Having lived in Las Vegas for more than 3 years now (yikes!), it gives me a different perspective on growing up in Lancaster County. I remember the first time I went back home to visit after living across the country for 6 months. My appreciation for pine trees, open fields and back country roads had never been stronger. Not to mention the food. While I am also very appreciative of the opportunities Vegas has provided me and the friendships I've created, this "city" can feel very cookie cutter-ish. (Cue theme song from Weeds.)
Last weekend I went back East for a last-minute visit to see my parents. For as many people who come to Vegas to get away, for me it felt like a vacation to get outta here even if for only a few days. When in PA there are certain foods I must eat in order to get my Lancaster foodie fix. Foods you can't get anywhere else that hold a special place in my stomach of a heart. So, in addition to my love of that fresh-smellin' country air, the following is a mixture of food I just can't live without.
1. Central Market in downtown Lancaster -- I know technically this isn't one food item in particular, but collectively this place houses tons of delicious food I absolutely love. It would be almost impossible for me to be in Lanc and not wander through market at least once.
2. Let's hear it for whoopie pies! Considered a Pennsylvania Amish tradition, I've been eating these pies since I was little. My taste buds would ordinarily choose salty edibles over sweet, but nothing beats a homemade whoopie pie. Pictured left, a chocolate whoopie pie with peanut butter frosting (my fave) and a pumpkin whoopie pie with cream cheese frosting. Hats (or should I say bonnets) off to the Amish, who in general know what's up when it comes to delicious, farm-fresh food.
3. Turkey Hill ice cream, iced tea, etc. An original a la Lancaster County, Turkey Hill is something you don't quite appreciate the culinary value of until it's no longer a car ride away. Their ice cream is creamy, smooth and well worth the calories. This particular photo features a pint sized container of Turkey Hill ice cream stuffed with Tastykake Chocolate Cupcake (also born in PA). Chocolate ice cream with chunks of chocolate cupcake! No, this is not a joke folks. Apparently it is also half the fat or calories or something and let me just say, it's a revelation. Bravo.
4. Grandma Utz's Handcooked Potato Chips. OK, so deep down, I am really a fat girl at heart...and this is my absolute number one go-to snacky when I can get my hands on a bag. I l-o-v-e potato chips. Like a fat kid loves cake, I heart Grandma Utz Potato Chips. I'm sure most of you are familiar with regular Utz potato chips, but these my friend... are a very special breed born in Hanover, PA. They are super salty, kettle-like potato chips cooked in the best kind of fat -- lard. And boy are they worth the heartburn one might experience after devouring a bag... I mean, a handful.
5. Pennsylvania Dutch food in general -- Lebanon Bologna and Egg Nog are pictured here... other favorites include (but aren't limited to) red beet eggs, apple butter, chicken pot pie (the kind with homemade noodles) and pretzels.
6. Downtown Lanc is home to some really good, locally owned restaurants and bars. A handful of which I insist upon eating at when back home. Alley Cat Pizza is greasy, thin and full of flavor. Order with extra cheese and pepperoni and you'll be one happy camper. Their tasty blend of cheeses and the way the crust and pepperoni edges crisp up is what makes it for me. Other restaurants/bars I love... Character's, The Belvedere Inn (try the caesar salad, it's grilled and one of the best I've ever had), Annie Bailey's, Rachel's Creperie, Carr's... the list continues.
Thanks, Lancaster. See you at Christmas.