In Deep Shishito

OK, true confession time…..I began writing this post on December 4th.  I know, I know….it HAS been a while since I’ve written.  But in my defense, Christmas time in retail is REALLY busy!

So let’s pretend it hasn’t been 44 days since I started the post.  I KNOW you can grant me the grace of using your imagination!  Read on – with love and forgiveness in your hearts!

I cannot believe my stomach is actually growling as I type these words – if you had asked me on Sunday, I would have told you I was too full to EVER EAT AGAIN!

Jeff and I were running errands in Hershey after church and we were both hungry…..when he asked me where I wanted to go I told him I was hungry for a burger.  Of course, ever prepared, he steered me toward Grantville.

I know I’ve shared this previously, but for purposes of this story I need to reiterate that Jeff is a BBQ guy.  He LLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEEESSSSS bbq. I tolerate his bbq fetish, but do not readily admit to being a BBQ gal.  Oh, I know, I’ve written about bbq – particularly during our trip to Texas (see Always Bet on Blacks) – and I usually enjoy the bbq restaurants I begrudgingly go to with Jeff, but for some reason I have (or more accurately HAD) it in my head that bbq is not really my thing.

Today, in part due to a fabulous burger experience, I am proud to admit that while I wasn’t paying attention I’ve become a bbq gal!

I write all this to explain that I was less-than-enthused when Jeff suggested a bbq joint when I said I was hungry for a burger.  The mean-spirited, hangry part of me wanted to dig in my heels; but the part of my stomach that knows Jeff very rarely steers me wrong when it comes to food won out.

Shakedown Sign

While we were driving to Grantville Jeff explained to me that he had heard that Shakedown BBQ has some amazing burgers.  So I waited to pass judgment until I tasted them.  I passed the time on the ride looking at Shakedown’s burger menu – there were some truly interesting burgers on the menu, but the one that caught my eye was named In Deep Shishito (IDS).  Having just learned about shishito peppers in the last year and being a lover of pickled ginger, the IDS sounded too good to be true.

The description:

“Bacon – Cooper – Shishito Peppers Wikipedia – Grilled Onion – Pickled Ginger – Asian BBQ Sauce – Habanero Mayo – Cilantro – Texas Toast”

I know, it’s not your traditional burger, but my mouth was watering just thinking about it.  So we ordered one IDS and one The 98 to share.

The 98, Chris’s riff on the Big Mac, is described as follows:

“Bacon – Cooper – Lettuce – Tomato – Onion – Pickles – 1000 Island – Texas Toast”

While we were waiting for our food, we introduced ourselves to Chris – the owner – and told him about our BBQ quest in Texas.  He shared that he had been to the same places we had gone and then some – and not just in Texas but across the country.

Chris brought us a piece of Shakedown’s brisket to try and it was heavenly.  Not since Black’s in Lockhart, Texas had I tasted such a wonderful piece of brisket.  It melted in your mouth, had just the right smokiness and the sauce was a perfect complement to the meat – spicy, but not too and tangy, but not too.

The brisket, however, was forgotten as soon as I took the first heavenly messy bite of the In Deep Shishito.  It was the messiest burger I’ve ever eaten – and I mean that as a complete compliment!  It was also the tastiest.  It was like bbq and asian food had a party in my mouth!

The 98 was good – really good – but in my never-to-be-unshared opinion, it had nothing on the IDS!  Had I not tasted the IDS, I would have said The 98 was a great burger (and it would have been a completely truthful description) but the IDS just completely outdid (and outdoes) every other burger I’ve ever eaten.  It is an explosion of flavors – most of them a seemingly unlikely combination of tastes – of the absolute best kind!

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After we finished eating, Chris generously took us on a “tour” to the smokers.  We talked more about bbq and raved about the food.  I told Chris – and I mean it – that often when we go to restaurants we are disappointed because we can make at home what we had eaten and it is as good as, if not better than the restaurant version for a fraction of the price; but that this restaurant visit did not disappoint in any way.  The food was fresh, tasty and passionately prepared.

Fast forward to today (January 17th) and another trip to Shakedown.  Jeff and I took my mom and dad to have the Shakedown BBQ experience.  Of course I raved about the IDS the entire way from our house to Grantville!

We arrived and the first question my mom asked when we pulled into the parking lot was, “This is it?”  Ok, I should explain it’s a tiny place.  And I will also tell you that both times we were there, it was chilly inside – this is not a complaint, simply a note so that you can plan accordingly for your trip to Shakedown.  Today I wore jeans and a sweatshirt and only my hands were chilly.

Of course, once your food arrives and the burger juices are dripping down your arms, you won’t care what the temperature is inside.  And even better, if you order the IDS – which I cannot recommend highly enough – your mouth will be on fire.  The combination of “every 10th shishito is a hot one,” the Habanero mayonnaise and the warmth of the pickled ginger light the best kind of fire on your tongue!

In Deep Shishito

Mimi’s assessment – “unique, juicy, messy, who ever thought of putting pickled ginger on a burger – genius! And French fries – to die for.  Great pulled pork – not too much sauce so you can taste the complex flavors of the smoked meat. The real deal.”  Mimi had the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on it.

Pop-Pop’s assessment – “among the best burgers I’ve ever had and probably the best French fries I’ve ever had. The only burger I can think of that rivals this one was at The Village Whiskey (about which I’ve previously written) in Philadelphia.  The homemade thousand island dressing was awesome.” Pop-Pop ordered The 98.

Jeff’s assessment – “amazing. Bangin’.”  Jeff had a special – the Reuben.  I will add to Jeff’s assessment of the reuben – truly the best Rueben I’ve ever had – the smoky flavor of the corned beef brisket was delectable.  And – some of you will understand this – this reuben is wwwaaayyy better than Reuben’s Reuben (what happens when you put a narcissist in charge of snack time)!

The fries that we all raved about – beer battered bbq rubbed fries.  Need I say more?

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Of course, Chris came out to the table and chatted with us for a few minutes.  He talked about changing the menu and my heart skipped a beat.  I said, with obvious concern in my voice, “No – not the IDS – please don’t take it off the menu.”  Chris began talking about the limited availability of shishito peppers in the winter and I think I stared to pass out.  If you taste the IDS, you’ll understand why my blood pressure spikes at the idea of not being able to get an IDS when I’m craving one.  It’s a bit of a masochistic experience – a bit of the gratification of the IDS comes from the “painful” heat from the shishitos, Habanero mayo and pickled ginger.

We oohed and ahhhed through our meal – sharing bites of everything on the table. Then when we were finished, we mopped off with wet wipes and dried off with paper towels.  We bussed our table and on the way out I told Chris – with 100% seriousness – that am not above groveling for him to keep the In Deep Shishito on the menu.  Today is the first day of the week and I can already tell you the IDS will be the best thing I eat all week!

Shakedown – follow the smoke to one of the best meals you’ll ever have! And check them out on Instagram & Facebook.

Have you been to Shakedown?  Please share your experience below!  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for – you need to go ASAP!!!

What’s Going On in My Kitchen? Pate a Choux (among other things)

There was a LOT of dough in my kitchen today…..too bad none of it was the kind you can spend!

Today was a day of testing recipes and boy did I work hard.  I got up at 6:30 a.m. (but please don’t tell anyone because it would ruin my reputation) and was in the kitchen cooking in earnest by 6:45.

I had a lot of recipes to test today and so, with a cup of hot coffee in hand, I got right to pate a choux.  This is the dough that is used to make profiteroles, eclairs, and cream puffs, among other delicious treats – both sweet and savory.  It’s a dough that is twice cooked (once on top of the stove and once in the oven) and a dough I’ve wanted to experiment with because I’ve been doing some reading on the subject recently.

There is some debate about whether it’s better to mix in the eggs one at a time by hand or to mix them all in at once using the food processor.  My hypothesis was that hand mixing the eggs one at a time would yield a better result; so I set out to prove myself right or wrong.  I also wanted to play a little with baking time to see the effects of shorter and longer times and the effects of turning off the oven after the baking time and allowing the “puffs” to cool in the oven with the door propped open. Finally, I wanted to see if you can really scoop the dough onto a pan with a cookie scoop (rather than piping it onto the pan) and get a good result.

For my first attempt, I made the dough on the stove top in a non-stick saucepan and added the eggs (off the heat) one at a time, mixing vigorously by hand between each addition.  I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet using a #40 scoop (which holds approximately 4 teaspoons of batter).

Many of the recipes I have read instruct you to bake the puffs until you hear a hollow sound when you lightly rap on them.  For the first iteration of the test I took them out of the oven just before I heard the hollow sound.  The result – the inside of the puffs were not dry enough to hold the structure that was created by the steam so they folded in on themselves when they cooled.  The interior of the puffs was still moist and “eggy” after they cooled.

Underbaked and Falling In on Iteslf

For my second attempt, I again made the dough on the stove top in a non-stick saucepan and added the eggs (off the heat) one at a time, mixing vigorously by hand between each addition.  I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet using a #40 scoop.

This time, I baked the puffs until I heard that hollow sound….and when I did, I removed them from the oven for just long enough to cut a small slit in each one that allowed the steam to escape.  I turned off the oven, put the puffs back in and propped the door open until they were cool.  The result – the inside of the puffs were now dry enough to hold the structure – they did not collapse when they cooled and the interior was slightly drier.

Baked To Perfection

For my third attempt, I again made the dough on the stove top – however this time I used a stainless steel saucepan, which made it easier to tell when the dough was ready to add the eggs.  When it was, I scraped the dough into the bowl of a food processor, added the eggs all at once and whirled it until a nice, thick dough formed. Again, I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet using a #40 scoop.

The result – oh my goodness.  Using the food processor allowed my puffs to reach heavenly heights!  The puffs from the third batch were much higher and lighter than those in the first and second batches.  I used the same method of cutting a slit in the puffs and cooling them in the oven (after it had been turned off).

Super Fluffy

The Size Difference from Food Processor

So it turns out I was wrong about using the food processor.  It did make much fluffier puffs.  The only “complaint” I had about the puffs from my third attempt is that they were much more “free form” than those in my second attempt, which held the shape of the scoop better and were much more uniform in appearance.  I’d have to do some additional testing to see if piping the food processor dough would yield a more uniform result.

All in all, I learned a lot playing with pate a choux.  The puffs are in the freezer tonight to learn about the effects of freezing on them!  Tomorrow, for a little treat, I will fill a few with some whipped vanilla filling and drizzle them with chocolate velvet sauce! Mmm mmm mmm!!!

In addition to playing with pate a choux today, I also made two dozen cupcakes, played with a new loaded baked potato soup recipe, made soft pretzels dough (and am still experimenting with some of that dough), boiled and baked some soft pretzel croutons, made a marinade for tomorrow evening’s dinner and prepared all the components for the kebabs we will enjoy after work tomorrow.

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I also snuck in a trip to the gym and the grocery store and a few other things this evening, including dinner at Brick Kitchen & Bar in Carlisle (do yourself a favor and try their Fresh Cut Chips with bacon, blue cheese & balsamic glaze with a Lavender Collins) with some of the best ladies on the planet!

Although earlier in this post I jokingly bemoaned the fact that the dough in my kitchen today wasn’t the kind you can spend,  I will tell you this – I wouldn’t trade my dinner with tonight’s dining companions for all the dough in the world!!!

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar

I had a wonderful lunch today to celebrate my birthday.  Now, those who know me well will be scratching their heads because my birthday is in May.

My dear friend, Tammy – with whom I work – and I have been meaning to get together to celebrate my birthday; but life has come up!!!  When we see each other, it’s often because things at The Kitchen Shoppe are busy and we’re both working.  And she and her hubby are in the process of restoring a home. And I have a new niece.  So, like most of you, we’re busy.

But we finally sync’d our schedules.  Always wanting to eat somewhere new, I was happy when Tammy suggested Harvest, which she recently tried with her daughter.

When we arrived I immediately loved the décor.  One wall is beautiful warm field stone, there is funky lighting with Thomas Edison-style bulbs and pretty accents.  A large table in the front of the restaurant is made private behind interesting art glass panels.  It is a place that makes me feel at home (not that my home has these features).

Of course, we spend the first 15ish minutes catching up; so I’m sure we must have frustrated our waitress a bit – although she didn’t let it show.  She continued to check back with us to see if we were ready to order; but she was not intrusive and she continued to tell us in a warm way to take our time deciding.

I was interested to learn that, like the name implies, Harvest offers a seasonal menu. Right now they’re offering their fall menu.  Beginning December 21st they will offer their winter menu. I was also pleased to learn that all but a handful of their menu items are under 500 calories – a great thing for those who are calorie-conscious.  But, there are also some richer dishes for those who want to splurge a bit.

The menu offers flatbreads that sounded terrific, appetizers, salads, appetizers, and sandwiches – which to my mind are all great lunch options – as well as a myriad of entrees.

The decision about what to order was a difficult one.  We asked the waitress about her favorites and she recommended Edamame 3-Ways, which I’ll have to try on a return trip, and the Spicy Sausage Flatbread without the olives (a girl after my own heart). Tammy and I were also intrigued by the Mediterranean Trio, which includes hummus, babaganoush and something I’ve not heard of previously – Muhamarra.

Thank goodness for iPhones and Google.  I looked up ‘muhamarra’ and learned that it is a hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria.  This is another thing I will definitely have to try on a return visit!

Although many items were tempting, Tammy and I decided to share the Oven Baked Goat Cheese and each get a bowl of the Butternut Squash Soup.  Our decision was a good one.  The appetizer was described on the menu as:

“Oven Baked Goat Cheese – Almond encrusted, apples, local organic honey, housemade jams and crostini.”

 

App Close Up (2)

Full App (2)

It was yummy.  The jams were (1) seckle pear and (2) red pepper and ginger.  They were a great accompaniment to the creamy goat cheese.

The soup, was perfect for a 22-degree, windy day!  It was warm and creamy with just a bit of texture from squash that was not over-pureed.  It was topped with local organic honey and toasted pumpkin seeds.  The honey offered a sweetness that was the perfect contrast to the earthy soup.

Soup (2)

The portions were not large, but they were satisfying.  And they allowed room for a little dessert.  And lo and behold, Harvest offers little desserts!  The dessert tray arrived on what reminded me of an artists pallet.  There were many choices – all served in shot glasses – an idea I embraced for an upcoming class – Holiday Appetizers & Desserts in Miniature.  It was nice to eat a dessert from a shot glass to get the idea of how my students will feel in class.  The conclusion – it’s a great way to have what many people say they want after a meal – “just a bite or two!”

Dessert Selection (2)

Tammy ordered the Cinnamon Apple Strudel “shot” and I ordered the White Chocolate Cheesecake “shot.”  And although the desserts were small, the were large enough to share a bite with a friend.

t dessert (2)

j dessert (2)

The best part of the meal was sharing it with a good friend.  To me, good food in bad company doesn’t taste quite as good; but bad food in good company tastes better!  In this instance, I was lucky to have yummy food and wonderful company!

Thanks for lunch, Tammy!  It was a nice change to celebrate my birthday in November!!!

The Best Thing I Ate All Week

On Wednesday, I had lunch with my mom – Mimi.  She and I met to plan the menu for our Mother’s Day class at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.

Since she wasn’t exactly sure what time she’d be done with an appointment she had, we met at Sophia’s at Walden – a favorite hangout of mine.  I love to go there because the food is great, the atmosphere is funky and welcoming, and because I can stay all day and write and they don’t kick me out!!!!!

So I hung out there while I waited for Mimi and worked on menus for classes for the spring course catalog, sipped an iced tea and visited with a friend I didn’t know I’d see! I also glanced at the specials board and was intrigued.

When Mimi arrived she asked what I was going to have and I told her there was a special on the board that had piqued my interest. We ordered our lunches and set about our work.  When our food arrived, we set aside our menu planning and dug in since we were both really hungry.

She commented on how good her soup was.  For a change I was nearly silent – I was stunned at how good my sandwich was.  So good that I had to think twice about sharing even a bite with Mimi!  But the share was worth it because her soup was really yummy.  Now when I tell you it was ham and bean, you’ll likely dismiss it as ordinary.  You’d be wrong.  It had a wonderful smokiness and great flavor!

Mimis Soup (2)

Glad for the taste of soup, I turned back to my sandwich.  It delivered everything you want in a grilled sandwich – it had a crisp exterior with a hint of butteriness, a gooey interior and a combination of flavors that both intrigues and satisfies.

OK, I’ve kept you in suspense long enough….the sandwich…….sliced pears with provolone and goat cheeses, bacon and apricot jam grilled to perfection!  Mmm mmm mmm.

TBTIAAW (2)

The picture doesn’t do the sandwich justice.  There’s just no way to convey the complexity of flavors in words or photos – you have to taste for yourself!!!

If you haven’t eaten at Sophia’s at Walden, I’d enthusiastically recommend it for lunch.  I’ve never eaten dinner there; so on that I cannot comment.  Although it’s a bit pricey, the rest of the package delivers.  The décor is comfortably trendy with lots of natural light, the service is attentive and the food is yummy 99 times out of 100 (ok, maybe I haven’t been there 100 times, but you get my meaning)!

 

A Much-Needed Product

Some of you may be surprised to hear (read) me proclaim that I am a stickler for cleanliness (ok, Mom, you can stop laughing now)…..at least when it comes to my fridge.  Not only do I get frustrated when my fridge is cluttered – you know what I mean, a bit of this. a dab of that, all in tiny containers that get pushed to the back and promptly forgotten only to be discovered later when they are beyond the science experiment phase – but I also hate it when it’s dirty.  The crumbs and pieces of fruit stems and spills make me anxious.

It feels like I’m always cleaning out the fridge.  And when I do, I throw away the old paper towels that were lining the shelves on the door and the fruit/veggie/lunchmeat bins.  I can’t imagine how much money I’ve spent over the years buying paper towels that catch the drips and spatters in my fridge.  Recently I discovered Fridge Bin Liners.  Perhaps I am behind the curve and you know about them already.  But if you don’t, you should.

They are made of a machine-washable fabric that absorbs spills and excess moisture.  You can cut them for a custom fit for your fridge bins, drawers and shelves.  And they are reversible – plain white on one side and a fun fruit/veggie pattern on the other.  The package I purchased is from envision home and includes three liners that are 12 x 24 inches wide.

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So when I cleaned out my fridge on Black Friday (no, I was NOT out shopping), I was excited to try out the fridge bin liners.  They were easy to cut to fit – I am not too terribly anal retentive so I didn’t spend time measuring, I just eyeballed it and they fit quite well.  And I’m happy to tell you that I had VERY LITTLE waste.  I was able to line all the shelves on the fridge door, two veggie bins and the small cold-cut drawer – all with only a few tiny unusable scraps.  I would like to line some of the shelves – especially those where I store juice and taller jars like pickles, etc.  Next time I’m at the Kitchen Shoppe, I’ll be adding another package to my shopping basket!

The good news is you can buy them from the comfort of your own living room by clicking this link.

This product falls under the category of “why didn’t I think of that?”  They are affordable and solve a problem much better than paper towels because they are washable and reusable.  While I won’t go so far as to say (write) that I’m looking forward to the next time I need to clean my fridge, I will say (write) that when it is time to clean the fridge again I will be happy not to be wasting paper towels.  And I do like seeing the cheery print when I open the fridge door…….oh no, the last thing I needed was another reason to open the fridge!!!!

How often do you clean out your fridge?  BE HONEST!

I have received no compensation for this product review.  The thoughts above are strictly my own.

Mourning a Loss

Why is it that when something bad happens, we often have to see for ourselves?  Is it the need for closure?  Is it a crazed voyeurism?  Is it simple curiosity or skepticism?  I’m not entirely sure….

But when I left work yesterday, I felt pulled to “take the long way home.”  Rather than get on 81 or stay on Carlisle Pike, I turned onto Bernheisel Bridge Road and drove over hill and dale. My destination?  The site of the Visaggio’s fire.

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“Visaggio” translates to “visage” in English, which means the face or facial expression of a person; or appearance/aspect.  Yesterday, the building that once held Visaggio’s showed quite a bleak visage, which was in direct contrast to the blue skies and puffy clouds of the day.  And I felt a sadness in my heart as I looked at the remains.

Visaggio’s was not a place I spent a lot of time, although Jeff did take me there for my last birthday.  But, it is a place I had some firsts.  And those firsts deserve to be celebrated.  It was the place I first tried chocolate pots de creme – a momentous occasion for a foodie such as myself.  It was also the place I first had pan-fried gnocchi with sage – a memorable appetizer 20+ years later.  But most memorable of all, it was the place Jeff and I had the first of our birthday celebrations together.  It was his birthday, 21 (nearly 22) years ago.  I still remember what I wore and what I gave him as a gift.

Visaggio’s also holds good memories with friends.  Our friends Holly and Jeff turned us on to the Italian Wedding Cake from Visaggio’s.  In fact, one night Holly and her sister (and my friend), Jenny, called me from the car and told me they’d be picking me up in 5 minutes.  When I got in the car, they had take-out cake from Visaggio’s……we went to Holly’s house and drank wine, ate cake, and shared good conversation and many healthy laughs!!!

So, the emotions I felt when I drove past the skeleton of an old friend were justified.  I didn’t sob or even cry.  But I indulged in moment of reverential silence to remember.  And I said a prayer of gratitude that no one was injured in the fire and for the good times I’d had at the restaurant.

And I prayed with hope for the future. I was reminded that when something devastating happens (to a restaurant or in our lives), we can rebuild.  And often what comes out of tragedy is better than what came before.

So perhaps it’s not crazed voyeurism or skepticism or curiosity or even the need for closure.  Maybe it’s just that we can relate to the pain because we’ve had our own and in looking at pain, we are reminded that we can overcome….

What is your favorite memory of Visaggio’s?

Eat, Drink & Be Joyful!

I’ve been very lucky over the last year to be able to share my thoughts about cooking, eating and entertaining via this blog. I’ve gone on a few rants, disclosed some personal things about myself and given you a TASTE of what it’s like to live in my world.

So it’s only fitting that I spent the last few days eating, drinking and being joyful. And the best part is I have the pictures to prove it!

On Saturday I had the rare opportunity to go on a date with my husband! Although we have no children, we don’t schedule time to be alone together as often as we should. In fact, my friend Alicia and I have discussed that when you’re married with no kids it may be more important to be intentional about spending time alone with your spouse. You see, us MNK’s (married-no-kids) often take for granted that we’ll have time TOMORROW to be alone with our spouses….but then all the other obligations get in the way. I’m sure if you have kids, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Yeah? Well try adding kids to the mix!” And I’m sure that is a difficulty….but most of the people I know who have kids make family time a priority. What’s hard to remember is that the spouses in MNK relationships ARE one another’s family.

But anyway – that was a diversion I wasn’t planning to take! My point was to express my gratitude to spend nearly a full day alone with Jeff with the sole intention of being together!

Eat Divider

I worked at the Kitchen Shoppe in the morning, but Jeff picked me up promptly at noon 12:30. (I <3 U, Honey).  Our first stop was lunch – and it was a good thing because we were both famished by the time we reached the restaurant.  We decided on Momma Spriggs in Carlisle – (1) because it is close to the KS, but also because (2) I’ve been wanting to give it another try ever since I went there with two of my co-workers for lunch.

When I went with my co-workers there was a dessert in the case that was calling my name, but that I didn’t try.  It was called Chocolate Joe Cheesecake.  Unfortunately, when Jeff and I went on Saturday, they didn’t have THAT dessert.  Fortunately (for everything except my thighs), they had others!

While we were perusing the menu, I told Jeff about the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich that one of my co-workers ordered on our previous visit.  It intrigued him enough to order it – and by the looks of his plate shortly after it was put in front of him, I’d say it was an excellent choice!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

No More Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

I ordered the Johnny Appleseed Burger and French fries.  The Johnny Appleseed is described as a burger with “cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed apples and red onion served on grilled wheatberry bread.”  What is not in the description is that the burger is delicious. I ordered mine medium rare and it was cooked to juicy perfection and was adorned with wonderful flavors from all the toppings.

Johnny Appleseed Burger

Because I knew we wanted to try dessert, I only ate half my burger.  I wish I had had as much restraint with the fries, but they were so good I couldn’t stop!

While Jeff and I pondered our dessert choices, I recapped a conversation I had with my LHA buddies (thanks for a nice dinner David, Kim & Andrew) the other night about sharing food.  I really wasn’t trying to discourage our sharing a dessert, but it worked out that way.  Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and I ordered the Oreo Explosion Cheesecake.

Now I have written before about how disappointing it can be to go to a restaurant and see desserts that you think are going to be great only to order them and find that they are ordinary.  I can assure you that that was not the case at Momma Spriggs.  The desserts were FANTASTIC!  Jeff’s pie was so rich I am surprised he was able to eat it all – but he took one for the team.

Peanut Butter Pie

After just one bite of my cheesecake I knew I’d be taking some of it home.  I was soooo good, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish it and still walk out the door.  So, with a little assistance from Jeff, I ate half the piece of cheesecake.  We split the rest for dessert the next evening.

Oreo Explosion Cheesecake

After we finished our lunch, I decided to snap a few pictures inside Momma Spriggs to give you an idea of what to expect when you go, which I would highly recommend.

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Momma Spriggs has a bit of a diner feel to it, but the décor is much nicer than diner décor.  The colors are relaxing and welcoming and there is a decorated feel. A word about the service.  On my first visit, my co-workers and I waited (what was IMHO) too long to be acknowledged and seated, but on Saturday we were greeted immediately and shown to our table by a nice young man.  Interestingly, during the first visit, the table service was better than on Saturday – but that is not to say Saturday’s service was bad.  I have my fingers crossed that on my next visit I will have good service all the way around!!!!

Drink Divider

After we left Momma Spriggs, Jeff and I headed out to explore Southern Cumberland County and Adams County by car.  Our objective for the day was simply to meander and take some pictures.  And that we certainly did.  It was relaxing to drive and talk and see the beautiful autumn leaves.  And what a nice surprise it was to stumble across Reid’s Orchard & Winery, which we did quite by accident.  After choosing a direction at a crossroads, Jeff decided to turn around and find the vineyard for which we had seen a sign.

I am glad he did because we had a lovely experience at Reid’s talking with Samantha and with Clair, sampling some good wines (which surprised me for PA wines because I admit I have had a somewhat old bias about PA wines all being sweet fruit wines) and hard ciders, and exploring the beautiful property.  We learned a bit about the orchard itself, talked with Samantha about the hard cider making process, had our questions answered about the label art on the wine bottles,  discussed food and wine pairing, and were even able to sample a fruit we had never tried before – arctic kiwi – and a surprisingly delicious blueberry wine that was not at all the sweet fruit wine I expected.

Roaming the property was my favorite part of the Reid’s experience.  It was relaxing to stroll through the rows of grape vines and apple trees.  The smells were interesting – highlighted by fresh autumn air mixed with sweet, fermenting fruit.

I hope the pictures below pique your curiosity!  I would highly recommend visiting Reid’s in the fall; but I’ll also tell you that Clair shared with us that in warmer months Reid’s offers live music on the weekends.  Sometimes there is catered food available, but you can always bring a picnic basket filled with your own goodies.  And wines are available by the bottle and by the glass.  The seating area is lovely with picturesque views.  I can guarantee Jeff and I – and perhaps some friends – will be checking out Reid’s on a weekend when the weather warms!

The majority of the photos below were taken at Reid’s Orchard & Winery, but some are from surrounding farms and orchards and restaurants.  Enjoy!

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Be Joyful Divider

That brings me to today.  As some of you know, I’ve been trying to listen to God’s prompting to “Wait!  Just Wait!”  Some days this is easier than others – especially for someone as “D” as me.  As driven, task-oriented, and impatient.  But I’ve found a lot of joy in the waiting – especially this morning.

I got to work a few minutes before 8:00, which was the time we set to start prepping for classes this morning.  When I pulled into the parking lot at the Kitchen Shoppe, there were NO cars in the parking lot.  I cannot tell you how unusual this is.

But when I looked toward the Le Tort Spring, which runs behind the shop, I knew the empty parking lot was a gift from God and a wonderful reminder of the beauty that can be found in waiting!  I had a peaceful few minutes to walk along the spring and take some pictures.  I wish everyone could begin their day like that!  It was a time to relax, breathe, center and focus.  And to take in the wonder of God!

For those of you who wonder, THIS is why I try to always have my camera with me!

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So as I reflect on the last year of blogging, on the events of the last few days and even on the few moments of solitude I enjoyed this morning – I am reminded to EAT, DRINK & especially to BE JOYFUL!

I received no compensation for either the review of Momma Spriggs or of Reid’s  Orchard & Winery.  The ideas expressed are strictly my own based upon my experience.

Happy Birthday, Pop-Pop!!!

Today is my dad’s birthday.  If my math is correct, it is his 48th birthday, which makes me……uh, that can’t be right…..younger than I was when I got married…..I never have been too good at math.

Even though TODAY is the day, we did our celebrating as a family this past Friday evening.  Jeff and I, my mom and dad, and Laura and Shawn (my sister and BIL) went to DK Dogs on Derry Street in Harrisburg for dinner.  I know to many of you this doesn’t sound like the kind of place you take you father to celebrate his birthday; but for MY dad, it’s exactly THE kind of place! For my dad, the four food groups are hot dogs, ice cream, bread and beer – and you can get ’em all at DK Dogs.

If you go to DK Dogs, don’t expect fancy.  It’s not.  Don’t expect table service.  There isn’t any.  But do expect great food.  It’s abundant.  Now if you’ve been reading for a while you may be surprised to hear me label the food at DK Dogs great since I typically like my foods a little more sophisticated (not snooty).  But when you go into the experience wanting a good hotdog, you will not be disappointed…in fact, your expectations will probably be exceeded!  The difficult thing will be picking which dog(s) you want to order from a varied selection.

DK Menu

Collectively we ordered 3 DK Dogs, 1 Philly Dog, 1 Pittsburgh Dog, 1 Ultimate New Yorker Dog, 1 Chicago Dog, 1 Reuben Dog, 2 large orders of fresh-cut french fries, 1 order of Konstantine Fries, 2 Yuengling Lagers and 2 large bottles of water.  Whew!  And then we waited for our food….

Waiting

The following are descriptions (from the menu) and pics of the dogs:

  • DK Dog – Sharp American cheese, Mustard, DK homemade chili, onionsDK Dog
  • Philly Dog – Grilled onions, mustard, provolone cheese on a pretzel rollPhilly Dog
  • Pittsburgh Dog – Fried bacon wrapped dog, swiss cheese, DK homemade coleslaw, mustard on a pretzel rollPittsburgh Dog
  • Ultimate New Yorker Dog – DK homemade country brown kraut, mustard, sweet relish, New York onions with red sauce

Ultimate New Yorker Dog

  • Chicago Dog – Pickle spears, mustard, onions, sweet relish, hot banana peppers, tomatoes, celery salt served on a poppy-seed rollChicago Dog
  • Reuben Dog – DK  homemade country brown kraut, swiss cheese, 1000 Island dressing

Reuben Dog

Although you know what fresh-cut fries are, you may not know what Konstantine fries are.  I didn’t get a pic of the Konstantine fries before they were devoured, so image the picture below smothered with rich gravy and cheddar cheese sauce.

Fresh Cut Fries

After dinner, we all drove back over the river and reconvened at our house for coffee and cake.  It was nice to have a break in the action to digest and to see a beautiful sunset over the river.

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During the day on Friday, in addition to making food for our Saturday kayak trip, I made a Coffee Walnut Cake with Coffee Mascarpone Cream Icing for my dad’s birthday celebration.

The following are some pics of the process of making AND EATING the cake:

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In our family we don’t really need a reason to get together over good food, but it is fun to have a reason for a celebration!  And although we’ve been lax as a family on birthdays this year – giving gifts and cards months late – we did this one right!

Happy Birthday, Dad!  You’ve taught me many lessons over the years.  Some you meant to and some you didn’t – but I learned all the same!  You’ve given me a lot of good advice too.  You may not have thought I was listening; but I was.  Two things in particular come to mind….

  1. You can’t make people respect you.
    AND, my all time favorite,
  2. Take your foot out of the shoe.

What’s the best advice you’ve received from your father?

Can you guess which DK dog I ordered?

You Can’t Win ‘Em All…..or Can You?

Over the weekend my dear friend Holly and I were texting back and forth about how much we miss seeing one another, so we decided to meet for lunch this week.  After a surprisingly short game of dueling datebooks, we landed on Thursday (today).

Since Jeff had invited me to try a new crepe restaurant in Harrisburg for lunch one day this week, I thought I’d combine both dates and hang out with both Jeff and Holly at lunchtime today.  I love it when a plan comes together!

Pointing to JeffWe decided to meet on the early side of the lunch “hour” and it’s a good thing we did.  Au Bon Lieu – on Third Street in Harrisburg – is tiny.  There are only 6 small tables inside and 2 even smaller tables outside.  Jeff and I arrived at about 11:50 and there were only two tables available.  We snagged the one in the window and waited while Holly found a parking place.

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a fraiche perspective

I’ve been fighting a cold for over a week now and as a result I’ve been a little bit cranky.  Let’s be honest – summer colds stink!  I’ve gone from a throat so sore I would swear I was swallowing broken glass to a stuffy head to a ridiculously runny nose to sneezing….I am a walking Nyquil ad!!!  But today I am determined not to let it get me down as it has for the past several days.  If I’m going to have to live with this cold, then it’s going to have to live with me!

Wall of Vendor NamesSo this morning, after much sneezing and using too many tissues to count, I resolved that not only would I drive Macy to her salon appointment (yes, my dog IS at the salon – do you have a problem with that?), I would enjoy the time I had to spend waiting for her.  After I dropped Macy off, I drove aimlessly for a while trying to decide how to use my “free” time.  Since it was after noon and my belly was a bit hungry, I thought about where I could go for a nice lunch – somewhere I hadn’t been before and somewhere I could write about to inform my readers….hmmmm.

Well, truthfully, I drew a blank.  How is that possible?  I write a food blog.  I spent the next few minutes berating myself for not having a list of restaurants to try on days like this.  Then I berated myself for not moving more quickly on my “get a smart phone” errand.  There I was, in the car with no internet access…the horror!

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Trying Something New

We all have our issues. I sure have my share (I know there are those who would argue that I have MORE than my share).  But this morning I am feeling so sorry for my little four-legged girl, Kissy.  Kissy is the living embodiment of love.  She wants 3 things out of life – food, to love, and to be loved.  Like me, she doesn’t necessarily want them in that order every day!  She is sweet and calm.  She is funny and beautiful.  And she has more than her share of health problems.

She had two entropion surgeries in the month before we rescued her.  Entropion is a turning in of the eyelids, which causes the lashes to rub against the surface of the eye. She also has chronic ear infections, severe skin allergies, thyroid issus, chronic eye issues (likely from the entropion), a bum back leg, and an ever-present odor, which we refer to as her “funk.”  Yet she is perfect!

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Eating My Words….After Eating Some Seriously Amazing Food

Sometimes the most unappetizing thing to eat is your own words!  Especially when you are not shy to share your opinions – like me.  So today, instead of breakfast, I AM eating my own words…fortunately I have a nice cup of coffee to wash them down – thanks, honey!

For quite a while I have been saying that I don’t believe we have any REALLY good restaurants in Central, PA.  That is not to say that there never have been…..some of you may remember The Empire in Carlisle or Brian Kent’s in Hershey….and it is also not to say that there aren’t current restaurants where you can get a good dish (dare I say even a great one), or good service, or nice atmosphere.  The problem I find is that these things rarely come all at the same time in Central PA.

So when I am asked about my favorite restaurant or where I like to eat, I usually preface my answer with something like, “If you don’t mind traveling…..”.  Or, my answer is that I prefer to cook at home.

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Busy Day and Great News

I am catering a party for some friends on Saturday night and have been working on shopping, food prep, tablescape (you know how this word makes me nervous), etc.  And I’ve had some great help!

I finished all the grocery shopping I could do in advance on Tuesday.  And if you’ve been reading you know I set up a schedule for myself working backwards from Saturday.  I am happy to say we (my mom and I – she is fantastic help with catering jobs) are ahead of schedule – but I try not to jinx myself with that kind of thinking!

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Di Bruno Brothers in Camp Hill

I am so happy I could turn cartwheels!  Today is a day for celebration if you are a foodie in Central PA!  I was in the Camp Hill location of Giant today and I witnessed for myself what I had heard to be true – Di Bruno Brothers, the best cheese shop and specialty foods market I have ever shopped (and which I have previously posted about), is opening a location inside the Camp Hill Giant.  And that’s not all….

As I was doing my shopping, I looked toward the back to see two guys setting up the new Di Bruno Brothers section and I saw a familiar face.  Jeff and I go to Philly a good bit and nearly every time we do we visit the Di Brunos location in the Italian Market.  We always hope to be waited on by Hunter. Although all the staff are knowledgable and friendly, Hunter is our favorite.  Over the years he has steered us to try many wonderful offerings.

I got to chatting with Hunter and his co-worker, Scott, and found out that Hunter will be working in the Camp Hill location four days a week.  Trust me, this is big news.  If you want to talk to someone who knows cheese, Hunter is your man.

The grand opening is on Thursday….guess where I will be!

97th Annual PA Farm Show: Made in PA

Last night Jeff and I attended a behind-the-scenes blogger’s tour of the Today’s Agriculture Exhibit, followed by dinner in PennAg’sVIP area.  What a great time!  We learned so much, got to meet other local bloggers and their families, and had the opportunity to sample some really yummy food!

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We talked with representatives from many different sectors of farming including beef, dairy, veal, chicken, egg, turkey, duck, pork and crops.  We learned about many studies, regulatory agencies, best practices, industry criticisms, equipment prices, etc.

I must say, it was quite an eye-opening opportunity.  From what I heard last night, there is a lot of misinformation given to the public about farming.  That’s not to say that all farmers are giving us the facts either; but like anything else in life, I believe you need to do some research on your own, try to find reliable sources of information, weigh all sides of the argument and make the best, knowledge-based decisions you can for your family in terms of the foods you will consume and the producers you will support.

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A Rare Treat

I had a rare treat on Tuesday….lunch with my husband on a weekday!  It wasn’t planned, which made it even better.

Jeff needed to pick up his car and asked if I could give him a ride.  As I was on the way to his office, I called him to let him know I’d be arriving soon. While on the phone, I teasingly asked if he’d be taking me to lunch as payment for the ride.  I was taken aback when he said, “yes!”  I expected him to reply with some sassy comment, putting me in my place for even suggesting that he had to pay for the ride!  Sometimes he knows how to render me speechless – not an easy feat!

On the remainder of the ride to his office, I thought about the different places we could go – some of our favorites…but as soon as he got into the car and I asked him if he had any ideas; he gave the exact right answer…Alvaro Bread and Pastry Shoppe.  Immediately my mouth started to water.  Everything there is homemade – bread, pasta, sauce, pastries, gelato…..oh, the possibilities were endless.

When we arrived I was comforted by the homey interior – exposed brick, terra cotta colored paint on the walls, and framed photos of the owners’ travels to Italy.  And the cases lined with pastries and cookies reminded me of trays of cookies at weddings in my family.  All lovingly made and beautifully decorated.  When we looked at the offerings of the day, I immediately knew what I would be ordering.  Deciding took only as long as it took me to read the words, “tortellini with rolled eggplant.”  They had me hook, line and sinker!  As we waited in line to order I found myself muttering a silent prayer that they wouldn’t run out of the eggplant before I got to the counter!  You see, the folks at Alvaro’s make the best eggplant rollatini I’ve ever had.

The eggplant is sliced as thin as humanly possible, breaded so lightly you’d swear that angels blew the breadcrumbs onto the slices, and fried so gently.  The result is not greasy at all, but tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.  The base of the filling is the freshest ricotta you’ve ever tasted! Mmm mmm mmm!

The tortellini – of course, homemade – is fantastic.  The pasta is incredibly smooth and just thick enough that it doesn’t tear when it’s rolled into the tortellini shape.  The filling is light and flavorful.  And the sauce – oh, the sauce – is perfection!  It’s just the right combination of fresh tomato sauce and cream.  You’d expect it to be heavy, as many cream-based sauces are; but it is silky and light with fresh tomato flavor.  Jeff also ordered the tortellini, but he ordered the Italian sausage rather than the eggplant.  Normally I would ask for a taste, but I was so engrossed in my food – trying so hard to pace myself that I’d have some to take home – that by the time I thought to ask, he was finished!

It is almost impossible to leave Alvaro’s without some kind of sweet treat.  When you look into the cases lined with cakes and cookies and pastries and homemade gelato, you’d swear the dessert gnomes were whispering, “Try me, try me!”  But we steeled our resolve and left without dessert…..but not without a loaf of rosemary bread!

If you are looking for a warm, homemade, filling lunch – the kind after which you probably need a nap – I’d give Alvaro’s Bread and Pastry Shoppe 6 forks out of 5!!!!  And no, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes or my math!!!

Octoberfest at The Kitchen Shoppe in Carlisle

Gourds1I am so excited to start my work study program at the Kitchen Shoppe in Carlisle tonight! If you haven’t taken a cooking class there, I’d highly recommend it.  Some classes are demonstration only and some are hands-on classes. There are a wide range of topics – something for everyone!

The class I am working this evening is Octoberfest and is being taught by Grayson Bowman and Dennis Dragas.  The course catalog describes the class as follows:

“Celebrate Octoberfest with German Food and Roy Pitz Brewery!  Food and Beer Tasting!

Octoberfest in Germany is a time for good food and great beer!

– Beef Goulash
– Apple Sausage Breakfast Ring
– Sauerbraten with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumplings
– Apple Dijon Pork Roast with Potato and Asparagus Casserole
– Beef Tenderloin Stroganoff
– Linzer Torte”

I can’t wait to get there and get started!  This is such a great way to combine my love of cooking and my love of learning!  Although I love to cook I would never be arrogant enough to think I have nothing more to learn.  In fact, learning and trying new things is part of the fun – it’s always an adventure!

Click here to see a list of classes and/or to register.  Click here to request a course catalog via US Mail.

Update:
My first night at The Kitchen Shoppe was wonderful.  I worked with many amazing folks, some who were new like me and some veterans.  Everyone was very helpful and friendly.  After about the first 15 minutes we really got into a groove.

Although I was only serving and clearing (it is quite difficult for me to be in a kitchen and not be chopping, stirring, seasoning, etc.), I enjoyed being busy and being able to fully experience the class.  I haven’t cooked much, if any, German food and was glad to have the opportunity to learn about a new kind of cuisine, to taste some great dishes, and to meet other people with a passion for food.

The food was paired with beers from a semi-local brewery.  The Chambersburg-based Roy Pitz Brewing Company, whose tagline is “Liquid Art,”  was very well represented by a young man with a burning passion for beer-making!  Their seasonal pumpkin brew was a terrific end to the evening!