Friday, February 25, 2011

Lancaster County ~ Home of the Whoopie Pie!

The Lancaster Whoopie
Amid all the distractions of world politics and various other seemingly critical topics that dominate the news, you might not have heard much about a controversy that centers around one of Lancaster County's oldest and most traditional products... the whoopie pie!  Yes, that light and fluffy combination of cake and cream has been getting a lot of attention lately.  It seems that the state legislature in Maine is debating whether to name the whoopie pie as their official "state dessert", apparently because they are very popular and commonly found in local shops and restaurants.
The Lancaster Whoopie
Of course folks here in Lancaster County are up in arms over Maine's attempt to steal a bit of our local heritage, since the whoopie pie has been lovingly baked and served here since before the dawn of recorded history.  Even Wikipedia, that trusted bastion of truth, confirms that whoopie pies first appeared in Pennsylvania Dutch Country and were later brought to New England by Amish moving to that region. 

In case you were wondering, we recently asked a local Amish woman how the whoopie pie got its name, and she told us that Amish wives would periodically put one of these mouth-watering treats in the bottom of their husband's lunch basket, and when he finished his sandwich and found it there, he would yell "Whoopie!"  Well that explanation is proof enough for us that Pennsylvania's Amish Country is the one true origin of the whoppie pie.  So we'll just go on enjoying these delicious local treats... no matter what they do to our waistline!  And by the way, if you've never had a whoopie pie, you'll just have to come to its birthplace, Lancaster County, PA, and try one.  We'll be sure to hold a room for you here at the Apple Bin Inn!     
Oops, wrong Whoopie!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"The 39 Steps" at the Fulton Theatre was Hilarious!

The Fulton Theatre, a historic revitalized Vaudeville theater in downtown Lancaster, is one of our favorite places to be entertained.  It's not only gorgeously renovated in turn-of-the-century gilded plasterwork and ornate decorations, but it is also very intimate by comparison to most modern day venues, so you feel close to the actors no matter where you sit.  The Fulton is one of only a handful of historic theater companies in the U.S. that still produces its own shows (rather than simply hosting a touring company from another city).  They attract the best performers from New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other notable theatrical centers, and the results are top-notch shows at a fraction of Broadway prices.  Over the past few years we've seen awesome performances of "Grease", "Music Man", "Les Miserables", "Fiddler on the Roof", and "Spamalot", to name just a few. 

On February 9th, as part of a PA Dutch Visitors Bureau mixer at the Fulton, we were privileged to see a "final preview" performance (the night before opening night) of "The 39 Steps".  It is a wonderful comedy, based on Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1935 suspense movie.  The plot and the comedy were non-stop, sometimes almost Monty Python-ish in their silliness.  The entire cast is comprised of just four actors, who play many parts in some hilariously inventive ways.  Some of the funniest scenes are when the actors repeatedly change from one character to another and back again, right before your eyes, and in the middle of a conversation!  You'll just have to see the show to fully appreciate how truly amazing these performers are.  Suffice it to say, this was one of the funniest, best acted comedies we've ever seen performed.  The simple yet perfect set decorations, lighting, music, and scene timing all added up to a delightful evening of laughter.  Oh and by the way, Mr. Hitchcock even makes a cameo appearance, just as he did in his films. 

The show runs until February 27th, so we hope you'll have a chance to visit Lancaster and see it.  Of course, while you're in town, why not spend a night or two at the Apple Bin Inn... just 10 minutes from the Fulton Theatre!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

B&B Household Tips from the Apple Bin Inn

As innkeepers, we pretty much do the same chores that other households do... we just do them much more often!  We thought we'd share a couple of tips that have helped us at the Apple Bin Inn.  Hopefully you'll find them useful...

We love serving tea to our guests in small antique china teapots, and have collected quite a few from England, Japan, etc.  If you have teapots too, you may have noticed that over time they can get a brownish discoloration inside the pot, spout, and even around the lid.  We just figured that this discoloration was simply the tea staining the ceramic.  We've been using Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for various tough-to-clean things around the inn, and recently used a small piece on the teapots.  Voila!  With almost no effort, the discoloration came off, without scratching the china!  We now use a Magic Eraser to keep the insides of our coffee urns clean too.  Give it a try.

If you love strawberries, and like to buy large amounts from your local farmers market, or at places like Costco or Sam's Club, then you also know that strawberries don't stay fresh for more than a couple of days in the refrigerator before they get soft or begin to get moldy.  Well we have a great tip for you... one that we learned from my sister, Judy Klock, who along with her husband Bill owns a B&B in the Hudson Valley area of New York called Captain Schoonmaker's.  Take any strawberries that you're not going to use that day, rinse them and remove the leaves, but don't cut them in any way.  Lay the rinsed strawberries onto paper towels and dry them well.  Now put them in your favorite plastic container, which has first been lined with dry paper towels.  The strawberries can touch each other, as long as each strawberry is in contact with some paper towel.  If you have lots of berries, you can layer them in a large container, with a paper towel between each layer.  Now simply cover and refrigerate, and use however many berries you need each time you open the container.  We have kept as many as 50 strawberries fresh for as long as 7 days, and they stay virtually as firm and fresh tasting as the day we bought them.  So go buy lots of strawberries to add to your favorite cereal, for dipping in chocolate or brown sugar, or as a great topping for waffles or ice cream!

We'll share more tips throughout the year.  Please feel free to add a comment with some of your favorite household tips.  Thanks, and have a great day!