Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dance Explosion at American Music Theatre

One of the best things about going to a high-energy theater performance is that it is so exhilarating. That delightful “high” feeling affects me long after the last curtain goes down. I sing in the shower, croon in the car (if I keep those speakers turned up high, I sound halfway decent), and dance while I’m brushing my teeth, as the tunes from the show bounce around in my head.

The latest show from American Music Theater delivers a ton of excitement – from Broadway tunes to songs by famous singers and dancers. Michelle Rajotte must have an endless source of energy.  I’d be exhausted just from the costume changes she makes in one night. She and Melanie Gaskins do a terrific version of Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag. That is most impressive, since it comes toward the end of the show.

So, what was my favorite part? That’s hard to say. I loved the tributes to Fred Astaire, Elvis and Michael Jackson, and OF COURSE, In The Mood and any tap number. And I’m not sure which of the men tumbled high across the stage several times, but whoever he was, he was incredible and I hope he heard my applause. Then there was the drum solo – making me regret not taking drum lessons. Wah.

If there was one song that I wasn’t too crazy about it would be Oklahoma. Judging by the audience reaction, clearly I was the only one there that night that didn’t like that song. I don’t understand why I can’t remember guests’ names from last week, yet I know every word of that song. Maybe it’s because just talking about it firmly embeds in my brain, sort of like being stuck in the movie, Groundhog Day.

I’m sure there are many songs from the show that you’ll like. So if you need an energy boost, don’t miss this original production at AMT. It is playing until October 8 right here in Lancaster County.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Napa Meets Lancaster and the World Rejoices

Those of us who have been mourning the loss of Effie Ophelia can now raise our wine glasses and cheer. The intimate space at 230 North Prince Street has been brought back to life by Taylor and Leeann Mason.

Ma(i)son, An Urban Cookery, features a marriage of Italian cuisine with a French flair, and there are enough changes to make the space seem new while maintaining that wonderful “Cheers” like familiarity.

Unlike Effie’s, Ma(i)son takes reservations – a welcome change. We couldn’t get in on a Wednesday, but on the second try we were able to reserve the Chef’s table for a Thursday night. The small restaurant echoed with laughter and two large groups were clearly enjoying their evening.

We could watch the care and attention to detail that every dish received before being sent out of the kitchen.

Taylor’s smile lit up the small kitchen and Leeann was warm and welcoming.  She was born in Lancaster and moved away when she was four, so it is a bit of a homecoming to move back from Napa Valley.

We shared some of our wine, Cherry Tree Merlot from local Waltz Vineyard and urged them to visit Kim and Jan Waltz when they got a chance.

Dishes feature local produce and cheese from Lancaster County farms – in fact, we recognized the cheese from one of our favorite local Amish cheese makers.

The menu is small and seasonal and will change often – Taylor was already talking about dishes featuring the anticipated tomato crop. We liked both the Ricotta Fritta (so light and delicate) and the Squash and Zucchini Salad. The squash salad had a light dressing and the herbs on the tomato salad oozed the freshness of summer. Crusty bread and the house-made butter with herbs were a nice touch. Yum.

I had the burrata – mozzarella with braised artichokes and country bread, (yes, now that I think of it both dishes show my love of cheese) and Bruce had the slow roasted pork with swiss chard over cannelini beans. The pork melted in your mouth.

Desserts danced on our tongues - a blueberry tart with a hint of lemon and honey in the crust and a lemon verbena crème brulee served, of course, in a small mason jar.

If you go, tell them The Artist's Inn sent you.  Better yet, give us a call and we'll meet you there!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summertime...and the Eating is Easy in Lancaster County

You just can’t beat the fresh taste of summer foods...tomatoes that are still warm from the sun, corn that crunches on the cob and vegetables that look like they are posing for the latest gourmet magazine.

Lancaster County is all about food – after all, we provide it for over six million people a year and grow countless acres of feed for animals too.

There’s a procession of different fruits that parade through the season, each one sweeter than the last...

I thought about all that tonight as I ran out for some tomatoes at the farm stand around the corner - how lucky we are to live in a climate with ample rainfall, and the richest non-irrigated soil in the country.

One time I stopped at this stand and the farmer had run out of lettuce...when I inquired if he had any, he produced a knife and went out to the field to cut a small head of lettuce, for which he charged me only half price. Now THAT is fresh!

We really delight in showcasing these local foods at The Artist’s Inn. The breakfast tomorrow will feature zucchini bread, cantaloupe with lavender syrup, roasted potatoes, asparagus and swiss frittata, dutch apple sausage and double chocolate brownies. Everything is from Lancaster County: the flour, eggs, milk, cheese (from a certified organic old-order Mennonite cheese farmer not a mile from our inn), cocoa and chocolate from Wilbur (in Lititz) and the sausage is made at Shady Maple Farm Market – just three miles up the road. Even the lavender and the herbs are from the inn garden.

The best part is that when you visit, you can take home much of the home-grown goodness of Lancaster County. Just ask us where our favorite farm stands are located.

Here’s a very simple side dish that we live on in the summer: Fresh tomatoes, sprinkled with baby basil leaves, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Add a little Lancaster County goat cheese and I’m in heaven....or maybe just in Lancaster County.