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When people talk about food “value” they’re usually referring to a fast food menu or discount grocery store – low price and low quality. Sorry, but I don’t see how paying an appropriate price for the quality you receive is the definition of a good deal. Real value comes from getting high quality food for a great price. And considering the huge financial costs incurred later in life by consuming low quality ingredients year after year, finding food value can help your future bank account even more than your current one. Personally, I find value in organic milk and eggs which are proven to be dramatically more nutritious than their conventionally-produced versions. I also make my own wine, grow a garden, can the garden surplus, and grind quality cuts of meat for hamburgers and sausages. Recently, I’ve collected and cleaned a few hundred black walnuts for winter eating and baking. Part of the value in home food production is due to the fact that you don’t pay for the labor. So when you go out to eat it’s a challenge to find an all-around good experience without spending at least $50 per person.

This summer, we were excited to find a great dining value in the Lehigh Valley. Northampton Community College’s Hampton Winds restaurant offers a fantastic prix fixe dinner for $30 per person. The entire meal is prepared by students in the school’s culinary arts program which is supported in part by the restaurant’s earnings. The menu changes seasonally and includes a broad variety of choices. For example the June/July menu had 7 appetizers, 4 soups, 3 salads, 10 entrées, and a dozen desserts. The following pics are from our July visit.

Fresh rolls

Beef Tip Tostada

Grilled Salmon

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup

Watermelon Gazpacho

Fresh Peach, Apple and Watermelon Salad

Spinach Blueberry Salad

Citrus Granita (palate cleanser)

Seared Diver Scallops

Ratatouille and Goat Cheese Tart

And then when you’re completely exhausted – they wheel out the dessert cart. It has two tiers and is covered in way too many mouthwatering options. I had the cheesecake and my wife went with a dark chocolate tart. Both amazing.

The Hampton Winds is open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11-1 and dinner from 5-7:30. It’s BYOB and reservations are required for dinner.

We were looking for a dinner spot last Friday and wanted to try something new. I was in the mood for something casual and was pushing for Black & Blue near the Easton courthouse. My wife heard some good chatter at work about Emeril’s new place at the Sands and I could tell she had her heart (and stomach) set on it. It was already 5pm so I was surprised when she was easily able to make a 7pm reservation – we’ve since learned that Saturday is the busy night.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting something as stylish as Emeril’s Chop House across the casino floor, but it was much more casual. The restaurant runs along a wide hallway that extends from the back wall of the casino. There are 3 seating sections – a bar, a prep area, and the dining room. The bar had the most character with a view of the casino floor. The prep area gives you a view of the pizza oven and charcuterie cooler & slicer but the lighting was kinda bright. The dining room, where we were seated, was pleasant but had the vibe of a catering hall. (The curtain near our table clearly indicated that the dining room was designed to be closed off for private parties.) The arched beams leading to a huge chandelier were a nice detail, but the height of the ceiling, starkness of the walls, and view of the adjacent large hallway detracted from the intimacy we look for in rustic Italian dining.

My main focus in the menu was the meat and cheese selection. We created a combination of 3 cheeses (burrata mozzarella, taleggio, and robiola) and 3 meats (prosciutto, coppa, and nduja) from a selection of maybe 20. They arrived accompanied by 2 different chutneys and some small (seemingly fried) breads. Everything was great except the little churro-like breads. They were chewy and stale. My wife also ordered the radicchio and endive salad.

For our entrées, my wife went with the clam pizza and I ordered the meatballs. For a wood-fired pizza, it was rather bland. They need to take a page out of Sette Luna’s playbook and give their crust a lot more seasoning and color. The meatballs, though, were great. There were 3 of them covered in a rich red sauce and fresh arugula all on a bed of soft polenta. If I had one criticism, I would have plated it on a large dish. It really looked like a side order. And I had to take care to avoid splashing with so little room to maneuver on the plate.

The service was good except for one instance when the entrées arrived a few minutes before we were finished with our charcuterie. Our table was pretty well filled with dishes and cutting boards, but the server tried to force the entrées onto the table and take away our unfinished appetizers. I made him cool his jets, but I still felt I had to rush through the rest of the meat and cheese as our food was starting to get cold.

The desserts were petite and excellent. My wife enjoyed the dark chocolate-hazelnut tart and I had the spumoni torta.

We’ll likely go back but will probably be a little more specific about where we want to sit – and probably skip the pizza.

RSS Go feed yourself

  • hummus heaped with tomatoes and cucumbers
    Like clockwork every summer, I decide that the only thing I want to eat, maybe forever because when it’s warm out I completely forget winter is coming (I’m sorry, I had to), are variations on tomato-cucumber salad. We did a world tour of these last year and it might take me another decade of Smitten Kitchen-ing but I will get to them all. Left to our own dev […]

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