That lovely skyline you see above is that of the majestic Pittsburgh and was my view during the Pittsburgh leg of the Pennsylvania Wine Festival. I like Pittsburgh. It has lovely bridges.
For the entirety of the festival I was pouring the 07 Estate Chardonnay, 07 Unoaked Chardonnay, 05 Classic Vintage Brut and the 06 Wedding Cuvee. That’s right. No red! What a rebel, right?
I drove 7 hours to get to Pittsburgh. Started at 6am. So when this guy appeared, I had to make sure it wasn’t just me seeing him:
He’s spinning a plate. Sometimes he was juggling. There was also a woman on stilts with purple hair. Pittsburgh hands down won for in-tasting entertainment.
I didn’t have time to explore Pittsburgh, unfortunately. I had to hit the road in the morning to head to the next tasting in Hershey, city of chocolate. Now, I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Hershey Park, the tasting’s location, did not smell like chocolate. Nor were the streets paved with chocolate. In fact, there was no chocolate in sight.
There was food though.
When I graduated from college I never thought I’d eat cafeteria food again. I was wrong. The organizers of the Hershey tasting provided us vendors with food. Cafeteria food. My plate looked like this:
There’s something oddly comforting to me about overcooked beans and canned, mildly mushy, beef stew. While it’s not good in the traditional sense of culinary excellence…It was filling, free and cozy.
The tasting itself was slammed. The people of Hershey sure like their wine. Good people, Hershey people.
After the tasting I took a quick field trip to the local Giant supermarket to search for something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time: ring bologna. Ring bologna is a Pennsylvania Dutch treat named for the ring shape it usually takes. It was something my grandmother on my mother’s side used to feed me when we visited her. I think the last time I had it was when I was 7. Needless to say I may have built its greatness up in my head…so much so that I let out a yelp when I found the bologna in the deli aisle. Then I bought three.
Two traditional beef ring bolognas and one turkey bologna. No, it wasn’t the transcendent experience I thought it was going to be it was and is very good.
Back in the Hershey Lodge it was time for dinner. I got the Lodge’s special Caesar salad and paired it with the 07 Estate Chardonnay. It was a weird salad.
Iceberg lettuce – normal. Parmesan – normal. Croutons, dressing, shrimp – normal, normal, normal. Cranberries…well, ok. They appear in salads. Chocolate covered cashews……huh? You are not allowed to have a meal in Hershey unless it includes chocolate. I can’t say it was an ingredient I’ll be requesting in my salads in the future…but after 4 hours of driving and 8 hours of tasting I was happy to sit back and nosh on their odd idea of a salad. Especially with a large glass of Chardonnay.
The next day I headed to Philadelphia for the final tasting but I took a little detour along the way. I stopped off in Lancaster and dropped in on the Central Market.
Look, real Amish!
A whole stall dedicated to celery:
I loved this market. I was ready to move here. They sold things like this:
And look at all the meats!!
I got some Lebanon bologna for breakfast along with a famed pretzel twist:
Unfortunately I could not stay and set up camp in the market. To Philadelphia I had to go. Not a bad drive, either. Look, nature:
Before the tasting started I made sure I had time for my yearly cheese steak. This time I went for a broccoli rabe and provolone steak.
See why I can only have one of those a year?
The Philadelphia tasting was great as always. The Unoaked Chardonnay got some great attention as did the perennially popular Wedding Cuvee.
So thanks, Pennsylvania, for reminding me what trees look like, allowing me to take home some delicious luncheon meats, and drinking Iron Horse.