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rlibkind

Reading Terminal Market (Part 2)

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Late afternoon is not the best time to visit Reading Terminal Market (RTM). Not the energy of other times. Used to be some of the shops closed early or stopped serving sandwiches - not sure if that is still the case as they've gotten more mall-ish in some of their operating policies, though not in the caliber of the stands and shops.

Late afternoon and early evening is a great time to walk Center City though. I'd recommend Walnut Street west of Broad, especially the Rittenhouse Square area. Lots of pseudo-sidewalk cafes along the route. Many visitors are surprised by the walkability of Center City Philadelphia.

Thursday AM is a better choice for RTM. For sit down breakfast, consider Jack McDavid's Down Home Diner or, in the Amish Section, the Dutch Eating Place. You'll do good at both places - I'm a fan of the Down Home Diner. There's also the Metropolitan Bakery for great baked goods.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Lots of seating areas within the market, including the central court, so that's not a problem.

Altho market closes at 6 p.m. (and many merchants, despite constant nagging to stay open later by management, tend to shut down between 4 and 5), the Down Home Diner remains open late, 'til 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sundays. It has its own entrance when rest of market is closed along Filbert Street.

The Down Home Diner is my breakfast recommendation, but lots of folks like the Dutch Eating Place, and you can also get a breakfast sandwich at Smucker's and eat in center court. Hershel's East Side Deli can make you up a lox or whitefish platter or bagel sandwich; they also make killer potato pancakes for breakfast or lunch.

At the Down Home Diner I usually go for the biscuits and rich man's gravy, but the pancakes are always good, and you can get a side of scrapple. Old Dutch Eating Place has eggs, as does the Diner, pancakes, scrapple, etc. Sometimes at the Old Dutch I'll go for chipped beef over home fries.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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What's next for the premium space Ochs vacated Monday?

RTM general manager Paul Steinke has yet to make a decision, but says he has plenty of businesses that want to locate in the market, which is currently 100 percent leased other than the Ochs stall. (More will become available when the market's renovation is completed late this year.)

One possibility I broached with Steinke would be for an existing lunch vendor to take over the space, which fronts on center court, and put a new purveyor of food to cook at home in that business's spot. Steine said that might be particularly attractive in light of the renovation of the market now underway and which will become more visible to shoppers this summer.

What you can be sure of is that no chain businesses will be allowed, nor will the market's ratio of purveyors (butchers, fish mongers, greengrocers, etc.) to other businesses be reduced.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Local cherries made their seasonal debut today, but they didn't come cheaply. The first vendor to have them that I've seen is Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce at the Reading Terminal Market.

In previous seasons, Ben Kauffman priced his berries by the pint or quart. At least for the start of the season, he's pricing them per pound. The red cherries today were $5.99, the Queen Anne variety $6.99. Since a pint weighs out at about three-quarters of a pound, the pint price for the reds works out to about $4.50, a buck more than last year's $3.50. Since this year's crop is expected to be decent, figure the price should come down as more vendors offer the first of the season's stone fruits. Last year, West Coast cherries sold for as little as 59-cents a pound at Iovine Brothers.

Earlier this week I reported that Iovine's red bell peppers were unexpectedly cheaper than the frying peppers, $1.99 a pound vs. $2.49. Today the price of the latter came down $1.99. Meanwhile Vinnie Iovine was touting his Georgia peaches (he joked is staff mis-spelled the price card, as "Spothern" rather than "Southern" peaches. He says although rock hard, they are considerably sweeter than the California's he sent back to his wholesaler.

Back at Ben Kauffman's he had a full complement of spring veggies today, including a number of different onions. Here are the photos:

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Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Calling it one of the "worst kept 'secrets' in the market" RTM General Manager Paul Steinke put out his regular market newsletter to merchants yesterday confirming the moves reported here a week ago: Dinic's to Ochs' vacant space, Spataro's to Dinic's, and Flying Monkey to Spataro's.

The only change is Spice Terminal's location. Instead of moving slightly to the east so Flying Monkey can get the larger space it needs, it will move to where Steinke originally intended for the cupcakerie: on Avenue D in the space now occupied by refrigerators, behind the wall displaying photos of markets from around the world.

Steinke's newsletter also reported that market traffic -- the number of visitors entering its doors -- for the first five months of 2011 is four percent head of last year. The May numbers were 6.3 percent ahead: 533,680.

Expect big crowds beginning next weekend when 20,000 teachers descend upon the Convention Center for the June 26-29 meeting of the International Society for Technology in Education.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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News about aspects of the renovation project:

The Beer Garden

Work on The Beer Garden will start next week, with the projected grand re-opening scheduled for Oct. 11, which just happens to be the birthday of the owners' mother. With the reopening, it will be renamed for her, Molly Molloy's. In the meantime, no beer or other alcohol, which means Jack Morgan (Downtown Cheese) and Dom Spataro will have to find another spot for their morning pick-me-up.

In addition to more beer taps Molly Molloy's will feature food by chef Bobby Fisher, who's worked for owners Vinnie and Jimmy Iovine at a number of their catering venues. The new entrance to the Beer Garden will be from Center Count.

The Iovines had hoped to close off the entrance from the aisle between Franks A Lot and Coastal Cave, but the Philadelphia Historical Commission nixed that idea, which necessitated a modest redesign.

Dinic's

DiNic's has completed a rebuild of the walk-in refrigerator at the former Harry Ochs' stall, where it will relocate its roast pork and beef emporium sometime this fall (probably late October or November). Tommy Nicolosi and son Joe said they're already using it. Wednesday they met with the architects as the design nears completion. Expect to see work on the former butcher stall to begin sometime after Labor Day.

Tootsie's Salad Express

From Tuesday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 11, Tootsie's Salad Express will be closed due to renovations to the Market office.

Market Office

The Market office on the mezzanine above Tootsie will be temporarily relocated to a storefront within the Convention Center along 11th Street. They'll be there for one or two months, starting the day after Labor Day.


Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Valley Shepherd Creamery is expected to be the first new vendor to occupy space along the Reading Terminal Market's Avenue D.

Earlier this month the RTM and cheesemaker Eran Wajswol signed off on a proposal to occupy about 700 square feet across Avenue D from what will soon be Molly Molloy's gastropub.

The shop will be located along the RTM's back wall, where it will be easiest to pipe in fresh milk from delivery trucks. That's necessary because Wajswol plans to make fresh cheese on premises for market shoppers. At Valley Shepherd's farm store in Long Valley, N.J., his fresh offerings include cream cheeses (no gums or additives) and ricotta.

As its name implies, Valley Shepherd specializes in sheep milk cheeses, although some of its products are cow-sheep mixes. Although the RTM will make fresh cheese, Valley Shepherd earned its stellar reputation with its aged cheeses.

If you're interested in more details, see my blog at http://bit.ly/ogTd7M.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Wow ,that's going to be an exciting addition to the market. I can't wait to check them out.

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It will probably be another week or so before DiNic's begins construction on its new Reading Terminal Market home, the former Harry Ochs stall. With all permits and designs in hand, the work will begin once a contractor is selected from from the bids received.

This past Saturday Jimmy Iovine was sweeping up inside the now vacant Beer Garden space which is tentatively scheduled to reopen in mid-October as Molly Molloy's. This week a new floor is due to be installed.

Along Avenue D in back of the Beer Garden temporary construction walls are up as crews work in that area. The storage and prep areas there have been permanently relocated to the basement. Meanwhile, work continues above Tootsie's Salad Express on the expanded market office.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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O.K. Lee Produce had an abundance of tomatoes in $.99 grab bags today. Red tomatoes on the vine, loose yellow tomatoes and loose orange tomatoes. Boxes of red grape tomatoes too. Small seedless watermelons, cauliflowers and heads of Napa cabbage were also $.99! Amazing haul today that I'll be enjoying into the coming week. Since there isn't a decent tomato left at the Farmer's Markets it's time to head back to RTM for that fix. Needed a bunch of them for a tomato syrup experiment I'll be launching later, so better not to overspend in case of an epic failure. The $3.99/lb. Ugly Jersey tomatoes from Iovines will be reserved for my Caprese salad at dinner this evening. Might mix in a few yellows and make it pretty... :smile:


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The Reading Terminal Market's annual Harvest Festival will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. As usual it will feature hayrides around the block pulled by a farm tractor, caramel apples, freshly made donuts, cider, and a cornucopia of autumnal produce.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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When Iovine Brother's Produce expanded its prep area few years back, the walls came tumbling down and, with them, the rustic, primitive farm scenes painted on them opposite L. Halteman Family Country Foods.

Maybe I missed it earlier, but one of those painted panels remains. It's located on the aisle behind Halteman's opposite what will soon become Molly Molloy's, formerly The Beer Garden.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Plastic sheeting and temporary construction walls adorn the east end of the Reading Terminal Market as its renovation program builds steam.

All cold storage has moved to the basement as work begins on two family bathrooms under the market's mezzanine management office. Once the new lavs are ready, temporary access changes to the men's room will be made so that work can begin on the new home for La Cucina at the Market.

Meanwhile work is underway at DiNic 's new center court location in the former Harry Ochs space; owner Tom Nicolosi hopes for a late November opening. L. Halteman, which will shift west to take over the former flower vendor space, has positioned a new refrigerated display case there in anticipation of its move later this fall.

One casualty of the renovations has been the market's free wi-fi service, which had to be temporarily shut when work started on its remodeled mezzanine offices. When the new office opens about mid-November a new and improved wi-fi system will be installed.

Unrelated to the renovations, produce vendor O.K. Lee has gotten into the spirit by replacing its display tables. The finished wood displays are a significant visual improvement over the more rustic displays they replaced.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Before those sweet bell peppers top your roast pork sandwich at DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market, they've got to be prepped. Every morning Jun snaps out the cores before the peppers go into the oven with a light dressing of olive oil.

Last week I had a hankering for one of Tommy's sandwiches and managed to order something other than the roast pork. Instead I opted for the brisket, which you should try. Tender and flavorful it's like beef done as pulled pork -- but even more succulent. I kept it simply topped with roasted hot peppers.

Tommy's partner and son, Joe Nicolosi, says they won't be rushing to open their new location in the former Harry Ochs stall, because they want to make sure they do it right. They're aiming for mid-January, so they can have some shake-down time before the auto show crowds descend.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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The cupboards are getting barer and barer at the Spice Terminal, and not just because bakers are grabbing spices for their Christmas cookies and cakes.

The long-time proprietor of the Spice Terminal, Al Starzi, died about a year and a half ago. With the stall scheduled to move to a space under the market office later this winter as part of the Avenue D redesign project Starzi's family decided to shut down at the end of next month. Once the decision to close was made they stopped restocking the shelves.

The Spice Terminal has been my go-to vendor for all sorts of seasonings, nuts, condiments and other special items for the nearly 30 years I've been a market regular. If I recall correctly, it was originally located on the Filbert Street side of the market before moving to center court with the mid-1980s renovation completed in connection with construction of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

With the closing of the business the only vendor with a reasonable selection of similar merchandise in one space will be Jonathan Best, though some selected items are available at Salumeria, Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, Iovine Brothers Produce and other stalls. It's possible these and other merchants may expand their offerings to take up the slack. The Spice Terminal also offered a decent selection of whole bean coffees as a competitor to Old City Coffee.

RTM GM Paul Steinke would love to see someone continue the business, but that appears unlikely.

Some of the Spice Terminal space will accommodate the relocated Flying Monkey Bakery, which will also take over Spataro's space when they move across the aisle where DiNic's now holds the fort. DiNic's hopes to open in mid to late-January in the former Harry Ochs stall. The remainder of the Spice Terminal space off center court is scheduled to be occupied by an as yet undetermined new merchant.

Talks are continuing with Valley Shepherd Creamery to occupy space along the back wall of Avenue D. The New Jersey cheese-maker recently opened its new store in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood concurrent with the closing of its outlet in Manhattan.

In the past Steinke said he has a waiting list of potential vendors waiting to open businesses at the RTM. A major reason for the Avenue D project is to create more leaseable space.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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What a loss! The Spice Terminal is great for picking up spices that I've run out of or, more often, grabbing something specific for a recipe. This really reduces the "one stop shoppingness" of the RTM for me. Not to mention the great snack mixes. Boo :(

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It seems there are a few potential entrepreneurs interested in taking over the Spice Terminal. Paul Steinke, the Reading Terminal Market's general manager, reports there are three existing vendors and two outsiders who have expressed interest. In the meantime, Jonathan Best is widening its spice and herb selection.

WiFi service, suspended since early fall when work on the Avenue D project displaced the market's office, came back on line last week. Good coverage in center court and the piano court (where the holiday train display has temporarily displaced seating), but spotty around the market's perimeter.

The Fair Food Farmstand has added a new display case, fronting on the aisle, showcasing its cheese selection, making cheesemonger Paul Lawler very happy.


Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Spice Terminal is leaving?? Boo indeed! That sucks. They've always had what I've needed there, and it made the shopping so much more convenient to have a vendor with herbs, spices, teas, etc. right on premise. I hope another vendor with similar products takes the space. That is definitely needed there...


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Dinic's move to its new home in the Reading Terminal Market cleared the way for Spataro's to begin construction in the former's stall.

This will be at least the fourth location within the market for Spataro's. Once upon a time it was located where Terralyn's Bath Body Spirit shop now stands. Then it moved to center court where Hershel's East Side Deli now holds down the fort before shifting a few years ago to a different center court stall.

Once Spataro's moves to its new spot Flying Monkey Bakery shifts to where Spataro has been.

La Cuchina at the Market, the cooking school and event venue operated by Anna Florio at the Reading Terminal Market, has just a few finishes touches and health department inspection to go before it can open at its new spot, perhaps as early as later this week. The new location is along Avenue D just behind and to the north of Flying Monkey Bakery off center court.

Although plenty more work needs to be done on the market's Avenue D project, the opening of La Cuchina provides a preview of the new look for this end of center court, which will also include the Rick Nichols Room, a multi-purpose venue, adjacent to La Cuchina. The Nichols Room and La Cuchina will be separated by a removal wall so that large scale cooking demonstrations can be held.

The musical chairs involving theese vendors is just one aspect of the Avenue D Project, which will create additional leaseable space for more vendors and the multi-purpose room which will accommodate additional seating during lunch hour when not otherwise claimed. The entire project was originally envisioned to be completed by late February, just in time for the Flower Show when hordes from across the Northeast and Mid Atlantic descend for an early fix of springtime.

Like most construction projects, however, this one fell off its initial schedule. Although the revamped rest rooms should be open by late February, the rest of the construction won't be completed until late April.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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You can't tell a fish by its name. Sea trout is not a trout, it's weakfish, a type of croaker or drum. But silver trout is whiting, which is really hake, part of the cod family. I haven't the foggiest idea about mountain trout, though it certainly isn't a trout and it certainly doesn't come from a mountain stream or lake. Striped bass and rockfish? They're the same, except when they're not.

Confused yet?

You'll find all these items at the fish mongers at the Reading Terminal Market, but it's hard to know what the actual species is. More than any other food, fishes tend to have very local names.

The weakfish, for example, has been called bastard trout, squwteague, sea trout, grey trout, sand trout, shecutts, silver sea trout, squeteague and squit.

In culinary terms, however, nomenclature is secondary. Just pick the broad type of fish you're hungry for (white flesh or oily, large or thin) and buy the freshest you can find. Most recipes for cod work just as well with whiting or haddock. Fluke or flounder? Doesn't matter! Mackerel or Spanish mackerel? There's a bit of a size difference, and while you might be able to distinguish their flavors, it's not that big a difference.

Rockfish and striped bass are the same, delicious, meaty fish, it's just that rockfish is the name in the Chesapeake and striped bass on the Hudson River northwards (New Jersey seems to be the dividing line between the names). With one big caveat. Some striped bass are true striped bass, caught in the wild. Others, under either name, may be a factory or farm raised hybrid of striped bass and white bass. The former is anadronmous, living most of its life at sea but spawning in fresh or brackish rivers; the latter is strictly a fresh water variety. Whether wild or hybrid, both have a good, meaty taste. You can usually tell the difference because the wild striped bass has a blue tag affixed to its jaw; also, the "stripes" on the hybrid tend to be jagged, and the fish are frequently smaller than the striped bass.

If you're as fascinated by culinary fish as I and would like to learn more about the denizens of the sea off Mid-Atlantic waters, I highly recommend Alan Davidson's North Atlantic Seafood. This British diplomat's tome covers fish on both sides of the Atlantic, is chock full of great stories, local recipes from Denmark to South Carolina, and entries for each North Atlantic food fish with discussions of range, best cooking methods, and names in various languages; before he died in 2003 he wrote similar books about the fish of the Mediterranean and South-East Asia, and was the editor of the Oxford Companion to Food.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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With work on additional leaseable vendor space at the Reading Terminal Market scheduled to wrap up by early April as part of the Avenue D project, General Manager Paul Steinke is busy lining up vendors to fill the new spots.

The latest announcement is that the owners of Brauhus Schmitz will open a German food shop -- Wursthaus Schmitz -- in the general area of where the Spice Terminal had been located, at the intersection of Center Court and Avenue D, opposite the new La Cuchina at the Market. They'll sell prepared food for consumption at the market and take-away, deli meats, as well as imported products, including mustards.

The market has been without wide-ranging German food products (beyond the limited Pennsylvania Dutch merchant offerings) since Siegfried's departed in 1990. Steinke has sought to fill that niche for years (Rieker's of Fox Chase declined the opportunity shortly after Siegfried closed).

Owners Kelly Schmitz-Hager and Doug Hager are hot to trot and hope to be open by Memorial Day.

Although negotiations are not completed, Steinke is optimistic to sign a new bulk spice vendor, who would occupy space beneath the market's administrative offices one aisle north of center court. The prospect is a long-standing suburban vendor of nuts, spices, herbs, coffee, grains, and condiments -- the same lines carried by the Spice Terminal. Looking at the potential vendor's existing website, it appears this outfit has greater depth of stock than Spice Terminal's.

Steinke said he decided to go after the suburban vendor because of its 30 years of experience, which trumped an otherwise attractive offer from employees of the Spice Terminal. He acknowledged that part of his decision mix was the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost the market to move the Spice Terminal to a new location, as required by the Avenue D Project. Extensive carpentry for the shelving would have accounted for much of that cost; a new vendor under a new lease is responsible for those costs.

Steinke also expects to sign Valley Shepherd Creamery within the next few week. In addition to selling its great artisinal cheeses (primarily sheep, but some cow and goat and mixed milk cheeses), Valley Shepherd plans to make fresh cheese on-premises.

With Spice Terminal's closing last Sunday, Steinke made quick work to turn it into additional seating, if only on a temporary basis, just in time for the last two days of the auto show. The extra seating will stay in place for the flower show in early March, than give way for Wursthaus Schmitz.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Gut news. Have fond memories of Siegfried's various forms of homemade braunschweiger and liverwurst. Hoping the Wursthaus does similar.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Iovine Brothers' Produce at the Reading Terminal Market has a wide selection of Chilean fruit. The bagged seedless green grapes I picked up last week were worth it at $2 for a bag weighing about a pound and a half. This week I selected two blemish-free Bartlett pears, a nectarine and a black plum. They're all sitting in a paper bag ripening on the counter, we'll see how they taste in a couple of days.

I also picked up some Temple oranges, which have come down in price to 4/$1, down from 3/$1. Very juicy, easy to peel but a tad more difficult to section than the last batch I bought. Limes eased in price to 4/$1, and avocados, which usually see their price increase dramatically for Superbowl Sunday, were a reasonable 2/$1.49 -- anytime they're less than a buck apiece I consider a bargain.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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For nearly 70 years, a stall has operated under the Reading Terminal Market under the Halteman name. At one time, there were even two Halteman's: A.A. Halteman, selling meat and eggs, and L. Halteman, specializing in game and poultry.

A.A. closed in 2006, but L. Halteman Country Store continued, though since the 1980s its offerings changed, with the game and specialized poultry receding in favor of more popular varieties of bird, deli meats and cheeses, especially with Lester Halteman's retirement and the subsequent sale of the business to the Riehl family.

Although the Riehls have operated the stall for a number of years, they're finally getting around to slowly renaming at least the deli and cheese part of the business, concurrent with a location shift to Avenue C, part of the market's current renovation program. The deli offerings will be expanded with the move about 15 feet west to make room for a relocated Avenue D, but they will continue to sell fresh cuts of beef and pork along with the poultry, too. They move isn't expected to be complete until mid-spring.

I always check out the top of the meat case, because that's where they display various preserved meats that can enliven winter meals. I've used their smoked short ribs to add depth to chili, and last week some dices of country ham (Smithfield) along with wood-smoked kielbasa completed baked beans.They also offer a great, reasonably priced thick-cut, deeply smoky and porky bacon.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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The Head Nut of Ardmore, which traces its history to 1945 with the founding of Temp Tee Nuts, will succeed The Spice Terminal as vendor of spices, herbs, nuts, baking ingredients and other bulk goods at the Reading Terminal Market. The shop plans to open in late spring or early summer in space underneath the market's administrative offices.

RTM General Manager Paul Steinke confirmed that The Head Nut signed a letter of intent today; the actual lease agreement is still subject to negotiation.

In visiting the Ardmore store on Haverford Avenue today I was impressed by the breadth of stock in its meandering warrens of shelves, everything from G-strings made of candy to Norwegian cod liver oil. Bigger sellers, no doubt, are the store's spices and herbs, baking and cooking ingredients (flours, dried fruits, vinegars, oils, condiments), teas and coffees, nuts and snacks, candies and jams.

In addition to the main store in Ardmore, The Head Nut sells at the Wayne Farmers Market. The website also lists locations in Swarthmore and West Chester.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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