Food with Friends: Federal Taphouse
On an unseasonably humid, rainy evening in December, Fun 101.3 radio station personalities Michelle Cruz and Dennis Mitchell sidled up to a high top table next to floor to ceiling windows overlooking the wet streets of Lancaster City to sample the offerings streaming out of the Federal Taphouse’s kitchen. The seats proved to be the perfect perch for the duo to chat, feast, and people watch while staying dry and cozy in the festive interior. Once greeted by Regional Operations Manager, David Chubb, and General Manager, Todd Sharp, Michelle and Dennis were introduced to their very knowledgeable server, Adam.
Selecting from the 100 beers on tap was, of course, the first priority. Helpfully organized by style and with thorough descriptions accompanying each brew, the beer list became easily navigable to the pair. After carefully studying the choices and complimenting the number of PA breweries represented on the menu, Dennis selected Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s VIPA. As he ordered, he mused that the “V” in front of the IPA probably referenced Virginia, where the brewery is located. Adam confirmed Dennis’s suggestion and, interestingly, pronounced the style “VEEPA.” Sadly, Michelle had a scratchy throat and needed to preserve her voice for the morning show, so she opted for hot tea with honey. Adam procured the drinks, and both were proclaimed tasty.
While beverages were sipped with pleasure, three appetizers arrived. Because Michelle and Dennis are seasoned foodies, they asked David and Todd to select the food for the evening. Well, when Dennis spotted the braided pretzel twists with beer cheese, he was immediately excited to try the dish and knew that he was in capable hands. Michelle commented that it looked like the twists were coated in “everything bagel seasoning.” Michelle would certainly know as she admitted to ordering the spice blend on Amazon to use while cooking at home. They consumed the pretzels with smears of mild beer cheese spread on each delicious bite.
After the pretzels, four devils on horseback appeared. No, Dennis and Michelle did not overindulge in craft beer and begin hallucinating, the devils on horseback are scrumptious dates filled with blue cheese, decadently wrapped in bacon, and fired in the coal oven until the bacon crisps, the dates plump, and the cheese turns deliciously gooey. Both agreed that the devils were the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Following the perfect balance of the devils, huge coal-fired wings slathered in homemade BBQ sauce filled appetizer plates. Adam, thoughtfully, offered an extra side of BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, and blue cheese dressing as dipping options. He also surreptitiously slid several additional wet naps onto the table top. The wings were enormous and expertly sauced, smoky and tangy—they did not last long and murmurs of pleasure were exchanged between the two.
The beer list reappeared and Dennis selected a Belgian beer, Brouwerij Corsendonk’s Christmas Ale, to enjoy during the main course. As the steaming coal-fired pizzas were placed on the table, Michelle remarked how excited she was to see mushrooms, one of her favorite foods, nestled into the cheese on one of the pies. Michelle lifted a forked bite of pizza to her mouth and inhaled deeply: “I smell truffle oil,” she mused as she chewed. Michelle admitted to normally opting for red sauced pies over white pizzas, but, after tasting the smoked mushroom pizza covered in fontina and ricotta cheeses, she was a convert to the white pizza. Dennis started with a spin on a classic sausage pizza. The Federal Taphouse takes this traditional pizza selection and elevates it with fennel spiced sausage and sautéed broccoli rabe.
After the scrumptious mushroom and sausage pizzas, Michelle and Dennis sampled the Spaniard and the polpette pizzas. The Spaniard, beautiful to look at with its colorful roasted sweet peppers, chorizo, and bright capers, tasted just as delicious as it appeared. It was deemed “perfect” by both. The polpette pizza, bedecked with generous slices of homemade meatballs and mozzarella cheese, was the last, but certainly not least, pizza the pair tried. Dennis immediately and affectionately deemed the polpette the “meatza.” Just as the pair ate the last of the pizza, a surprise arrived at the table: avocado toast!
The avocado toast consists of a slightly sweet sourdough bed topped with guacamole, snow pea shoot salad and a fresh lime dressing. As they complimented the visually stunning dish, Michelle and Dennis also discussed how pleased they were to see this new favorite on the menu at the Taphouse. Michelle preferred to scoop up the guacamole and toppings using the corn tortilla chips that accompanied the dish whereas Dennis enjoyed a method that he called “carb-on-carb,” cutting a slice of sourdough bread with all the toppings and then loading the entire thing onto a tortilla chip. Despite their different eating styles, both complemented the dish for its delicious balance of richness and acidity.
Just as the two discussed how full and satisfied they felt, Adam reappeared with two desserts. Over peanut butter pie and chocolate ganache pizza, Michelle and Dennis reminisced about how they became foodies. Almost at the same time, the radio hosts pointed to the Food Network’s famous chef, Emeril Lagasse, as sparking their interest in food. While sampling the fluffy and light peanut butter pie, which is a cloud of peanut butter and homemade whipped cream sitting atop an Oreo crust, the two chatted amicably about the season and commented on the song playing throughout the cozy restaurant. Finally, they tasted the chocolate ganache pizza, and were delighted to end the evening on such a sweet note. Lingering over one last beer, Dennis said his kids would be so jealous that he tasted dessert pizza. Luckily, the dessert pie was huge and Michelle insisted that he take the rest home for his unsuspecting family.
By: Katie Shickman