Posts tagged pennsylvania
Posts tagged pennsylvania
Every year when school ends, we take a trip to Pennsylvania to stay at the magnificent Mussers’ Bed & Breakfast. (Last year I even had a baking adventure there.) Barb, who runs the place, is an exceptional human being; we love visiting her every June and we stay in touch with her all year long. She’s definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
This year, since the kids are a little older, we got to change things up a bit and venture beyond our usual pit stops, and so our food options expanded as well; some for the best, some for the worst. So now I will present our food journey through PA, along with some pictures of the kids being their own cute selves.
We arrived at Mussers’ B&B and settled in. Our set-up there is perfect: two bedrooms, a big kitchen, a big living room, a nice bathroom, and our own entrance.
Now that we’re years out of strollers, pack & plays, and high chairs, the kids can enjoy the real furniture and we can pack a whole lot less.
Usually one of our last stops is what I like to call Copper Kitchen Kettle Village. (Its actual name is Kitchen Kettle Village, but for some reason I can never keep it straight, plus it drives Dave crazy when the rest of us get it wrong, so we keep doing it.) This year, we decided to make it our first stop instead of our last.
And so the snacks began. Juliet opted for the kettle corn, and Nathaniel went into the fudge & candy shop for the peanut butter-covered marshmallows.
And right before the thunderstorm hit, Juliet got her face painted.
What I forgot to document that night was the dinner Dave had requested at Miller’s Smorgasbord. ‘Tis a shame. Overloaded plates of mediocre food going back & forth from buffet stations to tables, half-full plates being taken away so more food could be procured, and a salad bar with no more than four raw vegetables — no carrots at all! — but loaded with cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise-drenched “salads”.
But Dave loved it, and the kids had fun, and I found some grilled chicken along with a slice of peanut butter pie. It all worked out in the end.
This is what we’d been waiting for from the moment we booked the trip, from the moment we got in the car, from the moment we fell asleep the night before. Barb’s breakfasts are truly the best we’ve ever had. Local, organic ingredients, everything made from scratch, all just delightful.
The first thing we saw when we got downstairs: a gorgeous fruit plate, fresh yogurt, and homemade granola.
I’m on a quest to learn to like yogurt (separate from baking and Indian food), so I served myself some and tempered it with the granola.
Then came the waffles. They’re those great big homemade ones, but they got smaller the longer they spent at our table.
Then bacon. Crisp, fresh bacon.
Nathaniel made a food face.
Barb enhanced it.
After breakfast,we stopped by one of our regular haunts, the Railroad Museum. We always have a lot of fun exploring the train cars.
Then we headed across the street to the spot that got us to PA in the first place: Strasburg Railroad. It used to be all about seeing Thomas the Tank Engine, but this year our timing was off. And that, my friends, is how we ended up on the HOBO LUNCH TRAIN.
It sounded nice:
Enjoy the Rail Road…Hobo Style! You’ll be served a wonderfully prepared lunch by our costumed servers and experience a train ride like never before. Unwrap your knapsack of goodies and imagine what it must have been like to travel from city to city as a hobo. Enjoy the fresh lemonade served in mason jars or the baked beans scooped from the kettle, along with other freshly-made items. This is one train ride you’ll certainly remember. (Keep your knapsack as a memory of your experience).
It was pretty expensive, given the moniker “Hobo Lunch”, but we thought it might be a fun experience and a lot of the prices there are about keeping the railroad going year after year, so we bit the financial bullet and climbed aboard.
The first thing to come were the drinks. Lemonade or sweet tea. That was it. No water, even. We all opted for the lemonade but it was so sweet that none of us liked it. Sweet tea wasn’t much of a solution. We thirsted on.
Then they brought out the “knapsacks”. Each server carried a pole with kerchiefs on it, but they kept the pole, so our knapsacks were really just scarves, and the “wonderfully prepared lunch” was….not.
I figured a turkey sandwich with cheese was a safe bet. I was wrong. I couldn’t even finish it! It tasted terrible and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t even cheese. They also included a cookie. Now look, I know I’m a baker, and I can be fussy about baked goods, but I also know that even a crappy cookie can be delicious. I even remember our high school cafeteria cookies with great fondness. But these? They were just terrible. Here we were in a town filled with candy shops and bakeries, and we were given the shittiest cookies in all America. It was a sad thing.
Juliet had a hot dog, and managed to eat most of it, but gave up near the end.
Next, the baked beans arrived. Juliet and I had no interest, but Dave & Nathaniel both gave them a shot.
At least they liked the beans.
The Hobo Lunch, NOT INCLUDING the train fare, came to over fifty bucks…and even Nathaniel threw the cookies away after taking a bite.
At least now we can compare all other meals to the Hobo Lunch, and know that there is always something worse than what we’re eating, no matter what. Hooray!
The train ride was nice, though, and when it was down we prowled around Strasburg Railroad, picking out a few toys and walking around. On the way home we thought we deserved a real treat, so we stopped at our favorite candy & ice cream store. I love it there because they have ice cream in the front, and a big candy store in the back where they make fudge, have a lot of strange ingredients for sale, and even have a little honeycomb with bees in it.
Of course I got the peanut butter ice cream.
Juliet got vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, in a cone.
Nathaniel opted for the Turkish Taffy.
Dave didn’t get a treat, for some reason. All that candy & ice cream! Truth be told, he prefers a beer.
They were making the cones for the ice cream right on the premises.
I roamed around the store, tasting the butterscotch peanut butter (which I bought to make cookies with), admiring the flavored honeys, drooling over the candy, and then I came upon this monstrosity.
Maybe they should add it to the Hobo Lunch.
Our final food stop that day was dinner. Now keep in mind that dining options in this area are rather limited. Dave and Nathaniel are pretty easygoing where food is concerned, but Juliet’s fussy (like her momma) and I am on Weight Watchers, so while I’m happy to treat myself to ice cream and vacation treats, I don’t like to waste my points on crappy high-fat foods that I don’t even like. (Hobo Lunch.)
And so, every year, we have one dinner at Cracker Barrel. The decor is delightfully consistent.
It’s silly and fun, the boys can indulge in gravy-soaked mashed potatoes, Juliet can get fried shrimp, and I always get the one thing that doesn’t push me over the points limit and still tastes good: grilled catfish, a baked potato, and corn. The first time I ordered it, I made the mistake of just saying “a baked potato” and it came back stuffed and piled high with sour cream and butter. Now I know to say, “a baked potato, plain, with nothing on it, no butter even,” and I get what I want. They’re always happy to please us at Cracker Barrel, that’s for sure.
I forgot to mention that Nathaniel had picked up an awesome toy mustache along the way, courtesy of a particularly hilarious family we met while checking out the outlet stores.
Juliet definitely enjoyed her fried shrimp, and Dave got something with cheese, coleslaw, and green beans.
And you never have to feel like you’re dining alone, at the Cracker Barrel.
Another day, another magnificent breakfast with Barb.
This time, Juliet tried her hand at a food face.
Then the rest of breakfast came in. Fresh sausage with no antibiotics and no trip to a factory along the way. Barb made scrambled eggs for Juliet and eggs over easy for Dave and Nathaniel, so when I said I was happy with either one, she made me one of each.
After breakfast, we made a quick stop at Springerle House to check out the famous Springerle Cookies that had mysteriously eluded our awareness for the past few years’ worth of visits. Turns out there’s a lovely little cafe with fantastic coffee right in the heart of where we go almost every day we’re there, and we’d never known about it! The guy behind the counter was so nice and warm and friendly that it made it even weirder that we’d never stopped by. The cookies looked gorgeous, and so did the cupcakes.
We bought two of the orange vanilla cookies and two chocolate peppermint, and headed out to Lititz, which Barb had insisted we visit so I could check out Olio, a store filled with a massive variety of olive oils and balsamics. It’s a cute little town with lovely walkable streets and good things to eat on every corner.
We went to Olio first, where I picked up some Garlic Chili Fused Olive Oil for Dave to cook with, and Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil for me to bake with. Our main destination, though, was the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.
Once inside, we got a tour of the “factory” which mean that we walked around various spots in this one big room while a cute and peppy teenager told us how they used to make pretzels in this building, the first pretzel bakery in the U.S. They also taught us how to roll pretzels with dough that gets manhandled again and again but is never turned into real food, due to some very wise health department regulations.
Next we stopped at Cafe Chocolate to grab some lunch. We’d stopped by earlier and tasted their amazing chocolate, but now we were ready for a meal.
Juliet wanted eggs, so we asked for a plain omelet. It came with sausage and (unfortunately slightly undercooked) french fries.
Nathaniel’s french fries were more done and a lot more delicious. Dave had a Cuban sandwich and I had a low fat healthy quiche. The salad dressing was a chocolate raspberry vinaigrette, which is normally something I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, but I gave in to the moment and gobbled it up.
I ate everything except for those artichoke hearts, or whatever those things are next to the dressing.
The other food highlight of the day was Nathaniel’s whoopie pie. He got one when our horse & buggy ride (known to Juliet as “horsin buggy”) stopped so some Amish dudes could hawk their foodwares.
And then we met up with an old friend of Dave’s and his family for dinner. We headed to the nearby C.R. Lapp’s Family Restaurant in Quarryville. Gourmet it ain’t, but perfectly acceptable it is. For me, grilled chicken and a baked potato.
Yeah, I’d already started eating it. Oops.
Our last breakfast at Barb’s. So sad to say farewell for another year, but we ended on a high note. As usual, it started with fruit, yogurt, and food faces.
And then Barb brought out the peanut butter french toast. Words fail me.
The peanut butter was right in the batter. Oh my.
After breakfast, I got a couple of quick shots of the kids with Barb. They were posing on the steps and Juliet sprang back up before I could click, ran into the other room, grabbed a vase with a flower in it, and returned so she could be holding it in the picture. It was the perfect touch.
Nathaniel had a final romp with Dosie, Barb’s dog, and then we headed out. We made a quick, traditional stop at Dutch Haven to pick up some Shoofly Pies to take home for our friends & co-workers, and picked up an Amish hat for Nathaniel.
We bought the kids lollipops, thinking it would help Juliet avoid getting carsick. It did help, but so did the Dramamine, and at one point I looked over and she was fast asleep, lollipop in hand. I removed the lollipop, but then didn’t know what to do with it, which is my whole issue with lollipops in the first place, the HOLDING of them. Dave came up with an excellent solution.
Our final food stop, made in sheer desperation, was at a rest stop where there was a Roy Rogers. The kids and Dave got fast food; I found a turkey and cheese sandwich that was about 200,000 times better than the Hobo Lunch.
And so my story ends, another June trip to PA come and gone. See you next year!
Baking Scones at Mussers’ Bed & Breakfast
Every June, on or about the last day of school, we take the kids to Pennsylvania to ride the rails at Strasburg Railroad. We ride Thomas the Tank Engine, visit the train museums, buy jams in tiny jars, eat homemade ice cream and shoofly pie, and take a horse & buggy ride around Amish country. Best of all, we stay at Mussers’ Bed & Breakfast, our home away from home. Mussers’ has two special elements that we don’t have at our house: Barb, the owner, an extraordinary person we all adore, and Barb’s magnificent and magical breakfasts. Every morning is different. Eggs made to order, baked oatmeal, crisp bacon, fresh fruit, homemade waffles, all made from local ingredients combined to create the fantasy breakfasts of our dreams. Because Barb is creative and fun, it’s always decorative too. Who else would have such fun with red and green grapes?
I sent Barb the link to my baking blog, and when she asked if I wanted to have a baking adventure with her, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m still new at this and there are so many things I haven’t learned to bake yet, so she suggested scones. Perfect. There’s a technique to scones that I’ve never even tried.
Nathaniel decided to come along, so we headed downstairs once Juliet was in bed. Barb had already assembled the ingredients, putting what we’d need for the dough on the table and setting out a separate tray with the mix-ins.
She very thoughtfully included chocolate, knowing my (extremely negative) feelings about dried fruit in baked goods. The plan was to make three separate batches, and there were already three bowls ready & waiting.
The butter was still in the fridge, as it needed to stay cold, so I measured out the flour and Nathaniel took on the task of getting it into the bowls. We added sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Barb got the butter out, and cut it into small cubes.
We asked Nathaniel to whisk the dry ingredients together. He needed a little guidance on the basic procedure & principles of whisking, and I was happy to provide it. I love whisking. I even just love the word. Wonderful whisking.
Once the butter was cut up, it went into the flour mixtures. We started with two of the bowls, saving the third for later. Barb taught me to mix the cubes in with the flour, but then squeeze each cube, flattening it with my fingers with the flour to make the mixture flaky. Since we were both knuckle-deep in flour & butter, Nathaniel took on the picture taking. I think he did a pretty good job.
He is, after all, still an eight-year-old boy with a camera. Ha!
In went the chocolate (or in Barb’s bowl, the dried cherries).
In went a cup of heavy cream.
Oh wait. Did I mention there were mojitos?
A perfect host as always, Barb introduced me to a whole new concept: cocktails and baking. I will have to remember this one.
Nathaniel surprised us both at this point by announcing that it was his bedtime. He was right, it was just past 9:00, but I was going to let him stay up for a while. I wasn’t, however, going to argue with such perfect behavior, so I hugged & kissed him and off he went. Dave told me later that he arrived back upstairs in our suite and brushed his teeth, then went to bed immediately. What a kid! I can only assume it was the influence of Barb and Pennsylvania, because Juliet put herself to bed that night too, with no negotiations or shenanigans whatsoever. The magic of Mussers’.
Once the heavy cream was added, the dough got pretty sticky…so sticky, in fact, that the next step — rolling it out, shaping it, and cutting it — just didn’t seem to be an option. Undaunted, Barb just suggested dropping the dough in large spoonfuls and making cute round biscuit-like scones vs. the more traditional, triangular ones.
We baked them. We took them out and smelled the glorious smells of the scones. We baked them a little longer. And then we had scones.
Now we still had one bowl of ingredients to work with, and Barb thought that using less of the cream would make the dough less sticky. She proposed about half as much, with the option to add more as needed. Turns out half was exactly right.
Barb had a pastry cloth that she’s had for decades, and she floured that up and started rolling out the dough on it. Now I want a pastry cloth too, and I want to have it for decades, and teach other people to bake on it. It does seem to be ideally suited to the task.
She rolled it to about three quarters of an inch thick, then shaped it into a large rectangle. She cut it into small rectangles with much more precision than I am usually able to muster up, especially after a mojito.
After that, we cut the rectangles in half to form triangles. I got to do some of that, taking care to be as precise as possible. Once they were all cut we loaded them into a big round pan that looked like a pizza pan, and put them in the freezer instead of baking them.
I don’t have a photo of the finished triangle ones, as they didn’t get baked until the morning, but they were a big hit with Nathaniel & Dave. (The dried blueberries ruled out my further involvement, but I was thrilled that they enjoyed them so much.) And they were fresh baked, with all the work having been done the night before.
Of course, Barb actually has room in her freezer for a giant tray with scones on it. Ours is jammed tight with frozen waffles & vegetables, random items from Trader Joe’s, things we can’t identify anymore, and leftovers that threaten to come flying out every time we open the door. But Barb has TWO kitchens, and is just generally a lot more organized and focused than we are. (She also has a business to run!)
We cut open one of the finished chocolate chip scones and had a look, then a taste. All the butter I normally avoid, yes, but worth every bite. SO flaky and light and buttery and wonderful.
What a great evening. We are so lucky to have found Mussers’ B&B, and Barb, and to be able to go on this special vacation once a year and do all this stuff for the kids. They do seem to love it.
Mussers’ Bed and Breakfast Flaky Scones
Baking temp: 400 degrees Time: 12-15 minutes—until golden brown
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
2 cups + 2 T. of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1 liquid cup of heavy cream (or milk)
1/2 currants or other dried fruit of choice or chocolate chips
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter mixing by hand making it like flakes. Pinch butter cubes between thumb and fingers until there are no longer any hard lumps but flakes. It should not be grainy.
Add dried fruit or chocolate and mix.
Wet dough in bowl with cream but don’t over mix and don’t knead.
On a lightly floured surface shape the dough rolling it into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle, handling the dough as little as possible. Cut the rectangle into long strips and then cut more smaller rectangles, lastly cutting the rectangles into triangles.
At this point you can bake the scones or freeze them unbaked on a cookie sheet and when frozen transfer into freezer bags or containers to bake as needed. The frozen scones do not need to be thawed but baked frozen.
THANK YOU BARB!!! We can’t wait to come back and see you again next summer.