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.