Quite a few people told me that if I want to see Amish people, I have to go to Shipshewana, Indiana. Located a little over an hour south from Kalamazoo, it’s the Amish Graceland. After speaking to some co-workers, I got the low-down of where to go and what to eat and we were ready to go!
The drive from Kalamazoo to Shipshewana was gorgeous, mostly through farmland with small towns sprinkled in. The main street running through Shipshe (as the locals call it) is thick with “country store” selling all kinds of Amish goods. Our first stop was Trading Places Antiques and we had no idea what we were in for. About the size of the football field, it’s booth after booth of great antiques. Many are grossly overpriced, but there are a few gems. An hour and a half in and barely a quarter of the way through, we called a time out for lunch, but not before picking up a few bags of vintage buttons, some Coca-Cola magazine ads from the 1920′s and a old copy of Life magazine. I’ll share about what we will do with those finds later.
Knowing we would have to come back another day, we traveled about 6 miles south to Middlebury, Indiana for lunch at Das Dutchman Essenhaus. I was expecting a restaurant, not a compound! (with 1,100 seats, they are Indiana’s largest restaurant). Essenhaus has two option, family style and off the menu. Since I wouldn’t be indulging in any fried chicken, we headed to the menu side of the restaurant.
Not exactly a vegetarian paradise, it’s times like these which makes being a pescatarian a whole lot easier. I settled on the Fish Sandwich – lightly breaded, mild whitefish deep fried to a golden brown with a side salad. The boyfriend went for the Steak Essenhaus Wrap – a 12” tortilla wrap filled with lettuce, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, pickles, and salsa.
All good, there were two highlights of the meal – the Amish Peanut Butter Spread and Sweet & Sour Salad Dressing. The Peanut Butter Spread is available on the table to smoother (and I mean smoother) on your dinner rolls. It’s a crazy delicious mix of peanut butter and karo syrup. It’s so crazy delicious in fact we bought a jar of it to take home with us. The other exceptional find was the Sweet & Sour Dressing. Not generally a fan of sweet and sour (not even in my Chinese food), I probably should have picked up a jar of this as well. Not to sweet and hardly sour, it was a near perfect salad dressing.
On a quest to find a real deal Amish quilt, we headed over to the Essenhaus shops. My dreams of a Amish quilt for our king size bed were quickly shot down when #1, I saw the non-Amish woman in the store making one and more importantly when #2 I saw the price tag. The ‘cheap’ ones were in the $700 – $900 range. The more intricate one were north of $2,000.
After a quick run by the extensive (clearly non-Amish) selection on Vera Bradley bag (another current obsession of mine) we were back on the road to explore. Armed with my ‘inside’ knowledge on where to find the best Amish deals, we veered off the beating path down a few side country roads. As instructed by my co-workers, this is where we would find the best stuff. After a few minutes (and passing a few buggies) we came across a store attached to a home. The ‘Honey’ sign enticed us, so we stopped. It was a small store, but had quite a large selection of honey and jams. After some debate, we purchased a pepper jelly and were back on the road.
Heading back into town, we stopped at Yoders Meat and Cheese. My boyfriend (aka a mouse) couldn’t get enough of the cheese selection here. The fast that nearly every cheese is available to sample just makes matters worse. We probably spent an hour in here browsing ever isle, tasting every cheese. We headed to the checkout with our hands full of goodies.
As we exited we had to stop at the Kettle Corn stand for some freshly popped, delectable Kettle Corn to fill our tummies for the ride back to Kalamazoo.