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Saturday, December 12, 2009

 
Fruitcakes

I don't recycle fruitcakes I get as gifts: I love them. I've even been known to buy them for myself. Once I went so far as to order 10 pounds worth from Georgia.

Those same Georgia fruitcakes have been available in years past at the Reading Terinal Market at Iovine Brothers' Produce. These are the heavyweight cakes produced by Claxton Fruitcakes in Claxton, Georgia. They are heavily laden with a wonderful variety of dried fruits held together with a barely detectable pound cake binding. Iovine's no longer carries them, but Jonathan Best, the relatively new grocer at the market, does. Alas, Jonathans Best only carries the regular version; it's good, but I prefer the dark variety. I didn't check the price, but when you order direct via the web three one-pound cakes sell for $25.95 plus shipping (you can buy in various weight permutations).

L. Halteman Family sells locally made fruitcakes, which appear to have more nuts, for $6.95 a loaf.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

 
And Second Prize Is?

Jonathan Best, the new fancy foods grocer at the Reading Terminal Market, will celebrate a grand opening next Tuesday. Jan. 27. The festivities include a raffle for "a weekend getaway in Chestnut Hill," where the business's main store is located. Also on the agenda: music from a Beatles cover band and soup samples. The celebration will be celebrated from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The store will donate 20 percent of the day's proceeds to Project H.O.M.E.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

 
Jonathan Best opens
Limited groceries, at a price


Jonathan Best opened last week in the spot formerly held down by Margerum's and the Natural Connection. The high-end grocer is a welcome addition to the Reading Terminal Market. The homemade soup selection looked inviting, the flavored spreads appetizing, and the chocolate bar selection downright sinful.

That's the good news. The bad news: it's not Margerum's.

The beauty of the old Margerum's store, which closed in 2001, was that if you needed a jar of Hellman's mayonaisse or a bottle of Heinz ketchup for a recipe, you could get it. You'd pay a bit more than at a supermarket, but not unreasonably so. That was in addition to all the wonderful variety of dried legumes Noelle Margerum stocked.

You can still buy mayonnaise or ketchup at Jonathan Best. But the mayo won't be Hellman's and the ketchup won't be Heinz's. The mayo will be some organic, high-end variety priced at $6.59 for a 16-ounce jar. The ketchup will be an $8.99, 11-ounce bottle of from Wilkins & Son of the U.K.

The problem, of course, is that a merchant can't make a living selling Heinz ketchup and Hellman's mayonnaise at the RTM: the margins aren't great, the volume too low. To make the rent (which is lower for grocers and purveyors than it is for the lunch stand vendors), a grocer has to do something more. That appears to be where Jonathan Best succeeds. I haven't tried the soups yet, though they look good and plenty of market visitors this week were trying the free samples being ladled out. I did taste one of the spreads (pumpkin), and it would be a perfect nibble with cocktails for the fall season. The chocolate bars (expensive, the cassis-flavored dark bar I purchased was selling at the equivalent of $37/pound) are excellent.

If you prefer to buy your spices jarred rather than in bulk, as at the Spice Terminal, Jonathan Best is for you. They've also got a larger selection of dried pastas than Salumeria. And the selection of fruit jams and preserves expands upon that available at the Spice Terminal.

Still, it would be nice to be able to buy some non-gourmet mayo for my tuna salad or ketchup for my burgers at the market. Maybe even a box of corn flakes I can used for oven-fried chicken!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

 
Celery Time

As Thanksgiving nears, local celery begins to hit area farmers' markets. Here are meter-long samples of red celery found Sunday at Tom Culton's Headhouse Square stall. Soon we'll see blanched celery, which is grown (mostly) under dirt to prevent the stalks from turning green.

Don't limit yourself to raw celery. This red celery, with thin, tough stalks and coarse leaves, is much more suitable for cooking, with a more intense flavor than the common celery. Braised celery (especially the blanched variety) makes an interesting veggie alternative; you can up the interest even more by finishing with some cream. I used the red celery as the major component in a vegetable stock (along with leek, carrrots and a whole head of garlic). Most of that stock is waiting in the freezer, but I used some last night to create an ersatz caldo verde, adding diced carrots, shredded kale and chorizo, but skipping the potato.

Culton recently returned from Slow Food's Salone del Gusto 2008 in Turin, where he was bowled over by everything, but especially the prosciutto produced from a southern Italian breed of goat. Culton hopes to begin raising the breed here. (No doubt Marc Vetri, who travelled to Turin with Tom, would be interested in Culton's animal husbandry.) Because Culton's pulled out his field crops to concentrate on vegetables, he's got the acreage to create room for ruminants to ruminate. Also impressing him was Eataly, the Turin warehouse food emporium inspired by and associated with the Slow Food movement. Culton said the display of various artichokes (a crop he grows here) was as long as the Headhouse shambles.

About that cream . . .

Most of the heavy cream you come across is ultra-pasteurized for a long, stable, boring shelf life. But you can find good, old fashioned regular pasteurized cream, which hasn't been subjected to the flavor-destroying high temperatures necessary for that longevity. It's been a couple of decades since supermarkets sold the regular stuff, but you can find it at Whole Foods and at the Reading Terminal Market (Lancaster County Dairy).

Jonathan Best

The Reading Terminal Market's web site says Jonathan Best, the grocer and soup purveyor, opened this morning.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

 
Iovine Brothers
Re-arranges
Once Again


Hardly a year goes by and Iovine Brothers Produce decides its time to play musical chairs with its Reading Terminal Market displays. It keeps customers and staff on their toes.

The net result of this year's re-arrangement is a much more open feeling. That was achieved by using lower level bins for the first two aisles, mostly containing fruits and featured veggies. The racks of dried fruits, nuts and other items was moved against the window wall along Filbert Street. The standard size display cases form the row between the window wall and the bins. The mushroom refrigerated cases now joins the other coolers along the Filbert Street windows nearest the checkout.

Another facelift could been seen at Harry Ochs, where a new case is home to prepared items (like stuffed flank steaks, stuffed pork chops, pat├ęs, etc.), making more room for raw meat in the main case. The big roast and steak subprimals, however, are now invisible in the walk-in refrigerator.

As of Saturday, Jonathan Best was not yet open, but it appeared that all the cases and shelving was in place, just waiting to be stocked. I would expect they'll make every effort to open in advance of Thanksgiving.

With Rick's Steaks now departed, most of that space now serves as a seating area.

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