Monthly Archives: January 2009

Cafe Chocolate in Lititz

One of the reasons behind my family’s move back to the Lancaster area (after a 7-year stint in New England) was the desire of my wife and I to resume our date night. After 5 years of being attached at the hip to our two young boys, we needed some help getting our groove back. We love those lads dearly, but really how much of ANYONE can you take day-in-day-out for 5 straight years?

You have to think even Queen Elizabeth turns to the Duke of Edinburgh every once in awhile and says, “Hey baby, I need some ‘me’ time.” Among the many great things Lancaster County has to offer my family are the 4 grandparents from which my wife and I generously plunder time and childcare resources.

So what do we do with our newly found once-a-month freedom… sweet sweet freedom? We usually try to patronize a locally-owned restaurant followed by a trip to the Café Chocolate in Lititz, PA for dessert. If we’re lucky, the owner, Selina, will be there to chat us up about what’s going on with the Café and inform us on pretty much anything we ever needed to know about chocolate.

Real chocolate.

Not to be mistaken with the stuff you find next to the shrink-wrapped Mango-Peppermint Altoids in the checkout aisle at the grocery store. This stuff is the real deal. I’m not going to try to pass along all the chocolate-related info Selina has given us over the course of our visits there, but let’s just say if your only chocolate experience comes from eating the stuff that comes out of shiny plastic wrappers, you’re in for a pleasant surprise at Café Chocolate.

Chocolate Dipped Pizelle

As one could well guess, chocolate is sprinkled liberally throughout the menu of lunch/dinner, breakfast, drink and dessert offerings to great effect. On our visits to the cafe, we have been impressed with not only the desserts we ordered, but our tasty beverage choices as well. I’ve had a mocha frapuccino there as well as an iced hot chocolate (my favorite so far), and both were excellent.

On our last visit, we recruited another couple so we could try their molten 60% Cocoa dark chocolate fondue. As the menu states, “A feast for 2, plenty for 4.” Which I took more as a personal self-esteem preservation recommendation than a serving size recommendation, because I could have eaten the whole pot myself.  It was that good.

Cubano Sandwich

The café itself is located in beautiful downtown Lititz, a nice little shopping district full of unique little shops and eateries that is literally less than a mile from my house. Selina has the place decked out in quirky art from around the world and is more than happy to have you come in and play a few rounds of Scrabble with your significant other while you enjoy the offerings.

I highly recommend it if you need to get your chocolate fix on. You do, unfortunately, have to provide your own childcare.  Our parents are all booked up for the foreseeable future.

At the Counter

Lancaster from a Kid’s Perspective

Last night, we got a lot of snow here in Lancaster, and some ice to top it off, so schools were closed today. YAY! A co-worker’s daughter came to work with her, so I figured that to help her from being bored, I’d use her knowledge and ask her what her favorite things to do in Lancaster County are! This post will give those of you who are looking for things to do with your kids some ideas.

There are five places that were mentioned while talking to our resident 11-soon-to-be-12-year-old: Dutch Wonderland, the Whitaker Center, Plain & Fancy, Buggy Rides, and Cherry Crest Adventure Farm.

Dutch Wonderland, also known as the Kingdom for Kids, is an awesome place to go. Alima’s two favorite rides are the Kingdom Coaster, and the Pipeline Plunge. The best place to cool down is at Duke’s Lagoon – where they’ve got spraying water, water jets, palm trees, and a HUGE bucket that tips water and gets you wet. Duke’s Dance Party is fun too – you can do the limbo, freeze dance, the YMCA, the chicken dance, and other stuff.

Plain & Fancy restaurant is one of Alima’s favorite places to eat. They’ve got some delicious choices of what to eat, and it’s just like you’re there with one big family. Alima loves that even when she and her mom don’t know people there, they can just talk to anyone there about how their day is going, and about what they chose to eat! When you go with a bunch of people, you can get “The Feast”, which includes 4 appetizers, 4 different entrees, with 4 sides and 3 choices for dessert! They all get served family style, so just go ahead and pass the plates around!

Buggy Rides are always a fun thing to do… sometimes I get to hold the reigns!” While Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides is Alima’s preferred, there are many different options in Lancaster to get a ride. The owner of Aaron & Jessica’s is Jack Meyer, who loves to tell stories. He’s very funny and will keep any age entertained with his carrying-on, and the other drivers are also very knowledgeable. The drivers come from Amish, Mennonite, or Brethren backgrounds, and from all different trades, school teachers, carpenters, farmers, and more!

For the fall, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm has the biggest corn maze ever! Each year they do a different theme, and it’s fun to go more than once and try to beat your last time for going through the maze. They have another area after the maze that has tons of stuff to do. They have these go-karts that you pedal to race around the cornfield, you can feed the ducks, pigs and I think they have a llama. And they have cute baby chicks that were just hatched and they’re all cute and warm and fuzzy. Then they have even ANOTHER place that you can go to that has a hay tunnel, a place where you can jump into the hay, a pumpkin slinger, and my favorite, the big jumping thing (Barnyard Jump). It’s a huge pillow that you can just keep bouncing on.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you when coming for vacation or just looking for something to do with the kids while you’re here! Please feel free to comment with more suggestions from your kids as to their favorite things to do here!

My Friendship with an Amish Family

Most people who visit Lancaster County have little to no interaction with the Amish other than seeing them on the road or if they are tending a store. I am one of the lucky ones who has been close friends with an Amish family for over 25 years.

So, you ask how did a North Carolinian strike up a relationship with an Amish family? Well, by chance, quite frankly. In 1982 my mother worked at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, NC. The factory offered tours at the time and she noticed an Amish family coming through with an “English” woman. We had visited Lancaster County probably 5 times to that point and were taking a trip there the next week.  She struck up a conversation with them and exchanged names and addresses and they invited us to visit them when we came up. The rest is history. We have had many good times with this family. We took them out to eat, they made us meals, we took them on errands, we went on day trips to Dutch Wonderland, the Rough and Tumble Thresher’s Reunion, Strasburg Railroad, the Choo Choo Barn, Longwood Gardens, all kinds of fun things over the years. Some of my favorite memories are having water balloon fights and pizza parties with my Amish friends. In the early 1990s they moved to Indiana, but the oldest son moved back to the homestead and started a family. A few years later his sister moved back and married and started a family, and a couple of years ago another brother moved back with his family. We still have pizza, ice cream, and root beer float parties, have sit down meals and go fun places and run errands with a new generation.

People often ask me about my Amish friends and the misconceptions they have about them. Usually they think they are all farmers and live in antiquated homes. Amish homes are quite modern, with most of the appliances we have, only gas powered. Frankly, you wouldn’t really notice that anything is different until night when the home is lighted by gas lamps. One of my friends is a dairy farmer but he also has an organic meat, dairy & produce business that he runs on his farm. Another is a construction worker and another is a welder, so they all have somewhat diverse careers while their dad’s were all farmers.

I guess the main reason Lancaster County is my favorite vacation spot is because of the Amish, and especially because I get a more experiential tourist experience than most because of my connections in the Amish community. They have been wonderful friends to me for many years and I count them among my best friends. The last time I was in my friend Ruthie asked if I had any pictures from our good times growing up and she wanted me to bring them the next time I visited. I think she was hoping I had some pictures of them as kids. We were always so conscious of not taking their pictures that we have very few- just a couple where they incidentally walked into the photo.

So, if you get a chance to strike up a conversation with an Amish person you may get lucky and start a lifelong friendship.

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