Saturday, July 29, 2006

A couple ziggarats of corn (pictured at right) flanked the new cross-over aisle at Iovine Brothers this morning. Jimmy Iovine said one of his managers, Charlie, thought it up and executed the design. It can withstand pulling single ears out of the base: just don't grab a dozen from there.

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

Individual merchants at the Reading Terminal Market continue to improve their stalls.

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

Early varieties of both yellow and white could be obtained at the Reading Terminal Market this past Saturday (July 15).

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

SuperFresh on Columbus Boulevard seems to be making subtle shifts in its offerings. Could the center city condo boom be driving this?

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.
Summer was in full swing at yesterday's South Street Market.

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

Only enough time for a quick trip to the Reading Terminal Market yesterday (Saturday, July 8), but here's what I spied:

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

Field-ripened tomatoes are making their way to the RTM. Earl Livengood was selling them today at $3.95/pound. We're still two or three weeks away from larger numbers and better quality, however. Among Earl's other products this week, just in time for Independence Day: boxes of "Red, White & Blue" potatoes (photo right): $1.25/half-pint, $1.95/pint, $3.75/quart.

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.