The 5th annual Harvest Festival in Bethlehem took place two weekends ago and it sure seemed bigger and more attended than ever. In addition to all of the brews being dished out, food was in abundance as well. To wander around the festival is of course free but there was also paid adventures to partake in as well. From Vitaminwater pong and apple buying to beer drinking and soup tasting there was a little bit for everyone. One of the main attractions every year is the beer tasting. Local distributors and breweries bring out their ales for the masses to taste and this year was no exception. The always phenominal brews from the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers never fail to delight, with annual favorites Black Pepper Porter and Bourbon Vanilla Porter making returns. The black pepper porter wasn’t as peppery in the past, and whether you think that’s a good thing or not is up to you. One of the best new brews from them I tried was a gingerbread beer…tastes exactly like it sounds and goes down far too easy. In addition beers were being poured from Magic Hat, Appalachian, and Roy Pitz breweries.
This year a few things were added, including a pie contest, pitting the best restaurants in Bethlehem against each other to create the best tasting, looking, and season-themed pie. I was one of the judges for the contest and let me tell you, downing 10 (sometimes rather heavy) slices of pie in a short time was no easy task. The pies were as follows:
McCarthy’s Tea Room – apple sour cream pie
Seasons – apple and balsamic cranberry pie
Hotel Bethlehem – Mary Yohe’s harvest pie
Back Door Bake Shop – apple pie with streusel topping
Jumbars – jumble berry pie
Apollo – apple-craisin pie with white cheddar cheese crust
Starfish Brasserie – rose veal and bleu cheese latice pie
Tika’s – fire roasted pumpkin flan
The Flour Shop – caramel apple pie
Granola Factory– cranberry pie
Since the pies were supposed to be seasonal/harvest representative I really discounted a lot of the pies that included berries (with the exception, of course, being the cranberry). Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are summer fare, not autumn. McCarthy’s pie was EXTREMELY doughy tasting…not in a good way either. It was almost like they forgot to leave it cook long enough. Season’s pie was interesting, but the balsamic was too present and really ruined a good concept. Hotel Bethlehem, taking second place, created a very interesting nutty harvest pie that wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. The apple pies were generally pretty pedestrian and could’ve been much more than they were. Starfish’s take on it – doing a savory pie – was very interesting considering it was outside of the box, very heavy, and absolutely delicious. Tika’s, with another crazy pie, had fire roasted pumpkin flan that was cooked to perfection. The other judges and myself added up and the inner was the Granola Factory, with a cranberry pie that was not only seasonal, but had an amazing sunflower presentation and tasted extraordinary.
In addition to pie, there were 13 different restaurants offering soup tasting for a small fee. Interesting to note this year, the beer and wine tastings were unlimited. In previous years tasters were limited to 10 samples (which wasn’t really abided by anyways). Also, the wine was spread throughout different shops so it was kind of difficult to determine what wine was where. I get the point was to drive customers into shops, but it was slightly annoying.
Harvest Festival, over the past few years, has grown into a really great staple signaling the beginning of autumn and I hope it continues to flourish and grow the way it has.
For more info check out http://www.bethlehemharvestfestival.com/