Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vendors Interested in Spice Terminal

Spice Terminal adjacent to Center Court
It seems there are a few potential entrepreneurs interested in taking over the Spice Terminal.

Paul Steinke, the Reading Terminal Market's general manager, reports there are three existing vendors and two outsiders who have expressed interest.

In the meantime, Jonathan Best is widening its spice and herb selection.
WiFi Back Up at RTM

WiFi service, suspended since early fall when work on the Avenue D project displaced the market's office, came back on line last week. Good coverage in center court and the piano court (where the holiday train display has temporarily displaced seating), but spotty around the market's perimeter.
Cheeses On Parade

The Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market added
a new display case just for cheese last week, much to the
delight of cheesemonger Paul Lawler.

Seven Fishes

The cases at John Yi ('Eat Fish Live Longer') at the Reading Terminal Market
were chock full of piscatorian delights for the Feast of the Seven Fishes
before Christmas, including these sardines, a.k.a. herring

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spice Terminal To Close

Rendering of what would have been
the Spice Terminal's new stall
The cupboards are getting barer and barer at the Spice Terminal, and not just because bakers are grabbing spices for their Christmas cookies and cakes.

The long-time proprietor of the Spice Terminal, Al Starzi, died about a year and a half ago. With the stall scheduled to move to a space under the market office later this winter as part of the Avenue D redesign project Starzi's family decided to shut down at the end of next month. Once the decision to close was made they stopped restocking the shelves.

The Spice Terminal has been my go-to vendor for all sorts of seasonings, nuts, condiments and other special items for the nearly 30 years I've been a market regular. If I recall correctly, it was originally located on the Filbert Street side of the market before moving to center court with the mid-1980s renovation completed in connection with construction of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

With the closing of the business the only vendor with a reasonable selection of similar merchandise in one space will be Jonathan Best, though some selected items are available at Salumeria, Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, Iovine Brothers Produce and other stalls. It's possible these and other merchants may expand their offerings to take up the slack. The Spice Terminal also offered a decent selection of whole bean coffees as a competitor to Old City Coffee.

RTM GM Paul Steinke would love to see someone continue the business, but that appears unlikely.

Some of the Spice Terminal space will accommodate the relocated Flying Monkey Bakery, which will also take over Spataro's space when they move across the aisle where DiNic's now holds the fort. DiNic's hopes to open in mid to late-January in the former Harry Ochs stall. The remainder of the Spice Terminal space off center court is scheduled to be occupied by an as yet undetermined new merchant.

Talks are continuing with Valley Shepherd Creamery to occupy space along the back wall of Avenue D. The New Jersey cheese-maker recently opened its new store in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood concurrent with the closing of its outlet in Manhattan.

In the past Steinke said he has a waiting list of potential vendors waiting to open businesses at the RTM. A major reason for the Avenue D project is to create more leaseable space.

Citrus Season!
Tangerines at Iovine Brothers now selling at 5/$1

Now that we're officially into winter, it's time to shift our fruity focus from pomes to citrus. Although I've got my full stock of Newtown Pippin apples in cold storage to get through January and, perhaps, February if I hoard my hoard, my fresh fruit purchases have turned to oranges and their close relations. (Alas, my statin regimen prevents indulging in grapefruits and other pomelos.)

Right now I'm working my way through Temple oranges I purchased at Iovine Brother's Produce in the Reading Terminal Market for a quarter apiece. Small navels tend to sell for the same price, as do tangerines (though this week they're featuring them at 20 cents). Large navels are 50 cents, but the gargantuan Jumanjis for over-stuffing a stocking call for a 99-cent investment.

Just eating them plain is a joy, especially the easy-to-peel temples, tangerines and other mandarins. The perfumes they exude upon peeling is right up there with good whiskey, bacon and vanilla in my olfactory Hall of Fame. After eating a spicy or rich entree, the sweet bite of citrus is a great palate-cleanser. No wonder so many Asian restaurants slip a few chunks of orange on the parting plate along with a fortune cookie.

Still, I think I'm game this season for doing a bit more than taking my oranges straight. Although I usually only make sorbets in warmer weather, the great looking juice oranges (usually the Hamlin variety) may prompt me to get out the juicer and make an icy winter treat.

Another option may be a composed salad where oranges and beets take center stage, perhaps with a sprinkling of walnuts and little bits of chevre in a plain vinaigrette (or, alternatively, using orange juice as the base of a vinaigrette to top the other ingredients).

If I'm more ambitious, there's the orange flan from Jose Garce's mom. But since I'm less ambitious there may be an orange chiffon cake in my future.

Besides orange-flavored beef, a staple at some Chinese restaurants, I'm hard-pressed to think of other meat-centric dishes incorporating oranges. If anyone has some ideas, please comment on this post.

For fish I might try Norwegian chef Andreas Viestad's variation on a sauté meunière wherein both the fish filets and orange sauce are spiked with ginger and cloves. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pigs Outside!

As winter nears the number of vendors dwindle at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market operated by the Food Trust. But that negative can be a positive: producers who can't get in during the height of the season can get a space.

That was the case today for Stryker Farm of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, which raises heritage breed pigs and meat goats. Young farmer Nolan Thevenet is new to farming, but he's enthusiastic. Because I had picked up enough meat for the week at the Reading Terminal yesterday, I abstained from indulging in pure pigmeat from Nolan, but couldn't resist picking up some scrapple.

Stryker Farms' scrapple, Nolan says, isn't made from innards like liver and heart, as is traditional, but from scrap meat, including jowls. Now, I have no objection to the innards in my scrapple, indeed, if you're going to keep it historic that's the way to go, adding a bit of livery savoriness. Still, I can't wait to fry up a couple slices tomorrow morning.

The farm raises their pigs out of doors and lets them forage in the fields and woods, supplementing their diet in winter with barley and grass feed, not corn. Like many heritage pig farmers Stryker Farm uses a Tamworth cross (in this case with Hereford), though Nolan said he'd like to get some Berkshire into his piggies' bloodlines.

Nolan plans to be at the final two Headhouse markets this season (the next two Sundays) and hopes to get a spot next season as well.

Black Radishes

With the season winding down, the offerings at Blooming Glen Farm's stall at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market were slim today, but what they did have was choice, including these black radishes.

When you find them in supermarkets, black radishes tend to be the size of bocci balls. They're good, but the smaller, freshly dug versions are superior.

You can roast them like a turnip, but they're probably at their best raw. I like to grate mine and mix into soft sweet butter, then spread it on good pumpernickel or rye bread. But I've seen some salad recipes that look like they're worth trying. Most call for the radishes to be thinly sliced (a mandoline comes in handy), then tossed with apples or oranges, placed atop a bed of escarole or similar green, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. And the green tops can be treated like any other cooking green
Persimmon Season

We're at the tail end of the season for local persimmons, like these found at Culton Organics at today's Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.

The Fuyu variety can be eaten while still firm, but the Hachiya, which I prefer, must be allowed to ripen -- just shy of becoming rotten -- to be best enjoyed. I just lop off the stem end and dig in with a spoon, eating the gelatinous flesh like pudding.
Pepper Prep at DiNic's

Before those sweet bell peppers top your roast pork sandwich at DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market, they've got to be prepped. Every morning Jun snaps out the cores before the peppers go into the oven with a light dressing of olive oil.

Earlier this week I had a hankering for one of Tommy's sandwiches and managed to order something other than the roast pork. Instead I opted for the brisket, which you should try. Tender and flavorful it's like beef done as pulled pork -- but even more succulent. I kept it simply topped with roasted hot peppers.

Tommy's partner and son, Joe Nicolosi, says they won't be rushing to open their new location in the former Harry Ochs stall, because they want to make sure they do it right. They're aiming for mid-January, so they can have some shake-down time before the auto show crowds descend.
Shane Confectionery Opens Tomorrow

The official grand opening is tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 5, for Shane Confectionery, the revitalized candy emporium from the Berley Brothers of Franklin Fountain. Except for the past year or so, the building at 110 Market Street has housed candy makers. Just in time for Christmas!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pippins and Winesaps

Newtown Pippins from North Star Orchards
There were apple varieties galore at the Headhouse Square farrmer's market yesterday at the three primary apple vendors: Three Springs Fruit Farm, Beechwood Orchards, and North Star Orchards.

When it comes to antique (a.k.a. heirloom) varieties, North Star always has a few surprises. This week I picked up an apple I've been waiting for: the Newtown Pippin. This is a green but sweet-tart apple native to the Mid-Atlantic region (it's named after Newtown, which is a neighborhood deep in the heart of Queens: perhaps you've crossed Newtown Creek while snailing along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway en route to a Phillies-Mets game.

The beauty of the Newtown Pippin is its storage quality, indeed, this apple improves with age. North Star's Ike Kerschner said he picked his crop a month ago, but is only now bringing them to market because they weren't ready to eat then. But they'll get even better in a few months. Kept loosely bagged in the refrigerator these will make especially fine eating come January and February when most other apples will be well-passed peak flavor.

Another interesting variety from North Star this week was the Reinette Simerenko, a tart Eastern European variety for a welcome change of taste. North Star has a fine web site that includes spot-on descriptions of their apple varieties.

Golden Russet is yet another variety you are unlikely to find at the Acme, or even Wegman's. I bought some more this week from North Star. They are far from the classic red apple, but well worth seeking out, with a pear-like flavor and texture. Great with a good cheese, like Birchrun Hill's Fat Cat washed rind comestible.

Over at Beechwood Orchards (they also have a website with apple descriptions worth consulting) Stayman Winesap and Northern Spy were my apples of choice. Both are older commercial varieties (19th century). Although either can be eaten either raw or cooked, I find the former tops for consuming fresh, the latter best for pies, tarts and other applications involving heat.

Beechwood also had the original Winesap, which is a tad tarter than its Stayman offspring. I like it better for cooking than eating though it can be used either way. It's also a good "keeper" for two or three months. If you're into drying your own fruit, sliced Winesaps are ideal for schnitz.

Three Springs Fruit Farm isn't into the antiques, but Ben Wenk and family still offer a nice selection of commercial varieties. I'm not a big fan of Honeycrisp (too one-dimensionally sweet to me taste), but it's a favorite among a lot of apple shoppers, and Three Springs has them as well as Staymans and other popular varieties. (And if you want a taste of summer through the winter, buy some of their canned peaches: delicious.)

About apple storage: As mentioned earlier, I keep my Newtown Pippins in the fridge, along with all other apples. While some fruits improve with room temperature storage to come to proper ripeness, apples don't and will deteriorate. Keep them in the crisper either loose or very loosely bagged, allowing them to breath. If you like to eat your apple at room temperature, take them out no more than a day before you intend to consume them.
Molly Molloy's: Quick Take

It's shakedown time for Molly Molloy's, the Iovine Brothers' production that replaced The Beer Garden off center court of the Reading Terminal Market. With the understanding that any new restaurant will have kinks to work out, and that I've only tried two breakfast items and one lunch dish, here are some early impressions.

It seems that all restaurants are noisy these days -- one wishes Craig Laban's well-intentioned decibel critiques had more influence on interior designers -- and Molly Molloy's is no exception. It's louder at a table here, even when it's only one-third full, than the tables in center court.

Both breakfast items I tried (taken out for enjoying in center court) were superb.

The French Toast was cooked perfectly from good quality bread with a very slight background vanilla flavor (which of course was mostly overpowered by the maple syrup I ordered). Just as good was the scrapple: crispy exterior, creamy interior with the proper pork liver-y (but not overpowering) flavor.

A few days later I ordered the Pumpkin Pancakes with fresh cheese, and here's where one of the kinks kicked in, though by no means impacting the quality and flavor of the food. It was about 15 minutes after the 8 a.m. opening and chef Bobby Fisher had yet to prepare the batter. Jim Iovine, who knows me, noticed this and came over to distract me from what would be less than lickety-split service. (To no avail; I had already spotted Bobby making batter and surmised there would be a delay.) Still, it only took about 15 minutes or so until my order was ready, and it was perfectly enjoyable, though the traditional pumpkin pie spice flavors were a bit too subtle; in the words of that New England Portuguese-Québécois chef transplanted to New Orleans, it could have been taken up a notch. Given the lack of spice the fresh cheese seemed unnecessary, though it would be more welcome if the pancakes had greater kick. I selected sausages as my accompanying meat and found them very banger-ish, which is a good thing.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I stopped by for lunch a week after opening, and we both agreed the starter we shared -- Butternut Squash Croquettes -- was the big hit. Although pricey (four golf balls for $4.50) they were perfectly fried, greaseless, crackly exterior and squashy interior. The plate could have used a bit more of the spiced pear butter, though.

SWMBO ordered the hamburger ($10) which arrived as a substantial piece of meat and an even more substantial brioche bun. (I wish rolls served with burgers were more appropriately sized; I think London Grill has it right in using English muffins for their excellent burgers). She enjoyed it very much, and it had a great charcoal grill flavor. (I'm not sure if they have a charcoal grill, though the rib eye steak sandwich says it's "char-grilled".) Since she likes her burgers medium, and I'm a Pittsburgh-rare kind of guy, it was too well-done for me. The burger also seemed tightly packed; I think the grind should be more loosely packed for best flavor and mouth-feel. Still, a quality burger if not up there on the first level. We both thought the French fries were very good.

I ordered the Braised Short Rib Pie ($6.50), but I didn't pay enough attention to the menu description: I thought I was going to get a pot pie. Instead what appeared on my plate, otherwise barren except for a Guinness reduction, were two empandas. Once I got over my misunderstanding of pie type, I was impressed by the quality of the pastry wrapper itself: thin, crunchy and greaseless: it was baked prior to service to cook through, then quickly deep-fried upon ordering. My only complaint (and others would consider this a merit) was all I could find was the shredded meat, but no carrots or onions. When I noted this to one of the managers he responded that he had another customer who complained of too many veggies and not enough meat. There was not a huge amount of meat inside, even considering the paucity of vegetables, but it was flavorful. The Guinness reduction as sauce (which prompted me to order a Guinness as my quaff) was a nice touch. The platter could have used some sort of vegetable side, though.

While I went with the Guinness, SWMBO read the bar menu and immediately pounced upon the Juicy Pear ($10) among the specialty cocktail offerings: Blue Coat gin, pear nectar, ginger ale and lemon. Alas, though listed on the menu Molly Molloy's had yet to have any available after more than a week after opening; seems they hadn't made the necessary pear nectar, which they insist be made on premises rather than purchased. Good intensions. No execution. If they don't have it, it shouldn't be on the menu.

I've yet to work my way through the extensive list of draft (24) and bottled (24) beers, but so long as they actually have them it's impressive. Perhaps Molly Molloy's will never be a destination beer bar (especially since it closes when the market does, 6 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday) like Monk's or any number of other tappies, but hop-heads won't be disappointed with offerings like Dogfish 60 Minute IPA, Stoudt's Scarlet Lady, Spaten Oktoberfest, Weyerbacher Winter Ale, Harpoon UFO, Ithaca Apricot Wheat, or Great Lakes Elliot Ness as well as the pedestrian macro-brews. Still, they could do better than O'Doul's for a non-alcohol offering (SWMBO suggested Kaliber from Guinness).

All-in-all, Molly Molloy's offers plenty worth trying right now, and I expect that under the Iovine's management and Chef Fisher's talents it will only get better. I intend to work my way through the entire menu over time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Market Renovations Update

L. Halteman added new cases in preparation for move
Plastic sheeting and temporary construction walls adorn the east end of the Reading Terminal Market as its renovation program builds steam.

All cold storage has moved to the basement as work begins on two family bathrooms under the market's mezzanine management office. Once the new lavs are ready, temporary access changes to the men's room will be made so that work can begin on the new home for La Cucina at the Market.

Meanwhile work is underway at DiNic 's new center court location in the former Harry Ochs space; owner Tom Nicolosi hopes for a late November opening. L. Halteman, which will shift west to take over the former flower vendor space, has positioned a new refrigerated display case there in anticipation of its move later this fall.

One casualty of the renovations has been the market's free wi-fi service, which had to be temporarily shut when work started on its remodeled mezzanine offices. When the new office opens about mid-November a new and improved wi-fi system will be installed.

Molly Molloy's Opens
Will seek Market's okay on beer for center court

Plenty of taps await beer lovers at Molly Molloy's
The Iovine's opened gastropub Molly Molloy's at the Reading Terminal Market this morning. Named after brothers Jim and Vinnie Iovine's mother, the pub replaces the considerably more downscale Beer Garden.

The only detail to be resolved is whether customers can take beer into center court to enjoy with items bought from other market vendors. Jim Iovine told me their license allows them to sell beer for consumption in market seating areas, but they have yet to present their request to market management, which must also approve any such plan.

Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager, told me today that when the Iovines get around to making a formal request "it's a policy matter we have to deal with." Beyond operational issues, liability will be a key question, i.e., who's the responsible party for an alcohol-related incident outside of Molly Molloy's but within the market? Until that's resolved, you'll have to enjoy the craft beers offered by Molly Molloy's within the confines of the gastropub.

Although beer sales are strictly on-premises for now, there is a take-out counter for food. I tried it for a late breakfast this morning and found chef Bobby Fisher's French toast with berry sauce quite good, accompanied by a sagey scrapple. While I was enjoying that at a center court table, Tom Nicolosi of DiNic's had an early lunch of something else with French in its name: onion soup; he noted with approval that it was made from homemade stock, not an institutional salt-based broth.

No menu has been posted at the restaurant's website yet, but Menupages has one, even if they misspell its name.  Hot sandwiches include braised oxtail, pork belly, rib  eye, pulled chicken, and burgers. Irish beef stew, fish and chips, short ribs and chicken pot pies are among the entrees. And since the bar's focus is beer, there are wings.

There isn't a lot of overlap on the menu with what's offered by other RTM lunch vendors, but of all the others the one most likely to be concerned would be the Down Home Diner, which also offers a large seating area independent of center court and similar foodie aspirations. My guess is that Molly Molloy's won't so much take away business from the Down Home Diner as grow its own volume. And if it gets permission to sell beer in plastic cups for travel to center court, it can only help other sandwich vendors (though their profitable soft drink sales may suffer).

O.K. Lee Upgrades Fixtures

Produce vendor O.K. Lee has gotten into the spirit of the Reading Terminal Market's renovations by replacing its display tables. The finished wood displays are a significant visual improvement over the more rustic displays they replaced.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back in Dane County

The stars are shining bright when I arrive shortly after the official 6 a.m. Saturday opening of the Dane County Farrmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin. This is America's Dairyland (the auto license plates say so), even under the state capitol dome, as the Chula Vista cheese truck attests.

After my initial walk around Capitol Square, where about a hundred vendors are setting up shop, and a leisurely cup of coffee in the Starbucks, dawn breaks and I repeat my farmers market circuit, this time going counter-clockwise around the big block, which is the required direction; go clockwise and you'll get polite stares from the other early shoppers.

All my previous visits to this market (probably the nation's largest true farmers market; you can't sell here unless you grow, raise or make it yourself) have been in early spring when meats, cheeses and baked goods predominate with only a scatteing of early spring crops. Today, however, boasted the last of summer and hearty fall fare. Four or five vendors offered late season raspberries, many others had tomatoes (some, though, finished under hoop houses), but there were plenty of winter squashes and apples, too.

The grower pictured above was selling a great variety of tomatoes, including heirlooms, all grown in the field without benefit of hoop houses. At less than a dollar a pound these beauties were bargains.

Apples, however were my main area of interest, since they were one of the few products I could bring back to the hotel and maybe even back home to Philadelphia.

Suncrisps from Pleasant Valley Orchard
Although more than half a dozen vendors sold apples, only half of them offered antiques. Taking the prize for variety was Pleasant Springs Orchard: Hubbardston Nonesuch, Tolman, Black Gilliflower, Hoople's Antique Gold, Richard's Red Delicious, Calville Blanc d'Hiver (a classic French dessert apple which I first tasted in upstate New York abut a dozen years ago), Wolf River (a Wisconsin native and widely grown here), Arkansas  Black, Northwestern Greening, Court Pendu Plat, Ashmead's Kernel, Show, Cortland, Golden Russet, Spitzenburg (better known as Esopus Spitzenburg), and Cornish Gilliflower.

Another vendor claimed 30 varieties,  including some lesser known commercial cultivars: Haralson, Regent, Sonata, Suncrisp (a yellow Cox Orange Pippin-Golden Delicious cross popular in the Midwest), Keepsake, Swiss Gourmet, Northern Spy, Blushing Golden, and Melrose.

For those with any interest in learning about these or any other variety, I commend the Cox Orange Pippin website, which hardly limits itself to my favorite variety.

My words can hardly do justice to the variety of produce I discovered this morning, so pictures (annotated with a just a little verbiage) follow. As always, click on a photo for an enlarged version.

The harvest of winter squashes just peaked

Mums, of course, dominated the flower stalls

Only one vendor offered still offered sweet corn, but a few more had plenty of popcorn

Beauty Heart radishes look like what is labeled a watermelon radish in Philadelphia

Celeriac and chiogga beets

Urban pumpkin patch

Want some winter squashes?

More winter squashes, and some winter greens

This season's garlic is nicely dried

Lots of peppers

If you eat like a bird...

Berkshire pork is hard to find, especially at these (relative) bargin prices

Local potatoes and radicchio, among other veggies

Cruciferous vegetables weren't lacking

One-stop shopping for vegetable soup

String beans, parsnips, carrots, daikon radishes

Sunday, October 09, 2011

PorcSalt's Nitrate-Nitrite Screed
A welcome riposte to the food police

For centuries, according to Matthew Ridgway of PorcSalt (Headhouse Square's newest vendor, selling some awesome, though necessarily pricey, charcuterie), meats were cured with salt and saltpeter, a.k.a. sodium nitrate, which when in contact with natural bacteria in meats is converted to nitrite. Today, pure nitrite, or in combination with nitrite, is used in exceedingly small quantities by commercial bacon, ham and other commercial cured meat manufacturers.

At his Headhouse stall today, amid the bacon, guanciale, and foie gras, Matthew had copies of a "white paper" on his table entitled "The Truth About the Dreaded Nitrate..." In it, Matthew recounts the misleading nitrate cancer-scare of the 1970s and exposes the sham of the "no-added nitrate" products sold by Whole Foods and other purveyors.

By using dried celery juice in the cures, these "no-added nitrate" products have considerably more nitrate-nitrite than commercial products. The fact that these nitrates are derived from vegetables rather than natural minerals is irrelevant: nitrate is nitrate, nitrite is nitrite, no matter the source -- it's the same molecule.

Now, this doesn't mean that the added dried celery juice (or mineral nitrate) is a bad thing. It's made "natural" hot dogs and hams much more palatable (the truly nitrate/nitrite-free versions are awful) and considerably safer than they would be without them.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits meats cured with pure nitrate or nitrate from being labelled "organic" or "natural", Matthew writes. So the marketers go out of their way to use the vegetable-based nitrates, even though celery has 400 times the nitrites of a slice of commercial bacon, according to the cured meat maven. You'd get considerably more nitrites from a serving of spinach than commercial bacon.

As Matthew concludes, "Numerous scientific panels have evaluated sodium nitrite safety and the conclusions have essentially been the same: sodium nitrite is not only safe, it's an essential public health tool because it has a proven track record of preventing botulism."

No wonder Dr. Brown's Cel-ray Tonic (my favorite quaff with a pastrami sandwich, cured with nitrate/nitrite) was originally marketed as a health food.

Stop by Matthew's PorcSalt stall at either Headhouse or the Saturday Rittenhouse market to pick up the white paper slong with some of his tasty charcuterie.
Vendors Crowd Headhouse

More vendors sold their goods at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market today than any other Sunday so far this season. Katy Wich, who manages the market for The Food Trust, said 34 different vendors showed up today, including one new one, PorcSalt, which has been an occasional vendor at the Rittenhouse Saturday market this year.

With produce tables groaning under the weight of apples, squashes, potatoes and other harvest goodies, it's my favorite time of year to wander farmers' markets.

Because the larder's rather well-stocked at home, my purchases were minimal. The only "must" item on my list was apples.

And what a selection! Three Springs, Beechwood and North Star all offered great variety, most priced at $2 to $2.50 a pound -- more than what you'd pay at the supermarket, but all fresh-picked off the tree.

Esopus Spitzenberg apple
My big score was an Espopus Spitzenberg. This apple holds a special place in my heart, but not merely because it tastes so good (definitely on the tart side, but enough sugar to balance it out, plus a crisp, dense flesh). No, it's among my favorites because its named for the creek (Esopus) where I used to swim -- or at least get into the icy cold water -- during family vacations in the northern Catskills, in the Big Indian-Oliveria valley. This apple, great for out-of-hand eating or baking, was available today from North Star. Of all the apples offered by North Star this week, it's the one true antique. It was reputed to be one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite.

Over at Beechwood Orchards, Dave Garrettson offered another American antique, the Northern Spy. Although it can be enjoyed as a dessert apple, i.e., eaten out-of-hand, and is an excellent storage variety, it's highest use is in pies. Since my available kitchen time this week is extremely limited, I reluctantly passed these beauties by.

Instead, I picked up some Macouns, Winesaps and the latter's even tastier offspring, Stayman, all from Beechwood.

Of course, if you're stocking apples for plain eating, you've got to get some cheese as an accompaniment. For that part of the equation I stopped by Sue Miller's Birchrun Hills Farm stall where I picked up her Red Cat. This is a washed-rind cheese, slightly pungent (most washed rind cheeses are stinkier) and creamy.

The main course for tonight's dinner also came from Sue: bockwurst, a traditional German sausage traditionally all-veal or mostly veal with a bit of pork. I'll cook it tonight with sauerkraut braised in unpasteurized apple cider mixed with mustard, maybe throwing in some carraway seeds. Which reminds me, gotta put some beer in the fridge. Although mashed potatoes would be the ideal side, I picked up some rye bread from Ric's.
Harvest Festival Saturday

The Reading Terminal Market's annual Harvest Festival will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. As usual it will feature hayrides around the block pulled by a farm tractor, caramel apples, freshly made donuts, cider, and a cornucopia of autumnal produce.

Art Work

When Iovine Brother's Produce expanded its prep area few years back, the walls came tumbling down and, with them, the rustic, primitive farm scenes painted on them opposite L. Halteman Family Country Foods.

Maybe I missed it earlier, but one of those painted panels remains (pictured here). It's located on the aisle behind Halteman's opposite what will soon become Molly Molloy's, formerly The Beer Garden.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

RTM Construction Update

It will probably be another week or so before DiNic's begins construction on its new Reading Terminal Market home, the former Harry Ochs stall. With all permits and designs in hand, the work will begin once a contractor is selected from from the bids received.

This past Saturday Jimmy Iovine was sweeping up inside the now vacant Beer Garden space which is tentatively scheduled to reopen in mid-October as Molly Molloy's. This week a new floor is due to be installed.

Along Avenue D in back of the Beer Garden temporary construction walls are up as crews work in that area. The storage and prep areas there have been permanently relocated to the basement. Meanwhile, work continues above Tootsie's Salad Express on the expanded market office.
Of Pork, Rabe and Spinach

Once upon a time, the roast pork sandwich at DiNic's at the Reading Terminal Market could be had with only one green: spinach. Tom and Joe Nicolosi, the father-son team which operates the Center Court stall, tried adding broccoli rabe, but no one wanted it.

That changed a couple years ago when DiNic's reintroduced the bitter green. Tastes change and now it's a hit. This Saturday Joe was tending to five trays of rabe for cooking with oil and garlic, vs. two of spinach; considering that the spinach weighs less than the rabe per volume of measurement and has a lower yield, the rabe probably outsells spinach by a ratio of nearly 10-to-1. Although you could hardly go wrong my ordering a sandwich with aged provolone and spinach, I go for the rabe, which offers a clear balance between the sweetness of the pork and bitterness of the green.

Lately I've been indulging in breakfast sandwiches from The Grill at Smucker's. Moses Smucker and his crew offer a meaty start to the morning, piling on plenty of ham, bacon, sausage of pork roll atop a roll also filled with egg and/or cheese. The pork roll comes from John F. Martin in the Lancaster/Berks area; it's good, though lacks the spicy punch of the original Jersey variety from either Taylor or Case. The sausage breakfast sandwich comes with two patties which are both the size of a hamburger; the sausage seems to be flavored with a bit of onion rather than sage, but that's no sacrifice to my taste.

It's Apple Eating Time

Thanks to North Star Orchards at Headhouse Square today, I tried an apple new to me, a Pearmain. There are a number of varieties of Pearmans, and I failed to ask Ike which one this was. Perhaps it was the American Summer variety.

Mostly green (with plenty of red tinge) this apple has an appealing tart-sweet balance and pleasing crunch (though certainly not as hard as a Granny Smith). I'm adding to my list of sought after apples. After undertaking some web research, it's no surprise I enjoyed the Pearmain: it's a cultivar of my all-time favorite, the Cox Orange Pippin.

In other Headhouse observations, Matt Yoder went back to Maine earlier this summer, so this field-bean growing enthusiast has split from his short-lived partnership with Tom Culton of Culton Organics. It's left to Culton to sell all those beans: he had plenty of dried cowpeas today, which make a great succotash with the last of the summer's corn should you find any.

Although the corn is fading fast, it's that wonderful time of year when fall produce is offered side-by-side with the last of summer. Tomatoes and peaches will probably be the next to disppear, but eggplants and cucumbers are among the summer produce items still around, as is the late season raspberry. Crisp-tender root veggies like celeriac (celery root), winter squashes, and fall fruits (grapes, apples, pears) help ease the kitchen transition. This is also the time to get paw paws with which you can make a variation on banana bread, cookies, cream or custard pie, cake or ice cream. And with the disappearance of extreme heat, local lettuces are back, like the red-tinged bibb variety I picked up from Earl Livengood at Fairmount's farmers' market .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BAAH! Cheesemaker Plans RTM Outpost
Fresh Cheeses To Be Made On Site

Some of the more than 600 sheep
in Valley Shepherd's flock
Valley Shepherd Creamery is expected to be the first new vendor to occupy space along the Reading Terminal Market's Avenue D.

Earlier this month the RTM and cheesemaker Eran Wajswol signed off on a proposal to occupy about 700 square feet across Avenue D from what will soon be Molly Molloy's gastropub.

The shop will be located along the RTM's back wall, where it will be easiest to pipe in fresh milk from delivery trucks. That's necessary because Wajswol plans to make fresh cheese on premises for market shoppers. At Valley Shepherd's farm store in Long Valley, N.J., his fresh offerings include cream cheeses (no gums or additives) and ricotta.

As its name implies, Valley Shepherd specializes in sheep milk cheeses, although some of its products are cow-sheep mixes.

Although Valley Shepherd plans to make fresh cheese at the RTM, its cave-aged product earned the creamery its stellar reputation. Wajswol went so far as to blast an aging cave into a hillside on his farm. One of his cheeses, a Gouda-like product, spends two years in the cave.

If you haven't had a chance to try Wajswol's cheeses, you're missing one of the best artisinal products available. At least one variety is usually in stock at the Fair Food Farmstand at the RTM, often Shepherd's Basket, a Basque style aged for four to five months. With the exception of the fresh cheeses and yogurts, everything else is made from unpasteurized raw milk. You can get an idea of the offerings at Valley Shepherd Creamery's website.

In addition to the store at the northwest New Jersey creamery. Valley Shepherd operates a small store on Sullivan Street in Manhattan's SoHo district, and soon will be opening another in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. The RTM store will be its third owned and operated retail outlet. In addition to restaurants, like New York City's Le Bernardin, Wajswol sells at various farmers' markets in New York and New Jersey.

If all goes according to plan, you might see Valley Shepherd at the RTM by late spring, according to Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager.
Shut and Open Case at Tootsie's
Over Labor Day weekend, Tootsie's Salad Express shut down while workers began extended the Reading Terminal Market's mezzanine office, which is located above the eater, owned by Marion "Tootsie Iovine" D'Ambrosio. By this past Monday, it was back in business. The work is part of the RTM's Avenue D expansion program.
Market Marketers Extraordinaire
Never let it be said that Iovine Brothers Produce doesn't know how to market their market business.

For a few months now they've been creating videos extolling their produce, which often serves as a primary education in fruits and vegetables. Earlier this summer Jimmy Iovine led a tour of the new wholesale produce market.

More recently their blog has featured recipes from Bobby Fisher, a chef who has long served Iovine's off-premises catering operations and will be top chef at Molly Molloy's, the gastropub  the Iovine's will open next month where the Beer Garden once stood. The Iovine's web page is also regularly updated and is the most extensive one offered by market merchants. They've also got an active email list.

Butch Dougherty, the Iovine's operations manager, is the guy behind most of the digital activity, which also includes Facebook and Twitter postings.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Closings

The Food Trust has already announced that its Headhouse Square farmers' market will close Sunday because of Hurricane Irene. The Reading Terminal Market will hold off its decision until Saturday morning, but assuming Irene sticks to anywhere near the projected track, it too will close Sunday.
Tootsie's, Market Office
Next Up for RTM Renovation

From Tuesday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 11, Tootsie's Salad Express will be closed due to renovations to the Market office. The Market office on the mezzanine above Tootsie's will be temporarily relocated to a storefront within the Convention Center along 11th Street. They'll be there for one or two months, starting the day after Labor Day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DiNic's Starts Rehab of Ochs' Stall

DiNic's has completed a rebuild of the walk-in refrigerator at the former Harry Ochs' stall, where it will relocate its roast pork and beef emporium sometime this fall (probably late October or November). Tommy Nicolosi and son Joe said they're already using it. Yesterday they met with the architects as the design nears completion. Expect to see work on the former butcher stall to begin sometime after Labor Day.
Beer Garden Shuts Monday,
Reopens on "Molly's" Birthday

The renovation of The Beer Garden will start next week, with the projected grand re-opening scheduled for Oct. 11, which just happens to be the birthday of the owners' mother. With the reopening, it will be renamed for her, Molly Molloy's.

In addition to more beer taps Molly Molloy's will feature food by chef Bobby Fisher, who's worked for owners Vinnie and Jimmy Iovine at a number of their catering venues. The new entrance to the Beer Garden will be from Center Count.

The Iovines had hoped to close off the entrance from the aisle between Franks A Lot and Coastal Cave, but the Philadelphia Historical Commission nixed that idea, which necessitated a modest redesign.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Avenue D Project Moving Along 
Works Aims For Completion By Flower Show

The new DiNic's will feature many more counter seats
The RTM is moving forward with its $4.5 million Avenue D improvement and expansion project first reported here more than a year ago. Last week GM Paul Steinke held a series of briefings for market merchants to update them on the sequence of construction and design updates.

If all goes according to schedule, the work will be complete and ready for use before next year's flower show, which opens to the public March 4.

For the market, the central benefit is creating more leaseable space for added vendors.

The biggest benefit as far as the market's customers are concerned is expanded and improved rest room facilities.

But the most visible change will be the addition of a multi-purpose room and new demonstration kitchen at the east end of an expanded Center Court. The room -- to be called the Rick Nichols Room in honor of the Inquirer's former food columnist -- will be used as a seating area when not in use for kitchen demonstrations and private functions.

Rendering of new La Cucina and multi-purpose room
A newly-added feature for the Rick Nichols Room will be a historical exhibit on the market's history adornning the facility's walls. Funded by a William Penn Foundation grant, the exhibit will be prepared by the Philadelphia History Museum (formerly the Atwater Kent) and include contributions from Nichols.

Much of the improvement work has already begun in the bowels of the market, in its giant basement where some of the merchants have storage and prep space. Earlier this year a second elevator went into service to improve basement access. New dry storage space is basically finished, and soon work will begin on adding cooler and freezer units so that the existing cold storage lockers under the mezzanine can be cleared for the rest room and additional vendor space.

The most visible work will begin after Labor Day when both The Beer Garden and DiNic's start construction.

The Beer Garden, purchased by the Iovine brothers earlier this year, will be shut down while a kitchen is added and the seating area and bar renovated and expanded.

DiNic's will be moving to the space last occupied by Harry Ochs & Sons. With twice its current space and lots of additional counter seating, the market hopes lunchtime congestion around the popular lunch stall can be reduced.

When DiNic's moves, Spataro's will take over that space. Flying Monkey will move into Spataro's spot, as well as additional space from what is now the Spice Terminal, which will relocate under the mezzanine. Other vendor alterations include a shift in L. Halteman's footprint to front on Avenue C (where Market Blooms had its second stall), Miscellania Libri and The Shoe Doctor to a new location further north along the renovated Avenue D, and the move of La Cucina to the new demonstration kitchen and multi-purpose room.
Back for Summer's Bounty

With trips to St. Louis and Maine over the past month, I've been necessarily neglectful in updating this blog, and more importantly of indulging in the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables now before us.

 This week I aim to remedy the situation.

Maybe by this weekend (or even this afternoon, when I intend to hit the Fairmount farmers' market) I'll be impressed with local tomatoes. So far, I have not. The Lancaster County beefsteak tomato I picked up yesterday at Ben Kauffman's RTM stall was quite disappointing. Clearly, this wasn't a winter tomato: it was red all the way through with plenty of meat. But the taste failed to live up to its promise. Although I didn't buy them, the heirlooms at both Ben's and Fair Food looked lackluster.

Could it have been July's excessive heat that accounted for the wan flavor? I know extreme and prolonged heat can toughen the skin, among other problems, but does it impact flavor?

The nectarines purchased at Fair Food yesterday, however, were wonderful. These beauties, from Beechwood Orchards (which also sells at Headhouse, Rittenhouse, South & Passyunk and other farmers' markets) featured chin-bathing juiciness and full flavor. I've yet to bite into the peach sitting on the kitchen counter.

Local musk melons, a.k.a. cantelopes, are also in season. The one I picked up a couple weeks ago from Bill Weller's Orchard Hill stand at the Fairmount market was decent enough. Perhaps by now the lopes have developed more sweetness and flavor.

Blueberries have pretty much disappeared (though I did buy some wild lowbush berries in Maine a week ago that were superb) but we've got blackberries galore, which I also adore; those I've had have been delicious. Red raspberries are also plentiful and big, if pricey.

The corn I've sampled so far has also been disappointing, but maybe that's because I've not tried enough. The Silver King from Ben Kaufman yesterday had nice kernels, but it should have been sweeter and cornier. Again, could excessive heat been a culprit? We'll keep trying.

Here's the price rundown on what I spied yesterday at the RTM:

At Kauffman's corn was 50 cents an ear for Silver King, with a slight discount for larger quantities. Bi-color was half the price. Beefstake tomatoes $2.49/pound, heirlooms $4.99. Yellow peaches $1.99, whites $2.99. Blackberries $3 a half-pint, red raspberries $5.95.

Fair Food was selling Beechwood's tree fruit: nectarines $2, donut peaches $3.50, plums $3.50, yellow cling and white peaches $2. Fair Food's organic tomatoes were $4, heirlooms $5.  I bought a couple of poblano peppers at a pricey $7.50/pound. Green bell peppers were  thrift 90 cents. New to me in the refrigerator case were sausages from Southwark restaurant, but I wouldn't try one priced at about $37 a pound!

Iovine Brothers Produce, of course, offers the cheapest quality produce at the market, though O.K. Lee can sometimes given them a run for their money. Pennsylvania-grown (Bloomsburg) tomatoes at Iovine's were $1.49. Jersey white peaches $1.49, California donuts 79 cents. Bloomsburg cantalopes were $1 apiece. Among the peppers, local green bells were 99 cents, while commercial peppers were $1.49 for yellows and reds. Banana peppers were 99 cents, fryers $1.49. Although not as tasty as the locals were a month ago, the West Coast sweet red cherries were worth it at $2.99.

L. Halteman also has relative bargains in summer produce. Corn was 55 cents an ear (3 for $1.19, six for $2.85, a dozen for $5.29). Heirloom tomatoes $2.99, slicers $2.29. Nectarines and peaches (yellow and white) $1.99. Huge cantelopes were $2.99 apiece.

Since it's grilling season now may be the time to make some ribs.

Over at Martin's Quality Meats, spare ribs sere $2.69, baby backs $4.89, beef back $2.39 and lamb $4.29. Giunta's Prime Shop had short ribs for $4.99, lamb for $3.89, baby backs for $4.59. L. Halteman's spare ribs were $2.99.

Short ribs are demanding to cook directly on the grill, but if you're willing to braise them first and finish them out-of-doors you're in for a treat. I made them a couple weeks ago using superb beef from Charlie Giunta. I asked for long cut rather than cross-cut, then braised two or three pounds' worth for about three hours in a slow oven after browning. The braise was simple, with some gently sautéd onions, salt and pepper, whole garlic cloves added to the dutch oven with plain old tap water. After cooking I let them cool in the pot, then before serving charred them over a very hot fire on the gas grill. They were tender and flavorful, among the best short ribs I've had either made at home or ordered in a restaurant. I give most of the credit to the quality of the beef.
'Market Money' To Go Electronic

The Reading Terminal Market's gift certificate program, Market Money, will go from paper to stored value cards -- the ubiquitous "gift cards" issued by credit card companies -- in the near future.

Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager, said the biggest class of users of Market Money are convention and meeting sponsors, not individuals giving gifts. In May 2010, for example, the International Society of Autism Research purchased $75,000 in Market Money . . . but asked that it be issued in $5 denominations. That work out to 15,000 individual $5 chits market staffers had to count out and package for the meeting sponsors. Going to plastic will save considerable time and money for the market in the future.

Timing of the conversion awaits a decision on which payment system (VISA, Mastercard, etc.) offers the market the best deal.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

One of the ads from the current campaign
Face of the Market

For about a year, one aspect of the Reading Terminal Market's advertising and marketing campaign has focused on photos of regular market shoppers. This year, the market is seeking your photos to determine who will be featured in the next campaign.

It's called Face of the Market, and requires you to submit a photo of yourself at the market along with a brief explanation of why you love the market. Winners must be available to pose for a professional photographer August 20.

Details can be found here.
RTM Festivals

Two festivals are coming up at the Reading Terminal Market this summer, one a relative newcomer, the other one that's been going strong for more than two decades.

The relative newcomer (it's only been held for three or four years, iirc) is the Ultimate Philadelphia Ice Cream Festival. This year it will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bassetts Ice Cream, one of the market's original tenants. It will be held in Center Court next Saturday,

In addition to Bassetts, Philadelphia's finest ice creams will be represented by Miller's Twist (which features Kreider Farm's product), Franklin Fountain, Uncle Dave's, Capogiro and Bredenbeck's Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor of Chestnut Hill. Uncle Dave's is based at Shady Brook Farm in Bucks County, which supplies some of the local fruits and vegetables (including corn) sold at Iovine Brothers Produce. The Berley Brothers of Franklin Fountain, located on Market Street between Front and Second, were prominently featured in an article about ice cream sodas in last Wednesday's New York Times.

The event also features arts and crafts for the kids, live music, games, and more.

For 22 years (with a one-year hiatus) the Reading Terminal Market has celebrated the commonwealth's food heritage with its annual Pennsylvania Dutch Festival. This year it will be held August 11, 12, and 13 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

The three-day festival will take place in the Center Court seating area and will feature handmade crafts and traditional foods. On Saturday, the festival also moves outdoors on Arch Street to create a country fair in the city. Amish buggy rides and horse drawn wagon rides around the market, a farm animal petting zoo, and live bluegrass music round out the entertainment.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Tower Grove Farmers' Market, St. Louis

 Once upon a time, say 20 years ago, there were few farmers' markets in large cities, including St. Louis from where I just returned after a week's stay.

When I first visited the city nearly 30 years ago there was only Soulard Market, the public market on the fringe of downtown, and a small farmers' market in "The Loop", where a trolley line once terminated in the close-in suburb of University City (named for its proximity to Washington University).  Although the number of farmers markets in St. Louis today pale besides those of Philadelphia, they are much more plentiful than they once were.

Last Saturday I stopped by one of the larger ones, located in the center of Tower Grove Park, a classic urban park in the Olmstead tradition, though not desired by him or his firm. The farmers market featured about two dozen vendors with hardly any artsy-crafts vendors, thankfully, though there were a grilled cheese vendor and a breakfast taco stall. A couple meat vendors (no poultry, though), dairy/cheese vendors and produce vendors filled most of the stalls (two of the produce vendors were Amish: a touch of home). All in all, a well-rounded farmers' market.

My purchases: a pound of bratwurst, four fresh spring onions, half-pint new red potatoes, half-pint sungold tomatoes (hoop house grown), half-pint blackberries, one musk melon (cantaloupe). The only price recall is $3 for the blackberries. The tomatoes were deliciously sweet and real. I sauteed the onions and potatoes to go with the brats this evening, all were yummy.

St. Louis Sojourn:
Land of the Gooey Butter Cake

Back from a one-week visit to St. Louis, one of a number I've made since my sister moved there almost 30 years ago.

I managed to consume only one of the city's three iconic foods. That would be toasted ravioli, which is not toasted but deep fried. When not overly greasy from poorly executed deep-frying, these morsels make a fun appetizer when dipped in the accompanying tomato sauce.

The populace of St. Louis having a gigantic collective sweet tooth, the remaining food icons are the Ted Drewes "concrete", a super thick shake made from real custard at the Ted Drewes custard stand, and Gooey Butter Cake. The latter is descended from German butter cake, a fine example of which is produced by Haegele's in Mayfair in Northeast Philadelphia. St. Louisans muck it up, however, by putting super gooety, corn-syrupy, fruit and/or nut toppings over it. A dentist's dream.

You can, however, skip the toppings by ordering Deep Butter Cake, which skips the gloppy, gooey topping. Although not quite as rich as Haegel's version, this is a fine cake, at least the version I picked up at Federhofer's Bakery in South St. Louis, home to much of the region's remaining German population. Their Deep Butter Cake was finely crumbed and tasted like a lighter version of a pound cake. A very nice cake, indeed, perfect with coffee. Federhofer's was a complete bakery, with breads and rolls in addition to a nice variety of cakes, pastries and cookies. We took home a rye bread, softer than a Jewish rye but with clear rye flavor and maintaining a nice  chew.

Earlier in the week in search of Deep Butter Cake I visited The Hill, St. Louis's Italian neighborhood, where two of baseball's great catchers grew up together: Yogi Berra and Joe Gargiaola. There I stopped by Missouri Baking Company; alas, no Deep Butter Cake because they were using only their small oven last week, having taking down the big oven which is being replaced by a new one this week. Instead I purchased some excellent assorted cookies, light and crumbly, biscotti (which was a tad moist rather than dry) some small, round seeded sandwich rolls which tasted not unlike Sarcone's, and sfogliatelle, slightly cakier than Isgro's or Termini's and dusted with confectioner's sugar, but tasty and with the absolutely necessary crackly clamshell exterior.

Down the block I was drawn to Volpi's, a mid-sized business whose salamis, mortadelli, and other cured meat products can be found nationwide. At least a few Philadelphia establishments use and/or sell their products, including DiBruno's and Salumeria.

The Hill has a couple other bakeries and grocery stores full of Italian imports, as well a bocce club and numerous restaurants, good, bad and middling, and coffee houses. There was also a nice restaurant/kitchen supply store. What I didn't spy, however, was an Italian ice establishment. Gelato, yes. Lemon ice, no. Seem like a business opportunity, especially during the city's hot, humid summers.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

 Beechwood Orchards at Headhouse
Berries and  Cherries

Summer's bounty of  berries and cherries could be found at most markets this weekend.

Over at Beechwood Orchards at Headhouse I purchased $5/quart pie cherries, which I'll transfom into sherbet and/or cobbler. Beechwood also had them at Rittenhouse yesterday. Another stone fruit also made a Beechwood appearance, apricots, at $3.75/pint. Dave Garretson didn't have many, but expects more in coming weeks.

Beechwood's sweet cherries (red or the yellow-pink Rainiers) were $7/quart, compared to Three Springs Fruit Farm's $8 (two pint price) for reds. Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce sold reds Saturday for $6.99/pound, which translate to about $9/quart. His Queen Annes were pricier, at $7.99/pound.

(Garretson said he sells Rainiers rather than Queen Anne's because the latter are easy to "fingerprint," i.e., they bruise as soon as you pick them with your fingers.)

Blueberries from local growers are also in season, whether they come from the commercial (but nonetheless quite tasty) South Jersey growers ($3.75/pint, iirc) or farmers market vendors (about $5/pint).

Raspberries, both red and black, could also be purchased. Beechwood's cost $5 for a half-pint box. Some vendors still feature strawberries for $6-$7/quart.

Asparagus has disappeared for all practical puposes, but there are lots of other veggies to replace them. Summer squashes are abundant, and eggplant is now available, too -- $1 apiece for Sicilian or regular at A.T. Buzby's Headhouse stall today. Green and yellow string beans, sugar snap peas, sweet or English peas (shelled or still in the pod), garlic scapes, cucumbers (regular "garden" cukes, kirby cukes for pickling and "seedless" varieties. The last type makes fantastic "quick" Scandinavian style pickles to serve alongside cold salmon. Boiled new potatoes (also abundant at local markets) makes another excellent accompaniment to that salmon. And you've got lots of choice in greens for both cooking and salads. Beets and turnips are also widely available.

Leafy herbs -- parsley and cilantro among them -- are also easy to find now, as are spring onions.

If you can't wait another month, corn is available but you'll pay dearly. Buzby had white ears today priced at 75-cents apiece. I'll wait for peak season when even Tom Culton will occasionally sell his (including the mirai variety) at less than half that price.