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Friday, 31 October 2014

A Culinary Tour in Butler County, PA - Page 2

Written by Habeeb and Muna Salloum
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Sitting down in a covered pavilion on their farm with 150 customers, we enjoyed a tasty meal consisting of Lisa's culinary handiwork:  a cool rhubarb drink, liver pate, roasted chicken with lemon, balsamic grilled asparagus, garlic potatoes, and two cobblers - one made with peaches and another with blueberries.  Relishing the fresh farm food, I thought of Lisa and her children trying to bring what is best in America to visitors who travel this way.  It made for a fulfilling day this ending of our trip at this farm of hard work and fine hearty food.

Early the next morning we were indulging in a tasty breakfast at the Chop Shop, one of Butler's favored eating spots.  Its owner and chef, Bill Atkinson, explained that his dream was to own a loud and fun restaurant, approachable to all but with a twist by having the most tasty and creative food in Butler County.  

At only the age of 33, Chef Atkinson has created a culinary paradise that he refers to as casual fine dining.  Casual in the sense that you can walk in with sneakers or even shorts then indulging in the best of popular foods. Tacos are now Hare Tacos made with coffee-rubbed rabbit; nachos are offered as Barbequed Pork Nachos packed filled with pulled pork; a salad called ‘Ugly Duckling’ is made with duck bacon, candied almonds, apple and spinach but there is nothing ugly about it; and the unbelievable Born on the Bayou burger, dressed with spinach, caramelized onions, and smoked gouda cheese sauce, all these and more, making the Chop Shop on demand by the local community and now visitors coming from Pittsburgh.  

A short distance away, it was quite a different stop.   We had reached Zanella Milling in West Sunbury district, a historic mill - the last producer of buckwheat flour in southwest Pennsylvania.  The mill also produces and packages self-rising corn meal and pancake flour but its raison d'être is buckwheat flour, an ingredient for making the best type of pancake.

We toured the mill guided by the owner John Zanella, who was proud of his mill and for the continuation of milling buckwheat.  As he explained, Butler County was at one time called ‘Buckwheat County’ and by maintaining the tradition of milling this product, he is keeping history alive.  Although the mill, built originally in 1897 experienced a major fire in the late 19th century and numerous renovations over the decades, it still churns out those products that are on demand by the local population.  

From buckwheat to hard cider, we moved from one side of the culinary world to another.  At Rebellion Ciderworks we indulged in tasting various types of hard cider, followed by a tour of a family-owned orchard where some of the apples for making cider are grown. 

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Last modified on Saturday, 01 November 2014

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