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eG Foodblog: MarketStEl - Today in History


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Good morning, everyone!

Today is Sunday, October 22, the 295th day of 2006. There are 70 days left in the year.

Today's Philadelphia forecast: Cloudy with a 30% chance of showers. High 61F.

On this day:

In 1721, Czar Peter the Great was named Emperor of All the Russias.

In 1746, the College of New Jersey--now known as Princeton University--received its charter.

In 1878, Thomas A. Edison produced the first working electric light bulb.

In 1938, Chester Floyd Carlson made the first xerographic copy in Astoria, Queens, New York.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered an air and naval blockade of Cuba after Soviet missile bases were discovered on the island.

In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre won--and declined--the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In 1975, Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich of the U.S. Air Force, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, is given a general discharge after he publicly announced his homosexuality. After successfully suing the Air Force, his discharge was upgraded to honorable in 1979.

In 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, became Pope John Paul II.

Notable people born on this day include:

Franz Lizst, Romantic composer, in 1811 in Raiding, Hungary.

Newell Convers Wyeth, American painter, in 1882 in Needham, Massachusetts.

John Reed (Harvard 1910), American journalist, Communist activist and author of Ten Days That Shook the World, in 1887 in Portland, Oregon.

Robert Rauschenberg, American painter and Pop Art pioneer, in 1925 in Port Arthur, Texas.

Not-so-notable people born on this day include:

Sandy F. Smith Jr. (Harvard 1980), sometime essayist, reporter, public relations officer and food lover, in 1958 in Kansas City, Missouri.

(Edited once more to fix the Pope's archdiocese.)

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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Now, on to the show.

As I move one year closer to the half-century mark (to be observed on this day in 2008), I thought I'd look back a bit to where I--and some of this city's food traditions--came from.

I realize that in my first foodblog, I gave this city's two signature foods--the hoagie and the cheesesteak--short shrift. I aim to remedy this oversight this time around. I will also examine some of the other culinary traditions and foods for which this region is known, and I'll give you a glimpse into my own history--where I developed my fondness for certain foods, some family traditions I try to emulate, and more of my own cooking. And before the week is out, I will provide evidence that someone at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has a sense of humor.

However, I'll also be eating out quite a bit this week, for a reason that this first post should have made obvious. One of these will be an excursion with a bunch of Philadelphia eGullet Society members ("PhillieGulleteers") to a Brazilian churrascuria in the Northeast to experience once again the joy of a meat-induced coma. Another will take me back to De' Essence of New Orleans, which didn't make my first foodblog but which I did eventually visit and write about in a post on the Pennsylvania board. And if I can manage to get my co-workers to go along, I also intend to visit the closest thing to an all-night hangout anywhere near the Widener University campus.

I had planned to start my cooking with brunch.

Sunday brunch was one of the few Big Occasions my mother cooked for--I associate cooking mainly with my Dad and the Smith side of the family. Mom--especially after the divorce--would produce a really big spread for friends and relatives on Sundays about once every other month. Kielbasa, bacon, sausage, eggs, bread or rolls, pancakes--just about the entire breakfast repertoire was rolled out. (But no quiche.) I try to meet the standard she set with my own Sunday brunch.

And the kitchen was all ready to go:


But it will sit idle this afternoon, for my friend Marlon Brandon called me while I was out getting the Sunday papers and asked me what I was doing today. When I told him, he replied, "You shouldn't be cooking on your birthday. Why don't you let Thomas and I treat you to brunch at the Midtown."

So instead of slicing potatoes and onions, I spent this morning here:


in the living room, drinking a cup of coffee and watching U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) dance around the question of whether he will run in 2008 with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.

Marlon is on his way to pick me up now. After that, I'll have some actual food to show you. In keeping with Marlon's dictum, a friend and fellow second tenor in the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus is coming down this afternoon to cook dinner for me. (This is a very high honor. I'm very territorial about my kitchen and don't let too many people muck around in it.)

See you all again soon with more pictures and commentary. Any special requests? Ask away.

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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Happy Birthday, Sandy. Nice to be taken care of by your buds, and it sounds like you might actually get an on-key rendition of the birthday song, too. I didn't know you sing - me too, with our local Chorale. Singing and cooking have a lot in common, don't you think?

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YAY! Sandy's back! Philly representin'! Wheee! :biggrin:

Looking forward to your always interesting view and endless supply of factoids, Sandy. Have a Happy Birthday and enjoy the week. This is going to be fun!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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

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hey Sandy--

Happy Birthday~! :smile:

so already you have two meals to describe to us--brunch at "the Midtown" and the home-cooked dinner!

PS: this "Midtown", is it a Philly institution? it seems like every single city has a "Midtown"-something (Tavern, Grill, etc.), hehe... :laugh:

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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Happy birthday! We're practically twins :huh: .

wow -- I can see the resemblance from here! :hmmm: Anything you want to share with us, Sandy?

Seriously: Happy, Happy birthday! My gosh, you look terrific and as I reach through here and pinch you a little, you don't 'feel' older to me. Do you feel older, to you? Do you lie about your age? :wink: What did you get for your birthday, and do you get birthday cake or pie? Spankings? Songs?

I'm looking forward to this blog, too. Scorpios rule.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Why Sandy - you listed all that history for the day and narry a whit of FOOD HISTORY there! A terrible oversight from a food-enjoying person such as yourself (I hesitate to designate you a "foodie" lest you be one of the eGulleters who abhor the term).

It is already the 23rd here, so your birthday was yesterday to me, but I will send a little food history for this day for you later this afternoon when I get home from work (and hope to get you while it is still your birthday "over there").

Have a happy day.


Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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Happy Birthday, Sandy!

Close to 50 is very good. It's the close to 60 that looms more suckily, so enjoy the next 10 years. When I logged on to Danielle Willey's blog I noticed your query about Ann Sathers and saw no reply. What can be said about such an institution? I've not lived in Chicago since 1979 but the Andersonville restaurant on north Clark street had the usual suspects-breakfast (really good ones) through dinner. What is most Proustian for me was their strawberry-banana pie. I'm not sure if it was the pie itself or the friends I enjoyed it with, thus harkening a more youthful and careless time, but the memories are as vivid as having tasted it yesterday.

Edited by Marya (log)
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Why Sandy - you listed all that history for the day and narry a whit of FOOD HISTORY there!  A terrible oversight from a food-enjoying person such as yourself (I hesitate to designate you a "foodie" lest you be one of the eGulleters who abhor the term).

It is already the 23rd here, so your birthday was yesterday to me, but I will send a little food history for this day for you later this afternoon when I get home from work (and hope to get you while it is still your birthday "over there").

Have a happy day.


It has been a happy day indeed. Pictures documenting this fact to follow.

As for this glaring oversight: I will need to surf your website for the remaining six days of this blog. I trust you will not fail me.

And for the sun-sign observers: I had always been under the impression that the Sun entered Scorpio on the 23d. I describe myself as "Libra, Scorpio cusp," and I possess both the diplomatic, balance-seeking characteristics of the former sign and the occasional sting of the latter. My parents were both Scorpios. They divorced when I was 13. Many years after that event, my mother sat my partner and me down in her St. Louis living room (she spent most of the later years of her life there, returning to my childhood home in Kansas City to die) and told me a tale of her marriage that began, "I knew I made a mistake the day after I married him."

Coincidence? I don't think so. I've heard that Scorpios are less-than-ideal partners for other Scorpios.

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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Happy birthday, bro! I'm coming up fast on my 50th ... and I'm feeling pretty damn good about it, actually. I'm totally looking forward to hearing about your culinary roots. We should gossip offline about GLBT chorus stuff sometime--PM me? :biggrin:

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Happy Birthday, Sandy.  Nice to be taken care of by your buds, and it sounds like you might actually get an on-key rendition of the birthday song, too.  I didn't know you sing - me too, with our local Chorale.  Singing and cooking have a lot in common, don't you think?

Now that you mention it, I think they do, especially choral singing. You blend ingredients to produce a single whole that is greater than the sum of its parts in both cases.

As for on-key renditions of the birthday song, it's a PGMC tradition for chorus members to serenade the birthday boys in the week (Wednesday-Tuesday) when their birthday falls, so I--along with baritone James Sharp--got a four-part rendition last Wednesday. :smile:

Today, all birthday wishes were spoken, not sung, starting with brunch at the Midtown II Restaurant and Bar:


This 24-hour diner two blocks from my building--and right across the street from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital--is a popular post-closing-time hangout for the club crowd. "Midtown" Philadelphia is apparently a very expansive place, for there are--or were--four diners with this name. The Midtown III is on 18th Street just below Market; the Midtown IV, in the 2000 block of Chestnut; I've never seen any evidence of the existence of a Midtown I--maybe a Philly old-timer can verify whether there was ever one in the past. None of these are commonly owned, but all of them are owned by Greek families (or the "Greek Mafia," as one wag dubbed them to me once).


It's bright and busy on the diner side:


and darker and a little more intimate on the bar side--


which is where I met Marlon (left below) and his partner Thomas Hill. (Confidential to coquus: Yes, his parents did name him after the actor.)


I also got my first birthday present--a nice leather wallet and a holder for my TrailPass that I can wear around my neck, thus saving me the need to dig into my pocket when the conductor checks tickets on the train--and a very appropriate birthday card.



This is one of those places where you have to work at it to spend more than $20 a head on a single visit, but I think I came close with two Virgin Marys and an order of steak and eggs:


The Midtown has very good home fries--lightly browned and tender--and good eggs (I ordered mine sunny side up for a change so I could have something to dip my toast in). The steak is also very good for a diner, but they seem to have some trouble serving their steaks on the rare side. I ordered mine medium rare, as I usually do, and it came out medium, as it usually does here. But I don't raise a fuss on this, because the staff is friendly--as I came in, Marlon was advising our waitress about good clubs for lesbians in the gayborhood (you'll see one of his recommendations later in this blog)--and the service is generally pretty efficient.

After leaving the Midtown, I went up to do something I haven't been able to do in almost a year: Shop at the Reading Terminal Market on a Sunday.


This is the second year in a row that the RTM has kept Sunday hours as the holidays approach. Some merchants--the Iovine brothers especially--have been gung-ho about Sunday hours for quite a while, and General Manager Paul Steinke has been consistently supportive of the idea, but not all the merchants are on board. The Amish vendors in particular never will be, but some of the others haven't jumped on the bandwagon either. For instance, the lights were on at O.K. Lee Produce, but nobody was home:



Nice renovation job, no? O.K. Lee spiffed up their stand over the summer, joining a general trend among RTM merchants of upgrading their appearance.

But whatever business the Lees didn't want, the Iovines were glad to grab--and there was a good deal of it--lighter than Saturday but heavier than a weekday.



I grabbed a package of sliced mushrooms for this week's salads and then scoped out the Market's newest merchant, Giunta's Prime Shop, a new butcher shop operated by an old 9th Street family right across from Iovine's.


Giunta's at the RTM (their former 9th Street location is now a restaurant, the Butcher's Cafe) specializes in all-natural meats, with plans to add organic, strictly grass-fed meats down the road. Their beef and pork come from Van de Rose Farms in Iowa:




and their chicken from Bell & Evans right here in Pennsylvania.


Lamb and veal have yet to make an appearance. Their prices are as appealing as their product--very reasonable for this level of quality, cheaper than Whole Foods and not that much more than I'd pay for drugged-up USDA Select at my local supermarket. The proprietor tells me that this is by design. As I have a 15% off introductory coupon, I'll be back when it's time to restock my freezer.

But for now, my next stop was DiBruno's to get some cheese for the evening's dinner. Before I went there, though, I strolled over to the 1925 Chestnut Street Wine & Spirits Premium Collection store to pick up some booze and show you what I was talking about in my initial post.

This location has reproductions of three vintage Philadelphia Inquirer front pages on the wall right by the entrance. One is from 1919, announcing the start of Prohibition:


But the proof that someone at the PLCB has a sense of humor is found in the other two front pages--this one from the eve of repeal, after the General Assembly passed legislation giving the state a wholesale and retail liquor monopoly that remains to this day:


As you can see from the subhead, this is not the only state where the government maintains a liquor monopoly. Those in Utah, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, about seven other states and Montgomery County, Maryland, also remain to this day; of those, only New Hampshire's is geared towards selling as much of the stuff as possible at prices as low as possible in order to suck revenue from neighboring Massachusetts. However, current Pennsylvania management, as I mentioned in my first foodblog, has gotten a little religion on this issue--but they can only go so low when they have to include in the retail price a bunch of taxes for various special purposes, such as cleaning up the damage caused by the Johnstown Flood of 1937.

and this one that demonstrates that the PLCB has been a creature of politics from its creation:


"Pinchot" in the headline refers to Governor Gifford Pinchot ®, who ran Pennsylvania for two non-consecutive terms in the late 1920s and early 1930s (at the time, Pennsylvania governors could not succeed themselves). The legendary conservationist was the first head of the U.S. Forest Service and greatly expanded Pennsylvania's state park system. The subheads that you can't read in this picture explain that parts of the state that supported the governor in the last election got a disproporionate share of the state liquor stores--rural Schuylkill County, for instance, got 15 and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) 28. Delaware County (Philly's western suburbs) got a mere four, the next subhead explains, and Upper Darby--which was well on its way to its present-day population of some 80,000 even then--got passed over completely.

At DiBruno's, I picked up a French cheese that I had tried earlier in the week and loved--I figured my friend Vince, a confirmed cheesehead like me, would also enjoy it:


then headed home, where I realized that I still needed to go back to the newsstand where I bought the papers this morning to pick up a New York Times Magazine that was missing from our copy of the Sunday Times. This gave me an excuse to pop my head in at Key West to check out the Eagles action.


These days, clumps of people hanging outside the entrances to gay bars are a common sight. These people are smoking, something they can no longer do inside since a citywide ban on smoking in public accommodations went into effect three weeks ago.

Over the years I've lived here, at any given time, there is exactly one gay bar in the city that draws a predominantly black clientele. Sometimes this is by design, sometimes by default. Currently, Key West is that bar, by default, but not uniformly so: on game days especially, the crowd is quite mixed racially. When the "Iggles" are playing, the management sets out a nice buffet at halftime. Today's rendition included macaroni with tomato sauce and peppers, sloppy Joes...


...cheese cubes and pepperoni (not shown), cake (not shown), hot dogs and kielbasa...


...baked chicken with roasted peppers, potato salad and cole slaw.


The "AOB" in the sign announcing the beer special stands for "America's Oldest Brewery." D.G. Yuengling and Son of Pottsville, Schuylkill County, was founded in 1829, and the Yuenglings currently running the brewery are the fifth generation of family brewers. Yuengling Lager is one of the many joys of living in eastern Pennsylvania--a beer with real body and craft-brewed character at a mass-market price. (Those who prefer the watery stuff can drink Bud Light for the same price on game days.)

I had a sloppy Joe and a Yuengling and watched the Birds spring to life in the second half of the game, something they've been doing with frightening regularity this season. I say "frightening" because the results have been disappointing as often as they've been pleasing so far. Today's game goes in the "disappointing" column, as a 62-yard touchdown pass at the last second gave the game to Tampa Bay (I didn't stick around to see the heartbreak spread across the faces of the gay tribe of Iggles Nation).

I'm going to take a short break to finish up a resume critique before turning my attention to dinner. I have jury deliberations in the morning, and there is a chance I may end up waiting until after I rise to post dinner pix. I will say this much by way of preview: I couldn't have asked for a nicer birthday present.

Edited to add missing image.

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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So tell me - do you eat quiche?

Actually, I've never been a big fan of quiche. I've had some good ones, but I tend to prefer my sweet or savory additives wrapped inside my cooked eggs rather than mixed together into a custard with the eggs and baked in a pie crust.

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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