There’s just one month to go before our annual fundraising event, The Brewer’s Plate, and we’re getting more excited by the minute! Now in its twelfth year, this event has become Philadelphia’s premier local beverage and food tasting festival, showcasing our region’s finest chefs, farmers, food artisans, brewers, distillers, and winemakers. Each year, we’re amazed to see so much local talent all in one place, and we look forward to nerding out with fellow food lovers from near and far.
One thing that makes The Brewer’s Plate unique is its focus on pairings. We spend weeks (sometimes months) playing matchmaker with restaurants/artisans/food producers and brewers/distillers/winemakers, dreaming up exciting and unexpected mates. Here are a few of this year’s match-ups:
To wet your appetite even more, this year we’re introducing a new “VIP Plus” pre-festival event, in which Victory Brewing Company’s Founder, Bill Covaleski, and visiting guest brewer, Zach Bodah of Allagash Brewing Company, will collaborate with chefs from the Garces Group to create exclusive pairings. VIP Plus ticket holders will be invited to an intimate face-off between the brewers two hours before general admission. Regular VIP ticket holders will arrive one hour before general admission to beat the crowds.
Thanks to our 2016 Brewer’s Plate sponsors:
Did all that snow shoveling leave you with chapped lips and sandpapery skin? Are you fighting off the beginnings of a pesky cold? The solution just might be hiding in your pantry (or at the Farmstand).
To treat and prevent dry or sensitive skin, try Stinky Girl‘s all-natural deodorants, body oils, and hair powders, handcrafted by Food & Ferments co-owner Carly Dougherty and fully stocked at the ‘stand. Oma Herbal Teas, a recent addition to our value-added section, are also handy for melting away stress and the winter blues, boosting your immune system, and keeping you warm on frigid nights. But these aren’t the only natural soothers you can get at the market. Here are five common (and locally grown/produced) foods that boast surprising benefits for your health and skin.
Unlike the airborne pollen that causes sneeze attacks in spring and summer, bee pollen—the yellow granules packed and transported by honeybees back to their hives—is one of nature’s most nourishing foods. It is an excellent source of protein, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and has been shown to increase energy levels, reduce inflammation, treat allergies, aid in digestion, support heart health, and boost the immune system. Due to its potency, bee pollen should be taken in small doses, starting at 1 teaspoon and working up to a maximum of 1 tablespoon per day for adults. Take it straight or add it to smoothies, parfaits, porridge, and even salad dressings. (And for fun, here’s a quick interview with our bee pollen vendor Bob’s Buzzy Bees, via Zone 7.)
BUTTERMILK & WHOLE MILK
It is said that Cleopatra bathed in milk to keep her skin extra-soft, and as it turns out, this beauty trend still holds weight today. The lactic acid contained in milk can help clear age spots, reduce the appearance of minor scars, soothe skin irritation, and work as a natural moisturizer and exfoliant. And it’s a great remedy for dry and tangled hair, too. Add 2 cups of buttermilk or whole milk and 3 tablespoons of honey to your next hot bath for a luxurious, restorative soak. Or swap out your daily face cleanser for a few tablespoons of whole milk or buttermilk, which will remove excess oil and makeup without drying out your skin.
There’s a reason garlic is used prolifically in almost every cuisine throughout the world. In addition to its pungent flavor, this member of the lily family also offers a plethora of health benefits. Garlic has been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure; regulate blood sugar levels; fight fungal, viral, and bacterial infections; prevent and treat symptoms of colds and the flu; boost the immune system; and even reduce the risk of certain cancers. Munch on a clove or two daily or sip on some garlic tea when you feel a cold coming on. Treat skin irritations by rubbing raw garlic or garlic oil on the affected areas. Or simply add more garlic in your weekly cooking routine to reap the health benefits of this common ingredient.
Sure, we all know tea with honey works wonders on a sore throat, but that’s just one of the many reasons you should always keep a jar of liquid gold in your pantry. Honey has been known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties since ancient times, and it has been said to help ease allergies, suppress coughs, promote memory retention and brain health, improve the quality of sleep, and treat and disinfect burns, wounds, and other skin irritations. And it also makes a fantastic moisturizer for cracked, winter skin. Whip up a batch of honey cough syrup to get you through cold season, and try this skin salve recipe to treat topical irritations.
What do sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir have in common? They’re all packed with probiotics—microorganisms (“good bacteria”) that help boost overall health and treat/prevent all sorts of ailments. Most notably, when you ingest probiotics, the good bacteria crowds the bad bacteria out of your gut, aiding in digestion and resulting in other benefits like increased immunity to infection, improved brain function, and better cholesterol regulation.
When you make a donation to Fair Food, you deepen your commitment to the local food system by helping create opportunities for small and medium farms to sell wholesale to the local markets and restaurants that you love.
Happy Moo Year!
Every day, your food choices impact our local food system. Thank you for shopping for fresh ingredients at the Fair Food Farmstand and farmers’ markets, and for taking the time to support restaurants that do the same.
By making a donation to Fair Food, you deepen your commitment to the local food system by helping create opportunities for small and medium farms to sell wholesale to the local markets and restaurants that you love.
Even when chefs and food service directors see the value and cachet of local ingredients, they may not have the ability to source locally due to delivery logistics, a lack of knowledge of appropriate producers, a misconception about price, or space constraints, among other challenges.
This is where Fair Food’s deep knowledge of the farming and restaurant communities comes into play. We work within the complex local food system to help solve dynamic problems and bring more local food to the marketplace.
Eggs are the unsung heroes of the holiday season. They make our cakes rise, our custards thicken, and our pancakes puff. They transform plain old bread slices into decadent breakfasts and desserts, and they cook up in minutes to feed hordes of overnight guests. Isn’t it time we gave them the respect they deserve?
Though it may be tempting to grab that $1.99 carton of conventional grocery store eggs for your upcoming baking exploits, first take a minute to think about how they were produced. Just like beef, pork, and other animal products, the quality of an egg is closely related to the quality of life enjoyed by the animal it came from. Pastured eggs contain the most nutrients, cage-free eggs are slightly less nutritious, and conventional eggs are the least nutritious of the bunch.
Here are five frequently asked questions that will help you become a more thoughtful egg buyer this year, as well as ten eggy recipes to try during the holidays and beyond:
Are brown eggs more nutritious than white or blue eggs?
Nope. The only real difference between brown and white eggs—or any other colored egg, for that matter—is the breed of the hen who laid them. For instance, Leghorn hens lay white eggs, Buff Orpington and Black Star hens lay brown eggs, and Ameraucana hens lay bluish-green eggs. The nutritional value of the eggs is determined by what the birds eat and how they are raised (see below).
What’s the difference between cage-free and pastured eggs?
Cage-free eggs come from hens that are allowed to roam in large barns but generally do not have access to the outdoors. Pastured eggs come from hens that are raised outside on pasture, where they can roam and forage for bugs and natural vegetation. Compared to conventional eggs, which come from hens that are kept in cramped cages, both cage-free and pastured eggs are considerably more nutritious and more humane. However, pastured eggs have the most nutritional benefits of the three, since the hens that lay them enjoy the most natural diet.
How do duck eggs compare with chicken eggs?
On average, duck eggs are about 50% larger than standard chicken eggs, and they range in color from nearly black to grayish blue and creamy white. They have larger yolks than chicken eggs, which translates to a higher fat content and richer, eggier flavor. You can use duck eggs in place of chicken eggs in cooking and baking, 1:1, though the higher fat content in duck eggs will make baked goods rise slightly higher and taste slightly denser.
Why are pastured eggs more expensive than cage-free eggs?
It takes a lot more work to raise chickens on pasture. Unlike cage-free hens that are kept in a barn, pastured hens have to be moved from one foraging area to the next to keep the pasture growing and ensure that the birds will have plenty to eat. Plus, most farmers who raise their hens on pasture invest in more expensive, organic feed to supplement the bugs and grasses the hens scavenge outside. And finally, pastured hens lay fewer eggs than cage-free hens do, since more of their energy is spent on roaming free. (For more information on the price of eggs, check out this great article in Lucky Peach.)
Is there a way to determine the freshness of eggs?
All eggs should be marked with a sell-by date and Julian Date, which will help you determine their freshness. The sell-by date indicates how long they are fresh enough to sell, and the first three numbers of the Julian Date—from 001 to 365—indicate when the eggs were packed. (For instance, if the Julian Date on an egg carton starts with the numbers 032, you’ll know that the eggs inside were packed on February 1st of the current year.) Generally, eggs will keep for up to 5 weeks after the Julian Date and up to 3 weeks after the sell-by date. If you can’t find either date on your carton of eggs, try the float test: Fill a bowl with cold water, then gently drop in the eggs. If they sink to the bottom and lay on their sides, they’re perfectly fresh. If they stand on one end, they’re a few weeks old (especially great for hard-boiling!). And if they float to the surface, it’s best to toss them out.
Ready to eggspand your horizons? Here are a few egg-centric recipes to try this holiday season:
I have been a proud supporter of Fair Food since its early days in 2000. Because Fair Food champions foods with integrity for all Delaware consumers, I immediately saw the benefit of their work. It’s a bit selfish, really: my wife and I want to provide the best and most nutritious food for our family today and into the future, and Fair Food is integral to this happening in our region.
Farmers and local producers are sometimes the underdogs, like craft brewers were in their early days. Fair Food increases opportunities for them to be viable businesses and also puts a spotlight on their hard work. Restaurants and brewers benefit, too–because Fair Food’s connections to local farmers allow them to participate in our bountiful local food system.
Whether it’s at the Fair Food Farmstand, Philly Farm and Food Fest, or The Brewer’s Plate (my personal favorite–I started it with Fair Food in 2003!), Fair Food showcases the quality and integrity of the food so that the consumer can make informed decisions about what they eat.
Did you know that Fair Food doesn’t charge a fee to offer this valuable advocacy and connection-building to farmers or to restaurants? This is a grassroots organization that needs support from the people who care about where their food comes from.
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
5 Rules for Crafting an Epic Cheese Plate
Want to be a cheese plate hero this holiday season? Follow these five guidelines for guaranteed success, and head to the Farmstand for the perfect selection of locally made, farmstead cheese. Right now, our goat and sheep’s milk cheeses are especially flavorful (don’t miss Roundtop Farm’s Sheep Camembert, Meadowset Farm’s Summer Blues, and Yellow Springs Farm’s Cloud Nine and Nutcracker). And of course we’re always well stocked with crowd-pleasing favorites, like Valley Milkhouse’s Thistle (our region’s only raw brie-style cheese); Clover Creek’s Mature Aged Cheddar; Birchrun Hills Farm’s Blue and Fat Cat; Doe Run’s St. Malachi and Seven Sisters; and much, much more.
Mix it up
Whether your cheese plate is for finicky eaters or adventurous gourmands, always choose a variety of flavors, textures, and styles. At the very least, include one soft cheese (brie, chèvre, camembert), one firm cheese (Cheddar, Gouda, gruyere, Parmesan), and one blue cheese (gorgonzola, stilton, Roquefort). Or go by animal, with one cow’s milk, one goat’s milk, and one sheep’s milk. If your guests are more adventurous cheese lovers, explore the stinkier side of the cheese case, adding a Taleggio-esque hunk (like Keswick’s Talegginator), some limburger, or a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese like Doe Run’s Bathed in Victory or Birchrun Hills Farm’s Red Cat.
Have just the right amount
Generally, you should limit your selection to 5 cheeses or fewer, and plan for 3 to 4 ounces per guest. Too many cheeses can overwhelm the palate and make for a cluttered display.
All cheeses are made with the same four basic ingredients—milk, cultures, coagulant, and salt—and the myriad resulting flavors and textures are a study in nuances. So, while you might be tempted to slather your cheeses with homemade preserves, infused honey, and other accoutrements, remember that the purpose of a cheese plate is to let the cheeses shine. Dial it back to some sliced baguette, a small bowl of olives or cornichons, and another small bowl of mustard, honey, or fruit spread, making sure to choose accompaniments that will complement each of the cheeses on your plate.
Label each cheese
Unless you’d like to spend the evening repeating the same tasting notes over and over again, make name tags for each of your cheeses, along with a few descriptive words. For instance, “Hickory on the Hill from The Farm at Doe Run / Coffee-washed, Apline-style, raw cow’s milk.”
Give it a rest
Yes, all cheeses will last longer when stored in the fridge, but their flavors and textures are best at room temperature. Let your cheeses rest on the kitchen counter for about 1 hour before serving.
Farmer and Cheesemaker, Birchrun Hills Farm (Chester Springs, PA)
We started Birchrun Hills Farm in 1990 with 85 dairy cows on 54 acres. For the first decade and a half we made our living just as most dairy farmers do, by selling our milk on the commodity milk market. In 2006, we decided to add value to our milk by making farmstead cheese. Making farmstead cheese means the farmer is responsible for caring for the animals, milking the animals, making the cheese, caring for the cheese during the aging process, and marketing the cheese. This meant that, in addition to the rigorous day-to-day routine of running our farm, we now had to learn how to make the cheese and care for it during the aging process. We had very little time and money to market our new product because of the travel, time constraints, and extra costs of leaving the farm. This is where the relationship between Fair Food and Birchrun Hills Farm has been paramount to our growing success.
Fair Food’s focus on connecting farmers and cheesemakers with consumers, chefs, and specialty shops in Philadelphia allowed us to refocus our energy where it needs to be – on our farm. By spending less time on direct sales and marketing, we can increase our overall production to accommodate the increase in demand. Ultimately, this leads to a more financially healthy farm whose sustainability encourages my son (and future generations!) to continue farming in the Delaware Valley.
Fair Food’s networking expertise is an invaluable service to us as well as to all the farmers, cheesemakers, and food artisans in our region. Did you know that Fair Food offers their services at no cost to farmers and buyers?
Please join me in helping Fair Food bring locally produced food to the marketplace and promote a humane, sustainable agriculture system for the Greater Philadelphia region.
With your help we can ensure that local food producers always have fair access to the Philadelphia marketplace.
While the bird may steal the spotlight at most Thanksgiving feasts, at Fair Food, we’re just as excited about sides, desserts, and trimmings– where fall produce shines in all its jewel-toned glory. Beat the crowds and swing by the ‘stand this weekend to stock up on ingredients for next week’s big event. From flour, dairy, and eggs, to mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, we’ve got everything you need to craft the perfect, locally sourced meal.
In case you’re still in the planning stages, here’s a round-up of recipes for sides, desserts, and other trimmings get you started:
Starters & Soups
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
To some, Thanksgiving might seem far away, but if you’re the one hosting (or if you’ve been tasked with preparing a large portion of the meal), these next few weeks will zip by in no time. Good thing the Fair Food Farmstand’s got your back. The ‘stand is brimming with all the fresh vegetables, flours, dairy products, and cheeses you’ll need. And with four different naturally raised turkeys and a variety of specialty birds available for pre-order, along with fresh breads and desserts, ice cream, and even oysters, we’re here to ensure that your Thanksgiving is a delicious, locally sourced success. Click here to pre-order your turkey and treats today!
Here’s a handy schedule to help you plan ahead and prevent a holiday meltdown:
2 to 3 weeks before:
1 week before:
2 to 3 days before:
The day before: