Monday, August 30, 2010

Cosmopolitan: The restaurant (part 2 of 2)

Cosmopolitan (22 North Sixth Street, Allentown) will be opening in just a few weeks, and will feature the Lehigh Valley's only honest-to-goodness celebrity chef. Bryan Sikora co-founded popular Philadelphia restaurant Django and Kennett Square's phenomenal Talula's Table, often called "the hardest reservation to get in the country," where reservations require a full-year's wait.

Bryan, approachable and passionate, works on Cosmopolitan's menu in a construction zone.

It's not too often that the Valley gets to enjoy cooking by the kind of chef that hangs out with Martha. Whose restaurant was profiled on NPR. And who's so serious about farm-to-table cuisine, one supplier made a variety of salad greens for him, and then coined it the Sikora mix forevermore.

Guests will consider Bryan's unique menu selections seated on one of three levels of dining, each covered with soft fabrics and leather, lush carpet and strategically-placed LED spotlights, a cozy atmosphere to enjoy dinner, drinks, and muse (a bite of food somewhere between an amuse bouche and a tapa - more like a single hors d'oeuvre). The first level will have live acoustic jazz four nights a week, private banquettes, a bar, and a few key see-and-be-seen two- and four-top tables. Up one flight of stairs or a quick elevator ride, guests can peer down through a hole in the floor, created to hold a two-story chandelier, lovingly restored since its days hanging in the now-closed Hess' department store in downtown Allentown.

The draft lunch menu includes ingredients like tuna tartar, crispy baby artichokes, and tomato gelee, but visitors can also choose a simpler, more affordable lunch combination, featuring seasonal ingredients. The first selection may include a potato chowder, garden salad and petite crab cake sandwich for a mere $9. Saladworks, it is not.

Dinner ingredients will be a treat for those who pay attention to source and preparation: scallops from Barnegat Bay (NJ), handmade pasta, Pennsylvania pastured lamb, truffled duck fries, and a variety of seasonal ingredients are on deck for the premier menu. The restaurant will bake its own bread and desserts, and prepare every last detail on site, down to the freshly-made ice creams.

To top off your meal, the bar will offer more than 26 wines by the glass, beginning at $8.95 - and sky's the limit from there. Your server may offer you two wine selections to try before you choose a glass to go with your meal. Want to share a bottle? You'll choose from 140 selections that GM and sommelier Kevin Lynn has personally picked to compliment Cosmopolitan's menu and atmosphere. Top-shelf liquors and beers will also be available in a bar that is designed to "hide" the bottles from sight.

Despite the menu reading like one you'd see in Manhattan or Philadelphia, the restaurant and its staff will make you feel like you're visiting a friend's place. That friend just happens to be a world-class chef who has a place on Sixth Street in Allentown (and valet parking!). Cosmopolitan will be a place to share a special meal, meet for a drink after work, hold an event (up to 140 people in the third-floor ballroom), or sample a wine or dish you've never tried before. I'll see you there!

The wine list is coming together!

Managers Jim Fortunato (formerly of Melt Restaurant Group) and Greer Dalpe (formerly of Providence's Napa Grille and King of Prussia's California Cafe) are working on details.

Getting the kitchen ready for the opening... mid-September 2010.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lehigh Valley Brewfest

Tickets to the 7th Annual Lehigh Valley Brewfest are only $30 before September 1. The October 16 event benefits Equi-librium’s therapeutic riding programs and will again be held at Hugh Moore Park, along the canal in Easton.
Join hundreds of micro-brew-lovin' Lehigh Valleyans for a day of sampling, food, live music and people-watching under tents in the park. Temporary tattoos, coasters, T-shirts and other gear for beer geeks will be available, as well as lots of bathrooms and canal boat rides! It is a one-of-a-kind event that benefits one of my favorite nonprofits in the Lehigh Valley. After it's over, gather your new-found friends to continue the party in downtown Easton (or get something to eat and sober up - your choice).
Courtney told me that at last year's Brewfest, she and her mom saw a bunch of smart people wearing pretzel necklaces. I googled an image for those of you who can't imagine what this looks like. If you have never been to an all-day drinking event you may still be mystified.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cosmopolitan: The project (part 1 of 2)

A restaurant you haven’t heard about is opening in Allentown in just a few weeks.

Maybe you recall something happening on the site of “Sal’s Spaghetti House,” which is how the Lehigh Valley likes to describe things… based on what isn’t there anymore. It’s on Sixth Street in Downtown Allentown, between Hamilton and Linden Streets, across from Allentown Symphony Hall and near the Morning Call building.

There hasn’t been any public (tax) money invested into it – which is why you probably haven’t heard much about it. The restaurant and lounge have been privately-funded by its owners.

In the past few years, the project has trucked along, tearing down an eyesore of a structure, and building in its place a beautiful five-story building with brick façade, detailed architecture and attention to detail rarely seen in a restaurant, let alone an urban revitalization project.
When complete, Cosmopolitan (22 North Sixth Street, Allentown) will seat 500 guests for dinner, drinks, and muse (more on that later). It will feature valet parking seven days a week, outdoor table service on two rooftop patios overlooking the Old Allentown neighborhood, and live acoustic jazz entertainment four nights a week. The vibe will be decidedly urban, upscale, but not at all snooty. Its proximity to Symphony Hall, Allentown Art Museum and other downtown nightlife destinations will make it a great jumping-off place and late-night rendezvous spot, as well as a place to share a special meal with a date or group of friends. The third floor's ballroom (complete with its own mezzanine for people-watching) will hold up to 150 guests for private special events.

The word for design inside Cosmopolitan: luxe. Floor-to-ceiling window treatments, leather banquettes, marble covering the inside of the multiple restrooms, including the 10’ to the ceilings. The two-story chandelier, restored from its days when it hung in the downtown Allentown Hess’ department store, will be a sight to see, as will the fountain outside and the gorgeous water feature inside the entrance. From the lighting (custom) to the molding (also custom), the design of the bar (no visible bottles or bar gear) and the direction the rooftop decks face (north), every inch of Cosmopolitan has been painstakingly selected and crafted.

When it opens, it will be a great place to get farm-to-table cuisine, try a wine you’ve never tasted before, and spend time before or after downtown events.

I recently had a chance to visit with one of the project's owners, its gregarious manager, and its expert chef. Later this week, I’ll share some details about the restaurant and its menu, and as soon as they're finalized, you’ll hear about the plans for its opening in mid-September. Stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy some preview photos!

Curbside, a view of Cosmopolitan's cornerstone.

A couple of birds'-eye view images from one of the two rooftop decks (scheduled to open Spring 2011). It literally gave me goosebumps to see this city from this vantage point.

Cosmopolitan's facade.

The ballroom, complete with two humongous chandeliers, which I saw being assembled.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's the Flood of '55?

If you live in the Lehigh Valley, especially Easton, it's important to understand the impact that floods have had on the community, and how to prepare for another potential natural disaster. The Nurture Nature Center (516 Northampton Street, Easton) is hosting an event tonight from 6-8 p.m. that might interest history buffs, native Eastonians and newcomers interested in learning about the community's history. The organization is celebrating the launch of the updated second edition of Mary Shafer's "Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955."

The book is about the largest flood disaster ever to hit the Delaware River, which changed life in the Delaware Valley forever. Record-breaking rainfall from hurricanes Connie and Diane abruptly ended a withering drought in August 1955, but the relief was short-lived. From the river’s headwaters in the Catskills and through the Poconos, excessive runoff surged down steep slopes and through valleys on both sides of the river. Tributaries swelled unbelievably, some rising 30' in 15 minutes. Eventually, they all poured into the Delaware, transforming the usually placid waters into a raging, uncontrollable beast. Mountain resorts were inundated, leaving cars upended in swimming pools. Entire summer camps were washed away. More than 400 children were evacuated by helicopter from island camps in a tense, unprecedented operation.

The beautiful Grand Eastonian Suites (140 Northampton Street, Easton) is the backdrop for the event. Guests will enjoy free refreshments and will have an opportunity to learn more and share your own flood stories in a permanent oral history collection. Free and open to the public, hosted by The Nurture Nature Foundation. No RSVP, no cover charge.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Signing at Moravian Book Shop

You wouldn't believe that there were 1 million people wandering around Bethlehem just two days ago for Musikfest - it's pretty much back to business as usual on Main Street. See it for yourself this Saturday when you swing by the Moravian Book Shop (428 Main Street) for a book signing. Saturday, August 21st, from 1-3 p.m., Pamela Glasner will sign her book Finding Emmaus, a factually-based fantasy novel in which two empathic people living 350 years apart uncover a multibillion-dollar conspiracy involving the misdiagnosis and treatment of mentally ill people, while trying to right a centuries-old wrong.

Park in some of the new back-in angled metered parking spots in front, or get up to 3 hours at the Walnut Street or North Street parking decks free with a purchase at the Moravian Book Shop. Present your parking garage entry ticket at any cash register.

If these are the kind of events that ring your bell, be sure to sign up for Moravian Book Shop's weekly email newsletter to find out what's happening in the shop!

Friday, August 06, 2010

In case you hadn't heard... Musikfest starts tonight.

beautiful photography by Adam Atkinson

Musikfest... for some, like me, it's the most wonderful time of the year. I clear my schedule a year in advance.

Tonight I'm going to see the very talented Dina Hall and a band I've heard a lot about, Three Legged Fox, both conveniently scheduled at Liederplatz (that's the one in the Sun Inn courtyard).

I have been checking out the blogroll of Musikfest enthusiasts:
Laini's List
Jana at Lehigh Valley Style
George at Lehigh Valley w/ Love
and of course, the official word from Jon and the gang at ArtsQuest

I will be hanging out in the SteelStacks booth for a bit this week, asking questions (as always!) and spreading the love, as usual. We'll be set up between the Playstation truck and the Bethlehem Dairy Store tent, near the Festplatz tent. Stop by to get your picture taken in front of the "blast furnace," find out more about SteelStacks, share your thoughts by taking a survey, and making a charitable gift, if you are so inclined.

What's SteelStacks? In one location on the South Side of Bethlehem, you will experience:

  • Over 300 live performances a year

  • 26 children’s concerts

  • 50 free, family-friendly outdoor concerts

  • Cinema 365 days a year

  • 10 new festivals

  • Farmers Market

  • Arts & Antique Market

At these amazing venues:

  • Creativity Commons
    The place to be for delicious eats- sandwiches, salads, and paninis will be available, along with movie concessions and killer beverages!

  • Festival Plaza
    Located at the west end of the SteelStacks campus, the Festival Plaza will be home to the Farmer and Art & Antiques markets, new festivals and Musikfest’s new main stage!

  • Blast Furnace Room
    A great space for social and corporate events, workshops, intimate performances and more – all with a view of the spectacular blast furnaces!

  • Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
    Enjoy the best in independent, foreign, scientific and documentary films at this new, state-the-art alehouse style cinema. Sponsored by the granddaddy of beverages in the Lehigh Valley.

  • Martin Guitar Lobby

  • Mike and Ike Concessions

  • Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
    A multi-purpose concert venue, with an awe-inspiring, bird's eye view of the blast furnaces. The venue offers flexible seating arrangements and spectacular food and beverage service.

  • Outdoor Music Pavilion
    The new venue for 50 free, family-friendly concerts each year!

  • Town Square
    The Town Square will feature tons of programming from ArtsQuest, local community groups and more. We're talking concerts, al fresco dining, performance art and way more!

How can you resist? Coming Summer 2011!

PS If you need directions, a map or any other tips on the event, the Musikfest website has everything you need! Don't let another year go by without checking out the best event in the Lehigh Valley.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


In an ongoing effort to offer "unique" ways to meet people (romantic or otherwise) in the Lehigh Valley, I bring you: HOW TO MEET ATHLETES WHO CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT

Need a reason to get rid of those old, worn-out athletic shoes collecting dust at the bottom of your closet? Breathe new life into your sneaks by recycling them into something useful. Maybe you'll meet other like-minded peeps doing the same thing, or talk to someone who you inspired to recycle their shoes because they saw you doing it.

Until Monday, August 23, The City of Allentown’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting an athletic shoe recycling drive as part of Nike’s ReUse-A-Shoe community awareness program. Drop your shoes into collection bins located at the Park and Recreation office at 3000 Parkway Boulevard, the Recycling Drop Off Center at 1400 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and/or at the Cedar Creek Parkway basketball courts during the youth basketball games on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-8 PM.

Nike accepts all brands of shoes, and can only recycle athletic shoes (running shoes, sneakers, etc.) Nike will not accept shoes containing metal, cleats, dress shoes, wet/damp shoes, sandals or flip-flops.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Easton Restaurant Week

I actually hadn't planned to celebrate Easton's Restaurant Week, but it's hard to resist great deals at some awesome eatieries.

Yesterday, Tracey and I hit up Sette Luna (219 Ferry Street, Easton), where I would like to set up a remote office on the patio, eat brick-oven pizza and drink Bell's Oberon all day. Unfortunately this is not a possibility, but I can dream. We snagged a table outside, where people-watching is always on the menu; however, we didn't order from the RW menu, which was 1/2 a bianca (no sauce) pizza with a salad. She had figs stuffed with goat cheese and part of a margarita pizza, and I ordered the Third Street Panini... always tasty and served with a little salad of cucumbers and tomatoes. The service was great as usual, and the table on a brick sidewalk provided some comic relief as our glasses and silverware slid sideways.

Today I'm headed to Sogo (237 Northampton Street, Easton) with my friend the birthday girl, which should take care of that sushi craving I've been trying to resist every time I'm in Wegman's.

Tonight Nicole and I are checking out Marblehead Grille and Chowder House (4101 William Penn Hwy, Easton) for the first time. We called to make a reservation and got the last table at 7:30! I hear there's a lobster special. Stay tuned!