Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cherries Aplenty

I restrained myself this week from going overboard in buying fruit at the RTM. All I purchased was a quart of pie cherries, a pint each of sweet red and sweet Rainier cherries, a pint of blueberries, bananas and limes. That should hold me 'til Tuesday afternoon's farmers market at South & Passyunk. (BTW, last week's cherries went into a delicious sorbet; this week they're bound for a cobbler.)

Fair Food featured sweet red Summit cherries and yellow/red Rainiers for $4.50 and $4.75 a pint, respectively. Over at Benuel Kaufman's the reds and Queen Annes were $3.95, pie cherries $2.95 per pint, strawberries $5.95/quart. (Ben's black raspberries were gone by 10:30 a.m.) Earl Livengood's pints were priced at $2.95 for sours and $3.75 for sweet reds. Blueberries were $4.50/pint, red raspberries $3.95, strawberries $3.75. L. Halteman's sweet cherries sold for $3.19 while strawberries were $4.39/quart.

Benuel Kaufman also had the elongated red beets I love. I find them even sweeter than the most round beets. And Earl Livengood featured Lancaster County corn; seems early by a couple of weeks to me, but I couldn't resist.

Time for lime sorbet, margaritas or limeade. Iovine has nice, heavy juicy limes for a dime apiece; lemons are still a relatively pricey 25 cents. Hass avocados $1.49 each. Deals can be had on eggplant (two pounds for a buck) and kirby cucumbers ($1 a pound).

Copper River sockeye still available at John Yi at $12.95; Alaskan king for $17.99.

Here's my abbreviated shopping list for today:

Juice oranges


Sour cherries
Sweet red cherries

Queen Anne cherries

Hanger steak

* * * * *

Coke Backs Off

I spoke with two Coke reps this week (neither of whom wanted to be identified in any way shape or form) who confirmed that while Coke did plan to make the push I outlined, when they learned of RTM management's objections, they canned their plans. They still hope to do sandwich-and-drink type promotions with individual merchants, and will continue to supply refrigerated cases and beverage dispensers with their logo, but you won't find the Coke logo or representations of the classic bottle plastered all over the RTM. (One idea they proposed, and was shot down by the RTM, was to put new seat cushions on the the stools at Golden Bowl, Carmen's and perhaps other eateries in which a silhouette of a coke bottle would appear. Nothing like shoving a bottle up your . . . )

I made my calls to Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Monday and Wednesday. Funny, but later RTM Manager Paul Steinke got a call from the bottler's president assuring him that Coke will abide by his wishes and refrain from the more visible push. I'm guessing my inquiry drew their attention to Paul's publicly posting his newsletter to merchants.

Let it not be said that Coke isn't sensitive to the preferences of their various markets. They wouldn't have become as successful a company as they are otherwise.

BTW, don't write, call or e-mail Coca-Cola Enterprises on this issue. It turns out that while CCE does own a number of bottling companies, the Philadelphia company (formerly a minority-owned business in which Julius Erving was initially involved and was led by J. Bruce Llewellyn) is not one of them. The local bottler was sold to the parent Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta (the syrup maker). They apparently have shifted strategic direction and seek to have greater control over their products so are now acquiring bottlers. For the parent company's Bottlers Investment Group, formed in 2006 to bring company-owned bottling units under a single coordinated management, Philadelphia Coke is its first major bottling acquisition in the US (most of their bottlers are overseas) and they are using it as a test, with strenuous multiple marketing efforts.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cherries makie debut

Local cherries made their seasonal debut Saturday at Earl Livengood, who offered both pie and sweet cherries. Benuel Kaufman also offered sweet cherries. The pie cherries were small, but nicely tart. Today I'm turning a mix of the two types into sorbet. Earl also had had red raspberries this past week.

Salad season has begun, and both Livengood and Fair Food Project are selling beautiful heads of lettuce. If a starchier salad is your thing, go for Livengood's fresh dug new potatoes. This week I added sliced French radishes and Vidalia onion to the potatoes and tossed with a mayo-vinegar-sugar-pepper-mustard dressing.

If you want fresh local goat cheese, the only place to acquire it at the RTM is the Fair Food Project. Neither Downtown Cheese nor Salumeria sell any goat cheese that's remotely local: most of their offerings come from France or California.

Over at Iovine Brothers Produce the California stone fruits have arrived: peaches, nectarines, apricots. If you're making a fruit salsa or chutney, the under-ripe California fruit works just fine; but for eating out of hand, I'll wait another month or so for our local produce. OK Lee displayed mammoth artichokes priced at three for a buck.

Over at Lancaster County Dairy that Trickling Springs Creamery heavy cream in glass bottles I kvelled about last week is now joined by whole and 2 percent milk in glass, as well as cultured buttermik. The whole and 2 percent sell for $2.25, plus $2 bottle deposit. The heavy cream and half-and-half is also available in conventional containers.

Everyday Gourmet Market figures to open Monday, June 18. It's located in the space formerly occupied by Andros and is similar in concept: Variety of dishes to take home to reheat and eat. Their brochure lists a six-week rotating menu, with each week featuring four different entrees (a red meat, a poultry, a fish and usually, but not always, a vegetarian offering), as well as a regular roster of sandwiches, salads, soups, and casseroles. As an example, this week's entrees are Expresso Rubbed Flank Steak, Turkey Meatloaf with Spicy Ketchup, Baked Tilapia with Balsamic Cucumbers, and BBQ Chicken with Firecracker Stuffing. Most of the dinners-to-go, priced at $9.50 ($7.75 for vegetarian fare, like the Stuffed Portobello or the Polenta and Roasted Vegetable Napolean to be offered in future weeks) includes a starch and vegetable. The website is, but as of this writing nothing was posted there.

Thursday afternoon I stopped by the Fairmount & 22nd Street Market, where Earl Livengood was joined by three or four other vendors, including Griggstown Quail Farm. Today I'll be cooking the two poussin I purchased Thursday. We have already, however, consumed, Griggstown's cherry pie: delicious. We enjoyed four small cuts from one $5.50 pie.

On this week's menu:

Poussin served with potato salad, asparagus.
Cherry sorbet
Composed salad of roasted beets, goat cheese, walnuts with raspberry vinaigrette.
Green salad with leftover meats, cheese.
Herring salad.
Bratwurst and kraut

Here's my RTM shopping list for the Saturday:

Pie cherries
Sweet cherries


Goat cheese

HARRY OCHS ($4.95)
Turkey bacon

Pumpernickel, party-sized



Saturday, June 16, 2007

Coca Cola attacks RTM

The Philadelphia Coca Cola Bottling Co. late this spring launched an all-out assault to brand the Reading Terminal Market market as a Coca Cola fiefdom. It may well be the biggest threat to the market since the bankrupt Reading Railroad sought to shut down the city's historic market nearly 30 years ago.

Here's what RTM Manager Paul Steinke wrote in a June 9 update to market tenants:

In recent weeks representatives of the Philadelphia Coca Cola Bottling Co. have been discussing various ideas for inserting the Coke brand into individual merchant stores through signage, menu boards, seat cushions, clocks and other means. There is nothing wrong with a beverage company pitching their products and services to a merchant. But we cannot go overborad in allowing them to splash their brand identity all over the Market. We are a collection of small independent businesses and we take that distinction seriously. Let's not permit Coke to seduce us into unduly compromising our integrity. If Coke or any other outside company is talking to you about renovations to your store, please discuss it with me before you agree to any of their proposals. Remember, as Landlord we have the right of refusal of any tenant renovations that we believe may be out of character with the Market, which is a precious and fragile historic resource. We all need to take that role seriously in order to preserve the Market's integrity and character.

That's strong language. And for good reason: plastering the market with the Coke label beyond the usual fountain dispensers and refrigerated cases would turn the market into one gigantic billboard.

I urge all who care about the market to let Philadelphia Coca Cola Bottling Co. and it's corporate parent, Coca Cola Enterprises, know that such a campaign is unwelcome and unwanted:

Philadelphia Coca Cola Bottling Co.
Phone: 888.551.6800

Coca Cola Enterprises

Corporate Offices
Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
2500 Windy Ridge Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
2300 Windy Ridge Parkway, Suite 145 South
Atlanta, GA 30339-5677
888-272-COKE (2653) or

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Got back to the RTM today after a three week hiatus, mostly spent in Wisconsin. (Here's a report of my beer and brat haul.)

We left town as the early local strawberries were starting to come in, and returned just in time for the tail end of the season. As we neared home this past Tuesday, we made our last rest stop of the trip at the Pa. Pike's Allentown service plaza where one vendor was selling delicious berries as well as sugar snaps and lots of other stuff. (Only one vendor is there weekdays; additional vendors sell their produce on weekends when highway traffic is busier.)

On Thursday afternoon I visited my neighborhood farmers' market at 22nd & South where I picked up spinach and a couple of greenhouse tomatoes from Earl Livengood; radishes and eggs from a new vendor whose name I didn't get; and a baguette from Baker Street.

Back to the RTM . . .

Everyday Gourmet, in the former location of Andros, getting closer to opening. The new take-away vendor is shooting for a June 19 opening.

No word yet on an occupant for Foster's, which will be shutting down its RTM operation by the end of the month and opening at it's new consolidated store at 4th & Market about mid-July. As it is, stock is pretty thin as Foster's winds down.

Someone named Chef Harry (Harry Schwartz) will be at the RTM Wednesday, June 13,11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. He's a PBS chef touring the country in his "Watermelon Bus" to promote awareness of childhood obesity. He'll be making watermelon salsa at center court. Other events coming up: Ice Cream Festival July 28, Pennsylvania Dutch Festival Aug. 9-11.

The RTM Corporation board has once again extended the Sunday "experiment" through Sept. 30. Apparently it's beyond their ken to just acknowledge that Sundays have been a measurable success and make it permanent.

According to RTM Manager Paul Steinke's monthly merchant newsletter, Sundays are the fourth busiest day of the week, which is quite an achievement considering center city offices are closed and about half the merchants don't open. However, there will be added competition for the summer, beginning July 1, when the Food Trust opens a Sunday farmers market at Headhouse Square.

Here are the RTM's average hourly counts:

1,570 weekly average
2,203 Saturday
1.799 Friday
1.528 Thursday
1.498 Sunday
1,477 Wednesday
1.308 Tuesday
1,183 Monday

Now, onto the food...

Over at John Yi "Copper River Salmon" was selling at $14.99 vs. $10.99 for non-geographically identified king salmon. At that price, it's got to be sockeye, not king. Fitting to its alternate name of "red" samon, the sockeye was a beautiful deep red color.

Over at Iovine the price of limes has retreated a bit since I last visited -- five for a buck (four for a buck at OK Lee). Hass avocadoes were $1.49 each, vs. 99-cents at OKL. Also at Iovine, Atulful mangoes a dollar apiece. Strawberries from Iovines contract grower in Bucks County, Shady Brook, were $1.99/pint. Benuel Kaufman was selling his for $5.99/quart, while Earl Livengood's organic berries were $6.25/quart. Benuel also had beautiful kirby cucumbers, ideal for pickling.

New at Lancaster County Dairy is heavy cream in glass bottles from Trickling Springs Creamery. The cream (not ultra-pasterized, thank heavens) is $3.25 plus a $2 deposit on the shapely bottle.

This week's shopping list:

Vidalia onion

Sugar snap peas





HARRY OCHS ($9.90)
Turkey bacon