Pennsylvania launched four new culinary trails to take visitors through local farms, artisans and restaurants across the state. The trails focus on different areas of food and agriculture important to Pennsylvania. They are separated by region and intended to take tourists through a three-day road trip filled with bakeries, wineries, restaurants and other immersive experiences.
Since 2018, the Department of Community and Economic Development, in conjunction with Chatham University’s Center for Regional Agriculture, Food and Transformation, have researched the culture and history of Pennsylvania to tell its story through food. In developing these trails, DCED and CRAFT have created four new trails to add to the already existing Scooped: An Ice Cream Trail and Tapped: A Maple Trail.
The four new trails are Picked, An Apple Trail, Backed: A Bread Trail, Chopped: A Charcuterie Trail and Pickled: A Fermented Trail.
“CRAFT is dedicated to supporting more robust and transformative regional food systems,” said Cynthia Caul, program manager at CRAFT. “We felt this project was an opportunity to use culinary tourism to support local communities, farms and businesses economically and socially, increasing local revenues and fostering a conscious connection to people, place and food.”
Pennsylvania is ranked fourth in the U. S. for apple growing, producing between 400 to 500 million lb. of apples per year. Visitors can choose from four regions in the state to begin their apple tour.
Near the Poconos Mountains, those on the trail can visit places like Gardiner’s Orchard and Case’s Mansfield Cider Mill. People can pick their own apples to bring home and go to the cider mill to see artifacts from over 125 years of cider making. The mill also sells cider, jams and apple dumplings.
There are more offerings of the apple trail in Pittsburgh, the Alleghenies and Dutch Country.
The area of Philadelphia, Dutch Country and the Lehigh Valley has had the best land for farming grains dating back to the 1700s. The rainfall and climate has created the perfect place for barley, rye, wheat and corn to be grown and harvested.
“We created the food trails to help people understand that when you buy a loaf of bread from one of the locations, that someone has grown the wheat, ground the wheat and then made bread from it,” said Mary Miller, culinary historian and lead researcher on the project. “When you meet these people and see how hard they work, you understand why a loaf is $8.”
There are 22 stops in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia area for visitors to explore, broken down into a three-day itinerary with baked items, crafts, mills, lodging, breweries and restaurants.
Cured meats have long contributed to the culinary history of Pennsylvania. German settlers have introduced different types of sausages and bolognas to the region. Hunting traditions in the state have contributed to meat preservation and jerky making.
In nearby Nazareth, visitors can stop in and say hello to Nello Loiacono, the owner of Nello’s Meats, one of the stops on the trail. Nello’s Meats started in a small garage where Nello learned from a top German sausage maker. The store offers fresh Mexican chorizo, sweet lamb-filled Syrian Maqaniq and many Amish-influenced products.
Fermented foods include, but are not limited to, sourdough breads, pickled vegetables, kombucha and vinegar. Used for centuries as a preservation method, fermentation has contributed to some of Pennsylvania’s most famous culinary delicacies like hard cider and sauerkraut.
“We chose the fermented trail because it represents so much rich history, but also all the new businesses cropping up,” Miller said. “Here you have the Amish who have made root beer the old school way for years, and then you have all these young people all over the state making kombucha.”
In Allentown, visitors can follow the trail to Radish Republic, a grocery store that carries all kinds of fermented food. Located on the Artwalk, Radish Republic offers Root Crafter Cocktail Mixes from Bethlehem, Vine Street Vinegars and High Point Kombucha.
The trail also includes Mr. Lee’s Noodles at the Easton Public Market, which is part of America’s oldest continuous outdoor market. Visitors can enjoy Japanese specialities such as kimchi and miso, made from ingredients sourced from the area.
Exploring the trails does not stop at the last location on the itinerary. The Pennsylvanian Tourism Office has partnered with Dish LLC to create recipes for some of the products and ingredients purchased while on the trails.
“So many people picked up new hobbies during the pandemic such as baking bread, or they had extra time to try different things,” said Michael Chapaloney, executive director of the Pennsylvanian Tourism Office. “We didn’t want the experience to stop with the visit to the trails. We wanted people to take it home and have a great pie or loaf.”