Normally when one thinks of truck stop food, visions of pancake stacks drowning in butter and syrup, cheeseburgers so tall they sway in the breeze and steaks best described using the word “brontosaurus” comes to mind.
But homemade fudge?
To long and short haul drivers, and some West Plains residents, the time-honored confection might indeed come to mind when speaking about the Iron Skillet Restaurant at the Petro off the I-90 Medical Lake exit. The restaurant began making homemade fudge in October 2011, bringing Airway Heights resident Angie Bertrand onboard for just such a reason as satisfying people’s post – and even pre – meal sweet tooth.
“We wanted to offer more for people coming into the restaurant,” Iron Skillet general manager Don Aaby said. “(It’s) nice to have a sweet bite on the way out.”
Bertrand, who prefers to go by Angie, said they order most of the fudge ingredients in a pre-made mix from a company in New York. But once onsite at the Fairways-area restaurant, it’s Angie who takes over the more creative aspects.
Iron Skillet tries to keep anywhere from 12 to 18 flavors of fudge stocked in its glass cases, along with 51 flavors of different chocolates and a variety of saltwater taffy shipped in as well. Angie said she has recipes for various fudge varieties, but will then tweak them to make them unique. From starting with the various ingredients to removing them from the fudge kettle after cooking the process takes about two hours, with a 24-hour setting and cooling period required before getting put on display for customers.
“That way they’re our creations,” she said. “There’s sugar everywhere.”
While there are traditional fares it’s obvious looking at the offerings that creativity in fudge is the focus, and Angie’s creations dominate.
Available now – at least as of this story and likely going fast – is a chocolate caramel coconut Angie said is very much like a German chocolate cake. There is also a pumpkin cheesecake that is as close to real cheesecake as you might find in a candy – thanks to Angie’s secret, or not so secret ingredient, of using real cream cheese.
Even Aaby, who lives in Medical Lake, has gotten into the act, inventing a chocolate pumpkin nut fudge that Angie adjusted the flavor on a bit, saying with a laugh that it was “really rich.” Tuesday, she showed off a peanut butter chocolate fudge still in the cooling pan and not ready for another 24 hours.
Angie said they like to do seasonal confections. She has prepared a mint chocolate for Christmas, and there is a peppermint stick along with a planned birthday cake with cream cheese flavor for New Years.
And since Iron Skillet is offering fudge year-round it’s not just the traditional holiday tastes that go on tap. Angie said she likes to make lighter-flavored varieties in the spring and summer, hoping this year to try out a mango and coconut selection.
“We’re always thinking of something new,” she said.
The fudge is available not only to truck stop patrons but anyone who has a sweet tooth. It’s priced at $9.99 a pound, and Aaby said right now those buying a pound will receive a half pound free. Customers can call in advance – at least 24 hours – to order, and Angie said she can make just about anything.
If it’s in stock and ready to box, it can be ready the same day. To order, call 509-842-1100, ext. 33915.
Neither Bertrand or Aaby is certain how much fudge they’ve gone through since October 2011, but they both believe it is quite a bit. The restaurant has been using word of mouth essentially to promote its fudge, but that’s changing, having recently been the subject of a story in Trucker Magazine.
For Aaby, offering fudge is not only great for 18-wheeler pilots but also the rest of us limited to just four tires.
“It’s just something good for this area,” he said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.