Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Weekend Chow - part 2 Day Trip Report

Note: This post delayed due to technical difficulties..

On to the rest of our weekend...

Before the Red Head left her job as a day care director, her staff scrounged up some moola and purchased her a night in a brand spanking new bed and breakfast. We also had a AMEX gift card (to use for chow) that I received as a result of spending other peoples money while traveling on business the past 10 years.

Speedwell Forge
is an amazing place - fully restored - mansion originally built in 1760. It's just a gorgeous building, with 2 separate restored buildings that were converted into guest rooms. We stayed in the Paymaster's Office, which was originally used for pretty much what you would think. It served as sort of a bank for the forge workers.
Browse their web site and you'll see pictures of the room. Here's the outside.

So we arrived around 3PM and were greeted by one of the most pleasant people you could ever meet. Dawn really has a passion for running her B&B. The house used to be her Grandmothers, so she puts a lot of love into what she's doing. She also makes a mean omelet, but I'll get to that.

After checking in, we headed up to Cornwall, to the Bluebird Inn. It's also an historic old building, with lots of charm and character. They've got a nice enclosed porch, which is where we decided to dine since it was so warm on Sunday. The Bluebird is clearly trying to hit some niche as a sophisticated English pub. I will admit that I got a little concerned when the menu bragged at how all their beers were served chilled to 30 degrees!!! Yikes, cold beer is fine most of the time, but not all beer is meant to be served at the same temperature, just ask Michael Jackson (the one with his original nose)

We both started with soup - crab bisque for the RH, and shrimp chowder for me. The bisque was quite good, though a little too thick, even for that style of soup. The chowder was a bit spicy, which is normally fine for me, but it kindof over-powered the tender shrimp, making it sortof a miscellaneous chowder. But still we both graded our soups in the B-range.

I ordered fish n chips, which were in this case very crispy breaded haddock. I generally prefer cod for my fish n chips, but haddock is acceptable. Strangely, it was not a beer batter, which is unfortunate because they were cooked perfectly. Ok, decent fish, but the fries were quite good. They had that slightly crispy, very potato-ee taste. Not greasy at all. Some of the best fries I've had in a while.
The wife had the Guinness tips pie topped with a puff pastry crust. If you know her at all this is sortof up her ally - she loves beef tips over noodles, puff pastry, and while she doesn't care for beer much, she usually loves cooking with it. The description says it's in "a rich Guinness demi glaze" and baked 'till "golden brown." Hmm. In actuality it wasn't all the rich like you would expect. It was decent beef, but the sauce just tasted like a generic thickened beef stock (not gravy) with half pint or Guinness poured in at the end. There was clearly no reduction or demiglaze to it at all. It had tons of alcohol still in it, and the flavor was just way too beery that you couldn't taste anything else. As for the golden brown puff pastry? More like a light blond soggy mess. I guess that description makes it sound worse than it really was, it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't what we were expecting.

All in all, I'd have to give the Bluebird a B or B minus (saved from a C by the fries). They have a huge menu, so I'd go back if someone I knew wanted to, but it's not worth going out of your way, and was a bit of a let down.

We had no desert plan, but I must mention at this point that I had been craving these cream filled made by Harting's Country Made bakery. I could not find them for the past few weeks, so we though maybe for a treat we'd find some the next day.

Before heading back to the room, we scooted down toward Lancaster and hunted down Bruster's Ice Cream Shop. This is a make it on location chain that's starting to infiltrate Pennsylvania. Maybe I should replace infiltrate with infect. It was so bad that I really can't figure out how it succeeds at all, and I can't imagine how in the world it's expanding in a state that makes some of the best ice cream in the world. I feel bad for the folks who live wherever it originated, because they have no idea what ice cream tastes like. The people working there were nice enough, and they have some nifty flavors - perhaps too many gimmicky choices, but the ice cream is just terrible. Oh well.
UPDATE: I cant' believe this. I looked up the web site and discovered the place actually originated in Pennsylvania!!! I decided not to edit what I wrote because it still reflects what I believe. How could we let ourselves go like this!!!!

Considering our ice cream disappointment, we became obsessed (that's a theme with me lately) with finding those Harting's cream filled donuts. We stopped at two different grocery stores on the way back to the B&B with no luck. Let me tell you, no grocery store donut was going to be "good enough" after our ice cream fiasco. But they were not to be found that night :(

For breakfast, Dawn serves 3 courses. We started with homemade granola, which isn't one of my typical choices, but this was really good. Moving on, she brought us a dish of fresh berries (Rasp, Black, Blue) with real yogurt - yummm. We finished with a light and fluffy omelet with crispy red potato home fries. Quite delicious, with good company from another couple who were finishing up their meal and our host, who really made us feel comfortable.

We spend the rest of the day taking a nice drive around Lancaster County, walked around Lititz, where after about 45 minutes, I realized that I still had the key to the paymaster's office!!! So we finished up our walk and headed back to drop it off, making a convenience store stop still hunting for the donuts. When I dropped off the key, M hung out in the driveway and booted up my laptop - we were determined to get some of those donuts!!! We knew the place was in Bowmansville, which was more or less on the way home, but were not sure exactly where. Low and behold, it's right on the main drag. And we were off to grab the donuts.

They have a little tiny shop attached to the front of the bakery, with big windows looking into the actual baking area. The first thing you see are the creme filled donuts - exactly what I was looking for. They also have chocolate filled, fruit filled, and many others. Also various sticky buns and creme cheese buns and I could go on and on. I was surprised to see bread products, including fresh made hamburger buns - one of which I just consumed and used to eat a leftover Chipolte Orange Turkey Burger that I pulled out of the freezer.

As for the creme filled donuts. Just go buy some, I really can't describe how awesome they are.

Weekend Chow - part 1 Homemade Cheese Steaks

The red-head and I had a nifty chow weekend, and I thought I might summarize.

On Saturday, we had home-made cheese steaks. I was so into it that I was planning to blog about the whole thing. But in full disclosure, the most interesting part turned out to be another baking failure.

To me a good cheese steak should be thinly sliced tender ribeye, or maybe top round, grilled onions, provolone cheese, no sauce, on a nice crusty Italian roll. Many of my favorite steak shops get their rolls from Conshohocken Bakery or one of the other regional shops. There's one in Reading called ATV that's popular, but way over-rated. We had decent meat, some local grocery stores sell real sliced steak meat in addition to that psuedo-meat they call Steak-um. I've tried slicing our own, but don't really have the equipment to get it as thin as I'd like.
But back to the rolls, this is where I attempted to become more homemade. None of our cookbooks had anything resembling the crusty roll necessary for a good cheese steak, so I consulted the web, and came up with this recipe.

It looks exactly like what I need. But, I must add a disclaimer that it took me 2 batches of this to realize what I was doing wrong. The recipe itself is delicious from a taste pov, but is really incomplete. They author tells you to simply mix the ingredients together and then form balls of dough. He gives rising times, which although assumed to be approximate, aren't even close. My first batch may have been affected by old yeast - which may have been the problem with our focaccia bread. It wasn't expired, but it's close. So I used a fresh jar, and also used warmer water, didsolving said yeast in that water as I do for my pizza dough before adding the dry ingredients. My second batch rose about 3 times as much as the first, but still not anywhere near the volume needed for a cheese steak. Not knowing a lot about baking, I just kinda figured they would continue to rise in the oven to the size needed. Nope.
I talked it over with the RH and after thinking about it, and after doing some research, I believe it was simply a matter of letting them rise as long as they needed - 2 or 3 hours if needed.

The first batch made fantastic breadsticks.

The second batch made fantastic plump breadsticks. I was pretty frustrated by that point, so I ended up driving over to a local pizza shop to grab a couple of Conshy rolls. No big deal I guess, we've still got the breadsticks, and we still had awesome cheese steaks. We overcooked the meat a little bit this time, but still yummy!!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

"A Solid Double"

That's what my old boss used to say when we finally wrapped up a project where a number of issues still linger. The kind of thing where we got the sign offs we needed, but not without a major struggle and not without a huge list of remaining issues.

And that's what describes our latest new recipe. It's a fantastic new idea, and will likely form the basis of a lot of other ideas. One of my favorite foodie bloggers, Cookin' Kate recently raved about this fantastic Chipotle Orange Turkey Burger with Lime Cream.

The recipe looks pretty complicated, and there are 2 sauces, burgers, and bread to make, but it's not as hard as it looks. Everything Kate describes is spot on - the glaze is sweet, tangy, and spicy. I really need to use more chipotle peppers, they have incredible flavor. With a garden full hot peppers, I just might make my own. Adding milk and breadcrumbs presumably keep the burgers moist without falling apart - though we did have a little bit of trouble with some crumbling. Still, the glaze really helps the burgers get nice and caramelized.

Then there's the bread. Now, the Red-head makes some fine biscuits, yeast rolls, and some other baked goods. But neither of us have been into baking bread, let alone focaccia. I really don't know for sure what went wrong - it just didn't rise once we rolled it out. Here's what happened...

Now, I can never be accused of never showing a screw up. It smelled great - but came out pretty much like a thick cracker. Oh well, at least we had some buns in the freezer.

The kicker though was the lime sauce. Oh boy, is this stuff good. A nice citrus cool creamy touch that cuts nicely with the zingy burgers. We've got some leftover in the fridge, and I see it coming out as part of a grilled chicken salad, as a dip for veggies or pretzels, or maybe shrimp tacos. But it was darn near perfect with this turkey burger.

Quick note - we added a bit more sauce after snapping this picture, it was that good.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Geez, I've been a bad food blogger. But believe me, we've been busy! I've been following along with most of my favorite foodies, but have not taken the time to comment or post much here. Hopefully, things will start to settle down back into wait mode on the adoption and I'll have time to do some fun blogging. I've got a couple of ideas for restaurant reviews, and some pics of less than perfect attempts at cooking something new.

Buy, for this post, I'm still keeping it simple. Last night I had an excellent reuben at the 5th Street Diner, while the wife had herself an awesome burger. Both of these are sandwiches that I just love. In fact, I really love sandwiches. There's nothing like taking 2 slices of bread and just filling it with whatever comes to mind. I mean, who first thought to combine corned beef, saurkraut, and thousand island dressing? Yah, I love burgers and really like ruebens.
Of course, it doesn't get any more simple than an all-American cheeseburger? Maybe with grilled onions and pickles? Heck, who says it has to be that basic all the time? How 'bout some flair like maybe with avecado, cajun spice, or even a Thai inspired turkey burger?

Here's something that took a few tries to get the hang of. Mini-burgers - a little bit of a fad right now in restaurants. They're fun to make, and tasty.
Behind them you'll see some jalapeno poppers. I didn't think they turned out so well, couldn't quite get the filling to not leak all into the oil.

Some sammiches I love...

Monte Cristo - of course, I love French Toast, so this makes sense.
Cheesesteaks - onions, no sauce please!
Sausage peppers and onions - a farmers market favorite.
BLTs - I like mine with honey mustard - try it some time.
Gyros - this a new favorite. The best I've had are from a stand at the Ephrata Fair.
Italian hoagies - something I used to make dozens of a day working in high school. Crusty roll, oil and vinager, provolone, ham, hard salami, capicola, shredded lettuce, tomato, onion.
Tuna melt - not too much mayo, best on an English muffin with a fresh slice of tomato.
Tomato sammiches - best sliced still sun-warm from the garden on plain white bread, mayo, salt and pepper.
Sloppy Joes - don't ever tell me you like Manwich - ick!

And last but not least - I love turkey sandwiches. Love them. I make them all kinds of ways - with stuffing on them, warm with gravy, turkey salad on a croissant, grilled with Swiss cheese,
and lately, just simple sliced turkey with the red-head's homemade cranberry sauce. I love Thanksgiving and the 5 days after!