Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philly Farm and Food Fest: Part II

Part II of our recap of Philly Farm and Food Fest. Check out Part I here.

After being directed to three different entrances to the Convention Center, I finally found my way to The Philly Farm and Food Festival. From its entrance, I was not disappointed, as I was greeted by representatives from food trusts, wild foodies, as well as free samples from Whole Foods and Chipotle. Interestingly, while the festival did focus on local and artisan producers, Whole Foods and Chipotle were not the only venders likely familiar to the average Philadelphian: CapoGiro, Metropolitan Bakery, John and Kira’s, and even Fresh Grocer had booths at the festival. Much of the festival featured booths dedicated to promoting CSAs and explaining the importance of local sourcing, and almost every food vender sourced both locally and organically.

As a regular at multiple farmers markets throughout the city, I recognized other stands as well, but I resisted my usuals in order to sample new foods. The array of items was wide: Golden Valley Farmers Coffee Roaster was present with a variety of organic roasts, sweets were abundant, cured meats were plentiful, and the aroma of not-stinky-but-luscious-smelling cheese was quite literally everywhere (mostly of the aged cheddars and feta variety). The festival even included some unusual additions, such as organic natural soaps and cleaning supplies, and a vendor dedicated to wild salmon.

Locavore-praised restaurants Nomad Pizza and Russet were both represented as well. Nomad Pizza gave out samples of “sandwiches” that were a huge hit: two thinly sliced roasted potatoes with fresh parmesan, eggplant, and basil in between, all topped with a house-made honey vinaigrette. Russet gave out samples of homemade vegan- and pork-stuffed mushrooms; neither disappointed.

Subarashii Kudamono Gourmet Asian Pears brought along with them an odd array of pear products: dried pears, pear honey, and a sweet and sticky pear spread. Tait Farm Foods had a unique line of spreads, including cranberry mustard, ginger peach chutney, and fig and olive relish. All of the spread flavors all come in what the representatives term “shrub,” which is a fruit liquid concentrate best used in mixed drinks and cooking.

By far, the most intriguing and unusual items at the festival were FreshaPeel Hummus’ flavors, which include garlic kale, horseradish, jalapeño lime, spicy black bean, lemon kale, tomato basil, and red bell pepper. As if those aren’t unique enough, they also make chocolate dessert and pumpkin dessert varieties; co-founder Deborah Mitchell tells me they are the only place in Pennsylvania to produce dessert hummuses (can’t say I am surprised!). While the combination of pumpkin and chickpeas may sound odd, the texture was pleasantly creamy and the flavor not too sweet (the pumpkin was certainly calmed by the neutral flavor of the chickpeas). FreshaPeel Hummus is sold at local Whole Foods stores, and it is definitely worth a try--if for no other reason than intrigue. Deborah gave me a special taste of the kalamata olive hummus, which is a new flavor to be released this summer.

The longest line at the festival was undoubtably for Little Baby’s Ice Cream. The flavors offered were intriguing: early grey siracha, cardamom caramel, bourbon bourbon vanilla, blue bottle coffee toffee, and peanut butter maple tarragon (I am told they have also offer have a variety of other interesting flavors not featured at the festival). As explained to me by co-owner product manager Martin Brown, all of Little Baby’s ice cream is considered super premium, meaning it contains 16% butter fat or more and is sourced from organic dairy in Franklin County. They currently have a scoop shop in Fishtown, PA, and their products are available in a variety of groceries; they even have carts throughout the city. Their story is even more fun, as the venture is less than a year old and began in a cycle cart; production could not keep up, and they soon expanded to the Fishtown scoop shop. After hearing all about the ice cream, I could not wait to try it. As per Martin’s recommendation, I opted for the cardamom caramel, which was the perfect mixture of sweet and creamy, and the oddity of flavoring ice cream with such a distinguished flavor as cardamom meant perfection.

If you’re looking to try some of these fun items yourselves, most of the venders are regulars at locavore Philadelphia markets. Many are present at farmers markets throughout the city, including Rittenhouse and Clark Park (both of which are near to campus). At least half of the producers sell their products at Reading Terminal Market, and a good number of them also ensured me they sell their products at local Whole Foods markets.

Before leaving, I was sure to stop to pick up some free locally grown apples and bananas; I also purchased some dark green and scrumptious-looking spinach. I declared the day a calorie free food adventure, in an effort to sample and enjoy as much as I possibly could. Needless to say, I left full and satisfied, and while I had declared it a calorie free fun day, I opted to walk back from the festival. After all, the festival felt like a preview of summer farmers markets to come, and there is no better way to end an outing at a summer farmers market than a walk in the sunshine (while burning off all that ice cream, too).

--Chelsea Goldinger

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