With thoughtful classics and audacious pairings, the House is a destination worth the drive

The combination of the lamb, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and roasted tomatoes was a symphony of delightful flavors. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Craven ’20)

In the words of Australian food critic Matt Preston, “When you look at the most exciting restaurants in the world at the moment, they are hidden away. You have to make the effort.”

The experience of the journey always seems to add to the magic of your destination. For me, there is nothing more exciting than getting in the car to drive thirty plus minutes to a restaurant. Your anticipation builds and you cannot wait to enjoy a beautifully crafted meal.

As I pulled up to this old rustic farmhouse and barn, the incandescent lights shined with an immaculate beauty that put an eager smile on my face. I was ready!

The House and Barn is a pair of restaurants in Emmaus, Pennsylvania about thirty minutes from campus. The House is a charming fine dining establishment, while the Barn is a wonderful gastropub. This review is about the House, but you can be sure that I will be returning to see what the Barn has to offer.

The House is a modest farmhouse, but its welcoming façade invites you in with grace and style. We were seated in a small room shared by two other tables with small windows and a doorway that lead the eye to peak into other rooms. There was an elegant intimacy to the space, and the minimalist chic decor ensured no one felt crammed.

The menu reads like any normal modern American restaurant. It isn’t until you read the descriptions that you get a sense of the chef’s creativity.

There is a bountiful variety of appetizers, each one sounding like a great starting place. I ordered the lobster sliders and the burrata salad for the table, and both hit the mark.

The chef audaciously chose not to serve the burrata with tomatoes but rather a salad of greens. Most Italians would write this off as blasphemy, but as an Italian myself (one quarter), this choice worked well and let the burrata shine. I enjoyed the subtlety of the dish and garnered a new appreciation for the creamy ball of mozzarella.

If the burrata salad was a delicate symphony, then the lobster sliders were a rock and roll concert. The flavors were pronounced and robust, and the dish was flat out delicious. I long for them as I write this article.  

The entrées adhered more to the tradition of most American fine dining restaurants. All the classics are present: steak, lamb, pork, chicken, salmon and the like. But do not be fooled – the accompaniments were thoughtful and paired harmoniously with the meat and fish.

I ordered the lamb, which was one of the best dishes I have had in recent memory. The red wine-braised lamb just fell of the shank and no knife was required. The garlic and herb goat cheese mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and roasted tomatoes completed the luxurious symphony of delightful flavors and textures. 

While this restaurant certainly executes at a high level, it was not without its faults. The most prominent was the overcooked filet. They recommended a medium rare temperature, but unfortunately it came out as medium well at best. It was a rather upsetting discovery for a restaurant that otherwise was nearly perfect.

After our main course, I was nearly full, but I still decided to indulge in dessert. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a dangerous sweet tooth. The pastry chef offers an assortment of ice creams as well as the usual suspects such as crème brûlée, carrot cake, and chocolate mousse. 

The crème brûlée turned out to rather phenomenal and was one of the better interpretations I have had of the French classic. I ordered some pistachio ice cream, which was more subtle than I would have liked but was good nonetheless.

The House is a destination that is well worth your time. The service is welcoming and friendly, the food is excellent and the elegant ambiance rounds out a fantastic experience. This restaurant is quite popular, so I highly recommend reservations, which can only be done by phone. It is also kind of expensive so it’s a great place to take your parents or impress your date.

Although it is a bit of a drive, we know that life is about the journey (in this case though…it might really be about the destination).

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