So over a year ago I first learned about this little known restaurant called Hampton Winds. While my husband was chatting with our resident hot dog vendor at Easton’s Center Square, he asked him what his favorite restaurant was & he told us about this restaurant at Northampton Community College that is run by students. He said he liked to take his wife there for a nice Friday night dinner, the food was good & the price was right. I tucked that little nugget away for another day and didn’t give it much more thought until my husband and I were enjoying a very nice birthday dinner at Oak Steakhouse (in Easton) last December and our junior server turned out to be a student at the NCC Culinary School who also worked part-time at Oak. She talked to us very passionately about their restaurant and how good the food was and what a wonderful experience she was having there. Now this restaurant made my GO TO list! I’m only sorry that it took me 11 months to finally get there.
Before I go any further, I must say that our only negative experience was actually finding the restaurant. We made reservations through Open Table and they gave us the address to put in our GPS. We arrived about 10 minutes early because we didn’t know exactly where we were going and after driving around the entire campus, asking several students & finally tracking down a janitor in the library building we were finally informed that the restaurant was located across the road at the Alumni Hall and he gave us specific instructions to find it. Needless to say, we arrived about 10 minutes late for our 6pm reservation as a result of not being able to find the darned place. We did make sure to talk to our server at the end of our meal and let him know that they need to do a better job of communicating where they are located (he admitted that it was an often communicated frustration from their patrons).
So, having said that, the rest of our dining experience was excellent. We were seated at a table near a window in a large open room that was very nicely appointed and had a welcoming fireplace at one end. The menu was presented and it actually had more options than I had expected from a culinary school. I honestly half expected that we might only get 2 or 3 options depending on what they were preparing that day so I was pleasantly surprised. You could choose up to a 5 course menu but we opted for 4 courses based on the choices.
We were greeted shortly after being seated by our server: Rudy. He was warm & friendly and asked if we had any wine that we needed uncorked. The restaurant is BYOB but we aren’t big wine drinkers so I brought Blue Moon & he brought me a glass. After answering ALOT of questions from us we finally decided on Mini Crab Cakes for Tony & Roasted Mushroom soup for both of us and a salad for me. They brought out a nice bread basket (filled with pretzel rolls (Tony LOVED these), butter rolls, cinnamon muffins & carrot cake muffins as well as a plate of complimentary appetizers of goat cheese & sun-dried tomato crostini w/an apple relish (I ate both & they were yummy). Tony said the mini crab cakes were very good and I loved the earthy flavor of the mushroom soup, although it wasn’t Tony’s favorite. The salad was excellent, I liked the deconstructed presentation & the gorgonzola cheese was incredibly flavorful and made the salad.
Before they brought us our entree, we were served a palate cleanser of wild berry sorbet which was a very nice touch. For our main course Tony chose the Grilled Strip Loin, Lyonnaise Potatoes & Vegetable Melange while I opted for the Trout Meuniere, Israeli Couscous & Greenbeans. I was really torn between the Chicken & the Salmon dishes so I asked our waiter what he would recommend and he did not hesitate to suggest the Trout. I really appreciate it when a server is not shy about making a recommendation and because he was so enthusiastic about his recommendation, I opted for the Trout. I am so, so glad I did because it was outstanding! Even Tony liked it and he isn’t a big fish eater, but it had a lovely flavor and just the right amount of char. The Israeli Couscous was a little bit bland but the vegetables were perfectly cooked. Tony’s steak was good but he felt it needed a little bit more seasoning. The potatoes were very interesting, layers of sauteed onions & potatoes with a very cool presentation. The vegetables were perfectly cooked too, nice & al dente.
Now for the wow part of the meal…dessert! We had planned to just have one dessert but when we found out that the dessert special was an Apple Upside Down Cake: cinnamon bun cake w/apple & caramel topping with a granola crunch & vanilla ice cream we had to add it to our planned dessert of Pumpkin Cheesecake. We opted to get the cheesecake to go and share the apple cake at the table. Well let me tell you, this was one of the best desserts I have ever had! The cinnamon bun cake was amazing & to prove how good it was: normally Tony will have just a bite or two and let me have the rest of the dessert. Well last night he devoured that dessert, it was just that good (too bad for me!) It was the perfect ending to a very good meal and we made sure we let Rudy know.
We took some time during the meal to talk with Rudy and he is a culinary student at NCC. He is on his 5th week working in the front of the restaurant but his passion is cooking and most specifically bread making. He said they all have to rotate working in the various aspects of the restaurant and I think that is a really good idea. It gives them an appreciation for all the pressures associated with the various jobs. Overall it was an excellent experience and our total bill was just $75. We chatted with our neighboring diners as we were leaving and they too were here for the first time and had truly enjoyed their food. The restaurant has a holiday menu coming up and a few of the dessert options (egg nog cheesecake) look like they would be worth a visit just for dessert & coffee!
Hampton Winds 3835 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem, 610-861-4549, Tues-Fri Lunch 11-12:30, reservations recommended & Dinner: 5:15-6:45, reservations required. http://www.northampton.edu