"Everyone has been on the National Road at one time or another," Joe Carei insists.
Mr. Carei is a chef who lives in Uniontown -- right on the National Road -- and is the mastermind behind the National Road Heritage Corridor's 8th Annual Frontier Dinner set for Friday.
The historic National Road -- the first highway built by the federal government -- was started in the early 19th century and traverses the southwest corner of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Carei worked with Donna Holdorf, executive director of the National Road Heritage Corridor, to design a meal that showcases local foods. The resulting five-course dinner is a "foodie's dream," Ms. Holdorf said.
"There are so many wonderful dishes that Joe has come up with, and we have an even stronger 'farm-to-table' focus this year, capitalizing on our local farmers and vendors.
He even has local morels worked into the menu," she said.
The dinner is the main fundraiser for the heritage group, an organization that ties together the history, culture, natural resources and scenic beauty of the Historic National Road to promote the local economy. Nearly 150 people attended a similar event last year.
"We have several 'Friends of the Road' that come every year and, of course, foodies," Ms. Holdorf said.
The dinner will be held at Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill, Fayette County, Friday. The $65 admission gives guests several starters, including Kennett Square Mushrooms with Morel Mushroom Stuffing, rabbit sausage, local artisan cheeses and breads, and roast vegetable crostini. The menu also includes soup, salads, seven sides and seasonal desserts. Entrees are venison au poivre, pan-seared brook trout and pork loin. Soft drinks, Christian Klay wine and beers from Helltown Brewing in Westmoreland County are included.
Mr. Carei is the owner of Ella Mae's Catering in Uniontown and has been the chef for all eight years of the event.
"It is a lot of fun and I enjoy the creative aspects," he said. "It is a great way to support the [group]."
Funds raised are vital to the nonprofit, Ms. Holdorf said.
"Every nonprofit is stretching resources and this helps us fulfill our mission," she said.
Last year, the heritage corridor group raised $10,000. Ms. Holdorf said some of the funds raised this year will help pay for the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten segment of Infusing Local History into the Classroom, an educational program to teach young people about the National Road and the history of the area.
A similar program was developed for third- and fourth-grade students and has been well received, Ms. Holdorf said. The heritage agency works with the Early Learning Education Department at California University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Holdorf and board members will help serve the meal. The meal will be followed by whiskey from Pittsburgh's Wigle Whiskey, cigars and Firefly Chocolates from Ohiopyle. Keeping all things local, Adam Sutch and the Sutch Sounds will perform.
A group of 18th century re-enactors will wander through the crowd sharing historical tidbits. Clay Kilgore, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society, and his family will play period music, and guests may bring harmonics, guitars and banjos to play around the bonfire.
The program starts at 6 p.m. Reservations are required for dinner. Details: 724-437-9877.neigh_east
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.