Every chef has a signature philosophy, something that binds all work in the kitchen together no matter the food being prepared. For Kyle Ensor, Executive Chef at the historic Inn at Herr Ridge, it is simplicity.
“The previous chef taught me simplicity, buying the best products and letting the flavor come through,” he said.
Born in East Berlin, Pennsylvania, not 45 minutes from the kitchen where he spent 4 years as sous chef then 5 years as Executive Chef, Kyle Ensor learned his culinary skills early. “We lived in the country, had our own garden. My mother is a wonderful cook. We always had fresh foods, never anything prepared.”
When Chef Ensor left home he studied at the Restaurant School in Philadelphia. He worked at several well-known restaurants. When he finished school he came back to work at Herr Ridge at the invitation of then Executive Chef Charles Stockman. When his mentor left he was promoted and maintains the philosophy that has made Herr Ridge’s reputation for fine food and good wine legendary.
The restaurant and inn are located on a knoll outside Gettysburg, PA on Chambersburg Road. Built as a tavern in 1815 by Frederick Herr, it saw occupation by military forces in 1863, during the three-day Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. The grand old house still serves as an inn upstairs. Each room has a jacuczi and fireplace. Guests are greeted with a bottle of Champagne and plate of cheese upon arrival.
The restaurant is open to guests and visitors with a main dining room, function room for parties, outside air-conditioned porch and upstairs outside roof-top area. Herr Ridge boasts one of the finest wine cellars in the country. They have consistently won the Best of Award by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
If not participating in one of the elegant wine tasting dinners in the basement rooms, ask to visit the wine cellar. Long wooden tables and chairs provide an eminent setting for the 6,000 bottle collection. “I manage the wine cellar. Everything in the cellar is tasted. We are going into smaller production wines. We concentrate on French, Italian and California but are very eclectic. The basement dining room seats 20 people and we have a separate room for cigars and Cognac,” Chef Ensor explained.
Rows of bottles are stored in carefully temperature-controlled rooms. When asked what his favorites were, Chef Ensor answered, “I drink very seasonally. On a hot summer day, a Sauvignon Blanc. In winter, a heavier red.”
The bar at Herr Ridge is supervised by Shawn Kauffman who has been making prohibition era cocktails popular. They make their own bitters and Italian soda with fresh strawberries. The ornate bar has 7 stools for those waiting for a table. There is a comfortable lounge area with 4 leather armchairs in a cozy setting. A small locked glass case at the end of the bar contains Remy Martin Cognac.
Tables are elegantly set with Stolzle crystal, Schonwald china from Germany and Oenida flatware. Fresh flowers grace each table as does a light under lantern glass. Linen cloths and napkins with silver rings add to the grace of dining in the main room. Its fireplace and mantle, the modern chandelier and oriental carpet, add to the elegance of the room, where 5 tables give it intimacy.
Herr Ridge has a 48 page wine list. Friendly staff will help navigate it if desired. Many selections are available for every taste and budget. By the glass wines like Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc cost $9, Chateau Blouin Bordeaux $10. Bottled wines include vintage and prestige cuvees Champagnes like Louis Roederer Cristal, 1997 at $515. Cristaliano Extra Dry Spanish sparkling wine cost $35.
The extensive wine list is divided by variety and type then country. For a white wine from Australia, for example, McWilliams 2010 Chardonnay 2010 is $26 a bottle. Sauvignon Blanc Sagat Pouilly-Fuisse 2005 is $68. For the red wine enthusiast there is a Chateau Margaux, premier grand cru, for $955 as well as Verasol Campo de Borja 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon for $24.
A basket of bread comes to table with garlic and olive oil. Seven-grain petard and pretzel rolls are served warm. Chef Ensor changes the menu weekly, a function of what his suppliers offer. Small plates include Oysters from Nova Scotia served on a plate topped with bacon infused caviar, $12. Jumbo lump crab cakes are $13 and brie that is grilled with white peaches and local apple blossom honey and walnuts is $12.
Salads of baby greens with bleu cheese and candied walnuts is $8, local heirloom tomatoes with English cucumbers and Champagne vinegar is $11. Local cantaloupe with prosciutto and baby greens is $10.
“I change the menu every week,” Chef Ensor said. Sometimes I only print it a half-hour before service.” The seasonal menu featured grilled American Kobe beef strip loin $34 as well as swordfish $29. Seared jumbo shrimp and scallops came to table perfectly prepared, the scallops firm yet tender and not overcooked. The dish was served with sweet corn and roasted red peppers $29.
Call ahead if you desire the Creekstone Farms bone in ribeye steak for two. It is a 40-ounce portion that includes mixed greens salad, redskin mashed potatoes and green beans at $79. Roast Heritage Breed chicken breast from Rettland Farms is $28.
For dessert try the crème brulee. Its hard glaze is a delight and perfect offering with freshly steamed cappuccino.
Dining out is an experience to be savored and enjoyed in an atmosphere conducive to the pleasure. Steve Wolf bought the Inn at Herr Ridge in 1970. His vision to make it a place for fine dining and convivial atmosphere with a great wine cellar has been realized. It remains an elegant country inn as well as a historic heritage where good food is carefully prepared and elegantly served.
For more information and reservations visit www.herrtavern.com or call them at 717 334 4332. Or toll-free at 1 800 362 9849.