Annually, my coworkers and I attend a three day statewide meeting. Four of us generally make it our business to spend pretty much all our time (except the time when we are required to sit in straightback chairs listening to speakers) eating and drinking, or looking for things to eat and drink. Although we sometimes splurge on a fancy dinner spot we hope will be worthy, we more frequently look for special diners, farmstands, homemade pies, and the like.
As we were in State College, PA this week, we made a trip to The Creamery, at the University, well known for its ice cream. I understand that this is where Ben and Jerry learned their ice cream fundamentals.
We had just had a splurge meal at a place in town called Zola,on Beaver, which was really very good, and surprisingly filling. As we had had a drink and snack before we arrived at the restaurant, which specializes in a "seasonal menu", no one ordered a first course. Since we were going to the creamery, no one had dessert either. I had a dish involving seared sea scallops, arranged on a large plate, in a sort of salad like fashion. There were pea shoots, little balls of summer squash, carrot nuggets, slivers of black truffle, and comma-like smears of a thick balsamic glaze. There was some sort of pale, very tasty sauce too, in quantities too minimal for me to deduce the ingredients. It looked saladish, but it turned out to be a huge meal, because there were so many of these giant, tender, very tasty scallops. There was a nice mushroomy tasting olive bread to mop up the sauce. It was also very pretty, much prettier than the garish ice cream picture, for example. However, I allowed my friends to talk me out of taking a flash photo in the dark restaurant. I might have gone ahead and done it, despite their fear of public disgrace. However, I am not so good at taking flash lit pictures of food, and I thought it would probably look lurid anyhow.
Once we had paid up at Zola, we took quite an uphill 30 minute hike to the Creamery, which was in the middle of the very large campus area. By the time we arrived, overheated and sweaty, any guilt at topping off a big dinner with icecream had vanished. The Creamery is a separate, glass sided little building among other campus buildings, and has a stainless steel, practical dairy look to it. Outside, there are picnic tables and chairs. The menu is simple, about 10 flavors of ice cream, in cones or dishes, a few types of sundaes, and that's about it. I should probably have had vanilla, or some simple, true flavor, but I was carried away by nostalgia for mint chocolate chip, which I had loved in my college days, from the Wisconsin Ag School dairies. I went for the "Bittersweet Mint" in the unnatural green you see before you. It was really tasty, with huge bites of good bittersweet chocolate and a comparatively understated mint flavoring. It was hard to know if the ice cream was exceptionally good, in a basic way, because of the assertive tastes. (Even the mildest mint taste pretty much takes over.) But I enjoyed it thoroughly, and those who had the vanilla and strawberry were also pleased. It was the sort of ice cream I (possibly erroneously) remember from childhood, creamy, but not a custard, and nice tiny ice crystals. Well worth the walk.
As our seminar coffee had been particularly nasty, the second day I decided to get up early, go for a walk, and find my own coffee. I stumbled upon a place on Calder Way, called the Cheese Shoppe. It was very early, and dark, and I did not really examine any cheese. It appeared to be primarily a coffee, tea, and fancy groceries place, but also
seemed to be a bit of an early morning coffee club. It is below street level, and down a flight of steep stairs. It was very dark there at 7 am. I sort of crawled and bumped in between the seated and standing coffee drinkers (the place is tiny), who showed no signs of minding. I got the impression that these folks are here every day for the coffee, and all of them knew each other and were kidding around pleasantly. The proprietor hung out in the back, but when I decide to buy some sherry vinegar and grainy mustard, one of the coffee drinkers helped me figure out how much to leave on the counter for my purchases. There was quite a selection of coffee, brewed up, and an even bigger selection for grinding and purchase.
The proprietor came out for a bit, so I got to ask him if he had Malden' s Sea Salt, which I really like and have a hard time finding in my usual Pittsburgh haunts. He carries it, but was all out at the moment. I forget which of the coffees I chose to fill my cup, but it was very good, and improved my outlook on the morning meetings.
On the way home this afternoon, we stopped at Clem's barbecue,near Blairsville, where they do really fine ribs or chicken on a big outdoor wood fire, and have dynamite rootbeer. You can generally smell Clem's from pretty far away, and the parking lot is never empty. You can eat there, at a picnic table, or take it home with you. It was nowhere near time to eat, so I bought a quart canning jar of their excellent sauce, in which I will make pulled pork, at a later date. I have done this before, and know it to be quite decent.
I am very glad to be home, and happy to see that my new kitten Sid (about 12 weeks ) and older beloved golden cat Archie seem to be getting along, more or less. I was worried about leaving them to duke it out, even under the watchful eye of Lou, my cat minder. But Archie is such a peaceful cat, he probably wore her out with kindness.