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.