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Farm Visit: Saul Agricultural High School

Saturday, August 06, 2016

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While we’ve driven by it many times on our way to hiking along the Wissahickon, we had never stopped at the student run farm at Saul Agricultural High School until last week.  Managed with the help of Weavers Way staff, students and faculty grow vegetables for the Henry Got Crops! CSA (long sold out this year) and the twice weekly market located at 7095 Henry Avenue.

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Student volunteers were out working, and the market was full of seasonal fare.  We loved that you can also pick up an assortment of locally made favorites such as Philly Muffins.  The CSA boxes looked lovely as well.

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Posted by Donna on 08/06 at 03:57 PM


Blog Dog

Monday, July 25, 2016

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I hope you’ll forgive me for the cheesy filter on the photo above.  It is of a hot dog after all, though one made by the exceptional Stryker Farm.  We enjoyed these as much as their bangers last winter. 

Posted by Donna on 07/25 at 08:34 AM


Market Highlights: Christ Church Old City July 20th

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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Having missed Headhouse this weekend, it was great to be able to pick up some midweek groceries at Christ Church Farmers’ Market this afternoon.  Vendors included Cherry Grove Farm, who brought a variety of their cheeses, and Beechwood Orchards, where we snapped up the first blackberries we’ve seen all year.  Taproot Farm also had a lovely variety of produce, including the sunflower shoots above.  We walked home happy with a delicious cup of buckwheat cherry ice cream from Weckerly‘s.

Posted by Donna on 07/20 at 04:12 PM


Va La’s Zafferano

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Anthony Vietri does not make a lot of wine; neither does Anthony make many types of wine. So a new, limited release from Va La is worth noting, and just as summer is reaching its midpoint, we have another one in Zafferano.  Like all Va La wines, it’s made with a combination of estate-grown grapes - this time, in the style of an “orange” wine.  Orange wines leave the juice in contact with the skins before being separated (hence the color).  I’ve had several orange wines before, French and Italian, and I have found their style to be as varied as wines designated “white” or “red.”  Not surprisingly, therefore, the Zafferano manages to stand apart from other orange wines just as Va La’s other wines stand apart from more traditional white and red.

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The first thing I noticed was the deep, rich color. I actually delayed smelling and tasting it just so I could stare at it. The nose of this wine is of some fruit, but I don’t know what type of fruit it is.  It isn’t red fruit, black fruit, stone fruit, or berries.  The closest thing I could think of would be watermelon, but an intensely scented and flavored watermelon.  I mean, like the best watermelon I’ve ever tasted.  Then, I smell flowers - honeysuckle in particular.  Once I tasted it, I was surprised how those sweet aromas were combined with a taste devoid of sweetness.  In other words, this wine could pair beautifully with any local food the summer spurs you to eat.  So, combining a gorgeous scent with a dry taste, properly chilled, makes for an incredibly refreshing glass on a summer afternoon.

And that’s exactly what we did. 

Posted by Kevin on 07/16 at 05:59 AM


You Must Return Here With A Shrubbery

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Several years ago, I was enjoying a drink (at a now-shuttered restaurant) so much that I complimented the bartender on my cocktail.  He nodded in agreement and replied, “Shrubs are cool.” I am ashamed to admit I had no idea what he was talking about.  (That’s not entirely true.  There was muddled thyme in my cocktail, so I assumed he was referring to that.)  Only very recently did I connect that statement with the Martha Washington Raspberry Shrub served at City Tavern, even though I have walked by the sign advertising said shrub at least a thousand times.

Needless to say, I am an extremely late-comer to the possibilities of fruit shrubs.  (For those readers who truly are the last people on Earth to learn of them, shrubs are fruit-based syrups mixed with vinegar.) One day several weeks ago, I decided to experiment with some underripe strawberries, using this recipe.  After a little more research, I came about this from Michael Dietsch. Taking Dietsch at his word, I used the cold method for my next shrub.  However, I wasn’t using strawberries this time; I was using rhubarb recently picked from our garden.

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The result was definitely more flavorful, and Dietsch is absolutely correct that the acid mellows in time, but this shrub did not have the viscosity of the cooked one.  I am confident enough in the cold method to use it for any other fruit, but given the texture of rhubarb, I think I would use the “hot” method in the hopes it might further break down and exude its juices.  Nonetheless, Dietsch’s cocktail recipe was much better than the previous, and it made a delicious cocktail with club soda and Bluecoat Gin

Posted by Kevin on 07/13 at 06:30 PM


Half-White Isn’t Half-Bad

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I would like to say that when I ordered Castle Valley Mill’s Stone Ground Bolted Hard Wheat Flour, it was after a great deal of research and deliberation.  But what I should say is the truth: recalling that we had run out of whole-wheat flour while I was in the middle of placing an order with the incomparable Winter Harvest, I saw “whole wheat” in the name and “good for baking” in the description. That was it, but “it” turned out to be a fortuitous discovery. 

Accoring to the Castle Valley Mill site, what makes this flour unique is that the coarsest pieces of bran are sifted out, leaving a much lighter flour.  In fact, Castle Valley describes it as “half white.” While it is true that there is some nutritional value lost by sifting out the bran, I can now bake bread using only this flour.  Previously, I could use only 30% whole-wheat flour at best. You can see the result in my focaccia (taken from Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy).

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I had little difficulty hydrating or handling this dough, and the rising time wasn’t any longer.  Also, the texture was the same light, sponginess you would expect of focaccia.  Most importantly, I could indulge in an extra piece (or two) without feeling much guilt. 

Posted by Kevin on 06/01 at 05:08 PM


Market Highlights: Headhouse Market May 22nd

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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It has seemed like a particularly long wait for strawberries this year, but they are finally here.  We got two pints - one from Queens Farm and a ripe, eat right now pint from Beechwood Orchards.  Vera Pasta, new to the market, had various shapes of fresh pasta on display.  Lots of greens, of course - particularly the first spinach I’ve seen this year along with the hardier arugula, pea and fava shoots, and various lettuces.  We’ve gotten into a delicious Monday habit of having a Market Day Canele tart for lunch - this week’s is asparagus and mushroom. 

Posted by Donna on 05/22 at 04:57 PM


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. 

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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. 

 

Posted by Kevin on 02/07 at 04:24 PM


Local Bitters for the Holidays

Friday, December 04, 2015

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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


Just Add Water

Sunday, November 01, 2015

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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. 

Posted by Donna on 11/01 at 05:22 PM


Cheerful Weather for the Mash

Saturday, October 03, 2015

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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. 

Posted by Donna on 10/03 at 05:55 PM


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.

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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. 

Posted by Donna on 09/29 at 06:09 PM


Last of the Summer Wine

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

As the Summer of 2015 is officially coming to a close, I wanted to include one last word.  We drank several local wines throughout the summer (especially Hawk Haven‘s Pinot Grigio), but the standout was unquestionably Turdo’s Sauvignon Blanc.  Like Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc can come off a bit austere.  Bracingly acidic and bright, but with little in the way of nose or finish.  Not Turdo’s.  First, the color has a slight blush - perhaps from some contact with the skin.  Second, the nose contains citrus fruit, but there is also something, in my opinion, herbal to it.  The acidity is nicely balanced, and the finish surprisingly long. Rather than suggest a perfect pairing for this wine - because it is so versatile, I would find it impossible to recommend only one - I suggest a perfect setting: a blanket on the beach, some cheese and salumi to snack on, and a late summer sunset. 

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Posted by Kevin on 09/22 at 05:11 PM


Market Highlights: Headhouse Market June 7th

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Green Beans

t’s starting to really feel like summer at Headhouse Market.  The zucchini is here for one, available at Blooming Glen and Savoie Organic Farm in all sorts of lovely shapes and colors.  Other new arrivals included fennel, new potatoes, beets and fava beans.  Queens Farm also had these flat green beans that the attendant told us last week were so good she ate them for breakfast.  She was right - we came back this week for two quarts.

Posted by Donna on 06/07 at 05:42 PM


A Bike Share Grows In Philly

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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Don’t worry, this one will get around to local food.  On Sunday we took our first ride on Indego, Philadelphia’s brand new bike sharing program.  We signed up online, picked up our bikes at the station a block from our house, and headed out.  Since it was our first ride, and neither of us are by any means veteran city riders, we went straight to the Delaware River Trail that leads past the new Washington Avenue Green and continues south.  We rode down to check out the construction of Pier 68, a new park featuring fishing and a sloping lawn for picnicking, due to open later this summer. 

The bikes were smartly designed, solidly built, easy to check out and return and absurdly fun to ride. 

And the local food?  I don’t know if it was because I had just read Marie Viljoen describe them on her blog 66 Square Feet or our new vantage point from the bikes, but I spotted several patches of japanese knotweed growing along the trail.  According to Viljoen, local forager David Siller and others, the invasive knotweed has a sour, lemony taste similar to rhubarb.  We might just have to return and fill those handy baskets.

Posted by Donna on 04/29 at 04:52 PM


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