Philly’s shuttered restaurants and bars may be at the heart of its food community, but they’re also part of a thriving network of eaters and drinkers, chefs and enthusiasts, producers and suppliers. Just like many Philadelphia-area restaurants, these folks are finding a way during social distancing and the shutdown.
Here’s a sampling of how Philly’s food community is staying active in the era of coronavirus.
C-CAP is a nationwide program that works with public high school students to provide job training and life skills, internships and work opportunities, industry mentoring, and more. Normally, Philly’s chapter visits restaurants, hotels, and farms once a month so that the kids can learn firsthand, see real-life operations, and ask questions of chefs and managers. To fill that void during the shutdown, Philly’s C-CAP program director Alyssa Termini has arranged for a “Virtual Meet the Chef” series. Students from all six of C-CAP’s chapters can watch and write in questions. Pastry chef Monica Glass (10 Arts, Fish) was up first — her video appeared on Instagram Live last week — and more Philly chefs are set to make appearances, including Tova du Plessis, Essen Bakery’s James Beard-nominated leader, and Wm. Mulherin’s chef Jim Burke and his wife, Kristina, who ran the vaunted Bella Vista restaurant James. Termini is figuring out the best platform for the videos; stay tuned on Instagram at @ccapphl.
As anyone who’s failed to find flour or sugar at the grocery store knows, there’s been a surge in baking — and homemade bread might be the ultimate culinary conquest for these uncertain times. Enter West Willy Bread Bakers, a Facebook group for West Philadelphians (and beyond) interested in making sourdough and other loaves. A few days after the group launched, it amassed over 250 members who are mining the nooks and crannies of bread baking and kicking around questions about flours, hydration percentages, and starters. To help rookie bakers navigate a complex subject, the group’s founders (one of whom bakes professionally at High Street on Market) have uploaded a glossary, a baking equipment buying guide, step-by-step processes, and a formula for sourdough.
Philadelphia’s mammoth seafood wholesaler compiled a long list of restaurant clients who are still offering pickup and delivery, but the vendor also put out a reminder that it has a robust retail operation, Giuseppe’s Market, in deep South Philadelphia. They’ve assembled three affordable family-pack deals, available at the 3400 Lawrence St. shop. What do we mean by affordable? Take $49 Family Pack 1, which includes 2 pounds of peeled, deveined shrimp, a precut side of salmon, 1 pound of claw crabmeat, six fish cakes, and five 6-ounce pieces of tilapia. For $20 more, you’ll get the shrimp, salmon, and crab, plus 2 pounds of scallops and 2 pounds of branzino fillets (pin bones removed). Call 1-800-580-5810 at least three hours ahead to place orders for curbside pickup. Samuels and Son also posted a helpful video with demos on how to cut and cook the seafood in the packs.
Many restaurants are hustling to stay afloat during an open-ended break from regular business. Other spots, like Sulimay’s diner in Fishtown, are using their supplies and skills to help their communities. After learning of the new rules for restaurants, owner Chad Todd weighed the options: “I had a bunch of food to get rid of. It was either help as many people like as I can, or try to sell stuff,” he said. “I just went with helping people out.” He’s batched up recipes of easy-to-reheat meals — quiche, French toast casserole, roast chicken, meat loaf — and delivered them to customers and neighbors in need. He’s also used his restaurant suppliers to buy items such as eggs, milk, bread, and rubber gloves, that have been hard to find in grocery stores. “It’s crazy to go to the IGA and have no loaves of bread. Yet I could get a hundred,” Todd said. “Let us know, if there’s anything you need and we can try to get it for you!”
WHYY-TV’s new food show, which features local foodies and Philly-area restaurants, continues to air Thursday at 7:30 p.m., but its early-April finale celebration had to be canceled. To keep up the momentum, the show’s producers and stars have taken to Instagram (@checkpleasephilly) and turned their focus to home cooking. Once a week, Check, Please! host Kae Lani Palmisano, a South Jersey native, will attempt to recreate the restaurant dishes spotlighted in the show. This week’s challenge: The McLloyd, Lloyd Whiskey Bar’s over-the-top breakfast sandwich, consisting of maple sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheddar sandwiched by a triple stack of pancakes, then topped with maple syrup and served with potatoes. Guest-chef demos are also in the works for the Check, Please! Instagram feed, including videos from Kiki Aranita of Poi Dog, Ange Branca of Sate Kampar, Scott Schroeder of Hungry Pigeon, and Joncarl Lachman of Noord. (Palmisano is also spearheading Philadelphia’s chapter of Dining at a Distance, a running list of restaurants still open for call-ahead takeout and delivery.)
The specialty produce from Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pa., has been served up on fancy plates at Laurel, LaCroix, and the Merion Cricket Club, as well as more modest venues like American Sardine Bar, Pub & Kitchen, and Green Line Cafes. The farm’s produce and meat is otherwise hard to get a hold of for at-home consumption. In the wake of the shutdown, the Lancaster County family-run outfit has launched a farm share box that the general public can preorder and pick up in Philly, West Chester, and at the farm. A $30 single share of produce includes a dozen eggs, salad mix, arugula, Savoy cabbage, cooking greens, herbs, a pint of honey, potatoes, apples, and a bag of grits. A $25 dairy box comes with whole milk, eggs, Colby cheese, and butter. A $40 meat box contains ground beef, a whole chicken, and 2 pounds of bacon. Call 717-442-5222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Local breweries are finding ways to get their beer to the thirsty public, via curbside pickup and delivery, but Croydon’s punk brewery has provided another service to the people: a coloring book. It released five black-and-white PDFs of its cartoon-happy label artwork — by artist JP Flexner, who’s also done work for Dottie’s Donuts and Blackbird Pizzeria, and Green Day, Foo Fighters, and Beastie Boys — for stir-crazy folks to shade in at home. Download them on Instagram and break out the colored pencils.