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Seventh Heaven

September 18, 2012 - Phyllis Sigal
What could be better than a Women's Foodie Getaway Weekend?

A Women's Foodie Getaway Weekend with my daughter Amanda!

As soon as I saw the announcement for this event — a cooperative effort between Table magazine and Seven Springs Mountain Resort — I wanted to go! Amanda at first turned down the offer because of a prior commitment, but luckily her calendar cleared after all, and she said yes!

Having spent a week with my son Leland at Chautauqua Institution this summer, it seemed only fair I get some uninterrupted quality time with my daughter, too. I was so looking forward to it.

So, off we went Friday afternoon. Pedicure appointments made, suitcases packed with way too many outfits, more reading material than we figured we could ever finish and a bottle of sparkling wine ready to pop ... we were set. It was a beautiful, sunny, fall day as we set off for the mountains.

We arrived just in time for our appointments; Amanda set up a bonus manicure, as well. Nothing like a little pampering on a late Friday afternoon to start off the weekend.

The event opened with a "See and Be Seen Tasting Reception" at the resort's premiere restaurant, Helen's. Built in the 1930s, Helen's is a lovely chalet, the original home to the resort's founders, Helen and Adolph Dupre. It's elegant and rustic at the same time.

There were 24 of us attending the weekend event, and we were treated to a glass of sparkling wine and some signature hors d'oeuvres. One of our favorites was the "Quail Wings," which were not actually wings, but a cut up quail, deep fried and tossed in a tasty and spicy chipotle sauce. Miniature pot pies topped with puff pastry were delicious as was a single sea scallop served atop a creamy risotto.

On Saturday, after breakfast and a brisk walk outside around the resort property, we had a "farm-to-table" lunch at the Sporting Clays facility. Lunch consisted of tomato soup topped with buttery croutons, grilled skirt steak, and a salad of heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced onions and a touch of saffron. Executive Chef Sandro Marcato told us that he marinated the skirt steak for 24 hours in herbs and olive oil. The surprise ingredient, however, was coffee grounds that he rubbed on the steak just before grilling it. Deep-fried cheesecake bites drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauces finished off our lunch.

Because lunch took place at the Sporting Clays, each participant could try her hand at shooting the clays. Several of the ladies had some successful shots, to rousing rounds of applause from the group.

Lunch was followed up by a slide show and lecture by Sue A. Thompson, titled "Cocktail Botany." We learned some ins and outs of making beer and wine. But the best part — we had a wine tasting and sampled five wines. My favorite was the Windsor Sonoma Chardonnay.

They kept us pretty busy, but we did have a couple of hours before dinner to get some reading in. Sitting out in the sunshine, reading and chatting a bit was a pleasant way to spend our time together. Eight of the ladies in the group — all who lived in Sewickley, where Amanda lives — were bridge group buddies. They spent their free time indulging in their favorite pastime. Others in the group took advantage of the Trillium Spa during the break.

Then, it was time for dinner — the piece de resistance of the weekend. It was billed as "A Working Dinner Demo by Executive Chef Sandro Marcato."

Our round dinner tables were set with just four places each, so that all dinner guests could face the front of the room for a clear view of the chef.

Chef Marcato, who grew up just north of Venice, Italy, was delightful. He was funny and entertaining and quite gracious in answering our questions.

We started with venison tartare with truffles and micro greens. It was delicious. I'm not a big venison fan, but this dish was outstanding. Chef Marcato told us he gets his venison from the Broken Arrow Ranch in Colorado.

Next we had peaches and porcini. Fruit and mushrooms — "It's what we do," in Italy, he said. The sauteed peaches and porcini mushrooms were tossed with herbs (rosemary, thyme and parsley), a little bit of cream and chicken stock. Delicious. Soft, silky, creamy. Yum.

A mango-apricot sorbet cleansed our palate.

Then the chef came out of the kitchen with the largest stainless steel bowl I've ever seen.

He started tossing and tossing and tossing ... in the bowl was hand-made pappardelle pasta in a sauce of olive oil, oregano and lemon peel. Into the bowl went raw, sushi-grade blue fin tuna. It was cooked only as long as it took the chef to toss it with the hot pasta. Simple and delicious. This course ... (which number were we on???!!) ... also included a scoop of oyster risotto.

Our entree (yes, there was more!) was a striped bass dredged in porcini mushroom dust and topped with blueberry sauce, paired with loin of venison with bitter chocolate sauce and quince. Oh, our mouths were in heaven.

Would there be room for dessert? I think we all groaned when we saw more food come out of the kitchen!

Dessert was the chef's interpretation of tiramasu. A vanilla genoise with coffee syrup was layered with marscapone cheese (which had been whipped with egg yolks, sugar, whipping cream and whipped egg whites). It was dusted with cocoa powder and topped with whipped cream, and little chocolate rings and straws. It was as gorgeous as it was delicious. And, thankfully, very light.

We pushed ourselves away from the table and lumbered up the stairs ... "Let's take a walk," I suggested to Amanda. That was the best idea I had all day, she noted, when we came back in from the night air, refreshed and feeling a little less full from the exquisite dinner.

I was sure I'd never have to eat again ... but, believe it or not, there we were at breakfast the very next morning, before all heading on our separate ways.

It was a glorious weekend in the Pennsylvania mountains — full of camaraderie, great food and of course the best part, quality time with my daughter.

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