Archive for September, 2012

Things to Do in Downtown West Chester

September 21, 2012

With the opening of West Chester’s newest hotel this month, it seems like a good time to showcase some noteworthy places within the city’s business district. The 80-room Hotel Warner is on High Street and within walking distance of the County Courthouse and plenty of boutiques and restaurants. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Lincoln Room, 28 W. Market St. West Chester’s oldest building serves loose-leaf tea, cucumber sandwiches and lavender scones in the same building that published Abraham Lincoln’s first biography. The lace-curtained room is full of old photos and mementoes of the 16th U.S. president.

Kreutz Creek Vineyards. This just may be the only tasting room around that lets you bring your own food AND your dog. It helps that the venerable Carlino’s Gourmet Italian Market (pictured below) is just around the corner. Pick up a tomato pie, sandwiches like sausage with bell peppers and sharp provolone, or a baguette and cheeses and head to the attractive tasting room for some Chardonnay or Cabernet Franc produced right down the road in West Grove. There’s even live music (Spanish guitar, jazz) on Friday and Saturday nights to add to the relaxing stay-awhile vibe.

A Taste of Olive. This airy shop stocks all kinds of specialty olive oils and vinegars from Italy, California to Argentina. The mouth-watering flavors include Sicilian Lemon Balsamic vinegar, Dark Chocolate Balsamic vinegar and Smokey Chipotle Olive Oil. Like any good wine bar, tastings are allowed, even encouraged, before you buy.

Limoncello. Loud and friendly and serving huge portions of Italian classics like eggplant parmesan and fettuccine Alfredo, this hot spot is a favorite of Lori Zytkowicz, owner of nearby Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast. The $9.95 lunch buffet draws crowds.

Soft Pretzel Factory. Every town worth its salt has one. West Chester is no exception.

Apple picking time at Hopewell Furnace

September 14, 2012

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, about 15 miles east of Reading, was one of the country’s first iron producers, casting cannons for the Colonial Army during the Revolutionary War and once responsible for 15 percent of the entire world’s iron supply. Gen. George Washington’s troops came within three miles of the furnace, and its workers rushed to bury several “great guns” on the property to save them from possible capture by the Redcoats.

Today, Hopewell Furnace is a preserved iron plantation run by the National Park Service and a very worthy stop on anyone’s Pennsylvania history tour. Besides the blast furnace, there’s a restored blacksmith’s shop, a company store, the ironmaster’s house, and several workers’ cottages — all nestled in a peaceful forested valley.

This month is my favorite time of year to visit. The property includes a four-acre apple orchard and the Park Service lets visitors pick as much as they want for $1 a pound (buckets and pole pickers provided). Though the original apple trees from the 1780s are gone, there are 35 different varieties, many with historical roots, including Spitzenburg’s, which may have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite and Smokehouse, a variety traced to 1837 when it was grown next to a smokehouse in Lancaster County. By mid-October the fruit is gone, so get here soon. Hopewell Furnace is within French Creek State Park and links up with several trails within the park.

The Stoogeum: Laughter as Panacea

September 9, 2012

It’s the laughter that gets you the first time you visit the Stoogeum near Ambler. Giggles aren’t an everyday occurrence in your average museum, but they have them in spades at this office-park shrine to Larry, Curly, and Moe. It seems like every knucklehead…er, visitor…in the Stoogeum is chuckling over something, whether it’s the comedy sketches playing on TVs on every floor, the vintage pinball machine, or the wall of comic strips, from Nancy to Calvin and Hobbes, that make reference to TV’s eye-poking comic geniuses.

Whether you’re a fan of or not, this is museum-going at its finest and funniest. It’s way more than someone’s dusty collection of shot glasses and vanity license plates. Founder Gary Lassin, a lifelong Stooges fan, also happened to marry the granddaughter of Larry Fine’s brother (Local trivia: Larry was born Louis Feinberg near 3rd and South Streets and was the only Stooge from Philadelphia.) The amazing collection includes signed Columbia Pictures contracts (showing how their salaries rose from $200 to $1,500 a week in the 1930s); TV and movie props, like the flying submarine tank from The Three Stooges in Orbit; and a marketing empire as savvy as the Walt Disney Co. (cereal boxes, Colorforms, thimbles, toilet paper, and much more). There’s a state-of-the-art screening room playing Stooges shorts all day and interactive “Stoogeology 101” screens that urge you to “poke Curly in the eye” to get started.

You’ll probably come away with a better understanding of Shemp Howard (who replaced his brother Curly in the 1940s) and of the fact that the Stooges were men struggling with real issues when they weren’t throwing pies at each other.

But most likely of all, you’ll leave with a belly aching from laughing so much.

The Stoogeum is open the following Saturdays in 2012: Oct. 6, Nov. 17 and Dec. 22. It’s free, it’s about a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia, and kids are welcome (my 7-year-old loved it).