Winter Convivial

Winter Convivial

Convivial: adj.
1. Fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; sociable.
2. Merry; festive

Our annual end of the year dinner at Stokesay Castle was quite a celebration. The atmosphere at the newly renovated castle in the woods was extravagant yet still cozy. Unfortunately, no jousting, wenches, or giant Turkey legs to be found - just large vaulted ceilings, tapestries, and ornate woodwork.

We had the library all to ourselves. The proprietor probably regrets putting such a loud and obnoxious group by the front door. The staff hovered around, giggling about our office stories and wondering if they should cut off the steady flow of wine bottles.

The menu was a surprise (and hopefully a delight) to everyone who attended. With the help of the executive chef, Chef Andrea (later determined to be none other than Andrea from Hell's Kitchen season 5!), we put together a bizarre array of flavors and ingredients. Only I (and Phil who found the menu in the printer) knew what was to come...

  • First course – “Lollipop “frog legs Provencal
  • Second course – “partridge in a pear tree”. A partridge accompanied with a pear sauce
  • Third course – Wild boar with forbidden rice and asparagus
  • Fourth course – Grilled Ostrich tenderloin with ligonberry sauce and creamy polenta
  • Fifth course – Trio of desserts: Brown butter & thyme ice cream, Bacon and Maple ice cream and Mini coconut custard topped with house made meringue
  • Sixth course – Gourmet truffles

Everything was amazing and surprisingly affordable. Outside of our bar bill, we paid only a little more per person than an average meal at TGI Fridays. Being a 10-year vegetarian who only recently well off the wagon, I enjoyed the variety of the meats and the faces people made when the chef announced the course. Surprisingly, the ostrich was the best course of the meal. It had an indescribable flavor that paired well with the ligonberry sauce.

All in all a great time. A stark comparison to the 2009 party which was halted by 3 feet of snow and left 4 cases of beer in the fridge.

Stokesay Castle: Reading, PA:
On August 22, 1931, a businessman named George Baer Hiester[3] hired Frederick A. Muhlenberg, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), to design a honeymoon cottage in Reading, Pennsylvania. Mr. Hiester was impressed by Stokesay Castle and wanted to incorporate it into his residence.

Many features of the original English Manor were adopted for the design of the residence. These include extensive use of hand cut stone throughout the home, rough hewn exposed wood beams in the main living spaces, and cathedral ceilings. Construction of the home was completed in 1932. It served as a private residence until 1956, when it was converted into a restaurant.[4][5] After several decades, it fell into disuse and decay.

It was bought at auction in March 2009 by local businessman Jack Gulati, who restored it to its former splendor, and now operates it as a restaurant and venue for gatherings of up to 600.