The ever-growing downtown Allentown dining scene is truly mind-blowing. The promise of the PPL Center on 7th and Hamilton, along with business relocations, has brought with it the hope of housing, retail, and restaurant redevelopment. It still has a long way to go but every time we visit a new downtown eatery, we are amazed at the plethora of choices on Hamilton Street that keeps us going back for more.
Tom and I recently visited grain. We started in the bar on the first floor where on-duty barkeep David served me an icy Cosmo just the way I like it and Tom a grain. Punch, their signature cocktail of Ciroc Red Berry, Peach Schnapps, pineapple and sour cranberry juices with a splash of Sprite and Blue Curacao. Sheets of corrugated galvanized tin cover the base of the bar that holds the unique top constructed of oak and glass-covered old wooden beer crates. There are 24 rotating taps and a wonderful selection of aged scotches and fine whiskeys. The bar was full with fun happy hour revelers on a Tuesday night and I was glad to see many people staying for dinner afterward.
Every morsel we tasted was uniquely prepared and beautifully presented using only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients.
Fresh off their success at The Bayou Southern Kitchen and Bar in Bethlehem, owners Christian Duarte and Mo Taylor opened grain. in September 2015 at 536 Hamilton Street. Formerly home to The Federal Grille, it has been tastefully renovated showcasing a historical, rustic “farmy” feel. The galvanized tin look is carried along the walls of the bar area and is topped with a slender shelf perfect for resting a glass while talking with friends.
Exposed original brick walls, along with attractive high-density lighting add to the ambience of grain. that is carried through to the intimate upstairs dining room. The dining room decor is eclectic and unique. There are carpeted floors, exposed beams, fabric banquettes along one wall with strong thick wooden tables, and leather chairs along the other, all noise buffers so the action from the bar below won’t bother you upstairs. The selection of rustic artwork and display of attractive mirrors posed on the walls are eye-catching as is the huge American flag on the staircase wall. Every thought was put into the grain.’s decor. And, be sure to check out the restroom floors. They’re very cool!
The time came to try Executive Chef Tyler Baxter’s American Comfort Food menu designed specifically for grain. His New Orleans Comfort Food at The Bayou is such a huge success, we were curious to see what he would offer here. Our server Matthew Taylor was there to assist with our choices. We decided to share a few small plates.
We started with the Charred Asparagus salad with roasted onion, herbs, Meyer lemon vinaigrette, poached egg and pickled mustard seeds. I decided before leaving home to order this. I saw it online and it sounded wonderful. It was indeed delicious. The asparagus was charred al dente and the accompaniments were perfect. Tom and I both loved it.
We also ordered the Lamb Meatballs and Charred Spaghetti Squash to be served together. What a marriage of tastes! The savory, lean Lamb Meatballs were fantastic served with toasted almonds, pickled red onion and oregano. I asked that the Lemon Ricotta be served on the side because Tom doesn’t eat it and they were happy to oblige. With or without the Ricotta, this dish is delightful. The Charred Spaghetti Squash, served al dente with arugula, pecorino cheese, pine nuts and cherry tomato, was great with the meatballs. We were very glad we paired them for tasting.
There is a Mixed Greens as well as a Roasted Apple salad on the menu along with Celery Root soup. Other small plate selections include: Seared Tuna with watermelon salad, avocado mousse, sambal (chili sauce), sesame seeds and roasted tomato; Funnel Cake Corndog of spicy lamb sausage, harissa mayo, pickled apple and smoked salt as well as Griddle Corn Cakes with shredded brisket, caramelized onion, pickled shallots, hot peppers, and black garlic aioli to name a few.
Three sandwiches are available as well as several large plate selections from which we decided to share the Roasted Striped Sea Bass. Served with fresh baby pearl onions, crispy potatoes, olives, roasted tomatoes, and Meyer Lemon broth, this dish was incredible. Served very hot, this entree was a delight. The blend of flavors was amazing and both the very fresh fish and veggies were crisp and not at all overdone. We will definitely go back to order this entree again. Chicken and Waffles, Cast Iron Seared Salmon and a New York Strip Steak are among the Large Plate Selections that all have interesting preparations.
Christian Duarte and Mo Taylor’s vision for grain. came to fruition with the help of Tyler Baxter. Executive Chef Tyler Baxter is a native of the Lehigh Valley where he studied in the Culinary Arts program at Northampton Community College. After three years as Executive Chef at Cosmopolitan in Allentown and tenure at Tapas on Main, he joined Christian and Mo in their endeavor at The Bayou. At grain., together with Sous Chef Dan Haddon and their kitchen staff, Chef Baxter continues to reign delicious. Every morsel we tasted was uniquely prepared and beautifully presented using only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. That included the Spiced Apple Pound Cake served with butterscotch, apple butter, rum soaked raisins, and apple chutney that we shared for dessert. Served with fresh hot coffee, this choice proved a perfect ending to a perfect meal.
There is so much to like about grain.. I truly feel that Christian and Mo have a gift. After a few short months, they have already attracted a strong following to their fun and lively new restaurant which serves up some pretty terrific food. In my opinion, the secret of their success is their visibility, personally intermingling with guests and overseeing their very talented, attentive and friendly staffs – both here and at
Visit grain. at 536 Hamilton Street, Allentown. There is on-street parking along with nearby parking garages. There is a private party room for 40 and grain. will offer al fresco dining in the spring. Call 484.221.9465 or visit grainallentown.com for more information including hours, complete menu listings, special events, and reservations – which are a must.
The Science Behind the Chocolate Chip Cookie
Do you like your chocolate chip cookie soft and chewy? Or, perhaps you prefer a more crispy morsel. Whatever your pleasure, a simple adjustment in preparation can help you bake your perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Did you know that you can alter the texture, taste and feel of a cookie just by altering the ingredeints? Marketplace took insights from science-focused food experts Kendra Nyberg, UCLA Science and Food teacher, and Tessa Arias, cookbook author to give you tips for making different varieties of chocolate chip cookies.
Add 2 cups more flour.
For A nice tan
Set the oven higher than 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Caramelization, which gives cookies their nice brown tops, occurs above 356 degrees, says cookie experts.
For Crispy with a soft center
Use 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
For “Just like store-bought”
Trade the butter for shortening. Arias notes that this ups the texture but reduces some flavor; her suggestion is to use half butter and half shortening.
Substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour.
For Thick (and less crispy)
Freeze the batter for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. This solidifies the butter, which will spread less while baking.
Use more baking soda because, according to Nyberg, it “releases carbon dioxide when heated, which makes cookies puff up.”
For More flavor
Chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking deepens all the flavors, Arias found.