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.