Fall Travel Guide: Custom Weekends: Pretend You’re in Napa, Eating at the French Laundry

Hanover, PA

The lemon verbena in my salad dressing had been picked an hour before we sat down to dinner. The cheese on our cheese tray came from Trent, a cheesemonger at the upper reaches of the Blue Route. The tomatoes ringing my pan-fried soft-shell crab were from a Gettysburg woman the staff simply calls “The Tomato Lady.” 


The lemon verbena in my salad dressing had been picked an hour before we sat down to dinner. The cheese on our cheese tray came from Trent, a cheesemonger at the upper reaches of the Blue Route. The tomatoes ringing my pan-fried soft-shell crab were from a Gettysburg woman the staff simply calls “The Tomato Lady.” The pig that comprised my slow-roasted pork loin had been killed the previous day and butchered that afternoon. Our meal was as fresh as a cut lawn, and way more delicious, full of the farm-to-plate touches (fiddlehead ferns, house-smoked bacon) that foodies have come to expect from top chefs these days — just not in Amish Country, home of shoofly pie and the all-you-can-eat diner.

[sidebar]That’s why the Dining Room at Sheppard Mansion is so surprising, from the obsessive sourcing of ingredients to the personal story of chef Andrew Little. A beefy dude with straw-colored hair, Little used to be a web developer and a serious tuba player. Then he read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. It changed his life. Little went off to the Culinary Institute of America, and now this local boy — he grew up five blocks from the inn — is creating an ambitious and refined South-Central Pennsylvania cuisine. (“Don’t laugh,” he says.) He makes a bread roll, for instance, that tastes like the best soft pretzel you’ve ever had. His relish tray, full of fresh veggies lightly pickled, is a riff on the well-known Amish fetish for brine.

So for those of us who can’t swing a reservation at the French Laundry — basically, all of us — the Sheppard Mansion is well worth a pilgrimage. And hey, you can even stay there overnight, in one of several rooms dating back to 1913. Ours was the perfect blend of old and new, with a clawfoot tub and a wi-fi connection. We’ll be heading back for a weekend as soon as Little perfects that new dish he was telling us about. Duck testicles. “Yeah,” he says. “We’re gonna see what happens.”

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.