Though Kensington Quarters–Fishtown’s up and coming pasture-based butcher shop and eatery–is still mired in construction, the first glimpse of the food at their series of three Fried Chicken Pop-Ups was a great one.
There’s some relief in the end of January. It might be cold and snowy, but on days when the murk clears there are crisp, blue skies to make the chill seem less threatening. The days are creeping longer by a few moments–a welcome reminder that it won’t always be this chilly. Everyone is over their lofty resolutions, so now we can settle into 2014 with good, sturdy, satisfying foods, to nourish ourselves and each other.
I’m having trouble getting excited about vegetables today, but it’s not because vegetables aren’t exciting. Frankly, it’s because all I can think about is the local chicken fried in pasture-raised beef fat that I ate last night at the Kensington Quarters fried chicken pop up. I’m serious people–if you want some seriously indulgent local meat-eating fun, don’t miss your final chance next Thursday. In the meantime, I’ll treasure the memory of that meal by cooking up my own versions of some of the things served along with it.
If you consider yourself a member of the lait-erati, you’ve probably heard by now that this weekend Madame Fromage (cheese writer Tenaya Darlington) is hosting a Cheese Ball! The evening is sure to be a scintillating mix that includes a roving ice cream cart, a pool-table-sized cheese board of crowd-sourced nibbles (part of the price of entry is that you bring a cheese to share), and, at midnight, the coronation of the king and queen of curd.
As you might have noticed, it’s a little cold out. Even without this week’s POLAR VORTEX, January is not the season when the farmer’s markets abound with perfect rainbows of peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. These next few months are a hardscrabble time of year for local eating, especially when its just easier to just go ahead and buy 2 for $5 blueberries out-of-season and every media outlet is touting their benefits. While it might be impossible to eat 100% local in winter around here – and doing so would deny ourselves the pleasures of pomegranates, oranges, and heck, even broccoli for the time being – we’re lucky that in Philly, January doesn’t mean that we have to forgo access to local foods altogether. Between the badass year-round outdoor farmer’s market vendors (I see you Clark Park! I see you Rittenhouse!), Greensgrow’s Farmstand is still going strong in Kensington from 10 to 3 each Saturday, the Fair Food Farmstand is fully stocked over at Reading Terminal, and you can still find local produce at Weavers Way and Green Aisle Grocery. Keep an eye out for these…
Remember how, a few weeks ago, we told you about Kensington Quarters–Michael Pasquarello and Bryan Mayer’s butcher shop/bar/restaurant/classroom that will open at some point in the next few months? And then how last week we told you about how the chickens didn’t get the memo about their construction delays so they’re hosting a Fried Chicken Pop-Up? Well, the news keeps getting better.
The chickens themselves are kind of remarkable, and even among all the great chickens in this town from Federal Donuts, Rotisseur, and The Fat Ham, these birds are pretty special. They’re locally-raised in Lancaster where they’re 100% pastured, thus eating legumes, bugs, and grass along with non-GMO feed. And oh, by the way, just to amp it up a little further: the birds will be fried in 100% grass fed beef fat, which means that even your self-righteous and selective-meat-eating friends (including yours truly) can get in on this hot, breaded action.
In the household where I grew up, New Year’s Eve meant pork and sauerkraut, and New Year’s Day meant black-eyed peas, collard greens, and fried cornbread with a penny in it. You see, both of these meals are meant to bring good luck, and we liked to stack the deck as much as possible. The pig is an animal that roots forward, always looking for the next, tastiest morsel, which is how we should aim to approach the year ahead: moving forward, never back. Sauerkraut, to my knowledge, isn’t symbolic, it just tastes good with pork. Also, cabbage keeps like crazy and since this custom was originated by German immigrants and the Pennsylvania Dutch, they may well have been eating cabbage with everything. Black-eyed peas and collard greens represent all the cold, hard cash that we’re going to acquire in the coming year. And the cornbread with a penny in it? Probably because there’s nothing like intentionally placing a choking hazard in your food to inspire gratitude that we’ve survived another year.
Here in the Mid-Atlantic, the weather is not our best quality. Spring and fall are okay, but summer is like living in the mouth of a panting dog, and winter? Perma-gray with occasional, delightful snow flurries followed by sad slush piles and icy sidewalks that seem custom made for crippling old men and women in high heels.
But in a valiant attempt to reframe our scuzziest season, Four Corners Management teamed up with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to host Waterfront Winterfest–a month-long pop-up party at the Penn’s Landing skating rink. In the event that you haven’t yet paid a visit, Winterfest features fire pits, a craft market coordinated by Art Star, and The Lodge–an indoor space built from shipping containers to house dance parties and concessions. There’s also the skating rink, of course, and lots of twinkly, outdoor space to enjoy a beer with friends.
I feel you, friends. You’re back home in Philadelphia after a few days elsewhere with your family, gorging on roast beef or turkey or ham or moo shu. You’ve also likely eaten a great deal of cookies and consumed more than your share of booze. There’s nothing in your fridge except for some tired cucumbers and some petrified pizza that you ate in a wrapping-paper frenzy sometime last week (or, you know, Monday). Maybe this bender continues through New Years Day, or maybe you’re back at work already, trying to make sense of things. Either way, you probably need some groceries. Headhouse is done for the year, so Rittenhouse it is if you’re a Center City dweller and Clark Park if you’re in West Philly.
Barring the Fourth of July, Christmas Day is about as close as US workers get to a guaranteed day off. Even for the non-religious, Christmas is often a day to relax, to be with family, to indulge the children in one’s life, or to simply spend the day, guilt free, in one’s pajamas. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule: hospital workers, transit employees, first responders, and many others. And it seems that increasingly (especially if the #openinPHL hashtag is any indicator) that list also includes cooks, servers, and bartenders.