FOOD: A Winter Weekend Interlude
February 4, 2011
Tired of looking out the window to dreary winter days of sleet, snow and drizzle? Escape the doldrums of February and embark on a weekend road trip adventure that features mouth-watering food and unparalleled outdoor activities. Situated on a mountain, east of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and an easy 4 hour drive directly north of Falls Church City, awaits a winter wonderland where you can indulge your palette with world class dining and burn off the calories with some Nordic skiing to boot.
Anxious to retreat from the weekly beltway chaos, my husband and I set out on a recent Saturday morning for Crystal Lake Ski Center and nearby Eagles Mere Inn. Please note: this only requires a weekend, and if you leave Saturday morning, you will begin to unwind and feel the stress evaporate as you drive on roads sans traffic. A Friday afternoon departure could be a different story, however.
Arriving at Crystal Lake Ski Center, we headed into the ski lodge and purchased our ski passes for the weekend. After gearing up we hit the meticulously groomed trails, which cover 30 Kilometers (19 miles) on 900 acres of rolling terrain. Each trail is marked with a level of expertise, and there’s something for every skill level, from the beginner all the way to the former Olympic skiers who frequent the resort. According to the October 2010 issue of Cross Country Skier magazine, this is one of the best Nordic facilities in the region. For the uninitiated, cross country skiing comes in 2 “flavors”, classic, traditional technique with a straight ahead motion, and skate skiing, where you ski with a V-glide motion similar to ice skating. The trails at Crystal Lake are groomed for both.
By the way, Crystal Lake offers snowshoeing and has a sizable hill for those who want to perfect their telemark “free-heel” turns (“free your heel and your mind” as the husband likes to say). They also provide lessons and equipment rentals for those who need a little extra help. And at $12 a day, it’s hard to beat this relaxing sojourn into the mountains. Whatever your fancy or skill level, you can enjoy winter’s finest scenery while partaking in the world’s best aerobic activity. No weather worries, there’s little wind in these woods, just a tranquil wilderness of animal tracks in the snow, and many different species of birds in the canopy of aromatic pine trees above and the understory of mountain mahogany below.
Part two of this great winter getaway involves the re-fueling stage, and since this is ostensibly a food column, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Hidden in the Pocono Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, only 20 minutes north of Crystal Lake, is the Eagles Mere Inn. Spotlighted in the Select Register of Distinguished Inns of North America, Eagles Mere Inn is known as “the last unspoiled resort” and only full service historic Inn remaining from the 1800s. Featured in many travel magazines, it offers personalized attention and a 5 course gourmet meal for both guests of the Inn and “freelance” diners alike.
“Our food is not trendy” says Owner/Chef/Innkeeper Toby Diltz, who doubles as the bartender, “but prepared with fresh organic produce, cheeses and meats supplied by local farmers.” Before dinner we relaxed in front of a roaring fire in the Inn’s pub and enjoyed a beverage -there’s an 80+ beer selection!. Toby’s knowledge of his inventory is encyclopedic and with his guidance we sampled Oskar Blues Old Chub from Colorado, Skullsplitter- a Scottish ale- and Terrapin Hopsecutioner. With names like that and taste to match, the hardest task was deciding which one we liked the most. Toby also serves up a variety of wines, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages according to your tastes and preferences.
As soon as we finished our last sip of beer, we were summoned upstairs for our 5 course dinner. We began this dining experience with Sausage, Spinach and Quinoa soup. The soup was flavorful and tasted exotic. The next course, salad with fresh greens, beets, goat cheese and almonds, was all the more impressive given the season, mid-January. A generous dollop of lemon sorbet was the perfect transition to the main course. I chose “Dr. Baker’s Chicken”- a special white BBQ marinade, oven roasted and filled with boursin cheese accompanied by a roasted red pepper salsa. The chicken was melt-in-your mouth tender and the white BBQ sauce was a perfect balance of tang and sweetness. My husband opted for the “Crab and Crawfish from the Outerbanks- Special Remick style” a baked crab and crawfish recipe developed by the Inn’s family in South Carolina. The rémoulade sauce was creamy, thick, a tad spicy and just to die for. The Inn is committed to the local farmers, so although the menu changes daily, the fare is always fresh, local and organic. Our dinner finished with a chocolate volcano dessert and a rum bread pudding. Our skiers’ appetites were now nothing but a distant memory.
Those wishing to stay in the Inn can easily do so, as they provide a “prix fixe” dinner/lodging/breakfast package that renders the entire experience very affordable. Other lodging options are available at Crystal Lake and a bit farther down the road in Williamsport. We opted to stay in the Inn, and after a wonderful sleep in comfy bed and a robust gourmet breakfast, we found ourselves back on the ski trails the next morning.
Finally, before you head back to civilization, don’t forget to check out the Eagles Mere Toboggan run. One-of-a-kind in the USA, this ice track toboggan run has been a fixture in Eagles Mere since the early 1900s. Local volunteers have the arduous task of cutting over 900 blocks of ice from Eagles Mere Lake and assembling them on the hill above the lake. The blocks are then watered down and finally a machine meticulously carves a groove in the ice track to fit the toboggan. The toboggan starts at the top of a hill and screams down at 35 mph (as clocked by radar) for a quarter mile onto the lake. They only run the toboggan when the lake is at least 12” thick, typically from mid-January to March. Perhaps the best part – all proceeds go to their local volunteer fire companies.
Crystal Lake Ski Center, 1716 Crystal Lake Road, Hughesville, PA 17737
Telephone: 570.584.4209 Website: http://www.crystallakeskicenter.com/
Eagles Mere Inn, 1 Mary Avenue, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania 17731
Telephone: 570-525-3273 Website: www.eaglesmereinn.com
By (see byline)
February 4, 2011