Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OKTOBERFEST AT THE PENNSYLVANIA RENAISSANCE FAIRE: An Authentic Taste of Germany (with a To-Die-For Recipe for Potato Pancakes!)

Written & Photographed by Ellen McGlynn

Sidetracked only by a few acrobats and one sword swallower at Pennsylvania's annual Renaissance Faire, our mission this past weekend was to find a place to celebrate Oktoberfest, and that’s exactly what we did. Briefly escorted through the crowds by the Faire's resident sword swallower, Damien Blade, we found what we were looking for perched on a hillside under a red and white circus-sized tent on the perimeter of the Faire's weekly attractions. Left off with only the recommendation of trying the potato pancakes, we couldn't help but wonder if this was the recommendation of a guy who, by nature of his profession, might be just a few taste buds short or one whose golden throat made him a connoisseur. Alas, we turned, and he was gone. Gentle fellow that he was, we decided not to waste time judging his food credentials--afterall, sword swallowers are people too--and apparently his throat doesn't lie, for it was under this red and white circus tent we discovered the holy grail of potato pancakes.

As we approached the tent, it was not immediately clear that there were two lines and that we happened to be standing in the longer one. Not coincidentally, it was the line was for the potato pancakes. Eventually greeted by the sizzle of an active griddle, several hard-working cooks manned their stations churning out plate-sized pancakes two by two. The line moved quickly, and we were apparently in the hands of experts who knew how to move things along.

The food tent was indeed hosted by experts. The Lancaster Liederkranz, a local German choral group and cultural society established in 1880, has been hosting banquets and Oktoberfest celebrations for over 30 years at their own club as well as for other local festivals like the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. At one time only open to men of German heritage, the Liederkranz is open to both men and women, and prospective members need not be of German heritage in order to join. Non-members are also welcome to dine at their club located at 722 South Chiques Road, Manheim, PA, though non-members must be accompanied by a club member. Click here for a sample of their weekly menus. You may find yourself wanting to be a member sooner than you think.

I couldn't help but notice that the price for all of the delicious Liederkranz food we ordered, which included a giant bratwurst, weisswurst (veal sausage), sauerkraut, two super-sized potato pancakes, cherry kuchen, and apple strudel (all made from scratch)—came out to be less than $20. $19 to be exact. When I innocently commented on how reasonable the prices were, it was as if I were holding the golden ticket to the secret world of potato pancakes. A few friendly exchanges and one business card later, I was quickly shuttled to the frying area where I was able to meet the head chef responsible for the Lancaster Liederkranz's yearly following at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire's Oktoberfest weekend.


Anneliese Martin (shown far left with Glenn Yanos), a native of Minz, Germany, has been cooking for the Lancaster Liederkranz since they began hosting Oktoberfest celebrations at their club in 1974. Once serving as head chef, she is retired now but still volunteers for events like Oktoberfest at the Renaissance Faire, and clearly still holds a position of power as head of the kitchen. The celebrated potato pancake recipe that draws crowds to their tent year after year was brought to America by Anneliese where it has become a featured item on the Liederkranz menu. She and her fellow co-workers were proud to share with us what makes these potato pancakes so special.

“We make them with coarsely grated potatoes. We also add green onions in addition to regular onions, carrots and plenty of pepper. Just a little bit of flour, not too much, keeps the batter from turning black.”

Glenn Yanos, assisting Anneliese at the griddle, having just returned from Oktoberfest in Germany, was quick to boast the superiority of Anneliese’s recipe over those served at the Munich festival. Cooked to crispy perfection in Wesson vegetable oil, this recipe makes for both a delicately spicy and colorful pancake.

KARTOFFEL PFANNKUCHEN (POTATO PANCAKES)
Recipe by Anneliese Martin, Lancaster Liederkranz


3 med raw potatoes, peeled and rough grated
1 med onion, small chop
1 carrot, grated
2 green onions thin-sliced
1 egg
1 T flour
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Vegetable oil for frying


Mix all ingredients together. Heat oil in large frying pan. Carefully drop large spoonful of potato batter in oil and form pancake. Fry, and turn until golden brown and crisp on each side. Good served with applesauce.

In order to secure large batches of fresh potato pancake mix for high-turnout events, the Liederkranz staff prepares their recipe in multiple 5-gallon buckets. To keep the batter from turning black, each 5-gallon bucket of mix is topped with flour that is then blended into the potato medley only after the bucket is opened for use at the event. According to Anneliese, this year it took 10 people, all over 80 years old, to peel the 750 pounds of potatoes it took to make the 200 pounds of potato salad and 500 pounds of potato pancakes they sell over the course of the Renaissance Faire’s two-day Oktoberfest celebration (roughly 1,000 pancakes per day). By comparison, the Liederkranz also prepares over 500 pounds of bratwurst and 300 pounds of weisswurst for the same event (pictured at grill, Dave Reinfried).

Though a rainy weather forecast may have been a deterrent for this year’s crowd at the Renaissance Faire in general, Liederkranz club president, Paul Stanavage, did not look worried. Poor weather typically sends fairgoers seeking shelter under food tents, which means extra cabbage for vendors. He was also happy to report a stellar crowd at the club’s own Oktoberfest celebration under sunny blue skies just a week before. Not so fortunate this time around were the festival's folk dancers and young Topfschlagen players (a German game where participants are blind-folded, spun around holding a large wooden spoon, and left to locate an overturned pot harboring a secret prize) who were forced to give up some of their activities on the Faire’s large open-air chessboard.

Unfortunately, the PA Renaissance Faire's Oktoberfest festival runs only one weekend per season, so when you miss it, it's gone. Plan to attend next year's event even under the threat of gloomy weather because, rain or shine, no matter how you slice it, Oktoberfest at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is no small potatoes.

For more information, visit www.lancasterliederkranz.com and www.parenfaire.com.

Oktoberfest 2009 runs from September 19th to October 4th. With still several days left to plan your celebration, be sure to whip up a batch of Anneliese's Kartoffel Pfannkuchen for an authentic German plate your family and friends will never forget! 

Friday, September 25, 2009

OKTOBERFEST IN AMERICA

As September draws to a close, the question is, “Where will you be spending your Oktoberfest?”

Oktoberfest, a 199-year-old Bavarian tradition originating in Munich, Germany, runs for 16 days from mid-September to the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the length of the celebration was modified to include German Unity Day, celebrated each year on October 3rd. Should Oktoberfest traditionally end on either the 1st or 2nd of October, the celebration is then extended to end on German Unity Day. This year Oktoberfest runs from September 19th to October 4th and, as we speak, crowds around the world are celebrating this joyous festival honoring the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later to become King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, who were wed October 12, 1810.

Epicurean Family Magazine will be celebrating Oktoberfest this year at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Manheim, PA. Presented with the promise of all the old world charm the Faire is so famous for, we expect this event to knock our lederhosen off. We’ll be back next week with pictures (and recipes) of all the weiner schnitzel, bratwurst, black forest cake, and spaetzle we can lay our hands on.

Drop us a line and let us know where YOU'LL be celebrating Oktoberfest. If the celebration you are attending has its own website, we would love to include it in our growing list of family-friendly food events.

Sources:  www.wikipedia.com and www.britannica.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OCTOBER FOOD FESTIVALS HUGE ON EAST COAST

October looks to be a huge month for HUGE food festivals, at least on the east coast.  Though many of the star-studded venues at Food Network's NYC Wine and Food Festival are already sold out, there are still plenty of things to see, do, and taste, so pack up the family, and have a great time!

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Sept 25 - Nov 8, 2009 (Orlando, FL)
Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival
, Oct 8-11, 2009 (New York, NY)
Taste of Georgetown, Oct 10, 2009 (Washington, DC)
Taste of Atlanta, October 10-11, 2009 (Atlanta, GA)
Taste of Rhode Island, October 3-4, 2009 (Newport, RI)
International Oktoberfest, Oct 10-12, 2009 (Newport, RI)
Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, Oct 31 & Nov 1, 2009 (Boston, MA)

Always be sure to check our January archives for a more complete and concise calendar list of events for your state.  Also, our Google search tool makes for easy access to any linked items throughout our blog site.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NEW FALL LOOK


Hello everyone, and welcome to the NEW face of Epicurean Family Magazine. In a nutshell, we've changed our look so that we can enjoy the pleasure of publishing at whim. Nothing seems to kill creativity faster than the threat of a deadline (as with our former quarterly format), so now we just publish whenever we get a great idea (which thankfully happens more than four times a year).

Our mission here is still the same, and that is to be your resource for fun, family-oriented food events to help expand your
family's palate and maybe even inspire some future chefs along the way. We also aim to provide you with suggestions for places to vacation and dine, books and movies to trigger the tastebuds, and tips for entertaining at home. Our main philosophy is that families should engage in a more cohesive gastronomic experience. Children shouldn't always be relegated to the kids' table with mind-dulling menus, and parents shouldn't always be forced to give up the wine and cheese.

We hope you enjoy the new format. Our archives are still in the process of being transferred with an expected completion date of October 1, 2009. Please drop us a line and let us know what you think. And don't forget to check back often!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK

While the weather is still warm this fall, why not do something crazy like hop a bus to New York City where you and the family can catch a Broadway matinee, soak up the city sights, and relax post-show at one of the wonderful sidewalk cafes overlooking Rockefeller Center. With the New York City Explorer Pass in your pocket, you not only save on admission to many of New York's finest attractions (including 10% off Broadway tickets), you also save up to 20% off of your entire dining bill at a number of the city's fabulous restaurants.  Explorer Passes are also available for other major cities across the United States.  Visit www.smartdestinations.com to explore your possibilities. 

Before deciding that buses are not your style or that city life is not for you, check out the American Bus Association's spectacular list of the Top 100 Events in North America in 2009. Many of the events on this popular list are culturally strong with food playing a major part in the festivities. The list is published every year, and 2010 has already hit the press.



AT THE MOVIES: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS

If there was ever a time for you and your family to hit the local trattoria for a heaping helping of spaghetti and meatballs, this would be it. As luck would have it, there just so happens to be a trattoria right next to our local Cinemark, so deciding where to have dinner on opening night was pretty much a no-brainer. If, however, you don't happen to have a trattoria next to your local cineplex, don't despair. Any hamburger joint, hot dog stand, steakhouse, or sushi bar will do. This movie sets the mood for just about any type of food you're likely to find on any menu, anywhere.

First published in 1978, the children's story Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett has been a favorite in our family since it arrived in a Christmas box several years ago from a very conscientious book-buying friend. Now Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation have taken hold of the enchanting storyline and transformed it into a delicious 3-D masterpiece, turning it into what might arguably be the most advanced 3-D animation to date. Though it doesn't quite achieve that certain je ne sais quoi of Ratatouille, it is nonetheless one of the more enjoyable movies of the year. Afterall, who can't sink their teeth into the idea of raining food? A clever storyline mixed with a heightened level of unbelievability and just the right amount of 80's nostalgia, it is the perfect appetizer for any meal. Despite the "weightiness" of the plot, you will leave the theater feeling light as a feather and longing for a Pickles to Pittsburgh sequel.

Be sure to let the kids check out the movie's very cool website at www.cloudywithachanceofmeatballs.com.