The saying is right. The summer is an easy time to be a chef at a country inn! There is no better season in terms of product availability and the heat and humidity in the kitchen rival that of the steam room in the finest of resorts! By the end of it I’ll be lean and mean and ready for fall sporting endeavors.
I always try to keep the menu appropriate to Century Inn’s operating-period and region. Admittedly, I take liberties both to appeal to contemporary pallets and to keep a consistent menu throughout the season. I use modern food supply lines to extend the season and to occasionally have things available out of season. In the summer I have to do that less.
We’ll be starting this summer’s menu on June 24 and I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the things that I’m excited about. I’m sure that I’ll delve into some of the specific items later on but, for now, I think a brief synopsis is in order.
Though currently extirpated, the blue catfish was once found in the three rivers including the Monongahela river(our nearest large river). It is a large-bodied, warm-water fish. These traits make it ideal for summer angling. Even in the 1790’s an industrious fisherman could have easily delivered it fresh from the Mon to our door. The blue catfish that we get are wild-caught from the Rappahannock River in Virginia. It is topped with peach and pepper salsa, two crops cultivated in western Pennsylvania.
Historically, summertime bounty would go hand in hand with preservation. The plentiful crops from the warm months need to be available to sustain through the cold. This summer we’re offering a little taste of that in our gardiniera. Each serving is a little jar of pickled vegetables, preserved for later use. As we will be making them throughout the summer, each will be a little different; depending upon what is fresh and available.
Tomatoes may be the quintessential summer food. As Guy Clark so accurately stated: “Only two things that money can’t buy: that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” Here, money can buy local tomatoes on our BLT and heirloom tomatoes on our caprese salad. Both offerings come with some of our home cured meats: Bacon and Pancetta respectively.
I have fond memories of catching crayfish as a kid and I admit: I am guilty of cooking and consuming a few of them. While ours are farm raised, crayfish make a cool summer appetizer. Playing off of a classic, we’re offering crayfish tail hoelzel. The cool and sour tarragon dressing complement the earthy flavor of the traditionally used crab’s distant cousin.
While not specific to summer, I am proud to announce the inclusion of Emerald Valley Artisan Cheeses on this menu. These cheeses are made by the operators of a dairy farm that we not only call local, we consider our neighbors. I could walk there and back between lunch and dinner services (though they are kind enough to deliver).
I am excited about this menu. I hope that you will be too. Come out and try what we are offering because, like so many good things, they will only be available for a limited time (some exclusions apply).