Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

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Market Blog

A blog about what's happening at Reading Terminal Market.

“A Dozen Reasons Why Even Oyster-Eating Newbies Should Get on Board with OysterFest,” by Carolyn Wyman


Reading Terminal Market’s annual OysterFest has become a destination event for oyster aficionados around the Mid-Atlantic.

The festival might seem less obviously appealing to someone who has never eaten a raw oyster, either because they don't patronize restaurants that serve them, don't find the idea of eating raw oysters immediately appealing or are unsure and embarrassed about how to eat them.

But none of those things need be barriers to your attending OysterFest 2017 on October 6. Read on to find answers to these issues and nine other good reasons why you should attend.

  1. Oysters are delicious. “The freshness, the saltiness – eating an oyster is like being transported to the sea,” says oyster grower and eater Lisa Calvo of Sweet Amalia in Cape May, N.J., one of 12 oyster brands to be featured at OysterFest. Brent Cossrow, vice-chairman of Reading Terminal Market's Board of Directors and partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP (Lead Sponsor of OysterFest) loves oysters' flavor, texture and direct connection to nature. "Even as a child I was captivated by the idea that you would open the shell and there would be the food. It's that simple and wonderful."
  2. Oysters are nutritious, containing lots of protein, iron, omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals -- especially zinc -- packed in a mere 9 or 10 calories.
  3. Eating raw oysters is easy for oyster virgins who follow the following simple tips from the experts: Start with small milder-flavored oysters like ones from Cape May then work your way up to the bigger, chewier ones, raised in or near the ocean, with their stronger flavors.

           "Texture is the thing" in a lot of food aversions, according to Jane Kauer, a Philadelphia-based anthropologist (and Market            shopper) who studied picky eaters at the University of Pennsylvania. And some people will see raw oysters as slippery                  and slimy.

           One technique to combat that advocated by neuroscientist Darya Rose of the Summer Tomato blog is to think of foods                  that have a similar texture that you do like: say, the wonderful grilled onions that are put on steak sandwiches at Carmen's            and Spataro's and By George's, or over-easy eggs served at the Down Home Diner or the Dutch Eating Place.

           Still can't imagine yourself eating raw oysters? Picture another person eating them from several different "camera" angles            is a technique drawing on feelings of empathy and identification that has worked at overcoming food aversions for some              hypnotherapy patients. The circumstances in which people first encounter a food can also affect whether they respond to              a foodstuff positively or negatively and Reading Terminal's OysterFest is a fun time with beer.

          The experts are split on the use of toppings like cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon and mignonette (a sauce of shallots,               vinegar and pepper) that will be available at OysterFest. David Braunstein of Pearl's Oyster Bar, the oyster maestro of                   OysterFest, thinks it can be as useful as cream and sugar is for coffee-drinking beginners in getting people acclimated to             new flavors. But Calvo believes (and Cossrow agrees) that you should "just go for it" more or less plain. As chef/TV food               show host Anthony Bourdain says: "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."

          As for oyster etiquette: Use the supplied cocktail fork to separate the meat from the shell, but simply tilt the shell into your             mouth to eat, so as not to miss the flavorful liquid (so good that it's called liquor). Braunstein recommends chewing even               the smallest oyster once or twice before swallowing, also to extract maximum flavor.

  1. Oyster-eating is not dangerous for normal, healthy people. That old rule about only eating oysters in months with an R in them is related to summer algae blooms and attendant toxins and dates back to when oysters were mainly harvested in the wild. Today most oysters are farmed in an industry that's heavily regulated for food safety. So eating oysters in R months is now mainly important because oysters fattening up for the winter are plumper and tastier. And OysterFest is being held in an R month!
  2. Eating raw oysters could make you seem brave and exciting, at least to people who haven't read above point numbers 3 and 4.
  3. Oyster-eating is sustainable eating at its finest. Oysters actually clean the water as they filter it for foodstuff. Their beds also create a habitat for many other sea creatures.
  4. Oyster-eating could help your sex life. Though the science to support the widely held belief that oysters are an aphrodisiac is scant, oysters do contain a lot of zinc (see number 2), a mineral linked to testosterone production.
  5. Oyster-eating is trendy, almost as much as craft beer, the compatible consumable featured at OysterFest. And who doesn't like beer? Oysters’ current popularity also means that …
  6. There’s no better time or place to enjoy oysters. Cossrow points out that oysters are an indigenous Delaware Valley food now in the midst of an incredible resurgence and revival by artisan growers, many of whom will be at represented at OysterFest.
  7. OysterFest benefits a great cause. Proceeds fund after-school cooking and nutrition programs for kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia and the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center in North Philadelphia.
  8. OysterFest is a great value, considering that the average price of a half-dozen fresh-shucked oysters is $16 or $17 and of a craft beer, $5 to $7, and that OysterFest is all you can eat or drink.
  9. OysterFest is an education. Although West Coast oysters tend to be sweeter and creamier; and East Coast ones, brinier; there are subtle variations in flavor depending on the aquatic environment where they lived and when they were harvested. And so, Calvo says, an event like OysterFest is "a wonderful way to taste a wide spectrum of oysters and figure out what you like” in the company of oyster lovers and grower reps equipped to answer your questions.

OysterFest featuring 12 oysters and 12 craft beers for $50, Fri., Oct. 6, 7-9 p.m.  Tickets are now on sale at

Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour (

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“Introducing City Kitchen’s Busy Chef Tess, By Carolyn Wyman”


There’s probably no other place in town where you can find more food experts than at Reading Terminal Market, and the Market’s expertise quotient went up another notch when Chef Tess Connors was hired to manage the Market’s City Kitchen demonstration kitchen in November.  Since joining the Market family, Tess has had a hand in almost every free tasting, cooking class, cooking demo and shopping tour at the Market (both managing guest chefs and often literally standing behind City Kitchen’s stove or counter).


So who is this new public face of cooking education at Reading Terminal Market?


A Staten Island, N.Y. native who has cooked a lot of Creole and Cajun cuisine and has two degrees in emergency management -- meaning she’s well-equipped to deal with the Market’s Saturday afternoon crowds?


Chef Tess looks up from the cabbage she is chopping for that afternoon’s Thursday tasting and smiles at the question. Then she says, “Emergency management looks at food in a scientific way. It’s about food distribution, vendor relationships, food safety and figuring out where the gaps are. All of which is relevant to a big public market.”


This might make Connors sound like an academic or a food policy wonk. But she also boasts a list of hands-on cooking jobs long enough for someone twice her 37 years. It started when she was a toddler helping her grandmother cook a week’s worth of from-scratch meals for the family in a single day, and included stints at the prestigious Mohonk Mountain House resort and Le Bouchon, both in New York’s Hudson Valley, and three years cooking for passengers and crew of the Delta Queen Mississippi paddleboat.


“When you start young, you can get a lot in,” she explains. “But at this point in my life, I was looking for something where I wouldn’t have knife-in-hand 24/7.”


Her RTM City Kitchen position provides that variety in cornucopia abundance. The job encompasses scheduling the Market’s relatively new free Thursday noontime tastings  and sometimes planning and cooking them too. The Thursday of our meeting she was prepping peanut noodle and Asian coleslaw salads designed to highlight the fruits and vegetables but also some of the Asian grocery items at O.K. Produce.


Tess also assists with the free merchant cooking demos that are offered every second and fourth Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., sometimes as sous chef, sometimes just narrating the merchant cooking action, as when Bill Beck did his Mardi Gras food demo and “we joked about how the two New Orleans experts in the Market are both from New York!”


Chef Tess also conducts the free Market shopping tours that take place the other two Saturdays of the month at 10 a.m. (not to be confused with the Market- and food-history-oriented Taste of Philly Food Tours led by yours truly every Wednesday and Saturday at the same time). Chef Tess’ tours are focused on helping people shop the Market’s fresh food purveyors to create at-home meals and cater to the interests of whoever shows up. Since the tours started in earnest in February, they’ve addressed participant concerns about money and prep-time (or lack thereof) and a wide variety of dietary issues.


She shows the time-pressed the many pre-stuffed fillets and roasts and pre-marinated meats at Market meat, fish and poultry stands and points out that a place like Downtown Cheese doesn’t just sell cheese. “They also have olives and crackers. So though you can, you don’t have to go to 17 stands to pull together your cocktail party.”


She also teaches City Kitchen cooking classes, including public ticketed ones offered several times a month. Among upcoming summer ones: a Father’s Day feast of fried chicken and barbecued pork and a shrimp boil inspired by her time in the South.


“Not everyone in a cooking class wants to be there,” she learned while working at the Langlois Culinary Crossroads school in New Orleans. That’s where she also learned “how to make them fun for the people that got dragged along,” by telling stories, offering helpful kitchen tips or just giving permission to not work/just hang out.

Early Philly food favorites include pizza. Generally speaking, she’s been impressed by “the authenticity of the Italian food here” versus in the South. And yet, Chef Tess is not a fan of the city’s defining Italian sandwich.


Speaking of the cheesesteak’s mushroom, steak and pepper variations, she says, “It seems to me to be a case of trying to get a lot of variety out of very limited options” [i.e. bread, meat, onions and cheese]. This is something to straighten her out about when you see Chef Tess in the Market.


Meet Chef Tess at City Kitchen, Avenue D and 8th Avenue in the Market, from noon-1 p.m. this and every Thursday for a free sample at Tasting Thursday (today of grilled Giunta’s sausages); at the Father’s Day cooking class from 1-3 p.m. June 18, (to reserve and buy tickets for this and other City Kitchen classes); on the next shopping tour at 10 a.m. July 1; and at the next cooking demo (featuring summer barbecue ideas from the Head Nut and Giunta’s) at 11:30 a.m. July 8. Or contact her at 267-534-4707 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour (

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Insider's Shopping Guide Now Available!

We have put together a short guide that shares insider tips and services provided my the merchants of Reading Terminal Market that you may have not previously known exist. Did you know that you can purchase dry ice from Bassetts Ice Cream, or that Valley Shepard Creamery can put together a small curated cheese box for you? Get these and many more tips within the new guide! 

Grab one at the Recipe Card Rack (next to Philbert the Pig) or at the Welcome Center to learn how to make your Reading Terminal Market experience exceptional!

Click on the image below to download a copy of the guide
Insiders Shopping Guide cover
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“Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with 12th Street Cantina, the Market’s Original Mexican Food Stand,” By Carolyn Wyman


When 12th Street Cantina opened in 1982, it was the first and only Mexican stand in Reading Terminal Market and also one of the first and only Mexican restaurants in the whole city.


At that time Mexican food was so rare in cheesesteak-land that owner David Fetkewicz simultaneously started a Cantina wholesale Mexican foods importing business, in part to supply his stand.


As the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo 2017 fast approaches, there are a plethora of Mexican food options around town, including national chains like Chipotle and Qdoba. But few are as fresh, fast and affordable or offer the range of options as 12th Street. (On May 5, these options will include a special short rib taco special and complimentary cactus pear punch.)


Stand founder Fetkewicz had prior restaurant experience in Colorado but his wife, Michele Leff, had earned an MBA with the idea of becoming a business consultant until one day Fetkewicz burnt his hand while making caramel for flan and Leff jumped behind the stand. That was the start of a culinary adventure that has grown and expanded into a high-volume, off-premises catering and a corporate café management business. But almost everything sold at the stand is still made fresh in Reading Terminal Market, says 12th Street executive chef Jon Jividen.


The pulled pork on their taco bar is seasoned with onion, whole chipotle chiles, garlic, bay leaf and a blend of Mexican seasonings and cooked for five hours (rather than pulled out of the freezer and defrosted as it might be at a national chain). The chicken is breast meat marinated in achiote paste and other spices and then baked.


“Because we make everything right here, we know what’s in our dishes,” says stand manager George Ambos. As a result, vegans and celiac-sufferers can dine here without fear: Most dishes are gluten-free and can be made vegan simply by asking stand workers to hold the cheese.


“People who have trouble with onions: That’s a bit harder,” Ambos admits.


The taco bar moved from the back counter to front and center during one of two recent stand “freshenings” which also introduced new decor and tweaks to the steak and fish taco recipes: Both are grilled and the latter gets lots of Yelp props, as does the naked burrito bowl (the menu describes it as “the burrito you love without the tortilla”). Their guacamole and tacos were singled out in two of the stand’s four Best of Philly magazine awards.



Ambos answers questions about what to get with questions. “If people are really hungry, I’ll recommend an enchilada. If they’re checking out a lot of places in the Market and just want to try a little something, I’ll recommend a taco. If they’ve got to get in and out of here in a half-hour, a burrito or a salad.”


These dishes are actually just one of three aspects to the 12th Street business. The stand also sells Mexican grocery items and takeout, the latter from a side refrigerator case. It contains some of 12th Street’s more unusual dishes (the popular grilled shrimp and asparagus salad with cilantro vinaigrette, and the spinach and corn casserole are two for-instances), as well as offerings unique to Puebla, the place in Mexico where the Cinco de Mayo celebration of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over French forces began (such as 12th Street’s chicken mole enchiladas).



The “grocery shelf” on top of that case is the place for Cinco de Mayo do-it-yourselfers  Even many standard supermarkets now carry queso fresca cheese but 12th Street also has the much harder-to-find queso cotija and oaxaca, as well as masa flour, chorizo sausage, and blue corn, wheat and spinach tortillas. Or leave your Cinco de Mayo party food preparation to 12th Street’s on-site catering operation.


The stand started out doing a lot of takeout: Today most offerings are eaten on-premises, says Jividen. This could partly be because of the other thing 12th Street offers that’s in the Market at peak hours: Its own seating.


12th Street Cantina, Avenue B and Ninth Avenue, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., 215-625-0321.


Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour (

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Easter Shopping Guide at The Market

rtm eblast masthead april2016


Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and you probably didn't have to wear a jacket outside this morning. That can only mean one thing- Easter is right around the corner! 

Sunday, April 16th is Easter- so after the kid's are done with The Great Reading Terminal Market Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday stick around The Market to get your shopping done. Below is a helpful little guide to finding everything you need to make a delicious traditional Easter meal. Enjoy!   



Ham: Giunta’s Prime Shop, Halteman Family Country Foods, La Divisa, Martin’s Quality Meats & Sausages, Godshall’s Poultry (turkey ham)

Lamb: La Divisa (every cut of lamb), Giunta’s Prime Shop (shanks, legs, chops, whole lamb), Martin’s Quality Meats & Sausage (chops, shoulder, racks, legs, lamb sausage), Halteman’s (chops, shank, leg)


Produce, Herbs, & Condiments:

Iovine Brothers Produce, Fair Food Farmstand, OK Produce, Condiment (mint salsa verde for lamb), The Head Nut (spices)

Lamb-Shaped Butter: Hatville Deli, Condiment



Fair Food Farmstand

 Godshall’s Poultry

Hatville Deli

Iovine Brothers Produce

Jonathan Best Gourmet Grocer


Desserts & Candy:

Termini Brothers: Easter Bread, Ricotta Pie, Hamintash Easter Basket, Chocolate Covered Easter Egg Cake

Flying Monkey: Short Bread Easter Egg Cookies

Pennsylvania General Store: Personalized Chocolate Easter Eggs, Easter Baskets, Chocolate Easter Bunnies

Beiler’s Bakery: Hot Cross Buns,  Rabbit-shaped Bread

Sweet as Fudge: Chocolate Easter Bunnies, various candies

The Head Nut: Various candies


 Cooking, Baking, & Table Top Necessities:

 Amy's Place: Basters, Cheese cloth, Fat separators, Meat thermometers, Measuring cups/spoons, Parchment paper, Twine, Roasting/Baking pans, Easter cookie cutters, Cookie sheets, Tart pans, Decorating bags and tips, Butter dishes, Gravy boats, Ladles, Table linens

Contessa's French Linens: Table Linens


Happy Easter, from the Reading Terminal Market family to yours! 




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