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

cheftess

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, city-kitchen.ticketleap.com (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 (www.tasteofphillyfoodtour.com).

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“Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with 12th Street Cantina, the Market’s Original Mexican Food Stand,” By Carolyn Wyman

ambosandspicychickensalad

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.

12thstlunchline

 

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).

12thstreethotsauces

 

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 (www.tasteofphillyfoodtour.com).

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Passover Products and Recipes at the Market

Monday, April 10th marks the beginning of Passover, and all around the world preparations are underway for the eight-day holiday, especially for the Seder dinners the first two nights. 

Here are a few freshly made Passover items you can find at the Market:

Hershel’s East Side Deli: Kugel (Potato, Potato/Kale, Potato/Broccoli, Potato/Carrot), fresh horseradish, homemade gefilte fish, brisket, spinach and matzo-stuffed chicken, Matzo ball soup, coconut macaroons, flourless apple cake, and flourless brownies (baked goods from Homemade Goodies by Roz)

Condiment: Fresh white and beet horseradish and homemade Charosets

We also have a few recipe suggestions to make your week delicious, and of course, all of the ingredients are available in the Reading Terminal Market!

 

Ingredients:

Meats & poultry: Giunta’s Prime Shop, Godshall’s Poultry, L. Halteman Family Country Meats, La Divisa Meats, Martin’s Meats

Produce & fresh herbs: Fair Food Farmstand, Iovine Brothers Produce, OK Produce

Olive oil: Jonathan Best, The Head Nut, and The Tubby Olive

Wine: Blue Mountain Vineyards

Honey: Bee Natural, Jonathan Best, Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce, L. Halteman Family Country Foods

Orange Juice: Iovine Brothers Produce, Jonathan Best, Lancaster County Dairy

Nuts & coconut: Iovine Brothers Produce, OK Produce, Jonathan Best, The Head Nut

Coconut oil, vanilla extract, chocolate, & cocoa powder: Jonathan Best, The Head Nut 

Eggs: Fair Food Farmstand, Godshall’s Poultry, Hatville Deli, Iovine Brothers Produce, Jonathan Best 

Maple syrup: Pennsylvania General Store, Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce, L. Halteman Family Country Foods

 

brisket

Braised brisket is a common entrée for Seder, and we think this recipe from NY Times Cooking will be a real crowd pleaser: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017312-brisket-with-horseradish-gremolata?action=click&module=Collection+Band+Recipe+Card&region=The+Centerpiece+of+the+Passover+Table&pgType=supercollection&rank=1

 

skillet roast chicken with fennel parsnips and scallions

Roasted chicken is also a popular choice for Passover, and this recipe from Bon Appetit made our mouths water: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/skillet-roast-chicken-with-fennel-parsnips-and-scallions 

kugeltzimmes

Let these two sides from Martha Stewart round out your meal: Potato Kugel Gratin http://www.marthastewart.com/967964/potato-kugel-gratin, a modern take on a classic, and traditional Tzimmes (a compote made from sweet potatoes and dried fruit) http://www.marthastewart.com/318407/tzimmes

chocolate macaroon cake

Don’t forget about dessert to finish the meal!  This decadent chocolate macaroon cake elevates the common coconut macaroon to a whole new level: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/chocolate-macaroon-cake 

We hope these recipes and ready-made products help make your Passover a little more delicious.  We would love to hear your favorite Passover recipes, so please share them with us on Facebook (facebook.com/readingterminalmarket) or Twitter (@rdgterminalmkt).  From all of us at Reading Terminal Market, Chag Sameach!

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“Gluten-Free Fair Fun at the Market’s New Fox & Son,” By Carolyn Wyman

FoxSon

It’s a little early in the year for a Shore boardwalk stroll or county fair excursion but you can go there gastronomically right now at the Market’s new Fox & Son.

 

It’s the first gourmet corn dog restaurant in Philly, if not the world, and the only stand in the Market to be totally gluten-free.

 

You might expect the owners of a stand featuring corn dogs, cheese curds and poutine to come from the Midwest or Quebec, where these kinds of fair foods are king. But it was actually more of a strategic decision by co-owners Rebecca Foxman and Zeke Ferguson, both Pennsylvania natives formerly of the Market’s Valley Shepherd cheese stand, and Foxman’s former culinary school classmate, Kevin Kwan, originally of Seattle. (The stand name is a portmanteau word formed from Foxman and Ferguson’s last names.)

 

“We didn’t want to compete with what other vendors were selling,” Foxman explained. “We also wanted to make things that were easy to produce in large quantities with high quality.”

 

Quality? Corn dogs? That phrase might seem oxymoronic if your only experience of this food is from the supermarket freezer case (quite possible, if you’ve always lived on the East Coast). But Foxman says people who have enjoyed fresh-made ones at county fairs who stumble on the stand squeal with delight.

 

Anyone who has enjoyed one of the grilled cheese sandwiches at Valley Shepherd’s MeltKraft stand-within-a-stand has already experienced Foxman’s ability to elevate a humble dish. Fox & Son does this for corn dogs with Dietz & Watson (pork and beef), Hebrew National (kosher), Kunzler (turkey) or Lightlife (tofu) franks but also with sauces and add-ins not found at the typical fair corn dog stand. The Sweet Potato corn dog has real mashed sweet potato incorporated into the corn batter. The cheese in the housemade queso sauce adorning the Cheddar Jalapeno dog has been aged for three years.

 

These are two survivors from a spreadsheet of more than 40 corn dog ideas and recipes the partners tested and/or discussed. (One corn dog incorporating scrapple got scratched because of preparation difficulties; a fish-sauce-containing Asian corn dog loved by all three partners was deemed too esoteric to sell big, though Ferguson says it may yet show up on the menu as a special).

 

Although it’s rare to see corn dogs or funnel cakes on a local restaurant menu, they’re familiar to many locals. Not so cheese curds, which require more explanation, says Foxman. She compares them to mozzarella sticks: “If you like fried mozzarella sticks, you’ll probably like fried cheese curds.” Custom-made for them by Chester Springs’ Birchrun Hills Farm, the curds are also sold fresh by the pound and atop hand-cut French fries with gravy to make the classic Canadian poutine.

 

The cheeseburger fries (topped with ground beef, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and the Big Mac-like sauce Royale) sell even better.

 

Also on the menu: chili, funnel cakes, fresh-squeezed lemonade, organic soda, and cole slaw. The latter is a peanut-butter-containing style Foxman fell in love with while on a food scouting trip to the Texas State Fair in the fall. But Foxman’s menu favorite are fries topped with ranch powder. Despite their simplicity or perhaps because of it, they’re “very addictive,” Foxman says.

 

Fox & Son is not the only Market stand with hand-cut fries (Dutch Eating Place, Down Home Diner and Molly Malloy’s are others) but it is the only stand where they’re guaranteed to be gluten-free (because they are made in a dedicated gluten-free fryer). This has made Fox & Son a magnet for celiac sufferers, who have comprised as many as half of the stand’s early customers.

 

“We’ve actually seen tears,” says Foxman, not of dissatisfaction but of joy from people who for the first time since their diagnosis, see the whole world of fried food opening up to them once again.

 

Fox & Son, Avenue C and 4th Avenue, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., 215-372-7935, www.foxandsonphilly.com.

 

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

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“Mardi Gras Celebrating the Big Easy Way with Beck's Cajun Café,” by Carolyn Wyman

becks1

This is the time of year when most Market merchants catch their breath after the busy holiday season.

 

But for Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Cafe, Christmas and New Year’s are just the ramp-up to the equally busy Mardi Gras time.

 

Between the retail business at Beck’s stands at Reading Terminal and 30th Street Station and catering Mardi Gras parties, February 2016 was “totally crazy,” Beck recalls.

The week preceding this February 28 promises to be equally crazy, if not crazier, due to several Fat Tuesday promotions.

 

First are his King Cakes, a Mardi Gras specialty yeast bread tradition at Beck’s and elsewhere that are flavored with cinnamon and decorated with colorful icing named for the kings who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus. The sheet-size version of this cake must be ordered ahead and contains a hidden plastic baby Jesus. (New Orleans tradition dictates that the baby finder is king and must host next year’s Mardi Gras party.)

 

This year Beck’s stand is also offering Mardi Gras party bags by pre-order featuring a mini king cake, a wedge of muffaletta and New Orleans brands of potato chips and root beer for $10.95.

 

Beck will also be helping Mardi Gras party do-it-yourselfers with a free demonstration on how to make gumbo (and the roux at its base) in City Kitchen on Saturday, February 11, at 11:30 a.m.

 

The Market’s expert on New Orleans’ cuisine is actually a Long Island, N.Y., native who  traces his love of Cajun and Creole cooking to road trips to the South he took with his grandparents as a kid. Beck also notes how New Orleans cuisine is a mix of French, Spanish and Italian, “or pretty much all the important cooking traditions” he’s used in his long career as a chef.

 

That career includes stints at Steve Poses’ Frog Commissary as well as his own Pompano Grille on Fifth and Bainbridge, a 1990s-era Cuban restaurant which earned Beck several Best of Philly awards from Philadelphia Magazine and two invitations to cook at New York’s prestigious James Beard House.

 

Is it any wonder, then, why Market management was receptive to his 2009 pitch for a New Orleans-themed stand?

 

Within three years, Beck’s Cajun Cafe had won a Best of Philly magazine award for  Sandwiches in Reading Terminal Market -- impressive considering all the wonderful sandwich competition in the Market.

 

The award specifically referenced Beck’s po boys, muffaletta (like an Italian hoagie but with a spicy olive topping) and signature Train Wreck, featuring andouille sausage, salami, Creole mayo and Cajun spices in addition to the traditional cheesesteak’s bread, meat and cheese, and which Beck boastfully describes as “what a cheesesteak wants to be when it grows up.”

 

Other stand best-sellers include giant fried balls filled with mac and cheese, the jambalaya and perhaps surprisingly, alligator gumbo (whether as a dare-me food or because people like the slightly sweet, slightly gamey taste of its alligator sausage, Beck isn’t sure). And he says nobody doesn’t like his bread pudding. Or, he clarifies, “Even people who don’t like bread pudding love [its] vanilla whiskey sauce.”

 

The all-star menu is the result of trial and error. Boudin (rice and pork) sausage, barbecue shrimp and whole crawfish boil are some past stand flops: the shrimp because the traditional New Orleans barbecue shrimp recipe he made had white sauce when Philadelphians were expecting something closer to what's used at The Rib Stand; the crawfish, he thinks, because of its “mud bug” rap (all he knows is that he was laboriously picking the meat from those critters and serving it in pasta salad, etouffee and po boys for days).

 

Not that Beck is through experimenting. After Mardi Gras, the cafe will undergo both a decor and menu “freshening”: Food additions will include a short rib po boy which Beck describes as an “upscale take on New Orleans’ famous debris” or beef roast ends, sandwich. New for breakfast are omelets (with or without gumbo topping) and brioche French toast topped with a praline sauce.

 

As for what he will be doing on Mardi Gras: If he’s as busy this year as last,  “Probably nothing. Definitely not partying,” he says.

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

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“Winging Your Way Around the Market in Time for the Big Game,” by Carolyn Wyman

Chicken wings were one of the cheapest things sold at Godshall's poultry stand when it opened in the Market in 1916. At that time and for many decades afterward, people only bought chicken wings to make stock or to feed animals, if they bought them at all.

Now chicken wings are among the priciest parts of the chicken at Godshall's and anywhere else chicken wings are sold, all because a Buffalo, N.Y., bar ran low on food one night in 1964 and decided to try serving chicken wings with hot sauce. Hence the wildly popular Buffalo wing appetizer was born.

That's why you can now not only buy fresh chicken wings at Godshall's and Guinta's in the Market but also already cooked ones for lunch or dinner or parties at Dienner's, Franks A-Lot and Keven Parker's. Sales of wings rise during the fall football season and the holidays but fly out of the Market in the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday (i.e. right now).

Dienner's only sold whole rotisserie chickens when the stand opened in the Market in 1980.  Its first wings -- also rotisseried -- followed two years later and soon became best-sellers. Wings now account for about three-quarters of stand sales.

anthonydiennerandwings

"They're portable. That's the way people eat today," explains third-generation family owner Anthony Dienner. About 60 percent of Dienner's wings' business come from only two flavors: the original rotisserie and the smoked (Anthony's personal favorite). The rotisserie are flavored with both a dry rub and a wet sauce before being cooked for about two hours. The smoked sit overnight in a dry coating before being cooked in a smoker containing hickory chips for a similar long time.

Fried and the spicy ranch-flavored San Antonio round out Dienner's whole wing menu. The Thai chili is the most popular of three party-style fried half wings the stand introduced alongside Memphis sweet and honey Buffalo just four months ago.

As its name implies, Franks A-Lot mainly sold hot dogs when it opened in 1982. But it probably should be called Wings A-Lot based on sales cited by employee-turned-owner Russell Black.

blackdishingup

Franks A-Lots' first wing was honey barbecue. Introduced in 1991, it's still the stand's most popular. Franks A-Lot cook Lana Santoso says they go through 1,200 pounds of wings a week to make this flavor alone. The wing is baked in a confection oven then seared on a stovetop "to enhance the barbecue flavor," Black says.

Their fried and Buffalo wings are Santoso inventions, introduced within the last four years. The fried are redolent of garlic and reminiscent of the salt and pepper wings popular in nearby Chinatown. The Buffalo is really a Buffalo/barbecue sauce hybrid and so only mildly spicy.

As at Dienner's, you can buy Franks A-Lots wings by the pound or as part of platters with sides, including, in Franks A-Lot's case, the unexpected salted cabbage and the Black-lauded cornbread. Cornbread is, in fact, only one of two side dishes regularly featured in the spiffy display case that tempts Reading Terminal Shoppers walking down Avenue C.

Food Network personality Robert Irvine called Keven Parker's fried chicken wings (not to mention his fried chicken thighs, breasts and drumsticks) "the best thing I ever ate" on the food channel's show of the same name in 2012. Irvine praised the chicken's "salty crispiness and spiciness" as well as its "juicy, soft flesh." Based on owner Keven Parker's grandmother's recipe, the chicken marinates in a spicy wet sauce, then is coated in seasoned flour before deep-frying. The wings are sold as part of a meal dish with one side, or per piece.

kevenparkersfriedchicken

The Market also offers help for wing do-it-yourselfers.

The aforementioned Godshall's carries whole chicken wings in two sizes: the jumbo ones many grocers carry as well as smaller fryer ones co-owner Dean Frankenfield gets from a farm in Maryland that many of his customers covet. On the other hand are the sizeable minority of Godshall's patrons who prefer to make their game day appetizers with whole turkey wings. Godshall's will cut any of these wings to order for free.

Guinta's sells both whole and cut (into "party-size" flats and drumettes) fresh wings but also 4-pound packages of wings marinated in Buffalo sauce. Just take and bake. The "boneless wings" sold at most butcher stands and restaurants are actually refashioned chicken breast meat but for special occasions like the Super Bowl, Guinta's actually debones chicken wings and fills the resulting cavity with either prosciutto and Italian spices or blue cheese and hot sauce to create a unique appetizer that stand owner Rob Passio says "taste phenomenal."

Passio gets the hot and wing sauces he uses from Market merchants and so can you.

Condiment's fresh-made sauce offerings include the traditional Buffalo as well as several styles of barbecue. In addition, stand owner Elizabeth Halen says her rosemary-heavy Italian, hot, spicy sweet chili and peanut sauces could make "excellent, nontraditional wing flavorings."

If you're looking for a hot sauce to plug into a Buffalo wing sauce recipe, the shelf behind the cash registers at The Head Nut are lined with dozens of varieties. That stand also carries Wing It, Stubb's, Hoboken Eddies, Guy Fieri and (the beer-containing) Yuengling brands of dedicated wing sauces. Jonathan Best stocks Cholula, Crystal and Frank's hot sauces (the latter was reportedly used on the original Anchor Bar Buffalo wings) as well as Moore's Alabama steakhouse wing sauces.

If you're trying to figure out amounts of wings to buy for a party: Market wing sellers generally agree that you will need 4 to 8 whole wings per person if no other hearty appetizers are served; and 2 to 3 per person if the wings are just one of several meat offerings on the table. (Double that if you're buying half-size party wings.)

As for cooking tips: Franks A-Lot's Black recommends making your own wing sauce, like he does. "It's not that difficult and you'll know what's in it." To achieve the "crispy skin and moist interior everyone wants" in a home oven, Anthony Dienner recommends starting out at a low temperature and increasing it later. "If you turn it too high too fast they will dry out." He also recommends "adding moisture in any way you can" -- like putting a tray of water on a low rack.

For those who need more precise instructions: Halen will be posting wing recipes at Condiment Super Bowl week. Or pick up Wing It!, a cookbook of "flavorful chicken wings, sauces and sides," by Robert Quintana at The Cookbook Stall. Or go to http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/the-best-buffalo-wings-oven-fried-wings-recipe.html

for what is probably the most popular wings recipe now on the Internet.

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

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"Thanksgiving Traditions at Reading Terminal Market," by Michael Holahan

Holahan

At 7:30 am inside the Reading Terminal Market on the day before Thanksgiving there is a mad dash of activity.  The green grocers are frantically stacking mounds of collard greens, yams, and onions.  Butchers are icing down freshly killed turkeys and the Pennsylvania Dutch bakers are wondering if they’ve made too few or too many pumpkin pies this year.  For many of the 80 merchants inside this over 100 year old public market in downtown Philadelphia today is the busiest day of the year.

Outside customers sip coffee provided by Market management as they wait for the Market to open.  To pass the time, they map out their strategies for getting their shopping done as quickly as possible.  Traditional wisdom holds that you save the heaviest purchases, like turkeys and potatoes, for last, for in this bustling 2-acre public market, jammed full with all manner of fresh and prepared foods, there are no shopping carts or centralized checkout.  If, however, you save your turkey purchase until the end of your shopping list, thus avoiding carrying a 20lb bird around for an hour, you may find your favorite butcher surrounded by an impenetrable wall of customers.

At 8:00, as the doors open, the planning stops and the shopping frenzy begins.  Couples split up to divide and conquer the shopping list with a promised rendezvous for blueberry pancakes or croissants.  As the line at Termini’s Bakery slows to a crawl, good natured patrons start folding the bakery boxes to help speed the process.  As the customers move like hordes of locusts through mounds of produce, workers hustle to restock and replenish the ravaged displays.  The ticket machine at Godshall’s Poultry completes the first circuit of 001 to 100 and back again.  The game is definitely afoot.

In the midst of all this, of harried buying and selling, there is a sense of collegiality.  Customers share and debate cooking tips and shopping secrets.  “Do you brine your turkey?” “Of course.”  “Where do I buy lemon zest?”  “You don’t buy it; you get it from peeling or zesting a lemon a lemon.”  “Oh thanks.”  And despite the pressure to finish waiting on one customer to get to the ones that are waiting, merchants make the time to quickly trade milestones with customers: birthdays, funerals, weddings, etcetera.  For customers and shopkeepers alike, today is part business and part family reunion.

At Godshall’s Poultry, the staff works feverishly to keep up with the demand for locally raised, freshly killed turkeys, sage sausage for stuffing, and bacon for the weekend.  In between calling out the next number in line or asking “can I get you anything else today?” they pause to advise a nervous first-time Thanksgiving hostess on the ins and outs of cooking the perfect turkey.  “Cook it at 350 degrees, 14-15 minutes a pound.  If it’s stuffed, you want an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  You’ll want to use a meat thermometer.  You can buy one down the aisle at the kitchen store.  You’re welcome.  Good luck.  Number 88.”  The next day, if all goes according to plan, a beaming young woman will take a bow for serving a Thanksgiving masterpiece and a lifelong customer will be born.  It is in these moments that they keys to the Reading Terminal Market’s longevity can be found.  For in this exchange of money for merchandise, there is also something more personal and less transactional going on.  What happens here day in and day out is not complicated; in fact it is simple, simple and very, very hard to do.

Many of today’s customers first discovered the Market as children brought here by parents or grandparents.  No doubt overwhelmed by the crazy quilt of sights, sounds, and smells of the place, they quickly learned the value of patience.  For after being dragged from stall to stall seeking the freshest meat or ripest tomatoes, there was always the hope of a dish of Bassetts Ice Cream.  Today they return as prodigal sons and daughters of the Market, having moved out to the suburbs away from the row homes where they or their parents were raised.  They find themselves drawn back to the city, foregoing supermarkets offering free turkeys to shop in this place where food is not so much a commodity but a central part of someone’s life work.  It’s not a sign of unoriginality that leads the shopkeepers to name their stores for themselves, Giunta’s Prime Shop, Bassetts Ice Cream, Beiler’s Bakery, etcetera, but rather a sense of pride in the foods they grow, prepare, and sell.

For those travelling some distance, perhaps the trip to the Reading Terminal Market is not a necessary evil to find what they need to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.  The trip itself is an essential part of the Thanksgiving experience; it is the quest that reminds them that preparing and sharing food with the ones they love is a sacred experience.  Perhaps today includes the initiation of a young family member into the hurly burly of the Reading Terminal Market, making them part of a tradition that stretches back to 1892, when the Reading Terminal Market first opened its doors to the public, a tradition that hopefully includes a dish of Bassetts Ice Cream.

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Michael Holahan, who co-owned the Pennsylvania General Store with his wife Julie and twice served as president of the Reading Terminal Market Merchants' Association, passed away suddenly on March 16, 2016.  Michael penned this piece in 2011, and it has been our tradition to share it every year since.  This year, we share it in his memory.

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“A Practical Guide to Condiment, the Market’s Newest and Most Innovative Stand," by Carolyn Wyman

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Think gourmet food store where all of the food products are freshly made on-premises daily.  That’s Condiment, the Market’s newest vendor, which opened last month.  Condiment’s co-owners Elizabeth Halen and Jason Wagner have done their homework and have yet to find another store like theirs anywhere in the country.  If you’ve had trouble figuring out how best to access Condiment, we are going to fix that with this brief introduction to their products and services and how it all works. 

At its most basic, Condiment is a place to buy fresh, high-quality versions of familiar foods like butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing, salsa, jams, cookie dough, and barbecue and dessert sauces to use in the usual ways. Says Halen: “We make them exactly the way you would make them if you had endless amounts of time, the way everyone made them years ago,” that is, from scratch without preservatives or artificial ingredients.

But it’s much more than that if you:

• Ask to see one of their product books. These contain ingredient lists as well as less-obvious ideas on what you can do with what they sell. That book suggests subbing their pistachio pesto for red sauce on pizza, and mixing it into scrambled eggs as well as putting it on pasta. Ice cream might be your first thought upon seeing their salted caramel sauce. But “the book” suggests it would also work well on a cheese plate, as a filling for cookies and cupcakes and as a topping for yogurt or pancakes.

• Look for the two recipes of the day previewed on their Instagram and Facebook pages but only posted at the stand. These feature the usual ingredient lists and instructions but also where in the Market you can get the (non-Condiment) ingredients. Neither of those current recipes appeal? Ask to see the archive of recipes from when Condiment first opened -- Buffalo chicken sandwiches, Italian stuffed- zucchini, pasta with spicy meatballs, and roasted broccoli cheddar soup, among them.

(FYI: The stand also sources its products from other Market merchants as much as possible, including, in some cases, sustainably repurposing waste. They use The Original Turkey carcasses to make their turkey stock, for instance.)

• Get a head start on your dinner prep by having Condiment marinate the meat, fish or chicken you buy from another Market merchant in one of their dressings or sauces. They will put both products in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag and store it in one of their refrigerators while you finish shopping.

• What you see in their refrigerator cases is not all they have. Condiment’s biscuit dough is stored in a freezer -- as are stocks and some jams and curds (to extend the availability of out-of-season fruits). Little signs atop the stand’s front window tell you what’s back there.

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• Check out the fresh herb “mix-ins of the day” (listed on the window in the front of the stand). These allow you to customize their butter and mayonnaise and really just about anything they sell. (Garlic-thyme hummus? Why not?) In the case of butter, Condiment employees work the ingredients in on a refrigerated marble slab Cold Stone Creamery-style while you wait.

• Posted prices generally range between $3 and $8 per 8-ounce portion but you can buy as much or as little as you want (thus cutting down on waste and making the offerings affordable for singles and small families).

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• Afraid their Sambal Oolek might be too hot? Ask for a taste. It’s expected, nay, encouraged.

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• Having a game-day party? Halen suggests tossing some baked or fried chicken wings with their Buffalo, spicy sweet chili or Fra Diavolo sauces or serving one of their salsas or dips (hummus, pimento or their best-selling roasted eggplant) with their own crackers or chips from 12th Street Cantina or Jonathan Best.

• Condiment naturals for Thanksgiving include (the much-feared) turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, jam, and pie crusts (available already rolled out or in a ball).

Don’t have the time to shop more than one Market stand? Hang on. Condiment will eventually also offer meal kits of Market produce, protein and their own sauces and recipes, and, sometime even further in the future, precooked dishes that will simply require reheating.

Condiment is located at the west end of Center Court, and is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. 215-574-7698, www.condimentphl.com.


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

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Celebrate Fall at Reading Terminal Market's Harvest Festival

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Saturday, October 15, 10am-4pm, Free (Food is pay-as-you-go)

It wouldn't be fall at the Market without our annual Harvest Festival!  Taste the flavors of the Pennsylvania harvest as Filbert Street is transformed into an urban farm.  Enjoy hay rides, arts and crafts, live music, and of course, delicious food!  This year's offerings from a dozen Market merchants include a beer garden, turkey legs, grilled pork ribs, pumpkin humus, pulled pork, candy apples, harvest cookies, jewelry and crafts, skincare and lip balm, and much much more.   

Stop by the Reading Terminal Market Sampling Station where General Manager Anuj Gupta will be sampling a selection of products from our purveyors.  

From 11am-3pm, enjoy live music by Bobby Mansure's Stars & Stripes band.

And don't miss our Guess the Weight of the Giant Pumpkin contest!  Visit the giant pumpkin in Center Court, guess the weight of the pumpkin for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the Market.  The contest ends October 28th.

Admission and activities are free; food is available for purchase.

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"Slurp and Sip Like an Old-Time Philadelphian at OysterFest, by Carolyn Wyman"

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 OysterFest featuring 12 oysters from Pearl’s and 12 beers from Molly Malloy’s, 7-9 p.m., Fri., Sept. 23, $50, ReadingTerminalMarket.TicketLeap.com.

Philadelphia was once the oyster capital of America. In the late 19th century, the Delaware Bay’s 2 million-bushel annual haul were served up by almost every Philadelphia bar, restaurant and street vendor, in addition to 379 dedicated oyster houses. The discarded shells paved the streets, formed makeshift wharves and served as ship ballast.

It’s perhaps ironic that Reading Terminal Market’s (nearly) annual fundraising OysterFest was inspired not by Philly’s long and strong oyster heritage -- but by an annual oyster festival held at a counterpart public market in Milwaukee since 2010. (As you might have guessed, oysters are not indigenous to the Great Lakes.) In 2013, then-Market-manager Paul Steinke had heard about the Milwaukee Public Market’s Oyster Fest and approached David Braunstein of Pearl’s Oyster Bar about the idea of doing it here.

Reading Terminal’s OysterFest debuted that September and was held again in fall 2014. (The event paused in 2015 because of the pope’s visit.)

The Braunstein family has owned the Market’s lone oyster bar since the early 1980s and oyster stew and fried oysters were longtime specialties. But Steinke’s idea for a Philadelphia Market OysterFest was in part sparked by a serious program of fresh-shucked local oysters that Braunstein had started earlier that year. Pearl’s still offers a menu of six fresh-shucked raw oysters daily. It usually includes four from the Jersey Shore, at least one from the West Coast and, often, one from Atlantic Canada.

What’s the difference?

“West Coast oysters are normally sweeter and creamier,” says Braunstein. “East Coast oysters are brinier. The further north you go, the brinier they are.”

Although Braunstein won’t know for sure what oysters will be available for the festival until just before OysterFest, Pearl’s oyster menu regulars and Braunstein favs Cape Shore Salt and Sweet Amalia’s, both from Cape May, are two likelies.

The Delaware Bay’s identity as the nation’s oyster bar ended by the early 1900s due to overfishing and pollution and today most local oysters are farmed. That mollusk’s relative rarity today compared to colonial and Victorian times makes them more of a higher-end treat, though Braunstein notes that modern aquaculture oysters have the advantage of being a lot more consistent than wild-caught.

Considering local oysters’ brininess, it’s good that OysterFest will pair the 12 oysters with 12 beers -- almost all local -- curated and poured by Market bar Molly Malloy’s. And historians say beer was probably the drink accompaniment of choice for lower and middle-class Philadelphia oyster eaters of yore. Every style of beer known to go well with raw oysters will be at OysterFest, including sours, ambers, lagers, pilsners, India pale ales and even stouts (in the form of a black and tan). Brands include Yuengling, Yards, Straub’s, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Neshaminy Creek, Dogfish Head, Flying Fish and Evil Genius.

When you consider that the average price of a craft beer is $5 to $7 and fresh-shucked oysters, $16 or $17 per half-dozen; and the fact that this event is all you can eat and drink, OysterFest is a great value that can also make you feel great because proceeds will fund a weekly cooking class held in the Market’s City Kitchen for kids from the nonprofit Strawberry Mansion Learning Center in North Philadelphia.

Given the city’s oyster heritage, attending OysterFest should also make you feel like a true Philadelphian.

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

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