Thursday, January 01, 2009


We both grew up in Pennsylvania but lived in DC for close to ten years before returning to the Lehigh Valley. In the city, there are culinary adventures (and misadventures) around every corner. Just two blocks from our apartment, we regularly enjoyed an upscale Indian lounge, a Greek cafe that claimed to have daily deliveries by "the lamb truck," a schmancy wine bar, and a northern Italian restaurant with a menu and wine list that rivaled many of the places we loved in Torino. We were spoiled.

Last night we felt transported back to the fine dining we experienced in DC and other cities, thanks to the chef and servers at Bolete (1740 Seidersville Road Bethlehem, in Salisbury Township). You might remember the building as the much-loved Inn of the Falcon. It's a beautiful old stone farmhouse decorated with twinkling white lights, at the intersection of Broadway and Seidersville Road. The dining room seats maybe 40 people, and a small bar area in a separate room has a few extra two-tops. When we entered, we were immediately greeted and our coats were carefully taken upstairs (more on that later). The tables are a little closer together than average for the Lehigh Valley (not any worse than most Manhattan restaurants); you'll definitely hear the conversation at the table next to you, but you'll also get plenty of attention from the staff.

For New Year's Eve, Chef Lee Chizmar - who I must have met at a party at Chris Line's house at some point in high school - put together a beautiful seven-course menu, complete with two options for wine pairings for each course. For as much as we have eaten in nice restaurants, we don't always order dishes that include quail egg, foie gras, oysters, and escargot. The pre-fixe menu was a great chance to experience unique ingredients and preparations, and see how creative Lee's team is in the kitchen. We enjoyed each course immensely, but particularly the halibut with lobster butter and homemade gnocchi. We told Erin Shea, the restaurant's co-owner who resembles Katie Holmes, that we were impressed. To finish the meal, the chef prepared ramekins of chocolate souffle with a rosemary creme anglaise. Despite our full bellies we savored every bite.

As we prepared to leave the dining room, our coats were retrieved by one of the skillful busboys (we watched him instinctively catch a wine glass as it fell from a sideboard with amazing grace). We guessed that upstairs there must be a hook for each table. No "coat check tag" to hang on to. Another thoughtful touch that makes Bolete stand apart from the rest.

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