Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill: An Open Air Dinner

Serendipity is defined as the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.  Call it what you like, but I was definitely in the right place at the right time last Thursday when I decided to spend time at the Market Square Farmer’s Market before the Pirate’s game.  If I hadn’t been strolling around with a serious sugar craving I might never have had the opportunity to eat at Greendance Winery’s first “Open Air Dinner"... one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve ever been lucky enough to attend. 

While there were several options for raising my glucose levels at the farmer’s market, I decided on eating a slice of Three Berry pie from Sand Hill Berries, a farm located in Mt. Pleasant.  My plan was to scarf down the slice with a cup o’ Joe and then make my way to a pregame lunch date (don’t judge me).  About half way through, I decided I had to go back and give these guys some face-to-face kudos.  This pie was loaded with plump blackberries, red raspberries, and blueberries and the crust was tasty but subtle enough to let the berries be the headliners.

Three Berry Pie
I was able to give my praises to Robbie Schilling.  It is he who encouraged me to go over to the Greendance Winery table and speak with his wife, Amy, to sign up for their first Open Air Dinner.  As it turns out, the Schillings are one part of the trio (along with the Vinoskis and Lynns) that brought the idea of having a winery on a berry farm to fruition.  It was actually Diane, their tasting room manager, who gave me the scoop: wine tasting and amuse bouche (that’s fancy speak for finger food) from 6-7pm at the Café and an outdoor family-style dinner from 7-10pm.  Her description was lovely and the menu sounded almost too good to be true.  For the reasonable price of $45 (tax/gratuity included), I was sold and super excited.  

On Saturday night, we hopped into the car with some of our favorite neighbors and took an easy drive out of the city into peaceful Mt. Pleasant.  After checking in, we made our way to the tasting room.  We tasted several wines (they have a full range, including fruit wines), and decided to go with their Pinot Gris for dinner.  I don’t even like Pinot usually, but Greendance does theirs right.  With bottle and glasses in hand, we made our way out to the Café area to nibble on a spread of fruits, cheeses, and dips…even some spicy stuffed banana peppers.

The Cafe 
At 7 o’clock, Amy came out to the Café and announced we would need to gather our bottles and follow her on the wagon trail by foot to our dinner table.  (Ladies, wear sensible shoes, please.  You’re on a farm!)  Maybe it was my first glass of wine, but I was downright giddy as we made way our way past the orchard to a small clearing around the bend.  As each person approached the table a look of astonishment spread across their face.  It was absolutely stunning. 

Our Open Air Dinner Table
Upon taking our seats, we were encouraged to introduce ourselves to those seated near us.  It was quite fun getting acquainted.  We had everyone from car salesmen (salesladies actually), to maritime lawyers, to teachers.  There were 48 of us all together.  Once situated, food began appearing at our table.

To start, we passed around large bowls filled to the brim with the biggest berries I’ve ever seen along with baskets of cheese bread.  Next, came plates of halved avocados filled with shrimp ceviche.  Oh my word, the avocados were perfectly ripe and provided a velvety foundation for those citrusy crustaceans.  Just as plates were beginning to empty, we filled them up again with Farm Blueberry Salad.  I agreed with others who claimed they could eat this salad all night.  Fresh greens were lightly dressed and tossed with huge blueberries, feta cheese, and candied nuts…simple and delicious. 

Avocado Halves with Shrimp Ceviche
Farm Blueberry Salad
I started to get nervous at this point. Everything thus far was literally perfect.  Could the entrées meet such high expectations?  As the salad plates were cleared, heavy bowls and bountiful platters of food started rolling out.  I no sooner passed one bowl and another appeared! This continued for a while until I realized I had no more room on my plate.  Here’s the rundown: Filet with Port Demi-Glace, Roasted Herbed Chicken, Grilled Vegetables, Garlic Buttered Red Potatoes, and Parsley Fingerling Potatoes.  The beef was succulent and cooked perfectly for most everyone…some pinker slices and some closer to well done.  The chicken was phenomenal as well.  It was moist and the herbs hidden under the crispy skin added intense flavors.  The sides were masterfully executed also.  The vegetables were charred a bit and had a great texture (not too mushy or crunchy) and the potatoes were rich and fork tender. 

Filet with Port Demi-Glace
Roasted Herbed Chicken
Grilled Veggies
Garlic Buttered Red Potatoes
Parsley Fingerling Potatoes
My plate!
By this point, the night sky was approaching, allowing the outdoor decorative lights and candles running down the length of our table to illuminate our conversations.  By the time dessert came, everyone was chatting as if we had all been long-time friends (bottles of wine and delectable food helped the cause).  Speaking of dessert, massive English Pudding Cakes were making their way to our table.  The cake was a single layer, but easily 6 inches high.  And I say cake loosely, because each slice was consumed with endless berries of all varieties.  You could even taste the sweet tartness of the currents that grow on Sand Hill Berries.  The few bites I tasted, complete with fresh whipped cream, had maxed me out.  I simply had no room left in my stomach.  I, along with several other diners, requested a “box” to go. 

English Pudding Cake with Sand Hill Berries
I was honestly sad to see this night come to a close.  Greendance Winery made me feel like an honored guest attending an elegant feast somewhere in the hills of Tuscany.  I’m not sure if it’s possible to put into words just how amazing this night was.  I suggest you bookmark Greendance Winery’s event calendar so you can experience this place yourself.  Not only is there another Open Air Dinner in September, but they also have live music on the weekends and hold various celebrations.  Their annual Wine Festival and Open House are coming up in October.  Don’t wait for a serendipitous event to come and enjoy all that Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill has to offer. 

I give Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill: 5/5 forks
306 Deer Field Road
Mt. Pleasant, PA 15666

Neighborhood: Not in the city limits.

Greendance Winery on Urbanspoon


  1. Natalie,
    Thank you so much for the fabulous write up on our event. Sooo happy that you were able to come and enjoy the evening.
    Mark your calendar for our Open Air Harvest Dinner on Saturday, September 14th.
    Thank you again!
    Bon Apetite!

  2. I also attended the Open Air Dinner and agree 100% with everything in this review - very well written! I would only add that the table and setting were even more beautiful as it got dark. Sitting under the canopy of trees with the wide candlelit table - it felt magical.