While we are far from its native range, the arctic char entrée is one that I consider historically reasonable. Our native salmonid (and state fish) is the brook trout. While its common name is trout, it is classified in the genus Salvelinus making it a char. Taxonomically speaking it is more closely related to the arctic char than the widely available rainbow trout. While they are currently popular and abundant, rainbow and brown trout weren’t propagated and introduced in Pennsylvania until the mid 1800’s. So, if someone had a locally harvested trout meal in the early days of Century Inn it was likely a brook trout.
I have, thus far, been unable to find brook trout from our food venders. This perplexes me a bit since the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission propagates and stocks them in appropriate waterways throughout the state. I am surprised that no one has commercialized brook trout for sale to restaurants. This leaves me with the arctic char, a species that is commercially farmed and available to restaurants. Its flesh is pink and its flavor is somewhere between a rainbow trout and salmon. Its skin is spotted, much like the brook trout.
We serve it topped with a walnut crust, barley, and hericot vert (French green beans). The black walnut is native to the area and is an important mast crop (more so in modern times, with the loss of the American chestnut). Barley has been an important grain throughout recorded history. It was likely equally important to the Europeans that ended up settling in our region. Green beans are one of the three sisters cultivated by pre Colombian Americans, it would stand to reason that they have been on plates here since the beginning. With a few liberties, the dish could have been found on the table through the 221 years that Century Inn has stood.
Come visit, sit in the original kitchen (the Keeping Room), and order the char. In this way, you could connect yourself to our history. You could be sharing your meal with some of the countless patrons that have darkened our door over the past two centuries. No small feat, to say the least.