Bolete Is Special Dining Experience
Local ingredients work in 'synergistic harmony' at this Salisbury restaurant.
Many paths cross at Bolete. It’s just inside the Salisbury Township border at the intersection of Seidersville Road, Emmaus Avenue, Susquehanna Street and Fountain Hill’s Broadway.
Many locally grown or locally produced foods cross paths here, too. The back of the menu lists some of the area’s most inspired farmers. Every ingredient has a story to tell.
The old stone house that houses Bolete (named for a mushroom) began life as a stagecoach stop and country inn. In its previous incarnation, it housed the Inn of the Falcon, another Lehigh Valley dining destination.
The winter evening was cold. Torn between hot soup and cold lettuce for a first course, I chose the Liberty Gardens Mixed Greens Salad ($10) and was warmed by an abundance of antioxidants. I could taste each individual leaf under a clear, tart dressing tossed with blue cheese, candied walnuts and dried cranberries.
I could identify most of the leaflets--lettuce, endive, frisee, parsley and arugula--but succulent sprigs with a nutty flavor had me stumped. “Sometimes something new sneaks in,” said the helpful server. “The chef trusts Liberty Gardens so much that sometimes Jeff will just bring in a bag of mixed greens.” (Thanks to greenhouses and other techniques, Liberty Gardens and other Pennsylvania farmers are experts in extending the growing season.)
My dining companion chose the roasted cauliflower soup because she recognized it from an episode of The Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
We watched as the soup was poured at the table from a cast-iron teakettle. Gently, a crisp quail egg was ladled in. Our server explained how the egg was cooked: simmered in a 140-degree bath for an hour, then dipped in breadcrumbs and flash fried. She warned about its hot liquid core, but it melted luxuriously into the soup and on the tongue. At the bottom of the bowl, salty bits of guanciale, the caviar of bacon complemented paddlefish caviar.
Named to publisher Maria Rodale’s 2010 list of Top 10 Farm-to-Table Restaurants, Bolete keeps her coming back for “the food, the food, the food.” The Emmaus-based CEO blogged that her serving of perfectly cooked fish atop seasonal vegetables was so good it nearly made her cry. I can relate.
Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops ($30) came to the table atop a heavenly mélange of mini gnocchi, cauliflower bits, shreds of Maine Jonah crab, chanterelle mushrooms and truffled cauliflower puree. All ingredients worked in synergistic harmony.
The scallops were extra large and perfectly cooked, browned on the outside and ethereal on the inside. They’d been harvested in Maine by small, day-boat crews and supplied by River & Glen, Warrington, Bucks County, purveyors of natural, sustainable seafood and meats. For one brief shining moment the world was a perfect place.
For her entrée, my dining companion chose Corned Dr. Joe’s Duck Breast ($34). The dish is named for the veterinarian who moved his family’s Long Island duck business to Pennsylvania, where the duck are bred meticulously and raised naturally.
Slices of tender, melting duck were light and flavorful with balancing hints of spices. Underneath was a harvest medley of rye dumplings, maiitake mushrooms, Liberty Gardens carrots, mustard and anise. My dining companion pronounced it “the best duck I’ve ever had,” but considered its accompaniments “a little over-internationalized.” I stole a taste: I disagreed. I found it all gemutlich.
Erin Shea, partner in the restaurant with her husband Lee Chizmar, the chef, says most of their patrons are return customers. It’s easy to see why. There are so many interesting choices on the menu, from Roasted Grass-Fed Beef Ribeye ($36), the Olive Oil-Poached Halibut ($29; perhaps the fish that almost made Maria Rodale cry?) and the Chef’s Tasting Menu, six courses that vary day-to-day and perhaps, table-to-table, with ($125) or without ($75) wine pairings.
Chizmar is a 1994 Salisbury High School graduate. He and Shea met when both worked at Great Bay, the Boston restaurant once named “best new restaurant in the country” by Esquire Magazine.
When they searched for a place of their own, the Salisbury Township location became available at the right time, and it’s become the right place for them to be. “We have really created an extended family through the restaurant that is beyond our expectations,” they recently said via e-mail.
After working with the fresh and local produce of California, and some of the best seafood in the world in New England, Chizmar says he is “truly lucky” to be in the Lehigh Valley. “We have so much access to amazing local ingredients through the farms we are surrounded by. They supply some of the best restaurants in New York and Philadelphia and we are just thrilled to be able to have them in our backyard.”
Since opening in 2006, Bolete has caught the attention of reviewers for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Conde Nast Traveler and Gourmet. Recently, Chizmar was featured in a new book, “Harvest to Heat” (Taunton Press, Oct. 2010), with the best of America’s farmers and artisans who venerate local foods.
Alas, my Bolete meal ended on a down note. After Bolete’s large portions, I looked for a light dessert. Passing up Butterscotch Pudding with Candied Pecans and Fresh Whipped Cream ($10), I opted for the Fig Sorbet ($10). It was bland, un-fig-like, and overpowered with anise and allspice.
This won’t stop me from going back, however. For less formal dining, Bolete has a lighter Tavern Menu with both Maine Lobster Roll ($20) and Oyster Po’ Boy ($14). All is forgiven.
The tab for dinner for two (two appetizers, two entrees, one dessert and two coffees) came to $102, excluding tax and tip. It was worth it.
1740 Seidersville Road
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Sunday brunch; dinner Tuesday through Saturday; closed Monday