A Midwinter’s Day in the Lehigh Valley
Sunday, February 07, 2016
Between the melting mounds of old, dirty snow and the perpetual construction in the neighborhood, we had a strong urge to get out of the city yesterday. So, we made a return trip to of our favorite local wineries: Pinnacle Ridge and Galen Glen, both in the Lehigh Valley. As Craig Laban noted in his 2014 article, Lehigh Valley white wines are remarkable, but Pinot Noir is also served well by the cooler climate. On this trip, however, we weren’t so much sampling recent vintages as a stocking our wine cellar. (Please note that by “wine cellar,” I simply mean a cleared out space space on the floor and shelves of our basement pantry, which remains a fairly steady temperature year-round.) Tasting the wines with that specific intent altered the experience. Rather than deciding which wines I liked best, I was deciding which wines I liked that were also most versatile.
From Pinnacle Ridge, we brought back the Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. The Cabernet Franc has a nice, light mouthfeel and herbal, peppery taste that is slightly tannic. While the tannins could soften over time, I don’t think it will be hanging around that long. Unusual for us, we also picked up two bottles of the Chardonnay - the oaked one, mind you, and not the one fermented in stainless steel tanks. Over the winter, I found myself wanting a glass of oaked Chardonnay along with roasted whitefish or chicken. It may be the presence of butter in those dishes, or my own association of butter and oaked Chardonnay, but eating them without the wine was feeling incomplete.
From Galen Glen, we brought home a full case, eight bottles of which are the Stone Cellar Gruner Veltliner. I’ve written about this wine on several occasions before, so there isn’t much new that I can say about it. It’s delicious, fragrant, and beautifully balanced, and I can’t imagine it not improving any food it’s paired with. It’s also complex enough that I can imagine drinking eight bottles without tiring of it. We also brought home two bottles of the Stone Cellar Gewurztraminer and two of the Stone Cellar Riesling. The Gewurztraminer has a heavily floral nose and tastes of tropical fruit. I imagine pairing it with curries or spicy food quite easily. The Riesling is bracingly acidic, and it somehow manages to evoke most of the citrus fruits in a single glass. If I could ever convince the relatives to come here for Thanksgiving, this would be the wine I would serve, but this wine is so refreshing, it will work with just about anything.
Garden Visit: Longwood Gardens
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Last Saturday, as the snow in town grew increasingly dirty and slushy, we decided to take a drive out to visit Longwood Gardens. This time of year the garden features a huge orchid display in their greenhouses, but we skipped all that, as we’ve done in visits in every season, and headed straight for the Meadow Garden. Opened in June 2014, the Meadow Garden covers 86 acres with native plants, trails and scenic vistas. It was a virtual winter wonderland, still covered in snow and bordered by a small frozen lake and wetlands. In previous visits, we’ve seen a succession of native blooms, vibrant fall leaves and evidence of attention to pollinators and native bird habitat everywhere. In a garden known for its formality and pageantry, the Meadow Garden is an unexpectedly beautiful change of course.
For those of you who, like us, still need a little bit of green around this time of year, the garden shop had an impressive stock of succulents and small indoor plants grown by Gary’s Specialty Plants in nearby Lancaster County. Each one was labelled with light and moisture requirements, so I’m hoping these little guys have a better shot than my previous attempts at succulent planting.
Cape May Sea Salt Available in Philly
Sunday, January 31, 2016
A heads up for those readers who had asked where to find Cape May Sea Salt here in Philly - both Green Aisle Grocery and Ippolito’s Seafood now carry it. Green Aisle, of course, is full of local and regional goodness, but it was also terrific to see it in a place like Ippolito’s that doesn’t focus exclusively on locality.
Posted by Donna on 01/31 at 02:21 PM
When There’s Fire, There Should Be Smoke
Monday, January 11, 2016
Now that the weather finally resembles winter, I smell fires going in fireplaces nearly every night. I, in turn, light our fireplace every chance I get, and settle onto the couch with something comforting and steaming. It’s safe to say that if I am in the house, I am in front of the fireplace.
It is, perhaps, all of that time around a fire that makes me crave smokiness in my food. Coupling that with a strong desire to ease off of meat after the holidays, I opted for this frittata from Yotam Ottolenghi as breakfast one recent morning.
In this case, the smokiness comes from the scamorza and paprika. Be sure to sufficiently brown the cauliflower before adding the egg mixture; it makes all the difference in the flavor. Neither should you eliminate the chives if you can help it; they provide a nice contrast both in taste and appearance. It was easy to make with local ingredients: I substituted smoked gouda for the scamorza and cheddar and yogurt for the creme fraiche. Since this was only for the two of us, I cut everything in half (but used four smallish eggs) and split everything between two small cast-iron skillets. Consequently, I cut the cooking time in the oven to approximately six minutes.
Eat This Baby For Breakfast
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
I’m almost two years late to the Dutch Baby Craze, and I have no idea why I waited so long to try one after seeing these skillet size pancakes puffing up all over food blogs and in the NYT Food section. They couldn’t be easier to make, and the popover effect both looks cool and creates lovely browned edges and pools of melted butter. I followed this recipe from The Kitchn, swapping out the all purpose flour with whole wheat from Daisy Organic Flours. It was still light and wonderfully chewy - I wouldn’t have known it was whole wheat flour if I hadn’t made it myself.
Locally Made Traditional Bangers
Sunday, January 03, 2016
We found Stryker Farm’s Irish Style Bangers at the Fair Food Farmstand, and made them here as God intended them - with mashed potatoes and onion gravy, along with the remaining bottles of Troeg’s Mad Elf and Victory Winter Cheers left over from a recent holiday party. It was a very Happy New Year.
Posted by Donna on 01/03 at 03:23 PM
Local Bitters for the Holidays
Friday, December 04, 2015
We just got back from the member preview of Bartram’s Garden’s Holiday Greens Sale, where we picked up armfuls of lovely holly and other evergreens along with a jar of Bartram’s Bitters. The bitters are made locally from John Bartram’s own recipe by Philadelphia Distilling and Fair Food Philly. The Greens Sale runs tomorrow from 10-3, promising wreaths and centerpieces as well, along with various artisan vendors.
Posted by Donna on 12/04 at 07:53 PM
A Bumper Crop .... of Limes
Monday, November 30, 2015
So these limes above are ripe - picked straight off our little indoor/outdoor tree just yesterday. Before this crop of eight beautiful limes, we thought a ripe lime was green. Only after picking the first one when it seemed a perfect size and still a lovely dark green, but nonetheless under ripe, and doing a bit of research, did we learn that most lime varieties are yellowish when ripe but are harvested before ripening and do not continue to do so once picked. It reminded me once again of the compromises we accept when we purchase produce that is packed and shipped long distances. We may not all be able to grow limes in our homes, although I would highly recommend it, but we can refuse to accept far flung inferior imports of those crops we can and do grow here.
Posted by Donna on 11/30 at 04:13 PM
A Panful of Broiled Goodness
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
All of the ingredients for this Crusty Broiled Cod with Littlenecks and Chouriço can be found at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market, so there’s no excuse not to make this right away. I was excited when I first saw the recipe in the Times Food section, as we’ve been underwhelmed with other baked fish recipes and I thought the broiler might solve the persistent problem of wet, mushy fillets. The cod came succulent and flavorful with the addition of the parsley, garlic and panko topping, along with the lovely pan juices created by just a bit of wine, the juice of the clams and the lemons. Since La Divisa Meats was out of their two sausages closest to the Portuguese Chouriço called for, we used Mexican Chorizo from Talula’s Table and were thrilled with the way they crisped up slightly and added smoke and spice to the dish. We’ll be making this every week Shore Catch doesn’t run out of fish. Don’t forget a baguette.
Posted by Donna on 11/18 at 04:55 PM
Philly Food Swap and Thanksgiving Turkeys
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Now that Halloween is behind us we can tactfully discuss that other holiday that comes before Christmas. If you haven’t ordered your turkey yet, there is still time. The Fair Food Farmstand, once again, is offering a range of choices: naturally raised broad-breasted whites from Howe Farms; Griggstown Farm’s heritage breed Red Bourbons; Bronze heirloom and certified-organic broad-breasted whites from Koch’s Turkey Farm; and organically fed pastured turkeys from Bendybrook Farm. The order form can be found here. Griggstown Farm turkeys can also be ordered directly from Griggstown but must be picked up at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market on Wednesday. Finally, Green Aisle Grocery is offering turkeys from Green Meadow. It’s also worth noting that all three also offer Thanksgiving sides in case cooking the turkey consumes your kitchen.
Prior to Thanksgiving, however, the Philly Swappers are holding another Food Swap. It’s been some time since the last Food Swap, so we are particularly eager this time. There are still a few spots open, so sign up quickly. As if you needed even more reason, the event will be held in the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center.
Posted by Kevin on 11/05 at 06:47 AM
Just Add Water
Sunday, November 01, 2015
Savoie Organic Farm is now growing these beautiful little Mexican black turtle beans, a wonderful addition to the variety of dried beans to be found at Headhouse Farmers’ Market this time of year. I love turtle beans both for their texture and versatility, so we bought plenty to last until the next harvest.
A Spanish Dish From the East Coast
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Even if I had made bacon-wrapped scallops, like, a hundred times, I don’t think I would have ever arrived at the combination of scallops and chorizo on my own. It makes perfect sense in retrospect. The spicy, paprika-flavored oil rendered from the chorizo, in turn, infuses the scallops. The soft and creamy texture of the scallops plays off the crispy and brittle chorizo. Then, everything is accented by the bright flavors of lemon juice and fresh parsley. It is a very nice study in contrasts, actually. As Nigella says, it comes together quite rapidly, so make sure that all of the ingredients are prepped and that anything else you are serving it with is ready before you start.
The scallops, as fresh as could be, came from Shore Catch, and the chorizo from La Divisa, a very welcome addition to the Headhouse Market this season. I’ve raved about both before, but this combination gives me a new reason to do so.
The Whole Hog
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
If you haven’t been to the Headhouse Farmers Market recently, then you may not know about La Divisa Meats. Chef Nick Macri, using sustainably raised meats, turns out some of the best charcuterie in the City. They’ve been a welcome addition to the Market, and have more than made up for the sorely missed PorcSalt.
Now, La Divisa is doing its own version of Philly Cow Share, offering a pig “share” (naturally), but with a twist: this share offers sausage, carnitas, head cheese, and a brining kit in addition to various cuts of pork. At $150, it is an outstanding value. See below for more information.
Posted by Kevin on 10/07 at 05:48 PM
Cheerful Weather for the Mash
Saturday, October 03, 2015
The chilly wind and rain of the last few days sent us straight to brand new British Pie and Mash shop Stargazy’s Facebook page in the hopes they hadn’t sold out yet for the day. They hadn’t, and in addition to shots of the daily menu and the pies themselves we also noticed something that’s always a good sign to us: a proud picture of their weekly farm delivery, this one from nearby Wuillermin Farms in Hammonton, NJ.
Crack Open A Book
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
With Sunday’s Headhouse Market closed due to the Papal Visit, we had stocked up the week before. Then the weekend came, and the blissfully car free streets full of happy residents and visitors made eating out seem so much more appealing than cooking that fridge full of food. I was feeling a little dispirited by the idea of getting through it all, until I decided to take a look at a cookbook or two for some motivation. A few minutes later, having flipped through 100 or so pages of Tender by Nigel Slater, I had three recipes we could easily make with everything we had on hand.
It seems so silly to say “and then I thought of my cookbooks!”, but this time of year I really do tend to forget them. So much of what’s available right now needs little in the way of a recipe to make a delicious dinner. Blogs, newspapers, and magazines all offer recipes perfect for the season. But a cookbook like Tender, as the subtitle “A Cook and His Vegetable Patch” suggests, is perfect for looking up individual vegetables and finding simple, seasonal dishes. I immediately made a broccoli and bacon soup for lunches, the recipe available here, then moved on to baked eggplant with tomato and parmesan for dinner.