jump to navigation

Bowers Chile Pepper Food Festival. September 6, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and our friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders, are very excited to once again be attending the annual Bowers Chile Pepper Food Festival today, September 6th, in nearby scenic Bowers PA at their very nice community park. The festival is free and open from 9 am to 6 pm. It features tours of the hot pepper fields at nearby Meadow View Farm; the tours are horse-drawn, since the Weavers, who own Meadow View, are Old-Order Mennonites who don’t drive cars. Yet James Weaver, who owns Meadow View and like most Old Order Mennonites probably has an 8th-grade education, is one of the foremost and most respected experts on hot peppers in the country, and the reason there’s a chile pepper festival in Pennsylvania that draws people from as far as Jamaica.

The festival features every kind of hot-pepper dish and jarred good you can imagine, as well as fresh, homegrown hot peppers in an unimaginable range of colors and heats and heirloom tomatoes in all colors and sizes. You can buy every imaginable kind of salsa, hot sauce, hot pickled produce (look for the amazing Kamikozee hot green tomatoes), hot chocolate bars, garlic vinegar (yum, so good), hot everything. We always buy the Kamikozee green tomatoes, the Rolling Hills garlic vinegar, Chef Tim’s salad dressing, and any salsas and sauces we can’t resist. Today, there’s lots of live music and a jalapeno-eating contest as well. And you can buy tons of hot-pepper-themed items like tee-shirts and necklaces, and even get spray-on pepper tattoos (we’re sure Silence will get one, she can never resist).

Within easy walking distance of the festival is one of our favorite local restaurants, the Bowers Hotel. We won’t be eating there because we’re sure it will be mobbed with festival-goers. But if you do happen to drop by, we recommend their famous spinach balls, an appetizer we can never resist.

At any event, we hope to see you today at the festival! Just don’t try to fight us for the last of whatever.

Advertisement

Of chiles and tattoos. September 8, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I returned triumphant today from our annual excursion to the Bowers Chile Pepper Food Festival, laden down with all sorts of goodies and sporting tattoos. Of sorts.

We got a vat-size jar of Chef Tim’s fabulous Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette, which we’d fallen in love with last year. You can do the same at www.ChefTimFoods.com, and trust me, you won’t regret it! Don’t miss the recipes on Chef Tim’s website.

We stocked up on the fabulous Tunisian Harissa and the Sweet Basil fettucine handmade by Pappardelle’s (wish we could have bought every single variety—well, maybe not chocolate—it’s the best pasta I’ve ever had). See for yourself at www.pappardellespasta.com. We bought a jar of habanero horseradish (I love adding a teaspoon of horseradish to my salad bowl to give that lettuce some zing) from Defcon Sauces, whose wing sauces have won about every award there is (www.defconsauces.com). And I had to get another bottle of Rolling Hills Farm Garlic Vinegar after falling really hard for it last year. (I swear, you could drink it straight from the bottle.) Check it out at www.rollinghillsgarlicvinegar.com.

And of course we went completely out of control at the Green Kamikozees booth (www.greenkamikozees.com), buying numerous jars of hot pickled green tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, salsa, and green olives. Yum! We love the Kamikozees products, and love that they’re made right in the tiny town of Bowers, PA that sponsors the annual Chile Pepper Food Festival.

Needless to say, I wasn’t about to leave the festival without buying some heirloom tomatoes from James Weaver’s Meadow View Farm. Jim Weaver is the reason we have a chile pepper festival in Bowers every year, and his delicious produce is outstanding. But OFB and I refrained from purchasing any of Meadow View’s beautiful hot peppers, for the simple reason that OFB bought hot pepper transplants from Meadow View this past spring and is growing his own.

Back to the tattoos. I’ve gotten a spray-on temporary red pepper tattoo at a stand at the festival for years; the idea cheers me up. So I was thrilled to find the stand shortly before we left the festival, laden down as we were with our purchases. They even remembered me. A dollar and a few minutes later, I emerged with a red chile pepper “tattooed” on my upper right arm. OFB, ever the good sport, allowed me to give him a Green Kamikozee temporary tattoo (handed out for free) of a sweating green tomato and two hot red peppers on his upper arm.

This might seem a bit odd for people as generally dignified (uh, ahem) as yours truly and OFB, but fortunately, our area is so remote that nobody even thinks to question it. When we had lunch at a favorite local restaurant, The White Palm in scenic Topton, PA, after taking in the festival, our server simply commented (after taking in the tattoos and my carnivalesque beaded red-pepper necklace) that she was so sorry to have missed the festival this year.

Unfortunately for all concerned, I’m not so blase. I only get this tattoo once a year, so between times, I forget about the downside. Which is, that I’m terrified of bugs. Not that I mind bugs while they stick to their business and leave me alone. But if one gets on me, it’s the end of the world. So of course while I have this tattoo, I’ll be going about my business and suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I’ll see that there’s something on my arm. What else could it be but a bug?!

“GAAAAHHHHHH!!!” I scream, terrorizing poor OFB and all our resident animals, who, after all, were peacefully minding their own business. Then I remember the tattoo. I guess OFB’s heart health must be pretty good, since this tends to happen every couple of hours until I finally remove the tattoo, usually a couple of weeks later.

On the plus side, I don’t think OFB’s comedic sweating green tomato and red chile “tattoo” is going to look too much like a bug. So at least I’ll only be screaming at the sight of my own arm. Maybe next year I’ll even be able to remember this unfortunate drawback to memorializing the festival on my flesh. I tell you, I don’t know how people with real tattoos stand it. I can just picture years of constant screaming: “GAAAAHHHHHH!!!!”

              ‘Til next time,

                            Silence

Like it hot? Then don’t miss this! September 7, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. Today, Friday September 7th, and tomorrow, chiliheads can head out to the scenic town of Bowers, PA for the 17th Annual Chile* Pepper Food Festival. Our friend Ben and I, along with our heat-loving friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders, his girlfriend Bridget, and our also-heat-loving friend, Rob, plan to make the pilgrimage tomorrow. The festival is held 9 a.m.  to 6 p.m. each day at the Bill DeLong Memorial Park; get directions on their website, www.pepperfestival.com, or program your GPS to 233 Bowers Road, Bowers PA 19511. The Jalapeno Eating Contest is at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The park is pleasant and peaceful, with playground equipment for the kids, ample bathroom facilities, a stream, and a walking trail. Parking is also ample, for a $2 “donation,” and the festival itself is free, including free live music by The Acoustic Roadshow. The nearby (just a short walk up the road) Bowers Hotel offers plentiful food and drinks to refresh the hungry festival-goer, and just a bit farther down the road, you can tour James Weaver’s Meadow View Farm, either on your own or by horse-drawn wagon, and experience the hot pepper paradise that’s the reason Bowers has a chile pepper festival.

We have huge respect for Jim Weaver and his role in bringing hot peppers in their endless varieties and heirloom veggies in general—which you can also buy at Meadow View—to prominence in our area. And we love visiting the farm and buying the most flavorful, freshest-ever produce, not to mention Alma Weaver’s amazing pepper-enhanced jams, jellies, and pickles.

We also love the festival, even though OFB and I aren’t chiliheads like Richard and Rob. That’s because there’s a lot more than heat going on at the festival. There are handcrafted clothes, jewelry, and other fun finds, tons of chile-themed items like aprons and tee-shirts, food and drink of all kinds (no alcohol, though, you’ll have to head up to the Bowers Hotel for that), and less-hot but super-flavorful options for comparative wimps like us.

Here are some of last year’s highlights to whet your appetite:

We’d determined to try to wander through the festival booths first and scope everything out before actually buying anything, and were doing pretty well at this until we arrived at CaJohn’s Fiery Foods booth. They were not only selling sauces made from the world’s hottest chiles, Bhut Jalokia and Trinidad Scorpion, but giving away fabulous rooster-themed tee-shirts with every purchase over a certain relatively minimal amount (which I’ve stupidly forgotten).

Given our obsession with chickens, OFB just had to have one of these fantastic tee-shirts! But let’s just say that buying enough of CaJohn’s products to get one wasn’t a problem. Richard and Rob were trying to out-macho each other sampling the hot-hot stuff, including the Fiery Foods Weekend Sauce that included Bhut Jalokias and came with its own protective sleeve with the motto “I Survived CaJohn’s Execution Execution.” Yikes.

I was fascinated by their Frostbite Hot Sauce, which is colorless and is meant to be added to drinks like margaritas and martinis. (“Heat up your cocktail.”) They were giving out samples of margarita mix with a splash of Frostbite, and it was just what the doctor ordered to cut the syrupy sweetness. Yum! OFB agreed, and we came away with our own supply in its own customized protective sleeves, plus a tee-shirt. If you can’t get to the festival, check them out at www.cajohns.com.

Oh, did I mention that there were tons of free samples everywhere? I know you’ll be shocked to hear that the guys all seemed to be competing to see who could wolf down the most samples. Even OFB was swept up in the excitement. And unfortunately, once we started buying we couldn’t seem to stop, since there were so many great, unique, artisanal products on offer.

Next up was Maui Preserved (“handcrafted and island grown”). This small-batch company, created by a chef couple, was simply irresistible. The founder’s parents were manning the booth, and I just about died trying to settle on what to buy, asking for advice every five seconds. (They had a three-for-$25 special, and narrowing the choices down to three was agony, I can tell you.) I finally settled on Green Chile Lime Marmalade, Pickled Green Mango Sauce, and Hot Star Hot Sauce (made from starfruit). But this barely scratches the surface of their fabulous selections. See for yourself at www.mauipreserved.com. If you enter the promo code SPICY, you’ll get 25% off your order (excluding shipping), if you order before 12/31/12. Go for it!

Next was what I considered the most gorgeous food item being sold at the festival, Fathead Peppers Gourmet Pepper Spread. Fathead Peppers also had several jarred stuffed chiles that OFB thought were fantastic, but we tried to exert control and restricted ourselves to a jar of the pepper spread, which contains such luscious stuff as hot cherry peppers, artichokes, Provolone cheese, red wine vinegar, garlic oil, and herbs and spices. I couldn’t wait to make OFB an omelette with some of this spread, and the proprietors rightly pointed out that it made a fantastic sandwich spread as well. I’m sure it would make a fabulous pasta sauce, too! Check it out at www.fatheadpeppers.net. Founder Mark Jesse Sr. reminds everyone to use the brine in the jars (as a marinade for chicken, salad dressing, pasta sauce, etc.) as well as the actual peppers.

We then arrived at the Miller’s Mustard Stand. I’m a sucker for artisanal mustards, but even I was stunned by OFB’s fanatic and immediate response to Miller’s, both straight up on a pretzel and mixed with cream cheese. Needless to say, we departed the booth with a jar of their Hot & Sweet Mustard, which notes that you can enjoy it on burgers, sausage, chicken, fish, poured over cream cheese, on sandwiches, pretzels, and over cheese and crackers.  Their description of the mustard as “highly addictive” was certainly true for OFB! Check it out at www.millersmustard.com.

Seeing a stand with tons of kinds of homemade pastas, I dragged OFB away from the mustards to Pappardelle’s Pasta (www.pappardellespasta.com). I wanted to buy a package of every kind, there were so many that sounded just fabulous, but ultimately (after asking to smell my favorites) settled on their Tunisian Harissa fettucine (definitely not something I’m likely to find at the local grocery!). It proved to be out of this world, simply sauced with butter and garlic. Thank God they weren’t offering samples, or doubtless I’d have sampled myself silly.  

Then we encountered Chef Tim. Chef Tim Foods, LLC, doesn’t sound especially promising compared to many of the catchy names of the other foods. But after meeting Chef Tim Jutzi, we hastily revised our impression. Chef Tim’s Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette became a must-buy item, and I’m just sorry we couldn’t afford a case. Unlike so many horrid, gummy commercial balsamic vinaigrettes, Chef Tim’s is the real thing: light, flavorful, healthful, delicious. No horrifying and/or disgusting adulterants. And Chef Tim had very strong views (with which I wholeheartedly concur) about how to keep and use his vinaigrette, summed up on his business card: “Shake, Shake, Shake, Don’t Refrigerate.” Yum!!! Check it out at www.ChefTimFoods.com.

I also succumbed to Rolling Hills Farm Garlic Vinegar. Rolling Hills was offering drinking samples of both their Garlic Vinegar and the honey version, and I noticed that pretty much everyone was declining the opportunity to sample them. Their mistake. Anyone who’s ever sampled really good balsamic vinegar knows that vinegar taken straight up can be delicious, not to mention incredibly good for you. Rolling Hills Farm’s vinegars are extremely delicious. Again, I’d have killed to be able to buy an entire case. You can order their vinegars from one of my all-time favorite sites, www.LocalHarvest.org, if you can’t make it to the festival.   

Then we discovered the Easton Salsa Company, practically next door in Easton, PA (www.EastonSalsa.com). Their salsas were so irresistible, I’d have bought all three if OFB hadn’t contained my enthusiasm. So I limited myself to their Pineapple Salski. (I refrained from mentioning to OFB that apparently their products are available at Healthy Alternatives in nearby Trexlertown, so I can satisfy my cravings anytime.)

Unfortunately for us, the festival closes down at 6 p.m., so we weren’t able to get back to some of our old favorites. I literally ran to the Meadow View Farm booth to buy a box of heirloom cherry tomatoes before everything was packed up. Thank heavens, we can get our favorite Alma Weaver hot pepper jams, like Blackberry-Czech Black and Apricot-Lemon Drop, plus all her other marvelous jams, jellies, and pickles, and various chile-infused vinegars and hot sauces made by family members, including Jim Weaver’s Dutchy Gun Powder powdered hot peppers, anytime, since we live about 20 minutes away.

But we’re still outraged that we missed stocking up on our longtime favorite Csigi sauces, Honnie T Sauce, Southwest Chile Supply products, The Happy Jalapeno Company’s yummy relishes, Green Kamikozees homemade hot green tomatoes (which OFB simply loved), and High River Sauces Rock & Roll Outlaws’ fabulous stuff (gotta love a guy who makes hot sauce inspired by Led Zeppelin and King Crimson, yeah!!!!).

As you can tell, we can’t wait to head out to the festival on Saturday. I’ll be flaunting the beaded chile necklace I bought at the festival many years ago, and hope to aquire a red-hot chile pepper temporary “tattoo” to shock my firends and neighbors (a $1 spray-on). If you see me and our friend Ben (look for a short woman and a very tall guy), feel free to come on up and say hello. We’d love to meet you! But whether you attend the festival in person or simply check out all these marvelous products online, please do give them a look. You’ll be glad you did!

            ‘Til next time,

                          Silence

* The festival uses the spelling “chile,” referring to the hot peppers themselves, rather than “chili,” which is generally associated with the dish made with meat and/or beans and hot peppers.

Bowers Chile Fest 2011. September 10, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, our friend Ben and I, along with our heat-loving friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders, his girlfriend Bridget, and our also-heat-loving friend, Rob, made the pilgrimage to scenic Bowers, PA for the 16th Annual Chile* Pepper Food Festival. (You can go, too: It’s still going on today from 9 to 6 at the Bill DeLong Memorial Park; get directions on their website, www.pepperfestival.com, or program your GPS to 233 Bowers Road, Bowers PA 19511. The Jalapeno Eating Contest is at 4 p.m.)

We—and the many vendors—were so relieved that, despite Hurricane Lee, the Chile Fest wasn’t rained out. Hooray! The park is pleasant and peaceful, with playground equipment for the kids, ample bathroom facilities, and a walking trail. Parking is also ample, for a $2 “donation,” and the festival itself is free, including free live music by The Acoustic Roadshow. The nearby (just a short walk up the road) Bowers Hotel offers plentiful food and drinks to refresh the hungry festival-goer, and just a bit farther down the road, you can tour James Weaver’s Meadow View Farm, either on your own or by horse-drawn wagon, and experience the hot pepper paradise that’s the reason Bowers has a chile pepper festival.

We have huge respect for Jim Weaver and his role in bringing hot peppers in their endless varieties and heirloom veggies in general—which you can also buy at Meadow View—to prominence in our area. And we love visiting the farm and buying the most flavorful, freshest-ever produce, not to mention Alma Weaver’s amazing jams, jellies, and pickles.

We also love the festival, even though OFB and I aren’t chileheads like Richard and Rob. That’s because there’s a lot more than heat going on at the festival. There are handcrafted clothes, jewelry, and other fun finds, tons of chile-themed items like aprons and tee-shirts, food and drink of all kinds (no alcohol, though, you’ll have to head up to the Bowers Hotel for that), and less-hot but super-flavorful options for comparative wimps like us.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

We’d determined to try to wander through the festival booths first and scope everything out before actually buying anything, and were doing pretty well at this until we arrived at CaJohn’s Fiery Foods booth. They were not only selling sauces made from the world’s hottest chiles, Bhut Jalokia and Trinidad Scorpion, but giving away fabulous rooster-themed tee-shirts with every purchase over a certain relatively minimal amount (which I’ve stupidly forgotten).

Given our obsession with chickens, OFB just had to have one of these fantastic tee-shirts! But let’s just say that buying enough of CaJohn’s products to get one wasn’t a problem. Richard and Rob were trying to out-macho each other sampling the hot-hot stuff, including the Fiery Foods Weekend Sauce that included Bhut Jalokias and came with its own protective sleeve with the motto “I Survived CaJohn’s Execution Execution.” Yikes.

I was fascinated by their Frostbite Hot Sauce, which is colorless and is meant to be added to drinks like margaritas and martinis. (“Heat up your cocktail.”) They were giving out samples of margarita mix with a splash of Frostbite, and it was just what the doctor ordered to cut the syrupy sweetness. Yum! OFB agreed, and we came away with our own supply in its own customized protective sleeves, plus a tee-shirt. If you can’t get to the festival, check them out at www.cajohns.com.

Oh, did I mention that there were tons of free samples everywhere? I know you’ll be shocked to hear that the guys all seemed to be competing to see who could wolf down the most samples. Even OFB was swept up in the excitement. And unfortunately, once we started buying we couldn’t seem to stop, since there were so many great, unique, artisanal products on offer.

Next up was Maui Preserved (“handcrafted and island grown”). This small-batch company, created by a chef couple, was simply irresistible. The founder’s parents were manning the booth, and I just about died trying to settle on what to buy, asking for advice every five seconds. (They had a three-for-$25 special, and narrowing the choices down to three was agony, I can tell you.) I finally settled on Green Chile Lime Marmalade, Pickled Green Mango Sauce, and Hot Star Hot Sauce (made from starfruit). But this barely scratches the surface of their fabulous selections. See for yourself at www.mauipreserved.com. If you enter the promo code SPICY, you’ll get 25% off your order (excluding shipping), if you order before 12/31/11. Go for it!

Next was what I considered the most gorgeous food item being sold at the festival, Fathead Peppers Gourmet Pepper Spread. Fathead Peppers also had several jarred stuffed chiles that OFB thought were fantastic, but we tried to exert control and restricted ourselves to a jar of the pepper spread, which contains such luscious stuff as hot cherry peppers, artichokes, Provolone cheese, red wine vinegar, garlic oil, and herbs and spices. I can’t wait to make OFB an omelette with some of this spread, and the proprietors rightly pointed out that it made a fantastic sandwich spread as well. I’m sure it would make a fabulous pasta sauce, too! Check it out at www.fatheadpeppers.net. Founder Mark Jesse Sr. reminds everyone to use the brine in the jars (as a marinade for chicken, salad dressing, pasta sauce, etc.) as well as the actual peppers.

We then arrived at the Miller’s Mustard Stand. I’m a sucker for artisanal mustards, but even I was stunned by OFB’s fanatic and immediate response to Miller’s, both straight up on a pretzel and mixed with cream cheese. Needless to say, we departed the booth with a jar of their Hot & Sweet Mustard, which notes that you can enjoy it on burgers, sausage, chicken, fish, poured over cream cheese, on sandwiches, pretzels, and over cheese and crackers.  Their description of the mustard as “highly addictive” was certainly true for OFB! Check it out at www.millersmustard.com.

Seeing a stand with tons of kinds of homemade pastas, I dragged OFB away from the mustards to Pappardelle’s Pasta (www.pappardellespasta.com). I wanted to buy a package of every kind, there were so many that sounded just fabulous, but ultimately (after asking to smell my favorites) settled on their Tunisian Harissa fettucine (definitely not something I’m likely to find at the local grocery!). Thank God they weren’t offering samples, or doubtless I’d have sampled myself silly.  

Then we encountered Chef Tim. Chef Tim Foods, LLC, doesn’t sound especially promising compared to many of the catchy names of the other foods. But after meeting Chef Tim Jutzi, we hastily revised our impression. Chef Tim’s Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette became a must-buy item, and I’m just sorry we couldn’t afford a case. Unlike so many horrid, gummy commercial balsamic vinaigrettes, Chef Tim’s is the real thing: light, flavorful, healthful, delicious. No horrifying and/or disgusting adulterants. And Chef Tim had very strong views (with which I wholeheartedly concur) about how to keep and use his vinaigrette, summed up on his business card: “Shake, Shake, Shake, Don’t Refrigerate.” Yum!!! Check it out at www.ChefTimFoods.com.

I also succumbed to Rolling Hills Farm Garlic Vinegar. Rolling Hills was offering drinking samples of both their Garlic Vinegar and the honey version, and I noticed that pretty much everyone was declining the opportunity to sample them. Their mistake. Anyone who’s ever sampled really good balsamic vinegar knows that vinegar taken straight up can be delicious, not to mention incredibly good for you. Rolling Hills Farm’s vinegars are extremely delicious. Again, I’d have killed to be able to buy an entire case. You can order their vinegars from one of my all-time favorite sites, www.LocalHarvest.org, if you can’t make it to the festival.   

Then we discovered the Easton Salsa Company, practically next door in Easton, PA (www.EastonSalsa.com). Their salsas were so irresistible, I’d have bought all three if OFB hadn’t contained my enthusiasm. So I limited myself to their Pineapple Salski. (I refrained from mentioning to OFB that apparently their products are available at Healthy Alternatives in nearby Trexlertown, so I can satisfy my cravings anytime.)

Unfortunately for us, the festival closes down at 6 p.m., so we weren’t able to get back to some of our old favorites. I literally ran to the Meadow View Farm booth to buy a box of heirloom cherry tomatoes before everything was packed up. Thank heavens, we can get our favorite Alma Weaver hot pepper jams, like Blackberry-Czech Black and Apricot-Lemon Drop, plus all her other marvelous jams, jellies, and pickles, and various chile-infused vinegars and hot sauces made by family members, including Jim Weaver’s Dutchy Gun Powder powdered hot peppers, anytime, since we live about 20 minutes away.

But we’re still outraged that we missed stocking up on our longtime favorite Csigi sauces, Honnie T Sauce, Southwest Chile Supply products, The Happy Jalapeno Company’s yummy relishes, Green Kamikozees homemade hot green tomatoes (which OFB simply loved), and High River Sauces Rock & Roll Outlaws’ fabulous stuff (gotta love a guy who makes hot sauce inspired by Led Zeppelin and King Crimson, yeah!!!!).

So guess what? We’re going back today. I’ll be flaunting the beaded chile necklace I bought at the festival many years ago, and the red-hot chile pepper temporary “tattoo” I acquired just before the festival closed yesterday (a $1 spray-on). If you see me and our friend Ben (look for a short woman and a very tall guy), feel free to come on up and say hello. We’d love to meet you! But whether you attend the festival in person or simply check out all these marvelous products online, please do give them a look. You’ll be glad you did!

            ‘Til next time,

                          Silence

* The festival uses the spelling “chile,” referring to the hot peppers themselves, rather than “chili,” which is generally associated with the dish made with meat and/or beans and hot peppers.

Hot, hot, hot: Chile Pepper Festival 2010 September 8, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

This weekend is one of our favorite local festivals here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, the 15th Annual Chile* Pepper Food Festival held at Bill Delong Memorial Park in scenic Bowers, PA. (A sign of the times, this year’s brochure urges festival goers to “program your GPS to 233 Bowers Road, Bowers, PA 19511.”) The festival runs from 9 to 6 both Friday and Saturday (September 10th and 11th). And trust us, it’s the most colorful, flavorful festival you’ll ever attend.

You don’t have to be a hot-pepper fanatic like our friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders (who grows the hottest of the hot in containers on his deck), or our friend Rob (who managed to cram 19 kinds of heirloom hot pepper into his garden this year and has literally thousands of hot peppers ready to harvest) to love the Chile Pepper Festival. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are definitely wimps when it comes to hot food, but, like Richard and Rob, we still look forward to the Bowers festival all year long.

That’s because it’s really, really fun. There are tons of beautiful crafts and handmade clothes (including, of course, chile-themed tee-shirts and aprons—pretty much chile-themed everything, come to think of it—but many of the crafts have nothing to do with chiles). There’s live music. There are contests: for the best chile-themed song, the best salsa, and —gulp—a jalapeno-eating contest. (Contestants have to eat a heaping plate of raw jalapenos in 30 seconds; the person who manages to down the most wins. The festival website pictures last year’s winner and runners-up holding their trophies, and amazingly, they look remarkably lifelike.)

There’s also food—every conceivable kind of food, from actual chili and chili dogs to kettle corn (a regional specialty that, to our dismay, turned out not to be some wonderful kind of corn dish but in fact is popcorn). And, of course, drinks to help put out the flames, from iced tea and lemonade to specialty sodas, brewed locally in nearby Kutztown by the Kutztown Soda Works.

And that’s just the beginning. You can buy any kind of chile pepper on earth, from jalapenos and habaneros to the legendary Bhut Jalokia, the world’s hottest pepper. It is awesome to see the range of colors and shapes of the endless assortment of fresh peppers for sale, from the tiny bright yellow teardrops of ‘Wild Brazil’ to flesh- and chocolate-colored habaneros. There are dried peppers, in packets and powders and ristras and wreaths and dried flower arrangements. And there are literally thousands of salsas and sauces to choose from, as well as every conceivable kind of pepper-flavored product, from chile chocolates to jalapeno wine. There is also a fantastic assortment of heirloom tomatoes; Silence can never resist those.

For us, one of the biggest attractions is James Weaver’s Meadow View Farm. Jim Weaver is the reason there is a chile pepper festival in Bowers: He’s a nationally renowned expert on heirloom vegetables and especially hot peppers of all types and stripes. He’s also an Old Order Mennonite, which translates to an almost Amish simplicity: no electricity in the home, no automobiles, an eighth-grade education. We admire Jim Weaver, not just because of his amazing achievements, but also because we think he’s the happiest guy we know. If you see him, be sure to ask about the peppers; you’re sure to learn something.

The festival features a booth of Meadow View’s produce, but you can also drive or take a horse-drawn wagon ride up to Meadow View Farm itself, tour the nursery, enjoy fields of pick-your-own peppers and flowers, and take home some of the delicious array of products Jim and his family make on-site: Jim’s own Dutchy Gun Powder (Pennsylvania Dutch hot pepper) blends; Jay Dee’s hot pepper vinegars; Uncle Joe’s hot sauces; and Alma Weaver’s fabulous hot pepper-fruit jellies (our favorites are blackberry/Czech Black, peach/Lemon Drop, and Hottest Habanero) and homemade pickles (from dilly beans and pickled garlic to chipotles and chowchow).

OFB and Silence actually cheated and went to Meadow View over Labor Day Weekend so Silence could get a huge box of heirloom paste tomatoes to make into sauce; we’ll be back at the end of the month to check out the always-extensive selection of pumpkins and winter squash to add to our Harvest Home display. And of course, we buy our heirloom veggie transplants from Meadow View every spring.

But let’s get back to the festival. It’s held in a lovely park with plenty of shade trees, plenty of bathrooms (Silence always insists that we mention this), and a great walking trail. Admission is by donation, and parking is free. Much to our black German shepherd Shiloh’s distress, the festival is pet-free, and since it’s family-friendly, it’s also alcohol-free. (You can buy that bottle of jalapeno wine, but don’t try opening it on site.) Check out the details and great photos of past festivals at www.pepperfestival.com. And do come! We’d love to see you there.

*The festival name reflects the difference between the peppers themselves, chiles, and the famous dish made from them, chili. As opposed to the country, Chile. And as if this isn’t confusing enough, Silence points out that most Indian and Asian cookbooks refer to the peppers as chillis. Let’s call the whole thing hot peppers.

Chile Pepper Festival: It’s time to get hot. September 3, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,
8 comments

Just as the weather cools down, it’s time to heat up with the 14th annual Bowers Chile* Pepper Food Festival, coming to the William DeLong Park in scenic Bowers, PA on Friday and Saturday, September 11th and 12th, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders, and our friends anticipate the arrival of this beloved event every year. From the time the billboards go up at the beginning of summer, we look forward to what is one of the highlights of our year. (The others are the Kutztown Folk Festival, Stahl Pottery Festival, PA Renewable Energy Festival, Green Lane Scottish and Irish Festival, Celtic Classic, and Kristkindlmarkt, which see.)

If you’re anywhere near eastern Pennsylvania that weekend, we enthusiastically urge you to drop by and enjoy the festival. You can buy every type of fresh hot pepper under the sun, from jalapenos and cayenne to habaneros, Scotch bonnets, and the fabled Bhut Jalokia, the world’s hottest pepper. And you can also buy what we suspect is the world’s largest selection of dried chile pepper blends, salsas, hot sauces, ristras and wreaths of dried peppers, and pepper paraphernalia. Chiliheads can enjoy every conceivable sort of pepper-related food, from hot pepper chocolates and jellies to chile-laced cheeses and roasted ears of corn with chile-butter sauce. Not to mention, of course, a wealth of actual chilis, chili dogs, jalapeno poppers, and every other three-alarm treat your heart desires.

Other aspects we particularly enjoy are the wide assortment of crafts available, from gorgeous hand-dyed tee-shirts to handmade dream catchers. Our friend Rob especially likes the assortment of genuine cotton Hawai’ian shirts at one particular booth, and of course Richard can’t get enough of the hotter-than-hell hot sauces in their endless variations. (His favorite to date is Endorphin Rush.) And more than one of our friends (ahem, you know who you are) can be found sampling the huge assortment of salsas, sauces and other treats that practically every booth provides for free. There are plenty of (non-alcoholic) beverages on hand to quench the flames, and there’s live music. The park is lovely and shady with a walking trail and ample bathrooms (Silence asked our friend Ben to make a point of mentioning this) and parking.

Other highlights include three contests: a hot-pepper-eating contest (yow), a hot-pepper song contest (ow), and new this year, a salsa contest. At first, we thought this might be a salsa-eating contest, but it’s actually a country-fair style salsa judging contest. People bring their homemade salsas and recipes, the judges sample them on a ten-point rating system, and the winners get ribbons. Great idea! Silence is hoping the recipes will be posted on the festival website (www.pepperfestival.com), which also has highlights of last year’s festival and directions to the somewhat obscure town of Bowers, so we urge you to check it out.

One of the most fun aspects of the festival from our perspective involves the reason Bowers has a chile pepper festival at all, and that’s Jim Weaver and his Meadow View Farm. We’ve posted about Jim, his work, and his farm many times here on Poor Richard’s Almanac, but he continues to awe and amaze us. A conservative Mennonite (think the Amish’s older cousins) who uses no electricity in his home and farms with horses, Jim Weaver is a recognized world-class expert in heirloom hot peppers. Ask him anything at all about hot peppers, and you’re bound to learn something. You can buy his own famous blends of “Dutchy Gun Powder” (a pun on the Pennsylvania Dutch, aka Deitsch, aka Deutsch, aka German, of whom the Amish and Mennonites are part, and hot pepper powder blends) and go on horse-drawn hayrides to his nearby Meadow View Farm from the festival. Or you can just drive over there and explore the thriving nursery, buy some heirloom peppers and tomatoes, take home a jar of one of Alma Weaver’s amazing hot pepper jams or jellies (our favorites are the blackberry/Czech Black and peach/Lemon Drop) or many other home-canned delights, get some herbs from their extensive selection to fill out your herb garden, or simply stroll around and enjoy their gardens and farm animals, including llamas, goats, and miniature horses. Good times, guaranteed!

Finally, a warning: In addition to no alcohol, the festival allows no pets, so leave your pups at home (they wouldn’t like hot peppers anyway). This is a family-friendly festival, so bring the kids, even if they couldn’t care less about hot peppers. They’ll still have a wonderful time. And so will you! Silence and OFB make a point of stocking up on everything hot pepper while we’re there, since we know we’ll never see a better selection. True, we haven’t actually tried a chile chocolate, but we buy as wide an assortment of hot sauces, salsas, and chile powders as our budget permits, in addition to the gorgeous fresh hot peppers and heirloom tomatoes that are impossible to resist.

*Confusing as this is, the festival insists on maintaining the distinction in spelling between the hot peppers themselves, chiles, and the famous dish made from hot peppers, chili.

How to water hanging baskets. May 29, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,
5 comments

Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood enjoy hanging baskets. We grow everything from Easter cacti to spider plants and decorative sweet potato vines in hanging baskets, suspended from a pole that runs the length of our greenhouse and/or hanging from hooks in the branches of trees that surround our deck.

However. We emphatically do not enjoy watering our hanging baskets. No doubt Groucho Marx, Peter Sellers, Lucille Ball or Roberto Benigni could have made an incredible slapstick routine out of our friend Ben’s watering attempts: Lifting a gallon milk jug of water high overhead and trying to upend it over a hanging basket, inevitably having water (and often potting soil as well) pour out of the top of the basket into the unfortunate face and all over the shirt of the devoted gardener, and then having to continue to try to get the water to saturate the soil until it, also inevitably, pours out the bottom onto said gardener’s head, clothes, etc. Then move on to the next plant and repeat. Arrrgghhh!!!

Well, you can imagine how awed our friend Ben was when Silence, our puppy Shiloh, and I visited Jim Weaver’s Meadow View Farm in scenic Bowers, PA and saw his basket-watering technique on Memorial Day. Jim had run drip irrigation across the roof of each greenhouse, setting it up so that one spaghetti tube and nozzle were positioned over each hanging basket. Looking up, mesmerized, our friend Ben saw the water dripping down into each hanging basket a drop at a time. Drip. Drip. No wasted water, no hauling milk jugs, no slapstick routine. And the health of the plants assured me that everything was getting plenty of water, with no water lost.

Wow. Our collection of hanging baskets here at Hawk’s Haven is too small to justify the expense of this setup. But gee, what a perfect solution!

Potato bin update #1. May 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,
5 comments

Our friend Ben is delighted to report that our potato bin experiment is going well (so far). If you missed the initial description and setup, check our earlier post, “Tower of (potato) power.” After a month of pretty much nothing happening, our ‘Yukon Gold’ seed potatoes have not only sent up shoots but have been growing so strongly that it was obviously time to add a layer of soil to cover the stems.

Cover the stems? You read that right. Just as the related tomato will grow roots all along a buried stem—which is why old-timers always suggest burying new tomato transplants up to practically the top leaves to make for stronger, better-supported plants—potato plants will set potatoes all along their buried stems. Our plan is to alternate layers of straw and soil as the stems grow until we reach the very top of the bin, then let the stems grow in the fresh air, bloom, and eventually die back. At which point we’ll lift off the bin and paw through the soil and straw in search of potatoes.

I’ve been using organic potting soil for the soil layers, since we don’t have any soil to spare from our garden beds. But now my supply of potting soil was almost exhausted (and besides, Silence Dogood always needs some to pot up the houseplants, greenhouse plants, and deck container plants as they grow). So Silence and our friend Ben piled our puppy Shiloh in the car and headed off to Jim Weaver’s Meadow View Farm out in scenic Bowers, PA on Memorial Day to stock up. (See our earlier post, “Scotch Bonnets and Dutchy Gunpowder,” for more on Jim and his amazing hot peppers.)

Jim had a selection of potting soils and soil amendments for sale, including organic mushroom compost (the best!), their own compost, and bags of an intriguing mix of compost, vermiculite and perlite they called “Square Foot Gardening Mix.” Not seeing any reason to quibble, our friend Ben bought some of each and loaded it into the car along with a happy Shiloh and an even happier Silence. (She had found one pot of thyme that was a sport in the middle of a flat of silver-variegated thyme. This one pot did show some silver variegation, but the new leaves were pure gold, making for a breathtaking combination. Silence looked unusually smug, even for her—ouch, Silence! just kidding! owww!!!—as she clutched her newfound treasure.)

Back at Hawk’s Haven, I poured the Square Foot mix carefully around the potato stems until they were buried up to about the top two inches. Next time it will be a layer of straw. The plants looked healthy and vigorous. So far, so good. Of course, assuming they continue to thrive, the ultimate test will come when we pull off the bin and look for the harvest sometime late this summer or fall, whenever the plant tops have completely died back. Stay tuned. As noted, numerous potatoes overwintered for us this year—a first!—and are growing strongly in one of our in-ground raised beds, so we’ll have an interesting comparison when we harvest those, sort of the classic experiment setup with the new technique versus the control. 

And if any of you are familiar with Square Foot soil mix, let us know what you think! With the Weavers’ good compost as the main ingredient, it looked pretty good to our friend Ben.

Tomatoes times two. April 3, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , ,
3 comments

Our friend Ben read a wonderful post over at TomatoCasual (www.tomatocasual.com) this morning called “Instant Tomatoes: Just Add Water,” by Scott Daigre of Tomatomania fame. Despite the clever title—and given our bucket-hauling irrigation style here, our friend Ben is still waiting for someone to come up with tomatoes that will grow and produce if you don’t add water—it’s actually about early-fruiting tomatoes.

Here in Pennsylvania, full-size tomatoes don’t tend to start setting until late in the season; we have better luck with cherries, pastes, and other smaller-fruited types. (Hmmm, maybe that water thing has something to do with this… ) So maybe starting with early-fruiting types would work better for us.

Scott recommended eight-plus varieties that had proven to be earliest in trials, including ‘Matina’, ‘Stupice’, ‘Prairie Fire’, and ‘Golden Mama’. And as it happens, we’re making our first trip of the season out to Jim Weaver’s Meadow View Farm, that motherlode of heirloom veggie transplants, tomorrow, so we’ve made our list and will be looking for these (and our longtime faves).

So head on over to TomatoCasual and read all about these early birds! You’ll be glad you did.

While I was thinking about tomatoes, I finally got around to heading over to Tomato Bob’s website (www.tomatobob.com). This is a seed company beloved of the Shibaguyz, who recommend it often on their fabulous blog “Here We Go! Life with the Shibaguyz” (http://shibaguyz.com/). They especially love Tomato Bob’s special seed offers (“1945 prices! 25 cents per pack!”), which give budget-strapped gardeners a way to try a variety of veggies in an era when many companies are charging over $3 per pack.

Sound too good to be true? Well, again, you get what you pay for. If you want to try growing some old-time varieties of turnip, parsnip, beet, and the like, and you don’t want to grow too many of them, it’s a deal. But most of Tomato Bob’s seed packs go for market rates; you have to look for the 25-cent specials. Still, he offers lots of heirloom veggie varieties and specializes in heirloom tomatoes. He also carries transplants and flower seeds. If the Shibaguyz love Tomato Bob, it’s worth looking into!

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the update after we head off to Meadow View tomorrow. If you don’t know about Jim Weaver and the Bowers Chile Pepper Festival, read our earlier posts “The case for tomato transplants,” “Scotch bonnets and Dutchy gunpowder,” “Annihilation and other good things,” and “Pepper festival alert.”

Instant tomatoes? Is it still April Fool’s Day? But early tomatoes: We’ll, uh, bite.

Annihilation and other good things. September 6, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments

It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to talk about the 13th Chile Pepper Food Festival, being held this weekend at the tiny hamlet of Bowers, Pennsylvania. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood met me at the festival yesterday afternoon, and we were joined by our friends Rudy and Rob, as well as Rob’s son, to enjoy the day and take in the sights.

Silence pointed out that the chiles weren’t the only things that were hot, as she wilted in the heat and humidity that signalled the imminent arrival of Hurricane Hanna on our collective doorstep. But the day was bright, the crowd was cheerful, and the air was redolent with the delicious scents of everything from pulled pork and chile chowder to sweet potato fries (a Ben and Silence favorite) and hot pepper fudge.

Silence and our friend Ben were in pointed contrast to the rest of our group, since Ben was festively attired in a tasteful (he kept telling us) Hawai’ian shirt and chile pepper festival cap, and Silence was wearing a chile-colored tee-shirt, long paisley skirt with chile-red highlights, blinding chile necklace from last year’s festival, and (after making a beeline to the booth that was offering temporary tattoos for a dollar), a bright red-and-green chile tattoo on her upper right arm. However, they blended right into the festive crowd, most of whom were sporting chile shirts, bandannas, jewelry, hats, and tattoos both temporary and permanent. It felt as if we were attending a Jimmy Buffett concert where the confused crowd thought they were supposed to be chileheads rather than parrotheads. One hapless soul, hawking chile peanut brittle, was dressed as a giant jalapeno; we were tempted to take contributions to buy him a bottomless glass of iced tea and an ice pack. 

Speaking of iced tea, since the price of admission was a very modest $2 a head (with free parking), we had plenty of pocket change and were all dying of thirst from the heat, so we raced off to the booths that served our respective beverage choices: iced tea, fresh-squeezed lemonade, mango smoothies, Diet Coke (teens are teens), and—Silence indulging in a bit of nostalgia—a grape soda from the Kutztown Bottling Works (www.kutztownbottlingworks.com), which makes all kinds of cool retro sodas, from birch beer and sarsaparilla to orange cream, in the nearby town of Kutztown. Then we all drifted off to enjoy some shopping and live music.

Our first stop was the Meadow View Farm stand, where our chile-growing hero, James Weaver, had an incredible array of fresh hot peppers and heirloom tomatoes for sale. (You could also take a horse-drawn wagon ride to his nearby farm and pick your own.) Silence oohed and aahed over the colors and textures of the hot peppers—her favorites this year are ‘Lemon Drop’ and ‘Chocolate’ habaneros—but of course she didn’t buy any, being a Scoville sissy. (For all you chile neophytes out there, the hotness of peppers is measured in Scoville units, with jalapenos weighing in at 2,500 to 5,000; habaneros, up to 500,000; and the hottest pepper of all, the ‘Bhut Jolokia’, tipping the Scoville scale at a whopping 1,250,000 Scoville units.) In case you’re wondering why Jim Weaver is one of our heroes, read our earlier posts, “Scotch bonnets and Dutchy gunpowder” and “Pepper festival alert.”

I didn’t buy any of the Weavers’ fabulous fresh chiles, either, since I’m growing many of my own (thanks to Meadow View transplants), including ‘Lemon Drop’, ‘Chocolate Habanero’, ‘Devil’s Tongue’, ‘Biker Billy’, and the fabled ‘Bhut Jolokia’ itself. (I gained immediate legendary status at the festival when Silence revealed to various vendors that I’d actually eaten an entire ‘Bhut Jolokia’ pepper fresh from the plant and my eyes hadn’t even watered. I guess I’d better relish my five minutes of fame as the Sultan of Scoville Units.)

But I did, of course, succumb to the hot sauces. The names of these sauces, as well as their embellishments, are as creative as any products I know, or for that matter, all the other products I know combined. It seems to be a point of honor among chile enthusiasts. Silence had devised her own custom blend of ground chiles for our friend Rob, dubbed Rob’s Emergency Room Special, which I thought was pretty good as names go. But the names and accoutrements of the (literally) hundreds of sauces at the Bowers Festival made our friend Rob’s blend pale. Endorphin Rush. Annihilation. Brain Drain (with an eraserlike hot pink brain on top of each bottle). Black Death. Don’t Be Cruel (featuring Elvis). Black Widow (with a black plastic spider). Liquid Magma. Hellfire (with a keychain skull). Voodoo (with a voodoo doll attached to each bottle).

I bought a bottle of Annihilation (“The Hottest Natural Sauce in the World”) from Torchbearer, a regional company located in Mechanicsburg, PA. Guess I’ll have to see which is hotter, Annihilation or the bottle of Jolokia Haze Sauce that our friend Ben and Silence surprised me with at the end of the festival. It’s made by Jeff’s Chile Spot of Downingtown, PA (www.ChileSpot.com), from the renowned ‘Bhut Jolokia’ peppers. Our friend Ben also bought a jar of Jeff’s Chile Spot’s Bread and Butter Jalapeno Pickles, after sampling them at the booth. Silence says they’ll have to do a taste-off between the Chile Spot pickles and their current favorites, Wickles hot sweet pickles, along with Silence’s own-made hot-sweet refrigerator pickles.

Silence and our friend Ben were also charmed by Torchbearer’s All Natural Honey Barbecue Sauce and their spicy All Natural #7 Sultry Sauce (www.torchbearersauce.com). Rob got a jar of Endless Mountains Mustard Co.’s It’s Gotta Bite! Garlic Jalapeno Mustard after sampling some at their booth (find them at www.itsgottabite.com or in Hallstead, PA). And, of course, Silence, Ben, Rudy, and the rest of us descended on our favorite salsa purveyor, Csigi Chili Sauce (www.csigichilisaucecom), to stock up on their mild and hot Roasted Onion Salsas and Scovie award-winning sauces, and to oogle their hand-dyed, hand-printed tee shirts. (Rob bought one in a luscious mustard color with a single jalapeno image in green and blue.) Csigi rocks!!! Rudy bought a jar of homemade jalapeno jam, which he informed Silence he wanted her to add to one of her famous Indian dal dishes. Silence managed to find some gorgeous local pickled chiles, and acquired a jar of Happy Hal’s Jalapeno Relish, made in Amish country, Lancaster, PA. Rob bought a big jar of Scorch Way Hot Salsa from North of the Border, and his son got a giant plate of fresh-made funnel cake (a regional specialty that only a really skinny kid would dare to eat). And I had to be pried away from the vendors who’d come all the way from Hatch, New Mexico, the chile capital of the U.S.

Then it was closing in on closing time. We left our friend Rudy eating a huge pulled pork sandwich with Schultz’s hot sauce, with a mango ice cream in reserve. Rob and his son departed to enjoy a local restaurant and a second viewing of “The Dark Knight.” Silence was muttering about getting home and making some squash casseroles, fruit chutney, and homemade pizza (needless to say, she wasn’t planning on serving them together!). As for me, I opted for more festival fair, roasted corn on the cob, barbecue, and a chunk of that chile fudge. And of course, I’m thinking about heading on over today for seconds!