Food & Drink

Want to avoid the hassle of holiday cooking? Your guide to Centre County eateries that help

There are many options for holiday dinners in Centre County.
There are many options for holiday dinners in Centre County. St. Louis Post-Dispatch via TNS

There’s certainly no shortage of holiday dining options in Happy Valley this season. Whether you crave a traditional feast with all the trimmings, or just something to satiate your sweet tooth, the restaurants and festivities around the county have you covered.

Toftrees hosts its annual Christmas buffet, Dec. 25, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., perfect for families looking to avoid the hassle of holiday prep, but still enjoy a mouthwatering meal. Munch on appetizers like charcuterie and gourmet cheese selections before moving on to a soup and garden station with seasonal options like a grilled squash salad with tomatoes and wild mushrooms or a savory potato soup. Then, find all your favorites on the buffet, including roasted turkey and traditional dressing, bourbon-mustard glazed ham, roasted potatoes, green beans with mushrooms, honey glazed carrots and more.

If your Christmas meal is already accounted for, but you’re in the neighborhood in the days leading up to Christmas, Toftrees’ on-site restaurant The Field Burger & Tap is taking lunch reservations during the month of December, Mondays-Thursdays.

Across town, Harrison’s Wine Grill & Catering offers a delicious holiday menu all month, through New Year’s Eve. The holiday menu is similar to years past, with favorite entrées like a deconstructed Beef Wellington and pecan-crusted salmon. A new entrée addition is a homestyle turkey plate with roasted, sliced turkey breast served alongside mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, a squash and carrots sauté and cranberry relish.

Harrison’s also offers holiday take-home ready party catering for the month of December, so you can still host your celebration at home, without messing up the kitchen. Choose from a wide range of options, including many of the items you’ll find on the restaurant’s dine-in holiday menu. A take-home Christmas option is also available, which includes the roast turkey and all your favorite sides, in quantities suitable for whatever number your hosting.

Closer to New Year’s Eve, Harrison’s plans to release additional dinner features to the holiday dining menu, with new seasonal offerings based on the best local products available, including the best seafood selections of the season.

If your attention is easily swayed from roast turkeys and mountains of mashed potatoes to fanciful gingerbread creations and sugary sweets, there are two upcoming holiday events to add to your calendar.

On Dec. 8, Penn State Auxiliary and Business Services will host its first-ever gingerbread house decorating event at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. For a $35 donation, families can try their hand at decorating one of the gingerbread houses provided by the Penn State Bakery. All the decorations and fun for four are provided. The event starts at 10:30 a.m and proceeds benefit Thon.

Looking for some gingerbread inspiration? The 2018 Gingerbread House Contest, part of the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, is already underway, with contestant’s houses dropped off at Diamond Deli this weekend. Winners are announced Friday at the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas opening ceremony, but you can view the entries at Diamond Deli Dec. 18–31.

Lastly, if there’s only one thing getting you through this holiday season (the adult beverage of your choice), you can still catch the last few days of A Heartland Christmas, an annual event during which regional wineries host guests in holiday style. Tickets are $15 and you receive a glass and grapevine wreath at your first winery visit, plus a holiday ornament at each winery. Local participants include Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars and Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery, but you’ll find additional stops on the wine trail all throughout the Susquehanna Valley.

Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at