No sooner had I cautioned you not to expect ramps and fiddleheads to be going all gangbusters at farmer’s markets last weekend then, boom, there they were at the Philly Farm and Food Fest just two days later. Cold snap or no, there’s no stopping springtime now, and here’s the latest:
The Franklin Flea, Philly’s homegrown answer to the Brooklyn Flea’s departure, reopens tomorrow from 10 to 5 in the historic Strawbridges’s building at 801 Market street, and it’s worth bringing your appetite as well as your hand-sewn shopping bags.
Last week, we dropped some knowledge on you in the form of Bar Volver’s menu, and over the weekend we paid our first visit. For those not following along, Volver is Jose Garces’ newest venture in the Kimmel Center, a ticketed dining experiment (with opening night this coming Wednesday) as yet untested in Philadelphia waters. One feature of this format is that the beautiful bar at Volver doesn’t offer a traditional a la carte menu, but what they do offer is sophisticated snacks worthy of Gordana Kostovski’s heavy-on-the-bubbles wine list.
Yesterday, the third annual Philly Farm and Food Fest brought area growers, producers, and eaters to the Convention Center for a tasty, noisy festival of local edibles. A joint project of Fair Food and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, the event featured representation by more than 130 farmers and food artisans and how-to demos of hands-on, homestead-y skills like mozzarella-making, beekeeping, and canning. The heart of the event though was the chance for attendees to meet producers, ask questions, and taste an amazing variety of local products: cheeses, sauerkraut, grass-fed beef sticks, green juice, chutney, soups, shrubs, granola, and more. Exhibitors included Philly favorites like Birchrun Hills Farm cheeses, ReAnimator Coffee, Weckerly’s ice cream, and Metropolitan Bakery, but there were plenty of fresh-faced newcomers to the scene as well. Keep an eye out for West Philly-based RedFox’s rosemary caramel popcorn, Crisp & Co.’s puckery pickles, inventive nut butters by PB&Jams, and Chaikhana Chai’s pleasantly spicy masala.
And yeah, we got pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.
Judging by restaurant menus this time of year, one would think that asparagus, ramps, and fiddleheads are the first signals of the return of spring to our plates. But no matter how much we fetishize them, these are spring foods that, locally at least, are barely beginning to emerge. If the farmers and foragers aren’t yet eating them, you can be sure that we city dwellers won’t be either. Around here, the true signals of the warming season are the leafy green things, cultivated with care inside or under protective cover. Soak up some sunshine this weekend, spring clean your sorry little excuse for a garden, and pick up some greens and beneficial bacteria, both for you and your garden, as we wait for those big stars to make their debuts.
Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney are still a couple of weeks away from opening the re-vamp of their first restaurant, modern Mexican Lolita, but the place already has polish to spare and we were lucky to get an early glimpse.
Safran and Turney have transformed Lolita–once a narrow, rectangular, rosy-hued room with an open kitchen smushed in to the middle of the space–to a layout that feels much more open. While it is, of course, still narrow, the kitchen and bar now run along one side of the room, creating ample bar seating that affords a primo view of cocktails being shaken, tortillas being rolled (on a Mexican machine complete with menacing safety illustrations), and meat sizzling shawarma-style on a vertical roaster.
The trees are starting to bloom, the daffodils are cropping up, and the rain is falling; thank goodness for springtime. While we wait for the spring veggies to get bigger, this is a great time of year to consider signing up for a CSA share. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and signing up for a CSA means that you basically pay for your summer produce up front (which helps farmers shoulder myriad early season expenses) and in exchange you receive a weekly share of veggies (and sometimes fruits or eggs) all season long. Here are just a few of the local CSA’s to consider joining.
I know that it hasn’t felt much like spring yet (except maybe for today’s drizzle), but amid the dwindling supplies of parsnips, potatoes and rutabagas at the farmer’s market there are a few telltale sighs that she’s on her way. Here are a few:
Between Rival Brother’s new shop and Peddler Coffee’s arrival on the caffeine scene, there will be no shortage of places to get your fix this spring, and there’s still one more shop new to the brew and upping the ante by adding booze to the mix.
Early this summer, the long-shuttered space that formerly housed Siam Lotus at 10th and Spring Garden will re-open as Win Win Coffee Bar. It’ll be an all-day-and-into-the-evening bar, restaurant and coffee shop right next door to cargo bike specialists Firth and Wilson. Win Win is a project of Will Darwall (most recently of Elixr), Anthony Montagnaro (of Pizza Brain), and Lanie Belmont (of the Yumtown food truck), along with a handful of other partners that includes the talents of an architect, a developer, and a “natural foods guy.” Though the leadership team might seem large, part of Win Win’s identity is that the business will be cooperatively run and maintain a core focus on sustainability.
In fact, the name Win Win came from the visual W/N W/N–a symbol for the idea “waste not, want not,” so you can be sure that this new addition will be direct trade in coffee sourcing, and take a thoughtful approach to the food on the menu as well as sustainability in energy sourcing, water use, and recycling.