Every year, when school ends, we take a trip to Pennsylvania to stay at the magnificent Mussers’ Bed & Breakfast. (Last year I even had a baking adventure there.) Barb, who runs the place, is an exceptional human being; we love visiting her every June and we stay in touch with her all year long. She’s definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
This year, since the kids are a little older, we got to change things up a bit and venture beyond our usual pit stops, and so our food options expanded as well; some for the best, some for the worst. So now I will present our food journey through PA, along with some pictures of the kids being their own cute selves.
We arrived at Mussers’ B&B and settled in. Our set-up there is perfect: two bedrooms, a big kitchen, a big living room, a nice bathroom, and our own entrance.
Now that we’re years out of strollers, pack & plays, and high chairs, the kids can enjoy the real furniture and we can pack a whole lot less.
Usually one of our last stops is what I like to call Copper Kitchen Kettle Village. (Its actual name is Kitchen Kettle Village, but for some reason I can never keep it straight, plus it drives Dave crazy when the rest of us get it wrong, so we keep doing it.) This year, we decided to make it our first stop instead of our last.
And so the snacks began. Juliet opted for the kettle corn, and Nathaniel went into the fudge & candy shop for the peanut butter-covered marshmallows.
And right before the thunderstorm hit, Juliet got her face painted.
What I forgot to document that night was the dinner Dave had requested at Miller’s Smorgasbord. ‘Tis a shame. Overloaded plates of mediocre food going back & forth from buffet stations to tables, half-full plates being taken away so more food could be procured, and a salad bar with no more than four raw vegetables — no carrots at all! — but loaded with cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise-drenched “salads”.
But Dave loved it, and the kids had fun, and I found some grilled chicken along with a slice of peanut butter pie. It all worked out in the end.
This is what we’d been waiting for from the moment we booked the trip, from the moment we got in the car, from the moment we fell asleep the night before. Barb’s breakfasts are truly the best we’ve ever had. Local, organic ingredients, everything made from scratch, all just delightful.
The first thing we saw when we got downstairs: a gorgeous fruit plate, fresh yogurt, and homemade granola.
I’m on a quest to learn to like yogurt (separate from baking and Indian food), so I served myself some and tempered it with the granola.
Then came the waffles. They’re those great big homemade ones, but they got smaller the longer they spent at our table.
Then bacon. Crisp, fresh bacon.
Nathaniel made a food face.
Barb enhanced it.
After breakfast,we stopped by one of our regular haunts, the Railroad Museum. We always have a lot of fun exploring the train cars.
Then we headed across the street to the spot that got us to PA in the first place: Strasburg Railroad. It used to be all about seeing Thomas the Tank Engine, but this year our timing was off. And that, my friends, is how we ended up on the HOBO LUNCH TRAIN.
It sounded nice:
Enjoy the Rail Road…Hobo Style! You’ll be served a wonderfully prepared lunch by our costumed servers and experience a train ride like never before. Unwrap your knapsack of goodies and imagine what it must have been like to travel from city to city as a hobo. Enjoy the fresh lemonade served in mason jars or the baked beans scooped from the kettle, along with other freshly-made items. This is one train ride you’ll certainly remember. (Keep your knapsack as a memory of your experience).
It was pretty expensive, given the moniker “Hobo Lunch”, but we thought it might be a fun experience and a lot of the prices there are about keeping the railroad going year after year, so we bit the financial bullet and climbed aboard.
The first thing to come were the drinks. Lemonade or sweet tea. That was it. No water, even. We all opted for the lemonade but it was so sweet that none of us liked it. Sweet tea wasn’t much of a solution. We thirsted on.
Then they brought out the “knapsacks”. Each server carried a pole with kerchiefs on it, but they kept the pole, so our knapsacks were really just scarves, and the “wonderfully prepared lunch” was….not.
I figured a turkey sandwich with cheese was a safe bet. I was wrong. I couldn’t even finish it! It tasted terrible and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t even cheese. They also included a cookie. Now look, I know I’m a baker, and I can be fussy about baked goods, but I also know that even a crappy cookie can be delicious. I even remember our high school cafeteria cookies with great fondness. But these? They were just terrible. Here we were in a town filled with candy shops and bakeries, and we were given the shittiest cookies in all America. It was a sad thing.
Juliet had a hot dog, and managed to eat most of it, but gave up near the end.
Next, the baked beans arrived. Juliet and I had no interest, but Dave & Nathaniel both gave them a shot.
At least they liked the beans.
The Hobo Lunch, NOT INCLUDING the train fare, came to over fifty bucks…and even Nathaniel threw the cookies away after taking a bite.
At least now we can compare all other meals to the Hobo Lunch, and know that there is always something worse than what we’re eating, no matter what. Hooray!
The train ride was nice, though, and when it was down we prowled around Strasburg Railroad, picking out a few toys and walking around. On the way home we thought we deserved a real treat, so we stopped at our favorite candy & ice cream store. I love it there because they have ice cream in the front, and a big candy store in the back where they make fudge, have a lot of strange ingredients for sale, and even have a little honeycomb with bees in it.
Of course I got the peanut butter ice cream.
Juliet got vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, in a cone.
Nathaniel opted for the Turkish Taffy.
Dave didn’t get a treat, for some reason. All that candy & ice cream! Truth be told, he prefers a beer.
They were making the cones for the ice cream right on the premises.
I roamed around the store, tasting the butterscotch peanut butter (which I bought to make cookies with), admiring the flavored honeys, drooling over the candy, and then I came upon this monstrosity.
Maybe they should add it to the Hobo Lunch.
Our final food stop that day was dinner. Now keep in mind that dining options in this area are rather limited. Dave and Nathaniel are pretty easygoing where food is concerned, but Juliet’s fussy (like her momma) and I am on Weight Watchers, so while I’m happy to treat myself to ice cream and vacation treats, I don’t like to waste my points on crappy high-fat foods that I don’t even like. (Hobo Lunch.)
And so, every year, we have one dinner at Cracker Barrel. The decor is delightfully consistent.
It’s silly and fun, the boys can indulge in gravy-soaked mashed potatoes, Juliet can get fried shrimp, and I always get the one thing that doesn’t push me over the points limit and still tastes good: grilled catfish, a baked potato, and corn. The first time I ordered it, I made the mistake of just saying “a baked potato” and it came back stuffed and piled high with sour cream and butter. Now I know to say, “a baked potato, plain, with nothing on it, no butter even,” and I get what I want. They’re always happy to please us at Cracker Barrel, that’s for sure.
I forgot to mention that Nathaniel had picked up an awesome toy mustache along the way, courtesy of a particularly hilarious family we met while checking out the outlet stores.
Juliet definitely enjoyed her fried shrimp, and Dave got something with cheese, coleslaw, and green beans.
And you never have to feel like you’re dining alone, at the Cracker Barrel.
Another day, another magnificent breakfast with Barb.
This time, Juliet tried her hand at a food face.
Then the rest of breakfast came in. Fresh sausage with no antibiotics and no trip to a factory along the way. Barb made scrambled eggs for Juliet and eggs over easy for Dave and Nathaniel, so when I said I was happy with either one, she made me one of each.
After breakfast, we made a quick stop at Springerle House to check out the famous Springerle Cookies that had mysteriously eluded our awareness for the past few years’ worth of visits. Turns out there’s a lovely little cafe with fantastic coffee right in the heart of where we go almost every day we’re there, and we’d never known about it! The guy behind the counter was so nice and warm and friendly that it made it even weirder that we’d never stopped by. The cookies looked gorgeous, and so did the cupcakes.
We bought two of the orange vanilla cookies and two chocolate peppermint, and headed out to Lititz, which Barb had insisted we visit so I could check out Olio, a store filled with a massive variety of olive oils and balsamics. It’s a cute little town with lovely walkable streets and good things to eat on every corner.
We went to Olio first, where I picked up some Garlic Chili Fused Olive Oil for Dave to cook with, and Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil for me to bake with. Our main destination, though, was the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.
Once inside, we got a tour of the “factory” which mean that we walked around various spots in this one big room while a cute and peppy teenager told us how they used to make pretzels in this building, the first pretzel bakery in the U.S. They also taught us how to roll pretzels with dough that gets manhandled again and again but is never turned into real food, due to some very wise health department regulations.
Next we stopped at Cafe Chocolate to grab some lunch. We’d stopped by earlier and tasted their amazing chocolate, but now we were ready for a meal.
Juliet wanted eggs, so we asked for a plain omelet. It came with sausage and (unfortunately slightly undercooked) french fries.
Nathaniel’s french fries were more done and a lot more delicious. Dave had a Cuban sandwich and I had a low fat healthy quiche. The salad dressing was a chocolate raspberry vinaigrette, which is normally something I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, but I gave in to the moment and gobbled it up.
I ate everything except for those artichoke hearts, or whatever those things are next to the dressing.
The other food highlight of the day was Nathaniel’s whoopie pie. He got one when our horse & buggy ride (known to Juliet as “horsin buggy”) stopped so some Amish dudes could hawk their foodwares.
And then we met up with an old friend of Dave’s and his family for dinner. We headed to the nearby C.R. Lapp’s Family Restaurant in Quarryville. Gourmet it ain’t, but perfectly acceptable it is. For me, grilled chicken and a baked potato.
Yeah, I’d already started eating it. Oops.
Our last breakfast at Barb’s. So sad to say farewell for another year, but we ended on a high note. As usual, it started with fruit, yogurt, and food faces.
And then Barb brought out the peanut butter french toast. Words fail me.
The peanut butter was right in the batter. Oh my.
After breakfast, I got a couple of quick shots of the kids with Barb. They were posing on the steps and Juliet sprang back up before I could click, ran into the other room, grabbed a vase with a flower in it, and returned so she could be holding it in the picture. It was the perfect touch.
Nathaniel had a final romp with Dosie, Barb’s dog, and then we headed out. We made a quick, traditional stop at Dutch Haven to pick up some Shoofly Pies to take home for our friends & co-workers, and picked up an Amish hat for Nathaniel.
We bought the kids lollipops, thinking it would help Juliet avoid getting carsick. It did help, but so did the Dramamine, and at one point I looked over and she was fast asleep, lollipop in hand. I removed the lollipop, but then didn’t know what to do with it, which is my whole issue with lollipops in the first place, the HOLDING of them. Dave came up with an excellent solution.
Our final food stop, made in sheer desperation, was at a rest stop where there was a Roy Rogers. The kids and Dave got fast food; I found a turkey and cheese sandwich that was about 200,000 times better than the Hobo Lunch.
And so my story ends, another June trip to PA come and gone. See you next year!