Road trip: Pennsylvania

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The history of America is written on the hills of Pennsylvania. 600 million years ago, an ocean wholly covered the area they would one day be--it left the sedimentary rock out of which they'd arise; 300 million years ago, a collision of drifting continents helped form them; and about 70 years ago, the greatest, most American of all homegrown architects built--right into the very cliff of a waterfall outside of Pittsburgh--what's often descibed as the most stunning house ever assembled in this country.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater is that remarkable house, and I finally got to walk through it last weekend.

This photo-hogging exhibitionist jumped in front of my camera as I was snapping a picture. I heard someone calling him Stan, I think. A more shallow guy you'll never see!.

Wright's Kentuck Knob, which was erected about 20 years later (in the late '50s) is literally just up the woodsy road a piece, and it's also a knockout. That beautiful house is unusually built on a hexagonal plan that also finds articulations in triangles. Unfortunately, as with Fallingwater, pics were not allowed inside--a real shame as Wright designed a lot of the horizontally fetishized furniture himself (more reason for you to visit someday!).

This was all meticulously hand-carved!

This tile bears Wright's "name-plating" initials

After touring the house, we ambled around the home's grounds to soak up some of the world class artworks the current owner has amassed. Just like you, that homeowner (a jet-setting English lord with photos in his bedroom of himself at Lady Di's wedding) has an artwork by Jim Dine near his barbecue. I like how this fan into flower piece is emblematic of Wright's "organic" aesthetic/ethos.

Richard Serra (a personal favorite) is one of the most powerful sculptors of the last few decades. It was amusing to see a tiny piece of his outside the house-- as opposed to his more famous, monumental stuff.

Gotta have a Claes Oldenburg, too.

There's even a segment of the Berlin wall on the premises.

It's neat how in the Kentuck Knob gift shop you can buy Hagan's ice cream--see, the Hagans were the dairy-owning family who commissioned the house. (I liked it, but it was no Jeni's--but then, what is?)

After viewing those two glorious houses, we continued motoring eastward (our eventual destination was the Philly area) until we reached a mammoth, super deluxe spa/resort.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is where we next plopped down to enjoy dinner at one of its excellent restaurants. Here's a little look.

Our restaurant was housed in this huge chateau that looked very much like a building around the Marais district of Paris.

Don't laugh.

Most of the wonderful food we had at the fiercely farm-to-table Autumn came from within 60 miles of my fork. This was a lovely risotto-like dish made with magnificent, super fresh English peas, orzo, pickled morels and fried pancetta.

Loved, loved, loved these perfect lamb chops! They came from a farm 30 miles away and were served w/a leavening apricot and ginger chutney. The food at Autumn was outstanding, cheffy but thoroughly unpretentious. This was cuisine that wisely let the supremely terrific ingredients do most of the talking.

After dinner, we hit the road again, driving through the winding, pitch dark rolling hills of western Pennsylvania 'till we hit a small town where we found a decent, cheap hotel. There, we had a little hotel party. It was a very long day of constant motion, of non-stop physical, intellectual, visual and gustatory stimulation--in other words, life exactly as I like it. The next morning, we woke up early and drove to Philadelphia.

Tomorrow: Philly and fun food oriented things to do in Columbus this Memorial Day weekend.