Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yoder, Culton Join Forces

Matt Yoder, who after a couple seasons at the the Headhouse Square market tried Maine last season, is back in Pennsylvania. Starting next season he'll be growing alongside Tom Culton and they'll be marketing their products together, both at farmers' markets and to the trade. I particularly liked Matt's cowbeans (black eyed peas) which he sold fresh, not dried; made a tasty succotash with fresh corn in late summer.

Matt was at the market today (that's him in the plaid shirt in the top photo) helping Tom (far left) sell winter squash, black walnuts, various cauliflowers (including romanesco), beets, jerusalem artichokes and salsify.

Culton had plenty of exceedingly large winter squash, just in time for Thanksgiving, like the über squash in the photo on the right. He also had gigantic beets, pictured below with salsify that is much thicker than what I've seen before. The big beets are known as Mangle beets, and predominantly used for animal feed. But no reason why you can't eat them. Because of their size, I'd think they'd be great for grating and turning into rosti, which is basically latke made form beets. Instead, I purchased smaller cylindrical beets from Tom, which I'll compose into a salad with his shelled black walnuts (I tasted a few when I got home and they have a deep, walnut flavor) and some chevre from Patches of Star; I'll make a vinaigrette with some raspberry shrub to dress it.

Headhouse Thrives In Late Autumn

About 20 vendors are expected to continue to sell at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market on Sundays until Christmas, according to Katie Wich, who manages the market for the Food Trust.

Vendors expected through the fall include Young's Garden for plants and flowers, Wildflour bakery, Joe's Coffee and Market Canele, Birchrun Hills Farm cheeses and meats, Talula's Table for charcuterie, Mountain View poultry and dairy, Patches of Star goat dairy products, Queens Farm produce, Three Springs Fruit Farm orchard fruit, Savoie produce, Rics Bread, Garces Trading Company, Blooming Glen Farm produce, Weavers Way produce, Culton Organics produce, John & Kira Chocolates, Beechwood Orchards, Love Bar, Taco de Pueblo Mexican food, Renaissance Sausage food truck, North Star Orchards (tree fruit and other produce), Margerum's (produce, preserves). 

Griggstown Quail Farm was at the market today, but it might be their last showing until next year. In the meantime, many of their products are available at the Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Here's that pile of Maryland collard greens piled high at Iovine Brothers Produce, Reading Terminal Market. 99-cents  pound.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Some Pa. Dutch Add Days at Market

A few of the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants at the Reading Terminal Market have increased the number of days they are at the market beyond the Wednesday-to-Saturday schedule that seems to have gone on forever.

It started with Moses Smucker proprietor of Smuckers Quality Meats and The Grill at Smuckers, who opens on Tuesdays. More recently, Hatville Deli and L. Halteman have added Tuesday hours. Roger Miller, proprietor of Miller's Twist, plans to go to a Monday-Saturday operation starting Jan. 3, although he won't be open for breakfast on the additional days.

Miller said the forthcoming opening of the Convention Center expansion prompted him to expand the schedule.

Smucker's move to Tuesday demonstrated to other Mennonite merchants that there are profits to be reaped on that day of the week.

Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager, said he's been told that another reason is the desire on the part of at least one Amish merchant to provide additional employment opportunity for his community, which has felt the recession just like the rest of us.

Could this be a start of a new trend, as a younger generation of Pennsylvania Dutch merchants make their presence felt at the market?
Take-away at the Diner
 Cheese Steaks, Too

With his recent rehab of the Down Home Diner, Jack McDavid may have cut back slightly on his seating. But he probably created more business opportunity by carving out a take-away counter along the Reading Terminal Market's "Second Street" aisle.

In addition to sandwiches, salads and everything else on the diner's menu, McDavid added cheese steak to his offerings. I tried it last Monday. Although a disappointment, it shows potential, so I'll try it again in a few weeks.

The meat was quite different from the standard rib eye most steakeries serve. Although I didn't ask, it appeared to be a flank steak, which is all to the good. Unfortunately, it was considerably overcooked to the point of dryness. But the meat had excellent flavor, with a lot more beefiness than other cheese steaks I've consumed.

It's got the potential to be right up their with my favorite steak sandwich. That was at Syd's, now closed, in Union, N.J. It didn't pretend to be a Philly cheese steak. As I recall, it was skirt steak char broiled and served with garlic-infused cooked onions on an Italian roll with a bit more crusty bite than the typical hoagie roll. Basically, it was a Jewish Romanian steak on a bun.
Guacamole Season

I know we're in the heart of the gridiron season when Iovine Brothers' Produce features good prices on both limes and avocados. The avocados come from the Dominican Republic, the limes from Mexico.

Iovine's manager Charlie Gangloff was marvelling at the amount of collard greens they sell. During the week before and week of Thanksgiving last year they sold 90 cases, at 20-25 pounds per case. And that's not even counting the kale or mustard green. The collards mostly come from Richardson's Farm in Maryland, located about 15 miles northeast of Baltimore, and Gangloff said greens buyers love them because the stems are relatively small.

Iovine's also reports that California produce is becoming pricier; Charlie isn't sure they'll be able to hold the $1.99/pound price on green beans, a Turkey Day fav. He suggests considering asparagus. The produce guy was also gushing about the excellence of the honeydew melons; the canteloupes are good, too, he said, but very pricey. So the pre-mixed fruit containers sold in Iovine's refrigerator case is low in lopes, high in dews.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Irish Pub for Iovine's at Terminal

An Irish pub in the Reading Terminal Market? Owned by two guys whose names end in vowels?

Sure, why not? Especially when they're half-Irish.

Jim and Vin Iovine, proprietors of Iovine Brothers Produce, plan to take over the Beer Garden from Anthony Novelli, now in his early 80s, once their license comes through. They'll use their mom's maiden name for the establishment: Molly Molloy's. (Not Molly Maguire's, as reported by Michael Klein.)

They are particularly looking forward to obtaining a variance which will allow you buy beer and then carry it off to Center Court to enjoy with your lunch or snack from any of the market vendors. Right now. consumption is limited to "on premises," which means within the confines of the Beer Garden.

Jim Iovine said they plan a 20-tap bar featuring craft beers, as well as a big bottle selection. Under Novelli, the Beer Garden has pretty much stuck to the products of the big brewers. (And don't tell me Boston Brewing, i.e., Sam Adams, is not a big brewer; Boston is now the largest brewery in the U.S. under domestic ownership.) They'll have a full liquor license, so it won't be just beer. An expert mixlogist will be on staff for the cocktail-inclined, and the wine selection will be upgraded.

Getting the variance to allow consumption of beer elsewhere in the Reading Terminal Market is worth more to them than being open late into the evening, which isn't in the cards. Jim figures he can sell a lot more beer that way than through extended hours. Especially during Flower Show week when horticulturally-handicapped hubbies head to the terminal for a gustatory respite.

Iovine said while they would like to be open when the auto show opens in late January, early February may be a more realistic timeframe.

And although you'll be able to take your beer to Center Court if all goes as planned, the Iovines hope to entice you to stay with a new kitchen, under the culinary guidance of Bobby Fisher who cooked for the Iovines when they provided the food service at the Bala Golf Club.

Even with the addition of a kitchen, the Beer Garden will feature additional seating. The RTM has granted them permission to expand by taking over what is now public seating space behind the Beer Garden. The expansion will complement the market's redesign of Avenue D to provide modernized and expanded rest rooms as well as additional leaseable space.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Elizabeth Halen, the new proprietor of Flying Monkey Patisserie at the Reading Terminal Market, has been getting plenty of ink (and electronic coverage) with her Pumpple Cake, including Monday on the fourth hour of the Today Show. The combination of pumpkin cake and appie pie sells for $8 a slice (though one slice can serve three).

A bit more manageable are Elizabeth's pumpkin Whoopie pies. It's a simple treat: buttercream filling in a hamburger-sized pumpkin cake bun. The cake is gently spiced and the buttercream rich but not overwhelming. At $2.50 apiece, a delightful splurge. And a tad less caloric than Elizabeth's Pumple Cake or Elvis Cake (banana-flavored butter cake, chocolate chips, peanut butter buttercream).

I saw lots of chocolate Whoopie pies during my recent trip to Maine where they are as much a part of the culinary landscape as lobsters.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What were they thinking?

Go to the Reading Terminal Market's website and you'll find the market's logo proclaiming "Fresh & Local Every Day". The same phrase appears in many of the market's promotions and advertisements as it positions itself as the region's premier source of local foods.

So what was the market thinking allowing agro-industry giant General Mills to promote its Green Giant line of frozen produce at today's Harvest Festival? Green Giant even emblazoned its stall with the catchphrase "As Nutritious As Fresh!" (photo) directly across the hay-strewn asphalt of Harry Ochs Way (Filbert Street) from Iovine Brothers Produce's Harvest Festival display.

The RTM's general manager, Paul Steinke, was not available to provide an explanation. He was in Milan participating in this year's Terra Madre, the annual international event dedicated to local, fresh, sustainable artisinal foods sponsored by Slow Food International. That explanatory task was left to Sarah Levitsky, the RTM's marketing coordinator.

Basically, it was for the money. The Green Giant division approached the market looking for an opportunity to do an educational promotion extolling the nutritional value of its frozen vegetables. Although Levitsky didn't volunteer the dollar value she indicated that the fee helped underwrite the market's costs in staging the festival.

Now, I don't question the value and nutrition of frozen vegetables. Petite peas, for example, are a staple in my freezer. (BTW, canned petite peas were one of Green Giant's big hits in the early 20th century, when it was still the independent Minnesota Valley Canning Company based in LeSeur, Minnesota. The company was acquired by Pillsbury in 1979, which itself was gobbled up by General Mills in 2001.)

But if the market is going to promote itself as the year-round source of "Fresh & Local" foods, succumbing to General Mills' cash was regrettable. Especially so in light of the market's proposed acquisition of Farm to City, one of the region's major sponsors of farmers' markets.

One can't help but wonder what Fair Food, Iovine Brothers, O.K. Lee, L. Halteman Family, or Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce (all of which sell local produce) thought of the promotion. Even if they gave their assent, it just had to be grudgingly.

Urban Farmers

With Charlie Gangloff at the wheel and Billy Moehollen on bullhorn, visitors take a tour de marché during today's Harvest Festival at the Reading Terminal Market.

The hayrides around the block were arranged by Iovine Brother's Produce (Charlie and Billy are both managers there) using a spare Ford-New Holland tractor from Shady Brook Farm in Bucks County, one of Iovine's contract suppliers of local produce.

Harry Ochs Way, a.k.a. Filbert Street, was closed off to street traffic and spread with hay. At least half a dozen RTM merchants set up outdoor shop for the day. I sampled cinnamon doughnuts hot from the fryer featured at Bieler's stand. I left too early to get some meat off Jack McDavid's Down Home Diner portable barbeque truck. One of the funniest offerings was the "Harvest Platter" offered by one of the Chinese food vendors: skewered chicken, rice? Delicious, I'm sure, but not one of the first foods I conjure up when thinking "harvest" with hay at my feet.

Cactus Pears

O.K. Lee had some gorgeous cactus pears today at a bargain two for a buck. I've used them for sorbet, and also in margaritas, though I'd imagine they would work in other cocktails, including mojitos. The color of the juice is intense, making any beverage made from it a great showpiece. Four fruits should yield about a cup of juice.

You can find an illustrated guide to peeling and prepping these beauties (not at all hard) here.

Quick thought for another use: make a sugar syrup with it and drizzle atop vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Brief Vacation

Nothing demarcates the seasons quite as much travelling afar and returning home.

After a sojourn to the rocky coast of Down East Maine for much of the first half of October, I returned to Philadelphia this past week. At both the Reading Terminal Market Friday and the Headhouse Square farmers' market today I was innundated by the foods (and colors, like those of Margerum's preserves at Headhouse) or fall produce. Herewith, some photos and thoughts.

Brassicas, Brassicas, Brassicas

Autumn is prime time for cruciferious vegetables, which get their name from a resemblance, somewhere in their visible anatomical structure, to a cross. Most of the cruciferous veggies we see in the markets are brassicas (the few that aren't brassicas include wasabi, horseradish, radishes, arugula and the various cresses).

Broccoli and cauliflower, whatever the color, as well as the pointy romanesco, are all variations of brassica oleracea. These specimens were found at Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce at the Reading Terminal Market Friday.

Kale and collards (though not the chard in the foreground) are also cruciferous veggies. These could be purchased today at the North Star stall at the Headhouse market.

Cabbages galore at Iovine Brother's Produce Friday at the RTM. The plain green cabbage, at left, was selling for 50 cents a pound while the red and savoy were priced at 69 cents. All were from local farms in South Jersey.

Peppers Are Better In October

I think of peppers as a summer vegetable, even if they are, like tomatoes, technically fruits. Yet, the peppers I've tasted both in Maine and since returning are sweeter and more flavorful than those I sampled in August and September. Maybe it's those extra days in the sun.  The green frying peppers (left) and red varities pictured above at Iovine's all hail from South Jersey farms.

These peppers (as well as eggplants and tomatoes) filled the Three Springs Fruit Farm stall at Headhouse, along with lots of apples. Farmer Ben Wenk thinks the cooler weather of fall may cut down on the rate of water absorption by produce, making them sweeter ans more intense. He thinks its definitely true of the peaches, and probably for the eggplant and peppers as well.

That may have been the reason why the plum tomatoes I purchased at the Bar Harbor farmers' market two weeks were the best I've had all year: the naturally cooler climate of Maine coupled with long days of sun. Those tomatoes made the best pasta sauce I've prepared all season long.

Roots: Beets and Carrots

Weaver's Way, with some floral help, provided a colorful display of carrots and beets today at Headhouse. The carrots I bought at Bar Harbor also seemed particularly sweet and flavorful, again, perhaps due to the cooler climate and longer days of sunlight in more northerly climes.

Another Fall Veggie Standout

Blooming Glen Farm displayed these tender stalks of flavorful today, and I was quick up a bunch, both for the leaves and the ribs. I can't think of making tuna salad without copious amount of finely diced celery rib with added leaves. But tonight I may braise some stalks to accompany grilled chicken. Celery is a vegetable we don't usually think of cooking with, other than in soups or stews, but it's superb as a standalone side dish.

Quince: The Original Marmalade

The things you learn on Wikipedia! Quince (here displayed in the case at Beechwood Orchard's stall at Headhouse) is called Marmelo in Portoguese, hence, the jam made from it was called marmalade. Quince is a great addition to apple pies, providing even more pectin as well as a slightly different type of tartness. Quince marmalade is a traditional accompaniment to sharp cheeses.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thirty Years of Amish at RTM

The Amish haven't always been at the Reading Terminal Market, though it might seem that way. They've certainly been there since I started shopping there in 1982. In fact, they only arrived two years prior.

How the Amish set up shop underneath the Reading Railroad's hub was retold by Steve Algott at today's market event commemorating the 30th anniversary of Amish merchants at the Reading Terminal Market. Algott was assigned the task of managing the property when the Reading Company's real estate arm reasserted control with the ending of the master lease held by Center City landlord Sam Rappaport.

One of Algott's first moves was to evict eight of the remaining 18 tenants whose businesses didn't fit the Reading Company's vision for the space under the tracks. Among the remaining tenants whose businesses are still active are Pearl's Oyster Bar, Harry Ochs, Bassetts, Halteman's, John Yi and Godshall's.

Algott found Amish tenants to occupy the northwest corner of the market, where most of the evicted tenants were located, at Booth's Corner Market, a conglomeration of Amish merchants in Chester County that's been around for 80 years. On the spot he met with Sam Fisher who agreed to bring his and other businesses to the Reading Terminal on a handshake deal.

As Algott tells the story, he immediately told Fisher he'd return to the city and draw up the lease papers. To which Fisher responded Algott would have to rely on the handshake: the Amish wouldn't sign leases. Algott went back to his Reading Company superiors with his "good news" (I've got tenants) and "bad news" (they won't sign a lease). But the Reading Company took the chance, and the Amish came, bringing their familes to start businesses in downtown Philadelphia. The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to Algott, other speakers at the noontime ceremony in the seating area behind Miller's Twist's pretzel stand included David Esh, one of the first Amish tenants and operator of Hatfield Deli. Among the original Pennsylvania Dutch who remain are Dienner's Bar-B-Q, Sweet as Fudge Candy Shoppe (formerly Fisher's), and Esh.

Also in attendance were Steve Park, the first general manager of the RTM for the Reading Company, and his successor, David K. O'Neill, under whose tenure the market attracted scores of additional vendors and undertook the modernization program concurrent with the building of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

To O'Neil, the presence of the Amish reflect one of the keys to a market's success: a gathering place where people can come together.
Bringing Ice Cream To China

You have have noticed some new flavors at Bassetts Ice Cream stall in the Reading Terminal Market, including Mango, Green Tea and Macadamia Nut.

Those flavors, which sell respectably in Philadelphia, are big hits in China, where Bassetts has sold its ice cream for the past two years. Michael Strange, proprietor of Bassetts, says he's shipped hundreds of tons since starting in May 2008.

The 40-foot containers are trucked to Port Newark-Elizabeth on a regular basis for export from Bassett's contract plant near Johnstown, Galliker Dairy Co. The ice cream is distributed in the Beijing area.

Strange said he had had inquiries in the past to sell abroad, but the deals always fell apart. The Chinese deal, however, has taken off like hotcakes, er, ice cream on a summer day

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


White House Photo/Pete Souza

President Barack Obama fit in a quick, under 15-minute visit to the Reading Terminal Market Monday, including a meet and greet with Golden Bowl owner Sun Mun, who was snapped with him by stall worker Kwok Wong.

Steinke, who usually takes off on Mondays after working weekends, got the call from his office at about 3:50 p.m. that the President would be making the stop before his fund-raising appearance on behalf of Senate candidate Joe Sestak. Steinke quickly donned his suit and rushed in from his West Philly abode, just in time for the photo at right (courtesy of Bassetts Ice Cream) with Obama and, at right, Steve Safron of Hershel's East Side Deli.

In his 4:30-4:45 p.m. visit, the President grabbed an ice cream cone at Bassetts (mint chocolate chip), a cheese steak at Carmen's and four apples from the Fair Food Farmstand, all along the market's Avenue A, the aisle closest to 12th Street. The Secret Service narrowed the President's visit to that small area of the market to provide better security.

Although market personnel weren't alerted to the visit until about 45 minutes beforehand, Secret Service and White House staff had been casing the RTM the previous week, so the stop was no spur-of-the-moment cheese steak fix.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blogger Will Bake for $$$

Elizabeth Halen, who's been blogging about baking and other food topics over at Foodaphilia, can't resist the urge to turn avocation to vocation. So she's bought the Reading Terminal Market outpost of Flying Monkey Patisserie.

The seller, Flying Monkey founder Rebecca Michaels, plans to continue to operate the cupcakerie at 1112 Locust St.

Halen doesn't officially take over until Oct. 1, but she can frequently be found at the center court stall now. She plans to expand beyond the cupcakes, brownies and bar cookies in the current offerings. You might want to check out the recipe list on her blog to get an idea of the possibilities.

Monday, August 30, 2010

RTM Acquiring Farmers' Markets Operator

Farm to City, which operates more than a dozen farmers’ markets in Philadelphia and its suburbs, plans a return to its roots at the Reading Terminal Market.

Farm to City's history with the RTM goes back to 1992 after Bob Pierson and a couple of friends started one of the city’s first contemporary farmers’ markets at South and Passyunk, a market which still flourishes under the auspices of Farm to City. That same year Duane Perry, then executive director of the Reading Terminal Market Merchants’ Association, hired Pierson to develop neighborhood markets for its newly-formed Reading Terminal Market Farmers’ Market Trust, which later evolved into today’s The Food Trust. Pierson left The Food Trust in 2002 to begin Farm to City.

If the negotiations are concluded successfully Pierson and the rest of his small staff will become employees of the Reading Terminal Market. The planned reconfiguration of vendor and office space at the RTM includes accommodations for Farm to City staff.

Both Pierson and Paul Steinke, general manager of the RTM, see two primary benefits to the merger: co-branding and funding. It would also provide a stable base under the wings of a larger organization for the farmers' markets.

“It's a co-branding that's attractive to Farm to City, aligning us with a well-known Philadelphia icon, a landmark known for its food. And the Reading Terminal Market is a non-profit corporation which would allow us to extend some of our programming by seeking and receiving grants,” said Pierson. Because Farm To City is structured as a for-profit limited liability company it does not benefit from foundation largesse.

“The acquisition of Farm to City by RTM is good match,” said Mike Holahan, president of the Reading Terminal Market Association. “We share similar values as to the importance of nurturing the local food system. But as in all mergers the devil is in the details.”

Those details include making sure the farmers’ markets continue to limit their vendor list to farmers and food producers, not middlemen. That’s the main concern of Jimmy Iovine of Iovine Brothers’ Produce, who otherwise is supportive of the acquisition. He sees the merger as contributing to public perception of the Reading Terminal Market as a great place to shop, which can only lead to more volume for his greengrocer’s business. Another purveyor, butcher Charles Giunta, expressed concern that by expanding outward the market would lose focus on growing the business of existing merchants.

Steinke sees an acquisition of Farm to City as a way to protect and build the market's existing business because it would “attach the Reading Terminal Market brand to the grower movement.”

Even though the RTM is technically a public market, not a farmers’ market, “most people think of us as a farmers’ market already, as a showcase for local food,” Steinke said. The RTM is one of the few public markets without an associated farmers’ market, he said. Among the public markets with farmers’ markets are Cincinnati’s Findlay Market, Milwaukee Public Market, North Market in Columbus, Ohio, Capital Market in Charlestown, West Virgiia, and Pike Place in Seattle.

Steinke said Farm to City’s markets in Philadelphia’s urban and suburban neighborhoods will be branded as an arm of the Reading Terminal, much like the Pike Place Express farmers markets in Seattle.

James Haydu, Pike Place’s Director of Communictions, said the two Seattle satellite markets were organized last year to provide additional selling opportunities for about a dozen farmers who sell at the main market once a week.

“We created Pike Place Express to offer our farmers another venue to sell. While Pike Place is located in the city’s downtown people may not have time to walk down here during lunch. We wanted to give them an opportunity to buy closer to where they are,” Haydu said. “By affording farmers additional venues, it creates a domino effect that’s good for the agricultural economy in the state of Washington.”

Steinke said that until a few years ago “farmers’ markets pretty much weren’t on the radar, but we’ve seen growth in markets like Headhouse. Acquiring Farm to City creates a ready-made pipeline to the farming community for us.”  When the market carves out additional vendor space through its proposed reconfiguration of Avenue D along the east side of the RTM, Steinke plans to take advantage of that pipeline.

Farm to City’s neighborhood markets, winter market and community supported agriculture (CSA) program “complement the products we have at the Reading Terminal Market” Steinke said.

The merger had its genesis this past spring when, in an attempt to replace the departing Livengood Family Farm Saturday stall and secure its reputation as a mecca for locally-produced foods, the Reading Terminal Market asked Pierson to organize an outdoor farmers' market across the street.

The results of that collaboration – a Saturday farmers’ market opposite the RTM on 12th Street – fizzled but it led to the current merger path. Steinke credited the idea of an RTM acquisition of Farm to City to Ann Karlen, executive director of Fair Food, which operates a stall at the market selling products from dozens of regional farmers.

According to its web site, farmers markets operated this season by Farm To City are located at Rittenhouse Square, South & Passyunk, Fountain Square in South Philly, Mount Airy, 36th & Walnut, Love Park, Girard & 27th, Oakmont in Havertown, Suburban Station, Jefferson Hospital (10th & Chestnut), Bala Cynwyd, East Falls, Chestnut Hill, Manayunk, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr.

Most of the city's other farmers' markets, including Headhouse, Fairmount, and Clark Park, are operated by The Food Trust. In all, that organization manages nearly 30 markets in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Love Lamb Fat

Warning: this post is not for those who insist on healthy eating at all times. But if you're adventurous, and enjoy an occasional indulgence with absolutely no redeeming qualities other than taste, read on.

First, you must like lamb. Because lamb fat is essence of lamb, just as chicken feet are essence of chicken. That's why I like both and, for the first time in more than a decade, feasted on lamb fat for dinner Saturday.

I've loved lamb fat since I was a kid, when my mom would make barely trimmed rib lamb chops only in the summer. Because she hated the smell of lamb she could cook them outside and not stink up her kitchen. My father and I devoured them; she ate chicken.

I rekindled my love of lamb fat in Jerusalem about ten years ago at a shashlik  joint called Shemesh Quick Bar on Ben Yehuda Street. They also served grilled goose fat along with more traditional kebab meats.

The lamb fat for Saturday's feast was procured from Martin's Quality Meats at the Reading Terminal Market. I intended only to get some double-thick lamb rib chops, asking the butcher not to supply me with one of the puny, bulemic Frenched chops displayed out front in the case but cut some afresh, leaving plenty of fat. What he brought me had some fat along the bone, but not nearly enough to my taste.

"I love lamb fat," I told him.

So he took out another set of ribs and cut off the fat in a sheet of about nine inches square and a few smaller pieces, wrapped them and handed to me gratis, noting that he left traces of meat within the fat slabs. (Normally these trimmings simply go into the discard bin.)

Once home I unwrapped the precious package and cut the fat into strips about an inch wide, discarding the ragged ends. How to cook?

I knew I wanted to use my grill, but worried about the strips falling through the grates. I didn't want to lose one delicious morsel. So I took out three banboo skewers, about eight inches long or so each, and threaded three strips onto each. I chopped some fresh rosemary, pulverized four or five garlic cloves with kosher salt, and mixed it all together with fresh ground black pepper, then smeared it wantonly over the skewers and chops.  I let it all sit for the 10 or 15 minutes it took to bring the grill to heat.

As anyone who has cooked lamb chops over direct grill heat knows, the more fat the higher the flames, raising the odds of winding up with pure carbon for dinner. Fortunate that my Weber gas grill has three burners, I put two of them to high heat and the third rear burner on low. If you have a charcoal grill, only put coals on one side.

Once everything heated up, and greasing the grates with a square of the excess fat, I started out with the skewers on the low back burner, hood closed so they would start cooking without calling in the fire department, moving them over the high heat three or four minutes later. Once under high heat, they needed near constant checking and turning. After they had reached the state of char I desired they returned to the back burner while I concentrated on cooking the actual chops.

When the chops were done I brought the meat and fat to the table, my only accompaniment being some celeriac remoulade I prepped earlier in the day. The side dish was an excellent choice, since its mustardy tang cut through the main course's richness.

Piping hot is the only way to eat lamb fat (unlike the chops which you want to rest to allow the juices to be reabsorbed) so I dug right in. Although I ate them straight, they'd also be good on pita (with a spread of hummus and a bit of raw onion) or small flour tortillas (cilantro, raw onion, radish; skip the salsa).

I ate it all and don't regret it. Although I won't be making them next week, I won't wait ten years for my next taste.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Headhouse Finds Solution

The problem:

Too few shoppers meander down to the Pine Street end of the Headhouse Farmers Market on Sundays.

When I spoke earlier this month with Katy Wich, who manages the market for the Food Trust, she was scratching her head trying to find ways to get more shoppers to walk the full length of The Shambles and patronize the vendors at the far end, rather than cluster at the Lombard Street entrance. When North Star Orchards, one of the more popular vendors, began its selling season a few weeks ago Katy placed them at the Pine Street end to help generate traffic That helped a little, but the crowds were always too thick at Lombard Street and too thin at Pine.

Now she's got a solution: Iron Chef Jose Garces.

Starting this Sunday, Garces Trading Company will be selling housemade chorizo and chicken liver mousse, pistachio and caramel macarons and other items from a spot at the Pine Street end of The Shambles. If that doesn't help spread out the crowd, I don't know what will. Free beer?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Item From Sweetzel's

As autumn approaches you can always count on seeing Sweetzels ginger snaps and spice cookies on store shelves.

Last Saturday I noticed a variety new to me stocked at the Pennsylvania General Store in the Reading Terminal Market: Spiced Mini Cremes. Basically, smaller versions of the spice cookies sandwiched around a creme filling. On line they're selling for $2.29 for a 12-ounce box; I'm guessing they're the same price at the store.
Diner Rebuild Begins

Constructed started in mid-August on Jack McDavid's Down Home Diner at the Reading Terminal Market.

The eatery hasn't seen significant physical change since 1995 when it moved from its original location, where Amy's Place now sells kitchen gadgets. McDavid started the Down Home Diner when he took over the old Market Diner at that spot in 1987. When he moved, he took many of the booths, much of the metal facing and some other appurtenances with him.

Back then, McDavid kept the diner open until 8 or 9 p.m. at least a few nights a week. Since the move it's shut down service at 7 p.m. Althought he RTM closes at 6 p.m. weeknights, entrance could be gained through the Filbert Street (Harry Ochs Way) doors.

When the rehabbed diner reopens it may see extended evening hours again. In addition to an expanded kitchen and a sparkling new dining room, McDavid pleans to feature house made treats including sticky buns and fruit pies. The remodeling also includes installation of its own resroom so patrons won't have to traipse through a darkened market.

With the high population of meeting attendees thanks to the Convention Center and three or four thousand hotel rooms within a two-block walk, McDavid should have a market for dinner.
Hot Summer Rushes Harvest

The paw paws are nearly a month early. The corn is rapidly fading, and some varieties of peaches and other stone fruit have gone kaput.

Blame it on the unusually frequent and intensive heat spells this summer.

Fair Food's newsletter last week touted the coming of paw paws, which usually don't appear until mid-September. Likewise, Sam Consylman was selling paw paws he gathered at Livengood's stall at South Street today. Sam's peach crop was short-lived and was gone by early August.

The heat took its toll on the corn crop, so much so that at last week's Fairmount market Livengood's posted the sign pictured here. While the corn I've had this season has been decent enough, none has made me sit up and take notice.

Since I posted a few weeks ago about the excellent quality (if not quantity) of this year's stone fruits, a few plums have disappointed, while others have have been perfect.

The higher than average temperatures might account for the apperance of some apples we normally don't see until September. Honey Crisp has been available for a couple weeks (at least at Beechwood Orchards' stalls in local farmers' markets) along with the normal crop of early Macs, Ginger Golds, etc. Bartlett pears are also available, but they usually are by mid to late August.

Despite the heat I found blueberries last week at the Fairmount market; they usually are gone by early August. Blackberries remain in profusion, along with second crop raspberries.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Dark Side of Farmers Markets

Can the wonderful farmers' markets of Philadelphia, like Rittenhouse and Headhouse Square, Clark Park and all the neighborhood markets, be undermining the availability of affordable, nutritious food to poorer residents of Lancaster County?

That's a hypothesis put forth in an article at Salon, an interview with Linda Alecia, one of the founding faculty of Franilin & Marshall College's Local Economy Center in Lancaster.

You can read it here.

Many thanks to Ben, a reader of this blog, for bringing it to my attention.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pennsylvania Dutch Festival

The annual Pennsylvania Dutch Festival is underway at the Reading Terminal Market, celebrating the foodways of the Amish and their Mennonite colleagues. Center court is filled with lots of goodies to eat, and on Saturday there will be a small petting zoo and the chance to take a ride around the block in a horse-drawn wagon.

One decidedly un-Amish treat I found at the festival today was Bonomo's Turkish Taffy. Perhaps this is unknown to Philadelphians, but Bonomo's was my must-have candy as a kid growing up in the New York-New Jersey metro area. Bonomo's allure derived from its physical properties. You'd smack a stick against a flat, hard surface and it would shatter into bite-sized pieces. It comes in four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, banana and strawberry. The latter, like almost any strawberry treat, tastes highly artificial; so does the banana, but that's my favorite.

(Technically it's not a taffy at all, but a "short" nougat.)

Bonomo's hasn't been made for at least 20 years and has been much sought after by those like me who remember it fondly. Its connection to the Pennsylvania Dutch Festival: it's made in Pennsylvania under contract by Classic Caramel in Camp Hill near Harrisburg for Bonomo's owner. Production and distribution started last month.

They were being sold at the RTM for a pricey $1.50/stick, but I couldn't resist.
Stone Fruit Superb

Where melons may have sometimes disappointed, I've yet to come across any stone fruits that fail to amaze this season. Cherries, apricots, nectarines, plums, peaches, they have have been full of flavor and sweetness, whether local and shipped cross-country.

The late West Coast sweet cherries have surprised me. Both those I've purchased at Whole Foods and Iovine Brothers' Produce at the Reading Terminal Market have been delectable examples of cherry-ness: firm, juicy, flavorful. (I can't vouch for the local cherries, since I was in Norway when they were in season.)

The stone fruits available now are at least as good. Plums have been magnificent. So have the peaches, regardless of the variety. Same goes for the nectarines. Among the farmers I've bought them from have been Beechwood Orchards (Rittenhouse, South Street, Headhouse markets, among others), Bill Weller (Fairmount), and Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce (RTM), whose fruit is pictured above. I should bake with them, but these fruits are just so good when eaten out of hand!

Melons are always a cr-pshoot. I've had both the best melon I've ever had and some rather tasteless ones this season.

The best came from Bill Weller at the Fairmount Farmers' Market. His cantelope (muskmelon) was simply the best of that variety I've ever tasted: not merely sweet and juicy, but well-flavored. Likewise the tiny Minnesota Midget cantalopes raised by Sam Consylman and sold at Livengood's (South Street and Fairmount) were excellent.

It was looking forward to tasting some of the unusual melons sold this past Sunday by Tom Culton at Headhouse (photo at left). Alas, the two I've tried so far have been watery without flavor and barely sweet. Maybe it's my melon picking skill. These were priced at $5 for three melons, any size.
North Star Returns to Headhouse

Virtually every stall space at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market was occupied last Sunday, and willl be for the next two months at least. Back at the market last Sunday as North Star Orchards, showcasing its pears, peaches, nectarines, apples and tomatoes. A sign boasted they offered 17 varieties of tomatoes, most of them heirlooms, all priced at $2.50/ pound. North Star's Shinsui variety of Asian pears were also $2.50, but all other fruit was $2.

North Star is at a different location under the shambles this year, placed near the north end not far from the Pine Street entrance.

Blooming Glen offered plenty of tomatoes, too, with heirlooms at $3, field tomatos $2, and all colors of cherry tomatoes $2.50/pint. Over at Savoie Farms, heirlooms were $4/pound, cherry tomatos $4/pint.
Watermelon, $1.25/pound!

That's the price of these round watermelons last weekend at the Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal Market. More than twice as expensive as at Iovine Brother's Produce at the RTM or at any supermarket.

Now, they may be wonderful watermelons, but that's a price I am unwilling to pay. Which brings us to the larger question: have we been spoiled by industrial food production?

While there's a lot to not like about today's industrialized agriculture, from overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to trans-continental shipping, it does bring a wide variety of wholesome fruits and vegetables to the consumer.

Now, local farmers producing premium local produce deserve a profit, and I doubt whoever grew the $1.25/melon is a rapacious profiteer. Yet, one has to wonder how commercial watermelon growers who supply both supermarkets and Iovine's can bring their melons to market at such a tremendously lower price than the smaller scale farmers. Volume, of course, is one reason, and undoubtedly the use of chemical adjuncts improves yield.

We're blessed in this country with very low food prices. This summer I spent a month in Norway. While the costs of housing, education and medical care in that Nordic nation are considerably lower to the consumer than here, food costs are considerably higher. Chicken at the supermarket (not organic, small-farm chicken, mind you, but chicken from the same type of industrial poultry industry as here) is more than twice as costly as in the U.S. The same goes for produce.

Still, one has to wonder why there's such a huge price disparity between the watermelon at the Fair Food Farmstand and Iovine's. Won't a dime a pound cover the difference instead of six or seven dimes? And if it won't, why?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Orchard Adds Veggies

Beechwood Orchards, heretofore a grower of tree fruit and berries (price list at today's Headhouse Market at left), has expanded into vegetables.

Beechwood's Dave Garretson said the veggies, which are selling well, are the work of his daughter, Melissa Allen. Dave added recent weeks have produce strong business at the farmers' markets he frequents. He had his best day ever at yesterday's Rittenhouse Square market and expects today's Headhouse market to do even better.

Below, photos of Melissa's veggies.

Bargain Mirai

Tom Culton was selling Mirai corn at the Headhouse Farmers' Market today at a bargain price: 15 ears for $6, according to his broken slate sign. Or just about any other price you wanted to buy it at. I walked away with 10 ears for $3. I think Tom would have accepted any deal in which didn't have to pay you to take it away.

Now, these were pretty small ears; because of their small circumference each ear probably containns only half the amount of a more normal ear. Still, a good deal.

Culton expects to have more mirai corn, a super sweet Japanese hybrid, for two more weeks. My guess is the ears will be more fully developed then.

Culton was featured in an article in the August issue of Bon Appetite magazine. The article looked at the relationships Lancaster County farmers like Culton have developed with restaurants. I'd provide a link to it, but Bon Appetite did not post that article online.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer in Swing
at South Street

Three produce vendors (and a baker) brought summer fruit to South Street at its weekly farmers' market today.

Taproot Farm (photo left), Beechwood Orchard (below) and Livengood's offered just about anything you'd want, from tomatoes to tree fruit to root veggies.

Hakurei turnips are an early variety, and a reminder that summer doesn't last forever. Taproot was selling bunches for $2 apiece of these small, white veggies. Small red beets were the same price. Taproot's field tomatoes were $5/quart, while Sungolds were $4/pint, mixed color and size tomatoes $6/quart.

Over at Earl Livengood's I picked up a pint of blackberries ($3.95 and both Brandywine ($4.50/pound) and red cherry tomatoes ($2.50 for a half-pint). Earl's corn was four ears for $2.50, and both yellow and green stringbeans were $3.95/quart (about a pound). Next week, expect Sam Consylman to sell his Raritan Rose peaches at Earl's stall.

See yesterday's Headhouse post for the Beechwood Orchard details. The baker at South Street, as always, was Big Sky.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Direct from Sheboygan

I thought the only food item for which Sheboygan, Wisconsin could claim fame was bratwurst. Seems they've got some tomatoes, too. Blackbird Heritage Farms featured them for $5/pound at today's Headhouse Square Farmers Market. At that price, however, too expensive for sauce making. According to Blackbird these large paste tomatos were brought to Sheboygan by Lithuanian immigrants.

Less pricey tomatoes could be found at some of the other vendors. Blooming Glen (left) had field tomatoes for $3/pound, with Sun Gold and Red cherry tomatoes for $3.50/pint, rainbow mixed cherries for $3.75. I plan to pair the rainbows with some avocados for dinner tonight. Weaver's Way had heirlooms for $4/pound, cherries for $4/pint. A.T. Buzby's field tomatos were $5/quart, which looked to be about 10 medium-sized fruits. Noelle Margareum was selling her field tomatoes for $3.95/quart.

The pepper season has begun in earnest, too. Blooming Glen had sweet frryers for $3.50/pound. At Buzby's the peppers were priced per fruit: cubans 2/$1, green bells 2/$1.50. Tom Culton's sweet heirloom peppers were $4/pound. Celery has also made its appearance, $2.50 for each thin but incredibly fresh bunch at Blooming Glen. Corn, of course, could be obtained at Buzby, 75-cents near or $6/dozen. Their musk melons were $3.50 apiece. Culton also offered Laratte fingerling potatoes at $5/pound, haricot vert (string beans) at $5, and tiny Italian artichokes for $7. Savoie Farm had a couple varieties of potatoes at varying prices. Limas in the pod were $2.50 at Queen's Farm.

And of course there is a profusion of eggplant. Culton's heirloom varieities, pictured here, are $3.50/pound. Most of Blooming Glen's varieties (Italian, Asian, pink) were $2/pound, but Rosa Biancas were selling for $3.50. Buzby's deep purple variety was $1.50 per fruit, which probably weighed in just shy of a pound.

Fruits proliferated. Culton's organic nectaries were a buck apiece.

Over at Three Springs Fruit Farm, peaches were $2.49;pound, apricots $4.50/pint, donut peaches $5/pint. Their blueberries and blackberries were $4 a half-pint, raspberries $5. They and Beechwood Orchards had Lodi apples (the latter also had Jersey Macs); Three Springs' pples were $1.99/pound, Beechwood's $2.50.

Beechwood's Dave Garretson (left) had the better deals on some of the fruit, tthough peaches were essentially the same at $2.50/pound with nectarines the same price. Plums (two or three varieties), donut peaches and apricots were all $3.50/pint or $6/quart, blueberries $4.50 for a full pint, blackberries $4, raspberries $4 a half-pint. Margarum's blueberries were even cheaper, $3.50/pint.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting My RTM Fix

I visited the Reading Terminal Market today for the first time in more than a month, arriving just after they opened the doors so I could avoid the crush later for the Ultimate Ice Cream Festival.

My first stop (photo at left) was to check out the status of summer produce at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, where proprietor Benuel complained about how hot it's been. (Why should he be different than anyone else?)

The mid-summer stone fruits were greatly in evidence: sugar and yellow plums for $2/pint, yellow peaches for $2.49/pound, pinks for $2.99, apricots $2.95/pint. Despite reading elsewhere the the blueberry season would be abbreviated this year, Ben had plenty, though pricey at $4.95/pint. Silver King corn was 50 cents an ear. Tomatos: beefstakes $3.49/pound, cherries $4.95/pint, Sun Golds $3/pint, heirlooms $4.99/pound

Sweet white corn picked yesterday was also 50-cents an ear (6/$2.59) at the Fair Food Farmstand. Organic purple eggplant $3.50/pound, Fairytale $4.50. Heirloom tomatoes here were $5.75/pound, organic fields $4, Sun Golds $5/pint. Stone fruits: nectaries and white and yellow peaches $2.50/pound; apricots $3.50/pint, all varieties of plums (Shiro, sugar, Early Gold) $3.50/pint. Lemon cucumbers $3/pound, baby white cukes $3.75. Musk melons (cantelopes) from A.T. Buzby were $4.50 each.

L. Halteman (photo at right) ususally has some of the best deals in local produce and today was no exception with peaches going for $1.99/pound, apricots $2.59/pint, sugar plums $2.89/pint. The musk melons were $1.29 each, or two for $2. Whole round yellow watermelons were $5.19 apiece. Blueberries $3.29/pint, $5.49/quart. Corn was 3/$1, field tomatoes $2.99, Brandywines $4.19 a quart (3 large tomatoes).

Over at Iovine Brothers Produce the corn was also three for a buck. Limes were 10 for a buck, Hass avocados $1.49. Jersey field tomatos 99-cents, Jersey green peppers $1.49/pound, red long hots and frying peps the same price. String beans $1.99. Jersey blueberries $1.99/pint. California black figs were $1.99 a pack (eight ounces). White and red seedless grapes were $1.49/pound, blacks $1.99.

Since I'm just back from Norway I had to check the fish at John Hi, where dry scallops were quite high at $18.99/pound. Among the salmons, farm-raised Norwegian was about $10/pound while wild Alaskan King and Sockeye were $17.99 and $14.99, respectively. There was also New Zealand "wild" king, $15.99, but it's undoubtedly farm-raised despite the sign.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back from Norway

As noted in previous post, I'm back from Norway. The month-long trip was full of great vistas, people and food, like the fiskesuppe (right) I enjoyed at Sorvågen in the Lofoten Islands.

If you're interested, I've created a blog about the trip, including entries on the the foods I bought, cooked and ate during the visit, much of it spent north of the Arctic Circle.

I'm still catching up on adding blog entries from the last week of the trip, but there's plenty there now to read.
First Stop: Fairmount Market

Like a siren, my neighborhood farmers' market called on our first day back in Philadelphia after the Norway sojourn. It took great restraint to limit my purchases to some blueberries from Bill Weller and carrots, Brandywine tomatoes, and endive from Earl Livengood's stall (left). Especially since corn is in season. But that will wait until the weekend.

Sam Stolfus, as seen in photo, had plenty of stone fruit: apricots and peaches in addition to a full assortment of veggies. The produce vendors also offered musk melons, blackberries, a variety of lettuces, fresh onions, scallions, potatoes, a variety of string and pole beans.

Had I been in the mood for more pølse (see Norway blog) I would have indulged in the encased goodies provided by Renaissance Sausage, which started frequenting the Fairmount market after my mid-June departure to Scandinavi. Other vendors at Fairmount yesterday included Wild Flour Bakery and Country Meadow Meats.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sunday RTM Farmers Move Indoors

With disappointing sales, Farm-To-City and the Reading Terminal Market have decided to move their joint Sunday farmers' market along 12th street indoors, effective this week, as noted by Benjamin in his comment to my previous post. The remaining farmers will be located in the Arch Street side seating area near the Pennsylvania General Store.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saturday Farmers' Showcase

That's what the Reading Terminal Market calls its rotating roster of producers who will be in center court each Saturday. Each Saturday a different farmer or food producer will occupy the prime space.

Paul Steinke, the market's general manager, worked to identify farmers who could replace Earl Livengood, who gave up his Saturday presence to concentrate on the Bryn Mawr and King of Prussian Saturday markets.

The three producers participating in the center court rotation are:
  • LeRaysville Cheese Factory, Bradford County. Handmade pasteurized cheeses from Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains region, including whole milk cheddars and Havarti-style cheeses.
  • OH Produce, Berks County. OH stands for Organic Hydroponic microgreens and other fruits and vegetables in season from the Felker family farm near Hawk Mountain.
    DeLuca’s Produce, Columbia County. Fruits and vegetables in season from the DeLuca family’s 127-acre farm near Bloomsburg.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At the Farmers' Markets

I've found lots of great veggies and fruits at the local farmers' markets I frequent in recent weeks, but the greatest find was Sam Consylman's t-shirt, pictured here at the South Street market a few weeks ago, where Sam helps staff Earl Livengood's stall.

Sam may tolerate squirrels partying, but don't let any groundhogs try it in front of him, especially during hunting season. His wife makes a mean fried woodchuck!

I've never been a big fan of summer squashes. I don't dislike them, but I'd never wait for their appearance with baited breath. Still, now that I'm trying to emphasize vegetables in my diet, I appreciate the role they can play. Lately I've been adding them to the onions and peppers I sauté for a pasta topping. And when done on the grill with a little olive oil they make a great accompaniment to grilled meats.

At Headhouse this past Sunday, Beechwood Orchards had plenty of black raspberries, which I've been mashing into yogurt. Proprietor Dave Garretson warned me that he's not had a great cherry crop this year simply because of the wet weather: the crop is good, but rain has caused excessive cracking. Still, pretty tasty and sweet, even if slightly water-logged; but don't let cherries that have skin cracks hang out in the fridge too long. I would have picked up some pie (sour) cherries, but since I'm going to be out-of-town a lot over the next month I've had no time for baking or sorbet making, two excellent applications for tart varieties of cherries.

Blueberries, especially from South Jersey, are making their annual appearance. The pint I picked up from A.T. Buzby at Headhouse were another fine addition to yogurt, as well as in cobblers and all sorts of other goodies.

The snow peas and sugar snaps from all the vendors I've tried, both at the farmers' markets and the Reading Terminal Market, have been superb. Mostly, I just munch on them as snacks, though their desireability in stir fries is obvious.

Apricots should be the next summer fruit to appear, along with a broader range of raspberries.

Tom Culton had a limited range to offer Sunday, but he was particularly long on garlic scrapes, which he was giving away to any takers. I picked up a fresh-dug onion from him.

Garden notes: Just last week I cut back my chive pot to the dirt; the shoots are already six inches high! The sage is taking off, too.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Reading Terminal Market Expansion
More room for more vendors in planned $4.5 renovation

With all possible space completely leased for the first time in more than 16 years and other entrepreneurs wanting to join its roster of vendors the Reading Terminal Market Corporation has drawn up plans for carving out about 3,500 square feet of additional retail space from its existing footprint. It would expand the selling floor by nearly 9 percent from the current 40,000 square feet.

Closer collaboration with Bob Pierson's Farm To City, which operates many of the area's farmers' markets (including the recently inaugurated Sunday market outside the RTM) is part of the plan; that organization is expected to move its staff to enlarged office space at the market.

A Farm-to-City/RTM collaboration augers well for the market's desire to bring some farmers back into the market for direct sales to shoppers. (For more on that see Replacements for Livengoods, below).

Paul Steinke, now in his eighth year as the market's general manager, hopes funding for the expansion and related renovations can be secured by the end of the year and work begin in 2011.

Another benefit from the expansion will be larger restrooms, with a significant number of added stalls for the ladies who form a long line in the aisles when market traffic is heavy.

The genesis of the project was the need to rehabilitate the existing obstreperous freight elevator, which had merchants accessing basement storage areas cursing. The additional retail footage will be created by relocating to the basement current storage and prep space on the market's east side after the existing elevator is fixed and a second elevator installed in an existing unused shaft.

The market's Avenue D aisle, which provides access to the current storage areas, restrooms, and two vendors (Miscellanea Libri and the shoeshine stand) would be moved further west to create the retail space.

The new restrooms would occupy space currently occupied by the market's floor operations staff, La Cucina at the Market and part of the aisle known as 11th Street. Seating and event space would be added next to the relocated La Cucina along Avenue D.  More retail space would be carved out on both sides of the new Avenue D.

The additional office space for market office staff and Farm to City would be created by extending the existing office loft over the remainder of Tootsie's Salad Express.

The expansion would take place in phases, starting with the elevator work, after which storage would be moved to the basement. Restrooms would then be expanded, followed by the new retail space and the extention of market office space.

The new Avenue D would temporarily jog around the rear of Flying Monkey Patisserie and L. Halteman Family's meat, deli and produce stall. Eventually, after their leases come up for renegotiation in a few years, Avenue D could be straightened out.

Replacements for Livengoods

No doubt about it, both market shoppers and managers miss Earl Livengood's Saturday-only produce standing selling fresh Lancaster County produce from his farm in center court. Earl declined to return this year, favoring his existing presence at the Bryn Mawr farmers' market and adding King of Prussia on Saturday.

To fill the void Steinke said he is close to adding a rotating series of producers to Livengood's spot. Two produce growers and one non-artisinal cheese-maker are in discussions to occupy the space on Saturdays.
More Summer Veggies

Sugar snaps and various summer squashes were much in evidence at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market today.

Although leafy greens predominated at most vegetable stalls, Culton Organics featured large, brightly-colored varieties of yellow summer squash along with garlic scapes and a few other items. Blooming Glen's sugar snaps (sampled once I got to the car) were fresh and sweet. Savoie Farms had some new potatoes; in previous weeks they only had seed potatoes from last year. A.T. Buzby displayed excellent-looking medium-sized Kirby cucumbers, crispy-fresh whether eaten as is or pickled; these are the first of this season's Kirby crop I've seen. Buzby was also selling South Jersey hothouse tomatoes.

Buzby didn't have any strawberries, at least when I arrived at 11 a.m. The strawberry season is just about over, but Beechwood Orchard and Three Springs had plenty, Dave Garretson of Beechwood was selling his for $6/quart.

With the warm spring, other summer fruits have already started to appear. Garretson brought a few apricots and raspberries to Headhouse (they quickly disappeared); Dave said he could have picked a few cherries, but decided to pass them by. Expect to see more of the stone fruits as well as raspberries starting this coming week.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hothouse tomatoes, cherries, strawberries at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce

Berries to Cherries

Summer is drawing nigh. Just look at the produce at the Reading Terminal Market. At Iovine Brothers' the peaches have crept up from Georgia to South Carolina (and one local farmer said his early varieties will be ready in just a couple of weeks). Strawberries are starting to get soft with a little more mold and will soon disappear, but the first cherries have appeared.

The cherries could be found today at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce where proprietor Ben was selling pints for $3.95. His English peas, in the hull and snow peas were $3.90/pound, red new potatoes $2.95/pint. Over at the Fair Food Farmstand, snow peas, sugar snaps and English peas were $3.50/pint. You could save considerably on sugar snaps by walking over to Iovine's where they were $1.99/pound; although their provenance was not marked, the one I sampled tasted as about as fresh as what I've found in farmers' markets.