Taylor Pork Roll-the Meat, the Legend, the Regional Ritual

Memorial Day weekend was coming up and I was looking for something to do.  On my way to work, I heard about a festival that sounded perfect for my Regional Ritual type of blog post.

The Taylor Pork Roll Festival. For those of you from Jersey and the southern Pennsylvania area, you get it.  For those of you who aren’t from here, let me give you some history.

Taylor Ham, as it was originally called, was made by John Taylor in 1856. He kept the recipe a secret, but was force to change the name to Taylor Pork Roll in 1906, as the product did not meet the definition of ham in the new Pure Food and Drug Act. It was made in a cloth sack for easy transportation, and was rumored to have been a provision for soldiers in the Civil War. Production was set up in Trenton, NJ, where it remains today, made by Taylor Provisions.  It still comes in the sack, but also come pre-sliced and ready to fry or grill. Tradition dictates that you cut a slice in the the edge of the round pieces so that it will stay flat when you cook it. Looks like PacMan…

 

 

 

So what is in it?  The recipe is still secret, but it is similar in consistency to SPAM. A blend of herbs and spices, and ground pork.

Whether you call it Taylor Ham or Taylor Pork Roll depends on where you are from.  Central and northern New Jersey tend to call it Taylor Ham, but South Jersey and the Philadelphia area call it Taylor Pork Roll. You can check out the divide here.

pork roll ad

So, off we go to Trenton, NJ.  The Taylor Pork Roll Festival is sponsored by Trenton Social , a bar and restaurant who has been hosting the festival for 5 years. The festival invites local vendors and food trucks to set up and offer their specialties, but they must include pork roll. My first stop was a Bloody Mary, with a tiny pork roll sandwich as a garnish.  Great way to get started!

 

 

Off to what looked to be all thing pork roll,  The Pork Roll Store located in Allentown, NJ. I met Robbie, the self proclaimed “Pork Roll Princess”. Her family has owned their store for 98 years. Robbie is a bubbly ambassador of pork roll, and will gladly tell you all about her family’s business, which she now runs.  They were grilling up Pork Roll kebabs, which consisted of pork roll, pineapple and a cherry.  The combination of the salty pork roll with the caramelized sweetness of the pineapple is quite a taste treat.

 

 

Delorenzo’s The Burg food truck was offering the traditional tomato pie (another food ritual I will save for another blog post) with pork roll included.  If you read the Stephanie Plum book series by Janet Evanovich, you will understand the reference to “The Burg”.  The Burg is the nickname of the Chambersburg section of Trenton. A diverse neighborhood, it was home to Poles, Slovakians, Germans and Irish before becoming predominately Italian.

pork roll the burg

For the classic pork roll sandwich, it has to be Johnny’s Pork Roll.  Johnny’s has your  pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll, but also offers variation on the traditional, like the PBLT-pork roll, bacon, lettuce and tomato; The Western-pork roll, provolone, pepper and egg; and The Reuben-pork roll, kraut, Russian dressing on rye bread. Johnny’s embodies the story and the love of pork roll. Check out the video here.

pork roll food truck

There was also pork roll versions by the Bacon Broads, and all types of hot sauce to try on your pork roll by Dirty Sexy Sauce.

But you have to have dessert, right? Go for the Pork Roll Ice Cream. Yup. Made by Jake Hunt of Windy Brow Farms, the ice cream had a bourbon-y-caramel-y base with chunks of pork roll in it. Salty and sweet, it was delicious! Don’t knock it until you have tried it.

pork roll ice cream

This had everything a food festival should have. Recipe contests, music, and the crowning of the Pork Roll Queen. What’s a festival without a pageant? Oh and every festival needs a mascot. Not sure what he was called, but Trenton Social is located near the courthouse, so hence the”Meat of Justice”.

pork roll fest meat of justice

So why does pork roll rate a festival? South Jersey and Philly folks are passionate about their food products and sports teams.  We are a scrappy bunch.  We love our pork roll and our Eagles. Any reason for a party. Super Bowl win or Pork Roll Festival, we are there!

The summer is still young, and there will be more food festivals to attend. Check out the link here in the Philly area.

Which food festivals are in your area?  Go check them out, and post about them here! Would love to see what is your favorite.

Sidenote: We had to try the pork roll kebabs ourselves, so here is a picture of our version. We still had the pineapple, but added yellow pepper, and mushrooms. It is brushed with a Mandarin Orange Ginger salad dressing while grilled, which added a sweet and tangy punch to the kebab. Grilled eggplant was the side.

pork roll kebab2

Enjoy!

 

 

 

New Orleans Adventure-Food and meeting the Green Fairy

We recently took a trip to New Orleans.  I had never been there, and it was on my list of places to go.  I had heard many wonderful things about the city, and finally made time visit. So glad we did.

What struck me  almost immediately was the vibe of this city.  It has a very weathered, grimy feel. There is a feeling of old memories and a veneer of wisdom.  In the French Quarter, the buildings are old and open, with high ceilings, peeling paint and cracks in the stucco.  It is romantic and alluring.  History oozes out of every crack and chip.  It is seductive.

And the food.

I went off of my vegan regimen (see previous post on that story…) and took in all that the city offers. First, to get the beignet.  We went to Cafe’ Beignet, as it was near our hotel.  Ordered our coffee and beignets, and had a seat in the courtyard. It’s around 9:30 AM and there is live music playing. An awesome jazz/blues group at breakfast.  The beignets were good; I confess, I’m not a big sweets person, but you have to try them, right?

 

On to oysters. Damn. They were perfect.  Raw oysters tell the tale of the ocean like no other shellfish.  Briny, but sweet and tender, they  bring alive all of your taste buds.  The gentleman shucking the dozen shown here has shucked over 3 million oysters, give or take.  For real.

New Orleans oysters

 

On to the best meal of the trip. We went to GW Fins, in the French Quarter. Known for its seafood, I had one of the best meals I have had in years.  No joke.  A delightful salmon carpaccio as an appetizer had the perfect blend of acid with the fish sliced paper-thin.  My main course is a specialty known as “Scalibut”.  It is a combination of scallops and halibut with lobster risotto, snow peas and pea shoot butter.  This was outstanding, cooked to perfection.  The pea shoot butter added an earthy softness that  pulled all of the flavors and textures together. Divine.

 

The service here was also the best I have seen in a long time. Nick knew the menu inside and out, and recommended the perfect wine pairings. He is spot on.  This place is a do not miss; make sure to try it. (Dare I say, went we to Emeril’s and I think GW Fins is better..)

But on to my favorite ritual.

Absinthe, aka “The Green Fairy”.

Absinthe is a spirit that has its roots in Switzerland and was made in the early 17th century.  The mystique of absinthe was that it had hallucinogenic properties, which caused it to be banned for sale in many countries in the 1920s. Favored by artists, poets and writers, it was the signature drink amongst the Bohemian set.  Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, and Ernest Hemingway all imbibed.  Oscar Wilde stated about absinthe:

“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

Absinthe does contain thujone, a chemical in the plant wormwood, the main floral in absinthe.  But you would have to consume enormous quantities for it to have any effect.  The more likely cause of  seeing pink elephants is the high alcohol content, up to 138 proof. It has a licorice taste from anise, along with other botanicals. I’m not a huge licorice fan, so I drink the “Mata Hari” brand, less licorice, more florals.

But one of the best things about absinthe is how you drink it.  There is a ritual around how the spirit is prepared.  The ritual conjures up images of bistros in France, with artists romancing show girls.  Decadence, bawdiness, and passion. The ritual itself is as intoxicating as the spirit.

First, you need an absinthe spoon. (These are really cool, and I want an antique one!)

New Orleans absinthe spoons

Place the absinthe spoon over the glass and place a sugar cube on the spoon.

New Orleans absinthe1

 

Pour the absinthe over the sugar cube into the glass. Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful green color.

New Orleans abinsthe2

Light the sugar cube so that it melts into the glass.

New Orleans absinthe3

Add cold water to create the “louche”, the cloudy appearance the absinthe takes on when the water is added.

 

 

 

 

New Orleans absinthe5

 

Sip and experience “The Green Fairy”.

My absinthe experience was in the “Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House“, a bar that is over 200 years old. The bar is like a stage set, with peeling paint and old carved woodwork.  If you are going to try absinthe, this is the bar to try it in. With over 20 types to choose from, you will find one that suits your palate.

I was captivated by New Orleans. It is a magical, mysterious place.  And you need to walk through it, to experience all of the sounds, the fragrances and to feel the pulse of the city.

And get to know the Green Fairy.  Quite the lady.

new orleans green fairy

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Do Lunch Instead

dilbert lunch

I am currently consulting for a really nice company. The people are very nice, and the place is not overly corporate.  We just finished a large project and the executive wanted to thank the team for a job well done by taking everyone out to dinner.  We went to a wonderful restaurant, the food was great, and we had a room to ourselves.  The whole evening was right on point.

Here’s the thing.

I just don’t like corporate dinners.

I know, I sound ungrateful.  But I find them awkward and uncomfortable, even with the best of company relationships. For me, it is still work.  And at night, after working all day, I just want to go home.  I commute in, so I had to take a train ride that got me home late, and then I had to get up the next morning and go back to work.

I see the evening after work as my time. When I was younger, I enjoyed these events more.  But now I feel like it is an infringement on my time. I want to be home with my husband, or to go see my kids, or to walk my dogs. I spend enough time at work, well, working.

So here is my solution.

The long lunch.

Instead of asking people to give up an evening, take your team out for a long lunch.  A two-hour lunch isn’t going to make or break the business day.  And since people are already there working, they aren’t giving up any of their personal time.

A smaller segment of our team did go out to a lunch. And it was perfect. A fixed price menu with several selections was prepared in advance, and the meal was delightful.  We all had a good time, relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company.  And then we went back to the office. No muss, no fuss. I didn’t have to give up any of what I consider my personal time.

I used to work at another company, and our department would do a holiday dinner.  I was a single parent, and that meant I had to leave work, get my son home, get a sitter, and then meet them at the restaurant.  Not only did I have to run around, but it also cost me money to hire a sitter.  Another person in the department was a single parent as well,  so we approached our boss and asked if we could make the celebration be a lunch instead.  It had never occurred to them about us needing child care, and they gladly changed the party to a lunch.  So much better. We still had a nice time, and I didn’t have to run around and be out-of-pocket for childcare.

So if you are the one organizing a corporate team celebration, consider the long lunch.  It’s still a generous event, and  you aren’t asking your team to give up any of their personal time.  Your team will be grateful, not just for the thank you, but for not infringing on their personal life.

Lunch, let’s do it.

 

 

 

 

Autumn is Apple Time-Easy Recipes

grnny-smith-apple

 

It’s autumn and that means all thing apple.  I was just at a pumpkin carving party and brought an apple crisp for dessert.  It was a huge hit, so I thought you all should have the recipe as well.  I got the recipe when I bought a piece of stoneware from the Pampered Chef, so credits to them. It is super easy and always a crowd pleaser.

I am not a fan of the one-use kitchen gadget, but I do make an exception for the apple peeler/corer/slicer.  It take no time at all to get your apples ready, and that is the hardest part of this recipe. So go ahead and invest in one.

apple-peeler
Use the curly peels as a garnish for Apple-tinis.

 

 

Quick Apple Crisp-courtesy of The Pampered Chef

  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 9 ounces of yellow cake mix , approx. half a box
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality cinnamon
  • 1/4 of butter, melted
  • 1/4 chopped nuts are optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the peeled and cored apple slices in half and place in a 9″x 9″ baking dish.
  3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Yield-10 servings.  This recipe also doubles easily, just use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

 

 

apple-cider-mimosa-2

I found this recipe in Country Living magazine and it is my go-to cocktail at any autumn party. Last Thanksgiving I made these as the welcome cocktail, serving it to my guests as they arrived.  Again, super easy and just delicious.

Apple Cider Mimosas

  • Prosecco or other bubbly of your choice
  • Fresh apple cider
  • good quality cinnamon
  • sugar
  • Champagne flutes
  1. Mix equal parts sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Wet the rim of the Champagne flute and rim the glass with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  2. Fill the glass with half Prosecco and half fresh cider.
  3. Garnish with an apple slice.
  4. Toast your friends and family!

 

If you have any recipes that you would like to share,  let me know.

Happy Autumn, all.