Monday, May 31, 2010

Lovely Rita's

Anyone that doesn't have a sweet tooth I truly admire for finding a way to live without having to manage ice cream binges and other confectionary cravings. I, on the other hand, share the universal curse of being drawn to anything loaded with cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I never acquired a taste for honey, though: the taste and texture to me add up to little more than a sweet loogie.

But I digress. Ice cream, cookies, brownies, cakes, you name it. Sherbert is another one that I shy away from but I was surely in heaven the day I discovered pear sorbet, served as a "palate cleanser" with a little sprig of mint between courses at better restaurants. The good ol' Slurpee done gone upscale, y'all!

Through the years and over the miles there have been many enjoyable treats discovered around the world but one in particular comes to mind that for a while I believed that I would have to do without. While living in Baltimore I came across a road-side stand type of establishment with red and white awnings by the name of Rita's. They started out on the front porch of a Pennsylvania family whose father knew how to make the best frozen custard and flavored ice in the area. "You oughta go in to business," they said and voila.

Now, you can add frozen custard to the list of sweets that don't tickle my fancy as I consider it to airy for my taste but the frozen ice that was also on the menu made me a true believer with the first spoonfull. Since I have discovered this family-run chain I have enjoyed ice flavors including cherry, lemonade, mango, grape, strawberry and green apple. One outlet I used to go to a lot got in to trouble for going "off-menu" in creating some of their own concoctions, my favorite of which was "Orange Crush" but the bottom line was that for a while Rita's was my sanity check nearly every day after a hard day at the office. Oh, how the empty calories piled up to cope with the stress of working in retail.

Two years ago I moved to Texas to re-invent my professional life after long and hard deliberation and reflection. I'd be leaving my family back on the East Coast but I would also be leaving Rita's. I asked the franchisee why the chain was limited primarily to the Middle Atlantic states and he replied that company philosophy at the time felt that quality was assured only if stores could be serviced from their single distribution center in central Pennsylvania. Anything farther than a day's drive was not an option. Well, I consoled myself, I can always stop in whenever I'm back in the area.

To my sheer delight, after the move to Texas was less than a year old I discovered that someone in Rita's front office had changed their minds and decided to head west. There is a store less than 5 minutes drive from my home and, wouldn't you know it, being in Texas one of the first ice flavors they offered was sweet tea?

Gotta go!

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