thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Friday Photo: Sinbaad Restaurant and Catering to open on Third Street, Harrisburg

GM International Grocery, 2012

Sharing food is both a gift and a privilege.  This is the spirit that has prompted the upcoming opening of Sinbaad Restaurant and Catering at 19 S. Third Street, Harrisburg, slated for August 1.  Previously, owners Masood and Iffat Wasi operated an Indian and Pakistani buffet at GM International Grocery on 3918 Jonestown Road, but demand from customers prompted them to move the cooking to an area of greater accessibility. And they agreed.

I knew none of this whenever I attempted to visit the famed buffet in late June with my boyfriend Jon and our friends from Trinidad.  When we asked to see a menu, we were told the buffet had been closed for relocation to Third Street — but we were hardly too late to try the food. As a matter of fact, we were just on time.  Lunch had just been cooked for the Wasi family and their relatives, and my friends and I were rapidly seated in the grocery’s former dining room and given a hearty sampling of beef and chicken curries, aromatic basmati rice, naan bread, and the freshest kebabs I’ve ever tasted. The future Sinbaad Restaurant plans to serve similar dishes along with other vegetarian, halal, and traditional fare.

The cornerstone of Sinbaad will be quality, says Iffat Wasi, who oversees the cooking. Unlike many Indian restaurants, which cut corners by using one curry base for all of the dishes, Sinbaad’s sauces will be individually prepared — the more authentic way, according to my Indian friends.

However, my guess is that customer service will also be a selling point. If the Wasis gave us an impromptu sit-down meal at a nonexistent buffet, I can’t wait to see what their real restaurant will serve.

Sinbaad Restaurant and Catering
19 S. Third Street
Harrisburg, PA
(717) 635-8871

Monday-Friday: 11 AM – 2 PM and 5-10 PM
Saturday: 5-11 PM

GM International Grocery, June 2012

GM International Grocery, June 2012

Friday Photo: Illuminations of Harrisburg’s financial crisis

Front and Kelker Street, July 2012

Front and Kelker Street, July 2012

I hold Harrisburg’s Department of Public Works in high esteem — they’re up against a tough situation.

On November 11, I wrote that the numerous potholes in Harrisburg are part of the visible symptoms of Harrisburg’s financial crisis.  They appear like chicken pox, displaying the disease: a car-creaking plummet on the left two lanes on Second Street crossing Forester, the partial collapse of Verbeke Street between Second and Front that was blocked off for repairs.  Not enough city money means less materials and available labor to make repairs, a fact that is not the fault of the Department of Public Works but is unfairly theirs to solve.

The photo above was taken during last night’s pouring rain at the intersection of Front and Kelker, where two 12- by 24-inch drainage ditches are easily overwhelmed by rapid rain.  The blurry colors show cars whooshing through the heavy puddles like a water ride at an amusement park, throwing a sheet of headlight-lit waves higher than the car itself. I’ve driven this road myself during rain, and the amount of water you hit causes completely loss of visibility as well as potential hydroplaning and loss of control.

I met Ernie Hoch, Director of Public Works, when I was writing “A Powman’s Perspective of Harrisbug Snow Removal,” published in the January 2012 issue of The Burg. When not talking about snow, we talked about Harrisburg. Ernie could map the city by its physical faults like the back of his hand — pointing out to me each broken lamppost, each collapsed sidewalk as we drove past.  I asked him what residents should do if they notice a problem, and he responded: “Keep calling us.”  With so many issues and so little resources, one of the most difficult problems his department faces is knowing what to prioritize.

Knowing this, I looked at Ernie’s number on my phone this morning but walked first to the corner of Front and Kelker. In one of the drains was draped a black T-shirt fully covering all the grates, the exact color of the pavement. I can’t imagine it was put there intentionally (although who loses shirts unintentionally?), and last night it was clear that neither drain was emptying quickly enough.

But the T-shirt shows that our city is not just the responsibility of the Ernie Hoch and his department — it’s all of ours to care for and save. I will contact the Department of Public Works to make sure the problem is on their radar, but I will remove the shirt before I call.

Friday Photo: Backyard badminton, summer sunset

Summer 2007

Summer 2007

Growing up, almost evening was spent playing in the backyard and watching the sun set before we were called inside to take our daily bath and scrub off our grass-stained feet.  I used to marvel about being able to play until 9 PM or later and having to take a bath each night as opposed to only after milking and before church, as it was in winter evenings.

As we grew older, a badminton set replaced the sandbox, and my siblings loved getting into heated matches. This photo is my brother Jordan as he prepares for a shot against my brother Chris, preparing to battle it out until the lack of light would make us call it quits.

I love the colors, the silhouette, and the texture of this shot.

Friday Photo: Grandma Grove’s award-winning chow-chow

Shippensburg Fair, July 2009

Shippensburg Fair, July 2009

Published Thursday, July 5, 2012.

“Hi, Grandma, it’s Sylvia. I was wondering — could I have your recipe for chow-chow?”

My cell phone crackled as my 91-year-old grandmother hesitated. “My what?”

“Your chow-chow,” I said. Her first-prize winning, pickled-vegetable blend that is always served at Christmas lunches — I wanted to know how to make it.

“My sauerkraut?” she asked.

“No,” I said patiently. Good hearing has never been my grandmother’s strong point. “Your chow-chow.”

Grandma audibly brightened. “Ohhh,” she said. “The sauerkraut.”

“No!” I nearly shouted. “The chow-chow! The one with the pickled carrots, and the cauliflower, the celery, and the red kidney beans — ”

“Ohhhhhhh.” Grandma let out a long sigh, like she was doing me a favor. “Sylvia, you’re talking about my chow-chow.”


I love pickled vegetables because they seal in summer freshness and tartness, but I have never understood the origin of chow-chow’s name. According to Wikipedia, chow-chow is a regionally-associated cold, pickled vegetable dish that is served in Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, the South, and the Appalachian Mountains.  The article claims that Pennsylvania chow-chow is sweeter than other varieties, evidently drawing on our German-Amish tradition of the seven sweets and seven sours. But what is most fascinating to me is that one explanation for chow-chow’s name draws from its similarity to the word chou (pronounced “shoe”), the French word for cabbage, an ingredient found in many chow-chow varieties.

Okay, then — one mystery solved.

The mystery more difficult to solve is that of my grandmother.  Later, I called again to ask, “How many pints do you think this recipe makes?” and she answered with the non sequitur, “Double the kidney beans if you want,” but she is a mystery for another day.

My chow-chow, 2012

My chow-chow, 2012

Salted caramel oatmeal sandwich cookie, Midtown Scholar, Harrisburg

The Midtown Scholar, July 2012

The Midtown Scholar, June 2012

Salted caramel hot chocolate at Starbucks.  Salted caramel crunch cake at the Blue Bird Inn in Cornwall near Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  And now, a salted caramel oatmeal sandwich cookie served at the Midtown Scholar made by independent baker Tiffany Foster of Hershey — currently the bookstore-cafe’s most popular sweet.

What’s the deal with salted caramel? I personally think it plays off of the sweet-and-salty addiction that most Americans have, manifested in our love of Reese’s peanut butter cups, caramel popcorn, or, my dad’s favorite, crumbled Kay and Ray’s potato chips on vanilla ice cream. (What’s next? Salt on our Cocoa Puffs? Call me in a year whenever I become right.) Poco dolce, an artisan chocolatier based in San Francisco, California, uses grey sea salt to enhance the flavors of their bitter dark chocolate (available in burnt caramel toffee, Aztec chile, ginger, and almond), but they’re not the only ones: Ghiaradelli sells salted dark chocolate, too.

As Tiffany Foster notes, salt — and, in her case, caramel — simply makes everything better, blood pressure aside.

Her sandwich cookie consists of a buttery, caramel-hinted filling sandwiched between two slightly-crisp oatmeal cookies that are hearty enough to merit your grandmother’s approval.  The salted caramel filling is not fluffy, like the frosting of a Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pie, but creamy, making this cookie richer and denser than it appears. If you want a light afternoon snack, this is not it; it requires a cup of cold-brew coffee (or a glass of milk, if possible) to soften the oatmeal and cut the creaminess.  But this cookie surely hits the spot!

Tiffany created this cookie to merge two trends: sandwich cookies and her own “recent obsession with salted caramel.”  The Midtown Scholar typically sells out of these cookies within three days.

In addition to this non-vegan cookie, Tiffany also bakes the Scholar’s vegan ginger cookies, vegan cinnamon buns, and vegan jam buns.  She hopes to attempt a vegan version of the salted caramel sandwich cookie in the future.

The Midtown Scholar
1302 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102

Blue Bird Inn
2387 Cornwall Road
Lebanon, PA 17042
(717) 273-3000

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