ALTERING YOUR DINING EXPERIENCE ONE PRODUCE-FORWARD DISH AT A TIME!
Clarks Summit, PA
When Alter House opened in Clarks Summit, PA in April 2018, the community was introduced to a farm-to-table concept like they’ve never experienced before. Owners Elisha and Patrick Nolan and executive chef Michael Langdon strictly follow their mission to “alter” their customers’ dining experience by serving fresh, local items, providing top-class service, and changing their community’s perception of quality ingredients.
There are countless restaurants around the nation that define themselves as “farm-to-table;” however, Alter House goes above and beyond to hold true to that definition with every ingredient on the menu. Since opening, Alter House has worked closely with Maines as well as 19 local farms to sustain their various seasonal menus. From a variety of mushrooms and cheeses to duck and brook trout, the team at Alter House works diligently to source all of their ingredients from local farmers, ensuring guests taste the freshness of products that were just picked that morning. Continually hearing comments such as, “I’ve never tasted a strawberry like this before!” reaffirms the significant impact Alter House is making on their community by serving fresh, local items and educating guests about the exceptional places they source from in their region. They’ve had such a positive impact on their community that Alter House recently received the “Winner of the 2018 Scranton Times Readers Choice for Best New Restaurant” award.
Alter House is mindful of the growth in vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free eating styles and meets demand for these preferences by serving gluten-free bread made with buckwheat and rice flour and tailoring any dish to a vegetarian or vegan diet. As the plant-based trend continues to grow, more customers, including meat-eaters, are seeking produce-forward dishes. One of their vegetarian starters contains wood fired grilled eggplant “caponata,” blistered heirloom tomatoes, feta, olives, arugula, and lemon. They also ensure their meat-centered items feature a plethora of produce. Their Crescent Farms Duck Breast, sourced from Maines, is complemented by produce with a jasmine scented peach compote, peach jus, and Anson Mills blue corn grits.
An incredible amount of work goes into creating their ever-changing menu. Updating their menu six to eight times per year, Alter House strategizes weeks in advance to source ingredients from northeastern Pennsylvania that will be available in upcoming weeks. The team is constantly researching the availability and quantity of seasonal ingredients to develop new, creative concepts. Alter House also purchases a surplus of ingredients that are almost out of season, preserves them, and uses them in unique applications in the off-season. It takes extraordinary dedication, communication, collaboration, and coordination for their team to source as many local ingredients as possible and constantly refine their seasonal menus.
It’s not only the dinner menu that changes seasonally – Alter House utilizes seasonal produce to create a variety of house-made simple syrups and farm-to-table cocktails such as gin and tonic with blueberry-lime simple syrup. They take detailed notes on where ingredients come from to add transparency and appeal to the drinks and cross-utilize the simple syrups for mocktails and house-made sodas. To further elevate their beverage experience, Alter House has a sommelier on-staff who educates diners on their vast selection of wines and recommends the best pairings for each menu item.
Beyond the fresh and flavorful food offerings, Alter House’s atmosphere is welcoming, laid back, and comfortable with gorgeous natural elements throughout the décor. They seat up to 138 guests, which includes a 40-seat private dining room and an 18-seat custom bar with additional high tops. The whimsical outdoor patio is a recent addition that can comfortably seat up to 40 guests. Customers feel cared for, as the staff provides what’s referred to as “silent service,” where items appear in front of customers before they even have the chance to ask for it. The incredibly attentive service paired with thoughtfully executed dishes are two components that make customers choose Alter House over the competition.
“Maines was paramount in the opening and the continued success of Alter House,” said Chef Michael. “From working with different departments, to sourcing all of the plateware, silverware, and glassware from the Food Show, having Maines as a partner was pivotal in our opening.” Any item that Alter House can’t source, Maines helps them source, sometimes under extremely strict measures. Whether they’re looking for organic or antibiotic-free items, Maines always provides the best of the best.
Alter House is working to continually refine each aspect of their restaurant. They have plans to gradually phase in new features, from takeout to Sunday brunch. As they impress their community with the exquisite farm-to-table menu, they strive to continue to alter their community’s dining experiences one fresh, local ingredient at a time.