Monday, December 22, 2008

Headhouse Season Ends

Eight vendors showed up for the last day of the 2008 season at the Food Trust's Headhouse Square Farmers Market.

Amazingly, those vendors included one produce seller: Queen's Farm. It helps that much of the Yin family's output is in the form of shitaki and varieties of oyster mushrooms, but they also had some tatsoi to sell yesterday. Others who showed up included meat and poultry vendors, bakers, cheesemongers, and plant sellers.

What's Open In Winter?

One of those Headhouse bakeries will be selling outdoors all winter long at Fairmount & 22nd, home of the Fairmount market which closed for the season at Thanksgiving. Versailles, with its baguettes, boules and pastries, will be out there both Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Clark Park and Fitler Square markets on Saturdays will continue year-round with a handful of vendors. Earl Livengood showed up at Clark Park this past Saturday and is considering being a regular there.

(So that's where Earl disappeared to while I was sipping coffee Saturday morning at the Reading Terminal Market's center court! Shortly after he brought in the produce with son Dwain and helper John, he left for Clark Park while they remained to sell at the RTM.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fair Food Move Advances

Much of the funding is in place for the Fair Food Farmstand's move to the 12th Street side of the Reading Terminal Market, according to RTM GM Paul Steinke.

In addition to the previously reported grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the SVF Foundation of Newport, R.I., is kicking in a substantial proportion of the needed funds. The SVF foundation is largely the creation of Campbell Soup heiress Dodo Hamilton. Its primary mission is to help protect the world's food supply by preserving rare and endangered breeds of livestock, and it sees Fair Food's mission as complementing its goals. The SVF Foundation has a history of supporting efforts of the White Dog Foundation (Fair Food's parent organization) furthering the marketing of heritage breed farm animals. SVF is based at Swiss Village Farm in Newport, where Hamilton maintains a home. Much of SVF's breed preservation work is done in conjunction with the Tufts University veterinary medicine school.

Steinke said about 75 percent of Fair Food's moving costs appear to be covered through these and other grants. Much of the remainder will probably come in the form of a low-interest loan from the Reading Terminal Market Corporation, the non-profit organization which runs the market. Similar loans have been made to other vendors at the market for improvements.
Christmas Fish

John Yi, the center court fishmonger at the Reading Terminal Market, has added a fine array of swimmable food for Feast of the Seven Fishes celebrations. Although baccala could not be found, there was plenty of fresh cod, octopus, squid (whole as well as cleaned and separated), as well as herrings ($3.99/pound for either large for smaller sardine-sized specimens), smelt ($4.99) and spearling ($3.99).

Giant oranges are traditional holiday fare, too. The Fair Food Farmstand was selling organic varieties from Florida for $1.50 apiece; the prices for similar conventionally-grown large oranges were only slightly less dear at Iovine Brothers where tangelos seemed the best deal in orange-type fruits, at six for $1. Juice oranges and small navels were twice that price.

Also at Iovine, Hass avocados from Mexico were down to 89-cents apiece; alas, if you want to make guacamole, the limes (and lemons) remain pricey at three for a buck. Iovines was selling organic Granny Smith applies for 99-cents a pound, the same as for many conventional varieties, including Grannies, Staymans, Red Delicious, etc.

Back at Fair Food, a split open sample of watermelon radish was drawing attention from passersby who had never seen them before. As always there was an interesting collection of winter squashes, varyingly priced about $1.50-$2.00 a pound, including Blue Hubbard and Turban.

Dwain Livengood was back at his family's Saturday stall helping out before he and his wife Audrey leave for a year in Honduras volunteering at a Christian home for children. They spent this past week in Florida at a training course, where Dwain learned the wonders of the Moringa tree, which can grow in subtropical climates with poor soils and can be used as food (its leaves offer complete protein), animal feed and fuel; its powdered seeds (in the form of defatted meal) can be placed into a container of turbid water and will remove 99 percent of the sediment and organic impurities. Alas, it can't withstand Lancaster County winters, so don't expect to see Moringa tree products at the Livengood farm stand.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Headhouse Square Stalwarts

Headhouse Square vendors didn't outnumber customers this morning, but it was close.

Five produce vendors displayed their product: Beechwood Orchards, Blooming Glen Farm, Margerum's, Queen Farm, and Weaver's Way. Among the other vendors present were Mountain View Poultry, Griggstown Quail Farm, and Versailles Bakery, among others. David Garretson of Beechwood Orchards said he'll keep showing up until the last day for Headhouse, scheduled for the Sunday before Christmas, unless foul weather prevents him from making the long drive from Biglerville in York County.

Although all but two of the city's other outdoor farmers' markets have closed for the 2008 season (the exceptions being Clark Park and Fitler Square, which are open Saturdays year-round), Versailles Bakery intends to keep showing up at the site of the Fairmount market (Fairmount and 22nd) as long as there are customers. Although that market had its last day the day before Thanksgiving, Versailles was doing a brisk business in brisk weather this past Thursday, setting up just before lunchtime.

Versailles had some nice prices this morning at Headhouse, with baguettes selling for $1.75 or two for $3, and most other loaves at $2.75 or two for $5.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fair Food Plans Move to Rick's Space
Funding Sought from USDA for expansion

Back in September I reported that Reading Terminal Market GM Paul Steinke would like to relocate the Fair Food Farmstand to the space since vacated by Rick's Steaks. It's looking more likely, as the market and the Farmstand are now working on the details of such a move. Steinke said Fair Food could pop up along 12th Street as soon as early 2009.

From the RTM's perspective, having a produce purveyor located behind a broad expanse of windows on the market's busiest pedestrian perimeter cements its image as a place to buy food for home preparation and consumption rather than as a mere food court.

For the Fair Food Farmstand, the move would further its educational mission by dramatically increasing its visibility while providing needed expansion space.

It's no secret that the Fair Food Farmstand has been seeking to expand since it has outgrown its current space, acknowledged Ann Karlen, the White Dog Foundation's director of Fair Food programs, including the farmstand. Initially the FFF considered enlarging its existing stall into some of the adjacent seating area. Those plans were placed on hold while Karlen and her colleagues considered the future direction of the non-profit operation and funding possibilities.

The move won't come cheaply. Karlen, however, believes much of the funding can be secured through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based on preliminary discussions with officials in charge of disbursing grants for programs like Fair Foods'.

"We've outgrown our space and were planning on expanding even if we didn't move," Karlen said. The new location "is the perfect size, more than double what we have now. It's a premier location on a busy corridor with window frontage. We're a non-profit, and a big part of our mission is promoting local food, so it gives us more visibility, furthering our educational mission while allowing us to expand the business."

Steinke told me Fair Food might first take over the kitchen area of the former cheesesteakery and expand, as needed, into the stall's seating area on a seasonal basis when they've got more produce to sell. A Fair Food Farmstand café, serving soups, sandwiches and other items prepared from locally producted agricultural products could also be part of the future.

Besides obtaining funding, one of the more difficult aspects of any move will be refrigeration. Like many other purveyors, all of the Fair Food Farmstand's refrigerated storage space is located in the rear of the market (others have their storage space in the basement). Stand volunteers will have long a long way to haul those boxes of produce every morning when they relocate.

More Cheese Steaks

The Down Home Diner put cheese steaks back on the menu and is touting that fact with their blackboard.

Cheese steaks are also on the menu now at the Dutch Eating Place as well as Spataro's, which added them when they relocated to center court more than a year ago.

But that's not all.

The market recently gave permission to Carmen's and By George to augment their existing menus with cheese steaks, beginning in the New Year.

GM Steinke says any number of existing cheese steak sellers from outside the RTM have filed applications to become vendors. He said those application will be considered if a suitable space becomes available. Steinke's point of view is that the demand for cheese steaks is big enough to profitably support multiple vendors.

One suitable space could be the vacant stall opposite Tootsie's Salad Express, which formerly housed Everyday Gourmet and, before that, Andros. The space already has a heavy-duty exhaust system installed, which is necessary for any sort of grill operation.

In the adjacent space, temporarily being used by Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, the paperwork is moving along for a new pork purveyor to replace Dutch Country Meats, which gave up the ghost earlier this year. A draft lease is now being reviewed by prospective butcher.
New Day Stall Vendors

The Reading Terminal Market's day stall space on Saturdays is nearly at capacity, with the addition of two new vendors.

Lindendale Farm of Lancaster County, operated by Andrew Mellinger and his family, is selling various goat cheeses and goat cheese cake made of milk from their herd. Also new is the "Applesauce Lady" who claims to sell an applesauce that "tastes like apple pie". both are located near Fisher's Pretzels.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Italian Bread Bag?

Found this morning on the counter of DiNic's at the Reading Terminal Market: bags full of bread delivered from an Italian bakery, to be filled later in the day with roast pork, veal, sausages, roast beef, brisket, pulled pork, etc., etc., etc..

Not unusual, except for the printing on some of the bags. It's in Hebrew. Hard to explain how they came into the possession of Dante's, the bakery at 8th and Watkins that supplies DiNic's, other than the bag manufacturer had an overrun.

Still, the bags are suitable, since they advertise Agadir, small Israeli chain featuring burgers, but also roast beef, sausage (merguez and chorizo) sandwiches and an interesting array of salads and starters. And yes, you can get a cheeseburger: the chain is not kosher.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Home-grown Mangoes at Livengood's?

No, even though Dwain Livengood will be spending a year in a tropical clime with his wife Audrey beginning in January.

Dwain and Audrey are taking the year off from working the family farm to volunteer at La Finca de los Niños, a Christian home for about 100 children in Valle de Angeles, Honduras, about 20 miles or so outside that nation's capital, Tegucigalpa. Audrey will school three children of workers at the home, and probably will also teach English as a foreign language to the children at La Finca de los Niños. As is only fitting at an institution whose name translates to "The Estate [farm] of the Children," Dwain says he "will help cultivate the fallow land surrounding the children's home" developing agricultural projects enabling "the older children to learn life skills while providing food for the children's home and increasing its sustainability."

Contributions in support of their work may be sent Dwain's brother Dale & Amy Livengood, 1713 Morningside Dr., Lancaster PA 17602. Checks should be payable to Lyndon Mennonite Church, designated for Dwain & Audrey's support.

PS: Look for Dwain on Channel 6 Action News today. Kathy Gandolfi was at the Fairmount stand today.
Livengoods Split Work

The Livengood's staffed two stands yesterday and today. In addition to Earl and Joyce Livengood at the Reading Terminal Market, their son Dwain and his wife Audrey took care of business at South Street on Tuesday and 22nd and Fairmount today. (I believe this week is the last for both of these markets.)
Thanksgiving Crush at the RTM

Local TV stations were scheduled to cover the crush of shoppers at the Reading Terminal Market during their morning shows today. Hundreds line up before the doors open at 8 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving.

In addition to the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants who made an early showing this week at the Reading Terminal Market, Earl Livengood was also there Tuesday and Wednesday (today). Among the many autumn produce stalwarts at Livengood's were romanescue heads of diminutive size, perfect for two eaters.

Arctic char made its appearance at John Yi's this week. The filets are selling for $14.99. Char is usually farm-raised in Canada and Iceland, and is considered to be considerably more environmentally benign than salmon aquaculture. Char, a salmonid, is somewhere between trout and salmon in size and flavor. Expect more fish variety at the market as we approach Christmas.

This past weekend busted all sorts of records for market visitors, according to RTM GM Paul Steinke, with the highest attendance seen since the Flower Show. Much of it was driven by Philadelphia marathon competitors and visitors.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Or, I Say It's Spinach and I Say To Hell With It

If there's one root vegetable I cannot abide, it's rutabag, a.k.a. Swedish turnip or Swede. I find the taste utterly disagreeable.

Yet, I buy a few every winter fall, when young specimens are available, because She Who Must Be Obeyed adores them. Must be her Scandihoovian heritage.

As it happens, Earl Livengood had excellent looking rutabagas at the Reading Terminal Market yesterday. But they weren't loose in a bin. They were still connected to their tops. The greens were pristine and deep emerald green, absolutely gorgeous.

In preparing SWMBO's mashed rutabaga today (with lots of butter and a little whole milk), I just couldn't throw out those greens. My only concern was that they might, unbeknownst to me, harbor a toxin, like the oxalic acid found in rhubarb leaves. Multiple sources on the web indicated it could be treated just like any other winter green. So, using the same water in which I cooked the rutabaga tubers, I simmered the washed leaves for about 12-15 minutes until tender, then shocked them in cold water, drained and squeezed out the excess water. They'll sit in the fridge for a day or two until I get around to combining them with ricotta for a lasagne filling.

To accompany tonight's ham steak dinner will be two members of the brassica family. The aforementioned mashed rutabaga, and those tiny little cabbage heads, Brussels sprouts. I picked up the tiny packaged versions sold by Benuel Kaufman and simmered them in salted water for less than 10 minutes. When it's time to eat I'll reheat them in a sauté pan with butter and a dab of Dijon mustard (mustard being another brassica). The ham is a nicely smoked steak from Smith's Log Smokehouse of Monroe, Maine. I acquired the ham (and some chorizo and other goodies) this past summer while visiting Mt. Desert Island, where Smith's sells at the Sunday Bar Harbor farmers' market. The piece I pulled from the freezer a month ago was delish.
More on Headhouse Hours

On the day before Thanksgiving, hours at Headhouse Square will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As previously noted, the last Sunday of the 2008 season will be Dec. 21. Then it's less than five months 'til the beginning of the 2009 season, on Sunday, May 3.

If you can't wait two of The Food Trust's markets will be open year-round: Clark Park at 43rd and Baltimore and Fitler Square at 23rd and Pine, both on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Today at Headhouse Square they were down to about a dozen vendors. North Star Orchards had a sign saying today would be their last visit of the season.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pre-Thanksgiving Rush at the RTM

Over at the Reading Terminal Market, extra checkouts have been added at Iovine Brothers Produce for the holiday rush in an effort to keep those long lines moving.

Many of the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants, who are usually closed on Mondays and Tuesday, will be open on those days (as well as Wednesday) before Thanksgiving. Those planning to be open both Monday and Tuesday are AJ Pickle Patch, Beiler's Bakery, Hatville Deli, L. Halteman Country F0ods, and Lancaster County Dairy. In addition, the Dutch Eating Place, Dienner's BBQ Chicken, and the Rib Stand will be open Tuesday.

On the day before Thanksgiving, shoppers lined up waiting for the doors to open at 8 a.m. will be treated to free sample cups of coffee, courtesy of Old City Coffee. But it won't be at all the doors: just the 12th & Filbert entrance.

This morning 12 servers were working at Godshalls to push out those Thanksgiving birds, with a lineup of customers as soon as the market opened at 8 a.m. Expected even longer lines Wednesday.

Temporarily, at least, the Fair Food Farmstand has some extra display space, though no sales space. It's in the vacant stall formerly occupied by Everyday Gourmet and, before that, Andros. Squashes and other colorful items point the way to the the farmstand.

Speaking of Andros, he's the only retailer in town (2056 Pine) where you can acquire Leonidas chocolates, a high volume but nonetheless delicious Belgian praline manufacturer. As was once snootily explained to me by the proprietress of the old Belgian Chocolate House on S. 17th, "That's what you buy your domestic for Christmas." I'd do windows for that stuff!

The paperwork is moving along for a new pork purveyor who will move into the space formerly occupied by Dutch Country Meats. The stall has a long history of pork vendors dating back to Moyers and Charles Giunta (who now operates Giunta's Prime Shop). The butcher will sell the Stoltzfus Meats' product line, including scrapple and sausages as well as fresh pork. Not determined whether he'd handle deli products. In addition to its store in Intercourse, Stoltzfus sells at the Ardmore Farmers' Market, the New Castle Farmers' Market, and Beechwood Deli at the Fairgrounds Farmers' market, Allentown.

The Philadelphia Daily News' has selected the Reading Terminal Market as recipient of two of its People's Choice Awards: Best Farmers Market and Best Produce.
Headhouse Schedule

Headhouse Square will be open this Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, but closed the following Sunday. The farmers' market resumes Sunday, Dec. 6, continuing through the first Sunday before Christmas.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Follow Linus Pauling's Advise . . .

Just in time for the flu and cold season a plethora of citrus fruit has arrived, including at Iovine Brothers Produce at the Reading Terminal market.

Florida juice oranges, Valencias and small navels were selling for 20 cents apiece. Sunburst tangerines continue to be eight for a buck. Among the grapefruits, larger pink and white grapefruits were two for a buck, small ruby three for a buck, larger Star ruby 99 cents apiece. Lemons and limes were both selling for 25 cents each, though O.K. Lee offered bags of limes (8 to a bag) for about half that price. In buying citrus, don't go by looks alone; instead, go for the fruit that's heaviest in the hand for its size.

Iovine's is also pushing imported berries. Half-pint clamshells of Argentine blueberries and Mexican raspberries could be had for a buck apiece. More attractive, to me, were the California brown figs, $1.99 for a box of about eight.

With Thanksgiving approaching, string beans are in demand, and Iovines featured bins of crisp fresh ones for 89-cents a pound.

Even though it's still autumn, John Yi must think it's spring. You could buy small whole shad there for $2.99/pound. In a few weeks we should start to see a wider variety of fish as Yi and the RTM's other fishmongers stock up for the holidays.

Ikea At The Market

Ikea showed off holiday food treats Thursday at La Cucina, the demonstration kitchen and cooking school at the Reading Terminal Market. Ikea staffers outfitted in blue-striped frocks lured customers in with Pepparkoker, a ginger snap-like cookie.

I tasted the gravlax, with various cheeses, meetballs and sweets also available to sample. Alas, I was disappointed in my search for, as Ulla would say, "many different herrings": not a single tidbit of Culpea harengus, the Atlantic herring species that finds its way into so many excellent Scandinavian buffets.
Jonathan Best opens
Limited groceries, at a price

Jonathan Best opened last week in the spot formerly held down by Margerum's and the Natural Connection. The high-end grocer is a welcome addition to the Reading Terminal Market. The homemade soup selection looked inviting, the flavored spreads appetizing, and the chocolate bar selection downright sinful.

That's the good news. The bad news: it's not Margerum's.

The beauty of the old Margerum's store, which closed in 2001, was that if you needed a jar of Hellman's mayonaisse or a bottle of Heinz ketchup for a recipe, you could get it. You'd pay a bit more than at a supermarket, but not unreasonably so. That was in addition to all the wonderful variety of dried legumes Noelle Margerum stocked.

You can still buy mayonnaise or ketchup at Jonathan Best. But the mayo won't be Hellman's and the ketchup won't be Heinz's. The mayo will be some organic, high-end variety priced at $6.59 for a 16-ounce jar. The ketchup will be an $8.99, 11-ounce bottle of from Wilkins & Son of the U.K.

The problem, of course, is that a merchant can't make a living selling Heinz ketchup and Hellman's mayonnaise at the RTM: the margins aren't great, the volume too low. To make the rent (which is lower for grocers and purveyors than it is for the lunch stand vendors), a grocer has to do something more. That appears to be where Jonathan Best succeeds. I haven't tried the soups yet, though they look good and plenty of market visitors this week were trying the free samples being ladled out. I did taste one of the spreads (pumpkin), and it would be a perfect nibble with cocktails for the fall season. The chocolate bars (expensive, the cassis-flavored dark bar I purchased was selling at the equivalent of $37/pound) are excellent.

If you prefer to buy your spices jarred rather than in bulk, as at the Spice Terminal, Jonathan Best is for you. They've also got a larger selection of dried pastas than Salumeria. And the selection of fruit jams and preserves expands upon that available at the Spice Terminal.

Still, it would be nice to be able to buy some non-gourmet mayo for my tuna salad or ketchup for my burgers at the market. Maybe even a box of corn flakes I can used for oven-fried chicken!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Celery Time

As Thanksgiving nears, local celery begins to hit area farmers' markets. Here are meter-long samples of red celery found Sunday at Tom Culton's Headhouse Square stall. Soon we'll see blanched celery, which is grown (mostly) under dirt to prevent the stalks from turning green.

Don't limit yourself to raw celery. This red celery, with thin, tough stalks and coarse leaves, is much more suitable for cooking, with a more intense flavor than the common celery. Braised celery (especially the blanched variety) makes an interesting veggie alternative; you can up the interest even more by finishing with some cream. I used the red celery as the major component in a vegetable stock (along with leek, carrrots and a whole head of garlic). Most of that stock is waiting in the freezer, but I used some last night to create an ersatz caldo verde, adding diced carrots, shredded kale and chorizo, but skipping the potato.

Culton recently returned from Slow Food's Salone del Gusto 2008 in Turin, where he was bowled over by everything, but especially the prosciutto produced from a southern Italian breed of goat. Culton hopes to begin raising the breed here. (No doubt Marc Vetri, who travelled to Turin with Tom, would be interested in Culton's animal husbandry.) Because Culton's pulled out his field crops to concentrate on vegetables, he's got the acreage to create room for ruminants to ruminate. Also impressing him was Eataly, the Turin warehouse food emporium inspired by and associated with the Slow Food movement. Culton said the display of various artichokes (a crop he grows here) was as long as the Headhouse shambles.

About that cream . . .

Most of the heavy cream you come across is ultra-pasteurized for a long, stable, boring shelf life. But you can find good, old fashioned regular pasteurized cream, which hasn't been subjected to the flavor-destroying high temperatures necessary for that longevity. It's been a couple of decades since supermarkets sold the regular stuff, but you can find it at Whole Foods and at the Reading Terminal Market (Lancaster County Dairy).

Jonathan Best

The Reading Terminal Market's web site says Jonathan Best, the grocer and soup purveyor, opened this morning.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pictures and Words
As always, click on photo to enlarge

Colorful swiss chard enlivened Earl Livengood's
display at the Reading Terminal Market Saturday.
No doubt they'll also have them Tuesday afternoon
at South Street and Thursday afternoon in Fairmount.

Livengood's also proudly displayed these
turnip greens with proto-turnips.

Not to be outdone, Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County
Produce stand artfully arranged these samples of brassica:
cauliflower in three colors, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
Not pictured was Ben's romanescue.
Iovine Brothers
Once Again

Hardly a year goes by and Iovine Brothers Produce decides its time to play musical chairs with its Reading Terminal Market displays. It keeps customers and staff on their toes.

The net result of this year's re-arrangement is a much more open feeling. That was achieved by using lower level bins for the first two aisles, mostly containing fruits and featured veggies. The racks of dried fruits, nuts and other items was moved against the window wall along Filbert Street. The standard size display cases form the row between the window wall and the bins. The mushroom refrigerated cases now joins the other coolers along the Filbert Street windows nearest the checkout.

Another facelift could been seen at Harry Ochs, where a new case is home to prepared items (like stuffed flank steaks, stuffed pork chops, patés, etc.), making more room for raw meat in the main case. The big roast and steak subprimals, however, are now invisible in the walk-in refrigerator.

As of Saturday, Jonathan Best was not yet open, but it appeared that all the cases and shelving was in place, just waiting to be stocked. I would expect they'll make every effort to open in advance of Thanksgiving.

With Rick's Steaks now departed, most of that space now serves as a seating area.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cheese Steak Correction

Spataro's is the only spot at the Reading Terminal Market to obtain a cheese steak. The Down Home Diner used to have them, but now offers only a cheese steak burger, i.e., a burger with provolone, peppers and onions.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Return To Spring Garden

Earlier this week I returned to the Spring Garden Market, the large Asian supermarket at Fourth and Spring Garden and was delighted by some of my finds.

In the meat case, frozen whole ducks could be obtained for $2.19/pound, including those Pennsylvania-raised birds by J. Jurgilewicz & Son.

Over in the produce section a great-tasting find were the Clementines priced at $1.79/pound. The taste was marveous, and the 10 I bought were totally seedless. I'm going back for more. Avocados were a relative bargain at 94-cents apiece.
Cider Time

I've neglected these past few weeks to mention that fresh, unpasteurized apple cider has been available at the Reading Terminal Market. You can get it at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce and, on Saturdays, at Earl Livengood's. I've taken lately to heating it up, then adding a shot of bourbon and half a shot of apple brandy (Laird's 7-1/2 year old 100 percent version). If the weather's warm, use a highball glass, fill with ice, and top with a splash of ginger ale. Unless I've missed something, the ciders I've seen at Headhouse have been pasteurized.

Making a butternut or pumpkin soup? A splash of the cider won't hurt.

Craving a cheese steak while at the Reading Terminal Market? Rick's may have moved on, but you can still satisfy your urge at either Spataro's or the Down Home Diner. I haven't tasted either, so I can't vouch for them.

It shouldn't affect shoppers, but a new validation technology started this week for the Parkway garage across 12th street from the RTM. Merchants had to install new validators. Still the same price for customers: $3 for stays under two hours with when you spend $10 (cumulative) and get your parking ticket validated at by an RTM merchant.

The Pennsylvania General Store will be honored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as its Retailer of the Year. Proprietors Mike and Julie Holahan opened the business at the Reading Terminal Market 21 years ago. Market representatives will be among those attending the Nov. 6 awards dinner at the Hyatt Regency.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Little Cracow
A visit to Krakus Market in Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood

With the cold, rainy, windy weather, what better way to fortify ourselves against the day then a hearty Eastern European lunch. So after filling ourselves with soup, pierogy and potato pancakes at Syrenka Luncheonette, we ran between the raindrops on Richmond Avenue to Krakus Market, whereupon we arrived at Krakus Market home to many different kielbasi. (Please correct my Polish for the plural!)

Among the many varieties I spied: Warszawska, Warsaw style; Weselena, Wedding kielbasa; Kabanosy, Polish "slim jim"; Mysliwska, Hunter's kielbasa (smoked longer); Zwyczajna, regular smoked kielbasa; Krakowska Swieza, Cracow kielbasa (cooked); Jalowcowa, Juniper kielbasa; Kielbasa Ostra, hot and spicy; Polska Surowa Wedzona, double smoked kielbasa; Szynkowa, ham kielbasa; Poznanska, smoked rope kielbasa;Wiejska, country style (whatever that means); Serdelki, wieners; and Kaszansa, kishke (blood sausage).

Lots of other goodies in the meat case, too. I walked away with Boczer Zawijany, rolled bacon with herbs. But also available were: Pieczek Rzymska, Meat Loaf; Pasztetowa, liverwurst; Pasztet, pork liver pate; Salceson Wloski, Italian headcheese; Salceson Czarny, blood and tongue; Salceson Bialy, headcheese; Metka, metwurst; Boczer Pieczony, roast rib belly; and Galareta Wieprzowa, jellied pigs feet.

But the biggest find, to me, were the herrings, particulary the salt herring fillets, loose bulk in a tub of brine. I've been considering mail ordering a few pounds so I could create my own pickled herrings, now I've got a source just a trolley ride away on Route 23, and for only $2.99/pound (vs. up to $8 a pound plus shipping if ordered off the web)! Krakus Market also had a tub of milkers (headless but innard-intact male schmaltz herrings, so you can enjoy the milt). Plus there was a very decent variety of packaged herrings: in cream and various other sauces, matjes, rollmops, etc.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fair Food's Thanksgiving

Those same Griggstown Quail Farms Red Bourbon turkeys I mentioned in the previous post are also availalble through the Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market. And they are even less expensive! The Farmstand is charging $6.50/pound for the heritage birds. In addition, you can reserve a traditional turkey for $2.99 (naturally raised) or $$4.50 (certified organic).

For the rest of your Thanksgiving table, you can take advantage of Fair Food Farmstand's other offerings, including both common and unusual squashes and white and red cranberries.

Aaack! The Farmstand is still using the term "wildcrafted". Last spring it was used to describe fiddlehead ferns. In the FFF's most recent weekly newsletter they are promoting Hen of the Woods mushrooms "wildcrafted by Patrick Murphy". Wildcrafted is taken to mean the gathering of wild plants in a manner which causes no permanent harm to the environment or the species. The goal is laudable, the nomenclature deplorable, a grave abuse of the English language worthy only of the most depraved advertising copywriter. How about "sustainably-gathered" instead? Wild-crafted erroneously suggests Patrick created/raised/nurtured the mushrooms.

Oh, well. At least the newsletter no longer considers the Jonamac a heritage apple!
Headhouse in Autumn

Based on visits the last two Sundays, Headhouse Square's roster of vendors, though still strong, are fading with the autumn leaves. But there's still plenty of good produce from a variety of farmers to choose from.

Queens Farm offers a small, selective but unusual array of vegtetables, including these bowl-shaped Ta Tsai greens suitable for use as salad or in cooking, though I can't imagine the latter since it would destroy the beautiful sculpture formed by these lovelies. Better to place of scoop of Asian-inflected chicken or fish salad in the center.

North Star had three different Asian pears the last two weeks. I picked up the Hosui variety, which were crisp but incredibly juicy. Five or six varieties of apples were also offered by North Star, as well as at other fruit vendors, including Three Springs and Beechwood Orchard.

Bunches of credibly fresh, thin-bulbed scallions (a.k.a. green onions) were selling for $2 at Blooming Glen at the south entrance to the Headhouse shambles. Queens Farm, meanwhile, had what at first glance appeared to be scallions but upon closer inspection (by the nose) were clearly small bunches of pugent fresh garlic.

A number of the Headhouse vendors will be there on the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26). You can order pies, turkey, sides, etc., in advance from them. Griggstown Quail Farm offers Red Bourbon turkeys at $7.99 pound, traditional birds at $3.79.
Termini offers
All Saints Day

One of the staffers at Termini Brothers' Reading Terminal Market shop holds a tray of "Bones," a tradional All Saints Day treat.

These hard-to-the-teeth pastries (they appear to be flour-reinforced meringue) are shaped in the form of bones, spirits, gravestones, etc. Hard to imagine they're not also available at the South Philly bakery and Termini's other locations.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Photo Gallery

New photos of goodies from various markets can be found in a new gallery here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

So what is this?

This could be found at Iovine Brothers Produce Saturday at the Reading Terminal Market. The fruits, about four or five inches long, reminded me of cactus pears (a.k.a. prickly pears). Although one of the Iovine managers told me they are similar in taste (and structure, with tiny seeds mixed in with the flesh) to kiwifruit, some Googling uncovered the fact that these Dragonfruit (more properly called Pitaya) are, indeed, the fruit of a cactus-like plant from semi-arid regions. The flesh can be either red or white. I passed them by, but maybe I'll try them (if I can extract the seeds, which can be eaten but are indigestible) in a sorbet.
Blue Danube
Hungarian restaurant survives in Trenton

Another restaurant report, this time about Blue Danube, a mittel-european outpost in the Hungarian heart of Trenton, Chambersburg (well, it used to be at least partially populated by Hungarians, as well as the larger Italian community; now it has a distinctly Latino tone). Rather than take up room in my Market Report, here's a link to a post I made on eGullet, along with photos. Chicken paprikash lives!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winesaps Arrive!

With my store of Cox Orange Pippins rapidly dwindling it's time to resupply. And, just in time, the winesaps are here. These Stayman Winesaps were offered at the Headhouse Square market today by the Wenk family's Three Springs Fruit Farm. Over at Beechwood farms they offered a variety called Turley Winesap. A quick Googling divulged that it was developed in the late 19th century in Indiana. It's apparently not quite as fine a fresh-eating (dessert) apple as the Stayman, but is very good for baked applications. It was particularly important in the early 20th century because of its storage quality and ability to be shipped by rail with little delerious effect.

Over at North Star I picked up a couple each of Golden Russet and Sugar Snap varieties.The former is another fav: a crisp, sweet, medium-sized apple that's a good keeper. So what if it's not red! I haven't tasted the Sugar Snap yet, which has a nice red inflected skin. North Star's website says it's a sweet-tart apple derived from the Empire.

What is it, precisely that separates a common apple from an antique/heirloom variety? That's a discussion I had with Sarah Cain, co-manager of the Fair Food Farmstand yesterday when I noted the sign for the Jonamac's called them heirlooms. Just by its name, I expressed my doubt that the apple qualified, because it's an intentional Jonathan-MacIntosh cross. Sarah contends that even hybrids developed by orchardists qualify fror the "heirloom" nominclature so long as they are 50 years old.

Even on that basis, however, it's hard to justify calling this cross an heirloom or antique. Although the New York State Agircultural Station in Geneva began experimenting with Jonathan-MacIntosh crosses in 1944, a final cross wasn't introduced to the commercial market until 1972, though the strain was largely developed, bred and tested since the late 1950s.

Although I've yet to fine a clear definition of what makes an an apple an "heirloom" or an "antique," my readings suggest that to most people, they mean a variety of apple that was developed introduced prior to the mass shipping by rail of apples in the early 20th century. Apples like the Jonamac, which were developed by government-funded entities after World War II, clearly don't qualify.

An excellent account of the search for heirloom apples under this definition can be found in the November 2002 issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Roney's Restaurant: A South Jersey institution

A diversion from my normal market report blogging . . .

At the intersection of Rt. 130 and Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, just across the line from Camden, Roney's has been serving up breakfast fare, burgers and sandwiches since 1981, and before that as an outpost of the Midwestern-based White Tower chain, established as a White Castle immitator.

I first found Roney's about 10 years ago in search of authentic Jersey sliders akin to the White Diamond burgers I enjoyed in the 1960s and 70s. Alas, the small slider was taken off the menu a couple months ago, so now it's just a regular-sized burger (my guess is it's five or six ounces). But it's a decent burger, even if it had been pre-shaped. The secret is that the shaping doesn't compact it to death, and the cook restrains herself from further compacting on the diner's small grill. Hence, it arrives reasonably juicy even when well done. Topped with sauteed onions (photo at right), the burger definitely satisfies. And at $2.80, fairly priced.

This is a joint that looks like it's a favored sobering-up spa after the bars close. Breakfast looks to be the main attraction, with pancakes, three-egg omelets, Jersey pork roll and similar goodies.

When I visited yesterday in the late morning, a man with a food truck (the type serving manufacturing plants at lunch and college dorms at night) was loading up on burgers, french fries, onion rings and a limited assortment of sandwiches.

For nostalgia sake alone, a visit to Roney's Restaurant would be rewarding. And the burgers beat out McDonald's and Burger King any time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Leeks and Sweets

Tom Culton never fails to put together a photogenic display of his produce, like these leeks and white sweet potatoes at his Culton Organics stand at the Headhouse Farmers' Market Sunday. No less impressive are the varieties of colorful French carrots from Culton.

This was the weekend for me to pick up some Roma (plum) tomatoes. I purchased mine from Margerum's at Headhouse, but there were beautiful speciments from other vendors there, as well as at the Reading Terminal Market Saturday (Rineer's Family Farm, selling via Fair Food Farmstand, and at Benuel Kaufman's Lancaster County Produce). The price at most vendors hovered around $2/pound, though you could get a deal if you were planning to make a lot of sauce and could buy by the case. I skinned, cored and seeded the quart from Margerum's and made a sauce with onions, garlic (lots) and basil, which then went into some penne baked with parmesan, fresh mozzarella and ricotta. I topped it with some slices of sauteed mild Italian sausage from Martin's of the RTM.

Radishes seem to be back en force with the autumnal equinox. I purchased a bunch of French radishes, along with some Toscano kale. Among other fall vegetables, Culton, Earl Livengood and others are offering sweet, young knobs of celeriac; julienne and serve tossed with a remoulade sauce, or puree and mix with mashed potatoes.

Over at the RTM, those $6.49/pound packs of duck legs at Giunta's I wrote about in a previous post are now $5.95.

White and red cranberries are in season at the Fair Food Farmstand. Lemons and limes were both eight for a buck at Iovine Brothers Produce Saturday, and rather ripe but eminently useable Hass avocados were a buck apiece. Iovine's local red bell peppers were selling for 99 cents, as were suntans; the orange and yellows (not local) were $1.99. Regular and Sicilian eggplants from South Jersey were two pounds for a dollar. Across the way at L. Halteman, quince was $1.99 and both butternut and acorn squashes 69-cents.

Andy of Hershel's East Side Deli said he's eliminated the middleman and is now buying his briskets (for corned beef and brisket) and navels (for pastrami) directly from one of the major Midwest suppliers. He's also brining his own corned beef and pastrami. Much to my surprise, Andy said he doesn't smoke his pastrami; it's all done through the magic of the cure and the seasonings. After some web research I learned, indeed, that pastrami does not necessarily have to be smoked to be authentic and tasty. Whodathunk?

Chocolate By Mueller at the RTM has long been a licorice-lover's delight. This week I discovered a favorite hard candy among them: Hopjes, a Dutch coffee-flavored confection. I was reacquainted with this treat earlier this year when a couple of pieces arrived with the check at the Belgium Cafe in Fairmount.

Work has started at Jonathan's Best, the grocery-soup-sandwich emporium which will occupy the former Natural Connection/Margerum's space. The new shop is looking for a late October opening.

Last week I complained about the condition of the stools at Fisher's. RTM GM Paul Steinke advises the vendor will be re-doing his stand, but not until after Christmas.

The RTM's annual Harvest Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18. There will be hayrides around the block, stacks of hay along Harry Ochs Way (Filbert Street), a pumpkin patch, and special autumn treats from a number of vendors.

Mitch "Wild Thang" Williams was selling his salsa and signing autographs Saturday. A portion of the proceeds went to the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association.

The hurricane remants that but a damper on outdoor activities the Saturday before last caused the postponement of 10th anniversary festivities of the Clark Park Market operated by The Food Trust. Re-mark it on your calendar for Oct. 4.

Last Thursday was a beautiful day for a field trip, so I visited some fields. In this case, they were in the Black Dirt belt of Pine Island, N.Y., just over the border from northewestern New Jersey, a three-hour ride from Philadelphia.

The ostensible purpose of the trip was not to view the Black Dirt farms (ideal for growing yellow onions, but also good for potatoes and all sorts of other veggies), but to collect my annual supply of Cox Orange Pippins, an apple variety that I am quick to tell all and anyone is one of the finest dessert (fresh-eating) apples in the world. They're hard to find, but Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery's pick-your-own operation has a row of them along with many other varities of apples. The winery is located just a half-mile down the road form the fields pictured here.

The Cox Orange Pippin is a finicky fruit; like many other "antique" apples, it's not a commercially appealing variety, since you only get a decent yield every other year. The variety dates back to the early 1800s and remains a much-loved apple in England, which is imported from South Africa in the off-season much as we do fruit from Chile. Today's Gala applie is a descendant of the Cox Orange Pippin.

Other than Warwick Valley Winery, the closest grower of this apple to Philadelphia of which I'm aware is Holy Root Farm in New Tripoli in Lehigh County. Farmer Rick Stuby advised me that his crop doesn't look so hot this year, hence, the trip to New York State. Warwick Valley Winery, btw, makes killer hard cider from apples and/or pears.

For those wishing to learn more about the Black Dirt Belt of Pine Island, there was an interesting article last year in The New York Times.

I concluded my jaunt with a visit to nearby Bobolink Dairy, Jonathan White's artisanal cheesery and bakery just over the border in New Jersey where I picked up his Drumm and Amtram varieties to accompany those lovely apples. Thence back home, via East Hanover, N.J., for a late lunch stop at Jimmy Buff's for that classic North Jersey treat, an Italian hot dog. It's an all-beef hot dog deep fried with onions, peppers and round-cut potatoes, served on a quarter wedge of round Italian bread. I prefer Tommy's version in my native Elizabeth, but Jimmy Buff's original in Newark is the acknowledged creator of this sandwich.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fisher's Stools Stink

Walking around the Reading Terminal Market this morning I noticed the stools at Fisher's, the Pennsylvania Dutch section merchant who sells fresh pretzels, ice cream and candies. Seems like a little minor investment is in order. Certainly doesn't reflect well on the merchant or the entire Amish section. Proprietor Paul Fisher should either recover the stools, replace them or remove them.

Keeping up appearances by individual merchants is in tune with some minor sprucing up market management is undertaking: a repainting of the seating areas, additional bins for recyclables, and the ordering of a new striped awnings to adorn the Arch and 12th street sides.

Another merchant volunteered to me with no prompting that he thought it weird that the row between aisles 8 and 10 is where most of the market's vacancies occur. The market would still like to locate a produce vendor when Rick Olivieri vacates his space Oct. 31. GM Paul Steinke would love to see the Fair Food Farmstand move there, but placing produce where they get afternoon sunlight makes it a less than idea location for that use without significant engineering and electricity consumption.

Fair Food will be spending more on electricity soon, even if they stay in place. Co-manager Sarah Cain said a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay for refrigerated vegetable gondolas, which should improve the shelf-life and quality of produce that needs cooler temperatures. That means some significant rearranging of the stand's layout is in the offing, including a possible expansion into a small part of the adjacent seating area. Another grant has been awarded for improved signage, which will be designed once the details on the new refrigeration equipment and stall design is locked up.

The Fair Food Farmstand also began accepting USDA food stamp electronic cards this week. It's something many of The Food Trust's farmers markets have been doing for a while.

The fall cabbage crop has started to show up at produce vendors. Earl Livengood had small heads of red and green cabbage. Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce had half heads of large green cabbages for $2. Ben also has the cauliflower I mentioned in a previous post (photo below).

Another sign of fall could be found at Iovine Brothers Produce: pumpkins. They featured a bin of small "spooky" pumpkins selling for $1.99 apiece. Welch's, mostly known for their grape juice and jellies, is extending the brand by licensing their name to a distributor of table grapes; Iovine's had three-pound clam shells of green seedless grapes selling for $1.99 today. (Welch's is dear to my heart: I went to college at a historically Methodist liberal arts college with affiliated seminary where one of the women's dorms was named after the Welch family, which started their business in 1869 in Vineland to provide grape juice for communion for the alcohol-free congregations.)

Yet another sign of autumn: chestnuts at Livengood's, right next to the paw paws.

I've written before of the Joe Jurgielewicz & Son ducks available at Giunta's Prime Shop. In addition to whole ducks at $3.95/pound, Giunta's recently added packs of legs ($6.49) along with their boneless breasts ($12.95). Just in time for confit-making season.

Another correction: I misspelled the name of the cooking school at the market in a recent post. It's "La Cucina", without an "h".

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fairmount Adds Vendors

Two new vendors joined the Fairmount & 22nd market today: a cheese-maker and a flower-herb vendor.

The latter, whose name I forget (other than David) is an Amishman who also sells at South Street on Tuesday afternoon. The cheese-maker is North Jersey's Valley Shepherd Creamery, which makes superlative sheep cheeses which I've previously purchased at the Fair Food Farmstand.

The paw paws were in, and they are ripe and ready, as you can see in the accompanying photo. As noted in my earlier post, you want to buy them heavily mottled. These were gathered by Sam Consylman and available at Livengood's, whose own paw paw trees have produced larger (but not quite ready yet) fruit this year, according to Dwain Livengood.

The addition of David and Valley Sheperd Creamy brings to six the number of merchants at Fairmount. Other vendors there include Bill Weller (orchard fruit and other produce), Sam Stolfus (produce, Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods), and Versailles Bakery.

At left is a sample of some of Livengood's produce available today, including celeriac and okra. Dwain says they don't plant late corn, so the ears they are selling come from other Lancaster area farmers.

They've still got ground cherries. Audrey Livengood said she baked them in a pie that turned out very well. She pre-baked the shell, then sprinkled the bottom with sugar (brown, I think) and flour, then mixed the fruits with some additional flour (not much), sugar and a couple tablespoons of water before baking. The ground cherries don't release all that much liquid, she said. Dwain vouched for its deliciousness.

Bacon taste test

A few weeks ago I raved about Green Meadow's bacon, and said I'd also report on the nitrite-free product from Country Time. Alas, the Country Time bacon is one I won't be purchasing again. Much too salty, light in the smoke department. The saltiness is a problem I've tasted before in nitrite-free bacons. Gimme chemicals, especially natural ones like saltpeter.
At the Terminal, Summer and Autumn Produce Compete

Missed Headhouse and the Fairmount and South Street markets the last couple of weeks (I'm planning to hit Fairmount this afternoon), so this report focuses on the Reading Terminal Market, where plenty of goodies reflected both summer and autumn.

L. Halteman, though primarily a butcher shop and deli, offers in-season produce at the Reading Terminal Market. Love the primitive Lancaster County scene that serves as a backdrop (see photo at left) to their fruits and vegetables, which are usually of high quality and competitively priced.

Expect to see paw paws this weekend at Livengood's and the Fair Food Farmstand. I'll be checking out the former this afternoon at their Fairmount & 22nd venue. For those who've got a yen to travel, or just want to learn more about this native North American fruit, visit the Ohio Paw Paw Festival this weekend, just about 8 or 10 miles down the road from Ohio University, Athens. Livengood had a few of the paw paws gathered by Sam Consylman last week, but there weren't many and they weren't ripe. If a paw paw is all green and lacks significant mottling, it's not ready. The browner and softer the better. They were priced at $2.95/pound.

Local grapes are plentiful right now, including Concords, which Livengood's was selling for $3.95/quart. They've also got ground cherries, a curious, tomatillo-like fruit (a.k.a. Cape Gooseberries) in a papery wrapper, $2.95/pint. Good for snacking, but I also think they'd make great preserves. Iovine Brothers featured scuppernong grapes recently, $3.99 for a 1.5 pound clamshell.

It's the peak of local pear season, especially Bartletts. Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce at the RTM was selling them for $1.49/pound. Apples, of course, are now starting in a big way. All the early commercial varieties could be found this past week at the RTM and city farm markets. Iovine's also had navel oranges from South Africa (it's the end of their season) at three for a buck.

I'm still concentrating on peaches, however. Iovine's featured Jersey whites and yellows at $1.19 recently and nectarines at $1.49. O.K. Lee had Jersey yellows recently for 99-cents. Ben Kauffman's yellow peaches and nectarines were $1.99, white peaches $2.69. Plums are still plentiful, though the season is shifting to the late varities like the Italian prune plums, $2/pint at Kauffman's.

Still plenty of local corn available, though the quality sometimes flags a bit late in the season. Livengood's was selling theirs for 70-cents an ear, Kauffman's for 50-cents, Iovine Brothers three for a buck. And ya gotta have tomatoes. Kauffman's was selling Brandywines for $2.99. Iovine featured Jersey plum (Roma) tomatoes at 99-cents; over at Fair Food Farmstand they were going for $2.

It's fig season, and Fair Food was selling some from a South Philly tree at six for $3. (I can pick them for free up the next block in my Fairmount neighborhood). Iovine's got California black figs at less than half that price: $2.99 for a pint box of about 10-12.

Cauliflower reared it's snow white head at Ben Kauffman's stand last week, $4 for an exceedingly large specimen. Other fall veggies won't be far behind.

The price of lemons fell at Iovine's to a dime apiece, but limes are still a quarter. They are selling local green peppers for 99-cents, $1.99 for sweet red bells. Both come from Shadybrook, the Iovine's contract supplier in Bucks County.

On the protein front, chicken feet must be getting more popular, since the price seems high at $2.19/pound at Godshall's, where hearts go for $2.09 and livers and gizzards $1.89. What happened to lamb shanks, which used to be a cheap meat, looks like it's happening to chicken feet. For comparison, Eberly's whole organic chicks were selling for $3.89 at Giunta's Prime Shop. Over at Martin's Quality Meats & Sausages, one of my favorite "trash" cuts, lamb breast (riblets) could be obtained for $3.29. I forget the price, but Martin's brother Charles Giunta had veal breast at a bargain price, too.

I don't know if they'll have them this week, since fish supplies are so variable, but John Yi's recently had the largest porgies I've ever seen, $2.99 for Florida behemoths. Headed mackeral was for for sale at $1.99, whole black bass for $5.99.

La Cuchina, the cooking class at the RTM, is working with Temple University to offer some star-chef classes this fall. Here's the lineup: David Ansill, Oct. 14; Marcie Turney, Oct. 20; Lance Silverman, Oct. 27; Ralph Fernandez, Oct. 30; Brinn Sinnot, Nov. 10; Marc Vetri, Nov. 15; and Aliza Green, Dec. 1. My guess is these classes will fill quickly.

One wag called it the Bermuda Triangle of the market: the meridian between Tootsie's Salad Express and Olympic Gyro: vendors locate there but mysteriously disappear. The latest victim was the Everyday Gourmet, in the space formerly occupied by Andros. Their concept for prepared food never caught on. Further along the meridian, Dutch Country Meats gave up the ghost earlier this year, and Natural Connection left the space formerly occupied by Margerum's. The last spot will be filled by Jonathan's Best, brought to you by the same folks who operate a similar gourmet market in Chestnut Hill. In addition to groceries they'll feature homemade soups and pre-made sandwiches.

The availability of a full "block" where Dutch Country Meats and Everyday Gourmet were located presents a challenge, but also an opportunity, as far as RTM GM Paul Steinke is concerned. Among the features of the space is a fully-installed range exhaust, a rare commodity in the market, and a walk-in refrigerator. Right now Benuel Kauffman is using part of the Dutch Country Meats space on a temporary basis.


I erred in ascribing the donuts at the Pennsylvania Dutch Festival to Fisher's in a previous post. They were being made and sold by Beiler's, the Pennsylvania Dutch bakery at the market.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Clark Park, Going Strong After 10 Years

The Clark Park Farmers' Market, sponsored by The Food Trust, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Saturday, Sept 6. In addition to the market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be music and other activities throughout the morning and for a few hours beyond market closing time. In addition to the Saturday market, there's a smaller Thursday afternoon market.

I made my first trip since spring to Clark Park and was overwhelmed by the produce offered by about a dozen vendors. You can see a gallery of the photos I took here. Great variety of tomatoes, plenty of summer fruits and veggies of all types. Because I had been to the Reading Terminal Market the day before, the Fairmount market the day before that, and was planning to get to Headhouse the next day, I limited myself to some fresh corn and yellow summer squash. They went great with the loin lamb chops I acquired at Giunta's Prime Shop at the RTM.

At Headhouse on Sunday plenty of heirloom tomatoes were in evidence at Culton's Organics (photo at right), though I passed these up in favor of their "Currant" tomatoes, tiny little beauties on the vine smaller than "grape" tomatoes. Their highest use is probably just popping them into your waiting mouth, but I used them a quick pasta sauce last night, augmented by just a touch of onion and garlic. Yum. I also picked up some Mirai corn from Culton's, 50 cents an ear.

More Headhouse photos from this week's trip here.

A brief tomato digression. As much as I love the different flavors and characteristics of the various heirloom tomatoes, I certainly don't disparage the basic "field" tomato. Get them ripe off the vine and they not only taste great, they offer a good bargain. And when it comes to picking a tomato for my BLT, I'll pass up the Brandywines, Cherokee Purples and Green Zebras for a good old field tomato, so long as it's ripe and fresh-picked.

And another digression: you can't go wrong in the bacon department for that BLT by getting the Green Meadow Farms product double-smoked by King's Butcher Shop in Paradise, sold at the Reading Terminal by the Fair Food Farmstand. Then again, the applewood smoked bacon available at Harry Ochs works, too. And I've got a package of Country Time's uncured bacon (also from Fair Food) sitting unopened in the fridge which I'm going to try soon.

Over at Fairmount on Thursday I talked with Dwain Livengood, who said he'd be killing some of his chickens over the next week, so they'd be available fresh rather than frozen. The birds are in the 3-4 pound range, and it's best to reserve them. I'll pick up mine this Thursday at Fairmount, but they'll also be available Tuesday afternoon at South Street and Saturday at the Reading Terminal.

Also at Fairmount, Bill Weller is selling some great produce. The cantelope I bought two weeks ago and the watermelon purchased last week were both flavorful and sweet. Last week I also purchased some donut (saturn) variety yellow peaches and turned them into cobbler. Their skins don't peel as easily as regular peaches, even after the hot water/ice water shock treatment, and there's a higher proportion of peel to flesh, so they are probably best used as a fresh-eating peach rather than in cooked and baked applications where you'd want to peel them. Still, even with the extra work and stray pieces of skin, the cobbler tasted terrific.

Earlier this month at the Reading Terminal Market's Pennsylvania Dutch Festival, Nick Ochs got into the spirit (photo at left) with some overalls and a straw hat.

As usual, the festival attracted strong summertime crowds to the market, and the pony cart rarely traversed the block with an empty seat. Bieler's was making donuts in center court, and I tried a hot one as soon as I arrived about 8:30 a.m. Alas, the oil must not have been hot enough: I could have fried a flounder with all the grease this baby absorbed.

Both Iovine's and OK Lee offer local produce as well as the same California, Florida and Mexican imports you'd find at a supermarket (though usually at a lower price). Jersey tomatoes and Pennsylvania corn are among Iovine's offerings, as well as local eggplants, green beans, etc. Finds from further afield recently have included raw peanuts and black figs.

Plenty of local produce can also be found at L. Halteman's and Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. Benuel Kauffman has expanded across the aisle (photo below) to some of the space formerly occupied by Dutch Country Meats.

Across the aisle (between 12th Street Cantina and Martin's Meats) is the vacant space once occupied by Natural Connection and, before that, Margerum's. David Schreiber has finally got his financing in place and signed a lease, so work will begin soon on converting the spot to his Jonathan's Best grocery. "The store will carry a wide variety of gourmet groceries and packaged foods, plus pre-made sandwiches, salads and their signature line of soups to eat in or take home. Dave, a native Philadelphia, hopes to open in October," said Paul Steinke, RTM general manager.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Magnificent Melon

Once upon a time, there were Watermelons, Canteloupes and Honeydews, with an occasional Casaba or Persian to behold. Today we've got lots more choice. I don't have the slightet idea what variety is pictured here, but I can attest to its deliciousness.

From the outside, it didn't look like much. Hard, very wax skin (no netting like members of the cantaloupe family usually evince). But its aroma was enticing and was clearly ripe and ready for eating. The folks behind the stand at Beechwood Orchard (Headhouse Square last Sunday) didn't know what it was, other than it was ready to eat.

I cut it open Monday evening and was overcome by the aroma. She Who Must Be Obeyed was also overcome, but her reaction was totally different from mine. SWMBO quite accurately characterizing the smell and taste as "perfumey". To me, that's high praise for a melon. To her, it qualifies the melon for the trash can.

When a melon is good there's hardly a more refreshing fruit. This melon was damned good, one of the best I've ever enjoyed. I urge you to try new and different melons that you spy at the local farmers' markets this month, the peak of melon season.

Headhouse Square boasted more than melons, of course. Entering the market from the Lombard Street side one is immediately impressed by the tomatoes and other produce displayed by Blooming Glen Farm. Next week I'm definitely going to buy some paste tomatoes for gravy! Of course, it's hard to pass up the red and sungold cherry tomatoes for fresh pasta sauce or the yellow tiny pear tomatoes. This time of year, it's hard to go wrong buying any tomato (though it's possible if you restrict your tomato buying to supermarkets).

Speaking of pears, they're here. At least a variety that Buoni Amici called "Startlingly Delicious". I didn't buy any to test that proposition, but maybe this weekend I will. There are a gazillion varieties of pear, but a quick Googling failed to turn up one under this name. But it appears to be a Bartlett relation.

Peaches and blackberries are in full form. (Blueberries have basically run their course, unless, like me, you brought four quarts home from Maine). At last Tuesday's South Street market, Sam Consylman's Raritan Rose peaches sold at Earl Livengood's stall were gone by the time I arrived an hour after the opening bell. Beechwood Orchards (which is at South Street as well as Headhouse) featured both red and white donut (Saturn) peaches, red and white tradition peaches, and nectarines, iirc.

Highest on my list of produce offered by Beechwood (after the melon!) is the Santa Rosa plum. When they're good and ripe (black rather than red) they are incredibly sweet and flavorful. And juicy: Be sure to eat them over the sink.

I enjoy eggplant in various guises but cook them rarely: usually just burn 'em on the grill and convert the flesh to babaganoush. These little pretties could change my mind. I could be mistaken, but I believe they were on display at Weaver's Way.

Over at Culton Organics I picked up some yellow beets that, from the exterior coloration, could have been confused with rutabagas. Praise the lord, they didn't taste like those bocci ball Swedish turnips! I had some of those sweet red cylindrical beets I always rave about sitting in the crisper at home, so I roasted a couple of each on the Weber Silver B and enjoyed them with some simply grilled Bell & Evans chicken parts (breast for SWMBO, whole leg for me). Properly stored in the produce crisper, beets will keep for at least two or three weeks, sometimes more. (Beets are roots, and in days of yore they were among the foods that went into a family's root cellar to last the whole winter. Just remove any leaves and all but maybe an inch of stem, leaving the root end unmolested. Wipe off any loose clinging dirt - but do not use any water - and store in the fridge.)

Over at the Reading Terminal Market, Iovine Brothers was busting at the seems with summer produce , including local sweet corn. I went for the very fresh green beans Saturday, priced at 79-cents. Another great bargain were the scallions from Delmarva. Instead of breaking them down and trimming for sale, they were selling in bags containing about a dozen bunches for $1.99. These weren't old veggies Iovine was trying to get rid of, either; they needed only normal washing and trimming. The decidedly non-local limes prompted me to make many a summer cooler at 8 for a buck.

Earl Livengood's open-pollinated corn, both at South Street and the RTM, is exceptional this year. And in another week or so, Fair Food, if it follows previous years' form, will start selling Mirai, an incredibly sweet Japanese hybrid.

Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, also no slouch when it comes to selling quality in-season corn, has grown across the aisle, occupying some of the space vacated by Dutch Country Meats. Ben went so far as to move one of the refrigerated displaty cases to make way for a market wagon filled with the summer's bounty.

Still no signs of Jonathan's Best, the grocer slated to take over the former Margerum's/Natural Connection space across from Dutch Country Meats. Some of the butcher space was supposed to be taken over by the Amish pretzel stall. No signs of any of that yet.

After a year's hiatus the RTM's annual Pennsylvania Dutch festival is back, and among the activities will be an auction of Amish crafts (including a handmade quilt) conducted by Moses B Smucker Auctioneers of Narvon. More details on the event (to be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday) at the market's web site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I'm off to Maine, so I won't be posting about local stuff for a couple of weeks. (I'll undoubtedly be putting in my two cents on the New England board about what I find in restaurants and markets.)

But before I go, just a quick, exceedingly brief comment:

Wow! Both the RTM and Headhouse were chock-a-block with the full range of gorgeous summer produce this past weekend. All that was missing was blackberries, and since peaches have appeared already, they won't be far behind. The apricots are juicy and luscious, the blueberries spicy, the tomatoes real (including heirlooms), the white corn sweet and corn-y. Doesn't matter whether you to to the RTM, Headhouse or any of the neighborhood farmers' markets, all are offering the best of summer. Indulge!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Raging Torrents of Summer Produce

To continue last week's metaphor, the flow of summer fruits and vegetables has become a raging torrent, based on this weekend's visits to the Reading Terminal Market and Headhouse Square.

Beets, one of my favorite roots, are plentiful and colorful. Over at the RTM, Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce finally has those deep red cylindrically-shaped beauties I so adore.It's one of the sweetest varieties you can find. He was selling then in quart boxes, sans leaves, for $2.50. Chiogga beats could be found at the Fair Food Farmstand. Lots of other beets were available at Headhouse, too. Most colorful were the "rainbow" beets at Northstar, $5 for a quart of the babies and $2.50/pound for larger versions.

I made my second batch of kosher garlic pickles this week, using fairly small kirbies found at Kauffman's, prined at $3.99/pound; O.K. Lee was selling larger but fresh, glistening local kirbies in 1-3/4 pound bags for the bargain price of 99-cents. I couldn't find samples as small at Headhouse, but there were still plenty of nice fresh kirbies, some priced as low as $2/pound (Weaver's Way, which featured slicing cukes at the same price). A variety labeled "Gherkin" could be found at Yoder and at least one other Headhouse vendor, but these aren't the kind of cucumbers you'd find a jar of midget sweet pickles. Instead, these are a very small and spiny variety also known as West Indian or Burr cucumbers. Seedy but great for eating raw, according to one of the vendors.

Local corn and sweet bell peppers are also making their appearance. Prices hover around 60 to 75 cents an ear right now. The green bell peppers at Buzby (Headhouse) were selling for a buck apiece. Eggplants, in all their wonderous variety, are also becoming plentiful. Buzby's big Jersey eggplants were priced at $1.50 each.

The tomatoes aren’t quite where they’ll be in a couple more weeks, but Iovine Brothers Produce (RTM) featured Jersey Ugli’s at $1.45. Kauffman’s red and yellow field tomatoes were fetching $3.99. Over at Headhouse, one vendor was selling heirlooms at about $4.50, iirc.

That's Some Spicy Blueberry!

Blueberries are in abundance right now, as are red and black raspberries. The raspberries were selling from $4.50 for a half pint, blues for $3.50/half-pint, $5.50/pint by the Wenks (Three Springs Fruit Farm) at Headhouse. The fat berries in the pint I brought home were pristine, fresh, sweet and deliriously spicy. Over at the RTM, Fair Food’s blues were going for $2.75/pint, Livengood’s for $3.95, Kauffman’s for $4.95 (or three pints for $12).

Raspberries do tend to be pricey, but they are lovely. Kauffman’s offered reds for $4 a half-pnt, blacks for $3. Fair Food’s purple berries sold for $3.75. Over at Headhouse Wenk's was charging $4.50 for a half-pint of black raspberries. Next week we might see the wineberry variety at Livengood’s, gathered by Sam Consylman. Blackberries should arrive in a couple of weeks, too (they usually appear at the same time as peaches; it’s no accident these two fruits make a great combination).

This week has got to be the peak of the cherry season. Beechwood Orchards (Headhouse) featured two varities of yellowish cherries, Napolean and Emporer Francis. The Napoleans I purchased were even sweeter than the dark sweet cherries; they are more apt to bruise, but don't let that stop you from enjoying these delicious stone fruits. All the sweet varieties at Beechwood were priced at $3.75/pint or $6.50/quart. Over at Wenk's dark cherries were $4/$6.

Sour pie cherries could be found at Livengood's, Kauffman's and Fair Food at the Reading Terminal Market, and Beechwood, Wenk's, and Northstar Orchards at Headhouse. Prices ranged from $4.50/quart at Beechwood and Fair Food to $6.95 at Kauffman’s. Northstar's Morellos were selling at $6.

'Cots, Peaches and Plums

Another stone fruit now starting to peak is the lovely, spicy apricot. Ben Kauffman had them at the RTM for $3.99/pound, while over at Headhouse they were featured at Wenk's ($4/pint) and Beechwood ($6.50/quart).

Peaches made their first appearance of the season at Headhouse. Noel Margerum selling Jersey whites and yellows at $3.75/quart (4 to 5 peaches). Yellows were $4/quart at Buoni Amici.

Another sure sign of summer, plums, could be found at Northstar (Early Golden and Jewels, $2/pound) and Buoni Amici (sugar plums, $3/pint, $5/quart).

Summer may just be underway, but signs of autumn could also be detected, even if one of them came from the other side of the equator. Locally, an early summer apple, Lodi, could be obtained from Wenk's for $1.49/pound; its highest use would be for sauce.

By no means local, but at Iovine's you could find lovely Abate Fetel pears from Argentina, a large, long-necked variety priced at 99-cents. Black figs from California were selling for $3.99 for a pack of about 10. Mexican red, black and green seedless grapes were being sold in bags for $1.99, each bag containing about 1-3/4 pounds.

Protein Report

On the protein side at the Reading Terminal Market, John Yi didn't have fresh mackerel, but offered salt mackerel at $2.50/pound. I've purchased, cooked and enjoyed pre-packaged filets from Shop Rite in the past; these were dressed (headed, gutted, de-finned) and, like the packaged item, require overnight soaking in several changes of cold water (try running the tap real low) before baking or sauteing. That takes out the salt, but the flesh remains nicely firm. If fresh fish is required, Alaskan sockeye filet was a bargain at $9.99, as was the Spanish mackerel at $1.99 (whole). Softshell crabs were $6 apiece.

Of course, it's really grilled meat season. Giunta's Prime Shop was selling their hearty, deeply-flavored rib eyes on the bone for $9.99 last week, as well as hanger steaks for $6.99 and flat irons for $7.99. Lamb breast ribs, one of my favorite summer grills, were $2.59, short ribs $4.59 (or five pounds for $19.95). Dinosaur beef ribs were $1.99.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trickle to rivulet to torrent

The trickle of summer fruits I wrote about before the summer solstice is turning into a rivulet. Soon we'll have a raging torrent.

Over at the Fairmount & 22nd Market today, Sam Stoltzfus offered black raspberries at $3.95/pint; Earl Livengood had his organic raspberries for a little bit more. Bill Weller was selling what may be the season's last strawberries, $4.50/quart, along with blueberries and dark, sweet cherries, the best I've had so far this season: big, plump with juice, flavor and sweetness. Livengood also had the first Lancaster County corn I've seen this season (not his own but from another Lancaster County farmer). The fourth vendor at Fairmount today was Versailles Bakery.

At last Sunday's Headhouse Square market, Culton Organics featured haricots vert, pricey at $7 but delectable looking. Sweet cherries at Beechwood Orchards were $6.50/quart or $3.75/pint, with blueberries at $4.50/$2.75 and strawberries $3.50/quart. Margerum's was selling blues for $3.50/pint, Buoni Amici for $3, with cherries priced at $5/quart or $3/pint. Every vendor's lettuces and greens looked inviting.

Over at the Reading Terminal Market, Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce offered sweet cherries (and a few sour pie cherries, too) at $3.95/pint. We should start to see more pie cherries this weekend; the pie cherry season is short, usually no more than two or three weeks. Ben also has red and yellow pear tomatoes ($3.95/pint) and sun golds ($4.95).

Those bargain limes at Iovine Brothers, which had been 10/$1, were 5/$1 last time I checked. Still less pricey than the lemons @3/$1.

The Fair Food Farmstand expects a planoply of fruits and veggies this weekend. Its weekly newsletter said they'll have pie cherries, red and yellow sweet cherries, red currants, gooseberries, red and black raspberries, blueberries, sweet corn, and Brandywine tomatoes among other goodies.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned the wild Alaskan king salmon selling at John Yi's for $22.95/pound. I should have waited a few days. Since early last week it's been $19.95. And for you shrimp 'n grits lovers out there, John Yi has some outrageously sized extra jumbos from the U.S. South Atlantic coast (that means South Carolina or Georgia, folks) for $22.99; they come in at four to six to a pound. Actually, these big shrimp look ideal for the grill. Now that spring is officially over, the price of mackeral surged a bit to $3.99 from $2.45-$2.99. Wild and farm-raised striped bass (the latter are actually a cross of striped bass and white bass) selling for an identicial $5.99 for whole fish; a very similar marine bass, farmed European Branzino, is $8.99.