Alter House Builds Seasonal Menu With Local Ingredients
The word “alter” holds several meanings to those involved in the Alter House restaurant in South Abington Twp.
For owner Elisha Nolan, her life was altered drastically when she developed a rare bone tumor and needed to have her leg amputated five years ago.
“Being an amputee, I’m altered in a personal sense,” Nolan explained. “Also, my family was faced with a lot of medical issues over the years. It always seemed like we had to alter our lives because of that. ... That word seemed to always come up when we decided to dive into this project. We had to alter our plans many times over.”
For executive chef Michael Langdon, the word resonates with his style of food service and cooking.
“We really wanted to change everyone’s perception of food and service in the area,” Langdon added. “We implemented a style of service that a lot of people don’t generally use. It’s a very traditional, maybe more old-school means of service. ... We wanted to alter people’s perception of food and food quality, too, which is really why we dove into farm-to-table.”
Through the many variations of the word, the family-owned, sustainable restaurant was born.
“It gives us the opportunity to do things our way,” Langdon said. “We can preface something with ‘altered,’ and then it is. That’s what we do. It’s not something that somebody would expect.”
Alter House opened in April without any grand opening celebration or advertisement, yet the restaurant continues to increase its business. The interior, designed by Nolan’s husband Patrick, screams sleek, industrial design. Upon entering, customers can peek into the kitchen through a large window nestled behind the long, marble bar. Hand-built piping shelves, leather-covered seats and green foliage snaking up the side of a wall compliment the design.
Seasons decide the menu. Every seven weeks or so, the menu changes depending on what local farms have available. Since his first menu at Alter House, Langdon used 18 farms, all within 20 miles of the restaurant.
“The majority of the food is really thoughtful,” Langdon said. “We really tried to evoke nostalgia and memory with things. We try to stay true to the area with the things we offer. We started off with pierogies, but our way. Altered. We like to put that kind of Northeastern Pennsylvania touch on the things we do, because it’s familiar to them. They can come out, and they can get something that they had as a kid, or it takes them back. That’s special.”
In addition to assuring all of the food is free of pesticides and herbicides and is non-GMO, 75 percent of the menu is gluten-free, including the bread and many desserts.
On the current menu, one of the most-purchased items is the King Crab Gnocchi, which is created from potato gnocchi, sweet crab, squash, zucchini and shaved heirloom corn with a crab-corn broth. On top of rotating the menu six to eight times per year, the kitchen offers daily features based on what farms have in excess from day to day.
Anything that can be made from scratch in the kitchen is created by Langdon and his sous chef, Devin Bogdan, including butter, yogurt, ricotta cheese and gluten-free bread, as well as the variety of desserts and pastries made by pastry chef Kloey Cimakasky.
“I can finally cook with the seasons,” Langdon said. “That’s always been something that’s been so important to me. ... Everybody brings their strengths to the table, and we all kind of balance each other out. There’s always this energy of what are we gonna do next? It’s very exciting.”
Each entree is paired with wines, which change alongside the menu. At the bar, new specialty cocktails also are created with the change of the seasons to use the available fresh fruits and herbs. Some cocktails previously made at the bar include a Grapefruit Sage Martini, Strawberry Shrub Margarita and Cherry Ginger Manhattan, all created with homemade simple syrups.
“There’s the perception that organic and buying from local farms is so much money,” Langdon said. “But with a little bit of work and research, you’re getting food that is 10 times better and the cost is sometimes less.”
Every Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. is happy hour at the restaurant, which includes a weekly menu of craft beers, wines, cocktails and small plates for $5 each.
Although the restaurant is still in its infancy, the idea of hosting brunch seems appealing but won’t happen for some time. Both Nolan and Langdon said they want to be sure everything they offer now is perfect before piling anything else on their metaphorical plates.
“We care about every piece of food that goes out on the plate,” Nolan said. “And we can tell you where every piece of food comes from.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-821-2061; @CVcljacobson
Address: 926 Lackawanna Trail, South Abington Twp.
Established: April 2018
Owners: Elisha and Patrick Nolan
Hours: Tuesdays to Thursdays, 5 to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m.
Details: A new menu appears at Alter House on Oct. 1. For more information, visit summitalterhouse.com.