Fun Dining with Dennis and Michelle at Gypsy Kitchen
“Wow, this place is something straight out of a Harry Potter set,” say Dennis and Michelle of Fun Radio Station 101 fame, as they walk into Gypsy Kitchen at the Refectory at Lancaster Theological Seminary, right along the Franklin and Marshall campus. The reborn space is truly remarkable with its dark wood, large stained glass, vaulted ceiling, and massive fireplaces. But, these two would soon know that the impressive part of the evening would not just be the aesthetics. As Gypsy Kitchen is only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, barring a special event, the Fun Dining duo had the place to themselves on a crisp late autumn Wednesday evening. The regular husband and wife chef team had the night off so co-owner Ed Diller did the cooking for the radio crew. He was a one man show — hosting and serving as well.
Ed started out the dinner with two of his favorite fresh juice combinations made by a Rastafarian friend. The first one combined apples and clementines with lemon, turmeric and black pepper. The second paired apples and purple sweet potatoes with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon. Knowing that the restaurant was BYOB, Dennis brought a pair of IPAs and Michelle brought her own traveling martini kit. Dennis convinced Michelle to scrap the martini and mix a little vodka with the juices for healthy libations, and the two enjoyed the drinks on the leather couches in front of a roaring fire while the first course was being prepared.
As they moved to a table, meaty and firm sautéed scallops and shrimp with translucent white onion showed up with mushrooms and peppers nestled in a sauce of cream, butter and vermouth. “There is something about the combination of scallops and onions and vermouth that is everything I love,” said Michelle, while Dennis quipped, “Is there a martini in there, too?” A complement of warm, house-made, flakey pastry had the ideal texture for sopping up the remaining sauce. So satisfied with this first course, Michelle exclaimed, “I peaked already, but I am going to keep an open mind that the rest of the dinner will be as superb.”
Off to the side, a huge bowl of microgreens were as colorful and crisp as could be. “I got these greens today from Alex Wenger, north of Lititz, and I can’t even tell you what some of them are,” said Ed. Alex Wenger of Field’s Edge Research Farm. His passion for sustainable agriculture allows him to use science and creativity to formulate and grow a wide variety of heirloom and exotic vegetables. County residents and visitors are so fortunate that restaurateurs like Ed Diller get to debut these beauties to the rest of us.
Glistening and delicate, lightly dressed greens were all the embellishment needed for perfectly tender, rosy red duck breast. “It’s duck season,” said Dennis when the raft of sliced duck appeared before him. Wanting to “ruffle Michelle’s feathers,” he laughed at the magnificent pairing of the duck with the goose, AKA, the bottle of Grey Goose vodka that she brought along and mixed with the fresh juice. It was a lively combination of purple, orange “cheddar” and white cauliflower, colorful peppers, bok choy, olives and capers rounded out the duck dish with nutty and slightly sweet nuances. “I would eat a lot more vegetables if they all tasted like this,” Michelle said of the colorful side dish. “That duck dish fit the bill,” punned Dennis.
“I am fortunate; I married a baker,” said Ed of his wife and co-owner Ellen Diller, as he showed up at the table with moist cake studded with fresh pecans and having a buttery frosting. A side of rich, creamy and crystallized purple sweet potato ice cream infused with bourbon and adorned with homemade caramel corn was existential and no sweeter than it needed to be. Having this ice cream, Dennis didn’t mind a vegetable for dessert.
Just the night before, Michelle was recalling a comment made by one of her very best friends who said to her: “You have got to go to Gypsy Kitchen, it’s the best restaurant around.” After her dinner tonight, she and Dennis agreed. It was not only impressive; it was a divine time and a heavenly dining experience.
By: Sue Barry
Gypsy Kitchen at the Refectory
555 W. James Street
Lancaster PA 17603