Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Random Notes on Reading Terminal Market Celebration

It's time to play catch-up with the remaining events at last week's Avenue D Renovation Celebration at the Reading Terminal Market.

Eran Wajswol
Rick Nichols, who planned much of the week's programs along with market officials was quite proud of the title he gave to last Thursday's noontime talk by Eran Wajswol of Valley Shepherd Creamery:

What a Friend We Have in Cheeses

Wajswol, a late-comer to commercial cheese-making after a career as an engineer for nuclear power plant cooling systems, will be joining the list of market vendors this fall when he opens up his shop along Avenue D, where he'll not only sell and serve cheese (serving in the form of cheese paninis), but make it, too. He'll use cow milk from regional dairies (Delaware Valley College's and University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school are likely, but he's got others under consideration) to produce at least one cheese at the terminal, in full view of customers. "Reading Cheddar" will be his first cheese, but you won't be able to buy it for at least eight to twelve months after it's made: that's how long it will take to age in the market's basement where he'll have his aging room as well as milk storage tank. He's also considering making a Stilton-like cheese, and perhaps a fresh mozzarella.

Terrence Feury works salmon as Rick Nichols comments
Ellen Yin of Fork was joined by her long-time, but soon-to-be-gone chef, Terrence Feury, for a fish demonstration Friday at noon.

It's unfortunate that in the demonstrate Feury used a fish that's hard for the retail customer to come by: a salmon trout from Loch Duart in Scotland. This farm-raised fish is of superb quality, much better than the typical farm-raised Atlantic salmon. But it's impossible to find in fish stores, and exceedingly pricey even at the wholesale level. Even domestically raised salmon-trout, also known as steelhead, can be difficult (but not impossible) to find in retail stores in the Philadelphia area.

That said, Feury made a tasty dish that could easily be replicated, if not for the fish, at home. (I'd recommend doing it with Alaska king or sockeye salmon, now in season.) Cut a skinned filet into small serving pieces, about 2 ounces and lightly sprinkle with a mix of equal amounts of kosher salt and sugar, then let sit for about 20 minutes. The pieces then get very lightly sautéed in a lightly oiled pan (just warmed through, not cooked, hence the need for the best possible fish), then served with a lemon-oil emulsion (equal parts juice and olive oil, emulsified in the blender). He accompanied the fish with a melange of tiny cubes of cucumber, sun-dried tomato, in a sauce made with verjus and olive oil.

Yin and Feury's presentation was well attended, and among those watching was a Philadelphia restaurant luminary from the past: Kathleen Mulhern. She was another contributor to the city's restaurant renaissance in the 1970s with The Garden, which lasted from 1973 until early in the new millenium.

Jeremy Nolan makes sausage
Sausage, sauerkraut and beer was the focus of Doug Hager, proprietor of Brauhaus Schmitz, and his executive chef, Jeremy Nolan, at Friday's 5 p.m. demonstration. This summer they plan to open their retail outpost at the RTM, Wursthaus Schmitz, where they'll sell sausages for cooking at home, German deli meats, and grocery items imported from the old country. Sausages and salad items they don't make in their own kitchen at the South Street restaurant (now being expanded) will come from Rieker's, the emporium of all goods German in Fox Chase.

As Nolan operated the gleaming sausage stuffer, after mixing ground pork with appropriate seasonings to make bratwurst, Hager, born in northern Bavarian to an American father and German mother, poured the beer. And they weren't tiny samples, either! The beer and cooked brats were accompanied by a sauerkraut (based on imported German wine kraut, but doctored up by Nolan with beer, juniper berries and other seasonings), and German potato salad.

Anna Florio (left) and Aliza Green
On Saturday at noon, in the week's final demonstration, Aliza Green, the first chef at White Dog Cafe, consultant to many Philadelphia restaurants, and inveterate cookbook author, demonstrated how to use ingredients found at the market with Anna Florio, proprietor of La Cucina at the Market, the demonstration kitchen where she conducts classes and food-related events.

The centerpiece was handmade pappadelle pasta: she kept on saying how easy it was, but her kneading and rolling obviously required plenty of elbow grease, even if the technique was simple. Although she had semolina for dusting, the primary flour was Daisy, from a mill in Annville, Pennsylvania, which started in 1740. She said the low-protein, extra finely milled flour is ideal for pasta because it easily rolls out and results in soft, tender pasta that readily absorbs sauce or broth. While Green tended to the pasta, Florio worked wonders with zucchini (bought from Iovine's) in the sauté pan. The pasta was served with a simple olive oil sauce enlivened by garlic scapes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bargains, Rarities at Reading Terminal Market

Frying peppers, cheap
If there's a pepper surplus when the season comes to a close, you might see frying peppers sell for as little as 50 cents a pound. But that's then. Now you can buy them at Iovine Brother's Produce for 89 cents a pound, a clear bargain since just a month or so they were priced as high as $1.99.

I couldn't resist buying a bunch, as well as Italian sausage from Martin's Quality Meats at the Reading Terminal Market. Sauté the peppers with some onions, cook the sausage, and put it all on a good hoagie roll and you've got a fine meal. All the basic food groups are covered except beer.

Peaches have made an early arrival at the market. Benuel Kaufman has some early varities for $2.49/pound, while Halteman is selling them for $2.19. Other good buys at Halteman's: blueberries $3.29 a pint (though Iovine's has Jerseys at $1.99), black raspberries $4.99/pint, sweet cherries $5.99/quart.

Iovine has donut peaches (I didn't ask, but I expect they're from California) for 99-cents pound. They also have a good deal on Vidalia onions, 50 cents pound (normally anywhere from 69-cents to a buck).

Ben Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce boasts another produce item that's a few weeks earlier than normal: corn. I'll pass on that for another week or two, but I can't resist his long, red beets which I find sweeter than the more traditional round beet.

The best deals on cherries I've seen has been at the Fair Food Farmstand, where sour pie cherries have been going for $6/quart, nearly three bucks less than Ben Kauffman asks. I turned two quarts into sorbet last week. Buy them now, because the sour cherry season is incredibly short.

White Dog & Reading Terminal Market

Panelists discussions the local food movement, from left: Ann Karlin of Fair Food, Nicky Uy of the Food Trust, White Dog Cafe founder Judy Wicks, and Bob Pierson of Farm to City
The Reading Terminal Market's Avenue D Celebration included a panel discussion late Tuesday afternoon focusing on "How the Local Food Movement Got Its Start".

Among the panelists was Judy Wicks, who founded the White Dog Cafe and, through her foundation, the Fair Food project.

The seminal importance of Wicks' White Dog Cafe to the Philadelphia food movement becomes clear just by looking at some of the other participants in the eleven demonstrations and discussions the market is hosting as part of its celebration.

James Barrett and Wendy Born of Metropolitan Bakery
Aliza Green, the first chef at White Dog who was instrumental in executing and developing the cafe's emphasis on locally-produced foods, will co-present (with La Cuchina proprietor Anna Florio) "From the Market Aisles to Your Plate". (Their program is scheduled for 12 noon Saturdy.) In recent years Aliza has produced a series of no-nonsense, highly useful pocket-sized books dedicted to single categories of foods (meat, fish, produce, etc.) which provides an A-to-Z guide on how to buy, store and use individual foods.

James Barrett and Wendy Born, founders of Metropolitan Bakery, both worked at White Dog in its early days. Among members of the audience Thursday afternoon when they gave a bread-making demonstration was Jack Treatman, of Old City Coffee, another alumni of White Dog.

Restauranteur Ellen Yin also spent time as a server at White Dog. She joined Terrence Feury, her outgoing chef at Fork, at the noontime demonstration today on preparing fish.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Philadelphia & Chocolate: History

Wilbur Buds
With the big dedication ceremony complete, the Reading Terminal Market got into the nitty gritty of regional food lore in the first of its week long programs in the Rick Nichols Room.

Leading off at noon on Monday was Michael Holahan, co-owner of the market's Pennsylvania General Store and president of the Reading Terminal Market Merchants Association, who provided an overview of the region's role in the chocolate industry.

Today' candy industry, Holahan explained, grew out of the mom-and-pop confectioneries that could be found in almost any burg with a railroad depot, to provide quick treats for passengers. In eastern Pennsylvania, many of these shops had been established by immigrant Germans, who brought their traditional recipes over from the Old World. With the introduction of industrialization in the late 19th century some of the shops kicked up production, and found markets beyond their little towns for some of the treats they created. Among those in the greater Philadelphia region that attained renown were Zagnut, Goobers, Raisinets and Snow Caps.

One Philadelphia confectioner came up with the brilliant idea of placing filled chocolates in a box. Although Whitman's no longer manufactures in Philadelphia (it was bought out by Russell Stover), the concept lives on.

The German candy tradition was supplemented in the big cities, Holahan said, by Jewish candy-makers. In Philadelphia the most prominent product coming out of that lineage today would be Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, which Holahan said the Goldenbergs started as a ration during World War I.  Although, like most of the small chocolates firms it has been taken over by a larger company, Just Born (maker of Peeps), Peanut Chews continue to be manufactured in Philadelphia -- because Just Born wants to keep its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, plant peanut-free.

In his talk Holahan also recounted the birth of the Wilbur Bud, how Milton Hershey sold off his Lancaster caramel manufacturing business to found his model community and orphange and make the Hershey bar on the side, and the eventual duopoly battles between Mars and Hershey, especially once Mars in the 1960s started processing its own chocolate rather than buying $30 million worth a year from Hershey.

For additional reading on the subject Holahan recommended Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn.

Factoids from Reading Terminal Market celebration

At Monday's celebration of the Reading Terminal Market's Avenue D renovation and dedication of the Rick Nichols Room, I learned a bunch more about the RTM. The ceremonies also included the unveiling of the exhibit on the history of the market along the back wall of the Nichols Room.

From Paul Steinke, the market's general manager, in his opening remarks: the market and its merchans employ more than 400 people.

From Mike Holahan, president of the Reading Terminal Market Merchants' Association: When the market opened in 1892 there were 750 merchants -- two thirds of them butchers -- within the same footprint as today's market.
Of course, all of today's seating areas, including the center court which takes up about five percent of the square footage, was devoted to stalls back then. And most stalls were a lot smaller.
From Rick "Room" Nichols, retired Philadelphia Inquirer food columnist: the multi-purpose room named in his honor slopes downward toward center court because the fish mongers used to be there, and the slope directed water from the melting ice to the drain. He also observed that fish and newspapers have a "natural affinity" for each other.

Here are some photos from the Avenue D project celebration Monday.

Although Rick Nichols was the honoree at the morning ceremony, he
was the host with the most cupcakes at the Monday evening program

Domenic Spataro found a photo of his parents at the original family stall
when he toured the new historic exhibit on the back wall of the Nichols Room

Domenic Spataro, who died in January, and wife Dorothy (center) in photo taken about
1948 featured in the new Reading Terminal Market history exhibit in the Nichols Room.
Youngsters from the Chinatown Learning Center opened the ceremonies Monday morning
with some songs, including 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm'
Blackbird Society Orchestra also provided musical accompaniment to the festivities.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Poses and Garces Together at Reading Terminal Market

Steve Poses, Rick Nichols and Jose Garces
The man who launched the Philadelphia Restaurant renaissance, Steve Poses, was unexpectedly greeted by the man who today represents Philadelphia restaurants to the world, Jose Garces.

They met late this afternoon prior to Poses' presentation as part of the Reading Terminal Market's renovation celebration. That celebration centered around the dedication of the Rick Nichols Room, the new multi-purpose room serving as the keystone of the market's Avenue D renovation program.

It was Nichols, retired food columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who arranged for Garces to make a surprise visit to La Cucina, the kitchen and cooking school located adjacent to the new room. Poses was genuinely surprised by Garces' appearance, who he had never met before.

While Garces may be the face of Philadelphia food these days thanks to his role as one of the Food Networks' Iron Chefs, it was Poses, more than any other single individual (George Perrier included), who is associated with the city's restaurant renaissance in the 1970s through his first restaurant, Frog, and later The Commissary. Poses today concentrates on catering, including the recent Franklin Institute fund-raisers for the Obama reelection campaign.

For his 5 p.m. program today Poses demonstrated an item which made an early appearance on Frog's menu: Siamese Chicken Curry with Broccoli and Peanuts. Poses said it was added after he tasted a similar dish at staff meals prepared the Thai cooks who populated Frog's kitchen; his twist was to use the Thai curry paste to flavor a defiantly un-Thai bechamel sauce. The more than two dozen foodies in the audience had a chance to sample the dish, as well as a watermelon-feta salad he prepared.

The recipe is included in The Frog Commissary Cookbook, which remains a steady seller among cookbooks in the Philadelphia market.

Poses and Garces

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reading Terminal Market Nears Avenue D Finish Line

The new, improved Avenue D looking south
toward Filbert Street (Harry Ochs Way)
The Reading Terminal Market will celebrate its Avenue D improvement program with a ribbon cutting Monday and programs and panels for every foodie's taste through the following Saturday.

The $3.4 million program not only eliminated the zig-zag of the market's Avenue D corridor and replaced it with a straight-line vista (see photo at left), but created additional leaseable space for new merchants, and a new multi-purpose room which, when not used for general seating, can handle special programs and group meetings. The market's infrastructure was improved with the addition of a second freight elevator to the basement, where new dry, refrigerated and freezer storage was created.

The ceremonies kick off Monday, June 18, with Mayor Michael Nutter snipping the official opening ribbon at 10 a.m. That ceremony will also dedicate the multi-purpose room named after Rick Nichols, food columnist emeritus for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the market history exhibit which adorns the room's walls. Nichols helped prepare the exhibit with the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent.

Foodie programs will be held at 12 noon and 5 p.m. each day through Friday, with another noontime program on Saturday. On Wednesday at 5 p.m. a panel chaired by Michael Klein of the Inquirer and will feature local food bloggers: Claire Batten of, Kaitlin Lunny of, and yours truly. The full schedule of programs follows at the end of this blog entry.

Although next week marks the official dedication, none of the four new vendors announced so far will be open for business. The first to open is expected to be The Head Nut, in space formerly used as refrigerated storage under the market's mezzanine-level office. The purveyor of nuts, candy, general bulk dry goods, coffee and tea could be open as early as the end of June. Valley Shepherd Creamery and Wursthaus Schmitz are working on their zoning and building permits and their Health Department plan review process.  The Tubby Olive is finalizing its store design.

The Head Nut under construction
That still leaves unfilled one of the newly-created spaces (a small stall across Avenue D from La Cucina), in addition to finding a vendor to take over the larger Coastal Cave spot, vacated this spring when the owner retired. Another large, prime space to be filled was created earlier this year when Delilah Winder's eponymous soul food emporium entered bankruptcy.

The addition of The Head Nut has already trimmed a temporary surge in the market's seating capacity. When construction starts on Wursthaus Schmitz seating will shrink even more. Because of the earlier move of Flying Monkey and creation of the Rick Nichols Room, however, the market will have more seating than before the Avenue D project began. Still, it will be musical chairs for peak lunch hour seats.

Avenue D Dedication Week Programs

Monday, June 18:
12 noon -- Pennsylvania is for Chocolate Lovers, Michael Holahan of Pennsylvania  General Store; Philly Meets the Bayou with Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Café.
5 p.m., At Home with Steve Poses
Tuesday, June 19:
12 noon -- Cooking with Sal, Sal Vetri and Brad Spence of Amis Restaurant
5 p.m. -- How the Local Food Movement Got its Start, with Ann Karlen of Fair Food, Bob Pierson of Farm to City, Nicky Uy of The Food Trust, and Judy Wicks of the White Dog Foundation.
Wednesday, June 20:
12 noon -- Dipping into Philly’s Ice Cream Roots, Bassetts Ice Cream and the Berley Brothers of Franklin Fountain.
5 p.m. -- Food Bloggers panel.
Thursday, June 21:
12 noon -- What a Friend We Have in Cheeses, with Eran Wajswol, Valley Shepherd Creamery.
5 p.m. -- Making Serious Dough, with Wendy Born and James Barrett of Metropolitan Bakery
Friday, June 22:
12 noon -- Seafood Made Easy, with Ellen Yin and Terence Feury of Fork Restaurant.
5 p.m. -- Made in Germany, with Doug Hager and Jeremy Nolen of Wursthaus Schmitz
Saturday, June 23:
12 Noon -- From the Market Aisles to Your Plate with cookbook author Aliza Green La Cuchina at the Market's Anna Florio.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

DiNic's Tonight on Travel Channel, 9 p.m.

Joe and Tom Nicolosi of DiNic's
Tonight's the night of the Northeastern U.S. sandwich showdown on the Travel Channel, as the roast pork sandwich from DiNic's goes up against the best that New York City and Pittsburgh can offer.

It's no surprise that Man vs. Food host Adam Richman returned to DiNic's for his new program, Best Sandwich in America. In reruns of the former show he can be seen wearing a DiNic's t-shirt in episodes featuring foods from Kansas City and Cleveland, among other cities.

The show starts at 9 p.m. Most Comcast subscribers in Philadelphia can catch it on channels 188 or 840. If you miss it, repeats are scheduled for 12 a.m. tonight, 12 a.m. Saturday, 10 p.m. Sunday, 1 a.m. Monday, and again next Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday, June 14 at 12 a.m. and 8 p.m. Still missed it? It will be in regular rotation at various times through June 25.

For a rundown of the sandwiches in the competition, see my April 12 post.

Iovine's Goes Local at Reading Terminal Market

Iovine's uses old-fashioned carts to feature local produce
Local produce is hardly a new thing for Iovine Brothers Produce at the Reading Terminal Market. But earlier this spring they positioned two old-fashioned carts near the front of their space to emphasize the local connections.

These days the carts are loaded with lettuces, radishes, cooking greens, summer squashes, mushrooms, scallions and lots more from nearby farms, primarily southern New Jersey, but Bucks County, too.

Jimmy and Vinnie Iovine have long-standing relationships with a number of local farms, including Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, especially for corn.

But even more produce comes from the larger, commercial South Jersey operations, like Vineland's Flaim Farm in Cumberland County. While Flaim is a larger operation than the typical boutique farmer you'll find at the Headhouse Square or Rittenhouse Square farmers' markets, the produce is just as fresh and nutritious, and usually considerably less expensive. Iovine takes deliveries direct from the farms, avoiding the middle-man stop at the wholesale produce market, which speeds the product from farm to shopping cart. And although Flaim and other local farms supplying Iovine are big in comparison with a Tom Culton or Earl Livengood, they're still small potatoes when put up against the agribusinesses in California and Mexico supplying your local Acme.

Iovine's regularly sends out emails (see the latest here) showcasing their specials, including locally grown items. This week they're featuring blueberries. Although the blues brought up from the Carolinas are less expehsive ($1.99 a pint), they've got the first of the South Jersey crop at $3.99. Expect the price to decline in coming weeks as the local product comes into full harvest.

Iovine's is hardly the only option for local produce at the Reading Terminal Market:
  • O.K. Lee, the other large full-range greengrocer at the market, also brings in local produce, including from Lancaster County.
  • Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, in the market's Pennsylvania Dutch area, features fruits and vegetables from Amish country Wednesdays through Saturday.
  • L. Halteman Family, primarily a deli and butcher, offers a limited selection of seasonal produce from their Pennsylvania Dutch country neighbors, Monday through Saturday.
  • Bowes Family Farm from Milton, Pennsylvania, offering organic produce, can usually be found Thursday through Saturday in the Piano Court (near Metropolitan Bakery). His prices, though, rival those at the high-end farmers' markets.
  • Fair Food Farmstand has been pioneering selling local produce at the market for about a dozen years, often at prices that rival Iovine's. Much of their produce comes from the same producers you'll find at local farmers' markets.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Headhouse: Garlic to Cherries

Green Garlic from Savoie Farms
I'll let the photos do most of the talking from my visit to the Headhouse Square farmers' market this past Sunday. As usual, Tom Culton's displays tend to be the most photogenic, though there's no less artistry to be seen in produce from any of the other vendors.

Strawberries were also still around, and probably will be for another week or so. But cherries have appeared (only Beechwood Orchards had sour cherries for pies) and should become more plentiful over the next few weeks. If you're lucky, you might also come upon some raspberries or apricots. Zucchinis and yellow squash are already in abundance.
Fava beans from Queen Farm joined a table laden with greens, radishes and oyster mushrooms
Tom Culton's slate claims these are cornichons, but that's just a fancy way of saying these
are small, immature cucumbers (a.k.a. gherkins) ideal for pickling
Culton offered two varieties of sweet cherries
Red and white spring onions at Culton Organics

Bassett's Mural at Reading Terminal Market

Most visible portion of mural above Bassett's ice cream stall
Unless you look for it, you might not notice the mural wrapping around the top of Bassett's Ice Cream at the Reading Terminal Market. But it's worth seeking out amid the overhead pipes, wires, lighting fixtures and ductwork.

Michael Strange, Bassett's chief executive officer and great-great-grandson of the founder, said the mural was created in the 1980s by the then-girlfriend of David K. O'Neil, the market's general manager at the time. Most of the faces on the mural are those of vendors and other people associated with the market.