Sunday, February 28, 2016

Infusions, Mount Joy, PA

A friend and I recently traveled to Mount Joy, PA for Afternoon Tea at Infusions restaurant.  Infusions is an endeavor coordinated by senior high school students of Lancaster County Career and Technology Centerwhere education meets delicious. Afternoon Tea is featured on Tuesday, while a Prix Fixe luncheon menu is served Thursday and Friday, during the school year. If the school is closed, so is the restaurant.
The restaurant, surrounded by windows overlooking the campus, features linen covered tables, crisply folded napkins, mix and match china tea cups and the menu, which varies each week and builds upon what the students are learning and the skills they are mastering.

Tea choices included Warming Crimson Berry, a caffeine free hibiscus and cranberry blend with a strong bold flavor and a hint of cayenne pepper, or fair trade organic English Breakfast tea.

The first course featured a Vegetarian Vegetable Soup, a mixture of fresh and frozen veggies.
A warm serving of Spinach and Feta Quiche was placed along side a lovely Asian Salad. The salad, dressed with a light oil and delicate rice vinegar dressing had a fun variety of fresh veggies with snap peas artistically placed on top of the cabbage.

Plates were cleared, and smaller clean plates and new utensils were offered in anticipation of the presentation of the Three Tier Tray.

The tiered tray held sandwiches in the middle tier, Ham and Swiss on Pumpernickel and Shrimp Salad on a Slider Roll. Shown here, the vegetarian option which included Grilled Veggies on the Slider Roll and Egg Salad on Pumpernickel. They are happy to accommodate vegetarian or vegan requests if ordered in advance in addition to other dietary issues.
The top tier had Cinnamon Chip Scones with Devonshire Cream, Lemon Curd and Peach Jam. The scones were fresh and flaky with a light cinnamon glaze on top for extra yumminess.

The desserts on the bottom tier included Chocolate Raspberry Pinwheel, Peppermint Mocha Checkerboard Sandwiches, Cream puffs and Fresh Fruit Tarts.
Students prepare the food, a different group serves the food, and others tend the pastry cases where you can find an assortment of sweet and savory treats to take home. The Technical Center offers a Culinary Arts/Chef program and Baking & Pastry Arts program that prepares the students for their first professional job in the food industry. Young, enthusiastic, and quietly nervous, many have aspirations of becoming an Executive Chef and perhaps owning their own restaurant.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cub Scout Fun

 As representatives of the boy scouts, we recently attended a Cub Scout dinner that featured the great outdoors as the theme. This clever and fun camp fire was made from pretzels, Doritos with cheese whiz to hold it in place and marshmallows ready to be toasted. 
 The cub scouts and their dads bake cakes to be voted upon during the evening. They are later used as the dessert for the banquet. 
This scout is obviously a Star Wars fan.
 Twinkies were the base for these pine wood derby cars.
A Candy cake of any kind is always a crowd pleaser!

Lots of camping scenes were featured on a variety of shapes of cakes.  Perfect for the great outdoors theme.

Caught this little guy toasting his marshmallow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Foods of the Lower East Side, NYC

On our recent trip to NYC we did a tour of the foods of the Lower East Side. This was meant to be a walking tour offered by the Tenement Museum but due to extreme winter temperatures it was held indoors in a conference room. The Lower East Side is an ever changing area of immigration and we traveled through 150 years of relationships between food and people. We began in 1863 when it was a predominantly German area. Our food journey started with soft pretzels served with spicy mustard.
By 1898 the Lower East Side was immersed in Yiddish, Jewish culture and foods. It is said in 1898 approximately 2,000 people lived per block  (today 200 people live per block). Grab and go foods were sold on push carts on the street and pickled items were one of the favorites including these fresh young crisp pickles. As other immigrants have come to the east side the pickling shop has added new items. They now make a Caribbean pickled pineapple with hints of clove.

We also tasted bagels and "schmear" (a spread of cream cheese).  Bagels are certainly a food that has been picked up by the main stream. In the 1920's Italians were on the scene and Di Palo's opened up to import the old world cheeses and meats. They are still there today and with a long line of customers waiting to purchase meats, cheese and pasta salads.

Since each region in the homeland often seasons and flavors with a unique taste, when the immigrants came to the US, a pub owner would have to create a melting pot of those flavors to please a variety of customers from a variety of regions.  It would Americanize the flavors of the old country based on the spices available here.

In the 1940's, along with Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, the Latino community grew on the Lower East Side leading to the introduction of Queso Blanco and fried plantains. The NYC Mayor LaGuardia banned push carts as dangerous and too old world  and too hard to tax. In the mid-1960's after the Asian Immigration Act of 1924 was lifted so an influx of Asians and Filipinos came to the Lower East Side bringing dumplings and Hong Kong bakeries. Our tour discussed the influence public schools had on the immigrant diet. For instance the schools would teach the importance of dairy to a culture that did not mix dairy and meat.

Economy Candy imports, wholesales and makes their candy.  That part of the program inspired Cedar so much so that we had to go visit! Regardless of age, we were all little kids again in a candy store. What a selection!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Macaron - Life's Little Surprises!

StorefrontA couple of weeks ago we were invited to participate in the grand opening of a new shop in Mechanicsburg.  Always willing to support a new business in town, we were happy to contribute to their grand opening swag bag (An English High Tea Party Recipe Booklet) and a fun door prize (The Bride's Herbal)   The new shop is SHEILA FRANK a custom clothing designer.  She will create any special design/gown for you at her new beautiful flag ship store.

Sheila sent us the appropriate Thank-you email, we wished her well and all was good.   And then a few days later we received an overnight air package with six freshly made Macarons. What a lovely surprise! It made our record breaking cold temps bearable!  It came from Macaron CafĂ© in NYC with a personalized thank you note from Sheila for taking part in her Grand Opening!

This girl is first-class all the way!  The Macaron had an edible monogram of the Sheila Frank logo!  We had flavors of Pistachio, Dark Chocolate, Caramel Fleur de Sel, Vanilla, Choc-Raspberry.  All favorite flavors for us - although honestly any of the flavors would have been favorites with us - honey lavender, matcha tea, orange blossom. If you are not quite sure what a macaron is and why this was such an exciting treat for us - read our other blog posts on making macarons, and our macaron purchase at Laduree in London.
Best wishes to you Sheila Frank! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Never Pass Up a Teapot!

And what did we find while walking around the antique and collectibles area at Kathy's Kove & Kafe you ask? Well, a sweet Arthur Wood  English teapot with pretty little yellow flowers found its way into my hands. It looks like it has never been used - but it appears ready to be pressed into service.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kathy's Kove & Kafe, Washington, NJ

Our recent travels took us to Westchester County, NY to visit with one of our sisters. We were excited to discover a tearoom situated about half way into our journey in Washington, NJ. Travel plans were made, which included a visit to Kathy's Kove & Kafe, a fun all-in-one co-op art  gallery, antiques, collectibles, unique tea room, and gift shop! 
The tables for the tea room are set up in the front section of the building. Guests are seated among the merchandise for sale. We took a quick look around the antique shop, laden with china tea sets, tea pots, and so much more before we sat down for our Afternoon Tea. 

 Kathy has an extensive tea list, so the decision is always a difficult one! We managed to select a variety of flavors from chai to walnut to chocolate something to puerh. Little warmers were on the table to keep each pot warm.
Pretty molded sugar cubes were on the table, tempting the 13 y/o at the table.

The first course included an assortment of tea breads that included pumpkin bread, moist banana walnut bread, or pound cake and scones which were gingerbread, cranberry, or chocolate chip with cream and jelly served in a pretty divided bone china dish.

The Afternoon Tea began with a choice of soup, either Lentil or Tomato Bisque plated alongside a tasty, lightly dressed salad.

The tea tray laden with sandwiches, fresh fruit, and desserts was offered next. There was an assortment of sandwiches on the bottom tray, skewered fruits in the middle and a yummy selection of desserts on top. The sandwiches included cucumber with cream cheese, strawberry and cream, chicken salad, and more. The desserts featured a chocolate dipped madelaine, cream puff, and lemon bar, among others.  
Happy to be taking Afternoon Tea, but anxious to be back on the road for the rest of the journey. Find Kathy's Kove and Kafe on Facebook, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Damiana Bitters, Aphrodisiac

Spotted in a little nook of a historic mansion, this bottle totes Damiana as an aphrodisiac. And indeed,  Damiana (Turnera diffusa) has been used as an aphrodisiac by the Mayan's. Grown on sunny hillsides in dry areas, (TX, Mexico and Central America) this herb relaxes mild anxiety and nervousness, which could have aphrodisiac effects.

Drunk as a tea, as warm as you can, it will increase tingling, oxygen levels in the genitals and is known to increase desires! It is a pungent flavor but not quite as bitter as this old bottle would indicate. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sassafras, Brain Tonic

We love to read and collect old bottles. Sassafras is the herb that is often easy to recognize because of its mitten shaped leaf. The bark of the root is found in many different "Root Beers" as it has a very pleasant flavor. The PA German consider the root a "Spring Tonic". It is a very mild blood thinner and is used in the spring to get the body moving again after a sluggish winter. Sassafras is a plant native to the US and one the Native Americans also used for flavoring and as a tonic. The leaf of sassafras is ground up and included as one of the ingredients to make "Gumbo File" powder, a thickening agent in Creole cooking.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

WWII German Hospital Recreation

This German Army Hospital was one of the first of the educational displays that we entered.  While the American's had better use of antibiotics such as penicillin, the Germans had a better grasp of anti-bacterial and used honey liberally to pack wounds. The metal display on the top left was surgical equipment that was engineered to collapse down into that box on the floor.  The metal trays were all colanders so that they could dip trays, tools and all in alcohol for sterilization.

Samples of German medical supplies. Many of which were plant based.
The pharmacist demonstrated how pills were made. The herbs such as chamomile were finely ground in a mortar and pestle and pounded into a paste. He showed the pill roller and measurements as well.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Battle of the Bulge (Dec. 16, 1944 - Jan. 25, 1945)

Recently, we went to a WWII Battle of the Bulge Reenactment. In the morning we watched the troops and equipment head off into the "Ardennes of Pennsylvania".  
While the troops were out in the battlefield, digging in, we walked around the barracks.   
The barracks of Fort Indiantown Gap Military Institution are pre-1940 and serve as a perfect backdrop for the re-enactors.  Re-enactors were there from up and down the east coast.  Paratroopers, Canadian troops, Scottish Units, and of course, German and American Divisions. Some would be practicing marching or being held for inspection. Others were in the barracks cleaning weapons, cooking meals. All were available for answering questions about this key winter time engagement. We appreciated all the attention to detail and authenticity and we learned a lot about WWII.