Food & Drink

Warm up this winter with these comfort foods and drinks in Centre County

As Centre County hunkers down for a chilly winter, the various vendors and restaurants around the region serve up hearty portions of wintertime comfort foods to warm the soul. Whether it’s a rib-sticking bowl of chowder you crave, or a toasty beverage you’ll feel to your toes, here’s where to look to find some of the best fresh winter foods and drinks perfect for a snowy Centre County day.

In Howard, Hublersburg Inn delivers mouthwatering portions of short rib poutine — fresh-cut french fries topped with braised short ribs and cheese curds before being smothered in a rich gravy — and Coq au Vin, the traditional French comfort food, all winter long. For those seeking something of the lighter and vegetarian variety, the mushroom toast with whipped ricotta and balsamic glaze is entirely Instagram-worthy.

If you make it to the inn before the holidays have come and gone, you’ll find some equally delicious and locally-inspired comfort foods on the holiday feature menu as well. The baked camembert incorporates Good Essa’s Der Weichen Gehl cheese, which is produced just two miles away, and is served with a cranberry walnut compote and sourdough bread. Also on the holiday menu, the lamb shank hits the spot, succulent and served with a side of mashed potatoes, root veggies and red wine gravy.

The Hublersburg Inn’s winter menu features a variety of comfort foods. Photo provided

You’ll need something to wash it all down. On the beverage menu is the Talleyrand Hot Cocoa. The adults-only take on your childhood favorite makes use of Big Spring Spirits’ Talleyrand Creme Bourbon and orange liqueur.

If it’s a warming beverage you’re after, but you find yourself sticking to downtown State College more often than not, Spats at the Grill is the place to be. You can easily find an excuse to order one (or more) of the Smoked Hot Toddies. Mezcal is paired with a house-made spiced cider syrup and finished off with green tea, sassafras and sorghum bitters. For more cider-y goodness, the S.A.G. Holiday Sparkler combines sparkling wine with house-made cider and green apple simple syrup for a festive and fruity cocktail.

S.A.G. Holiday Sparkler is made of sparkling wine enhanced with homemade cider and green apple simple syrup at Spats at the Grill. Abby Drey

Of course, sometimes the regional weather requires you to bundle up at home for the day, in which case you’ll want to stock up on some seasonal favorites and new offerings from Maine Bay & Berry, found at The Barn at Lemont. The brand has become renowned in Centre County for bringing ultra-fresh seafood and New England flavors to the area.

An extensive line of small-batch, homemade Maine chowders easily chase the cold away. All are gluten-free and include New England clam chowder (as you might expect), lobster corn chowder, spicy crab and sweet potato chowder and several others.

Maine Bay & Berry recently partnered with Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, to carry her new product line of handcrafted vegetable pastas, made from beets, butternut squash and kale, straight from Quimby’s own garden. You can easily pair this delicious new offering with some of the vendor’s specialty sauces and seafood for a dinner that’s sure to impress your family and friends.

For dessert, fresh, seasonal pies include five different options from Two Fat Cats Bakery, in Portland, Maine, and if the cold doesn’t deter your love of ice cream, you can even get some wild Maine blueberry ice cream from the oldest ice cream maker in Maine to go along with it.

Then, practice your mixology skills at home, when you mix and match the six different organic simple syrups available from one of only two distilleries in the state of Maine that produce fully organic simple syrups. Your own take on the traditional hot toddy is only a few shakes and stirs away.

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