Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Night of the Seven Fishes

The goods are in for the Night of the Seven Fishes at the Reading Terminal Market. Both Golden and John Yi featured fresh sardines (herring) at $3 and $3.99/pound, respectively, though at least by today's display, Golden's were superior creatures. Yi also had spearling at $4.99, Golden some rather large langoustines, a.k.a. Dublin prawns. All the other usual suspects, too, including bacalao.

I've been having a blast enjoying fresh oysters now that I've purchased an oyster knife and learned to use it (very carefully). The oysters available at the RTM fishmongers are all from Virginia and the Chesapeake, the usually price being 50-cents apiece; I've only seen oysters from Maine, Massachusetts and Canadian Maritime waters at Wegman's in Cherry Hill, where they are nearly twice that price, but worth it. (When I asked one RTM vendor which oyster he had, he said they were Blue Points . . . from Virginia. Which, of course, is an impossibility. Since the HAACP tag said Virginia, they weren't Blue Points, which only come from Long Island.)

If you need a fruitcake, either as a gift or a weapon, Iovine Brothers Produce has Claxton cakes in the reefer case by the checkout closest to Filbert Street. Only the regular version, not the dark (which I prefer). Priced at $3.99 per one-pound brick. These fruitcakes are more fruit and nut than cake by a wide margin.

Although Iovine had Hass avocados available at a buck apiece, they were either far from ready or over-the-hill. Instead, I picked up one of the Florida/Carribean fruits, which tend to be considerably larger. I'm not sure they'd make as good a guacamole, because they tend to be less rich/buttery, but they are excellent in salads. I used some tonight in a tortilla wrap with chicken, Mexican white cheese, cilantro, lettuce and salsa.

Ducks and geese: Nice selections at a number of butchers. Godshall's has both (including Eberly's geese), L. Halteman has Muscovy ducks, Giunta's Prime Shop Long Island (Peking) ducks and can order the Eberly's geese. If the dark meat birds don't interest you, yet you want a big bird but not turkey, consider a capon from Godshalls or Giunta's. The latter carries surgically caponized birds from Eberly; I don't know whether Godshall's are surgically or chemically caponized. In either case, capons are larger chickens (ex-roosters, actually) that tend to run about 8-12 pounds and have a preponderence of breast meat, which stays moister than the usual chicken's.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

We made our annual trip to The Great Northeast yesterday in search of holiday baked goods and a few other delectables. For those who do not reside in Philadelphia, The Great Northeast is a wide swath of the furthest reaches of the city, halfway to Trenton, where a great many of its residents reside. The Great Northeast is to Philadelphia what Queens is to New York City, and the size and design of the homes isn't much different from a Forest Hills rowhouse.

Click on "View Larger Map" for a key to the push pin symbols, which reflect both the vendors we visited and others we have tried in the past or are on our list for a future trip.

View Larger Map

Our first stop was to try and find Moish's Addision Bakery from a previous trip a few years back. Alas, it appears to be of of business, even though there's a web site. We journeyed all the way up to Red Lion Road in search of this classic kosher bakery, which to our taste did onion rolls and salt sticks as well as it did babka and rugelach.

Disappointed, we headed south and detoured off Bustleton Avenue to the Krewstown Shopping Centger and Steve Stein's Famous Deli. It was late on a busy Friday morning and you had to take a number for servide, but that only gave us about five minutes to peruse the plethora of smoked fishes and salads in the cases. We walked out the door with whitefish salad, lox, red potato salad, hummus with pine nuts (pre-packaged), and a Bartlett pear from the produce aisle. The whitefish salad was quite good, but a bit too smooth and low in fish flavor to my taste, though I think many would be find these characteristics to their liking; I just prefer mine fish salads fishy. The very good price of $3.99/pound probably accounts for the high proportion of mayo to fish. I am saving the lox I purchased until Sunday morning, but it looks like it was carved expertly. I selected regular (salty) lox, and both regular and nova are available in either belly or regular cuts; the belly cut is fattier and prices, $9.99/half pound, vs. $7.99 for regular cut.

Back on Bustleton and heading south, we passed Bell's Market, saving this palace of all tasty things Eastern European for another trip, and switched over to Castor Avenue. We made two quick stops at Lipkin's and Hesh's Eclair Bakery, finding nothing compelling (other than challahs, which we wern't in the market for today) at Lipkin's, and limiting ourselves to some stick raspberry sticks and onion board (a flatbread which I used to hold the whitefish salad when I got home)at Hesh's. At Weiss, Bakery which I think is the best of the Kosher bakeries along this stretch of the Northeast, we picked up seven layer cake (a variant on Doboshtort) and some assorted cookies.

Our last stop was in the Northeast's Tacony section, at a German old-style, neighborhood bakery, Haegele's. You can find photos and notes from last year's visit here. This year we walked off with assorted Christmas cookies, anise springerle, and a brownie for She Who Must Be Obeyed. I had to restrain myself from also purchasing one of their evil buttercakes.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Headhouse season nears close

Today's Headhouse Square Market doubled the number of vendors from last week, when only seven braved the snow to trek into the depths of Philadelphia. Showing up this week were:
  • A.T. Buzby, produce
  • Birchrun Hills Farm, cheese
  • Betty's Tasty Buttons, fudge
  • Demarah, soaps
  • Griggstown Quail Farm & Market
  • Hillacres Cheese
  • Queens Farm, produce
  • Margerum's Herbs
  • Mountain View Poultry
  • Old Earth Farm, produce
  • Stargazer Vineyard
  • Three Springs Fruit Farm
  • Versaille Baking
  • Woodland Produce
This was only the second week for Woodland Produce, but if their first week is any example, it will be a profitable one. Last week owner Maury Sheets sold out an hour before market closing. He specializes in greenhouse-grown, hydroponic salad greens (although some root veggies and squashes were also on the table this week), primarily selling to Philadelphia restaurants, as well as through the Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market.

Noel Margerum was selling fall veggies as well as preserves, relishes and dried herbs. Noel and her sister Carole rotate among the city's farm markets, including Clark Park and Fairmount.

Although the market continues for the next two Sundays, this week was probably the last of the season for Three Springs Fruit Farm (the Wenk family). Their orchard fruit is also available at the Fair Food Farmstand. Today I bought a couple of huge Rome apples which I plan to simply bake with some brown sugar or honey.

Old Earth Farm is out of stock of meat, at least for a month or so until their piglets reach market size. Since Headhouse will be closed then, you can call the farm or get on its mail list to be notified when their Tamworth porkers are is available: www.oldearthfarm.com or 610 779-9035.

If you've become hooked on those pot pies from Griggstown, fear not when Headhouse Square closes for the season. Like the output of many other vendors, these, too, are available at Fair Food Farmstand.

What I won't be able to find elsewhere once the market closes for the season are the wonderful baguettes and croisssants from Versailles Baking. The Pennsauken boulanger only sells retail at the Headhouse and Haddonfield markets. Otherwise all their customers are wholesale accounts.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Orange you glad it's citrus season?

Good citrus fruit is back in force. Jim Iovine of Iovine Brothers Produce said the grapefruit he was selling at three for a dollar (medium sized) was the best of the bunch, though he said the other citrus fruit have finally reached high-season flavor, too. I picked up some four-for-a-buck navel oranges, but the sample tangerine sections also tasted good. Limes continue at 10/$1, though lemons are 3/$1.

Over at the Fair Food Farmstand I couldn't resist trying a watermelon radish. Not at all peppery, even slightly sweet and carrot-like. Made an intersting contrast on the plate. Earl Livengood's curly endive ($2.50/head) made a great salad to go along with that radish.

The first of the holiday seasonal fish has started to appear. Both Golden and Wan are selling fresh whole sardines (herring) for $3.99 and $3.49/pound, respectively. Last year they sold for $1.99-$2.99. Maybe the price will come down after New Year's. Expect to see greater variety as we get closer to Christmas. What I'd love to see would be the Maine shrimp johnnyd touts on eGullet; I'll have to check Whole Foods which sometimes gets them.

DiNic's began extended hours to 6 p.m. this past week, so if you're craving a roast pork sandwich after work or for a late afternoon snack, you can satisfy your hunger.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fair Food Farmstand news

Two items about the Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market to pass along:

Country Time pork will be delivered tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 6) for the first time in more than a month, when the owners, the Crivellaros, were involved in a traffic accident.

This week's farmstand e-mail newsletter includes fascinating information from manager Sarah Cain about integrated pest management. I learned an awful lot about the subject from it. I couldn't find a link to a web archive of the article, so below are the relevant portions.

* * *

Fair Food Farmstand newsletter, Dec. 4-9

At the Farmstand, we have always used the term 'Low Spray' in our signage as a way of signifying that a farm is using sustainable, but not organic, growing practices. However, the correct term for the growing method these farms use is IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, and we are now going to be using this term in our signage instead of 'Low Spray.'

IPM was developed in the late 1950's as a response to a boll weevil outbreak in the southern United States. It was found that by interrupting the life cycles of pests and diseases, farmers could control breeding and proliferation and dramatically reduce crop damage. The IPM program is multi-faceted, and the last resort is the spraying of any chemicals. The four main controls are Mechanical, Biological, Cultural and Chemical. Mechanical controls include the continual scouting for pests and damage, trapping with simple glue traps, hand picking, providing barriers of mesh or agricultural fabric to protect the crop, and pheromone lures to disrupt pest mating patterns. Besides scouting on the individual farm, there's some pretty hi-tech help out there. The Penn State Entomology Department even has a real-time radar system that tracks the migration across the state of different pests, called Insect Prediction Maps, it's fascinating. Biological controls involve the use of beneficial insects (think the hard working Lady Bug, who is a ferocious eater, see above), the natural predators, who help to keep the pest insect population down. Actually, "of the [more than] 7 million species of insects in the world, only 350 are considered pests," says the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program Program. The Cultural control involves giving your plant or crop the inputs it needs to thrive -improved soil, correct amounts of water and light, etc. The best defense against pests is a plant with a healthy immune system, so to speak.

The spraying of chemicals is mandated to be the last control, and all non-toxic methods have to have been exhausted before the use of any herbicide or pesticide. Once chemicals are introduced, they have to be done so in stages, starting with the least toxic option, and then gaining in strength. Though there is currently no certification that growers are required to have as IPM practitioners, they do keep their own records. At the bottom of this email you can read a quick interview I did with Ben Wenk, of Three Springs Fruit Farm, about his experiences with IPM.

IPM is not just practiced in agricultural production either, but also in decorative landscaping, on municipal lands and by home gardeners. It gives the grower many tools that are environmentally sensitive, but does not tie them to strictly organic methods should a grower feel he is in danger of loosing his crop to infestation or disease. We're proud to offer many products that are sustainably raised using IPM methods, and hope that you appreciate our new, more accurate labeling.

Sarah Cain interviews farmer Ben Wenk about IPM

Sarah: Could you give me a few quotes about some of the methods you use within the program?

Ben: Gladly. We strive to be able to look our customers in the eye and confidently and truthfully tell them that we grow everything in a responsible and sustainable way. And what this means specifically is practices like extensive monitoring of disease and insects (one of my jobs on the farm). We sync my findings with models of the lifecycles of the pests that affect our crops so that our sprays are as few as possible and as effective as possible (we can wait till populations are most vulnerable).

In regards to what we spray, our first choice would be a product that uses more environmentally friendly or "soft" modes of action. A mode of action is the chemistry term for what is eliminating the pest. Older products (and usually cheaper products) are simply neurotoxins and will affect all of the members of the agroecosystem. When such a product is available, we'll use a product that will affect the morphology or fecundity of a specific organism that's a pest of our crop. In other words, if we detect a large population of Tufted Apple Budmoth, we have a product that will keep its mouthparts from forming – problem solved, they can't eat our apples, they're eliminated while all the other members of the ecosystem thrive (including the ones who are natural enemies of the moth and who will tolerate the application and be abundant when the moth population rebounds – biological control!)

We also work hand in hand with research in innovative and sustainable research being done at Penn State, working as a cooperating grower in a few of their experiments. One project is devoted to studying the area-wide effects of what's called "mating disruption". This pest control disperses naturally-occurring insect sex pheromones all over the orchards, causing the male moths to be very "confused" and unable to mate. No mating = no moths. No spraying = win, win. After all, spraying is costly and time-consuming, and if it were all the same to us, we wouldn't do it. However, the eastern U.S. climate all but requires that we must spray (rain = rot).

Sarah: Who do you show your records to?

Ben: All of our processing fruit buyers receive our spray records and our larger, local wholesale accounts do as well. We stand behind what spraying we do (see above).

Sarah: What are some of the challenges your orchard has faced over the last few years?

Ben: We've been fortunate to have had a consistent pool of labor so far, but that's certainly the biggest challenge that awaits not only us, but everyone in American agriculture.

Our fields were quarantined as part of the state and federal program to quarantine the Plum Pox virus (PPV). Plum pox is a virus that causes a fruit finish problem in some stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.) but poses no threat to human health. I actually had a job testing imported Chilean stone fruits for PPV as an undergrad, so I'm particularly familiar with it. It's a very significant pest in Europe and there is no treatment. PPV was found in a neighbor's orchard and this prevented us from planting new peach trees for a number of years (when we really wanted to be planting peach trees). That's just one example – this job is a new challenge every day.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Seven vendors brave weather

Only seven vendors braved the weather today at Head House Square: one baker, three produce sellers, a coffee seller, a confectioner and one other I can't recall. I was glad to see the baker, Versailles; they make the most authentic baguettes around, and their pastries ain't chopped liver, either. Market Manager Nicky Uy expects a more complete roster next Sunday and other Sundays through Dec. 23.

RTM's Paul Steinke believes the addition of the model train display in the terminal's headhouse, organized by the RTM, boosts overall traffic at the market itself.

Bill Kingsley, who was a leader in efforts to preserve the market in the 1980s when its existence was threatened by the then-proposed convention center died last week. Steinke said he was a regular visitor at the market until he took ill. Kingsley was 73.

To my mind, the building of the convention center has been a mixed blessing for the RTM. The push to build the center directly led to the availability of funds to rehabilitate the market (before the rebuilding water leaked from the trainshed above and puddled all over the market floor, among other significant structural problems), and the presence of conventineers has provided a good source of revenue for many of the merchants; at the same time, this has created pressure for more lunch stands and trinket-sellers rather than the market's traditional vendor base of butchers, bakers, fish mongers, cheese mongers and produce sellers and other fresh food purveyors. The convention center's impact on Center City, including the Reading Terminal Market, will be explored by reporter Tom Belden in an Inquirer article in the near future.

RTM Briefs

It's not exactly margarita weather, but this was the week to buy limes at Iovine Brothers Produce: 10 for a buck. Recently they've been three for a buck . . . . I'm still waiting for the expanded variety of seafood to start showing up for the holiday among the fish mongers . . . . Stephen Starr stopped by Hershel's and proclaimed the corned beef sandwich the best he's ever had. He instructed five of his chefs to stop there to learn how to make a proper sandwich. (If they add it to the menu at Jones, it might hurt Kibbitz across the street.) . . . . Hershel's expects to start carrying Gus's pickles and kraut this week or next . . . . Amy's is open at the new location, and nearly half a dozen stalls have replaced it and other relocated vendor to form a holiday market selling gift item through the holidays. They include
The Clay Place (pottery), Desert Designs (Egyptian imports), Contessa's French Linens, Jootz (glass giftware and pet beds), Nimba Traders (decor items from Indonesia and Thailand), and Siberia Creations (birch bark boxes, etc.) . . . . Charles Giunta of Giunta's Prime Shop is complaining that he's having difficulty selling veal because not enough people are willing to pay the price he needs to carry it . . . . DiNic's probably will extend its hours to 6 p.m. weekdays this week . . . . Hendricks Farm and Griggstown Quail Farm didn't make it to Headhouse Square this week, but you can find their cheese and pot pies, respectively, at the Fair Food Farmstand, which is open every day but Monday at the RTM . . . .

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You may have read Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer article about the food shortfall at Philabundance, which serves about 600 regional food banks, soup kitchens, shelters and other relief organizations. In particular, they had a critical need for turkey.

Reading Terminal merchants came to the rescue, donating 25 turkeys. Contributing were all the RTM's butcher shops (Dutch Country Meats, Giunta, Godshall's, Harry Ochs, Martin's, and L. Halteman) as well as Hershel's Deli and The Original Turkey. If you'd like to find out how to donate food, contact Philabundance at 215 339-0900 or surf to www.philabundance.org.

Terminal briefs

Something I've missed before but won't in the future: anise biscotti at Termini's, $15/pound . . . . Have I not being paying attention or has the price of eggs jumped? Over at Hatville Deli a dozen large whites cost me $2; just a few months ago they were selling for $1.50. Still, that's less than supermarkets are charging . . . . Hershel's Deli plans to bring in Gus's Pickles (and sauerkraut, too) for retail sale . . . . Amy's Place was supposed to have opened at its new location Saturday, but when I left the market at 10 a.m. they were still moving stock over from the old space . . . . The market didn't seem crowded when I was there from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, except for Iovine Brothers Produce, which was overflowing half an hour after opening with pre-holiday shoppers . . . . Charles Giunta of Giunta Prime Shop says he can special order goose from Eberly's for your Christmas dinner.

Tom Nicolosi says DiNic's will only offer meatballs on Sunday, so as not to compete with Spataro's across the aisle, which has meatballs on the menu full time, but is closed on Sundays. For today Tom was preapring beef-pork meatballs . . . . The 50-cent apiece Hass avocados at Iovine's last week were awful: they seemed not too far gone when examined in the bins, but once opened at home the same day as purchased they were clearly over-the-hill. No wonder they were priced so cheaply. This week a Hass avocado will cost you $1.99 . . . . Among the items purchased yesterday on my menu last night: Short ribs (English cut) from Harry Ochs, braised in red wine/beef stock with a mirepoix; leeks from Earl Livengood cooked au gratin in a bechamel sauce; fingerling potatoes from Livengood.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Raspberries? In November?

The last of the summer wine? Not quite, but Earl Livengood had what has to be the last of the raspberries Saturday. Couldn't bring myself to buy any given the month of the year and the temperatures.

Exceptionally large chestnuts are available at Iovine Brothers in their refrigerated case by the checkout closest to Filbert Street. They are U.S. chestnuts and priced at $5.99 a pound in one-pound clamshells. I've been roasting them for more than a week and they are very good, rot-free with a high yield. Better than what I bought earlier from Earl Livengood.

Mackeral are back, $2.49 at John Yi's. In a few weeks we should start seeing a wider variety of fish for the holiday season.

Before the end of the week, Amy's Place will move to its new location (the former Foster's, opposite Fair Food Farmstand and Pennsylvania General Store) offeriing an expanded stock of practical kitchen hard goods to go along with decorative items.

To fill temporarily the space Amy is vacating the market has attracted seven vendors to a "Christmas Market" similar to the temporary gift stalls that sprout up this time of year in Mittel Europa. To accomodate all seven the market will also place them in the adjacent space occupied by Le Bus before it moved.

Behind the new Amy's is the market's demonstration kitchen, which should see increased activity beginning in the new year. In addition to Temple classes, instructor Ann Florio will begin a full schedule of classes under the name La Cucina. Florio is a proponent of "learn Italian while you cook".

The market was scheduled to start a recycling program this week, with receptacles for customers to recycle paper, aluminum cans, and plastic.

Pork Catastrophe

An accident on the Schuylkill Expressway has put a major dent in the availability of high-quality pork in Philadelphia.

About two weeks ago Country Time Farm's owners Paul and Ember Crivellaro were injured when their truck was rammed from behind by a tractor-trailer on the expressway. Both were hospitalized overnight in ICU, but the injuries turned out to be less severe than initially feared. For that, we are all grateful.

The pork they were bringing to town wound up cushioning the blow and may have helped save them from more serious injury or death. But the pork was lost. And there's no word on how soon the Crivellaros will be able to produce, butcher and distribute more product.

In the meantime, stocks are low. At the Fair Food Farmstand at the RTM Saturday only a handful of packages of boneless cutlets and one pack of chops were available.

The Crivellaros also supply a number of restaurants with their pork.

Meatballs On Sundays

In my Philadelphia neighborhood, London Grill in Fairmount has "Meatball Mondays".

Now DiNic's has "Meatball Sundays".

Tommy DiNicolosi is experimenting with meatballs at his Reading Terminal Market landmark. I caught Tommy Saturday shaping a beef-pork-veal mix. Before leaving the market about an hour later, I tasted one. It was quite nice, and the sauce was even better. Tom said he used skin from a fresh ham to help flavor the tomato-based sauce.

Tommy insists he's just "playing" with meatballs and hasn't added them to the regular menu. But you can expect to see them on Sundays. Last week he tried a beef-lamb meatball which he said turned out well (just a little bit of lamb; mostly beef). If you want to try them, get there early: for this past Sunday Tommy only prepared 10 pounds of meat.

Olde Earth Farm

Mary and Stuart Salen, who operate four-year-old farm Olde Earth Farm in Berks County, have been selling at the Headhouse Square market all season long. In addition to various greens they sell meat products raised on their farm, including Tamworth pigs, Suffolk lamb and Scottish Highland beef. I've tried the bacon (available in both nitrite and nitrite-free versions) and it is excellent. Tonight I'll be grilling their ham steak (nitrite-free). They are considering expanding their Philadelphia presence to the Reading Terminal Market next season. In the meantime, they'll be at Headhouse on Sundays through the end of its season. Most of Olde Earth Farm's vegetable production goes to its 100-member CSA, so not much gets sold at the stand. Mary makes up for that with homemade baked goods and jams.

Also considering adding the RTM to their venues is Hendricks Farms and Dairy.

The Headhouse market will be open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, closed the Sunday after Thanksgiving but then open every Sunday through Dec. 23 before shutting down until next spring, probably reopening in May.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pictures and Shin

Much of what I have to report today can be said in pictures. So here goes:

White and red cranberries at Fair Food Farmstand.

Riekers German style products available at Dutch Country Meats.

Diversity of cauliflower at Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce.

Radicchio at Fair Food Farmstand.

I erred in my pricing report Friday on the Fair Food Farmstand cranberries. They are $6 for white and $4.50 for red per quart not, as previously reported, per pint.

Harry Ochs had some exceedingly good looking lean beef in his display case today, simply marked for either cubing or grinding, priced at, iirc, $4.49 (or was it $4.99?) a pound. Nick said it was shin with the bone removed. I picked up a pound and a half, single grind, and made it into a beef base for a cottage pie I'll finish making tomorrow. The braised ground meat (with onions, beef bouillion, thyme, worcestershire sauce, Kitchen Bouquet for color) was nicely beefy with a tender yet toothsome texture, probably because shin has some decent colagen content. I think this meat would be all wrong for hamburger (much too lean), but great for chili and other ground beef dishes that should simmer on a low flame for a while. The ultra lean meat ultra caused me to add a little extra oil to the pan while browning. Although it was more expensive per pound that the ground sirloin, it was nearly as economical because the sirloin is somewhere around 17-20 percent fat; if the shin was 5 percent fat I'd be surprised. The only other time I've used shin was to cook it whole Chinese style (that, too, was delicious).

Vendor news

With a new hire, DiNic's is expanding its hours. They'll start slowly beginning tomorrow, Nov. 4, with Sunday hours. Eventually the goal is to extend weekday hours until the market's 6 p.m. closing.

Don't be surprised if one or two of the vendors from Headhouse Square set up shop at the RTM in the future, either during the winter and/or other days of the week when Headhouse isn't operating. Hendricks Farm and Old Earth Farm are prime candidates, according to market GM Paul Steinke.

Steinke also said he has vendors lined up for the "Christmas Market" which will occupy the space being vacated by Amy's Kitchen in their move to the old Foster's store. If he gets additional interest, he'll expand the seasonal vendors to the old Le Bus space.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Persimmons and cheese

Emily Teel of the Fair Food Farmstand is pushing the persimmons. They're grown by the same South Philly amateur orchardist who supplied the stand with figs about a month or so ago. Also at the farmstand, white cranberries. They are not a different variety, just an immature berry and, because of that, tarter, so add extra sugar. The white cranberries were selling for $6 a pint vs. $4.50 for the red.

Earl Livengood had fantastic red beets last week. They appear to be a similar variety to the cylindrical beets Benuel Kauffman sometimes features. I roasted Earl's in the oven (400F for about 50 minutes) and they are as sweet as any beet I've ever had.

Now's the season for pumpkin ravioli. Pasta By George has a nice pumpkin-riccotta version, though they aren't cheap: $10.99 for 12 raviolis (yielding two portions for an entree, four for appetizer course). I made a simple sage brown butter sauce for them.

Jeffrey Roberts, author of the Atlas of American Artisinal Cheese (Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vermont, 464 pp, $35), was selling and signing copies of his book last Saturday in the same table spot formerly occupied by Green Valley Dairy, next to the Fair Food Farmstand. Roberts, a former Philadelphian who's been in Vermont doing his cheese thing, was fascinating to talk with. If anyone is interested in finding great American cheeses, or just has a hankering to learn more, buy this book. In it he profiles more than 350 American cheesemakers and includes info on how to order, whether on line, by phone or at the farmstand. He tells of one cheesemaker who sells her entire output only once a year at a Maryland sheep and wool gathering. Although it's designed as a reference book, it was pure pleasure to go through entire sections of the book, which is arranged geographically by region, and then by state. It opened me up to lots of new cheesemakers, and told me things I didn't know about some of my favorites. On my next trip to Wisconsin to visit the in-laws, I'm going to plan our excursions around this book!

Green Valley is among the cheesemakers profiled in the book, but they no longer sell direct to the customer at the market. However, you can purchase their cheese at the Fair Food Farmstand. The Amish producer is concentrating on restaurants and the wholesale business. If you haven't tried it, their Pennsylvania Noble is a wonderful cheddar.

Over at the former Foster's space, shelving and display units have been delivered for Amy's Kitchen, which hopes to open in its new space a week before Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Livengood adds unpasteurized cider

There's another vendor selling unpasteurized apple cider at the RTM: Earl Livengood. The cider, pressed from Earl's own organic apples, sells for $2.85 a half gallon. The other vendor of unpasteurized cider is Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. (Didn't check if Fair Food Farmstand has any; if anyone else does, they're the most likely.) Earl has an outside mill press his cider, but since that's done on Wednesdays he may not have any for this Tuesday's Passyunk & South Market, though he will at Fairmount Thursday and the RTM again next Saturday.

Bought a half-pint box of chestnuts from Earl to roast, if not on an open fire, in the toaster oven. $1.25.

Now that summer is definitely over, there's a minor glut of soft shell crabs, at least judged by the 17 percent price reduction at John Yi's: $5 apiece rather than $6.

Nonetheless, signs of both summer and autumn abound. Very late season tomatoes still available at the various farm stands, though the end is well nigh. Lots of good deals at Iovine Brothers Produce this week, including Hass avocados continuing at 50-cents apiece, mineola oranges at five for a buck, and red, yellow and orange bell peppers all 99-cents a pound. And a nice variety of apples at all fruit vendors, including Macouns at L. Halteman.

Now that Hatville Deli has moved their egg sales back into the main store, rather than the stall now occupied by AJ's Pickle Patch, you can no longer buy a half dozen. Sales by the dozen only.

The RTM's annual Harvest Festival started today, and it appeared to be drawing extra crowds. Down Home Diner, Harry Ochs, Giunta's Prime Shop, Nanee, Kamal and other vendors set up shop on a hay-strewn Filbert Street ("Harry Ochs Way") as blue grass music played and Vinnie Iovine drove a tractor around the block pulling wannabe hayseeds. Also participating was at least one of the Pennsylvania Dutch vendors, Fisher's, selling fresh made nut brittles. The festival continues tomorrow (minus the Pennsylvania Dutch participants, who don't participate in Sunday hours).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Headhouse gives up winter plan

The Headhouse Farmers Market had hoped to find a way to stay open all winter, but is pulling back from that plan for this winter. But there are two year-round farmers' markets, sponsored by the Food Trust (as is Headhouse): Clark Park (Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.) and Fitler Square (Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.)

The Headhouse Market will remain open through the Sunday before Christmas, Dec. 23, according to Nicky Uy, market manager. The only Sunday they'll miss between now and then will be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, since the market will be open on the day before Thanksgiving. Expect the seasonal shutdown to end when the market reopens next spring on May 4.

I stopped by the Hendricks Farm stall today and, after sampling, picked up their Tomme. Telford, Pennsylvania, may not be the Franco-Swiss Alps, but this cheese is worthy of the name. I also bought a pound of their bacon.

My most exciting find, however, was over at Old Earth Farm where the sign said they had lamb ribs for $5/pound. If these were rib chops (as the young man serving me said they were), that is a bargain price. But I doubted it and, sure enough, they weren't chops. I could hardly be disappointed, however, since the product available at this price was breast of lamb, commonly called "riblets" and, in this case, mis-labeled as "rack of lamb" (rack of lamb usually refers to rib chops which have not been separated). Lamb breast is one of my favorite cuts, so I bought the package of frozen meat and stuck it in the freezer for future use. For you hard-core sheep meat lovers me like, be aware that Old Earth Farms plans to produce some mutton, too. They also raise Tamworth hogs, a heritage breed from the U.K. which is noteworthy for its meaty, relatively lean bacon. (I think I'll special order a couple of pounds of fresh belly for roasting this winter!)

North Star Orchards had some interesting varieties of apples, all at $1.79, iirc. I purchased a couple of golden and razor russets. I enjoyed the razor russet at lunch today: nice and crisp, just sweet enough without being cloying, with sufficient tart bite to make it interesting. A very worthy apple. If my fridge's produce bin did not already have a full peck remaining of Cox Orange Pippins purchased in Massachusetts last month, I would have bought more. (The man who served me at North Star said the reason he and other Pennsylvania growers don't do Cox Orange is because it's still warm when they ripen here in early to mid-September, and they turn to mush when it's warm. Upstate New York and New England offer more favorable weather during harvest. See, you learn something new every day!)

Corn and cauliflower

It's that wonderful time of year when some summer produce can still be found yet autumn bounty is in full harvest. Benuel Kaufman, for example, still offers cherry tomatoes and corn (both bicolor and white) along with cauliflower (orange and white) and apples. Earl Livengood featured concord grapes, heirloom tomatoes, and sweet potatoes to demonstrate bi-seasonality.

I would have indulged in what is for me a fall classic -- pumpkin ravioli from Pasta by George served with a sage-inflected brown butter -- but the weather forecast says wait. Instead, it will be hanger steak (from Giunta's prime shop) on the grill with Ben's corn to match the 85-degree daytime temperatures.

Among the apple varieties available Ben sells Macouns at $1.49 as well as Asian pears at $1.99. And unpasteurized apple cider, too.

Over at Iovine Brothers Produce a new addition are matsutake mushrooms, $41.99 if you can afford them. If you haven't read last month's food issue of The New Yorker magazine, find it -- a fascinating article about the PNW's mushroom foraging industry centered on this fungi delecti.

Also at Iovine's, Hass avocados back down to $1 apiece. Limes and lemons were three for a buck. Over at O.K. Lee, the limes were 4/$1, and you could also buy a bag of seven for a buck. OKL's cactus pears, ripe and ready, were 50 cents apiece.

In addition to the usual varieties and sources of salmon, John Yi featured king salmon from "chili" this week, $11.99. I always thought king (a.k.a. "chinook") salmon was strictly a wild product, but that's not the case. Although most of Chile's salmon aquaculture is devoted to the Atlantic salmon, it also exports farm-raised king and coho salmon. (King salmon was also the main salmon farm-raised in British Columbia, but Atlantic salmon now dominates the industry.) In other fishy news, Boston mackeral has pretty much disappeared, but Spanish mackeral is abundant at prices of $2.49-$2.99 for this delicious fish. We should start seeing fresh sardines (juvenile herring, actually) in the RTM fish shops soon.

Musical stalls

Amy's will move into the former Foster's space to sell kitchen hardware, though the inventory will be more practical and design-centric than the merchandise Ken Foster sold there. The new stall is projected to open Nov. 15, but it will only occupy the front half of the space.

The rear portion of the space will remain the market's demonstration kitchen, which will lose its side walls in order to open up the space (though it will still remain a bit hidden from the market's flow, unless you're heading to the ladies' room). RTM GM Paul Steinke says a Temple instructor is considering moving into the kitchen to operate for-profit classes there.

In the space Amy will vacate Steinke hopes to lure short-term vendors in 10-foot stalls selling "Christmas market" type items. One seller of linens is among those he's courting. He says it would represent a return to what once was one of the market's mainstays: day-stall vendors who leased space by the day. Day-stall rents are $35-$150/day, varying by day of the week.

Steinke also reports he has one party interested in the Natural Connection space to sell groceries and sustainable/natural household products. No deal yet, however.

Between the slices...

Attention Roast Pork Sandwich Fans: Expect DiNic's to expand its hours to RTM closing within the next week or two, as soon as Tommy Nicolosi can hire an additional staffer. His new ovens were delivered and installed recently, capable of roasting a total of nearly 500 pounds of meat simultaneously (though he's not figuring on using all of that capacity most of the time). The expansion also required moving most of his refrigerator capacity out of the stall.

While most everyone laments the Phillies' loss Saturday night in Colorado, there's a bright side as far as some of the RTM sandwich vendors are concerned: When the Phillies played their first day game against the Rockies at home last Wednesday, business was off considerably. Tommy said he did one-third less volume, and Hershel's reported similar numbers.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pawpaws and Pickled Kielbasa

Pawpaws were available Thursday at Earl Livengood's when he appeared at the Fairmount & 22nd market. Earl's buddy Sam had a bunch of small, very ripe ones on display, but had some larger, not quite as ripe (but still ready) specimens in the truck available. I took three and let them sit on the counter overnight, then turned them into pawpaw chiffon pie, which was smooth, perfume-y and rich (pureed pawpaws and gelatin mixed in after custard had thickened, then whipped egg whites and cream folded in after the mix began to set). Since the three large pawpaws I purchased were a bit shy of a full cup, I pureed a banana to stretch it out. The resulting product still had a pronounced pawpaw aroma and taste which, after all, is banana-like.

Maybe Earl will have some Saturday at the RTM. If it does, grab them. Pawpaws make great ice cream, too.

The corn we picked up from Earl was still quite nice, especially considering the season is basically over. The Brandywine tomatoes were still tasty, too. He also has chestnuts available.

Today I introduced an English friend to the wonders of Tommy DiNic's roast pork (rabe and cheese); she was instantly won over, both by the sandwich and the variety of foods available at the RTM. She's got some great seafood in North Devon, along with lamb, but nowhere near the diversity of fresh food products as here. She observed, however, that the shrimps and other shellfish back home would cost in pounds sterling what we pay in dollars -- in other words, twice the price.

Since it's apple season I invested in some sharp Canadian cheddar ("rat cheese") and brie at Downtown Cheese. Either will go well with the Cox Orange Pippins I brought back from my New England trip.

A key focus of the RTM's marketing plan in coming months is to target new condo residents in Center City. They've identified 5,000 such households and will be sending them oversized promotional postcards now, before Thanksgiving and Christmas, and again in the spring, coupled with a giveaway. The idea is to make sure they are aware of the market, especially the Sunday hours.

Signs posted in the former Foster's space would lead one to believe the market has found a tenant ("Coming Soon..." but without any additional hint.) RTM General Manager Paul Steinke has been trying to lure another kitchen hard goods retailer and indicated a couple of weeks ago he was negotiating with one which would enable the market to retain the show kitchen space as a separate entity.

Benuel Kauffman has got unpasteurized apple cider again. As well as orange and white cauliflower, and those elongated red beets about which I always rave.

AJ's Pickle Patch featured pickled kielbasa today. Great beer food. It brought back great memories: a mere four decades ago I regularly consumed the vinegared sausage at an off-campus Irish bar ("Terry's") with draught PBR.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fava or Lima? Livengood grows from customer seed

Fava beans come in number of varieties, including this purple-blotched bean which was being sold this morning next to its legume cousin, the lima, at Livengood Produce. Earl said he was given the seeds by a customer who told him he was a fava bean, but he wasn't sure what it was since it had the same shape and similar taste, eaten raw, to a lima. (I Googled fava images, and found some that looked like Earl's, so that's what it appears to be.) I never much cared for limas as a kid, since they always came out of a can, but the fresh version sauteed in butter or good olive oil, seasoned as you like, makes a nice change in vegetables.

Harry Ochs was featuring dry aged Delmonico steaks (rib eye) for $10.99/pound today. That's about what I paid last week for the same cut (wet aged) at Giunta's Prime Shop. Giunta's were excellent, and I would expect Ochs' to be their equal, at the very least.

Mammoth cauliflower heads competed for space with the corn at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. The Frankenstein-sized veggies were priced at $4.95 apiece. Benuel still doesn't have unpasteurized apple cider. (Benuel will be closed next Saturday because of a family wedding.)

Apple varieties are still fairly limited, but we should start to see a diversity of America's favorite pome fruit soon. Iovine Brothers Produce offered local apples from its contract grower, Shady Brook, for 99-cents; the variety was not noted, but they might have been Honey Crisps from the shape and color. (I'll be traveling to Maine and New England until the end of the month, but I've already contacted a Massachusetts orchard which says my favorite dessert apple, the Cox Orange Pippin, should be ready when I'm in the neighborhood. Few orchards grow this variety in the U.S., because it isn't a particularly prolific cultivar, but it's a favorite in the UK, which gets much of its COPs from South Africa.)

Smallish Hass avocados on sale at Iovine's today for 99-cents apiece, just in time for football season guacamole dips. Local Shady Brook corn at Iovine was 25-cents an ear, vs. four for a buck at OK Lee. Lee's had a better bargain in lemons, with bagged fruit (seven to a bag) selling for $1; both produce vendors were selling loose lemons at 3/$1.

Sam Consylman, who sells foraged finds as well as fruit and veggies from his garden at Livengood's, is still waiting for pawpaws to drop from trees along the riverbank, but if you have a hankering for this most American of fruits you could meander down to southeast Ohio next weekend for the ninth annual Ohio Pawpaw festival. It's at Lake Snowden, just a few miles outside of Athens. The pawpaw eating contest will be held just before dinnertime Saturday.

I've been cooking up peppers and onions (with some sliced garlic thrown in) like mad the last week or so. Just love the combination, especially with red meat (so far I've served them with those Delmonico steaks, burgers and bratwursts) though it works well with heartier fishes as well as on its own. Today I picked up some sweet red frying peppers from Benuel, but last week I used very flavorful Cubanelles from the Fair Food Farmstand.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sam's Apples

When you visit Earl Livengood's this week -- either Thursday afternoon at the Fairmount market or Saturday at the RTM -- be on the lookout for some of Sam Consylman's gorgeous apples. Their exact provenance is unknown, thoughy they are clearly related to the Delicious variety. But otherwise they hardly resemble the mealy, sticky-icky Washington State product. The exterior of the apples are bumpy and occasionally scabby, but the flesh is, as Tracy said of Hepburn, "cherce". They were $2.50/pound at today's South Street Market.

Also, Sam will be checking the paw paw trees by the river this week to see how close the fruit is to dropping. They should show up over the next two weeks. Makes great ice cream.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Figs and Pig

Those figs purchased last week at Fair Food made a great dinner (photo above) when served with some of Northland Dairy's Bergeré Bleu from Upstate New York, Faragallo's sesame seed bread, olive oil and Hermann Wiemer's dry riesling. I didn't spot any figs today at Fair Food, but they still had plenty of Mirai corn.

Pennsylvania General Store now offers two, count 'em, two different potato chips fried in lard: 18-ounce bags of Diffenbach's for $3.99 and 12-ounce bags of Good's for $2.99.

Benuel Kauffman had added help at his produce stand today:

That's Emma Rose, Ben's eighth grandchild, six months old, posed here with mom Mary and the head of the clan. In chatting with Benuel today he says his craft items designed for the convention/tourist market and jarred and dry goods have been selling quite well ). He used to close during the winter when he started at the market 15 years ago, but about half a dozen years ago started experimenting with winter hours. The first couple of seasons went slowly, but business is solid now, he reports. As for the produce end of his stall, Benuel has pretty much given up growing his own fruits and vegetables for sale and instead relies on other Lancaster County growers. He tries not to buy from "farmers who grow everything" but instead source his produce from those who specialize on just a couple of products. For example, his supplier of white corn is just about done for the season in order to move on to his pumpkin and squash crops. So Benuel will be turning for his corn supply to his bi-color supplier. (Still no unpasteurized apple sider, but Benuel says it will arrive "anytime soon".)

Rieker's German-style cold cuts, sausages and other products will be added to the mix at Dutch Country Meats soon. Although the former owner of DCM added some German-style products after Siegfried's closed, the new owner eliminated those items. Shoppers asking him for the products convinced him they would be worthwhile adding. (L. Halteman's also offers some similar German style products.) Rieker's Prime Meats is located in the far, far Northeast, practically Fox Chase (where Oxford meets Rhawn). I've only been there once, but the selection is astounding and it's well worth the trip. But the convenience of getting at least some of their wursts at the RTM is most welcome.

Joe Nicolosi of DiNic's reports that among customers asking for greens on their sandwich, slightly more go for broccoli rabe than spinach. Until recently, only spinach was available at the roast pork sandwich mecca. (Pork mecca? Something's wrong with that.)

There's a sign hanging in the former Foster's saying it will be occupied soon. RTM GM Paul Steinke says he's close to a deal that will bring a kitchen hardgoods merchant to the space (no, not Kitchen Kapers). As for the demonstration kitchen in the rear, Steinke says that will remain completely separate from the store and will be operated independently. With space for about two dozen students, he hopes to resume cooking classes after the store is up and running, which should be by the end of October.

There's another large vacancy: Natural Connection/Juice Connection, which went out of business Friday. No tenant, but Steinke hopes to sign a retailer selling groceries (canned goods, dry food goods, etc.) and environmentally-friendly household cleaning products. Steinke said the latter is a small but growing segment nationwide. Traditional grocery sellers who concentrate on canned and box goods haven't done well at the market -- that's one of the reasons why Nell Margerum closed her store in the same space about a half dozen years ago. The thinking, yet to be proved, is that there will be enough demand for the "natural" household items that it would support the grocery end of the business. It would also give RTM shoppers one less reason to patronize Whole Foods.

One other significant vacancy remains at the market: the former LeBus stall near the 12th and Filbert. Nothing brewing for that space yet. It's also likely that L. Halteman, under the terms of its new lease, would absorb what's currently a display area for historic photos of the market.

The Parking Authority has adopted the new regulations for the south side of Arch Street and will put them into effect soon. That means it will be truck-loading only from 5 a.m. to 12 noon weekdays; 30-minute max meters from noon to 8 p.m. weekdays, with a 30-minute limit on weekends, too.

There's a trade magazine for everything: the August issue of Sign Builders Illustrated featured photos and an article on the restored RTM neon sign at 12th & Filbert.

A postcard promotional mailing to go out later this month, targetted to the residents of all the new center city condos, will feature this year's Harvest Festival. It's on the RTM calendar for Saturday, Oct. 13.

RTM traffic is up eight percent for the year, notching 3,446,196 through Aug. 12. For the week ending Aug. 12, traffic was 126,563 vs. 111,670 the previous year (no conventions either week).

Delmonico steaks
Turkey bacon

IOVINE $1.00

Honeydew melon (half)
Bell pepper

Sugar Baby watermelon
Mirai corn
Cubanelle peppers
Angus burger




LE BUS $3.75


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Summer & Fall at the Reading Terminal

Two trips to the RTM this week, experiencing (and buying) the best of summer, but also getting a sneak peak of fall:

Sweet potatoes and apples at Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce (photo above) were one sure sign of fall. But Benuel's corn remains at peak perfection (the ears I purchased Saturday were full, defect-free and tasty), and the stone fruit remains plentiful and sweet. It should be only a week or two until Benuel starts selling unpasteurized apple cider. I also picked up a couple Bartlett pears from Benuel.

Fun with fruit. (Yes, eggplant is a fruit, not a vegetable.) This Pinocchio white eggplant was found Thursday at Benuel Kaufman's, which also boasts a fine selection of colored bell peppers (also a fruit) and onions (not a fruit, despite it's vibrant purple color.)

Pears are especially in abundance at Iovine Brothers which offers wide selection: Red Anjou and Bosc ($1.99), Forelle ($2.99), Red Bartlett and Comice ($1.99) and a relative newcomer, originally an Australian variety, Packham (99-cents). In the fungi department, Iovine's was offering black truffles for $300, but sold in $12-$18 packs.

California table grapes have hit the market, and Iovine's has a deal for you: a four-pound clamshell of green seedless for $2.99. The individual fruits looked just a tad small, and I didn't taste them, but that's still a bargain since they rarely go below 99-cents a pound. Iovine's also had Michigan blueberries (the local harvest in NJ and PA has been over for weeks). But if you want local produce at Iovine's there were plenty of offerings from their contract farm, Shady Brook in Bucks County: wax beans 89 cents, corn 25-cents an ear, cantaloupes (musk melons) $1 apiece. Jersey field and plum tomatoes both priced at 99 cents. I don't know where they come from (but I suspect it's New Jersey), but the fava beans are in for $1.99. Another good deal is the seedless cucumbers, two long specimens for a buck.

My gem catch of the week was at Fair Food Farmstand: figs picked that morning from the tree in . . . South Philly. I don't know the variety, but they were green with serious purple blotches/streaks that covered two-thirds of the surface. Half a dozen packed in an egg carton, $3. Very delicate fruits, absolutely sublime. One of the Farmstand staffers recommended halving the figs, topping with a little crumbled blue cheese and a few drops of good olive oil. Gotta try that! Also picked up blackberries ($3.75/pint) to mix with melted leftover peach sorbet for a new peach-blackbery sorbet.

Turkey London broil from Godshall's provided the protein for a simple summer meal last night for visiting cousins from Syracuse. The turkey went on the Weber gas grill for indirect cooking after an hour in a simple brine and a quick drying and coating with a homemade rub (hot and sweet paprika, cayenne, black pepper, garlic powder, salt, ground cumin). Served with tomatoes and cucumbers, cornbread (I forgot to add the kernels of fresh corn! Oh, well, those will be sauteed tonight), and the last of my homemade kosher dills, followed by the sorbet with pizzelles. (Wine: Hermann Wiemer Dry Rosé)

Earlier in the week I made a great lunch of soft shell crabs ($6 apiece) from John Yi's: dredged in flour, dipped in egg wash, coated with breadcrumbs, sauteed in butter, served on plain white bread with remoulade. (Beer: Lord Chesterfield Ale)

I can heartily recommend the whitefish salad at Hershel's East Side Deli. Freshly made and fresh tasting.

Here's my combined shopping list for two visits at the RTM Thursday and Saturday:

Turkey London broil
Turkey bacon





JOHN YI $12.00

Soft shell crabs


Sauerkraut (which they spell "Sour Kraut")


Whitefish salad




Sunday, August 19, 2007

Headhouse Square

Peppers, scallions from Blooming Glen Farm

Stone fruit from Northstar Orchards

The red cherry tomatoes at Blooming Glen are tiny, but they are flavor-packed. About as sweet as can be without being pure sugar, but still some tomato acid bite. Great for just popping in the mouth, adding to salad or just barely warming up and adding to vermicelli or the pasta of your choice.

Nicky Uy, market manager, says she hopes to add additional dairy purveyors, if not this season then next, especially one who sells milk and cream rather than just cheese, and raw milk if at all possible.

Here's my brief shopping list:

Peaches, nectarine

Cherry tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Leaf lettuce

Friday, August 17, 2007

RTM Traffic Continues to Grow

Whether it's because tourism is growing or the inceased Center City population because of all the new condos and condo conversions, both or some other reason entirely, visitors at the Reading Terminal Market continue to grow at a hefty pace -- well in excess of 10 percent.

For the week of July 30-Aug. 5, the number of visitors to the market reached 127,582, an increase of more than 15 percent compared the same week of the prior year. For the week of July 9-15, visitors totaled 116,105 this year vs. 104,474 last year, an increase of more than 11 percent. (There were no major events at the convention center or the Marriott during these weeks this year or last year.)

There may be another change in the works for on-street parking. The Philadelphia Parking Authority notified the RTM that it is considering changes along the south side of Arch Street adjacent to the terminal. Under the proposal what's currently a loading zone open to both trucks and passenger vehicles (20 minutes, if I recall correctly) would become 30-minutes for trucks only from 5 a.m. to 12 noon; from then until 8 p.m. it would be metered for 30-minute maximum stay.

Market management is still looking for a tenant for the former Foster's space. Although there's been talk of Kitchen Kapers moving in, there's no deal right now. In his monthly newsletter to merchants, RTM GM Paul Steinke says a priority will to bring back to the market a kitchen hard goods retailer. As for the demonstration kitchen, originally installed under Steinke's predecessor Marcy Rogovin in the late 1990s and later taken over by Foster's when they moved into the space, Steinke says its future is being evaluated in light of the need to repair and upgrade its facilities.

Speaking of upgrade of facilities, Tom Nicolosi says he's purchased the additional ovens, refrigerators and other appurtenances for his capacity expansion. When everything is installed DiNic's will expand hours to 6 p.m. daily as well as start opening on Sundays.

Over at Fair Food Farmstand today, lots of different colored cherry tomatoes, including tiny Black Cherokees (very sweet, hardly any acidity). Although I wasn't in the market for it, there was a nice hunk of boneless lamb shoulder from Meadow Run in the freezer case.

Pomegranites have made their seasonal debut; smallish fruits are available at Iovine Brothers for a buck apiece.

I'll be cooking spare ribs on the Weber kettle tomorrow, hence my trip to the RTM today so I could apply the dry rub well in advance of cooking. As I write they are in close contact with a Memphis rub made from hot and sweet paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, celery salt, black pepper, brown sugar, salt and cumin. I'll probably do a mustard-vinegar mop while they're cooking.

This week's shopping list (not heavy on the produce 'cause I've got a little left and I plan on a Headhouse Square visit Sunday):


Spare ribs
Turkey bacon


Capers in salt

Potato salad
Pepper hash

LE BUS $3.75

Cream cheese

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

And at the Market, change is often met with resistance
High-rise condominiums are going up around the Market, ushering in an upscale class of potential Market shoppers. Four luxury condo projects within a few blocks are scheduled to open in 2008 and 2009, totaling 548 new homes. Average purchase price: $1.6 million....

Downtown condo dwellers have food-shopping options besides the Market. Specialty grocers such as Whole Foods....

These markets offer downtown condo dwellers something [the] Market does not — a place to shop for groceries after 6 p.m....

More pressure undoubtedly will be put on Market vendors and merchants — particularly those selling food — to stay open later to better serve the downtown condo crowd. That would mark a radical reversal in the up-early, home-early traditions of those who make their living at the Market.

And at the Market, change often is met with resistance.

The diverse mix of farmers, retailers, restaurateurs and artisans rarely agree about anything, and their relationship with Market administration has long been adversarial. Drama and anxiety are part of the character of the arket community.

Will residents of pricey condos insist that the Market abandon its gritty ways? Will the Market's administration respond by gentrifying the Market to meet a demand? And will the Market lose its character as a result?
Sound familiar, Philadelphians? But, no, this quote is not about the Reading Terminal Market. It's from this past Sunday's Seattle Times, and "the Market" is Pike Place. You can read the full story here, at least as long as the paper keeps the page alive. (And thanks to Paul Steinke, RTM manager, for bringing the article to my attention.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Corn from the Good Ol' Days

It's pretty hard to find old fashioned, non-hybrid corn these days. But Earl Livengood had it last Saturday, and I expect it will also be available from him at the South & Passyunk market Tuesday afternoon and the Fairmount & 22nd market Thursday afternoon. The certified organic ears were priced at 50 apiece .

As expected, these "open pollinated" ears were not nearly as sweet as modern supersweet hybrids. Taste was noticeably but not overwhelmingly "cornier". The ears were much more uniform than I expected to see, though the kernels were on the large side. (I did not strip the ears open to check quality at the stand. I abhor that practice and would rather, pardon the expression, "feel it up" with the husks in place to determine if there are any gross deformities.)

All in all, it was a nice change and a worthwhile reminder of what corn used to taste like and why people would boil the water before picking the corn and then rush it to the pot. But, unless I get nostalgic again, I'll stick to the modern supersweets.

Also at the RTM this past Saturday, lots of local produce at both Iovine Brothers and OK Lee to supplement their regular fare. Iovine's comes from Shadybrook Farm near Yardley, OK Lee's from Lancaster County. Among the items: cantaloupe, wax and green beans, corn. Certainly not local, but a welcome seasonal return nonetheless at OK Lee: Cactus pears, two for a buck. Makes great magaritas.

Suffering succotash! Lima beans at the height of their season. At least one of Earl Livengood's farmhands was popping them raw as a snack this morning. Also new this week: fresh, young, small celeriac. Earl's also got some additional varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Blackberries and peaches still going strong, of course, at Livengood's, Kaufman's and Fair Food, but also making an appearance in advance of autumn are some early pears at Kaufman's. Benuel says he expects to have Sanza apples next week. (Benuel spells the varietry with a 'z', but I've only seen it with the second 's', Sansa.)

Benuel Kauffman's pears, peaches and nectarines

Earl Livengood's heirloom tomatoes

Here's what I bought at the RTM Saturday:


IOVINE $0.39

Cherry tomatoes


Mexican chorizo


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Livengood Farm Corn Roast

The rains came and went last Sunday (July 29), then about three or four dozen produce lovers made their way out to Lampeter, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Lancaster, where the Livengood family held their annual corn roast and pot luck for customers they serve at Reading Terminal Market, South Street market, and Fairmount market. It was the sixth or seventh year they'd held the event, but the first time I had the opportunity to attend.

Hosts Earl, Joyce, Dwain and Dale Livengood, along with other family members and farmhands, provided the setting (the Livengood's shady side yard), the corn, canopy and table, cold drinks and hospitality, while the guests provided the potluck which mostly took advantage of seasonal produce goodies. (The only meat I spied and tasted was some delicious Biranyi, but the shredded chicken was used more as another flavoring than a main ingredient.)

Following the meal, Earl introduced the family and then presided over the afternoon's entertainment, a skit involving he and his farmhands hoeing their rows while singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and then the telling of a tall tale involving a steer in which Earl, a wild and crazy guy, played the steer. Afterword, Earl and Dwain led tour of the farm, and Sam led another one showing the non-commercial produce growing on the Livengood's property, starting out with the paw paw trees in the front yard. Here's a photo of the hoeing entertainment:

Soon after I arrived, Earl's friend and amateur farmer/forager Sam Consylman grabbed me and another guest, Alexandra Stafford (food editor of the Bulletin) to show off his garden, a few miles away. Here are photos of Sam amidst his onions (which will be appear in local farm markets this winter), holding one of his prize beets (a cylindrical variety, which I think are among the sweetest as well as perfectly shaped for roasting), and next to one of his peach trees.

The peaches, btw, are delicious. Sam picked one up off the ground, brushed away the ants and the tiny spot they had just started working on and handed it to me. Incredibly juice, but with a subtle but absolutely peachy flavor. It was a modern white variety, Raritan Rose (obviously, by name, a product of Rutgers' Cook College of Agriculture), and well worth seeking out, so long as you get them as perfectly ripe as the one Sam handed to me, sans ants.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hand-sliced lox, summer stuff and figs

Between being out-of-town and being sidetracked by some community issues in my neighborhood as well as the Rick's Steak brouhaha, I've been neglectful of reporting on my shopping excursions. So here's a report on my visit to to the RTM today, as well as a bit on last weekend's visit.

Over at Hershel's East Side Deli, Andy is hand-slicing salty belly lox again rather than relying on Acme's inconsistent pre-sliced product. Hooray!

Earl Livengood (hosting his annual corn roast tomorrow at his farm on the outskirts of Lancaster; call 717 464-2698 for more info) still has some sweet, dark cherries which he's been storing since the bountiful harvest ended a couple of weeks ago. While not as pristine looking as when fresh off the tree, they remain sweet and delicious, even at $6.50 a quart or $3.50 a pint. Earl also had sour (pie) cherries for $2.95/pint, and blackberries and blueberries at $4.25/pint.

If you want a Hass avocado for guacamole or any other purposes, OK Lee wants 99-cents each, while Iovine Brothers is up to $1.49; last week Iovine's only sought 50 cents each. (Prices almost as volatile as the stock market.)

Figs are in season. Small black figs, roughly 12-15 packed high into a half-pint carton, $4.99 at Iovine, with green figs $2.49. All red and green grapes, seedless or seeded, $1.99.

Cucumbers are plentiful. Persian cucumbers at Iovine's were $1.99 a pound, which gets you about three of these smaller, six or seven-inch "seedless" cukes ideal for chopped salads and other uses. Greenhouse grown English seedless cukes were priced at two for a buck. Over at OK Lee big, fat kirbys, about two inches in diameter and six inches in length, were selling at five for a buck.

While the organic and heirloom varieties of tomatoes at Livengood's and Fair Foods will cost you $2.49 or more, the Jersey and Lancaster County standard field tomato (no slouch in the taste department at the height of the season, as it is now) are a bargain 99-cents at either Iovine's or OK Lee's. Local canteloupes (musk melons), watermelons and peaches are also in abundance.

Everyone's got good local corn now, including Iovine's. But, as anyone who has tasted it will tell you, the Mirai corn sold at Fair Food is special. Only a few ears were left when I stopped by at 10 a.m., most of it having been sold Thursday and Friday. So plan your shopping schedule accordingly next week.

Iovine bell pepper survey: Green 50-cents, yellow $1.49, red $2.99, orange, $3.99. OK Lee: red and green, 99-cents, yellow and orange $2.99. This time a year, I buy whatever color sweet pepper looks good at Benuel Kaufman's stand; today it was a small purplish variety.

John Yi continues to have a nice selection of wild salmon, as well as farmed-raised Atlantic salmon from Norway and other sources. The Alaskan wild varieties included king at $16.99, sockeye (Copper River) at $10.99 (up from $9.99 last week), and Coho at $12.99. Last week I tried the Coho, but its exceedingly mild flavor disappointed me; others, however, might find this just right. Meanwhile, with demand for soft shell crabs at its seasonal high, the price shot up to $6 per. (Come on you crabs: Molt!) Returning to John Yi is char filet at $7.99; char is mostly farm raised in Canada and Iceland, but the farming techniques used for this salmonid are among aquaculture's most eco-friendly.

Later this week I plan to buy some lamb, so I priced it today. Harry Ochs asked $9.99 for a boneless leg, while Giunta's (for what they told me was New Jersey lamb) priced it at $6.99 on-the-bone, $7.99 off. Before applying this week's 15% discount, the frozen Meadow Run lamb at Fair Foods is priced similarly to Ochs; with the discount it's more in line with Giunta's price. I didn't check Martin's, but in the past they've generally been the least expensive lamb purveyor, sometimes pricing leg as low as $3.99 on the bone, $4.99 off.

This week's shopping list:

Flank steak
Ground sirloin
Turkey bacon

Bell pepper

Mirai Corn

Plum tomatoes
Field tomato

White and red onions


Here's my shopping list for the previous Saturday, July 21, where most of the vegetables purchased this day, and the following at Headhouse Square, went into ratatouille.

Pine nuts

Turkey bacon


Cream cheese

JOHN YI $11.30
Coho salmon

OK LEE $0.99

Yellow squash

Tortilla chips


Headhouse Square

At Headhouse Square last Sunday, I completed my shopping begun the previous day at the RTM for ratatouille incredients by hitting up North Star for peppers and onions, Wimer's for roma tomatoes and more eggplant, Blooming Glen for bell peppers (as well as cherry and heirloom tomatoes for pasta, sandwiches and just plain enjoying by themselves). The biggest score of all for the ratatouille, though, was at Urban Girl: fresh savory. As one of the Urban Girls herself said, it smells like pizza!

Also at Blooming Glen, beautifully large, sweet and dead-ripe Tri-Star strawberries. This variety bears gorgeous fruit throughout the summer, so growers can expect three crops. They were delicious! I also picked up a pint of blueberries from a stand whose name I can no longer decipher from my scribble.

Here are some photos from Blooming Glen's stand:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ithaca Farmers' Market

Enroute to a long weekend in the Adirondacks, She Who Must Be Obeyed accompanied me on a visit to the Ithaca Farmers' Market, which occupies a cruciform shed next to the inlet leading to Cayuga Lake, one of the wonderful Finger Lakes, three days a week during the growing season. (We started our trip Friday with a visit to the Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard on the west shore of Seneca Lake, where I picked up two cases of various rieslings, from dry to the American equivalent of trockenbeerenauslese, thence proceeded to Seneca's east shore to Dano's Heuriger where we enjoyed a Viennese tradition, Heuriger, of a mug of simple white wine accompanied by savory spreads, salads, charcuterie and, of course, a Viennese dessert.)

About 40 percent of the Farmers' market vendors are purveyors (fruit, veggies, meat, dairy and sellers of goods like honey, jarred sauces, etc.), with the remaining split between crafts/trinkets and food for on-premise consumption.

As demonstrated by the colorful Swiss chard and the hat atop Jack Goldstein's head in the photos at right, veggies were king last weekend.

But I came for the cheese!

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, SWMBO ran a small company in Ithaca, so I journeyed to Ithaca most weekends and discovered not just the market, but the incredible product offered by Northland Sheep Dairy. Jane and Karl North, who founded the dairy, had very structured ideas about farming, sustainability and holoistic management, as you can see on the website Karl created a few years back. Since then they've turned the dairying and cheese-making over to Maryrose Livingston (photo below).

My favorite among the four cheeses is Bèrgeré Bleu, a singular blue cheese highly praised by Steve Jenkins, and called "an American rival to Roquefort" by Stinky Bklyn, a Brooklyn cheesemonger and one of the few places outside Ithaca selling Northland cheese. I also bought Tomme Bèrgeré, a rustic mountain cheese. If you ever see any of these cheeses, including the barnyardy Folie Bèrgeré, buy them!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Headhouse Square: Week 2

Today was the second week for the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market and I was there.

Over at North Star Orchards, field grown tomatos were much in evidence, $2.50/pound. I purchased three hefty specimens; they aren't pretty, due to skin cracking, but based on the one I enjoyed with lunch, they are superior in flavor. Real tomatoes have arrived!

I purchased a fresh chicken from Mountain View Poultry Farm (they sell fresh and frozen chicken and turkey, as well as grassfed meats, organic produce and organic eggs) which I'll cut up and put on the grill tonight. I'm looking forward to tasting the chicken.

Pictured on the right are some fresh shallots and flowers at the Blooming Glen Farm stall, immediately found upon entering on the Lombard Street side.

The number of merchants seemed about the same as last week, but like then, there were a number of spots that were posted as space for a particular vendor, but no one was there. Perhaps I arrived too early (10 a.m., the market's opening hour) or perhaps they were no-shows.

Since everyone was talking about the daise on egullet.org last week, I bought a bunch from Queen Farm to mix in with the red butter lettuce from Wimer Organics.

Over at A.T. Buzby, they said the canteloupe was a couple of weeks early -- they started picking last weekend. Based on the wonderful melon aroma that wafted throughout my car by the time I got back home to Fairmount, I'd say it's a good melon. We'll crack it open tonight after it's chilled.

Here's my full shopping list for today:

Whole chicken, $3.99/pound

Tomatoes, $2.50/pound

A.T. BUZBY ($5.50)
Canteloupe, $3.50
Corn, 50-cents @


QUEEN'S FARM ($1.50)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Jersey Tomatos

Jersey tomatos have arrived at Iovine Brothers Produce. Everyone else appears to have greenhouse tomatos. But the local field tomatoes should start to appear in two to three weeks. Get ready!

Langoustines (a.k.a. scampi, Dublin prawns, etc.) usually sell for close to $20 a pound, frozen, imported from Thailand or other Southeast Asian producers. Golden Seafood had them for $8.99 today, already thawed. I bought a pound (about five langoustines) even though I figured they're on sale because they're already defrosted and have a very short shelf life. They'll get grilled tomorrow (doubt I'll be able to eat them tonight after Pizza Club) and I'll report on the quality.

The Livengood Family will host its annual farm tour and corn roast for customers on Sunday, July 29, on the Morningside Drive farm on the outskirts of Lancaster. The evening meal will be pot luck. For details, stop by the stand Saturday at the RTM, Tuesday at the South & Passyunk Market, 3-7 p.m., or Thursday at the Fairmount Market, also 3-7 p.m. Or call the Livengoods at 717 464-2698.

Cactus pears (also known as prickly pears or, in Israel, sabra), have been back at Iovine's for the past two weeks, $1.99/pound. Usually I find them at O.K. Lee during the season, which runs from now through late fall, but not this week. Among Iovine's other offerings: English cucumbers two for a buck; hydroponic red peppers (slight scars), two pounds for $1; green bell peppers 99 cents, orange and yellows, $1.99.

Local string beans of various types are plentiful. Earl Livengood is charging $3.95 a pint for green beans, wax beans and yellow Roma (flat) beans. Benuel Kauffman's wax and green beans go for $2.99/pound. Since I didn't weigh Earl's, can't say which is a better bargain.

Berries and cherries remain plentiful. Here's the price breakdown. All are from local orchard except Iovine, which is offering West Coast dark cherries).
  • Dark sweet cherries: $2.99/pound Iovine, $4.30 pint/$9.00 quart Fair Food Farmstand, $3.95/$6.95 Benuel Kauffman, $3.95/$6.95 Earl Livengood.
  • Queen Anne cherries: $4.75/$9.50 Fair Food, $3.95/$6.95 Kauffman.
  • Pie (sour) cherries: $4.00/$7.50 Fair Food, $6.95/quart Kaufman, $2.95/$5.50 Livengood.
  • Blueberries: $4.00/$7.50 Fair Food, $4.95 pint Kauffman, $4.50 Livengood.
  • Red raspberries (half-pint): $4.00 Fair Food, $3.95 Kauffman, $3.95 Livengood. Black rasperries $3.00 at Kauffman's.
A very brief shopping list for me this week, since I'll be visiting Headhouse Square tomorrow:



EARL LIVENGOOD (Approx. $8.50)
Dark cherries
Red onion

Black raspberries