Archive for the ‘Let’s Eat!’ 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

Best bakeshop in the middle of nowhere

February 12, 2019

It’s a long and winding drive to get to Butterscotch Pastry Shop, no matter where your departure point is. You will pass roads and towns you’ve never heard of, even if you’re a local who grew up a few miles away. You may miss the turn if you’re coming from the east because from Flowing Springs Road, the building looks like just another charming late 19th-century home that can be found at just about every crossroads in rural Pennsylvania.

Not long ago, this was an antiques shop owned by the beloved Antiques Roadshow host Richard Wright, who grew up in the area and died in 2009. In 2017, the owners of the acclaimed Birchrunville Store Café across the street turned it into a daytime showcase for exquisite desserts and sandwiches.

Once you get there, you will never want to leave. The place retains the warmth and charm of Wright’s emporium, with a fireplace, custom wood tables, and decor that includes repurposed rolling pins, copper pipes and tractor seats. Then there’s the food: flaky croissants, light-as-air souffles and the signature butterscotch muffins served with warm butterscotch sauce. A changing roster of open-faced sandwiches and salads rounds out the lunch menu.

I can’t think of a better place to spend a cold Sunday morning, but things get even more inviting in springtime or early fall, when you can enjoy your coffee and treats outside on a table next to Birch Run creek.

Info: Butterscotch Pastry Shop, 406 Hollow Rd., Birchrunville; phone: (610) 827-0900. Open Thursday through Sunday.

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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

Doughnuts and Creamed Beef at Oregon Dairy

October 8, 2012

Besides apples and gorgeous foliage, fall brings to mind big breakfasts. One of the best breakfasts my family and I ever had was at Oregon Dairy in Lititz, right off Rte. 222.

(Footnote: I don’t say that casually — Pennsylvania has lots of excellent breakfast spots.)

We loved that every breakfast platter came with a hockey puck-sized doughnut and glass of fresh milk, and that a huge plate of eggs, home fries, and toast costs less than a gallon of gas in California right now. The dairy-themed playground next door is a perfect way for the kids to burn off all those calories and for adults to rest and enjoy the Amish countryside while nursing their pecan-waffle food comas.

On weekdays, the dining room is often filled with retired Mennonite folks, bibles in hand; tour buses like the Friday and Saturday all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets ($8.25, kids half price). This month, there’s also a corn maze to add to the fun.

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.

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.

Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak!

June 10, 2012

June 10th would have been Maurice Sendak’s 84th birthday. One of the best places to celebrate this great writer and artist is Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum, home to the most comprehensive collection of Sendak’s drawings, photographs, sketches and manuscript materials (10,000 and counting). Stand in front of Sendak’s final drawings for “Where the Wild Things Are” and be awed all over again by one of the best picture books of all time. The Rosenbach is kicking off a year-long exhibit dedicated to Sendak starting today and expanding on its permanent collection with new drawings and materials.

And don’t stop there: the rest of the Rittenhouse Square townhouse is also a window into Sendak’s personality. His long-time relationship with the museum started when he visited in 1966 to check out Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach’s collection on Herman Melville, his favorite author. He also reveled in the materials on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, William Blake and other writers who defined his literary and artistic tastes. It’s a jewel of a museum and should be on every visitor’s list of sights to see in Philly.

Continue your Sendak tour with a stop at the Night Kitchen bakery in Chestnut Hill. The original owner, Marie Tramontina, named it after Sendak and his story, “In the Night Kitchen,” about a boy who fashions an airplane out of bread dough. Like the artist himself, the bakery has the highest of standards. Its award-winning brownies have been featured on Rachael Ray, and don’t even get me started on the walnut tarts.

5 Ways to Celebrate the Pretzel

May 31, 2012

Philadelphians eat about twelve times as many pretzels as the average consumer does. It’s not surprising — soft pretzels are one of Pennsylvania’s greatest products, though they often get overshadowed by the glitzier cheesesteak and Italian hoagie.
Pretzels (scandalously) didn’t make Parade magazine’s recent Memorial Day list of all-American classic foods, but I miss them desperately when I am out of the area (those mall kiosks just aren’t the same). Here are some favorite stops along the state’s unique pretzel network. I’ll save the sublime ice cream and pretzel cone combo for another post.

• The Sturgis empire. Julius’ side runs America’s first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, where visitors can check out the original 19th-century ovens and learn how to twist dough. Brother Tom’s side operates the factory and outlet store about 25 miles away in Shillington. Here, you can sample all types of pretzels, from cinnamon-dusted to spicy jalapeno and buy huge tins at a discount (but there are no tours).

Philly Soft Pretzel Factory. This 14-year-old franchise has won a slew of awards, and its storefronts are everywhere from Chalfont to Reading. Plus, it had the audacity to invent the cheesesteak pretzel. So wrong, but so good.

• Hanover, Pa. The factory tour of Snyder’s of Hanover is a must – a front-row look at the conveyor belts and mammoth machines needed to mass-produce salty snack foods — but the smaller, more personal Revonah (Hanover spelled backwards) is also worth a stop.

• Don’t let the humble name fool you. Gettysburg’s lively Pub on the Square sells a terrific appetizer simply called Pretzel Twists. Served hot with marinara sauce and dusted with garlic, it’s a perfect way to carb-load after a day of biking or walking the battlefields.

• Sweet pretzels in Amish country. Pretzel purists may object to this one, but there’s something about the butter/sugar combo they slather on the dough that is heavenly. I don’t even know the name of the small shop that sells them, but it’s next to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area: Plain & Fancy Farm.