Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Tale of Rhubarb Pie: Troyer's Dutch Heritage Restaurant, Bellville, OH

Over the 4th of July weekend, Matt and I visited a wonderful little slice of Amish pie paradise called Troyer's Dutch Heritage in Bellville, Ohio. We stopped on the way to my Mum's in western New York, and loaded our car with enough pie and cookies to cause a sugar coma, even making a second stop to stock up on the return trip home. I've never seen cookies, bars, breads and pies in such glorious abundance as graced their shelves.  If I had enough money (and lots of oversized clothing), I'd have bought at least one of everything. Just wandering through their gift shop and bakery is an indulgent experience - and it all started with an innocent little craving for Strawberry Rhubarb pie...

You see, when I was growing up I had the frustrating experience of being a sweet-tooth in a family of savory-lovers. My siblings might be satisfied with 'real food,' but I was always secretly saving room for dessert, or wishing that a slice of banana bread might constitute a 'balanced meal' (it has eggs, grains and fruit, right?). My love for sweets is what initially drew me to baking - a practice I still infinitely prefer above cooking 'real food,'  though I find myself doing a lot less of it these days. The more I baked, the more I developed a feeling for the interaction of my sugary ingredients and the more my sweet-loving palate evolved.

Fortunately for me, I had a partner in crime - my father. He alone, out of our large family, shared my preference for all things sweet. He wasn't often in the kitchen, but his two signature recipes (apart from the occasional excellent cooked breakfast, on weekends) were rich, velvety caramels and the best sticky popcorn balls you'll ever taste. He liked cookies, cakes and puddings, but I really think his heart belonged to pie - Strawberry Rhubarb pie, to be exact. We grew our own rhubarb in England and I would bake it at his request so that, to this day, the dessert still reminds me of him. Now I spend half of each year - from the anniversary of his death in February, to the end of rhubarb season in the summer - dreaming about Strawberry Rhubarb pies and remembering my Dad.

I had intended to make the dessert as a fitting tribute for Father's Day this year, but the vegetable (yes, it's a vegetable!) isn't so easy to come by in the States and my plan was foiled by a lack of it. When I mentioned this to my mum, she alerted me to the existence of Troyer's Dutch Heritage Restaurant, home of The Best Rhubarb Pies, Ever. Apparently, she and my Dad once made a pit stop here during a trip to Illinois, where he succombed to the siren song of not only their Rhubarb Pie, but also their Dutch Apple variety. In addition, they served the best 'fried' chicken (it's actually 'broasted' which, apparently, is both healthier and tastier) my mum had ever tasted - and being a savory-lover, I trusted her good opinion. Armed with this information, Matt and I mapped out a detour to this oasis of Amish-style cooking to make my pie pilgrimage and finally satisfy my craving.

The restaurant is located just off the interstate (I-71 exit 165) so our detour was easy. We ate lunch in the dining room, and since we weren't really hungry enough for a buffet of broasted chicken, we settled for sandwiches; Pulled Chicken on a Pretzel Roll for me, and a Hamburger for Matt. A miniature loaf of wheat bread was brought to our table while we waited - I tasted a small slice, which was heavenly, and brought the rest home to share.

After lunch, we visited the bakery to pick up our Rhubarb pie. Sadly, they'd sold the last one during our lunch break, so we settled on Peach Red Raspberry and picked up a tray of six, rich Double Chocolate Cookies from the reduced table. The pie was destined for dinner at my Mum's table, but we sampled the cookies during the last few hours of our drive and, boy, were they delicious! I sometimes find double chocolate desserts too sweet or heavy, but these were excellent and, of course, Matt was instantly in love.

The Peach Red Raspberry Pie also turned out to be a great choice. Topped with a fine, buttery crumble, the filling was creamy with a strong vanilla flavor (all their pies have this, and it's great!) and a slight tartness from the raspberries. I loved the way they kept the two fruit flavors separate, with a juicy, raspberry center and  a ring of sweet peaches near the crust.

Of course, you're probably wondering how my rhubarb craving was finally satisfied. Well, that's where our return visit came in. Matt was such a fan of the Peach Red Raspberry that we decided to pick up a pie on the way home - only to discover that they were sold out of the flavor. Instead, their pie case was loaded with Rhubarb pies! The one we took home was also crumble-topped, just like the Peach Red Raspberry (I actually prefer this to a regular, double-crust), and had the same, smooth vanilla notes hiding behind the characteristic tartness of the rhubarb. Matt had never tasted rhubarb and was understandably skeptical, but he actually really enjoyed it. Which is a good thing, since I brought back a bag of cut stems to freeze for next time the craving strikes. Dad would be proud!

Update Sept 2012: Since the writing of this post, the Dutch Heritage has undergone some management changes and, as a result, has a new name, Der Dutchman. It still has the same tasty pies, though.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you took my advice and stopped at Exit 165. It was a good stop between Jamestown and Columbus and the broasted chicken and pies are so delicious. I could go for some right now.