Stone House Inn in Fayette County offers seasonal menu and specials

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 9:00 p.m.


Chef Jeremy Critchfield has opened 28 restaurants, and worked at major resorts like Nemacolin and The Greenbriar. But, at a certain point, he decided, “I was just over it. The place (Greenbriar) was amazing; the owners were amazing. But, I was ready for a change.”

Critchfield, 40, now of Wharton, Fayette County, found that change at the historical Stone House Inn in Wharton. He joined the Stone House Inn in February as partner with Fred Ziegler of Chalk Hill, who has owned the historical inn-restaurant since 1996.

The Stone House Inn will feature a variety of cuisines, the new chef says: “People aren't going to get one theme out of me.”

That's because Critchfield's tastes in food are prodigious and varied.

“I love scratch Italian. I love barbecue. I love Southern cuisine and game and game fish,” he says. “I'm starting to put game on the menu.” And, he hopes to have a “hunt chef” website up and running by the first of the year.

This summer, the Stone House Inn featured “Bikes, Beer & Barbecue” dinners, featuring barbecued ribs, hot sausage sandwiches and other items on Thursday evenings. The last is this Thursday.

The inn seats more than 150 in several dining rooms, a bar and a sunroom. It also caters parties at the nearby Christian Clay Wine Barn. Recently, the inn initiated beer dinners featuring a different craft beer with each course. Critchfield visits the various breweries, then designs each course, including dessert, around a different craft beer from that brewery. Two upcoming beer dinners will take place Tuesday and Oct. 23.

The beer dinners were the brainchild of Stone House Inn general manager Adam Greiner, 30, of Wharton. Greiner, who worked with Critchfield at Nemacolin and The Greenbriar, is such a beer aficionado that he even sports a tattoo of the beverage on one arm.

“Knowing how he works, it's always guest-minded and event-minded and experience-driven,” Greiner says of Critchfield and his philosophy of restaurateuring. He joined the Stone House Inn, not just for the opportunity of working again with Critchfield, he says, “but also to take a historic venue and reinvigorate it to what the ownership wanted it to be — plus adding a little bit extra to it.”

Critchfield, a native of Worthington, Armstrong County, started appreciating food because his grandparents were “fantastic cooks and bakers.”

His entrée into the business came in his teen years, when a buddy got him a job in a restaurant kitchen. After graduation, Critchfield attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania's culinary school in Punxsutawney to prepare for his career at various resorts.

The inn where he finds himself has a long history. Fayette County native Andrew Stewart, who served in the Pennsylvania Legislature and Congress, built the Fayette Springs Hotel in 1822, naming it for a sulphur spring across the road that attracted travelers from all across the country, according to “Stone House Legends & Lore” by Marci Lynn McGuinness. Several owners have operated the inn during the 190 years since.

The National Pike on which The Stone House Inn sits has been superseded by superhighways. But the Stone House Inn remains a convenient place for a meal or overnight stay in one of 13 rooms while partaking of the many historic and recreational attractions in the Laurel Highlands area. They include two famous Frank Lloyd Wright homes, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob; Laurel Caverns; Fort Necessity and Ohiopyle State Park.

Meals to satisfy the hungry traveler include entrees, such as the inn's traditional General Marshall's Chicken and Dumplings for $13.95, which includes white-meat chicken and dumplings in chicken gravy with fresh vegetables. The menu touts the dish as “General Marshall's favorite,” and says it's been served at the inn for 175 years. Gen. George Catlett Marshall Jr., born in 1880 in nearby Uniontown, was Army chief of staff during World War II and was Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the war was named for him. He also won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Other more contemporary dishes include an 8-ounce filet mignon for $23.95 and the Chalk Hill Challenge offering for $32.95. The Challenge comprises of 2 pounds of snow crab clusters, two dozen jumbo wings, and 1 pound of hand-cut fries, all tossed in garlic butter and served with Old Bay seasoning. While the dish is eminently shareable, diners who finish the Challenge on their own receive a T-shirt and their photograph on the inn's “wall of fame.”

Critchfield offers frequent specials, and plans to change the menu each season.

“Our menu will feature the best of the Laurel Highlands,” says the chef, who recently used fresh corn from Duda's Farm in nearby Brownsville to create an extraordinarily tasty cream-corn side dish. “Anything I can source here, I will.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

Jeremy Critchfield, chef and co-owner of the historic Stone House Inn in Fayette County, created this crab-cake appetizer for one of the inn's recent beer dinners. In addition to pairing the crab cake with Troegs Brewery Dreamweaver wheat beer for the appetizer course, Critchfield used some of the Hershey-brewed craft beer in the dressing for the accompanying slaw. The beer has a grassy overtones and a light, fresh taste.

The panko bread crumbs bind the crab cakes together but are so light in flavor, they do not add significant flavor that would compete with the mild, sweet taste of the crab.

Critchfield counteracts the sweetness of the crab, sweet red bell pepper, red onion and sweet potato with a garnish of slightly hot pickled peppers. He calls the flavorful crab dish “sort of a Southern take on the crab cake.”

Sweet Potato Crab Cakes With Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat Vinegar Slaw

1 tablespoon sweet red bell pepper, chopped brunoise (finely diced in 18-inch cubes)

¼ rip celery, chopped brunoise

1 tablespoon onion, chopped brunoise


1 cup sweet potato, diced, blanched and drained

½ orange, juiced

1 large egg

3 tablespoons mayonnaise (Helman's)

½ teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon molasses

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

1 pound lump crabmeat

3 tablespoon panko bread crumbs

Nonstick baking spray

Clarified butter, for sautéing

Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat Vinegar Slaw (see recipe)

Spicy pickled peppers, for garnish

Sweat the red pepper, celery and onion in butter just until softened. Blanch the sweet potato. Mix well the orange, egg, mayonnaise, Worchestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, molasses and Old Bay (Photo 1). Add in the crabmeat gently, breaking up clumps and checking for shells (Photo 2).

Add the red-pepper mix, sweet potato and bread crumbs. Mix the ingredients gently by hand, being careful not to break the crabmeat (Photo 3). Mold the mixture into six crab cakes (Photo 4).

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a cooking sheet with nonstick baking spray, and arrange crab cakes on it with space between. Bake the crab cakes through, for about 15 minutes, or saute in clarified butter on one side in a broiler-proof pan (Photo 5). After the crab cakes are golden brown on the underside (for about 4 minutes), do not flip. Instead, place the pan under a broiler and broil the top side at 450 degrees or higher, but watch carefully (from less than 1 minute to 2 minutes, depending on the broiler).

After the crab cakes are cooked, remove and place on a plate.

Top with the slaw and dressing (Photo 6). Garnish with spicy pickled peppers.

Makes 6 servings.

Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat Vinegar Slaw

For the vinaigrette:

3 ounces white balsamic vinegar

3 ounces Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat Beer

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch salt

½ tablespoon celery seed, freshly ground

For the slaw:

¼ head of cabbage, shaved

¼ sweet red bell pepper, julienned

¼ carrot, slivered

½ red onion, slivered

To prepare the vinaigrette: Mix the ingredients in medium-size mixing bowl. Allow the flavors to marry.

To prepare the slaw: Combine the vegetables. Mix with the vinaigrette, and refrigerate at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes prior to serving.

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