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RefreshingMT

A Refreshing Flight through the Trees

Lancaster County is full of unexpected attractions to experience and things to see. Beyond the farmland are rolling hills, an ideal home for a woodland retreat such as Refreshing Mountain Retreat & Adventure Center.

I traveled off of the roads I was familiar with, igniting my sense of adventure. Upon arriving and getting out of the car, I was greeted with fresh mountain air that was slightly cool after a passing spring shower. Let the adventure begin!

There is really so much to do at Refreshing Mountain. For those who are daring and not afraid of an off-the-ground adventure, they have two zip lining courses – the Challenge Adventure course and Aerial Excursion Course. I opted for the Challenge Adventure course because that course features five zip lines PLUS nine rope course elements. They certainly don’t use the word “challenge” lightly – the rope course elements tested my balance, strength and mental stamina but in the end, I’m glad I set fear aside and tried them. From swinging from one platform to another on a foot propelled swing to a challenge they call “the monkey vine,” I think I can safely say this is the closest thing to tightrope walking that I will ever do. After conquering half the challenge elements, it was time to fly through the trees.

If you’d rather spend more time zipping from tree to tree, the Aerial Excursion Course features seven zip lines, double the length of the Challenge Adventure course, along with three sky bridges.

With a harness, helmet, and knowledgeable guides, I felt safe even 60 feet off the ground. The zip lining tour guides were kind and not only ready to teach, but also to answer questions as we went along. They gave clear instructions which helped me feel confident and safe.

For those who’d rather stick to adventure of the ground, there are plenty of things to experience including a hands-on reptile exhibit, playground, swimming pool, pedal cars and more. New for this year, Refreshing Mountain is offering three different Adventure Packages which give families or groups the option to do a variety of activities. Each package features three to four activities that highlight different aspects of nature and adventure.

The Explorer Package includes the Climbing Tower, Pedal Cars, Paintball Targets & Archery.

The Discovery Package includes the Hands-on Reptile Exhibit, GPS Nature Hunt, Sling Shots & Archery.

The Horse Rides & Farm Animal Experience includes the opportunity to pet, groom and learn safety around horses, a hand-led horse ride and time with other farm animals.

My experience was both exhilarating and refreshing as I got to try something new while enjoying nature’s beauty. The thrill of flying through the trees is best experienced by discovering it for yourself! Learn more about Refreshing Mountain Retreat & Adventure Center and book your excursion today.

May Things to Do

Ten Things to Do in Lancaster County in May

The flowers are blooming and the weather is getting warmer. It’s May in Lancaster County! With the longer days come exciting events and things to do, whether you’re visiting for a day or a week.

Fruity Festivals:

Strawberries and Rhubarb are being celebrated this month at foodie-approved festivals.

Kitchen Kettle Village’s annual Rhubarb Festival will be held May 20 and 21 to pay tribute to this spring vegetable. This family-friendly festival features live music, a Rhubarb Race Car Derby, and a Rhubarb Dessert Contest. Stroll around the village, sample rhubarb-centric treats, and browse a variety of shops.

To celebrate strawberries, Country Barn will host their first annual Strawberry Festival on May 28th to celebrate the harvest of this colorful fruit. Foodies and families can enjoy activities, home-made ice cream and strawberry dishes, wagon farm tours and a strawberry contest while visiting this working, family-owned farm.

Take in a Show:

From spiritual to comical, there’s a variety of shows on stage this month that will have you awestruck or dancing in the aisles.

For the music-lover, Million Dollar Quartet debuts at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, and tells the story of the recording session that brought Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins together for the first and only time. It’s a blast from the past that will have you tapping your toes beginning May 6 and running through June 19.

From the silver-screen to the stage comes Ghost: the Musical at the Fulton Theatre, running through May 14. If you’re looking for a captivating, romantic musical with Broadway-caliber performances, this one is for you.

Show Off Your Team Spirit:

If the thrill of an exciting sporting event is more your style, May brings exciting games to Downtown Lancaster and Spooky Nook Sports.

Cheer on the US Women’s National Field Hockey Team as they take on Chile in a test series at Spooky Nook Sports on May 14, 17 and 19. This series is a great opportunity to support the team as they prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

For the soccer fans, professional soccer returns to Clipper Magazine Stadium May 22 and 24. The Harrisburg City Islanders will play Bethlehem Steel FC (May 22) and Toronto FC II (May 24) in Downtown Lancaster to kick off the first two of five matches at this stadium this season.

Experience the Art Scene:

Lancaster’s art scene is blossoming and the spring ArtWalk is the perfect time to experience local independent galleries. This event features a self-guided tour of downtown galleries, special demonstrations, meet-the-artist events, children’s activities and more, taking place May 7 through 8.

Step Back in Time:

History buffs can step back in time with a visit to one of Lancaster’s many historical attractions.

19th century baseball comes to life with Strasburg Rail Road’s® Vintage Base Ball Day on May 14. Hop aboard a steam train which will take you to Verdant View Farm for a baseball game played by old-fashioned rules.

Travel back to the 1700s at Ephrata Cloister, one of America’s earliest religious communities. This Mother’s Day, you can experience the tasks performed by mothers during this period with hands-on activities like making butter, spinning thread and writing with a quill pen.

LancasterHistory.org brings World War II to life during their Encampment on May 21 through 22, where you can explore vintage military vehicles, talk to the troops and view artifacts and photographs. The recreated camps complete with tanks, truck, tents and troops will transport you back to the 1940s for an immersive historical experience.

And that’s just the short list! For a complete list of the events happening in Lancaster County in May and beyond, visit our online events calendar. Happy travels!

Courtesy of Shady Maple

Shady Maple – Where Food is a Destination!

One of the popular ways to enjoy delicious Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is with a meal at a buffet, or Smorgasbord as they’re called in Lancaster County. With a craving for a hearty, home-style breakfast, I took a trip to Lancaster County’s largest smorgasbord, Shady Maple. From donuts, pastries and fresh fruit to eggs prepared your way, there is truly something for everyone.  I had bacon and their savory hash brown casserole on my mind, and added creamed chipped beef over home fries and a doughnut to my plate (don’t worry – I ate LOTS of vegetables for lunch). At the grill areas, they make pancakes and waffles with a variety of mix-ins and toppings and eggs prepared to order, eggs Benedict and omelets. Serving a variety of egg options, Shady Maple goes through 3,000 eggs every Saturday – WOW!

When lunch and dinner roll around, their buffet features an extensive salad bar, soup, meats, cheeses, homemade bread and fabulous grill options. At lunchtime you can find hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn fritters, to name a few. Their dinner grill options vary through the week with options like Prime Rib on Wednesdays and BBQ on Thursdays.

After my delicious breakfast, it was time to do a little shopping (and walking) in their 40,000 sq. ft. gift shop, located in the same building as the smorgasbord. The gift shop features furniture, games and toys for kids, jewelry, Christmas ornaments and collectibles, canned jellies and jams and so much more! They even sell merchandise featuring their mascots Whoop-e-pie and T-bone steak.

Shady Maple began with humble roots as a road side farm market almost 46 years ago, growing to the 110,000 sq. ft. farmers market it is today. Along with standard groceries, the farmers market sells local produce, meats smoked in-house and delicious baked goods produced in their own on-site bakery. My favorites are their apple fritters and maple bacon long johns. Yes- they put bacon on a doughnut, and yes- it is absolutely scrumptious. In addition to donuts, the Shady Maple bakery produces pies, whoopie pies in a variety of flavors, specialty breads, sticky buns and so much more.

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Shady Maple is a Lancaster County staple and worth a trip! Stop by for a meal at Shady Maple Smorgasbord or PA Dutch style baked goods at the Farm Market next time you’re in the area.

Speckled Hen Blog

Speckled Hen Coffee

Tucked between the historic bed & breakfasts and train attractions of Strasburg is a quaint café by the name of Speckled Hen Coffee. Excited to try something new, I ventured there for lunch and a caffeinated afternoon pick-me-up.

Speckled Hen Coffee is located on Main Street in Strasburg with ample parking for patrons. Upon entering the café, I noticed the crisp, clean décor and ample natural light. There is a patio out front for al fresco dining on the warmer days. A room next to the coffee bar and main dining area features a table with toys for children to play with while the parents enjoy their coffee. Speckled Hen Coffee features beautifully finished concrete floors with tables near the large windows where you can watch the occasional horse and buggy trot by.

Their breakfast menu including omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and house-made baked oatmeal (just to name a few) is served all day, but I was in the mood for lunch and opted for the Turkey Bacon Jam sandwich with a side salad and a latte. Not only was the latte beautiful, but it was also hot and rich – perfect! They source their coffee from Passenger Coffee, a coffee roasting company located in Downtown Lancaster which speaks to their passion for local products and the Lancaster County community.

From the minute I ordered my sandwich, I couldn’t wait for the first bite… and it was flawless. Melted Gouda, turkey and bacon jam were married between two perfectly pressed pieces of wheat-berry bread. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Chips are offered as a side, but the fresh, tender lettuce they source from Meck’s Produce paired with their delicious balsamic dressing made me forget chips even existed. They take pride in their food by using fresh, local products and making many items in house, like their bacon jam.

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Turkey Bacon Jam sandwich with a side salad… Yum!

After a savory lunch, I was longing for something sweet. The pastry display was filled with sweet treats from macaroons to coffee cake. I opted for one of their special desserts this spring, lemon-lavender cake. The lavender created a floral aroma while the lemon added a refreshing element. It was a uniquely delicious treat, especially on a bright spring day. Also inspired by the flowers of spring, they have added a lavender latte and lavender and rose sodas to their menu for the season.

Lemon Lavendar Cake

Lemon Lavendar Cake

 

During my visit I had the honor of chatting with the café’s co-owner about the inspiration behind the café and its name. Their love for celebrating what makes everyone unique, their community and coffee inspired the name “Speckled Hen Coffee.” They show their community spirit through hosting Music Fridays to showcase local musicians and partnering with Zolé Art Factory to host paint nights to bring coffee, art and people together.

I can’t wait to visit Speckled Hen Coffee again, especially for their Wednesday Burger Night to experience their selection of gourmet burgers and dessert options. Did I mention they have house-made desserts AND Carmen and David’s ice cream?

Whether it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even just a quick cup of coffee, check out Speckled Hen Coffee for yourself!

Image Courtesy of Kauffman's Fruit Farm

Kauffman’s Famous Fruit Farm & Market

Kauffman’s Fruit Farm & Market has been family-owned and operated since the founder, Amos L. (A.L.) Kauffman planted the first fruit trees in 1911. Today, over 100 years later, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generations run the business; and the orchards are now producing over 135 varieties of tree fruits on 100 acres. Pretty impressive!

When A.L. built a packing house in 1937, he made it larger than most other buildings in the area because he believed that his business would expand exponentially. He had dreams of growing the best tasting fruit in the region and building a successful business that would continue on for generations.

In 1954, a critical part of his vision was fulfilled when his five sons became business partners. A. L. Kauffman & Sons began a new chapter.

In A.L.’s lifetime alone, the orchard grew to have 55 acres of apples, 35 acres of peaches, 3 acres of pears, and 4 acres of plums and cherries.

For the Kauffman family, hard work, skill-perfecting, family traditions, and fond memories have marked every milestone, every season, and every year of their growing business. Picking apples in the orchard, making cider, assisting in the farm market, and managing a growing business have all been key to the family’s success.

While they are thankful for their rich history, strong values, and meaningful traditions, they continue to grow and adapt to the needs of their customers. They proudly combine values of the past with visions for the future.

Because the Kauffman family loves their business, the local community, and each customer, they promise to continue growing food responsibly, sustainably, and healthfully for many more generations.

Image Courtesy of Kauffman's Fruit Farm

Image Courtesy of Kauffman’s Fruit Farm

To learn more about the market and Kauffman’s delicious produce, read Christina’s post.

Learn more about the Kauffman family or purchase their 100th-anniversary keepsake book, FAITH, FAMILY & FRUIT.

Be sure to check out other iconic Lancaster County hot-spots such as Shady Maple Smorgasbord, Strasburg Rail Road, and Lancaster Central Market, and Green Dragon.

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What Exactly is Chow-Chow?

Chow-Chow, not to be confused with the breed of dog hailing from China, is a sweet and sour mix of pickled vegetables often served as a side dish next to PA Dutch classic cuisine.

Not only is chow-chow delicious, it’s also a resourceful use of odd amounts of vegetables left at the end of harvest, giving it the nickname “end of season relish.” Left-over carrots, onions, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, corn, peppers, beans, etc. are canned together with a sweet and sour pickling liquid.

While the origin of the name isn’t officially known, there are a few theories. Some believe it comes from the French word for cabbage, Chou. Others say it comes from the Indian squash, chayote, which is also known as chow-chow.

Regional flavors and variations do exist, including the less-sweet southern version and varieties that are chopped and shredded.

Pick up a jar of the Pennsylvania Dutch version and try it for yourself! Find chow-chow along with many other jams, sauces and pickles at Intercourse Canning Company.

Thank you to Intercourse Canning Company assisting with the chow-chow facts.

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Waltz Wine Dinner at The General Sutter Inn

A perfect ending to the first day of Spring!

Eating out and Dining Out are two totally different things. Dining is often reserved for that special someone or group of friends looking for a special night out together. Additionally, if you’re thinking fine dining you’re thinking extraordinary food and drink. The Waltz Wine Dinner at the General Sutter Inn had it all!

For Cheryl and I, in recent years, it’s one of our all-time favorite dining experiences. We sign up the minute we see the announcement. This was our third and we’ll certainly be back again!

We arrived just after 5:30. There were ten tables of eight in the newly renovated ballroom at The General Sutter Inn. We were seated with three couples who naturally love good wines and fine foods so there were immediate common interests. From there the exchanges comfortably drifted to unique local experiences, world travels and a host of common interests. The conversations were easy and relaxed. We had a wonderful time together throughout the evening.

Jan & Kim Waltz, the proprietors of The Waltz Estate Vineyards are wonderful hosts. After they greeted us and thanked everyone for coming Jan talked about the uniqueness of their vineyards. It was unmistakably obvious that Jan is both passionate and meticulous about their wines as he articulated the history, the processes, the love and care he pours into his craft. Their list of awards is long, distinguished and well deserved. “The General Sutter Inn was the first local establishment to offer our wines,” said Kim, “when we first talked about a pairing the General Sutter said if we can get 35 people to come we can make it work. Tonight, again, we’re sold out to a packed house of 80!” Applause filled the room.

When asked, “which comes first the food or the wine?” Executive Chef Robert Brynes responded without hesitation, “The wine!  I build the menu from there.” And what a menu he prepared! Along with Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Hooton and their team, they prepared a delightful 5 course dinner. See the menu and the pairings below. They took fabulous wines and paired them with dishes that drew out the unique flavors of each. It was a magnificent experience. The wines by themselves are wonderful. The dishes by themselves were outstanding. Put them together and it was absolutely extraordinary!

Every dish with every wine was expertly paired. The aromas drew you in and the presentation made your mouth water. A taste of the dish, a sip of the wine. They served three whites and two reds. I’m not a big white wine fan but each of the pairings was exquisite. I enjoyed every course and each glass of wine. Something special happens when the pairing is done just right. Red, white it didn’t matter, everything was delicious. It’s hard to describe, you simply have to experience it.

Around 8:30 dessert and the final wine was served. Three delightful hours with new friends, great food and wonderful wines concluded with a sweet and savory taste to remember. It was a fabulous evening!

As our hosts thanked us once again for coming they mentioned that Waltz Estate Winery & The General Sutter Inn are planning 3 pairings a year. Check their websites for dates and be sure to reserve your seats.  If you are from out of the area, I’d suggest booking a room at the General Sutter Inn and make a weekend of it. They offer both historic early American rooms and contemporary Rock Lititz rooms. Lititz is a wonderful small town and Lancaster is a beautiful place to visit.

If you enjoy fine wines and fine dining you will love a General Sutter and Waltz Wine paring. Watch the announcements and sign up early. I know we will.

THE PAIRINGS
Wines by Waltz Estate Vineyards
Dinner by The General Sutter Inn
Lititz, Pa

First Course
Cranberry Relish, Brie & Toasted Almonds in Warm Puff Pastry
*Paired with Stiegal Rose

Second Course
Pan Seared Striped Bass with Roasted Fennel Puree & Spiced Green Apple Compote
*Paired with Sauvignon Blanc

Third Course
Pappardelle Pasta with Braised Pork Ragu
*Paired with Barred Rock Red

Fourth Course
Lollypop Lamb Chops with Moroccan Cous Cous & Parsnip Ribbons
*Paired with Baron Red

Final Course
Warm Peach Cobbler with Oatmeal Streusel Topping & Whipped Cream
*Paired with Seasonal Moscato

Makes your mouth water just looking over the menu doesn’t it. The experience is everything you might imagine and maybe just a little bit more!

Courtesy of Cameron Estate Inn & Restaurant

A Romantic Leap Get Away!

Whoever gets paid makes that plans. That’s the deal Cheryl and I have for date night. I got paid so I made the plans. I wanted a quiet get away. A place where we could have a fabulous dinner and hear each other talk. Casual elegance is a good description for what I had in mind. In addition, I wanted to be able to walk to dinner and back to our room where ever that may be.

We’d been talking about Cameron Estate Inn and Restaurant in Mt. Joy because our daughter will be getting married at the estate next January. We’d been there for dinner a couple of times and after each visit I thought it would be wonderful to be able to simply walk upstairs and spend the night. I called, made a dinner reservation for Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and booked the Donegal Garratte room on the third floor.

We arrived just before 6:00 p.m. At check-in they let us know our dinner table was ready and that we could come down at any time. We meandered upstairs, changed and made our way to the restaurant. The Inn, an early American mansion set on a 15 acre estate is absolutely adorable. It’s decorated with antiques and feels like a step back in time. There’s a sense of authenticity about it.

The hostess who was also the waitress remembered us from the last time we’d been there and that was some time ago. She seated us at a corner table in the sunroom so were surrounded by windows on two sides. Our view looked out over the estate. We got to watch it get dark and the lights around the mansion come up. It was awesome.

We started off with a ten year old 2006 Kendal Jackson Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon. The menu was incredible, as always.  From past experience we knew whatever we chose would be wonderful. The hostess recommended the pepper encrusted Lamb Porterhouse and the crab cakes. I got the lamb. Oh my goodness, it was amazing. It came with roasted vegetables and an unbelievable cherry reduction. Cheryl had the crab cakes. She loves crab cakes but these were over the top. I wrapped up with Crème Brulee and Cheryl had a hot chocolate spice cake that was to die for.

As the sun went down and the lights came on the estate took on a romantic glow. There was just enough light for a walk. We strolled along the foot paths and stopped momentarily on a small bridge to watch the light bounce off the stream and the water rush by.

We collapsed in a high four poster bed in our room at the end of the hall on the third floor. The next morning breakfast; a choice of quiche, pancakes and yogurt parfait was served at 8:00. Afterward we took another walk around the estate, we put our things together and made the 25 minute drive home.

It was a wonderful overnight stay. We didn’t go far. The Estate was both historic and romantic. There were people around but it wasn’t crazy. The staff was cheerful and engaging. Whether you are local or from out of the area a stay at the Cameron Estate Inn and dinner in the restaurant is a perfect choice for an overnight get away.

Photo courtesy of Hands-on House, Children's Museum

Hands-on Fun to Cure Cabin Fever

When it’s not quite warm enough to play outside, but cabin fever is setting in, Hands-on House, Children’s Museum is the solution!

We ventured out on a dreary Sunday and set off for Hands-on House, located off of Oregon Pike in Lancaster. I had been there as a child and volunteered there years ago, but this was my first time visiting as a parent. With as curious as my daughter is, I was excited to see how she would respond to the learning-through-playing activities featured in the museum.

The first area, “Right in Your Own Backyard” explores the sights and sounds found in nature, primarily ones found in Pennsylvania. At first, my daughter who is almost 4, didn’t exactly know what to do. After we showed her she could climb up into the tree house or catch and measure fish, she began branching out and led the way to the next activity.

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Left: Catching fish in “Your Own Backyard” Top Right: Creating at masterpiece at “Art-rageous” Bottom Right: Gathering our produce in “Corner Grocery”

She led us to the next exhibit “E-I-E-I Know,” where she was drawn to the wall of corn that we could pick and distribute to market stands, restaurants and farm animals. This activity, along with many throughout the museum, required reading, and parents are highly encouraged to get involved. Along with the words, many activities incorporate images which help to develop pre-reading skills. This activity also involved lots of counting as we filled each corn order. What makes this children’s museum different from others is how the exhibit designer draws inspiration from Lancaster County, “E-I-E-I Know” being the perfect example. Children can learn about farm life in Lancaster County and how goods like milk and eggs get from the farm, to the grocery store, and to our fridge.

Speaking of grocery stores, the “Corner Grocery” area was a hit, and appeared to be a favorite of other visitors as well. Children can pick a grocery list, featuring both words and pictures, and find the items including produce, seafood, meat, dairy, dry goods and bakery items. Much like a real grocery store, after all the items on the list have been gathered, it’s time to check out at one of the two check-out stations with computers where children can scan the bar codes to ring up their groceries.

Our last stop in the museum was “Marty’s Machine Shop.” This exhibit gave us a look into how factories and assembly lines work, and was by far the highlight of my little one’s day. Oddly enough, this was also a favorite of my sister and me when we visited as children! The process begins with the creation of a “Whatcha-ma-giggle” which is shown step by step with pictures and words. The “Whatcha-ma-giggle” passes through quality control before heading off to be packaged. The last station dives into reusing versus recycling. While that concept was a little mature for my daughter, it was a clever way to take the items from the end of the assembly line back to the beginning while teaching sorting and picture recognition.

We wrapped up our visit with their Pop-in for Play program, “Art-rageous,” which was the perfect activity for my artsy child. The Pop-in program was included with admission and could be done at any time during the 2-hour program period, hence the pop-in. Using construction paper shapes and glue, children were able to put together an “art-rageous” creation. An example was provided but it was really up to the children to design their own art project. My daughter was so proud of the art that she had created. She could not wait to show everyone what she had made.

After discovering our inner artist, we were definitely ready for dinner and a nap. Don’t miss the exhibits we didn’t get a chance to explore during our visit; “Face Painting Porch,” the “Post Office” and “Mostly Make Believe.”

Hands-on House is geared towards children aged 2 to 10, and is stroller-friendly for families with infants. Admission is $9.50 for children and adults. Family memberships, starting at $99 per year, are available for families planning to visit more than one or twice.

Photo courtesy of Hands-on House, Children's Museum

Photo courtesy of Hands-on House, Children’s Museum

Tips:
– Check out their hours prior to your visit. Public hours vary day by day and by what time of year you are coming.

– Be sure to eat before you go! Hands-on House does not allow food or drink inside the building and energy is definitely needed for all the playing and exploring involved.

– Wear comfortable shoes. Since parents are highly encouraged to play and learn with their children, seating areas are limited.

– Visit rain or shine! The “Play Garden” is open year-round, weather permitting, for fresh-air fun.

-The Pop-in for Play programs are an added bonus as they are included with your admission. Be sure to check out the schedule before visiting.

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A Tuesday Tradition

Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday… All are names for the day before the first day of Lent.

Here in Lancaster County, we celebrate this Tuesday with FASNACHTS, delightful treats that aren’t your run-of-the-mill doughnut.

This tradition stems from the need to use up the lard, sugar, butter and eggs prior to the beginning of Lent since these lavish items were typically given up. Not to be confused with a standard glazed or powdered sugar doughnut, many fasnachts are made with mashed potatoes and fried in animal fat making them less sweet, but extra delicious!

Growing up in Lancaster County, I fondly remember the days of coming home from school to see a box of fasnachts on the kitchen counter, never really understanding the rhyme and reason behind them. Now, much like pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, this is a tradition I can’t pass up. I stopped by Lancaster Central Market on my way in to work for my fasnacht from one of the bakery stands who were displaying rows and rows of fried perfection. It was just as delicious as I remember – slightly crispy on the outside with a fluffy center. I prefer ones rolled in powdered sugar, but am sure other variations are just as tasty.

Bakeries and churches across the county will be making fasnachts for the occasion including Oregon Dairy, Achenbach’s Pastry, Bird-in-Hand Bakery and Shady Maple. Stop by and try one for yourself!

Happy Fasnacht Day!

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