Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Scootin' in the Coupe

Innkeeping is such a stressful job....all that cookie baking, talking to guests and fluffing of pillows  can wear you out.  Luckily, my friend Lynne, fellow innkeeper at The Australian Walkabout, had the solution.  She suggested that we check out the new coupes at Strasburg Scooters. Great idea! And, since Lynne is a four-wheelin' kind of gal, I got to ride as passenger and just enjoy the scenery.
And what scenery it was.

We took the roads less traveled...except, that is, for the team of 6 workhorses coming up behind us...

We stopped to see some friends along the way...

some were two legged, some were four...

We got to breathe in the fresh air...and melt the stress away.

And we explored a couple of covered bridges almost too pretty to be real.

The coupes are very cute - you'll feel like you are riding in a cartoon car while My Little Deuce Coupe plays in your head, courtesy of the Beach Boys.

We visited some ladies on the farm,

and fell in love with the kittens (of course).

We saw Lancaster County from far and near...

including a house with telltale signs of young Amish boys living there!

And at the end of the day, we were ready to head back to our inns and greet our guests. 

So the next time you are feeling a little work stress, head to Lancaster County, stay at a bed and breakfast (we recommend The Artist's Inn and Australian Walkabout) and schedule a scooter tour.  We'll even give you a coupon for the tour.  We bet your stress will melt away.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Potato, Two Potato.....Heck with Three; Gimme More!

It's hard to find another vegetable so versatile as potatoes.  Serve them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

Fry them, bake them, broil them or boil!

 Cut them into all kinds of shapes and slather them with a variety of toppings.  

Face it, Americans are in love with potatoes.  Whether they are white, yellow, red, blue, sweet, new, russet or fingerlings; there are certainly enough to chose from.

And, like any other crop, potatoes should be bought from your local farmers. 
Not only will the potatoes be fresher because they haven't spent days and nights in trucks traveling across the country, but the soft skins will peel like butter.  
If you have any trouble finding farmers in your area, then just make a trip to The Artist's Inn in Lancaster County, and we'll be happy to steer you in the right direction.

Actually, you could just follow the signs!



Monday, August 31, 2015

Pear and Cherry Bread

This is a pretty hearty bread - it has more fruit than dough.

First, find yourself a pear tree.  Luckily, we have one in the back yard behind the inn.  Next - find someone tall enough (or use a ladder) to pick the harvest. In our case, that was Bruce.  Even with a tall ladder, we couldn't reach all the pears. This made the resident groundhog very happy as he beat us to the ones that fell to the ground.

Once you have your pears, peel and chop two cups full. 

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 loaf pan - or I use a mini pan (sold in restaurant supply or kitchen stores).

Combine pears, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons canola oil and 1 egg, mixing well.

Combine 1 1/2 cups sifted flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a separate bowl.  I like to just sift all my dry ingredients together.  It seems to make them get along better.  

Stir in 1 cup of dried cherries (I have used fresh cherries and think the dried look better after baking).  
Optional:  Add 1/2 cup walnuts.  I usually add these in, but leave them out if we have guests with nut allergies. 

Combine the dry and wet ingredients and pour into your pan.  Bake for about an hour for a full loaf, about 35 minutes for the smaller loaves.  I have no idea why the image below insists on standing on its head, but trust me, it went into (and came out of) the oven correctly.

Serve with pear butter.  Enjoy!

Another original recipe from The Artist's Inn and Gallery

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Remembering a friend and a boss…..Sam Siciliano

It was my first day at a new job… at headquarters for The Asbury Park Press.  I had made it almost until lunch when I heard my boss’s thunderous yell from the cubicle next to mine:  “Hey, Witkowski, got any plans for lunch?”

I was totally embarrassed, but everyone else seemed to be so used to him yelling that they just kept on working.  Was he kidding?  Who has plans on their first day at work?  He must’ve known I didn’t, because I had no chance to answer before he thundered again, “Well, be ready at noon; you’re coming with me”. 
I got in his car as he sang out loud to the radio (and what a voice!!!) and told me that some relatives were visiting his mom’s house.  We drove off to Asbury Park, and went into a little house crammed with people and the smell of garlic.

The kitchen was packed with food – and we ate and talked (well, I mostly listened) from the moment we arrived until we left.  There were older women in dresses talking loudly, their hair tied up in scarves, kids yelling, a dog or two running from room to room, and pots of sauce(gravy if you’re really Italian) and pasta steaming on the stove. In fact, it was hard to find an empty spot anywhere.

I felt instantly welcomed and comfortable.  Maybe growing up with a lot of relatives all crammed into my mom’s small kitchen helped – even if her food was Polish and this was oh, so Italian.
One Christmas we traded recipes, along with the finished products - our family pierogies for his family’s white sauce.  Good eating, indeed.

That was my boss and friend, Sam Siciliano.  There were never any strangers in his presence.
For those that may have known him, here is a nice article:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Going the Extra Mile….All the Way to the Dressing Room

I recently shopped at the Vanilty Fair Outlet in Reading.  Unlike other outlets, they actually have quite a selection of jeans – you can get short, petite, medium, tall and extra tall in just about every size.  And they are located in the old factories, so it’s a great reuse of space, rather than putting up a new building. I like that.

I don’t go shopping much these days …I’ll blame that on my lifelong friend, Paula.  I think we used up our entire shopping quota in our 20s.  But this spring day found me trying on several tops and jeans and I left with a bagful because Tuesdays are senior days and (GASP!) the clerk assumed I was over 55. 

 Oh well, it was worth it to save an extra 10%!
When I got home, I realized that I was only wearing one earring.  A quick search of the car proved that I had probably lost it somewhere at the outlet.  I thought it was hopeless, but called anyway…to ask if I could talk to someone in the Lost and Found Department. Much to my surprise, the woman that answered the phone offered to help me.  She said that there was no earring turned in that day but she would be happy to look in the dressing room for me.  Wow!  I used the same dressing room several times, so I was able to direct her to the correct one…and she found my earring lying on the floor.
I was impressed by Allyssa’s patience and willingness to drop what she was doing to help me.  What great customer service….and a wonderful reminder  of how we should all treat each other, by taking the time to listen and help one another.
Good customer service is hard to find… especially in today’s fast-paced multi-tasking workforce. It deserves to be acknowledged.  So I asked Alysssa for her supervisor’s email and send off a letter that I hoped would become part of her file.
Customer service is an attitude, a courtesy, a better way of treating folks…and it can become contagious. It doesn’t matter what the job – if you have a person that is happy and sets a good example, chances are the folks around her or him will pick up the attitude as well.  And customers then feel better too.  So the next time someone goes out of their way to make your meal/experience/vacation better, be sure to thank them and pass that kindness along.
Most people don’t’ expect to be rewarded…which makes it even more gratifying to acknowledge their courteous and giving spirit. We all welcome a “pat on the back” – it just makes us feel good. Here at The Artist’sInn, a 5-star review on Trip Advisor or Google makes our hearts beat fast!

Good customer service is something that we strive for at The Artist’s Inn.  Although we don’t have dressing rooms, we’ll try to go the extra mile too!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sweet Street Cafe

You have probably tried their desserts.  After all, Sweet Street desserts are featured by restaurants in over 60 countries.  They are as creative as they are yummy. 

This local success story takes place in Reading - only about half an hour from the inn.  Last fall, they opened a café.  Café Sweet Street.  It's only open for breakfast and lunch, but don't worry - they don't close until 6 p.m., so if you've had a substantial breakfast (perhaps at The Artist's Inn), you've got all day to work up an appetite!

A scoreboard announces the offerings of the day.

Our Chinois and classic Cobb salads were full of organic greens and local produce and the mushroom soup was yummy.

Don't worry if you're on a limited time frame - our food was out in a jiffy. 

They offer lots of burgers - beef, chicken, turkey or veggie, lots of sandwiches, salads, soups and hearty fare.

And pizza - can't wait to try that when their outdoor patio opens for the season.

Oh, and they serve desserts.  Wow, do they have desserts - huge cookies, cupcakes, pies, cakes and everything in between...available by the piece or the whole. 

Since the café is connected to the factory, the freshness is guaranteed. You need to try this place!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Just in time for Valentine's Day..

What would winter be like without chocolate?  Or spring, summer or fall?  We'll be serving these Ganache Filled Brown Sugar Bars at the inn all month. The recipe first appeared in the1995 edition of Food and Wine.  We hope you enjoy them here....or at home!

Ganache Filled Brown Sugar Bars
1/2 cup heavy cream1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 t salt2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature1 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar2 eggs, room temperature1 1/2 t vanilla

1)      Boil the cream over medium heat.  In a food processor, finely grind the chocolate.  With the machine on, add the hot cream and process until smooth. Scrape the ganache into a bowl and let stand until firm, 30 minutes to an hour.
2)      Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly butter a 10 by 15 inch baking pan.  Line the pan with wax paper; butter and flour the paper.
3)      Whisk the flour with the salt.  In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed for three minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla. At low speed beat in the flour in three additions; the batter will be fairly stiff.  Spread the batter in the pan.  Bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
4)      Cover the baking pan with a large wire rack and invert.  Remove the pan and peel off the wax paper.  Invert the cake onto a large cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, halve the cake crosswise.  Spread the ganache evenly over one f the cake halves, leaving a ¼ inch border.  Top with the other cake half.  Cover and refrigerate until the ganache is set – at least two hours. 
5)      Cut into bars.