Alex passed his Publisher’s Notes duties along to me this month because I am, simply put, obsessed with food. I’ve been looking forward to this issue for months.
Last June, I moved back to Philadelphia—my hometown—after a few years in the wilderness (read: Nashville, TN).
My first weekend in town, I walked to the Fitler Square farmers’ market and amassed an impressive haul—arugula, fresh sweet peas, strawberries, pea shoots. I came home and made a salad, tossing everything together in a plastic mixing bowl with a quickly whipped up lemon-Dijon vinaigrette. I sat down on the couch, bowl nestled in my lap, and ate. Right then, I knew I had made the right decision coming back here.
Because Philly is awesome. For a food-and-beer obsessive like me, this is the Promised Land—a place where you can eat and drink incredibly well, in laid back environs, without breaking the bank. For devotees of exciting, unpretentious food—that you can bike to!—our underrated city can’t be beat.
And, due to the close proximity of some of the country’s best farmland, you can form relationships with—or at least allegiances to—specific growers and producers. It’s a rare day when my fridge doesn’t hold Country Time Farm bacon, Meadow Run eggs and unhomogenized whole milk from Lancaster County’s Natural By Nature Co-op. (My younger brother still finds it creepy that I have to shake the glass jar before pouring).
Then there are the restaurants—even at humble neighborhood bars, you’ll find chefs building beautiful burgers using local grass-fed beef or topping seasonal salads with pungent Pennsylvania cheese. And, all around town, specific farms are earning menu shout-outs. Restaurants wouldn’t be doing that if the information didn’t matter to people here.
And the beer. Oh the beer! The growth of Philly’s food scene can not be divorced from our love of local suds. Go into any place worth its salt and you’re guaranteed at least a couple selections from Philly favorites. (Believe it or not, this is not the case everywhere in America, where you’re often left deciding between Stella Artois and Sam Adams—or maybe a Sierra Nevada if you’re lucky.) Even our baseball stadium carries beers from Sly Fox, Yards, Flying Fish, PBC and other local standouts.
After a year back, there are still moments when I am overcome by the simple pleasures of being here. Sitting at the bar, drinking a Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA at The Sidecar, glancing up to see the Phils in the midst of yet another improbable comeback. Biking home from the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market, green garlic tops bulging out of my messenger bag, carefully avoiding the plethora of potholes in the Spruce Street bike lane. Sitting in Rittenhouse Square with a sandwich and an iced tea, watching this remarkable city unfold in front of me. Like I said, awesome.
As you may have noticed, this issue of Grid is a bit heftier than usual—which is only appropriate, since it’s stuffed with great food. Inside, you’ll find Fair Food’s Local Food Guide 2010, a compilation of listings and information on CSAs, farmers’ markets, restaurants, breweries, specialty producers and more. We are incredibly excited about this partnership. Fair Food are not only our neighbors (Grid’s offices are less than a block from the Farmstand at Reading Terminal), but a kindred organization, dedicated to fostering a more local, sustainable and delicious food system for our region.
As for Grid itself, the theme of this year’s Food Issue is “The Return of the Artisan.” You’ll learn about Michael Dolich’s efforts at Four Worlds Bakery, read about Mitch Prensky’s peculiar pickles at Supper and see pictures of goats (in conjunction with a story about the rise of local, artisanal goat cheese producers). Lastly, Marisa McClellan offers a few tips on becoming your own artisan and debunks myths about the perils of home-canning. There are also recipes, a wonderful essay by Tenaya Darlington (a.k.a. Madame Fromage), and an account of my adventure foraging for mushrooms in the woods with Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op’s irrepressible Casey Spacht.
If you’re hungry by the time you reach the last page, we’ve done our job.