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PHILADELPHIA’S GREEN SCENE – Chefs, Brewers and Farmers Keep it in the Hood

Jordan Wright
August 3, 2011
Special to The Washington Examiner

 

STAYING GREEN

 

Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez at the Four Seasons Hotel rooftop garden - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez at the Four Seasons Hotel rooftop garden - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

The very upscale Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia has hopped on the green bandwagon by building over a dozen raised bed planters on their rooftop garden overlooking Logan Circle.  Spilling over with cute mini-veggies, glorious flowers used in the hotel’s luxe arrangements, and lush with menu-driven herbs like chocolate mint and lemon thyme, the garden-with-a-view uses other green initiatives like beehives and naturally fertilized soil from hotel compost to coddle their plants.

Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez need only zip up to the 8th floor to pluck fresh ingredients for his exquisite cuisine.  The hotel has even enlisted their chief engineer to design a wastewater-recycling program. Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, One Logan Sq.; 215 405-2815; www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia

 

HELLO FARMER!

 

Beck’s Cajun bar at the Redding Terminal - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Beck’s Cajun bar at the Redding Terminal - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

The restored Reading Terminal Market, originally built in 1893 is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmer’s market and a great stop to grab lunch and stock up on everything from Lancaster County Amish pickles and jams, crusty breads and pastries, or crab cakes and smoked meat sandwiches from family-run vendors. Try the spicy gumbo at Beck’s or squeeze in at the counter at Pearl’s Oyster Bar for a dozen of the briny mollusks and a cup of Philly’s favorite snapper soup.  On the same aisle, the Fair Food Farmstand carries cheeses, herbs, grass-fed meats and organic veggies from more than 90 sustainable small-scale farms. 12th and Arch Sts.

Kingfisher Dairy Farm whole raw milk - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Kingfisher Dairy Farm whole raw milk - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

In the West Philly neighborhood, Annie Baum-Stein’s groove-in-the-hood Milk and Honey Market carries Kingfisher Farms raw milk.  Savor a frosty glass of the forbidden liquid here, since you can’t buy it in the DC area where it’s still illegal.  Another local producer Claudio’s provides creamy ricotta, mozzarella and Italian charcuterie, and Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op brings in fresh fruits and veggies weekly.  Made to order sandwiches like the spicy Thai tofu or the Italian caprese panini go down nicely with a Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer. 4425 Baltimore Ave.

Across the street, Roost, a popular chicken place also owned by Baum-Stein, cooks up roasted or fried birds from Grigg’s Town Farm. 4529 Springfield Ave.

From there it’s a pleasant stroll to The Clark Park Market run by The Food Trust.  Open Thursdays from 3-7p.m. and Saturdays from 10-2p.m.  Home baked peanut butter or chocolate whoopee pies share space with glistening berries and heirloom vegetables.  On Thursdays the Guapos Tacos food truck sells duck, pork or vegetarian tacos topped with guacamole and cotija cheese for a leisurely lunch in the park.  43rd St. and Baltimore Ave.

DINING ON LOCAL

 

The communal dining table at Fork - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

The communal dining table at Fork - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

 

The nightly communal table at cookbook author Ellin Yin’s Fork in the bustling Old City, is where chef Terence Feury’s New American bistro cooking might feature the daily catch. Feury, named Philadelphia’s “Best Chef 2010” prepared us a whole wild striped bass with local vegetables.  Serious anglers can take his guided fishing trips once a month to catch their own and learn how to prepare it. 305 Market St.

MidAtlantic Restaurant and Tap Room, in the University City area is where this hip destination resto serves its reinvented local dishes in a rustic slash modern decor.  Chef Daniel Stern, former top toque at Le Bec-Fin, shows off the Pennsylvania Dutch influence with in-house made charcuterie served with exceptional raw cow’s milk cheeses from Chester County’s Birchrun Hills Farm.  Order the Welsh rarebit fondue, perfect for dunking Stern’s version of the Philly hot pretzel, or the crab scrapple with pepper jelly and horseradish emulsion. A rich malted milk chocolate mousse cake is the capper. 3711 Market St.

The Mint Julep at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

The Mint Julep at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

The stylishly dark and intimate Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company doesn’t make loans in this former speakeasy, but it does make exquisite classic cocktails using a Kold-Draft icemaker for perfectly square cubes.  Go for the ‘Serious Misgivings’ Punch – by the cup or bowl – suitable for sharing with fellow connoisseurs; or the ‘Blonde Redhead’ made with cognac, raspberry syrup rosewater and champagne.  Mint juleps appear in a proper silver julep cup, and a concoction called ‘Queen Bitch’, uses Guyanese rum tricked up with Cocchi Americano, Genever gin, blanc vermouth and absinthe. 112 So. 18th St.

JG Domestic - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

JG Domestic - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Tucked into the atrium of the Cira Centre building is the raw wood farmhouse decor of Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant JG Domestic. The design translates into a distinctive juxtaposition to the ultra-contemporary Cesar Pelli-designed skyscraper.  The authentic Americana style, replete with trees and a wall of herbs and greenery, is a harbinger of farm-to-fork cuisine.  Think of it as the East Coast’s version of the French Laundry.  Begin with Iowa popcorn or hickory smoked Georgia pecans.  Continue with cocktails like the Zephyr, made with gin, cucumber, orange cordial.  The dinner menu features a section called “Tonight” with “Whole Animal” defining a dish crafted by using a farm raised animal in its entirety such as roast suckling Pennsylvania lamb, roasted leg and shoulder, crispy confit ribs and braised belly; or the indelibly memorable roast chicken.  The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner is adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. 2929 Arch St.

URBAN GARDENING

 

Volunteers from The Philadelphia Horticultural Society with Tai Chi class in background - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Volunteers from PHS with Tai Chi class - Photo credit Jordan Wright

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has rescued a scraggy lot at 20th and Market Streets in Center City converting it into a temporary paradise of raised-bed gardens featuring educational workshops for inner city kids.   Situated beside Blue Cross Blue Shield’s headquarters the animal topiaries recycled from their famed annual Philadelphia Flower Show put this garden in a special category and reflect a kid-friendly design dynamic. Tai Chi classes and nighttime film screenings share space with arugula and heirloom tomatoes. The program donates veggies to local restaurants to create signature dishes.  Proceeds from the sales of these dishes go to City Harvest, to distribute to the city’s food cupboards.

Marathon Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Marathon Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

It takes more than guts to plant a garden in a sketchy down-at-the-heels neighborhood, it takes drive and sweat equity. This spring Patrick Dunn, formerly of the Emerald Street Urban Farm Project, commandeered the space in the Brewerytown neighborhood to raise crops and keep bees for Marathon’s multiple restaurants.  A pop-up weekend farmers market caters to the locals.  You can keep track of their efforts at www.marathonfarm.com; 27th and Master Sts.

Greensgrow Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Greensgrow Farm - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

In the Kensington section of Philadelphia the laidback vibe at Greensgrow Farm is courtesy of senior citizen and visionary, Mary Seton Corboy.  Founder of the Neighborhood Urban Agriculture Coalition, the pixieish former DC resident, along with a battalion of volunteers, found a vacant lot, like the proverbial phoenix emerging from the ashes, created a California-hip organic gardens plus CSA, nursery and educational workshop. The engaging former political scientist turned farmer, is usually found on site dispensing savvy gardening tips to urban gardeners. 2501 East Cumberland St.; www.greensgrow.org.

LOCAL SUDS

 

Philadelphia Brewing Company - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Philadelphia Brewing Company - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

At the Philadelphia Brewing Company, housed in the 19th C former Weisbrod & Hess Brewery company, enjoy a tour and taste of their Philly-named beers, like Walt Wit, an unfiltered Belgian White-style ale; Harvest from the Hood; and Kensinger, a smooth golden ale.  Named one of the nation’s top five sustainable breweries because they grow their own hops, some from an on-site courtyard garden where you’ll also spot a pedal-powered ‘spaceship’, last year’s entry in the Kinetic Sculpture Derby at the annual East Kensington Arts Fest parade. 2423-2439 Amber St.

 

STROKING YOUR ECO

 

Terrain at Styer’s cafe - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Terrain at Styer’s cafe - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

 

A few miles out of town in Glen Mills, the high end emporium Terrain at Styer’s is a must visit.  The stunning store and garden center, brimming with natural spa products, garden furnishings and hand-carved kitchenware, also houses an adorable café.  Dine on local seasonal delights such as Kennett Square mushroom skillet with fried egg, or cold minty pea soup in a rustic greenhouse dripping with baskets of fuschia and stag horn ferns. 914 Baltimore Pike; www.styers.shopterrain.com

 

GETTING THERE

Via Amtrak from Union Station to the Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is less than 2 hours and around $50.00 each way.  By car it’s a straight shot on I-95 to the Center City exit.

 

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