With the number of food scares in recent years -- including a recent outbreak of listeria linked to Colorado-grown cantaloupes -- local artisanal food matters. And there's loads of it in Bucks County.
A food blogger and an employee of NFL Films, who attend the same New Hope synagogue, have teamed up to bring you an impressive array of sustainable, organic foods in off-the-beaten-path locations with Bucks County Food Tours.This new venture from Lynne Goldman and Alan Brown takes five hours (10-3 Fridays through Sundays; other times by appointment) to fully appreciate as they chauffeur you, take you to lunch, and personally introduce you to the proprietors of family farms, orchards, bakeries, and ice cream makers that insist on locally produced ingredients.
"Bring your camera and your cooler," said Goldman, noting that once you get an appreciation (and maybe a sample) of the difference grass-fed beef, artisanal ice cream or raw milk makes, you'll want to buy and take some home the day of your tour.
There are also special interest tours available, such as "Meat and Greet," which focuses on butchers, "Seize the Cheese," and "Vegan Voyage."
The "Mixed Bag of Bucks" tour that my girlfriend (who took the terrific pictures) and I hit on a crisp fall day began with "Sticky Buns 101" with Roseann and Kerry Burns of the Town Crier Bakery at Peddlers Village in Lahaska.
Three Newtown area locations followed.
Be advised that you will need sturdy footwear to negotiate the pastures at Birchwood Farms. It's worth it to have a taste of the flavorful, raw milk garlic cheddar cheese.
Also the hairy, boar-like breed of pigs, which are later rendered as organically certified, grass-fed pork, like to give "love bites." Hoping that I might be carrying a chicken egg snack like the ones farmer Mike Tierney was tossing about, one of them nipped my knee.
The curious cows at Birchwood will also walk right up to you as you don blue booties over your shoes to prevent the spread of any animal diseases.
The Milk House Farm Market, which has been in the same family since 1813, grows 42 varieties of tomatoes, every kind of squash you can think of, 75 hens, muscovy ducks, two alpacas, a llama ... but no partridge in a pear tree.
Brown claims Ely Farm Products has "the best bacon in Bucks County." Their different kinds of bologna are pretty darn good.
"Nationwide, we're in an arc of learning and an awareness of our food. The cream really rises to the top," Brown said.
The lunch portion of the tour involved a trek across the Delaware River to Frenchtown, N.J. to the Lovin' Oven. The locally sourced, three course meal changes. Ours consisted of an heirloom acorn squash soup that was too heavy on the ginger, a Swallow Hill Farm mixed greens salad with red beet matchsticks (yum) and Appetehikan Farm goat cheese, and either an omelet or an open faced sandwich. The sandwich, which had hearty bread, brie and a honey/balsamic reduction, featured slices of apples from the next destination, Manoff Market Gardens, in a bucolic section of Solebury Township.
Manoff grows 26 different kinds of apples, five of them go into their apple cider.
"This is a problem. We need to grow them with their names on them (so people know the difference)," joked Amy Manoff.
Manoff's canned peaches are also popular.
"Once we discovered (Manoff Market Gardens), we had to keep coming back," commented Warminster resident Judy Miller.
OWowCow Creamery at the Carousel Village in Wrightstown makes a point of using locally sourced, organic cream, free range eggs, and local honey, fruits and berries, to make small-batch ice cream. They have some of the strangest flavors ever -- chocolate jalapeno, sweet potato wasabi, rose water cardamon ... There's three different flavors of VANILLA, for cryin' out loud. "It's the flavor that hits you first, and the intensity of the flavor," said Goldman, noting that you don't find chunks of anything in OWowCow's ice cream.
Owner John Fezzuoglio described ice cream making as a personal voyage of self discovery after sensing a lack of sense of community in his native Brooklyn.
Bucks County Food Tours cost $95 per person. Call (215) 794-4191 or (215) 598-3979.