Thursday, August 25, 2011

Penn Herb Company

Natural Remedies for the Body and Bank Account

BY MARISSA OSWALD Since 1924, Philadelphians have been cooking, pickling, treating ailments, improving their appearance, and scenting their homes with ingredients that come from one small corner store on 2nd St. and Decatur Rd, which is the Penn Herb Co.
Penn Herb Co. PhiladelphiaAside from offering the largest selection of spices and dried herbs in the city, Penn Herb is a source of natural healing and remedies, which come in capsules or raw form.
One of these rare Ancient medicinal herbs is called Fo-ti, a root that has been lauded to restore youth, energy, and vitality as well as heal bacterial or viral infections.
Interested in this powerful herb, I consulted Wholefoods, but surely enough, they only had non-vegetarian gelatin capsules of Fo-ti extract.  They suggested Penn Herb, which carries not only vitamins with Fo-ti, but raw root and powder that can be made into a mellow tea, a with all their other healing herbs.
Beneficial to those who know herbs well, Penn Herb also is easy to browse for first-timers looking to find natural remedies.  Labels on each vitamin, herb, powder, and juice identify what each product is for.  But Penn Herb’s website also offers additional information on each herb and condition, including a list of products that can improve your problem- whether it be acne, high blood pressure, fatigue, or mood.
So instead of paying a different doctor for each minor ache or pain, take a trip down the natural route and opt for herbs and vitamins.  Set aside a few hours to shop, though: there’s a lot to learn and see at this Northern Liberties boutique.

Grindcore House

Abrasively-named Cafe With Soft, Vegan Fare

BY MARISSA OSWALD Amid a sea of houses and corner stores, Grindcore House sticks out like that goth kid who pretends they’re hiding under their dark exterior when all they want is some friends.  But even if he’s that lonely kid, he is certainly worth the visit.
grindcore house philadelphia vegan coffee houseNot that he needs it though:  on a Tuesday morning, several young folks filled the cafe’s plentiful outdoor seating, many of whom brought their pups along: dogs are welcome in a place like this, where all the food is animal-cruelty free.  Instead of cream cheese and creamer, Grindcore imitates hard-to-find veganized favorites and turns them into new and exciting things such as scallion soy cream cheese and coconut milk creamer, mm!
The handwritten chalkboard boasts a menu of assorted bagels and “cream cheese” flavors, sandwiches, lattes, and teas.  I’d say some standout varieties are the whole wheat everything bagel, kalamata olive cream cheese, yerba mate latte, and grapefruit mint iced tea.  But that’s not all, folks: a display case full of Vegan Treats famous baked goods allows you to indulge in butt cheek-sized buns, some drizzled in coconut frosting, others in sticky cinnamon pecans.
So whether you’re vegan or not, a trek out to the middle of South Philly is awfully worth it, although the absence of public transit is a hassle.  Perhaps the unreachable quality of Grindhouse is symbolic for the limited options for vegans in cafes all over the world.  Well whether or not it’s their goal, their location certainly maintains that desire to be able to order anything we want off a menu, as well as to know why on earth they named it Grindcore.

Are Arena Concerts and Sporting Events Becoming Obsolete?

The Internet Wins

BY MARISSA OSWALD Rihanna’s dramatic performance during her 2011 Loud Tour resounded through Philly this Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.  Her performance wowed a less-than-full house of people of all ages. But the congestion from cars and intoxicated folks wasn’t merely from the pop star’s show; the Phillies played at Citizen’s Bank Center across the street while the Philadelphia Union and Madrid soccer teams dueled at the Link. Despite the trilogy of shows, and the congested parkway after dark, audience numbers per each venue were actually much lower than usual.
Rihanna Loud Tour 2011 Wells Fargo Center, PhiladelphiaThis phenomena is happening not only in Philadelphia, but across the entire country. Rihanna’s Loud Tour is her third international tour, capping off her most successful year yet.  Her 2010 album of the same title held 3 #1 hit single on U.S. charts.  But many of her tour locations had to be canceled due to low ticket sales.  Last year’s tour in Boston sold out at 15,000 tickets, but this year, little more than 3,000 tickets were sold.  How could her ticket sales be lower than they’ve ever been?
The tour is also the most elaborately planned and executed; her 22-song set list was comprised of every one of her hits, and it seemed as if each some elicited a different costume change and large prop on stage, including a pink army tank, metal sky scraper, and full on strip club (just to name a few.)  Her talent was keener than her fans have ever seen it, singing and dancing without lip syncing for over 2 full hours.
If stars like Rihanna aren’t hustling tickets, then imagine what other musical acts are dealing with.  Ellie Goulding, this year’s British breakthrough artist, is currently on her first international tour.  But tonight’s concert at the Electric Factory apparently solicited so few sold tickets that it was advertised on Groupon for $16 opposed to the $44 it originally cost for single admittance.
It’s no mystery that record sales are down because of illegal downloads; but will musicians be able to maintain their mega-million-dollar reputations?
Ask players in the NBA and NFL and they certainly won’t crack a smile.  After the NFL recently went into lockdown mode due to low ticket sales that were less than supportive of the multi-million dollar player contracts, the NBA has followed their example.  This season will mark the first time in the NBA’s history that it was shut down, and instead, new and much lower price-tags for players will be discussed and put into action if future seasons can persist.
philadelphia-phillies-citizens-bank-park-587Just as big shot companies and publications are consolidating, throwing 2nd place names into extinction  such as Borders (R.I.P.) vs. Barnes & Noble, we’re starting to see the negative effects of entertainment consolidation as well.  In a world where the internet reigns over all media, half the time spent surfing the web seems to be entertainment; however, it’s been taken to the point where real-life entertainment is not yet obsolete, but certainly unneeded.
The internet was originally built so we could connect with endless possibilities.  But in reality, is that era extinct?

Thee Best Vegan Breakfast is....

Veggin’ Out At Home

BY MARISSA OSWALD As a veganomic consumer, sometimes going out to eat isn’t the most efficient choice.  Whether you’re in the City of Brotherly Love or the wilds of Pennsylvania, a home cooked meal can save you moola while promoting a healthier yet equally satisfying break from Cheerios and coffee.
Best Vegan Homemade Breakfast PhiladelphiaA week vacationing at PA’s Lake Harmony was the inspiration for this rustic breakfast;  Tempeh bacon, tofu scramble, biscuits, and coconut iced coffee. The biscuit recipe is especially magical, coming from Babycakes, a gluten-free, vegan bakery that started in NYC.  Erin McKenna, founder of the Babycakes enterprise, recently published her first bake book in which she shares her shockingly simple recipe for semi-healthy biscuits.
Tempeh Bacon
1 package LightLife’s Organic Smokey Tempeh Strips
Tablespoon of oil of your choice (I like coconut oil)
Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat.  Adding 4-5 strips at a time, cook flat on one side for 5 minutes or until the sides begin to wrinkle.  Turn over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.  Take off heat, serve over your breakfast, and enjoy.  Keeps really well in the fridge for up to a week.
Tofu Scramble
1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed for at least 1 hour
1-2 tablespoons oil; canola, coconut, or whatever vegetable oil you prefer
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium carrot, halved and chopped
1-2 tsps Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup spinach, chopped
handful cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
salt and pepper, to taste
Coat a pan with oil and cook the onions over medium-high heat until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Add peppers and carrots and cook 2-3 more minutes, until soft.  Turn heat on medium and cook about 5 more minutes.  While cooking, crumble entire block of pressed tofu into a bowl so it resembles a “scrambled egg” consistency, then add to pan.  Mix ingredients and add tamari and remainder of spices.  After stir-frying for a few minutes, add chopped spinach and cherry tomatoes to heat without getting too soft.  Take off heat and serve immediately.
Babycakes NYC Biscuits
2 cups spelt flour, and additional for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup hot water
sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together flour, baking powder, and conventional  salt.  Slowly add coconut oil and hot water while whisking into a thick batter.  Dust your counter top or a large cutting board with additional flour.  Drag dough through the flour until it’s coated evenly.  Gently pat until dough is evenly 1 inch high.  Cut biscuits with cookie cutter and arrange on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 4 minutes, then flip 180 degrees to bake for 4 more minutes.  Let set and enjoy with margarine, strawberry jam, icing and fresh fruit, or melted Daiya cheese (like I did.)
Coconut Iced Coffee
Brewed coffee
handful of ice cubes
So Delicious brand coconut creamer
raw sugar, to taste
Dissolve sugar in freshly brewed coffee.  Pour desired amount of coconut creamer over cup of ice, followed by the sweet coffee.  Mix immediately and enjoy through a straw.

Philadelphia Urban Creators

Cheaper Produce and After School Activities

Philadelphia Urban CreatorsBY MARISSA OSWALD At the block of Susquehanna and 11 street lies unexpected terrain: a shady grove spotted with mosaic animal sculptures adjacent to a newly plowed garden amongst the littered weeds and chunks of old pavement. Here, Temple and North Philadelphia high school students have planted the first seeds of Philadelphia Urban Creators, a movement in urban gardening that had received gobs of media attention from Grid Magazine. Despite the many urban gardens that have popped up around Philadelphia, PUC’s plot of land could easily be considered a farm, and  volunteer and Temple student Amelia Field-Blanda says that it may become one.
“Eventually, we want to build a farm stand near the road and literally turn the property into a farm,” said Field-Blanda.
By comparing prices of items at the local supermarket Fresh Grocer, PUC plans to split those prices in half so that community members can get cheap, organic produce.
But that isn’t the sole purpose of PUC.
The group is using urban farming as a way of unifying the community through education and youth empowerment.  One of the ways they do this is by involving area high school kids. Their involvement, in fact, is key is encouraging PUC’s efforts to grow.  And while the crops harvested will be sold to the community for half the price of Fresh Grocer’s food, the profits will be used to pay people who work there.
Other prospective profits could come from area restaurants; this is truly the most local, fresh ingredients available. This unusual blend of community-based art, food sourcing, and education is the perfect supplement to make the community stronger.
philadelphia urban creators philly broadcasterAnother aspect of PUC is the many clever techniques used for urban farming. Many members took farming classes or workshops and are very knowledgeable.  Some sustainable designs of their own include a shade structure made out of old piping and a large tarp.  The structure can easily be moved to any part of the garden on sticky, 100 degree city afternoons.
Another sustainable farming technique used to eliminate premature roasted vegetables is large, lidless Gatorade containers lining the garden.  The catch rain, which is drained straight into the gardens through the dispenser or used to fill up pails that are then moved around the farm, making for a costless, harmless form of irrigation.
The beds themselves are trenched, meaning they are below ground level for more shade and ground water, promoting plant life. Field-Blanda’s favorite feature is the sprouting fence, which she built around the first gardens they planted this spring.  Although it looks like crossed twigs, it will grow into a lush wall of ivy sheltering the crops.
As we were leaving the site, two community members across the street congratulated the PUC volunteers on their efforts, “What you guys are doing out here is beautiful!”
And that’s all the encouragement they need.
Philadelphia Urban CreatorsField-Blanda admitted, “We go on doing what we’re doing, but don’t always know how the community or other people feel about it.”
PUC’s efforts are only beginning.  With the desire to build a farm stand, tool shed, and collaborate with local restaurants there is still a lot of work to do.  The group is looking for support through volunteers as well as education.  Communications and farming savvy people can volunteer.  Go to the Philadelphia Urban Creators Facebook page and LIKE it or lend a few summer hours watering plants while hanging out in one of North Philly’s few blocks of foliage.

Royal Tavern's Vegan Fare

Veganize Me, Royal Tavern!

Royal Tavern PhiladelphiaBY MARISSA OSWALD Remember the days when dive bars had more hairy-legged creatures running around than food items on their menus?  Well, four establishments later, Stephen Simons and co-owner Dave Frank have brought the beauty of culinary ecstasy back into the Philly gastropub – and now, for vegetarians and vegans.
The first two ventures arrived a few years ago in the form of Mexican Cantinas; Dos Segundos located at 931 N Second St (2nd and Wildey) and Dos Caballitos, at 1651 E Passyunk Ave (12th and Morris).  Then came the 56 S. Second St.’s Kyhber Pass Pub – a reinvention of its punk rock venue days to a food-minded beer garden.  But venture further down Passyunk and you’ll find the same cool crowd at the Royal Tavern.
The fare includes Fresh-popped popcorn with truffle butter and parmesan, variations on glazed chicken wings, meatloaf sandwiches with bacon marmalade, smoked gouda grilled cheese, and of course, the angus burger; topped with bacon, caramelized onions, smoked gouda, chile mayonnaise, and a trademark pickled long hot pepper.
Possibly the most interesting aspect of the menu are the foreign twists on American classics.  Think curried chicken hotdog wrapped up in Indian lovash bread with curried coleslaw, or caesar salad with chipotle-sour cream dressing and polenta croutons.
What really made my heart sing were the many vegan options, including a tempeh-greens-tomato-pesto and seedy-bread piled high club, a vegan sloppy joe with jalapenos (no worries, you have the option of getting tater tots on the side), and the grilled sweet potato bahn mi, which is more bread and raw veggies than sweet grilled orange deliciousness.  Thankfully, vegan mayo and siracha came with the just-right fries for dipping, so to add some taste to the bahn mi, I mixed the two and made my very own  spicy mayo.
But the real crowd pleaser was the angus burger, which someone in my party lauded as “one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.”
And although both the tempeh club and bahn mi were a bit dry, I would easily come back for the vegan sloppy joe and the fries, which were almost perfectly crispy and soft at the same time.  And on my second visit, maybe I’ll pay more attention to the microbrews and other libations.  Eh, probably not.

Plant Your Own!

Afforable Herb-an Garden

Indoor Herb Garden PhiladelphiaBY MARISSA OSWALD A peruse through the pricey organic produce section of any market may leave you disheartened.  When it comes to that sprig of cilantro garnish for tacos or mint for mojitos made for two, you could easily be forced to shell out five  smackers for a shrub of herbs that end up shoved in the back of your refrigerator – and forgotten.
Here’s a better idea: growing (naturally organic!) herbs on your very own apartment windowsill.
All it takes is some common-sense planning before setting your planter on your south-facing sunny windowsill, and, of course watering once a day.  The most common and useful herbs include mint, thyme, cilantro, basil, rosemary, sage, and dill.  But since indoor herb gardens have limited space, here’s an outline of the top 4 crops.
Mint: Think tea brewed with mint, mango mojitos, a light accent to spicy foods, a cure for a sour stomach, or even for natural breath freshener.  Mint is so versatile and pungent, in both the kitchen and in soil. Mint plants are perennials, meaning they come back each season after being planted.  So if you plant mint in your indoor herb garden, it will probably surpass your pet in years.  But be cautious where you place it; it’s very haughty and won’t let other plants get in it’s way.  Plant on the outermost corner of a large pot if it’s planted with other herbs, or simply let it grow in it’s own pot of soil.  It’s not easy to wake up in the morning and see strangled coriander.  There are also many types of mint you can purchase, such as Chocolate Mint, Orange Mint, and Spearmint.  My personal herb garden contains Pineapple Mint, which gives my iced tea the slightest hint of tangy sweetness.
Cilantro: A must have for Mexican and Indian cuisine.  Dried cilantro is a cheap substitute for the  curly emerald leaves which add zest to salsas, curries, and stews.  Although fast-growing cilantro is an annual, which means it grows for one season and died.  But thankfully, you can plant it once and munch on fresh salsa by next week.
Basil: Who wouldn’t want to be able to pluck a few basil leaves and spread atop crusty french bread drizzled in olive oil?  Sweet and fresh, basil adds Italian flavor to any dish.  Also an annual, basil blooms quickly and becomes very lush.  My own basil plants grow so tall they often flop over, but just like a haircut, it’ll grow better if trimmed back every once in a while.
Parsley: So light-tasting, it hardly gets the street-cred it deserves: parsley can be used as garnish, but is much more useful blended into dressings and soups.  It creates that cliche “herb-y” taste Kraft injects into crackers, although real herbs are probably used.  A biennial, parsley blooms for two seasons and its weak taste mirrors it’s ability to grow.  Some direct daily sunlight, water, and rich soil is needed to it to grow into little sprigs that will make your ranch dressing meow.