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Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival returns, hopes to learn from its mistakes

?Last year's fest was a bit of a disaster, but organizers have learned from those missteps and hope to mount a more successful -- and tasty -- event in September. 

Xfinity Live! will host the second-ever Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival on Saturday, September 17 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets will go on sale Tuesday, July 12 via the official festival website.

This year, the number of tickets is limited to just 5,000 total — down significantly from 2015’s event, which sold 20,000 passes and overwhelmed promoters and workers alike. Now, with fewer guests and guidance from Xfinity Live!, organizers hope some of last year’s issues will be alleviated.

At 2015’s festival, folks complained of high drink pricing, too few samples, and long lines, among other issues. According to a release, drink pricing will be “more reasonable” for 2016, and volunteers will be supplied to vendors in an attempt to keep things moving more smoothly.

“This year we are addressing all of the operational aspects to maximize the value of the event for paying customers,” said organizer Kevin Baxter of the festival. “We listened to the public and our vendors and took their suggestions in planning for this year.”


Original source: Philly.com
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Vogue lauds Fishtown's food and drink favorites

The fashion magazine makes an argument for this neighborhood's myriad awesome dining and nightlife options.

First came the artists, then the musicians, then the enterprising new chefs, and just like that, Philly’s low-key working-class neighborhood of Fishtown (so-called because of its history as the center of the shad fishing industry) evolved into the city’s latest hub of cool. The focus of this area’s renaissance? Really good food (and drinks too).

Like Brooklyn’s Williamsburg did five years ago, under-the-radar Fishtown has become home to nationally acclaimed restaurants (including a pizzeria deemed the best in the country by Bon Appétit) and lively bars. Here, a field guide to the very best spots to eat and drink in Philly’s coolest new hood.


Original source: Vogue
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PA liquor laws take step into the future: Wine in grocery stores!

Pennsylvania's liquor laws have long contained vestiges of prohibition -- especially when it comes to wine sales. Now that is changing.

Barely a day after it sped through the House and unexpectedly landed on his desk, Gov. Wolf on Wednesday signed a law to let hundreds of restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores sell wine.

The bill takes effect in 60 days, though it might take months for consumers to see the impact.

Besides granting by-the-bottle wine licenses for stores that already sell beer, the measure takes steps to loosen the state's oft-criticized control of the alcohol market.

It permits direct shipments of wine to homes, and removes restrictions on when State Stores can open on Sundays and holidays. It also gives the Liquor Control Board flexibility in pricing, and provides licenses allowing casinos to sell alcohol around the clock.

"For the last 80-some years we have not been able to do this, so this truly is historic," Wolf said in an afternoon signing ceremony...

The LCB operates more than 600 wine and spirits stores, and consumers can also purchase bottles at wineries or through a state website.

The law expands the roster of potential wine vendors to include about 10,000 holders of restaurant licenses - including more than 300 grocery and convenience stores now allowed to sell beer - and about 1,200 holders of hotel licenses, according to Elizabeth Brassell, an LCB spokeswoman.

Any of those businesses could seek a permit allowing them to sell up to four bottles of wine per customer for off-premises consumption until 11 at night.


Original source: Philly.com
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Has the farmers' market movement hit a plateau?

?As the local food movement matures, farmers' markets are trying to figure out the perfect formula. While some new markets have opened in recent years, others have closed or retooled. Philly is now home to about 40 markets.

Headhouse, arguably the city's most venerable farmers' market, is marking its 10th year. A lot has changed in that time...The number of markets has nearly doubled since 2006, to 8,476 last year.

But there are signs the movement might be plateauing.

Farmers' overall sales at markets, after climbing dramatically, declined about 1 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

And though there are several new markets this year, others have closed.

"The landscape has changed, in that there are a lot of places for folks to get local food," said Lisa Kelly, who manages Headhouse for the nonprofit Food Trust. Competition includes CSAs, boutiques like Green Aisle Grocery, and even Walmart. "We're not the only game in town anymore."

Jon Glyn, farmers' market program manager at Farm to City, said the business has been maturing.

"I feel like we're hitting the second wave of the farmers' market movement," he said.

"For 10 or 15 years, we've had a lot of interest in farmers' markets. Every neighborhood wanted their own, and even old-school farmers that gave up on farmers' markets in the '80s and '90s are now coming back. Some of our markets are on their 10th year, and they've actually inspired this new generation of young people who are getting into farming. But they're having trouble finding spots at farmers' markets that already have established vendors, and everyone is fighting for the same dollars."


Original source: Philly.com
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Philly closer to becoming first major city to pass soda tax

The New York Times takes a look at Philly's soda tax proposal, and why it might succeed where others failed. 

If the measure passes a final vote next week, as it is expected to do, it will impose a tax of 1.5 cents for every ounce that includes sugar or artificial sweeteners — about 30 cents for a 20-ounce drink or $2.16 for a 12-pack. On Wednesday night, it was passed on a voice vote by the City Council’s “committee of the whole,” which includes the entire council.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s original proposal was to tax sugary drinks at 3 cents an ounce, a rate that would have doubled the price of many sodas. Aware of the political challenges, he tried a novel strategy to promote his tax. Instead of selling it as a nanny state measure meant to make the city healthier, he presented it as a big untapped source of revenue that could be used to pay for popular initiatives, including expanded prekindergarten, and renovations of city libraries and recreation centers.

That choice appears to have paid off, but it may come with some consequences. Because the measure was cast as a revenue-raiser, the final deal is not exactly what public health experts might prefer. Council members, in negotiations, altered the spectrum of taxed products to hit budget targets. The measure that passed Wednesday taxes not just sugary drinks but also diet drinks. It exempts juice drinks from the tax as long as they have 50 percent juice, even if they also have added sugar. Minutes before the final vote at 8 p.m., the city’s finance department revealed that some soda-tax revenue would also be used to plug a budget shortfall...

“There has been much discussion around the world and within the U.S. to adopt soda taxes,” Kelly Brownell, the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and a soda-tax advocate, said in an email. “Philadelphia has now created an entirely new level of momentum.”


Original source: The New York Times
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Federal Donuts expands to Nashville, Miami

The local chicken-and-donuts chain continues its quest for world domination, announcing plans for locations in Miami and Nashville. 

It's all happening. The best fried chicken and doughnuts in the country are no longer confined to Philadelphia. Congratulations, America, you're getting more Federal Donuts.

Philadelphia's beloved fried-chicken-and-doughnuts-and-coffee chainlet was founded in 2011 by acclaimed chef and 2014 Eater Chef of the Year Michael Solomonov with his Zahav restaurant partner Steve Cook, local coffee shop owners Tom Henneman and Bobby Logue, and Philly food maven Felicia D'Ambrosio. The brand (often referred to as to FedNuts) opened to epic lines and now boasts five locations in Philadelphia. Fried chicken and doughnuts were a rare combination in the first years of this decade, but diners can now find similar chicken and doughnut shops across the country.

Federal Donuts' owners have been teasing more locations for years. Back in 2014, Cook told Philadelphia Business Journal that he was looking at "cities that are drivable [to] Philadelphia" for potential new locations. So it was truly surprising when Eater learned earlier this week that the first two locations outside Philadelphia would be opening in the far-flung cities of Nashvilleand Miami. The FedNuts crew has opened the floodgates and is in full expansion mode.


Original source: Eater
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The New York Times lauds Philly's vegan dining scene

We can even forgive the lazy cheesesteak reference -- and the odd Passyunk fountain mention -- in this great rundown of Philly's vibrant vegan dining landscape.

What do you call a Philly cheese steak with no cheese and no steak?

It sounds like the setup to a punch line. But there’s nothing to laugh at when it comes to eating vegan in Philadelphia, which, in the last few years, has blossomed into a dynamic universe of vegan food, from old-school doughnuts to adventuresome tacos. Veganism is so hot that the city declared last Nov. 1 Philly Vegan Day.

“There’s a new energy here,” said Mike Barone, the owner of Grindcore House, a vegan coffee spot in South Philadelphia, famously an Italian neighborhood that’s undergone a restaurant renaissance near the grand Passyunk fountain. “You can go out to more places that are vegan. A lot of other places are accommodating, and that’s snowballing.”

Philadelphia’s vegan cheerleaders say what’s happening comes from living in a food-curious city where it’s cheap to explore new ground.

Much credit for the city’s vegan boom goes to Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby, a husband and wife team whose “vegetable restaurant” Vedge opened in 2011 in a townhouse near the trendy 13th Street neighborhood. (Horizons, their previous restaurant, helped endear the city to vegan eating.) The menu emphasizes seasonal vegetables and hearty, savory proteins like tofu and seitan (wheat gluten).

“We are cooking good food,” Mr. Landau said. “I don’t think most of our clientele care that it’s vegan.” Last year Philadelphia magazine named Vedge and V Street among the best 50 restaurants in town, calling Vedge “our favorite place to send anyone looking for a true taste of Philly talent.”


Original source: The New York Times
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Could Philadelphia become a mecca for vertical farming?

This sustainable agriculture model might just bloom in the City of Brotherly Love.

With its muggy summers and freezing winters, Philadelphia isn’t exactly known as an agricultural hotspot. But a resolution passed Thursday by Philadelphia City Council could put the City of Brotherly Love on the map as the next international green hub.

Local lawmakers are aiming to expand vertical and urban farming in the bustling metropolis, Philly.com reported.

“The most noble thing a human being can do is produce food for others,” Councilman Al Taubenberger, who introduced the resolution, said at a news conference held at Metropolis Farms in South Philly. “Vertical farming is something very special indeed, and fits like a glove in Philadelphia.”

As EcoWatch reported, Metropolis Farms is not only the first indoor hydroponic vertical farm in Philadelphia, it’s the first vegan-certified farm in the nation and the only known vertical farm to operate on the second floor of a building. By growing food locally, the farm slashes the distance food needs to travel to get to local kitchens, grocery stores and restaurants.


Original source: Alternet
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Britain's Mirror spends 48 hours in Philadelphia

The British publication sent their travel editor to Philadelphia -- he came back with "eight essential experiences."

If you’ve only got 48 hours in the city with famous links to Monopoly, the first thing you should do is go directly to jail.

Philadelphia was where legend says businessman Charles Darrow dreamed up the iconic board game in 1933 (he didn’t, he patented it – it was invented in 1903 by Elizabeth Magie of Washington DC, but that’s another story).

However, on a short visit to the splendid City of Brotherly Love, I cannot recommend highly enough a trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary. Here are eight unmissable things to see and do on a short break to Philly – much of which is walkable.


Original source: Mirror
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'South Philly, West of Broad' named one of the country's best beer 'hoods

DRAFT Magazine names a segment of Philadelphia one of American's great beer neighborhoods.

This isn’t the name of a ’hood, but more the western quadrant of the city made up of several neighborhoods. They’re culturally diverse, working-class neighborhoods that are experiencing significant gentrification with businesses (and beer) following suit. Overall, there’s not tons of stuff yet, but it’s ready to explode given the recent additions.” –Jared Littman, founder of Philly Tap Finder

The original: South Philadelphia Tap Room has been a beloved mainstay since 2003, featuring 14 taps (including cask and nitro lines) and food until 1 a.m.

The newbie: New arrival Brewery ARS shoots for a spring opening in West Passyunk, brewing American-style saisons (expect dialed-up hops) with a small cafe attached.

Also visit: Taproom on 19th bar, American Sardine BarBrew bottle shop


Original source: DRAFT Magazine
Read the complete story here.

Philly restaurants invade Washington, D.C.

Watch out Washington, D.C.: Philly restauranteurs are coming to town. The Washington Post looks at this growing trend.

What's next, the Liberty Bell?

Philadelphia may be home to its own excellent food scene, but more and more chefs and restaurateurs from the city are making the 123-mile trek south, bringing both tried-and-true and new concepts to Washington.

There's Pizzeria Vetri, from the acclaimed Vetri Family Italian restaurant group; HipCityVeg, a vegan fast-casual chain; and Honeygrow, a fast-casual stir-fry chain. All three have plans this spring or summer to join a scene that already includes Philadelphia imports such as restaurateur Stephen Starr (Le Diplomate), coffee roaster and cafe La Colombe and chef Jose Garces (Rural Society), whose Village Whiskey bourbon and burger bar is in development here as well. 

"I always felt Washington was a cool market," said Starr, whose runaway success at Le Diplomate, the 14th Street NW brasserie that opened in 2013, sold more than a few Philadelphia chefs on the prospect of opening in the nation's capital. He began scouting the city in the late '90s but only pulled the trigger when he found the perfect location -- an old dry cleaner in a free-standing, one-story building with plenty of sidewalk space. He said he's also "close" to two more deals here.


Original source: The Washington Post
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Beer garden confirmed for Reading Viaduct

As we reported in December, a PHS Pop-Up Beer Garden is coming to Callowhill. The plans have now been confirmed.

This summer, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society plans to open two pop-up beer gardens, a return to 15th and South streets plus a new park at the foot of the Philadelphia Rail Park.

Thanks to a $360,000 grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphians will get their first extended interaction with the planned Rail Park. A pop-up garden is set for 10th and Hamilton streets, at the base of the Reading Viaduct. Today, the area is a tangle of crumbling concrete, overgrown lots and decay, but with the help of PHS and noted landscape architect Walter Hood, the project aims to merge the post-industrial structure with urban green space. The pop-up will raise awareness for the creation of the Rail Park as it blends art, history and horticulture. The location is convenient to live music venues Union Transfer and Underground Arts, as well as the Chinatown and Callowhill neighborhoods. Perhaps even more so than the other PHS pop-ups, this location will challenge the way Philadelphians interact with and envision their urban spaces.


Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
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Conde Nast Traveler publishes South Philly-centric list of top local eats

Conde Nast Traveler runs down the "6 Best Places to Eat in Philadelphia Right Now," and it has a decidedly southern (Philly) bent with Bing Bing Dim Sum, Coeur, Restaurant Neuf, Hungry Pigeon and Laurel. Kensington Quarters is the one outlier.

Philadelphia may be known for its cheesesteaks, and with good reason. But for those with a finer palette, or who are simply looking for a bite that's equal parts creative and delicious, head to one of these six new restaurants in the City of Brotherly Love. From a pan-Asian take on matzo ball soup to "Frenchified Algerian" and then some, chefs are bringing the heat—and the cheese, and the wine, and the....pigeon? (yup, pigeon)—turning down-to-earth Philly into a foodie's dream.

Original source: Conde Nast Traveler
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Starr Restaurants hires high-profile new culinary director

Starr Restaurants has hired a new head honcho with a New York pedigree.

When Alex Lee resigned his pressure-cooker position as executive chef atDaniel in 2003 to become the executive chef at Glen Oaks country club in Old Westbury, N.Y., he may as well have gone to Mars. A high-profile star seemed to have left the picture.

Now he is back in the restaurant world as the culinary director of Starr Restaurants, Stephen Starr’s fast-growing group of 34 restaurants, most in Philadelphia and New York. Mr. Lee, who started last week, will oversee all of them and the other corporate chefs in the organization. Mr. Starr said he expected Mr. Lee to concentrate on the company’s new restaurants...

Hiring Mr. Lee is yet another example of Mr. Starr’s ability to attract marquee chefs. His roster already includes Masaharu Morimoto, Douglas Rodriguez, Justin Smillie, Jason Atherton from London and Daniel Rose from Paris.


Original source: The New York Times
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Statewide Spotlight: Pittsburgh's food scene hits the big time

The New York Times continues its love affair with Steel City, this time highlighting the symbiosis between the Pittsburgh food scene and its growing population of young people.

Everybody seems so young. And everybody’s talking about restaurants. If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.

In December, Zagat named Pittsburgh the No. 1 food city in America. Vogue just went live with a piece that proclaimed, “Pittsburgh is not just a happening place to visit — increasingly, people, especially New Yorkers, are toying with the idea of moving here.”

For decades, Pittsburgh was hardly seen as a beacon of innovative cuisine or a magnet for the young. It was the once-glorious metropolis that young people fled from after the shuttering of the steel mills in the early 1980s led to a mass exodus and a stark decline.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s mayor.

And they have. Over the last decade or so, the city has been the beneficiary of several overlapping booms. Cheap rent and a voracious appetite for culture have attracted artists. Cheap rent and Carnegie Mellon University have attracted companies like Google, Facebook and Uber, seeking to tap local tech talent. And cheap rent alone has inspired chefs to pursue deeply personal projects that might have a hard time surviving in the Darwinian real estate microclimates of New York and San Francisco.

No one can pinpoint whether it was the artists or techies or chefs who got the revitalization rolling. But there’s no denying that restaurants play a starring role in the story Pittsburgh now tells about itself. The allure of inhabiting a Hot New Food Town — be it Nashville or Richmond, Va., or Portland (Oregon or Maine) — helps persuade young people to visit, to move in and to stay.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here. 
162 Food Articles | Page: | Show All
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