Visit the 1,000-pound butter sculpture at the Pennsylvania Farm Show

Headed to Pennsylvania anytime soon? We’d suggest you pay a visit to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, opening Saturday, to visit the 1,000-pound butter sculpture, depicting a young 4-H member showing his prized calf at a county fair. The sculpture pays tribute to the 100th anniversaries of the Pennsylvania 4-H and Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs.
The largest segment of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry is dairy, with 7,400 dairy farms and 540,000 dairy cows present in the state.
The butter sculpture was created by Jim Victor of Conshohocken, Montgomery County. He began crafting the life-size design in mid-December and finished just in time for the Farm Show. He also creates sculptures using chocolate and cheese.

But don’t worry, the sculpture won’t go to waste, either. At the close of the eight-day show, the butter will be given to a Juniata County dairy farm. The butter will be put through a digester that will convert it to 65 kilowatt hours of electricity to operate the farm.

The 2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors. The show runs Jan. 7-14 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg. Admission is free and parking is $10.

Photo of the Day – Holiday lights

With the holidays fast approaching, trees, houses and fences across the world are beginning to glow with decorative lights of all shapes and sizes. Whatever your religion or beliefs, these festive displays add a burst of warmth and color to the dark days of December. Flickr user herb.g does a great job of capturing this holiday spirit in today’s shot from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania – the flickering colors and soft-focus blur of the lights create an eye-catching work of abstract art.

Taken any great photos during your recent travels? Why not add them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Discovering (New) Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine

The winding road to Hanover, Pennsylvania passes the kind of pastoral beauty reserved for bad hotel paintings: bulbous barns, red chipped paint clinging to the exterior, sit rustically unloved in the middle of pasture, as a sunburst of fall foliage illuminates the background. Billboards announce an upcoming convention dedicated to scrapbooking. In town, old ladies hold up signs at intersections that read “Pray to end abortion!” The town of 15,000 is the home of Utz potato chips and Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels. Apparently, the whoopie pie was invented here. Hanover, I’m told, is the Snack Capital of the World. Or at least Pennsylvania.

Thomas Jefferson spent the night here once. And Abraham Lincoln stopped long enough to talk to the townsfolk from his train (no word if any potato chips or pretzels were eaten or trafficked).

There are other reasons to come to Hanover besides engrossing oneself in the exciting art of scrapbooking and getting fat on snack food. I turned up in town recently to meet chef Andrew Little. When I heard he was cooking up something called New Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine at restaurant (and B&B) Sheppard Mansion I just had to see (and taste) what that was.

“Terroir is not just for wine,” Little told me when I met him at the restaurant. “We’re trying to take this regional cuisine–which is really a cuisine of the home–and give people a taste of the area.” He said locals will come in and at first not recognize the elevated versions of local dishes–that is, until their taste buds get the recognition of the flavor profile.

At a time when restaurants from coast to coast are tripping over themselves to emphasize the phrase “farm to table” and words like “local” and “seasonal,” Little and the Sheppard Mansion are the real deal. Much like the restaurants Blue Hill at Stone Barns (in the Hudson Valley) and the Inn at Little Washington (in Virginia), the Sheppard Mansion has been supplying its ingredients from its own farm. The produce and the beef (from the hairy Scotch Highland cow) come from the restaurant’s farm a few miles down the road. The 10,000-square-foot garden supplies 90 percent of the restaurant’s produce for a better part of the year. Closer to the restaurant—in fact, right on the Sheppard Mansion property—is an herb garden where Little can run out of the kitchen, uproot some basil or sage and add it right into a dish.

That night a procession of plates hit my table and there were some very tell tale signs of the time and space with which I found myself. The meal began with—fittingly enough—a nod to the city’s snack proclivities: a bag of homemade potato chips followed by a cornmeal-encrusted whoopee pie topped with bologna mouse. Next came sauerkraut-stuffed arancini, a reference to the region’s traditional Germanic residents.

After that came scrapple, a seriously local dish: a loaf made with the leftover bits of the pig. Chef Little serves it in rectangular cubes and the pork taste is infused throughout. Scrapple is Pennsylvania Dutch to the core, as the region has a long tradition of frugality when it comes to food; few bits of an animal are wasted here and scrapple is one of the most delicious “scraps” you’ll find. I also tried schnitz und knepp, a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch apple-and-ham-dumpling dish. Little elevates it by turning into something that’s more like rabbit-laden gnocchi.

Little later added: “I want people to be able to look at the menu and know where they’re at and what time of year it is.”

In case, I hadn’t already figured out where I was in the world, the last dish was hit-you-over-the-head obvious: a chocolate covered pretzel.

If only scrapbooking seemed this fun.

Gawker’s Worst 50 States

I’ve been following Gawker’s newest series, The Worst 50 States. I’ve been enjoying following this series. In an effort to pin down not only the best states in the US of A, but, more importantly, the worst states, Gawker compiled a Gawker-invented rating system in order to rank our fair fifty. Granted, this rating system consists solely of the viewpoints of those on staff for Gawker, so the viewpoints are just about as biased as you would deem Gawker (Which might be not at all according to you!), but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Yes, they’re focusing on the bad more than the good, those damn pessimists, but all in all, fact or fiction, the commentary on the 50 states is makes me laugh. And, I’ll just throw this in there, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and much of every summary they make rings true to me. They’re not done wrapping up the states yet, but check out their analysis of most of the states here.

If you’re inflamed, saddened, or curling over with laughter after reading what’s so bad about your home state, come back here and tell us in the comments how Gawker made you feel.

Hersheypark to add new roller coaster, Skyrush for 2012

After months of releasing coded clues and hints via a fictitious engineering website reminiscent of the Dharma Initiative from ABC’s Lost, Hersheypark unveiled its highly anticipated 2012 roller coaster. Dubbed Skyrush, the steel roller coaster will dominate the park’s skyline with a 200-foot tall peak. The ride will begin with an unusually speedy ascent to the top of the lift hill. Then, riders will be treated to a layout indicative of hyper coasters: high speeds, banked turns, and airtime hills. Loved by coaster fans, the airtime hills are designed to provide a weightless sensation at the crests.

Skyrush’s most intriguing feature may be its floorless seats. Each wing-shaped row of four seats will have two floored seats in the middle and two floorless seats on the edges. I’d imagine thrill junkies like myself will be scrambling for those outer seats. Roller coasters with this kind of layout and these stats aren’t rare, but the swift climb up the lift hill and the ride’s first-of-its-kind trains do make Skyrush look interesting.

Here’s an animated video that gives us a preview of what Hersheypark’s Skyrush will look like.