Gourmet Indulgence in the Poconos
Text ©2013 by Roger Sands
Photos by John McGauley
Situated on a picturesque mountaintop in the Pocono Mountains, about 90 minutes from the hectic pace of New York City, Skytop Lodge presents a peaceful charm that has been attracting generations of families — along with couples and newlyweds — since it opened its grand doors in 1928.
The stately Lodge at Skytop is the centerpiece of the resort. Built in the Dutch Colonial style, it stands as a beautifully maintained tribute of a bygone era and features 125 guest rooms and suites in three configurations. Each is uniquely furnished in English country-style designs, as well as charming accents like plaid wools and pillow shams. The inviting wrap-around porch provides guests with splendid views of the Pocono Mountains and Skytop’s 75-acre lake. Food is serious business at Skytop Lodge, and guests are treated to gourmet dining from morning to night. Executive Chef Stevan Sundberg sometimes oversees as many as 2,200 meals on a Saturday. Such could be a daunting task for even the most experienced chef, but Sundberg, assisted each day by his highly skilled Executive Sous Chef Bill Seitzinger, takes it all in stride. Sundberg somehow finds time to offer such unique culinary events as Harvest Festival, Kids Cook and other theme weekends to provide an interactive culinary experience. Breakfast features traditional omelets and French Toast. Guests who want to arouse their taste buds can try Scrambled Tofu, scallions, tomato and spinach, or Smoked Brook Trout with Crème Fraiche, Caviar and flat bread. Lunch is not merely an afterthought at the Windsor, and includes a juicy Angus burger with crispy fries, Bucatini Corti pasta sautéed with extra virgin olive oil, shaved garlic, grape tomatoes, basil and Kalamata olives, or a three-egg omelet with smoked salmon and goat cheese.
Dining in the stately Windsor Room, where men are asked to dress for the special occasion by wearing sports jackets, is a special experience. Entrees vary each night but often will include pan seared Red Snapper with roasted plum tomato, wilted spinach, capers and lemon; grilled New York strip steak with potato gratin, asparagus and lobster mushroom bordelaise; and stuffed boneless Chicken Ballotine wrapped with bacon and garnished with pistachio nuts, bell pepper and asparagus. This is not your typical cruise ship fare for the masses.
I recently spoke with Executive Chef Sundberg, a Brooklyn, New York native who has been in the kitchen at Skytop Lodge for 25 years.
ET: What's your biggest challenge at Skytop?
Sundberg: We accommodate all types of dietary requests for large crowds, such as gluten free and vegan, but preparing kosher meals is perhaps our biggest challenge.
ET: What are some of your most popular appetizers?
Sundberg: Guests can choose from three appetizers per night, including grilled vegetables of eggplant, fennel, portabella mushrooms, squash, roasted pepper and Asiago cheese wedge along with Torta di Granchio, which is our most popular. Also, buffalo style mozzarella, Roma tomato, basil, virgin olive oil and balsamic; citrus marinated chilled and grilled chicken breast with stone fruit salad and Mandarin orange vinaigrette; or jumbo lump crab salad with sweet corn kernels, bell pepper, and dill tossed in coconut and lime vinaigrette.
ET: Tell us about your soups and salads.
Sundberg: Choice of soups can include a Consommé with wild rice and fine herbs; sweet corn and lump crab chowder; or chilled cantaloupe and vanilla coulis. Our Frisée salad with toasted walnuts, apple, grapes, candied bacon and blue cheese dressing is often requested, or mesclun greens with carrots, cucumber and tomato with a choice of buttermilk ranch, raspberry vinaigrette, blue cheese or balsamic vinaigrette.
ET: What size staff do you have?
Sundberg: About 37, each of whom is highly skilled.
ET: Describe your culinary philosophy.
Sundberg: Whenever possible I use only fresh stocks and herbs and will infuse such influences as Southern, Asian, and Latin into my choice of entrees each evening. Also, comfort food, such as fried chicken, is very popular now.
ET: How many different entrees do you serve each night?
Sundberg: There are normally seven choices of entrees each evening, which often include a protein, game, duck and venison. Guests who gather in the Windsor Dining Room are offered an eclectic menu that can include sautéed fluke filet, pommes frites, bok choy, with lemon beurre blanc, or caraway and cinnamon rubbed pork loin mignon, smashed potato, asparagus, with tart apple whisky demi glace.
ET: Do you have a favorite entree?
Sundberg: I guess you can say my specialty is gravlax cured salmon in a salt, sugar and dill brine. Other favorites are spicy fish stew in a saffron broth, ceviche, and ahi tuna sliced thin, with lime juice, pod sprouts, sesame seeds and spicy pepper sauce.
ET: How many wedding receptions do you oversee each year?
Sundberg: Skytop is widely known for its elegant weddings and wedding receptions and we will oversee about 100 each year. I'll personally meet with brides to ensure that their big day meets all of their expectations from a culinary standpoint.
ET: Tell us about your wine selection.
Sundberg: The Wine List is reminiscent of the property’s style, offering famously lavish old world choices such as Chateau Meraux, dating back to 1945, at $4,800 a bottle and new world choices, which are more predominant and priced at $45 per bottle and up. Skytop has won the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine for ten consecutive years.
ET: What do you think the Windsor Room is noted for?
Sundberg: We usually receive many generations of families who return year after year and hopefully they appreciate the fine dining and impeccable service provided by our staff.