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MarketStEl

eG Foodblog: MarketStEl - My Excellent Sub/Urban Adventure

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(I'd appreciate a little help from my fellow Philadelphians with this question: What does "Wishniak" mean, and how did the soda get that name?)

I got this one...

Wishniak is a variety of cherry grown throughout Eastern Europe. Both the cherry itself and the resulting liqueur (a dark cherry brandy) share the name. The best examples are from Croatia. Maraska apparently makes a good one, but it's in short supply. There's a few bottles at the specialty store in Bryn Mawr if you're feeling so inclined.


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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Thanks much for the DiBruno pix. Haven't been to the Rittenhouse store, when I get to Philly, I'm usually in the Italian market and shopping the big Oriental grocery store at 6th and Washington.

I was slightly disappointed to see the cheese pre cut and wrapped there, a la Whole Foods. I'm sure they have fast enough turnover so keep it from drying out, but I'm old fashioned, I like the guy to cut my cheese (sorry) and maybe give me a taste.

On the good news side, I'm excited to see that there's actually a good wine/liquor outlet in Philadelphia! Pennsylvania is notorious for their archaic, inconvenient alcohol distribution laws. My folks live in West Chester and have been driving to Delaware and Maryland for years to buy beer, wine, and liquor. My Mom got busted on 202 years ago coming back into PA with a case of wine, the cops were watching the liquor stores just over the border in Delaware and stopping people returning to PA. My Mom the rumrunner, right. Dad said at her hearing "if you had a decent wine store in PA, we wouldn't have to drive to Delaware!"

They fined her and confiscated the wine. :sad:

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This is the reincarnation of a popular local soda, Black Cherry Wishniak, which was made for decades by Frank's Beverages of Northeast Philly.  Frank's was bought out a few years back and the Philly plant shut down, and not long after that, Black Cherry Wishniak disappeared from store shelves.  Hank's, a local boutique soda bottler, has revived it.  When next you're in town, you should try a bottle.

(I'd appreciate a little help from my fellow Philadelphians with this question:  What does "Wishniak" mean, and how did the soda get that name?)

(edited out my explanation because katie beat me to it)

isn't frank's wishniak still made? maybe by that same dude that bought the champ cherry and levis hot dog copyrights? it's still in their online catalogue at tasteofphiladelphia.com and several other mail-order philadelphia places.

actually, canada dry makes a black cherry wishniak nowadays, don't they?


Edited by mrbigjas (log)

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That cheese selection looks fantastic! I see they aren't highlighting their prices, even on the cheese of the week, so it must be expensive! I'm pretty sure the last time I went to Philadelphia, my hotel was down that street, but somehow I missed DiBruno Bros. Oh well, it was a whirlwind trip, but now I know where to get provisions next time.


The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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My Czechoslovokian grandfather used to make a kickass cherry brandy called Vishnik. I'm sure it is the same thing, only a leeeetle more potent ! :raz:

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DiBruno Bros., an Italian Market institution and cheese lovers' Mecca since 1939, opened a Rittenhouse Square store on South 18th Street in the late 1990s and added a prepared-foods shop next to it around 2000.  Last year, it combined the two shops into a new, much larger store on Chestnut just east of 18th.  The store has been a hit since Day One, and it's easy to see why:

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Read...and weep, non-Pennsylvanians.

Forgive me for manipulating your instructions, Sandy. However, I just contacted the store and discovered that Niman Ranch's guanciale is currently in their cases although not always available. This cured hog's jowl can be found in New York, Seattle, parts of California, but not here in D.C.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Oops! Forgot to issue kudos to the correct respondents.  I did get one incorrect response, and will keep the identity of the sender private to spare further embarrassment.

Congrats to *Deborah*, mamabear, mizducky, Chufi, ghostrider and Gruzia, the eGer who found Robert Drake's blog.

Later...

thanks for the kudos, but i was not the one who found the blog...though if you insist i will take full credit :raz:

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Oops! Forgot to issue kudos to the correct respondents.  I did get one incorrect response, and will keep the identity of the sender private to spare further embarrassment.

Congrats to *Deborah*, mamabear, mizducky, Chufi, ghostrider and Gruzia, the eGer who found Robert Drake's blog.

Later...

thanks for the kudos, but i was not the one who found the blog...though if you insist i will take full credit :raz:

Oops!

I stand corrected--indeed you weren't. (I thought the last person to submit a correct answer was the one who found the blog.)

ghostrider was the blog finder.

My apologies to you both.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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isn't frank's wishniak still made?  maybe by that same dude that bought the champ cherry and levis hot dog copyrights?  it's still in their online catalogue at tasteofphiladelphia.com and several other mail-order philadelphia places. 

actually, canada dry makes a black cherry wishniak nowadays, don't they?

I think you are right, James, for I have seen Frank's sodas on some store shelves since the company was bought out. The labels state the company is based in Elizabeth, N.J., so I suspect that it's now a line put out by another soft drink manufacturer. Anyone know what soft drink makers have operations in Elizabeth?

However, they are no longer as widely distributed as they were when they were truly local.

And I think I too have seen Canada Dry Black Cherry Wishniak soda somewhere.

That first bottle won't be my last.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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That cheese selection looks fantastic! I see they aren't highlighting their prices, even on the cheese of the week, so it must be expensive!  I'm pretty sure the last time I went to Philadelphia, my hotel was down that street, but somehow I missed DiBruno Bros. Oh well, it was a whirlwind trip, but now I know where to get provisions next time.

No, they're not inexpensive. But they're worth it!

The Chestnut Street location hasn't even been open a whole year yet, so I'm not surprised you missed it--before last fall, they were around the corner in two separate storefronts on the 100 block of South 18th Street.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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It's Thursday afternoon, and I'm standing on the corner in:

a) an outer borough of New York,

b) an inner suburb of Philadelphia,

c) some nonedscript intersection in Los Angeles,

d) Fantasyland.

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Of course, the answer is (b). I'm just checking again to see if you're paying attention.

I took the long way home this afternoon to visit the commercial heart of Upper Darby Township, the state's largest township, with some 80,000 residents, at the eastern tip of Delaware County, just over the line from Philadelphia.

Across the way from the building in the photo above is Township Hall:

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When this impressive little edifice was built in 1929, the township was a prosperous, flourishing suburban community--and all white.

Today, it's still fairly prosperous and full of activity, but it's gotten a lot more urban and multiethnic. The business district around 69th Street Terminal offers a mixed stew of shops and eateries, catering to multiple tastes and clientele. Take a look at the first block of Garrett Road, which runs from Township Hall to 69th Street Terminal:

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The place with the red banner, Sabor Latino, is a restaurant specializing in (I think) Peruvian dishes that has gotten favorable notice in the press and (again, if I recall right) on this board.

As I head towards the reason I brought you all here, I'd like to go on the record as saying that I just don't get the Japanese mania for "Hello Kitty." Not even being a cat owner can get me to swallow it. But I'll just have to steel myself for the walk past the Banzai Japanese Outlet:

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and the Shiseido boutique:

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relieved only by the Mexican restaurant separating the two:

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because it's not that far to my actual destination.

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This brand-new supermarket is the anchor of a two-story Asian minimall owned by the people who run the Hanh Ah Rheum chain of Korean supermarkets. H Mart is their effort to appeal to a broader cross-section of customers by offering both Asian and American products in a Western-style supermarket setting. Quoting their Web site:

The customer-oriented H Mart serves the diverse racial groups and nationalities with their own distinct cultural background that now make up the population of many American metropolitan as well as suburban areas. Therefore, variety in grocery items is an unavoidable necessity. H Mart stores are assorted with cultural diversity of foods and products, ranging from Asian products and unique oriental specialties to American groceries and the everyday commodities. It is not unusual to spot spaghettis and sauce in one isle and arroz and tortillas in the next with kimchi and fermented bean paste nearby.

That doesn't strike me as too far off the mark in describing the Upper Darby store.

The reason I'm here is to scope out some ingredients and accessories in the hope of soon emulating this:

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The woman in the kimono is Fumiyo Batta, professor of Japanese language and culture at Widener. With her are two students in her introductory Japanese class. They were demonstrating how to make California rolls to students and passersby in the University Center during our "Cherry Blossom Festival" the week before this blog.

It looked ridiculously easy to do, so I figured I'd put it on my to-make list.

My fellow Philadelphians will no doubt be asking me at this point, "But can't you get these sorts of things on Washington Avenue?" Of course I can. I'm here as much to give people a glimpse into our suburban future as I am to fill my cupboard. Besides, not every shopper can appreciate the atmosphere (and the aromas) of more purely Asian supermarkets, so a place like this one might encourage more people to be more adventurous. As you will see below, the customer mix at this store comes close to resembling the makeup of the United Nations.

But before I go into the store, let's check out the food court on the upper level:

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Chinese? Check. Korean? Check. Fried chicken? Check.

A bakery and a sushi counter round out the offerings:

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And maybe I should find out how to enter the prize drawing while I'm at it:

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(But what would I do with a car in the middle of Center City?)

Back down into the store, which has a huge produce selection at prices that give the Reading Terminal Market a run for its money:

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There's also a prepared foods section with both prepacked items and open bins of various pickled and seasoned items.

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The store even has its own store brand in this section. The sign in the background reads, "Jinga is a new brand for sidedishes and snacks, prepared in an authentic homestyle cooking just like grandma's."

Yeah. Maybe your grandma, if she's Korean. Certainly not mine.

Which didn't keep me from sampling promiscuously:

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I don't know what was in the pan on the right, but it sure tasted good. I figure what I don't know won't hurt me.

The company has a regional warehouse in the area. They probably have to to keep this much prepacked perishables in stock:

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Then there is the seafood section, right behind the produce--not where you'd find it in an ordinary American supermarket. Once again, folks, look at those prices:

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I don't think even Wal*Mart can match these.

I recall there being a discussion about this seafood item somewhere on eG:

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So if I were to buy one of these, what would I do with it?

Maybe I can find a clue on one of these recipe cards?

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Not this time, but I took several just in case.

I described this supermarket on the Pennsylvania board as "East meets West and both win." Here's the Western part:

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And the customers perusing the meat case sure don't look Korean to me:

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PA Preferred note: The meat department features Hatfield products.

This blending does produce some interesting juxtapositions:

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and teaches me that some food items are associated with more than one culture.

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But even the best efforts to appeal to a broad range of people can't always hit the mark. For instance, this is all they have in the way of barbecue sauce:

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But that's really not a problem--if I want barbecue sauce, I'll order Gates' or make my own. I'm here for the Asian--and specifically Japanese--items.

Let's see. I know that there are a bunch of eGulleteers who are enamored of...what was that again? I'll bet it's in this aisle:

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Yep, there it is--in any flavor you want:

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And for anyone with a serious Pocky jones, they also have the large economy size:

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But what's this? Oh, that again:

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I know that the first thing I'd need to make sushi is rice--really sticky rice. I ask some girls in the rice aisle who look like they're not long out of Upper Darby High which of the dozens of varieties I should buy. One of them points me to this brand:

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The red stripe bears the legend, "California's Original Sushi Rice." I suspect you can't find this product in Japan, given that the country is still very protective of its rice farmers.

The other essential staple is sheets of dried seaweed. These they have in mind-numbing variety:

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Over in the frozen food case, there's imitation crab legs in case I can't figure out how to use the real ones:

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and in the refrigerated case, pickled ginger.

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Now, if I can only find a place that sells those bamboo mats you use to roll everything up--and an avocado--I'll be in business. Or maybe I'll replace the avocado with cream cheese and make Philly roll instead.

As my larder's full and my wallet nearly empty, however, all I can do tonight is file this for reference. But just to offer you a little more info about Upper Darby's multiculturalism, a few blocks in the direction I'm shooting down West Chester Pike:

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is an authentic Irish cafe run by recent emigrés that serves a good Irish breakfast, or so the Food section of The Philadelphia Inquirer tells me.

My roomie wanted me to play the numbers for him today, so en route to my ride home, I stopped in this restaurant:

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where the friendly Greek gentleman working the register and lottery terminal told me I had just missed the cutoff for the night numbers drawings.

So it's time to resume my trip home by heading to 69th Street Terminal, where the bus that takes me to Widener originates:

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Opened in 1906 and enlarged in 1932, this is where the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company's (later the Philadelphia Transportation Company's) elevated line into the city met the suburban streetcar and interurban networks of the Philadelphia & West Chester Traction Company and the Philadelphia & Western Railroad (later combined into the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company--the "Red Arrow Lines"). If you didn't notice before, go back and look at that picture I took down West Chester Pike--SEPTA still runs two light rail lines that are located entirely in the suburbs (Route 101 to Media and Route 102 to Sharon Hill), and the old P&W interurban is now the Norristown High-Speed Line (Route 100).

SEPTA gave this facility a major facelift in the late 1980s.

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I'm headed for the Market-Frankford Line--that's right, the "MarketStEl"--into town:

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There's usually a train waiting on the platform at this station, and indeed one is waiting now.

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One reason I like commuting on public transit is that I can read while I ride.

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(I like the Observer for its inside coverage of the print and broadcast media. I also read the Inquirer and Daily Times every day--the latter because I need to for my job.)

It used to be that the trains and buses had lots of people reading on them--experienced transit riders knew to fold their broadsheet newspapers in half vertically to read them standing up on a crowded train, and the tabloid format was developed specifically because it could be read more easily on a train or bus. Today, however, it seems almost nobody reads while riding:

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which makes people like me, as my friend and former Penn colleague Jon Caroulis put it, "dinosaurs." (Jon is director of media relations at La Salle University.)

Folks should try it more. It's a pleasant way to pass the time and beats staring blankly into space because you might just learn something interesting in the process.

I see I've missed any chance of getting into town by 6 now. I'll resume with Thursday evening and today on the Philadelphia end.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Wow Sandy, this blog is great. I love that you are covering culture, transport, architecture, education as well as food.

I'm a native Philadelphian, and having grown up in the NE section, it is quite an education for me even, to learn about the other burbs I'd never been to.

Looking forward to the rest!

Cheers.

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Really enjoying the post. Thanks.

The caribbean food truck in front of the post office, is that the one across the street from the train station? Every time I've been in Phili, I always get the jerk chicken or oxtail to go for the train ride home. I get a lot of looks (sometime curiosity others hunger). The food is real good.

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One reason I like commuting on public transit is that I can read while I ride.

Today, however, it seems almost nobody reads while riding

which makes people like me, as my friend and former Penn colleague Jon Caroulis put it, "dinosaurs."  (Jon is director of media relations at La Salle University.)

Folks should try it more.  It's a pleasant way to pass the time and beats staring blankly into space because you might just learn something interesting in the process.

I loved riding the train for that very reason - nice, long stretches of reading time! I'd also knit en route, which probably makes me even more of a dinosaur :wink:.


Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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Really enjoying the post.  Thanks.

The caribbean food truck in front of the post office, is that the one across the street from the train station?  Every time I've been in Phili, I always get the jerk chicken or oxtail to go for the train ride home.  I get a lot of looks (sometime curiosity others hunger).  The food is real good.

Yep--that is the one across the street from 30th Street Station.

(Bear with me while I free-associate for a minute: Today was the day Widener seniors present their senior capstone projects in various subjects, as this is when spring semester classes end. In the communications program, one of the displays featured student-produced TV news reports on current topics. Besides showing a high degree of professionalism, some of the reports covered matters that had been the talk of the city, one of these being a proposal floated by a major local foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, to rename the main railroad station for Benjamin Franklin in honor of his 300th birthday this year.

(The student report made the main point very effectively: "What do you call the place where you catch the train?" followed by a series of people in the street all responding, "30th Street Station."

(The Pew proposal flopped in the court of public opinion, where the sentiment was twofold: "Don't we have enough stuff named for Franklin already?"--a bridge, a major city boulevard, the science museum, one of Penn's original five squares...--and "We like our train station's prosaic name!" 30th Street it is, and 30th Street it will stay.)

Have you offered to satisfy the curiosity of your fellow passengers?

One of the things I enjoyed most about the Penn Relays when I worked at Penn was the street vendor fair that accompanied it. Several Caribbean food vendors were always part of the mix--the Relays are the big sporting event of the year for Jamaicans, who compete in large numbers--and I always took the opportunity to patronize at least one of them.

Love that jerk chicken! Funny thing, though--I've never eaten at either of the Caribbean restaurants near me, Caribbean Delight in the 1100 block of South Street and Jamaican Jerk Hut in the 1400 block. The five or six of you who saw the chick flick "In Her Shoes," based on Philadelphian Jennifer Weiner's novel of the same name, have seen the latter, as it played a major role in the story--it was where the girls met to commiserate and conspire.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Wow Sandy, this blog is great. I love that you are covering culture, transport, architecture, education as well as food.

I'm a native Philadelphian, and having grown up in the NE section, it is quite an education for me even, to learn about the other burbs I'd never been to.

Looking forward to the rest!

Cheers.

The Northeast isn't even the same place you grew up in.

Have you checked out the "Rodizio 2" thread on the Pennsylvania board?


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Love that jerk chicken! Funny thing, though--I've never eaten at either of the Caribbean restaurants near me, Caribbean Delight in the 1100 block of South Street and Jamaican Jerk Hut in the 1400 block.

eek2.gif

You've never been to Jamaican Jerk Hut?? Sandy! I'm appalled! I know how much you love that stuff. Their food is excellent and the freshly made juices are the best ever. Their Ginger Beer (more like ginger juice) is really hot and delicious. I've also used it to great effect in some cocktail recipes...

This simply won't do. I'm going to have to drag you there myself. We'll discuss on Sunday...


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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OhMyHolyBeans, Sandy! This is the KING of all blogs! Fantastic! Kiddle and I have been traveling to Philly on Saturday mornings as often as possible, and we've never seen this side of the the city! We can't wait to go back and check out some of the places you've shown us, and we're definitely parking and using the trains next time! THANK YOU!


More Than Salt

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Thanks much for the DiBruno pix.  Haven't been to the Rittenhouse store, when I get to Philly, I'm usually in the Italian market and shopping the big Oriental grocery store at 6th and Washington.

I was slightly disappointed to see the cheese pre cut and wrapped there, a la Whole Foods.  I'm sure they have fast enough turnover so keep it from drying out, but I'm old fashioned, I like the guy to cut my cheese (sorry) and maybe give me a taste.

They still do this at the original store on 9th Street. Don't worry, I'll get us there.

On the good news side, I'm excited to see that there's actually a good wine/liquor outlet in Philadelphia!  Pennsylvania is notorious for their archaic, inconvenient alcohol distribution laws.  My folks live in West Chester and have been driving to Delaware and Maryland for years to buy beer, wine, and liquor.  My Mom got busted on 202 years ago coming back into PA with a case of wine, the cops were watching the liquor stores just over the border in Delaware and stopping people returning to PA.  My Mom the rumrunner, right.  Dad said at her hearing "if you had a decent wine store in PA, we wouldn't have to drive to Delaware!"

They fined her and confiscated the wine. :sad:

I wish I could convey in pictures just how Soviet the experience of buying liquor in Pennsylvania used to be.

Though they were being slowly phased out when I arrived here in 1983, the old State Stores were thoroughly gloomy, depressing affairs with a counter at the front and everything else behind it. You walked into the store, flipped through a book if you didn't know what you wanted or needed to look up a price, then told the guy at the counter what you wanted and he would go get it for you.

By the late 1980s, these stores had gone the way of the dodo bird in Philadelphia, replaced with self-service stores that at least left the patrons with a modicum of self-respect as they made their purchases. The superstores and Warehouse Outlets opened by the PLCB under Newman are to these early self-service stores what the self-service stores were to the places with the counters.

However, you are not wrong in pointing out that the alcohol distribution system in Pennsylvania remains archaic and inefficient. Want to try a promising microbrew? If you don't have a local retail store with a less-than-case-lot sales license that carries it, your only choice is to go to a beer distributor and buy a whole case. You can't buy wine or beer in supermarkets--though again to his credit, Newman has taken a step in that direction by opening Wine & Spirits Shops inside supermarkets where you can pay for your alcohol and grocery purchases at the same register.

To carry my Soviet analogy further, you could call Jonathan Newman the PLCB's Gorbachev. But I don't think the analogy holds completely, for where Gorbachev was the reformer whose reforms removed the very underpinnings of the system they sought to reform, and thereby brought about its collapse, Newman's reforms will have the effect of making it harder, not easier, to abolish the PLCB monopoly entirely, as every Republican governor of the state has tried to do since Pennsylvania governors were allowed to succeed themselves in the 1960s. (The parties have a tradition of swapping the governorship back and forth between them every eight years.)

Which might satisfy the state's rural population just fine. Personally, I think that part of the reason the state monopoly survives--besides the power of the PLCB's employees union--is that it was in tune with the sentiments of many Pennsylvanians outside the southeast.

Southeastern Pennsylvania is in many respects a world apart from the rest of the state. It is part of the urbanized, culturally liberal Northeast Corridor, while the rest of the state--even Greater Pittsburgh to a lesser extent--is not as liberal culturally, politically or socially, and (Greater Pittsburgh excluded) certainly not as urban. This divide is one reason why Philadelphians don't get elected governor--Rendell won because he was even more popular in Philadelphia's Republican suburbs than he was in the Democratic city proper, and enough Pittsburghers voted for him to offset the vote for his opponent in the rest of the state--and it's one reason why people in most of the rest of the state tend to look upon Philadelphia with a mixture of disbelief and contempt.

Bringing this back to the PLCB, truth be told, about the only people really upset about the way liquor is sold in this state are free-market types and denizens of the Southeast who want better access to good wine at reasonable prices. Jonathan Newman--himself both a wine lover and a Southeasterner--has given that to them. This will take a lot of pressure off Harrisburg to do something about the system in other respects.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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[...]I recall there being a discussion about this seafood item somewhere on eG:

gallery_28660_2808_124651.jpg

So if I were to buy one of these, what would I do with it?[...]

Cut it open with a machete and eat it. Durian is very rich, and you may not be able to eat more than a section or two at a time.

I have to say that I would be very reluctant to buy a durian outside of Southeast Asia, however. I just doubt that it would be very good, especially as durians have to be frozen for importation to the US.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I realize I've used the phrase "about which more later" several times in this blog without getting to the "more" about which I was to post.

I have a few thoughts on convenience stores, including my local one; my neighborhood; and a Hidden Threat to Our Way of Eating that I'd like to share with you, and I hope to be able to get around to all of this before the end of the blog on Sunday.

But right now, I'd like to share with you what I did for dinner on Thursday night.

Partner's boyfriend was in the apartment when I got home from another stroll around the neighborhood, snapping pictures (which you will see soon), and he said to me, "I'd like some mini-burgers with onions and peppers fried up in there, and that hot cheese you've got down there, and oregano, and garlic, and you can put them on those dinner rolls you have left over."

Sliders! Like at White Castle, which has lamentably departed the Greater Philadelphia market.

It sounded like a great idea to me--well, everything but the oregano part--and it would get rid of the dinner rolls left over from last Sunday's dinner. So I got to work.

I thawed and broke up about a half pound of ground sirloin and added to it Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, dehydrated minced onion and seasoned salt:

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Then I formed a semi-thick patty and placed it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Then I used a trick I learned from Alton Brown's Food Network show Good Eats: I placed a metal pie pan on top of this and pounded it with the pestle from my spice grinder.

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The result? A beautifully thin patty:

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which I then folded over onto itself, tapped it lightly with the pie pan assembly to get it to hold together, and cut it into six squares that matched the dimensions of the rolls.

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I then took an onion:

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Okay, so it's a Texas 1015. So sue me. It was the only onion I had on hand. I'll remedy this problem tomorrow.

chopped it into a fine dice:

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and put it into a skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat.

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Then the burger patties went on top. You will note that I did not bother to punch out holes in them.

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Here I think I departed from White Castle procedure. I turned them over:

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and while they finished cooking, dressed the "buns".

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I topped the patties with cheese slices:

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and slid them onto buns (mine are the ones without relish).

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Voilà! Just like White Castle--well, almost. I'm sure they would never serve their burgers with Pepper Jack.

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And they went down real easy.

On to Friday, which I will cover once I'm back from Pure (see Wednesday above). I skipped happy hour tonight, because Bump--a most un-Philadelphia-like gay bar a block west of me, which has the most popular Friday happy hour going these days--was a total zoo and I didn't feel like braving the crowd for a $3 "martini" with only about 15 minutes to go before the prices went up. But I'm feeling pretty happy nonetheless: The editor of the Daily Times called me to say he wanted to use the idea I pitched him about having two Widener professors square off on the Op-Ed page over casino gambling in Chester. The debate will run in a special section the paper is running the Sunday before hearings on the casino license for Harrah's Chester Downs Casino and Racetrack are to be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia. That's my first successful pitch as a PR person for Widener.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I'm having a lot of fun learning about parts of my adopted region that I wasn't familiar with. Thanks, especially for the H-Mart review and pics. I've been wondering about it and how it is different from the Han Ah Rheum on Cheltenham Avenue (which I'm very near). From your pics, it looks extremely similar - same array of prepared foods, similar fish selection, same variety of packaged products. It may have more American stuff than Han Ah Rheum, which has only one small isle, but I don't get that stuff there anyway. Now I don't need to make the trip. :biggrin:

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Friday morning:

The podiatrist told me to do stretching exercises, get arch supports and roll my left foot over a frozen can of juice or food to fix the plantar fascitis.

And with that, it was off to work on the El, which gives me a good chance to inspect the current reconstruction project and touch on something I raised in a discussion here about Whole Foods Market and organic food.

First, the El. A transformer fire at the main interchange station (15th Street on the Market-Frankford Line, City Hall on the Broad Street Line) at 1 this morning screwed up service on the rapid transit lines most of the morning--13th Street station is never this crowded:

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but the trains were running more or less normally by the time I left the doctor. We riders have something of a love-hate relationship with SEPTA. The current, rather unorthodox ad campaign from which my second teaser photo came gets one thing right--it is part of the fabric of life in the city, and maybe even part of Philly's soul:

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but it can also be stunningly inept. Trash and smells are a perennial source of complaints, but some stations sparkle every now and then:

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And while it does a good job of getting you where you want to go more or less when it says it will, it can't seem to manage a major project like the top-to-bottom reconstruction of the city's oldest and busiest rapid transit line.

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The Market Street el's makeover is taking forever, much to the consternation of West Philadelphia, but signs of progress are now visible, like the rebuilt station at 56th Street.

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Right next to this station is the second city location for TheFreshGrocer, a small independent chain that might not be in the city at all had Penn not failed to land a Whole Foods Market for its project to add retail amenities to the area around campus.

Supplying inner-city residents with reasonably priced, fresh food has recently become a serious policy and planning issue. For many poorer communities abandoned by the supermarket operators--Chester is one such place--landing a new supermarket has become a major goal for local politicians and planners. On my car tour, Marcus Lingenfelter told me how on several occasions Chester officials were on the verge of announcing a deal to bring a supermarket back into the city, only to have the supermarket back out of the deal at the last minute.

Some supermarket operators--Supermarkets General (Pathmark) among the best known--have discovered that doing business in inner-city neighborhoods is not a losing proposition. The owner of TheFreshGrocer--which had hitherto done business only in Delaware County prior to agreeing to locate at 40th and Walnut--found out the same thing. This led him to build a brand-new store from the ground up a little further west at 56th and Market, which has done just as well as the store next to Penn's campus. (The circular on the store's Web site shows a third city location, at 54th and Chester Avenue in Southwest Philly. Apparently the operator's sold on doing business in the inner city.)

And look what TheFreshGrocer is advertising to El riders and everyone else in West Philly:

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From visits to the 40th and Walnut store, I know that TheFreshGrocer's merchandise mix and prices are closer to those of the conventional chains than to Whole Foods', though its stores do offer the same prepared-foods razzle-dazzle that has suburbanites in this area going into fainting spells at the mere utterance of the word "Wegmans".

What this leads me to conclude is that if the regular supermarket chains aren't making it in poorer city neighborhoods, it may be because they aren't taking their customers seriously.

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Oh, jeez, I've yakked all the way to 69th Street Terminal!

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Guess I'd better go catch my bus--

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--oops, walked onto the Route 100 platform by mistake--

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and head to Widener for lunch.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Friday lunch:

Widener may have a top-notch school of hospitality management, but when it comes to feeding the students, it's business as usual, institutional style.

Like most colleges and universities these days, Widener contracts its dining services to an outside operator. In our case, it's Aramark, which itself merits mention in a Philly food discussion because the managed-services giant is headquartered here--in a handsome Neo-Deco skyscraper right next door to the Reading Terminal (and built in 1984 by the Reading Company, which by then had long since ceased to be a railroad and had become a real-estate developer).

When I first visited Cheryl's Southern Style, the owner told me that she would love to get catering business from Widener, which is on the way to being to Chester what Penn is to West Philadelphia. (Aside: Chester's unofficial seal, which you can see on the city's Web site, features Old Main in its center.) But given the terms of Aramark's contract with Widener, the best she could possibly hope for is catering the occasional fraternity or sorority party. If I--or anyone else in my office--wanted to do something different for a meeting or reception, we couldn't. This is a bit of a shame, for it's in ancillary services like catering where a major institution can have a positive impact on a local economy by buying from small local businesses.

It also means that in the two-plus months I've been part of the Widener community, I've already become overly familiar with this:

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This is the standard fruit-and-cheese-platter setup offered by Aramark for catered events, and I haven't yet been to a reception where it's not part of the spread. As a confirmed cheesehead, I can't complain too loudly about this, but a little more variety would be nice every once in a while. (Some offices can afford to splurge a little and add a couple of chafing-dish items to the menu. The spinach pies I had at a going-away reception for one of our top fundraising honchos--a really cute African-American guy, I might add, who was taking a new job at Villanova--were very good.)

This particular rendition was in the lobby of the University Center, our student union, because today was the last day of regular semester classes, and thus the day when senior capstone projects are presented across the campus. In this case, it was a Nursing School research poster session:

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and food and nutrition were among the subjects being researched.

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But I was here for lunch. I could have gotten something from the Java City grab-and-go in the lobby:

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or if I was feeling special, I could have eaten in the faculty dining room. But not today--it was closed:

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and even when it's open, not many faculty or administrative staff use it. Instead, you'll usually find us in the dining hall along with the students. (It's a better bargain. Faculty and staff can purchase discount meal tickets that are good for 10 lunches for $35 from the bursar's office.)

So how's the fare? Pretty good, for institutional food--but it's institutional food, which means that in most cases, it's not all that hot.

The campus dining hall gets good marks for variety, and Aramark gets bonus points for not turning the entire operation into a multibranded fast-food experience. Instead, they serve what they call "real food on campus":

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with a menu that seems to back up the slogan.

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Unfortunately, the menu on display was Thursday's. Today's menu had a Mexican cast to it:

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And if you weren't in the mood for burritos or chimichangas, you could have grilled cheese sandwiches or Buffalo chicken burgers (which I'm not convinced are real food):

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or a fresh sandwich from the deli station:

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or baked ziti:

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or pizza. The pizza of the day looked tempting:

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but ultimately, I went with the Mexican fare.

As you may have gathered by now, I'm fond of New England clam chowder, and since it was among today's soups, I had some:

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along with a beef burrito, rice and refried beans. As always, I stopped by the salad bar for a salad as well.

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(I have yet to try the demonstration cooking station:

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or the George Foreman grills set up for students to grill their own "panini.")

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The dining hall itself is large and light-filled but fairly plain-looking, probably a legacy of the military-college years (this part of the student union dates to 1964, when it opened as PMC's student center). The only touches of color are large banners bearing the four parts of the university's mission statement.

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There were plenty of seats available today--guess the underclassmen went home this weekend:

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but I spotted a couple of colleagues from the office in a far corner and sat down to eat with them.

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On the right is Michele Fairley, our graphic designer. I don't see our part-time graphic design assistant all that often and am embarrased to say I've forgotten her name.

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One of them, Michele Fairley, pointed out to me that the burritos were made with ground beef, not shredded as an authentic one would be. And while the clam chowder tasted of clams, I couldn't detect any actual clams in it, and it was heavy with thickeners.

The salad, as usual, was quite good.

Edited to add: In Aramark's defense, I will note that it is difficult if not impossible to achieve all of the following:

1) Gourmet quality food,

2) in large quantities,

3) at low cost.

And colleges and universities contract out their food service because it's costly to run, even if they make money off the deal through meal plan fees. Letting someone who knows food service run it frees up time and money to focus on the reason colleges and universities exist in the first place.


Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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