Guber Ball Day

Guber Ball day is long-standing tradition at the Dirty Ol’ Tavern (The Distelfink Inn) in Lancaster, Pa.

It comes but once a year, around Christmas time, and there is not really any information about it anywhere. Go ahead, try to Google it, you won’t find much. The Dirty Ol’ Tavern doesn’t even have an official website (or at least I couldn’t find one). You’ll just have to go down South Prince Street to the fringes of Lancaster city next holiday season and see for yourself. I don’t really know how the tradition began but it has been celebrated for 65 years and counting!

I have been attending the Guber Ball Christmas Party for 3 years now. My first one was quite epic. There was a wicked snowstorm one day in mid-December that kept most people cooped up in their homes. Luckily we live right in town and we like to walk everywhere. So we bundled up, put our snow boots on, and marched from one end of the city to the other. We arrived at the Dirty Ol’ Tavern kind of late in the evening, long after the usual Guber Ball serving time…

But this day we were lucky! There were plenty of Guber balls to pass around! The snow storm kept many of the party-goers home and the Distelfink Inn had an enormous amount left to fry up for us. And so began the Guber Ball Day tradition for my group of friends.

This year my very good friend Matt (that’s him in the picture!) and I decided to make some special sauces for the Guber Ball Day Christmas party. This year the party was held on December 17th. I’ll be sure to put up a reminder post next year to let you all know when the special day is because I know you all want to attend next holiday season.

Here are our special sauce creations:

From right to left…

Top row: homemade pickle and onion creamy relish, horseradish mustard mix, and hot sesame soy dipping sauce.

Bottom row: Garlic and winter herb aoli, regular sesame soy dipping sauce, and curried sweet chili ketchup.

I think that everyone pretty much voted the regular and hot sesame soy dipping sauces went the best with the Guber balls. The sesame soy dipping sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions, garlic, and ginger. The hot version includes a squirt of sriracha sauce. I originally made this sauce for cabbage and shrimp pot stickers but it’s really good for a variety of dippable foods.

So… What exactly is a Guber Ball? I can tell you are wondering…

We don’t actually know what a Guber ball is made of, but we do know that the recipe is a heavily guarded secret among the Dirty”Ol Tavern family. We have also been debating on spelling – Goober ball or Guber ball? I think it is spelled Guber due to the German heritage of many Lancaster folk. If anyone thinks otherwise, let me know.

Here’s what the outside looks like:

I think Dan said it best when he described them as a “meat hush puppy.” They look a lot like round hush puppies. I can only speculate that they are made with some kind of ground meat and maybe some vegetables and spices… possibly pork and celery? I have no guesses on the spices. They are rolled in breadcrumbs and fried, making a crispy outer shell and a mushy center.

Here’s what the inside of a Guber ball looks like:

I’ll probably get the evil eye for posting that picture… like I said, the Guber ball recipe is a heavily guarded secret. If you try to take one out with you, you’ll get in big trouble. Guber balls are to be enjoyed only at the Dirty Ol’ Tavern and only on Guber Ball Day.

Guber balls come out of the kitchen in baskets. You don’t order them and you don’t even pay for them. Guber balls are just there to pass around and enjoy. I actually can’t say that I love them but they only come but once a year so you have to eat at least one. Who wouldn’t want to participate in the tradition and novelty of it all? You never know… they might bring you luck in the new year!

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Sandwich Wednesday – Rosemary Ham

I took a walk over to¬† Mandros Imported Foods a few times this week to gather up some snacks for Christmas gatherings. Mandros is my favorite place to find different cheeses to try. It is a great little corner store that has a lot of gourmet food items. I love that it’s only a block away from my house because I can run over there when ever I need something special. They have everything you need to make a great cheese plate or antipasti appetizer.

The selection of Italian deli meats is excellent. I love the Genoa salami that they carry… and I am pretty picky about my salami. I decided to try the rosemary ham to make a sandwich to eat with my mushroom soup. It is super flavorful, fresh, high quality ham in wrapped in a rosemary crust and thinly sliced, perfect for sandwiches.

My sandwich is made with salted basque bread from Ric’s Bread. I spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on one slice and piled up the rosemary ham, creamy Havarti cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and my homemade chopped pickled fennel. It’s a good sandwich of wintery soups.

Wild Mushroom Soup

Wild Mushroom Soup

10 oz. shitake mushrooms

10 oz. cremini mushrooms

10 oz. white button mushrooms

2 medium size leeks

1 large shallot

2 small carrots

2 small ribs celery (from the heart)

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. flour

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups vegetable stock

10-12 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 cup half and half

small handful of fresh parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

creme fraiche (for serving)

Clean and remove the stems from the mushrooms. Slice them into thin slices and set aside.

Chop the garlic, shallots, carrots and celery into small pieces. Clean and slice the leeks into very thin slices. Drizzle the olive oil into a large dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Place the vegetables into the pot and saute until they are soft and the leeks are tender (about ten minutes). Salt and pepper the vegetables to taste.

Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the pot and melt it into the vegetables. Add the flour and stir to combine, add the sage and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed.

Add in all of the mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the all of the mushrooms are soft (they will reduce in volume).

Add four cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Allow the soup to simmer for 10 -15 minutes. Add the half and half, the fresh parsley and the remaining tablespoon of butter and simmer a few minutes more.

Serve the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.