Hours: Dining room breakfast: 6 to 8 a.m. Lunch: Noon to 2 p.m. Dinner: 4 to 8 p.m. Booths open all day.
Prices: Dinning room breakfast: $2. Lunch and dinner: $5. Children under 12: $2.50. Babies at table: 50 cents. Booth food: Inexpensive.
Reservations: Certainly not.
Speical Facilities: Dinning room has plenty of booster chairs and highchairs. Accessible to wheelchairs. Parking plentiful, but not near dining room.
Credit Cards: None.
Food, food, food. There will be lots to eat at the Montgomery County Fair in Gaithersburg next week. Much of the food will be country-style, with excellent local ingredients prepared from recipes used for decades.
For a full meal, head straight for the dining room, which is open Monday through Saturday. If the past is any guide, the food there will be terrific. t
"If we wouldn't serve it at home we won't serve it at the fair," is the dining room motto, according to director Ruth Bennett.
Bennett has been supervising all ordering, preparation and serving in the dining room for 20 years. Like most ofthe staff, she volunteers her time, raising funds for her church, St. Paul's United Methodist in Laytonsville. rDuring the rest of the year, Bennett is a cook and baker for Montgomery County school system.
She kept the menu much the same this year.
Highlights include country fried chicken, prepared by the Stanton family, which has commuted for 20 years from Howard County to handle the 4,000 pounds of chicken gobbled up by fair-goers annually.
The chicken, plus sugar-cured ham, will be on the lunch and dinner menus daily, together with an additional entree that will change each day.
One of the most popular items is the Friday speial: Myrtle Lechilder's famous crab cakes, which she has been preparing for the past 32 years since the fair began.
"I just start mixing early Friday morning," says Lechlider, 79, who brings along nieces, nephews, and sisters-in-law for the project. They prepare about 275 pounds of crabmeat, mix it with parsley, celery, onion, mustard, mayonnaise and eggs for binding, then lightly saute the cakes.
"We make them an inch thick and the size of a jar lid." You get two on a platter.
You can get spaghetti and meat sauce on Tuesday, veal patties in a cheese and tomato sauce on Wednesday and roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy on Thursday.
Each meal comes with two hot vegetables, plus salads, condiments, rolls and iced tea. At $5 apiece, thatis a bargain. Children under 12 eat for $2.50, and there is a 50 cent chargefor babies eating at the table.
Don't miss the corn on the cob, whichwill be picked fresh each morning at the Tom Kelly farm near Seneca, where it is shucked, iced and trucked to the fair. "Once you taste corn that fresh, you'll never buy it at the store again," promises Bennett, whoplans to serve about 7,500 ears this year.
Another specialty of the house is salad. The United Methodist Church kitchen volunteers concoct an excellent sweet-and-spicy boiled mayonaise dressing by the gallon each August. The dressing is used for the cole slaw and potato salads. It is mounth-watering.
The tomatoes and cucumbers in the all-you-eat salads on each table will be donated from the gardens of church ofmembers. This is a treat for city people who might think that cucumbers grow wih a wax coating and tomatoes are supposed to be pink andmushy.
Bennett's church committee also makes the applesauce on the tables. Bennett's husband Frank is in charge of iced tea. He makes it fresh each day in hundred-gallon cider barrels you'll see to the side of the dining room.
The fair's dining room reputation is known far and wide, and traffic can get heavy. "We serve about 1,000 people a day, sometines 1,500," reports Bennett , who says Monday is usually the lightest day.
No desserts are offered at the diningroom. It you want some, walk over to the 4-h Exhibit Building where you will find fresh cookies, brownies, cakes and quick breads prepared and sold by the 4-h Club, youngsters. They often sell out by afternoon. If your timing is good, you can find such old-fashioned delicacies as chiffon, angel, devil's food and red velvet cakes.
If all this sounds like too much foodfor you, try the 95-cent beef barbecue offered at six booths around the fair. Like the dining room, the booths are run by local churches on a voluntary basis as fund-raisers. Those who tend each booth claim that their barbecue is the best, made fresh for the fair from ground beef, tomatoes, vinegar and seasonings. Barbecue is the best of the booth food.
Booths also sell standard sandwiches,french fires, soft drinks and pizza.
Occasionalyy, you can find some home-baked pies and cakes at the booths.
You won't want to miss the fair's trademark: mommoth Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheeses sold by the pound at the Dairy Barn. This year fourteen 500-pound cheeses have been ordered. Each will be hoisted on a track to a turntable for slicing.
You might also want to stop at the bee and honey exhibit to pick up a jar of local honey.