Blog Dog

Monday, July 25, 2016


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


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.

Version 2

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.


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

Pickle and Peach Salad

Saturday, July 09, 2016


I use the word pickle deliberately here, despite the fact that these clearly are not pickled or fermented cucumbers.  They are, however, Kirbys - those small sweet lovely crisp cucumbers that any self respecting South Jersey native simply calls pickles.  These are from Blooming Glen, and I might have knocked a person or two over in my rush to get at them at Headhouse Farmers Market.  None made it to the actual pickling stage, but hopefully there will be more tomorrow for that.  The mozzarella is from Valley Shepherd Creamery.  Looking at their cheese case at Reading Terminal - packed with different varieties and styles - it might be easy to miss the freshly made mozzarella mentioned on the chalkboard.  You shouldn’t, especially at this time of year.  The salad below came together the day after we had gorged ourselves on mozzarella and tomatoes and wanted something a bit different. 

Pickle and Peach Salad

3 Kirby pickles, sliced into half moons
2 peaches, cubed
A handful of greens
2 green onions, white and green both sliced
1/4 pound mozzarella, diced or torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
generous pinch of salt

Toss all ingredients until well combined.  Add salt if necessary.  Serves two as a meal.


Posted by Donna on 07/09 at 05:50 PM

Some Lessons From A Beach Garden

Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Last week we visited Beach Plum Farm, which in addition to operating a farm stand also supplies several restaurants in Cape May with fresh produce, eggs and pork.  We’ve toured the fields before, but new this year was a large section of raised beds behind the farmstand with all manner of vegetables growing.  The beds were beautiful, but by no means ornamental and already producing a serious amount of vegetables given their size.


We were excited to see tomatoes tied between two stakes with taut twine, as we learned to do years ago at Greensgrow Farm.  The system works beautifully in small plots if you have the time to devote to keeping up with the growth.


These zucchini plants amazed us - when crowded as they are, the leaves just grow upward instead of spreading out. 


We took note of the variety of corn growing here.  These are much smaller plants than those we grew last year but with lots of ears already well formed.

Posted by Donna on 07/05 at 05:37 PM

Recipe Revisit: Ricotta and Zucchini Pasta

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When I first posted this recipe last year, I concluded with the suggestion that a mint pesto would be a worthwhile variation.  Well, now that summer has come around again, I got around to following my own advice.


I think the mint pesto was every bit as good as the basil, just different.  Moreover, David Lebovitz has now convinced me of the superiority of the mortar and pestle.  In all honesty, to make an actual pesto is quite laborious, but what you make here is easily done while the zucchini softens. And it is worth every tedious grind of the pestle.  One last note - Galen Glen’s Stone Cellar Riesling paired every bit as well as the Turdo Sauvignon Blanc.

Posted by Kevin on 06/21 at 06:22 PM

Nigel Slater’s Carrot and Corriander Fritters

Sunday, June 05, 2016


So this is one of the 11,000 recipes on the BBC Food site the possible deletion of which caused an uproar a few weeks ago.  For good reason - we made these as dinner with a salad and felt like we ate much more of a treat than a bunch of carrots.  Nobody does fritters like Nigel Slater, by the way, as I suspect from reading his cookbooks that he treats them like a main course as well. 

Posted by Donna on 06/05 at 05:09 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).


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


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

Weekend Events

Friday, April 29, 2016


The Spring Plant Sale at Bartram’s Garden runs three days this weekend, with a preview for members tonight from 4-7 PM and Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 4 PM.  Take advantage of horticulturists on hand for questions and the beautiful backdrop of the country’s oldest botanic garden with its newly restored John Bartram House.

If you can’t get enough new plants for your garden or patio pots, the Physic House Plant Sale will run Friday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.  All proceeds support PhilaLandmarks historical, educational, and cultural programming.

Who can forget that Sunday is the opening day of the Headhouse Farmers’ Market?  Live music and a photo booth will accompany the regular farmers and mobile food vendors from 10 AM to 2 PM. 

Posted by Donna on 04/29 at 02:37 PM

What’s Growing Now

Sunday, April 24, 2016

We took a walk around the Southwark Queen Village Community Garden to get a better idea of just what’s coming up in this unpredictable spring weather.


Lots of lettuces look ready to eat.


Irises have started blooming, on the tail end of tulips and the last of the daffodils.


Fava beans are still a little way off, but growing nicely.


Lots of garlic planted last fall, as in this City Harvest plot. 


Rhubarb should be ready to pick soon…


.. just in time for the strawberries.


And for those with the patience to grow them, peas.


Our chamomile did not prove to be perennial, but seeded three new plants this spring instead.  More on drying the lovely little flowers for tea later in the season.


Posted by Donna on 04/24 at 01:32 PM

    Learning from DiBruno’s Emilio Mignucci

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016


    As mentioned before, we were fortunate enough to attend a class on local cheeses at the Farm and Food Fest on Sunday.  Emilio was very patient and informative as he explained different aspects of the cheesemaking process as well as his sensory experience tasting these cheeses.  Below are my notes on the cheeses and the local wine I might enjoy with it.  In keeping with the DiBruno Brothers theme of this post, I’ve adapted wine pairings suggestions from Tenaya Darlington’s House of Cheese.  (Tenaya was also speaking at the Farm and Food Fest on Sunday, by the way.)

    First up was Hummingbird from the Farm at Doe Run. This particular cheese is equal parts sheep and cow milk for part of the year.  Similar to Robioloa in style, it was both creamy and earthy.  This cheese would go well with a glass of Galen Glen Gewurtztraminer, the tropical fruit and floral nose should play nicely off this creamy cheese. 

    Next, was Willow, also from the Farm at Doe Run.  This cheese is equal parts sheep, cow, and goat’s milk.  The goat’s milk in this one imparted a greater tanginess.  I immediately pictured eating this cheese with a nice, fresh summer salad, so I would pick a glass of Amalthea Rose (my favorite local rose last year). 

    The third cheese was already a favorite of mine, Birchrun Blue from Birchrun Hills Farm.  Emilio told an interesting story of tasting Birchrun cheese years ago and though they were still refining their technique, it was immediately obvious to Emilio that they were working with quality milk.  His description of this cheese was particularly lucid: unlike many blue cheeses, this does not overpower you with black pepper; there is an earthy, mushroom component, but also an herbal quality to it. Emilio explained it as feeling the “botanicals” on the sides of his tongue.  While Darlington suggests a Sauternes for some blues, I would like to try it with Unionville Chardonnay.

    This was followed by another favorite from Birchrun Hills Farm, Red Cat.  Emilio used this cheese to explain the difficulties of rind development, by way of complimenting this one.  Darlington suggests Pinot Noir or Burgundy, but I would be inclined to try either a Cabernet Franc from Pinnacle Ridge or a Nero D’avola from Turdo Vineyards.


    The next two were complete revelations to me.  I had never heard of either creamery, much less sampled their cheeses.  Johny’s Clothbound Cheddar, from Alpine Heritage Creamery, was very different from other quality American cheddars.  Texturally, it the crumbliness and crunch that I have never experienced in local cheddar.  The flavor was equally impressive: nutty, but also with a complex sweetness that Emilio described alternately as butterscotch and tropical fruit.  While this may sound like something of a contradiction, it was actually a description of the complex flavor of the cheese.  Darlington suggests Bordeux for this, so why not a Bordeaux via South Jersey?  One of Amalthea’s Europa series would do nicely.

    Der Weichen, from Goot Essa, was a Camembert style cheese with a very earthy taste.  Emilio explained how Goot Essa is moving towards a Coop model, purchasing milk from nearby, trusted growers while they refined their craft.  While it may be overkill, I would love to pair this with Va La’s Mahogany, which is probably the earthiest local wine I know.

    We finished the class with the Havilah from Cherry Grove Farm, another favorite.  A lovely nutty flavor to this one, Emilio suggested that it would work very well as a grating cheese over pasta.  This cheese I would reserve for my favorite local red: Va La’s Cedar

    Posted by Kevin on 04/13 at 06:13 PM

    Fifth Annual Philly Farm and Food Fest

    Sunday, April 10, 2016


    It seems like every year we say that the Farm and Food Fest got bigger and better.  This year it’s undeniable - the festival grew right out of its old location in one of the smaller spaces of the Pennsylvania Convention Center into a bigger hall.  The new space easily accommodated everything the festival had to offer, so visitors didn’t have to leave the main exhibition space to attend classes and talks.  We attended the Master Class on local cheeses with Emilio Mignucci of DiBruno Brothers - more on that in a post on Wednesday - and listened to Chef Charles Parker of Talula’s Garden discuss local greens with the help of Adrian Galbraith-Paul of Heritage Farm in West Philadelphia. 


    We were delighted to see another farm within the city limits, Mycopolitan Mushroom Company, present with some of their more unusual mushrooms for sale as well as a pickled mushroom mix.  We took home a Pom Pom mushroom, which looks exactly like it sounds and will be cooked for dinner tonight according to their helpful preparation suggestions.


    Cape May Sea Salt Company was there with a variety of their products including smoked salt, something they were still developing when we visited their salt house
    last year.


    The sheer number of local growers and producers was staggering, and the best part was that almost all of them are readily available in Philadelphia thanks to the likes of Winter Harvest, Lancaster Farm Cooperative, our many farmers’ markets and retail outlets dedicated to local food.  Granted, we left with full shopping bags anyway, but who can resist a High Street loaf baked entirely with locally grown and milled grains?


    And of course all the cheese. 



    Posted by Donna on 04/10 at 03:55 PM

      In Defense of Flowers

      Wednesday, April 06, 2016


      You might wonder why flowers would ever need defending.  When we first started eating locally and growing some of our own food in our community garden plot, we considered flowers a silly diversion.  Lovely to look at in the neighbor’s plot or at the farmstand, but not at all what we were after.  I’m glad to say we’ve come around.  It started with the bouquets from Longview Flowers at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market - so much more beautiful than anything I’d seen at a traditional florist, and entirely local.  Inspired to grow some ourselves, we planted a small peony bush in the corner of our plot that reliably rewards us with dozens of puffy pink blooms every year.  Since then we’ve tucked in tulip and daffodil bulbs, grown chamomile to dry for tea, used marigolds to deter bugs and watched calendula thrive almost anywhere we scattered seeds and last long into fall.  There’s no better evidence that growing flowers helps pollinators than watching bees buzz happily among your flowers.  And in this time of year when we’ve planted favas and spinach a month ago that are still only an inch high, I can visit the garden….


      ... and pick a daffodil.

      Posted by Donna on 04/06 at 03:44 PM

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