Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Italian Restaurants in Schuylkill County

I just returned from one of my many whirlwind tours of the county, delivering visitors guides, visiting member businesses and checking out the summer scenery. Of course I have to eat along the way.

A few weeks ago, Donna Boyd from the Peace Frog asked me when I was going to write about local restaurants again. I was surprised that anyone was even reading my blog, so I was naturally surprised that I had at least one fan. Since talking to Donna, I actually visited four Italian Restaurants around Schuylkill County. So here's the skinny according to Mark Major, whose taste buds have been getting a work-out.

Roma Pizza in downtown Pottsville: Working in the downtown, I tend to visit often for lunch and even to take home a pizza (when it's my turn to cook). My favorites at Roma? The Italian Salad is great! (Don't tell Pete and Pete that I give the black olives to my wife though.) I also love their Regular Pizza and Garlic Knots! Many times people who visit our office are sent to Roma on their way up the hill to the Brewery.

Original Italian Pizza in Frackville: I stopped in there last month during my Upper Schuylkill run. The Chicken Parmiagana Sandwich was yummy and hit the spot. But the biggest taste surprise was the Spinich Tortellini Soup. Growing up I was never a Spinich fan (even though Popeye was always trying to push the stuff on kids), but that soup was really something special.

Roman Delight at the Fairlane Village Mall: My wife and I broke away from the kids one Saturday Night and headed up to the Fairlane Village (Mall) and Roman Delight. One of the Dinner Specials was "The Roman Delight". It included a ravioli, a boneless babyback rib and something else .. (it was last month, so please bear with me). It was one of the best Entrees I have had around Schuylkill County. I just called up there and they said it was one of last month specials and is not always on the menu. Rats! I wanted to know all the components, so I guess you will haev to find out for yourself. If you ever see it on the menu, try it!

Marchiano's in New Ringgold: Kathy Miller (Cellist Kathy) who lives in the New Ringgold area, and helps distribute brochures in that corner of the county, recommended I visit Marchiano's. So today on my "Tour de Skook", I drove by, turned around on a back street and had my lunch there. I asked for the most unique item on the menu. The waitress recommended the "Schiacciata". I had to ask for the pronunciation, but even now, I can not even attempt it. Anyway ... The Schiacciata is basically an Italian Sub without the lettuce and roll, but baked on a thin crust, pita looking dough (top and bottom). In the middle ... Ham, Capicola, Salami, Provolone Cheese, Three large tomato slices, onion and a seasoning. Fresh, warm and tasty, I had to put my reading glasses on to get a closer look. Another Yummy lunch in Schuylkill County.

Oh and I went up to Heisler's for a small ice cream for dessert.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fathers Day Weekend

Father's day weekend is finally here. I know all of you fathers and even a few mothers are happy that this weekend has arrived, because as you all know, Dad gets to pick the family activities this weekend. Yes, Father's now get a weekend not just a day.

This weekend in Schuylkill County is a busy one .. again. The question is where is Dad going to decide to drag the family? I have a few ideas. (And by the way, if you don't like my ideas, then just go to the Visitors Bureau Calendar and see what floats your boat!

On Saturday we have a few choices to brag about.

First the Gordon Music Festival. This year's event features a variety of entertainments from many genres. Here is the line up for the main stage:

12:00 - 12:50 * Schuylkill Express Barbershop Chorus
1:15 - 2:30 Polka * The Golden Tones
2:45 - 3:15 Country * Michael Carl
3:30 - 4:15 * Coal Hole Soul
4:45 - 6:00 Oldies * Shama/lama
6:30 - 7:45 Bluegrass * The Hickory Project
8:15 - 9:30 Southern * The Bounty Hunter Gang
10:00 - 11:00 Rock * Kinsey

We also have two special winery related events going on Saturday. Stone Mountain Wine Cellars is having their Annual Winebration from 11 am - 5 pm at 1615 Panther Valley Road, Pine Grove. That's 3 miles northwest of Friedensburg near Hidden Valley Golf Course. Just follow the signs to Jersey Acres Market. Stone Mountain Wine Cellars is celebrating 4 years of wine making. Join them for free wine tastings, wine specials and great snacks. Oh and they say their delicious strawberries are ripe! 11 am - 5 pm.

And hey, if you can not make it there on Saturday, they do it all again on Sunday!

Over at Long Trout Winery at 84 Fork Mountain Road check out Island Day (formerly Pirate Day). This is supposed to be a jammin' good time with Jimmy and the Parrots providing fantastic tuneage. According to the press release, beware of he who carries the limbo stick.

On Sunday June 21st, Tamaqua celebrates with their annual Summerfest in the downtown featuring crafts, ethnic foods, free musical entertainment, Tamaqua Street Machine Association antique/classic car show, historic site tours, and much more.
So all of you fathers out there need to get out of the house and explore Schuylkill County this weekend. This is your weekend to get out of the house and do what you want to do, so make plans and enjoy the day (weekend actually).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kielbasy Festival 2009

I know it has been more than two months since my last entry, but I was recently inspired to get back on the Blog and get blogging again.

A few weeks ago I made my way to Shenandoah for the 2nd annual Kielbasy festival. Yeah I had to park two blocks away, but the walk was well worth it. Weather-wise the day was perfect. Sunny and warm with a few white puffy clouds and I was headed off to the place of yummy food.

Now since I am trying hard to maintain my ... figure, I resolved to just try two Kielbasy sandwiches. It isn't really fair, because I enjoy Kielbasy, so there was no way I was going to be disappointed. First I tried Lucky's smoked kielbasy with kraut, and then made my way over to Kowalonek's for the same. Both were perfect!! But there was no way I could down another one from the folks at Capital .. maybe next year. Let me just say that I had avoided eating earlier that morning so I could have enough room for food that afternoon. I am glad I did!

But hey, that one block of Main Street was full of people from all over the place. John Guers was there from Upper Schuylkill, Mary Luscavage was running the show from the Downtown Shenandoah Inc. office and Steve Pytak was covering the event for the Republican and Herald. The turn-out was great.

Since it was a Shenandoah event, of course I found Mrs T's Pierogies on hand selling their product to the crowd. Across the street, Dot Demmer had her booth set up and her T-shirts were being sold left and right. I proudly wore my Coal Region Culinary Institute T-Shirt from Demmer Graphics. Throughout the crowd you could see dozens of Kielbasi Festival T-shirts (made by Dot Demmer of course). But I still don't know what "Sto Lat" means!

According to reports, there were a few thousand people attending this year's Kielbasy Festival. I was there for only an hour, but I saw at least a thousand people enjoying the day. You have to go to Shenandoah for next year's festival!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Garfield Diner. Not just for Breakfast or Lunch

I feel the need to report to you about my recent visit to the Garfield Diner in Pottsville.

In Schuylkill County we have a variety of dining options, especially when it comes to lunch. Now working in Pottsville, there are still several places to eat and yesterday, I made my way to the Garfield Diner along Market Street.

Over the last nine months, the Garfield Diner has been transformed by Bill and Lena Kontogiannis. Prior to operating the Garfield Diner, Bill ran a restaurant in Lancaster PA. But anyway .. over the last few months I have stopped in for lunch, and have developed a strong liking for their soup. Since the Pottsville Eatery closed two years ago, I have been searching for a great soup (or two) at lunchtime.

Yesterday my choices were Crab Vegetable, Cream of Brocolli and Chili. The problem with that is, they are all favorites of mine. So hey, I asked for a bowl of Crab Veggie and the Cream of Brocolli. Good choice. Both were warm, tasty and simply perfect.

Let me rewind. When I stopped at the diner, I noticed that a crew from Sam Son Productions was just wrapping up a shoot inside the diner. On the counter, I noticed a Club Sandwich nicely decorated on a plate, alongside a plate of a meat dish that was laid atop a bed of rice and topped with a mushroom sauce. A freshly cut piece of cake was positioned right next to that. I figured, the crew was shooting the food as part of the commercial. So getting back to my soup ...

As I finished my soup, Bill was taking the two platters back to the kitchen and I remarked it was a shame that he had to get rid of the food. He looked at me and asked if I would like either dish. I hesitated (because I finished both of my soups) but told him that the meat dish looked tasty. He said, "that's the Veal Marsala, would you like it?" I looked at him and said, "Okay. Looks good!" So, on an almost full stomach, I dug right in.

Let's just say it was the first time I ever had Veal Marsala for lunch and I was glad I asked him about the dish. You see, over the years, the Garfield Diner has gotten a reputation for being just a typical breakfast and lunch diner with your typical sandwiches, soups and simple entrees. Bill explained to me again, that he wants people to see the diner in a new light. He wants people to consider the Garfield Diner as a place to have dinner and not just breakfast and lunch.

The Garfield Diner may look like just any other 1950's style diner from the outside, but you really need to consider visiting not only for Breakfast and Lunch, but for dinner as well.

And hey, don't forget to have the soup!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Can anybody find me a good Shoe-Fly Pie?

This may be a crazy request, but can someone out there find me any really good Shoe-Fly Pie artisans out there in Schuylkill County?

This summer, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office will be launching a fun new marketing campaign aimed at bringing visitors to the state in search of their one true love. Well, the story is something like this: There was this young 12 year old, who with his family, visited a diner in the Pa Dutch region of the state ten years ago. At the diner, he was served his very first Shoe Fly Pie and fell in love. Ten years later, he has set out in search of his one true love in Pennsylvania. The details of this story will be released real soon ...

In May we will celebrate National Shoe Fly Pie Day in Pennsylvania. So between now and then, I am going to explore the county in search of a Shoe Fly Pie worthy of visitor attention. I will also be looking for a waitress who fits the description provided by this young man who is now roaming the countryside on his orange motor scotter and side car.

When May arrives, I hope to have created a list of diners, restaurants and eateries who have home made Shoe Fly Pie under their dessert glass. Maybe the right Shoe Fly Pie is made right here in Schuylkill County?

Here is the challenge. The person that provides me with the most bonafide Shoe Fly Pie outlets in Schuylkill County, will be treated to one piece of Shoe Fly Pie, compliments of me! You have until April 24th 2009!
Ready, Set, Go!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The "State of the Arts" in Schuylkill County

Since “Global Warming is slightly off this year, and February figures to be the typical cold, indoor activity kind of month, I take this opportunity to discuss the “State of the Arts” in Schuylkill County. (Hint hint ... an opportunity to visit indoor attractions)

First I want to state that many notable fine artists have called Schuylkill County home. Still life artist *1Rubens Peale, lived outside of Schuylkill Haven until his death in 1865. His father was Charles Wilson Peale, portrait artist for Washington, Jefferson and others. George Benjamin Luks lived in Shenandoah and Pottsville in the late 19th Century and gained notoriety as an illustrator for newspapers in Philadelphia and New York City. He helped establish the “Ashcan School” realistic art movement of the early 20th Century. Nicholas Bervinchak of Minersville chronicled coal region scenes and people through his charcoal sketches during the mid 20th Century, while Howard Watson of Pottsville gained notoriety as a water colorist commissioned by Presidents Carter and Clinton. These are but a few examples of the fine artists who have walked our streets, yet many more Schuylkill County natives contribute to the artist’s craft.

From my point of view, I know that the arts flourish when the human condition enjoys a certain level of comfort in life. In our society, we can measure the success of our culture through the quality and quantity of creative expression that surrounds us. If you take a closer look at Schuylkill County, you quickly witness that creative forces are hard at work throughout our community.

The Allied Artists of Schuylkill County and the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts both share a long track record of providing venues for local artists to share their talents with our neighbors and visitors alike. The Allied Artists traditionally hold their art show in the summer, but their members’ works can be viewed year round at the Schuylkill County Courthouse and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. The Council for the Arts routinely hosts gallery shows for local artists. The work of Lance Rautzhan can be enjoyed there until the “Schuylkill County High School Art Show” opens on March 29th.

Speaking of high school talent, Lazy Dog Coffeehouse, located at 18 East Sunbury Street in Minersville, will host ten of Pottsville Area High School’s aspiring artists at a gallery show during the later part of the month, with an opening reception scheduled for Sunday, February 15th from 2 until 4 p.m. In March, Minersville’s own Jack Flynn will be the featured artist, while the Allied Artists of Schuylkill County will follow later this year.

The Gallery at the Tamaqua Art Center at 114 West Broad Street in Tamaqua will host “The Generosity of Art” Exhibit & Sale to benefit the Tamaqua YMCA Programs in February. A number of local and regional artists will participate in this event beginning with the opening reception on Friday, February 13th from 6 until 8 p.m.

Friday the 13th is a busy day, as Many Worlds Gallery, located at 205 West Market Street in Pottsville, hosts a gallery opening featuring the work of Paul Karabashian and Kristen Egan with painting, collage and sculpture at 7 p.m. This will be the first of six new shows scheduled for 2009 at Many Worlds Gallery.

In this, my 2009 “State of the Arts” thesis, I declare that our artistic institutions provide all of us with the opportunity to enjoy the many creative energies that surround us. I would encourage all of my readers to check out the efforts of so many of our talented neighbors who make Schuylkill County such a great place to live.
*1 Painted Image of Rubens Peale provided on left margin

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Visitors Guide is Available

The new year always brings a new Schuylkill County Visitors Guide and this year of course, is no different. The 2009 version of our guide provides a focus on the many great hiking opportunities that abound in our county.

The cover scene was taken along the Historic Tow Path Trail, which meanders along the Schuylkill River near Port Clinton. When most hikers hear the name Port Clinton, they think of the Appalachian Trail which cuts through the southern end of town. Every year thousands of "Through Hikers" visit the Port Clinton Hotel for a meal, or stop in at "Ye Olde Backpacker" to resupply.

Most of the locals know that three hiking trails pass through Port Clinton including the Tow Path Trail, the "AT" and the John Bartram Trail. The John Bartram Trail is part of the Schuylkill River Trail system and when completed, will link Hamburg in Berks County, with Schuylkill Haven and Pottsville years from now. At present only a six mile stretch of trail runs from Hamburg to an old Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge located a mile below Auburn. But this trail, which was completed in 2007, is experiencing an increasing amount of activity.

Hiking in Schuylkill County is not limited to these three trails. There are dozens of trails found in every corner of the county, with popular trails being found at the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds in Summit Station, Sweet Arrow Lake County Park near Pine Grove, Tuscarora State Park and Locust Lake State Park near Barnesville, the Schuylkill Valley Trail between Tamaqua and Middleport, and the Lehigh and New England Rail Trail that runs parallel with Route 309 south of Tamaqua.

For scheduled walks through Schuylkill County, Porcupine Pat leads hikers on a variety of hikes throughout the year. Here is Pat previewing the day's hike on January 24th. More than 80 individuals showed up in 30 degree weather for the first of the season's hikes. Through Pat's efforts with "Schuylkill on the Move" residents and visitors to Schuylkill County will have a variety of hikes to choose from throughout the year. You can check out the Schuylkill on the Move website for more details.

I can tell you that in February, Pat will be taking a crowd out to the Silver Creek Fire Tower in Blythe Township on the 28th. So hey, go take a hike in Schuylkill County.