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‘Culinary tourism’ appetite increases

Dukes Bar and Grille

Dukes Bar and Grille

Hospitality Asset Management Co. knew it wanted to add a restaurant to the Comfort Suites after buying the hotel at 10 S. Hanover St. in downtown Carlisle in March 2014, but the company wanted more than just an ordinary hotel bar where guests could grab a bite to eat.

Instead of a pit stop, the company created a destination. Named 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion, the restaurant features more than 60 whiskies and pays homage to President George Washington’s mustering of militia in Carlisle in 1794 to crush the famed rebellion against hard liquor taxation, said Edward Tubbs, Hospitality’s director of operations. The restaurant, which opened in February, also features a variety of steaks and locally sourced food.

“Carlisle is such an historic community. Many folks don’t even know the story of all the things that occurred in Carlisle,” Tubbs said. “Our motivation was certainly to give … our guests something they could not get anywhere else.”

Others share that motivation. Breweries, farm-to-table options and intriguing eateries with varieties of cuisine have become so common in Cumberland County that the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. chose to highlight the phenomenon at its annual tourism conference last November.

“I think we saw it as a trend that was happening nationally and here — not just Cumberland County, but the whole area,” spokeswoman Kristen Rowe said.

The concept is simple: rather than attracting patrons only from among tourists already moving through the region, these food and drink locations become tourist destinations in their own right. Take the Catering Barn where the conference was held, a working farm since the 1840s in Upper Allen Township that now serves as a catering facility.

In a 2013 survey by the World Food Travel Association, 51 percent of respondents said they traveled “to learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.”

“There’s no question that there is a renewed vigor around the culinary world,” agreed John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association — a trend he attributes to the rise of celebrity chefs and specialty grocery stores and the proliferation of creative recipes on the Internet.

“If you look at half the vegetables we eat now, they didn’t exist 25 years ago,” he said.

The trend has particularly helped cities, which have become places to visit again in recent years because of their culinary scenes.

In Cumberland County, destinations include the three waterfront restaurants in Wormleysburg with views of the Harrisburg skyline, the county’s four breweries and more than 40 independently owned restaurants in Carlisle, Rowe said.

“You can really dine around Carlisle and have any kind of flavor you want,” she said.

Many of the restaurants, especially in Carlisle, understand the value of collaboration to bring outsiders to town through events such as progressive dining tours, she said. Tubbs said the variety of restaurants in Carlisle helps make it an attractive tourist destination and was one of the reasons Hospitality wanted to invest in the community.

The culinary tourism trend was also a motivation for CAEDC’s recent publication of the Local Food, Farm and Outdoor Attractions visitors guide, which includes information about small farmers markets, Rowe said.

Where are the culinary attractions?

· Wormleysburg has three waterfront restaurants along the Susquehanna River with views of the Harrisburg skyline: Dockside Willies, Duke’s Riverside Bar & Grille, and RockBass Grill

· Carlisle has more than 40 independently owned restaurants

· Breweries in the county include Molly Pitcher Brewing Co. at 10 E. South St. in Carlisle; Market Cross Pub and Brewery at 113 N. Hanover St. in Carlisle; Pizza Boy Brewing Co. at 2240 Millennium Way in Hampden Township; and Appalachian Brewing Co.’s brewpubs at 6462 Carlisle Pike in Silver Spring Township and 3721 Market St. in Hampden Township.

· There are at least three downtown markets — in Enola, Carlisle and Lemoyne — and three country markets: the Carlisle Country Market at 1446 Holly Pike in South Middleton Township; Mountain Lakes Market at 1800 Newville Road in West Pennsboro Township; and Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association Farmers Flea Market, 1 Steam Engine Hill, Mechanicsburg.

· There are at least seven roadside stands in the county.

This article was posted on CPBJ.com on May 29, 2015.

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