a winter rendezvous thrown in), except now with friends joining along. We are both not the same as we were in the 70s. We have each grown and improved. To begin with my metamorphosis, Woodloch was never able to lure me with food because eating, to me, was obviously a Medieval form of torture as a child. The dish that came closest to piquing my interest was Woodloch’s famous Scandinavian pancakes, which I recall to be deceivingly consumable in a few bites. That’s about how long it took for my stomach to lose interest, not realizing unrolled, this griddled batter would be larger than my head.

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Friendly servers

These days, as June/July nears, like Pavlov’s dog, it triggers visions of those pancakes, but I have not experienced a Woodloch breakfast in many years. So the moment I arrive for lunch, I live out my Hawley, PA morning reminiscence by ordering a crumb cake to take home and savor for days to follow (okay, maybe it lasts a day). In case you haven’t noticed the transformation, food is now the generator of jovial taste buds, which yield a glowing smile. And here, many happy bellies strut through the main dining room after being treated like a king with all the offerings.  In this dining room, the focus is on family-style, country-comfort cuisine; however, there are nine dining facilities that range from grab-and-go bites at the Lakeside Grille to the epicurean-inspired “farm to fork” at The Lodge at Woodloch. Corporate Executive Chef Stevan Sundberg has expanded the offerings to elevate the dining experience.

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Chef Sundberg

The menu items not only have increased in number to satisfy today’s diverse food lifestyles – with multiple vegetarian options – but also in class. Chef Sundberg needs to dispel any stereotypes of a “Dirty Dancing”-type resort with campy food. Today for lunch, we ordered the Tomato/Basil Soup, Slow Cooked Beef Brisket Sandwich, Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and a Charbroiled Cheeseburger for the young one’s unadventurous palate. A refreshing Cucumber, Tomato, Chick Pea and Red Onion Salad was already on the table.

I was always impressed, although there are only a handful of entrée offerings, how the servers never write down the orders. What’s more impressive is how Chef Sundberg is able to churn out the potential of 600 dishes in a relatively small timeframe (seating 12:30-1) and maintain the consistency of perfectly cooked food…and it always is. The choices these days lean towards healthier combinations, but nobody can resist dipping their hands in the basket of boardwalk fries. And if you’ve gone that far, you might as well pour on the cheese sauce!

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Fries and Cheese Sauce

But wait, there is dessert with lunch, and it doesn’t matter if you’re going swimming or waterskiing immediately afterwards. You’re in PA, but ask for the Mississippi Mud Pie, even if it’s not on the menu. They’re hiding some back there…always. Otherwise, I am a connoisseur of maple walnut ice cream. It doesn’t show up in supermarkets, ever, so I must have a dish with chocolate sprinkles when here. A more recent dessert is the warm Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie a la mode. It partners nicely with that already existing scoop that was ordered. A little gluttony in the middle of the Poconos is forgivable.

I experience a guilty pleasure at this point. More than satisfied, my logical German mind begins to map out dinner options so as not to be repetitive: beef for lunch equals no Prime Rib for dinner. While I’m intensely paddling a kayak, a standout upgrade to the food is evident to me – the dish presentation, focusing now on color, texture, garnishes. I P1010553certainly don’t recall microgreens topping any fish of years past.  Even the sides have been modernized. Today’s broccoli with roasted garlic, EVOO and asiago used to be steamed broccoli with the reliable cheese sauce.

 

It’s around 4 p.m. when my high metabolism begins to drive me to ingest something, anything. All that biking, climbing, swimming on a warm day begs for an iced coffee and a small, on-premises-baked item. It’s the first summer Gigi’s Coffee House is open for guests to enjoy a

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Gigi’s Cafe

locally roasted cup of java (the difference in taste quality from the dining room pot of coffee is more than apparent for coffee lovers). Premium foodP1010534 deserves…no, demands premium coffee. It can be accompanied by a blueberry scone or bran muffin with honey butter or, in my case, a peanut butter cookie. They’re all tasty tie-overs to the grand supper.

Hints of dinner linger in the air as I suspect preparation happens around that 5 o’clock hour. If you are prematurely hungry, stay away from the front lawn. Delectable smells of roasted meat and baked fish will leave you in a food coma, robotically playing the ring-toss until that traditional dinner bell resonates through your olfactory system granting permission to begin replacing calories.

My self-imposed dress code on a Saturday night is comparable to going out to dinner in New York City with friends. I couldn’t help but peek at the dinner menu lunch time to mentally prepare myself for the tasting journey ahead. Before our hospitable server could get the word “shrimp” out, I blurted out, “Yes, please” for the shrimp and corn

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Shrimp & Corn Chowder

chowder. It provides the proper taste bud awakening with a mild kick of spice; perhaps some red pepper. The other opening choice this particular evening was the Burrata with Pea Tendrils, Blistered Tomato and Crispy Prosciutto. Never say no to burrata; it’s fresh mozzarella resting on a creamy cloud. And in case you really can’t wait a few minutes, a healthy-looking family-style bowl of Greek salad greets you at the table. Shortly thereafter, a basket with two different breads is laid upon

the table also: olive and banana walnut, the latter being another fundamental in my Woodloch food memories.

The servers push their carts of food at a swift pace, stacked with covered dishes of food selections. The guests cross their fingers hoping the next sound of wheels in this food-cart derby will be arriving at their table. And here comes the Slow Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, the cover lifted to display itself in all its simple elegance with just a sprig of

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Prime Rib

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Potato Lyonaisse

rosemary. A helping of the Roasted Potato Lyonnaise worked well as the required starch side dish. Then came the dressings: a boat of au jus and some creamy horseradish sauce. Next to be revealed is the Lemon-baked Halibut with Heirloom Tomatoes, Fried Capers and Basil Oil. The thick cut of fish is flaky and moist, and the sweetness of the tomatoes is balanced by a baked, thin slice of lemon atop the steak. The Lime-grilled Chicken with Zucchini Noodles, Falafel Cakes, Roasted Tomato and Cucumber

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Halibut

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Lime Grilled Chicken

Yogurt followed. The Mediterranean flair of the ingredients and the color palette made this a fun dish to want to dive into. The flavors complemented each other.

I was remiss in not ordering Woodloch’s Traditional Jumbo Butterfly Shrimp this time, but it was in the past few weeks that I had the delight of dipping those succulent, crispy-coated crustaceans into both tartar and cocktail sauce. Fried to golden perfection, there is no unhealthy evidence left upon your fingers. However, any diet should be cast aside to delve into the featured dessert, which tonight was House- prepared S’mores with graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache, topped with roasted marshmallow. The portion is not overindulgent, so there is room for another scoop of maple walnut ice cream! And

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S’mores

to work it all off, we strolled down to the night club to dance to the sounds of The Company, which had a remarkable guest singer, DaVido, before the theme show.

Whatever your gastronomic preferences or requirements are, Woodloch Pines is able to not only satisfy them, but exceed your appetite’s expectations. Your taste buds will be celebrating with you!

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