Category Archives: Food

WaltzVineyards

Wonderful wine from Waltz

Wine, vino, nectar of the Gods; all phrases used to describe the flawlessly balanced liquid that is squeezed from grapes, fermented, and aged to perfection in oak and steel barrels around the world. Lancaster is no exception. Among the vines of Lancaster County lies a unique vineyard atop a hill called Waltz Vineyard and Estate. This classy vineyard offers all of the picturesque qualities of a sprawling Napa vineyard and the excellence of a Italian winery. Run by Jan and Kimberly Waltz, Waltz Vineyard finds itself lucky enough to grow grapes on internationally renowned soil once used to grow a variety of vegetables and tobacco. Combining science with a love for wine making, this family succeeds in producing both affordable and delicious wine.

One afternoon, my mother and 1777 Americana Inn owner, Denise Harter, accompanied me to the Waltz estate. The family’s home is located on site. The tasting room, located next to the homestead is built like a European tasting room combining new and old world art and architecture. We were welcomed and immediately introduced to the multiple varieties of wine Waltz makes onsite from its 100 tons of produced grapes.

Everyone knows tasting can become repetitive after a few stops, but Waltz approaches the tasting of their products in a unique fashion, wine flights. Not only can you sample five delicious varieties separated into Light/Fruity or Dry/Serious samplers, but you can also add a local cheese pairing specially chosen for your selected flight. While the taste of each flight is wonderful, the real allure of the wine flight is the presentation. Crafted to make you feel like you’re back in science class, the five selected wines are poured into test tubes and placed in front of you in a wooden rack with your tasting menu conveniently placed behind. This presentation is truly a unique and practical experience for those who believe wine tasting to be a monotonous sport.

For those sweet wine lovers, Waltz offers one or two varietals – but please be warned – they reign supreme in the drier Bordeaux style wines. Among our favorites for the day were the 2011 Reserve Chardonnay, 2012 Barred Rock Red, and the 2010 Crows Wood Cabernet. My mother, a lover of the sweet and fruity, enjoyed the 2013 Fusion characterized as a semi-dry white boasting with citrus flavors.

With open farmland to the front and beautiful full vines to side, this estate truly captures the quintessential vino experience. For those not looking for a day spent drinking under the tree or next to the vines with a nice fall picnic, Waltz also sells their products at their bottle shop in downtown Lititz, PA. I highly recommend Waltz as a stop for any wine admirer and for those simply looking to try something new in the Lancaster area.

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Dinner and a Show – Lancaster County Style

There is nothing better than a good laugh. One of the many things my husband and I like to do (especially on long car trips) is listen to some of our favorite comedians like Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, and Bill Cosby – you know, the ones who are just plain funny without all of the rudeness and profanity. Little did I know that there is a place right here in Lancaster County where you can go for some good, clean comedy. The Lancaster County Comedy Show runs several times a month at the Hershey Farm Restaurant in Strasburg. Always up for dinner and a show, my husband and I planned our night out – although, I don’t think either of us was expecting just how much fun it would be.

We started our date night with dinner at Hershey Farm Restaurant. (I recommend making a dinner reservation as the restaurant tends to be pretty busy.)  The menu selection is pretty big and we were hungry, so we opted for the Grand Smorgasbord.  My husband is a vegetarian, so we sometimes have a difficult time finding things on the menu that he can eat. Not only does Hershey Farm serve traditional PA Dutch recipes, but they have a soup, baked potato and salad bar, daily grill specials, a carving station, pizza, seafood, and of course the dessert bar. You can make your meal as healthy or as decadent as you want, and there is something for every appetite. Just make sure you save room for their famous chocolate cake! The dessert bar was my favorite part of the meal, and I had a hard time not sampling one of every dessert they had.

After stuffing ourselves full of delicious food, we made our way to the theater for the comedy show and took our seats. While we waited for the show to begin, we chatted with the couple next to us who were visiting from West Virginia. None of us had ever see the comedy show so we took turns guessing  what kind of jokes would be told. When the lights dimmed, comedian and ventriloquist Ryan Bomgardner took the stage.

From the second Ryan brought his friend little Jakey out onto the stage, the entire room was filled with uproarious laughter. The show went through an entire cast of characters from Jakey, the 8-year-old-Amish boy, to an elderly couple named Harold and Irene, to some real life “dummies” in the form of participants from the audience. I won’t give too much away, but I will say Ryan and his friends did a great job of giving non-locals a sense of what Lancaster County looks like from a local perspective. I found it pretty funny when the man sitting next to me leaned over and asked what Ryan meant by a “road apple.”  (For those of you not familiar with road apples, they are produced by horses and certainly not edible!) I absolutely loved Ryan’s clean sense of humor and honestly laughed so hard during this show that I cried!

When the show ended, I wanted to meet Ryan and little Jakey so my husband graciously waited with me until everyone left. Not only is Ryan absolutely hysterical, but he’s genuinely nice and took the time after the 85-minute performance to greet everyone who wanted to meet him.

I would definitely recommend seeing this show.  Whether you are young or old, a local, or visiting from out of town, you will have a guaranteed laugh-until-your-cheeks-hurt, tears-streaming-down-your-face, great time!

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An overnight stay with former Amish

I hopped in the car and drove east. The drive was familiar although the destination uncertain. This city gal left Downtown Lancaster and breathed a sigh of relief. I needed an escape from the emails and the meetings, from the loud music and bright lights. For one night I was offered an escape to the countryside to stay overnight with a former Amish family.

Much of my time outside of the city has been spent down in Pequea where I discovered trails, dipped in swimming holes, and climbed around the endless curves that make up its wooded roads. This time I was traveling to the flat, open farmland. The cornstalks stood at attention, swaying slightly in the evening breeze. Cows and horses dotted the grassy hills, as I called out in excitement, the same excitement that had existed in my childhood. As the sunlight dwindled, I followed my GPS not once, but twice past my supposed destination. I pulled over and checked the address, finding my location the good ol’ fashioned way by looking at mailboxes and fence posts for house numbers.

As I neared my destination, Stoltzfus Bed & Breakfast, I saw a large, white farmhouse with green trim that sat atop a hill and was nestled between farms. I pulled into the driveway and up past the house to park. I was greeted by one of the owners, Ginger Stoltzfus, a lovely, charming and bubbly personality, her smile kind and sparkly. She told me a bit of the mansion’s history. It was built in 1845 and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. My challenge was to find where freed slaves had hidden; this task, however, was completely forgotten as I took in my surroundings and the warm demeanor of my hosts. Sam Stoltzfus had joined us in the tour and we made it as far as the dining room table before I realized my complete neglect of this part of Lancaster County.

The three of us sat at the table, a map spread out in front of us, and a plan being formed for that evening and the next day. The day ahead, they assured me, could take me anywhere I’d like to go. Each time I was asked if I had been to one location or another, my response was “not yet,” to which Sam exclaimed, “We need to get you out of the city!” A few minutes into our planning, I knew this to be true.

Sam and Ginger are determined to direct their guests to the best the area has to offer, providing them with the ultimate Lancaster County experience. Sam and Ginger both grew up Amish, Sam locally and Ginger in York County. I trusted their judgment in all things Amish, although I knew I was not the typical guest they usually entertain. They told me I could pet calves and eat ice cream, buy dry goods for my upcoming camping trip, or have dinner with an Amish family. I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go… all I knew was that I needed food. My stomach was growling. Prepared with a list of restaurants, a description for each, and directions, we let my tummy do the talking. It took me to a local diner, one of Sam and Ginger’s favorite places.

Enter the scenic drive through the countryside, the juxtaposition between modern day lifestyle and a simpler way of life. I passed an Amish family plowing their garden, a young boy perched atop a horse with a second child guiding, the rest of the siblings ready and prepared to sow the earth. Around the next bend, I passed a group of “English” teenagers smoking and gathered around a motorcycle, slightly disheveled and appearing bored. A bit further down, a young, pig-tailed Amish girl ran towards the road, waving enthusiastically. Something simple and beautiful, I thought, as I waved back.

My dinner was no less extraordinary. However, I felt much like Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: totally out of my element, stepping into some alternate reality. Clad in fake Wayfairers and noisy bangles, I took my seat and ordered an iced tea. My meal consisted of a cheeseburger with coleslaw. A regular, Roger, caught me laughing at a text message and struck up conversation. He sat one booth away, but we faced one another as we dined and laughed. He had chicken with a side salad. Soon I said my goodbyes and was on the road again, headed back to test out the air conditioning I had been eyeing up during the tour.

As darkness set in, I used the flashlight cleverly attached to my room key to guide my way towards the house and found my way to my room. I flipped on the switch, tossed off my shoes, and tested out the bed. Covered in a beautiful quilt, I slipped down into the sheets: pure heaven. The sheets were incredibly soft, the pillows just right. I had a TV, but no bother, I was inspired to keep it simple that evening. I read through Sam and Ginger’s Welcome/Guest Book. I peeked through the organized book of things to do in the area, imagining for a moment I was on really vacation. This would be a nice place, I thought, as I dozed off to the hum of the cool, condensed air.

The morning was no less homey. Breakfast was served promptly at 8:30 AM, and I was dying for a cup off coffee from the fancy machine Ginger had pointed out the day before. I hopped in the shower, pleasantly surprised to find a massaging showerhead, perfect for that kink in my neck I had developed over the last days of sitting in front of my computer. As I toweled off, I noticed the little touches around my room. Local goat’s milk lotion, beautiful furniture, and hand-painted signs. I made my way downstairs to the breakfast room table, surprised to see two more guests. I knew they were there, but I hadn’t heard a peep. Skip and Terry were from Maryland and here to spend some time in an area where people lived a simpler lifestyle. I guess we all needed to get away.

Breakfast was amazing and the coffee hit the spot. Ginger had left cheese off my side of my frittata, thoughtful of my random dietary issues we had discussed the night before. Amish nut butter, a delicious traditional cheese spread, sausage, and venison scrapple. The majority of the ingredients came from friends or neighbors aside from the potatoes, but I didn’t care. It was incredible. The Stoltzfuses, Ginger’s mother, Skip, Terry, and I sat around the table talking about our plans for the day, telling a little bit about ourselves, and sharing a meal together much like friends and family. After the plates were cleared, Skip and Terry said adeiu, and I headed upstairs to pack my bag.

The care with which Ginger and Sam had taken to expose the beauty of their historic home, uncovering wooden beams and pitted bricks, was the same care they gave to me to reveal the potential of my stay. As they led me from room to room, the mansion to the carriage house, I could see the love and care they bestowed upon their property. It was no accident they bestowed the same love and care onto me. I had assumed I’d just be spending the night in a different bed, with some air-conditioning, and a warm, morning shower. Instead I felt at home, with friends and family to share a meal with, a little ginger cat to rest in my lap, and laundry list of things I wanted to do in the area the moment I had time to spare.

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The Amazing Annual Whoopie Pie Festival

Are you a fan of the whoopie pie? If you aren’t then you most certainly will be after you attend the annual Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn. If you’re like me and are a die-hard fan of this tasty creation, you definitely want to make plans to attend this festival.

My family and I planned to visit the 2014 Whoopie Pie Festival on Saturday, September 6, but I have to confess I was dreading the parking situation. I was so relieved to read on the festival’s website that they would be providing shuttles from several locations. We decided to catch the shuttle from the American Music Theater. The shuttle bus was air conditioned and very fancy. My kids are used to school buses, so this was a big treat for them and got our day off to a good start. The driver told me shuttles run every 20 minutes to each location to make it easy to get back to your car when you’ve finished your day.

When we arrive at the festival, my children and I couldn’t believe the sheer number of whoopie pies that were gathered in one place; everywhere you looked there were whoopies. Not knowing what else to do, we started off in the Whoopie Pie tent where over a 100 varieties of whoopies were available for purchase.

At first we played it safe by picking up the original chocolate whoopie pie with vanilla filling, then we branched out to coconut and strawberry fillings. Finally, we got brave with a vanilla cookie with sprinkles featuring cream cheese filling. My son, the most adventurous of us, got a root beer filled chocolate whoopie pie.

We wished we would have brought a cooler so we could have taken home the banana orange, marble salted caramel, chocolate chunk mint chip, and chocolate dipped whoopies… but without a cooler they’d wouldn’t have made it home without melting.

I didn’t venture into the “adults only” section of the tent, but I heard that some new special whoopie pies featured flavors like Bailey’s Irish Creme and Creme de Menthe. Bring ID if you want these extra special ones because they will card you!

We checked out the craft vendors selling everything from cards to stuffed animals. There was lots to choose from and all were friendly folks eager to help you make a selection. I would have liked tohave shopped longer, but my kids were pulling me to the Whoopie Pie Treasure Hunt.

The Treasure Hunt is a free activity where kids can hunt for up to ten mini-whoopies to take home with them, but it is the famous golden whoopie that gets them the prize. My daughter found one of the golden whoopies and she was thrilled with her prize – silly band bracelets in Amish themed shapes. There were two of each shape in the package, enough for her to share with her not-as-lucky brother which made life easier for me.

Next up we took pictures with the World’s Largest Whoopie Pie. Weighing in at 720 pounds, you’d need a lot of milk to get this one down. The cream filling would keep my sweet tooth satisfied for at least a year (OK, maybe just a month).

Next door was the Make Your Own Whoopie Pie booth. For $2 the kids were given a box with the chocolate cookies and decorating candy in it and filling was available on the decorating tables. I have to give the festival organizers bonus points here; the person working the booth asked right away if either child had a peanut allergy. My son is one of the lucky no-peanut kids, so he received an extra special box that was peanut-free. So often he is left out of food-related activities because people don’t think about food allergies, but here he was able to do the very same thing his sister did plus he got licorice which made him really happy. It is these types of things that keep me coming back to a food event year after year, the little touches that help my family have a good time even though we have some dietary limitations.

We didn’t get to see the Whoopie Yell Off, the Whoopie Pie Launch, the Whoopie Pie Eating Contest, or the live entertainment, but the kids did enjoy the bounce slide and seeing the farm animals.

When it was time to go home, we caught the shuttle bus back to our car. I was thankful the wait for our bus was less than five minutes. On a hot day even that length of time can seem forever. Despite the heat, my family enjoyed the Whoopie Pie Festival and we would visit again.

If your family would like to attend the 2015 Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant, here are a few tips for you:

  • Use the shuttle bus service. It is so nice to have air conditioning and a chance to rest your feet and parking at the event site is limited.
  • If it is hot, bring a cooler with ice packs for your whoopie pies so you can stock up on your favorites.
  • Arrive early for the best selection. If you want some of the limited flavors like chocolate chunk cookies and cream or vanilla rootbeer, be sure to beat the crowds.
  • Bring small bills for the bounce house, decorate your own whoopie and checkers. They do not accept cards and the prices are minimal.
  • If it is a sunny day, be sure to wear sunscreen.

I’ve been to many food festivals, but this one by far is the best I’ve attended. If you want to do something unusual and tasty with your family on a nice fall day, definitely consider the Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant. It’s a whole lot of fun.

 

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Bikes and a day Downtown

We were up early to enjoy our complimentary continental breakfast at the Lancaster Arts Hotel. We wanted to fuel ourselves for what we had planned as our Monday outing… on bicycles. Yes, the Lancaster Arts Hotel offers guests full use of bicycles for the day. How cool is that?

We rode down streets and up alleys and discovered interesting architecture, quaint cafes, and beautiful parks. While riding, we came upon the final resting place of the very famous Lancastrian, Thaddeus Stevens. He was actually born in Vermont, but we like to think of him as “one of our own” as he was first a member of the US House of Representatives who later became a successful lawyer in Gettysburg before moving his home and practice to our fair city. This ardent supporter of African-American rights and abolitionist is buried in Shreiner Concord Cemetery, a historic landmark on Mulberry Street.

Then we made a stop at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. Their gallery features craftsmen’s pottery, jewelry, furniture, fabrics, and so much more. We were totally enamored by the purses, necklaces, bowls, and even clothing creations of a guest Japanese craftsman, Yoko Ohbayashi, who creates washi paper crafts - all made of paper!

At this point, we had worked up an appetite, so we stopped at one of our favorite spots – Prince Street Café. Snagging a table at the front window looking out at the Fulton Theatre, we enjoyed steaming cups of coffee, a Thai chicken burrito, and a caprese sandwich on a toasted ciabatta roll. Yum! Prince Street Café is always filled with locals who know a good thing when they find it. The food, coffee, and free Wi-Fi make this choice for lunch a no-brainer.

On King Street, we discovered one of the many pianos placed around Lancaster City. These pianos are part of Music for Everyone’s “Keys for the City” Piano Tour. Twelve pianos are located around the city and are decorated by local artists and sponsored by area businesses and organizations. At any time, you can catch children or adults playing the ivory keys of these colorful instruments.

It was time to head back to the hotel, where they actually valet parked the bicycles (they really did!), to get showered and dressed for our dinner at the sensational nearby restaurant Fenz.

We are truly blessed to live so close to such a vibrant and cultured city as Lancaster. Our home is a mere four-minute drive away and we, admittedly, tend to take for granted the gem that is just down the street. It was both invigorating and educational to take the time to rediscover Lancaster City, particularly by bike. Don’t wait too long to do the same.

Stephen and Sandy Gambone live in Lancaster. When Stephen’s not immersed in Fusion – ART, www.Etsy.com/shop/FusionARTfurniture, he enjoys being a personal fitness trainer.Sandy works for a local advertising company and loves to cook, spend time with her “grand puppy” Bella, experience art, culture, food… and, of course, wine.  

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Check out this high-class restaurant

If you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant in Lancaster, look no further than Checkers Bistro. Recently, I had the pleasure of not only eating at Checkers for dinner, but also getting a tour of the new location on Harrisburg Avenue. I was impressed with the recent changes made to this Lancaster City staple.

If you haven’t heard, this February, Checkers moved from its old location where it spent 7 years delighting Lancaster with its delicious menu, to a brand new, and much larger location on Harrisburg Avenue as a part of Champion Forge (next to the Lancaster Arts Hotel). The new location is beautiful and boasts a much larger bar area and comfortable new seating in the dining area along with a location for private parties. The entire space received a complete remodel and the dining room now flows beautifully giving a feeling of grandeur and class.

If you’ve dined at Checkers Bistro in the past, you’ll still enjoy its staple menu favorites at this new location along with seasonal specials that never disappoint. One of my favorite menu items is the pasta Bolognese. The soft wide parpadelle pasta smothered in a rich meat sauce an accompanied with cheese is a dish that warms my stomach and my soul each time I visit Checkers.

Checkers Bistro has always been and continues to be a great restaurant for a date, but the new location also makes it even better for a drink with friends. Checkers has a small plates menu, a delicious drink menu, and a large bar that winds through the new space accommodating more customers and making Checkers a great place to meet up with friends any time of the day or evening.

Even though the new location boasts a larger dining room and more seats, you’ll still need a reservation if you plan on having dinner on a weekend. Be sure and check out Checkers’ new website which also allows you to make reservations online through Open Table.

If you haven’t been out to see the new Checkers Bistro yet, add it to your to-do list and don’t forget to end with dessert. It never disappoints!

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Roadside Stands & Local Farmers

Growing up in the farm country of Lancaster County. Moving to suburban Philadelphia and New York City for 20 years. Working on Wall Street. Traveling the world as a consultant.

Moving back to Lancaster County gives one an interesting perspective. Of course, even though we lived and worked in New York City and Philadelphia, we’d make frequent trips back to Lititz where my wife and I grew up to visit family. It always felt like a step back in time – more simple, relaxed, friendlier.

I’ve crested 55 and lived here again for just over 10 years. Our youngest daughter goes off to college in a few weeks. Those 20 years out of the area were our family and career building years, not only full of excitement and adventure but sky-rocketing stress, high anxiety and a struggle to master the world. It wasn’t until I got laid off from a very good job, that we decided we wanted a simpler life and moved back to Lancaster County.

One of the things I love about Lancaster County are the roadside farm markets. They’re all over the place. I intentionally drive past my favorite stand on the way from home from my current job at Garden Spot Village. Sometime I’ll stop and simply get a homemade whoopie pie for less than a dollar. That’s right – less than a dollar! Often I’ll pick up fresh fruits or vegetables that came out of the fields surrounding the stand. It’s amazing.

Dinner last night was salad topped with shrimp so I stopped for fresh greens, peppers, carrots and broccoli to add to the shrimp in the fridge. It’s great to know that what you’re eating is organically grown, fresh and wholesome. And this particular weekend, Friday and Saturday, held a special surprise! Fresh Peach Sundaes for .99 cents. Oh yeah! Three scoops of Turkey Hill Ice Cream, topped with fresh peaches that were just washed, peeled, sliced and finished off with a swirl of whipped cream. It was heavenly. Is that crazy or what? Where else do you find fresh hand-dipped sundaes for .99 cents? Certainly not suburban Philadelphia or New York City, I can tell you that!

Having grown up in Lititz, roadside farm stands were just a common thing, something I drove past and ignored. It’s only been in the last several years that I’ve discovered how amazingly incredibly they are. Not only are the baked goods, cheeses and produce wonderfully farm fresh, the families that run them are extremely friendly and helpful. And sometimes they do crazy things like fresh peach sundaes for 99 cents.

If you live in Lancaster County or you visit regularly, do yourself a favor and add visits to local farm stands into your routine. If you’re visiting be sure to stop and check some out. You’ll be glad you did. If you’re feeling like life is too complex, full of unreasonable responsibilities and way too stressful, you might want to do what we did: take a step back in time and make Lancaster County home. For us life got a lot simpler and happier and Lancaster holds that same potential for you. And then, well, maybe a roadside farm stand might be right next door! Imagine the possibilities and adventure of a simpler life!

To read more about Garden Spot Village, go to www.gardenspotvillage.org/blog.

 

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A seasoning for everything

Growing up in my household, seasoning a meal involved salt, pepper, or ketchup. (Sorry mom and dad, I know you really didn’t have time to cook.) Now that I have a household of my own and am learning to cook for myself, I am exploring new flavors and seasonings in my dishes. Enter Olio Olive Oils & Balsamics, a shop I discovered in downtown Lititz.

The entrance of this store was totally deceiving. It looks small from the outside, but it’s spacious in the inside – it has to be in order to hold the 75 different flavors of olive oils and balsamics that they sell there. Yes, you read that correctly, 75! Now I realize at this point that some of you may be thinking that seems a little overwhelming and you wouldn’t know where to begin, but the owners of the store are extremely helpful and will answer any questions you have. They even have a pairing sheet to tell you which olive oils and balsamics pair well together if you are feeling a bit intimidated.

I wanted to find something unique and surprising, so I started tasting my way around the store. Some of my favorites were the Fig, Lavender, and Honey Ginger balsamics. I also really enjoyed the Basil/Lemongrass, Persian Lime, and Herbs de Provence Olive Oils. Curious to try some of the olive oil and balsamic pairings, I decided to make another sweep of the shop. My favorite combination was the Tuscan Herb EVOO with the Fig balsamic, so delicious! There are so many unique and wonderful flavors you can combine to make your perfect pairing. The most surprising one to me was Chipotle infused EVOO with Chocolate balsamic. A steak marinated in this delicious combination would make for a unique and different meal at a dinner party.

Olio sells their olive oils and balsamic in 3 different sizes and they do not add any sugars to their products. They also carry several unflavored oils and balsamics, specialty oils, salts, sugars, pasta sauces, flavored honey, and skin care products. Not only can you shop their retail store for products, but you can purchase online as well. They will ship anywhere in the U.S. and will also make and ship gift baskets.

I got some great suggestions for recipes while I was visiting the shop. Pete, the owner suggested trying the Chocolate balsamic on ice cream for a sugar-free topping option. What a great idea! He also recommended the Honey Ginger balsamic on fish, especially salmon. I decided to purchase that one as well as the Mandarin Orange white balsamic.

The next night, I made honey-ginger salmon for dinner. It was so easy – all I did was marinate the salmon in the balsamic for about 15 minutes, then cooked it in a pan on the stove. Add your sides, and you have a really simple and delicious meal! I saved the Mandarin Orange balsamic for cocktails during girls’ night. Who knew you could infuse your cocktails with balsamics?

Olio is a great place to shop for anyone from a home cook to a pro chef. With so many options and flavors, the recipe possibilities are endless.

You can visit Olio Olive Oils & Balsamics’ website (oliooliveoil.com) for their complete list of products as well as recipes, or follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OlioOliveOil) for weekly recipe ideas and events.

Ingredients for Mandarin Orange Ginger cocktails:
- 1 oz. vodka
- 5 oz. club soda
- 1 tsp. Olio Mandarin Orange balsamic (start with this amount, you can always add more to taste)
- Splash of ginger beer
- Orange slices for garnish

Step 1: Add the balsamic and vodka and stir to combine. Pour into a glass and add ice.
Step 2: Add the club soda to the infused vodka and stir.
Step 3: Top with a splash of ginger beer.
Step 4: Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy!

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Long Johns, candles, animals, and more

You don’t often hear about Leola, PA, but nestled in the heart of PA Dutch Country is a quaint town worth visiting. My sister, our two kiddos, and I decided to spend the day in this town, discovering it’s treasures.

We started our day at Achenbach’s Pastry. They are known throughout the County for their baked goods, but particularly for their Long Johns (a long, almost rectangular, filled doughnut, often iced). But beyond their Long Johns, all of their pastries are amazing and, best of all, they contain no preservatives and are served straight from the oven to the customer… can’t beat that! From cinnamon buns and breads to pies and cakes, this place has it all.

The kids gravitated to the chocolate covered doughnuts, I chose a peanut butter Long John and a chocolate Long John (don’t judge me), and my sister picked out a cheese danish. With pastries in one hand and drinks in the other, we headed outside to sit at a picnic table. If the weather is poor, there are a couple indoor tables at which you can sit. Otherwise, head back to your hotel room or to your favorite indoor spot to devour your goodies. If you’re looking for made-to-order cakes (birthday, anniversary, graduation, wedding or otherwise), this is bakery you must check out.

After our sweet and satisfying breakfast, we headed to Hayloft Candles & Petting Zoo just down the road. As soon as we pulled in, the kids spotted the petting zoo. It was larger than I expected. It was clean, well kept, and the admission is free. We gave quarters to the kids so that they could buy food to feed to the animals. They were so excited to meet, feed, and pet the animals. In the middle of the zoo is an beautiful pond surrounded by a walking path. We walked around the lake, fed the ducks, then met the another animals. The zoo has goats, birds, ducks, bunnies, chickens, donkeys, a Scottish Highlander (a breed of cow), llama, peacock, kangaroo, and more. We enjoyed feeding the Scottish Highlander most. His tongue was so large and unusual – the kids giggled with delight as the mammoth animal licked the food from their hands.

After 45 minutes of free outdoor entertainment, we headed inside the store. It’s large! It has two floors filled to the rafters with home décor. From homemade candles of every size and scent to decorative wreaths, knick knacks, and postcards, they have everything. A shopping dream come true! They also have homemade ice cream and refreshments for purchase.

I would say that Hayloft Candles & Petting Zoo is a destination that everyone should put on their itinerary. The location is great, and the scenery beautiful, plus there’s so much to do… and buy.

Our stomach’s began to rumble, so we packed in the car and headed to The Back Page Restaurant, only a stone’s throw away. What a surprise! We didn’t know what to expect going there, but what we found was a casual sports bar with a great beer selection, a spacious family-friendly seating area, an adjoining game room complete with billiards, air hockey, video games, and a patio with a fully equipped Tiki bar. The atmosphere felt comfortable and welcoming.We chose to pile into booth near the game room. Deciding to give their appetizers a try, we ordered Garlic Herb and Mozzarella Crustini, Quesadillas, and Beer-Battered Onion Rings. Everything was absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. Between myself, my sister, and the kids, we devoured every last bite.

We had a blast together and enjoyed the treasures we found in Leola. Be sure to put this town on your “must do” list for the next time you visit Lancaster County!

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An afternoon stroll through Intercourse

One of my favorite places to visit in Lancaster County is the Village of Intercourse. Yeah, it has a funny name, but it also has some of the best little shops to visit, especially if you love taste testing great food and seeing beautiful handcrafts.

Kitchen Kettle Village is a huge draw to this location and, with over 40 shops, there is a lot to see. My favorite shop is the Jam and Relish Kitchen where they can, bottle, and jar jams, jellies, relishes, salsas, and more for you to take home. If you like to taste-test samples, this will be one of your favorite places since nearly every item for sale is open for you to try. Online ordering is also available.

A short walk from Kitchen Kettle Village is the Old Candle Barn. Don’t let the name fool you, they have much more than candles. There are tons of home decorations, lamps, and linens waiting for you to look through. The shop is changed seasonally, so no matter when you visit, you will find something wonderful to take home with you. The candle selection is marvelous and includes soy candles which are fragrance and dye free.

If you are a quilter you must visit Zooks Fabric Store. I’ve been getting my quilting fabric from them for over 25 years. They have a fine selection of popular commercial brands plus Kona cottons and the hard-to-find Amish solids you need to finish that Sunshine and Shadow quilt you’ve been making.

Not a quilter, but love quilts? Then visit Dutchland Quilt Patch to see ready-made Amish and Mennonite quilts for sale. Smaller sized wall hangings and quilted accessories are also available if your budget isn’t ready for a full size quilt. This shop is a great place to find gifts for birthdays and holiday.

Cross the street and you can visit the Intercourse Pretzel Factory. A free tour is offered when the factory is in operation; otherwise, you can sample and buy a wide variety of freshly made pretzels. Both hard and soft pretzels are made in the factory and all are delicious.

If taste-testing is your favorite hobby, then you definitely want to visit the Intercourse Canning Company. A huge selection of canned goods waits for you in a rainbow of colors and flavors. Previously housed in an older building, the Canning Company has moved to Center Street, but is still within walking distance of the heart of Intercourse.Cooking demos are offered at certain times and a video history of canning is also available.

Near the Intercourse Canning Company is Stoltzfus Meats and Deli. This is a great place to pick up a snack of some lebanon bologna and farmer’s cheese and a nice cold drink. Be sure to pack a cooler in your car to take home a pound or two of their great meats and cheese for later. They also feature Amos’ Place Restaurant if you need more than a snack.

I know you are curious… so here’s the scoop on the village name. The Village of Intercourse was founded in 1754 and the word intercourse at that time was used to reference fellowship or a social gathering. Since the village is also the place where two main roads cross it makes a lot of sense that it was named Intercourse. But if you’d like to think that this piece of history is all wrong and it means something else, well, there will be a lot of t-shirts to support your theory in the gift shops, so have fun!

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