Menu for an Autumn Gathering

Chefs Robin Bentley and Lidey Heuck prepare an autumn-inspired menu for a festive outdoor meal at the home of Wendy Wurtzburger and Chris Bentley in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley Park
fall party menu, dahlia centerpiece

The Inspiration

A country estate aura surrounds the home of the creative and energetic Wendy Wurtzburger and her multitalented husband, Chris Bentley. But instead of a long drive to reach its welcoming façade, the 1849 classic, set on 4.5 acres, sits within Philadelphia’s city limits. While enjoying summer at the family’s Lake Michigan home, Chris admits to thoughts of Philadelphia at the first hint of fall.

“It is my favorite season, bar none,” Chris says. “The scent of autumn signals the change of seasons that I find totally invigorating. The intense heat is gone, and there’s a snap in the air, indicating it’s time to light the fires and plan a party. Fall is the best season to entertain because it’s warm enough to eat outside, and the harvest from our garden is truly amazing.”

Inspired by these sentiments, the couple began orchestrating an ambitious fall soirée.

“We wanted to celebrate the harvest while saluting the creativity of our family and special friends,” says Wendy. “First we asked [our son] Robin, who is a graduate of The International Culinary Center, and his best childhood friend from Michigan, Lidey Heuck, who, as Ina Garten’s assistant, manages the Barefoot Contessa’s media platforms and recipe testing in the Hamptons, to create original recipes with the bounty from our gardens, just for this party.”

The Chefs

fall party menu
Robin Bentley (who had cooked with Michelin-starred chef Gabe McMackin at The Finch in Brooklyn) and Lidey Heuck (who also has a blog called Lidey Likes) exchanged ambitious ideas for the fall party menu.

The Fall Party Menu


Liberty Gin with Poire Williams pear-flavored brandy, fresh mint, and Bartlett pear (see recipe)

Manayunk Moonshine with hot apple cider


Tomato confit on rye focaccia (see focaccia recipe)

Cheese plate, pickles, summer preserves

Sorrel soup

Wood-roasted clams with spicy breadcrumbs

Shishito peppers roasted with sea salt


Green salad with chèvre and nasturtium dressing

Bourbon-braised pork over polenta with sage (see recipe)

Fire-roasted pumpkin with citronette and honey goat cheese (see recipe)


Pear and hazelnut cake (see recipe)

The Recipes

Gin Pear Cocktails (with Philadelphia-made Liberty Gin) and a nonchalant arrangement of blush-colored dahlias, green hydrangeas, and grasses from the garden sit on a serving table on the side porch.

Chef Robin Bentley prepared a homemade Rye Focaccia with Fennel served with berries, figs, and cheeses.

fall menu - braised pork over polenta

Robin served hearty Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder over cheesy, herbed polenta.

roasted kabocha squash

To finish the Roasted Kabocha Squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin), Robin added chèvre and a bright citronette dressing.

pear and hazelnut cake, Lidey Heuck

A touch of maple syrup in the batter adds the essence of autumn to Lidey Heuck’s Pear and Hazelnut Cake.

As someone pronounced the feast “no mere ode to the harvest,” Wendy added, “It became such a joyous salute to the incredible creativity of family and close friends, we decided to do it every year.”

The Rest of the Spread

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The cheese selection included Saint Andre (France, cow’s milk, triple crème) and Morbier (France, cow’s milk and vegetable ash, semi-soft), along with, fruit, pickled vegetables, and summer preserves.
Lidey set up clams and spicy breadcrumbs to be finished in the pizza oven.
A platter holds tiny Guatemalan pottery cups filled with sorrel soup.
A green salad with chèvre and nasturtium dressing
pear hazelnut cake
A tray of pears stands ready to be prepared for Lidey's Pear and Hazelnut Cake recipe.

By Marion Laffey Fox | Photography by Alison Conklin

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