Philly Farm and Food Fest
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Today was the third annual Philly Farm and Food Fest. Sponsored by Fair Food and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, it gets bigger and better every year. I’ll post separately on a few particularly exciting finds this year, but in general the Fest brings together over 100 local food purveyors offering their products for sampling and sale as well as free DIY and cooking demonstrations, a “Local Libations Lounge” featuring locally produced spirits and a “Shellfish Salon” with guided tastings of local oysters and clams. It’s impossible to leave hungry or empty handed.
What to Eat Rather Than What to Wear
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Since the very nature of Diner en Blanc answers the question of what one wears on such occasions, one is free to focus on the far more important question: what does one eat on such occasions?
At the inaugural Diner en Blanc, we opted for the catered dinner by Garces Catering, but now that we are more experienced at what to pack, sit on, eat on, etc., we thought we could risk bringing our own.
The baguette was made with Daisy Organic Flour, a mix of whole wheat and white, which comes from Mark Bittman. On which we smeared, quite inelegantly I have to admit, the lovely Puddle Duck from Hillacres Pride, which I first read about from Madame Fromage. The quiche is an old family recipe from my wife, cut into rounds for additional elegance. The potted trout is from Marc Vetri’s Rustic Italian Food, made with Pennsylvania trout. We purchased the cheese from the always-wonderful Green Aisle Grocery, where we also picked up Market Day canales for dessert and Green Aisle’s own line of tea.
Just as last year, Diner en Blanc 2013 was a very special evening. Once again, the organizers did a fantastic job of using, and celebrating, existing public spaces in the city, reminding us of the overlooked beauty right in front of us.
Posted by Kevin on 08/29 at 05:53 PM
Brewer’s Plate 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
It’s a mark of the vitality of Philly’s local food scene that we have multiple annual events that celebrate local food. After all, it takes a thriving local food culture to make any of these events possible, much less all of them. How many cities across the US would be able to do this?
Chief among these events is Brewer’s Plate, held Sunday night at the Constitution Center. The Fair Food fundraiser pairs dozens of breweries and restaurants in one long beer-and-slider fueled evening. Imagine the spirit of an old-style beef & beer function, with the beef and beer diversified by a factor of thirty, and you will have some idea of the variety offered on Sunday night.
Going in to Brewer’s Plate, I had extremely high expectations for both the beer and the food, and - somehow - even those expectations were exceeded. Normally, you expect to sacrifice quality for an event of this scale, and you accept that since, you know, it’s for a good cause. But what I had to eat and drink rivaled many sit-down meals I’ve had at individual restaurants, and the crowd was more good-natured and enthusiastic than I could have hoped.
Food wise, what stood out? My personal highlights include:
- Pork pate and a beer cracker from Southwark, paired with BPA from Nodding Head
- Victory’s “White Monkey” - Golden Monkey beer aged in Chardonnay barrels
- Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace Saison, paired with sliders from Varga Bar and brewed with Champagne yeast.
- Bent Spoon’s Wort Ice Cream - served on the cutest ice cream cone imaginable.
- Aimee Olexy’s cheese-and-beer tasting, in which she proved equally conversant in describing the qualities of beer as cheese, giving us not only a lesson in fantastic local cheese, but in different ways to pair flavors.
- Lancaster Coop is also a buying club with drop offs at many of their CSA locations.
When you attend an event like the Brewer’s Plate, the “danger” (if I can call it that) is that you will take it for granted, that of course the food and beer is local. Local food and drink have come so far so quickly, that it is difficult to remember their humble and relatively recent origins. I was reminded of this as Aimee Olexy discussed the immense effort it took to procure quality local cheeses only a 10 years ago. With credit due to local food advocates such as Fair Food, we can all enjoy these labors of love, and the artisans that create them can command a fair price.
Here’s counting down to the Farm Fest on April 14th.
Posted by Kevin on 03/13 at 07:59 PM
Philadelphia’s Restaurant Week
Sunday, January 20, 2013
It’s Restaurant Week again here in Philadelphia. For the uninitiated, that means a three-course dinner for $35 at some of the city’s best restaurants (and sometimes a $20 three-course lunch, too). Last year, the theme of Restaurant Week was eat local, which was huge news for the localvore scene in the area. This time around I’m not so sure there is a theme, but it’s still possible to find some locally grown foods if you know where to look!
Of course you’re going to find local farmers represented on the menus as FARMiCIA and C19, but where else? 10 Arts, for instance, is serving Pennsylvania brook trout during the dinner service, and Barbuzzo has a few locally-sourced ingredients on the menu for dinner as well, as does Bistro 7, Butcher & Singer, City Tavern, Cuba Libre, Knock, Meritage, Pumpkin, Square 1682, Twenty Manning Grill, and Winthorpe & Valentine. With that many options, it’s still a sure bet that the eat local movement isn’t dead.
Still, we do hope there’ll be another Restaurant Week aimed at locally-sourced ingredients!
Posted by Nicole on 01/20 at 08:59 PM
A Fine Night of Dining for a Fine Cause
Thursday, October 18, 2012
This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending a dinner dedicated to bringing professionals together from around the city to discuss the issue of childhood obesity. The dinner was sponsored by the Tyler School of Art Temple Contemporary and The Vetri Foundation. I realize that these two organizations sound like an odd pair for hosting this event, so here’s some context.
When Tyler School of Art moved from Elkins Park to Temple’s main campus in North Philly, they decided that a portion of their exhibits would be dedicated to addressing social issues. They put together a board of professionals from a range of disciplines from across the city, of which I’m a part of, to raise the issues that affect this city. The gallery then supports installations that explore the answers, and this dinner was one of them.
They found a perfect partner in the Vetri Foundation. Many people from the “foodie” side of the food movement have most likely heard of Marc Vetri and his storied resume of restaurants. But for people from the social justice side of the food movement, this organization is doing some very impressive work. Their Eatiquette program is a very innovative take on promoting change in school lunch. Rather than just advocate for healthier options, the foundation sends professional chefs into the school to educate students on how to prepare whole meals. But more importantly, the meals are modeled after family style eating. The tables are round, intimate settings where a “table chef” (usually one of the students) serves out food from one single large plate, thus teaching the students sharing, portion control and table etiquette. I was tasked with this role at my table that night, and was instantly able to make a much more intimate connection with my dinner dates than if we were just placed at the table and served the food from a waiter. We also had the privilege of eating one of the set meals that the students eat: braised white fish, beets with crouton dressing, salad, and green beans. Everything was made from scratch with whole foods.
The Vetri foundation has implemented this program in 5 different schools. After the school goes through the curriculum, the foundation leaves the school with the meal plans and a donation to implement their own program. Sometimes when well meaning organizations leave their program to the schools, they run the risk of losing direction. But as we heard from faculty of the People To People Charter school (where the event was held) their lunchroom went from the normal chaos of any lunchroom to the calm din of a dining room.
The entire program made for some really great conversation at my table from a diverse group of perspectives such as our one diner who was making the lone vegan stance in her family of processed food eaters. Or the perspective of a social worker who digs deeper into the systemic reasons for why children don’t have access to healthy foods rather than why they don’t eat them. It was a great night put on by some really great innovators and I was happy to be a part of it. For more info on the Vetri Foundation check out www.vetrifoundation.org and if you haven’t already, please check out the Tyler School of Art Temple Contemporary located at 2001 N. 13th St. Philadelphia.
Posted by Nic on 10/18 at 04:04 PM
Bike Fresh, Bike Local This Weekend
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is hosting their annual Bike Fresh, Bike Local this Sunday Sept. 23rd. The ride begins and ends at Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown where participants can enjoy a 25, 50, or 75 mile jaunt through the Chester County countryside. For 5 years, this ride has become an autumn institution in the sustainable farming community. After completing the ride, participants are invited back to Victory Brewing for a meal featuring produce and products from area farms as well as a sampling of Victory Beer.
I could write more glowing things about this ride, but in all honesty supporting a one of the finest sustainable farming organizations in the country, plus a beautiful bike ride, plus free victory beer doesn’t leave much more room for persuasion. I hope to be there so come by and say hi. For tickets and more info visit www.pasa.org/bikefresh.
And if you just can’t that long for a great event in the sustainability world, then please drop by Grid Alive this Thursday Sept. 20th at Trinity Memorial Church on 22nd and Spruce. Doors open at 6, show starts at 7. This month we’ll be talking to Liz Robinson of The Energy Coordinating Agency, Amy Laura Cahn of the Public Interest Law Center, and Scott Kelly and Jen Rezeli of Re-Vision Architecture. Find out more info and get tickets at www.gridphilly.com.
Posted by Nic on 09/18 at 01:25 PM
West Philly Block Party—With Urban Garden Talk!
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
If you’re looking for something interesting to do this weekend, head over to the Memorial Garden at 54th & Wyalusing Streets. On Saturday, August 11 (4-9pm), Neighborhood Foods, Urban Tree Connection, and Scribe are throwing a block party and street film festival.
What’s on the agenda? Kids participating the Philadelphia Youth Network/Neighborhood Foods program to work in Philadelphia urban gardens will talk about their experiences, and Scribe will present several short films about community-led projects. There will also be live music, a spoken word performance, food vendors, and a flea market. Find out more at the Facebook event page.
Posted by Nicole on 08/07 at 10:03 PM
Little Baby’s World Headquarters Grand Opening
Friday, August 03, 2012
It’s appropriate that this month’s frozen treat challenge coincides with tonight’s grand opening of The Little Baby’s Ice Cream World Headquarters on Dauphin and Frankford Ave. in Kensington. Although after having their bicycle carts at music venues and parks across the city and being on the cover of this weeks Philadelphia Weekly, I wondered if they needed any more press. But after dropping by the store last night to take a sneak peak on my walk home from dinner, I was reminded that these guys deserve as much press as possible.
They earn this first and foremost through the ice cream. I remember sitting in a friends kitchen over a year ago and meeting company co-founder Pete Avengine and having my taste buds blown as we ate Earl Gray Sarachi out of chinese food containers. Since then their flavors have evolved into flavors such as blueberry ginger, sour cherry, birch beer vanilla, and my personal favorite coffee toffee, just to name a few. These are pretty adventurous flavors and are probably pretty hard to make. But none of the flavors have even a hint of artificial blandness. If anything, the chunks of ginger and skins of the blue berry can be accused of being too overpowering, but I personally think they have a perfect balance.
They can create these flavors because they predominantly use fruit from local farmers and I personally know that they searched far and wide for the regions best milk to craft the best cream consistency possible. Working with farmers both large and small, I know how hard it can be to source these products locally and I think I speak for the sustainable farming community when I say thanks to a company who holds that commitment.
And the last accolade I can give this company is from my entrepreneurial admiration. Being that I too am in the process of starting a small business in Philly (The Head & The Hand Press, check out our kickstarter) I know how tough it can be trying to be profitable while trying to run a socially responsible business. But everything I have seen from these guys has been professional through and through, from the way the structure their business to the way they deliver their product, to the way they treat their employees.
So excuse me if I sound like too much of a cheerleader for these guys. But I really love what they are doing, and being a bit of an ice cream junkie myself, I’m pretty darn happy that this ice cream parlor is three blocks from my house. So come on down to Frankford Ave. tonight for the grand opening. Aside from it being First Friday, Little Baby’s will be providing beer, music, ice cream and I think there was even talk of a barber. What he’ll be doing, I don’t know. But I do know that there will be some very tasty treats worthy of this month’s frozen treat challenge.
Posted by Nic on 08/03 at 12:04 PM
Philly Farm and Food Fest
Monday, March 26, 2012
Next Sunday April 1st, Fair Food Philly and The PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) will be hosting the first annual Philly Farm and Food Fest. The Fest grew from the Fair Food sponsored event Local Growers, Local Buyers. Although this event brought some of the best food producers from the region together, the local buyers invitations were exclusive to food industry retailers such as restaurants, groceries and farmer’s markets. One year I somehow finagled a ticket and was able to attend this bountiful event. As far as the eye can see down the center of the Reading Terminal were local and delicious samples from PA area producers, providing everything from boutique heirloom tomatoes, creamy cheeses and Chesapeake Bay oysters.
But this year, there is no finagling necessary because the event is now open to the general public. Tickets are only $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and I can guarantee that it will be worth every penny. Along with getting to meet these growers, there will also be all day workshops ranging from getting people ready to grow, to where carrots come from, all the way to backyard bee keeping. I’ll also be speaking on a panel in the morning about how to convert vacant land into sustainable farm land with Joan Blaustein of Parks and Rec, Rushton Farm project manager Fred Delong, along with a great presentation on land use with Simone Collins Landscape Architecture, all moderated by WHYY’s own Peter Crimmins.
So come on out to this great event and keep on supporting local, sustainable ag. As Marilyn Anthony on PASA likes to say, if everyone in the tri-state area just spent $10 per week on sustainably produced local food, it would grow the industry to a place where one day it will become the standard for our society’s food production. I’m sure most people who read this blog are doing more than their share to reach this goal. But come on down anyway and bring a friend. Because farming and eating is always more fun when you bring a friend along. More information about the fest can be found at www.phillyfarmfest.org.
Posted by Nic on 03/26 at 12:36 PM
Philly Farm and Food Fest
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Whether I’m reading GRID’s latest issue, perusing the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op’s e-newsletter, or checking out volunteer day info on Mill Creek Farm’s facebook page, I keep coming across promotions for the same event – in the local food world everyone seems to be talking about the very first Philly Farm and Food Fest! Coming up next Sunday, April 1st, at the PA Convention Center, this festival – a partnership of Fair Food and PASA – features all things local. It’s a time for celebrating local food (and other sustainable goods) and those who produce them. From 11:00 am until 4:00 pm, stop by and sample tasty treats, (I’ve heard rumors of small batch ice creams in addition to the expected-though-just-as-delicious honey, cheeses, and jams), discover local farmers and artisans, and learn more about what our region has to offer. Over a hundred exhibitors will be there, and you can check out a complete list here. Education plays an important role at the Farm and Food Fest as well, so there’s a varied line-up of classes for kids and adults, including one on beekeeping and another on cheese tasting. General admission tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. Tickets and more information are available at www.phillyfarmfest.org.
Posted by Stephanie on 03/22 at 12:27 PM
Monday, January 23, 2012
Just a couple of things to take note of:
- Interested in urban foraging? The Wild Foodies of Philly has regular meet-ups. There’s an event on February 5 that takes place right around the Philadelphia Museum of Art—expect Indian strawberry greens and chickweed!
- The 2012 Philadelphia Auto Show’s Black Tie Tailgate on January 27 will apparently feature some locally grown/produced foods—specifically locally made cheeses. There’s a Farm to Table Harvest Station, but the menu doesn’t indicate if anything being served is from local farms. Tickets are $225, but the proceeds (approximately $100 from each ticket) benefit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Posted by Nicole on 01/23 at 01:05 AM
Mill Creek Farm Benefit - December 3
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Head to Yard’s Brewery on December 3 for a party to benefit Mill Creek Farm, an educational urban farm focused on food justice and ecological sustainability. The fifth annual celebration marks the end of the farm’s sixth season. The party features brewery tours, DJs, light food and desserts from local restaurants, cash-bar, raffle and a silent auction.
Get your tickets online or buy them at the door—all proceeds benefit the farm!
Posted by Nicole on 11/29 at 08:02 PM
NJ Heirloom Tomato Tasting
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
One of the amazing things about this time of year is the tomatoes. I dream about August in the dead of winter, imagining the flavor of heirloom varieties. I used to grow my own, but we’ve been having trouble with the squirrels and woodchucks decimating everything in the garden. Instead, I rely on the great local producers—thankfully, they’ve got me covered!
True, Hurricane Irene threw a wrench into the works—she did a number on crops. The good news: many local farms were able to bring in a good harvest prior to the deluge and winds. Part of that harvest is being showcased in Pittston, New Jersey tomorrow!
Head over to 21st Annual Great Tomato Tasting at the Rutgers NJAES Snyder Farm. From their email—
This year’s event includes the very popular tasting of both heirloom and hybrid tomatoes and wagon tours of the farm’s research plots. The afternoon will also include tastings of honey, herbs, apples and peaches – all with the assistance and guidance of Rutgers NJAES Master Gardener volunteers. The Melda C. Snyder Teaching Garden will showcase garden displays of deer tolerant ornamentals, plants that can attract native pollinators to your garden, the Rutgers holly and blueberry breeding programs, columnar varieties of fruit trees for the home landscape and daylilies. Also, we welcome back chefs featuring tasty samples of tomato recipes. Local residents will have professional advice offered by the Hunterdon County Board of Health Staff regarding stink bugs, mosquitoes and black flies; pesky insects near and dear to local residents. For those who want small productive gardens, there will be square foot gardening demonstrations.
Things kick off three in the afternoon, closing at dusk. Cost is $7, although kids under the age of ten are free.
Posted by Nicole on 08/30 at 06:32 PM
Sustainable Saturdays in University City
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Foraging! Wine and Cheese! Local Honey! Farmers’ Market! Seed Bombs! Get in this great series of events this coming Saturday! Farm to Table in West Philadelphia.
PHS and Philly Homegrown Pop-Up Garden
Monday, July 11, 2011
In partnership with Philly Homegrown, PHS created a beautiful pop-up garden in the formerly empty lot at 20th and Market. Just look at all the beauty next to those boring skyscrapers! You’re welcome to pop-in on Wednesdays and Thursdays and spend some time in the garden. The garden will stay up until October, then come down for the winter and pop-up in a new location next Spring! I stopped by for a short workshop on vegetable growing. These Wednesday workshops are free and easy to squeeze in over your lunch hour:
• August 4: Gardening Odds and Ends — Fabulous Containers
• September 1: Edible Landscapes — Growing Beautiful Food
• September 22: Edible Landscape — Planting and Harvesting
And, if you’re feeling like a special lunch afterwards, you can visit one of six local hot spots – R2L, Square 1682, Table 31, Sampan, Barbuzzo, and Paradiso —who have agreed to use ingredients from the pop-up garden in special dishes whose proceeds benefit City Harvest, PHS’s program that provides fresh produce for underserved Philadelphia residents.