For New Year’s Eve 2010, going into 2011, the Spousal Unit and I decided on dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Green Gables, about 40 minutes south of us in Jennerstown. Green Gables is located just off Route 30 on the same property as the Mountain Playhouse, a professional summer stock theater. I had received an email from the restaurant, describing a special 5-course menu for the holiday, which had attractive choices, and looked well-priced at $55/person.
On an day that welcomed a thaw from a cold December, we arrived for our 7:00 reservation to a bustling dining room decorated in holiday red, with a Christmas tree. The hostess took our coats and showed us to our table in the main dining room, near the large stone fireplace. Reviewing the special menu, the Spousal Unit and I decided on different selections for each course. For the appetizer, she would have the lobster pot pie, and I chose the duck confit pizza. (The third option was a beet dish. I am always mindful of the edict that the dish that sounds worst is the chef’s best… but, man, beets are hard sell next to lobster or duck confit!) I would have the arugula salad described in the advance menu, while she would have a Green Gables iceberg wedge that was added to the printed menu. She chose the peppercorn filet of beef for her main course, while I went with the lamb, and for dessert she selected the chocolate crème brûlée, and I picked a pecan-and-pear bread pudding that was another late addition to the menu.
As usual, I had scouted the wine list in advance. Looking at tasting notes on CellarTracker, I thought a 2004 Novelty Hill cabernet sauvignon at $54 looked like a great bottle. Reading the wine list at the restaurant, however, it turned out that I had misread the wine list on the website, and it was the merlot that was on offer. I’m sure that would have been a fine bottle, but without the benefit of research, I was thinking about what to do, when I saw that wine pairings for the dinner were only a $20/person supplement, for four wines. We went that-a-way.
I was surprised that the waitress poured a Christmas ale for my duck confit pizza. Since beer pairings were also available, I was afraid there was a misunderstanding, but she quickly explained that the rest of the courses would be paired with wines. The ale was a perfect match for the duck pizza, which was a generous and well-balanced dish of shredded duck confit, goat cheese, and caramelized onions. A really nice start to the meal. The Spousal Unit really enjoyed her lobster pot pie, which had a delicious aroma, and which was paired with a lush pinot gris.
The salad course was paired with identical white wines for both of us, although I did not record the wine (and I’m not sure it was identified to us). The arugula salad was probably the weakest part of the meal, quite heavily dressed in a gorgonzola dressing that turned somewhat pasty and weighed it down. The iceberg wedge salad was attractively presented with grill marks on the lettuce, and dressed with a very nice vinaigrette. It seemed to be the stronger salad option.
As we awaited the main courses, a large wedding party came through the dining room on their way to a reception in the banquet hall. Our waitress offered to relocate us away from the crowd. We declined, and the disruption was brief, and of course the bride was beautiful and received a round of applause from our fellow diners. The main courses came; the filet was accompanied by a 2005 cabernet sauvignon (producer not noted), and my lamb came with a Folie a Deux zinfandel, which is one of my favorite wines at its price point. Both meats were excellent. We both have a lot of experience with the best local meats, and as a result, it’s hard to make us happy. But both cuts were cooked perfectly to order, with the filet rare and the lamb medium-rare. The peppercorn crust on the filet was excellent—flavorful and well-balanced, especially when paired with the potatoes. The lamb was delicious and tender, with mild-flavored fat. The mint quinoa that accompanied the lamb provided a nice textural contrast to the tender lamb, while staying true to the affinity of lamb to mint.
A raspberry and champagne sorbet provided a brief refreshment before the desserts came. The desserts—which were, honestly, more food than we needed this evening—were tasty and well-prepared. The chocolate crème brûlée was more densely packed with chocolate flavor that I would have expected; it was paired with a tawny port that complemented it well. My bread pudding was matched by a muscat that highlighted the autumnal flavor of the pears. We lingered over coffee, and reluctantly started home, to try to stay awake for the ball drop. We’re not night owls, and the satisfying meal and wines don’t help!
Green Gables has never disappointed us, and the special New Year’s menu was another big success. The dinner was well-prepared, especially the appetizers and main courses, and it was well-priced. The wine pairings, at only a $20 supplement, were an excellent bargain; all of the selections were very good, and were clearly chosen with care to match the dishes. New Years Eve can be “amateur night,” with packed dining rooms and kitchens cutting corners to meet demand, but Green Gables really came through, maintaining high standards and providing good value. Along with the Back Door Café in Johnstown, Green Gables represents the highest level of dining in Cambria and Somerset counties.