After Hours: More Kid Stuff – Road Trip: Philadelphia

Hey, parents! Want to reframe finicky eating habits as the first step toward a career in food? Outfit your picky eater with togs from Ellie’s Party, a virtual store that specializes in “gear for growing gourmands.” The collection features cotton onesies, bibs, and T-shirts bearing such slogans as “Food Critic in Training,” “So Much For Mise En Place,” and “In the Weeds,” a restaurant code phrase for crazy-busy conditions. (So why is that last one missing from the few adult-sized items, all of which say “Moms [doing more by 6AM than most people do all day]”?) Each item is printed on demand and shipped directly from Cafe Press on behalf of the shopkeeper.

On the other hand, if a discerning palate is what you want to encourage, offer your wee ones Nummy Nums – not a spoonful of some puree from a jar, but all-natural, fresh-frozen “baby cuisine” in flavor combinations fit for a grownup (not to mention gourmet) menu. The line, which launched this spring, consists of six distinctive items, including roasted sweet potato, orzo pasta with sauce Bolognese, and quinoa pilaf. They are the brainchild of former chef and currently culinary school instructor Arlene Yanover, who developed the recipes after she became a mother and took a close look at commercially available baby food.

Two other relative newcomers to the organic baby market take a tiered approach, offering smooth, medium, and chunky textures that parallel three stages of infant-to-toddler development, much as baby clothes do, from six months to more than a year old. Homemade Baby divides its certified organic purees into “So Smooth,” “Good Mushy,” and “Kinda Chunky.” As the textures progress, the flavors grow in complexity, from single fruits to Baby Tex Mex. Bohemian Baby follows a similar trajectory, but with a greater variety of offerings (particularly in veggies), as well as companion lines of fruit snacks and flavored yogurts. Both Homemade Baby and Bohemian Baby accept online orders. Bohemian Baby offers home delivery and birthday party catering in Los Angeles, while Homemade Baby has a Baby Food Tasting Room, also in L.A., and open to the public from 8 AM – 4 PM Monday through Friday.

And for those of us who never quite grew up, there’s always PLAY-DOH, now available in limited-edition cologne form in honor of the modeling compound’s 50th birthday. The scent is for sale at the Demeter Fragrance Library, an aptly named collection of wearable scents from the real world, including dirt, fireplace, gin and tonic, grass (cut and…you know), laundromat and thunderstorm. I first encountered these in a display at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum a few years back and can testify that Demeter’s fragrances really do recreate the aroma of each namesake. The food and drink selections, from apple pie, cotton candy, graham crackers and popcorn to cosmopolitans, mojitos and pink lemonade, are well worth a browse, even if only for amusement value. The list does make you wonder: Given how susceptible we humans are to scent, what would it do to a person’s day, not to mention eating habits (or social life), to wander about giving off the scent of, say, chocolate chip cookies? Adding to the fun, each fragrance page at Demeter’s website contains a history of the underlying item. Now, if computers only had scratch and sniff options…(Thanks to attorney Lisa Solomon for posting news of PLAY-DOH’s milestone to the ABA SOLOsez list.)

But wait! Two more nuggets await in the credulity-straining department. Too busy for breakfast? Starting this summer, you will no longer need to take the time to chew your cereal. General Mills has announced a licensing deal with Bravo Foods International for low-fat milk beverages with the flavors of Lucky Charms, Wheaties, and Trix. If anyone has consumed any of Bravo’s existing milk drinks — which are flavored like Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, and Starburst (Starburst?!?) – and is willing to own up to it, I welcome e-mail descriptions of the experience. (Thanks for this news item goes to Teresa Byrne-Dodge, publisher and editor of My Table, for which I wrote the August-September issue cover story on the virtues of junk food.)

Ten Speed Press has released The Twinkies Cookbook. True, it contains a discussion of the history of Twinkies and their impact on our culture, and lots of images from the Twinkie archives, but it’s still, as the name says, a cookbook. Some 50 recipes, which include a sidedish for porkloin, a variation on sushi, and Pigs in a Twinkie, which actually uses sausage, argue against relegating the cream-filled snack cake to the dessert course. Then again, maybe not. (Thanks to Tara Calishain’s PR Bop for tipping me off to this one.)

Road Trip: Philadelphia

Here’s one recipe for a perfect day: On a weekday morning, drive into in Philadelphia (stay with me, now) and park in the oval in front of the east wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Walk up the monumental approach to the entrance and smile each time you hear a passer-by exclaim “These are the ‘Rocky’ steps!” Pick up tickets for the Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic retrospective, which runs through July 16. Marvel at the brush command he has had since his teens, the sparse realism of his canvasses, the evocative details of his neighbors’ lives and possessions he has captured (persistently, to the point of eerieness), and, no less importantly, the foresightful, judicious, and effective crowd control exercised by museum management, which admits visitors in a small, slow trickle that makes it possible for individuals to stand near and actually see the works, instead of the backs of fellow visitors clamoring for a view. Listen to the uncommonly helpful audio tour that comes with the price of admission; it explains the highly personal symbolism within Wyeth’s works, which is not discernible to the uninformed eye.

After leaving the exhibit, traipse about the museum to taste. (Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are here. And lots of Monets.) Then take the west exit and hop onto the Phlash, a deep purple trolley that loops through the center city to Penn’s Landing and back multiple times an hour, for only $1 a ride or $4 for the day, which lasts from 10 to 6 in Phlash time. Grab a route map, which doubles as a passable guide to nearby attractions. Hop off at 12th Street and walk a block northish to the Reading Terminal Market.

Walk the aisles and survey what’s available before buying and nibbling. This is the country’s oldest continuously operated farmer’s market, with an abundance and variety that unfolds at every turn. If you devour the first edible that catches your eye, you will quickly see something else you might have preferred, and then something else, and something else. The market crammed with more than 80 food stalls, all indoor and selling everything from spices to fresh produce, meats, and seafood to all manner of prepared foods. Piece together a lunch of your choosing with items from Italian, Indian, seafood, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, vegetarian, cheese steak, and hoagie vendors (there’s seating near the pig statue). If your hunger demands precedence over curiosity and adventure, sit down for wholesome country cooking but fast at the Down Home Diner, owned by Jack McDavid of the nationally known Jack’s Firehouse. For dessert, choose from bakeries (such as old-style Italian Termini Brothers, the haute chic Metropolitan Bakery, and the retro-chic Flying Monkey Patisserie, which makes creamcheese-stuffed oatmeal raisin sandwich cookies), several chocolatiers, and 139-year-old Bassett’s Ice Cream. After eating, walk the aisles again for take-home purchases. (The sizeable Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch contingent is onsite only from Wednesdays through Saturdays.)

Return to Market Street and hop on and off the Phlash to explore the center city on foot. Wander about the Old City (get off at Market St. and 2nd) and browse edgy and vintage clothing stores, walk down the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the nation, the quaint and cobbled Elfreth’s Alley, and play tourist, if you like, at the Betsy Ross House, Independence Hall, and the anachronistically high tech centers showcasing the constitution and the Liberty Bell. To finish, ogle the jewel-like display at Tartes, a pastry shop with a walk-up window, in a teeny- weeny pink building on Arch Street near 2nd. Indulge in a few purchases (the lemon bar is terrific), take the Phlash back to your starting point, and head home. Smiling.

Copyright 2006 Kathy Biehl. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in: After Hours, Food