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upscale joint in Bellefonte: The Gamble Mill Tavern

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Restaurants & Bars

upscale joint in Bellefonte: The Gamble Mill Tavern

Mosca | May 19, 2005 11:24 PM

I ate there last night as part of a large group of 24; nice place, some GREAT things, some disappointments, but overall it was wonderful. Because the group was so large there was a lot of sharing, so I got a taste of almost everything!

The building is beautiful, old red brick with polished hardwood floors, high ceilings, and lots of levels and steps. It's very warm and friendly, and very "classy" feeling without being pretentious. As someone said, "You're in central Pennsylvania; they EXPECT you to wear jeans."

Gamble Hill takes great pride in their wine selection, but I must say right here that although I do enjoy wine, it is not a passion of mine. I'm a microbrew man; and I was unsure as to whether or not I'd be driving for two hours after dinner, so I had one beer, Brooklyn Brown Ale (which was OK). More knowledgable others at the table were very impressed by the extensive wine list and the reasonable prices. I got the impression that GH's pride is well placed. I believe a Chilean red and a Pinot Grigio were the stars, but I couldn't say where they were from beyond that.

Bread was homemade and a choice between sourdough and foccacia, both homemade; I chose the sourdough, which was tangy and chewy as it should be.

Appetizers: The panko crusted filet medallions w/pineapple chipotle sauce & tobacco onions tasted like rich man's chickenfried steak; not as good as it sounded. The wild mushroom turnover (duxelles in a filo with port wine) was curiously bland. The butternut ravioli w/mushroom cream sauce and hazlenuts was outstanding, as was the bayou shrimp in lemon butter and cajun sauce, and the ahi tuna seared rare with asian dipping sauce, wasabi and wakame.

I had a Lyonnaise salad, sliced pears, Roquefort cheese, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette dressing, over mixed exotic greens. There was the slightest hint of tarragon, and a whisper of something from the mint fammily, that I found intoxicating. I loved this salad!

I ordered the Bluegrass Filet with bourbon sauce and caramelized onions; excellent. The carmelized onions were almost like baby food, they were so tender. The filet was about 10 oz and prime, and the bourbon sauce was a nice melding of sweet and salty and a little sour. Vegetables were broccoli, green beans, carrots, and potatoes, with everything but the potatoes served a little closer to raw than cooked.

I also tasted the Portabella & Polenta, layers of grilled portabella, Chèvre, roasted peppers and polenta with a wild mushroom, tomato and fennel sauce; it was very savory and much better than the mushroom appetizer; the Lobster Ravioli (lobster sauce, garnished with lobster meat) which was OK, not outstanding but very good; and the Rack of Lamb (mustard and herb crust, Madeira sauce, fresh spinach and roasted red pepper torta) which was just as killer as the filet and I should have ordered that instead because we don't eat lamb at home. The veal tenderloin (with roasted shallots, grilled portabella, wine and mushroom jus) was awesome. Others raved over the Tuna & Scallop Oriental (Rare seared tuna and scallops in a nuoc nam, cilantro, lime sauce), and the Thai Shrimp
(soba noodles, baby bok choy, red peppers, Thai red curry sauce); those were hits. The person who ordered the seafood strudel was disappointed in it (I didn't try it).

Most of us got the same dessert, some layered caramelly creamy cake thing that was a bit dry and seemed to me to have been refrigerated to long. It looked good on the tray, though.

The service was absolutely outstanding, as good as I've ever had for a group that large. Among handling drinks, soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, wine, water, silverware, and desserts, the entire event went seamlessly. Pacing was essentially perfect. Staff was attentive, but not overly so, and friendly but not falsely familiar, very professional and businesslike.

That's it. I'd recommend it highly for fine dining near State College; it's pricy by local standards but not by NYC or Phila standards. It stands out among similar choices for the beauty of the building, the excellent service, and the extensive and well thought out wine list.

Link: http://www.gamblemill.com/

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