Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

Market Blog

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

Do Valentine's Day Right With Reading Terminal Market

Valentine’s Day is upon us! The holiday can come with a good deal of pressure (no one wants to buy their special someone a mass-produced, cookiecutter gift, but finding something unique can be a challenge).

 

The good news is that we at Reading Terminal Market have your back. The Market is packed to the gills with local, handmade, distinctive gifts that will have the most discerning significant other swooning. For our (by no means exhaustive) guide to great Valentine’s gifts, read on!

 

 

  1. Anatomically Correct Chocolate Hearts from Chocolate by Mueller

 

Chocolate is an old standby, and for good reason: who doesn’t love chocolate? However, a box of chocolates simply won’t cut it anymore (boooorriinnngg). Instead, show both your affection for your significant other and your extensive knowledge of human anatomy (wink) with an anatomically correct chocolate heart! The perfect gift for chocoholics and science geeks alike, this is one they won’t soon forget.

 

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  1. Cupid’s Arrow Juice from Iovine Brothers

 

It’s no wonder that juicing is trendy these days--it’s a clean, easy, and delicious way to get all your nutrients on the go. If your significant other prefers their fruit and veggies in liquid form, then we have the perfect gift for you. With Iovine Brothers’ Cupid’s Arrow juice, featuring apples, pomegranate, beets, lemon juice, and ginger, you can demonstrate that you care while supplying necessary vitamins and minerals!

 

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  1. Heart Soaps from Terralyn

 

Year after year, people invariably give gifts that their significant others never use. Instead, give them something that looks great, smells better, and supports local merchants. Terralyn’s soaps are all natural and make your skin feel wonderful--take our word for it, your partner will thank you.

 

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  1. Couple’s Cookbooks from the Cookbook Stall

 

There are few things more satisfyingly romantic than cooking a great meal with someone you care about. The Cookbook Stall wants to help you make that happen, with books that range from the pragmatic to salacious. So pick up one or two and get cooking (nudge nudge; it would also be nice to do the dishes once you’re done).

 

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  1. Victoria’s Passion Wine from Blue Mountain Vineyards

 

The perfect accompaniment to cheese, charcuterie, or generally decadent meals (i.e. all things you should serve on Valentine’s Day!), Victoria’s Passion is sweet, but not too sweet, full-bodied, and approachably delicious. Crack open a bottle and support a Pennsylvania winemaker while sharing it with someone special.

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  1. A pair of tickets to the Party For The Market

 

You know what literally anyone would love for Valentine’s Day? Unlimited food and drink at one of Philadelphia’s great historic landmarks. Pick up a pair of tickets for the Party from the Market--starting at $75/ticket--and enjoy a night of food, drink, dancing, and entertainment. (Did we mention unlimited food from our merchants? Because unlimited food from our merchants.) It’s the perfect gift--trust us.

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Six Menu Highlights for the Upcoming Party for the Market

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The Party for the Market is nearly upon us (Saturday, February 21st)! Our annual fundraising event features unlimited food and drink, as well as music, dancing, palm readers, and more. However, one of the most anticipated aspects of the event is the special dishes that our vendors make each year. Many vendors only serve these delish dishes at the Party, so be sure to grab tickets if you want to try these (and many more)!

 

Martin’s Pig Roast

Martin’s, our resident sausage experts, are roasting an entire pig for the Party. If you’ve never been to a pig roast, don’t miss this opportunity to try a slow roasted, hand-basted pig. And if you have...you know it’s not something you should miss.

 

Molly Malloy’s Breakfast Buffet

Breakfast for dinner is one of life’s little pleasures. Join Molly Malloy’s for some of the best breakfast you’ll have this year, regardless of time of day. They’ll be serving up butternut squash hash, French toast sammies, huevos rancheros, and carrot cake pancakes with a cream cheese icing. Definitely worth getting up--or staying up--for.

 

Old City Coffee Latte Art

All of the eating, dancing, and general good-times may leave you a bit tired. Not to worry, though--Old City Coffee has you covered! Get your caffeine fix from Philly’s stalwart coffee roasters since 1985, replete with beautiful latte art (seriously, they’re very talented).

 

Hershel’s Mini Reubens

Hershel’s was recently given a loving write-up in Bon Appétit, and it’s no wonder why--their sandwiches are amazing. Per the magazine, the sandwiches are “glistening with fat, zesty Russian dressing and creamy coleslaw oozing out from between two slices of Kaplan’s rye.” See what all the fuss is about and try a mini Reuben...or two. We won’t tell.

 

Olympia Gyro’s Moussaka

Moussaka is one of the Mediterranean’s great dishes—similar to a shepherd’s pie, mousakka is hearty, comforting, and only available in the market during the Party. Don’t miss it!

 

Flying Monkey Mini Whoopie Pies

Naturally, you’ll want to end the night on a sweet note. Fortunately, Flying Monkey Bakery will satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth with its whoopie pies (declared a Best of Philly by Philly Mag). Enjoy!

 

Be sure to pick up your tickets, available from $75!

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Behind the Counter: Bath, Body & Spirit

 

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Reading Terminal Market (RTM) is a landscape built on more than food. Soaps, scents and natural skin products exist under the original Buttermilk sign that once was Spataro’s. Lynette owns and manages Terralyn: Bath, Body, Spirit, handmade, all-vegetable based soaps & skin care products.

RTM: How would you describe Terralyn to a new customer?

Lynette: Eighteen years ago, I set out to create natural, healthy products for the skin. My philosophy is: if you care about what goes in your body, you should care equally about what goes onto it.

 

RTM: Of the products you sell, which is your favorite and why?

Lynette: Definitely the soap. The deep forest made with spruce fir, laurel leaf and essential oils. It’s my favorite because it transports me out of the city and into mother natures best.

 

RTM: Have any of the merchants inspired a new product?

Lynette: Yes, I am working on a cream without water. It’s an oil-based cream and intended to help with arthritis pain. There are elements of ginger and black pepper in the composition of the cream but it may change as the experiment evolves.

 

RTM: Do you have a formulaic process when creating?

Lynette: All the formulas have been developed over the years. I use blotter paper, placing a couple of drops of scent on the paper and mark what they are, allow it to dry for a 48-hour period and see what’s appealing.

 

RTM: If you could run a class, how would you design it?

Lynette: Balm-making classes would be fun and an interactive experience. Participants would have to make sure that they keep the balm refrigerated and chilled.

 

RTM: What have you noticed about the Reading Terminal Customers?

Lynette: Some customers have asked me some interesting questions. I’ve had people ask me for an easel, a canvas, cameras and toys. The most common question I get about the products are: “Can I use it on my face?” My answer is always yes; on you can use it on your face and all your nooks and crannies.

 

RTM: Do you feel under pressure to compete with the Merchants at the Market?

Lynette: Not in the least, 90% of the merchants are food merchants. Also, I make everything from scratch so I am confident in my product.

 

RTM: What’s next for you?

Lynette: A three-week trip to Italy, to get in touch my roots!

Whether she is experimenting with scents for soaps or weaving dream catchers, she’s always got her customers on her mind. We would like to thank her for taking the time to chat with us and we look forward to the aromas of her upcoming concoctions.

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"The Meet Market: It's Where Sweet-Makers (and Butchers and Bakers) Find their Valentines," By Carolyn Wyman

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Photo: The Muellers with their chocolate hearts

 

Reading Terminal Market may not be first on your list of Philadelphia's most romantic dining destinations. But it's proven to be a singles stir-fry for Market employees, as fine a place for them to find a life partner as it is for customers to find candy, flowers and ingredients for a romantic dinner to share with their Valentines.

 

Roger Miller of Miller's Twist pretzels is a perfect example. In his prior job as manager at the Dutch Eating Place, Miller hired Shauna Glick to waitress in 2000. In less than a year-and-a-half, they were husband and wife.

 

When Flying Monkey manager Shane Monroe first got a job at the bakery in 2011, he admits, "I knew very little about baking. So I had to do a lot of one-on-one" with then-manager Elly Koenig. And not just one-on-one about baking, apparently. After dating for two and half years, Shane and Elly (who no longer works in the Market) recently moved in together.

 

Surveys say that 10 to 20 percent of couples meet in the workplace. That percentage might be even higher at the Market, according to Glenn Mueller of Chocolate by Mueller, purveyor of anatomically correct chocolate hearts and noses (instead of roses) and chocolate-covered long-stemmed strawberries, among many other Valentine's treats.

 

"I think it's probably easier to approach someone you're interested in in the Market than it would be in a big company. Going to someone's office or cubicle might be awkward whereas here, everyone's accessible." Moreover Mueller believes the Market's reasonable hours makes stand employment attractive to a particularly diverse and interesting group of young artists and activists. Or, as Mueller puts it: "There are people here for every taste."

 

Glenn speaks from experience. He married longtime Chocolate by Mueller employee Jazmine Maita in 2010. Mueller has his sister Cristen to thank for hiring his future wife when she was a 15-year-old high school student looking for a part-time job. For Mueller, then the 22-year-old son of owners Theresa and Glenn Sr., "It was truly love at first sight. I thought she was the prettiest person I had ever laid eyes on. She had a great personality and a brilliant mind." But Jazmine also had a high school sweetheart so she and Glenn were just co-workers and friends until Jazmine graduated from high school and her first beau.

 

Like Roger Miller, Joe Nicolosi of DiNic's and Roger Bassett of Bassetts Ice Cream and the Original Turkey, both hired the women they eventually married. Joe's wife, Christina, worked at DiNic's for about four years before they started dating. One of Joe's previous long-term girlfriends also worked in the Market. He explains the phenomena as "proximity. You get close to people, you get to know them and things happen."

 

Roger Bassett well remembers the day now-wife Mary showed up to interview for his bookkeeper opening.

 

"I was at the turkey stand when I got the call that she was at the ice cream stand and as I walked up the aisle I saw this young lady in a suit and heels and I remember thinking, 'If that's her, she's hired.'"

 

Roger was further wowed when the interview spilled into the lunch rush and Mary jumped behind the counter of his turkey stand to pour sodas.

 

"At that point in my life I had lots of girlfriends. But they were not people you would think of sharing your life with. I saw how she could be a partner, in terms of both life and working."

 

Twenty-seven years later Roger and Mary are still working together in the Market, along with 21-year-old son Eric.

 

And romance at Bassetts Ice Cream does not end at the top. Bassetts manager Mia Maldonado also met her future husband at the stand. Roger Caulfield was her boss before she became her husband. "He proposed right there," she said, pointing to the southeast corner of Bassetts' marble counter. Another current Bassetts employee is the girlfriend of a Salumeria sandwich stand worker. The Market's extremely active rumor mill also tells tales of matchups between workers at Fourth Street Cookies and Tootsie's, Beck's and Carmen's, and Market housekeeping and security.

 

The Market has a long history of romantic pairings. Eva Godshall worked at Godshall's poultry stand before marrying boss C.K. Godshall's son, Ernst, in the mid-1930s. The late Domenic C. Spataro met his wife, Dorothy, when they both worked for the buttermilk stand he took over in 1947 (also the year they married).

 

But his son, current stand owner Domenic M. Spataro, has also seen the downside of Market romance, as in the day two Spataro's employees who were dating had a fight behind the stand. "I fired him, though she still works here and ironically, they are still a couple," he noted.

 

Glenn Mueller agrees with Spataro and most human resource experts in believing that fraternization on the job is generally a bad idea. "If there's a break-up, you could potentially lose two good employees. If one employee gets disciplined, their girlfriend or boyfriend might also take it personally."

 

Mueller is currently a little concerned about a romance between one of his employees and a worker for a competitive Market candy business. But given his own personal history, he doesn't have the "heart" to put it to a stop.

 

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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Reading Terminal Market in the News

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Locals have loved Reading Terminal Market for 122 years, but more recently, the Market has become more widely known nationally, and even internationally.  This week, the Market was highlighted by both Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler.  We are proud to be one of Philadelphia's highlights, for both our regular shoppers/diners and our visitors! 

 

Click here to view the Bon Appetit article.

 

 

Click here to view the Conde Nast Traveler article.

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Behind the Counter: The Sweetest Place in Town

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“Lest Old Acquaintance Be Forgot: A Chat with Departing Market Manager Paul Steinke,” By Carolyn Wyman

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Market regulars have surely seen him: the tall man in the jacket and tie toting a clipboard and a walkie-talkie, roaming the aisles or blocking one as he confers with one or another merchant.

 

He is market manager Paul Steinke, 50, and come January 1 his 13 years of Market schmoozing and note-taking will come to an end.

 

If you like Avenue D's spiffy new rest rooms, demo kitchen and farmer-owned stands or dislike the increased time you now spend trying to get a seat or a pork sandwich on a Saturday, well, Steinke is at least partially to credit/blame.

 

"There is no question that the Avenue D renovation was the most complicated and impactful thing I had to do with here," said Steinke just a few days after his resignation. "Unattractive, outmoded and unacceptable rest rooms were a major motivator," he admitted, but the $3.4-million, 2011-2 project also involved moving refrigerator units to the basement to open up space to build the new "City Kitchen" demonstration kitchen, the Rick Nichols multipurpose room and five new stands, including a German deli from the owners of South Street's Brauhaus Schmitz and cheese maker Valley Shepherd Creamery with its on-floor mozzarella-making room.

 

Many Market patrons will say Steinke has earned his place in Reading Terminal Market history for the spacious, eco-friendly rest rooms alone.

 

Merchants have another take.

 

"Paul is a visionary," said Vincent Iovine, co-owner of Iovine Brothers Produce and president of the Market's Merchants Association. "He had a picture in his head of what the Market should look and sound like -- like a true, old-time market -- and I believe he achieved it." Moreover, Iovine says, Steinke handled some of the more controversial changes he instituted -- such as opening the Market on Sundays for the first time in 2006 -- "very smartly. He realized Sundays was going to work better for some merchants than others so he didn't make it mandatory."

 

Steinke, who earned a degree in business administration from Penn State and previously ran the University City District, was also instrumental in creating the two-tiered merchant rent structure that makes it possible for the fresh produce, fish and meat stands key to the Market's "urban farmer's market" mission to be as successful as the higher profit-margin prepared food ones. He initiated the Market's first advertising campaign, and revived or invented events and attractions like Scrapplefest and the holiday model railroad to increase customer traffic. In fact, the Market's annual customer count rose from 4.8 to 6 million or almost 30 percent during Steinke's reign.

 

Steinke is quick to credit the Market's nonprofit board, the merchants and larger forces in the city and the nation for at least some of that growth. Philadelphia is a much bigger tourist destination now than it was 13 years ago and tourists help to keep stands busy in the summer when many locals go to the Jersey Shore, he says. The Market has also benefited from a growing downtown resident population, the local and craft food movement and the rise in food blogs and food TV.

 

In fact, Steinke cites the filming of an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay featuring Delilah's soul food stand's mac and cheese ("I got to raise the arm of the winner," Steinke remembers), along with the filming of part of the chase scene in the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure as well as the 2006 day musician Neil Young announced his Farm Aid fundraiser in Center Court as among his most memorable working days. Steinke was off the 2009 day President Obama decided to visit -- the Secret Service only gave staff 45 minutes notice -- "but I managed to get here from my home in West Philly in time to meet him."

 

Managing the market during big weather events like Irene and Sandy was "exhilarating" and rewarding in the sense that the Market was one of the few places where stranded visitors and emergency workers could find food and shelter. There were also the very occasional, Steinke insists, times when the Market itself harbored the disaster, including a single eight-hour span when Old City Coffee had a small fire and snow sliding off the train shed roof injured a passer-by (fortunately not seriously). "I call it my Fire and Ice day," Steinke says.

 

Most difficult have been those times when he has had to inform tenant merchants that their leases were not being renewed, including legacy tenant Ochs Meats and Rick's Steaks.

 

Still, Steinke insists, he's loved his Market career, including the challenges, and that's easy to believe when you hear why he is leaving: to run for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council.

 

"Dealing with all the people I've had to as Market manager: the customers, the board, the merchants, our Convention Center landlord, the neighborhood stakeholders, working with them to resolve conflicts and get things done I think has been great training for what I would have to do on Council," he said.

 

The Market's board of directors has hired a search firm to conduct a national search and hopes to name a new manager in the next few months. In the meantime, the management staff and Board will make sure the Market sandwich, celery and candy-selling continues without interruption.

 

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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“Thinking Outside the Bird: Market Products for a Non-Traditional Feast, a Hostess Gift or the Morning After,” by Carolyn Wyman

 

 

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Chocolate by Mueller's Chocolate Turkey Drumsticks

 

Regular Market shoppers already know to go to Godshall's or Giunta's, Martin's Quality Meats & Sausage, L. Halteman Family Country Foods, or the Original Turkey or the Fair Food Farmstand for their turkey; Iovine Brothers Produce, OK Produce, Fair Food Farmstand, or Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce for veggies; and any of the Market bakeries for their pies and sweets. This story is to tell you about some newer or not-so-obvious Thanksgiving celebration aids. For instance:

 

 

  • How about starting your Thanksgiving meal with a traditional colonial-era cocktail shrub drink made with Tait Farm Foods' cranberry or spiced apple shrub mix from the Pennsylvania General Store. This stand also sells John & Kira's caramel-spice chocolate pumpkins and caramel apples dipped in crushed Sweetzel spiced wafers or autumnally hued Reese's Pieces for the sweet tooths at your gathering.

 

  • The plastic inflatable turkey by Accoutrements sold at Amy's Place could make a great centerpiece for a vegetarian Thanksgiving table. This stand also has meat-eaters covered with their turkey baster topped with a turkey-shaped bulb that contains its own brush for easy clean-up.

 

  • Thanksgiving is a showcase dinner and nothing will wow your guests like the Flying Monkey Bakery's famous turducken-like Pumpple cake (apple and pumpkin pies baked inside chocolate and vanilla cakes, pre-ordering required). More than you think your group can handle? How about a dozen of this bakery's caramel apple pie cupcakes or pumpkin-pecan whoopie pies?

 

  • Planning to do your own baking? The tiny fall leaf candy shapes and autumn-colored jimmies sold at The Head Nut could seasonally dress up your own creations. This stand also carries Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks' pumpkin-cranberry-flavored tortilla chips for holiday-appropriate healthy, pre-dinner snacking.

 

  • Pumpkin and apple butter taste great stirred into oatmeal or spread on bread at breakfast the morning of (or after) Thanksgiving. You can buy jarred versions made in Pennsylvania Dutch country at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, L. Halteman Family Country Foods, The Head Nut and the Fair Food Farmstand. Kauffman's and Halteman's also carry sweet potato and pumpkin pancake mixes.

 

  • Metropolitan Bakery's pumpkin cranberry bread could work for Thanksgiving breakfast or dinner. Made with pumpkin, spices, dried cranberries and Metropolitan's signature sourdough starter, it's available Fridays and Sundays in November as well as the day before Thanksgiving.

 

  • We already mentioned Iovine Brothers Produce as a source of Thanksgiving vegetables to eat. But we think one of their interestingly textured blue and gold Hubbard squashes would also make a wonderful decoration or table centerpiece.

 

  • Speaking of the Thanksgiving table, take yours to the next level of specialness and fun by swapping out the usual boring old rectangular stick of butter with a Keller's Creamery turkey butter sculpture sold by Hatville Deli.

 

  • Looking for a Thanksgiving hostess gift? We nominate Chocolate by Mueller's box of anatomically correct milk chocolate turkey legs or super-sized chocolate wishbone. Mueller's also sells pilgrim and turkey chocolate lollipops, turkey-shaped mint or maple-flavored crystallized candy and colorful foil-wrapped chocolate turkeys and fall leaves. Sweet as Fudge Candy Shoppe sells Thanksgiving-image-adorned foil chocolates and also big milk chocolate acorns and harvest-hued candy corn and spice drops.

 

  • One different, sustainable way to handle your Thanksgiving veggies: Order a "Thanksgiving in a Box" produce share from Fair Food Farmstand here http://fairfoodfarmstand.myshopify.com/collections/featured-items/products/thanksgiving-in-a-box-produce-share or at the stand right now (Deadline: Thursday, November 20th!). It includes enough locally grown apples, onions, potatoes, carrots, cranberries and collards to make a Thanksgiving meal for three to four people and is available for pickup next Tuesday or Wednesday. This stand also sells pints of the local Weckerly's ice cream in such seasonally appropriate flavors as burnt sugar apple crumble, pumpkin butter bourbon and candied sweet potato as well as ice cream sandwiches made by sandwiching these ice creams between oat, gingersnap or maple pecan cookies.

 

  • In addition to the usual pumpkin and apple, Termini Brothers Bakery also sells hard-to-find, old-fashioned mince pies as well as pumpkin cheesecake (whole cakes and by the slice) as an alternative to the more traditional, heavier pumpkin pie.

 

  • Beiler's Bakery is holding a virtual pumpkin festival between their pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cream pie, pumpkin cake (whole or by the slice), pumpkin roll and pumpkin cookies (the latter three, all with cream cheese icing). This is not to mention the pumpkin creme and pumpkin cake doughnuts on their doughnut stand side.

 

  • And there is no speaking of pumpkin pie alternatives without mentioning Bassetts Ice Cream's pumpkin ice cream, made with real pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon. Their cinnamon ice cream is also a perfect topping for apple pie.

 

 

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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Behind the Counter: Makin’ Serious Whoopie

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Elizabeth Halen bakes up a storm at Flying Monkey Bakery (FMB), the home of the Pumpple cake in Reading Terminal Market (RTM). She’s got Philadelphia throwing down some serious amounts of sugar in the form of bars, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies and whoopies.

 

RTM: How did you come up with the name Flying Monkey Bakery?

FMB: I bought the existing name, Flying Monkey Patisserie and immediately changed it to Flying Monkey Bakery. I thought, oh, I’ll wait a year and then change it permanently, but we gained attention within the first two weeks for our Pumpple cake (a layer cake made from a pumpkin-pie baked in chocolate cake batter and an apple pie baked in vanilla cake batter and then coated with homemade buttercream frosting), and we haven’t looked back since.

 

RTM: Why invest in a bakery as oppose to another part of the culinary industry?

FMB: I dropped out of my doctorate and was hustling for 18 months, with three jobs. I knew that if I could make it through that and still loved what I did that it was the right decision to follow my next love, baking and eating.

 

RTM: When creating, do you have a formulaic process?

FMB: Creating usually starts with looking for the gaping hole and trying to find flavor profiles that are not prevalent to fill in the blanks. I am working on a series of cake bars and alcoholic glazes at the moment. Whenever I create I focus on feelings and flavors, soft, sweet and crunchy at the same time.

 

RTM: How did the Whoopie Pie make headlines?

FMB: It was gradual. To me, it’s the new cupcake. Whoopie Pies were the birthday cakes of my childhood, and that was part of my vision for FMB. Cutting the cupcake selection at the store in half was the first indication of change, and then having four to five flavors of whoopie pie a day made a statement to our customers.

 

RTM: After making national news, is there an award or news outlet you are after?

FMB: This may shock you but all I really want is for my buttercake to make the Best of Philly list. My Whoopie Pies have won the award but now its time for the buttercake to get some recognition. This is my city and my people, and I bake for them. None of my products have fake ingredients in them and I want people to eat it here and build that memory here, in Philadelphia.

 

RTM: Which of your desserts are hidden gems and why?

FMB: They’re all my babies! I would say the buttercake, because it creates the perfect mouth experience. It’s plain looking, no frosting or sprinkles, but the mouth feel that it creates is incredible, sweet, chewy, creamy and salty all at the same time. Nothing can match it.

 

RTM: If you could place your product in any market, where would you place it?

FMB: Our products are already in some of the best coffee shops in Philadelphia. Personally, I would love to have our products in Ultimo Coffee because we share some of the same philosophies and echo the same sentiments in our product in terms of quality.

 

RTM: Who is your role model or inspiration in the industry?

FMB: Julia Child is my food inspiration. I don’t care about the cheapest or fastest route to baking; all my products are made in small batches using the best quality ingredients. Julia brought French cuisine to America, and I brought my whoopie pies to Philadelphia. Boom!

 

RTM: If you could bring one thing to Philadelphia’s culinary scene what would it be?

FMB: If you had asked me this 5 years ago, I would have said burritos. That Cuban/Puerto Rican cuisine still has room for growth in this city. I guess I would like to see the city up their dessert game as a whole too!

 

Whether it’s buttercake or whoopie pies, FMB continues to be one of the sweetest spots in the Market. As Elizabeth and her team continue to experiment and create some ridiculously texture heavy, flavor-fortified, mouthwatering treats, be sure to stop by frequently and indulge your sweet cravings.

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Behind the Counter: Udderly Cheesy

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Inspired by the cheeses of Europe, Valley Shepherd Creamery (VSC) owner Eran Wajswol began his journey of owning his own farm and making and selling cheese ten years ago. Originally starting out with a small acreage raising beef cattle, his interests grew to learning sheep herding and cheese making using European techniques and traditions. Eran’s goal evolved to creating a self-sustained sheep dairy farm, VSC. Rebecca Foxman, Company Executive Chef, sat down with Reading Terminal Market (RTM) to talk cheese, the people who love it, and Philadelphia’s activity in the cheese-sphere.

 

RTM: What elements do you think make VSC a "destination?"

Rebecca: The farm is definitely a destination. It’s one of the largest sheep dairy farms in the country and carries a natural beauty; guests can watch the cheese making process, see the animals, purchase cheese during their visit, and more. At RTM, we sell those cheeses, use them in our grilled cheeses, distribute them to some of the merchants and local restaurants, and offer cheese making classes.

 

RTM: To whom does VSC appeal to the most?

Rebecca: It truly appeals to everyone. Our customer base ranges from the corporate business crowd to the young college crowd, and all the travelers and food adventurists in between. For lunch, Meltkraft by VSC is a merchant that allows customers to play it safe with a familiar food, yet still be adventurous at the same time by eating real local cheese and great ingredients. We also try to make buying cheese from our VSC counter fun and easy. Our talented mongers are excited to help our customers.

 

RTM: What’s the most outrageous grilled cheese someone has ever requested?

Rebecca: There’s a regular customer who always requests a grilled cheese with jalapenos, mac and cheese, chicken, watercress, cranberries and bacon cooked in duck fat. It turns out to be a very expensive grilled cheese.

 

RTM: How is the rise in artisanal trends contributing to the demand for Meltkraft?

Rebecca: Artisanal is a term used mostly to describe local cheese; meaning the product is made in a traditional, non-mechanized way. We are one of the few businesses out there that makes the cheese we use in our sandwiches. The grilled cheese sphere is growing, and the true artisanal cheese movement is hugely impacting the popularity of grilled cheese. People want local, small batch, handmade whole food products. We deliver that to our customers.

 

RTM: DiBrunos is a major player in the Philadelphia cheese market. Do you feel under pressure to compete?

Rebecca: No, we most certainly don’t feel under pressure. We like DiBrunos! Competition is a healthy thing; it makes you strive to make your business successful and the best it can be. Together we help bring cheese enthusiasts to the city, help educate people about cheese, and grow the passion of cheese consumption too.

 

RTM: Have you noticed anything unique about RTM’s customers?

Rebecca: Having worked at Meltkraft in Brooklyn, NY and the Meltkraft in Philadelphia, I feel as though our base here at RTM is more diverse. The people are exceptionally genuine and I find that the city as a whole has a sense of understanding and togetherness.

 

RTM: Have any of the Merchants inspired creative new grilled cheese concoctions?

Rebecca: The Merchants always inspire new flavors for our products. We have a good working relationship with Molly Malloy’s, Iovine Brothers Produce, Martin’s Quality Meats and Sausages, and Salumeria. Sometimes we use their products and sometimes they use our cheese. The marrying of our businesses creates some great sandwiches.

 

RTM: Do you have a formulaic process when creating your recipes?

Rebecca: We don’t like to create anything haphazardly, so we always aim to match the message to create a nostalgic feel. Of course we also consider seasonal ingredients, and draw inspiration from pop culture to add a fun touch.

 

RTM: When hiring new employees, what are you looking for in terms of skill and knowledge of cheese?

Rebecca: We look for people who are genuinely passionate about food and easy to hold a conversation with. We actually prefer for them to come to us with little to no knowledge of traditional cheese mongering because we (our exec cheese monger Zeke and I) like to be the ones to educate them. This education goes beyond VSC products; it’s about cheese culture as a whole.

 

RTM: What’s the most successful class or demo that VSC does, and why?

Rebecca: The Mozzarella Pulling class is extremely popular. We run four to five classes a month, and each class holds up to twenty people. Participants learn the history of the cheese, and get to practice the technique by pulling their own mozzarella to take home with them.

 

RTM: What are some passions beyond cheese making that you are immersed in?

Rebecca: I love to cook and experiment with ingredients all the time, even beyond the realm of cheese. I also like exploring the growing beer and cocktail scene in Philly.

 

RTM: Using the names of cheese, how would you describe VSC?

Rebecca: We can assure you that our cheese is Gouda not Morbier. We never feel Feta up or Bleu.

 

Valley Shepard Creamery has taken an American favorite and blended it with cheeses made by European traditional methods. Their presence in and out of Reading Terminal Market has made them one of Philadelphia’s foodie favorites. We would like to thank Rebecca for sharing her VSC experiences with us, cheesy and all.

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