thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Friday Photo: Smoked-Chipotle Pickles at Peter Piper’s Pickles

Pickled foods bring out the Pennsylvania Dutch in me.  Every Christmas, one of my favorite parts of the epic Grove Christmas luncheon is the little dish of my grandmother’s homemade “chow-chow”: a mix of cauliflower, red peppers, carrots, kidney beans, celery, and seasonings that has been pickled in a sweet-tangy brine.  When I lived in France for the first time in 2005, there were no such delicacies — no relishes on my baguette sandwich, no slaws nestled on roasted meats, just more mustard and olives and less ketchup than I was used to eating in my life.  For this reason, I have come to treasure pint jars of home-canned vegetables in any form.

Susan Smeal serves up samples at Saturday’s Market, Middletown

Peter Piper’s Pickles, located at various Central PA markets depending on the weekday, features vats of vinegar and vegetables, including bread-and-butter pickles, dill pickles, garlic pickles, hot pickles, hot cherry peppers, and more.  The smoked-chipotle pickles are especially memorable: smoky and crisp, sparkling with heat and bright acidity — the perfect way to jazz up a turkey sandwich on Dimpflmeier 7 grain.

My German-Swiss ancestors would be proud.

Peter Piper’s Pickles
$4/pint, $7/quart

Tuesdays, Roots Market in Manheim Area #5
Wednesdays, Lewisburg Farmer’s Market, Lewisburg
Fridays, Green Dragon Building #1, Ephrata
Saturdays, Saturday’s Market, Middletown

Marty: (717) 682-2952

Friday Photo: Rustic Apple Tart by Short & Sweet Bakery, Lemoyne

Rustic Apple Tart by Short & Sweet Bakery, Lemoyne


It’s likely that we Americans get the coffee-and-pastry breakfast from France, where baguette slices are spread with Nutella and dipped into bowls of morning Joe, and fresh croissants are eaten with hot chocolate by afternoon.  However, mass-produced Starbucks pound cake or stale Panera stick buns (with a dark roast in a travel mug) shouldn’t cut it for you.  Return to the pastries of your grandmother with a rustic apple tart made by Short & Sweet Bakery, Lemoyne, and served at Little Amps Coffee Roasters, Harrisburg.  It’s fresh apples folded into a flaky crust about  then sprinkled with sugar for just a touch of sweetness — perfectly paired with the richness of one of Little Amp’s house-roasted coffee or espresso drinks.  Also available for breakfast (and equally delicious) are biscotti, cookies, granola, macaroons, and quiches.

Little Amps Coffee Roasters
1836 Green Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102

Monday-Friday, 6:45am-2pm
Saturday, 8am-2pm

Friday Photo: The Jackson House Burger Nazi

A respect for quality: I like that, especially at this lunchhour shop that proclaims its food is “better than Philly’s”: 1/2 pound hamburgers, cheeseburgers, cheese steaks, sandwiches, and salads.  Situated in a classic soda-style shop on Sixth Street in Harrisburg, this place is strict with its rules — cash only and patience are just a few — but they deliver, every time.  Just look at the narrow window of their opening hours, then drive past once to see how packed it is.  Then you’ll realize what this sign indicates — a quality burger that can help a restaurant defy business sense is definitely worth waiting for.

The Jackson House
1004 Sixth Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 238-2730

Monday-Friday, 10:30am-2pm

Friday Photo: A Plowman’s Perspective of Harrisburg Snow Removal

Third Street, Harrisburg, at 1:30 A.M.

This article first appeared in the January 2012 issue of TheBurg, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

It’s 11:35 PM on Wednesday, December 7, and I haven’t left home at this odd of a weekday hour since Black Friday. I bend over my steering wheel and crane my neck toward the sky: still no snow.  Front Street is as clear as a country road, a sleek damp ribbon studded with lampposts.  The black jogging path runs beside a silver Susquehanna.  It’s a picturesque scene, but the weather forecast has been clear: snow advisory for Central Pennsylvania from 7pm to 7am tomorrow.

When snow is on the forecast, most of us slide into a familiar routine: check the quantity of milk in the fridge, the level of gas in the tank. For most of us, the routine stops there, except for the occasional glance at the sky. This is not the case for Harrisburg’s Department of Public Works, for whom the words “snow day” have an entirely different meaning.

Tonight, four men—Dave Spiroff, Enola; Rodney Keller, Hummelstown; Randy Sauder, Harrisburg; and David Jordan, Susquehanna township—have just arrived for work.  I join them in a utility building on South 19th Street which is backlit by fog and orange light. Director Ernie Hoch sips coffee and shakes my hand, and the men greet me with a nod. “This is my A team,” says Hoch, by way of an introduction.  “These are the guys that I call first.”

During heavy blizzards, up to 45 men, CDL licensed or otherwise, can be called upon by the department to help clear the city of snow, rotating over 12 hour shifts.  Most snow removal strategies are systematic, including prioritizing primary and secondary streets, and mapping out the city into 8 sections to focus the work. However, trying to determine where to push the snow, or struggling to fit a snowplow down Penn Street, can make for white-knuckle work.

“There’s always that one street that you’re driving down with your heart pumping Kool-Aid,” says Spiroff, who has worked with the city for 16 years.

Tonight, expectations are minimal. The one- and five-ton salt trucks have already been loaded, the goal being to salt ramps and bridges and to keep a close eye on the roads near the river, where it’s colder. The crew scatters, taking their places among the city, and Hoch and I duck into a pick-up truck and drive up Cameron Street.  We’ve barely driven five minutes before Hoch checks the weather on his phone. “I actually think the snow’s passed over us,” he says suddenly. There is no regret in his voice. “I’m not disappointed.  It’s better to be proactive. The streets will be clear by rush hour.”

I will be awake again by 6:30 and part of that rush hour traffic that will move swiftly through a bitter cold sunrise.  The students that I teach will be disappointed to have not had a delay, and I will secretly regret that I can’t sleep in, either.  However, it’s clear that this privilege of safe driving has everything to do with the four trucks that are out on the streets right now, circulating like quiet watchmen, tracing the city silently beneath a snowless sky.

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