September 27th, 2011


Westmoreland Covered Bridge Festival, Sep-18-2011

I meant to take a break from the vacation backlog to write up this recent trip, but I had some picture hassles that delayed me. So it's a week late.

Autumn is a time of various outdoor festivals, and we enjoy going to local events. And the weekend of September 18 was beautiful, with bright clear blue skies that called for us to go outdoors. So we went off to the Westmoreland Covered Bridge Festival - or at least one site, because Westmoreland County has about a dozen covered bridges, and there were festivals at all of them.

After a lovely drive through rural Westmoreland County, we arrived at the festival grounds. I parked at the first cluster of parked cars, and this might have been a mistake; we ended up walking about half a mile to the festival site proper, and passed many open spaces. On the other hand, it was a beautiful walk through a lovely park on a fine early-fall day. I really enjoyed the walk, but I kept feeling that it was not really what I ordered, as if I'd been served good pie when I was expecting a salad.

One of the criteria by which I judge a festival is whether it features the the thing it's named after. If we to to the Breakdancing Hamster Festival, I'll be disappointed if I don't see breakdancing hamsters. (A more realistic offender in this regard: the Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival had very little of an autumn leaf theme. On the good side, the Franklin Autumn Leaf Festival has some splendid apple desserts.) So I was glad to see that there was indeed a covered bridge closely associated with the festival.

For lunch, I got a ham barbecue sandwich from a church group. Sadly, my picture got lost, but ham barbecue is very much a Western Pennsylvania specialty: it's very thinly sliced ham with a very thin tangy barbecue sauce that barely tints the ham. It's not really much like other sorts of barbecue at all.

For dinner, we went to the Spring House, a farm and restaurant on the border between Washington and Eighty Four.

We'd eaten a very late lunch, so we spent some time looking at the trademark-infringing pumpkin displays.

They had a tiny hill or big mound of dirt with some slides. I carried a burlap sack to the top and slid down, and it was really surprisingly fun.

Back inside for dinner from a country-looking cafeteria line.

The cafeteria line ended up being a sort of testament to the awesome power of milkfat. Everything on my plate deserves special discussion, and it was all excellent.

The chicken was billed as "Penn State Creamy Chicken". I didn't ask about the details, because I assumed that I could do a Google search for it. But the only references to it that I could find on Google were to the Spring House. It was very juicy and tasty, but the sauce was more transparent than I'd expected from the "creamy" adjective.

I didn't know what to expect from the tomato pie. In the Northeast, tomato pie might mean a pizza topped with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. I've also heard of the tomato pie at Mary Mac's Tea Room, which I believe to be a casserole of stewed tomatoes topped with Ritz cracker crumbs. But this tomato pie was a pie shelled filled with a few bold tomatoes and a whole lot of mayonnaise, cream, and cheese. It was very tasty, far more tasty than I would have expected from a description or a photograph.

The dish on the left side came from the salad bar, so I presume it was a healthy vegetable. This conclusion may be a bit suspect, though, because this was a base of cold diced potatoes, piled with lots of sour cream, cheddar and bacon. (In my last forkful, I counted six layers of bacon.)

Lori's chicken and biscuits was not so splendid. Her side dish was noteworthy, though: it was named "Alabama", and it was a casserole of mixed vegetables topped with plenty of cheese. I have no idea whether such a dish is served under this name anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

For dessert, we shared a piece of the sour cherry pie, because I was charmed by the sign on the dessert rack. The pie crust was good but not superb, but the filling reminded me of how much I like sour cherry pie.

We liked the looks of the pies in the pie case, but didn't bring any home.