Archive for the ‘Lehigh Valley’ Category

4 Fun Facts (and 1 warning) about Iron Pigs Baseball and Coca-Cola Park

August 7, 2019

I took my kids to see the AAA-affiliated Iron Pigs play at Coca-Cola Park for the first time this summer. We all had a blast, thanks to the festive easiness of the whole experience. Here are some subjective highlights to keep in mind before you go:

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There is no bad seat. We debated over seats like some MLB coaches mull over first-round draft picks. It was unnecessary. Ticket prices range from $8 for lawn seating to $11 for just about every other seat. We ended up in the second row next to the dugout of the opposing team. My son, who brought his glove, didn’t get a coveted foul ball, but right fielder Austin Listi tossed him one between innings, which thrilled him. Next time, we might try the Bacon Strip, two levels of seats along the right field wall, modeled after the famous “Green Monster” seats of Fenway Park.

Try the food at least once. Not surprisingly, the food kiosks take full advantage of the team’s pork-themed name. Menu highlights include deep-fried bacon skewers, pork-roll burgers, BBQ pulled pork with mac ‘n’ cheese and mashed potatoes, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and maple bacon funnel cake. It’s all as pricey as you might expect, but it was a fun experience. Next time, though, we might eat at Friendly’s (2.2 miles away) before going to the game, and we’ll definitely skip the refrigerated chocolate-covered bacon.

The name Iron Pigs is a nod to the steel industry that once dominated the Lehigh Valley. When the team first arrived in Allentown from Canada in 2008, the local newspaper sponsored a contest to give them a new name (the Ottawa Lynx just didn’t seem right). It received 3,500 suggestions and narrowed it down to eight; IronPigs won handily in the final round of voting. It’s a deliberate twist on pig iron, the raw iron that gets melted down to make steel. (The pig reference comes from a long-ago observation that the rows of conveyor-belt ingots resemble a litter of piglets.)

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Don’t bring water. That’s the warning. Security will make you leave it at the door. They’re pretty strict about it, though they might let you get away with a Dasani bottle, the brand they sell inside. So hydrate before the game, or resign yourself to shelling out a few bucks or searching out the water fountains.

It’s pretty much impossible not to have fun. From the Oink On! screen shots and T-shirt cannonballs between innings, to the overall buoyancy of the crowd, it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. Just about every home game has a theme or giveaway, like Bring your Dog and Christmas in July. This summer, “Jurassic Pork” night featured fireworks and a cap giveaway, while “The Office” night attendees got Stanley Hudson IronPigs bobbleheads (along with an appearance by the actor who plays him).

Can’t wait to see what next season brings.

Happy FASTNACHT Day!

March 5, 2019

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In honor of these fried-dough and sugar treats, here is a photo from the Pennsylvania Bakery in Camp Hill. Haegele’s Bakery in Philadelphia has special “fastnacht” hours Monday and Tuesday. It’s the only time of the year you can get them here. Laudermilch Meats in Annville opens at 7 AM Tuesday and offers fresh fastnachts “while supplies last.”

Fastnacht is German for “eve of the fast” and stems from the Christian tradition of making “fat cakes” before abstaining from sugar and fat during Lent. German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, first brought the tradition to the United States.

Traditional fastnachts use flour made from potatoes and are deep-fried in lard (though many cooks now substitute vegetable or canola oil), then dipped in molasses and dusted with sugar. The tradition is not unlike Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, or Pascki Day in Polish communities, but I like the local PA folklore that surround the fastnacht, like the notion that the oil they are fried in has magical powers or that the person who eats the last one will end up an old maid or bachelor.

Bakeries all over southeastern Pennsylvania will open their doors earlier than usual on Tuesday, with the expectation of selling thousands of fastnachts by mid-day. Churches, fire houses, and schools also sell their own variations. Even though the ingredients are always they same, everyone has fixed ideas about what makes a perfect specimen. Here is a story that offers a little more history on the fastnacht.

It’s a blissful day for doughnut-lovers

Get Ready for FASTNACHT DAY

February 12, 2013

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In honor of these fried-dough and sugar treats, here is a photo from the Pennsylvania Bakery in Camp Hill. Haegele’s Bakery in Philadelphia has special “fastnacht” hours Monday and Tuesday. It’s the only time of the year you can get them here. Laudermilch Meats in Annville opens at 7 AM Tuesday and offers fresh fastnachts “while supplies last.”

Fastnacht is German for “eve of the fast” and stems from the Christian tradition of making “fat cakes” before abstaining from sugar and fat during Lent. German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, first brought the tradition to the United States.

Traditional fastnachts use flour made from potatoes and are deep-fried in lard (though many cooks now substitute vegetable or canola oil), then dipped in molasses and dusted with sugar. The tradition is not unlike Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, or Pascki Day in Polish communities, but I like the local PA folklore that surround the fastnacht, like the notion that the oil they are fried in has magical powers or that the person who eats the last one will end up an old maid or bachelor.

Bakeries all over southeastern Pennsylvania will open their doors earlier than usual on Tuesday, with the expectation of selling thousands of fastnachts by mid-day. Churches, fire houses, and schools also sell their own variations. Even though the ingredients are always they same, everyone has fixed ideas about what makes a perfect specimen. Here is a story that offers a little more history on the fastnacht.

It’s a blissful day for doughnut-lovers

Best festival name ever: Roasting Ears of Corn

August 18, 2012

Allentown’s Museum of Indian Culture hosts the Roasting Ears of Corn Festival this weekend (Aug. 18 and 19). The name alone makes me want to go, but check out all the neat activities they have lined up: tomahawk throwing, drumming demonstrations, fire dancing, quill making and culinary booths serving up all kinds of things you won’t find in your local food court: fry bread, buffalo stew, Indian tacos and corn soup. A kid’s activity area features Navajo sand art, dream catchers, cornhusk dolls and other Native American arts and crafts. The event, Pennsylvania’s oldest American Indian Pow-wow, is in its 32nd year, so its organizers must know what they are doing. The museum itself is closed during th festival, but the event just might intrigue you enough to come back and learn more about the Lenape and other American Indian tribes. Admission is $5-$7; kids 7 and under are free.

As summer nears: 5 life-changing Pennsylvania 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 in June, July and August? As summer nears, here is my subjective short list of the best ice cream parlors in eastern Pennsylvania.

Owow Cow Creamery, Bucks County, Ottsville. O wow, indeed. Amaretto Fudge Ripple, Sweet Honey Cream, Chocolate Covered Lemon Peel. The flavors alone make this growing local 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 the beauty of rural Bucks County’s. There are also branches in Wrightstown, Easton, Chalfont, and Lambertville, NJ.

Bassett’s, Philadelphia. Reading Terminal Market. Even ice cream in Philadelphia involves a historic first. Bassett’s is America’s oldest existing ice cream company, established in 1861 when L.D. Bassett began selling ice cream he made via mule-driven churn at his South Jersey farm.  The flavors tend toward the familiar — cinnamon, rum raisin, cherry vanilla — but the ice cream stands out for its creaminess, thanks to an impressively high butterfat content of 16.4%. It’s available in stores all over the place, but the best place to enjoy it is by bellying up to the marble counter at Reading Terminal Market, where it has been a fixture since 1892.

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.

 

Freddy Hill Farms, Lansdale. Pretzel cones, low prices, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and two goats and a kid named Frosty, Dip and Scoop. This may not be the finest ice cream one ever tasted, but it’s one of my favorite places to take the kids when I’m looking for an easy and fun dessert option. We get our ice cream, visit the animals and sometimes play a round of mini-golf. They also carry butter brickle, a hard-to-find flavor made of small, crunchy pieces of golden-browned toffee.

Perrydell Farm, York. Dolcezzo, the acclaimed gelataria in Washington, D.C., sources its dairy products from Perrydell and calls the three Perry brothers “some of the nicest folks around.” On their farm outside York, you can witness the milking of cows and feeding of calves (if you time it right), then indulge in a hand-dipped cone or shake. Their chocolate milk is pretty fabulous, too.

Finally, a eulogy of sorts:

R.I.P. 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. Sadly, Rosenberger’s was sold and closed its doors forever in 2014.

PA’s amusement parks

June 7, 2012

Roller coaster fanatics, take heed: an amusement park veteran decided to test out rides in the state’s top fun parks and write about it in the Los Angeles Times. It’s a great article, and brings back fond (if terrified) memories of Hershey Park’s Sooperdooperlooper and the wonderful (and apparently hard-to-find) Whip at Dorney Park. The writer, of course, fell in love with Knoebels in Elysburg — an old-fashioned fun park and campground that should be on everyone’s “places to visit before I die” list.

Organic oasis near Kutztown

May 20, 2012

This is not your basic manicured garden tour. A visit to the Rodale Experimental Farm is a fascinating, sometimes muddy and bug-laden, window into a working sustainable organic farm.

Hats are a must. Boots are good idea.

Here’s the backstory: In 1947, a man named J.I. Rodale started the Soil and Health Foundation on his small farm near Kutztown to promote his theory that healthy soil, not chemical fertilizer, is the basis for growing healthy food. Five decades and one publishing empire later, these 333 acres near Kutztown are home to a research farm and educational center that is open to the public for $5 self-guided tours and workshops on composting, soil biology, and other topics.

Tours start in an old red schoolhouse, where books on gardening and cooking and locally made honey and jams are for sale. From here, the sometimes-paved paths wind past wide garden beds, compost windrows, bank barns, owl hollows, and patchwork-quilt fields of corn, alfalfa, wheat, and soybeans. In summer, an unfathomable number of bugs and butterflies – plus the occasional herd of cows — will cross your path. I have yet to take one of the $12 Saturday guided tours, but I hear they are thorough and inspiring.

A tip: Don’t rely on your car’s GPS to find this farm. Map it out or call for specific directions before you leave. It’s not exactly on the beaten path, though it isn’t far from two great refreshment stops: Premise Maid Candies for ice cream and Brenda’s Eatery (15380 Kutztown Rd.) for Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.