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


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


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.