Week 15: I Go to the Great Pennyslvania Favorfest…
…It tasted kinda grapey.
For the Memorial Day weekend I found myself in the unusual position of having nothing in particular planned. I discovered online that something called the Great PA Flavorfest was being held on the grounds of the Renaissance Faire outside of Hershey. It promised free admission, free parking and free tasting. It sounded perfect. I decided to go, accompanied by my daughters (19 & 23), my oldest daughter’s boyfriend, and my son (13). Here’s how it went.
1. It always takes us a while to get out of the house: By the time we got on the road it was already after 12:00. It took us over an hour to get there, so we were starving when we arrived. Since the website promised an ”all-encompassing showcase of Pennsylvania’s unique cuisines and the region’s cultural diversity,” I was pretty excited about all the great food I would be able to taste.
2. Wine glasses: At the entrance, we were greeted by a woman offering commemorative wine glasses for three dollars each. They were, of course, for tasting the wines. I wasn’t really interested in the wine, though, because I was driving, and also I was with my kids. My oldest daughter and her boyfriend are both over 21, but were disinterested in the wine tasting as well.
3. More wine: We passed by lots of wine tasting tents and quickly began scanning the grounds for the food tents. We found a number of booths with food, but they were selling things like BBQ, pizza, nachos, hot dogs, sandwiches and curly fries. This did not seem like the culinary diversity I was promised. What’s more, the grounds of the Renaissance Faire are charming, but they are also quite large and it was close to 90 degrees outside. So we were hot and hungry and searching for the advertised ”delicious array of the state’s culinary and wine offerings.” We had no trouble finding the wine offerings.
4.Potato Pancakes and crepes: We ended up eating potato pancakes, which were delicious. My daughter and her boyfriend got crepes from a carnival-type truck. These were good, too, they said, but when I tried to order one, I noticed the wait time was quite long. Sodas were $2 each. When my son asked for a root beer, the clerk told us there was none, then gave us a list of off-brand sodas that were available. These had names like Morning Dew and Sun Pop. Again, this seemed at odds with the culinary excellence we’d been expecting. So, after wandering about the grounds for a while I finally figured it out. This was a wine festival.
5. Wine tasting: I returned to the entrance and purchased my $3 wine glass. I’d never been to a wine tasting before, and I discovered that it was actually kind of fun. Each vendor had a list of available wines and you could choose which one you wanted to taste. The easiest thing, though, was just to taste whatever the vendor was pouring into the glasses of the people around you. That was okay with me. The first one I tasted, from Heritage Vineyards (I think), was called Niagara. It had a grape juicy flavor that was kind of appealing.
6. Apple pie and ice cream: Mostly when I drink wine I choose dryer red wines. But I was afraid of getting a headache, so I stuck to white wines. Virtually every one I tasted was sweet. The most unusual was an apple wine that the vendor described as tasting like apple pie and ice cream. He was right. It was fun and fruity and he insisted it was even better warm, but since it was the weather was blisteringly hot, I passed on the heated up version of that wine.
7. Not really a great family activity: There were kids crafts, but my son was too old for them. And, overall a wine tasting isn’t a great family outing. Even though I only tasted a few wines, my son and younger daughter quickly grew impatient. My older daughter went off on her own. I probably wouldn’t do this again with kids, but I think it would be a fun event with a group of friends. It was also an interesting opportunity to taste the many Pennsylvania wines that are available.
8. The Renaissance Faire Grounds: As I said earlier, the fair grounds are, in themselves, charming. There are quaint shops laid out to resemble Renaissance-era streets. Many of these were open, including a very authentic looking herb hut that sold a wide variety of dried herbs, and a tiny tea shop where my daughter purchased a cute teapot. There was also musical entertainment on several stages and a glass blowing demonstration that entertained us for a while.
9. Overall: This wasn’t really the event I was expecting, but it was still a nice way to spend the day and, since I’d never been to a wine tasting festival before, I felt I’d learned a little bit about Pennsylvania wines. There seem to be a lot more wineries than I’d realized in this state! Also, there were some foods to taste, including a booth with lots of dips to try, and another with sauces. My kids spent a while sampling those sorts of things.
10. The best part: I entertained the five of us for the day and hardly spent any money. Admission was free, the wine tasting was free and the food we ate wasn’t outrageously expensive. Also, I’d expected that at a food festival I would eat way too much, but, in fact, I really only shared the potato pancakes and had a few small bites of other foods. So, I didn’t spend too much and I didn’t eat too much. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it turned out okay after all.