Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two trips to Lancaster County since my last post

I have made two trips to Lancaster County since my last post. In October, I won tickets to Hershey Park in the Dark from the Lancaster County Convention & Visitor's Bureau. We went up on the Thursday before Halloween, stopping in Gettysburg to have tea at Apple Blossom- it was excellent though everything was super sweet, so I felt diabetic. We made all the usual stops upon arriving in Lancaster County(Kitchen Kettle, Bird-in-Hand Restaurant, Rockvale, etc.) This time we actually made the trip out to Lapp Valley Farm and had ice cream and chocolate milk there. Like always it is the best. We stayed one night at Country Living Inn and two nights at Hampton Inn Lancaster (two free nights with Hilton Honors). On Firday, we took a behind the scenes tour of Kitchen Kettle (called the Kettle Walking Tour) with Pat Burnley, the co-founder of the village, and the tour guide, Bill. They filled us in on the history of the Village and let us talk with different shopkeepers. They were so nice and showed us around and gave us all kinds of goodies to take home with us. I highly recommend this tour. Hershey Park was OK, we went on Halloween night- of course it is geared for kids- I much prefer Chocolate World. Way too many meals in Lancaster County make things a bit too tight for me for riding many of the rides at Hershey Park, that and the fact that I am 6'5" makes me amusement park unfriendly. Zoo America was OK, but again, a little disappointing. I liked watching the different cats they have there, though. That night we ate at Jennie's Diner and had cheesesteaks and fries with gravy. The next morning we woke up sick and were basically bedridden for the rest of the day. I was unable to visit any of my Amish friends. I did manage to go to Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop to pick up some pies I had ordered for co-workers, but I nearly fell out in there. It was a miserable experience. Not sure if we picked up a bug in Hershey or if it was food poisoning. We went back home on Sunday.

On Dec. 13, we went to Gettysburg. On the way we stopped at Holy Cross Abbey and bought a monastery fruit cake and a frater (a chocolate dipped piece of fruit cake-yes, it is decadent). I'm a fan of fruit cake, and this one was a tad overrated. It reminded me of Bensen's fruit cake which you can buy in stores for half this price. We then had lunch at Hoss's in Chambersburg where we had a very nice waitress named Linda. We stopped there again on the way home and she remembered us by name- quite nice. We stayed at the Hampton Inn again in Gettysburg. We had tea, probably for the last time, at Apple Blossom in Gettysburg. Unfortunately, the owner is selling out. As always, everything was delicious. We had dinner at the Gingerbread Man with a friend of ours who is a doctoral candidate in history at Auburn. She is a seasonal park ranger at Gettysburg and is a great source of info. Despite the frigid temps, we did a lot of battlefield exploring, but were outraged that the visitor's center had shut down the cyclorama and the film until Dec. 21. I've been 4 times this year and have yet to have a good experience at that place. The Hampton Inn was OK- this was the first time we had stayed there when we paid and our room wasn't as nice as the free one we get when we cash in our HHonors points. The houskeepers always smoke up the hallways too, so that is unpleasant. We wanted to try a new French Bistro called Cafe Saint Amand for breakfast on Monday but it was closed (we are big fans of crepes).

After two days in Gettysburg we headed for Lancaster County, stopping at Dick's in York to pick up some Penn State Rose Bowl stuff. We arrived in Ronks, filled up at Wawa and I bought a delicious Wawa Egg Nog. We then went to Tanger outlets for a bit before driving to Intercourse to have tea at Ye Olde English Shoppe. This was an incredible experience. The ladies that run it put on quite the spread- we had high tea with all the trimmings. The savories and desserts blew Apple Blossom away- however, Apple Blossom still rules on the scones and tea variety. We liked it so much we had lunch there two more times (steak & kidney pie, bangers & mash, sticky toffee pudding, treacle pudding). One tea I had there was called sugar plum- it was very good- spicy & sweet. After tea we checked in to the Country Living Inn. We then visited our Amish friend Ruth and caught up on all the happenings since we last visited. We ate dinner at Bird-in-Hand, then visited briefly with Ruth's brother Leroy at his farm, Life Enhancing Acres in Bird-in-Hand.

On Tuesday we ate breakfast at the Kling House Restaurant at Kitchen Kettle. I had an egg nog waffle with an orange egg nogg topping. My wife had orange marmalade french toast with orange marmelade butter. I loved all of it, but she wasn't as impressed because she had never had marmelade and realized she didn't like the unique flavor. We then shopped in the Village and then at Rockvale. We had lunch at Isaac's Deli in Strasburg (always good, but slow). We stopped at the Springerle House and picked up some of those ornate cookies that look to artistic to eat. We then saw Sight & Sound Theatre's Voices of Christmas in their Living Waters Theatre. This was a very good show that explained the history behind our favorite Christmas songs from a Christian point of view. It was snowing a bit all morning and picked up considerably after we got out of the play. We then headed to New Holland to Lapp Valley and got some ice cream- I had coffee, chocolate, peanut butter twist, and butter brickle in various stops at Lapp Valley. Of course, it's the best ice cream period-sorry Turkey Hill. We ate dinner at Bird-in-Hand. My wife got some super salty broasted chicken that we had to send back (first time that's happened in my probably 500+meals there). While there we saw the most hideous coat of all time. I had my old standby, veal cutlet with stewed tomatoes, brown buttered noodles, and cucumbers and onions with a glass of Turkey Hill tea. We did some more shopping at the outlets before turning in for the night.

On Wednesday we ate breakfast at Bird-in-Hand. Scrapple for me, as always, and the best hot chocolate around. Our waitress was Janet Glick, one of our favorites and a 25+ year veteran. We then went to Leroy's and took him and his youngest soon Jesse Christmas shopping. We took him to Good's Store in East Earl at the Shady Maple Complex. We browsed around there and Country Home Furnishings while he shopped. We then took him to Leacock Shoe Store (best prices on Columbia shoes anywhere), Gordonville Book Shop (one of my favorites for Amish/Mennonite books), some dry goods store on Gibbons Rd in Bird-in-Hand and Nancy's Notions & Clothing in Intercourse. He treated us to lunch at Bird-in-Hand. Our waitress was Whitney, a very nice lady and one of my favorites that looks the same as she did when she started there in the early-mid 80s-either that, or she has been working there since she was born. I had a chicken salad on pretzel roll and chicken corn soup. Leroy can out eat anyone I know and he gobbled down a huge amount of his and Jesse's food- then ordered a piece of cheesecake, a piece of coconut cream pie, and two scoops of Turkey Hill mint chocolate chip. He cleans a plate like no one I've ever seen. We saw the guy with the awful coat again as well. After dropping Leroy off, we headed to Kitchen Kettle Village for their new Cannin' & Jammin' Tour. It was awesome. We worked with their food/kitchen manager Kristine and two Amish ladies. They showed us what a typical day is like in the Jam & Relish Kitchen and helped us make a batch of Apple Raspberry Jelly. Since we were the only ones on the tour we were given the enitre batch (12 jars), along with a jar of Corn Relish, Lemon Pear Jam, and Apple Butter BBQ Sauce that is to die for. I highly recommend taking KKV's experiental tours. When we left we grabbed a bag of Pappy's Kettle Korn- that stuff is amazing! Then we took a saunter over to Lapp Valley for ice cream. After dinner at Bird-in-Hand we went shopping at the outlets before turning in for the night.

The next morning after breakfast at Bird-in-Hand we headed to Neuchatel Chocolates/The Swiss Chocolatier in Oxford, PA. This is the home of the Swiss Chips and the best truffles. We then took a tour of the Herr Foods plant in Nottingham. That was really neat. Our tour guide was named Suzy and she was great. We were the only two on the tour and she gave us a bunch of "right off the oven chips" to sample. We bought several bags of their "seconds/oops" chips & pretzels. We then headed back to Intercourse and enjoyed lunch at Ye Olde English Shoppe. We then had spa pedicures at the Spa at Intercourse Village. This was my first pedicure- it was pretty cool. My favorite massage therapist, Sam, was there and we briefly chatted with her. After that we visited Ruth and made plans to take her shopping the next morning. Peaches, her giant English Mastiff stepped on my wife's toes and ruined her polish job. We ate dinner at Bird-in-Hand before turning in.

On Friday we went to breakfast at Bird-in-Hand. It was a very cold and rainy day. We took Ruth, Jake, and two of their kids to Jake's brother's house and dropped off the two kids. We then took Ruth, Jake and the baby shopping at the Pfaltzgraf outlet (Which is now closed- a shame, that store had been there since Rockvale opened-it won't be the same without it). We also went to Leacock Shoe Store. We dropped Jake off at home and continued on with Ruth and their baby Susan to Dollar General and Smucker's Dry Goods in Leola. After dropping her off we had lunch at Ye Olde English Shoppe. We then picked up Leroy Andrew and Jesse and took them shopping and visiting relatives because Leroy's aunt in Centre County died and he was delivering messages to them. We dropped him off and said our goodbyes. After we dropped him off we went to Lapp Valley and had ice cream. We then went to Kitchen Kettle Village for their Old Fashioned Christmas Nights, but it was so cold and rainy that not much was going on. We then ate dinner at Bird-in-Hand where we ran into an Amish couple that we had seen earlier in the day at Lapp Valley and Leacock Shoe. We talked to them for awhile. They live near Harrisburg and were visiting relatives in Lancaster County where they were originally from. The man told me he had recently been to NC on a hunting trip. We then went back to the room for the night.

On Saturday, we had breakfast and lunch at B-I-H. We went to Kauffman's Fruit Farm & Market, Intercourse Canning Company, Kitchen Kettle Village (where we were shown a lovely cottage room that we will be staying in in April), Bird-in-Hand Bakery, Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop, Hershey Farm, Achenbach's Pastries, and a few other places. We had dinner at Ruth's. She made us a pot roast, some awesome bread, and an egg custard. We brought along some Turkey Hill All Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream and root beer for floats (kind of a tradition amongst us) and chatted for a few hours before we had to say our goodbyes. We finished the night off with coffee and Shoo Fly Pie at B-I-H.

The next day we went home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Whoopie Pie Taste Test

This week the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal ran an article in which they conducted an unscientific taste test on a Lancaster County favorite, the Whoopie Pie. A Whoopie Pie (aka Gobs/Gobz) is a cakey cookie filled with an icing/frosting filling. The cookie portion is typically a chocolate devil's food variety, but you may also find pumpkin (the moistest and my personal favorite), red velvet (like chocolate, these dry out quickly), vanilla, and oatmeal. Sometimes the filling is a peanut butter flavor; I have also seen green filling for St. Patrick's Day, a berry based filling at Kitchen Kettle's Berry Jam Festival, and a Red Hat Society one also at Kitchen Kettle with red velvet and purple filling.



I wish the Journal would have opened up the taste test to a larger sample. I thought one glaring omission was Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop. I would also liked to have seen Kitchen Kettle's tested. I also wish they would have tested other varieties besides the basic chocolate that dries out so easily.



Hershey Farm, which hosts a Whoopie Pie Festival every Fall, was deemed to have the best Chocolate Whoopie Pie. I have never had one of theirs, but am sure to try one the next time I am in Lancaster County. I am a little unsure as to how the scores were tabulated as the averages don't exactly compute for me.



My personal favorite places for Whoopie Pies are Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop, Bird-in-Hand Bakery (my wife's favorite-these are enormous), and Achenbach's. I will be sure to try some of these that I have not tried.



Taste test results from Lancaster Intelligencer Journal



Top ten overall

1. Hershey Farm: 3.75

2. Willow Valley: 3.44

3. Oregon Dairy: 3.31

4. Stauffer's of Kissel Hill (SKH): 3.25

5. Achenbach's Pastries: 3.19

6. Bird-in-Hand Bakery: 3.13

7. Landisview Farm Market: 2.7

8. Miller's Smorgasbord: 2.69

9. Byers Butterflake Bakery: 2.56

10. Country Table Restaurant: 2.5



Most chocolate flavor

1. Achenbach's Pastries: 3.69

2. SKH: 3.56

3. Bird-in-Hand: 3.5

4. Hershey Farm: 3.44

5. Willow Valley: 3.31

6. Oregon Dairy: 3.25

7. Landisview: 3.13

8. Miller's Smorgasbord: 2.63

9. Byers: 2.38

10. Country Table: 1.94



Moistness

1. SKH: 4.0

2. Willow Valley: 3.94

3. Hershey Farm: 3.88

4. Oregon Dairy: 3.63

5. Landisview: 3.06

6. Bird-in-Hand: 3.0

7. Achenbach's Pastries: 2.5

8. Miller's Smorgasbord: 2.38

9. Country Table: 2.25

10. Byers: 2.13



Appearance

1. Achenbach's Pastries: 4.5

2. Willow Valley: 4.25

3. Bird-in-Hand: 3.75

4-tie. Hershey Farm: 3.63

4-tie. Country Table: 3.63

6. Landisview: 3.5

7. SKH: 3.25

8. Oregon Dairy: 3.12

9. Miller's Smorgasbord: 2.75

10. Byers: 2.25

My averages of the three scores for moistness, chocolate flavor, and appearance came out like this, so I'm not sure how the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal came up with their rankings for their overall scores. With those three averages, Willow Valley comes out on top.

1. Willow Valley: 3.83
2. Hershey Farm: 3.65
3. SKH: 3.6
4. Achenbach's Pastries: 3.56
5. Bird-in-Hand Bakery: 3.42
6. Oregon Dairy: 3.33
7. Landisview: 3.23
8. Country Table: 2.61
9. Miller's Smorgasbord: 2.59
10. Byers: 2.25

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kitchen Kettle Village

One of my favorite places to visit in Lancaster County is Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, PA. This business started in the two-car garage of Bob & Pat Burnley in 1954, as they had the idea to sell jams and preserves. The business grew so that the Burnleys started a little "village" of shops that has evolved into an amalgamation of shops, restaurants, food stands, buggy tours, and a hotel. The Village has an almost carnival-like atmosphere, with performances by Banjo Jimmy & his Sidemen. The Village also hosts several festivals each year: In May 1983, the Village inaugurated their annual Rhubarb Festival. In June 1996, they began the annual Berry Jam Festival. In August, the Village celebrates the birthday of their very own gingerbread man mascot, Yummie. The third weekend of September brings the annual Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of the 7 Sweets and Sours Festival. And after Thanksgiving, you can celebrate an Old Fashioned Christmas at Kitchen Kettle with late night shopping, holiday music and outdoor shopping.

The anchor of the village is still Burnley's jams, jellies and preserves sold in the Jam and Relish Kitchen. These canned goods are made in small quantities and visitors may watch them being made. Many of the canners are local Amish, conservative Mennonite and mainstream Mennonite ladies. The recipes are innovative to say the least. Everything I have ever tried here has been excellent. Unfortunately, my favorite thing ever is no longer made: Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce. That was the most awesome thing I have had as far as a sauce is concerned and was so good you could eat it alone (PLEASE BRING IT BACK!) It was so good that one year I bought a dozen bottles of it. Another favorite of mine are their pickled beets, which are without doubt the best such beets I have ever had. My favorite jams/jellies/preserves are the blueberry preserves which are one of the best things you will ever put in your mouth, the peach jam (ditto), the ginger peach jam, fig jam, cherry jam, pepper relish, chow chow, apple butter, four berry jam, carrot jam, peanut butter schmier (truly delectable), salsa and peach salsa. Their salsas are the best I've had. Traditional Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods such as Whoopie Pies, fruit pies, and Shoo Fly Pie are also available from the kitchen of the Jam and Relish Kitchen. The Kitchen allows visitors to sample the jams/jellies/preserves/relishes to their hearts content, providing oyster crackers and torilla chips to put your desired product on. They also serve up innovative recipes for sampling using their products. Here is a link to some of the recipes.

Other favorite stores in Kitchen Kettle Village are Deerskin Leather Shop, featuring Minnetonka Moccasins and Birkenstocks as well as leather jackets and hats; That Picture Place which has plenty of prints by local artists; Pepper Lane Fudge and Sweets featuring homemade fudge; the Smokehouse Shop with its great selection of Lancaster County made cheeses and meats such as Lebanon bologna and sweet bologna; Dutchland Galleries which has a wonderful collection of art with the Amish and/or Lancaster County as the subject; The Gift Shop has all kinds of souveniers from the kitschy to the collectible (stock up on those I love Intercourse items here); Pappy's Kettle Korn makes some awesome popcorn; and the King of all food stands has to be Lapp Valley Farm Ice Cream- the best ice cream I've ever had. These are just a few of my favorites. There are many more stores to visit while at Kitchen Kettle Village. Here is a list of the stores with an interactive map.

Kitchen Kettle Village is a definite MUST SEE stop if you are visiting Lancaster County or South Central Pennsylvania in general. A trip to the Amish Country would be sorely lacking and utterly incomplete without a stop at Mrs. Burnley's Village.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lapp Valley Farm Ice Cream

On my last visit to Lancaster County I had the best ice cream ever. It was Lapp Valley Farm Ice Cream. They make their ice cream on the premises. If you are there in the morning or around 4 pm, you can watch them milk the cows. The prices are quite reasonable. It is located in New Holland, PA. They also have a stand at Kitchen Kettle Village, which is where I got my ice cream. My wife had Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, I had Butter Brickle and Peanut Butter Swirl. The cows are Jerseys and the ice cream has a noticeably high butterfat content. I have never had ice cream so smooth and velvety. They also make home made potato chips but I have not tried them.

Lapp Valley Farm
244 Mentzer Road
New Holland, PA 17557
717-354-7988

Or Kitchen Kettle Village

Monday, April 21, 2008

Meeting Donald Kraybill




On Saturday night, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting esteemed Anabaptist scholar, Donald B. Kraybill. Kraybill and his son-in-law Daniel Rodriguez were signing their book The Amish of Lancaster County at Barnes & Noble in Lancaster. I think I flabbergasted him by presenting ten of his books and asking him to sign them. He was most gracious and said this was an historic moment and requested that Daniel make several photos of us together. We talked for quite awhile and I'm sure I was the typical star-struck fanboy, but I tried to carry on a pseudo-academic conversation with the master of all that is Amish himself. We compared stories and he asked me which families I knew and so on. He then held a wonderful book discussion and I felt like I had just sat at the foot of the master. It made me want to pack up, enroll at Elizabethtown and get a degree in this stuff. It was a truly awesome experience that I won't ever forget.




Sunday, April 6, 2008

Turkey Hill Ice Cream

In one of my earlier posts I was recounting the flavors I had on my last visit to Amish Country. Here is an update.

Gertrude Hawk Box of Chocolates: This is a limited edition flavor that was slated for February. It was hard to find when I first got to PA, but by the early part of the week we were able to find it. This has a milk chocolate ice cream base that is truly amazing. It also has white chocolate pieces, raspberry chocolate cups, and chocolate covered almonds. This is one of the better ice creams I've had.

Black Raspberry: This was a favorite among my Amish friends. I found it to be very good for a basic fruit flavor. I tend to favor ice cream with more inclusions, but it was quite food.

Chocolate Marshmallow: I love marshmallow swirl in ice cream and this is one of the best flavors I've had. I need to stock up on this.

Philadelphia Style All-Natural Vanilla Bean: This was great, we used it to make root beer floats with the Amish. It was gone pretty quickly.

The Spa at Intercourse Village

The next time you visit Lancaster County, I highly recommend spending some time at The Spa at Intercourse Village. On my recent visit I had a one hour therapeutic massage and my wife had a spa pedicure. We both had a wonderful experience. My therapist was named Sam and she was an extremely nice lady who made me feel comfortable and carried on a conversation with me while she did my massage. She and I had a lot in common, namely our love of brown buttered noodles and Turkey Hill tea. The massage experience was great and helped ease the tension in my worn down neck and back. After the massage I was given a snack and some water while my wife's spa pedicure finished up. The prices are reasonable and the staff is great. So, next time you are in Amish Country, take some time for yourself and visit the Spa.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Break 2008: Amish Style

I arrived in Pennsylvania on Saturday, March 15 around noon. We went to the Gingerbread Man in Gettysburg and I had a chicken salad croissant with a salad. We then walked across the field where Pickett's men made their ill-fated charge. It had rained in the early morning hours, so the field was quite marshy and there were points where we had to jump streams. We had a podcast that we downloaded from www.civilwartraveler.com. We did the same for Little Round Top. That night we had dinner at Hoss's near our hotel.

On Sunday, we bought two battlefield CD tours and took them- they were quite informative. We had full afternoon tea at the Apple Blossom Tea Room in downtown Gettysburg. That was an enjoyable experience. For dinner we ate at The Gingerbread Man again.

On Monday we checked out and headed to Hershey, PA. We did the Really Big 3-D Show, the Chocolate World ride and Chocolate The Experience where you take a class on how to taste chocolate. We were given approximately 10 different types of chocolate to taste-it was a really fun experience. We also went to Lititz, PA to the Wilbur Chocolate factory. We arrived in Lancaster around 4:00 and checked into the hotel. We then went to see our friend Ruth and her family. We actually saw her walking on the road and flagged her down. We ate dinner with them- Amish Chicken Roast- a traditional Amish Wedding meal. We also visited her brother Leroy and his family. We did a bit of shopping Monday night before finding the Turkey Hill mother lode at a Turkey Hill Minit Market.

On Tuesday we did more shopping, ate 3 meals at Bird-in-Hand Family restaurant (scrapple, turkey croquet, shoo fly pie, veal, buttered noodles, etc). We went to Nickle Mines with Ruth and bought an Amish hat from her aunt Fannie. We also visited Leroy again and visited her other brother Elmer's family. We went to Kitchen Kettle and bought some jelly and stuff.

Here is the Turkey Hill Tally so far:
Root Beer Duetto
Tasty Kake Peanut Butter Kandy Kake
Denali Moose Tracks
Phillies Graham Slam
Eagles Touchdown Sundae
Gertrude Hawk Box of Chocolates- maybe the best ice cream ever

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ephrata

The Ephrata Cloister, was a radical 18th-century religious group, and the Cloister is historically preserved in the Northern Lancaster town of Ephrata.

Ephrata Cloister at 632 W. Main St., is one of the earliest communal societies in America. Occupying a group of medieval-style buildings, the community of religious celibates practiced a rigid lifestyle, stressing spiritual rather than material goals. The Cloister was an early center for publishing and printing. Ten of the original buildings have been historically preserved to recreate the atmosphere of that era.

The town of Ephrata has a number of factory outlets. The Green Dragon Auction Market offers almost everything from live animals to to hardware at its indoor and outdoor stands. The market at 955 N. State St. also has food, crafts and auctions with more than 400 merchants participating. It's open every Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In October, Ephrata Cloister has an Apple Dumpling Festival and the Ephrata Performing Arts Center has a theatrical production at its Playhouse in the Park on Cocalico Street. November brings a Christmas market, Christmas antiques at Stoudburg Antique Mall and more performances at the Playhouse in the Park. Ephrata Cloister features Christmas at the Cloister and Christmas lantern tours.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Places I have stayed in Lancaster County

There are many fine hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns and whatnot in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It would be unfair of me to suggest any place I have not stayed in, however, I will share with you some thoughts on some I have stayed in. Keep in mind that most hotels in this area are exceptionally clean and most provide exceptional value for the money, depending on the time of year you are visiting. Many are owned and operated by Mennonite families and staffed by conservative Mennonite or Amish housekeepers and maintenance persons.

Country Living Inn:
I have stayed at this hotel twice and have enjoyed it both times. It is very clean, the staff is very nice and it's an overall enjoyable place to stay. The price of the rooms is great and much better than many of the overpriced hotels in the area. The only negative would be the TV-it appears to be a mid 1980s model. However, I highly recommend staying there. This is my lodging of choice in the PA Dutch Country.


Olde Amish Inn
I have probably stayed at the Olde Amish Inn or OAI as I call it at least 25 times. I have Amish friends in the area and visit once or twice a year and have for many years. I always enjoyed the OAI because of its value and cleanliness and their very nice owner. However, my last stay there in Nov 2005 will probably be my last as the motel has fallen behind the competition. The TVs are old, the beds are old, the furnishings are old, there was no wireless Internet. The place felt exactly as it did in 1989 to me. As much as it feels like home, there just seems to be a need for home improvement. The place is under new ownership which is sad because I really liked the owners. The new ones have a definite problem with the English language-just check their Website. They also have a problem with criticism as you can see on tripadvisor.com and for the fake review they wrote for their own motel on there. The place will probably soon reek of curry and be a total hole infested with the dregs and drugs of society. The best thing about this property is the back side view of an Amish farm and the nice gazebo.


Bird-in-Hand Family Inn
Very nice place. Overpriced for what it is. Adjacent to my favorite restaurant. Has an indoor pool and a mini-golf course adjacent. Also near a lot of stuff like the B-I-H Farmer's Market, bakery, etc. Still, I don't stay here anymore because it is not a good value.


EconoLodge North
Smells like Curry. A dump. Sandpaper towels. Cheap though, so if you are poor or a skinflint, this is the joint for you. Decent view on the backside.


Quiet Haven Motel
Very nice, conservative Mennonite owned motel. I haven't stayed here in years. Last time I did it had a TV with no cable and no telephone. Still, very quiet, clean and cheap. Only 15 rooms and they fill up FAST!! They now have cable TV, microwaves and fridges in each room. They probably do not accept credit cards.

Favorite places and items to eat in the PA. Dutch Country

This is a travel post concerning the PA Dutch Country. This is a list of my favorite spots to eat with a word about each. They are not ranked in any particular order, just a stream of consciousness.

Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord: This restaurant specializes in family meals and traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipes. The portions are large. The restaurant features buffet and a la carte dining. The restaurant is quite large and is popular among both tourists and locals. There is typically a short wait at lunch and dinner and at breakfast at certain times. During peak tourist season the waits can be much longer depending on the time of arrival. The atmosphere is pleasant, the servers and hosting staff are competent, knowledgeable and friendly, most of them are long-time employees. Costs are average, but have risen noticeably in the past two years. The restaurant also features banquet services for meetings and special events. Many of the more popular dishes such as cold salads, ham loaf and desserts are available to take home in large quantities. This restaurant is owned by the Bird-in-Hand Corporation. This group owns several hotels in the area (including the adjacent Bird-in-Hand Family Inn), a bakery, a deli and some other local ventures. The restaurant started in 1968 as a coffee shop/snack bar for the adjacent Family Inn (then called Bird-in-Hand Motor Inn). In 1970 it was expanded to a 145 seat restaurant called the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant. In the 1990s a buffet was incorporated. In 2005 the restaurant expanded and a very large buffet was installed. The name was changed to the current iteration at that time.


My favorite dishes are their scrapple (the best I have found in a restaurant), their home fries, dried or chipped beef gravy, their chicken salad on a pretzel roll, their veal cutlet with stewed tomatoes and various other Pennsylvania Dutch entrees such as Lancaster County baked sausage and ham loaf. Their grilled crab cakes are fantastic.This restaurant has the best chicken corn soup I have ever eaten and I have an intimate, 25 year relationship with a local Amish family in Bird-in-Hand and have had homemade chicken corn soup, this restaurant's is far better -that should tell you how good this soup is. Another must have is their cucumbers and onions which is in a sweet cream. Bread filling and buttered noodles are also favorites. The restaurant used to serve the best baked dried corn I ever had, but they no longer have it as their supplier went out of business.The desserts are very good, especially the shoo fly pie and the red velvet cake. They also feature a dessert of the month. At breakfast I highly recommend the hot chocolate with whipped cream- it is the best I've ever had.

As I don't typically partake in the buffet, I am providing you with a few excellent reviews of it from the master of buffets: One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord: This is a sight to behold. I am not a fan of buffets, but this one must be experienced. It has over 200 hundred feet of food! They have the regular hot bars, salad bars, dessert bars, etc. along with a bread bar, a cheese bar, a grill, and nearly every non-alcoholic beverage fathomable. Be prepared to wait if you go at night or on weekends. I suggest going for an early lunch- it's much cheaper. The night smorgasbord feature different theme menus. Lunches are typically traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare along with other buffet staples. I have not tried breakfast. The restaurant is off of Route 23 in the Blue Ball/East Earl area, so it's away from the traditional US-30/896/340 tourist area. The lobby and bathrooms look like they came out of a five-star hotel and they have a department store sized gift shop. There is also an adjacent grocery store and furniture store. Shady Maple won the 2007 Buffet of the Year Award by the excellent Blog The Art of the Buffet.



Bar after bar of food



Jennie's Diner: This is a traditional diner, specializing in diner fare with PA Dutch specialties such as scrapple and ham loaf. They have excellent chipped or dried beef gravy, scrapple and home fries and the largest pancakes I have ever seen, they hang off of the sides of the platter. Their hot open face sandwiches are wonderful and be sure to ask for gravy on your fries if you order french fries.


Jennie's Diner

Hershey Farm Restaurant: This is a very good place for a reasonably priced breakfast buffet. All the traditional bacon, eggs, scrapple, sausage and whatnot are to be found here along with some really good Shoo Fly Pie on the bar for breakfast! These folks in the Amish Country love their carbs :)


Giant Amishman at Hershey Farm

Jakey's Amish Barbecue: If you have ever traveled in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the spring or summer you have more than likely smelled the enticing aroma of chicken barbecue (yeah, barbecued chicken- they are a bit different in their speech patterns). This restaurant, adjacent to Dutch Haven, allows you to enjoy chicken barbecue year round. This particular style of barbecued chicken is the best I have ever had, and Jakey's is right up there with the best civic club's or fire department's chicken barbecue. It is very smoky and just right for sweetness. The cost is a little steep for what it is, but the food is great.


Dienner's Country Restaurant: This is a fantastic restaurant and one of the best places to get Pennsylvania Dutch food in the area. The breakfast buffet is the best you will find, period. It is well stocked with hearty PA Dutch staples such as scrapple, home fries, baked oatmeal, and fried mush, dried beef gravy, and pork (pan) pudding, not to mention the usual breakfast suspects. Lunch and dinner are also great. Be sure to try the sweet potato fries. The staff are friendly and efficient. This restaurant is located on busy US-30 and is beside Dutch Haven. The restaurant has strange hours, 7 am to 6pm everyday but Friday when they stay open until 8pm.

The Family Cupboard: This restaurant specializes in Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. The restaurant offers a la carte and buffet dining. This restaurant began as The Amish Barn but was acquired in 2006 by the Dienner family and the name was changed to The Family Cupboard. The restaurant has a large second-floor gift shop.This is the third iteration of The Family Cupboard. The original Family Cupboard began in 1997 in Lititz, PA by John Dienner. In 2001, Dienner bought the old Harvest Drive Restaurant in Intercourse, PA and renamed it The Family Cupboard. In 2006, he left the Harvest Drive location and acquired The Amish Barn Restaurant and Gift Shop and renamed it The Family Cupboard.


They have an excellent breakfast buffet and the food is really good. The croquets are very good at lunch and dinner. Try to get seated in the main section as the attentiveness of the staff is not as good near the kitchen (plus you may get stepped on sitting at your table by an overzealous fat tourist kid, as did I in June of 2007).

For a couple of excellent reviews of this restaurant click here and here.


Strasburg Country Store and Creamery: I've been going to this place since the mid-1980s and their ice cream is the best by far. They have a large assortment of flavors and this was the first place I tried a waffle cone. Some of my favorite flavors are: Snickers, Sweet Cream and Nuts, Mint Cookies and Cream, Oreo (or Cookies and Cream), and I know I'm leaving off some other great ones.





Favorite Lancaster County Related or Produced Foods:



Turkey Hill Ice Cream: This is a great company that is active in promoting farmland preservation in Lancaster County through the Lancaster Farmland Trust. They sell milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen yogurt smoothie flavors, all natural Philadelphia style ice cream, Duetto soft-serve and Italian gelatti, Venice Premium Ice, CarbIQ, and no sugar added ice cream, and lowfat ice cream, sherbet, and an assortment of flavored teas throughout the Mid-Atlantic. My favorite ice cream period is their Party Cake flavor. It is a vanilla ice cream with blue buttercream frosting swirl and multi-colored birthday cake pieces. They also have monthly feature flavors such as Peaches and Cream, Baked Apple Dumpling, Southern Lemon Pie, etc. Some other of my favorite flavors are Dutch Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Cookies 'N Cream, Peanut Butter Ripple, Tastykake Peanut Butter Kandy Kake, Tastykake Chocolate Cupcake, Jana's Strawberry Cheesecake, Snyder's of Hanover Chocolate Pretzel and Choco Malt Chip.


Turkey Hill Tea: Southern style sweet tea is not to be found in PA Dutch Country. They have sweetened tea in restaurants, and nine times out of ten it is from Turkey Hill. The tea has a lemony, strange taste that I love. Turkey Hill also sells the best drink I have ever had: Blueberry Oolong Tea- found in grocery stores and Turkey Hill Minit Markets. They have a wide variety of other flavors such as green, peach, raspberry, lemon, orange and white.


Sheetz Hamsel and Pretzel: This is a ham (or turkey or beef) and swiss (or whatever else you may choose) on a pretzel roll. These can be found at any Sheetz in the Mid-Atlantic.


(Blue) Good's Potato Chips: This area is the snack food capital of the nation. Potato chips, pretzels, desserts, ice cream, you name it. These particular chips are among many lard cooked chips in the PA Dutch Country and I believe these are the best of the breed. Other local-made favorites of mine include King's, Herr's (Old Fashioned Handcooked) and Gibble's. As for pretzels, my favorites are Utz Extra Dark Specials, made in nearby Hanover, PA.

Sweet Bologna, Lebanon Bologna and Ring Bologna: Many local butchers and distributors make these summer sausage-like bolognas. The best for sweet bologna, in my opinion is Stoltzfus Meats (Meating You [in Intercourse] is Our Pleasure). S. Clyde Weaver (available at many local farmer's markets), Weaver's Lebanon Bologna and Baum's Bologna and Seltzer's make excellent versions as well that are available in nearly all grocery stores in south east and south central PA.


Peanut Butter Schmeir: This traditional Amish style peanut butter is a huge hit in my house. The best I have found is made by the Jam and Relish Kitchen at Kitchen Kettle Village. The concoction is made with peanut butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, water, sugar, egg whites, and vanilla extract.

Neuchatel Chocolates: The Swiss Chocolatier, located in Oxford, PA, has some of the best chocolate to be found. Make sure to buy up their seconds and mistakes, truffles that broke or somehow aren't perfect- tremendous value. Also be sure to get some Swiss Chips- chocolate covered potato chips!!


Wilbur Chocolate: This Lititz based company produces very fine quality chocolate in smaller quantities. They have a museum and store in downtown Lititz. Their best product is their hand-dipped chocolate marshmallows.


Hershey: The most famous chocolatier in the world, Hershey is located in Dauphin County, not far from Harrisburg and the infamous Three Mile Island. While there is no radiation in the chocolate, it sure is good and you can tour the Hershey's Chocolate World for free (though you may have to park-depends on what time you are there, what day, and whether the girl at the toll thinks you are hot or not). You get to ride in little brown turdmobiles and see the chocolate making process. I highly recommend the Really Big 3-D Show (and I don't have kids, but still loved it) and the Hershey Trolley Works (a guided tour of the town of Hershey and a nice history lesson). Also take in the Hershey Museum. I guess if you like amusement parks you should go to HersheyPark and Zoo America. I haven't been since I was a kid, so I have no opinion on it.

Favorite Lancaster County Bakeries/Food Kitchens:

Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop: This bakery is located on Gibbons Road in Bird-in-Hand and it is called the "no chain bakery" (though the tourists have definitely figured out where this place is). It is owned and operated by a Mennonite Family, Erwin and Annie Miller. The employees are conservative Mennonite or Amish. This bakery has excellent whoopie pies, Shoo Fly Pie, Snickerdoodle Cookies, Rhubarb pie (in season) and Mince Meat Pie (in season). This is my favorite bakery due to the prices, much lower than most of the others in the area.

Bird-in-Hand Bakery: This is another business venture owned by the Bird-in-Hand Corporation. The baked goods are wonderful, particularly the Shoo Fly Pie, the baked apple dumplings and the Red Velvet Cake. They have the largest whoopie pies I have ever seen and several different flavors (chocolate, pumpkin-the best flavor in my opionion, peanut butter, vanilla, oatmeal). Their prices are considerably more than the Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop. Their Whoopie Pies were 1.75 last time I was there while the Bake Shop's were .65 (the size difference is pretty substantial however). Of course, both offer discounts on dozens.

Achenbach's Pastry: Located on Route 23 near Leola, this bakery specializes in Long Johns- vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter and vanilla coconut. These are really good pastries. They also specialize in all types of doughnuts and fasnachts in season.

Kitchen Kettle Village Jam and Relish Kitchen: If you go to nothing else, stop at the Jam and Relish Kitchen, they have the best and most diverse selection of jams, jellys, fruit butters, pickled items, relishes, sauces, dip mixes, etc. that I have ever found anywhere. This is where to get the best pickled beets and peanut butter schmier EVER.

Other places:
Gettysburg- The Gingerbread Man:This is my favorite restaurant in Gettysburg. The portions are large, the servers are competent and friendly, the prices are good. They have the best chicken salad sandwich I have ever eaten, bar none.


Chambersburg- Hoss's Steak and Sea: The best of the five Hoss’s I have eaten at. Well managed, friendly staff, great food. Really fresh salad bar. Nice quality steaks.

Philadelphia- Fisher's Soft Pretzels at Reading Terminal Market: Awesome soft pretzels slathered in butter. Hand made by an Amish family. These are the best pretzels you will EVER eat.

Why the interest in the Amish?

I have been visiting Lancaster County and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country since I was three years old (in 1976). I usually visit at least once a year, sometimes as many as three times. My mother made friends with an Amish family in 1982 when they were visiting her workplace. We exchanged addresses and the next time we visited we went to see this family who lived near the village of Bird-in-Hand. We have been visiting them pretty much ever since. The children were around the same age as me and I looked so forward to visiting them every summer and most winters around Christmas. The parents have since moved to Indiana, while two of their sons and a daughter have returned to Lancaster, all starting their own families. One son farms the old homestead and is an all-organic farmer. He also has a small store at his farm where he sells various organic products. My wife and I enjoy their company immensely, and are happy to drive them around whenever we are in the area, taking them on errands, out for meals or to tourist spots like the Strasburg Rail Road. We especially love having Amish-style meals with them. I consider them some of the best friends I have.

So, this is why I have always been interested in the Amish. During my latter college years, I began studying them on a more scholarly level. I have a very extensive library of popular and scholarly materials on the Amish and the Mennonites and have a pretty good informal education on this subject. If I ever decide to go for another masters degree, it will be in anabaptist studies, but I'll put that off until my retirement years :)

So, the Amish and Lancaster County (yes, it's my favorite vacation spot) are my passion and number one, life-consuming obsession-this coming from someone who has many short-term obsessions, sucking them dry, then moving on to another.

Amish Article on Wikipedia

For a good, comprehensive overview of the Amish, check Wikipedia's article. In my opinion, this is one of the better articles on Wikipedia. For those of you who are real Amishphiles (or can speak Pennsylvania Dutch) check the Pennsylvania German language version of Wikipedia.