bolete_1By Cathy Kiley~

We always find dining at Bolete a memorable experience for many reasons. First, the inn housing the restaurant dates back to the 1800s and is meticulously restored and maintained. Second, when you step through the door, you are immediately greeted by owner Erin Shea and made to feel like a welcomed guest in her home because that is exactly what it is. She and husband Chef Lee Chizmar reside on the upper floors of this beautiful historic building and take great pride in their inn. Third, the staff at Bolete is about as friendly as you will find anywhere and so professionally trained that they work together seamlessly. Last but not least, the food is excellent. Chef Chizmar continues to receive accolades from diners in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding area, as well as recognition in national publications such as Gourmet and Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, who in 2008 named Bolete one of its 105 new “Hot Tables.” This past year, Bolete was featured on The Food Network, marking its television debut. I am sure it won’t be their last appearance.

Tom and I visited Bolete on a recent Thursday evening. We joined a lively group dining at the bar where we enjoyed martinis expertly prepared for us by James Ferguson who has been with Erin and Lee since the beginning. The bar itself at Bolete is lovely and original to the building, complete with old railings and brass footrests. High density lighting enhances the exquisite antique oak piece behind the bar that is the focal point of the room. There is a lighter fare menu available in the cozy tavern with seating for around 15. Complete with exposed stone walls and white linen tablecloths, this is an intimate dining area in which to enjoy a quick bite with friends and perhaps one of their specialty cocktails that include interesting sangria variations.

The inn housing the restaurant dates back to the 1800s and is meticulously restored and maintained. When you step through the door, you are immediately greeted made to feel like a welcomed guest.

After being seated at our table in the main dining area, Tom said, “This is my kind of dining room.” And I agreed. White linens, unpretentious chandeliers and soft candles accent the light walls with painted mirrors and interesting artwork. The dining room takes on a completely different aura in the winter months when the sun sets early. In the spring and summer months, opaque shades on the old original windows give the room a bright appearance while blocking out rays from the setting sun and highlighting the potted herbs and flowers on the deep window sills. This is a comfortably classy room with a magnificent old wooden center table accenting the beautiful original wood floors. Mismatched chairs at each of the other tables add to the ambience of this unique space. I also love the individual tiny sea salt and coarsely-ground pepper pots on each table. They add a warm, personal touch.

We were presented the evening’s menu which Chef Chizmar changes daily to ensure the freshest ingredients for the season. While studying them, Tom and I enjoyed delicious freshly-baked rolls and sweet cream butter. As an appetizer, I selected the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with maiitake mushrooms, leeks, crisp chicken liver and chive crème fraiche. (I had spotted this being served at another table and couldn’t resist.) The presentation of their soups is always lovely. The mushrooms, leeks, and chicken liver were placed in the bowl and the soup was served hot from a cast iron pot into the bowl allowing for the aromas to whet the appetite of anyone at the surrounding tables. The taste of this soup was incredible with the flavors of the broth, leeks, mushrooms and liver blending perfectly. On a previous visit, I had the pleasure of experiencing their famous Roasted Corn Soup with leeks, Maine lobster and chanterelle mushrooms and again, the soup was almost indescribable. Tom felt he had died and gone to heaven with his appetizer of fois gras served two ways—Torchon (wrapped in cloth during preparation to assure pure taste;) and seared with a concord grape gelee brioche, celery root and honey roasted peanuts over a bit of fresh arugula. This dish was delicious and its presentation set the stage for the rest of our meal. Next, Chef Chizmar sent a sampling of Bolete’s Mushroom Terrine to our table. What a wonderful treat! The word “Bolete” (pronounced bo-leet) is a Latin word for “wild mushroom.” Although the restaurant’s menus are not particularly mushroom-based, dishes like this prove the appropriateness of the name. The terrine, accompanied by pickled shallots, porcini mustard, onion jam and fresh black pepper crackers was an amazing combination of flavors and must be tried if available when you dine here.

For our entrees, I chose the Roasted Monkfish served with Beluga lentils, celery root, leeks, capers, parsley, pancetta and celery root puree; and Tom opted for the Happy Farm Roasted Chicken with fingerling potatoes, bok choy, rosemary, tomato and shiitake mushrooms in natural jus. The delicate monkfish melted in my mouth and the presentation of the accompanying vegetables was beautiful as well as delicious. Tom’s tender roasted chicken nearly fell from the bone and the flavors were perfect for this hearty seasonal meal. We ordered a bottle of Moulin a Vent 2008 French Burgundy from Bolete’s wine list which perfectly complemented both our meals. On previous visits, I have enjoyed the Seared Dayboat Sea Scallops, which are usually on the menu, prepared with available fresh seasonal ingredients; they are always amazing. I’ve also ordered fresh and mild seared Atlantic Halibut which I am always hesitant to order anywhere. What I love about Chef’s preparations here are the melding of the many complementing textures and flavors that never cease to bring out the best in your meal and never fail to delight their clientele.

We ended the night with French-pressed coffee and a shared dessert of delicious warm chocolate pudding cake, perfectly satisfying my sweet tooth. However, I’ll never forget having one of my favorite desserts ever last year at Bolete–fresh Bing Cherries, served over ice with chocolate shavings. It was a sweet (and differently delicious) ending to a perfect meal.

Bolete is the culmination of years of training for the owners. Originally from Allentown, Chef Chizmar traveled to San Francisco after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, where he worked at Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn in Marin County. His mentor Chef Jeremy Sewall lured him back east to Boston to help open Great Bay for Chef Michael Schlow and restaurateur Christopher Myers. Here, Chef Lee received outstanding reviews in Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe and numerous other publications. It is also at Great Bay that he met Erin Shea who, after years in the restaurant management business, was drawn to this establishment by friend Christopher Myers. This was the start of a beautiful partnership, both personally and professionally. They returned to the burgeoning Lehigh Valley when they decided to focus on opening their own restaurant. They purchased the 200 year-old inn (formerly home to the popular Inn of the Falcon) and since opening Bolete in 2008, it has become a popular dining spot in the Lehigh Valley.

I enjoy Bolete for not only the food, but the complete package. The owners and their staff work wonderfully together. Chef Chizmar is always in the kitchen and I commend Erin for the way she interacts with her staff while managing this busy restaurant. They all do a little of everything which makes for a pleasurable dining experience. This feeling was not only expressed at our table, but openly shared among diners at nearby tables as well. I will say, however, that service is not hurried at Bolete and the dining experience may be lengthy. We always enjoy spending time around the table with good friends; however, if you are in a rush for any reason, please let the staff know when you are seated.

Bolete Restaurant and Inn is conveniently located at 1740 Seidersville Road in Bethlehem. Dinner hours are Tuesday to Thursday 5 to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 PM. Bolete is now serving lunch Wednesday to Friday from 11:30 AM to 2 PM and Sunday Brunch is served 10 AM to 3 PM. Reservations are strongly recommended. In warmer months, be sure to inquire if the beautiful outdoor patio is open for dining in a lovely garden setting. Since Chef Lee Chizmar’s menus are constantly changing, I suggest you log onto for complete menu, pricing, historical and other interesting information about Bolete.

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