This past Sunday was Fair Food‘s ninth annual Brewer’s Plate, an evening full of fine local foods and craft beers. Back for a second year at the National Constitutional Center, nearly one thousand food and beer enthusiasts gathered to celebrate and indulge in the offerings of more than 70 local restaurants, breweries and artisanal producers.
Founded in 2001, Fair Food brings locally grown food to the marketplace by uniting local farmers with businesses and consumers. The Brewer’s Plate is a grand affair which promotes sustainable agriculture, family-oriented farms and year-round neighborhood marketplaces. Between bites and sips, we set out to find the the stories behind the food industry folk who craft cuisine and brews from local goods. We asked some of the Brewer’s Plate’s chefs, bakers, brewers, and owners to share their (chocolate covered) memories regarding one question …
What was your favorite food growing up and what foods remind you of childhood? …
Beer Cakes‘ baker/owner Lexi Malmros: I would have to say that when I was growing up, I didn’t really have a very specific favorite food. I definitely had a propensity for the sweet stuff. I have fond memories of making cookies and chocolates with my aunt at the holidays. Mostly, my favorite foods were those that were made by my mom or my grandmother. I know it sounds so cliche, but to me, the best part of food is the love that it expresses. The women in my family are amazing cooks, and I learned most of what I know from them. So without a doubt, my favorite foods as a kid were the comfort items that were made from scratch in front of me. My mom’s roast chicken with mashed potatoes, my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce. Oh dear, I’ve begun to salivate!
Brauhaus Schmitz‘s executive chef Jeremy Nolen: I’d say it’s hard to name just one food that reminds me of my childhood. My father is a chef, so we always traveled and sought out great restaurants and small hole-in-the-wall places, as well as butchers and farmers markets. And on top of that, my mother made great food at home. One of the things that my mom made that I always loved as a kid was her chicken curry. It was kind of an Americanized version of Indian curry, with broccoli and water chestnuts, and she served it over rice and topped it with homemade croutons. Totally not traditional, but my sister and I always loved it! Being transplanted to Berks County, my mom learned about traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, so we grew to love that stuff, like chicken pot pie (the Pennsylvania Dutch-type, which is not a pie but rather a thick stew with homemade noodles), roast pork and sauerkraut and scrapple. When my dad cooked at home, it was a lot more exotic to us, roasting sausage-stuffed veal breasts, all types of different sausages and, of course, the summer BBQs. My dad would make some awesome marinated steaks, grilled chicken and all types of grilled vegetables from our garden. I’d have to say I ate pretty well growing up!
Cherry Grove Farm‘s head cheesemaker Sam Kennedy: As a child, the foods or dishes that stick out in my mind are: Land O’Lakes’ white American, deli-sliced cheese; homemade, oven-baked mac and cheese with ham cubed up in it, with fresh breadcrumbs and sliced fresh tomatoes from my parents’ garden. Another dish — that is really not a dish at all — I have a very strong memory about is how a freshly dug potato from the garden tasted when cooked versus a store bought potato. The last dish that strikes a nostalgia within my culinary mind is an Italian dish that came with my family when they immigrated from southern Italy: pasta with breadcrumbs and oil. I know it sounds horribly starchy, but there’s something about the breadcrumbs with crushed walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper, nice olive oil and fresh grated cheese, of course. These ingredients combined are just an amazing accompaniment to any dish, scream the simplicity of Italian cuisine and have helped forge my careers as a chef and cheesemaker.
Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey‘s founder/distiller Herman Mihalich: I have very fond memories of watching my Dad put a whole lamb on a spit that was mounted on the fireplace in our family bar. Patrons would come in to the bar and sit there for hours just watching that lamb turn round and round, getting browner and browner. The smell was outrageous. We would get fresh bread from the bakery in the neighborhood and dab the skin as it cooked to pick up the juices oozing out. Eventually, we would start peeling off the skin and eat it on the bread that was soaked in those yummy juices. Lamb on the BBQ is still one of my favorite things to make and eat.
I also have a good rye whiskey story. [Dad’s Hat’s rye whiskey was served at the Brewer’s Plate this year.] When we were working on developing our recipe at Michigan State University, I brought some samples home to taste. My brother was visiting, and I let him smell the whiskey in the glass and asked him for his impression. He just said, “Sunday morning.” He and I used to clean the family bar on Sunday mornings, and that smell of rye whiskey in the glass had jogged his memory. I knew we were closing in on the right recipe.
Dock Street Brewery‘s owner Rosemarie Certo: When I tasted the farm fresh cheeses [at Brewer’s Plate], I was immediately transported to my childhood memories of Sicily and Springtime. It was then that my family and friends would trek up into the mountains to visit the cheesemakers and goat herders. There, we would taste, buy and barter a variety of cheeses. But we would never leave without their specialty cheese, the goat milk ricotta, in our hands.
Donna & Company‘s chocolatier/founder Diane Pinder: When I was a kid, my father worked for Duncan Hines Cakes in Staten Island. Often he would bring the “test” brownies home, because otherwise they would get thrown out. We would put them in the freezer and eat them frozen — frozen Duncan Hines brownies were phenomenal. Our dogs even liked the smell of chocolate. My Dad’s socks always smelled like chocolate because the cake mix would fall into his shoes. Our dogs would run to get hold of his socks and chew them apart. Our nightly game would be to play toss with the chocolate covered socks while our dogs would chase back and forth trying to get hold of the socks to chew apart. That was our family entertainment when I was a kid but we all joined in, dogs, kids and parents!
Fork Restaurant‘s owner Ellen Yin: My favorite food growing up was probably shrimp dumplings from dim sum. My folks used to take us to New York City’s Chinatown, and we’d order multiple baskets.
John & Kira’s co-owner John Doyle: My favorite food growing up had to be ice cream. I am dating myself here, but I was in high school when the entire super-premium ice cream craziness hit. I will never forget my first sample of Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. I also suppose Ben & Jerry’s has a special spot in my heart since the cafeteria at Middlebury College in Vermont (where I spent my undergraduate years) had unlimited servings of Ben & Jerry’s “seconds.” These were tubs of ice cream that maybe had too few, or hopefully too many, add-ins. Of course, the tub with the overflow of cookie dough add-ins was a cause for celebration.
Khyber Pass Pub‘s executive chef Mark McKinney: My favorite foods growing up were definitely the homemade Italian specialties my grandparents would make at our weekly family get-togethers. They would make the sauce in the morning, and you could smell it simmer all day. While it cooked, they would roll out gnocchi or make linguini. To this day, good gnocchi still make me feel like I did back then!
London Grill‘s owner Terry Berch McNally & owner/chef Michael McNally:
- Chef/Owner Michael McNally: It was my Lithuanian Grandmother who had some recipes I remember and make, specifically a bean soup with a tomato base and her potato pancakes.
- Owner Terry Berch McNally: For me, it was eating out that got me! We moved a lot so the fish sandwiches with french fries on the strip in Pittsburgh, kosher hot dogs from Nathan’s in Coney Island and baccalitos and cheese pastilillos in San Juan.
Night Kitchen Bakery‘s owner/chef Amy Beth Edelman: My childhood memory of food is of my grandmother’s homemade yellow cake. I remember she would make it from scratch and let me lick the bowl when she was done. When I bought the Night Kitchen Bakery about 13 years ago, I inherited all their recipes, and coincidentally, their recipe for yellow cake at the time was (and now ours is) almost exactly like my grandmother’s. Even as a child, I always preferred yellow/vanilla and especially lemon flavors instead of chocolate and continue to do so today.
Philadelphia Brewing Company‘s owners Bill and Nancy Barton and Brewer Ben Schamberg:
- Owner Nancy Barton: I wasn’t much of an eater as a kid, but I remember always wanting buttered noodles.
- Owner Bill Barton: My favorite was a Hi-Way hoagie. Hi-Way was a little deli in the town I grew up in, and they made the best hoagies.
- Brewer Ben Schamberg: My favorite was definitely my mother’s lasagna. It was the best!
Southwark‘s executive chef Nick Macri: For me to pin it down to just one would be near impossible. I was fortunate enough to grow up around food. My parents are both Italian immigrants and brought a lot of their food traditions with them. We pickled, roasted and jarred our own veggies from our small garden. Father made his own wine — it was/is so horrible that I only started drinking wine recently because I thought all wine was like his — and salumi — which was delicious, and you know what came from that. My mother can make some of the best pasta I’ve had and is an excellent baker. So holidays were filled with trays of gnocchi, cannelloni and cookies for days. So to sum it up, my childhood eating was a blur of deliciousness.
Street Food Philly‘s culinary team Michael Sultan & Carolyn Nguyen:
- Chef/Owner Carolyn Nguyen: Growing up, my favorite foods were Vietnamese summer rolls and shrimp and pork dumplings. The shrimp and pork dumpling were also my siblings’ favorite dish, so we would fight over who would get the last piece.
- Chef/Owner Michael Sultan: I loved smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese growing up. Now, I still eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tria Cafe‘s culinary director Patrick Vacca: I grew up in a smaller town, and I can’t say anything too exciting happened there from a culinary perspective. I remember it being a big deal when an Applebee’s was being put in about 15 minutes away from my house. Outside of my grandmother’s Italian cooking — pasta with calamari and fennel — one of the things that always makes me recall my childhood is cheap and easy Kraft mac & cheese with cut-up hot dogs. It’s something that I’ll still have every once in a blue moon as a comfort food.
Varga Bar‘s executive chef R. Evan Turney: My mom would cook Spam in a can, and my dad would line up cloves like soldiers on top of the Spam, being that he was a lieutenant colonel in the army and all; they would put some brown sugar and honey glaze on it. Back then, I loved that shit. Now I can’t stand it. My dad would cook bratwurst in Coors Light and load it up with sauerkraut, pickles, onions, mustard and ketchup. Growing up, that was my favorite meal my dad would make.
Weckerly’s Ice Cream‘s owners Andy & Jennifer Satinsky: Although we grew up on different ends of Pennsylvania, we both had fairly adult eating practices at a young age. We liked just about everything we tried, and so picking a few favorite foods from our childhood is kind of difficult.
- Owner/Chef Jennifer Satinsky: My fondest food memories center around my father’s barbecue chicken and my mother’s scrambled eggs, which are perfect. My dad is a wiz on the grill, and to this day, I approach barbecue chicken with more excitement and anticipation than anything else. In addition to eggs, my mother cooks everything well. I also has very fond memories of casseroles, a popular component of covered dish dinners at the local church. “No Peek Chicken” is a stand-out, but the whole “casserole” chapter of the Three Rivers Cookbook is celebrated.
- Owner Andy Satinsky: My favorite food from childhood is either grilled hot dogs on Memorial Day or Silvia’s shad on Passover. These were both revered by my father, whose daily eating regimen was otherwise bizzarre and highly controlled. The hot dogs of choice were those left on the hottest part of the grill with the skin burnt to a black crisp. My uncle always worked the old Weber grill, and although it belonged to my parents, it was never used at any other time. The shad was served on the second night of Passover when we attended a seder conducted by the more observant side of the family. It was a long night with the meal staggered over hours of reading and singing. The shad always came out around the mid-point and was offered as an alternative to gefilte fish. My dad would talk about the shad on the way to the seder, and we knew it had to be good if he passed on gefilte, which he often kept a jar of at home year round. The flavor was slightly sweet with a dense texture and tiny bones. To this day, I couldn’t tell you how it was prepared.
The Brewer’s Plate is held annually in March in Philadelphia. Next year will be the 10th annual bash. So, for the time being, keep your Sunday evenings open in March of 2014. For more information about Fair Food and their year-round farmstand, visit them at FairFoodPhilly.com.