Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Clark Park Farmers' Market

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appétit's blog staff. On Saturday, September 15, Penn Appétit bloggers explored the nearby Clark Park Farmers' Market at Clark Park (43rd and Baltimore).

Elvina Yau: I’ve heard plenty of hype about the Clark Park Farmers' Market before coming to Penn, so when the opportunity to check it out finally arose, I felt compelled to go! As an avid foodie and lover of fresh and organic items, visiting the farmers' market was nothing short of divine. I snapped photos like a madwoman and was enraptured by the plump fruits, the twisty hot peppers, the vivid floral arrangements, and the decadent chocolates. It was a lovely experience to drink in the sights of the array of comestibles, meet the vendors, and learn more about how they make the transfer of their goods from farm to table. I ultimately ended up making a sole purchase: a jar of scrumptious apple butter. Upon the insistence of the seller himself, I grabbed a spoon and ate straight out of the container. Tasting the concentrated flavor and natural sweetness of the apples was definitely life-changing. I can say for sure that I’ll be a chronic visitor to Clark Park on Saturdays!

Nicole Woon: The heady perfume of freshly-picked flowers wafts through the air. Rosy sun-kissed apples—including Honeycrisp, my favorite variety—spill out of wooden crates. Spacious straw baskets hold various breeds of voluptuous mushrooms. Long queues trail from food trucks and carts lined up along Chester Avenue. This is the Clark Park Farmers' Market in its prime, which just happens to be every Saturday throughout the year. The local market is the perfect location to stock up on farm-fresh produce and just-made baked goods. On this visit, I dove into a plump loaf of cheddar cheese bread accented with hints of cayenne from Lancaster-based Slow Rise Bakery. While the bread could have used the addition of more cheddar, it still had a delectable crumb and soft interior. I also sampled Slow Rise's satisfyingly-crunchy pretzels and became an instant fan; these will surely be on my shopping list next time around. Slow Rise offers a whole host of organic baked delicacies, from classic seven grain loaves to sourdough banana bread, brownies to dog biscuits. Be sure to give them a try next time you swing by the farmers' market.

Chacha Wang: Today was the first outing of the Penn Appétit bloggers and what a start! We headed to the University City District Clark Park Farmers' Market, definitely one of the hidden gems of West Philly. Just a short stroll of ~15 min away from campus, the market boasts over a dozen vendors and is one of the largest in the city. Starting at the front were mouthwatering bakery booths that showcased everything from cookies and pies to freshly baked bread. It was really difficult to contain myself from wanting to linger by those tables forever, so I had to quickly devour the goodies with my eyes and move on. Then came booths filled with fresh, crisp organic vegetables and fruit that looked so good, they were almost as irresistible as the buttery baked goods. Eden Garden Farm is heaven for apple lovers: there's apple cider, fresh apples, apple butter (which is especially good! I was bombarded with compliments about it from random shoppers), you name it. Other miscellaneous goodness included Little Baby's ice cream, organic meat, drool-worthy food trucks, and a very unique chocolate booth called John & Kira's. Personally I've never seen such intriguing and delicate-looking chocolates: there are at least 15 flavors like pistachio, lemongrass, honey, and fruit. What's even cooler is that the fruit chocolates actually look like miniature versions of the real fruit themselves. Check them out at John & Kira's website!

Laura Sluyter: Being the fruit fanatic I am, I've always been a fan of farmers' markets. While I was in California this summer, however, I fell in love. Thus, I was very excited that the first Penn Appetit outing of the summer was to the Clark Park Farmers' Market. The market was full of activity and had a good variety of fruit and vegetable stands as well as a couple bakeries, some food trucks, and a little ice cream stand. In no time, I had happily accumulated a couple vegetables, quite a few delicious fall apples and the last of the summer peaches (so sad to see them go). I was also tempted by a carrot loaf and a four seed cookie from the Special Rise Bakery. The bakery's focus on wholesome food was apparent in both treats. The cookie was just slightly sweet with a great chewy texture. Accented with a sprinkling of chocolate chips, it made a great midday snack. The bread was similarly delicious. Like the cookie, it was not too sweet with a fairly dense wholegrain texture.

Dylan Sun: There is something to be said for good frosting. But first, a little bit of semantics. Though there is an adage which refers to the “icing on the cake,” cakes are much more often slathered with frosting. Some maintain that the two are basically interchangeable, but I believe frosting is creamier on the tongue and more matte in appearance, generally with a higher proportion of (butter) fat to sugar. Regardless of the terminology, however, a good frosting is difficult to come by. Supermarket varieties certainly do not cut it for me; I always bear the brunt of a hundred disbelieving eyes when I scrape the stiflingly sweet varnish off my cake. Good buttercreams often elude me in the kitchen as well, chunks of unmixed butter marring what should be a perfectly smooth affair. Last weekend, however, I finally found my perfect frosting at the Farmer's Market at 41st and Baltimore. I was immediately drawn to the pastry tent. Being from only an hour and a half away in New Jersey, I've always associated this region with honest, uncluttered baked goods, worlds away from the manicured eats one might find at a high-end New York shop. I got exactly what I was searching for. For only a dollar, I nabbed a whoopie pie, created in what I hoped was fine Amish tradition. Chocolate cake and peanut butter icing. One bite was enough to convince me never to scrape the frosting off anything sold to me by anyone wearing a wide-brimmed hat. The cake was certainly stellar, but the frosting took center stage. It was smooth and rich, but definitely not too sweet. The texture was fluffy, but it was strong enough to stay unrefrigerated on the warm fall day. This is the frosting that everyone should be making. Perhaps I should forgo my electric mixer the next time I try my hand at frosting and simply wait for the butter to soften properly. I was relieved, frankly, that I had attained my frosting nirvana in such an unpretentious environment. Sitting on the grass in the warm sun, there was absolutely nothing stopping me from licking the last bit of frosting from the wrapper.

Alina Grabowski: If I had to make a list of my top five favorite things, farmers markets would claim one of the coveted spots (following desserts and campfires). So when I got the e-mail from Penn Appétit about heading to the Clark Park Farmers’ Market, there was no question about whether or not I would go. I was not disappointed. In comparison to my local farmer’s market, which takes place in the parking lot of our commuter rail station and features a handful of vendors, the Clark Park market was a sprawling oasis of locally sourced goods. Everything from glass jars of amber honey to neat rows of hand-drizzled truffles could be found tucked beneath the white tents. I was particularly fascinated by a table lined with crates of apples with familiar names, like Granny Smith and Gala, and unfamiliar ones, like Jonagold and Honeycrisp. I bought two Honeycrisps because of a recommendation by one of the blog editors and its marbled red-green skin. It would not be an overstatement to say that they were the most delicious apples I have ever eaten (and this is coming from a picky apple-eater who can spend hours browsing produce). The Honeycrisps had a satisfying crunch while also being remarkably juicy (I think I sprayed a fellow blogger with my enthusiastic chomps). I’ll be returning to the farmer’s market, and this time I’ll be sure to buy more than two Honeycrisps.

Farrel Levenson: After a few weeks of sourcing my food from dining halls and corporate conglomerates (i.e the “Fresh” Grocer), I found it easy to forget that food couldoccasionally be both fresh and natural. Processed and packaged were common themes in my diet. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that on a bright and sunny September day, I found myself utterly enchanted by the array of brightly colored stalls at the Clark Park Farmers’ Market. Real fresh fruits, homemade baked goods, and organic chocolate free samples welcomed me; the vendors could name the very town their goods came from. I was charmed by the Amish vendors in traditional garb- a shy young boy in conservative dress was quite the adorable salesman. The uniqueness of many of the goods intrigued me- goat milk caramel pudding and corn-and-blueberry bread aren’t your typical grocery store fare. Browsing through the market was an exciting and fun experience, except for when I had to choose which delectable goods I had to forgo.However, my enjoyment didn’t end when I left the market. A day later, a bite of a plump Honeycrisp apple and a sip of fresh apple cider brought me back to days of apple picking with my family. For a second, I was back outside among fallen golden-colored leaves, a brisk wind blowing through my hair, rather than inside my stuffy airless apartment. Even better was later that day, when I treated myself to Amish-made pecan-raisin sticky bun. Sugar-sweetness and warm dough mingled in my mouth while I marveled at the ability of people from such a foreign culture to bake such an incredible good from scratch, and the comforting aroma reminded me of dozens of bakery trips past. The nostalgic power of food never fails to astound me, and the Farmers’ Market fare was no exception.

Lauri Bonacorsi: I was so anxious to visit the Clark Park farmers market this past weekend as my first Penn Appetit outing, and my high hopes were certainly upheld. When we arrived, Roopa, Evie and I decided to survey of all the booths before making our purchases. It felt like the same routine when we eat at 1920 Commons, but of course the food and ambience are significantly less exciting in the dining halls:). After marveling over an impressive array of sweets, fresh fruits and veggies, spreads, and sandwiches, we finally made up our minds. For lunch, I tried "The Joy" sandwich from a food truck called "YumTown," consisting of beer braised pulled pork, BBQ sauce, sesame slaw, jalapenos, and aioli on a challah bun. It was my first food truck experience, and didn't disappoint! The pulled pork reminded me a bit of my dads special BBQ back at home (in my family's humble opinion, he is the best at barbecue), and the toasted challah bun was buttery and flaky... perfect. In addition to the sandwich, Roopa and I bought a some pumpkin butter and a couple loaves of fresh bread to take back home - zucchini and pumpkin! Pumpkin ranks high on my favorite food list, and anyone who knows me knows that I will eat it in just about anything. We tried the breads Sunday night during a spontaneous study "break," that really turned into the end of our studying for the evening. The bread was delicious and moist, and the pumpkin butter was light and sweet. Bring on the fall season!!

Katelyn Behrman: Host to crisp apples, luscious peaches, juicy tomatoes, and delicate desserts, the Clark Park Farmer’s Market springs to life each Thursday and Saturday. I delighted in walking up and down the park, peering at the food choices, and engaging in conversation with the farmers. Each stand offered delicious items—cheese, produce, desserts, or juice—all of which were fresh, and most of which were organic. I made a rather eclectic purchase--three apples, three peaches, a handful of green beans, one potato, a pint of apple cider, and a loaf of pumpkin bread. All of these items proved equally as delicious as the rest. The farmers’ pleasant attitudes added to my enjoyment—they explained the difference in apples, helped me pick out peaches, and even explained how to properly bake my potato! So, if you’re looking to leave the “Penn Bubble,” looking for edible produce, or looking for yummy bakery items, I hope that you spend your next Saturday morning strolling through the greenery of Clark Park.

Picnicking bloggers after a bountiful farmers' market trip!

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