Tag Archives: review

Berkey-2

The Venerable Berkey Creamery

Penn State University has certainly had more than their share of scandal lately. However, it is important to remember that for every Michael Mann or Jerry Sandusky there are hundreds of dedicated alumni who fill the world with good deeds. Two of these are the late Jeanne and Earl Berkey, formerly of Somerset, PA. In addition to their local works such as Laurel Arts, the Berkeys are perhaps best known for their $3M gift to PSU to aid in construction of the Penn State Food Sciences building which houses the famous Berkey Creamery. Previously known as the State College Creamery, it is the largest university creamery in the nation. The Creamery’s Ice Cream Short Course, first offered in 1892, has instructed generations of ice cream makers, including both Earl and Jeanne Berkey and a couple of obscure guys from Vermont known as Ben and Jerry. 4.5 million pounds of milk pass through the stainless steel tanks at the creamery and are turned into processed milk, cheeses and of course ice cream. The ice creamed produced here is of premium quality, with a butterfat content of 14.1%. All ice cream must have at least 10% butterfat and super premiums like Ben and Jerry’s can reach 16%. Berkey CreameryThe butterfat is what gives the ice cream it’s richness and mouth feel. On my recent visit, I naturally had the Paterno Peach, named of course after Jo Pa. The ice cream had the richness and mouth feel one would expect from a premium product. The chunks of peaches had enough acidity to keep the ice cream from being cloying. I was tempted to order a second cone, but my waist line forbid me from doing so. Keep in mind, it’s tradition that you cannot order two different flavors on one cone, a rule that has been broken only once, and that by a President of the United States, Bill Clinton. The ice cream can also be purchased in half gallons, packaged appropriately in plain blue and white containers reminiscent of the spartan uniforms worn by the football tem. The store can assist in packaging the ice cream for take home, even supplying dry ice to keep it frozen. I opted instead for several packages of cheese curd for the trip home, thinking it a better match for my Labatt. For the uninitiated, cheese curds are the solid part of curdled milk which is the first step in the cheese making process. They are milder and softer than the cheese which it would become if pressed and aged. The store also sells a limited selection of sandwiches and snacks if you’re not in an ice cream mood. If you visit State College the Berkey Creamery is a must stop, but if you go on game days be prepared for a long wait as they sell several thousand cones on these days.
Berkey Creamery on Urbanspoon

 

Breakfast at Befdord Diner

Bedford Diner, Bedford PA


My recent PSU road trip brought me through Bedford, PA and to the Bedford Diner for breakfast. They are located on Route 222 just off of the Bedford exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and are easy to spot due to the huge sign out front and equally huge letters on the building itself. Bedford Diner, Bedford PAAlthough the building is not of typical diner construction, the interior layout is, having counter seats, booths and lots of stainless steel. White boards above the back counter advertise the daily specials, most of which are “all you can eat” and feature local favorites like ham pot pie. The breakfast menu is a bit larger than most as evidenced by the four varieties of pancakes served. I spotted country ham on the menu and had hope that since the menu also offered a ham steak I might have actually found a restaurant with the real thing. I ordered it along with eggs over easy, home fries, and toast ($6.95) accompanied by a side of scrapple ($1.60). Alas, the restaurant was out of country ham, so I must continue my search for the real deal. I settled for sausage, lowering the price of the meal to $4.95. While waiting for the breakfast, I scoped out the array baked goods, all of which appeared to be house baked as advertised. The pie safe didn’t contain those impossibly high meringue pies traditional in diners, but there were numerous other pies along with some huge cakes garnished with fresh fruit. My meal soon arrived and I was immediately struck by the scrapple which was a massive, thick slab that had been deep-fried. I’d heard of deep-fried scrapple before but this my first experience of eating it. I found it surprisingly good. The outside was very crisp and it was cut thick enough that the inside remained moist and creamy. The rest of the breakfast was not quite as successful. The sausage had a good flavor, but it had been cooked ahead and it had dried out from the holding. I had ordered the eggs over easy, but they arrived medium and were on their way to hard. The potatoes, although fresh, were cut so thin they fell apart into tiny pieces. Overall this was not a bad breakfast, but they clearly need more attention to detail. Cooking an egg properly is a basic skill that no diner can neglect.

 
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Darlington1

Darlington Inn-Like the Loss of a Lover

When a restaurant experience goes bad a wide range of emotions can ensue. In my case it is generally anger or in some cases simply resignation. Rarely though have I felt the sense of sadness or loss as I did last night at the Darlington Inn in Ligonier. It was almost painful, akin to the loss of a lover. The Darlington Inn is one of those restaurants that has the reputation of being obscure and special. It is owned by a Hungarian expatriate who serves the food of her native Hungary and nearby Transylvania, cuisine rarely seen in a restaurant setting in this day and age. The restaurant is in a quirky, Italian villa like building on a quiet road behind Idlewild Park. It’s not easy to find, but at least the online map services were accurate in their directions. I entered the restaurant and took a seat at the bar between a large television playing “soft rock” and two rolls of toilet paper sitting on the bar. The toilet paper was bad enough, but George Michael and Wham! Is not my idea of “setting the mood” for a dining experience. It appeared there was no bartender on duty and the two servers (who were also manning the bar ) were running around in a frenzy, leading to a 15 minute wait before I was even recognized. When I say it “appeared” there was no bartender on duty I meant there was no one stationed there. There was one bozo in shorts and tee-shirt who several times went behind the bar and got drinks for himself or other patrons, but since he spent all of his time schmoozing I couldn’t tell if he was an employee or not. The Darlington serves a buffet on Saturday nights, so when I finally received service I went with that option in order to sample several of the dishes which also appeared on the regular menu. The chafing dishes at the buffet were nearly empty, but for the most part the food looked good and I managed to scrounge enough to fill a plate. When I say “for the most part”, there were a few exceptions. The salad was nothing but browned iceberg lettuce with one unlabeled squeeze bottle of what I assumed to be dressing beside it. In addition, the vegetables were clearly a frozen commercial “blend”, a shortcut that surprised me given the “home made” character of the rest of the meal. I returned to my seat to find the server had never brought me any silverware, so I waited another 5 minutes or so until I managed to flag her down to rectify that issue. As I had passed on the brown iceberg, I started my meal with a beet-sauerkraut salad. This version appeared to have been prepared with shredded beets, although I’m not sure as it was a bit dark in my corner of the bar. Regardless, it was quite good although it would have been more refreshing if served a bit colder. I next sampled a roast pork loin with sauerkraut. Personally, I wouldn’t have used a loin for this dish as it’s too lean, but the chef timed this roast perfectly which avoided the dryness a loin usually exhibits. Töltött Káposzta, or stuffed cabbage in sauerkraut, was next and it was also well prepared. My only complaint with the three dish I had tried so far was that I felt the kraut could have been a bit sharper, a result I suppose of not using a fresh product. The Hungarian Beef stew I sampled next had that great flavor of a good paprika, but like the pork, the cut of beef used was not the best choice. It was much too lean and as a result, the beef was dry. Csirke Paprikás, or Chicken Paprikas, was the only dish I was disappointed in. Although the sauce was flavorful, the chicken was improperly browned, leading to a flabby, undercooked skin. The side dishes for these entrees were mashed potatoes and spätzle, both of which were excellent. The potatoes were clearly made from scratch and were flavorful and of the proper consistency (i.e. Not over whipped). I’m not certain the Hungarians use the term spätzle as do the Swabians, but these little dumplings were prepared and cooked to perfection. This was an absolutely great meal, especially considering the price of $12.95, but it was completely ruined by the incompetence of the front of the house management. Darlington Inn, Ligonier PAThe sadness I referred to comes from this contradiction. To have the hard work of a talented chef go to waste is truly sad. It’s a lot like being in love with a woman you simply cannot get along with. At some point you simply have to walk away, which is exactly what I’ve done with this restaurant, leaving the two rolls of toilet paper still sitting on the bar.
Darlington Inn on Urbanspoon

B21 Coffee & Food Depot

Bombers Over Uniontown at B21 Coffee & Food Depot

For those of you who have followed my reviews, I believe you’ll detect a certain philosophy of food which my writing affirms. I stand for honesty, respect and a lack of artifice in cuisine. I hold the simple roadside diner in as high regard as the haughtiest of haute cuisine palaces when the ingredients are respected and prepared with care. Opulent surroundings and complex presentations are meaningless if the underlying food is conceived or prepared poorly. I’ve had more memorable meals standing on a street corner in Baja than in many of the high-priced restaurants I’ve eaten in.

One new establishment which adheres to this philosophy is B21 Lunch at B21 Coffe & Food DepotCoffee & Food Depot in Uniontown. Their address is 2 West Main Street, but unless you’re familiar with Uniontown the address can be a bit confusing. I, for one, was confused due to the fact that 2 West Main Street is on the opposite side of the street from 30 East Main Street. I don’t recall ever being in a city that doesn’t adhere to the convention of having odd numbers on one side of the street and even on the other. An additional issue is that the entrance for B21 is actually on Beeson Street, not Main. The confusion is explained by the fact that B21 is located in the basement (bunker) of the First Niagara Bank Building which does front Main Street.

B21 was opened several months ago by Roger Clatterbuck, an experienced and accomplished chef, to bring quality coffee, breakfast and lunch fare to the Uniontown business community. Being business oriented, they are open Monday through Friday from 7:30ish to 2:00 PM with take out orders and delivery a large part of the business. The hours allow Chef Clatterbuck to also run a catering operation known as War Eagle Rations. Chef Clatterbuck is backed up by two experienced chefs specializing in pastry and garde manger. Desserts at B21 Coffe & Food DepotEntering the military themed “bunker”, the patrons are immediately drawn to the wares of the pastry chef which are on prominent display. An array of brownies, cookies and coffee cakes are displayed under glass domes with samples being offered for tasting. The baked goods along with a cup of the excellent Caribou Coffee (which B21 serves) is a popular breakfast on the go for the office workers streaming in every morning. For a more substantial start to your day, breakfast sandwiches are available and are offered on a choice of excellent breads, bagels and naan.

Lunch is basically soup and sandwiches, but as served by B21, they reach a whole new level. Many larger and “classier” restaurants don’t bother to make their own soups anymore, but here the soups are house made and funky. The offering on my recent visit was “Mushroom Beef and Biscuit”, a rich cream of mushroom soup with chunks of beef and biscuits. Definitely a bit unusual. Sometimes you can’t tell what the soups are by their names and you’ll have to ask Chef for the composition. I couldn’t even guess what “1,2 3 OMG Soup” is. The soups are available by the cup, pint or quart and are packed in microwavable deli containers for convenient reheating at the office or home.

Seven sandwiches (“Bombers”) are offered on the menu, but daily specials and the “You design it” option gives the diner a multitude of choices. Continuing the military theme, the sandwiches are named after WWII war birds (though I’m not familiar with a B21). The sandwiches are offered on a choice of breads notably a Pugliese roll, a crusty Italian variety “bigger than a babies head”. I opted for naan, a middle eastern and Indian flat bread, which was stuffed with the daily special chicken salad, Havarti cheese, shredded leaf lettuce and ripe Roma tomatoes. The chicken salad was supremely fresh, with my only complaint being that the pieces of chicken were a bit large to be eaten in the naan. The naan itself, although not prepared on-site, was a lighter, fresher and more flavorful alternative to pita. I’ll forgive them for not making the Naan, as a 900 degree tandoor would turn the small space into a literal oven. Other creative touches include the “gravy-mayonnaise” and corn succotash served with the “XB35 Flying Wind” (turkey and cheddar) and the poblano preserves served with shaved pepper roasted beef sandwich (the “B32 Dominator”). And where else can you get the childhood favorite fried bologna sandwich, serve appropriately on white bread with American cheese and yellow mustard? All sandwiches are priced at $7.50 for a whole and $4.50 per half. Side dishes available include the usual cole slaw and macaroni salad, but being freshly prepared, they far surpass the versions served by many restaurants. Hummus served as a side is a nice touch and several salads are available in two sizes. Since B21 is geared primarily for take out service, the food is served in disposable containers and wrappings which actually adds to the spartan military atmosphere.

Although having limited hours and seating, B21 Coffee & Food Depot offers simple food well prepared with enough creativity to keep it interesting. Uniontown native George C. Marshall would certainly be proud of these “Bombers” and I would have to agree.
B21 Coffee & Food Depot on Urbanspoon

Bulls Tavern, Ligonier PA

Wing Wars: Bull’s Tavern, Ligonier PA

One of the joys of bar hopping is discovering how some bars have developed a personality over time and others seem souless regardless of how long they have been in business. The most recent site of the Wing Wars was happily an example of the former.

Bull's Tavern, Ligonier PAThursday evening found me at Bull’s Tavern, located on the historic Lincoln Highway in Ligonier. Bull’s is a small bar, but they manage to pack a lot into the space, including a pool table, dart machine, a couple of other game machines and three flat screen TVs. I’d be willing to bet this tiny bar has more square inches of TV screen per customer in the area, making it a great place to watch sports. There clearly is not a bad seat in the house. In addition to the usual beer signs, the walls are covered with loads of photos and memorabilia giving the interior a clubby atmosphere with its own unique history. I even spied and old metal Kennywood sign, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a while. I took a seat at the bar and was immediately greeted by the bartender and the customers, making me feel almost like a regular. Nothing fancy on the beer front so I settled on a draft Yeungling served in a pint canning jar. I’m not a big fan of canning jars as beer glasses, however they fit in at Bull’s better than in upscale bars who try the same idea. A large white board announced the wing special so I didn’t request a menu. The bartender explained the wings were 35 cents each with a minimum order of ten but I could split the order to get two different sauces. He aptly described the five sauces available and I ordered five Buffalo and five Sweet and Hot. The wings arrived quickly and I started on the Buffalo first. They were perfectly cooked, being crisp on the outside and moist on the inside and the sauce was rich and buttery, as you would expect from a traditional Buffalo sauce recipe. There was no breaking of the sauce that I have found in some other bars. The Sweet and Hot were a bit more mild than I would prefer, but still had a good flavor and a nice balance of sweet to sour. I had declined the veggies and dressing and not having read a menu I’m not sure if they charge extra for them or if they were included. Overall, a very solid experience and I’d certainly go back again. Bull’s looks like a great place to catch a Steeler’s game.

THE RATING

Cooking: Crisp outside and moist inside. 8

Varieties: Only five choices, but the two I ate were great. 5

Value: $3.50 for ten cut wings is pretty good considering the quality. 6

Enjoyment:Authentic sports bar atmosphere with personable staff and customers. 8

OVERALL: 6.8

 
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