The Washington Times - August 5, 2008, 01:16AM

York, Pennsylvania…York County is not all about that which we snack on. 

There is also that which we drink and where we dine.  Meaning the Commonwealth Room at the Yorktowne Hotel and the great Pennsylvania Dutch Country wines found on the “UnCork York Wine Trail.”

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The trail features 11 family-owned wineries in York, Lancaster and Harrisburg.

These wines are excellant because York County has deep topsoil, leading to rolling hills of rich, verdant green.  It is also a glacier area leaving the rich deposits of shale and limestone that provide the crisp minerality that I prefer to find in a wine.

 


Located along the Susquehanna River is Moondancer Vineyard & Winery


Moondancer Winery grapes (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

A 2007 harvest visit to the winery put more than a few bottles of wine in the suitcase to go home, including two whites that I found particularly pleasing – a Vidal Blanc with is bright citrus and herbal aroma and clean finish and the Harvest Moon white which is a perfect porch wine that will be enhanced with fruits and semi-robust cheeses with its fruit forward essences of pineapple and peach.

In addition to great wines, York boasts some great foods. 

And the city’s cry has long been “Meet me at the Yorktowne!”

The Yorktowne Hotel, a historic hotel with the county’s only AAA 4-Diamond restaurant, The Commonwealth Room has been providing culinary par’ excellence since 1925

The property is a throwback to a grander era.  The renaissance revival style hotel maintains a 1920’s ambience with twenty-foot lobby ceilings, oversized rooms and large suites.  

Period furniture and original tile baths speak of luxuriousness while guests are bathed in modern conveniences including high-speed Internet and a well-appointed fitness center.

Set in the middle of all that York County offers, it is a perfect stop for both business and leisure travelers.

Chef Mark Pawlowski outside the OffCenter Grill at The Yorktowne Hotel (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

But the true draw to the Yorktowne Hotel is The Commonwealth Room where Chef Mark Pawlowski reigns supreme. 

Chef Pawlowski chose York for the lifestyle bringing notable skills honed at Sedona Arizona’s Enchantment Resort.

A Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation, Chef is also a past winner of the Pennsylvania Iron Chef award.

Chef Pawlowski’s food is straightforward, balanced and, I must admit, a remarkable find.

The high leather banquets, large mirrors, chandeliers and white-glove service of The Commonwealth Room staff further enhance the culinary presentation.

The restaurant’s signature Tomato Bisque is worthy of a visit on its own.  Rich, creamy with the exact balance of salt, sweet and tart it’s recipe’s simplicity creates a sense of ease, however getting it just perfect is not as easy as it might seem


Mustard Crusted Tenderloin of Pork by Chef Mark Pawlowski (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)
Standing out on the menu is Chef Pawlowski’s Mushroom Crusted Tenderloin of Pork.  A dish as beautifully presented, as it is delicious to eat. Here Chef Pawlowski marries the earthiness of the Mushroom Duxelle with the sweetness of the pork.

The dish is further enhanced with fresh from the earth julienne vegetables adding a delightful sweet crunch to the dish.

Serving the pork with the seven-grain pilaf adds to the overall flavor with a nice hint of nuttiness that balances well with the plates sweet and savories. I love dishes that combine flavors from up and down the taste scale, as this pork dish does. 

For more casual dining, lunch and breakfast, The Yorketown Hotel’s OffCenter Grill, with both inside and alfresco dining fits the bill.

Chef Pawlowski remains at the helm of this restaurant and his Panko Crusted Crabcakes standout as a delicious, crunchy version of a mid-Atlantic lunch staple.

The menus at both The Commonwealth Room and The OffCenter Grill are extensive.  Diners will find surprises in both, including unique dishes such as the starter Rabbit Fricassee or entrées like Grilled Ostrich with Chinese Black Rice, Flash Fried Vegetables and Kalbi Glaze or the Wild Striped Bass with Basmati Rice, Lobster, Shaved Black Truffles and Saffron Crème.


Trio of Creme Brulee (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

The dinner plates create a pre-amble to a desert menu filled with dishes such as the Yorktowne Peppermint Pattie, a combination of “Rich Peppermint Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, and an Oreo Cookie Crust,” or my favorite, the “Crème Brulee Trilogy.”

This sumptuous desert provides the distinct flavors of Grand Marnier, White Chocolate, Vanilla Bean and Red Raspberry on one plate.

Or for those that require a triple tier of chocolate, the Chocolate Mousse Pate.

Upcoming is The York County Fair, billed as “America’s First Fair,” will run from September 5th to 14th, with the theme Go Hog Wild, referencing one of the many culinary contests to be held.

The inaugural fair event was held in 1765 and keeping with tradition for county fairs everywhere there are apple and peach pie/desert contests, cheesecake contests, contests for a desert made with Hershey Cocoa and another with Ghirardelli Chocolates.
There is also a Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, sticky buns, Spam, rice and the fair theme, pork, contests also!
There are over twenty-five culinary themed contests at this year’s fair. Hmmm… I wonder how to become a judge.
All in all, three days in Yorktown is hardly enough.  There is plenty of food, wine, history and fun to keep a group of girlfriends, or a traveling family, quite happily entertained.

And with fall coming, it could prove to make the perfect long weekend retreat for all.

Jacquie Kubin is publisher and editor of Donne Tempo Magazine, a premier travel, culinary and entertainment publication for and by women!