Category Archives: Local

Drink Local: The Best Hard Ciders

The Best Ciders | The Fresh Day

It seems crazy that I haven’t written about cider yet. If you know me in person, you know I can talk for hours about it. This fall, I’ve spent my weekends volunteering at my favorite cidery, fermenting my own, and, of course, drinking the stuff. When I speak of cider, I mean dry, sparkling, hard cider – nothing too sweet. A good hard cider should be reminiscent of a sparkling white wine or a sour beer, not apple juice. Cider is naturally gluten-free and one of healthiest forms of alcohol, with antioxidant levels the same as red wine. But the taste alone is enough to make it your new favorite drink. My personal mission is to spread the word of real cider; to crowd out what’s syrupy sweet and replace it with the good stuff.

Once upon a time, hard cider was America’s most popular drink. President John Adams was known to drink a tankard every single morning of his life. Ben Franklin was quoted saying, “It’s indeed bad to eat apples, it’s better to turn them all into cider.” But when prohibition came around, the apple trees died out. And once it was repealed, it was far easier and cheaper to start making beer using grain. So just like that, cider fell from popularity. Only recently is it making a resurgence, but unfortunately, most ciders on the market are far from what our forefathers drank. Instead of the real thing, you’ll find apple concentrate and high fructose corn syrup.

I highly recommend you stay away from those impostors.

But I’m not writing to tell you what not to drink – I want to share the good ones! With Pennsylvania being a huge apple producer, some of my favorite ciders are made locally. Here’s my top picks:

Frecon’s Cidery

What seemed like an innocent purchase at Headhouse Square Farmer’s Market has seriously changed my life for the better. Frecon Cider is what opened my eyes to what cider can and should be. Frecon comes from a family-owned fruit farm in Boyerstown, PA that devised an ingenious use for their extra apples. They have three main ciders and a few special releases, all in the range of 6-10% alcohol. They are very dry, complex, funky, with a slight taste of apples. Their Farmhouse Sour might be my all-time favorite. If you’re a craft beer lover (and particularly sour beers), these are the ciders to chose.

Find them at their store in Boyerstown, the Foodery at 17th and Sansom, or at Philadelphia area farmer’s markets during the season.

Jack’s Hard Cider (Original)

Jack’s Original Hard Cider is my go-to when drinking a few. If everyone else is drinking beer at a party, you’ll find me with a can of Jack’s in hand. Jack’s is dry, clean, and crisp, with effervescence that will remind you of a champagne. One of my the best things about Jack’s is that somehow, the 12 oz can contains 5.5% alcohol and only 100 calories. Lighter than most light beers, but way more delicious. Jack’s is made at Hauser Estate Winery in Biglerville, PA, a partially solar-powered, eco-conscious facility.

You can pick up Jack’s at stores throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia – including local Philadelphia distributors and Wegmans.

Commonwealth Ciders

If you live in Philadelphia, you’re probably familiar with Philadelphia Brewing Company. They make great beer, and now, great cider. I thank them for that. Commonwealth’s three ciders include Traditional Dry, Razzberet Tart, and Gregarious Ginger. The Razzberet is sharp and fruity, without being sweet. The Ginger is super spicy and incredibly satisfying, boasting only 1 gram of sugar. To put that into perspective, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple contains a cloying 23 grams.

You can find Commonwealth the same place you find Kenzinger – at the PBC Brewery in Kensington and most distributors throughout Pennsylvania.

I’m constantly seeking out new ciders and learning all I can. There’s no doubt you will hear more about my adventures on the farm and in fermentation. And if you want to know what I’m drinking in the meantime, you can find me on Untappd (@risanicole) racking up those Johnny Appleseed badges.

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A Day at the Yogi’s Table

It’s hard to think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than with an hour-long yoga class and a delicious, healthy chef-prepared meal. Conveniently, that is the very experience Onna Hepner and Stacia Nero put together for their guests at the Yogi’s Table.

A Day at the Yogi's Table | The Fresh Day

This past weekend, I had to pleasure of attending the Yogi’s Table, a yoga and dining event series recently featured on Be Well Philly. I was pumped to be a part of the experience, and to represent my CSA, Philly Foodworks, who provided local produce and products that were featured in the brunch prepared by Onna.

The event was hosted in the studio space of Full & Happy, a small supper club and cooking school Onna formed after years of working as a chef and food stylist. She transformed the apartment below her own into an enchanting yet functional space where the Yogi’s Table events have been happening monthly since May. Scheduled around brunch or dinner, the event starts with a challenging yet relaxing yoga session from Stacia, who is also an instructor at several studios in the city. As the class comes to an end, Stacia brings in freshly made green juice from the kitchen. The room is then transformed from yoga studio to dining room, thanks to some ingenious homemade portable furniture. The meal begins with a brief cooking demonstration, and Onna is enthusiastic about including some education in the experience. She told our group about the wonders of farro and barley – grains that are virtually foolproof and impossible to overcook (but note, they do contain gluten). Onna was careful to ask about food allergies up front, and the meal included options that suited us all.

Yogi's Table | The Fresh Day

Once we sat down at the table, we were joined by Onna, Stacia, and Onna’s assistant (who also happens to be her mother). The atmosphere was like a family meal – casual, comfortable, and conversational.

“I want people to leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and like they just did something great for themselves” Onna said,  “I also want them to learn something – about cooking, about food, about yoga, about themselves. We also love the idea of bringing eight strangers together for a really special experience- who knows who you might meet or where the conversation will lead?”

I have to say, Onna achieved exactly what she set out to do. The Yogi’s Table is a uniquely enjoyable experience, and a moment in time that allowed me to focus on my own well-being.

Email onna@fullandhappy.com for more details, or visit the website. Tickets are $50, which includes the hour-long yoga class and the meal.

Upcoming classes are:
Thursday, December 11th 6:30 pm (there’s only two spaces left for this date!)
Thursday, January 8th at 6:30 pm
Thursday, February 5th at 6:30 pm

Heritage Farm: Providing More than Produce

Heritage Farm is one of the largest urban farms in Philadelphia. You’ll find their produce at the farmer’s market, in your CSA, and at your favorite restaurants (hey, Russet). All pesticide-free, organically grown vegetables, fruit, and mushrooms. They even run their own compost on-site.

Heritage Farm

This week, I spoke to Adrian Galbraith-Paul, one of two farmers there. What I learned was how impressive Heritage Farm truly is, not just for it’s size and admirable practices, but for its role in the community and helping people rebuild their lives.

The farm is located on the campus of the Methodist Home for Children, a nonprofit that “provides life enriching services to children, adults and families as they face the challenges of limited resources, increased poverty and homelessness, disability, deficits in education and behavioral health services.” These services include housing, child care, education programs and more. The campus is home to many young women who age out of foster care, single mothers, and their children. Not to mention, a beautiful, bountiful three acre urban farm.

The huge variety of produce grown there includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, kale, collards, swiss chard, baby greens, and cucamelons. Thirty percent of this produce is donated directly to the Methodist Home for Children, where residents have the opportunity to learn about nutrition and how to cook the fresh food they receive. Heritage Farm also provides jobs to residents. “For many of them, it is their first job,” said Adrian. In addition to the skills it takes to run a farm, “they learn responsibility.”

Heritage Farm

I’m writing this post because I want to shine a spotlight on a spectacular urban farm and nonprofit working towards an inspiring mission. Next Thursday, October 2nd is the second annual Heritage Farm Fare, a celebration of the fall harvest and an opportunity to raise the funds needed to operate the farm. The event will feature local restaurants and vendors including Russet, Bar Ferdinand, Di Bruno Brothers, and Weckerly’s, serving tasty plates with the beautiful setting of Belmont Mansion and a view of the city skyline.

My CSA and partner Philly Foodworks is one of the sponsors, and will be running a charitable farm stand at the event where all proceeds are donated to Heritage Farm.

Join us for what is bound to be a memorable evening, and be a part of making good things happen in the Philadelphia community.

Photos courtesy of Adrian’s Instagram.

Eggplant & Pattypan Baba Ghanoush

Eggplant and Pattypan Squash

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon something truly amazing.

I had just made hummus using Michael Solomonov’s technique for the first time. His most important tip? It’s about the tahini, not the chickpeas. So the following day, I picked up Soom tahini, Solomonov’s brand of choice that is made right here in Philly. Naturally, I had to try some with a spoon when I got home. Holy crap. Soom is so good, my definition of tahini has forever changed. Luckily, Philly Foodworks carries Soom, so I can get it delivered in my CSA every week (but I’m trying not to go through it that fast).

Soom Tahini

Next, I had to figure out what to make with it, immediately. I had also brought home some eggplant and pattypan squash, so I opted to try a non-traditional baba ghanoush. It was a very good decision. Using half eggplant and half summer squash makes for a light, airy, super smooth baba ghanoush. If you don’t have pattypan on hand, try the recipe with zucchini or yellow squash.

Eggplant & Pattypan Baba Ghanoush

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients
• 2 small eggplants (about 2 pounds)
• 1 patty pan squash (about 1 pound)
• olive oil for roasting
• 2 cloves of garlic
• juice of 1 lemon
• 1/3 cup of tahini (Soom preferably)
• salt and pepper to taste
• cayenne to taste

Equipment
• blender

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the pattypan squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub with oil, and place face down on an oiled pan. Roast for 45 minutes.
2. While the squash is roasting, prepare the eggplant. Keeping eggplants whole, rub the the skin with oil and place on another oiled pan. Once there are 25 minutes remaining for the squash, put the eggplant in the oven as well.
3. Remove both the squash and eggplant from oven once the flesh is very soft and the skin has begun to char. Let cool.
4. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and put into the blender. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Blend until smooth, adding water if necessary to thin out to desired consistency.
5. Transfer the baba ghanoush into a serving bowl and drizzle with additional tahini and olive oil.
6. Serve with pita, and ideally, some Israeli salad.

An Exciting Announcement

I’m a big fan of Philly Foodworks. You may have noticed, as I mention my CSA or its delicious contents in almost every post on here. So you can imagine my delight when a conversation with them went from “we’re out of doughnut peaches” to “would you like to work with us?”

I most definitely would. So it’s happening!

Philly Foodworks

As a part of a partnership with Philly Foodworks, I will be writing recipes each week featuring ingredients from my CSA share. This falls right in line with the content I am already posting, and will guarantee you all get a new recipe each week featuring the best local and seasonal products. There are several reasons I’m so excited about this partnership. For one, Philly Foodworks provides many of my favorite local products, including everything from peaches and sweet corn to Food & Ferments sauerkraut and gluten-free bagels. But even more impressive is the organization’s mission to “unite producers and consumers in order to increase access to good food for all Philadelphia residents while supporting the business of producers that care about their craft and the communities they work.” And they’re killing it, by doing things differently than any other CSA before them.

Their cover story in this month’s Grid Magazine explains, “The consumer still pays in advance, so it remains economically beneficial to the farmer, but they can choose what they want, when they want it, making it less rigid. Philly Foodworks currently offers food from more than 30 producers within a 150-miles radius of the Philadelphia area. But it isn’t all about consumer choice. Ultimately their goal is to strengthen the bond between the rural grower and the urban buyer. Philly Foodworks is also trying to create a marketplace for the fledgling specialty food producer. “

Philly Foodworks is going beyond the scope of a conventional CSA to make a serious impact on the community of Philadelphia. I’m proud to be working with their team. Not to mention, happy to reap the benefits of being a member and cooking up tasty recipes to share with you!

Farms That Deliver: Joining a CSA

This spring, I signed up for my first CSA.

It’s something I’ve had my eye on for a while. Excited to share the news, I found many friends asking exactly what a CSA was. CSA stands for community-supported agriculture, a local system of agriculture and food distribution. What exactly does that mean? You pay up-front to receive a weekly (or bi-weekly) deliveries of produce for the length of the growing season, and in doing so, make a commitment to directly support one or more local farms. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership between farms and their surrounding community. Farms are guaranteed to sell a certain amount of food, and we get a variety of fresh, seasonal, and local produce dropped off each week.

csa
My first CSA share. Watercress, beets, collards, tomatoes, and some killer cremini mushrooms inside that paper bag.

A CSA here in Philly runs from $15 to $30 a week, but varies a lot depending on the size of the share you get (say, fruits and vegetables for two people, or for a family of four). Pick-up locations are all over the city: restaurants, shops, cafes, even people’s houses. I was thrilled to find out my neighborhood coffee shop had become a pick-up spot, and couldn’t resist signing up.

I highly suggest a CSA to anyone who is interested. Try it out for a season and see how weekly produce works for you. Even consider splitting a share with a friend.

A couple I would recommend currently have sign-ups open for the summer:

Philly Foodworks 
Small Share: $395 Annually ($17.95 Weekly)
Large Share: $625 Annually ($28.40 Weekly)
This is my CSA, and I love it. Philly Foodworks offers some unique features that I haven’t seen before. They have three different types of memberships: farmer’s choice, mixed, or your choice. I have the “your choice” option, which means each week I can shop for items via an online market. Distribute your money how you wish, spend different amounts each week and have the option to skip a week when you’re away. The selection of fruits and vegetables changes weekly, based on what’s in peak season. A partnership of several local farmers and vendors, Philly Foodworks also offers eggs, cheese, breads, jams, and more.

Greensgrow Farms
Half Share:  $448 Annually ($34.46 Weekly)
Full Share:  $800 Annually ($33.33 Week)
Greensgrow Farms is a urban farming project and nonprofit initiative in Philadelphia. Their mission focuses on the practice of sustainable entrepreneurial urban agriculture. Greensgrow harvests crops on site and purchases from other trusted farms located all within 150 miles of the city. Each week’s robust share contains fruit, vegetables, and a choice of protein (eggs, yogurt, tofu). Some weeks include cheese, fresh pasta, or even beer.

csaGo ahead, “taste the difference.”

Have you been a part of a CSA, what was your experience? Any recommendations?