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 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
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)
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.
Robin served hearty Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder over cheesy, herbed polenta.
To finish the Roasted Kabocha Squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin), Robin added chèvre and a bright citronette dressing.
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
Click the arrows (or swipe if on a mobile device) to see more
By Marion Laffey Fox | Photography by Alison Conklin