2010-05-01 / Potter County News

Genesee Environmental Center features Sunday breakfast, much more

Genesee Environmental Center is a “PA Preferred” source for food products grown in Pennsylvania. Owner Larry Hinrichsen examines a gift shop display of maple syrup produced by Nelson & Sons, as well as other products made within the state. Many of the items are also featured in the Center’s restaurant, now open for breakfast on Sundays. Genesee Environmental Center is a “PA Preferred” source for food products grown in Pennsylvania. Owner Larry Hinrichsen examines a gift shop display of maple syrup produced by Nelson & Sons, as well as other products made within the state. Many of the items are also featured in the Center’s restaurant, now open for breakfast on Sundays. There’s an oasis in northern Potter County, where, once a week, visitors can relax, unwind, enjoy some good conversation, fascinating objects and good conversation.

It’s the Genesee Environmental Center, which opened its doors for weekly Sunday Breakfasts in April.

“It’s a nice place for people to come after church on Sunday,” says owner Larry Hindrichsen. He and wife Diana, who’ve owned and operated Genesee Natural Foods since 1979, are committed to giving their guests a peaceful setting where they can enjoy nature’s best sights and tastes.

Several themes are evident at the Environmental Center, all related to the region’s heritage. Railroads, logging, artifacts and plantings each invite the visitor, depending on the individual’s mood.

Mike Budnick, former chef at the Coudersport Golf Club, has joined the staff and on Sundays from 8 am to 2 pm, whips up a variety of breakfasts aimed to please the hungriest visitor. Even the menu is locally themed, with selections such as Ridge Runner’s Delight, Bark Peeler’s Joy – “not for the timid”; Fishermen’s Friend, Hiker Heaven – and for those not quite as famished, “Bare Essentials”. Eggs, buttermilk pancakes, waffles topped with Pennsylvania peaches, homemade biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, home fries – even granola in a variety of flavors (cherry, vanilla, maple and almond) for the health conscious, proving that you don’t have to sacrifice taste in order to eat healthy. Also on the menu are regular and organic coffee – including decaf – and Genesee Natural Foods’ own Silver Forest Apple Juice, made in Pennsylvania.

The pancakes are covered in Potter County maple syrup, produced by Charles B. Nelson Sons of Genesee.

Larry hopes to begin using Potter County potatoes soon; plans also call for Buffalo Burgers and elk to be added to the menu – all raised in Pennsylvania.

The emphasis on stategrown products is in keeping with the business’s status as a “PA Preferred” source. The program identifies locally sourced Pennsylvania products and helps people find them, using the PA Preferred logo on the packaging. The food is grown and processed to the highest quality and safety standards, helping to keep farmers and food processors in Pennsylvania.

The Environmental Center even features a kids’ menu – but the food won’t be the only thing that the young ones are interested in. Adjacent to the dining room is the train room, where several model railroads are set up. There’s even one running overhead. Inside the lower tracks is a town where visitors can pick out several points of interest. A glass showcase exhibits a number of antique trains. And if that isn’t enough, Larry has set up a garden railroad just outside the glass-walled dining room, with that train operated by solar power.

The trains are a reminder of the importance of railroads to early Potter County industry; a photographic display adds another focus, the logging industry.

Guests who aren’t into trains have other alternatives while waiting for their meals. They can step into the Pyramid Room, just off the dining room, which features a variety of exotic plants and fish in a conservatory atmosphere that exists even in the dead of winter. Amaryllis, a banana tree, passion flowers, climbing vines and the sound of running water all combine to make this a peaceful, relaxing place where worriers just evaporate.

And just outside the center’s back door are extensive gardens, a butterfly gazebo, pavilion and bridge, along with a pond.

“You can call the kitchen and order coffee to drink while sitting on the bridge,” Larry observed. “There are a whole bunch of neat little sitting places here.”

For rainy days, in addition to the Pyramid Room, there’s a seating area featuring a relaxing, living room atmosphere. Plans call for a skylight over the stage, which has long been the site of a variety of musical entertainments, including the Songwriter’s Roundtable. It’s all part of the total package that the Hinrichsens are working to create at the Genesee Environmental Center.

Attendance at the breakfasts has steadily grown since serving began a few weeks ago. Visitors from as far away as Newport, PA, have been on hand, and diners regularly make the short drive from Coudersport. And while out-of-area guests are welcome – anglers can eat breakfast and walk right out the door to the streamside – Larry stresses that the center is designed to cater to local residents. There’s plenty of seating – the center has room for 200 guests and is a popular choice for weddings and banquets, so there’s no worry about showing up for breakfast and having to wait for a seat.

When it’s time to leave, guests can take a little of the center’s essence away with them: the gift shop sells the Nelsons’ maple syrup, Pennsylvania peaches, offerings from Genesee Natural Foods and even homemade candles from Heart’s Desire gift shop in Galeton – enough to create a relaxing meal at home and hold guests over until their next visit. With all there is to eat and do at the Environmental Center, they’re sure to be back again very soon.

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