You’d think that by this time of year, I’d be dreaming of an all-inclusive island vacation to escape the bitter cold and snow.
But on the contrary, by the time New Years arrives, I’m dreaming of a pine forest, a cozy cabin and comfort food galore, like a cassoulet and a pot de crème, not a Starbucks non-fat hot chocolate and charred smores from my backyard pit.
I recently caught an old episode of Rick Steves in Europe on PBS, that travel guide guy who roughs it in European cities, and does it all on a dime. It happened to be a holiday special that left me saying “You’ve got to be kidding.” I watched as he and his family sledded down an Alpine pass one holiday evening, hosted by a local family, holding candles - not the battery operated kind - as they crossed the new-fallen snow. Holiday goals.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ll be at home this New Year’s holiday, with Covid concerns and travel warnings to heed, and a daughter to return to college this weekend. So I looked around for some local places that can still tweak a great winter vibe, without the Sound of Music hassle.
Our local restaurants do a great job of creating unique comfort food menus that embrace the tastes of the season. Many have come up with new items perfect for the winter chill. Here are some new, as well as some longtime, beloved options. Hold the TSA nightmare.
- Check out the outdoor beer garden at the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company Taproom and enjoy crafted brews while seated around heaters all night long. The Taproom added some hearty winter menu items like a new grain salad with farro, quinoa, charred broccoli, and portabello mushrooms. The charred Brussels Caesar salad is already shaping up to be popular. 8231 Germantown Ave.
- Pull up an intimate table for two at the Earth Bread + Brewery at 7136 Germantown Ave. in Mount Airy on a cold night and choose from up to a dozen in-house brews. The cozy resto is also debuting its winter Rumoni, a chill-chasing Negroni made with rum instead of gin. The Old Fashioned is still one of the locals’ winter favorites.
- Hello ladies’ night! Check out the “Jansen Lodge,” a brand new outdoor cocktail area at Jansen restaurant featuring a firepit and space for ten of your closest friends to pretend you just got off the slopes. The covered, tented wonderland will transport you to Aspen with its curated décor, featuring faux sheepskin covers for that extra winter vibe. 7402 Germantown Ave. Mount Airy.
- Have a seat with a glass of wine in front of the fireplace at Tavern on the Hill, and experience chef Gerard Strenger’s seasonal lamb stew. Simmered with veggies and herbs and finished off with a drizzle of rosemary oil and a sliced baguette, locals look forward to it every year. But having the stew in front of the fireplace is the real deal. “Fires seem to conjure up backlogged memories and they are usually happy memories,” said Tavern owner Kathlyn Egan. 8636 Germantown Ave.
- Tuck into a booth at Campbell’s Place and then tuck into a bowl of mussels or a nice baked brie. The Brussels spouts with bleu cheese dressing have always been a local favorite. This epic place really does winter comfort food well. Shepherd’s Pie and one of their burgers should be on your to-do list this winter. 8337 Germantown Ave.
- And finally, get the Chestnut Hill on Ice festival on your calendars for Jan. 28 and 29. This annual event turns Germantown Avenue into a winter wonderland for the whole family featuring ice sculptures by world ice carving champion Peter Slavin, grab-and-go specials from restaurants along the walkable route, and intermittent firepits to warm up while you sip some cocktails. The event is free, with various costs for activities and foods along the route. For updated information as the date approaches go to www.chestnuthillpa.com.
Have an idea, suggestion or just want to talk foodie favorites? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And Happy New Year!