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Weckerly's Ice Cream to open its first retail location in Fishtown


Philly ice cream connoisseurs have something to look forward to. Currently, if you want some top-rated Weckerly’s Ice Cream, you have to buy it by the pint (or sandwich) at a local cafe, food retailer or farmers' market, but now the company is gearing up to open its very own brick-and-mortar location on a bustling stretch of Girard Avenue in Fishtown.

Fronted by husband-and-wife team Jen and Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s launched in late 2012 in West Philly’s Spruce Hill neighborhood. In 2014, the micro-creamery moved to Port Richmond’s Globe Dye Works.

"At that time, we really did want to open a retail shop eventually in West Philadelphia," says Andy. But the search proved difficult, so they broadened the hunt. With some help from New Kensington Community Development Corporation, they discovered a 350-square-foot shop at 9 West Girard Avenue, and knew it was the perfect place (they’ll still make their ice cream at Globe Dye Works).

"We definitely wanted a neighborhood," says Andy. "We wanted to be amongst families and homeowners, and people who engage in activities in their neighborhood."

Jen is an experienced pastry chef (her maiden name, Weckerle, inspired the company's moniker). A former bicycle mechanic, Andy eventually left his job to focus on the business full-time.

"[Jen] is the reason we make ice cream and have an ice cream company," he insists. "She’s the heartbeat of everything."

The company is known for unusual flavors such as buckwheat sour cherry and lemon verbena black raspberry, but "we do embrace the classics," he adds. "There’s a place for a vanilla ice cream made with grass-fed milk and cream and good-quality vanilla bean…that tastes like ice cream would have tasted 50 years ago."

Weckerly’s more adventurous combinations are inspired by the company’s mission to source seasonal ingredients from local farms. This is partly why the Satinskys need to grow their business with a retail location, rather than increasing wholesale production. With their own shop, they can stick with their model and showcase small batches of exclusive flavors -- perhaps only five gallons at a time.  

"There are aspects to the way we operate that don’t lend themselves well to a rapidly growing wholesale business," explains Andy, noting the difficulty of scaling up while still working exclusively with local farms.

The new Girard Avenue shop will be open year-round seven days a week, offering a selection of signature ice cream sandwiches and hand-dipped cups and cones, with six rotating ice cream flavors and two sorbets.

They couple isn't sure of an opening date yet, but hope to launch by late summer or early fall. Fans can follow along for the latest @Weckerlys on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s 

Philadelphia makes another prime showing in latest Knight Cities Challenge


After nabbing more project grants than any other U.S. city in the Knight Foundation's inaugural 2015 Knight Cities Challenge, Philly has more reasons to be proud. As announced at an April 12 celebration at Reading Terminal Market (RTM), local winners received the largest share of the national grant program’s $5 million pool for 2016: over $873,000 for four local initiatives.
 
This year’s contest, which invites individuals and organizations nationwide to submit their ideas for improving city life, drew over 4,500 applicants. That was narrowed down to 138 finalists and 37 grantees. Philadelphia's winners include the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) for its 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses; Reading Terminal Market Corp. for its Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers; Little Giant Creative for its Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship, and Benjamin Bryant for his Little Music Studio.
 
Caitlin Quigley of PACA spoke at the celebration. Her organization will use its $146,000 grant to launch 20 book clubs in 20 Philly neighborhoods. Attendees will focus on studying cooperative business models, and then use what they’ve learned to launch a co-op business serving a need in their community.
 
Quigley hopes the initiative will "activate Philadelphia residents to be lifelong agents of change in their neighborhoods."
 
RTM General Manager Anuj Gupta spoke on behalf of Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers, recipient of $84,674. According to Knight, the project will build "cultural bridges to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities with cooking classes celebrating ethnic food," led by RTM chefs.
 
RTM is one of the city’s most diverse public spaces, explained Gupta, and it’s known "as a place where one can expect civility," no matter where you come from, over the common enjoyment of food.
 
Tayyib Smith's Little Giant Creative is receiving $308,640 for its project that boosts "economic opportunity by using hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups." As Smith noted, one third of our city’s population lives in poverty. With a GED and two semesters of college, he’s now the founder of four businesses, and he wants to see Philadelphia's entrepreneurial community talk as much as they can about local poverty.
 
Bryan's The Little Music Studio, which netted $334,050, will be a "traveling playground for musicians," making musical instruments accessible in public places to anyone who wants to sit together and play. The "project is not about performance," says Bryan, but about diverse people connecting through spontaneous jam sessions. (He’s leading the project through his role as director of planning and design at Group Melvin Design.)
 
As Knight Foundation Philadelphia Program Director Patrick Morgan put it, "Each of these ideas represents the best of Philadelphia."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Patrick Morgan, Knight Foundation Philadelphia, and Knight grant recipients 

 

Temple Blackstone Launchpad student wins pitch contest with campus food delivery app


Recent Temple graduate Andrew Nakkache and his business partner, fellow grad Mike Paszkiewicz, got the idea for their winning 2016 College Pitch Philly concept Habitat when they grew frustrated with the student meal plans. The resulting startup is a food-delivery app linking local food trucks and restaurants with campus-dwellers.

The duo -- who both graduated about a month ago -- met on their very first day on campus and soon identified a couple things about student life that weren’t ideal, including the fact that they (or their parents) were wasting money on meal plans with meals that expired weekly.

"Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was an off-campus meal plan?" Nakkache remembers wondering. It was just a concept at that point, but a year-and-a-half later, he and Paszkiewicz launched the initial version of Habitat, a general "student-to-student marketplace."

"It failed big-time," recalls Nakkache. It was "buggy" and they released it in April, shortly before the summer exodus. People were downloading the app, but in one month, they didn’t book a single transaction. There was work to be done.

The partners headed to San Francisco for some mentorship -- one successful entrepreneur assured them that they had a great market, but needed to zero in on a much more targeted service. They realized that there was a huge opportunity in food alone.

Nakkache points to existing meal delivery apps and websites like GrubHub; they realized none of them were focused on the college market. The revamped version of Habitat, launched September 1, 2015, operates with "runners" (exclusively Temple students) delivering food to campus sites within a half-mile or less of participating restaurants and food trucks for a $2.50 in-app delivery fee.

Since launch, Habitat has clocked about 1200 orders, with over 400 in the last month. Nakkache touts a 75 percent success rate with vendors: out of 28 food trucks and restaurants approached by Habitat, 21 came on board.

At the February 24 College Pitch Philly competition, Habitat took top honors, nabbing $7,500 out of a total $15,000 prize pool. (The contest is sponsored by the Philadelphia Regional Entrepreneurship Education Consortium and partners StartUp PHL, Blackstone Foundation, and Quorum at the University City Science Center.) Wins like this -- including a $21,000 boost from the Fox School’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl -- have helped propel the young company, which now has six full-time employees.

Habitat’s latest update speaks to the founders’ original inspiration: a stored-value feature that allows app users (or their parents) to buy tiered plans that include a certain number of pre-paid meals (at $8 each) and some free deliveries.

Next up? Burnish the metrics at Temple and expand to University City. The founders hope the prize money from College Pitch Philly will help bring Habitat to Penn and Drexel by fall 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andrew Nakkache, Habitat

Food News: Eclectic Double Knot brings coffee, pastries, banh mi, sushi and more to Midtown Village


Coffee. Pastries. Banh mi and lunch bowls. Sushi. Japanese-style small plates. Robatayaki. You can get them all at Double KnotSampan's exciting new neighbor on 13th Street. For Michael Schulson and his MJS Restaurants (of Atlantic City's Izakaya, Sampan and the Independence Beer Garden) the new spot came after a quick turnaround -- it took less than a year from lease to launch. The dynamic space is an intriguing addition to Midtown Village's exploding restaurant scene.

There’s so much happening at Double Knot (120 S. 13th Street) that it's good to have a tour guide. The space has two levels: about 1100 square feet upstairs and a larger downstairs space offering about 3000 square feet including dining rooms, a bar (under beverage manager Zachary Davis), and a twelve-seat sushi and robatayaki bar.

The Double Knot day starts at 7 a.m. in its street-level coffee bar where they serve a buzzy proprietary blend through a partnership with Elixr; the menu also includes coffee cocktails and pastries (from pastry chef Roxxanne Delle Site). From there, it's on to lunch: Schulson says his mid-day patrons have been especially enthusiastic about the midday offerings: create-your-own lunch bowls or banh mi for just $7.

At 4 p.m., the cocktail lounge opens, serving a daily punch, wine and beer on draft, desserts, and selections from the downstairs sushi and robatayaki menus. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. with 35 seats upstairs -- along with a full bar serving sake by the glass and bottle -- and 80 seats downstairs, plus the sushi bar.

"We wanted to do something that made the downstairs feel a little bit more exclusive, more hidden," says Shulson of building a space that patrons will discover "tucked away" down a hallway and back stairwell.

And dinner?

Executive Chef Kevin Yanaga supervises a menu featuring sushi, Japanese small plates (Schulson recommends ordering about eight for a table of two) and 38 robatayaki options. Robatayaki is a Japanese-style skewer slow-grilled over open charcoal; Double Knot’s offerings include duck hearts, lobster, shrimp, venison, chicken breast and asparagus.

As for the small plates, take your pick. The menu has nine sections including meat, fish, sushi, sashimi, hot, cold and crispy. Schulson's favorites include the hearts of palm salad; the tuna tartare with chili oil, avocado and rice pearls; and the rib-eye for two served with sushi rice and lettuce for wrapping.

Kate Rohrer of Rohe Creative designed the space. Upstairs patrons will find a light, earthy palette including exposed brick, reclaimed wood, tile, antiqued mirrors and industrial-style lighting. Downstairs, there's "dark and moody" velvet booths, industrial fixtures and two hand-painted murals.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Schulson, MJS Restaurants

 

Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground works to get its due

Historic Fair Hill (HFH), a landmark burial ground on Germantown Avenue, houses the remains of some of America’s most prominent abolitionists and women’s rights advocates. After decades of neglect, the rejuvenated site is planning another year of programming growth under new executive director Jean Warrington.

A Philly native and current Chestnut Hill resident, Warrington got involved with the project over a decade ago. In 2004, the HFH board hired her as its part-time program director and as of January 1, 2016, she took on the role of the organization’s executive director.

The HFH site dates all the way back to the early 18th century. It was started by George Fox himself, founder of the Religious Society of Friends and the land’s original owner. According to HFH, his will asked that the space be used "for a meeting house, a burying ground, and a garden and grounds" for kids to play and learn.

The site’s adjoining Quaker meeting house at Germantown Avenue and Cambria Street was sporadically active from 1703 all the way until 1967, when shrinking attendance led the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to sell the property. Maintenance of the grounds -- the site of the graves of American luminaries such as Lucretia Mott and Robert Purvis -- deteriorated.

In the late 1980s, "it was the biggest open-air crack cocaine market in the city," says Warrington of the five-acre site. In the 1990s, a dedicated cross-cultural neighborhood coalition slowly reclaimed the site as a safe green space. Outreach to local Quaker leader Margaret Hope Bacon (a Mott biographer) resulted in renewed attention and eventually a nonprofit that raised funds to buy back the grounds in 1993.

"What we’re doing is using a historic site…to carry forward the values of the people buried there. We’re using the past to serve the present," explains Warrington of HFH’s current work, which hearkens back to Fox’s will by focusing on urban gardening -- both on and off-site -- and a reading program at the neighboring Julia de Burgos School.

There are currently 20 HFH "reading buddies" who volunteer in the classroom there and work to restore the school library that was closed down (along with many others across the city) in 2010. A large local Hispanic immigrant community means this kind of support is crucial: Many local kids have parents who don’t speak English, so bridging the English-speaking literary gap is important.

"The kids are so lovely," says Warrington. "They are respectful, eager, curious, bright. They’ve got to have a library. They’ve got to have books. They’ve got to have people who can read with them."

In her new role as executive director, she wants to increase the number of reading buddies to 50 and expand the site’s existing gardening programs. Working outside "increases the peace," she argues. It correlates with better performance at school and is "just a good thing in this society that is so wired and pushy and loud and unjust."

Also on the horizon is increasing the site’s visibility with an improved website, better social media presence and monthly events. That includes an upcoming Women’s History Month tour on March 12 honoring the graves of leaders of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s right’s convention.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jean Warrington, Historic Fair Hill

 

Yards, La Colombe and Shake Shack team up for a limited edition Coffee Stout

A new collaboration between Shake Shack, Yards Brewing Company and La Colombe Coffee Roasters is giving Philly a rich and tasty new brew for the cold-weather season, available on draft at select locations while supplies last.
 
On January 8, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael, and Yards founder and brewmaster Tom Kehoe officially launched their limited-edition Coffee Stout at Center City’s Sansom Street Shake Shack location.
 
Kehoe chatted with Flying Kite while taking full advantage of an impromptu Shake Shack combo -- making a vanilla custard float with his stout. The collaboration has been in the works for about two months. The strong, dark, and smooth ale gets bright notes of lavender, orange and caramel from ethically sourced beans that come to Philly via the Haitian village of Fatima (as part of La Colombe’s three-year investment in the Haiti Coffee Academy). 
 
The base stout is very similar to Yards' Chocolate Love Stout, brewed with the same chocolate malt. It gets its mellow coffee flavor directly from the beans in a secondary fermenter.

"Coffee really works so well with the beer," said Kehoe. "It’s definitely a beer for winter because of the robustness of it."
 
Sales will benefit the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program (MAP), Center City Shake Shack’s official charitable partner. $2 from each pint purchased will go to MAP.
  
So where can you get your hands on some of this buzzy brew? Pints are on sale for $5.75 at Yards’ Northern Liberties tasting room, La Colombe’s Fishtown café (1335 Frankford Avenue) and all three Philadelphia-area Shake Shack locations (Center City, University City, and King of Prussia).
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Kehoe, Yards Brewing Company

On the Ground: Callowhill's W/N W/N shakes up the restaurant model

If I were running this business, what would I do differently? It’s a question most restaurant, café or bar staffers have probably asked themselves at some point in their careers. Last year, a group of Philly entrepreneurs came together to answer it for themselves.

In summer 2014, six Philadelphians began to take a serious look at developing a cooperatively owned and operated bar and restaurant. One has since left the venture, but five service industry veterans remain to run Spring Garden Street's W/N W/N Coffee Bar: Will Darwall, Michael Dunican, Max Kochinke, Alden Towler and Tony Montagnaro.

The crew soft-launched the location at 931 Spring Garden in December of last year, and held a grand opening in late January 2015. Since then, the five coworker/owners have been experimenting with their model in a democratic government-by-consensus process (they have three additional employees who are not partners in the business).

Chatting with Flying Kite about their first year in business, Darwall says the ownership model is based more on "sweat equity" than the capital brought to the venture (that capital was treated as third-party loans, and does not entitle the owner-investor to a greater share of the profits). Each of the five owners works multiple shifts each week cooking, serving, bartending, busing tables or performing maintenance.

"What worker/ownership gives us is equal legal ownership over the company, which means a right to participate in decision-making and a right to accrue profits from the business," he explains. "The way that we pay out those profits is proportional to how much work we all do, counting the hours up.

"We thought that coming together and working as a cooperative, we’d be able to create a structure where we could support each other…and use our collective creative energy and potential to come up with good solutions to the problems we faced, rather than feeling frustrated about things that we thought could go better."

W/N W/N's menu features local, sustainably sourced foods, with a focus on canning, preserving and pickling. (Ed: Flying Kite recently held a meeting there and the food was phenomenal.)

The innovative business model extends to the customers: patrons can buy membership shares. They run $25, and each time the member buys something, 25 percent of their bill is deducted from that pre-paid fee – meaning that W/N W/N members infuse the business with $25 up front, and then receive that money back as they pay only 75 percent of the purchase price on any given item.

Darwall estimates that about 10 percent of the café’s customers have bought into the membership model, and that’s fine for now -- as the founders tinker with their business plan and assess what worked and what didn’t in their first year, they’ll continue to explore what kind of cooperative model might thrive going forward.

W/N W/N will be scaling back its food menu beginning in January, though food service will still be on offer. It currently opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closing at midnight every day except Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 2 a.m. The doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).


On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Will Darwall, W/N W/N Coffee Bar

Federal dollars from ScaleUp America come to West Philly

In December, the Enterprise Center (TEC) in West Philly announced a special program to augment their 25-year mission: giving local women- and minority-owned businesses the tools they need to grow. TEC is one of only seven organizations nationwide -- and the only one in Philly -- chosen to receive over $1 million in federal funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration's ScaleUp America Initiative.

According to TEC, ScaleUp provides "growth-oriented" small businesses with a targeted twelve-week curriculum and six months of one-on-one mentoring from experts aimed at developing a three-year strategy. TEC narrowed the field of applicants down to 25 businesses featuring minority owners or executive managers.

Iola Harper, TEC's executive vice president of business programs, says that the companies served by TEC and ScaleUp America are often "sandwiched" between early startups "in the idea phase" and large firms that can attract venture capital. To qualify for participation in the ScaleUp program, businesses had to have local impact and have proven themselves in the market via $150,000 to $700,000 in annual revenue.

"We call them scalers," says Harper, and they are often neglected in the venture capital world.

One marker of companies like this is a relative lack of managerial experience, in addition to inadequate access to capital and technical assistance.

"I find that these businesses tend to work in their business and not on their business," explains Harper. "So this program forces the participants to step out of their businesses," encouraging management to look at the big picture: business goals, scalability and understanding the numbers.

The ScaleUp initiative is a mentoring curriculum, but another component of working with TEC is the access to capital. The organization can make in-house loans of up to $200,000 to qualified participants, and if a business’s capital needs exceed that, there are banking partners on hand.

Harper is excited about "the fact that these are all local or minority-owned firms, and they’re typically the pool that has the hardest time accessing these services that we’re offering."

That difficulty is two-fold: Not only does TEC focus on women and minority entrepreneurs who get a smaller percentage of America’s venture capital in general, but it also targets companies outside of the tech and pharmaceutical realms. Current ScaleUp participants include food, manufacturing, personal service and construction businesses.

TEC is focused on ventures that "bring a lot of social capital to our community," enthuses Harper. "They bring a lot of intellectual capital to our community, and most of all they bring jobs to our community."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Iola Harper, The Enterprise Center

 

Philly tableware mavens Felt + Fat earn fans far and wide

Port Richmond ceramics company Felt + Fat was founded in 2013 by Nate Mell and Wynn Bauer. In May, over 200 Kickstarter donors raised $26,256 for the young Philly business, which provides custom-made tableware to restaurants such as Fork, High Street on Market, South Philly’s Laurel and other fine dining spots in Brooklyn and beyond. They also offer direct sales to individual consumers through their website and wholesale distribution through shops across the country.

According to Mell, Felt + Fat would have continued without the Kickstarter infusion, but it helped them grow much faster than they could have on their own, adding a new kiln to their studio, acquiring other smaller pieces of equipment and bringing on board a paid employee.

"It’s been full-time since day one," says Mell of the hours he and his partner have put into the business; that said, they also worked part-time elsewhere while the company grew. Mell spent about seven years in local restaurants, which helped him connect with chefs who were looking to showcase their locally sourced ingredients on custom Philly-made tableware.

This past summer the founders were able to quit their part-time jobs and focus exclusively on Felt + Fat.

The name is a homage to mid-20th century German sculptor Joseph Beuys -- they liked his artistry and use of materials, most notably soap and animal fat.

"We were just trying to make a name that could exist in a few different realms of craft and art and design," explains Mell.

The founders have perfected a slip casting method for their unique wares, which feature different textures, finishes and colors, including a distinctive swirl. They also make their own porcelain.

"To a degree, it’s kind of like cooking or baking something. It’s a recipe," says Mell of the specially "tweaked" clay and mineral combo they use. Initially, they were mixing the ingredients themselves, but now a distributor does this for them; they then add water and the necessary materials to cast their plates and cups.

In slip casting, the liquid clay -- or "slip" -- is poured into a plaster mold. Wherever the slip meets the moisture-wicking plaster, a hard edge forms. When that layer is thick enough, the excess slip is poured out of the mold. What’s left forms the body of the cup or plate. When dry, it's removed from the mold and fired in the kiln.

All that takes time and space, which Philadelphia has in spades.

"Philadelphia is a particularly good place right now to be an artist and a creative person, because of the rapid growth of the moment," argues Mell. He appreciates the large client base a Philly location offers, without the living and studio costs of New York City.

Next up, the duo are hoping to expand into lighting fixtures and furniture accessories; they eventually aim to open a local showroom for their wares. They’ll certainly have more space to experiment: In January, Felt + Fat (currently at 3237 Amber Street) will expand to a second location in a Kensington studio building at the corner of I and Venango Streets.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nate Mell, Felt + Fat 

Kensington Quarters celebrates one year; owners bringing new dining spot to Point Breeze

A year after launching Frankford Avenue's Kensington Quarters -- a restaurant with its own on-site butcher shop sourcing whole, sustainably and humanely raised animals -- owner Michael Pasquarello has been pleasantly surprised. (Here’s the Flying Kite look at KQ’s opening.)

"What’s been really awesome is the butcher shop has performed better than we expected," he says of the front corner of the space.

Pasquarello worried that his goal of reviving an old-fashioned butcher’s counter in the age of the supermarket would be tough, but a dedicated customer base has materialized. Thanks to that success, KQ offers a growing roster of locally sourced retail products including pickles, produce, dairy, cheese, salts and olive oil. With help from butcher Heather Marold Thomason, Pasquarello plans to expand this part of the business over the next year, "so people can come through and put their meals together."

He also hopes to better utilize the upper floor, which already hosts a range of cooking and butchering classes and events. KQ Executive Chef Damon Menapace plans on more collaborations with top local chefs, including one in November with George Sabatino.

The demonstration space has already hosted Rob Marzinsky, executive chef of 13th Street Kitchens Restaurant Group's latest venture Buckminster’s, a "neo-bistro" slated to open in November in Point Breeze. The resto group -- owned and run by Pasquarello and his wife Jeniphur -- also operates Café Lift (their first restaurant, opened in 2003), Prohibition Taproom and Bufad

Buckminster's -- which will boast design elements that honor local science legend Buckminster Fuller of geodesic dome fame -- aims to capitalize on a dining style that’s especially popular in Paris right now, with young chefs giving their own spin on small plates of casual bistro food. But according to Pasquarello, Buckminster’s menu isn’t defined by French cuisine. It will focus on locally sourced goods, with a seasonal menu changing every couple of days and complementing the beverages on offer. Plates ($2-$21) will join eight beers and six wines, along with specialty cocktails.

Pasquarello hopes that Buckminster’s (coming to 1200 S. 21st Street) will open sometime in November offering dinner seven nights a week, with brunch and lunch hours to follow as the restaurant finds its feet.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Pasquarello, 13th Street Kitchens Restaurant Group

After pop-up success, Philly is finally getting its own Filipino restaurant

Last winter, Philly chef Lou Boquila helped bring the city its first taste of a cuisine that’s hard to find in these parts: Filipino food. With help from partners Neal Santos, Jillian Encarnacion and Resa Mueller, Pelago Pop-Up Kusina temporarily took over Passyunk Square resto Noord. The event (and subsequent pop-ups) sold out, and now Boquila is launching his own restaurant in South Philly.

Perla, currently under construction at 1535 South 11th Street, will be the city's only Filipino restaurant. Boquila, a Philippines native who came to Philly when he was eight, says he’s not a traditional Filipino chef.

"But I know the food," he insists. "I know the flavors, [and] I relate that to a restaurant kitchen."

Balking a bit at overuse of the word "fusion," the fledgling restaurateur nonetheless describes Filipino dishes as a mix of influences. They blend Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Spanish flavors, and are served in family-style communal meals that are hard to replicate in a restaurant setting.

Boquila, who’s been cooking for about ten years, got his start in the local food industry as a dishwasher at South Street’s now-defunt Knave of Hearts. He worked his way up, becoming a line cook and then helping run the kitchen, before deciding to attend culinary school. After finishing, he interned at Twenty Manning Grill, where he later became sous chef, and then moved to Rittenhouse Square’s Audrey Claire, where he’s been since 2007.

"Perla will be interpretations of popular Filipino dishes," he explains; he's aiming for "an approachable palate everyone can try."

For example, there's his version of kare-kare, a Filipino stew he makes with oxtail and tripe, along with peanut butter and shrimp paste. He assures diners not to be scared off by the unusual-sounding flavor combo of this "very different, very very funky dish," because it all blends together well with the under-appreciated savory quality of peanuts.

Perla will have a small start for its small space, focusing mainly on a tasting menu that will keep the chef in a hands-on role. But in a nod to traditional Filipino dining, the restaurant will offer special Sunday brunches -- according to Boquila, "breakfast is very big in the Filipino community" -- as well as a Sunday night homage to home-style Filipino dining with kamayan meals, large communal dinners eaten by hand off of a banana leaf.

Boquila hopes to open Perla by March of 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Lou Boquila
, Perla

On the Ground: One city block yields almost 6,000 pounds of produce

When Flying Kite moved into our new On the Ground digs in Parkside, we didn’t know how close we were to Neighborhood Foods Farm, one of the city’s most productive urban farms.
 
Operating under the umbrella of Philly’s Urban Tree Connection (UTC) and its Neighborhood Foods program, the site at 53rd and Wyalusing is the size of one city block, or about three-quarters of an acre.
 
Rachel deVitry, agricultural director at UTC, has overseen the farm since spring 2014, but it got started around 2010, when local block captains approached UTC founder and executive director Skip Wiener about the space.
 
"It used to be a parking lot with a factory across the street," recalls deVitry. "Ownership of the lot just lapsed and it became a chop shop," and a hub for drugs and prostitution. The block captains invited Wiener to take a look, and plans for the farm got underway, beginning with a major clean-out of the accumulated garbage. Then came the break-up of the cement that covered most of the site, and the application of thick layers of leaf mulch and mushroom soil.
 
These days, the farm yields rotation crops such as lettuces, arugula, kale, collards and chard, along with radishes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash and heirloom tomatoes.

Neighborhood Foods also operates three other urban farms in the neighborhood -- one adjacent to the First African Presbyterian Church at 4159 West Girard, another next to Ward AME Church at 43rd and Aspen, and a new four-acre site on Merion Avenue near Girard.
 
Though not the largest, the 53rd Street farm is the most productive site -- so far this season they've harvested 5,850 pounds of produce.
 
Some of that goes to neighbors who volunteer a few hours per week in exchange for fresh vegetables, and some goes to the Saturday Neighborhood Foods Farm farmers' market, which runs on the site from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. May through November. (The market also features produce like fruit and potatoes purchased from other local growers.)
 
The farm operates with the help of two full-time and two part-time staffers, as well as neighborhood volunteers and young apprentices hired after successful runs in after-school programs.
 
The farm stays open in the winter months thanks to "high tunnels," unheated structures that keep plants such as cold-friendly kale, collards and lettuce from freezing.

"We did grow through most of the winter last year," says deVitry. "And [we] hope to grow through the whole of the winter this year."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rachel DeVitry, Urban Tree Connection 



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On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

Mural Arts' Open Source launches an intercultural store and community center in North Philly

Thanks to the Mural Arts Program, one of the biggest arts and culture events this year isn’t happening inside one building, but all around the city, indoors and out, with public installations from artists across the region, country and world.
 
Open Source features 14 projects that, according to Mural Arts, transform the organization "into an open source platform, allowing artists to create projects that demand public involvement and inspire widespread participation."
 
One North Philly installation is a kick-off for a longer-term project examining the social and economic ties and tensions in a Philly neighborhood. Last year, with Corner Store (Take-Out Stories), Ernel Martinez and Keir Johnston of AMBER Art & Design examined similar themes to those in their current project, La Frontera. Corner Store spotlighted the primarily Chinese and Korean-owned take-out restaurants and bodegas of Chinatown North, whose customers are primarily black and Latino. The moveable Corner Store installation aimed to be a space to understand different cultural roots and the myriad similarities at heart.
 
La Frontera examines long-existing connections and tensions between the communities divided by North Philly’s 5th Street corridor: primarily African-American on one side, and immigrants from South and Central America on the other. Located in a 3000-square-foot warehouse at 2200 N. 8th Street, building 3A, that Mural Arts helped the artists to locate and rent, it’s half creatively-funded bodega, half arts/community center.
 
Martinez, a Belize native who grew up in Los Angeles and Detroit before settling in Philadelphia, calls La Frontera a "bridging of two worlds," featuring site-specific community-created artwork telling neighbors’ stories, as well as a unique "bodega" of goods and services, from homemade soaps and foods to services like hairdressing. Wares will be dispensed free to visitors via small grants from Amber Art & Design to participating providers.
 
"Philadelphia historically is a city built on immigrants," argues Martinez (who earned his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania before helping to found AMBER Art & Design in 2011), and these bodegas or corner stores are often instrumental to the immigrant families who run them, as well as their customers.
 
La Frontera is especially a nod to the parallel histories of African Americans (who swept north across the country in the Great Migration) and Latino immigrants.
 
"Within these American cities, these urban areas, you have people with different cultures, but they really do have a shared history," having left one place for another, he explains. "They’re the ones that are bringing life [and] creativity into these cities. They’re the formation of new communities."
 
But sharing space with limited resources leads to a lot of conflicts, too, and the artists hope diverse community members will find new understanding at La Frontera.
 
The project won’t end with Open Source in October. The artists hope to continue it for up to two years; the Open Source installation is "kind of a seed project," explains Martinez, "and we’re going to run with it from there."
 
In the meantime, locals are invited to a free North Philly Block Party outside the warehouse on October 18 (noon to 4 p.m.) featuring food, music and other entertainment.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ernel Martinez, AMBER Art & Design

The Magic of Olive Oil: Findings from the Monell Chemical Senses Center

Next time you’re cooking with extra virgin olive oil, go ahead and take a little swig. If it burns your throat or makes you cough, you've got some potent EVOO there.
 
Connoisseurs have long known that the distinctive irritating sting (almost but not everyone experiences it) is the mark of high-quality olive oil. It is also, according to Gary K. Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, indicative of a naturally occurring compound called "oleocanthal." It's unique to EVOO and appears to be an even more potent anti-inflammatory agent than ibuprofen.
 
Speaking at a recent session of the University City Science Center Quorum "Lunch for Hungry Minds" program, Beauchamp, emeritus director and president at Monell (the world's only independent nonprofit research institute focused on taste and smell), described how research is substantiating the health benefits of EVOO and, by extension, the Mediterranean diet.
 
Both ibuprofen and olive oil create a similar burning sensation in the back of the throat. Monell set out to determine what accounts for what Beauchamp calls "the throat localized pungency of EVOO" and whether it has the same pharmacological benefits as the pharmaceutical mainstay.
 
In 2005, Monell (and simultaneously Unilever) identified oleocanthal, the compound that accounts for the throat sting. This natural anti-inflammatory agent inhibits activity of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, a pharmacological action shared by Advil, Motrin and other over-the-counter ibuprofen drugs.
 
The health benefits of the oleocanthal in EVOO for those raised eating traditional Mediterranean cuisines -- and those who adopt the so-called Mediterranean diet -- could be considerable. It is well known that the regimen can protect against heart disease. Monell researchers believe that oleocanthal might also be associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and certain cancers.
 
Further research is needed to determine the connection between the sensory attributes of EVOO (bitter, pungent, fruity, etc.) and the anti-inflammatory effect, and to determine the safety, stability, efficacy and cost of isolating the molecule for commercialization. Also of interest to Monell is why humans have come to appreciate the sting of the oleocanthal in olive oil. (As Beauchamp notes, we’re also the only species that likes hot peppers, whose capsaicin affords its own health benefits.)
 
For now, what is known is that oils pressed from young olives from an early harvest have the highest levels of oleocanthal and the biggest burn.
 
Source: Gary K. Beauchamp, Monell Chemical Senses Center
Writer: Elise Vider 

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Choose your favorite Philly innovator at October’s Philly Stake dinner

Recently, we took a look at Germantown photographer Tieshka Smith’s project Racism is a Sickness, which will be on display at City Hall on November 2. In the meantime, Smith of is one of eight presenters at the fourteenth Philly Stake dinner, which draws creatively and civically minded folks together to enjoy a meal and hear from some of the city’s most ambitious grassroots innovators.

A member of the worldwide Sunday Soup Network (founded in Chicago), Philly Stake has been operating since 2010. Until 2014, the all-volunteer group did three events per year, but it now focuses on just one. Held picnic-style at beautiful Bartram’s Garden, the shindig will return on Sunday, October 4 from 3 - 6 p.m.

Guests (which usually number about 250; get your $20 tickets in advance online here) come for the Philly Stake-provided dinner and dessert, featuring foods from local suppliers, and stay to hear presentations from artists, entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders.

"It’s very simple," says founder Theresa Rose of their guidelines for presenters. "It’s just creative, relevant, community-engaged projects."

After hearing each presentation, diners vote by ballot on which concept they like the best. The first-place winner gets a cash prize of about $1,000 on the spot; the second-place winner nabs around $500 (sometimes when the vote is very close this prize is split between the second and third-place vote-getters).

According to Rose, Philly Stake isn’t a formal nonprofit or an LLC -- it’s a group of volunteers working together to boost Philly's best ideas for community improvement, and all the money gathered from ticket sales goes directly toward the next dinner and the prize money for the presenters.

This year’s dinner has an arts focus, and for the first time Philly Stake has the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance as a promotions partner. (Past Stake winners have run the gamut from urban farming projects to a poetry program for Vietnam veterans to a dance program for Philly seniors. Others victors have included Recycled Artist in Residency, now its own nonprofit, and the West Philly Tool Library.) The other partner is Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sports Management -- it is donating its kitchen for food preparation, and also lending some students to help out at the event. With a core group of just eight volunteers besides Rose (Mira Adornetto, Annemarie Vaeni, Brett Map, Mallary Johnson, Jonathan Wallis, Ruth Scott Blackson, Albert Lee and Emma Jacobs), the events are getting a bit hard to handle without the help of sponsors.

Philly Stake typically narrows its presenters down from a pool of 20 to 30 applicants. Rose calls the event "fuel for the imagination," because in a world full of dire news and fear for the future, Philly Stake reminds its fans that "there’s so many awesome things going on" and also a tangible way to support them.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Theresa Rose, The Philly Stake
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