Another Friday brought the opportunity to get on some mode of transportation out of the city to a destination of relaxation. This time it would be to a former neighbor’s new home in Pennsylvania. I was there for the inception of this exodus, the blueprints of the house and the move and now it was time to experience this vision come to life for myself. It wasn’t a moment too soon.

Having vacationed with friends and residents of the area many times, my friend Carl seized an opportunity to build his dream home by a small lake in Schuylkill County. He loves food and to cook as much as I do, so the preface of the weekend would be what is on the menu.

Carl didn’t miss a beat. As soon as I got off the bus, we made many stops at stores and markets to pick up supplies, but also so Carl could show off all of the amazing fresh produce, meats, baked goods and more produced locally. The mostly Amish vendors showed a committment to quality and a true authenticity to how food has always been produced.

Our trip to one market reminded me of my time in Philadephia and the Reading Terminal Market. There, we picked up cheese, bacon, produce, nuts, some Italian products and more but not before getting a bite to eat that would eventually turn out to be a food theme of the weekend. After grabing two fried softshell crab sammies, string bean fries and fresh lemonade, Carl asked the monger if she had more of the molted-shell crustacians. Her affirmative response got Carl to thinking.

Dinner on my first night would start with grilled Caesar salad with anchovies followed by Carl’s delicious vegetable risotto, made in a pressure cooker, topped with grilled softshell crabs and bing cherry cafloutis with fresh whipped cream for dessert. This is how they get down in PA? And it was good, sending me off to dreamland with a smile on my face.

Night two, after a day of hanging out on the dock, kayaking and swimming in the fresh water lake was a simple steak dinner with a gorgeous beefsteak tomato salad. The master mixologist tossed up some G&Ts that sent me over and beyond.

Sunday started with an early morning hike up Hawk Mountain for gorgeous views of the valley and farmlands. We returned home for a late brunch of risotto cakes Benedict (from leftover risotto) and mango bellinis and to prep for dinner, which required his homemade dough.

Carl’s guests arrived promptly at 6 p.m. for cocktails made at his fully stocked bar. A couple of Old Fashioneds later and we were seated for tarte flambee (aka flammekeuche, aka pizza) with his homemade creme fraiche, bacon, caramelized onions and cheese. Salad and leftover cafloutis rounded out wonderful conversation and a relaxing evening.

My early afternoon departure the next day would not take place before Carl pulled out two leftover softshell crabs. We ended our time together as we started, with sandwiches. This time, the crabs were cornmeal crusted and pan fried with homemade remoulade. I was saited!

Congratulations, Carl, on manifesting your dream! It is beautiful and bright. See you again soon!

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Happy eating and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook at For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at