Sunday, June 27, 2010

hobo ed & his perfectly paired pingos

On First Fridays of Bridge Street in Phoenixville, Ed Humpal, coffee roaster of Kimberton Whole Foods, joins Chad Williams of Handcrafted Cookie Company to offer his signature "pingos" paired perfectly with the organic company's sweet treats.

Humpal, who is individually progressing the local coffee revolution, has known Williams for years, as he has supplied his cookie dough to Kimberton Whole Foods before he opened his cookie boutique on Main Street.

"Reaching out to the food service, we have a thing where we can both help one another," said Humpal. "By establishing little networks, the area becomes more local and more sustainable."

Inspired to work closely with the cookie company after returning from a barista competition in Anaheim, California, Humpal noted the intense construction of fine, foamy espresso beverages, tackled as straight shots, to later recreate himself.

"Macchiatos are known as straight espresso drinks with a little half-and-half and foam on top," he revealed. "In Portugal, the same drink is called a 'pingo."

"It is a short-intense drink, which would go well with small intense cookies," he continued.

Last month, at First Friday, Humpal paired a sweet, strong vanilla pingo with Handcrafted Cookie Company's Double Chocolate Cookie. Additionally, in honor of the recent cookie recipe contest, Humpal paired a snappy ginger pingo nicely with the new Lemon Basil Cookie.

"Lemon Basil is so crazy," he confessed. "I was dreaming on the flavor of lemon and decided that ginger and lemon are both complimenting and contrasting."

"It is so fun to work on menus, I love working with places and establishing pairings with their menus," he said.

Besides the relationship that Humpal has with Handcrafted Cookie Company and of course, Kimberton Whole Foods, he additionally works with Good Eatz in Reading, the Anselma Farmer's Market and Artisan's Market of Chester Springs, the King and Beaver Cafe in York, Espresso Yourself of Exeter, Camphill Cafe of Kimberton Hills and Wildflower Cafe of Phoenixville.

"I like giving up the idea of sending coffee out on trucks," he said. Floored by the concept of "real food, real people," Humpal, with the assistance of Kimberton Whole Foods, established direct trade bonds with coffee farmers seen internationally.

"There is so much done wrong in coffee by now in the world, many are looking at these direct relationships because they move faster and more directly," Humpal said.

Through direct trade methods, international farmers are able to, with the consumer, establish true and tangible relationships that allow for them to receive a decent living wage as a grower, while the consumer's produce is received as top quality.

"Other roasters are doing this, too," he said. "Together, it enables specific relationships for the future of the children of the farms, so they may go out to universities and come back to the farms, and have control."

Serendipitous with the missions that Kimberton Whole Foods' supports, owner and founder Terry Brett suggests that "if all businesses were built on fairness, we would change the world."

"Having direct relationships with the people like the growers, it follows the values that we support as a company," he said. "Being supportive of these people initially allows for a more direct relationship of them."

"Cultures have been exploited outside of the United States," Brett continued. "It is certainly better having these sort of relationships than having them work all day for two dollars."

Since Brett agrees with similar beliefs as Humpal, it was an easy transition for Kimberton Whole Foods to establish him as their main roaster.

"We have just began to open arcs for more relationships, finding more people we want to work with and we believe in what Ed follows," he said. "It is a great opportunity and only the beginning."

Humpal, personally taste-testing through all roastings, which are performed in Kimberton Whole Foods' warehouse in Leola, works week-to-week, freshly fulfilling orders on a rolling basis.

"We continue to roast more and more coffee, everyone continues to order more than they used to," said Humpal.

Identified under the moniker, Hobo Ed—a name birthed from his previous mobile roasting service seen throughout the theater festival circuit—Humpal supplies those adoring of the caffeine with blends like the Morning Mojo, a South America coffee with an Ethiopian highlight; decafs like the Peruvian and the Sumatran; Midnight Special, a French light roast; the El Amor de Madre, a caramel blend of Brazilian and Nicaraguan; and several other new and interesting concoctions.

Visit Handcrafted Cookie Company on First Fridays to meet and experience Ed Humpal in person, or snag a bag of his finely-roasted blends at area Kimberton Whole Foods, as well as the previously mentioned locations.

Also published here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

burger patty party at the beach

It is important to nicely note that before I fell so incredibly hard for my dear boyfriend, I was a vegetarian for 8 years! My first burger after over a decade's time was homemade and glorious from my dear B, and have to admit, I was a bit spoiled right off the bat from his desirably concocted, bodacious all-beef.

Two years now since that no-brainer of an experience, I obsess oh-so-heavily over trying to snag the best burger bites, always craving to chow down on the most devouring up-to-date. Um, I even have the Dressing on the Side t-shirt saying so!

Appropriately-so, the last few days we skipped off to the beach to honor our two years together, which in all the glory of our traditions, we prepared our own pleasurable patties and as seen above, I documented our delicious feat through the flames, frizzled onions, friendly-smears of cheese and of course, our face-shoving success!

Monday, June 21, 2010

elverson introduces their own farmers' market

Local warrior of the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” movement, Evan Elizabeth Miller of Elverson, believes that every town and city needs to have a farmers' market — a reason she teamed up with the local community to premiere, as of last week,The Farmers' Market of Elverson.

Miller, who grew up on a local family farm, wanted to collaborate with other residents in the nearby community to accomplish an output that would serve the area with fresh, nutritious food from the surrounding masses.

I also wanted to provide an outlet for local farmers to have their goods be purchased and appreciated while keeping money in our local economy,” she said.
An inside source from the farming industry, the local resident confessed that “the ways we purchase our food also have had an impact on the ability of local farmers to operate profitably.”

“The way our food system has evolved," she continued, "it has really cut most people off from nutritious healthy food. Growing up on a family farm, I've seen my family struggle to continue on our tradition, while managing the bills that come along with farming.” 

In hopes to assist local agriculturalists and independent producers in the area, Miller organized the Saturday morning market, held every week from the middle of June to the middle of October, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Livingood Park of Route 23.

Currently, we have eight vendors, but are most likely adding a ninth in the next few weeks,” she said. “Products range from organic and heirloom vegetables, potted plants, grass fed meats, smoked and goat cheeses, seasonal fruit, organic Amish style pretzels, locally roasted coffees, and grass fed free range eggs.”

Additionally, she said that she hopes to add a raw milk vendor to the lineup in the upcoming months.

“I think the market is a great way to build community and provide an opportunity for neighbors to see each other on a regular basis,” she said.

Vendors of The Farmers' Market of Elverson are as follows: B&H Organic Produce of Morgantown; Twin Valley Coffee of Elverson; Nancy's Heavenly Treats Bakery of Pottstown; Weaver's Orchard of Morgantown; Conebella Farm of Elverson; Sunnyside Farm of Elverson; Gladiolus Farm of Elverson; and Oh My! Pretzels of Chester Springs.
The Farmers' Market of Elverson, 83 West Main Street (Route 23), Elverson, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

two cool cookies know ice cream and cookie combos best

Oreo cookies have their charm, as do whoopie pies, but when it comes to dessert sandwiches, nothing trumps the classic ice-cream variety.

The ice cream sandwich — invented sometime around the 1890s — has long pleased tastebuds, far before the Chipwich attempted to steal the show.

However, even spanning a century's time, ice cream has not been left out of the sandwich trend, and local residents Jessica Viscusi and Marisa McLaughlin have reestablished the icy sugared squares via their organic and local ice cream and cookies' business, Two Cool Cookies.
The bakers and ice cream makers, both raised in Phoenixville, "have shared endless memories and countless scoops of ice cream and cookies" over the years, beginning when they met at age 14, during the summer at a local field hockey camp.

From classmates and great friends, to business partners and now mothers, Viscusi and McLaughlin decided two years back to provide the local community with delicious and good-for-you desserts that wouldn't compromise the sweet treats' taste.

"Everybody loves cookies and ice cream," said McLaughlin. "People are looking for healthier alternatives that are also organic, and we are a green indulgence."

The crafty ladies, McLaughlin of Chester Springs and Viscusi of Eagleville, conceptualized Two Cool Cookies from scratch, both the cookies and the ice cream blends, using all-natural, simple ingredients combined with the best produce of the local area.

With strawberry season on the brinks, the females recently visited Willow Creek Orchards of Collegeville to purchase pounds of berries to swirl within their organic milk blend, one that uses Seven Stars' Farm's heavy cream.

"We use all organic products and as much local as we can, too," said Viscusi. "We like to feature what's in season, so we rotate our combinations to keep up with what is fresh."

Renting a certified kitchen in Berwyn, Two Cool Cookies, with the assistance of several ice cream makers, sculpt their rectangular ice cream squares from scratch as they freshly prepare for their stand at the Phoenixville Farmers' Market.

The sandwiches aren't stamped out either, but instead hand-shaped and baked, with the founders putting each sandwich individually together themselves. From shortbread and graham cracker, to chocolate and chocolate chip, the food-loving females case their sleek rectangular cookies outside of a generous amount of homemade ice cream.

"We found that the sandwich construction was kind of like crafting," said McLaughlin.

Two years ago, the duo premiered their concoctions at the local market, taking a year off last year until they reemerged this summer, with their first day back on Sat., June 12.

"We were well-received," she continued. "We saw a lot of familiar faces from years ago, even the regulars came back and it was nice to see them."

With a fresh strawberry and strawberry cheesecake creamy ice in tow, Two Cool Cookies will now, besides offering their beloved ice cream sandwiches, also be selling eight ounce containers of their blends.

Several of their ice cream flavors that are worth a mention include their apple pie, lemon mascarpone, peanut butter, orange cream, mint chocolate chip, pumpkin, black raspberry, and of course, classic vanilla and chocolate.

Two Cool Cookies will appear at the Phoenixville Farmers' Market on select weekends, and at least once a month. The deliciously-minded duo also invites the area community to request special orders for parties and functions.

And, while their ice cream and cookie combinations are sweet, savory and endless, the important question is why such a moniker as "Two Cool Cookies": "We are doing a sandwich made of two cookies that are cooled by ice cream — it just works for us. Also, there are two of us," concluded McLaughlin.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

station taproom dashes into downingtown

After manning a bustling bar and restaurant for a recent Friday evening shift at the newly opened Station Taproom, co-owners Mark Barthmaier and Sean McGettigan each enjoyed a bottle of Sam Adams' Utopias with close friends.

The sampling was their pleasure — something you would assume two local beer connoisseurs who just opened a handsome beer-centric pub would do on their downtime. The vintage Utopias, considered as the “holy grail” to those hop-obsessed, trot 27 percent alcohol by volume and are comparable to a port or a cognac, McGettigan said.

Don't know if you can consider it a beer at that point,” said Barthmaier. “It does have a lot of flavor and a lot of burn.” 
Together the managing duo — who previously worked side-by-side at The Drafting Room of Exton— maintain a hefty knowledge of beer and brands, as achieved through each personally tasting many hopped pleasures. Such experience and knowledge shaped Station Taproom's beer menu.

We have a good rotation here of a wide spectrum of beers to drink,” said McGettigan of their five-week-old Station Taproom, which is situated directly across from Downingtown's Train Station. With 12 beer taps, in addition to a decent-sized bottle list, the knowledgeable partners are constantly introducing new varieties to their lineup, immediately as a keg kicks.

Draft beer is always the way to go,” said McGettigan. “It allows you to test drive before purchasing a pint.”

Open to allowing guests' tasters of any of their offerings, Station Taproom spouts are currently pouring Victory Brewery's Donnybrook Stout, Gaffel Becker & Co.'s Kolsh, Lake Placid's 46'er Pale Ale, Bear Republic's Apex and the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel— to name a few. You have to visit or look them up online to see what the bar is serving though, as draft selections are constantly changing.

Not only are McGettigan and Barthmaier “beer guys,” they also are “food guys” at heart. Providing patrons with an eclectic and upscale interpretation of pub-styled fare, as perfected by their chef, Tim Smith, the fresh gastronomic eatery provides well-groomed, snack-sized to entree-sized plates. 

The menu lists an array of Cuban and Caprese paninis, truffle fries, steamed mussels, buffalo wings, fish and chips, minted lamb or curried chickpea burgers, and mac 'n cheese, the resident chef and the owning partners both insist that their Thai Red Curry— served as an entree, with wings or with mussels— is their best dish.
Chef Tim Smith, a native of England, transcends his skilled, traditional flair into the gastropub's grub, while still encompassing the best of local ingredients that would go swimmingly with craft beers. Before answering Station Taproom's ad on Craigslist and deliciously passing their interviewing process, Smith worked in Rochester, New York at a similar beer bar, The Old Toad

“I'm lucky to work in a place very similar to where I had was previously working. There are similarities in both places, it's a perfect challenge,” he said.

We love that we didn't have to make our chef love beer, he already enjoys beer like we do,” said McGettigan. “That is a huge thing for us.”

The establishment's forward-thinking team is additionally motivated, as their menu scribes to, “wherever possible, use fresh and local ingredients.” Lucky to be located in the farm-fresh County of Chester, Station Taproom sources goods from Milky Way Farms, Talula's Table and Conebella Farms

For example, the always-available cheese plate allows individuals to select three cheese from a list of seven creamy pleasures that Talula's Table perfectly pinpointed. May's roundup included Beemster Goat's Milk Gouda, Saint Nectaire's washed-rind cheese, Savoie's Tomme Crayeuse and Landaff Creamery's earthy cheddar.

And, although McGettigan and Barthmaier are extremely passionate about beer, as it does offer fantastic accompaniment to their acclaimed cheese boards, they too take “great pride” in their wine selection.
We didn't want to rule anyone out,” said Barthmaier. “We are about simplicity and approachability, as seen through the best of quality ingredients.”

We are happy to fill the void for a place like this, while providing something for everyone,” concluded Sean. “We love being about to provide an urban experience unlike most others in Downingtown.”

Station Taproom, 207 West Lancaster Avenue, Downingtown, 484-593-0560. Hours: Mon. - Tues., 3 – 12 a.m., Wed. - Thurs., 3 – 12:30 a.m., Fri. - Sat., 3 p.m. - 1 a.m.

Also published in Chester County Cuisine & Nightlife and at Downingtown Dish.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

a brother and sister, an apple and an orange

A few months back, this precious photograph surfaced as I had grazed through a series of old images. Appropriate being that I am chomping down on an apple, I  just couldn't resist in incorporating my youngin' self with a blog post.

What I also found charming was the fact that my older orange-haired brother Jimmy, seen of course to the right, has a lil' schmutz skimmed down his striped shirt.

Life was simply sweet in our youngest years, cheers to us back then, being carefree lil' kids!

Monday, June 14, 2010

success with free press and pancakes

If you haven't gathered this already, I am obsessed with food. (DUH.) But, that doesn't mean that my obsession is literally just food, but all things associated with life's edible pleasures.

On a recent trip to NYC, my lady friends and I decided to stop into a comic shop. That may seem darling or dorky, the latter being the more assumed thought, but during this urban pop-in, I laid my food-crazed eyes upon Lauren Barnett's hilariously cutesy comics.

Vibrantly booming from the nerdcore shelves was her self-published funny papers and her issue, "I'd Sure Like Some Fucking Pancakes," was one that I couldn't help but adore the most.

Snarky and neurotic, adorable and humorous, this witty female's blabfest skimmed through obsessions with drinking too much diet coke, having baking blowouts and of course, just wanting the simple pleasure of a rounded flapjack.

Paging through the copy, I couldn't help but laugh aloud at the hilarity of her angsty lady-fueled illustrations and obviously gained an inkling that comic appreciation can easily be now found for foodies and females, alike.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

cheers to my twenty-fifth year

Holy guacamole, I have now trekked twenty-four whole years of life!

This weekend I celebrated ringing in my twenty-fifth year, and said so long to my youngster years. As an intense lover of all-beef and artisan-crafted beers, what better to celebrate my birth than gorge on all of the finer things in life.

My madre, who so marvelously concocted a strawberry cheesecake for her only daughter, via my grandmother's gorgeous recipe,  scored sweet teeth points for crafting one of my most favored desserts.

Brian O'Reilly, brewmaster of Sly Fox Brewery, allowed me to experience his new concoctions, the Standard Porter and the Brotherly Suds ESB, as part of Phoenixville's "Meet the Brewers" Pub Crawl, and I could have not picked a better day to sample some now highly rated slurps.

And, although not a crazy-fan of Emeril, I did desire to sample his stacked 'wiches of Burgers and More, located at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. Of course, my bacon-and-bleu burger-fused birthday happened to fall on the same day that the BAM-man was present locally, due to a nearby food and wine show, and who happened to be floating throughout the beefy kitchen during my delicious dinner? Mr. Lagasse, of course! 

the fork & knife life, round one: falling in love with bread

New column alert!

Each week, via one of the publications I write for, Tri-County Record, I will delve deep in her own edible adventures, journeying amongst topics of craft breweries, finer dining experiences, amateur attempts at being a chef, and as seen below, sweet successes of artisan baking.

Here's this week's The Fork & Knife Life:

I fell in love over bread.

The loaf—larger than my the width and height of my petite head, and baked in a building without electricity—was pumped with whole grains and coated with a powdery, delicate firm crust. Delicious and organic, the bread had traveled over five hours to get me to, from Northampton, Massachusetts, and I gushed over every last bite as I devoured it entirely at my Berks County residence.

Before this, I had never met a comparable loaf of dough, never one as beautifully-crafted with the extreme appreciation as that of the artisan breadmaking of the Hungry Ghost Bread Bakery. The old-world, loaf-crafters of environmentally-friendly bake shop in Northampton, Massachusetts daily produce small doses of their inventory, in an amazing wood-burning brick oven.

Redefining ancient bread traditions into modernized masterpieces, the crew at HGB sculpt a multitude of flavors from simple recipes for varieties like French, potato, rye, local wheat, thyme fougasse, semolina fennel, 8-grain pumped with chocolate, and even, a crunchy concoction of a flat bread that is pumped with local wheat, beets and squash.

The proprietors of the New England bakery, Jonathan Stevens and Cheryl Maffei, not only hand-crafted their fine breads to be eccentric easily within themselves, but the structure and representation of their cottage-like setting is additionally, very interesting.

Most likely on a visit up north, music of John Coltrane of Bob Dylan will be flooding through their airy space, and on their weekly bread schedule's handout, Stevens, who acts as the lead baker, typically prints a handwritten poem on its printed back.

Beginning last June for my birthday and now held as a special treat annually, I traveled to New England to experience firsthand my beloved bread and bakery. It's always refreshing stepping foot into any baking haven, especially this one being the country's best baked bread, with flour smeared generously inside the petite shop's walls, and bearded young men eagerly rolling huge piles of dough that will anxiously be plopped inside the warmed bricks.

There's no denying it—I fell in love at first bite.

While, at some times, it seems far, far fetched, the bakery of Hungry Ghost Bread has inspired me to set an ultimate life goal to someday own a place like theirs, taking what I dearly love from their established place and transforming it deliciously into something of our own.

Previously wrote of Hungry Ghost Bread similarly in a post here.