Favorite Local Holiday Gifts – Day #1

Beautiful Winter Outdoor Decor on the porch at Tait Farms

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I think we only have one more night of using up turkey day remains. Thank goodness for that! I need to move on to getting ready for Christmas and I am ready to pack up the  pumpkins, Indian corn and the flashing turkey in my kitchen window  (one with twinkly lights, not a creepy  “flasher” turkey.)

In case anyone is low on ideas this year, I’m going to give a  list of my ten favorite products for gift giving or for keeping for yourself. All of my suggestions have something to do with a food or the kitchen or cooking although they are not all edible and they are in no particular order.  And I just might list even more than ten.  So many good things in Pennsylvania this year.   Today,  my pick is something – really anything –  from Tait Farms, up in Centre Hall near Penn State.   This little garden store also has the most delicious food products. Their apricot butter is great on toast, bagles or muffins, but it is equally satisfying eating right out of the jar.  Their Lemon Vinaigrette is my husband’s favorite salad dressing. Even their scone mixes and rice blends are delicious.  And the packaging is pretty. A  big plus when it comes to gifting.

When I stopped by a few weeks ago, they were setting out some adorable angels, snowmen and other wintery figures that were covered with birdseed for your backyard friends this holiday season.  These would be a perfect gift for anyone who likes to sit inside with a cup of tea and watch the birds go to town on some treats. If you’re in the State College area, drive a few miles out of town for a visit to Tait Farm.  And if you have time to spare and can use some local wine for your holiday table, the Mt Nittany Winery is just a few miles away.

If you can’t get to Tait Farms, their products are also available at Whole Foods, the Fair Food stand at Reading Terminal Market and  DiBruno Bros. in Philly, the Pounds Turkey Farm in Leechburg and a bunch of other places.  Retail locations are listed on the website.

Tait Farm

179 Tait Road
Centre Hall, PA 16828
800-787-2716 | 814-466-2386

The Penn State Creamery vs Biochem Lab

Yes, it’s true. Unlike the rest of my immediate family, I skipped lots of classes in college. My most vivid memory of this unimpressive habit was when, instead of going to my biochemistry lab (a super yawn,) I would sneak across the street to the Creamery and eat ice cream instead. As you might imagine, this didn’t help my biochem grade or my ability to squeeze into already too tight jeans.  But if you’ve ever had ice cream from the Berkey Creamery on the Penn State Main Campus, then you can understand why I did what I did.  Looking back, do I regret my ice cream instead of biochem choice?  Not at all. No way.

Although the Creamery has moved into a new spiffy building since my days at PSU,  the ice cream is just as good. I stopped during a recent visit through the State College area and, much to my delight, lots of the flavors were the same as 30 plus (yikes!!) years ago.

Flavors like Peachy Paterno, WPSU Coffee Break, Lion Tracks and Mint Nittany  incorporate Penn State memories into the name of the ice cream, but my favorites have always been two old faithfuls,  Bittersweet Mint and Coconut Chip.

Did I eat this entire ice cream cone? Yes, I did.

Besides serving generous cones, those accomodating folks in Happy Valley will pack half gallons of their frozen confections in dry ice  to take home. Yahoo!  A bit pricey, but oh, so worth it.  The Creamery also sells  top notch cheese, cream cheese, milk and other dairy products made by the Food Science Department.

My advice:  plan a trip to the Central Pennsylvania Festival for the Arts in mid-July and stop at the Berkey Creamery before you leave for the drive home.   Have a cone there and take a few half-gallons home with you.  No class skipping involved!

Tait Farms – yet another reason to visit Penn State

The Joe-Pa Statue outside of Beaver Stadium

Not sure what it is about Penn State fans, but they are a loyal bunch. I should know, I’m one of them. Even when we visit the ol’ Blue and White, I think most tend to hang out on or around campus. . . .the Creamery, the Rathskellar, Hi-Way Pizza.  But there are some really great places just a few miles away from Happy Valley and Tait Farm is one of them.  This spring at the Farm to Table conference here in the ‘Burgh, I tasted some super delicious Apricot Butter from the Tait Farm booth.  So good.  When I looked at the jar, I noticed the farm was really close to PSU, in Centre Hall (not the dorm complex, but the town.)  I knew I had to find a way to get there really soon. So last week, on a very unconventional route back from Philly, I stopped at Tait Farm Foods right there on Rt 322 before my obligatory walk through the Penn State Campus. I sure wasn’t disappointed.

Right when I stepped inside,  a delivery of a freshly picked batch of asparagus arrived, then, still dewy  spring greens were delivered followed by bags of spicy stir fry greens.  Yahoo. You see, my day is made by fresh produce, cheese,etc.  A new diamond necklace?  A day at a spa? Who cares? Not me.

The log cabin market is filled with jams, spreads, dressings .. . all made at the farm.  They carry lots of other locally made products as well as bread from Gemelli Bakery in downtown State College.

And the plants!  The healthiest, most beautiful things I’ve seen in a while.  I have the brownest thumb on the planet, but the herbs were so pretty that I ended up with a flat of them in my trunk for the drive home.  So if you’re going to visit your kids at Penn State or will be driving up for the Arts Festival in July, it’s only a few minutes outside of town and definitely worth the detour.