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A cafe start-up helps foster-care youth get on their feet

Lisa Miccolis worked for a long time in coffee shops. She found a lot of pride and enjoyment in the communities she found there, both among her co-workers and the customers. But she didn’t feel that she was really fulfilling her life’s goal until she had a “lightbulb moment" -- the idea for a nonprofit café specifically designed to employ and mentor young people aging out of the foster-care system.

Miccolis first became aware of this problem on a trip to South Africa several years ago. She met residents of an orphanage who were facing the sudden loss of their support system when they were no longer legally children -- they didn’t have the network or skills to forge an independent life. She realized that the same problem exists in Philadelphia as youngsters lose access to a host of resources at age 18 (or, if they meet some criteria in Pennsylvania, age 21). Without family support or education and job prospects, they don’t know what to do.

"Generally, as soon as one thing goes, everything goes with it," she explains. "If your housing is unstable, chances are you’re not going to be able to hold a job. And if you don’t have a job, good luck getting a job."

Her answer is The Monkey & the Elephant, a non-profit café/mentoring program that hires youth who have aged out of foster care. It launched in late 2012, with pop-up locations in three spots over subsequent years: the Italian Market, Manayunk’s Transfer Station and Impact Hub (from March to December of last year).

In February 2015, The Monkey & the Elephant opened its first permanent location at 2831 W. Girard Avenue in Brewerytown. It’s open seven days a week, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Eight youngsters have been employed in the program so far, ranging in age from 19 to 25. And it’s not just about food service -- the M&E team helps employees think through career and educational decisions, offers support in the housing process, and even helps out with schoolwork.

"What I’ve noticed is changes in how they think about things," explains Miccolis. "When they’re talking about what they want to do, we’ve been able to reframe the direction they’re taking to get there." It’s not about a rush to the "perfect job," but a practical, encouraging and achievable long-term path. Typically, the program takes on its participants for eight months, but the mentorship is ongoing. "When they finish with us and they are ready to work towards that job or get back into school or whatever it is, they have more of a foundation for it and they’re better able to support themselves.”

Monkey & the Elephant recently received an unexpected honor: a Startup of the Year nomination from the annual Philadelphia Geek Awards. "Geek" has a broad definition these days, and in Philly it’s a coveted label.

"I was pretty shocked and honored to have that nomination," says Miccolis; the ceremony that will take place on August 15 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. "I wouldn’t have thought of a coffee shop or a non-profit as a geek-centered organization... It’s pretty cool that it’s not just for the sciences or technology."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Lisa Miccolis, The Monkey & the Elephant

An urban farm sprouts in Chinatown thanks to Grow Where You Live

Meei Ling Ng, a Singapore-born, Philly-based artist, designer and urban farmer, has taken on a multifaceted project in Chinatown North. The initiative features a vertical urban farm, a job-skills program for people in recovery from addiction or homelessness, and a new fount of fresh food for the partnering Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

The impetus for Ng's new project grew out of Grow Where You Live, her year-long Social Practice Lab residency at the Asian Arts Initiative. It was supposed to wrap up in June, but the current urban garden project has proven so successful that Ng's Asian Arts residency has been extended at least until the end of this year.

"Ideally I was looking for a vacant lot around the neighborhood," says Ng of a long search for an appropriate urban farm space and partner organization. Such a space -- open to the work of an artist and farmer -- was hard to find, partly because of recent gentrification in the area.

A tour of the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission late last year proved extremely propitious: Ng learned that the organization, which provides a range of vital services to the city’s homeless, was in the process of a parking lot space swap with their neighbors to the west, Roman Catholic High School.

The switch would leave a large space along Sunday Breakfast’s kitchen wall -- about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long -- empty of cars by law.

"This is amazing. This is exactly what we want," Ng recalls thinking on seeing the space; she envisioned a specially designed and built vertical urban farm. "We can use a whole big empty wall with asphalt under…this could be an awesome, awesome project."

The artist spent a month on a meticulous rendering of her idea, then pitched it to Sunday Breakfast. The project became reality through support and donations from Asian Arts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, City Harvest and South Philly’s Urban Jungle, a landscape design firm.

Since then, the little farm has provided pounds of produce that go directly into meals served at Sunday Breakfast.

The partnership also has a human component: The farm runs with help from workers at Overcomers, an intensive 16-month program for men in recovery from addiction and homelessness. They reap a wealth of skills -- not only the ability to grow their own healthy food in an urban setting, but practical job training in a rapidly growing industry. The formal part of the Overcomers project is finished, but a few participants have stayed on as official apprentices and volunteers.

"This is very exciting that we have a team now to work on the farm," says Ng, adding that she has high hopes the project will continue in future summers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meei Ling Ng, Asian Arts Initiative

In Harrisburg and Philly, news from the craft beer boom

From across the Commonwealth comes big news on the brewing front.

In Harrisburg, Zeroday Brewing Company cut the ribbon on its new space in the Midtown neighborhood. Husband-and-wife team Theo and Brandalynn Armstrong (Theo is the brewer; Brandalynn handles the business side) say the name Zeroday pays homage to a hiking term: it refers to a day spent exploring a town, off the trail.

"We want Harrisburg to be a zero day town," explains Theo. "It’s a place worth stopping and exploring."

The Armstrongs kicked off the project in 2013 with an official brand launch, corresponding crowdfunding campaign and guerilla-style pop-up events that allowed them to introduce community members and beer lovers to their suds.

On tap for opening day: Firstborn, a dry stout; Wits End, a Belgian Witbier; Cheap Date, an American Blonde ale; Dolce Vita, a Chocolate Hazelnut Sweet Stout; and Zeroday IPA, along with a menu of light fare.

According to Brandalynn, they're committed to utilizing Pennsylvania vendors for food and other products. As weather permits, the brewery plans to partner with area food trucks to provide additional selections during weekend hours. 

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the University of the Sciences announced the launch of a Brewing Science Certificate for the fall semester.

The university says the program is an acknowledgement of the beer boom: America’s breweries account for over 110,000 jobs. According to the Brewers Association, about 1.5 breweries open every day in the U.S., with more than 150 in the mid-Atlantic region alone. In 2014, production of craft brews grew 18 percent by volume and 22 percent by sales.

The best positions in this growth industry often require formal training in brewing science. The post-baccalaureate, 18-credit certificate program delves deep into the biology, chemistry, physics and math of creating the perfect pint. The program can be completed full-time in one year, or part time in two, followed by an internship with a local brewery partner.

"Demand has never been greater for trained professionals with a passion for this extraordinary work," insists Dr. Peter B. Berget, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at USciences.

Source: Brandalynn Armstrong, Zeroday Brewing Company and the University of the Sciences.
Writer: Elise Vider
 

New GSK dollars at the Food Trust will boost youth health and wellness citywide

A $5 million GSK IMPACT Grant to a Philadelphia collective led by The Food Trust will allow the local food and health access leader to significantly expand its existing HYPE (Healthy You, Positive Energy) program to reach 50,000 kids over the next three years.

The dollars, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation, are going to boost programs at nine partner organizations citywide, with a special focus on North Philadelphia. The new collective’s work will be known as Get HYPE Philly!
HYPE has already been working with local kids in about 100 different schools over the last several years, explains Food Trust executive director Yael Lehmann.

"It’s going to build on this existing program," she says. "And at the same time we’re going to be working with all these other groups," who will also be expanding their own work. 

The Get HYPE collective includes Guild House West’s Greener Partners, East Park Revitalization Alliance’s Common Market, The Village of Arts and Humanities, and the Garden Education Program of Norris Square Neighborhood Project. Also partnering under the Food Trust umbrella are the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (and branch-based teen mentoring program), The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, The Philadelphia Youth Network, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation and Equal Measure, which will help evaluate the Get HYPE programming’s impact throughout the grant’s three-year span.

Some of these organizations will focus on urban farming, nutrition, literacy through food-based activities, and exercise; others will build on different aspects of overall health such as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

"This is really going to strengthen the networking between all of our agencies," insists Lehmann. "It’s going to have this awesome ripple effect throughout the city."

Lehmann is particularly excited about the new youth advisory board the grant will create, which will consist of about fifteen to twenty teens from around the city. They will be able to direct mini-grants of up to $2,000 (or a total of $70,000 per year for the life of the program) to student-led initiatives focused on things such as exercise, urban agriculture and healthy food donations.

"It’s not just window-dressing. They’re going to have some work to do," Lehmann says of the students who will be involved (their selection process is still TBD).

The grant’s allowance for evaluating the programs is also important, she insists, "to be able to tell the story, and look at how this is impacting kids in Philly, and help us adjust as needed."

And she hopes Get HYPE Philly! will continue far beyond the initial three-year roll-out.

“From day one, all the collective partners and the Food Trust will be thinking about how to sustain this beyond the grant," she says. "We see this as a long-term project."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust

 

Rad Dish is Temple's new sustainable student food co-op

Temple University junior Lauren Troop started out as an environmental studies major, but when she became part of a bold new food co-op business plan with her fellow students, she found the perfect convergence of her interests, and switched to studying entrepreneurship.

The concept for Rad Dish, which opened on February 5 in a former Sodexo café space in Ritter Hall, grew out of a student research project completed a few years ago. The idea failed to move forward once the original thinkers graduated.

But then founding Rad Dish co-op members got hold of the idea, and began working in fall 2013 to make the space a reality. The group met under the auspices and mentorship of Temple’s Office of Sustainability, with participation from campus organizations such as Students for Environmental Action, Temple Community Garden and Net Impact, the university’s sustainable business club.

The team started meeting once a week with help from a three-credit independent study course that allowed them to devote the necessary number of hours to getting the co-op café off the ground. Meetings with West Philly’s Mariposa food co-op, as well as other student groups, including one from the University of Maryland, helped them clarify their vision.

"Our mission was really to provide affordable locally and ethically sourced fresh food to our Temple community," explains Troop, a Lancaster native. "We do that by sourcing everything within 150 miles."

Items like tea and coffee and certain spices, which the co-op can’t get locally, are sourced through a major organic and fair-trade supplier. 

Rad Dish opened its doors with the help of one year of free rent from Temple and $30,000 in seed money from the Office of Sustainability to help cover the first round of inventory and salaries for workers.

The space is a café now, but Rad Dish organizers hope to expand into more of a grocery model as they gain experience and more local, seasonal produce becomes available. In the meantime, the space already has its own appealing vibe, with floor-to-ceiling windows and art on the walls.

The community has already started to embrace the idea. Someone donated a bike-powered blender, and then a record-payer.

"People have just started to bring in random stuff that made it a unique space to hang out in," says Troop.

Prospects for the co-op’s future are good, she adds: a large crop of sophomores are just now stepping into leadership roles, replacing graduating founders.

"My favorite part about the project is how we’ve incorporated so many fields of study and so many people with different majors," insists Troops. "There are people from our business school, arts school, communications, engineering, and people who just love food."

Rad Dish is now open from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in Ritter Hall, on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and 13th Street.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source, Lauren Troop, Rad Dish

Philadelphia Macaroni to the Rescue: Harrisburg acquisition saves 43 jobs

Philadelphia Macaroni Company, a more than 100-year-old, family-owned company, is operating a new pasta-making plant in Harrisburg, saving 43 jobs in the process.

The company makes dried pasta and noodles at the plant, which was previously operated by Unilever. The Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC recently reported that Unilever had been contemplating vacating the facility. 

"Philadelphia Macaroni Company’s purchase agreement and business plan to operate from this facility effectively saved 43 full-time jobs in the city of Harrisburg," explained the Chamber.

"The Harrisburg plant was recently updated with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment," said Philadelphia Macaroni President Luke Marano, Jr. when announcing the plans last year. "This facility, complemented by its dedicated and professional workforce, is a valuable asset critical to the future development, growth and success of Philadelphia Macaroni Company."

Philadelphia Macaroni Company was founded in 1914 in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. Today, a fifth generation of the founding family runs the company, still headquartered in Bella Vista. In addition to the new Harrisburg plant, the company operates factories in Warminster, North Dakota and Washington State, and mills durum and hard red spring wheat at its Minot Milling division in North Dakota. Besides being one of the country’s oldest pasta makers, the company is one of the largest industrial pasta manufacturers in the U.S.

Company spokeswoman Linda Schalles declined to reveal terms of the sales agreement in Harrisburg, but according to the Capital Region Economic Development Corporation, the chamber’s economic development arm, the company recently closed on a $450,000 Enterprise Zone Loan towards the purchase of machinery and equipment at the facility.

More hiring is expected at the plant, Schalles adds.

Source: Linda Schalles, Philadelphia Macaroni Company
Writer: Elise Vider

'Philadelphia Liberty Trail' raises Philly's national profile

Writer and world traveler Larissa Milne conjures a troubling statistic, based on the years she and her husband Michael have spent in cities across the globe, writing for the Inquirer and their own award-winning "Changes in Longitude" blog.

Outside of Philadelphia, Larissa estimates, "85 percent of people don’t know what a cheesesteak really is."

So their new book, Philadelphia Liberty Trail, published by Globe Pequot Press last month, includes a sidebar on "cheesesteak etiquette," while recommending some favorite local spots for tourists ready to venture beyond the neon lights of Pat’s and Geno’s.

"It’s a little bit different than the average guidebook that’s out there," explains Larissa. "The publisher wanted us to produce a creative book that was similar to…a book they’ve had out for many years on the Boston Freedom Trail."

Despite having more Revolutionary historic sites than Boston, Philadelphia lacks the equivalent of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail route. The couple set out to write the book that might create one.

While Liberty Trail includes advice on visiting slightly more far-flung sites such as Valley Forge, Fort Mifflin, Bartram’s Garden, and historic houses in Germantown, it focuses on the Revolutionary War history of Old City and Society Hill, and invites tourists beyond the usual stops at Independence National Historic Park. Some of the highlights in their book are the Physick HouseChrist Church and Washington Square. There's also advice on where to stay and where to park, how to go on foot or take SEPTA, and info on restaurants that might not otherwise be on the radar for visitors.
 
Michael, a New York native, and Larissa, who grew up in the Philly suburbs, lived at 11th and Pine Streets before making an unusual decision in 2011. They sold their house, quit their jobs, gave away their stuff, and began traveling the world and writing along the way. They still don’t have a permanent address, but talked with Flying Kite about their new book from their current perch in Arizona.
  
Larissa, who’s also a consultant with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, loves to fill visitors in on the real story of Pennsylvania Hospital, America’s oldest hospital, which many pass on bus tours, but few actually visit.
 
"Benjamin Franklin was very instrumental in getting funding for that hospital in the early 1750s," she says, after the local governing bodies declined to support it. Franklin spearheaded an effort to draw contributions for the project from local citizens: "It was like a Kickstarter campaign in 1750."
 
The Milnes hope their book can help make Philadelphia a worldwide tourist destination, not just for tri-state day-trips, but for visitors who will stay, eat and shop in the city for days.
 
"I grew up in New York, and the image of Philadelphia back in the old days was, well, it’s kind of a drive-by tourist destination," recalls Michael. "You didn’t stay overnight, you drive down, you see the Liberty Bell, you see Independence Hall, you get back in the car, you leave."
  
But with major publications like Fast Company magazine and The New York Times recognizing Philadelphia as a top global destination, the Milnes believe it’s a perfect time for a new kind of Philly guidebook. And after seeing the world for the last several years, they still insist there’s nowhere they’d rather settle.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Larissa and Michael Milne,
Philadelphia Liberty Trail 
 

Could city-wide composting become a reality in Philadelphia?

According to a report from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Philadelphia spends over $6 million per year transporting and dumping our wasted or uneaten food into landfills. Why can't we be more like Austin or New York City, which already have food waste recycling programs? Councilwoman Cindy Bass, of Philadelphia’s 8th District, wants to get the ball rolling.

"It’s probably easier to refer to it as composting. The ‘food waste’ thing hasn’t really caught on," says Elliot Griffin, a spokesperson for the Councilwoman, referring to a recent City Council hearing on the feasibility of a city-wide food waste recycling program.

Participants in the November 12 hearing included representatives from the City’s Committee on Streets and Services and Committee on the Environment, alongside composting experts from groups including the U.S. Composting Council's Institute for Local Self Reliance and RecycleNow Philadelphia.

The administration testified that the estimated cost of launching a city-wide composting program, including street pick-up of compostable materials -- and a composting center to handle a city-sized mound of nature’s recycling -- could cost $37 million.

"We’re not exactly in a position to start that today," explains Griffin, but the point of the hearing, which she says was well-attended especially by supporters from Philly’s Northwest neighborhoods, was to help people realize that such a program could be feasible.

According to Griffin, Councilwoman Bass first got inspired on Philly’s composting potential when she read a spring 2014 article in the New York Times about comparable American cities that have already started these initiatives. At the hearing, the biggest surprise was how many locals, from restaurant owners to ordinary citizens to organizations like Weavers Way Co-Op, are already composting on their own.

“We recognize that we have to start the conversation now,” says Griffin, so the next generation can keep the momentum going and make wide-spread composting a reality, benefiting the environment, saving energy and creating jobs.

The construction of an organic recycling center and the jobs created for those who would manage it is "something that could benefit the whole Delaware Valley," adds Griffin.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elliot Griffin, office of Councilwoman Cindy Bass

 

Philly's foodie community gives a local dairy farm its own cheese cave

For Sue Miller, making cheese on her family's Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County is more than a way to make a living.

"It’s a beautiful process," she says. "We really have touched everything from the very beginning."

They breed the calves on the farm, grow the grass their Holsteins (over 80 of them) graze on, and do all of the daily milking. Up until now, they made and aged the cheese at a rented space nearby, before bringing it to market at Philadelphia-area stores and restaurants. Now, thanks to a successful Kickstart campaign -- more than fully funded with $33,507 raised as of the drive’s close on December 13 -- that is about to change.

After seven of cheesemaking, Birchrun Hills had outgrown that rented space. The funds will allow the Millers (which also includes Sue’s husband Ken and their adult sons Randy, a recent Cornell University graduate, and Jesse, who will receive his degree from Cornell next year) to build their own fully outfitted cheese caves. 

Because dairy farming is so capital-intensive and involves many complicated disciplines, from horticulture to nutritional and veterinary science to milk production, "it’s a challenging thing in the dairy industry to be a first generation [farm]…and unusual in cheese-making," Miller explains. "A lot of people come into cheesemaking after another career."

"You have to be committed to it not as a career, but as lifestyle," she adds.

Their first cheese customer, Di Bruno Bros., is a testament to the quality of their handmade raw-milk cheeses. Now, you can buy favorites like Birchrun Blue, Red Cat, Fat Cat and Equinox at venues such as the Fair Food Farmstand and Salumeria in Reading Terminal Market. Local restaurants, including White Dog Café, Fork and Nectar, also serve Birchrun cheeses.

A loan is allowing the family to build the new structure and the crowdfunded cash will go towards equipment, including a curd vat, specialized shelving and a cooling system.

Miller is proud that her two sons have chosen to return to the family business post-college, and she loves the chance to make a living based on the humane and healthy treatment of farm animals.

"I just love everything about [dairy cows]," she enthuses. "Their personalities can really come through…They are calm and lovely and accepting of human beings. It’s nice that they’re kind of unflappable."

She says the family has been overwhelmed by fans' support -- the crowdfunding campaign easily surpassed its initial $25,000 goal.

"We’re excited that people in our community have so strongly supported this project," adds Miller. "It’s tremendously humbling.”

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sue Miller, Birchrun Hills Farm

Kensington Quarters, Philly's only restaurant/butcher shop, opens in Fishtown

We're all used to picking up everything -- from steak to veggies to detergent to wrapping paper -- in one stop at the grocery store, and it’s hard to remember that we used to shop very differently.
 
Philly restaurateurs Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello, who together own Bufad, Prohibition Taproom and Café Lift, want to revive the specialized shop tradition with their new restaurant/butcher shop Kensington Quarters (KQ).
 
Opening KQ, housed in a former welding facility on Frankford Avenue, was a journey that took two years. According to Michael, the 25-foot ceilings and sheer size of the spot -- 35 feet wide and 100 feet long -- was initially "very daunting."
 
But that surfeit of space is part of what inspired them to create something unique for Philadelphia: a restaurant that butchers humanely-raised, locally-sourced animals in its own kitchen (instead of ordering cuts of meat) and a butcher shop within the space where folks can purchase their own high-quality cuts.
 
In service of that goal, Michael teamed up with expert butcher Bryan Mayer, who he first connected with over a beer in 2012.
 
"Originally, the concept was a restaurant centered on whole-animal butchery," recalls Michael. "We’re buying animals from farms and not bringing them in in boxes…We believe this is the most efficient way to run a restaurant."
 
While the space was still in its design phase, the two men were touring it and stopped to look at an area that had originally been designated as a lounge and coat closet.
 
"Why don’t you put a butcher shop over here?" Michael remembers asking Mayer, who had been looking to launch his own small-scale, locally-sourced butcher shop.
 
"Come here, get your meat, make it an adventure, talk to the butcher," he explains, insisting on the appeal of getting people out of the grocery-store habit.
 
Michael now says it’s a good thing that the space took so long to develop.

"The more time it took to get that place built, the more the concept evolved and became better understood and well-rooted," he insists.
 
Today, along with the butcher shop, that means wood-fired meals (with herbs from the garden out back) from pastured animals that spent their entire lives on local farms dedicated to humane husbandry, no antibiotics or GMOs (even on the drinks menu), and a simple cooking philosophy.
 
And, starting n 2015, the KQ team hopes to offer classes for those who want to learn more about cooking, butchering, using the whole animal and where food comes from.
 
The kitchen at Kensington Quarters (1310 Frankford Avenue) is open Sunday through Thursday, 5 - 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 - 11 p.m. The butcher shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Pasquarello, Kensington Quarters 

 

An authentic taste of Nigeria comes to the City of Brotherly Love

Don’t call Tunde Wey a chef.

“I’ve been cooking to survive all my life,” insists the Nigerian-born Detroit resident, who’s been taking his brash take on West African cuisine on a coast-to-coast tour this fall and winter.  

"I don’t know how I feel about the word 'chef,'" the former restaurant owner continues. "I don’t consider myself a chef. I consider myself a person who cooks food for people.”

Wey, who has been cooking professionally for only the last eight months, insists that all the best experiences he’s had at the table were from ordinary folks who loved sharing a good meal.

That’s the vibe he wants to bring to his LAGOS bus tour. Shortly after selling his share of a new Detroit restaurant (operating with a rotating roster of eclectic guest chefs) to his business partner, Wey had the idea for a Nigerian food tour -- it struck him on a road trip from New Orleans to Chicago.

"Somewhere between New Orleans and Minneapolis, the idea occurred to keep going and keep cooking," he says. Now, his dinners are drawing 20 to 50 people in each city.

With six stops on the LAGOS tour under his belt as of December 7, Wey is loving bringing his distinctive West African flavor to Americans. He doesn’t want to say that American food doesn’t have flavor (even if the LAGOS website declares that it’s time to "unfetter diners from the tedium that is 'modern American cuisine'"), but honestly, he’s not impressed with our carefully cultivated and portioned subtleties.

With the bold approach of African food, he insists, "there’s no mistaking what just happened. I just had some food, and it’s like, wow, that was food. That was delicious. I’m pro-flavor."

Inspired by his love for his own mother’s rice or beans with tasty fried plantains, Wey says his dishes are tried and true, adding up to the kind of dinner that makes you "take off a couple of buttons on your pants because you have to catch your breath."

The LAGOS bus, where he cooks most of the food himself with the help of one or two others, is coming to Philly on Friday, December 12, at Sabrina’s Café (1804 Callowhill Street). The event is BYOB and the $45 ticket price includes authentic Jollof Rice, peppered goat meat, Egusi (a melon seed and spinach stew), Isi Ewu (stewed goat head) and, of course, fried plantains.

"Philly, get ready!" says Wey. "Cuz I’m coming!"

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tunde Wey, LAGOS

 

Mr. Milkman, an organic dairy delivery service, is now available in Philly

All it took was a single taste of Trickling Springs Creamery's premium ice cream to convince Dan Crump he had to leave his job at FedEx and follow his passion of supporting local farms and healthy organic eating.

Shortly thereafter, he purchased the Lancaster County-based organic dairy delivery service known as Mr. Milkman.

At the time, Mr. Milkman had a limited delivery area and only a few customers -- it was really more of a hobby than a business for its previous owner.

"I knew it would mean a pay cut," recalls Crump. "But I also knew I could use my FedEx [logistics] knowledge to make [the business] work."

Almost immediately after purchasing Mr. Milkman, Crump began to wonder whether or not he should expand services to Philadelphia. Without an advertising budget or established customer base, he figured the costs would be prohibitive. Fortunately, a fruitful visit to Reading Terminal Market convinced Crump to add Philadelphia-area delivery services a few months back.

Now, thanks to the airing of a spotlight piece on Lancaster County’s WGAL last week, Mr. Milkman’s business in Philadelphia has taken off.

Due to the spike in orders, the company has added new Philly-area routes. It delivers each Saturday, and is poised to continue its growth with a hiring push. Crump is also working with a gluten-free bakery and will be offering fruit and veggie boxes this spring.

In addition to Trickling Springs Creamery dairy products, Danda Farms organic meats, artisan cheeses, raw honey and a number of other organic goodies, Mr. Milkman also delivers raw milk from Swiss Villa.

"We’re dedicated to supporting our local organic farmers and their workers," says Crump, "while ensuring that busy moms, families, and other [Philadelphia] residents have access to healthy food."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Dan Crump, Mr. Milkman

 

Invisible Sentinel and Victory Brewing join forces to defeat the evils of bacteria in beer

Flying Kite has twice shared the story of Invisible Sentinel, a local life sciences firm that develops low-cost and user-friendly diagnostic tools for the food and beverage industries.
 
The company's most recent breakout success was the result of a partnership with Sonoma County's Jackson Family Wines -- a novel and fast-acting product known as Veriflow BRETT was developed as a way to detect a yeast strain that commonly affects both the taste and aroma of wine.  
 
According to Invisible Sentinel co-founder Ben Pascal, that technology has since been adopted by large sectors of the wine industry.

"We've been so successful in the food safety [sector]," says Pascal. "And so we started asking ourselves, 'What other groups have the same types of problems with these organisms that can affect quality?' And naturally, we came to beer."
 
More specifically, they came to beloved local brewers Victory Brewing Company. The heads of the two companies met during a dinner party, and when Pascal and his business partner Nick Siciliano began talking to Victory's Bill Covaleski about the success of their Veriflow BRETT technology, "I think it got his wheels turning," recalls Pascal.  
 
Following a few months' worth of meetings with Victory's brewers and quality control team, a decision was reached to partner on the development of a new rapid molecular diagnostic tool, Veriflow brewPAL, that will quickly detect two types of bacteria that can spoil the taste of beer, leading to spillage at brewing companies that can't afford to lose inventory.
 
"There isn't any [similar] technology that exists today that's easy to use, and that's accurate and cost-effective," explains Pascal. "And with a partner like Victory behind us, I think this product is really going to be a paradigm shift, and a big game-changer in the industry."
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel 

 

Philadelphia Honey Festival offers three days of buzz-worthy culture and education

The annual Philadelphia Honey Festival, a celebration of the importance of bees and the honey they produce, has been in existence for just five years now. But to hear Suzanne Matlock of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild explain it, the three-day festival -- running September 5 to 7 at three historic locations throughout the city -- can trace its genesis back to Christmas Day 1810. That was the day Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was born at 106 S. Front Street.
 
Widely known as the "Father of American Beekeeping," Langstroth is the man responsible for inventing the Langstroth bee hive. Consisting of movable frames and resembling a stout wooden cabinet, the Langstroth is still considered the definitive beehive for keepers worldwide. So important was his contribution to beekeeping that on the 200th anniversary of his birth, a historical marker noting his accomplishments was raised outside his former Front Street home.  
 
The first annual Philadelphia Honey Festival was also celebrated that year, largely to honor Langstroth's memory and his significant impact on the craft. Only 500 people took part.

But in the seasons since, the event has evolved into a family-friendly educational and cultural celebration promoting urban beekeeping. It aims to "increase awareness of the importance of bees to [the] environment" and "the impact of local honey on our economy," according to a release. Last year, over 2,300 bee-curious locals showed up. 
 
Organized by the Beekeepers Guild and hosted at Bartram's Garden, the Wagner Free Institute of Science and Wyck Historic House, the festival's free events range from bee bearding presentations and open beehive viewings to a honey-themed happy hour and honey extraction demonstrations.

For a complete schedule, click here. (Don't miss the Beekeeping 100 panel on September 7.)
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Suzanne Matlock, Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild

MilkCrate, a Yelp for local sustainable living, launches on Indiegogo

Morgan Berman was living in West Philadelphia when she experienced what she calls her "first burst of sustainability consciousness," and began attempting to live a life that was aligned with her newfound values.

She joined a neighborhood food co-op, took a job as Grid magazine's director for community engagement, and slowly became more involved in the local sustainability scene.
 
"But there wasn't a central hub where I could go and understand what sustainability means," recalls Berman. "It didn't feel like anyone had quite created the tool that people need to answer their quick questions about [sustainable living]."
 
Berman's new app for Android and iOS, MilkCrate, aims to fill that void -- initially here in Philadelphia, and if the app takes off, nationally.
 
Described by its nine-person team as a digital hub for sustainability, MilkCrate currently exists as a database-style listings service -- not unlike Yelp -- with a collection of more than 1,600 Philly-area businesses that operate sustainably and promote economically responsible practices.

"Everything from fashion to food to furniture [to] energy," explains Berman in a video created for the app's current crowdfunding campaign. "Anything you could possibly want that fits into your local, sustainable lifestyle."   
  
At the moment, MilkCrate-approved businesses are organized in both listings and map layouts. But with the infusion of the $20,000 Berman hopes to raise through an Indiegogo campaign (launched on August 25), users will be able to write reviews, add news businesses, and search by keyword and neighborhood.      
 
Perks for campaign funders include MilkCrate T-shirts and tickets to the app's upcoming launch party. Click here to donate. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate
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