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A Visit to the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market with Chef Steve Poses

The north entrance to the Headhouse Square shambles (photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)

The following is an excerpt from a blog post by local restaurateur and caterer Steve Poses. This is one in a series of features he’s running on area farmers’ markets. To read the full text on his blog, click here.

With the exception of any day at Reading Terminal Market, a summer’s Sunday at Headhouse Farmers’ Market is Philadelphia’s best food shopping experience. And for pure physical per-square-foot concentration of food-shopping ecstasy, it is unrivaled. There are good reasons for this.

Headhouse is located on 2nd Street, between Pine and Lombard, at the south side of Society Hill, adjacent to Queen Village. The headhouse was built in 1805 and originally housed a volunteer fire department. The Shambles, the covered arcade, is an English name for a collection of butcher shops.

The Headhouse Farmers’ Market grows out of long market tradition. But its success today is due in large part to the uniquely supportive demographics of Society Hill and Queen Village. Though Society Hill is the least dense of Center City’s neighborhoods at 12,867 citizens per square mile, Queen Village has a density of 23,616 that rivals Rittenhouse Square at 26,081. It’s against this demographic backdrop that the Headhouse Farmers’ Market operates each Sunday.

Most neighborhood farmers’ markets are laid out single file, under tents along a sidewalk strip. By contrast, the Headhouse market, operated by The Food Trust, sits within the shambles with tables lining both sides. The covered arcade provides a more intimate and compressed physical experience. At the same time, the absence of mismatched and low-hanging tents provides a more consistent, open and accessible market.

The market opens at 9:30 a.m. so plan on breakfast sausage from Renaissance Sausage. In addition to breakfast sandwiches of Sausage, Egg and Cheese or a Brie and Fresh Pear Melt, Renaissance Sausage offers four sausage options including a vegetarian sausage.

Occasionally, a neighborhood farmers’ market has a food truck. Headhouse boasts Los Taquitos de Pueblo, a 9th Street taqueriia that sets up a tent just outside the market near Pine Street. Its street-friendly menu includes Tacos al Pastor with pork, onions, cilantro and a slice of pineapple, Chicken Taco, or Quesadilla with your choices like mushroom and corn or zucchini blossom.

If you plan your appetite carefully, you might manage a breakfast sausage, your shopping and then a lunch taco. Wash it all down with a fresh-squeezed — and shaken — lemonade from Twisted Lemonade. Try Carrot Apple Ginger or Cucumber Herb.

Serious produce shoppers have a world of choices at Headhouse. Summer basil is de rigueur at farmers’ markets. At Headhouse your basil choices include purple, Genovese and Thai.

Man and woman do not eat by produce alone. Each Sunday Tulula’s Table returns to its neighborhood roots vending house made cured meats and spreads. Birchrun Hills Farm offers cheese and hormone- and antibiotic-free pork and veal. Other stands also offer cheese — cow or goat, your choice. Moutainview Poultry offers free-range chicken and beef.

If you appreciate the beauty of food, wandering the Headhouse Farmers’ Market is the equivalent of an art lover wandering the galleries of our Philadelphia Museum of Art. This Sunday think about visiting the Farmers’ Market at Headhouse.

Steve Poses is founder of Frog Commissary. A local restaurateur, caterer and author, it’s his goal to increase home entertaining. Steve’s latest book, At Home by Steve Poses: A Caters Guide to Cooking and Entertaining, was released in 2009. It’s the inspiration for At Home Online, a website and blog designed to make home entertaining as easy as possible with tips, guides and recipes. Click here to subscribe to his e-newsletter. Steve can also be found on Twitter as @SPoses. Click here to follow him.

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