Friday, July 17, 2009

Fair Food Leaves White Dog
Hires Farmstand GM from DiBruno's

Fair Food, which began its farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market in 2003 as an arm of the White Dog Cafe Foundation, will be off on its own within a few weeks.

Ann Karlen, executive director, said the final paperwork for the planned spinoff will be signed today and sent to Harrisburg. The farm stand, the most visible aspect of Fair Food’s activities, will also get a general manager, who will work with farmstand manager Sarah Cain, paid staff and volunteers as the stand moves to its new digs at the market later this summer.

Seth Kalkstein, currently cheese manager at DiBruno’s Center City outpost, will begin his new job as general manager in two weeks.

Until its own paperwork as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization comes through, Fair Food will operate under White Dog's authority.

I spoke with Ann today as she was checking with contractors at the new farmstand location along the 12th Street side of the market, trying to figure out how to entice pedestrians walking by to see in through the large glass windows while still keeping the heat from the afternoon sun’s rays from wilting the produce.

Ann said a new eight-member board for Fair Food (currently governed by the board of White Dog’s Community Enterprises, the Cafe foundation’s successor) is in place. An ancillary goal will be to create a separate identify for Fair Food from White Dog, now that it will be an independent entity. A fund-raising consultant has been retained to assist the new board in getting up to speed, and a new logo and website will soon be unveiled. Ann said there’s no overlap with the existing White Dog Community Enterprises board.

Although new volunteers are always welcome, Ann said that, contrary to reports on another blog, there’s no need to expand the volunteer staff with the move to a larger space. Right now the Farmstand has 35 volunteers, whose scheduling and management is a big time-eater for Sarah. The Farmstand is hoping to acquire a volunteer from the VISTA program specifically to manage this task. In addition to the volunteers, the Farmstand has three full-time and three three-quarter time employees.

Because the new location has existing gas, electrical and ventilation connections from the previous tenant (Rick’s Steaks, in case you need reminding) Ann is considering adding a line of prepared foods for takeaway. Nothing formal has been proposed to market management which must approve a line extension beyond current Fair Food offerings, although they are aware of the possibility. And Ann want to maked sure any such expansion fits in with Fair Food’s mission. In any event, the farm stand will settle into its new space before considering ny big leaps.

Although the farm stand is the most evident public face of the Fair Food Project, it’s other activities include a restaurant progrm connecting area chefs with local farmers, participation in the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign, a Farmer Outreach Project to assist limited-resource farmers access wholesale markets, and Farm-To-Institution, aimed at connecting hospital, school and other institutional kitchens with local farms.

Local Corn at Iovine's

The local corn crop is in at Iovine Brothers Produce. The Reading Terminal Market vendor, which has ongoing relationships with local farms on both sides of the Delaware River, is featuring corn from Shady Brook Farm, Bucks County. The price is 3 ears for a buck.

Also local (South Jersey) at Iovine’s this week: blueberries, $2.99 pint, and peaches, 99-cents/pound. Watermelon (unsure of provenance) is $2.99 apiece for the big, oblong, melons with seeds, $3.99 for the smaller, round sugar babies.

L. Halteman’s also prices competitively for “homegrown” produce. Today I spied yellow and white peaches, $2.19; blueberries, $3.18 pint/$5.29 quart; sugar plums, $3.29/$5.29; cherry tomatoes, $1.99/pint; and 10-inch round watermelons, $4.99 each.

Benuel Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce’s peaches, yellow or white, were $2.69, though smaller-sized peaches were $1.99. Also at Ben’s: blueberries $4.95/pint, two for $9; cherry tomatoes, $3.50/pint, two for $6; heirloom tomaotes (they looked like Brandywines), $3.69/pound.

Fair Food Farmstand’s heiroloom tomatoes were no bargain at $7.50/pound. Although I’m no okra fan, the red and green varieties ($5/pound) looked good.
Also intriguing, large shallots, $7.50/pound, and Purple Verde tomatillos, $5/pound.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sweetest Cupcake in Town

Which Reading Terminal Market merchant makes the best pinup?

Gotta be Rebecca Michaels, proprietor of Flying Monkey Patisserie. Celeste Giuliano, the studio photographer responsible for this pinup, calls Rebecca “the Sweetest Cupcake In Town.” Where Rebecca specializes in cupcakes, Celeste’s forte is the cheesecake (and pinup). Here’s Celeste’s website.

Marion (Tootsie Iovine) D’Ambrosio, the owner of Tootsie’s Salad Express who did a fantastic Marilyn Monroe at the Reading Terminal Market Merchants’ Association shindig this spring, would be another fitting subject for Giuliano’s lens.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Today at Headhouse Square Farmer's Market

These eggplants (and a few artichokes) from Culton Organics was just the tip of the iceberg of produce (but not iceberg lettuce) at today's market. For more photos from today, click on the link below, which will bring you to the photo gallery at my beta site:

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I’ve yet to taste a tomato at from local farmer’s markets or the Reading Terminal Market that truly taste of summer, but we’re getting close. Benuel Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce featured these cherry tomatoes at the RTM today.

Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying BLTs this week, including one using the last of my unfrozen lamb bacon (the other side resides in the freezer). The best of what I’ve had so far has come from Livengood’s, though it was from a neighbor’s crop: they sold out by 10:30 a.m. of their own tomatoes.

Kauffman’s cherry tomatoes were selling for $3.50 a half-pint, $6 a pint. Also featured were red raspberries, $4/pint; apricots, $2; peaches, $1.99/pound, green peppers, $1.99/pound;, and corn, 50-cents/ear.

The green peppers were even less expensive at Fair Food, $1.25. A.T. Buzby’s cantaloupes were $3.75 apiece, heirloom tomatoes $750, cherry tomatoes $5.50/pint. Three varieties of string beans could be had: green at $3/pound, wax at $4, and burgundy at $5.75. Livengood’s organic stringbeans were $3.95/pound.

Iovine Brothers priced California peaches at the same price as Ben Kauffman’s locals, $1.99/pound. Pacific Northwest cherries (the local season is, for all practicsal purposes, over) were $2.99 for a two-pound bag and $3.99 for a three-pound clamshell. Limes remain a value at a dime apiece. Bell pepper survey: green 99-cents, red $1.99, yellow $3.49, orange $3.99. Frying peppers were $1.49, long hots 99-cents. Jersey blueberries, $1.99/pint.

L. Halteman’s field tomatoes were $3.19/pound, two pounds for $5.59. Corn 60-cents an ear, or $1.49 for three or $2.89 a half dozen. Small cantaloupes were 99 cents apiece.

Ice Cream Festival

Iovine’s and Bassett’s are combining forces for a new ice cream flavor in conjunction with the RTM’s July 18 Ice Cream Festival. It will be a berry-flavored ice cream using fruit from Iovine’s contract grower, Bucks County’s Shady Brook Farm.

Market Twitters . . . Me, Too

The Reading Terminal Market is now on Twitter. Find them at RdgTerminalMarket (case required).

If the RTM can do, so can I. I’m at

Market Shutterbug

Larry Laszlo, the Denver-based photographer whose shoots of public markets around the world adorn the RTM’s wall along 8th Avenue near Avenue D, was snapping at the market again today. He delivered some photos of additional markets he’s visited; they should be on display sometime next week. Larry’s website can be found

Market Streets

All of the street signs for market intersections are up, save one. Letter avenues run A to D between Arch and Filbert, numbered avenues 2 to 12 east-west from 12th to the loading alley.

Man vs. Food

Adam Richman, of Travel Channel’s “Man Vs. Food” and production crew visited DiNic’s at the Reading Terminal Market this morning as part of a program tenatively scheduled for mid-September. Pictured here are ace prep man Jun, Joe Nicolosi, and Adam.

But Richman wasn’t there to see how many roast pork sandwiches he could down. He’s probably still recovering from the challenge taped yesterday at Tony Luke’s where the glutton star consumed a five-pound cheesesteak. DiNic’s will be among the Philadelphia foodie landmarks featured in the pre-challenge part of the program. Richman and crew also stopped by Miller’s Twists for pretzels.

The RTM and DiNic’s was also in media focus Wednesday when DJ Helen Leicht broadcast her midday WXPN shift live from the Market while local singer-songwriter Andrew Lipke performed in Center Court. It was the first of three “Local Music Wednesdays” to be broadcast from the market this summer (the others are scheduled for Aug. 5 and 19). Helen interviewed Tommy Nicolosi, proprietor of DiNic’s, which was immediatley followed by a cover of a song from The Who’s rock opera Tommy.

Three Strikes for Fair Food Freezer

The Fair Food Farmstand has given up the ghost on its meat freezer. Over the last year or so, it’s broken down three times, with some or all of the meat lost. When it was found by staffers at a “balmy 60 degrees” last Tuesday morning, with all the meat lost, Fair Food management pulled the plug. So, at least for a few weeks, there won’t be any meat products for sale.

There are no plans to put in a new case at the current location: that will wait until the Farmstand moves to its new digs later this summer along Avenue A. Sarah Cain, Farmstand manager, says they might use the planned backup chest freezer at the current stand, but that’s at least a couple weeks away.

In the meantime, the concrete has got about another week to “cure” before more on-site construction can be undertaken at the new stand, though off-site work is progressing on shelving and other appurtenances.

S&B Meats/Barb & Suzy’s Kitchen is making progress on their future stall on Avenue B and 8th Avenue. It’s been painted and much of the shelving is up.

Construction will start soon on the twin renovations of Lancaster County Dairy and Old City Coffee’s stall along 12th Avenue between Avenues B and C. The work will make Old City’s “temporary” second stand permanent.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Plethora of Plums

Beechwood Orchards featured three varieties of plums today at the South & Passyunk Farmer’s Market. Dave was kind enough, since it was slow, to mix them and a couple apricots in the same pint for me. Price for all is $3.50/pint.

Sam Consylman brought his copy of Lost Crops of the Incas from National Academies Press to Earl Livengood’s stand today. That was so he could show his regular customers the section and photos of Oca, a crop he’s growing this fall. This tuber-like root veggie is slow to grow and won’t be ready for harvest until November. They can be treated like potatoes or, when particularly sweet (which can be enhanced by sun-drying) like a fruit. Although Andean in origin, it’s grown commercially in New Zealand.

Hurry up to get those sour cherries. Only Beechwood had them today, as the season draws near to its close. There might be some this weekend at farmers’ markets. No sweet cherries today at South Street. Is this the end of that season?

It’s not a good idea to go food shopping when you’re hungry. So for the second time in abut a month, I dined al fresco at S&B Kabob House, right across from Rineer’s stand at the market. Had a plain but refreshing “Turnksh” salad, your basic tomato, sweet pepper, cucumber, onion salad topped with feta shreds. Immediately after the salad I ran into Il Professore Andrew Fenton at the market, where he had me salivating with tales of all the fresh shrimp he cooked during a recent visit to his in-laws on Tybee Island on the Georgia coast. He found a small carton of zucchini blossoms with his name on it at Rineer’s.

Monday, July 06, 2009

New Vendor Signed
Two Other Stalls Under Construction

The pace of activity is up a couple of notches as work begins on two new stalls. A third vendor, new to the Reading Terminal Market, and management have made their deal official.

The third vendor will be Beck's Cajun Cafe, which will occupy the space formerly held down by Everyday Gourmet and, before that, Andros, across from Tootsie's Salad Express (Avenue C between 8th and 9th streets on the market PDF map). It will be operated by the former owner of the Pompano Grill. I can't wait for the beignets. Nowhere at the RTM can you find fresh, hot donuts, except during during Pennslvania Dutch Festival. Construction has yet to start, but Michael Klein reports owner Bill Beck is aiming to open by Labor Day.

Initial construction started a few weeks ago on the combined Amish butcher/hot sausage stand (S&B Meats, Barb & Suzy's Kitchen) next to the Cajun Cafe, formerly occupied by Dutch Country Meats. (Find it on the market PDF map at Avenue B between 9th and 10th streets.) The tempo of construction seems to have slowed at the moment.

The Fair Food Farmstand is going full speed head on its relocated space on the 12th Street aisle (Avenue A between 8th and 10th). Photos of the cement laying today below, as well as supervision by sidewalk superintendents:

Apples, Cantaloupes Debut at Headhouse

Two new vendors appeared at Headhouse yesterday, Twisted Lemonade (very sweet, according to one taster) and Ric's Bread.

I limited my purchases to one very dear tomato ($3 from Tom Culton, $5/pound) and a pint of cherries from Three Springs Fruit Farm ($4). Blooming Glen's heirlooms were also $5/pound.

Three Springs also featured the first apples of the 2009 season, the very early Lodi variety. The apple hails from Lodi, N.Y., was developed in 1911 and went commercial in 1924. It's tart with just a touch of sweetness and is reputed to be a good cooking apple. A box of about a dozen was priced at $8.

Another fruit made its first appearance Sunday: the cantaloupe. A.T. Buzby was selling these Jersey melons for $4.50 apiece. (I guess Buzby doesn't like to weigh produce; just about everything they sell is priced by the piece, not the pound.)

Tom Culton, whose offerings last week included orange cauliflower, had purple heads this week, along with small artichokes, green and yellow stringbeans and the tomatoes. He also had nectarines, priced at $5 a box which appeared to contain 9-10 medium sized fruits each.

Three Springs' berry offerings included blues ($3.50/pint, $5.25/quart), red and black raspberries ($4 for a half-pint), sweet red cherries ($4/pint), sour cherries ($6 for a quart, $9 for two quarts, and $3/quart when you buy four or more. Over at Yoder's Heirlooms, blues were $5 and $8.

Beechwood Orchard's apricots were priced at $3.50/$6.50. Plums and sweet cherries were $3.50/pint, sour cherries $4.50/quart, blues $4/pint, raspberries (all colors) $4 a half-pint, and peaches $4/quart.
Corn, Tomatoes and Steak

What’s a summer grilled meal without corn. At the Reading Terminal Market Friday both Earl Livengood and Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce featured ears for Independence Day celebrations, 4/$2.50 at the former, 4/$2 at the latter. Benuel labelled his corn as Honey Pearl, a bi-color early hybrid. Ben also had quart boxes of those wonderful cylindrical beets, which are among the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. And he still had small kirbies, maybe three inches long, which make perfect pickles; without slicing it only took two days to turn these beauties into classic Jewish sour pickles, using only salt, water, coriander seeds and garlic. Ben priced them at $3.99/pound.

At Headhouse last Sunday I tried a couple of tomatoes from Blooming Glen. They were started in the cold frame and, though better than winter tomatoes, can’t compare to those we’ll see soon. Blooming Glen expects some heirlooms to come in this Sunday (Earl Livengood had a few today at the RTM.)

in addition to the pie cherries, Beechwood featured sweet red cherries and theblush/yellow-colored Emperor Francis, both for $3.50/pint, $6.50/quart. A small box of apricots when combined with some sour cherries, both from Beechwood, made a fine sorbet last night.

Eggplants are coming into season. Sunday at Headhouse A.T. Buzby was selling good-looking specimens for $1.50 apiece.

Tom Culton’s harvest of all types of produce is almost more than he can handle. Last Sunday he doubled his table space at Headhouse to handle it all.

Back at the Reading Terminal, the steaks were flying from the meat cases as grillers selected their favored beef cuts at the market today. I went for a well-marbled strip steak from Giunta’s Prime Shop, $9.99/pound, for a chance of pace from my normal rib steak. For She Who Must Be Obeyed there’s a filet mignon in the fridge.

In New England salmon is a Fourth of July tradition, especially when served with small red new potatoes. John Yi’s still hs Copper River salmon currently priced at $20.00/pound; one of the fishmongers there claims it’s king (chinook), but since a total of only 8,500 Copper River kings were harvested this season and the harvest was 98 percent complete by June 26 (only 108 were landed during the June 25 fishing hours), I still find it difficult to believe the fish are anything other than the much more common sockeye, whicy is also a tasty fish. Yi also had Alaskan salmon of unknown provenance selling for $13.99. Organic king salmon (which means it’s farm raised, probably in British Columbia) was $15.99. Also in the fish case was black cod (sablefish) at $12.99.

Sour cherries for pies and other baked goods are still available, but dear as always. At Halteman’s they were $5.75/quart, which was considerably more than the $9 I paid for two quarts last Sunday at Headhouse (Beechwood Orchards). Their sweet cherries were $2.99/pint and $4.99/quart (down from last week’s $3.49/$5.99), while Livengood’s was selling their sweet reds for $3.50/$6. The cheapest sweet cherries I found were West Coast Bings from Iovine Brothers, 59-cents a pound.

You can make a lot of gin and tonics based on Iovine’s price for limes this week: a dime apiece. Lemons, however, are still 3/$1, and are showing green on the ends. Frying peppers, a bargain a few weeks ago, are back to their normal 99-cents; red and green peppers are the same price. Pineapples continue to be a featured item, $1 for either a whole pineapple or an alread-trimmed one.

Peaches made an early apperance at Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce. This early variety, pictured here with hothouse tomatoes, apricots, blueberries and some sour cherries, seemed a bit too hard, but mahybe a day or two in a paper bag will ripen them up, though they certainly looked good. Still, I’ll wait a few weeks more before indulging in peaches. Here’s a photo:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Corn Arrives

Expect to see fresh corn at the local markets this weekend. Earl Livengood had Lancaster County ears (not his) at South Street Tuesday.

The Food Trusts' markets, including Clark Park and Headhouse, will be open on Independence Day.

Last week I picked up two quarts of pie cherries at Headhouse. Used them in pan dowdies (basically apple pie, just made in a small casserole and topped with pie crust) and ice cream. Both were delicious. For tonight I combined some of the cherries with half a dozen apricots purchsed from Beechwood Orchards; they'll become sorbet for dessert.