Food & Drink

Eats & drinks: Eclectic menus on tap for Twilight Dinner series

Chef Lisa Palermo shows appetizers for a Twilight dinner at Carnegie House in March 2014.
Chef Lisa Palermo shows appetizers for a Twilight dinner at Carnegie House in March 2014. Centre Daily Times, file

One of the highlights of spring in central Pa. is the annual Twilight Dinner series that raises money for the Women’s Resource Center. This is the 28th year for the dinners, which have evolved into much more than a tabletop experience, though the table is still the anchor and the heart of each event.

The Twilight Dinners commence with Grace and Guy Pilato’s “Artistic Italian Feast” on April 9, but don’t try to sign up for that one. It was filled before the invitations went out, but there is room at many other tables that month.

Ron and Sue Smith’s “Shanghai Dinner” will feature Shanghai native Ying Wushanley and his Irish wife, Geraldine, preparing a 12-course dinner that is “not for the timid eater.” This dinner has been a favorite for 19 years, since Ying was a student of Ron’s at Penn State, studying sports history. Now the couple drives in from Millersville, where Ying teaches the same subject. The annual trek to create the savory extravaganza inspired by Ying’s grandmother’s recipes takes place in the Smith’s home adjacent to the Village Green in Lemont.

If you have a swell flapper costume or vintage suit, you can break it out for the “Prohibition Costume Party” at Barrel 21 Distillery and Dining in State College on April 20. Executive chef Lisa Palermo will launch the Barrel 21 line of distilled spirits and celebrate the end of Prohibition with bathtub cocktails and fine dining in the elegant room that makes you forget that you are in a college town.

The artistically inclined will appreciate Pamela Monk’s and Andrea Medina-Monk’s creative play evening on April 30 with guest artist Gail Ritchey, who will stage a “Pretty in Paint” evening with live music. No prior painting experience is required to have fun and enjoy light sweets and savories. This event has a lighter menu and also a lighter price tag of $60 per person.

If you are more likely to chime in when you hear music, you will be right at home when the head of PSU’s College of Arts and Architecture, Bobbi Korner, leads a “Broadway Sing Along” on April 30. Two couples, Bobbi and Jim Korner and Paula-Milone-Nuzzo and Joseph Nuzzo, are hosting the event in State College and will make certain that everyone is well-nourished with homemade pasta and mixed grill, flanked on either end by hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

May’s two Twilight Dinner events provide supporters of the Women’s Resource Center with divergent menu and venue options. On May 20, Eric and Molly Barron will host heavy hors d’oeuvres and enticing desserts and beverages on the patio at Schreyer House. If you have ever driven down Park Avenue and wondered where the dual tandem lane of trees leads, here is your chance to find out and join the president of Penn State for a benefit party the estate.

A “Backyard Artisan Pizza Feast” will take place on May 22 at the home of Bill Ryan and Joan Richtsmeier in State College. Co-hosts Catherine and David Horner and Paula and Andy Cipar have arranged for Anthony Sapia, of Gemelli Bakers, to roll in his mobile pizza oven for on the spot wood-fired pizzas and other accompaniments.

June is the month the townspeople can reclaim downtown State College and the June 2 “Downtown State College Progressive Dinner” will start at Spats Cafe with tapas provided by Duke and Monica Gastiger and wines by Seven Mountains Wine Cellars. Dinner will take place at our own “Top of the Town,” The Allen Street Grill, hosted by the Joe and Judy Shulman and John Cocolin. Andrew and Bob Hufnagel will provide dessert at Zola Kitchen & Wine Bar for a sweet end to the downtown immersion experience.

Longtime hosts Amelia and Mary Seaton will not be throwing their party in their eclectic home in Rebersburg this year. They have moved their June 5 dinner to Brush Mountain Lodge for “Penns Valley: A Celebration” that will include a wine tasting and specialty cocktails with heavy hors d’oeuvres that make use of the best that the valley produces. There are some rooms available for those that would like a “sleep over” rather than driving home and reservations for that night can be made by calling the lodge directly at 419-367-3833 with reference to the Twilight Dinner fundraiser. The cost of $300 per room goes entirely to the Women’s Resource Center.

Anyone who wants to really understand what the issues are that the Women’s Resource Center faces would be wise to choose the June 18 “Welcome to the Ranch” dinner co-hosted by WRC Executive Director Anne Ard and Tom Poole, along with Jackie and Michael Edmondson, in Bellefonte. Smoked and barbecued meats and other local ingredients will be featured along with a spectacular view of the sunset over Spring Creek Canyon.

Alternately, June 18 also offers an international flavor with “A Taste of Two Venices,” hosted by Stephen and Joyce Fonash in State College. Their son, David Fonash, will be the sommelier that evening, matching wines with the cuisine of the mountainous Friuli region and Venezia Giulia by the sea. Be prepared to learn what makes the gastronomic culture of Venice significantly different from other regions of Northern Italy.

Patricia and Andy Pisano will also feature Italy on June 25 with their “Italian Fare on Penns Creek.” Look forward to sipping their own wine on their wrap around porch that overlooks Penns Creek.

The grand finale of this year’s Twilight Dinner series is just that. “An Evening with Mary Chapin Carpenter” is sponsored by The State Theatre and hosted by Tom and Esther Cali, John and Gina Ikenberry, Mike and Melissa Martin and Ford and Michele McNutt. Attendees will enjoy a pre-concert dinner prepared by Chef Dan Rallis in the Attic of the State Theatre before enjoying the concert of the five-time Grammy winner, singer-songwriter. Thanks to support from The State Theatre, the Twilight Dinner ticket price includes admission to the concert. Chapin Carpenter has been invited to attend the dinner as well, so have your autograph books handy in case she drops by.

The invitations went out this week and the dinners fill up quickly, so make your reservations early if you want to support the mission of the Women’s Resource Center and have fun as well. The gourmet dinners are entirely underwritten by the hosts. Of the $100 cost per guest, $60 is considered your tax deductible gift to the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.

Tickets for individual dinners will be limited to four per person until April 15. Visit the CCWRC website at to determine availability and check for new events and updates. Call 238-7066 if you have any questions or want to reserve your seat at the table for a worthy cause.

Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” of several iBook cookbooks (”Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog and can be reached at