Witch Finger Grapes

Where is this imaginary curve and how do I always seem to be behind it?  Or maybe I’m not really behind it, but simply feel like I am!

On a recent trip to Wegmans, I was perusing the grape selection and came upon a variety I had not seen before.  Without looking at the price (first mistake), I grabbed a bag and put them on the scale.  I punched in the code, looked at the screen and nearly had to go in search of the closest AED.

So I pared down my bag of grapes, reweighed it, excitedly pressed [PRINT] and waited for my label to come out of the printer.  While I bagged my remaining produce and walked the aisles of the store I wondered about the dark purple – almost black – grapes.

When I got home, I put away my groceries and washed all the grapes I had purchased – red, green and the exotic witch finger beauties. I then prepared them to roast….I put them in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzled them with olive oil, gave them a toss and sprinkled them with a fine dusting of salt and pepper.  I slid them into a 400 degree F oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Of course, I did sample a few of the new beauties as I was washing them and getting them ready to put in the oven.  They are DELICIOUS!!!!  Pleasingly sweet without a trace of bitterness or tartness.  But not overly sweet.  And they DO look like fingers…..they’re about twice as long as regular grapes and have a bit of a curviness – like around the knuckles in a finger.  Oh, I can see them on a Halloween-themed fruit tray!!!witch fingers

 

Why was I roasting the grapes?  To try in a new recipe, of course.  I’m working on a Maple Planked Brie with Roasted Grapes and Grilled Crostini.  I love roasted grapes on focaccia, so why not on other things?

As I waited for the grapes to roast, I began my research with a Google search for ‘witch finger grapes.’  I guess I could have looked at the label on the bag and started with the name of the; but it didn’t  register with me that the bag had a label until I clicked on the first link returned by my search.  That link was “Witch Fingers® – Grapery.”  Upon arriving at their home page, I realized I’d seen their logo on the bag.

Their website has pics of the grape varieties they sell, including the one I borrowed above for this post.  (You know I won’t take credit for pics that aren’t mine.)  They also have descriptions of the grapes and some other interesting information, including an Availability Calendar which shows that Witch Fingers are picked late-July through late-September.  You can also search for stores in your area that carry Grapery products or click the ‘Grapery Direct‘ link to buy right from the grower.

If you see Witch Finger grapes in your store and you have a few extra dollars in your grocery budget, I would encourage you to give them a try!  At more than twice the price of other grape varieties; they may not make it into your cart every time you see them, but they will make a nice treat!!!!

As it turns out, Grapery has only been around since 1996 and the first Witch Fingers weren’t released until 2011; so maybe I’m not as far behind the curve as I thought.  After all, Central PA is not known for being groundbreaking when it comes to new products!

PS.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I did not receive any compensation from Grapery for what is written above.

A Journey of 250 Miles Begins with the First 24 Hours

Wow!  These last 24 hours have flown past.  It seems like just yesterday at this time that I was in Central PA.  Oh, right…it WAS just yesterday at this time (or roughly this time) that Jeff and I were leaving for a little jaunt to Washington D.C.

We were not looking forward to driving in the forecasted rain showers, but we got lucky and seemed to miss the worst of it.  And after a pretty uneventful car ride; we arrived in D.C. (well, Fairfax, VA) safe and sound.

Our first stop was to check into our home-away-from-home – the Hyatt house in the Mosaic District.  We arrived and were greeted warmly by the front desk staff – in fact, upon giving our name we were wished a Happy Anniversary, which we just recently celebrated!  The lobby is both funky and welcoming – a difficult mix to achieve if you ask me.  Sometimes funky can seem cold and sometimes welcoming can lose the modern edge.  But this extended-stay hotel found the right balance.

Our “suite” is well equipped – full-sized fridge, microwave, dishwasher, 2-burner cooktop, bar sink, sitting area, separate bedroom, vanity area and small bathroom.  The room is nicely decorated in a soothing way and feels comfortable enough for a long stay. Because I am a stickler for the small details, there are two things I would “fix.”

(1) Most of the lampshades and some of the furniture pieces in the room are crooked.  I know Jeff will roll his eyes when he reads this….he always does when I notice these little things; but for me these little things fall under the “attention to detail” heading that many places miss. While I am willing to concede that the lampshades could possibly be off kilter because of the inevitable slamming of the hotel room doors; I doubt the door slamming affects furniture placement!

(2) The television stand in the corner of the sitting area has multiple shelves with nothing on them.  It looks like the designer forgot to decorate that area.  A simple basket or bowl placed on one of the shelves or some books/magazines would finish if off nicely.

Enough griping……On the plus side, the water pressure in the shower is SOOO good that I think I’ve finally rinsed out every last spec of shampoo & conditioner residue from the last 46 years!!!!!

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After we checked into the hotel, we met up with Brian – Jeff’s co-worker and our dining companion for the evening.  It’s always fun to share a meal with someone who is willing to be adventurous!  Together we went to a Korean BBQ called Honey Pig in Annandale.

Being new to Korean food, we relied on the recommendations of our waitress (well, one of them) and recommendations Jeff and I had received from the owner of a Korean market near our house.

We ordered the Seafood Pancake as an appetizer for the table and it was yummy.  Full of veggies and seafood it was crispy, flavorful and comforting.  For dinner, Brian and I both ordered Beef Bulgogi and Jeff ordered the Pork Belly.

Bulgogi is the most popular variety of Korean BBQ and falls under the category of marinated gogigui.  It is traditionally cooked on gridirons or perforated dome griddles, which look a lot like hubcaps!  “Gogigui” is Korean for ‘meat + roasting.’  And it is delicious!!!

Jeff’s pork belly and some tasty veggies/sprouts were also cooked on the dome griddle, which gave the pork belly a nice sear – that yummy crispiness that’s hard to resist.

Also on the table were about 100 small bowls – 3 with rice (one for each of us) and the rest with all kinds of condiments including kimchi (or kimchee) – Korea’s national dish – traditionally made with cabbage and other veggies with a variety of seasonings.  It’s spicy and tangy and mmm mmm mmm!  There was also a cucumber kimchee, an apple salad, sesame broccoli, steamed egg soufflé, soybean soup, fishcake banchan, and some other unidentified sauces and condiments.

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The meal was great – especially the bulgogi, which was so tender it practically melted in your mouth.  Now, it’s only fair that I remind you that I don’t have much experience with Korean food so I don’t have much with which to compare Honey Pig.  But, given the opportunity, I would definitely return.  The funky décor, the communal approach to cooking/serving food,  and the hip vibe made it a relaxed meal!

After dinner Jeff and I walked around the Mosaic District to get the lay of the land.  While we strolled the streets in the warm summer air, passing funky shops and interesting restaurants (including Andrew Weil’s soon-to-open True Food Kitchen) there was a distinct city feel we just can’t get at home. It’s like the air is electric and the sun never really sets!

To cap off the evening, we each got a small cup of gelato – Jeff’s combination was Virginia Peanut Butter and Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry Jam.  My combination was Lemon Ricotta Cardamom (which knocked my socks off) and Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry Jam.  The small cups were just enough for a taste, but not so much that we got full after a meal. It was the perfect little sweet treat.

Gelato2

This morning, Jeff headed out to his training session and I enjoyed a light breakfast at the hotel.  Then I set out for the McCutcheon Mt. Vernon Farmers Market at the Sherwood Library.  Even with GPS I took a few wrong turns, but that was ok with me – I had no place to be.  The farmers market was small, but the sky was bright blue, the sun was shining and there was so much beautiful produce to photograph!

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After I returned from my marketing adventure, I made a quick stop in the room to change into my bathing suit and made a beeline for the pool.   It couldn’t have been a more perfect day….the sun was warm, the breeze was cool and there was no one except the lifeguard at the pool!  I read, answered some emails and swam for about an hour and a half – just enough time to get a little bit of color and a whole lot of relaxed!

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My final stop before beginning this post – Le Pain Quotidien, which means “the daily bread.”  The perfect spot for a quick, nutritious lunch.  Although the restaurant/bakery/café is beautiful, I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in the dining room in my swim togs, so I opted to take-out my salad.

Everything on the menu sounded fantastic, so deciding was a chore.  But I landed on the Tuscan White Bean & Prosciutto Salad and an Iced Tea.  The restaurant’s philosophy is to serve simple, nourishing, delicious food.  And they lived up to that philosophy!  The salad was FANTASTIC!  If manna were like this, the Israelites never would have complained about it! My salad included just the right mix of arugula, parmesan, scallions, white beans, cucumbers (which I could have excluded), fresh croutons and basil vinaigrette.  The flavors of every component shone through so that I could enjoy the subtle nuances of flavor and texture.  The white beans were creamy, the arugula was crispy, the parmesan salty…….need I say more? It truly was a taste treat…..and I’m almost positive I’ve never referred to a salad as a treat!!!!

Lovely Lunch

Do yourself a favor and check out Le Pain Quotidien’s website – not only will you get a glimpse of the location I visited, but you can also get some yummy recipes they so generously share on the site!

I don’t know what the evening holds…..definitely dinner, probably a movie at the Angelika Film Center, and hopefully some quality time with my love!

I try to remember them EVERY day; but on days like these it’s sooooo incredibly easy to count my blessings!!!

Milestones, Markets & Mozzarella

Friday was the anniversary of the first date Jeff and I shared.  Interestingly enough, for that date HE cooked for ME!  22 years ago yesterday, I drove my little red Dodge Colt to his house in Lawn, PA (one of those don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it towns) for dinner.  If my memory serves me correctly that night was quite snowy, much like the winter nights we’re experiencing this year. I also remember having those excited/nervous butterflies in my stomach – would the night go well?  Was he a good cook?  Would this turn into something?  Ah, youth!

For dinner, Jeff made stuffed shells and a salad.  And for dessert – bananas foster.  I was hooked!  He went to a lot of trouble to make a nice dinner for me.  He didn’t just get take-out or throw burgers on the grill, he actually put effort into it.  And he seemed to enjoy the process, which was something we had in common.

I also remember distinctly while sitting at the table talking after dinner Jeff said to me, “I’m so sorry.  I have to clean up this kitchen or I won’t be able to pay attention to you.”  Holy moly! I wish I could say that the kitchen cleaning OCD has lasted throughout the years, but I would be a liar if I did.  That’s not to say that Jeff doesn’t clean the kitchen – he does. (Typically he gets sick of the mess before I do and even when he’s not cooking he’ll sometimes come into the kitchen and banish me to the living room while he cleans up so I can continue in a clean workspace.)  But his tolerance for dishes in the sink and a mess on the counter is dramatically higher now than it was 22 years ago.

Yep, that’s how long it’s been!  22 years since that first date.  22 years of ups and downs.  22 years of laughter and tears.  22 years of love (and some moments of hate).  22 years of being stupid and hopefully getting smarter when it comes to one another!

Through the years we’ve celebrated our “first-date-a-versary,” our “proposalversary,” and our anniversary many different ways.  The one I remember best was our tenth wedding anniversary.  We were on vacation in Maine (my favorite vacation to date) and were staying overnight at a bed and breakfast in Acadia.  We made reservations at a very nice restaurant in Bar Harbor.  We had spent the day hiking and, separately, we were each kind of dreading getting dressed up and using our best manners.  Almost simultaneously, we each blurted out that we didn’t feel like getting all dolled up to celebrate.  So, in a rare moment of spontaneity for Jeff, we scrapped our dinner reservations at the nice restaurant, threw on shorts and t-shirts and headed to The Lobster Pound where we ate fried clams and fresh steamed lobster with butter dripping down our arms!

Today, we are adventuring through Lancaster.  Our first stop, Lancaster Central Market.  If you’ve been reading the blog from the beginning, you’ve read about this farmer’s market previously.  Although I’ve made several trips to LCM, Jeff’s never been there.  This morning he suggested we visit the LCM and also make a stop at Spring House Brewery and Tap Room.

We got to the market an hour before closing, which was just enough time to make it through all the aisles and to buy the things on our list – and, of course, a few things not on our list.

Part of the reason I like the LCM so much is because the building is beautiful…and incidentally, it has been a market for over 275 years!  That’s pretty cool.  Another reason I like it is that I can find things there that I can’t easily find other places – like micro-greens, a selection of sprouts and every time I’ve been to LCM I’ve been able to find Tuscan kale, which I love!  They also have a great selection of prepared food vendors, coffee vendors and other interesting items as well.  On this trip I found fresh turmeric…I have no idea what to do with it, but I bought some and will learn about it!!!  It looks like mini ginger root, but according to the vendor it is not nearly as fibrous as ginger.

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After marketing, we browsed through some of the interesting shops that surround the market and ultimately we made our way to the Spring House Taproom. We had to wait for seats and ended up at the bar, where we remained for the duration of our stay.  Jeff ordered a sampler, which included healthy-sized samples of 9 Spring House Brewery beers.

The Beauty of Beer

We enjoyed our rare time alone together talking and sipping from the sampler (and me from my Diet Coke with occasional sips from Jeff’s beers).  We also chatted with the bartenders and asked about the interesting names of some of the beers. Among those we tasted were Seven Gates Pale Ale, Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout (which Jeff has had before and really enjoys), She Monster Mango IPA (which has nothing on Alter Ego Brewing Company’s (AEBC) Mango Habanero), Lil’ Gruesome Peanut Butter and Jelly Stout, and Smoked Porter (which smelled amazing – I didn’t really appreciate the taste, but I should let you know I’m not much of a beer person (unless it’s brewed by AEBC)).

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There was so much beer in the sampler that Jeff needed a little something to eat….and, of course, I didn’t want him to eat alone!  So we ordered some Monster Mozzies, which are made in-house (including the mozzarella) and are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!  They are served with house-made tomato bacon jam, which was over-the-top good!!!

Monster Mozzies

It’s only fitting that we’re celebrating this “versary” with food (shopping for it, buying it, and eating it) since our first date revealed our mutual love of cooking and eating.  Since that fateful evening 22 years ago, we’ve been cooking, eating and entertaining together.  We’ve shared many meals, tried many recipes, and (as our waistlines will attest) we’ve enjoyed a lot of good food.  Most importantly, we’ve been enjoying life together….one bite at a time!!!

Phun in Philly

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What a great two days I have had.  Yesterday Jeff and I, and our friends Christa and Ben, traveled to Philadelphia for a day of great food and a trip to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phils play.

Of course, we wandered around the Italian Market in South Philly, showing Christa and Ben (Italian Market Newbies), some of our favorite spots….Sarcone’s Bakery for a loaf of seeded bread; Tortilleria San Roman for fresh-made corn tortillas; DiBruno Bros to enjoy the smells, to taste and buy some wonderful cheeses, and to see what’s new; Claudio’s to check out imported Italian foods and to see if they were making mozzarella; and The Spice Corner for spices.

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Happy Birthday, Baby!

Today is my husband Jeff’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Baby – and we found a great way to celebrate!

When I asked Jeff last week what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he needed time to think about it.  He was mulling over the idea of either going out for sushi or having dinner at home. On Thursday, after getting a recommendation from a trusted source, I called him at work and suggested a day-trip to D.C. for oysters.  Of course, being the king of travel planning, he asked for more information and after I obliged he happily accepted.  He LLLOOOVVVEEESSS oysters!

Union Market Entrance

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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!

Market Value

Another successful day of farmers marketing yesterday.  Mimi (my mom) and I departed her house at approximately 9:00 am (only an hour later than our designated departure time, which for us is not bad at all) and hopped on the PA Turnpike for an hour-ish ride to Reading.  Our destination – The Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

I did a little research (no, I did not simply throw a dart at the map) early in the week about PA farmers markets and the Fairgrounds Market sounded interesting.  Someone commented on yelp that it is, “not the prettiest or the most eclectic, but for quality of food, it’s the best.”  That review had me expecting a dumpy place – and while it certainly wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as Lancaster’s Central Market or the Ardmore Farmers Market, it was decent-looking.  It seemed clean and was well laid out with wide aisles and good lighting.

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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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Marketing

I had a whirlwind of a day today, but it sure was fun!  I met my mom and dad at their house at 9:00 this morning and we didn’t stop moving until we got back to their house at 4:30 pm.  We covered a lot of ground, saw a lot of yummy food, and scoped out a new place to visit when we have more time.

Our day started in Hershey with my mom having a bone density scan…from there we began our adventure to the Lancaster County Farmers Market, which incidentally is not in Lancaster County – go figure.  It’s actually in Delaware County on the Main Line in Wayne, PA.  Normally it’s pretty easy to get there, but we were in technology hell today….the ATM machine at the Turnpike rest area at which we stopped was having a meltdown and both my GPS and my parent’s GPS were persnickety as well!!!  But after RECALCULATING several times and using common sense (uncommon, I know) we finally made it.

Although it’s not a big market, there are some very nice stands to capture your attention and tempt your taste buds.  My first stop was at Sugartown Smoked Specialties. The smoked trout spread looked delicious, but I was there for advice and information.  On Sunday I’ll be experimenting with smoking clams (which I have never done) and wanted an expert opinion.  The gentleman at Sugartown pointed me in the right direction. THANKS!

The next stand we stopped at was Semaan’s Homemade Specialties to ogle the olives, which is completely strange since I don’t like the way they taste.  I like olive oil and I love the look of olives – they LOOK like something I would love.  And I’ve certainly given them a fair shake…..I try them at least once a year to make sure my taste for them hasn’t changed, but so far….nothing.  But I still think they’re beautiful – particularly these that were marinating with all kinds of herbs and spices!

From there I gawked at the fresh seafood and pre-made foods at Mainline Marketplace. Of everything we saw all day, I rated the jumbo lump crab meat at this stand the most beautiful!!!  I could imagine using this amazing lump crab meat in Jeff’s crab cake recipe OR it would make a fabulous addition to a creamy crab soup OR it would make a delicious lemony cold crab salad…….the possibilities are endless.  I did not buy any because we didn’t have a cooler AND because what you don’t see in this photo is the price behind the garnish – $29.99/lb. A little too rich for my blood today!!!!

The salmon also looked amazing, but again no cooler….. I recently found a recipe for a honey spiced salmon sandwich in which this salmon would be great.  Next time, when the cooler is in the trunk, I’ll be buying some seafood….maybe I can start keeping my spare change in a jar so I can get some crab!!!!

The Ultimate Bake Shop had some gorgeous desserts and baked goods.  Although expensive, the biscotti that looked terrific – packed with delicious ingredients.  The cakes were all beautifully decorated and the descriptions of them sounded tempting.  I do wonder when I see such pristine looking desserts, if they will taste as good as they look.  Perhaps next time I will be “in the market” for desserts and I’ll let you know if the desserts live up to their looks!

We saw some fine-looking produce – in fact, I took pictures of some beets, carrots and cauliflower that I am happy to share.  And I couldn’t resist buying some fresh figs. Just this morning I saw an idea for a flavorful, but health-conscious dessert – fresh figs dipped in dark chocolate.  So how fitting that I be tempted by fresh figs at the market.

After buying the figs, we wandered around a little more, pointing out a few goodies here and there, including some pretty tea towels at The Cottage at The Market and some tasty looking Asian food at Foo To Go.  In fact, the food looked so good at Foo that my mom bought a container of curried rice and one of cold sesame noodles.

After one final trip around the Lancaster County Farmers Market to make sure there wasn’t anything else we needed/wanted, we hopped back into the car and headed to Ardmore.  Our plan was to make stops at the Ardmore Farmers Market at Suburban Square and Trader Joe’s; however we were running short on time so we had to make a decision – farmers market or Trader Joe’s.  Although they are right next to one another, our schedule only allowed for one.

We chose the farmers market, and I am so glad we did. First thing in the door we were greeted by the sight of the most beautiful coral/orange roses at Inspired Blooms.  After taking a few photos, my mom called me over to Ardmore Seafood to look at some of the most amazing colossal shrimp – they were so large I swear I thought to be safe I should address them as “Mr. Shrimp.”  From there we spied the small eggplant for which my mom was on the lookout all day.

And then……Di Bruno Bros. in search of Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar from England.  SUCCESS!  The cost of a pound of this cheese makes the price of the crab meat look like lunch money; but every bite is worth it!  It is described as “a sublime balance between sharp and fruity” and the description couldn’t be more accurate.  I’ve also heard it billed as “quite possibly the best cheddar in the world” and again, I can’t argue. A bit of the Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar and some Clandestin made it into my shopping bag.  The Clandestin is an aged sheep’s milk and cow’s milk cheese from Canada.  It is a soft cheese, like a Brie and is absolutely delicious.  And in addition to the cheeses,  I also had some lively conversation with the “cheese guy.” He was talking with another customer about Grana Padano cheese, which he referred to as “the son of Parmigiano Reggiano.” I asked him why you’d want the “son of” when you have access to the real deal – it was a serious question, I was truly not being a smartalec.    He replied with something to the effect of “Grana Padano is still Ivy League, but it’s Brown, not Harvard” (which may have offended his other customer) and he and I were off to the races on good cheeses vs. lesser cheeses.  I enjoyed the conversation almost as much as the cheese.  I am looking forward to a nice glass of wine, a crusty piece of bread and some bits of the cheeses I purchased today.

After Di Bruno Bros. there was time enough for a very quick spin around the rest of the market – only enough to see what other vendors are there so that when we return we know what we want to see.  Just before getting into the car, I got myself a Kale Shake.  I know, it doesn’t sound great; but I truly believe veggie juices get a bad wrap.  Besides, it wasn’t all veggie juice – it also had lots of whole fruits whizzed up in it.  The kale shake did not disappoint.  It was the color of the inside of a kiwi fruit and tasted like freshness in a cup.

Back in the car, we wound our way through the Main Line back to the Turnpike and headed for home.  We each had a little something to nibble on since we didn’t get a chance to eat lunch.  My dad had a piece of pizza from Pallante’s Pasta Company, my mom had her selections from Foo To Go and I had my kale shake and a little treat my mom surprised me with – an arancini (the literal translation is little orange, the food translation is a risotto and mozzerella ball with onion and flecks of basil – in other words, mmm mmm mmm) from Di Bruno Bros.

All in all, we had a successful trip.  We made a few purchases, sampled a few really good foods and found a future destination for a day of foodie fun!!!

Monday Monday

What a glorious day we had on Monday! We set out for Big Valley at about 8:15 a.m. with our good friend Ron O; unfortunately we had to turn around after discovering that both Jeff and I thought the other had grabbed the camera bag – typical married couple stuff!  Anyway, once we picked up the camera, we were set!  We decided to take the back roads and meander our way through the glorious orange, yellow, gold and rust leaf-covered trees.  While we drove, we talked about a million things – catching up like friends do.  We stopped to take some photos at an abandoned mill and the devilish part of me looked for secret ways into the building, but alas Ron kept me in check.

We arrived in the valley and headed for the Erhard’s home.  Denny and Sue are friends of Ron’s who also happen to go to our church, but whom Jeff and I have not yet met.  They graciously hosted us for the day.  I will tell you for certain that Ron really knows how to live!  When we arrived at the Denny and Sue’s home we were greeted warmly and graciously treated to a home cooked breakfast of a wonderful egg and sausage soufflé-like casserole (had we not forgotten the camera it would have been puffier, but it could not have been more delicious), sweet watermelon, pumpkin cinnamon rolls and some very scrumptious biscuit like rolls from one of the stops we’d be making later in the day.  Sue is a wonderful cook, a warm and generous hostess and she is a whimsical jam-maker.  The one we were served was entitled “Traffic Jam,” which was an end of the season mixed berry jam that was quite delicious!

After breakfast, Sue acted as our tour guide around the valley in which she grew up.  We heard stories about how and where she met Denny; about her mother – who I wish I could have met before she passed – who was the post-mistress in Allenville, among other pursuits; about growing up in the valley; and many other great tales!  We visited produce stands and Amish farms where Sue buys baked goods.  We visited an Amish furniture shop and Peight’s Store where we found many things to buy including deli meats and cheeses at fantastic prices and spices and soup mixes recommended by Sue.

We stopped several times to take pictures of an assortment of things including pumpkins and gourds, farm equipment, cats and cows (not together), changing leaves, wash lines (Monday is wash day), Amish farmers plowing their fields, Amish children returning home from school, and the general beauty of the valley.  As we rode around we bemoaned the fact that we did not have enough time to see all that we wanted to in one day. But in the short time we had, I learned that Sue and I, although we have some stylistic differences, share much in common.  We both love to cook, eat and entertain, we both love to write and we both love to read.  We talked with one another about our favorite recipes, and our cooking styles.

When we returned to Sue’s house after our adventure in the valley she served us another incredible meal.  It was like a chicken pot pie only better.  It was warm and creamy and served over what looked like crackers, but were actually pieces of cooked pie dough (what a great idea).  The side dishes were peas, a wonderful cranberry jello-ish salad, and a homey salad with warm bacon dressing that was not at all like the cliché bacon dressing you sometimes get on a buffet.  Instead it was warm and light and delish!  The final culinary straw was a triple chocolate cake with a gooey glaze that would only have been better had it been calorie free!

All in all, the day was a huge success.  We roamed the beautiful countryside in excellent weather, ate incredible home-made food  in a warm and inviting atmosphere, and made some terrific new friends!  The only thing missing from the day was Ron’s lovely wife, Leslie – unfortunately she had to work, but someone has to bring home the bacon for warm bacon dressing!!!

Click here to view more of the photos from the day!

To Market, To Market . . .

Sometimes cooking, eating and entertaining begin not in the kitchen, but with a journey.  My mom, Connie, and I set out early yesterday on a trip to Lancaster Central Market (LCM) in Lancaster, PA, which is approximately 40 miles from home.  We were not in search of anything specific, just adventure.  I haven’t been to the LCM in probably 18 years so I wanted to reacquaint myself with it.

I find a trip to the farmers market quite relaxing…. and it can be both informational and inspiring.  I like seeing the fresh ingredients and dreaming about what I can make from them. One of the ways I can tell the best stands at the market – the ones with the freshest, choice ingredients – is by spying on the chefs.  If the chefs are shopping there, I reason there’s probably some good stuff to be had!

We entered LCM at the corner of Orange and Prince Streets and were met at the door by beautiful sunflowers and the equally sunny disposition of the woman selling them at Spring Knoll Farm.  Although not all stands had as much personality, it was a great beginning to the experience.

As we meandered through the rows in search of nothing in particular, we spent a lot of time pointing to various things (produce, flowers, pastries, etc.) saying, “ooh, look at that” or “hmmmm, what is that” and telling each other about things we’d made from similar ingredients.

One of my favorite stands was Tulip Tree Hill Farm, which sells small packages of sprouts and greens and a lovely tart raspberry lemonade.  The stand is nice to look at and the woman who helped me with my purchase of micro greens and lemonade was quite friendly.   I don’t yet know what I’ll make with the micro greens, but I cannot wait to try them.  They will likely be served alongside the roasted veggie soup Jeff is making today.

*I put a quarter next to the greens so that you can get an idea of how tiny and delicate they are.

Other than some multi-grain rolls from Willow Valley that looked too yummy to pass up and 10 pounds of beets (more to come in a later post), it seems our adventure was in miniature.  In addition to the micro greens we bought some teeny patty pan squash and some beautiful mini purple striped globe eggplant.

What we will make with the patty pan squash and eggplant remains a mystery.  But I can definitively say that we had a great time at the Lancaster Central Market and will surely return soon.  Yesterday proved that not all who wander are lost….some of us are preparing to cook, eat & entertain!

Additional photos of the beautiful produce we saw at LCM can be found on my Photo Gallery page.  Enjoy!