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Reading Terminal Market (Part 1)


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Yes, nice haul, Katie. That gouda-laced pasta sounds very good.

I stopped by today (Sunday) about 11 a.m., and while hardly crowded, looked like there was a fair amount of business for the purveyors, i.e., produce, fish, meat vendors. Flying Monkey looked like it was doing good business, too.

Both OK Lee and Iovine's featured one-pound clamshells of Floriday strawberries for 99-cents and one dollar, respectively. I picked up some at Iovines and tried them with brunch. Rather average winter berries; in later January/early February Iovines usually gets some Florida berries that have a bit more flavor, though they could hardly be mistaken for in-season locals. I also picked up a grab bag of 1-1/2 pounds of frying peppers for a buck. No clementines at Iovine's this week. A few weeks back they relocated the mushrooms to a new refrigerated case.

Avocados seem to be universally priced at $1 apiece (except at Whole Foods, of course), which makes Katie's score of three ripe ones even more attractive.

Work on Hershel's Deli & Market (that's the new name; had been Hershel's East Side Deli) is picking up, with installation of cases, stove and other appliances underway. This Jewish-style deli is on center court in Spataro's old location.

I've been very pleased with the quality and prices of meats and poultry I've purchased at Giunta's Prime Shop. On Friday I tried the ground sirloin ($2.33 pp iirc for minimum three-pound purchase), some of which I turned into hamburger for that night's dinner, the rest into pasta sauce. One future visits I'm going to try the hanger steak ($5.99) and meaty-looking lamb shanks ($4.99).

It would be nice to see at least some of the lights on in the shops located near center court that aren't open. Spataro's and Tommy DiNic's kept theirs on, but lack of overhead lights at Mezze cast a shadow adjacent to center court. Perhaps RTM could provide an incentive for such shops to keep at least some of the lights on when they are closed.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I stopped by Reading Terminal Market on Friday and had a meal at the Down Home Diner. Given that the past few times I've ate there the food was pretty... bad..., I was surprised! They made a great meal - very basic, very good home cooked food.

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Bob:

O.K. Lee had signs all over the place that they are open on Sundays. Given that I was at the market pretty late yesterday( after 5PM), they might have still had some of those three packs of avocados left. You coulda scored some too...

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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  • 2 weeks later...

Some musical chairs in vendor locations noticed this weekend. Terralynn has abandoned the center court cart. Instead, Terralyn's soaps and skin care products will be sold in the stand where Young's Flowers has been recently. That stand actually had been Spataro's prior to the RTM's mid-1980s renovation and you can still see the Spataro's "Drink Buttermilk" signs atop the stand. Young's moves to a cart in center court opposite Mezze.

Right across from the Young's cart work is proceeding apace for Hershel's Deli. Counter tops were due to be delivered today (Monday, Jan. 22), and the store could be open in two or three weeks.

Earl Livengood was selling potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, winter squashes, carrots, kale, and the last of his leeks and scallions Saturday. Earl will make occasional appearances on Saturdays when has produce to sell, but otherwise he won't be making regular appearances until early spring when the first green things start to pop out of the ground. For the time being, it's almost exclusively root vegetables.

Speaking of root vegetables, the RTM will host it's annual Roots Festival Feb. 17. You can have your photo taken with one of the strolling costumed root vegetables, so mark your calendar.

Rather than roots, the RTM goes to the heart of the matter three days earlier, on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. That's when Judge Jeffrey P. Mineheart will marry six couples in Center Court at 11 a.m.

Valentine's Day brings to mind chocolate, of course. The Pennsylvania General Store has been selling John & Kira's chocolates for six or seven months, but you wouldn't know it unless you asked. Now proprietor Mike Holahan has put up a sign to let you know about them.

Over at Fair Food Farmstand you can get white spelt hot dog buns to go with your uncured frankfurters.

Even though spring is still two months away, it's been imported from Florida: shad. John Yi is selling whole buck shad for $2.99; they are also packaging shad row and red snapper filets together in a single package. Mackeral is available as either whole fish ($1.99) or filet ($2.99). Wild striped bass (a.k.a. rockfish) is selling for $4.99 whole.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Jimmy Iovine says the brothers are contemplating moving all their prep and packaging operations to the RTM's basement. That would open up a fair amount of additional spelling space they would devote to a wider range of items, expanding Iovine's into more of a grocery store, according to Jimmy.

Seems to me this would build on the success of Sunday openings in making the RTM more attractive for residents of Center City and nearby areas who actually shop there. Such an Iovine's expansion no doubt will help them compete when Whole Foods eventually moves closer to the RTM when it opens the 16th & Vine location.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I stopped by Reading Terminal Market on Friday and had a meal at the Down Home Diner. Given that the past few times I've ate there the food was pretty... bad..., I was surprised! They made a great meal - very basic, very good home cooked food.

I find their breakfasts to be traditionally good, the bacon and egg type meals. They always fry my eggs right, sunny sude up and very runny, which not everybody gets right. It's the other meals that aren't so good. I'd rather eat lunch at Pearl's Oyster Bar. The raw clams and oysters are always briny bliss and the lobster bisque is velvety and good. Now if the service were just a bit better! A niece who visits a few times a year alway wants to be taken to Pearl's for the raw bivalves, too.

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Jimmy Iovine says the brothers are contemplating moving all their prep and packaging operations to the RTM's basement. That would open up a fair amount of additional spelling space they would devote to a wider range of items, expanding Iovine's into more of a grocery store, according to Jimmy.

Seems to me this would build on the success of Sunday openings in making the RTM more attractive for residents of Center City and nearby areas who actually shop there. Such an Iovine's expansion no doubt will help them compete when Whole Foods eventually moves closer to the RTM when it opens the 16th & Vine location.

If that's their plan, I'd like to see them add materials for serious baking, especially an assortment of high quality flours (such as King Arthur's), including various specialty flours, whole wheat bread, all-purpose and pastry flour, whole grain rye flour, semolina, etc. Natural Connection has been falling down on the job of stocking flour, and for months they have only had one kind of whole wheat flour--a kind far too low in gluten to bake the kind of bread I prefer! They still do a good job of keeping bulk yeast on hand. Maybe Iovine's could carry baking soda and baking powder.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hershel's East Side Deli is nearing completion, as seen in this photo.

gallery_7493_1206_131095.jpg

They hope to be in business in time for the weekend of February 10. The menu will be pretty basic. Corned beef, pastrami, brisket, turkey, chopped liver, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad and whitefish salads in various sandwich and platter permutations, hot dogs (Hebrew National; I wish they would have used a more interesting kosher style dog, like Best Provisions or Sabrett); soups; latkes, kugel, and kasha varnishke (buckwheat groats and bow tie pasta); and knishes. They also will serve breakfast, including challah French toast. Lox will also be available. On the beverage front, egg creams and various Dr. Brown's sodas, including Cel-Ray.

I'm going to have to try lunch at one of the fish vendors. Golden offers oysters and clams on the halfshell, at $5.50 and $3.50 for a half dozen, respectively, served with lemon and sauce (that's cocktail sauce; no mignonette sauce, alas). At least for the oysters that's just about the best price in town, save the happy hour oysters at Sansom Street. Another market purveyor, Coastal Cave has oysters at $6.95 and clams at $3.75 per half dozen.

This seems to be the time of the year when fish is at its most expensive. Prices for halibut ranged as high as $17, and cod fillets were nearly $9. The best deals were in whole fish, mackeral ($1.99-$2.49) and spanish mackeral ($2.99); buck shad could also be had for $2.99 if you like to deal with its intricate bone structure. Golden is still selling whole sardines (herring) at $2.99/pound. The least expensive mild white fillets from wild-caught fish were for scrod at $6.99 at John Yi's.

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and one traditional food serve to is guacamole. Today at Iovine Brothers Hass avocadoes were selling at the very low price of two for a buck; however, they were drop dead ripe and need to be prepared and eaten today or tomorrow at the latest. If they are still offering avocados at this price Friday or Saturday, and they haven't gone over the hill into battery acid territory, buy them.

Signs of that California freeze are clear in the citrus section: three smallish navel oranges for $1, lemons also three for a buck. Clementines, no matter what their source, are up to $7.99/box. Best buy in citrus are Florida tangelos and temples; the latter were posted at 25-cents apiece today. The one-pound clamshell packed Florida strawberries, $1.99, smelled good. Green seedless grapes from Chile, 99-cents; black seedless $3.49. Red and green bagged peppers, $1. The South American peach crop is in; I've never found them to my liking for in-hand eating, but I suppose they'd be fine cooked or baked in some fashion.

Spotted a new item in Iovine's refrigerator case near the Filbert Street checkout aisle: pre-cooked, prepared French chestnuts, $4.99 for two 200-gram (two seven-ounce) vacuum packs, suitable for quick reheating in water or microwave.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Nice produce haul today from RTM.

At Iovine's I hit the dollar bags and got:

Two large eggplants

A five pound bag of ruby potatoes

Two large English cucumbers

Two bags of red/purple carrots

Grand total = $5

At OK Lee:

Three large bulbs of fennel @$1.99/lb

About 6 small Bosc pears @.99/lb.

Two bags of about 9 limes each @$1.00/bag

A bag of mixed broccoli & cauliflower florets and baby carrots@$1

Grand total = $9.09

The limes are a steal at O.K. Lee. Even cheaper than the Mexican grocery store on Wolf Street. I think I see some margaritas in my future this weekend. I got an electric juicer for cheap on eBay awhile back and this should break it in nicely. :biggrin:

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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Two bags of about 9 limes each @$1.00/bag . . . . The limes are a steal at O.K. Lee.  Even cheaper than the Mexican grocery store on Wolf Street.  I think I see some margaritas in my future this weekend.

Wow! I missed those when I walked through OKL Thursday. Hope they're juicy! And if the avocados at Iovine's are still relatively inexpensive, you might want to consider some guac to go with those margaritas.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Two bags of about 9 limes each @$1.00/bag . . . . The limes are a steal at O.K. Lee.  Even cheaper than the Mexican grocery store on Wolf Street.  I think I see some margaritas in my future this weekend.

Wow! I missed those when I walked through OKL Thursday. Hope they're juicy! And if the avocados at Iovine's are still relatively inexpensive, you might want to consider some guac to go with those margaritas.

There's actually 8 limes per bag, now that I've gotten a closer look. But still a bargain. And I did indeed juice some and make this:

gallery_7409_476_23879.jpg

Muy refrescoso! :biggrin:

My trick for getting all the juice out of the limes is to microwave the limes whole for about 30 seconds or until they feel a little warm on the outside. Then I roll them on the counter, cut them in half and juice them immediately. Definitely gets the last drops out.

I also made a big pot of Cosmic Creme of Carrot soup out of the gorgeous purple carrots I bought. That adventure is chronicled over HERE on the Soup thread.

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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We're still five weeks away from the vernal equinox, but another sure sign of spring (besides shad) showed up at the RTM this week: pokeweed. Earl Livengood has it. The poke comes courtesy of Earl's friend and neighbor Sam Conslyman who gathers the poke in the fall then buries them in sand and waits for them to pop. Otherwise this week, Earl's offerings were limited to root vegetables, winter squashes and chestnuts.

Hershel's East Side Deli had hoped to be open this weekend but wasn't. Last time I spoke with the proprietor he said he was waiting for final city permits.

After Mark Bittman published his article about mackerel, which he called the "Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world" because it doesn't get any respect, it seems there might have been a run on the species. None was to be found at the RTM today, though last week it was plentiful at $2.49-$2.99/pound. However, Spanish mackerel, a closely related variety and which can be treated the same way, was available at $2.99 at John Yi's and Golden.

Iovine Brothers has some smallish California navel oranges priced at four for a buck, a relative bargain considering the West Coast freeze. In case you haven't noticed, Iovine's now sells milk; it's organic and located in the refrigerated case next to the Filbert Street checkout.

Last month Jim Iovine told me he and his brothers were considering moving their production into the RTM's basement and converting existing "back office" space to additional selling footage. That won't happen anytime soon: Jim says the costs and complexity of installing pumps to dispose of wastewater from the produce washing process make it part of "long term plans" rather than anything in the immediate future. Jim, by the way, is hobbled after tearing his Achilles' tendon while challenging his children in basketball, which required surgery two weeks ago; means he has to give up his winter golf trips to sunnier climes.

Not all the meat at the Fair Food Farmstand comes frozen. Check the refrigerator case and you may find Countrytime pork chops or Meadow Run lamb cubes like I did today. What's available fresh varies each week, depending on stock needs and supplier deliveries.

Here's my shopping list from today:

IOVINE BROTHERS ($6.20)

Black seedless grapes ($1.99/pound)

Fruit salad (one-quart container)

String beans ($1.99/pound)

MARTIN'S QUALITY MEATS ($3.20)

Pork sausage links

EARL LIVENGOOD ($2.15)

Fingerling potatoes

Parsnips

LE BUS BAKERY ($3.50)

Brioche bread (one-half loaf)

OLD CITY COFFEE ($12.50)

(Mocha-French Roast blend)

FAIR FOOD FARMSTAND ($11.25)

Pork chops (2)

Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Thanks, Rlibkind...I did forget that there are often fresh meat's in the refrigerator case at Fair Food.

By the way, we got the tastiest milk there a few days ago. The Kingfisher whole unpasteurized milk...just decadent and creamy. Made some cafe au lait this morning and it almost tasted like cream. Really good drizzled on Oatmeal too.

Also got some fresh mache at Fair Food, tiny leaves, full of dirt and stones. Had to wash it four times, but very good.

They have fresh, local garlic, which I swear has more taste than other types. I think it's a German variety?

And, their local cheeses are good too. I got a sheep's milk tartufo. Not enough taste of truffle, but still good.

Philly Francophiles

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at fair foods today in their 'bits and pieces' box, besides the usual lamb liver, heart, tongue and kidney, there was one lamb sweetbread. it's much smaller than the veal sweetbreads i'm used to, perfect for a little appetizer.

tartetatin, i think that's the german red garlic they're selling. i haven't bought it recently because it's kind of soft; i feel like it doesn't store as well as some others. tastes great when it's on, though. very strong, almost hot garlic flavor.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Another vendor has closed shop at the Reading Terminal Market: Andros. I'm told the owner of the prepared food outlet, whose education and background is in financial services, simply got an offer in that industry he could not refuse.

If smoke got in your eyes Saturday at the RTM, it wasn't because of the strains of an old song wafting through the air. A mishap with the roaster at Old City Coffee sent the unappetizing aroma of burnt coffee, along with a lot of smoke, through the market at noontime. It even set off the smoke alarms. I only got furrowed brows and mean stares when I asked one of the OC workers if I could have some extra drark roast.

I've revisited and reevaluated Heshel's East Side Deli. Follow this link to read it.

Still waiting for more definitive signs of spring. The closest I could come was the $1 one-pound clamshells of Florida strawberries at Iovine Brothers. This batch was much more flavorful and sweet than the ones in late January and early February.

Foster's Gourmet Cookware will be closing shop this summer. Ken Foster told me he'll be combining his the RTM shop with his Third Street store (Foster's Urban Homewares) at a new location, Fourth & Market. The 12,000-square foot, single-floor facility will have four times the combined footage of the two stores it replaces. Ken said he'll also have truck bays for his growing web store business.

Here's my shopping list from Saturday:

IOVINE BROTHERS ($7.54)

Strawberries

Shallots

Fruit cup (medium)

Black seedless grapes

LANCASTER COUNTY DAIRY ($3.39)

Milk

FAIR FOOD FARMSTAND ($6.54)

Raw milk cheddar

Blue cheese

Sweet potato

GIUNTA'S PRIME SHOP ($7.26)

Ham steak

HERSHEL'S EAST SIDE DELI ($5.60)

Salty belly lox

MARTIN'S QUALITY MEATS & SAUSAGE ($3.30)

Turkey bacon

Edited to add Foster's info

Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Delilah's was featured on a new Bobby Flay Episode of Throwdown yeterday. Of course, they made mac n cheese. It was to jump start her new cookbook. Great PR for RTM.

Lisa K

Lavender Sky

"No one wants black olives, sliced 2 years ago, on a sandwich, you savages!" - Jim Norton, referring to the Subway chain.

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You know, I was so excited when I read your post because I've always wanted to know how Delilah made her mac and cheese, so I zoomed over to the foodtv website, and I saw the recipe and I'm a bit disappointed. I think that's the recipe that Delilah gives out to the public, but it's not necessarily the recipe that she serves her customers. A friend of mine's sister used to work at Delilahs, and apparently there's sour cream in her mac and cheese recipe, and none in the one offered at food network.

Oh well, looks like I'm going to keep having to pay for her mac and cheese, but I enjoy her food anyway so it isn't that big of a deal.

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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More merchant changes: the Pet Lady (pet toys) is gone. Bee Natural will extend its stall into that space, on the opposite side of the seating area nearest Arch Street. As reported last week, Andros has also give up its stall.

The Scrapplefest is set for Saturday, April 21. So far, the RTM has lined up Hatfield as a major sponsor. In his monthly newsletter to merchants RTM General Manager Paul Steinke is asking the merchants to come up with prepared foods featuring scrapple. Like, scrapple ice cream. (Hey, if an ice cream shop in Bar Harbor can do lobster, Bassett's can do scrapple!)

Customer counts through March 4 are running better than five percent ahead of 2006, according to Steinke's newsletter. This year the RTM counted 875,706 vs. 832,500 for the same period last year. Both years represent counts prior to the opening of the Flower Show, but do include other big convention center shows, including the wholesale crafts exhibition which is a large draw.

As of Friday, Iovine no longer offered those one-pound clamshells of Florida strawberries for a buck, though they do have one-pint containers for a dollar. However, O.K. Lee was selling the one-pound packs for only 99 cents.

It's the end of the clementine season. If you find them at all they are likely to be expensive. However, Iovine had a reasonable deal on Spanish mandarins (tangerines): a five-pound box for $4.99. Mexican Altaulfo mangoes are a buck each.

Still a couple of weeks away from seeing ramps. No fiddleheads yet, either, though in some years they appear as soon as early March.

If all this sounds familiar, let me quote from an entry I made this time last year:

Best produce deal I spied today: those Plant City, Florida, strawberries, back in one-pound clamshell cases at Iovine. One U.S. Greenback. And they are red, ripe and delicious.

Other interesting fruit: very ripe and ready Altaulfo mangos a buck apiece and mandarin oranges $8.95 for a five-pound box, both at Iovine.

This time last year, Iovine had fiddleheads from the Pacific Northwest.

Nothing like seasonality.

Here's my shopping list from Friday:

HATVILLE DELI ($0.75)

Eggs (half dozen)

LANCASTER COUNTY DAIRY ($3.30)

Milk

MARTIN'S QUALITY MEATS ($3.45)

Turkey bacon

FAIR FOOD FARMSTAND ($6.26)

Ground beef

GIUNTA'S PRIME SHOP ($3.64)

Chicken, boneless, skinless breast

12th STREET CANTINA ($5.75)

Enchilada sauce

IOVINE BROTHERS ($8.58)

Mandarin oranges

Spring mix salad

Baking potatoes

SALUMERIA ($15.80)

Olives

Torrone

HERSHEL'S EAST SIDE DELI ($5.50)

Lox

Edited to add shopping list

Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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There's another spot to imbibe at the RTM!

Blue Mountain Vineyard has opened up a wine bar, sort of. Basically, it's a couple of small tables. You can order by the glass to enjoy with a lunch you bought from one of the other vendors. Just like the Beer Garden, it's for consumption within the store only.

Okay, what goes with Tommy DiNic's pork?

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Luigi:

Do you mean the garage that you enter from Filbert Street between 12th & 13th? The one that has the discounted parking? Or do you mean the one that's next to the market on the east side that you enter from 11th Street?

Anyone else encounter this problem? Isolated incident? Is it possible the garage was simply full? There have been several conventions and conferences in town this week. I wouldn't be surprised if perhaps the garage was simply filled up. It does happen from time to time.

I was last at the market this past Monday. Hit up OK Lee produce for the $1 grab bags again, and a couple more items. For .99 each I got a bag of two big eggplants, a bunch of leeks, a bag of potatoes, a bag of zucchini, a bag of big mushrooms, a pint of strawberrries and a whole peeled cantaloupe, for $1.69 a bag of broccoli crowns, for $2.99 a big head of cauliflower. $11.61 for two full bags of veggies. I made a huge pot of Potato-Leek soup that night and have been eating the veggies and fruit the rest of the week. Tonight I'm making Eggplant Kuku from the eggplants while I'm roasting beets for Passover horseradish and slicing and dicing fruit and nuts for Sephardic Charoset.

Happy Holidays everyone!!

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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