Vacation Roundup

As is obvious by now, we made it home on Monday, driving through 8 hours (the trip should have taken 6) of rain, sometimes torrential. My husband is not a good driver in bad weather, so I drove the bulk of the way home, and got in well after dark on Monday night.

But I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to mention a few other things about our trip that don’t warrant their own entry, but that are definitely worth remembering.

On Friday night, after our dinner at Good ‘n Plenty we stayed in a carriage house at The Osceola Mill House, which was very charming and quite rustic. Although a bit uncomfortable due to our size (the stairs were very steep, the bed was a full, etc), it had a lovely view, a nice little kitchen (I’d come here again if I were staying longer), the location was right near where we wanted to be, and the breakfast in the morning was awesome! (especially the Fruit Soup, which I plan to find a recipe for and make this weekend).

We spent early Saturday making our rounds in the Intercourse area, stopping here and there – Paul got some delicious homemade root beer and fudge from an Amish roadside stand, and in addition to our trips to Stoltzfus Meats and Kitchen Kettle Village, we also stopped at the Intercourse Pretzel Factory where we got hard and soft brown buttered pretzels, and the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market, which was so crowded that I only bought some apple cider and got myself a funnel cake. It kind of makes up for missing The Ohio State Fair this year, because I love fair food, and funnel cake is about as fair food as you can get.

Funnel Cake

We had planned to eat lunch in the area, but we were so full from the scrapple, egg and cheese wrap, breakfast at the bed and breakfast, and funnel cake that we decided to head right to New Jersey without stopping to another smorgasbord first.

The trip to New Jersey was pretty uneventful. The navigation system in my car took us on a route that avoided tolls that I was unfamiliar with, and we got stuck in some pretty gnarly traffic on the Surekill Expressway that we would have run into either way. We got into New Jersey around 2:30ish, still too early to check into our hotel. We were going to head over to Jim’s Lunch so Paul could try the burgers, but it completely slipped my mind that Jim’s closes for the summer, so our plans for beefy goodness were thwarted. We still had a bit of time to kill, so we stopped into Haar’s Natural Foods and Gourmet Imports on Delsea Drive, a little store that sells mostly health foods (including a huge selection of gluten free stuff, I was happy to see) but has this deli in the back that sells imported German meats. I used to go here all the time with Oma when I was really young, and the place hasn’t changed a bit in 30-odd years. Amazing. We made a mental note to make a stop here on Monday morning on our way out of town.

We finally checked in to the hotel, and then went out driving around for a while (I gave him a mini-tour of East Vineland), and ended up at Crown Market for cheesesteaks. I don’t know if it changed ownership since April (I honestly think it did, based on what they said and who was in there when I went in), but the cheesesteak was very underwhelming this time around (spices were way off, a lot less meat and everything else, the bread overwhelmed the meat and cheese, etc), plus they raised the prices. I don’t think we’ll be going there again.

Sunday morning was a bit rainy, and we were bored, so after a tasty breakfast at the Golden Palace Diner (whatever happened to all the diners? They’re hard to find these days), we decided to drive down to the shore. Paul couldn’t decide where he wanted to go (plus everywhere except the Wildwoods and Atlantic City require beach tags now, blech!), so we drove into Wildwood (on the way I passed a ton of roadside farmer’s markets, I really should have stopped at one!), and then made our way up the shore through Stone Harbor, Avalon, and Sea Isle City. We were going to stop at Mike’s for seafood, but I couldn’t find the free parking they advertised, and there wasn’t anywhere else to park either. So we got on the Garden State Parkway and the AC Expressway and made our way over to Crabby’s for lunch.

Let me just rant for a moment. I spent the first 23 years of my life in New Jersey, drove there for at least 6 years, and cannot for the life of me remember drivers being so friggin’ rude as they were this weekend. Aggressive, nasty, belligerent drivers that expect you to break traffic laws left and right for their convenience. Drivers that like to drive 5 feet off your bumper when you’re already 5-10 miles over the speed limit with out of state tags and have cars in the lane to the right of you so you can’t get over at the moment they crawl up on your rear. Cars who weave back and forth fruitlessly when traffic isn’t moving quickly expecting to make headway but instead just making asses of themselves and pissing off everyone in the process. Cars who don’t obey the “yield” signs and get pissed off when you do. Let’s just say my middle finger got a good workout this weekend. And I’m not usually one to shoot the bird. I’m glad to be back on Ohio roads, that’s for sure!

But I digress. We made it back to Vineland, and dinner that night was at Esposito’s Maplewood 3, which was my favorite stop last time around. The food was good, but not as good as it was in April for some reason. But every restaurant is entitled to an off night, and I’ve had more good experiences there than bad.

We got a really good night’s sleep, and on Monday morning, we ran our last few errands (mostly food to bring back to Ohio) – we got subs for later and Conte’s pasta at Giovanni’s Deli, a bunch of Puerto Rican food from Penalvert’s, checked out the new Polish American Deli on the Boulevard by Park Avenue (NJ locals, if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do – it’s worth a stop!) and got some sausage and pierogies to take home, stopped at Haar’s for German deli meats, stopped at the new Shop Rite for some Jersey tomatoes (the craving of which was the impetus for the trip in the first place). One of the places I really wanted to check out but wasn’t able to is The Sweet Life Bakery near Sixth and Landis. Unfortunately, they’re not due to open until Labor Day, so I’ll miss out on the goodies. But if you’re local to the area, make sure to drop in – I really respect what they’re doing to revitalize that area, and they could use all the support and business you can give them. :)

The rest of Monday was a blur of driving. I honestly can’t remember if we stopped to eat. I don’t think we did, actually. All I remember is rain, lightning, and more rain. But we’re home now, the air conditioning is fixed, and life is once again back to normal. And as much as I love travelling, there really is no place like home.

Traditional German Plum Cake

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was asking for a local source for Damson plums so I could make plum cake? Well, I found them, but where I least expected to!

Damson Plums

I found them at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm and Market in Bird-In-Hand, PA. I was hoping to get some peaches, maybe a little apple cider, but these beauties just hopped out at me. My eyes went wide, I pulled on Paul’s sleeve and pointed and said “Look!” – his eyes followed, and he asked, “Damsons?” – I told him, “If not, they’re close enough!” – Needless to say, we left the store with 3 quarts of these puppies.

Come to find out that they are Italian Prune Plums, a European plum which is smaller and tarter than the sweeter Japanese plums we’re used to. These aren’t meant for eating out of hand, but are wonderful in cakes and in jam. I also found out that the season is just starting (I got some of the very first harvest), so you may see these in our local farmer’s markets – keep an eye out.

Either way, the plums wouldn’t keep until the weekend, so once we got home, Paul and I did an unusual midweek baking/jam making session. We worked on the cake together – he with the yeast dough, and I with the the plums, and made this wonderful Traditional German Plum Cake (Zwetschgenkuchen) that is just like my Oma’s was, right down to the slightly sweet yeast crust. This recipe is definitely a keeper – the crust holds up well to the juicy plums. We’re even going to try to replicate Oma’s Apfelkuchen based on this recipe.

German Plum Cake

I overestimated the amount of plums we’d need (we would have been fine with 2 quarts), so we had tons left over, and we made a batch of Damson Plum Jam that tastes wondeful, but is a little runnier than I like because it was made without pectin and Paul assumed it was done when it hit the gel point and took it off a bit prematurely. Either way, it will be great drizzled over fresh biscuits, or used as the base of a plum sauce.

Homemade Damson Plum Jam

I hope I see these locally in the weeks to come, because there are still so many other plum recipes I’d love to try. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

PA Dutch Edition: Kitchen Kettle Village

One of the things I love doing when we come to Lancaster County is making the requisite stop at Kitchen Kettle Village, for both the smoked meats and cheeses, and also the canning kitchen.

Upon entering, you’re greeted with a carousel of different jams to try, a couple dozen at least.

kitchenkettle

With all of the canning we’ve been doing this summer, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the work these ladies do, day in and day out. You can watch them at work, but no pictures as many of them are Amish (Amish don’t like to have their pictures taken, as their religion dictates “no graven images”). In addition to all of the jams, they have wall after wall of different items, like relishes, chow chows, salsas, sauces, so many things, way too many to mention.

kitchenkettle2

We found quite a bit to get, and ended up with a sampler and a few other items. If you’re in the area, it’s worth the stop. There are shops here to suit just about every taste.

If you’d like to go: Kitchen Kettle Village, Rte 340 (Old Philadelphia Pike), Intercourse, PA 717.768.8261

PA Dutch Edition: Stoltzfus Meats

One of my favorite things about travelling is the oppportunity to get what I call “road food”, i.e. cheap but filling regional specialties that I can’t get at home. Often, you have to go pretty far off the beaten path to find them, but once you do, you’ll go out of your way with glee just to go back.

stoltzfus

This egg, cheese and scrapple wrap ($2.99) at Stoltzfus Meats in Intercourse, PA is one of those items. Granted, it doesn’t look like much to sing the praises over based on the picture above. But oh, my god was it good. I’m not a huge scrapple fan all on its own, due to the dubious nature of its contents (and the fact it takes a bit of skill to prepare well when you’re cutting into slabs and frying it), but in this wrap, the other ingredients turned it into something truly special.

Imagine, if you will – scrapple on a buttered grill, chopped up and fried. On a separate part of the buttered grill, 2 eggs fried, but chopped a bit during cooking to firm up the yolks. Both items put together and slathered with American cheese. Then everything wrapped in a tortilla and grilled on yet another part of the buttered grill. Swoon.

Paul and I ended up splitting one. And hopefully on the way back home, we’ll be out of here early enough to get one (they stop making them at 11am). Either way, we’re stopping at Stoltzfus for other items, and scrapple is definitely on the list. Theirs has great seasoning, and freezes well.

While you’re there, hit the Intercourse Pretzel Company next door for some of their brown buttered soft pretzels. :)

If you’d like to go: Stoltzfus Meats and Deli, Cross Keys Village Center, 3614 E. Newport Rd, Intercourse, PA, 717.768.7287

PA Dutch Edition: Good ‘n Plenty

After a long drive from Ohio, by the time we arrived to Intercourse, PA after 6pm, there was little to do but eat dinner and then check into the bed and breakfast to sleep off the soreness that had set in after a 7 hour drive.

On our usual trips to Lancaster County, we usually head to the Shady Maple Smorgasbord. However, since there’s usually a LONG wait, involving two separate lines (one for the cashier, another to wait to be seated), and since it was near closing time already, we just decided to stay in the Intercourse/Bird-in-Hand area and went to Good ‘n Plenty instead.

Now, this isn’t a place we’re unfamiliar with – I’ve been going for years, I even remember a German Club field trip in high school that involved this restaurant and one of my classmates who ate nothing but chicken. We had our after-wedding dinner here almost 11 years ago. And we’ve been there a handful of times since. And in all of those years, things haven’t changed at all (except maybe the price).

The concept is this – you’re seated at a big long table with several other families – all strangers. They bring out huge overflowing dishes of just about every Amish food you can think of – fried chicken, ham, beef stew, mashed potatoes, brown buttered noodles, homemade bread with butter and apple butter, chow chow, vinegar slaw, corn, green beans, and a couple of other things I probably don’t even remember. You pass the dishes around the table, and if the dishes get emptied, the servers bring more. While in concept this sounds like a great way to get to know other people, in reality, it all depends on the luck of the draw. The food is excellent (especially the brown buttered noodles). The company was not. I spent my entire meal getting glared at by some old biddy halfway down the table because I dared to take seconds, nay thirds of the noodles. Even though I didn’t take seconds of anything else. And I didn’t escape a glare when I took this picture either.

goodnplenty

So I left sort of hungry. I held back a bit, because I didn’t want to validate her stereotype of the piggy fat person. Even though I probably did anyway. There’s a certain amount of peer pressure in those situations, that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I just want to eat what I want to eat with the comments about how much I’m eating coming from other tables, not my own. It’s a great business model for them. And oh, how I love the food. Just wish they had an option for anti-social folks like myself. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind sharing a meal with strangers, I just want to make sure they’re on the same wavelength as I am before I do.

And at $17.91 (plus tax and tip) per person, you really have to work hard to eat your money’s worth. I just wish I had been more motivated and less influenced by passive aggressive BS from the others at the table.

If you’d like to go: Good ‘n Plenty, Rte 896, Smoketown, PA 717.394.7111

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