Saturday, December 16, 2006
Discount parking rates will go up on or about Jan. 15 at the Parkway garage across 12th street from the market. Instead of $2 for two hours, it will be $3. As noted here in my Oct. 15 post, the fee per car charged to the RTM Merchants Association by Parkway will increase to $5.50 from $5.25; the merchants decided they couldn't eat the increase and wanted to cut the size of their subsidy somewhat. Market Manager Paul Steinke, looking to the bright side, observed that other than the RTM there isn't a single other multi-vendor shopping venue in the city that offers discount parking. Even with the increase, though, the parking discount is substantial versus what lot/garage rates usually are in Center City. However, it's no longer at a par with street meters. As I've cautioned before, don't overstay the two-hours or you'll face the normal exorbitant fees.
Close-up of bakery's side window
The staff is proud of the gingerbread house
Jean Erikson and June Haegele
If I lived in Haegele's neighborhood, my blood sugars would be even higher! I restrained myself (knowing I was going to hit a number of other bakeries), however, and departed Haegele's with merely a pound of Christmas cookies and a small bag of springerle. The springerle (to be found in all of the German bakeries I visited) were intensely anise; hard to eat one of these without a strong cup of coffee in hand.
Next stop was Mayfair Bakery on Frankford. Okay place, but not among the winners.
Geiger's, a few blocks up Frankford and across the street, was very much into cakes with illustrations (as is Mayfair). Picked up another pound of Christmas butter cookies.
Now I cut over to Castor and the first of two stops at kosher bakeries. At Weiss I went bananas. Well, no bananas, but good looking challah (I picked up a small raisin challah for french toast later this weekend). And seven layer cake! My favorite! I bought slices of both the yellow and mocha versions. Taste tests later tonight. Strictly in the name of science.
Further up Frankford is Hesh's Eclair Bake Shoppe. More of the same as at Weiss, but they also had onion board. A big piece of this poppy-encrusted, oniony flatbread became my lunch. And a very good lunch indeed. At both Hesh's and Weiss I also restrained myself by not picking up any sweet munn (poppyseed) pastry rolls.
Onward toward Fox Chase. First stop there was Shenk's Family Bakery on Verree Road just south of Rhawn. Limited myself to half a pound of cookies. The hammentaschen looked good here, too.
Past Oxford Avenue I hit Danish Bakers, which is a bit of a misnomer. It's not owned by Danes and I didn't spy any of the real Danish baked goods you'd find in Aarhus or, for that matter, Racine, Wisconsin (the clerk didn't know what kringle was!), but they had a nice selection of various cakes and pastries nonetheless. I left with a cylinder of cinnamon bread (sliced).
My final stop had nothing to do with sweet baked goods, but it was a pantheon to pork: Rieker's, the German butcher-deli. Here I let loose a bit, purchasing a bunch of different sausages to cook in their wine kraut tonight, a smoked pork butt for Saturday or Sunday, and a buckling, a style of smoked herring.
All in all, a most rewarding visit to the Great Northeast, with lots more to cover in the future. It's a polyglot area with cuisines to match. Lots more to explore, including the Russian, Brazilian and Asian neighborhoods, among others.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
This will definitely be a test, since the first quarter is a slow time at the market: few "feasting" holidays, little in the way of local produce, bad weather. Results from this fall, however, have been very encouraging.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The capon I purchased from Giunta's Prime Shop ($3.79/pound iirc) was absolutely delicious: this big bird, which tipped the scale at over 10 pounds, cooked up incredibly juicy after a less than two hour visit to the oven (first 20 or 30 minutes breast down at 450, remaining time breast up at 375; basically you roast until internal temp at thickest part of the thigh hits 165). Minimal basting with olive oil, thyme, black pepper, salt mix over first 30-40 minutes; after that the bird renders plenty of its own fat to keep it moist. It was an Eberly-branded bird. Served with a potato-celeriac puree from veggies sourced at Earl Livengood's.
Glad to see Fair Food has added Valley Shepherd Creamy cheeses from Long Valley NJ. I've been meaning to get up there to buy some; now I don't have to.
Surveys of merchants show overwhelming support for the Sunday hours. Here are a few of the results from the survey of merchants who have been open one or more Sundays during this evaluation period:
49% say their Sunday sales have exceeded expectations; 40 percent say they have met expectations. Fewer than 11 percent say sales have been below expectations.
Asked whether or not it's been worth it to be open on Sundays, nearly 92% of the merchants said yes.
When asked their druthers on continuing Sunday openings, more than 60 percent responded with an unqualified yes; 27 percent wanted only a limited extension of Sunday hours; the remainder opposed Sunday hours.
The results of shoppers surveyed were also overwhelmingly positive.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
"The mayor supports the Sunday hours."
End of story (I hope). Of course, the Sunday hours were established as a "test", so it's yet to be determined if they will be made permanent by market management.
Work progressing on Hershel's East Side Deli, but as of this past weekend opening is still a bit off. It would be nice to see it in business before New Year's.
Cactus (prickly) pears were back at OK Lee; deep, dark purple specimens which made great margaritas. Figure one fruit (79 cents) yields enough pulp/juice for two margaritas if you don't skimp on the booze.
Benuel Kaufman had Arkansas Black apples in stock last weekend. This hybrid is a great storage keeper.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
As noted earlier, some merchants report Mayor Street is opposed to continuation of Sunday hours at the Reading Terminal Market, which were introduced earlier this fall as a "test" through the end of the year.
There could be any number of different reasons for the failure of the mayor's office to respond, not all of them nefarious:
- It simply could have slipped through the cracks. (Unlikely, given my four phone calls since last weekend, but still possible.)
- The communications director hasn't been able to discuss it with the mayor or other appropriate source in the office. (Also unlikely; if a political/government press officer isn't conferring with his/her client daily, he/she isn't doing their job.)
- They want to blow me off simply because my blog and eGullet aren't considered significant. (More likely than the previous two possibilities -- and who's to say such an assumption isn't correct )
- The mayor doesn't have a position. (Certainly possible, but there's no reason not to communicate that. If he wanted to hedge, the mayor's spokesperson could simply say: "As RTM management indicated, this is an experiment, so we'll let the experiment run its course and allow RTM management to assess the experiment rather than prejudge it.")
As further update to my initial report, two different sources at the RTM have told me they have heard the reports of the mayor's opposition to continued Sunday openings. One source was at a loss to pin down the origin of the rumor; the other thought it originated with a member of the Reading Terminal Market Corporation's board.
FWIW, when the Sunday opening proposal was presented to the RTMC board, the one representative directly appointed by the mayor as his representative, Peter Iacovoni, voted in favor of the experiment.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
But now, some merchants fear the Sunday experiment is threatened. They hear that Mayor Street does not like the idea of Sunday openings and may act, through his representatives on the Reading Terminal Market Corporation Board, to prevent making Sunday openings permanent.
I've got a call into the mayor's office to confirm these reports and will report once they get back to me.
More than half of the non-Amish merchants have been participating in the Sunday openings, and traffic has been growing. Last Sunday more than 15,000 visited, less than a normal Saturday but pretty close to the weekday average.
Although the overwhelming sentiment of non-Amish merchants is supportive of Sunday hours, it would be disingenuous to suggest that view is universal. A number of merchants understandably enjoy having their Sundays free for church, family or other non-mercantile endeavors. The issue, though, is this point of view may be forced upon those who do not share it. Market management has made it clear Sunday openings are strictly voluntary.
Hormone-free, natural turkeys are very poplar this season. Even Martin's Quality Meats & Sausage had a case filled with the au naturel birds.
Martin's brother, Charles Giunta of Giunta's Prime Shop appears to be doing just fine with his new store. Last week I picked up some veal loin chops and broiled them simply. Delicious flavor, though if you prefer the unnaturally-raised "white veal" you'd be disappointed since the natural, humanely-raised product comes from slightly older animals which have been allowed to roam, hence, their muscles are more developed and meat is firmer, though tastier.
A new pie maker appeared today: Wooden Spoon Bakery. She's a home baker. I tasted a sample of the apple and it was very nice with a buttery crust.
One of the better fish bargains today over at John Yi's was the haddock filets, at $5.99/pound. Once home I took some fish stock out of the freezer, put some of Cope's Dried Corn (available at Pennsylvania General Store, Benuel Kaufman's and most local supermarkets) in milk, and later today plan to make some fish chowder. Black sea bass looked good and nicely priced at $3.99/pound for whole fish. Dry scallops also a relative bargain at $11.99/pound (they were two bucks more at Wegman's yesterday).
Didn't spy any cactus pears at OK Lee's today. I'm going to keep checking.
L. Halteman continues to have the largest variety of apples. Local Barlett pears starting to look a little long in the tooth. Benuel Kaufman says he'll start selling Arkansas Blacks next week. This variety is one of the best storage apples available; buy them now, put them in your fridge's crisper and you'll still have sweet, crispy apples in February. Benuel continues to be well stocked with preservative-free cider.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Le Bus begins its move to the new location (opposite Bassett's Ice Cream) next weekend and figures on opening for business there sometime the following week. Work to convert the former Spataro's space to Hershel's East Side Deli should pick up this week, once the tile arrives to place on the newly-installed walls.
Add L. Halteman to the purveyor's who will be offering non-factory farm turkey this season. Also, Giunta's has Eberly's capons, which are surgically rather than chemically castrated; it's a perfect roasting bird, especially for those who favor the juicy white meat these big-breasted birds produce.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Also a sure sign that summer (and gin and tonic season) is over: the price of limes and lemons both 10 for a buck at Iovine Brothers. And yellow and orange bell peppers also a bargain at 99-cents a pound, same price as green peppers; reds were $2.99. Seedless cucumbers also a relative bargain, two for a buck. California seedless grapes a good deal: two-pound clamshell for $1.49.
Not too much sign of visible construction at Hershel's East Side Deli yet. Spataro's seems to be settled in nicely at their new location. Flying Monkey added an attractive awning a couple of weeks ago, brightening the look of center court.
I wanted to try a ham steak from Giunta's Prime Shop, but so far they only have the spiral cut hams. So, instead I picked up a ham steak at Harry Ochs for the first time. An excellent slice of ham, better than any other I've purchased at the RTM since Moyers left, and, indeed, it at least matched Moyers in flavor and texture. Price was $6.99/pound, iirc, but well worth the premium.
Giunta's does have a nice selection of fowl, including Eberly's chicken. The ducks are on my radar for purchase later this fall.
What was missing from the produce vendors, imho, are baking apples. Sure, there are varieties available that can be baked in pies, cobblers or by themselves with success (the Jonathons, Winesaps and Romes come to mind), but it would be nice to see some traditional tart baking apples available, like Rhode Island Greenings, Northern Spy, or one of the sweeter Pippins.
Dedication of the restored neon sign set for Thursday, Nov. 9, 4 p.m. at the corner of 12th and Harry Ochs Way (Filbert Street). It used to hang on the RTM Headhouse at the corner of 12th and Market. Philadelphia architect Robert Venturi will be keynote speaker.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Lots of good stuff at Livengood's today, including saffron. Mrs. Livengood (above) even brought in saffron flowers (a variety of crocus). She suggested adding a thread or two to a pot of potatoes just a minute or so before they are done boiling to give them a lovely color and hint of saffron flavor. Livengood's still had a few raspberries; Earl said he was surprised the frost didn't get them, but it was a light frost. They are delicious. In addition to the berries, I picked up some exceedingly fresh celery and what I assume is about the last of the season's tomatoes. Lots of good fall veggies at Livengood's, along with green and concord grapes.
Stopped to look over Giunta's Natural & Prime Meats, which just opened this week. Impressive looking meats, reasonably priced. The chickens are Bell & Evans, an excellent quality bird (the same brand sold at Whole Foods under their own name). The beef and pork comes from a producer in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Vande Rose Farms. The producer also does hams; this week Giunta's only had spiral cuts, but I'll be on the lookout for steaks. Vande Rose's materials say they raise Duroc hots, "a 175-year-old pure breed known for its juicy and flavorful meat", and hereford beef.
Construction has started on Hershel's deli in the former Spataro's space. No sign of a start yet on the new stall for Le Bus.
At least a couple more vendors will be joining the Sunday opening program, including Tommy DiNic's. So, while you may not be able to buy a beer while watching the Eagles game at center court, at least you can get your sammie. Last week the only sandwich places open were Salumeria and Bassett's Turkey. The latter had very large lines last Sunday. Vinnie Iovine said that while last Sunday was slower than any other day of the week, it was still well worth opening. This week will be a fairer test: no big convention, no event like the Harvest Festival, and competition from the Eagles. Here's how Bassett's Turkey looked last Sunday:
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Longest line around noontime was at Bassett's Turkey. Other only places open selling sandwiches were Salumeria and the Down Home Diner.
Now, if only the Beer Garden could be open and put in a projection TV for Eagles games!
Good turnout today might have been influenced by the Harvest Festival, which included food stands out on Harry Ochs Way (Filbert Street) and free tractor-pulled hayrides around the block. There is a fair-sized meeting starting tomorrow at the Convention Center which might have made the Sunday undertaking more profitable: the National Funeral Directors Association, which hasn't met in Philadelphia since 1950.
The fee per car Parkway charges the RTM Merchants Association for customer parking in the garage goes up by 25 cents January 1 (to $5.50 from $5.25). Customers who spend $10 at the RTM are charged $2 for two hours, so the merchants provide a significant subsidy for shoppers. The association has to figure out whether to hold steady on what the customers pay or increase it; and because Parkway's machines aren't good in providing coin change, the merchants may consider raising the amount customers pay by an even dollar, which would also lessen their subsidy.
As expected, Spataro's made the move to its new location this week, directly opposite Tommy DiNic's. Under their new lease Spataro's has added cheesesteaks to the menu, so Rick's Steaks now has a direct competitor.
Speaking of new leases, they incorporate a new clause, which Steinke says will be enforced, requiring merchants to be open for business and prepared to serve customers until the official 6 p.m. closing time. All too many merchants start shutting down and cleaning up at 4-4:30 p.m. It's probably asking too much for them to stay open until 7 p.m. so those who have to stay in the office late can stop by and pick up something to eat at home, but that's definitely on my wish list.
This past Thursday I picked up those fall raspberries at the Fairmount Market from Earl Livengood. They were spectacular (I served them alongside the chocolate buttercream topped chocolate cupcakes from Flying Monkey). The fall crop had lots of more flavor than the summer berries. If he has them Tuesday at South Street, don't hesitate.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The price of limes (but not lemons) dropped considerably. Over at O.K. Lee's, a bag of 7 to 10 went for $1 on Saturday; Iovine Brothers was selling them loose at six for a buck. Also at Iovine: Hass avocados $1 each, fresh peanuts in the shell back at $2.49. Bell pepper survey: greens and reds 99-cents/pound, oranges and yellows $3.99.
Mix-and-match: nine varieties of apples at L. Halteman's, all priced at 99-cents a pound. Kaufman's featured slightly pricier Macouns and Winesaps; I found the Macouns lacked their usual snap. Plenty of unpasteurized cider available when I stopped by about 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
On the fish front, headless sardines at Golden $3.99, the same price as headless smelts. Over at John Yi's a fish I haven't seen in a while, bonita; it was prided at $2.50 each for whole fish. Spanish mackeral filets $3.99. King salmon $13.99. Soft shell crabs still around at $4 apiece (slightly pricer per at Golden, but available at that price if you buy five).
Spataro's was scheduled to make the move to its new location today, opposite Tommy DiNic's. (On Saturday they were hanging the new menu signboard.) That clears the way for Hershel's Deli to begin construction at the old Spataro's stand, with the goal of a November opening.
In other moves, Giunta's Meats aims to open this Saturday; no decision yet on whether it will be open on Sundays. LeBus is scheduled to start work this week on its new stall.
This Sunday marks the first Sunday opening of the "test" this year. As of Saturday about three dozen merchants had signed on. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This coming weekend also marks a two-day Harvest Festival, including the Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin contest.
There seems to have been an improvement in the parking rates at the Parkway garage across 12th street. With the RTM discount ($10 purchase), the rates for time beyond two hours have gone down. In the past, if you stayed past the two hours for two bucks max the rates kicked up into the stratosphere. Now their a bit more reasonable: $6.50 for up to 2-1/2 hours, $11 for up to three hours. If I recall correctly, in the past the rate shot up to the $20 range if you stayed beyond two hours.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Among the fresh food purveyors, all three fresh fish stalls, Iovines and Harry Ochs, and Fair Food Farmstand will participate, as expected. Among the missing (not counting the Pennsylvania Dutch stands, of course) are O.K. Lee Produce, Godshall's Poultry, Coastal Cave, Downtown Cheese, and Martin's Quality Meat.
The initial Sunday is coincident with the RTM's annual Harvest Festival, which will be held that Saturday and Sunday. Hay rides around the block for the kids, extra goodies for the foodies on Filbert Street (Harry Ochs Way), which will be closed to vehicular traffic, other than hay trailers.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I used a cooked base, adding about a cup and a half of strained pawpaws (about five pawpaws) and a scant teaspoon of vanilla, to half a quart each of whole milk and half-and-half (not ultra-pasteurized), in addition to the sugar (just shy of a full cup) and two eggs. (I didn't go for a true French base, that would have been much too rich for the fruit, but I did want a little more richness than a Philadelphia-style recipe usually produces.)
Wow! It's aging in the fridge's freezer now, but it was superb right out of the ice cream freezer. The pawpaw flavor came right through: banana-like, but with a subtle acid accent, just a little spicy. Many recipes call for adding a little lemon juice and/or substantial quantities of orange juice; totally unnecessary.
The key, as in all fruit ice creams, is to make sure the fruit is absolutely perfectly ripe. In the case of pawpaws, that means they will have considerable brown patches on the thin green skin. You'll know they're ready when you walk into the kitchen from the out of doors and are delighted by the tropical fruity scent -- all the more incredible given that pawpaws (the largest native American fruit) grow in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states as well as the South. Each fruit has about a dozen or more rather large black seeds, but it's easy to separate the flesh from the seeds with an implement (I used the back of a wooden spoon) to mash the pulp through the strainer.
PS: Don't confuse these pawpaws, Asimina triloba, with the tropical fruit sometimes called pawpaw, which is another name for the papaya.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
To accompany some pork, apple cider is ideal. Benuel Kaufman has the unpasteurized, unfiltered variety. I bought a quart today for $2.25. If you've never had it (and don't have a serious immune system disorder), get yourself some. It's a rare seasonal treat.
A fish I've rarely seen before at the RTM: Yellow Pike, $14.99/pound for filets at John Yi's. They also had halibut filet on special at $10.99.
O.K. Lee had a good deal on limes, a bag of about eight for 99 cents, and bags of about half a dozen lemons at the same price. (Iovine's was selling the limes at 5 for a buck, lemons 3 for a buck.) Other good deals at O.K. Lee included mixed colored peppers (red, green,yellow) at 99 cents for a two-pound bag, 79 cents for all greens. Lancaster County Bartlett pears, 99 cents for a 1-1/2 pound bag. Red cabbage, 39 cents.
Pepper survey at Iovine Brothers: Reds and Greens 99 cents, Oranges and Yellows $3.99. About six varieties of eggplants, with prices at 79 cents for the local purples and going up from there. Hass avocadoes back down to a dollar apiece. The chantarelles looked particularly good this morning, but as pricey as ever at $34.99. Small black radishes, $2.49/pound.
Would you believe pumpkin pie flavored coffee? UGH! But Spice Terminal had it among its flavored coffees today.
More cases delivered and partially installed at the new Giunta's butcher shop; they still have a long way to go if they intend to open this month.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I ate that big apple Sam Consylman sold me last Thursday. Definitely a Delicious on steroids, though with more flavor and slightly less sugar that those mealy Washington State examples. If I was going to give an apple to a teacher, this would be the one.
Next Monday at the market will be the "Local Food Expo," sponsored by the Fair Food Project. A similar event was held last spring for the restaurant and food supply industry, but this fall's event will be open to the public on Sept. 25 to 4 to 6 p.m., giving us mere consumers a chance to meet more than 20 family farmers and food producers from the region, showing and offering samples of the goods they offer.
On this week's RTM agenda (Thursday, Sept. 21), the monthly "Producers Corner" program. "Indian Summer" is the theme with samples to taste of tomato and corn salad, peach cobblers, plum tarts and sangria.
Some of the new cases are ready to be installed at Charlie Giunta's new natural meat store. There's a lot of work to be accomplish quickly if he's to make his goal of opening before the end of the month.
No way will Hershel's deli be open before the Jewish high holydays; although design work is complete the vendor still needs permits from the city's Health and L&I departments. Until that happens, Spataro's stays put. LeBus, however, figures on beginning construction of its new stand this month.
Blackberries were briefly availble at Benuel Kaufman's this past Saturday morning ($2.95 per half pint), but by the time I left the market at 11:15 they were gone. That's probably it for the season. Lots of Barlett pears at $1.49/pound. White peaches and green and colored bell peppers sold for $1.99, prune plums for $2/pint.
Over at Iovine Brothers, local green peppers featured at 50 cents/pound, but all the colored varieties (none local) priced at $3.99. Local Gala apples also two pounds for a buck, local eggplant 79-cents a pound. Another sign of autumn, pomegranites $1.99 apiece. Hass avocados $1.99 (vs. $1.49 at O.K. Lee). Black figs $2.99/pint, red and green seedless grapes 99-cents, red globe, black seedless and muscatine grapes $1.99. Looking at my receipt I noticed that it offerd a 10 percent discount at the Down Home Diner; Jimmy Iovine said he's had that offer for months.
Also offered at O.K. Lee, orange and yellow cauliflower at 99-cents a head. Excellent cactus pears still 79 cents apiece.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
The Fairmount market was brimming with lots of good things today, as well as a new (to me) vendor, Cressley's Greenhouses and Produce Farm. I'll let these photos speak to some of the variety:
In addition to Brandywine and German stripped tomatoes, I picked up corn, peaches, canteloupes and, a special treat, apples from Sam Conslyman's tree. The smaller of the apples held by Sam is most likely a winesap relative. I ate a small one immediately after bring it home, and it was crisp and flavorful, sweet enough but not overpowering. The other apple appears to be a relative of Delicious, either a forebear or a cousin; it's huge, but I haven't tasted it yet.
Sam took a walk by his local waterway near Lancaster this morning to check on the Paw Paw trees. He spotted the first fruit to drop, though it still wasn't quite ready. (Paw Paws are harvested after they drop; the art is to gather them before any critters do.) He expects they'll be peaking in 2 to 3 weeks.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Late season raspberries much in evidence. Best deal was at Iovine Brothers, $3.99/pint for what appear to be locally grown berries. Over at Fair Food Farmstand a half pint sold for that amount. Earl Livengood also had some. Blackberries $6/pint or $3.75/half-pint at Fair Food, $4.95/pint at Benuel Kaufman's. Lima beans, shelled or not, plentiful at Livengood's, Kaufman's and L. Halteman's.
Benuel Kaufman continued to have donut peaches at $4.99/pound or $6.96/quart, nectarines and yellow peaches were $1.99/$3.95. On the plum front, prune plums $2/pint, Santa Rose $2.50. Nice variety of cherry and pear-shaped tomatoes, $3.95/pint. (Photo at right)
Over at L. Halteman there were all types of plums as well as peaches and pears for $1.89/pound (a dime cheaper if you buy three pounds). Also, another sign of autumn: acorn squash, 59-cents. Also, Bartlett pears and three different types of apples: ginger gold, sansa, "tydomen". The last one is actually Tydeman's Red, a crispy, juicy McIntosh type apple. Sansa is a cross between Gala and Akane, slightly more acidic than a Gala. Ginger gold is a Golden Delicious-Albermarle Pippin cross originally found on Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.
Another good deal at Iovine's: dollar bags, weighing about two pounds, of mixed red and green U.S. seedless grapes (presumably from California). Local peaches 79 cents. Figs $2.99 pint. Bell pepper survey: local greens 79 cents, non-local reds $1.99, oranges and yellows $3.99. (For colored peppers, you'll get fresher peppers at one of the RTM farmstand vendors.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Found at this afternoon's Fairmount market: summer and fall. At Earl Livengood's concord grapes (photo right) could be found next to peaches. Also for sale, carrots and tomatoes (photo below right). Another harbinger of autumn: celery and celeriac. The celery was incredibly fragrant and sold with full roots attached with thin stalks and profuse leaves ($2.50 for a small bunch). I'll be chopping them up to go into salmon salad tomorrow.
Today's Fairmount market had four different produce vendors. I also purchased corn, yellow pear tomatoes, individual fruit pies, cucumber, garlic, blackberries ($3.50/pint). I restrained myself from overbuying, because the peaches and yellow plums and brandywine tomatoes looked good, too, but I've still got some at home. I'll wait 'til I hit the RTM Saturday.
It's been a while since my last full report, so there's a bunch to catch up on:
John Lohac of Green Valley Dairy is back from three weeks in France. He spent two of the weeks on a family vacation in Provence, but the other week was in Meaux where he learned more about making brie. He'll be putting those techniques to work soon, so expect some interesting cheese to emerge. As it is John thinks his Noble, which is a cheddar, tastes like French Comte; while both cheeses are pressed, cheddar's curd is cut (cheddared). In addition to hawking his cheese on Saturdays across from Golden Seafood, Green Valley Dairy cheese can be found at the Fair Food Farmstand.
The Reading Terminal Market will inaugurate a new ad campaign next month under the theme "Make It Your Market." Samples of the campaign can be seen on the wall behind Salad Express and across from Foster's. The current campaign utilizing old-fashioned produce illustrations will be largely abandoned.
O.K. Lee Produce and Earl Livengood have cut a deal where Livengood has an acre under contract to OKL. The deal enables OKL to sell some produce under Pennsylvania's WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, which provides additional food subsidies for low-income, nutritionally at risk pregnant, breast-feeding and certain postpartum women, infants and childen up to age five beyond the normal WIC program.
Stopped by the Down Home Diner for the first time in a while and enjoyed perfectly done peach and blueberry pancakes with a side of scrapple and that 200-mile coffee. Jack McDavid is easing out of the Down Home Diner operation and, for all intents and purposes, it's now being run by a young man whose name I failed to remember. But he's doing a great job. He's been tweaking the menu (Philadelphia cheesesteak omelet added), but it's the same approach and quality and largely the same staff, including in the kitchen. There are also card inserts on the tables explaining what scrapple is (and isn't) and the wonders of thick cut, high quality bacon. If you haven't been to the Down Home Diner in while, treat yourself and stop by.
Charlie Giunta is moving ahead on his natural meat store. As of last Saturday, all the old cases from the former A.A. Halteman's were gone and work was about ready to start on roughing out the space in the aisle between Iovine Brothers and L. Halteman. Also as of last weekend, work had yet to begin on moving Spataro's. The reason: continuing permitting and equipment delays for the Jewish style deli that will go into Spataro's space. Spataro won't be moving until the deli is ready to begin work.
Now, onto the pricing...
Over at Iovine's Saturday. California strawberries continued to be featured at two pounds for a buck. For a buck, I picked up a bag of shredded cabbage (white and a little red, plus some carrot) for making coleslaw. Clementines $4.99/box. Although local tomatoes are at their peak, Iovine's was selling bagged Canadian hothouse Romas for a buck a pound. Also from Canada, Ontario grapes for $4.99. Local purple eggplant 79 cents. Italian prune plums $1.49, West Coast Bing cherries $1.99. California Mission figs, $3.99 a pint. Washington State blackberries $4.99 a half-pint.
The blackberries were a better deal almost anywhere else Saturday. Over at Fair Food Farmstand organic berries were selling for $6/pint; Benuel Kaufman had conventional blackberrries for $4.99/pint. It's salsa-making season, and you could do worse than make some from the Fair Food's tomatillos, $3.50/pound. Low-spray peaches $2.50, conventional nectarines and white peaches $1.25. Organic plum tomatoes $2. Concord grapes $3.50. Small lemon cukes pricey at $1 apiece.
In addition to blackberries Benuel Kaufman featured donut peaches for $4.99 a pound or $6.95/quart. Nectarines and yellow peaches $1.99/pound or $3.95/quart. Prune plums $2/pint.
On the seafood front, John Yi offered deals Saturday on Canadian farmed salmon: $3.99 for center cut filets, $2.99 for tails. Meanwhile Pacific NW fish were selling for $13.99 (king), $10.99 (sockeye) and $8.99 (coho). Large seabass priced decently at $3.99, softshell crabs $4 apiece. Over at Golden the soft shells were also $4 apiece, with a four for $15 deal to save you two bits per crustacean.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Over at OK Lee, the cactus pears are of much better quality than just a week ago, and still priced at 79 cents apiece. The photo at right shows what they look like, before and after skinning. Cactus pears (a.k.a. prickly pears) come in a variety of colors. You want to select firm, but not hard, fruits with minimal scarring. These babies peeled easily with a sharp paring knife and were sweet all the way through. Some pulp clung to the skin, so I scraped it into my food mill along with the main body of the pulp. After going through the food mill, I took unpassed seeds and their clingy pulp and pressed them in a strainer to get every last bit of delectible edible fruit. To dense juice of the five cactus pears I added the juice of two large limes and the equivalent of 1-1/2 cups sugar, in the form of sugar syrup.
Back at Iovine Brothers, both green and black figs were available at $4.99 a half pint. Both lemons and likmes were selling for 25 cents apiece when I visited on Thursday morning
Earlygold has joined MacIntosh over at Halteman's as the first apple of the season. Benuel Kaufman had some blemish-free pears for $1.49/pound.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
New fruit to me: Quenepa, also known as Spanish lime, mamoncilla, genip, chenet, limoncilla and a number of other monikers. At first I thought they were uncured olives, but they are a tart-sweet fruit. The pulp surrounds a single large seed, so you just pop a fruit into your month and suck off the pulp, discarding the seed when you're done. Iovine was selling them for $2.99 a pint.
Lemons back down to 25-cents apiece at Iovine. They also had Chilean clementines: a five-pound box for $4.99.
If you like tomatillos in your salsa, both Fair Food and Iovine had them. I spoke too soon about the disappearance of apricots: Fair Food had them today, though no one else had local 'cots. It may be late in the season, but Earl Livengood featured some sweet Bing cherries from a orchardist a bit north of him; pretty tasty, $3 a pint.
Tomorrow is Earl Livengood's annual farm tour and corn roast plus pot-luck evening meal. He supplies the corn, you supply a pot-luck dish, preferably from something you purchased from him. It runs from 2:30 p.m. to sundown at the Livengood Family Farm, 1648 Morningside Dr., Lancaster. phone 717 464-2698 for details and/or directions.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
This week John Yi installed spiffy new cases. Note that the new cases "cut the corner", creating premium display space at a busy intersection while at the same time adding pedestrian floor space. As for what's in those cases, decent-looking sockeye $9.99, king salmon $13.99. Among the farm-raised salmonids, Canadian filets $4.99, Norweigian $7.99. Dry scallops featured once again at $11.99 (vs. $12.99 at Golden).
Over at Iovine Brothers a slight redesign in the aisles, with a new passage to an interior aisle oppposite the office area. Necessitated moving the mushrooms and a few other items. Featured items on the outside aisle across from the former A.A. Halteman (soon to be Charles Giunta) meat stall: Jersey peaches, 79 cents, and large Mexican mangoes, $1.49 for two; excellent looking large Haitian mangoes were a buck apiece. It might be time to make some more chutney to go with that grilled pork. Also at Iovine: black figs $4.99 for half a pint (about 10-11 smallish figs); lemons dear again at two for a buck (three for that price at OK Lee). Limes 20-cents each vs. 25 at OKL, which also had Jersey peaches and nectarines at 79-cents.
Hard to believe, but it's apple season: witness this photo today at L. Halteman. I generally don't go for McIntosh apples, except early in the season when they are still crisp (and very tart). I picked up two, and the one I bit into this evening was exactly as I had anticipated. I hope it's a good omen for the fall.
My trip to the market today was specifically dediated to obtaining Mirai corn at Fair Food Farmstand. I scored ears from Pete's Produce Farm just as Emily opened the bag fresh from the farm (picked today) for display. Immediately upon bringing it home we cooked it and served it with Brandywine tomatoes picked up Tuesday from Rineer's at South Street. Yum! This corn is both sweet and tender.
But before getting that corn home I made a short stop at the Fairmount & 22nd Market, picking up blackberries from Carol Margerum ($3/pint); Earl Livengood was selling them, too, but I didn't want to the pay the premium for his $4.50/pint boxes. The berries have been put through the food mill and combined with sugar syrup and lemon; tomorrow they become sorbet.
Lots of great tomatoes Tuesday at South Street market stand. Pictured, right-to-left, at Rineer's stall: Brandywines, Cherokee Purples and, mixed together, Mr. Stripey and Old German.
Blackberries (the fruit, not the e-mail device) have started to show up at stands other than Livengood's. Fair Food had some last Saturday at the Reading Terminal. MIssing from all the farm stands, however, were apricots. The season for this subtle stone fruits was more normal in length, unlike last year when they seemed to last from late spring through late summer. Over at Iovine's lemons improved in price (slightly) to a quarter apiece.
The Best Chef of Southeastern Pennsylvania competition at the RTM Saturday accentuated a market boondoggle: the kitchen located in Foster's. That kitchen was originally built, under the auspices of a prior market manager, as a "public" kitchen where demonstrations and cooking classes could be held in front of a large seating area. The demonstrations and classes were reasonably successful and became a focus of the market's public programs.
At the time, Fosters was located in the corner where Blue Mountain Vineyards now sells its wares. But owner Ken Foster was looking for a better location and cut a deal with current market manager Paul Steinke. The deal made eminent bottom line sense to both Paul and Ken in the short run, but it was penny-wise and pound-foolish. The result was, for all practical purposes, loss of the kitchen. Foster's makes some limited use of the kitchen but it is hardly the focus of activity it was meant to be.
Which brings me back to Saturday's Best Chefs' competition. Instead of using the kitchen in Fosters the competition was forced to set up a separate, temporary kitchen in the seating area across from Golden Seafood and Fisher's Pretzels. Because the permanent kitchen is now part of Foster's, using it for such a Saturday event cuts down on selling space on the busiest day of the week.
The market needs to reverse course: either build a new kitchen in a public space and give Foster's more selling space, or move Fosters and open up the current kitchen.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Salumeria was one of my stops today, supplying some of the fixings of a summer sandwich dinner: speck (think smoked prociutto), mortadella, aged provolone. It will go with some tomato from Fair Food Project, lettuce from Earl Livengood (purchased last Saturday), and baguette from LeBus (Metropolitan was sold out).
Today was "Third Thursday Producers Corner" at the Reading Terminal Market, with "summer grilling" the theme. Harry Ochs dispensed tastes of marinated flank steak, Foster's a summer salad, honey-grilled chicken wings from Bee Natural, baguettes with spreads from Metropolitan, iced coffee from Old City Coffee, wine from Blue Mountain Winery, and hot spicy pickles from Fair Food Farmstand.
Cactus pears are in abundance at OK Lee; the price is down to 79 cents apiece. I'm going to try making a sorbet from the puree, but they make excellent margaritas. What looked like local canteloupes were selling for 99 cents apiece. New Jersey peaches 79 cents/pound, Hass avocados 99-cents each. Lemons three for a buck, limes four for a buck.
Iovines' lemons were pricier at 50 cents apiece, and limes went up in price again to 20 cents each, vs. 10 cents last week. Their Hass avocados were $1.49, as were the Califoronia donut peaches. Both Jersey and California yellow peaches and California white peaches priced at 99 cents pound. Jersey blueberries $1.99/pint. The bell pepper survey: green 99-cents, all others $3.99. Frying and hot peppers 99 cents.
L. Halteman's peaches and plums still selling for $1.99 ($1.89 if you buy three pounds or more), blueberries $2.89/pint, $4.99/quart. Canteloupes $2.19 apiece.
Over at Fair Food project I picked up some plums ($2 a half-pint) as well as the tomato. Ann Karlen was pushing the Meadow Run lamb this week -- 10 percent off.
A.A. Halteman has closed down, opening the way for Charlie Giunta to start building his natural meat stall opposite Iovine Brothers. No visible action yet on the LeBus and Spataro moves.
Over at today's Fairmount & 22nd farmers' market, Sam Consylman of Earl Livengood's stand was bragging about the celery, the first of the season. The stand was jammed with patrons when I stopped by about 4 p.m.; most were going for the corn. Also at today's market, Carol Margerum and an Amish vendor selling baked goods and produce.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Benuel Kaufman offered three varieties: white and "pink" flesh peaches at $2.49/pint or $4.95/quart. Among other fruits available at his stand: sugar plums, $2/pint; organic blueberries, $3.95/quart; apricots, $2.95/pint (or two for $5); and halved cantaloupes or "honeylopes" at $2 or $2.25, depending on size. I brought home the latter, and it was perfectly ripe.
Over at Earl Livengood one of more colorful items was the "Fairy Tale" eggplant, a small Japanese variety with white-streaked light purple skin. It sold for $1.50/pint or $3.50/quart, vs. $2.95/pound for regular eggplant. Earl was the only vendor selling local blackberries, $2.50 for a halt pint. Red raspberries were plentiful at $3 a half pint (two for $5.50 and four for $10). He also had chiogga as well as red beets.
Organic tomatoes at Fair Food Farmstand were priced at $3. Mixed pint boxes of yellow and sugar plums, $2.50. Organic blueberries $3.50/pint or $6.25/quart. Apricots $1.50/half pint; gooseberries $3/half pint. When I arrived well before 9 a.m., they had no mirai corn.
At Iovine's the South African clementines, this time with a Sunkist label, selling for $3 a box. New Jersey yellow peaches, 79-cents/pound. Corn from their contract farmer, Shadybrook Farm, three ears for a buck. Local raspberries $1.99/pint. From further afield, black figs coming down in price at $2.99/pint, while Haas avocados up to $1.49 apiece. Limes remain cheap (10/1), lemons dear (3/1).
On the fish front John Yi offered a good price on dry scallops ($11.99), an item they rarely carry, vs. the $14.99 price at Golden, which always has them. Also at Yi's: a nice pale king salmon at $12.99, sockeye $11.99; halibut $10.99; softshells $5 apiece. Golden still has sardines ($3.99) but had run out of wild salmon when I was there Saturday morning.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The line of baked goods has expanded and includes a much wider range of bakery-style cookies and cakes.
Also new is bulk chocolate from Belcolade, a Belgian producer owned by another Belgian firm that serves the bakery, patisserie and chocolate industries, both industrial and retail producers. I haven't tried the chocolate, but if it's at all decent it's a bargain at $7.99/pound; SuperFresh had both milk and dark versions, though the cocoa content of the dark was not specified.
I try to stick to seasonal fruits, but the bagged clementines at SuperFresh tempted me. The three-pound bags from South Africa were selling for $5.99.
Paul Hauser was back, offering both white and yellow peaches. I picked up a basket of five or six medium sized yellows ($3.25, $3.50 for the whites) and while they are ready to eat, based on the one I tried at breakfast today, they could use another couple of days ripening. The whites were a tad greener.
Over at Rineer's eggplants and zucchini are a buck apiece. I picked up a canteloupe ($3.50). They also had plenty of kirby and regular cucumbers. I also bought up another pint of blueberries ($2.50 per half-pint, pricey compared to the RTM vendors where they go for $4 or less a pint) I pureed and strained the blueberries yesterday afternoon and mixed it with sugar syrup; tonight it becomes sorbet.
At Earl Livengood I picked up some more tomatoes ($3.95/pound) and what was labelled as escarole but more closely resembled a not-so-curly curly endive. Either way the escarole/endive made a great base for my dinner salad (leftover medium rare rib steak from Harry Ochs, anchovies, beets, leaf lettuce, provolone, carrot, bell pepper, cucumber; I forgot to add some tomato).
Had I needed some protein I might have tried something from John Marshall, who was selling veal and other meat products as well as goat cheeses.
Tom Forest was among the missing. And I was looking to buy some more lamb pepperoni for my breakfast pizza.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
At Benuel Kaufman's, those long cylindrical beets are back at $2.49 a quart box. He also has a profusion of peaches, $1.99/pound or $3.95/quart box. Large red raspberries, $4.95/pint. Yellow plums, $2.75/pint. Smallish ears of corn. His tomatoes are still of the hothouse variety. Apricot, currants, blueberries still available, but no blackberries yet. I walked away with corn, beets, yellow wax beans, blueberries, sweet cherries (no more pie cherries) and plums.
Over at Earl Livengood's there are plenty of local tomatoes, $3.95 pound, both organic and heirlooms. I picked up a meaty heirloom (I'm unsure of the variety) and paired it with Earl's leaf lettuce and bacon from Fair Food Project for a much welcome seasonal BLT. Earl also had both sweet and pie cherries along with his usually selection of greens, lettuces, and root vegetables.
Scallions (green onions) were hard to find anywhere yesterday. Both Iovine's and OK Lee were sold out before noon, and the farm stand purveyors didn't have any either. Had to settle for overpriced $1.19/bunch organic ones I picked up at Whole Foods today.
At Fair Foods local eggplant is in evidence, both black and purple at $3/pound. Also available, both red and black currants.
OK Lee still had the cactus pears.
Jersey peaches at Iovine's selling for 79 cents a pound. Jersey tomatoes 99-cents. The tangerines that last week went for 10/$1 are twice that price now.
I invested in a good steak at Harry Ochs -- one of the long-aged rib steaks, on the bone ($16/pound, iirc). I sure hope I don't overcook it on the grill this afternoon! That would be a waste. May the gods of grilling be with me.
Over at John Yi the Pacific sockeye priced at $11.99, king salmon at $12.99. The whole Jersey fluke looked very good.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
When the corn begins peaking the Livengood family will hold their annual corn roast and pot luck dinner. It's scheduled for July 30. More info by visiting the Livengoods when they open their stall in the city: Tuesday 2-7 p.m. at the South & Passyunk market, Thursdays 3-7 p.m. at Fairmount & 22nd, and Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the RTM.
No more of the sweet, long red beets at Benuel Kaufmans, though he does have quart boxes of round ones at $2. Other fruits at Kaufman's: peaches $3.95/quart, black raspberries $3.95/half-pint, red raspberries $4.95 ("no spray"), blueberries, red currants and two varieties of sweet cherries $3.95/pint; apricots $2.95/pint. (Benuel's colorful display in photo at left.)
Over at Fair Food Project similar prices on berries and fruit (and as at Kaufman's, lower prices for the conventional raspberries vs. organic or no-sprays), with the addition of gooseberries at $3.50/half-pint.
Out of season citrus fruit is on sale at Iovine's. I bought tangerines to section and serve in a beet salad with walnuts, red onion, goat cheese and raspberry shrub dressing. They are also selling raspberries from the Iovine's contract farm. Bell pepper survey: greens 99-cents, reds $2.99, oranges, yellows, browns and purples $3.99. We're still some weeks away from seeing local peppers.
For those who enjoy prickly pear (cactus pear) margaritas, you can obtain this delightful fruit at OK Lee. No price on the bin, so they must be free. (More likely $1 apiece, and you should figure one per serving.)
On the protein beat, the wild salmon pricing at John Yi's, which last week saw sockeye more expensive than king, has evened off: both were $12.95/pound today.
Wegmans is charging about $27/pound for prime dry aged beef steaks. Over at Harry Ochs, you can buy a nicely-trimmed, on-the-bone prime dry aged steak (minimum four weeks aging; six for porterhouse) for $16/pound.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Margerum is a familiar name to anyone whose memory of the Reading Terminal Market goes back more than four years. From the day the market opened in 1892 until 2001, a member of the Margerum family sold foodstuffs there. That tradition continues at some of the city's farmers markets through Noelle Margerum and her sister Carole.
The Margerums have been at the Clark Park Farmers Market for the past few years, and this summer added the Fairmount & 22nd Street market. Carole was there today with fresh produce (beets, greens, bing cherries, etc.) as well as the Margerums flavored vinegars, which take on a colorful glint in the afternoon sun.
Noelle comes in from South Jersey, Carole, in photo with the sisters' infused vinegars, hails from near York.
At today's Fairmount market Earl Livengood and his neighbor Sam Consylman urged buyers to take advantage of any cherries they see, because the recent rains have played havoc with the crop. The torrential downpours have caused many cherries to split, which ruins them for the fresh market. The bing cherries I found at Margerums were in fine shape, though, as were Earl's pie cherries.
Earl doesn't expect the rains have caused damage to the other stone fruits. As long as they get some sun as they ripen the apricots and peaches should be just fine. I finally tasted the apricots I bought Wednesday from Benuel Kaufman at the RTM, and although they were juicy they lacked flavor: the rains have diluted the fruit's subtle flavor. Sam Consylman thinks that will be cured with a few days of sun.