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Brewer’s Plate 2017 Highlights

Six exceptional tastes from last Sunday’s event

IMG_6269 - Version 2The Brewer’s Plate is Fair Food Philly’s annual benefit event where chefs, brewers and artisans team up to provide their best pairings in the name of good food and beer. This year, nearly 100 of our region’s breweries, restaurants, bakeries and cheese makers assembled in the Kimmel Center, providing 1,500 attendees with a staggering number of samples to choose from.

“Our offerings have expanded as the Philly beverage scene has expanded,” Fair Food founder and director Ann Karlen says. Distillers, cider makers, and kombucha fermenters joined the brewers this year.

Brewer’s Plate provides an opportunity to talk to chefs and brewers in person while scoping out the best new beers and restaurants. The spots below hooked me with a stellar sample, and I’ll be making trips to their brick and mortar locations and looking out for them in bottle shops around the city.

 

Good Spoon Soupery

The roasted sweet onion soup was one of my first bites of the night, and one of the best. “It’s our take on French onion soup,” says owner Kate Hartman. The familiar, deeply savory flavor is captured in Good Spoon’s silky, pureed version. They add Gruyere and top it with baguette croutons, fresh chives, and balsamic reduction. And unlike most onion soups, it’s vegetarian – they use their house-made veggie stock rather than the beef. This spring, I’ll be taking a trip to their Soupery in Fishtown for Hartman’s favorite – asparagus soup with tarragon.

1400 N. Front St., 267.239.5787, goodspoonfoods.com

Ploughman Cider

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Ploughman Cider founder Ben Wenk

Three Springs Fruit Farms has a new offshoot – Ploughman Cider – and they brought their already well-loved Stark (German for ‘strong’) and Lupulin Lummox (brewed with citra hops) to the Brewer’s Plate. But the real treat was getting a chance to taste their sour peach/cider experiments, Haterade and Gatorade. They’re still in the R&D phase, but I imagine Philly bars will clamor for the crisp, peachy fizz as soon as it’s released.

717.347.6462, ploughmancider.com

Revolution Taco

The chorizo chili tostada with goat cheese and chipotle lime crema won the peoples’ choice award for best dish. (No, there wasn’t an official vote, but “Revolution Taco” was the most popular answer when I polled the crowd for favorites.) Revolution Taco is the fast-casual iteration of Taco Mondo that co-owners Carolyn Nguyen and Michael Sultan opened in Rittenhouse. The restaurant celebrated its one-year anniversary this winter — if you still haven’t been, we think it’s about time.

2015 Walnut St., 267.639.5681, therevolutiontaco.com

Naked Brewing Company

This Huntingdon Valley brewery’s tart, seasonal Black Currant Rising caught my attention. It’s a wheat beer, and just a tad sweet – perfectly refreshing for summertime drinking. Co-owner Brian Sucevic recommends getting up to Bucks County and taking a brewery tour – hitting Crooked Eye, Neshaminy Creek, and Broken Goblet as well as Naked Brewing.

51 Buck Rd., Huntingdon Valley, PA, 267.355.9561, nakedbrewingcompany.com

Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse

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Chef Ari Miller and Bobolink rep talk cheese

Even though the vast number of samples was entirely overwhelming, Bobolink’s cheese was so good, I ended up circling back for a second plate. The Jean-Louise (after chef Jean-Louise Palladin) was the stinky star of the three cheeses they served. Co-owner Jonathan White hoisted half a wheel from under the table and peeled back the wrapping so I could smell the funk. “It’s named after Chef Jean-Louise Palladin,” he says, who inspired its bold and fruity flavor. The cheese is seasonal – made in the Spring and Fall when Bobolink’s grass-fed cows’ milk is most flavorful. It was particularly divine washed down with their pairing partner Levante’s Double IPA (South Pacific Hop Cartel).

369 Stamets Rd., Milford, NJ, cowsoutside.com

Troegs Independent Brewing

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Wild Elf was paired with hoisin braised short rib from The Industry

At 11% ABV, I wouldn’t again end my night with this beer, but in the moment I just couldn’t resist (and I’m glad I didn’t). Wild Elf is based on the sweet, spiced recipe for Mad Elf, but it goes through a second ferment with wild yeast and Balaton cherries from Peters Orchards in Adams County, PA. Its deep, but tart and refreshing flavor is well suited for warm weather drinking.

200 E. Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, PA, 717.534.1297, troegs.com

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1,500 attendees enjoyed local food and drink at the Kimmel Center Sunday night

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Regional Culinary Traditions Revived

 Our region’s top growers, chefs, and food historians collaborate to benefit Pennsylvania foodways research

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Dr. William Woys Weaver and Chef Steve Eckerd arrange a pre-dinner snack-smorgasbord

By Katherine Rapin

If you flipped through cookbooks and restaurant menus from early 20th-century Pennsylvania, you’d find the dishes of a pre-industrialized, pre-globalized food era, evidence of a time when cooks used mostly indigenous ingredients and scant, select imports.

Look beyond scrapple, and you might come across recipes for Pepper Pot Soup, made with tripe, potatoes and chilies by way of early Caribbean trade routes. You’d learn that Chicken and Waffles evolved from the Catfish and Waffles dinners held at Inns and Hotels along the Schuylkill River. You’d debunk the origin story of chow-chow, the sweet and sour pickled vegetable relish thought to be a mainstay on the Pennsylvania Amish table.

The Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Food and Food Tourism, founded by food historian and ethnographer William Woys Weaver, researches and documents dishes like these to understand the food culture of our region.

“We’re here to promote the traditional foods and food plants of Pennsylvania,” Dr. Weaver says. The Center’s work aims to push forward ways of eating that support our local growers and producers; our region’s culinary history can provide an intriguing guide.

A group of celebrated Philly and Baltimore chefs who’s names you might recognize from Le Bec Fin, Fitler Dining Room, Aussie and the Fox, and Woodbury Kitchen, livened up a few traditional dishes last Tuesday. They served a five-course meal to about 40 guests at Wyebrook Farm in Honey Brook, PA – who donated their kitchen and dining space – to raise money for the Keystone Center.

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From Left: Steve Eckerd, Opie Crooks, Jonathan Adams, Palmer Marinelli, Rob Marzinsky, and Brent Golding; pre-dinner meeting in the kitchen.

Palmer Marinelli, formerly a cook at Pub and Kitchen and now a member of the Keystone Center’s board, put together the menu based on the Center’s research and Dr. Weaver’s books (As American as Shoofly Pie and Country Scrapple are two of more than a dozen). He worked with ingredients donated by local growers and producers like Green Meadow Farms, Birch Run Hills Farm, and Trickling Springs Creamery.

The seven chefs – who donated their time developing recipes, as well as cooking and serving at the event – each took the lead on a dish.

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Jenny Bardwell of Rising Creek Bakery

An hour before guests arrived, Brent Golding, chef at Aussie and the Fox in Lancaster, stood over a five-by-nine grid of pint containers, dropping pickled vegetables – green tomatoes, sour corn, watermelon radishes, saffron cauliflower, snips of green beans – into each container. He was assembling the chow-chow salad, a sweet and sour relish of pickled vegetables with roots in India, adapted in Pennsylvania Dutch kitchens.

Genevieve Bardwell sliced her Salt Rising Bread, which she makes at Rising Creek Bakery in Mt. Morris. It’s an old Appalachian tradition of wild microbe-leavened baking that she’s keeping alive at her bakery. Its dense crumb has a bit of a funky, almost cheesy smell heightened by toasting.

Behind Bardwell, Steve Eckerd dropped pineapple pumpkin dumplings into a steaming pot. They were subtly sweet, sautéed in sage butter – worth trailing out of the kitchen to the snack table.

Early arrivers circled around the spread: Weaver’s pickles – sage lima beans, curled garlic scapes, hot peppers with huacatay (and Andean herb related to marigold) and lime, sweet and sour grapes – soft pink beet pickled eggs, slabs of tomme and bleu, Bardwell’s toasts with a creamy herb spread, tomatoes and dill.

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One trip around the table and my tiny plate was a lovely mess.

We were eventually shepherded up to the dining room where Golding’s chow-chow awaited. Rob Marzinsky’s Pepper Pot soup came next – bits of tripe blanched several times and braised in beef broth lurked under potatoes in the subtly spicy broth.keystonedinner8_katherinerapin

“That’s a good pepper pot!” Dr. Weaver exclaimed, before launching into the background of the dish, adapted from Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup into a Philadelphian street food. It was a hangover ‘cure,’ Weaver says, often served to drinkers from giant kettles outside taverns.

“This is what Keystone is all about,” Dr. Weaver says, “The cultural baggage that comes with the food.”

Each chef revealed the background and recipe development behind each dish after it had been served. Not surprisingly, Catfish and Waffles is a dish Spike Gjerde of Woodbury Kitchen says he never would have thought to cook. He seemed to be a bit surprised how good it turned out – the lightly smoked fish with a thin, snappy buttermilk waffle, softened by rich gravy. Fellow Woodbury chef Patrick “Opie” Crooks used Kugler’s old recipe to make the waffle, which he says turned out perfectly on the first try.

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“As much as it can be fascinating to have a view into how life was and how food was in the past,” Gjerde says, “For us it can really be a practical users guide to a lot of [region-specific] ingredients.”

This is the work of the Keystone Center – to support Pennsylvania-grown and crafted products, as well as to continue researching and documenting traditional foodways, and drive statewide conversations about better procurement practices.

The money raised from the dinner will be used to revamp the center’s website, which is a step on the way to providing a cache of regional food research. The organization hopes to hold educational event and host food tours in the coming years.

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Friz Wit: The New Cheesesteak in Town

fritzPhoto by A Few Fishes

Get Friz Wit’s sandwich at Pizzeria Beddia this Sunday, May 29th, from noon until they’re sold out. Cheesesteaks are $12 (cash only) with complimentary beer tastings by Slyfox.

Whenever out-of-town friends come to visit, I ask them to think of few things they’d like to do while in Philadelphia. Of course, someone always mentions the cheesesteak and I face a dilemma: go along with it, explain the Pat’s/Geno’s rivalry and let them have their pick? Or give them my honest opinion: we’d be better off avoiding the sandwich altogether.

Ari Miller, chef and Philly native, felt similarly about cheesesteaks. “They’re almost an insult to the depth of culinary value that is occurring in Philly right now,” he says, “And for better or worse, we’re stuck together.” Since he doesn’t see our city shaking the sandwich association anytime soon, he thought he’d make a good cheesesteak, like the ones he remembered eating as a kid.

And so began Friz Wit (the name’s a vague nod to frizzled beef): a cheesesteak that catches up with our city’s culinary ambition. The ingredients are quality – which, of course, means local. Miller sources steak from Kensington Quarters and onions from the Fair Food Farmstand. He makes cheese sauce from scratch using Hidden Hills raw Buttercup Gouda and Sly Fox 360 IPA; it’s a tangy, creamy goodness as far from whiz as you can get.

Miller’s sandwich is a true Philly cheesesteak, and it has all the flavor of unprocessed, deftly handled, local ingredients. “It’s still greasy and messy – it’s an actual cheesesteak – you just don’t feel gross afterwards,” Miller laughs, “You feel like you ate real food.”

You can experience Friz Wit at Pizzeria Beddia this Sunday, May 29th, from noon until they’re sold out. Cheesesteaks are $12 (cash only) with complimentary beer tastings by Slyfox.

Miller at Garage Bar

Frizwhit at Garage bar

For now, my demand exceeds supply for these cheesesteaks – they’re hard to come by. Miller takes over the food cart at Garage in South Philly (a Passyunk cheesesteak trivalry!) occasionally, and he posts all Friz Wit-related events here.

There’s a bigger vision for the cheesesteak project, but Miller’s not sure what form it will take just yet. More regular pop-ups? A brick and mortar location? “One of the important things about the sandwich is that it’s not an industrial product,” he says, “So it’s not going to become one.”

For now I’ll continue to follow Friz Wit around the city and eat Miller’s cheesesteak any chance I get.

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Reviving Ancient Ales

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Imagine scraping the residue from the base of a thousand-year-old keg, analyzing the compounds, and then teaming up with a brewery to recreate the libation that may well have fueled the building of the pyramids. Did archeology just get a little more interesting?

Dr. Patrick McGovern thinks so. He’s the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania. As a world expert in ancient fermented beverages, he’s identified early libations from Turkey to Scandinavia to Honduras. He’s responsible for tracking down the oldest known booze, which dates back 9,000 years to China’s Yellow River Valley. The 70-year-old scientist and professor has been called the “Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and ...

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Philly Farm and Food Fest Highlights

KatherineNancyFest

In case you were wondering: the fifth annual Philly Farm and Food Fest happened this past Sunday and it was amazing. Our region’s stellar artisans, farmers, and grocers stood table to table, filling the sprawling Philadelphia Convention Center. The 192 tables showed the stunning variety of provisions produced in the greater Philadelphia area.

It was amazing; it was also overwhelming. Between the curd convention with more cheese samples than I could count, the piles of local produce at the CSA pop-up shop, the morsels of crusty breads at the grain station, and the pickled, brewed, baked, foraged, fermented, and preserved treats all around, I found myself starting to panic. How am I going to try EVERYTHING?

Maybe if you arrived at 10 am for the preview hour and stayed until breakdown at 4:00pm (and you weren’t busy passing copies of Edible Philly and having wonderful conversations with so many of our readers) you might have been able to take it all in. Assuming you, too, were unable to achieve this feat, I’d like to highlight a few new-to-me items I found especially delicious in my next few posts.

First up: Burnt Cabins Grist Mill.

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Win Tickets to the Philly Farm and Food Fest

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Want to beat the crowds at the Philly Farm & Food Fest on Sunday, April 10?

Enter to win a pair of VIP tickets to the fest by leaving a comment below this blog post by midnight on April 4th. The winner and a guest will get to explore the fest an hour earlier than the general public and have the opportunity to mingle with 300 other VIPs, including chefs, press, and food industry insiders. The winner will be chosen at random and notified on April 5. Don’t miss your chance! 

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Snacking & Shopping at Kimberton Whole Foods

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Welcome to the Eat Local Challenge! This blog series is intended as a useful tool to help you achieve tasty success in your local eating undertaking. Each week, we’ll highlight a store, app, product, market, or community member in the hopes of giving you some new resources for Philly eating. Have a tip to share? I’d love to hear from you at katherine.rapin@gmail.com

Sweetwater Baking Co.’s buttermilk-soaked granola, creamy raw milk from Camphill Village Dairy, and my very first wheatgrass shot; can you guess where I stopped recently for an afternoon snack?

If you’re looking for the feel of a local co-op but with a wider selection and multiple  locations, check out Kimberton Whole Foods.  Last week, I stopped by the store in Malvern and spent half an hour with manager Robin Brett. He’s been working there for 10 years. “Or 28,” he says, “It’s my family’s business.”

Brett took me me on tour of the store, highlighting his favorite local items and telling me about the farmers who provide them. Paul and Ember of Country Time Farms have been dropping off their humanely raised pork products weekly for 15 years. Brett likes the beef from Weaver Valley Farm in Strasburg. Raw milk – the top selling local dairy product – comes from Camphill Village in Kimberton. “Supporting the local farms is what we built our business on,” Brett said.

His dad, Terry Brett, opened the first store at Seven Stars Farm where he worked in the late 80s. “This was back when you had to drive over an hour to get to the nearest health food store,” Robin Brett said. Since then, Kimberton Whole Foods expanded, providing a market for local growers and meeting a growing demand for organic and fair food. This small, local grocery chain can now count me among their devoted group of fans.

 

 

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Late Winter at the Fair Food Farmstand

Watermelon Radish from the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market

Welcome to the Eat Local Challenge! This blog series is intended as a useful tool to help you achieve tasty success in your local eating undertaking. Each week, we’ll highlight a store, app, product, market, or community member in the hopes of giving you some new resources for Philly eating. Have a tip to share? I’d love to hear from you at katherine.rapin@gmail.com

The warming weather makes me crave one thing that’s just not in season quite: fresh fruit. The frozen strawberries I put up last summer are long gone, and I’m saving the last jars of preserves for some special occasion. So I went to see what I could find at the Fair Food Farmstand to satisfy my craving.

Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal is the local eating challengers safe haven; products are sourced from more than 90 growers and producers in southeast PA, south Jersey, and even urban farms in Philly. The farmstand works with growers who use responsible methods and producers who use local ingredients in their products. ...

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