We spent two lovely days at Dutch Wonderland
in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – my two girls completely absorbed and enjoying each moment of “special” time with Mama, Papa and Nanna (their US -> but UK born grandmother). Five types of ices/ice-creams and much food normally carved out of their palates were enjoyed by all.
I’m not an ogre, nor am I a dictator of food. I just worry about my girls’ health – but vacation allows for a little bending of the rules.
On the first day, the girls enjoyed everything from hand-rolled pretzels to various forms of ices, to corn dogs to pizza. I closed my eyes as they slurped vividly colored ice slurpees, munched on popcorn, snacked on french fries, and picked at greasy, over-cheesed, obviously pre-packaged pizza. I can honestly say, the food choices were absolutely pathetic at the amusement park – although they do attempt an effort at SOME healthy eating… I managed to find a grilled chicken salad – which my girls ended up picking at after pecking at their pizzas. I also managed to squeeze in some rice milk
and apple sauce – which the girls happily finished.
We capped our day off at a lovely Vietnamese mom-and-pop restaurant in Lancaster called Rice and Noodles
I had discovered on the internet. My husband – normally a meat-potatoes man – ordered Pho Tai
(rice noodles in clear beef stock with well done beef slices), while the girls had Hu Tieu Mem Bo Vien,
which included rice noodles in beef stock with Vietnamese meatballs. I had Pho Dac Biet,
which included rice noodles in beef stock with simmered beef tendon, sliced beef slices, and tripe. I steered Nanna towards Com Tom Nuong,
or grilled shrimp seasoned with lemongrass
, served over steamed rice. She was a bit hesitant after the initial perusal of the menu, and unfamiliar with lemongrass, she was steering towards more conservative options; however, she was very happy with her choice afterwards.
I ordered a salted limeade
off of the menu – and actually had to convince my waitress I would enjoy the beverage. I was convinced this beverage had to have the same concept as salted lassis – my Indian girlfriend, Hiral, had introduced me to salted lassis
, and I was a convert after my first initial sip. Perhaps most newbies to Indian food are introduced to mango lassis as an easy intro to the cuisine – similar to a sushi newbie trying toro
or fatty tuna for their first sushi foray.
Needless to say, the limeade was delicious. The slightly salty, sweet, and sour mix of citrus, mixed with seltzer was cooling and refreshing, and certainly hit the spot for me after a long day being shaken up and whirled about at an amusement park.
We started off our meals with gỏi cuốn,
or summer rolls
, cool, crisp, chewy and fresh textures and flavors bursting in our mouths. The dipping sauce (menu states hoisin and peanut sauce) was rich, sweet, and savory, and complemented the shrimp, herbs and vermicelli noodles in their rice paper wrapper well. The girls enjoyed holding their pretty packets, and “dip-dipping” it into the sauce.
We then tucked into our pho. Thankfully, I had taken a refresher course on pho basics – so I was prepared when everything arrived. Bowls of noodles in steaming broth arrived, accompanied by a plastic basket of crisp, fresh, bean sprouts, a bunch of Vietnamese basil, lime wedges, and slices of hot peppers. I instructed my husband to add a little bit of the sprouts at a time – to ensure they lightly cooked in the steaming broth but not cooling down the actual broth temperature. I then told him to taste the soup first – without adding any herbs or lime juice, and told him to season it a bit at a time to suit his taste. I portioned the girls’ noodles into smaller bowls, and ladled their soups – adding the bean sprouts, small amount of basil, and a quick squeeze of lime. They then fell silent as they concentrated on trying to scoop the noodles with their soup spoons.
Once I knew the girls were eating, I tucked into my meal. I took a spoonful of the hot broth, and savored the delicate, aromatic stock, rich in multiple layers of herbs and spices that did not overpower the senses. I could taste the time and the effort that went into the soup – it tasted full and simple – yet complex at the same time. I added my bean sprouts a bit at a time, tore some basil leaves, squeezed my lime wedges, and gleefully added the sliced peppers from my husband’s serving – he is not a big fan of spices. The beef tendon was meltingly tender, the tripe was the right consistency of crunch and chewiness, and the beef slices were just perfect. Beefy, simple and rich – I felt I couldn’t eat everything fast enough before one or the other daughter asked for help to finish their meal. “Help-a-me…” my little one would say, as she tried to capture a noodle that was too long to curl up on her soup spoon. “Tetsudatte…” my older one would say in Japanese (Please help me) as she tried to cut a piece of meatball that refused to be captured by her fork.
Overall, a delicious ending to a fulfilling day…
On the second day, we had an opportunity to order lunch – and I was relieved to find relatively healthy options. A vegetable platter, and a deli meat sandwich platter (not truly healthy, but amongst the options, the better ones!) were ordered for lunch, and I inwardly chuckled as my husband wearily said, “I don’t think I could have handled another pizza at this park.” My daughters and I rolled lettuce and tomato rolls with the cold cuts, and happily munched on the relatively fresh broccoli, celery and cherry tomatoes. My mother-in-law just went with the flow, enjoying her grand-kids giggling and squealing in delight after the tenth consecutive twister/turtle-whirl/wonder-whip rides they both tortured their mother through. (Papa and Nanna get motion-sickness, and both rides will cause their nausea to peak – so Mama gets to enjoy these riding opportunities).
We were not as successful for dinner this day – my little one couldn’t be coaxed off of the Turtle Whirl ride after round 4, and my older daughter (and husband) were convinced to go swimming at the hotel pool.
By the time we decided to head to dinner, most places in Lancaster were closed, so we settled for the restaurant at the hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to find out our meals were absolutely delicious, and even better – we didn’t have too far to go to return to our hotel room.
On our last day, Papa decided we were going to see some Amish culture – so we packed up our rooms, and headed out of Lancaster towards Bird-in-Hand. We drove several miles, before we realized, many of the stores and restaurants were closed on Sunday. Our stomachs grumbling, we were going down various roads through gorgeous farmland, when we came upon a once-in-a-lifetime sight of a calf, just born, being washed by its mother.
- Calf just born, being cleaned and encouraged by Mama cow
We pulled over to the side of the road, behind another vehicle – hazard lights blinking – watching this miracle of life. At this point in my life, thankfully, we were not there for the actual birth – I don’t know if I was prepared (pre-coffee, pre-breakfast) to launch into details of a live birth to my 2.5 and 4.5 year old daughters…
We ended up having brunch at Plain and Fancy
Farm. Again – I wasn’t expecting anything, since I was a bit disappointed Dienner’s
where I had hoped to dine was not open on Sundays, and I was apprehensive of any restaurant that looked like a tourist trap.
I was pleasantly surprised, again.
I had the most delicious fried chicken and Chicken Pot Pie – with a refreshingly tangy starter of chow chow
. My daughters had Chicken corn chowder, as well as pieces of my chicken. Perhaps it’s been so long since I’ve had an opportunity to enjoy fried chicken (special vacation meals apply to me too!) – but between the cheery waitress, and accommodating restaurant staff (the little one was starting to get cranky and rather vocal) and the good, hearty, meals, we were full and content.
We also enjoyed a leisurely buggy ride
through the gorgeous area, with a knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, Paul, who had left the Amish culture at age 18, but worked on Sundays as a tour guide.
It was such a treat to spend much needed, quality family time in a wonderful place only 4 hours away from the frenetic pace of New York City. I told my husband as we drove on an asphalt ribbon through lushly gorgeous cornfields, how much I enjoyed our mini-vacation this past weekend with our family.
Dairy farm, amongst corn field after corn field…