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!