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.