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Audiences treated to demonstrations, chefs, prizes, ‘wonderful’ tastes

By WENDY STIVER

wstiver@lockhaven.com

MILL HALL- “This is the best year ever!”

A happy gourmand made that statement while enjoying what she called “awesome” food at the seventh annual Express Fall Harvest Cooking Show.

It was a real compliment, considering that she has attended all seven of the shows.

Held at Millbrook Playhouse for the first time, the 2015 cooking show featured a variety of food samplings from The Creekside Restaurant, Curt’s Smokin’ Ribs, Sweet Sunrise Bakery, cakes from Lingle’s Neighborhood Market, beverages from Avenue 209 Coffee House. Those attending received goody bags, brought along canned food to donate to the Salvation Army, and looked forward to the chance to win a prize, from a mum to a brand new recliner.

The Black Forest Inn was the featured restaurant of the evening, and owners Tom and Myn Shearer presented crab soup, pan-seared haddock, baked macaroni, and roasted pulled pork.

Later in the evening, they took to Millbrook’s main stage to describe and demonstrate how they cook those dishes.

Tom got some laughs and set the tone for their talk by displaying a big can of Campbell’s Cream of Celery as one of the ingredients in his crab soup.

He and Myn bantered back and forth as any great husband-and-wife team of chefs would, making the audience feel as if they were seated in their kitchen, watching them cook together.

Tom gave a history of the inn, from the original building built in 1910 as The Black Forest Hunting Club to its conversion into a public inn in 1953 by Pat Shaw. The inn burned down in the 1970s, but a new one was built in 1980. After a few changes in owners, Tom said, his wife had an idea: “She finds out about it and makes me buy it.”

Myn, who has been in the restaurant business since she was 16, responded that it wasn’t quite that simple.

When she first met Bill, she said, “he was always talking about his mountains.” Eventually, they took a seven-day road trip on Route 6 and ended up at Hyner View. He insisted she keep her eyes closed and walked her right to the lookout wall, where she opened her eyes and took in that fabulous vista.

She said, “You don’t know it yet, but you are going to marry me and we are going to live here.”

When the right time came in their lives, they bought the inn. “We both love good food and good company, and we enjoy each other as much as we love our surroundings,” Myn said.

While she would not reveal the secret recipe for her pork rub – something she said has been in her family many, many years, “even though I’m only 25 ” – she did give a hint or two.

Tom answered questions from the audience during the presentation.

They credited the inn’s staff frequently during their talk, and noted that they cooked 80 to 100 pounds of pork and 50 pounds of haddock for the special evening.

They also gave gift cards to two lucky audience members, coupons for 10 percent off, and even gave away the fall decorations they used to dress up their table.

The reactions from the tasters were very positive.

“The crab soup is excellent; the haddock is really good,” Audrey Yearick said. “I haven’t tasted the pork yet…” Taking a bite, she pronounced it good as well.

“We always come to the cooking show,” she said. “We were looking forward to the good food and learning how they do the cooking at the Black Forest.”

Marilyn and Bill Bovier were attending their first cooking show, and Marilyn pronounced it “wonderful.” Friends invited them, and Bill said they were happy to accept since their friends always have such a good time at the event. He’s not a fussy eater, he said, but if he had to choose his favorite that evening, it might have been the pork… or perhaps the Greek walnut pie from Sweet Sunrise Bakery which he believed tasted like baklava.

Traci Kuntz had a similar opinion: “The pork is phenomenal, and the chocolate pecan pie is to die for.”

It was a warm evening, but no one seemed to mind as they lined up to try the food samplings. Some sat in the air-conditioned cabaret theatre space, while others were content to dine in the courtyard. The main theatre was cool, and a passing thunderstorm helped create a comfortable evening temperature.

Outside, Phil Taormina of the Clinton County Herb Guild was happy to talk with anyone interested about curing olives and making infused vinegars. He gave away jars of his specialty vinegars, as well as lavender sticks and sachets, and invited people to try a taste of this and that.

Vendors included Longaberger Baskets, Parrothead Jewelry, Jeunesse Beauty Products, Pampered Chef, and the Lock Haven YMCA.

Lock Haven Hospital, a show sponsor, offered a free health check. Other sponsors were Creekside Restaurant, Miller’s of Mill Hall, Hoover Bernina, K&L Auto, Lingle’s Neighborhood Markets, Eagle Valley Bargains, and Valley Gallery & Gifts.

The grand prize was a recliner, provided by Miller’s and won by Lydia Givler of Flemington. She said the recliner will be welcome in her home, particularly since she has the chance to pick the material she wants for it. She and husband Travis moved into the area about two years ago, and some of their furniture is “a bit faded,” she said.

After the show, she had fun striking poses in the recliner for Express photographer Bill Crowell to capture.

Other prizes included two weekend passes to Seven Springs Mountain Resort, a $150 shopping spree at Eagle Valley Bargains, a Vera Bradley purse and clutch from CO2, a wristwatch from Addie’s, movie tickets, a signed and framed print from Valley Gallery & Gifts (which had many admirers), and gift cards from a number of retailers in the area.

The presentations began with some specialty cocktails, and Claghorn was one of the lucky few to try a taste. Ben Green, a sales representative at The Express, demonstrated how to make a salted caramel vodka martini, a mudslide, “mini beers,” and an Old-Fashioned, then had two other Express staffers, Mike Buynak and Sarah Hakes, pass out samples to receptive audience members. Buynak, who was introduced as “the graphics guru” at The Express, also demonstrated a cocktail and gave out samples.

Diahann Claghorn was one of the lucky few to receive a taste. She is cooking show royalty in a way – she won the trip at the first show and has attended every one since.

“I’m a creature of habit. I’ll go to the same restaurants over and over again, so it’s fun to try new things to eat at the cooking show,” she said. “It’s a fun girls’ night out.”

The Express also took the opportunity to present Pam Blesh, president of the nonprofit HELP for Pets, with $400 from the recent Pet Photo Contest the newspaper sponsored.

The rain slacked off as the show ended, allowing people to make their way to their cars. One audience member noted that if you left hungry, it was your own fault.

Betsy Falls summed up the lovely evening, saying simply, “It was wonderful!”

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