Tastes of Philly: Fork’s ‘Our Terroir’ menu boasts flavors from around the region

Travel anywhere and you’ll find foods that taste of specific places and flavors that connect people to landscapes. New York City, for some, can be encapsulated in a bite of bagel or a sip of cider. For Philadelphia, it’s cherry water ice on the first really hot day in spring, or a smear of golden Lancaster County butter. Sometimes we can lose perspective on the flavors of where we’re from, but all it takes is an outsider to help us approach them with renewed vigor. 

Eli Kulp, the chef of Fork Restaurant and High Street on Market, both in Old City, is originally from the West Coast, and came to Pennsylvania from New York to take the position of chef at Fork in September of 2012. Kulp, recently named a 2014 “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine, soon found himself inspired by the variety of ingredients from local sources. 

“Whenever you move,” Kulp says, there’s a drive, as a cook, to discover the ingredients that represent your new landscape. “You want to sort of immerse yourself in it.” 

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Farm & Table: Three Philadelphia restaurateurs try their hands at farming

story by Liz Pacheco | photos by Neal Santos

Chef Jose Garces is in his outdoor kitchen making salmorejo—a cold Spanish soup similar to gazpacho. He adds bright yellow tomatoes to the food processor along with garlic, vinegar and baguette pieces. “A few years ago,” he says, “I would’ve made this with tomatoes from Mexico.” This afternoon, the tomatoes are from a very local source—Garces’ backyard, which doubles as a farm. This is the first full season for the 40-acre Luna Farm in Ottsville, which is named in honor of the Garces family dog as well as the brilliant nightscapes the property offers. The nearly 100 varieties of herbs and vegetables are organically grown for the Garces company restaurants—most specifically Philadelphia’s JG Domestic, which focuses on using local ingredients. But Garces isn’t the only, or first, Philadelphia chef to delve into farming. Mitch Prensky, owner and chef of Supper, is in his third year working with Blue Elephant Farm in Newtown Square, which grows solely for his restaurant and catering company. Last February, Andrea Rossi began cultivating in Orwigsburg on his farm, Grateful Acres. This spring, Rossi launched a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program through his restaurant C19. For these three chefs, the farms are creative challenges—they require money, planning, and of course, physical labor. At their restaurants, these chefs are no longer just cooking, they’re developing innovative models for combining the farm and the table.

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A Family Affair: The Bynum brothers introduce comfort food with a healthy twist

Patrons of green soul might not realize that the West Oak Lane restaurant is dedicated to healthy living and sustainable efforts. Succotash shrimp salad, Cajun salmon and peach cobbler are on the menu—standard fare for a Southern-style restaurant akin to the Bynum brothers’ other establishments, Relish and Warmdaddy’s.
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Falls Bridge

The Trolley Car Café opens as a gateway to East Falls, and a haven for bike lovers 
by Lee Stabert

Writing about the recently opened Trolley Car Café in East Falls was the best assignment ever—on a beautiful August morning I hopped on my bike and took a leisurely six-mile ride down the Kelly Drive recreation path to meet with owner and developer Ken Weinstein.

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Sustainable Soul

An under-the-radar Mt. Airy restaurant keeps it green—and tasty 
by Lori L. Tharps

When it comes to Geechee Girl Rice Café—a low key Mt. Airy favorite on Germantown Avenue—a lot of people can’t get past the name. “What’s a Geechee?” is a question executive chef/owner Valerie Erwin hears often.
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The Food Issue: Nature Preserve

Supper’s Mitch Prensky brings pickling into the modern era 
by Lee Stabert

Carrots with passion fruit, saffron and garlic with cauliflower, barigoule and artichokes, turnips with Herbes de Provence, spicy pickled vegetables for báhn mi, kosher dill pickles, okra with sage, preserved lemons and oranges, mushrooms, apples, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green beans and okra.

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Restaurant Alba

Sean Weinberg has restaurants in his blood. His parents own the legendary Rose Tattoo Café in Fairmount, and, after years of studying cooking—including stints in Italy and Mexico, and an externship under The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller—he worked five years at the helm there. Along with his wife Kelly, Weinberg has always been intensely passionate about farm-to-table cooking, and he was frustrated by the limitations of being in the city. So they moved.
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Bánh-ding Experience: Grid traverses the city, sampling the vegetarian take on a Vietnamese staple

I should start this piece by disclosing some bias: I have Fu-Wah’s number saved in my cell phone. I use it for ordering takeout tofu hoagies—the timing is perfect if I dial right as I’m leaving my apartment. I have eaten at least a hundred from the beloved corner market in West Philly, and loved every one of them.
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Recipe: Tempeh Tantrum

The other non-meat takes center stage
by Bernard Brown

We all know tofu, whether as a food or a punchline, but what about tempeh? Just like tofu, tempeh is a sustainable alternative to animal products. Both are made from soybeans, which are probably the most resource-efficient way to convert sunlight, air and soil into protein, so picking tempeh over animal products saves water, land, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

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Recipe: Local Ingredients at Cafe Estelle

Taste the homestyle flavor at this open-kitchen eatery
by Stephanie Singer

On the evening that his grandmother, Estelle, passed away, Marshall Green told her that he would open a restaurant and name it after her. That promise was fulfilled on November 1, 2007, when Café Estelle opened its doors. Located between Spring Garden and Callowhill Streets, the restaurant is set back off of 4th Street in the 444 N. 4th condo building.

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Feature: Small Is Beautiful

Braving the heat for an intimate seat at Talula's Table
by Jamie Leary

For the staff at talula’s table, a gourmet market and caterer in Kennett Square, hospitality is not perfunctory—it’s heartfelt and natural. Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora, the hands-on husband and wife owners (she manages the market, he runs the kitchen), seem to truly enjoy their customers. That might seem like a somewhat tepid compliment, but when paired with their formidable culinary talents, it’s what propels the market in a sleepy Chester County borough into a gastronomenon (consider that term coined).
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Eat Local: New Horizons

Upscale vegan eats warm your stomach and conscience
by Will Dean

With the rush towards eating locally, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about the original “ethical” eating choice that for hundreds of years has attracted people like Ben Franklin, Charlotte Bronte, Albert Einstein and, of course, me. While Kate Jacoby, co-owner and pastry chef of upscale vegan eatery Horizons, gave up meat out of concern for animals, there are plenty of environmental reasons as well.
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A Simpler Time

Southwark offers a connection to local food
by Will Dean and Ashley Jerome

When you walk in the front door of Southwark, it feels a little like you’re going back in time, which makes sense. Southwark got its name from an 18th century district of the city and it fits because preserving history, including a tangible connection to the land, is important to owners Sheri and Kip Waide.
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Doctor's Orders

When Greg Salisbury opened Rx restaurant in University City, almost no one in the Philly restaurant industry was thinking local. “When we started in ’01 there was only one other restaurant doing this,” says the laidback and laconic Salisbury. “My first exposure to a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] in 1997, at 17th and South, caused a revolution in the way I thought about food, and I knew if I started a restaurant it would revolve around local food.”
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