Friday, January 13, 2017

Pennsylvania Farm Show 2016

Penn eats

Managed to go to this year's Pennsylvania Farm Show and other than the horrific traffic ('well-attended' doesn't quite describe it) it was an easy drive.

Tractors cows sheep I can always watch some other time--okay, just not interested. I came for the food, and as state fairs go this wasn't bad.

From the PA Mushroom Growers Cooperative: we tried the grilled portabella in a bun, The Blend (fifty-fifty sauteed mushrooms and meat in a burger), the deep-fried shrooms, and the soup. 

The Blend--taste and consistency of beef, but the umami or meatiness seemed more intense somehow. The grilled portabella was tender and succulent, and had an intriguing tanginess (a marinade?). The soup was creamy, the deepfried crisp with a faint spiciness.

No pictures of the grilled portabella or Blend, sorry; finished them before I thought to take a pic. Here's a photo I downloaded from their Facebook site:

Doesn't look that fancy--no extra bacon, or sliced portabella, and on paper not a blue plate. But tastes just as good.

From the PA Livestock Association we got the goat tacos and lamb stew. The goat was more like a deconstructed taco--taco chips, shredded cheese and lettuce, tomato salsa and ground goat in a small cardboard boat. PennLive thought it was bland and uncreative; I liked it fine.  

We agreed on the lamb stew. I like my stew to have chunks of meat not ground, easier to know you're not eating broken-up hamburger, but the spices--is that clove and cinnamon in the mix?--are intriguingly sweet and fragrant.

PennLive and its restaurant critic Mimi Brodeur called PA Dairymen's milkshakes the best in the fair and you can see why: thick rich creamy, with either strong bittersweet chocolate or soaring sweet vanilla (order the swirl and you have a strong soaring drink). We sent A to order them but he went overboard and got five different shakes. We stared at the five cups--no way could we finish all that, and I could imagine myself carrying all five throughout the fair--say dropping one into a livestock cage ("That's my milk!"). So we did the only sane thing:

"Would you like a shake?"

"Huh? Really?"

"We ordered too many."


"Here, have another."

"Wow, thanks!"

We sure made friends that day.  

Simply Canoli was not on Penn Live's list, but who could resist fried pastry dough stuffed with sweetened ricotta? Especially freshly stuffed, as the lady so deftly demonstrates:

I dare you to turn that down. Double dare you. 

We've been seeing The Original Strudel Factory at one Keystone State fair or the other and of course they had to be here. Specialties include cherry, apple, cheese, Beef Wellington (?!), cinnamon sticks.

Below is a downloaded pic of their sour cherry strudels (ate the strudel before--I know I know, bad blogger! Bad blogger!). The cherry filling is tart and only hints at sweetness, a perfect contrast to the powdered sugar-tinted crisp pastry dough. 

The dough as an Austrian emperor's chef once put it should be so thin you can read a love letter through it; it's borrowed from the Middle Eastern dessert baklava, or phyllo dough drizzled with honey and filled with pistachios (this Deutsch version is far tangier).

The girl at the counter's a bit shy about her pic being taken but couldn't be friendlier dealing with us. Advised us that if we wanted to try everything but didn't have the time or stomach capacity to eat it all onsite we could always buy frozen and take it home, bake @ 350 F for about an hour.

Can't leave the show without looking at the butter sculpture.  Not a crazy design this year, but beautifully executed, a pastoral landscape like what they did for the London Olympics. If you look carefully you can see grazing livestock, and a stream meandering from the woods across the fields, to pour in little cascades to lower ground--not a stunning image but endlessly fascinating, with little pockets of wonders tucked away here, there. Which might be a fine metaphor for the fair, overall.

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