UNION CITY, Pa. - I chose to feature Tracy Hamrick after I was drawn to her herb shop in my hometown of Union City, Pa. The draw was that the shop was located in the lobby of the former Palace Theater, a place I spent every Friday night and Sunday afternoon from as far back as I can remember. The projectionist and later the owner, was the father of my best friend, who I also don't remember life before.
During my nostalgic visit I was excited to find the old emergency calling list of the doctors from my childhood that is still taped to the counter in the old ticket booth. The padded restroom doors and the tiny ceramic floor tiles still remain.
Soon after our first encounter, I met Tracy again when we worked together on the town's Paint the Town project, a paint-up/spruce-up project. When I learned that she was opening a cafe and bakery my husband and I arranged to meet 15 of his classmates for lunch there and was well-pleased with our selections and the great service.
Tracy Hamrick is pictured above. Hamrick’s herb shop in Union City, Cobblestone Herbs Cafe and Bakery, offers homemade soups, sandwiches, scones, pastries and other herbal goodies.
Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland
"I've always liked to cook," said Tracy Hamrick. "My mother thought everyone needed to know how to cook, so when she made the grocery list she would ask my sister and me what we would like to make that week. I probably cooked dinner one night a week since I was about 10.
"After I developed my love for herbs it was natural for it to fall over into food. After people started asking for ways of using the benefits of herbs, I expanded to a restaurant and bakery. We deal with special dietary needs, especially gluten-free and vegan. We offer regular baked goods and regular menu items, along with special items. Twenty percent of the population has some sort of dietary need."
The bakery does custom orders. Her biggest baking challenge may have been the very large birthday cake she made for a little boy that was on a gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free diet.
"It was delicious and his mother was very happy with it," she said.
Available daily are scones, muffins and coffeecake. On the day I visited the offerings were cranberry-orange-pecan scones, cheese Danish, apple-cinnamon turnovers and oatmeal with white chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, lemon tea cookies and gluten-free brownies. The selection changes daily. Also available are coffees, cappuccinos and sugar-free, dairy-free and fat-free smoothies.
Mrs. Hamrick does all of the cooking and baking and makes all of the white, wheat, dill, rosemary and Tuscany tomato basil breads, which are used for the sandwiches and sold by the loaf.
"I've used herbs for years and years and years. We make all our own toothpaste, deodorant and soap for home. We do workshops on how to use herbs. We also have an herb of the month program, when we make some products in our cafe featuring that particular herb. We teach how to use that herb medicinally as a tea, a tincture and a salve. We identify which part of the plant is used, be it the root, leaves, etc.," she says. "They won't use them if they don't know how."
The shop also sells loose leaf teas, essential oils, bath and beauty products and jewelry made from natural products, such as shells, antlers and hooves. There are plans for starting an original music, singer/songwriter acoustic open mic time from 3-5 on Saturdays.
"If there is an interest in poetry or short story reading, I would be glad to set aside a Saturday each month."
Mrs. Hamrick is a member of the Union City Downtown Development Committee, which just received two grants and has many projects in the works.
"My project for the committee is the 3/50 project, which promotes stronger local economies through support of independent retailers," she said. "It is about committing $50 each month to spend at locally owned businesses. If everyone would do this it would make a big difference in our local economy. For every $100 spent in independently owned businesses, $68 returns to the local economy through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home."
Almost all of the ingredients in today's recipes that are not regularly found in home cupboards are available at the herb shop, including gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, candied ginger, matcha tea powder and agave nectar, trikatu and sea salt.
Cobblestone Herbs Cafe and Bakery is a family owned herb shop with a tea room/coffeehouse. They offer homemade soups, sandwiches, scones, pastries and other herbal goodies. They are open seven days per week. Hours are Sunday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Breakfast is served until closing on Sundays. The business is located at 11 N. Main St., Union City, Pa., just 38 scenic miles from downtown Jamestown. Phone (814) 438-1090.
STRAIGHT FROM THE KITCHEN
2 cups gluten-free flour mix
2 tsp, baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
4 Tbsp. white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. butter (softened)
Mix all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat for 3 minutes. Pour into greased loaf pan. Smooth top.
Topping: Combine all ingredients mix until crumbly.
Sprinkle over loaf and drag knife through to give marbled effect.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out. clean.
Sweet Orange-Ginger Butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp.
1 Tbsp. finely chopped candied ginger
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
Lemon Tea Cakes
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. buttermilk
Sugar for sprinkling tops
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter in mixing bowl on medium for one minute, add sugar and lemon extract, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and lemon zest, beat well.
Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in bowl. Add to beaten mixture alternating with buttermilk.
Drop by teaspoons onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 10-12 min. Makes 45 cookies.
Frozen Matcha Slushie
2 Tbs. matcha tea powder
2 cups almond milk (plus cup for each slushie)
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 kiwi fruit
Place matcha in a bowl. Pour in water that is just under boiling and whisk together. Cool.
Whisk agave and almond milk into cooled matcha. Pour into 42 - 1 oz. ice cube trays and freeze.
For each slushie put 6 cubes in blender add cup almond milk and kiwi. Blend 15 to 20 seconds, or until smooth.
Makes 7 slushies
Classic Basil Pesto
4 cups fresh basil leaves
3 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
6 large cloves of garlic
1 cup olive oil
Combine basil, parmesan, nuts and garlic in food processor. Pulse to mix, then run to finely chop.
With machine running, pour oil into feed tube. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let pesto stand 5 minutes before serving.
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. trikatu (this is an Indian spice)
1 cup hot water
1 tsp. honey
Mix cinnamon and trikatu in water then stir and steep for 5 minutes.
Once the tea has cooled, add honey
Warm Mocha Pudding
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups 1 percent low-fat milk
1/3 cup unsweetned cocoa
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. instant espresso granules
1/8 tsp. salt
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine sugar and egg in med. bowl stir with whisk. Add milk and next 4 ingredients; stir to combine.
Transfer milk mixture to medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 14 min or until thick and bubbly stir constantly. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate, butter and vanilla. Cool for 10 min. before serving. Makes 4 servings.
2 cups gluten-free flour mix
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup oil
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Beat eggs with mixer until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour into waffle iron or onto greased griddle. Add more liquid if batter is too thick.
Agave Berry Syrup
3 cups fresh strawberries ( hulled cleaned and quartered)
2/3 cups agave nectar
Place strawberries in microwave safe bowl. Cook 2 minutes stir after 1.
While the berries are cooking, place agave into small saucepan on low heat. Add strawberries to saucepan and mash.
Increase heat to medium until mixture begins to boil and foam about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a mesh strainer with the back of a spoon. Makes about 1 cup.
Breakfast Banana Splits
4 medium bananas
2 cups vanilla greek yogurt
6 Tbsp. all fruit strawberry jam
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/8 tsp. sea salt
Peel and cut each banana in half length wise. Place 2 halves in a shallow dish or bowl. Using an ice cream scooper place cup yogurt over center of banana and top with 1 Tbsp jam, 1 Tbsp. peanuts and a pinch of salt. Repeat with remaining ingredients to assemble. Makes 4 sundaes.