Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 13

Lucky 13 – this is Week 13 of my journey to better health. Settle in because this is the longest update so far, but I think you’re going to enjoy it.

The Challenges

There is nothing like a sunset over the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City.

If you read last week’s blog, you know that I was spending the week in Quebec City for a conference. There are a lot of great things about travel, but being on the road can be an obstacle to healthy eating.

Tuesday and Friday were spent hopping from plane to plane and airport to airport. (Take my advice: don’t fly Air Canada. If I ever go back to Quebec, I will drive).

When I finally arrived on Tuesday – two hours late – I drove to the hotel and headed to our opening reception. It was mostly light fare of cheese and crackers until they brought out the main attraction: poutine.

Poutine!

For those unfamiliar with this French Canadian specialty, poutine has three ingredients: French fries, gravy and cheese curds. This version was served in a little takeout box.

I wish I had it from an actual restaurant because this didn’t do the dish justice. The fries were lukewarm and the gravy wasn’t thick enough. But it was the only real entree at dinner so I had to force it.

And if you couldn’t guess, none of the three ingredients would be considered healthful super foods.

Wednesday’s breakfast: crepes and potatoes.

It’s hard to have portion control at a conference, especially when a buffet is involved. Wednesday morning I managed to restrain myself as I dined on delicious crepes and a side of breakfast potatoes.

Is it ravioli? Is it manicotti? Is even Italian?

Lunch was a served meal of filled pasta with tomato sauce. I hesitate to call them ravioli because that was Thursday’s lunch. It was okay, and that might have been an exaggeration given that it was the only option.

Dinner, on the other hand, was a feast. We were all left to our own devices so I wandered the big city (it’s actually more of a medium city) on my own in search of adventure and food.

Cafe l’Omelette was one of dozens of cafes and restaurants in Vieux-Quebec, the Old City.

What I found was Cafe l’Omelette, a little bistro in the Old City (Vieux-Quebec) that caught my eye mostly because the menu was printed in both French and English.

They were serving five varieties of poutine, but I wanted to experience more of the area cuisine so I ordered the Specialties Quebecois, a three-course menu featuring some of Quebec’s other favorite dishes.

Quebec pea soup looks more like ham and bean soup, but tastes great.

It started with a bowl of pea soup that looks and tastes nothing like the baby food-esque split pea soup that I am familiar with. Instead, it more closely resembled a ham and bean soup (though these were definitely peas,  not beans) and there was even ham in it. It was an enjoyable start to the meal, and somehow, this was the lightest course.

One thing about Quebec cuisine, it’s not light. And that was evident with my entree: meat pie. It’s exactly what it sounds like: beef (in this case, roast beef) inside a traditional pie shell. Of course, it was all topped with gravy, because it’s Quebec.

Meat pie, fries and a salad (just for looks).

The crust was a little overcooked in places, but the beef was fantastic and the gravy had a little something extra that I still can’t quite put my finger on.

And there had to be fries on the side (to be fair, the menu said nothing about fries). Oh and there was a salad. I’m not sure how that fits in, but it was there, and I ate it.

Shoofly pie in Quebec? Not quite. This sugar pie most closely resembled pecan pie without the pecans.

The third course was Quebec’s favorite dessert: sugar pie. Think of it as pecan pie without the pecans. It had a gooey sweet filling with a tasty pie crust. It’s like Quebec’s version of shoofly pie.

Needless to say, nothing I ate here would fit my diet.

The best thing I ate at the conference was this chocolate mousse dessert.

The next day was more conference food: breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit at breakfast; ravioli and sautéed vegetables at lunch; and a served four-course dinner including  salad, cream of broccoli soup, stuffed chicken breast and chocolate mousse cake.

Friday’s journey home included a stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast for muffins and orange juice and a hearty lunch of a hamburger and fries in the Montreal airport.

The Successes

Upon arriving in Quebec City, I picked up a rental car. But after a drive to the hotel, I parked it for the week.

There were 99 stairs (yes, I counted them) to climb between my hotel and the conference.

I missed out on the hotel room block for our conference (the Hilton) and instead stayed about a mile away at the Best Western. I made the walk between the two hotels a total of 10 times (five times each way), but that was only the beginning of my exploration.

The Citadel overlooks the Plains of Abraham and the St. Lawrence River.

I walked across the Plains of Abraham, hallowed ground to French Canadians. It was here during the French and Indian War that the British defeated the French, essentially giving them control of Canada. Today, it’s an expansive park with lots of walking trails.

An added bonus during my visit was seeing the construction of a temporary stage and grandstand for an annual music festival. I even got to hear a rehearsal on Wednesday night, though it was in French so I couldn’t understand a single word.

The Hotel Frontenac – an architectural gem in Quebec City.

I made my way along the Promenade de Gouverneurs to the famed Hotel Frontenac. Built as a destination for railroad travelers, the hotel is a stunning piece of architecture that towers over the city and looks out upon the St. Lawrence River.

The gateway to Vieux-Quebec.

A highlight of my walks was walking through the old city gates. It was like traveling through time – forward one way, backward the other. The walls that once kept the city safe from its enemies now protect the Vieux-Quebec from the encroachment of downtown modernity.

Quebec embraces its military heritage – cannon can be found on display throughout the city.

Over the course of my three days in the city, I walked for a total of 7.5 hours – about 20 miles by my best estimate. Most of it served no purpose other than to explore.

The Results

I ate a lot of calories. I burned a lot of calories. It turns out, I burned more than I ate:

Current Weight: 171.2
Weekly Weight Loss: -1.6
Total Weight Loss: -18.2

After a flat week, it was good to see the results come back this week.

The Week Ahead

Compared to last week, the next seven days are easy. Julie and I are planning a few day trips over the holiday weekend but hopefully our exploration can overcome the extra calories, just like last week.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Mimmo’s

It is always interesting to compare a family of restaurants. If you have followed Berks County Eats across the past four years, you have seen us profile several sets of related restaurants.

We have paid visits to Stokesay Castle and Gatsby’s at Sunnybrook Ballroom, had memorable (and forgettable) meals at ViVA and ViVA Castle Pub, had dinner at two Giannotti’s, and tasted all three locations for Klinger’s.

This week we cross another one off the list. It was in late 2015 that Julie and I made the drive to Amityville for a visit to Vincenzo’s. But we had yet to pay a visit to the family’s original restaurant, Mimmo’s.

Mimmo’s is located within the city limits of Reading, along Morgantown Road (Route 10) near Alvernia University.

I had watched as Mimmo’s underwent an extensive renovation and expansion in 2015. After it was finished, there was no denying the similarities to its sister restaurant. Both feature an exterior of stone and stucco meant to harken back to the Old World.

The restaurant has quite a large dining area – multiple dining rooms plus an outdoor patio – but take-out is big business as well.

We were looking for the full experience so we entered through the dine-in door and were seated in a booth for two in the back corner of the front dining room. The seat was right next to a bar – one without seats that served only as place for mixing drinks.

Our waitress stopped by quickly to take our orders, but we weren’t quite ready. It was not an easy decision for either of us because the menu is as expansive as the building.

Finally we called our waitress back and placed our orders. But before our entrees arrived, we were brought two warm, oversized dinner rolls that were very reminiscent of the ones we had on our visit to Vincenzo’s.

I had waivered back and forth between two of the 13 options in the chicken and veal category before finally settling on the chicken Calabrese.

The dish included two large chicken breasts with mushrooms, green peppers and onions in a spicy Calabrese sauce. I had no idea what Calabrese sauce was, but the keyword was spicy so I decided to give it a try.

It was as advertised. The sauce definitely had heat to it, though it was more of a slow burn, one that built up with every bite instead of hitting you head-on. I enjoyed the flavor, but the sauce was runnier than I would have liked. Not knowing anything about Calabrese sauce, I have no idea what it normally looks like. I just prefer thicker tomato sauce with my pasta.

That said, the flavor was there. And it played well with the chicken. The mushrooms, peppers and onion were good additions as well.

All pasta entrees are served with your choice of garden salad, Caesar salad or cup of soup as an appetizer. On this day, there were three choices of soup and I went with my old stand-by at Italian restaurants: Italian wedding soup.

Mimmo’s version was among the better versions that I have tried. It did not have a lot of the signature mini meatballs, but it had enough that I did not feel cheated. Instead, the flavor came from a broth that was flavorful but not too salty.

Across the table, Julie had ordered one of her favorite Italian entrees, eggplant Parmigian with whole wheat linguini.

Her marinara sauce was much thicker, but the flavor and heartiness of her meal came from the heap of mozzarella that was on top of the eggplant. It was a good balance and a very enjoyable dish. Even the wheat linguini, which she had gotten on a whim, was a pleasant addition.

For her appetizer, Julie had chosen the simple garden salad. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about it. In fact, Julie wasn’t even able to finish her salad before the entrees had arrived. This same quick service was something we had experienced at Vincenzo’s.

Another similarity between the two restaurants is price. Though our bill was slightly less at Mimmo’s ($36 compared to $45), it was only because of our entree selections.

In all, the two restaurants were alike in many ways. The similarities in appearance were obvious, but it went deeper than that.

Both offered fast service and quick delivery of our meals. The prices are reasonable for large portions (we brought leftovers home from both restaurants).

Oh yeah, and the food was very good, too.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Excellent
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Mimmo’s
290 Morgantown Rd
Reading, PA 19611

Mimmo's Restaurant & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 12

Greetings from Quebec City, Canada! As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel lobby north of the border where I am attending a marketing research conference.

But that’s not going to stop me from checking in with my weekly update. So here it is, Week 12 of Food Blogger vs. Fat:

The Challenges

It was a crazy week for me that saw me dining out a lot more than usual. Wednesday night I attended a meeting where I ate way too much junk (chocolate chip cookies and lemonade).

Crab Fest at Normandy Farm Hotel was a fun event, even if I don’t eat seafood.

Thursday, I visited Normandy Farm Hotel & Conference Center in Blue Bell for their Crab Fest dinner. I don’t eat crab, but I enjoyed everything else on the menu – chicken, sausage and mini S’mores pie.

No crabs, but plenty of good food at Normandy Farm in Blue Bell.

Friday was our visit to Bixler’s Lodge for my weekly review.

Saturday was the annual The Truck Stops Here: Mobile Madness food truck festival at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

As a foodie and member of the museum, it is one of my favorite events of the year and one that I look forward to every June.

I love French fries. I love Philly Fry. That is all.

Many of the trucks were repeat visitors, but one new addition that I was excited to try was Philly Fry.

There are two Philly Fry trucks (Red and Blue) operating in South Philadelphia along with a third location inside Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. I love a good French fry so this was my first stop.

Philly Fry offers a wide variety of loaded fries, but I wanted a true taste so I got a small bucket of fries only while my in-laws, who were joining us at the festival for the first time, tried the cheesesteak fries.

I thought the fries were excellent. They were battered and fried to a crisp – the kind of fries that no longer resemble potatoes but are completely irresistible. The cheesesteak fries meanwhile, were topped with shaved steak and melted cheese, with plenty of both to ensure that every bite tasted like the South Philly favorite.

This was my second taste of Mom-Mom’s Polish Food Cart.

My main entree came from Mom-Mom’s Polish Food Cart. Last year, Julie and I sampled the halupkis and pierogies from this small wagon. This year, I had the kielbasa sandwich.

It was a giant sandwich loaded with homemade sauerkraut that was a perfect complement – not too sour to overpower the flavorful sausage.

I scream. You scream. Julie screams for Mister Softee ice cream.

After a walk through the museum, the day ended with a stop at the Mister Softee truck for dessert. Julie loves her chocolate-covered ice cream cones and I can’t resist a good Mister Softee milkshake.

The next day, we hosted a Father’s Day picnic at the house complete with burgers, hot dogs and strawberry pretzel pie for dessert so there was no opportunity for my body to recover from Saturday’s feast.

The Successes

While I somehow kept close to my calorie goal through most of the week, I had few moments that I could call “successes.”

I did a lot of walking during the food truck festival and at Crab Fest, but that was a wash with all of the food that I consumed.

Beyond that, I had two lunch walks and spent some time on Saturday and Sunday doing some house cleaning, but other than that, it was a rather uneventful week.

The Results

Current Weight: 172.8
Weekly Weight Loss: 0.0
Total Weight Loss: -16.6

Last week was a wash. I am hopeful that my weight was actually skewed higher because my heaviest eating days were Saturday and Sunday and that I will have a much more successful week to come.

The Week Ahead

Greetings from Quebec City!

As I mentioned in my intro, I am in Quebec City for a conference. You may have guessed, that means it’s another crazy week for this food blogger.

I fly home tomorrow (Friday) for my second travel day this week. In between, I have attended workshops, listened to lectures, explored the city, and of course, sampled the local cuisine (poutine anyone?). I look forward to sharing those adventures with you in next week’s blog.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Bixler’s Lodge

When it comes to my reviews, the restaurants always fall into one of three categories.

There are the places that I have already visited – those are the easy ones.

There are the places that I have never been to, but I have researched so much ahead of time that I already know what I am going to order.

And then there are the places that we decide to go and have no idea what we are walking into.

This week, I gave the choice to Julie, and she took door number three: a visit to Bixler’s Lodge, a place neither of us had been and had done next to no research about.

We were flying blind. I knew very little about Bixler’s Lodge except that it sat at the base of Mount Penn. Google told me it was on Friedensburg Road in the village of Stony Creek, just north of Mount Penn borough.

Pulling up to the front of the building for the first time, it looked smaller than I imagined. Perhaps the awkwardly shaped parking lot that seemed to squeeze cars behind the restaurant just made it feel tiny.

Walking through the front door, I found a restaurant with character – part dive bar and part date night destination.

The single dining area featured a bar on the right. A couple flat screen TV’s were mounted on the wall above the taps.

On the left side of the room, tables set for two and four people. The stonework of the fireplace added a bit of historic charm.

What really surprised me though was the robust menu, filled with a mix of standard pub fare and inspired entrees.

Not sure what to order, I asked our waitress for a recommendation. She gave me a few of her favorites, and I chose one that intrigued me above the rest – the “Southwest Bixler Bistro Tender.”

The 10-ounce steak was rubbed in southwest seasoning, cooked to my preference and served with sautéed mushrooms atop a bed of roasted red pepper sauce. It was a unique combination, to say the least.

My favorite part of the dish was the red pepper sauce. The pairing of the sauce with beef was unexpectedly pleasant, though I would have liked just a little more sauce (but, then again, I’m a guy who loves to load up on A1 sauce when there is steak involved).

If I have one complaint, it’s with myself for ordering it well instead of medium-well. I don’t like pink beef. This is a meal that needed the steak to be a little more rare to soak up the seasoning and really bring it to life.

On the side, I had a very enjoyable pan of potatoes au gratin, the potato of the day. The cheese was nicely toasted on top, but smooth and creamy like an alfredo sauce on the inside. It was a very good addition to my meal.

Entrees at Bixler’s Lodge are served with a starter salad. It’s your typical mixed greens, Julienne carrots and cucumber (complete with the obligatory cherry tomato).

Not stopping there, I also ordered a cup of chicken, kale and white bean soup. I was expecting a thicker, hearty soup, but it was more of a chicken noodle soup without the noodles. And there were only a few beans. It was a good chicken soup, but I had my hopes up for more.

The starters we both enjoyed came in the bread basket. Julie tried one of the mini cornbread muffins and loved it. I enjoyed the dinner roll, myself.

Bixler’s has a surprisingly large selection of seafood, and that’s where Julie went for her entree as she opted to try “Bixler’s Big 100% Crab Cakes.”

The meaty crab cakes had very little filler (I guess that’s why they’re 100% crab cakes), just how Julie likes them. They were served with a side of cocktail sauce, and while Julie used it, the crab cakes stood out on their own.

Another standout was her French fries. The fries were a thicker fast food-style that were well-seasoned. I may have helped her clear them from her plate.

The vegetable of the day – peas with pearl onions – was a letdown from the rest of her meal. Peas are peas, and two or three pearl onions weren’t going to turn them into anything more.

Our final bill was reflective of our entree choices. At $18.99 and $16.99, they were two of the more expensive on the menu so I was not surprised when our total came to a little more than $40.

For the record, about half of my steak and potatoes came home with me for later.

I learned a lot about Bixler’s Lodge during my visit. I learned that red pepper sauce pairs well with beef. I learned that Bixler’s Lodge first opened as a restaurant in the 1930s.

But I think the most important thing that I learned is this: Bixler’s Lodge is very good.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Bixler’s Lodge
1456 Friedensburg Rd
Reading, PA 19606

Bixler's Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 11

It’s week 11 of my journey to better health, and we’re talking Home Chef, volleyball and desserts.

Note: I have moved my weigh-in day from Saturday to Monday to be closer to the blog’s publish date.

The Successes

This week’s successes were twofold.

First, Home Chef continued to deliver with well-portioned meals that helped me make it under my calorie limits.

Pork tacos al pastor was our first Home Chef meal for the week.

On Wednesday, Julie and I enjoyed pork tacos al pastor. The three tacos were filled with ground pork, cilantro, shallots and pineapple. With three tacos each for Julie and I, it was plenty of food to where I didn’t need a side. And at 956 calories, it fit right in line with my allotment for dinner.

Chicken Kiev – our lightest Home Chef meal to date.

Friday was the lightest Home Chef meal that I have had so far. The chicken Kiev was delicious and just 496 calories. The pan fried chicken was topped with parsley butter and served with a side of green beans.

Sunday was a grilled sirloin steak salad. Most of the time, Julie is charge of cooking. Sunday was my turn.

It was listed as “intermediate” skill level. I think that just means it uses more dishes and pans because it wasn’t a hard dish to prepare, but it made quite a mess.

My Home Chef creation: sirloin steak salad.

The salad dressing was not my favorite – a mixture of mayonnaise, buttermilk, olive oil and dill that didn’t get as thick as I think it should have. But the steak was good and so was the grilled romaine lettuce (I grilled lettuce and I liked it).

My second success was my weekend. The week was light on exercise (see below) but I made up for it starting Saturday night with a 2.8 mile walk along the Union Canal Towpath trail at Gring’s Mill.

An evening walk along the Union Canal Towpath was one of my few exercises logged for the week.

Saturday I really let loose with nine holes of disc golf in the morning followed by an afternoon volleyball game at my cousin’s high school graduation party.

I’m not very good at volleyball to begin with. Couple that with the fact that I was 13 to 14 years older than my teammates and opponents, and it was a recipe for a lot of aches and pains. But it was worth 125 calories so at least I had that going for me.

The Challenges

It was hot. Really hot.

That made it hard to get exercise through most of the week – walks at lunch were just not happening. If not for an evening of lawn mowing on Thursday, it would have been a really bad week for me.

I had calories to spare most days, but I didn’t spend them wisely. Instead, I ate a lot of junk:

  • Monday: Whoopie Pie
  • Tuesday: Popcorn
  • Wednesday: Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Thursday: Baklava and Carrot Cake (They were mini desserts, okay?)
  • Friday: Whoopie Pie
  • Saturday: Banana Cake and Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Sunday: Strawberry Shortcake

Basically, I need some non-sweet snacks around the house to take the place of dessert.

The Results

Current Weight: 172.8
Weekly Weight Loss: -0.8
Weight Loss Since Start: -16.6

I was just shy of my one-pound weekly goal, but coming off a week where I lost 1.4 pounds, it was still a great result.

The Week Ahead

This is shaping up to be a crazy week. I have various meetings and events Monday through Thursday, and Friday will likely be a bloggable meal so that doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for evening exercise.

It’s also still hot. So lunchtime walks, if they happen, will be short.

Also, I’m going to make a pig out of myself on Saturday at the annual “The Truck Stops Here: Mobile Madness” food truck festival at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. If you love food, cars, local history or any combination of the three, I hope I see you there because it really is a fun event with some creative food trucks at an amazing hidden gem of a museum.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat
Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

Billy Burger & Bakery – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Billy Burger & Bakery is now closed. The restaurant closed in February 2019 after initially announcing that they were going to make changes, but not close.

Morgantown is an area that I have not explored nearly enough on Berks County Eats.

Every day, I get on and off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Morgantown exit, but my destination is always in the opposite direction.

So I decided to do something about it. And while browsing ideas for dinner in the area, one restaurant stood out: Billy Burger and Bakery.

Billy Burger is located along Route 23 heading east from Morgantown toward Elverson, Chester County, in the Morgantown Crossings shopping center.

The building is distinctly fast food, a former Dairy Queen that still maintains the profile of its former tenant.

Inside, you would never recognize it. The DQ menu boards have been replaced by handwritten chalk boards. At the counter, a display case of tantalizing baked goods beckons.

Desserts include black cherry blondies, carrot cake sandwich cookies and an assortment of gourmet cupcakes: peach cobbler, chocolate mountain, Boston cream and cookie dough to name a few.

But bakery is just part of the name. You can’t overlook the burgers.

Billy Burger offers four burger choices: the Billy with ketchup, mustard and pickle; the Truck Stop, with coleslaw and waffle fries on the burger; the Twin Valley, featuring pepper jack, lettuce, tomato and horseradish; and my choice, the Ranch Burger.

The Ranch Burger starts with mesquite seasoning on the patty and the standard lettuce and tomato. Then it gets crazy with the addition of a grilled poblano pepper and buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing.

I was expecting spicy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that, while flavorful, the poblano pepper was not mouth-burning hot. Instead, the de-seeding and grill had made it quite pleasant with all of the flavor and just a hint of the heat.

The ranch dressing and veggies were cool and refreshing providing depth of flavor and texture. Overall, it was a great burger that I would be happy to enjoy again.

I would also enjoy the fries again. They were fresh-cut, served fresh out of the fryer and easy to eat.

Julie went with the build-your-own option for her burger, topping it with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and bacon. The bacon was well-done, and the American cheese was melted nicely onto the patty.

And her waffle fries were delicious as well. There was a hint of extra seasoning added to the golden brown fries making them quite addictive.

Not wanting leave without the full experience, we needed to take at least one baked good home with us to try. Our cashier talked us into the freshly made strawberry shortcake.

What sold it for us was that it was truly a “from-scratch” dish. Not only was the cake baked onsite, but the whipped cream is also made in-house at Billy Burger.

Tasting it for the first time the next day, I was a fan. The shortcake was light and airy. The whipped cream was fluffy and sweet, but not too sweet.

I will definitely be back to try more from the bakery.

For dinner and dessert, our total was about $30. I thought that was very reasonable for the amount and quality of food that we got.

One thing to note, while Billy Burger is located in a former fast food restaurant, it is not fast food. Everything is cooked to order so there is a wait until it is delivered to your table, inside or out on the patio.

Billy Burger is a new addition to my short list of favorite burger places in Berks, one that I’m excited to visit again.

All I have to do is go the extra mile – literally – into Morgantown.

Billy Burger and Bakery
650 Crossings Blvd
Elverson, PA 19520

Billy Burger & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 10

It’s the 10th week of my journey to better health. This week, we celebrate three things: Memorial Day, NASCAR and my birthday.

The Successes

As mentioned last week, I spent the past weekend at Dover International Speedway.

I am fortunate enough that I’m not attending just as a fan, but as an employee of the track.

I started working race weekends at Dover in the fall of 2014. The hat has become my signature look around the track.

My friend Lynn is Dover’s Social Media Manager. She and I were interns together four years ago and bonded over a love of racing.

Home base during the weekend is the infield media center, where drivers like Jimmie Johnson come through for interviews.

So when she realized that she needed help on race weekends, she called me. This was my sixth race weekend as her assistant.

Driver appearances happen throughout the weekend. Here, Regan Smith poses with a young fan on Sunday morning.

My job is basically to be everywhere, hopping between driver appearances, pit road and events around the track, taking pictures and posting to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I also have access to pit road and victory lane. This is the Dash4Cash celebration for William Byron following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

I get to do a lot of amazing things – I drove Dover’s official pace car, shot a t-shirt gun and ate a slice of Richard Petty’s birthday cake (more on that later).

I even got to follow around the Minions from Despicable Me 3.

I also walked. A lot. Walking is my preferred method of getting around the speedway. The track is one-mile around so everytime that I walked from the infield media center – home base for the race – to the fan zone, I was walking about a mile each way. I did that multiple times throughout the three days while doing shorter walks and a lot of standing.

It was a great weekend, and I got plenty of exercise, but it was almost impossible for me to quantify it in my Lose It app.

The Challenges

This was a week that presented an array of temptations.

It started with Memorial Day weekend and a Sunday picnic of hamburgers, baked beans, ice cream cake and strawberry pie.

Monday was worse. We had pizza for lunch. And at dinner, there were more hamburgers on the menu, plus potato chips, chocolate zucchini bread and ice cream.

I can’t resist Shady Maple pancakes…

Tuesday was Shady Maple Day (aka my birthday). We went for breakfast, and I was as disciplined as I could possibly be (baked French toast, potatoes and an apple cinnamon pancake), I still couldn’t keep within my calorie limit for the day.

…or their baked French toast.

The birthday celebration continued on Wednesday with cannoli dip at work and Rita’s custard after dinner.

My weekend at the races followed. For all of the walking that I did, I did just as much eating. Meals were served buffet style – enchiladas, pulled pork sandwiches and manicotti were among the menu options.

And I couldn’t resist the chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and popcorn that were there for the taking in the Media Center.

Richard Petty’s 80th birthday cake.

Sunday was the best of times and the worst times. I ate a slice of Richard Petty’s birthday cake – a delicious piece of art created by Desserts by Dana – a former winner of TLC’s Cake Boss. This was better than 99 percent of cakes that I have tried. The layers of frosting were the perfect level of sweet. The cake itself was light and airy. It was perfect.

 

It tastes just as good as it looks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I stopped at McDonald’s on the way home. Not my proudest moment, but if you’ve ever driven between Dover, Delaware and Reading via Routes 41 and 10, you know that there are not a lot of options.

The Results

Current Weight: 173.6
Weekly Weight Loss: -1.4
Weight Loss Since Start: -15.8

I know I did a lot of walking, but even I am shocked by the results. I was going to be happy to just break even. Instead, I was right on pace (given the extra two days before my weigh-in).

The Week Ahead

It’s a return to normalcy this week. No racing. No birthday celebrations. No reason to not make my goals.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Road Trip: Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy

Berks County is home to many retro drive-in restaurants.

Places like Schell’s, Cee-Gees, the Kwik Stoppe and Intel’s Pennside Drive-In are local favorites that continue to attract diners for classics like hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and, of course, ice cream.

Retro restaurants like these can be found everywhere from the biggest cities to rural backroads.

The latter is where you will find Schuylkill County’s favorite drive-in: Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy.

Heisler’s is like a mix of Schell’s, Boehringer’s and the Works. It’s a retro quick-service restaurant with homemade ice cream. It’s also a mini-golf mecca with two 18-hole courses. Add to that the driving range, arcade and gift shop, and Heisler’s has to be considered an entertainment destination.

Though only a 45-minute drive from Reading, Heisler’s feels like another world. The complex grew up around the original Heisler’s dairy farm, which explains why it feels like the middle of nowhere, three miles from the nearest numbered highway (Route 895) along a windy, two-lane road.

Yet when we pulled up, the parking lot was packed with customers from all over, including several from Berks County (the Fleetwood Tigers and SV Panthers shirts gave away their hometowns).

Despite the crowded parking lot, there wasn’t much of a line to order – most of the people seemed to already be on the golf course or eating – so we were helped quickly.

Our order was fairly simple: a cheeseburger for Julie, a hamburger for me, an order of fries to share and two bottles of water. And it was out in a hurry.

The burgers were fresh off the grill. I prefer the basics: LTO. I have no complaints about the burger. It’s fast food not gourmet. Don’t expect anything more and you won’t be disappointed.

The crinkle cut fries were a bit of a letdown though. I have to assume they had been sitting for a moment before being served because they warm, not hot, and a little hard as opposed to crispy.

I’ve had their fries when piping hot and they are very good. This was an off-day for them.

Between dinner and dessert, we took time to play 18. When I was a child, my parents had brought us to Heisler’s once or twice. The old miniature golf course (and tepee) is gone, replaced in 2003 by two more modern courses.

The Black Diamond Fairways features a coal mine theme, complete with a rock waterfall. It’s also the busier of the two (especially with kids). We decided for the faster, calmer round at Lewistown Fairways.

It’s a beautiful course that’s fun and challenging enough that Julie couldn’t luck into a win against my 3-under performance.

After working up our appetites again, we were at the dessert window (desserts are ordered at the front of the building, hot food at the side).

I went with a very…vanilla option, choosing a vanilla milkshake over more complicated desserts. I can’t help it; I love milkshakes. And Heisler’s milkshakes are not too runny, not too thick and sized just right. They work just as well for dessert as they do with your meal.

When it comes to desserts, Julie is more of a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl. She went with the peanut butter sundae with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter topping, whipped cream and a cherry on top.

It must have been good because she devoured it pretty fast. We had absolutely nothing to complain about at dinner.

For everything – dinner, miniature golf and dessert – we spent around $35. Not bad for an evening of food and entertainment.

A few other notes for those who have never been to Heisler’s or haven’t been there in a while:

  • Heisler’s is CASH ONLY. There’s an ATM on site if you forget, but who wants to pay those fees?
  • The Waffle Shop is still there, but it’s no longer serving waffles and ice cream. It has been converted into a private party area.
  • Most of the seating is located under a large pavilion. It can fill up at the dinner rush so be prepared to not get a table, just in case.

Heisler’s is a fun time with good food. Yes, there are plenty of places in Berks County to get similar food and a similar experience, but sometimes it’s nice to just go for a drive and explore something different.

And for us, Heisler’s is worth a drive, if only once a year.

Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy
743 Catawissa Rd
Tamaqua, PA 18252

Heisler Cloverleaf Dairy, Inc. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Drive-Ins Reviews