Remember the singing California raisins? Of course you do. What about the state’s “happy cows?” If you’re older than 20, you probably remember that marketing campaign, too. Well, New Jersey has its own agricultural branding program, called Jersey Fresh, and it’s become the model for other states that want to implement similar locally-grown, quality-assurance seals. According to one former Jersey-based USDA exec, Jersey Fresh is even as well-known and well-respected nationally as those cute-as-a-shriveled-fruit ad spots have been for more than two decades.
Well, three-year-old Cape May Brewing Co. hasn’t necessarily made a national name for itself yet – in fact, it only late last year started sending its beer into Philly from its distribution area in South Jersey – but it’s now capitalizing on the cachet that comes with associating one’s company with the Jersey Fresh label.
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If the thought of watching another Eagles game right now is just too much to bear, here’s something to do instead. Distract (or anesthetize) yourself by drinking a whole lot of beer at World Café Live’s seventh annual winter beer fest. A variety of styles will be represented, but there’ll be special attention placed on dark and winter beers (natch), of both foreign and domestic origin.
The Whiskeyhickon Boys will be playing, and among the 40+ confirmed breweries are Avery, Bell’s, Dogfish Head, Troegs (maybe with some Mad Elf?) and Duck Rabbit. Everything will be happening downstairs at World Cafe Live, starting at 1pm (same as game time). And all it’ll take is $40 to get you through the door.
Winter beer Festival [World Cafe Live]
It’s an oldie but definitely still a goodie: the Valley Forge Beer Festival comes to town on December 6, and this year, you’ll notice something different: cider and mead. Playing off the popularity of craft ciders – as well as the relationships forged by the promoter, Starfish Junction, through its annual cider fest – there will be cider and mead. And lots of it.
For two sessions, 75 breweries, cideries and meaderies will pour 150 different products at the Oaks Expo Center. A few of the cidermakers are local newcomers, so look for Haymaker Meadery, Wyndridge Farm and Kurant Hand Crafted Cider–some of which are so new you can’t even buy them in stores. Brewery stand-outs include Cigar City, Rock Art, Bullfrog, and plenty of local and national favorites. If you haven’t had a chance to try liquid from relative newbies like Iron Horse and Twisted Manzanita Ales, or less familiar imports like Le Brewery, here’s your opportunity.
Tickets are $40 and you can buy them here.
Valley Forge Beer Fest [Official]
What do you get when you put 50 of the city’s top bar and restaurant owners and managers, plus a few journalists (including me), on a bus and ship them up to a New York brewery for a day? Some industry talk, some goofing around and some beer drinking. Actually, lots and lots of beer drinking.
Such was the scene on Tuesday when the Muller distributor hosted a trip to Captain Lawrence Brewing in Westchester County to collaborate on a Philly-only release that hits the market in January. The beer, which doesn’t have a name yet, will be a low-alcohol, dry-hopped saison – an unusual experiment that results from asking 50 opinionated beer experts to independently identify a preference for color, strength, hop presence, yeast strain and whether or not to dry hop–a process that gives beer a distinct hoppy aroma. Captain Lawrence brewers tallied the answers and formulated a recipe for the medium-bodied brew, which will get delivered in a limited number of kegs to the bars that participated in the collab.
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High Street Grill, the bar/restaurant that’s brought serious craft beer and celebrated pairing dinners to Mt. Holly’s worn main street for the past ten years, is closing tonight. Co-owner Nancy McDevitt, whose husband and business partner, John, served as chef until the couple moved to Central California two years ago, posted the news on the eatery’s Facebook page on Monday.
Since leaving for wine and kitchen careers on the left coast, the McDevitts have tried to manage the restaurant from afar. But they’ve been unable to keep a manager and general staff turnover has been high. Additionally, the food quality suffered without direct leadership from the academically trained chef.
John flew back to his native New Jersey last week after his latest manager quit; shortly after, his wife posted the emotional announcement: “We thank each of you for your support over the years. The memories are countless. Many of you have been there through good times, and some have shared those times when things got rough. It hasn’t always been easy in the previous year’s economy. Freakish hot weather, thigh-high snowstorms, loss of power, loss of POS systems. We’ve seen it all. And you were there every step of the way.”
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Since emerging from a top-to-bottom renovation a few years ago, the Philadelphia History Museum has come a long way toward engaging residents and asserting itself as a relevant cultural entity for the city. And tomorrow, from 5:30-8:30, staff will don dressy attire to stage the first fundraiser in the museum’s 73-year-history–the City Social. Like any good Philadelphia fundraiser, this one emphasizes food.
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Circles chef Alex Boonphaya and his wife are tired. They’ve slept less than 90 minutes and they’ve just finished serving 70 diners out of a kitchen that’s not their own. But their first dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan seems to have gone well and now they desperately need a drink … or a bed.
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The Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is a lonely place at midnight. And that’s just how Circles Thai chef/owner Alex Boonphaya likes it. The refrigerated temperature doesn’t phase him despite his short-sleeved t-shirt, and on this past Wednesday morning, he quietly looks over boxes full of colorful fruits and vegetables imported from around the world–trying to decide which will make the cut for his dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan tonight.
To call Boonphaya unassuming is to speak a significant understatement. Though he continues to win “Best of Philly” awards and survived a year-long application process to cook at the famed Beard House, his manner is shy and his ego is most assuredly in check. As he ambles through the Essington Avenue warehouse, glancing frequently at a notebook where he’s written a meticulous shopping list, he thanks product runners graciously, simply answers “yes” to a cashier who asks if he’s a chef, and orders a humble tuna sandwich to go for dinner from the on-site diner.
“Chefs don’t eat very glamorously,” he says softly to a member of the three-person entourage who’s accompanied him on this evening’s errand.
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For those who can’t make it to chef Alex Boonphaya’s James Beard House dinner next Thursday, August 14, the owner of the growing mini-chain of Circles Thai restaurants (and perennial Best of Philly winner) will host a preview at his Northern Liberties location tomorrow at 6pm. For $50 you can BYOB for six courses plus a pre-dinner sparkling wine (included) and hors d’oeuvre reception that spans the breadth of Thai cuisine.
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