Though summer’s berries and watermelons are but a bright memory, local farmers markets are bursting with stunning early-autumn produce that captures the essence of fall. Philadelphia chefs who focus on foods grown within 150 miles of the city dished on their go-to ingredients that exemplify the changing seasons and bring local flavor to fall menus.
The Farm and Fisherman chef/owner Joshua Lawler calls quince “a unique taste of the season.” The firm, aromatic fruit tastes like a flowery apple, especially after Lawler cooks it slowly in white wine and sugar, turning it a beautiful shade of blush. Pureed with pink peppercorns, quince creates a lush backdrop for an appetizer of raw fluke with tapioca and hot peppers.
“This time of year there are not a lot of good, acidic, vibrant flavors,” reveals Jason Cichonski, chef/owner of Ela in Queen Village. He finds the brightness by adding huckleberries to a plate of pork belly and maitake mushrooms that he forages himself. “We were going to make a jammy puree with the huckleberries, but they are so perfect raw they just don’t need to be messed with,” he adds.
Root for this
It’s all about dirt for chef Rich Landau, who owns vegan Vedge restaurant with wife Kate Jacoby. “We get back to our roots this time of year,” he says. “Carrots, parsnips, kohlrabi and celery root have this kind of beautiful, creamy, earthy richness to them — you can puree them down and they are creamy without adding fat.” Try celery root fritters by Landau: The root is roasted and mashed “to a fish-flake consistency” before being rolled in chickpea flour and fried alongside nutty maitake mushrooms.
116 Market St.
The Farm and Fisherman
1120 Pine St.
627 S. Third St.
1221 Locust St.
Vernick Food + Drink
2031 Walnut St.
1911 E. Passyunk Ave.
“For fall going into winter, my number one ingredient is citrus,” says Gregory Vernick of Vernick Food + Drink. “They don’t get their juiciest and sweetest until December, but we have so many different types of oranges to work with: Valencias, Honeybells, Navel and blood oranges.” Look for a charred Brussels sprout salad with orange segments, a dish that bridges hearty fall vegetables with a taste of sunshine.
There’s no better way for Will Kearse to kick off the holiday season than incorporating warming spices into his menu at Will BYOB, which recently opened on Passyunk Avenue. “Juniper, allspice and all that good stuff — we don’t use it throughout the year, so it really tastes of the season.” Warm spices are used to season game meats or added to red wine and gelatin to make a sauce base for churros or flan at Will. “We try to stay away from trend-driven stuff,” says Kearse. “I’d been doing the whole pumpkin thing for nine or 10 years and I’m over it.”
Apple of our eye
“We’re going apple crazy here!” says Sara May, the culinary brains behind Franklin Fountain’s hot apple pie milkshakes and Shane Candies’ caramel apples. The pastry chef uses her favorite fall fruit in a variety of ways — try a freshly baked apple turnover a la mode with a spicy scoop of ginger ice cream if you’d rather bite than slurp a shake.