Just some good signs from the Green Dragon Farmer's Market. And yeah I came home with a log of that Lebanon Bologna.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
I've held a long standing belief that the best creamed chipped beef comes from PA Dutch country and not Philadelphia — although this is based mostly on hearsay, wishful thinking, and tales from my parents of some mythical creamed chipped beef they had somewhere in Ephrata in 1965.
Most Philadelphia CCB is either wallpaper paste thick (you could hold the plate upside down with no problem and it jiggles like jello) with big slabs of barely-chopped dried beef (not optimum, but hey at least they still have it on the menu, and some people love it like this) OR way too fancied up. One exception being Two Birds Catering's delicious version served at Garage for sunday brunch.
Town Hall's creamed chipped beef - $1.95 over toast / $2.95 over potatoes (!!) was close to goddamn perfect. For real. The beef was chopped fine tender - usually achieved by slowly cooking it in butter - and the gravy was the absolute perfect consistency. And it just had flavor. 40 times more flavor than most of what I've had in Philadelphia. And totally different; a deep, rich flavor from something other than cheap beef and salt. Like there is some sort of secret ingredient- mushroom gravy? beef broth? lard? worcestershire sauce?
Town Hall Restaurant is located in the Blue Ball firehouse. Although the locals call their town "East Earl, PA" - meaning don't ask for a Blue Ball postcard and save your jokes for the drive home. On a "pleasant to obvious non-locals" scale of 1-10 I'd give them an 8.
Great coffee. fluffy omelets, old guys in tractor hats reading the newspaper at the counter, old bread signs all over the walls, the whole deal, and still cooking some really really exceptional country diner / luncheonette food.
Town Hall Restaurant
4315 Division Highway (Route 322)
East Earl (Blue Ball), PA
Monday, July 28, 2014
"There is a weird room in the back with a giant pile of pig parts on a table"
Red flags for my friends. To me a sign of the real deal. There is sort of a fine line between "uber authentic so-and-so from a shack behind the sunoco" and the sort of place you would see on TV with Gordon Ramsay tossing 40 lbs of rotten chicken into the garbage. There is definitely that moment where you bite into something and think "this is either going to be the best thing I've ever eaten or give me food poisoning". I've definitely had both.
But it's also pretty ridiculous that our urban minds equate clutter and the south with "dirty" while back home we happily pay $60 a head to eat 4 slivers of "authentic artisan country ham" (made in a place like this) shaved onto an ikea plate in a joint made of "reclaimed barn wood" that probably came from a farm 2 miles from here. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you know don't miss the real deal when it's right in front of your face.
Anyway Gayle's is the truth. Country ham everywhere. Just piles of piles of it. They make their own, which you can buy by the ham, the slab, or sliced like deli meat. Also other brands of country ham, just stacked up all over the store. And other things like "side meat", ham hocks, pon hass (scrapple), and their own made loose sausage, which along with a styrofoam pint of country ham broth makes the best sausage gravy of all time. The hot dog and packaged sausage selection was pretty basic commercial brands, this is not the place for that. Stick with their home made pork products and you will not be bummed.
And in case the first paragraph makes you think otherwise, yeah this place is cluttered and funky but everything was fresh and rotated and food surfaces completely clean. I feel safer eating here than 99% of South Philly corner stores.
And yeah. Country ham freshly sliced on white bread with mayonnaise for something like 3 dollars. Holy god damn. They also have pre-made country ham sandwiches at the counter on burger buns for $1.25 but they are a little dry. You definitely need some mayonnaise (and maybe a 42 ounce can of bud light) to balance out all that salt. If you are down this way and like this sort of thing don't miss Gayle's. They also have a second location a few miles away that we found while getting lost.
Gayle's Market and Country Ham
5439 Spottswood Trail
Penn Laird, VA
Gayle's Quick Stop