Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ted Qualli, deputy communications director on the mayor's staff, finally responded today to my inquiry regarding the rumors that Mayor Street is opposed to continuation of Sunday hours at the Reading Terminal Market. Here's what he said:

"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.
Le Bus moved into its new quarters last week, opposite Bassett's Ice Cream.

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

After one message and three telephone conversations with underlings since last weekend, I've yet to hear from the mayor's communications director about the reports regarding the mayor's position on Sunday openings at the Reading Terminal Market.

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 wink.gif )
  • 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.")
Of course, there is at least one other possibility, one that, at this point in time, I think the most likely: the mayor does have a position, but wishes not to communicate it at this time.

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

The Reading Terminal Market merchants who have been open on Sundays are, by and large, pleased with the results. Some are grateful, because the additional sales are helping to overcome the rent increases under the new leases.

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.
A tower of collard greens reaching toward the rafters, lovingly built by the staff at Iovine Brothers Produce prior to opening today, was decimated by mid-morning into a pile of rubble. Collards are popular for Thanksgiving, and these exemplary greens were snatched up fast. But don't worry, there are plenty of crates weighing down the pallets in storage, so there will be plenty if you show up any day prior to Thanksgiving.

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

Outside of the apple-smoked bacon I bought two weeks ago (excellent), I made my first major meat purchase at Giunta's Prime Shop today: a chuck roast, just under three pounds, which I'm going to slice and use in a carbonnades flammandes. I'll let you know the results. (I picked up some unsmoked salt pork belly from Dutch Country Meats to use as a fat source and flavor it.)

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.