Honey Bee Brew: Ancient beverage finds newfound buzz

The fermented love child of honey, water and yeast, mead has been charming the palates of drinkers since the dawn of time (well, not technically, but 2000 B.C. is pretty close). And it’s having a bit of a moment in this millennium, too. For the DIY-inclined, mead is a popular homebrew project. Nancy Rigberg, co-owner of Home Sweet Homebrew, says the greatest challenge to crafting flavorful mead is to be patient.
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Connecting the Dots: Civil rights protests, Woodstock, a Commodore 64 computer and my inevitable path to Greenbuild

It is the night before greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council’s international conference and expo, and tens of thousands are flocking to Philadelphia to celebrate and promote sustainability as a genuine worldwide movement. As an architect and professor of sustainable design, it’s more than an amazing moment in our city’s history; it’s a validation of 18 years of hard work and dedication. Too excited to sleep, instead, I think back on the moments of my life that brought me here.
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Power Grapes: Local vintners do more than wine about the environment

When it comes to caring about the well-being of the environment, Pennsylvania’s roughly 200 wineries are inherently invested in sustainable practices, according to Jennifer Eckinger, executive director at the Pennsylvania Winery Association.

“Using our locally produced products is obviously a big part of all these wineries,” Eckinger says. “But caring for the land and being good stewards of the soil and water is also part and parcel of what these businesses are about. It’s about being sustainable for them and for future generations.”

Although any bottle of wine made in Pennsylvania is going to come with a smaller carbon footprint than an Australian shiraz, Eckinger says these nearby Pennsylvania wineries make an extra effort to be responsible.

Crossing Vineyards

Located less than an hour from Philadelphia in Washington’s Crossing, Bucks County, this family-owned vineyard strives for sustainable agricultural practices in the fields and at the winery. A recent upgrade to a geothermal heating and cooling system has significantly reduced energy consumption.

1853 Wrightstown Rd., Washington Crossing



Vynecrest Winery

This Lehigh County gem calls a 19th century banked barn home, allowing the winery to take advantage of the earth’s natural insulating properties. They’ve also installed geothermal, taking the bite out of a pricey and carbon-intensive oil heating system.

172 Arrowhead Ln., Breinigsville



Manatawny Creek Winery

Located on the banks of the Manatawny Creek, this Berks County winery uses integrated pest management, has rooftop solar panels and instead of using chemicals, fertilizes their vines with compost made from wine-making byproducts and manure from local farms.

227 Levengood Rd., Douglassville




Story by Brian Rademaekers illustration by Michael Alan 

Summoning the Spirits: Art in the Age crafts distinctive liquors that celebrate the past

Art in the Age founder Steven Grasse (left) and collaborator Michael AlanWhen it comes to libations, it can be fun to mix things up. But what if you’re after something that’s interesting, straight from the bottle? The lineup of liquors from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction — Sage, Snap, Rhubarb Tea and Root — exist somewhere outside the scope of the usual boozy suspects.
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PB&Jams Presents: PB Ice Cream

Yields approximately 1 quart

1 cup PB & Jams Classic PB
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Scrape sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are combined. 
  • Refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for 5 hours. 
  • Process mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. 
  • Place finished ice cream in a shatterproof container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze immediately.

More recipes at the-pastry-prophet.com

Recipe by Dana Prophet.

Nut Meg: Megan Gibson spices up fresh nut butters

PB & Jams is a small-batch fresh nut butter company stirring up a twist on the classics. "Our all-natural nut butters highlight the natural flavor of the nuts, while keeping other ingredients simple," says owner Megan Gibson. Working from the Center for Culinary Enterprises in West Philadelphia, Gibson produces five varieties: Hot or Not Peanut Butter, a savory, spicy version of Haitian peanut butter; Classic Peanut Butter, in smooth or chunky; Simply Almond Butter, textured with a light crunch; The Cashew Butter, naturally sweet and smooth; and slightly sweeter Maple Walnut Butter.

PB & Jams products can be purchased at Overbrook Farmers Market, N3RD Street Farmers Market, University of Penn’s Gourmet Market at 1920 Commons and online at pbandjamsphl.com.

Story by Julianne Mesaric.

Natural Remedies: Program aims to fill prescriptions for diet and exercise

JASTECH development services executive director Jerome Shabazz (right), with Penn State Extension Nutrition Educator Simran James

Pacing through the crowd of people sampling vegan dishes and checking out booths from groups like Philadelphia Backyard Chickens, Healthy Foods, Green Spaces and Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, Jerome Shabazz seems both busy and content. It’s a festival day at the Overbrook Art and Environmental Education Center (OAEEC), and the turnout is robust.

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Into the Woods: New school utilizes its natural environment

This January, Green Woods Charter School, an environmentally-focused K-8 public school, will move from two former parish schools in Manayunk to a new 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility at Ridge Avenue and Domino Lane in Roxborough. Innovative features like 12-foot windows, transparent walls, an observation deck and a third floor balcony — together with a three-acre site featuring a science center, garden, pond, streams and wetlands — will help students learn hands-on, outside of a traditional classroom setting.

The melding of the indoors and outdoors reflects Green Woods’ mission of helping students understand their place in the natural world. Green Woods CEO Jean Wallace says the architect and construction team worked closely on the bond-funded $12 million project to make the school’s vision a reality.

“Our students will have the feel of being in the ‘green woods’ while going to school in the heart of an urban environment,” she says. “It's the best of both worlds, and we can't wait to move in!"

Green Woods is open to all children living in Philadelphia. Initial enrollment was determined via a lottery, but there is also a waiting list for future admissions.

More info about admissions can be found on greenwoodscharter.org

Story by Emily Kovach.

Lucky Ducks: An old coot and a young duckling share an enthusiasm for fowl

At the end of October, I hopped on the subway to South Philly to observe migratory waterfowl. I took my daughter Magnolia (“almost two,” as she could say at that point) in a stroller. She is a fan of ducks. A yellow one figures prominently in her favorite book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, and she likes to point out ducks at the zoo. (Sometimes she indicates a duck, sometimes a goose, but close enough.)
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Spirits of Independence

The latest Grid is out now, with a fascinating look at some of the independent spirits who are leading the resurgence of local libations in Philadelphia. Join us for a look behind the scenes at the community-minded founders of Philadelphia Brewing Company, the master brewer behind the artful beers of Tired Hands Brewing Company and the historically inspired spirits produced by Art in the Age.

Also in this issue, we are proud to present the 2014 Sustainable Business Directory, created in partnership with the Sustainable Business Network. With dozens of categories, this excellent resource is your guide to the key businesses of Philadelphia's local economy. So if you're in need of home improvements, business services, a new place to dine - almost anything - keep this handy directory around and you'll be ready for whatever the coming year has in store.

Grid is available at your favorite Grid pickup location, or view it online, right here.

Essential Properties: Experts from around the country trade notes on Reclaiming Vacant Properties

With 40,000 vacant lots within its boundaries, Philadelphia knows a lot about the problems and the potential of vacant properties. In September, the city played host to the Center for Community Progress’s (CCP) fifth Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) conference, three days of interactive panel sessions, walking tours of Philadelphia neighborhoods and plenty of networking and skill-sharing. The conference attracted more than 800 attendees — public housing authorities, city government officials, community development organizations, consultants and more, including more than 200 leaders from the public and private sectors from across Pennsylvania.

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Last Days of St. Bonaventure

It appears that St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church in North Philadelphia's Fairhill neighborhood will not be spared. The landmark church, designed by prominent church architect Edwin Forrest Durang in 1894 and completed in 1906, was issued its final fate when the City's Department of Licenses and Inspections determined it was "imminently dangerous" and beyond repair. L&I will demolish the entire church - not just the steeple, whose dilapidation caused concern for the larger structure - as well as the school building next door. The former St. Bonaventure rectory and convent, each in good shape, will remain standing.

For more on this story, visit the Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org