Years ago, when Todd and I travelled around the country looking for a place to open our first café and roaster, it didn’t take long to determine that Philadelphia was the right city: we could actually feel the potential after just one visit. Formerly called “The Workshop of the World” for the diversity and number of the factories located within the city limits, Philadelphia’s reserve of affordable commercial property stock gave La Colombe the room it needed to grow. And while Philadelphia doesn’t fit the mold of a conventionally glamorous city, insiders know its real allure—true to the design of its founding fathers, our hometown is a refuge for free thinking entrepreneurs who put their faith in community. In the food world that means passionate chefs who are interlocked with the farmers of neighboring Lancaster County, some of the most productive non-irrigated soil in the county.
We have our own agricultural relationship with a young farmer named Gina Humphreys who harvests her Urban Girls Produce from about 1.5 acres within The Schuylkill Center, a nature reserve in Philadelphia’s northwestern Roxborough neighborhood (read about her: http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/news/13). She helped us capture the end of the summer season by delivering 10 cases (or about 230 pounds) of assorted tomatoes, including heirloom varieties like Pink Brandywines (a 19th century variety, documented as coming from the Philadelphia seed firm of Johnson & Stokes) and Hillbillies (a sweet West Virginia variety) which we spent the day simmering and then packing into ninety four 24 ounce jars—now just sitting on our shelves waiting for cold weather cooking.
SCROLL FOR IMAGES
230 pounds local tomatoes from Urban Girls Produce
In the pot, with herbs from JP’s backyard garden.
The beauty of using what you have.
Capturing the season: our cold weather stash of summer’s ripe tomatoes