Archive for July, 2012

Life-changing ice cream parlors

July 30, 2012

Ice cream is fun to eat all year round, but is there no better time to enjoy it than midsummer? Here is my subjective short list of life-changing ice cream parlors in eastern PA.

Capogiro Gelato, Philadelphia. You know your product is good when a National Geographic book called Food Journeys of the World declares you the best ice cream parlor. In the world. This Center City gelateria out-ranked places in Italy, San Francisco and other foodie kingdoms to take the top prize. My favorite part about Capogiro is that it uses the best local ingredients to achieve many of its sublime flavors: Lancaster nectarines and black walnuts, New Jersey blueberries, milk gelato from an Amish family’s herd of grass-fed cows. Some of this week’s flavors are burnt sugar, Lancaster County watermelon, and Black Mission fig. There are four branches: Center City, Rittenhouse Square, Penn and Manayunk.

Owow Cow Creamery, Bucks County, Ottsville. Amaretto Fudge Ripple, Sweet Honey Cream, Chocolate Covered Lemon Peel. The flavors alone make this young ice cream business a winner. Add to that its local sourcing of organic milk, honey, eggs and other ingredients and an owner with a real appreciation for Bucks County’s beauty. O wow, indeed.

Purple Cow Creamery, Easton. You can’t go to the Crayola Factory without stopping at this cheery family-owned ice cream parlor. The flavors are as colorful as the crayons next door: Chocolate Covered Bacon, Toasted Coconut, Birthday Cake Batter with Rainbow Sprinkles, and the marquee Purple Cow (black raspberry with fudge swirl and chocolate truffle cups). They also make their own waffle cones. The adjacent Pez Museum closed a few years ago, but Purple Cow is still going strong.

Rosenberger’s Dairy Wagon, Hatfield. Whenever my dad is forced to pay more than $3 for a dish of ice cream, he grumbles that he would get double the amount for about half the price at the little cafe attached to Rosenberger’s Dairies. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but we can vouch for the tasty ice cream and all-around friendliness of the place. Closed Sunday.

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Rodin Museum Returns to Its Original Grandeur

July 17, 2012

The Barnes Museum’s new location may be getting all the attention this summer, but it’s worth noting that another superb museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway has quietly reopened. The Rodin Museum, home to the largest collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of France, underwent a three-year $9 million makeover that spiffed up all the sculptures, including “The Thinker” and “Gates of Hell,” and restored the French gardens, fountain and reflecting pool. As curator Joseph Rischl describes it, the refurbished building is “as sophisticated as a Parisian dress of 1929.” Wow. Plus, it now has air-conditioning.

Unliked the Barnes, timed tickets are not required. Even the pricing is easy: “pay what you wish” (suggested donation: $8) and the gardens are always free.

Sunday Stroll at Pearl S. Buck’s House

July 12, 2012

It’s not every day that you can view a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize under the same roof. But that’s just what you will find at the Pearl S. Buck House in Bucks County, along with a collection of books, sculptures, and other world artifacts that tell the story of Mrs. Buck’s fascinating life and travels. She was the first American woman to win both the Pulitzer (for The Good Earth) and the Nobel prizes, and it was here in Perkasie that she wrote many of her books, short stories, and articles.

Aspiring artists can take inspiration from Mrs. Buck’s success this Sunday, July 16, when her organization, Pearl S. Buck International, hosts an afternoon of music, art and photography displays on its landscaped grounds. Among the featured artists are Chris Mills, a local photographer specializing in nature and underwater shots; Jamie Seeger, a blind pianist; and a group of artists called “Push, Pull, Print” who convert oil, pastel and watercolor paintings into screen prints in an attempt to push artists beyond their normal training.

It’s $8 to enter the grounds, and visitors are encouraged to bring easels, sketchpads, and other tools to let their creativity flourish in the spirit of Pearl S. Buck. Docents will lead tours of the home at 1 and 2 p.m. for an additional fee.

Keeping cool at the Turkey Hill Experience

July 9, 2012

If you can’t be near the ocean or floating in a pool during this insanely hot summer, air-conditioned indoor entertainment is the next best thing. The Turkey Hill Experience near Lancaster does a decent job of keeping all ages happy, whatever the temperature hits outside. Located in a huge former silk mill just off Route 30 in Columbia, PA, it’s part indoor playground and part window into the world of ice cream-making. Kids can milk mechanical cows and free dive into a rainbow ball pit. Teens can learn about homogenization and pasteurization, create their own ice cream flavor, then make a commercial about it. And grown-ups can help themselves to plentiful samples of ice cream and iced tea and sneak off to the blast freezer when noise levels get too high. When I was there, Eagles Touchdown Sundae was one of eight showcase flavors; more recently, they were serving up Chocolate Whoopie Pie ice cream. I dare you not to try it.

There has been some griping about the $11.50 entrance fee, but discount coupons can usually be found at local grocery stores or via two-for-one Internet deals. If I lived within an hour’s drive of Columbia, I would consider buying a year’s pass for $30. My 3- and 7-year-old visited last summer and they still talk about the experience. Highlights: the old-time milk truck, the indoor slide, and that big rainbow ball pit. This summer, I’m sure the blast freezer would also make the list.

A charming Poconos detour

July 3, 2012

The bad news is Route 209 is closed between two of the state’s nicest waterfall parks. The good news is there’s a detour that will drop you straight into Milford, one of the loveliest towns in the Pocono Mountains. If you are heading north on 209 from Stroudsburg, turn left at Rt. 739, then right at Milford Road and follow it 2 miles into town. Here is where Hamptons-like sophistication meets natural Poconos beauty. Park anywhere on the street and just start wandering.

There are serious antiques stores, a restored theater, preserved Victorian-era homes, and a fascinating little history museum featuring the blood-stained American flag that cradled President Lincoln’s head after he was shot. Food and beverage options include a breakfast-all-day diner, an 1800s tap room, a salumeria straight out of Little Italy, and an elegant dining room modeled after the famous Delmonico’s of New York.

All this almost makes up for the challenges of getting to those waterfalls. The nearby Childs Falls are closed through 2012, but there is a free shuttle bus from Rt. 739 that will take you to Dingman’s Ferry and drop you near the boardwalk trail. Details are here. There is also a driving detour to Raymondskill Falls via Milford Road. Route 209 is expected to reopen in the fall, hopefully before the leaves start to turn.