Posts made in October 2010

Fabulous Finds on Route 896

Thank you Jim Flood of Chick-Fil-A Restaurant for leading us in the right direction.
Route 896 will lead you into the heart of Amish Country. What you will see and experience on that road is tantamount to a super condensed version of Route 66! It had everything we wanted and expected on the way to Intercourse, Bird-In-Hand & Smoketown.
Antique shops abound, however this was our lucky day. We stumbled upon “The Barn” in Ronks, Pa. Never, ever, anywhere, have we seen such a selection of olde good things. When it came to the prices, all I could picture was John Belushi’s reaction to the horse scene in Dean Wormer’s office in Animal House.
We filled the car up with an old wooden spoke 36″ wagon wheel, a Miller Smokeless Oil Heater, a 105 year old A.H. Moyer steel milk can, an Ovaltine Jar, a Chase & Sanborn coffee can and Hershey Hotel antique wooden hanger for a whopping 74.00. Holy S—!
Now these olde good things may not excite everyone, but to a knowledgable buyer… a true find. Had we had more room in the car…
Route 896 encompasses everything you would expect to see, hear, smell and touch in the form of lush farms, rolling hills, and fresh tilled earth in the land of the Old Order Amish and Mennonites who still live on farms without electricity, wear plain dark colored clothing (we could see black and purple clothing hanging out to dry) and whose primary method of transportation is horse drawn buggies.
Learning from our North Fork Foodie Tour, we used the same strategy to actually get to meet the Amish folk up close and personal. Coming off of Route 896 and into the heart of Amish Country we found our way.
Looking for the small signs on the side of the road saying “Produce”, “Eggs”, “Cheese”, “Chickens”, “Milk” would in every case lead us to a farm or farm stand run by these very friendly farmers.
If you know the selling price of Brandywine & Heirloom tomatoes you will know the average cost is about $4.00-$5.00 per lb. in our local NY area.
Imagine the look on my face when the asking price for 4 pounds was $2.75…which immediately turned into 12 pounds…which prompted Sandy to tell them to hide the rest of them since we were running out of space in our car.
Our next stop was simply a stand with bottled pickled veggies and a box to put your money in. The old honor system. I picked up some corn salsa and red and gold miniature peppers stuffed with cabbage, sugar, vinegar and salt.
We didn’t know where we were going so we followed our noses and found our way to major find number 2.
O.M.P. Produce was set waaaaaaaay back off the road, but sticking to our strategy, we kept following the small signs and the smaller signs and as they say, we hit paydirt…literally.
This remarkably friendly Amish man by the name of Stephen J. Stoltzfus was the proud purveyor of a selection of organic bottled pickled vegetables like I have never seen before. This was, as you might picture, a gentle man who was as amiable as he was hard working . Friendly was an understatement. He let me take pictures of his farm and farm animals. He explained the recipe for all of his products and we would up leaving with pickled relish, thin sliced Bread & Butter pickles with thinner slices of onion and pickled beets. In hindsight I wish I had bought more. Not really knowing what you are buying for the very first time might give one pause…however everything was great and the bottom line is I’m here telling the story. YUM!
I wanted to stay but he had work to do…so we were off to what turned out to be find number 3.
Just a couple of minutes before pulling onto the property of The Bramble Ridge Produce Farm by accident, I stopped to take a long distance zoom photo of a young girl driving a plow and 5 horses. It just so happened that Bramble Ridge was her family’s farm and we could just not believe this young girl was driving this plow and horses. In the end it was no surprise, as this is their way.
Ok…back to find 3. Georgeous like you have never seen before 5 to 8 pound pumpkins for $1.00. Where are we going to fit them all? Eight pound containers of tomatoes for $2.75 each. Friendly little children all over the place doing the selling…no adults. This is also their way.
Either way, we were packed to the proverbial gills… and said our goodbyes knowing that one day we would find our way back to this truly unique way of life in Lancaster County. Pa.

Brandywine Region & Amish Country

We have always wanted to visit Amish Country. Hearing that they are the among the best farmers in the world (yes, I said the world), we decided on a trip at the peak of harvest time in September.
Our first stop, however, was Winterthur in the Brandywine Region of Pennsylvania.
What and where is Winterthur?
Nestled in the beautuful Brandwine Valley, this museum, garden & library on almost 1,000 acres is home to the world’s premier collection of early American decorative arts.
The former home of Henry Francis du Pont, it encompasses an unrivaled collection of more than 89,000…yes…89,000 objects (our favorite was the set of six tankards made by patriot and goldsmith, Paul Revere) made or used in America  between 1640 and 1860, a matchless twentieth-century naturalistic garden and a world renowned research library, all for the viewing.
The small groups and personable tour guides made these two hour tours that much more intimate. Stupendous!
  Next at Winterthur, The Campbell’s Collection of Soup Tureens.
A fitting prelude to lunch these porcelain, silver and precious metal works of art tureens in shapes so varied (panels of foliage, decorations of vegetables, fruit, flowers, fish, lobsters and larger animals) exemplified how the simple meal served in a pot evolved into the most elaborate and imposing vessel in a table service expressing the fashionable taste of the owner. Quite tasteful.
So where else would one want to go after a long morning of touring and tureening?
Chick-Fil-A..that’s where!
Could we possibly top our first memorable trip to the home of the first boneless  breast of chicken in America sandwich ever???
Yes and Yes…thanks to Jim Flood and Marie Proctor, the operators of  Chick- Fil-A. Their genuine sense of caring for the customer and the sense of pride they exude filters all the way down to their “team members”, and you can feel it. Remember Barbara from the first trip 6 months earlier?
I don’t know if everybody gets the same treatment, since most folks aren’t like me in a restaurant..however by the time we left we were treated to strawberry (with chunks of strawberry) and vanilla shakes and a book titled Eat More Chikin (no “c”) & Inspire More People; Doing Business the Chick-Fil-A Way by Founder S. Truett Cathy. And, of course, another fabulous Chikin Sandwich.
Jim and Marie…thank you for your fine reception and we will see you again!
(phoodographs to follow)
Next stop…Brandywine River Museum to see an exhibit of Trompe L’Oeil paintings. Can you imagine a painting that looks 3-dimensional?  We got there 30 minutes before closing…thus it was a short, but quite unique, story.
Time to relax.
We had made a reservation at the Fairville Inn in the Brandywine Valley and our timing was great. The weather was well earned and we just happened to, unbeknownst to us, pick a day when the inn was booked with members of an antique car club that included 1920’s vintage Cadillacs and Rolls Royce, etc. It fit in perfectly with that old time feeling and history the  area exudes. A fitting prelude to Amish Country.
The innkeepers Laura & Rick Carro were most gracious and Chef Rick knows his way around the kitchen, serving a sumptuous and healthy breakfast.
The rooms were cozy and comfortable…and wait till you take your socks off and feel the carpet underneath your feet. Ahhhhh!
As a matter of coincidence, I happen to have gone to school (Great Neck North Class of ’66) with Rick’s cousins. Hey Rick, did you send my best?
Up the next morning and, what the heck, off to the Herr’s Potato Chip Factory.  Short and Sweet. Took the tour, saw tons of fresh potato chips being made, couldn’t stop eating them, and packed the car up with about 50
two ounce bags of chips and pretzels and whatever else they made @ a whopping .17 cents each… uh huh….17 cents. Still eating them.
As I noted in my previous entries and in hindsight, to follow the suggestions of the guidebooks is something to be wary of…however since it was our first visit, we went to Bird-In-Hand Farmers’ Market and other “Farmers’ Markets”.
For first time visitors they are interesting, however they didn’t quite fit my definition of a farmers’ market. I pictured large markets with an abundance of fresh foods like a large Union Square Market. Although big and diverse in the product choices…and with unique products only by virtue of the fact we had never seen them before and they were local, very little was “fresh”. As well, it seemed that large quantities of candies and nuts were simply put into small containers with a nice looking store label. We’ve seen that before.

Prelude to Brandywine & Amish Country

For those of you who know me, you know I know my food.
For you and those who don’t really know me…and are reading my blog because I keep pounding it into your brain that you won’t be sorry…get ready for the best fast food chicken sandwich ever!
It all started in March, 2010 when my wife Sandy and I went to Philadelphia. My good friend Howard’s daughter Nicole was getting married and we wanted to visit Styer’s Nurseries (not just another nursery) before getting ready for the wedding.

See comments on this link from visitors to:
Terrain at Styers is a magical place. We went for Mother’s Day and it was like we were transported from Northeast Philadelphia to Sonoma or Southern France

We just happened to stumble on to a Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant that was new to us and figured we’d try it out for lunch.
Upon entering we were greeted by a lady with a warm hello at the door and then proceeded to counter to order lunch.
At their recommendation, Sandy ordered the traditional Chick-Fil-A Sandwich and I ordered the same sandwich in the new Spicy version. We shared waffle fries and ordered unsweetened iced tea with lemon. While we were waiting, I was off to the condiment bar picking up some ketchup, mustard, light (yes, light) mayo and b-b-q sauce. Growing up in California and used to everything served with all of these…ie California Style  (b-b-q was my addition), I said to myself “I love this place”…and I hadn’t even tasted the sandwich.
I commented to “Barbara”, the lady at the door, that everything looked so clean and everyone was so pleasant and they even had light mayo..and she says “have you ever been here before”? When I said this was our first time, she asked where we were sitting and insisted we go relax  (Sandy had a table outside in the late March sun) and she would bring out the food. Not only that, she asked us what we ordered for desert and upon hearing we ordered nothing, she insisted we order something “on the house” and she would bring that out too.
Come on now…did YOU ever…anywhere?
Ok…so here is this totally ungreasy lightly coated with bread crumbs 1″ thick fried chicken breast sandwich with all my condiments…and I’m dumbfounded that I have just tasted the best chicken sandwich in my life.
In my life? Yes! You know how some folks say a sandwich is all about the bread? Well, that’s all part of why the sandwich was so damned good.
Ok…so we were super impressed and I swore I we would return when we came back to Philly. What I meant was, this place would be part of the next trip..and the next trip was going to be in September to Amish Country.

Chick Fil-A – Flatiron – New York, NY

Rated 4.0 out of 5.0

 24 reviews – Price range: $

24 Reviews of Chick Fil A “Whaaaaaa? I’ve lived in NYC for how long without I opened the chicken sandwich which was wrapped in a folded foil bag and it

BetsaPasta "Vinaigrette"

Hi Folks…a quick little post…more recipes to come…

Organic Greens with Vinaigrette (Serves 8)

Vinaigrette [vihn-uh-GREHT]
One of the five “mother sauces,” vinaigrette is a basic oil-and-vinegar combination, generally used to dress salad greens and other cold vegetable dishes. In its simplest form, vinaigrette consists of oil, vinegar (usually 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar), salt and pepper. The vinegar may be replaced by any citrus juice (like fresh lemon juice) or by a blend of citrus and vinegar. Mustard is also a common add-in with the vinegar and helps to keep the emulsion stable for a bit longer.
The one big secret to  a successful Vinaigrette is EMULSIFICATION…even without mustard or egg.

If you are not using mustard or egg yolk, the only way to emulsify is to use an immersion hand blender. Cuisinart makes one for about 29.00 and is a handy device to have in the kitchen for many other uses. You can use any blender, however the dressing is harder to remove and is more messy. A whisk or fork will do if you choose to use mustard or egg yolk.


20-24 oz. of Your Favorite Lettuces (Red Leaf, Green Leaf, Mesclun Baby Lettuces, Young Dandelion Greens, Purslane, Mizuna or Curly Cress to name some) from LOCAL FARMS FOR BEST FLAVOR.

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4-1/3 cup Vinegar or Vinegars (to your taste) or 1/3 cup of Vinegar & Fresh Lemon total combined
Pinch Kosher Salt
Several Grinds (small grind) Fresh Black Pepper

Directions with Mustard

In a small deep bowl whisk Vinegar, Mustard, and Lemon (if using), Salt & Pepper. Slowly add oil while whisking until emulsified.

Directions without Mustard

In a small deep bowl add all ingredients and blend

option 1:
1tsp. Bournier Dijon or any Dijon you prefer
1tsp. French’s Yellow Mustard
option 2:
Infuse cup of oil with one pressed clove of garlic for 20 minutes…then discard garlic or use for another purpose
Vinegar Tech Tip…
A great Balsamic Vinegar can be used in conjunction with your choice of Vinegar(s) to make this dressing. Manodori Balsamic is, in my opinion, the best Balsamic vinegar available anywhere ever, however is pricey @ about $35-$40 for an 8 oz. bottle retail depending where you find it. A great alternative for much less $ is Fairway Balsamic and sold at Fairway by the Olive Oil bar.
If you use either of the above Balsamics, you can blend with an aged red wine vinegar or a white balsamic (Alessi brand) for the above recipes.Otherwise, use your favorite vinegar to reach the desired taste.
Try not to use standard variety dark “balsamic” found in local supermarkets as there are usually treated with colorants and sweeteners to develop a taste similar to that of the traditional product. They tend to be thinner, more acidic, and less complex. The quality can also vary considerably, because the product lacks labeling protections and quality standards.
Well…that’s it. Like all of my recipes, it’s all about technique. Take the time to read a digest (no pun intended) and you will be happy you did.