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Lunch Lady

Ellington Restaurant Opens With Fresh, From-Scratch Cooking

Bianca and Scott Swarthout open PUK’s Place at 6 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 18. They will start with a large breakfast menu and limited hours, but will increase hours and go to a full menu in November. Submitted photo

As the second oldest in a family of nine, Bianca Swarthout was taught large-quantity cooking at an early age. The Ellington woman has held jobs in the food service field for her entire life, beginning at the age of 14 or 15 when she worked at a business of which her mother was in partnership. She has been employed as a “lunch lady” at Chautauqua Opportunities in Dunkirk, Cooked at May’s Place in Cassadaga and cooked and served at the Golden Griddle in Jamestown, where she met her husband, Scott Swarthout.

The couple volunteered at The Blue Heron Music Festival about 4-5 years ago, where Scott learned to make pizza. About three years ago, when the Witch Kitch Inn closed its doors, he purchased the pizza ovens with the intention of opening a food truck. Swarthout was not on board with the food truck plan, but did tell her husband she would go along with the idea of opening a business if he found a good opportunity close to home because she was hoping to open a business that could be passed down to their children one day.

When Dave and Bev’s Diner closed two minutes from their Ellington home, the decision was made to purchase the property. After they took ownership in March of 2019, Swarthout set out to purchase used equipment at auctions and successfully met the challenge. Flooring was replaced in the kitchen and new tabletops were made by embedding local historical pictures in clear epoxy. A small upper apartment will be used for the business offices.

Scott is a self-employed welder who does food grade welding, which could be beneficial in their new venture.

“We will use local food vendors where possible, including the cheese on the pizza,” he said.

Pictured are Bianca and Scott Swarthout, owners of PUK’s Place. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“We would like the local vendors to get in touch with us with products we could use and promote, such as syrup, etc,” Swarthout added.

All food will be made fresh and from scratch by Swartout. She will be offering some regular menu items and have many choices that are not commonly found in the area. Some breakfast offerings include French toast, made with homemade bread; egg in a basket, which is an egg cooked in a slice of toast; steak and eggs; Eggs Benedict, a combination platter of smoked sausage, smoked cheese and smoked eggs; and a campfire skillet. Build your own breakfast and build your own breakfast sandwich, omelets, grits and biscuits are more choices.

The pizza ovens will put out chicken finger, chicken wing, taco, tomato-basil and build your own pizzas. A cold veggie pizza will be offered as well.

The restaurant will be known as the “Home of the Dragon Egg.” The breakfast version will be a hard-boiled egg stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in mild or spicy sausage, battered and deep-fried. The dinner version will be an egg filled with a different cheese, wrapped with Italian sausage or ground beef, encased in dough and then deep-fried. They will also serve varieties of deviled eggs.

Seasonal choices will include deep-fried green tomatoes and summer squash. She will add fish fries eventually and is currently working on vegan options. She welcomes menu suggestions.

Specials will be posted on their Facebook page.

At this time, they have a lot of help from their family members but are open to hiring others if the need arises. They are opening for breakfast only on Friday, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will repeat these hours for the weekend and again on the following weekend. A soft opening for pizza is planned for Oct. 31, and on Nov. 1 the business will go to the following hours: Wednesday and Thursday 4-9 p.m.; Friday, Saturday and Sunday 6 a.m.-9p.m.; and closed Monday and Tuesday.

“We will adjust the hours as needed,” said Swarthout. “and we will offer delivery on approximately January first.”

The business name was taken from the nickname both Scott and his late brother, Brian, were called in high school. Since Brian’s sudden passing in December 2016, his best friend organized an annual smoke-off in Brian’s memory. A coveted trophy is passed on to the winner. The third annual Smoke-Off was held in August, when a dessert competition was added.

Scott is a member of Ellington Rod and Gun Club and on the board of Lake Effect Trailbreakers, who are working to get trail access to the Ellington area with snowmobile parking in PUK’s lot. The couple usually goes to the Adirondacks three to four times each winter for snowmobiling.

“The bar food we get when we’re there is amazing. It is our goal to surprise people here, with affordable, quality food,” said the welder.

In the summer months they enjoy concerts and are ATV enthusiasts.

“We love playing in the mud with four-wheelers,” he said. “This is the first summer we’ve stayed home.”

Swarthout owns Redneck Fairy Creations, a business that does screen printing and vinyl lettering and sells supplies for fairy gardens. Scott owns S and S Unlimited Welding and Fabrication. All three of their businesses combined sponsor four cars at Stateline Speedway. They also own number 70, which is driven by their nephew.

They have four children with a 17-year old son and a 12-year old grandson still living at home.

PUK’s Place is located at the four corners in Ellington at 743 West Main St. They can be reached by calling 214-7002 or find them on Facebook.

Smokey Deviled Eggs

Soak wood chips according to bag instructions. Preheat grill or oven to 325 degrees. Place whole raw eggs on the grate cook for 30 to 40 minutes and remove. Immerse in ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove shells.

Stuffing

3-4 pickles diced with a small amount of the juice

Cooled egg yolks

Mayonnaise

Mustard

Cut eggs in half and remove yolks. Mix stuffing ingredients in a bowl and stuff egg halves. Sprinkle with smoked paprika.

Potato Pancake

5-6 in a batch

3-4 shredded potatoes

1 small onion

1 egg

1 T flour

Garlic salt to taste

Oil

Grate onion over potatoes. Mix all ingredients. Heat oil in a skillet. Make pancakes by pressing the mixture together. Fry until dark brown. Top with sour cream or Philadelphia garden vegetable cream cheese.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Celery

1 bunch celery

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1 can or jar black or green olives, reserve juice

Dash celery salt

Cut celery into 2-inch pieces. Combine cream cheese, olives, a little juice (I like mine thick so I only use a tiny bit), celery salt in food processor. Stuff prepared celery. (I use leftover filling for potato pancakes).

Fried Green Tomatoes

Cooking oil

1 c flour

2 T Italian seasoning

6-8 large green tomatoes, sliced

2 c pancake mix, prepared to your liking

Heat enough oil to completely submerge the tomatoes. Mix flour and seasoning. Dredge tomatoes in flour. Dip in batter and then shake off excess. Fry until batter is golden brown. Lift out of oil and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil. Salt to taste.

Scrambled Egg Soup

1 pkg Sazon seasoning

2 c chicken broth

1 c water

1 ham bone

1/2 c mushrooms

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 c celery, diced

1 green pepper, chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

2 c ham, cubed

Simmer seasoning, broth, water and bone for an hour. Saute vegetables and ham. Add to broth and simmer 15 additional minutes. Add two cups of scrambled egg. Be sure pot is large enough to accommodate expanding eggs.

Chocolate Covered Philly

Banana-Stuffed Strawberries

1 qt strawberries, cleaned and dried, but with leaves intact

1 lb favorite chocolate, melted

1/2 tub cream cheese filling

1/4 tsp banana extract

Melt chocolate. (The key for chocolate sticking to strawberries is to pat them dry.) Dip holding leaves. Do not dip to the top. Cool completely and let harden about 45 minutes to an hour. Mix filling and extract in a bowl and then add to a pastry bag. Using a small paring knife or tomato stem remover, remove the leaves and enough of the insides of the strawberry to be able to stuff. Stuff and chill until ready to serve.

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