A Common-Sense Guide to Musikfest 2017

If you’re a resident of the Lehigh Valley (and haven’t spent the last few weeks under a rock), you are aware that Musikfest starts this Friday, August 4th. For those not in the know, Musikfest is a ten-day music festival featuring dozens of acts, crafts, street performers, beer, and more fried food than you’d be able to eat in a month. It’s kind of a big deal in this area and I’m definitely a fan. I’ve attended regularly for about seven or eight years now and I usually make it to the festival multiple nights during the ten days (ridiculous work schedule notwithstanding).

I don’t consider myself to be some sort of Musikfest professional, but I’d like to think I’m pretty well versed in the ins and outs of ‘Festing, so I decided to share some helpful tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.

A Primer: Musikfest takes up a good portion of Bethlehem, PA, with stages on both the north and south sides of town. The big ticket acts only play on the Southside, so if you only have plans to see Live, Santana or Toby Keith (Why tho?), I’d suggest parking on the Southside to save yourself the headache of navigating your way over from Broad Street. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Musikfest has multiple stages, called Platzes, at which many acts play during each day at the festival. The majority of the Platzes are on the Northside, and I recommend starting your day over there, if not spending all day in that area. You can always hop on the North-South shuttle if there’s a specific act you wanted to see on the Southside. Walking is an option but with the Fahy Bridge (still) under massive construction, I’d avoid it if possible.

Before you go:

Get in the know. Download the app, grab a progam at Artsquest , or familiarize yourself with the Musikfest website. The more informed you are before you arrive the better. You’ll get info on band schedules, where to park and grab the North-South shuttle, where to fill your mug, and where to find your corn.

Follow my friend The El Vee, if you aren’t already(He’s on Facebook too). In addition to his awesome yearly pre-Fest guide(including where to get the best craft and local brew mug fills), his daily recommendations for must-see acts will help make the best of the “music” portion of your Musikfest experience, and his recaps will let you know which acts to look out for next year, if you missed them.

Buy a Mug. Even if you’re only going one day. Get a damn mug(or borrow an old one from a friend). If you’re planning on buying more than one beer it’ll save you a little cash. You can snag one of the fancy-pants light up mugs, but they cost like two bucks more, plus they’re a pain in the ass to wash. Go for the regular mugs; they’re much easier to throw in the dishwasher in the morning to wash the beer funk out. You can snag one at Artsquest or a local Wegmans this week before the festival even starts.

Get Comfortable. Musikfest takes place in August in Pennsylvania. It’s notoriously hot and humid this time of the year. Wear comfortable, light clothes and sturdy shoes good for walking. If you carry a purse I recommend a cross-body type to keep your hands free, and if possible, pick up a large carabineer to clip your mug to your bag or belt when not in use. 

Come Prepared, but Travel Light. Bring only the necessities. Will you need cash? Yes, absolutely. Bring your ID and ATM cards too. A small bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer or small pack of baby wipes will help keep your hands clean after using the porta-potties, and if you plan on taking a lot of photos, videos, or spend the day SnapChatting, a portable power bank isn’t a bad idea. If you’re prone to aches, pains, and heartburn like me, bring a small bottle of Tylenol or pack of antacids. At the very least have them available back at your vehicle along with Band-Aids and other first aid supplies, and maybe a cooler with icy cold bottles of water for the drive home.

Suck It Up and Pay For Parking. Unless you arrive hella early or get hella lucky, you’re not going to find a free parking space anywhere near the festival grounds. So park about a mile and a half away and get to stepping, park at one of the shuttle lots and bus in, or pay $10 to park in one of the city lots. Many local businesses/churches offer parking for about $5-7, but aren’t monitored by security, so park there at your own risk.

Food and Drink: Musikfest has a ton of food and drink tents that operate with a ticket system. Northside vendors are strictly ticket-only, while Southside vendors accept both tickets and cash. There are multiple tents that sell tickets all over, right alongside the food and beer tents. Ticket tents accept cash and credit/debit cards for convenience (Buy more than you think you’ll need, trust me on this). There are plenty of businesses on Main Street that sell food and drinks without tickets, but that money doesn’t go to fund Musikfest. Plus why would you go into the heart ‘Fest and eat at Mama Nina’s instead of Take a Taco?

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I mean, no shade on Mama Nina’s but they’re open year ’round. Musikfest is only here for ten days. GET THE TACO. Or the gyro. Or any other of the dozens of different delicious delicacies available.

Many businesses offer mug refills at a reduced rate; this is an option to consider if you’re planning on doing any serious drinking at ‘Fest. (Make sure you have a DD, please. Or snag an Uber home.) If you’re good with drinking Miller Light, Yuengling or Coors, most businesses on Broad will fill your mug on the cheap; Musikfest charges at least 7-8$. Some places offer craft and local brews; you can obviously expect to pay a little more for that quality of beverage where available. Side note: Your mug holds non-alcoholic beverages just as well. A little cold water to stay hydrated wouldn’t hurt.

My Food Picks: You can never go wrong with Take a Taco, Pretzel Revolution, Hogar Crea Shish Kabobs, Aw Shucks corn, and Island Noodles. A giant ice cream sandwich from Bethlehem Dairy Store (AKA The Cup) is always a good idea. There are a few new vendors this year that I’m looking forward to scoping out, but I’ll let The El Vee tell you about them (He’s done more research, trust me). On a really hot day a frozen tropical smoothie is a great idea too (and if your mug happens to have rum in it when you get the smoothie? BONUS.).

Have Fun. Don’t Be A Jerk. Yes, there’s booze aplenty. Yes, there’s a ton of people, and yes, it’s really freaking hot. It’s no excuse to act like an ass and get yourself in trouble with the local law enforcement. Have fun, get crazy, but be respectful of the town and other ‘Fest-goers. Also, yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s stupid crowded. Yes, it used to be cheaper. And YES, the mugs used to hold more beer. Times change, prices change. There’s nothing we can do about it, so just enjoy while you can. Musikfest only happens once a year, there’s no sense in being miserable about it.

 

See you at ‘Fest!

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Semi-Review: Bean Bath Cafe, Bath PA.

During the fall I was working on recipes with the aim of writing them up and posting them all in a timely manner. And the few dozen pictures still sitting on my camera can attest to that. Ah, well. Best laid plans, I s’pose. I figure now that the holidays are done and all my surgery madness is over, I can get back to posting on at least a semi-regular schedule. And lucky for me, I’ve got all this stuff saved! 

To ease in, I just wanted to share a visit I took to Bean Bath Cafe in…well, Bath, of course. I had been visiting with mom and dad and decided to take a different route home. I was hungry for lunch and remembered Bean Bath was on the way. I’d been wanting to check them out for a while. Located in a small strip mall on an almost empty stretch of 512, Bean Bath Cafe is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of places. I know this because I did, and had to turn around to find it.

 

The cafe is clean and bright, with a modern, kind of surf-y decor. There’s a counter for to go orders and plenty of tables for customers that want to eat in. There’s a couple tables outside as well, but the day I went it was a tad too chilly and overcast to linger outside. 

 

I started with a cup of coffee, obviously, because why would you go to a cafe and not sample the coffee? This was a caramel macchiato, and it was pretty perfect. Not too strong, not too sweet. 

 

It took a few minutes of perusing the lunch menu for me to decide what I wanted, it’s pretty extensive. There’s a lot of southwestern inspired dishes, like the El Dorado omelet, Manteca steak wrap, multiple breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and migas. If I lived closer to the cafe, you can bet your ass I’d have had that migas at least a dozen times by now. I decided on the Pinky and the Brain, a sandwich with thinly sliced roasted chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, slathered with a kicking chipotle mayo, served on a toasted chiabatta roll. It’s served with a pickle and a small side of fries. 

 

A tasty sandwich and an excellent choice for a late lunch on a random trip through the slate belt. I cannot recommend Bean Bath Cafe enough. If you have the chance (or the time to take a mini-road trip), put them on your to-do list, and be sure to invite me. The migas is calling my name. 

Bean Bath Cafe (website), hours vary, mainly 7 am – 2 pm

2425 Plaza Court Bath, PA 18014

(484)287-2326

Harvest Fest 2013: Brunch and More

I’m a bit behind in talking about this year’s Harvest Fest. Heck, I’m behind in talking about anything at ALL, I’ve been focused on stuff around the house and work and…other things I’ll talk about when I’m ready to. But anyway, Harvest Fest, aka The Best Fest in Bethlehem, Ever. I don’t know if it’s the smaller size, the smaller crowds, or the cooler weather, but Harvest Fest is definitely my favorite of all the events thrown by downtown Bethlehem. Oh, there’s also all the beer and tasty tasty soups.

But first, we brunched. We brunched our butts off.

I invited the usual suspects over for some pumpkin pancakes, bacon, and breakfast sausage.

I also had a few leftover pumpkin whoopie pies on hand, and of course some fresh fruit. It’s not brunch without a gigantic plate of fruit. I served strawberries, fresh pineapple, and a favorite this time of year – concord grapes. They taste like jelly!

For the pancakes, I used my regular recipe (minus the blueberries there, of course), and just added a cup of pureed pumpkin, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and some fresh ground nutmeg.

They’re a bit more moist than the plain pancakes, so give them another minute or so on the griddle before serving. To go with these pancakes, I had some spiked maple syrup that would make Mrs. Butterworth blush.

Just warm up the syrup (real maple syrup, not pancake syrup) in the microwave for a few seconds, stir in an ounce of good bourbon, and about a half teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, if you can’t acquire it), and you’re in pancake heaven. Serve with your favorite breakfast meat and your friends may never want to leave.

It tastes better than it photographs, trust me.

And thankfully, we had a whole day at Harvest Fest to walk those pancakes off.

It was a great day, spent with some of my very favorite people. (For a more in depth write up, including all the skinny on some of the great beers that were served, try this write up by The El Vee.) At the end of the day, a few of us decided to sit down for a drink and a bite to eat at one of downtown Bethlehem’s newest restaurants, The Twisted Olive. We sat outside and ordered some appetizers and a few cocktails. I had the Forty-Niner, a tasty bourbon drink with honey and lavender, the aranchini (cheese filled risotto balls, breaded and fried? What’s not to love?), and one of the most interesting appetizers I’ve ever had, french onion soup dumplings. Caramelized, beefy onions, wrapped in a dumpling wrapper, topped with a crispy crouton and melted cheese. On. A. Stick.

And these are just appetizers. I’m coming back for that cioppino that I spied on the menu, dudes. Mark my words.

 

Hopefully before Harvest Fest 2014.

The Ridiculously Long Rest-Of-My-Summer Recap, or: Shit, I Forgot I Had A Blog.

So I seem to have fallen off a bit, haven’t I? Just your luck I’ve decided to do a quick(ish) (though probably not really, it is me we’re talking about here) recap on the rest of my summer. It all went pretty nicely until one sucky week in August. But I’ll get to that in a while.

Firstly: High Tea with my favorite ladies at Jessica’s Tea Room

A group of my nearest and dearest and I were trying to come up with a way to celebrate my friend Vanessa’s graduation from one school and acceptance (including a full scholarship, thank you very much) to another. I got the idea from a coworker to take her to Jessica’s Tea Room at the Weaversville Inn. It just seemed so fun and out of the ordinary, and Vanessa just happens to love a nice cup of tea. Perfect! We all got dressed up very fancily and surprised her with high tea on a gorgeous Saturday in June. The food was delicious, the tea was refreshing, the service was outstanding, and the company, as always, was the best ever.

Of course when we got there, we had iPhones at the ready. Because why do something if you’re not going to Instagram it immediately?

We all opted for High Tea service, which included a pot of tea (duh) for each (hot or iced), scones and banana bread, soup or small salad, choice of two finger sandwiches, entree, and dessert.

The finger sandwiches weren’t quite what we expected and were the one dull spot in an otherwise fantastic meal. A little too heavy, a little too much bread.

I opted for the turkey, bacon, and cheddar puff pastry blossom for my entree. It was simple yet delicious, and I’m going to be copying this at home very soon.

Grilled chicken salad with apples and dried cranberries.

Of course I have no shots of our actual tea. However! There were a variety of mini desserts offered to finish our meal, of which we each were able to choose two.

 

The desserts obviously are not made in house but the rest of the menu is, and the service and experience alone were enough for me to overlook a couple frozen mini eclairs. If you’re in the mood for something fun or different to do in the Valley, or even if you’re just feeling a little fancy, I highly recommend checking them out.

Secondly: Five Courses/Five Chefs Benefit for the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival

A friend is on the board of directors for the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival, and they scored a major benefit this year with a five course meal prepared by five different Lehigh Valley chefs, all hosted at Molinari’s on South 3rd Street. When I saw the list of chefs I jumped at the chance to go and was not disappointed.

Fist things first, however: LOOK AT MY PRETTY DRESS. LOOK AT IT.

Ahem. Would it kill you to smile, Jenn?

(Apologies for the following few pictures, all I had on me for the dinner was my iPhone, and by the end of the meal, the light was nonexistent.)

First course was foie gras (there’s always foie at these things, isn’t there?) with banana bread and some sort of fruit gastrique, by Tim Wildrick from Edge Restaurant.

I’m not the biggest fan of foie on its own, it’s a little too rich and fatty for me. Combined with the other elements of the dish, however, this was pretty tasty.

Our soup course was a work of art. Tortellini with morels and proscuitto, with the broth poured over it separately. This is a trick you’d usually see at Bolete, but this night was done by Chef Mike Joyce of Molinari’s.

 

I don’t remember everything that was in it, but I do remember it was delightful. (Have you gone to Molinari’s yet? You really should.)

Next up, the most perfectly cooked scallop I’ve ever had over heirloom risotto with a pea puree, all by Chef Lee Chizmar of Bolete.

Chef Chizmar is a fricking genius, by the way.  You should head to Bolete, too, while you’re at it. Their tavern menu alone is outstanding.

On to the meat. Mmm, beef. Chef Domenic Lombardo from The Mint on West Broad knows his way around a steak.

That dry aged beef was outstanding. I’ve been lukewarm on The Mint in the past but I do believe this dish earned them a mulligan.

And finally…oh, my babies. Brace yourselves for this. This masterpiece of a dessert, by Alan Pitotti at Dolce Patisserie in Hellertown. Yes. Hellertown.

I remember lemon mousse. The fluffiest, most delicate lemon mousse. Tartly flavored, but not overly so. A strawberry sauce. And – on the right side of the plate – a chocolate pesto. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t understand how it all worked, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the most original, most outstanding dessert I’ve ever had. All of this food, of course, was accompanied by fantastic wines hand-picked by South Italy Imports. This meal was the single most amazing gastronomic experience of my life. Kudos to the Southside Bethlehem Film Festival for putting it all together, and thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the chefs who participated. It was a meal I won’t forget.

Thirdly: Haley’s High School Graduation

It’s really hard to think about the fact that it was just a little over 19 years ago that my baby cousin came into this world. She’s turned into an intelligent, strong willed, beautiful young woman and it’s been an absolute delight to watch her grow up. We’re all so proud of her and her accomplishments over the years.

Way to go, kid. I love ya.

Fourthly: Color Me Rad 5K and Musikfest 2013

In early August I volunteered to throw orange-tinted corn starch at people during the Musikfest Color Me Rad 5K. It was a fun, if exhausting, experience, even in the rain. However, given the crappy weather, the slippery, uneven ground conditions, and a shitty pair of sneakers, my ankle was not happy with me by the end of the morning. I could barely walk the rest of the day, which put the kibosh on my Musikfest plans for that evening.

As a matter of fact, pretty much ALL of Musikfest 2013 was shot to hell for me, between my inability to walk the first weekend and the worst summer cold ever during the week. I was able sneak over on the second Saturday for about 90 minutes before I started wheezing in the heat and humidity.

Ah, well. I got my Take-A-Taco, and that’s all that matters.

This made me so happy it was a little embarrassing. 

Fifthly: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z Legends of Summer Tour at Hershey Park

When I heard that JT and Hova were going on tour together I knew I needed to see them, no matter where or how much it would cost. As luck would have it, the tour had a random stop in Hershey, PA, and I got my hands on a couple of pre-sale tickets. Great seats, great show, amazing night. Justin is a wonderful entertainer, and Jay-Z is just incredible live. I’m so very glad I got to catch this tour.

You get that sexy on, JT.

Sixthly: I have a new boyfriend, and his name is Gabriel.

Look what my friends Susan and Danny made!

Snuggly new babies are the best.

And, finally, the last part of my summer was also the best part. I always consider the weekend which I celebrate my birthday to be the “end” of summer. This past weekend I turned 38, and I was able to spend time with all of my favorite people during it.

There is always Hello Kitty when I have a birthday. 

Yes, I made my own red velvet cake for my birthday. You would too, for this cake. 

It started with burgers, beers, and birthday cake with friends on Friday night. I had to work a bit on Saturday morning, but I got to see my bestie the few hours I was there.

Saturday night I hit the casino to see Russell Brand on his Messiah Complex tour, and it was ‘unbelievably satisfying’. I even got close enough for a few good pictures.

Sigh.

Follow all this up with dinner and mini-golf with mom and dad on Sunday and I was a happy girl this weekend.

Have I mentioned how freaking much I love this dress?

He cheats. 

Looking back, I had a pretty great summer. There were definitely more good times than bad, and that’s all we can really ask for.

Plus I got a tiara, and who doesn’t need a tiara, really?

Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Fest Grand Tasting Complete with Blurry-Ass Pictures and my Fuzzy-Ass Memory.

I decided to divide my LV Food & Wine Fest write up in two parts while I was writing the Burger Bash post since it was starting to get too big (that’s what she said). I hit the Grand Tasting event that Sunday afternoon, right when the doors opened; which, for someone who dislikes crowds like I do, was an *excellent* strategy.

Ahh, wide open spaces. I didn’t spring for any “extras”, like the champagne or whiskey tastings, mostly to save on cost, but also because I didn’t have a DD, and setting me loose in a room full of whiskey is just asking for trouble.

I attended the Saturday Grand Tasting last year, and while I had a good time and enjoyed some delicious foods, I noted that there were definitely some better offerings on Sunday, the second day of the festival. And it seemed to be the same this year; a friend of mine attended the Saturday Grand Tasting and alerted me that most of the “better” restaurants would be featured the next day. I was excited to be able to taste foods from many different Lehigh Valley restaurants that I’ve been wanting to try out, including Maxim’s 22, Mesa Modern Mexican, and Cosmopolitan.

But enough exposition, let’s get to the good stuff. And oh, boy, was it good.

This pork tostada from Mesa Modern Mexican in Easton was so good I went back for seconds. Because I forgot to take a picture the first time, you see. Cough. Related: I NEED to go to Mesa, and soon.

The offering from the Hampton Winds restaurant (Northampton Community College Culinary students) was duck confit on scallion pancake, and was of course one of the best dishes of the day. You can always count on something delicious from them.

Pulled pork sandwich from….ugh, somewhere in the Sands. I’m sorry, I need to write shit down. From what I recall, this was the same sandwich that this restaurant (Carnegie Deli?) served at the Burger Bash on Friday, and…meh. Honestly the only thing I remember about it was that the slaw was tasty but the roll was stale as hell.

 

Both of these plates were from Maxim’s 22 in Easton. First up is duck confit over puffed pastry with a cherry demi glace. The duck was good, but not super flavorful, and the puff was too much puff. Smaller puff next time, Maxim’s. Next is a pate with mustard and jelly. The pate was tasty on its own but got a bit overpowered by the mustard.

The offerings from Yianni’s Taverna in Bethlehem. On the left is eggplant and…avocado(?) puree on pita bread, which was quite tasty, and I am not a fan of eggplant. On the right is something else I’ve never been a fan of either, but this was the best baklava I’ve ever tasted, sweet, flaky, moist…amazing. I’m definitely adding Yianni’s to my to-do list.

This chilled pea soup was light and refreshing, with a touch of herbaceousness. Just don’t ask me who made it.  NOTES, JENN. NOTES ARE HELPFUL.

The sausage tortellini from Bravo at the Lehigh Valley Mall was actually quite tasty, just the right amount of spice in the sausage. There was also a yummy dessert offering from them, but my photos unfortunately didn’t do it justice.

The pork nacho & chick pea fritter from Pearly Baker’s were both so good that I was inclined to circle back to the booth & tell the chef how much I enjoyed them. Seriously, Easton restaurants, (most of) y’all brought your “A” game this year. Well done.

Apologies for this crap picture, I didn’t have the greatest lighting here. This was the standard offering from Emeril’s Chophouse, a NY Strip (or was it a ribeye?) with some microgreens & a mini banana cream “pie”. The steak was good but didn’t wow me. Banana cream pie was, as always, excellent. Even if you never go to the Chophouse for dinner, just please go for coffee and dessert and order that damn pie. You can thank me later.

This was an asparagus and arugula salad from Cosmopolitan in Allentown. Another welcome light & refreshing bite in the midst of some richer dishes. Cosmopolitan had my absolute favorite dish last year, a chilled cherry soup. I was a little disappointed not to see it this year but I understand and appreciate the difference.

I had a few other plates before I got full, but none really that memorable. Tuna tartare? Not a fan. Lamb slider and limp/cold fish taco? You did it SO much better last year. Unfortunately it seemed that some of the restaurants I enjoyed the most at last year’s tasting left me a bit in the cold this time around. It was a little disappointing, but the other tasty surprises I found around the rest of the room more than made up for it.

Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Fest Burger & Beer Bash

Two weekends ago, the 4th Annual Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival was held at the Sands Event Center. The event was held over two and a half days, starting Friday afternoon and continuing through Sunday. I attended Friday night’s event, the Burger & Beer Bash (if I’m not mistaken, this is the first year they’ve held this event), and the Grand Tasting on Sunday (Next post).

The burger bash was held in a tent just outside the casino in the north parking lot. I found this a bit confusing, seeing as I had purchased my ticket at the Sands Event Center and as far as I could tell, there was no indication on my ticket that the event would take place on the north lot, nor did I see any signs that indicated where it was being held when I drove onto the casino grounds that night. I walked into the hotel and out around the Event Center looking for the Burger Bash before speaking to someone that actually knew where it was being held (note: this person had no affiliation with either the casino or the F & W event whatsoever, the one staff member I did flag down to speak to had no idea). Once I moved my car and parked in the parking deck, I then found out I had to walk into and through the casino to access the tent. A bit of a frustrating start to my evening.

But maybe it was just me and my infinite stupidity unable to find the tent, because by the time I actually got into the Bash it was pretty well packed, with lines at all the burger and beer tasting tables not 30 minutes into the event. There were a number of different restaurants offering up burger choices, ranging from Roosevelt’s 21st and Copperhead Grill to Pearly Baker’s and of course all of the Sands restaurants. Beer choices ranged from the mundane (Coors, Yuengling) to the more craft brew type (Goose Island, Victory).

Entertainment was provided by the Amish Outlaws, and if ArtsQuest is listening, they’d do well to book the Outlaws for a show at Musikfest because they are a hell of a lot of fun. They played covers ranging from country to hip hop and everything in between. My personal favorite was a cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger”. Yes, you read that right.

The venue was quite packed, which led to a longer wait at a few of the more popular burger stands, and, despite the size of the tent, there was some bottlenecking to get through the crowd at certain areas – specifically if there were two popular tables across from each other, but from all appearances the event seemed to be quite successful. I didn’t get to taste all the burgers, there were simply too many and personally, when I’m alone at a super crowded event like this I’m more of the “get in, get done, get home” type, so I didn’t linger. I was able to taste a good amount of the burgers, mainly focusing on the offerings from the Sands restaurants and other places that I’ve been meaning to try, like Sagra and Spuds. My personal favorite was the bruschetta burger from Emeril’s Italian Table, with the crab-stuffed burger from Spuds coming in second. The voters’ overall favorite, however, was the offering from Roosevelt’s 21st, which I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to sample. I think I’ll try to tag team this event next year and split all the burgers in order to be able to taste them all.

That way I can go back for seconds.