PA Ice Cream Trail – Patches Family Creamery

Ice cream cone-shaped stone welcomes customers to Patches Family Creamery

When it was announced in May that Visit PA was bringing back the Pursue Your Scoops Ice Cream trail – a program that highlights cow-to-cone creameries throughout the state – I was thrilled. Last year, Julie and I had started on the trail but life got in the way and we never finished. This year, we are determined to get the free t-shirt that comes with five stamps on our passport.

The trail celebrates cow-to-cone creameries across the state, there are two Berks County creameries on the list – Way-Har Farms in Bernville and the Nesting Box in Kempton. While we will visit them later, we wanted to start with a bit of a road trip.

Our first stop this year was Patches Family Creamery. Located just south of Lebanon, Patches is about an hour’s drive from our house. We had found it as part of last year’s tour and couldn’t wait to go back and blog about it this year.

Patches Family Creamery Front Porch

The wooden building that houses the creamery and farm market still looks new. It features a small number of tables inside with larger picnic tables and benches on the shaded front porch.

In addition to ice cream, Patches offers a variety of dairy products and some baked goods.

Inside Patches', the menu shows 20 flavors of ice cream available.

Patches had more than 20 flavors of ice cream available when we visited including all of the standards: vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, etc. – and a few originals like the candy scramble (think a candy store in an ice cream tub) and cow tracks, their version of moose tracks.

They also offer an assortment of sundaes. Rhubarb was in season so I decided to give a rhubarb sundae a try.

A pair of ice cream sundaes

It was one of the best ice cream treats I’ve had in a long time. The sweet vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement to the tart rhubarb while the granola/oatmeal crumble added crunch and flavor to every bite. The ice cream itself is rich and creamy. Really, it was a perfect blend.

Julie also went with a sundae. Her fruit of choice was strawberry, but she went with chocolate ice cream for a delicious combination. The bowl was filled with fresh strawberries. The fruit and ice cream combined for a decadent chocolate-covered strawberry flavor – sweet, indulgent and delicious.

Tables inside Patches

We also ordered a kiddie cup of ice cream for Jakob. For whatever reason, our son is not a big ice cream fan and only ate a couple tiny scoops. I ended up finishing it in about three bites. His loss is my gain.

I was surprised that our two sundaes and kiddie cup was less than $10. It felt like a very good deal for quality all the way around.

Patches' playground features a tire climb, swings and two large slides.

Not only does Patches serve great ice cream, it’s also a great place for young kids to get out and play on a playground that caters to kids big and small. There’s also a petting zoo with goats and other farm animals (fun for most kids, scary for ours).

Patches is a great little spot out in the country that’s worth a visit if you’re in the Lebanon area or worth a drive if you are trying to earn a free t-shirt.

BCE Rating
Ice Cream: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Very Reasonable

Patches Family Creamery
201 Fonderwhite Rd
Lebanon, PA 17042

To learn more about the Pursue Your Scoops Ice Cream Trail, check out VisitPA.com

Dessert Reviews
Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

5 Favorite Desserts of 2018

Our annual end-of-year tradition continues as we take a look back on the best things we tried this year. Today: our five favorite desserts of 2018.

Fried Ice Cream – Castaneda’s

Fried ice cream is a personal favorite of Julie’s so when we saw it on Castaneda’s menu, we had to try it. It was totally worth the extra Calories (I don’t want to know how many were in it). I especially loved the addition of the cinnamon-dusted tortilla chips. Read Full Review

Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart – Savory Grille

Julie’s birthday dinner at Savory Grille was from start to finish one of the best meals we have ever had. And the finish was incredible: a tart filled with chocolate ganache, topped with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh mint and a sugar cookie, and garnished with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar. It was an unforgettable indulgence and a great ending to a perfect night out. Read Full Review

Lemon berry cake from Franklin House Tavern

Lemon Berry Cake – Franklin House

In 2018, Berks County Eats made only a couple road trips outside the county, one of those was to the Franklin House Tavern in Schaefferstown, Lebanon County. We splurged on dessert – a deliciously decadent lemon berry cake with layers of Mascarpone cheese and a concentrated raspberry sauce. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale Butterscotch Lava Cake

Butterscotch Lava Cake – Fork & Ale

Butterscotch does not rank high on my list of favorite sweets, but the butterscotch lava cake from our visit to Fork & Ale was perfect. Not too buttery, not too sweet with a perfectly prepared cake “shell,” this dessert capped off an incredible date night dinner. Read Full Review

Plum Creek Farm Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake – Plum Creek

The Creamery at Plum Creek Farm Market has become an incredibly popular destination along Route 183 and it is thanks to their delicious homemade soft ice cream and indulgent sundaes like this. The vanilla soft serve stands on its own, but the strawberry shortcake sundae came topped with bits of shortcake, fresh strawberries and a mound of whipped cream. It’s a satisfying meal on its own. Read Full Review

 

Best of Berks County Eats Desserts
Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Shoemakersville, PA

In October 2018, Arby’s tested a very unique sandwich at one of its Berks County locations. The Arby’s in Spring Township sold – and sold out of – the one-time-only duck sandwich.

It was a very different concept, especially for a national fast food chain. But it was met with positive reviews, and the line that morning when Arby’s opened up said there was a demand for it.

That’s where the Kwik Shoppe in Shoemakersville comes in. They saw opportunity and capitalized on it, introducing duck on their menu in November.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Shoemakersville, PA

While duck is normally found on finer dining menus – five-spice duck breast at Savory Grille and ravioli with duck ragu at Salute come to mind – it’s not the first time I’ve had it in a more casual setting.

At the Liberty Taproom, I enjoyed a duck confit burger topped with duck sausage. And my first real taste of duck came at the relaxed Canal Street Pub.

But fast food is a different story. Walking into the Kwik Shoppe – a quintessential drive-in with hexagonal tile floor, booth seating and a claw machine behind the door – duck just doesn’t seem to fit.

The Kwik Shoppe has three different duck items on their menu: the pulled duck sandwich, duck fries and a duck sausage sandwich. All of them sounded good, but a photo of the pulled duck sandwich on the restaurant’s Facebook page had me sold before I got there.

Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

The sandwich was topped with an onion ring and pineapple papaya sauce (barbecue sauce was also an option).

Before diving into the sandwich, I tasted the meat on its own. It was similar to a pulled pork but fattier with a deeper flavor. I was impressed.

On the whole, the sandwich was very good. There wasn’t a lot of sauce, but there didn’t need to be. It added some sweet and tangy notes that came through after the meat. The onion ring was a reminder that I was eating fast food. It wasn’t necessary, but I certainly didn’t mind it either.

I would go back for another.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Cheeseburger

Julie went with the much less exciting cheeseburger. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not going to win any best burger contests. It was also around $2 so we’re not going to complain.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In French Fries

Both of us did enjoy our fries. They weren’t anything special, just a really good fast food-style French fry. They were cut small so you could pop several of them at a time. I think their small size allowed them to retain more flavor from the fryer. After adding a little salt and pepper, they were just what we hoped they would be.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Mac and Cheese Bites

Jakob, our now one-year-old son, is now at the point that he can have his own food when we go out. So we got him an order for mac and cheese bites. He enjoyed them, eating two out of the five in the order (along with some fries and some duck). Again, nothing special, just a typical fried fast food side.

None of us really needed anything else to eat after our dinners, but the ice cream was right there, and we just couldn’t pass up the chance to indulge.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Ice Cream

I am a sucker for flurries so my go-to on this night was a brownie dough flurry. The flurry was actually mixed to the point that much of the brownie had broken off into small bits, making it look more like cookies and cream than brownie dough. But there were still some larger chunks that were definitely brownie. It was delicious, but a small was more than enough for me, especially after indulging at dinner.

Julie’s new favorite dessert is the dusty road sundae. Kwik Shoppe loaded theirs up with chocolate syrup, malt powder, whipped cream, crushed peanuts and the obligatory cherry on top. The soft-serve vanilla was very good and they didn’t skimp on the toppings. Julie couldn’t finish it, but made sure to eat “all the good stuff.”

We spent about $32 on our visit – $22 on dinner and $10 on dessert. The duck items are a little more expensive than the rest of the menu so we easily could have spent less and we easily could have spent more. But overall, it felt like a good value.

The service isn’t great (a little slow but not bad), but that’s to be expected when a group of four high school students are handling all of the orders behind the counter.

I went in to the meal with an open mind when it came to fast food duck. After eating the pulled duck sandwich, I think you can count me among the believers.

And I hope there are more believers out there because this was a sandwich I would like to have again.

BCE Rating
Food: Fair to Very Good
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Good
Value: Reasonable

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In
555 Shoemaker Ave
Shoemakersville, PA 19555

Dessert Drive-Ins Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant

Berks County Eats crosses the county line for a visit to Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, about 35 miles north of Reading.

Leiby’s is a familiar name around Berks County, even if you didn’t know the family had a restaurant.

The namesake ice cream can found at many of the area’s favorite cool-down spots, including Scoupe DeVille in Birdsboro.

But in Schuylkill County, Leiby’s was also synonymous with homestyle cooking, at least until the restaurant closed in 2007.

After a decade away, the Leiby family decided it was time to reopen, and the hotspot at the corner of Routes 443 and 309 sprang back to life in May 2017.

Officially known as Leiby’s Ice Cream House and Restaurant, the building is familiar to all those who drive past. Just as familiar is the sign on the corner, complete with an analog clock – or is a thermometer – that never actually displays any information.

The restaurant has two entrances, one for ice cream only and one for the dining room. Our hostess was nice but she really wasn’t much help with our questions as we waited a long time to be served. In the large dining room, waitresses were serving customers and busing tables. There was a decent crowd in the dining room for a Sunday afternoon, but certainly not large enough to have been slowing everyone down this much.

Leiby’s menu is very much influenced by diners – simple meals like meatloaf, roast beef, turkey, and spaghetti and meatballs made up the majority of the dinner menu (there were also sandwiches, burgers and a few appetizers).

It’s a relatively reasonably priced menu with dinners priced around $10. But apparently they make up for it in upcharges. Replacing one of my sides with a trip to salad bar cost an extra $5.50.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice little salad bar. The emphasis is on “little” as it certainly was not worth the upcharge. It had your standard lettuce and all the toppings with six squirt bottles full of dressing. But there was nothing that made it stand out.

But not wanting to add another real side, I was left with little options.

For my meal, I had gone very traditional, ordering the roast turkey with mashed potatoes. It was also served with cranberry sauce and was topped with gravy.

The turkey was okay but I was hoping for better. There wasn’t a lot of flavor to the thin slices of meat, and the gravy did little more than to make it wet. The cranberry sauce came in the tiniest little cup on the side. Honestly, I almost forgot to eat it because I didn’t see it sitting on the table.

The best thing on my plate was the mashed potatoes. They were very good, as I would expect from a good diner. They had a nice yellow color, always a good sign, and were well-seasoned. In my teenage years, I would have doubled up on the potatoes instead of getting a salad. I almost wished I had done that on this trip.

Julie’s open-face roast beef sandwich was another fair dish. I didn’t care for the bread that it was served on, but I liked the beef a little better than my turkey. I think she and I were both looking for more of a pot roast-style dish.

And her side of corn was fresh from the can.

On the bright side, Leiby’s serves Leiby’s ice cream so we had that to look forward throughout the meal. And the ice cream did not disappoint.

I had a waffle sundae with vanilla fudge ice cream, topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. The warm Belgian waffle and hot fudge melted the ice cream just enough to make it soft. The waffle itself was delicious and the ice cream was sweet, creamy and perfect.

And it cost less than my salad.

Julie had a more traditional dusty road sundae (her new favorite) with Tandy Kake ice cream (also her new favorite).

Dessert redeemed the meal, for the most part. But it couldn’t overcome the poor service we received.

Julie, Jakob and I were joined by her family. And while Julie and her mom both ordered lettuce with hot bacon dressing as sides, only Julie’s was delivered as an appetizer. And flagging down our waitress wasn’t easy as we went 10 minutes at a time without seeing her.

Worse yet, at the end of the meal when we asked for our bills to be split, I was given our half (about $38) but unknowingly my in-laws were given, and charged for, both of our meals. (Payments are made at a cash register near the exit). So we had to call a manager to do a refund. Then they had to enter each of the meals individually, but they didn’t even get that right. Eventually we each paid our fair share.

I expect this kind of service from a place that’s been open six weeks, not one that has been open for 16 months.

Needless to say, we won’t be making any Sunday drives to Leiby’s again any time soon.

BCE Rating:

Food: Fair
Service: Poor
Ambiance: Good
Value: Reasonable

Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant
848 W. Penn Pk
Tamaqua, PA 18252

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Plum Creek Farm

Last summer, my brother clued me in to a new ice cream place called Plum Creek Farm.

The small place had recently opened, and they were serving homemade soft serve ice cream. We checked it out and quickly fell in love with both the ice cream and the small farm market store.

Plum Creek operates seasonally so we got our last taste of it in the fall and awaited its reopening in April. This year brought an expanded menu of hot food items, new hard ice cream (not homemade but locally made) and more treats.

The hot food menu was definitely something we wanted to try. Last year, it was an evolving menu but it finally seems to be set, with sandwiches that include pulled pork, smoked sausage, pit beef and hot dogs; fresh-cut fries; homemade soups; and soft pretzels. (There are also salads if you want to save Calories for dessert).

We stopped by on a weeknight in early June and the line to order showed that the word is definitely out about Plum Creek.

It was a long wait for our dinners. That wasn’t the case for ice cream cones as an efficient ordering system had cones delivered before the customers even had paid. But for hot food, and for specialty desserts, it took time.

I stood and watched as cone after cone was handed off. Then a cup of soup. Occasionally, a sandwich. Finally, after what seemed like hours (it was probably 20 minutes), my name was called and our sandwiches were ready.

We dined at one of many picnic tables that make up the “dining area.” There are also Adirondack chairs, benches, all outside.

Maybe I was just really hungry, but from the first bite, I really enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich.

Now, I fully recognize that this pulled pork will never win a barbecue competition. But it was still very good. The sauce was sweeter than most, almost a little too sweet, but I think what really made the sandwich was Plum Creek’s seasoning. It was sprinkled on as the sandwich was constructed. The basic salt and pepper were there with additional spices. It wasn’t spicy, but it added little hits of flavor to every bite.

The seasoning was even better, in my opinion, on Julie’s pit beef sandwich. She thought it was a little salty, but I thought it worked.

Her sandwich was served with cheese (that’s the standard at Plum Creek; I opted for mine without). It’s not the norm for barbecue, but Julie enjoyed this change of pace.

Both sandwiches were served on Kaiser rolls that served their purpose, holding in all of the meat and sauce without crumbling.

We both really enjoyed the side of fries that we shared. They most closely resembled the shoestring fries that you’ll find locally at Austin’s and Coastal Grille. The fries were cut very thin and short, making it easy to pick up a handful at once. And they came out piping hot – I can only assume this was what delayed our order.

Of course we couldn’t come to Plum Creek without getting ice cream. And even though we were comfortably full after dinner, we couldn’t resist trying some of their signature desserts.

My sweet of choice was the pie a la mode. I chose the shoo-fly pie (strawberry is also available) and have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the pie. It drier than it looked with a rather plain crust. But the homemade vanilla soft serve was excellent. It’s a heavy ice cream that is better and more flavorful than your typical soft serve mix.

I probably would have been happier – and certainly more comfortable – had I just settled for a cone of vanilla.

Julie was not disappointed with her strawberry shortcake, though she would also admit that she didn’t need that much food.

The shortcake was topped with strawberries (you can buy Plum Creek’s fresh-picked strawberries from their store), strawberry sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Everything about this was excellent, but there’s just nothing better than fresh strawberries and a homemade strawberry sauce on a shortcake.

One downside of the way we did things was that we had to go through the line a second time. While Julie stood in line for dessert, I gave Jakob a bottle so it worked out. But we spent a long evening – and around $35 – at Plum Creek.

Last year, I could have argued that Plum Creek Farm was a hidden gem. But with long lines on an ordinary weeknight, I’d say the word is already out.

But those crowds won’t scare us away this summer, and they shouldn’t scare you away either.

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

Plum Creek Farm
5035 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

Dessert Farmers Market Meals Lunch & Dinner Reviews

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