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rlibkind

Reading Terminal Market (Part 2)

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With Charlie Gangloff at the wheel and Billy Moehollen on bullhorn, visitors take a tour de marché during today's Harvest Festival at the Reading Terminal Market.

The hayrides around the block were arranged by Iovine Brother's Produce (Charlie and Billy are both managers there) using a spare Ford-New Holland tractor from Shady Brook Farm in Bucks County, one of Iovine's contract suppliers of local produce.

Harry Ochs Way, a.k.a. Filbert Street, was closed off to street traffic and spread with hay. At least half a dozen RTM merchants set up outdoor shop for the day. I sampled cinnamon doughnuts hot from the fryer featured at Bieler's stand. I left too early to get some meat off Jack McDavid's Down Home Diner portable barbeque truck. One of the funniest offerings was the "Harvest Platter" offered by one of the Chinese food vendors: skewered chicken, rice? Delicious, I'm sure, but not one of the first foods I conjure up when thinking "harvest" with hay at my feet.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Go to the Reading Terminal Market's website and you'll find the market's logo proclaiming "Fresh & Local Every Day". The same phrase appears in many of the market's promotions and advertisements as it positions itself as the region's premier source of local foods.

So what was the market thinking allowing agro-industry giant General Mills to promote its Green Giant line of frozen produce at today's Harvest Festival? Green Giant even emblazoned its stall with the catchphrase "As Nutritious As Fresh!" (photo) directly across the hay-strewn asphalt of Harry Ochs Way (Filbert Street) from Iovine Brothers Produce's Harvest Festival display.

The RTM's general manager, Paul Steinke, was not available to provide an explanation. He was in Milan participating in this year's Terra Madre, the annual international event dedicated to local, fresh, sustainable artisinal foods sponsored by Slow Food International. That explanatory task was left to Sarah Levitsky, the RTM's marketing coordinator.

Basically, it was for the money. The Green Giant division approached the market looking for an opportunity to do an educational promotion extolling the nutritional value of its frozen vegetables. Although Levitsky didn't volunteer the dollar value she indicated that the fee helped underwrite the market's costs in staging the festival.

Now, I don't question the value and nutrition of frozen vegetables. Petite peas, for example, are a staple in my freezer. (BTW, canned petite peas were one of Green Giant's big hits in the early 20th century, when it was still the independent Minnesota Valley Canning Company based in LeSeur, Minnesota. The company was acquired by Pillsbury in 1979, which itself was gobbled up by General Mills in 2001.)

But if the market is going to promote itself as the year-round source of "Fresh & Local" foods, succumbing to General Mills' cash was regrettable. Especially so in light of the market's proposed acquisition of Farm to City, one of the region's major sponsors of farmers' markets.

One can't help but wonder what Fair Food, Iovine Brothers, O.K. Lee, L. Halteman Family, or Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce (all of which sell local produce) thought of the promotion. Even if they gave their assent, it just had to be grudgingly.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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An Irish pub in the Reading Terminal Market? Owned by two guys whose names end in vowels?

Sure, why not? Especially when they're half-Irish.

Jim and Vin Iovine, proprietors of Iovine Brothers Produce, plan to take over the Beer Garden from Anthony Novelli, now in his early 80s, once their license comes through. They'll use their mom's maiden name for the establishment: Molly Molloy's. (Not Molly Maguire's, as reported by Michael Klein.)

They are particularly looking forward to obtaining a variance which will allow you buy beer and then carry it off to Center Court to enjoy with your lunch or snack from any of the market vendors. Right now. consumption is limited to "on premises," which means within the confines of the Beer Garden.

Jim Iovine said they plan a 20-tap bar featuring craft beers, as well as a big bottle selection. Under Novelli, the Beer Garden has pretty much stuck to the products of the big brewers. (And don't tell me Boston Brewing, i.e., Sam Adams, is not a big brewer; Boston is now the largest brewery in the U.S. under domestic ownership.) They'll have a full liquor license, so it won't be just beer. An expert mixlogist will be on staff for the cocktail-inclined, and the wine selection will be upgraded.

Getting the variance to allow consumption of beer elsewhere in the Reading Terminal Market is worth more to them than being open late into the evening, which isn't in the cards. Jim figures he can sell a lot more beer that way than through extended hours. Especially during Flower Show week when horticulturally-handicapped hubbies head to the terminal for a gustatory respite.

Iovine said while they would like to be open when the auto show opens in late January, early February may be a more realistic timeframe.

And although you'll be able to take your beer to Center Court if all goes as planned, the Iovines hope to entice you to stay with a new kitchen, under the culinary guidance of Bobby Fisher who cooked for the Iovines when they provided the food service at the Bala Golf Club.

Even with the addition of a kitchen, the Beer Garden will feature additional seating. The RTM has granted them permission to expand by taking over what is now public seating space behind the Beer Garden. The expansion will complement the market's redesign of Avenue D to provide modernized and expanded rest rooms as well as additional leaseable space.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I know we're in the heart of the gridiron season when Iovine Brothers' Produce features good prices on both limes and avocados. The avocados come from the Dominican Republic, the limes from Mexico.

Iovine's manager Charlie Gangloff was marvelling at the amount of collard greens they sell. During the week before and week of Thanksgiving last year they sold 90 cases, at 20-25 pounds per case. And that's not even counting the kale or mustard green. The collards mostly come from Richardson's Farm in Maryland, located about 15 miles northeast of Baltimore, and Gangloff said greens buyers love them because the stems are relatively small.

Iovine's also reports that California produce is becoming pricier; Charlie isn't sure they'll be able to hold the $1.99/pound price on green beans, a Turkey Day fav. He suggests considering asparagus. The produce guy was also gushing about the excellence of the honeydew melons; the canteloupes are good, too, he said, but very pricey. So the pre-mixed fruit containers sold in Iovine's refrigerator case is low in lopes, high in dews.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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With his recent rehab of the Down Home Diner, Jack McDavid may have cut back slightly on his seating. But he probably created more business opportunity by carving out a take-away counter along the Reading Terminal Market's "Second Street" aisle.

In addition to sandwiches, salads and everything else on the diner's menu, McDavid added cheese steak to his offerings. I tried it last Monday. Although a disappointment, it shows potential, so I'll try it again in a few weeks.

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The meat was quite different from the standard rib eye most steakeries serve. Although I didn't ask, it appeared to be a flank steak, which is all to the good. Unfortunately, it was considerably overcooked to the point of dryness. But the meat had excellent flavor, with a lot more beefiness than other cheese steaks I've consumed.

It's got the potential to be right up their with my favorite steak sandwich. That was at Syd's, now closed, in Union, N.J. It didn't pretend to be a Philly cheese steak. As I recall, it was skirt steak char broiled and served with garlic-infused cooked onions on an Italian roll with a bit more crusty bite than the typical hoagie roll. Basically, it was a Jewish Romanian steak on a bun.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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A few of the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants at the Reading Terminal Market have increased the number of days they are at the market beyond the Wednesday-to-Saturday schedule that seems to have gone on forever.

It started with Moses Smucker proprietor of Smuckers Quality Meats and The Grill at Smuckers, who opens on Tuesdays. More recently, Hatville Deli and L. Halteman have added Tuesday hours. Roger Miller, proprietor of Miller's Twist, plans to go to a Monday-Saturday operation starting Jan. 3, although he won't be open for breakfast on the additional days.

Miller said the forthcoming opening of the Convention Center expansion prompted him to expand the schedule.

Smucker's move to Tuesday demonstrated to other Mennonite merchants that there are profits to be reaped on that day of the week.

Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager, said he's been told that another reason is the desire on the part of at least one Amish merchant to provide additional employment opportunity for his community, which has felt the recession just like the rest of us.

Could this be a start of a new trend, as a younger generation of Pennsylvania Dutch merchants make their presence felt at the market?


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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A public thank you to the Iovine brothers who personally carried my small bag of groceries to the car for me. While walking there, I said I couldn't find fresh chickpeas, so he called back to see if I'd just missed them and then said they'd get them for Monday.

Usually, I try to get a parking space near their door and/or leave the bags behind the counter next to it, so that I can nip in and get them myself. Saturday, however traffic was a zoo both inside and outside the market and difficult for me to navigate. This time I was faced with having to carry more than I should up to 11th and Arch. Sounds silly, even to me, but those with similar problems know how painful that can be. One of the Iovine brothers was right there when I was discussing my dilemma at the check out and volunteered his brother to help.

I have a long felt aversion to the chains and box stores that litter our landscape, so I am glad to see the upsurge in sentiment towards independent vendors, local produce, farmers markets, etc. And though I confess to be sick of hearing all the talk about it, hyp,hyp,hyp, I'm happier shopping at family businesses or the coops I've belonged to since the 70's.


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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A few of the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants at the Reading Terminal Market have increased the number of days they are at the market beyond the Wednesday-to-Saturday schedule that seems to have gone on forever.

It started with Moses Smucker proprietor of Smuckers Quality Meats and The Grill at Smuckers, who opens on Tuesdays. More recently, Hatville Deli and L. Halteman have added Tuesday hours. Roger Miller, proprietor of Miller's Twist, plans to go to a Monday-Saturday operation starting Jan. 3, although he won't be open for breakfast on the additional days.

Miller said the forthcoming opening of the Convention Center expansion prompted him to expand the schedule.

Smucker's move to Tuesday demonstrated to other Mennonite merchants that there are profits to be reaped on that day of the week.

Paul Steinke, the RTM's general manager, said he's been told that another reason is the desire on the part of at least one Amish merchant to provide additional employment opportunity for his community, which has felt the recession just like the rest of us.

Could this be a start of a new trend, as a younger generation of Pennsylvania Dutch merchants make their presence felt at the market?

I think the answer is obvious, Bob. Cha-ching

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Making Avenue D as lively and inviting as the other aisles in the Reading Terminal Market is the aim of a $2.7 million design unveiled Thursday. The detailed plans for the aisle which zigs and zags around the back wall and rest rooms in the rear of the market were shown at meetings with market merchants by Paul Steinke, the RTM general manger, and representatives of the designers, Friday Architects/Planners.

The construction could be completed as early as October.

Among the key components:

  • Expansion of Center Court through relocation of Flying Monkey Patisserie;
  • Addition of a multi-purpose area to be used for general public seating and for private meetings, in space currently housing Miscellanea Libri and merchant storage;
  • Relocation of the demonstration kitchen so as to visually become part of center court and serve as an extension of the multi-purpose room;
  • More than doubling the number of stalls in the women's rest room; and
  • Addition of about 1,300 square feet of leaseable space.

I've posted a full report on my blog here.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Making Avenue D as lively and inviting as the other aisles in the Reading Terminal Market is the aim of a $2.7 million design unveiled Thursday. The detailed plans for the aisle which zigs and zags around the back wall and rest rooms in the rear of the market were shown at meetings with market merchants by Paul Steinke, the RTM general manger, and representatives of the designers, Friday Architects/Planners.

The construction could be completed as early as October.

Among the key components:

  • Expansion of Center Court through relocation of Flying Monkey Patisserie;
  • Addition of a multi-purpose area to be used for general public seating and for private meetings, in space currently housing Miscellanea Libri and merchant storage;
  • Relocation of the demonstration kitchen so as to visually become part of center court and serve as an extension of the multi-purpose room;
  • More than doubling the number of stalls in the women's rest room; and
  • Addition of about 1,300 square feet of leaseable space.

I've posted a full report on my blog here.

Welcome back, Bob

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I certainly hope they don't mess with the stalls that are currently in the women's bathroom. Original tile and woodwork - gorgeous and well-maintained. They are a treasure.

Also, has anyone noticed change in the quality of the cupcakes at Flying Monkey? One of the things I've always loved was their buttercream icing. Last time I got a cupcake, the icing was hard and flavorless - had to be crisco for sure, unless I'm hallucinating in my old age.

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I certainly hope they don't mess with the stalls that are currently in the women's bathroom. Original tile and woodwork - gorgeous and well-maintained. They are a treasure.

Also, has anyone noticed change in the quality of the cupcakes at Flying Monkey? One of the things I've always loved was their buttercream icing. Last time I got a cupcake, the icing was hard and flavorless - had to be crisco for sure, unless I'm hallucinating in my old age.

I've only been living in Philadelphia for a little over a year but I have never liked their cupcakes - primarily because of the frosting.

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Ramps and morels are sure signs that spring is here -- even if they have to be "imported" from other states.

Iovine Brother's Produce has had them for the last few weeks. Initially, as as you can see from this photo, the ramps were thin on the leaves, but the bulbs were nice. Since then the leaves have been broader and more useful. Great to add to home fries made in bacon fat. I used the morels (along with hedgehogs and chanterelles) to surround a de-ramekened portion of crustless quiche; I topped the fungi with a shallot-inflected beurre blanc. That and a good baguette welcomed spring to my kitchen. The ramps were priced at $1.99 for a small bunch, which, IIRC, is a better deal than last season. The morels have been superb (as they should be at $69.95/pound): bit, not dried out, relatively clean.

The Chilean grapes have yet to reach bargain levels so far this winter, but with the season peaking south of the Equator, maybe they will soon. The best price I've seen for seedless whites has been $1.49, but they're usually $1.99; reds and blacks are $2.49 and up. I actually found a better deal for bigger seedless whites at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago: that's a rare occurence given than Iovines usually beats WF on both quality and price for just about everything.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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A purported computer glitch at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is holding up two transactions related to Philadelphia markets.

The LCB has temporarily "lost" applications of Blue Mountain Vineyards and Molloy Molloy's. The former is seeking to sell its wine at the Rittenhouse Square farmers' market. The latter, as previously reported here, is a venture of the Iovine brothers to take over the Beer Garden at the Reading Terminal Market and recast it as a gastro pub. The computer glitch is expected to delay each of the endeavors by a couple of weeks.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Two vendors at the Reading Terminal Market offered locally-grown asparagus last weekend.

Ben Kauffman of Lancaster County Produce was selling his for $3.99 pound, but he only brought about two pounds to market and was sold out before 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. He had a more plentiful supply today, as shown in the photo.

Steve Bowes, the farmer who sets up his stall Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the piano court, offered his priced by the bunch, the price worked out to nearly double Kauffman's.

Expect to see more asparagus this weekend at the same stalls, as well as at the Rittenhouse Square and Clark Park farmers markets on Saturday. Fair Food will have some at the RTM as well. And, of course, Headhouse Square when that farmer market begins the 2011 season on Sunday, May 1.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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At some point I promise to read through all 21 pages but first I have a quick question. For a first time visitor who will probably have only one meal (possibly two) here, where would you recommend? My three kids (ages 15,13 and 10)and I will be in Philadelphia in late July for probably only 2 days, though I might be making it 3. My kids eat absolutely everything and when we go to markets like these we often buy about 3 to 5 dishes then pass them around, so we can try a variety of food.

Is there anything (non-perishable)in the market that is worth buying and taking home with me? Philadelphia is going to be stop 3 on an 8 city tour but we will have a car.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Some of my favorite things from the Reading Terminal Market:

roast pork sandwich from DiNics

pretzel dog (with cheese) from Miller's Twist

french berry roll/gateau basque from Metropolitan Bakery

bread pudding from Beck's Cajun Cafe

Some of the Amish vendors (Kaufmann's is one) offer a wide variety of canned (jarred) goods - pickles, preserves jellies etc. I haven't tried them, but they might pique your interest.

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I've done little food research yet, but even in my hotel search DiNics keeps coming up...

A another quick question regarding the Amish goods, We will be driving through Lancaster on our way to Philadelphia (coming from my brother's house in York) I was thinking of just stopping for a quick lunch. Do you think the prices would be cheaper in the Lancaster area or about the same?

I grew up and spend every summer in Cleveland, only 1 1/2 from the largest Amish community but don't have any plans to visit this year and I really do love their jams....

Though I'm not a huge fan, my kids love the Amish lunch buffets so I'm thinking of making the lunch stop, of course I'm going on the assumption that they have these buffets in this area as well.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Is there anything (non-perishable) in the market that is worth buying and taking home with me? Philadelphia is going to be stop 3 on an 8 city tour but we will have a car.

Copes Dried Corn, which is a Pennsylvania Dutch product, is incredibly shelf-stable. And it's exactly what it sounds like. You can get packets of it at the RTM's Pennsylvania General Store and Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. Use it to make deeply corny creamed corn, corn souffle and lots of other stuff. It's not an instant food; most recipes require soaking followed by cooking -- figure a couple of hours start to finish, largely unattended.

You may well find other non-perishables at the Pennsylvania General Store you might want to bring home, since they only sell food products (and a few crafts) made in the Keystone State.

For example, before there were Hershey's Kisses, there will Wilbur's Buds. Hershey ripped of Wilbur's idea.

Sweetzel's Spiced Wafers are usually available only from late summer through winter, but I believe the Pennsylvania General Store stocks it year round. It's much like a ginger snap (which Sweetzel's also makes), but this features a variety of spices. Make sure you have plenty of milk on hand when you decide to open a box!

The store also sells a variety of jams and preserves, but as noted by noinacs, Kauffman's has a very nice selection of them, as well as jarred pickles and condiments, like chow chow.

Sweet As Fudge Candy Shoppe has a great collection of candies, especially the penny variety which no longer cost a penny. But last year they started stocking the re-introduced Bonamo's Turkish Taffy, a delight from my North Jersey childhood. Hard to find elsewhere.

If good spices are hard to find in your neighborhood, you might want to try the Spice Terminal stall in center court.

An incredible variety of loose teas can be obtained at the Tea Leaf. If you can't find decent coffee beans in your neck of the woods (highly unlikely these days), then you'd want to stop by Old City Coffee.

Salumeria isn't DiBruno's (the classic Italian grocery in South Philadelphia, with a Zabar's like branch in center city), but they do offer a good if limited selection of imported Italian foods which are non-perishable. Salumeria and Down Town Cheese have great cheese selections, but few of these could be considered non-perishable.

Although it is best refrigerated, there is some good beef jerky to be had at Smuckers Quality Meats.

Keep in mind that the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants are only open Wednesday-Saturday (though a few have added Tuesday hours recently).

You might also want to check out the Fair Food Farmstand. Although it's primarily devoted to fresh produce, meats and dairy, they do have some interesting dry, canned and jarred goods.

Should you be in town on a Saturday or Sunday, I highly recommend visiting one of the farmers' markets in or near center city. Rittenhouse Square on Saturdays, Headhouse Square on Sundays. There are also farmers markets in nearby neighborhoods during the week, but they tend to have no more than half a dozen vendors apiece. Although they are mostly devoted to fresh produce, there are some non-perishable products available.

Although I know you've already had plenty of lunch advise, I've got a page on my blog devoted to this subject: Munching at the RTM.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I've done little food research yet, but even in my hotel search DiNics keeps coming up...

A another quick question regarding the Amish goods, We will be driving through Lancaster on our way to Philadelphia (coming from my brother's house in York) I was thinking of just stopping for a quick lunch. Do you think the prices would be cheaper in the Lancaster area or about the same?

Sorry, I can't accurately answer the price question as I've only been out to Lancaster once in the year and a half I've been in Philadelphia, but my guess is that they would be cheaper in Lancaster.

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I live in Lancaster County and things will be less expensive here than at the RTM. And if it is buffets your kids want they will be happy here. The king of the buffet places is Shady Maple. There are others as well but if you are going to do it, Shady Maple is the place.

Bob forgot more about the RTM than I could ever know so take his advice. But like the others I think DiNic's is top notch as is Herschel's for wonderful pastrami and I like Bassets ice cream as well

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Wow! Thanks everyone, I've started taking notes. That dried corn in particular sound like something I'd love and know I can't get in Japan.

Shady Maple also sounds just like the kind of place my kids would love, and it's exactly midway between York and Philadelphia!


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Quick question, we'll be coming into Philadelphia on a Wednesday afternoon. After visiting Eastern State Penitentiary I'll turn return the rental car and then head to the hotel to check in. Im thinking that by the time we get checked in and then settled it will be about 5. I was thinking of heading over to Reading to grab a quick and easy dinner but just noticed on the website that it closes at 6. Do some places shut down early?

We will probably also head there the next day for breakfast, any breakfast recommendations?


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Another quick question. Us there sort of a central place, indoors or out, to eat at? My plan is to hit a couple shops getting a couple sandwiches and then sitting down to eat.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Yep. There is a fair number of tables in the middle of the market but if you go at lunchtime on the weekends, it may be difficult to find a seat. I'm not sure how busy it is during the week. You will also see people eating outside on the other side of 12th street where there is a little plaza.

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