Good Life

Eats & Drinks: Southern Allegheny chefs, guests, swirl, sip and mingle

The region’s chefs and food-lovers shared a table at the Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery March 9 during the Southern Alleghenies Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
The region’s chefs and food-lovers shared a table at the Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery March 9 during the Southern Alleghenies Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. For the CDT

There’s nothing like holding a business meeting in a winery to get members to attend.

The convivial room at the Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery was the site of the March 9 meeting of the Southern Alleghenies Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, and a dozen or so members and guests attended. There was a brief meeting convened by Craig Hamilton, executive chef at The Village at Penn State and currently the chairman of the board for the SACA.

Everyone present introduced themselves and mentioned anything significant that had occurred since the last meeting. At the Passport on a Plate dinner, a collaborative event that many of the chef members supported, Hamilton was given the Grace Pilato Award for outstanding contributions to Global Connections for his multi-year leadership role. The social media outreach of the club was discussed, with interest leaning toward more limelight in that area. Regular chapter issues were addressed, such as the treasurer’s report and a discussion of the pending general election for the national board. Michael Roddey, a restaurant consultant from Hollidaysburg who is running for ACF National Secretary, spoke about his platform.

The educational portion of the meeting was greatly anticipated and soon the meeting was adjourned and the chefs and culinary enthusiasts bellied up to the bar for the main event — a wine tasting. After filling out a sheet listing what they wanted to taste from what was available, assistant winemaker Cody Edling, poured samples of the wines into the very au courant, and especially stable, noted Edling, stemless glasses. People swirled and sipped, learning about each grape’s particular characteristics.

Erin Snyder, a chef from Penn State’s Redifer dining commons, brought a guest who she worked with who had a particular interest in the tasting. Chef Stefan Gawlowicz, who was born in Paris and grew up in western France, knows his way around a vineyard and was happy to taste the wines at Happy Valley.

“I like to taste wines made from the grapes they grow right here,” he said. “I want to taste the terroir and the wines were very good, very promising for a relatively new vineyard.”

Hamilton, whose first choice might be another type of malted beverage, later admitted that “the wine tasting was wonderful; I believe most of us have not been there to sample some of their wines, and we all were pleasantly surprised by what they have to offer. It’s a little hidden gem for the area. I would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for wines.”

The club’s next meeting will be 7 p.m. April 13 at Wegmans, with a beer-and-cheese tasting. The May 11 meeting will accommodate the many members from the Altoona area and will be held at the Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center, where the educational program will focus on tea and cooking with tea. As always, anyone working in the culinary industry or who is a culinary enthusiast is welcome to attend and see what our local chefs are cooking up in terms of community events like the Boalsburg Golden Basket competition held in August, the October Chefs on Stage event, and the November March of Dimes Signature Chef Event at the Blair County Country Club.

For more information about the Southern Alleghenies Chefs Association contact current president Zach Lorber at or check out the ACF FaceBook page. You can also run into Lorber at the Port Sky Café on the campus of Penn State Altoona. His office phone is 949-5575.