Where Central PA and TX Meet

Central Pennsylvania shares a connection with Central Texas not only in the shared affinity of wild game or the culinary influence of German immigrants but in the love of all things local, seen in places like Tröegs Brewery in Hershey and Root’s market in Lancaster.

A modern warehouse décor invites thirsty travelers into Tröegs where you can not only sample their regular and seasonal brews but their experimental brews (referred to as Scratch Beers) as well. Beyond sampling the beer, you can actually buy it there. Yes, my fellow Texans, Pennsylvania has resisted the yoke of big beer lobbying. With envy I watched patron after patron bring in growlers for the brewery to fill.

Tasters come in generous 5 ounce sample snifters. The glassware choice is fitting; Tröegs’ balanced use of bittering and aroma hops across the majority of its brews creates an all-American tasting experience. Splitting the entirety of their available samples with a table of friends is not only fun, but it showcases the flavor versatility of their brews.

Head southeast from Dauphin County for about 40 minutes until you reach Manheim in Lancaster County. There you will find Root’s County Market and Auction, an indoor and outdoor exposé of Central PA since 1925. It is a locavore’s dream. The fields and farms you pass create much of what you will purchase—some of the produce only traveling a minute or two down the road. Open-air and indoor tables showcase goods from handmade kitchen utensils to pickled local vegetables to seasonal fruits like sour cherries—a favorite for pies.

Pies. The word to me has become a sort of after-dinner amen while enjoying the culinary traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The abundance of flaky, shortening-based crusts places me in a trance, especially when the pastry is filled with rhubarb grown in the gardens of the bakers selling it. I’m a fan of the tartness of the rhubarb though many with whom I have dined are not. The pie we purchased at Root’s was a crowd pleaser for both camps, though. The rhubarb had a mouthwatering zing, and the sometimes excessive tartness was tamed with a hefty dose of sugar.

Shoofly pie is a molasses-rich must for any visitor and I recommend buying both versions: the traditional—baked in a pie crust—and the wet-bottom, whose decadence rests upon a layer of rich syrup. Though best experienced, the texture of Shoofly is both cake and pie, both intense from molasses but crumbly and satisfying from the various pastry elements present.

I have ignored Central PA’s art of fresh food preservation of seemingly all vegetables, their naturally brewed birch beer with its wintergreen finish, their history with chocolate, their rich cultural influence from the Amish and the Mennonites, and countless other aspects of the wonderful people who call PA home; so you’ll just need to visit. Where Central TX and PA meet is not just in the love of what’s local, but in what is simple and naturally good. This long-standing Pennsylvania tradition has been in Austin for a shorter time, though with no less passion. But we have more to gain here in Austin, mostly from how our locavore culture will become more embedded simply by time, practice, and, perhaps, a little lobbying for our local beer rights.

 

For more information about Tröegs and Root’s Market, visit their sites:

Tröegs: http://www.troegs.com/

Root’s Market: http://www.rootsmarket.com/

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