Monday, August 4, 2008

A Fun Food Filled Day in Lancaster County, PA -- Part 1

Our friends from my seminary days, Russ and Debbie, live in a beautiful part of Lancaster County, PA. Several times a year we get together with them to play cards, eat, laugh and share our lives together. Lancaster is pretty touristy area but because of Russ and Debbie live there, we get to enjoy the wonderful things about visiting Pennsylvania Dutch country without the tourist traps. They live far away from the main tourist arteries in rolling hills among Amish and Mennonite farmers. It is a beautiful peaceful place.

One of the joy we share with the Russ and Debbie is a love a good food and enjoy the bounty of the land is always a part of our visits there. We arrived on Friday night and stayed over till Saturday afternoon. On Friday Russ took us to a great steak house called Johnny's Bar and Steakhouse in Stevens, Pa (the north central corner of Lancaster County).

The four of us are all beef eaters and I was unaware there was a steak house in this part of PA that could serve up a steak as good as one you can get here in the New York metro area. Johnny's is a hidden away spot and from the outside you would never think of it as a premium place to eat. It is downstairs and around the back from the Silk City Diner (not about place to eat either I am told) on Rt. 272 between Adamstown and Ephrata. However, when you walk in the place, all doubt about the prospects for a good meal are replace with anticipation for a mouth watering dining experience. The room is sports modern decor, a bustling bar and creative neon lighting. We were seated at a table for four that was under an air conditioning vent. When we told the server that our wives were to cold, they quickly moved us to a table in the corner.

We spent some time looking at the menu which included a great selection of steaks, chops, chicken, fish and salads. In addition to the regular menu there were several specials that were tempting. We ordered our drinks and put in an order for a crap dip appetizer to share. The dip was a delicious concoction of large pieces of lump crab meat, mayo, cream cheese, artichoke hearts, and a variety of cheese, served brown and bubbly in a casserole with pita points. The casserole was plenty for four but the pita points were a bit skimpy. No worry however, because the dip was so delicious we finished it with our spoons.

We ordered our entrees which came with a choice of soup or salad and a choice of a side dish. We all ordered salads, which were garden salads with a choice of dressing. I had blue cheese dressing. The salads were a nice, chilled, fresh mixture of crispy iceberg, romaine and mesculin served with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. It was nothing special, but was well prepared and tasty. They served some outstanding freshly backed rolls along with the salad.

Our entrees arrived in a timely fashion. Russ ordered the 24 oz Angus porterhouse that was a special. Christine and I had the Johnny's Special, which was a 10 oz center cut sirloin and Debbie ordered the baby back ribs. I have to say that the steaks were indeed "seasoned and grilled" to perfection as the menu described them. Russ's 24 oz medium rare porterhouse was nicely charred and beautifully juicy on the inside. Our 10 oz sirloins were pink, juicy and tender. Debbie's baby back ribs were a full rack of meaty ribs that fell off the bone. I ordered a baked potato for my side, Debbie ordered garlic mashed potatoes and Christine and Russ ordered asparagus with hollandaise sauce. In addition we shared an order of sauteed mushrooms. The sides were great. My backed potato had a nice crust of salt on the outside of it's crispy skin. The garlic mashed potatoes were creamy and flavorful. The asparagus were tender and the sauce had a nice balance of butter and lemon. The mushrooms were sauteed in wine and were quite delicious.

After dinner, instead of getting desert we ordered a tiramasu cake from the diner upstairs to eat at the house later. When we got home, Russ and Deb's daughter and son in law were married. A couple of years ealier I officated at their "renaissance" themed wedding. It was good to see them doing well. Russ' 8o some year old mom who lives with them joined us as well as their 14 old son. We played a rousing game of "Apples to Apples" and munched on the tiramasu cake. After the game we spent a few more hours playing the first half of our favorite card game, Shanghai. Christine was winning when we could no longer keep our eyes open. It was a great night, and the next day we had a similarly great time which I will write about in part 2.
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