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Helping yourself, helping others | Let’s Eat

Also: Black Squirrel Pub & Haunt is reviewed, dairy farmers try a new feeding system, the perfect dessert.

The South Philadelphia Community Fridge outside Community, at 21st and Federal Streets.
The South Philadelphia Community Fridge outside Community, at 21st and Federal Streets.Read moreJenn Ladd / Staff

Food insecurity is a tremendous problem in Philadelphia, and community refrigerators are supplementing the pantries that serve people. We’ll tell you where to find 30 of them — whether you need help or want to help. Also this week, Craig LaBan finds a jolly good British-theme pub, a famous chef takes over a famous restaurant, and an out-of-town restaurant sets up a pop-up that has become a hot ticket. And cows.

🍪 Keep an eye out Friday for a special cookie edition of “Let’s Eat” with tips for all you bakers and non-bakers (I’m addressing you cookie eaters).

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Mike Klein

Helping people with food insecurity

Since the start of the pandemic, Philadelphia has seen a boom in mutual aid. That’s especially true when it comes to community fridges and pantries that allow anyone with extra food to donate directly and anyone who needs it to take it, 24 hours a day, in many cases. Reporter Nick Vadala found more than 30 community fridges throughout the city that are there to help. The holidays, of course, are a time of giving. “This isn’t about the next two weeks,” says Coral Street Fridge cofounder Matt Stebbins. “Food insecurity isn’t going to be solved on New Year’s Day. It’s about making this a part of your life.”

All your Thanksgiving pie favorites on one plate

Besides cookies, which we’ll tell you all about Friday in that Let’s Eat newsletter special edition, how about getting your pastry on? We submit to you the tassie. Tiny as a teacup and just as cute, the tassie is best known as a pecan-filled, cookie-like pastry. But why stop at pecan? Just about anything can fill a tassie’s wee pastry crust, and they’re a fun alternative to pies.

Milk farmers moving to a better-quality organic product

Follow the herd? Not these sustainable-agriculture advocates. They’re trying to recruit dairy farmers to convert to 100% grass-fed operations. Staff writer Harold Brubaker took a ride out to Lancaster County to visit dairy farmer Leroy Miller, who is sharing a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Their aim is to operate under a new certification called regenerative organic.

Chef Peter Serpico taking over Pod

Pod, Stephen Starr’s futuristic pan-Asian restaurant at 3636 Sansom St. on the University of Pennsylvania campus, will come back in 2022 after being shut down for the pandemic. It’s getting a full revamp after 21 years — new design, concept, menu, and name: KPod. Chef Peter Serpico will oversee, showcasing dishes from his native South Korea.

Craig LaBan reviews Black Squirrel Pub & Haunt

Art Cavaliere is the chef’s chef behind not only his own restaurants (In Riva and Foghorn & Fletcher in East Falls), but the signature dishes at others (the fried chicken and fried mushrooms at Bar Poulet in Rittenhouse, for instance). Critic Craig LaBan found “near-perfect fish and chips,” among other winners at Cavaliere’s Black Squirrel Pub & Haunt, a British-themed pub in East Falls.

Restaurant report

Central Jersey’s vaunted Heirloom Kitchen, a cooking school and farm-to-table restaurant with a supper-club feel, has come to Philly for a pop-up running through mid-December. It’s the hot table in town right now.

Neilly Robinson and chef David Viana (he was a James Beard Mid-Atlantic chef semifinalist in 2018) have transformed the cozy former W/N W/N at 931 Spring Garden St. into a similarly snug but high-energy, low-lit experience with a three-course, $55 tasting menu, plus an interesting wine and cocktail lists (the decision to make espresso martinis with rum — genius). There’s bar seating, too, all by reservation. Menu is easy to navigate — four apps, four entrees, three desserts, boom. Winners: tuna tartare (with a pickled ginger sorbet balanced by herb yogurt), paella agnolotti, steamed halibut in a soy lime emulsion, day boat scallops with maitake shawarma, apricot rice, and brown butter spaghetti squash. Gluten-free/vegetarians/nut allergies accommodated.

N.B. Although the pop-up will end for the holidays, the couple and the landlord are in talks about continuing.

Heirloom Kitchen’s pop-up, 931 Spring Garden St., from 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday through Dec. 18.

Tasting menus have risen in popularity in the last year at some high-end restaurants as chefs pivoted away from a la carte options to manage inventory and labor. Why do things the easy way? Tara Buzan and Alex Hardy, meanwhile, kept both their tasting and a la carte menus at At the Table, their charming white-tablecloth BYOB, tucked in a court off of Lancaster Avenue in downtown Wayne.

The conventional app-entree-dessert experience includes seasonal starters such as pumpkin arancini whose goat cheese filling gets pepito pesto and a pumpkin tomato sauce. Acorn squash accompanies the beef tenderloin on the list of mains, which are Main Line-priced at $30 for the tagliatelle to $48 for a pan-seared halibut with cipollini onions, royal trumpet mushrooms, and asparagus in a saffron-citrus nage that I wanted to lick from my plate.

Hardy is proudest of the six-course tasting menu. Last week’s started with a dish of mushroom tartare with celery root flatbread and a dressing of fig vinegar and lemon oil served with puffed sorghum, which segued into seared foie gras with lobster tail and white miso-glazed baby turnips; tender charcoal-grilled baby octopus with romesco sauce; a show-stopping filet of Dover sole topped with toasted almonds with a soy ginger emulsion; and a dive into richness in the form of cherry-smoked short rib ravioli before pumpkin tres leches for dessert. At $120, it’s one of the priciest in the region, though I noticed that many in the dining room had ordered it; only parties of six or more must choose between tasting and a la carte.

Hardy and Buzan have made two adjustments to the pandemic: squishing their hours to just three evenings a week while adding a large tent outside to effectively double their seating.

At the Table, 11 Louella Court, Wayne. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Indoor and outside seating. BYOB.

Briefly noted

Federal Donuts has opened its largest location yet, at 1776 Ben Franklin Parkway (actually, 18th and Cherry Streets, across from the Logan Hotel and behind the new Victory Brewing taphouse. More hot beverages on the menu.

Stand by for Thursday’s reopening of Nunzio Ristorante in Collingswood under new chef-owner Michael DeLone. Similar airs.

Also be watching social media for the imminent opening of Juana Tamale, chef Jen Zavala’s Mexican eatery, at 1941 E. Passyunk Ave.

Misconduct Tavern has opened its third location, taking the space across from the University of Pennsylvania’s ice rink (formerly occupied by The Fat Ham and Tipsy Bistro) at 3131 Walnut St. It’s less than half the size of the two in Center City, but carries a similar bar menu and 12 beers from a rotating list. Note that Misconduct’s location at 1801 JFK Blvd. will be open Thanksgiving Day from noon for a $25 dine-in menu. Click here for Thanksgiving takeout ideas.

Termini Bros. patriarch Vince Termini has closed Mr. Joe’s Cafe, his homespun luncheonette across the street from the South Philly bakery. In its place, his sons will open Nonna & Pop’s, a pastry shop and cafe.

An independent restaurant replacing a chain? It happens. Naan Indian Bistro will take over a former Chipotle at Moorestown Mall in early December. Full service. Same owners as Veda, near Rittenhouse Square, and Coriander, in Voorhees.

And on the flip side: More on the Sugar Factory, the sweet-and-savory, family-friendly chain restaurant/candy store replacing Porta at 1216 Chestnut St. in Center City Philadelphia. DJ Pauly D of Jersey Shore TV fame will spin at its grand opening on Dec. 3. And be aware that a Cherry Hill location is down for “late spring 2022″ at Garden State Park Town Center, according to a rep.

Christmas get-ups: Craftsman Row Saloon (112 S. Eighth St.) is all blinged out for the 2021 season with 5,000 feet of garland, thousands of twinkling lights, thousands of sparkling, shiny and colorful ornaments, hundreds of vintage and unique tree trimmings, and hundreds of bows, stockings, and whatnot. Meanwhile, Tinsel, the annual pop-up bar at 116 S. 12th St., will debut Thanksgiving weekend.

The Trestle Inn, Philly’s whiskey-a-go-go bar at 11th and Callowhill Streets, is fixing to return Nov. 26 after a 20-month shutdown.

What you’ve been eating this week

The call is out for deliciousness. Send me an Instagram photo of the best dish you’ve eaten recently at a restaurant in Philadelphia or the Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs. This week’s submissions come from @jeffandlisaeatpizza (a za’atar croissant from Essen Bakery in South Philadelphia) and @selfishly_t411 tacos from Anejo in Northern Liberties. Share your photos on Instagram to @phillyinsider.

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📱 Follow me on Twitter. Or follow me on Instagram. This newsletter was written while listening to Harmony, the 1972 album by Three Dog Night.