Thursday, May 14, 2009

Das Dutch Kitchen, Simple Fare from the Heartland

I lived on the east coast for about six months back in 2000, specifically near Boston. Many of us have perceptions about what life is like in other parts of the country. The Bostonians that I worked with wondered if everyone in Ohio had the "slow moving vehicle" signs on the backs of their cars. Of course, the word cars came out more like, "cahhz". It took me a minute to realize they were thinking of the Amish buggies found in mid and southern Ohio.

I assured my fellow colleagues that more than just Amish people inhabited the state of Ohio and nary a orange triangle could be found on any cars in the part of Ohio that I was familiar with. (As an additional cultural oddity, the side of the road on the highway where you pull over in case you have car troubles is called the "berm" here in Ohio. The first time I used that word in Boston I got many blank stares. When I finally got them to understand what I meant, they informed me, with what can only be described as the condescending "Duh?!" look on their faces, that it is called the "breakdown lane" in Boston.)

My mother happens to be the music director for her church and will occasionally need someone to "sub" in for one of her regulars during rehearsals. I suppose fortunately for her, reading music is like riding a bicycle; once learned, you'll always be able to do it. On occasions when the rehearsal is after work, I will try and find a restaurant somewhere between where I work and the church. This is where I stumbled across Das Dutch Kitchen. Right off of Rt. 30 between Dalton and Orrville, OH, they are serving up some traditional Amish / Pennsylvania Dutch fare that is quite good. Some of their offerings have been modernized for the average Joe (such as the salad offerings), but if you pick and choose carefully, you can put together a very nice meal.

Here is a shot of the exterior of the restaurant. Note the buggy by the front door:

Once inside, they will seat you in their rather large dining room. If you come during lunchtime, you have the option of ordering from the menu or participating in the daily rotating buffet (meaning the foods available rotate, not the entire buffet itself). The one thing that is always on the buffet is their broasted chicken.

I spoke of broasted chicken in an earlier post about Nicole's Family Restaurant. Broasted chicken is actually a two step process. First, the chicken is brined according to a specific recipe. After the brining period, it is pressure fried in oil. This results in a fried chicken that is incredibly hot and moist with extra crispy skin. Against all odds, every time I've been to Das Dutch and gotten the buffet for lunch, the chicken has always lived up to this potential. The version I had at Nicole's was lacking a bit in salt, but Das Dutch always hits it right on the head when it comes to seasoning. In fact, everything I've ever had from the Das Dutch kitchen has always been seasoned very well.

Here is a shot of the front of their menu:

And while I know that the table side condiment shot usually consists of a bottle of ketchup or salt and pepper shakers, at Das Dutch they actually have two table side condiments that appear at no other restaurant I've ever eaten at.

The bottle on the left is the peanut butter sauce. The one on the right is the apple butter. Both are made in-house and are absolutely divine. The peanut butter sauce has the consistency of a thick syrup and has a sweet and salty component to it. The apple butter has a wonderfully fresh apple flavor along with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Mmmm.

With your meal you will get a basket of homemade white or wheat bread (or a mix). Today I opted for the whole wheat bread. Here is a shot of the basket:

And a shot of how I decided to eat my bread:

I've had both kinds of bread and honestly, while I wouldn't consider them artisan, they are always very fresh and have a lovely crust and crumb. I was disappointed to learn that they contained bleached flours and hydrogenated oils, but I suppose that they are looking to make breads that keep longer than a couple of days for their typical guest. Pre-sliced loaves of both kinds are sold in the gift shop out in front of the restaurant.

In any event, the whole wheat with the apple butter is simply a marvelous combination. No butter or margarine required!

The buffet includes not only the hotline but also a cold buffet. This includes all manner of salad greens, toppings, dressings, jellos, and dessert mousses. It's not nearly as large as the salad buffet I experienced at Lembo's in Akron, but I honestly think the quality is higher here at Das Dutch.

On the hotline today was a cheeseburger soup (which didn't sound all that good to be honest), buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, roasted new potatoes with parsley, chicken with dumplings, and finally the broasted chicken. I put together a plate of the broasted chicken and some of the chicken and dumplings and retired to my table:

This was, as always, quite tasty. There has only been one time over the last two years that I've eaten here where the chicken was so-so. Which is a pretty good track record for food coming off a buffet. Clearly this is simple food, but it is also simply delicious. Like I mentioned in my post on Nicole's, I normally find uncrisped chicken skin sort of nasty and would rather discard it than eat it, but not here. Crisp, not greasy, and tasty.

Das Dutch offers many pies by the slice for dessert (today's offerings were no less than six different kinds of pies). All are made from scratch on-site. They even offer several no sugar varieties for those who want to watch their sugar intake. While the non-featured pie slices can be a tad pricey, you get a sizable piece with a lot of fruit on it for the price you pay. They also offer non-fruit pies as well.

Normally I skip the pie and go for a bit of the mousse that is already included in the buffet price (remember the cold buffet?). They always have a chocolate and vanilla mousse on the buffet and today they had a bit of unmistakably green pistachio as well. Here is a shot of my bowl:

A little from column A and a little from column B. I actually like to drizzle a little bit of the peanut butter sauce on top of the chocolate mousse. Salty, sweet, chocolatey, peanut buttery, yum. The pistachio mousse was very light texturally and every now and then you would encounter a strange change in texture. It turns out they had folded in miniature marshmallows that had sort of halfway dissolved into the mousse. While I'll be the first to admit that the mousses aren't exactly a perfect substitution for a slice of one of their pies, if I'm already feeling full from the buffet and just want to end my meal with a little bit of sweet for free, you can't go wrong with this.

You actually pay for you meal in the front of the restaurant, which doubles as a gift shop. Here you can pick up various nick-knacks as well as some of the food items the kitchen makes for the restaurant. This includes pies, breads, cookies, brownies, etc. One thing I never seem to be able to pass up are the handmade fried pies. Several always manage to go home with me. Fried in canola oil, they have all the decadence of a Hostess Fruit Pie with much more flavor and less of the guilt from the saturated and trans fats. I'm not saying they are health food; far from it. I just feel far better about eating one of these than their more commercial counterpart. Today I picked up cherry, apple, and peach. They also had bumbleberry, black raspberry, and a no-sugar variety apple as well.

Here is my take home box of pies:

And a shot of the inside of the pies:

The first thing to note is the heft of these fried pies. Probably about twice the size and weight of a commercial fried pie, you could easily split this with a friend. Like the rest of the food served at Das Dutch, these are not greasy in the least. All of the fruit fillings have a nice balance of sugar. These are dessert, to be sure, but they don't smack you over the head with sweetness. The crust is a wonderful combination of tender and flaky, and if you are a pie crust freak, like me, you'll love these. Don't be tempted to eat two, you'll definitely not feel well after that. Not that I, um, speak from experience or anything.

If you are looking for simple, delicious, Amish / Pennsylvania Dutch inspired cuisine and happen to be driving through the area, I highly recommend you stop for lunch or dinner at Das Dutch Kitchen.


Kathy said...

The name of this restaurant doesn't ring a bell, but I've been to an Amish place (around Sugarcreek I think) that has the wonderful peanut butter sauce on the table. OMG, does that rock or what!? Same deal with the hot and cold buffet too. Wish I could remember the name... dang!

As for Boston, they all drive like maniacs so it stands to reason they would think us slowpokes, Amish or not. Probably about 10 years ago Nick and I were outside of Boston for a friends wedding. All those turnabouts and all those crazy drivers! OMG, I thought we were going to die. And on the subject of accents, I was pumping gas (wearing my Tribe t-shirt) and some dude came up to me and said, "Hey looks like we'll be playing you guys in the wild card" but it sounded like "Yey, looks like we'll be playin yo guys in da wide cahhhhd" LOL

Tino said...

Ah, the roundabouts. People from Ohio just don't understand. The closest I can get in describing the experience is something like, "Imagine if Tallmadge Circle were half the size it is now and the MINIMUM speed was 25 mph."

Learning to drive in Boston was definitely challenging for this Ohio boy.