There's a new kind of dining experience in Lancaster that aims to bring people and the community together: the Dishcrawl. As a fresh take on the progressive dinner, nationally known Dishcrawl arrived in Lancaster city in August.
Led by local Dishcrawl ambassador Beth Shoemaker, this monthly event takes diners to experience four mystery restaurants. I attended the Oct. 8 Dishcrawl, which cost $45 per person (gratuity included). When signing up, the only thing I knew was that it would be in Lancaster and would start at 7 p.m. Talk about a leap of foodie faith!
About 48 hours before the Dishcrawl, I received an email telling me to meet at Yorgos Restaurant & Lounge. The email also teased a sumac-crusted swordfish with smoked eggplant and tomato risotto and Moroccan cream. That’s it.
So I showed up — with absolutely no idea what to expect. I checked in with the ambassador, who then prompted me to sign a waiver and don a Dishcrawl nametag with my first name. Some people grabbed drinks at the bar while others stood around chatting. I’d say there were at least 30 of us there. It was like any networking event, except the focus was on food instead of business.
About 7:15, we were prompted to take our seats, so I plunked down at what looked like a socially promising table. The restaurant staff then gave us a brief introduction to Yorgos and the tasting menu.
Because we were following the “progressive dinner” concept, I was only expecting appetizers at this first stop, but our plates practically had a full meal on them. Here’s what covered our plates:
• Spanakopita, a spinach and cheese pie. It was tasty but a bit soggy.
• Yorgos village salad (tomatoes, cucumber, green peppers, kalamata olives and feta) served with grilled pita and tzatziki sauce. This looked kind of like a Greek version of bruschetta. Very fresh and tangy!
• Two types of chicken wings. One was a blend of sriracha sauce, parmesan cheese and Sazon seasoning and the other had sweet honey and Old Bay seasoning. Did you know that Yorgos has 81 different wing flavors?
• Braised short rib in demi-glace over garlic mashed potatoes with wilted spinach and crispy fried onions. I couldn’t find this on Yorgos’ regular menu, but the short rib was on the tough side.
After we consumed that mound of food, the servers surprised us with rice pudding. Yikes, and this was only our first stop! I don’t normally like rice pudding, but this version was cinnamon-y, gooey and quite delicious.
Then it was time to follow the leader to our next stop, which turned out to be Pour. I was delighted to see that tables were set up for us in the adjacent Artisans Gallery. However, there wasn’t enough seating, and that’s where things started to go downhill. Since our evening was on a tight schedule, it was concerning that our food took an extraordinary amount of time to be served — to the point that our ambassador was visibly stressed and starting to make frantic calls to our next location. To be fair, Pour’s manager was unexpectedly in the hospital, so the place was not running at 100 percent.
When it was practically time for us to leave, our dishes finally came out, but nobody bothered to let us know what we were eating, so I flagged down a server to ask. It turned to be miso coconut risotto. Not my favorite and, thankfully, not on Pour’s regular menu, as it was very rich and had a very odd aftertaste. On our walk to the next restaurant, I found out from diners in the other room that they were served a different risotto — a charred onion risotto (it is on the regular menu) — which sounded much better than what I received.
Again, I’m sure this experience had everything to do with the manager’s absence, and I look forward to giving Pour a proper review when it’s back in top form.
Next, we were led to the Belvedere Inn, a pleasant surprise for me as it’s been on my list of places to try. And it didn’t disappoint! Our group was led to the swanky upstairs piano bar, where our places were perfectly set. We received the royal treatment, complete with an elaborate explanation of our samplings, which were a preview of the restaurant’s new seasonal menu.
Here’s what we ate:
• Pulled pork flatbread (Jaegermeister-braised pork roast, salsa verde, Manchego cheese and horseradish aioli). This was rather unusual, but the flavors worked together nicely.
• Cauliflower spinach gratin (roasted garlic-Manchego béchamel with sea salt crostini). I don’t normally like creamy things, but this was out-of-this-world delicious. Move over, artichoke dip!
• Sumac-crusted swordfish (smoked eggplant and tomato risotto, Moroccan cream and Swiss chard). Now I know why the swordfish was teased in the email two days prior, because this was definitely the pièce de résistance, an intricate balance of smokiness, creaminess and zestiness.
I did find one small issue with this Dishcrawl promise: “In one night, dine at four restaurants that define your city.” That’s because we never went to a fourth restaurant. Instead, Donna Lussier, owner of La Petite Patisserie, brought her dessert to the Belvedere.
Technicalities aside, Lussier’s dessert was perfection. The mini pistachio French macaron was artful yet flavorful. The chocolate caramel cupcake was remarkably moist and the caramel flavor did not overpower the chocolate (as I find with many chocolate-caramel desserts).
The next Lancaster Dishcrawl will be Nov. 12. Will you attend?