A menu can be seasonal (most good ones are). The bill of fare can be locally sourced.
Restaurateurs can follow any industry trend they want when putting together a carte du jour. I’m fine with all of that – but what I really look for is a standout dish; something I can’t normally get at another restaurant.
At Copper Hill Public House I found The Dish.
Brad Beamenderfer has been asking me to come in and check out his new, 100-plus-seat restaurant at the Crossgates Golf Club in Millersville since before he even opened. I’d met Beamenderfer years ago, when he was the chef at Fat Pigs, the barbecue joint inside the Brickyard. He opened Copper Hill in May and just recently rotated to a fall menu, and the dish I wanted to try stayed on from summer – and it just may become a permanent fixture.
It’s a dish inspired by his time cooking Southern-style food at Fat Pigs: shrimp and grits.
“It’s a fun dish,” says Beamenderfer. “I took a chance on it. It sticks out and I’m surprised at all the positive feedback I’m getting.”
Now, I’ve never been a fan of grits – until I had them done right. Beamenderfer was the same way. We were both sucked into some Yankee false impression that grits were this kind of tasteless, corn-based, farina breakfast blandness. Not so, as we have both come to discover over the years.
Beamenderfer puts his own spin on this version of shrimp and grits. The grits are flavored with claw crab meat, sweet corn and a house-made cheese sauce consisting of aged cheddar, Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses. He’s replaced the typical smoked Andouille sausage with chorizo from Groff’s Meats in Elizabethtown.
Weekend features: grilled Mahi, bay scallop and baby portabella risotto, tomato and mozzarella caprese and southwestern meatloaf with fresh ground beef and chorizo mixed with smoked Gouda, corn, and red bell peppers with a chorizo BBQ glaze. #copperhillpublichouse #copperhillpub #millersvillepa #lancasterpa #lnceats
My plate arrives hot and heart-warming. This is true comfort food. The sausage commingles with sautéed onions and red peppers atop the colorful grits. With the first bite I realize the chef is right; the chorizo works well, especially when intermixed between bites of grits. The complementary textures and contrasting flavors spark the taste buds. The grits themselves have a perfect sweetness from the crab and corn and pair magnificently with the seasoned shrimp, which are large and perfectly cooked until tender and moist. The six mildly seasoned shrimp circling the grits are not as spicy as the word Cajun implies. The sausage and peppers are definitely spicier, but not enough to make me order a glass of milk to put out the fire. There is plenty of crab meat in the grits, and finding a nice-sized piece is refreshing and lightening.
This is simply a well-balanced dish and will make for great belly-filling in the fall. Beamenderfer has locked on to grits; he even cooks them at home. This dish is expertly prepared and obviously a labor of love.
“I’ve had people make me come out of the kitchen,” says Beamenderfer, who at first thought there was a problem with a dish. Nope, customers are complimenting the Northern chef on his adaptation of a Southern staple.
“I’ve never been South,” he says.
No matter; evidently you don’t need to hail from Dixieland to make perfect grits.