Gibble’s will share specialty dressing at PA Farm Show

PAT FRIDGEN
Kim Eshleman is preparing to take Mrs Gibble's Sweet and Sour dressing to the biggest food stage in Pennsylvania.

Kim Eshleman signed up for something big, and then had some explaining to do. She and her husband Rod, as owners of Mrs. Gibble’s Restaurant, have a reputation for serving delicious sweet and sour dressing with salads, meats and vegetables. It caught the attention of a food broker, who received a bottle at Christmas last year. He urged them to broaden their customer base by selling through a major grocery chain.

The groundwork for that was too massive to complete in 2011, but one connection led Kim to sign up for an event to showcase the homemade product.

“Who’s coming to taste it?” asked Rod.

“I don’t know,” replied Kim.

“Is this with the Farm Show?” asked Rod.

“I don’t know,” Kim said.

She reviewed her online correspondence, and yep, that was it. Mrs. Gibbles Sweet and Sour Dressing and Marinade was approved for a vendor display at the 2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show Jan. 7 to 14. The Eshlemans discovered that 400,000 people may pass by their booth next week.

Getting ready

Since Kim has not been at the Farm Show for 20 years, she is nervous about what to expect. And she and her crew have been working hard to get ready for the week, despite the busy schedule at the restaurant since Thanksgiving. There are many food safety regulations to meet, as well as logistics for getting supplies to the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg each day. The Eshlemans already had the dressing certified as Pennsylvania Preferred, and will set up in site 5017 in that section of the exhibits. They are in the Main Hall, which also houses the butter sculpture.

Kim has been creating the display in a garage. It will be judged, to her delight.

“That the marketing in me. I love that sort of stuff.”

She is allowed a 10x10-foot space, and is using crates to show off bottles of dressing, set against photographs of food; and to hold fresh produce. Puck lights will provide illumination. She is designing under the show theme, ‘From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate’.

Secret recipe

Family members and friends will man the booth from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, with a 5 p.m. close on the last day. They are prepared to sell 500 bottles of dressing, and hope to gain exposure for both the product and the restaurant.

They will hand out samples of carrots and broccoli with a squirt of dressing. With any sales, a recipe for sweet and sour chicken will go into the bag.

But not the dressing recipe.

It’s been in the family for a very long time, and offered at Mrs. Gibbles since 1976. Kim said ingredients included sugar, vinegar, peanut oil and spices, but what exactly those are is a guarded secret.

While the Eshleman team is meeting the crowds, Rod’s mother Vernice Eshleman will be back in Greencastle, mixing up more dressing as needed.

It is now sold at retail outlets, including Sunnyway Foods and Diner, the Butcher Shoppe and Penn Avenue Meats, as well as online. Rod and Kim hope people from farther out will try the fare, and become regular customers. They also envision new patrons to the restaurant.

“Everyone’s excited about the exposure,” she said.

Complete details on the Pennsylvania Farm Show may be found at www.farmshow.state.pa.us