All things spring, from Cherry Blossoms, new restaurants, Easter, Passover take-home kits

Twins create FoodChasers Kitchen combining their love of food, travel
Identical twins Maya and Kala Johnstone recently opened FoodChasers' Kitchen in Elkins Park after years of having an Instagram account of the same name.

The former school principals would take vacations to travel to restaurants they would see on The Food Network, then post pictures of the food.

Their dream of having their own restaurant finally came to fruition over the pandemic, when they decided to retire and open their own spot.

Now the entire family helps out, and the breakfast-lunch menu features the twins' recipes of 'southern cuisine with a twist'.

Kala (left) and Maya (right) Johnstone, co-owners of FoodChasers' Kitchen.


FoodChasers' Kitchen | Instagram | Facebook
7852 Montgomery Avenue Elkins Park, PA 19027
215-758-2078
hours: Wed.-Fri. 9:15am-2:15pm Sat.-Sun. 9:15am-3:15pm

Homeroom is a homecoming for Gladwyne chef Henry Morgan
Henry Morgan returns to Gladwyne with his new restaurant Homeroom.

The Gladwyne native has spent the last six years working for Michael Solomonov's restaurant group Cook 'n Solo.

Now he is branching out on his own with his first solo project.

The cafe will be serving breakfast and lunch with seating indoor and outdoor.

The flavors are inspired by Henry's Jewish roots and the Mediterranean flavors he learned while cooking at Abe Fisher, Dizengoff and Merkaz.

Morgan uses seasonal ingredients and local purveyors to create the menu.

The full circle feeling of Morgan returning home was further accentuated by the fact that he worked in the space 10 years ago in a previous iteration of the cafe, one of his first hospitality jobs before launching his culinary career.

Homeroom | Facebook | Instagram
358 Righters Mill Road, Gladwyne, PA 19035

OT Foods granola business has bigger mission in mind
OT Foods is a mission-based company. Brothers John and Peter Marshall launched the business in 2019 after years of playing around with the idea that started when John was a teacher in New Orleans.

While working on his diet, John found granola choices that left him disappointed in either nutrition or flavor. He also noted many of his students came from challenging circumstances, battling food insecurity.

With those two thoughts in mind, John and his brother Peter launched OT Foods, creating granola with seven ingredients or less.

They donate 10% of the proceeds to Philabundance. They currently make three flavors: Peanut Chocolate Chip, Cherry Almond Vanilla and Oatmeal Raisin.

They bake out of the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises in West Philadelphia. Both work full-time jobs while managing OT Foods but hope to make the business their full-time job this year.

You can find the granola in stores around the Philadelphia area or online orders can be shipped nationwide.

OT Foods | Facebook | Instagram

Where to find authentic, homemade empanadas for National Empanada Day

It's National Empanada Day April 8th, and there are many ways to celebrate.

At Malbec Argentine Steakhouse in Society Hill, you can get authentic Argentinian empanadas. There are six flavors on the menu, made fried or baked. The most popular is the beef empanada with the chimichurri, a typical Argentinian sauce.

Owner Walter Aragonese was born and raised in Argentina and makes everything from scratch using his mom's recipe.

Every month, they have a tango dancer for Tango Tuesdays. Check their social media for updates.

Malbec Argentine Steakhouse
400 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147

Buenos Aires Empanada Bar in Newtown Square churns out more than a thousand empanadas a week.

Chef and Owner Claudia Escalante de Verde draws on family recipes from her childhood in Argentina. To make them healthier, her empanadas are baked.

It's a complete lunch, she says, with all the staples.

Buenos Aires Empanada Bar | Facebook | Instagram
5058 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania 19073

Las Cazuelas has been serving up authentic Mexican Cuisine in Northern Liberties for 23 years. Owner Alfredo Aguilar hand prepares three varieties of the stuffed pastries with a focus on mole sauce, which the restaurant specializes in.

He says the empanada is a food that's equally delicious for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.

La Cazuelas | Facebook
426-28 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19123 | 3300 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
New bakery Kouklet brings authentic Brazilian flavors to South Philly
Owner Mardhory Santos-Cepeda bakes the sweet and savory specialties of her home country at Kouklet Brazilian Bakehouse.

Kouklet is known for the bolo de rolo, a Brazilian specialty that takes a day to make.

With three thin layers of butter cake, a roll is made around three layers of filling.

The traditional filling is guava, but other flavors are available.


Other items include the empadas - pastry tarts filled with beef, typically eaten for breakfast in Brazil - and tapioca-based cheesebreads. The specialty cake rolls can also be shipped nationwide.

Kouklet Brazilian Bakehouse | Instagram | Facebook
1647 E. Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148
973-664-7076

Pysanky by Basia: Saving the world one Ukrainian Easter egg at a time.
Basia Andrusko has been writing Pysanky since she was a child, etching ornate designs on everything from chicken, finch and quail eggs to ostrich, emu and rhea eggs.

Pysanky comes from the word pysat, which means to write. Pysanky is the plural form of the word, and Basia describes it as almost like hieroglyphics.
A sheaf of wheat, for example, stands for prosperity and bountifulness; horses or rams stand for strength. The color blue stands for good health and white for purity.

She makes Pysanky jewelry and holds classes, teaching others the more than 2000-year-old tradition.

When Christianity was adopted in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv in 988, Pysanky became part of the Easter tradition with the eggs in Easter baskets.

Basoa says Pysanky were considered good luck charms and the art was passed down through the generations.
A single egg can take her anywhere from 30 minutes to 50 hours, depending on the size of the egg and the intricacy of the design.

She says legend holds that there's a monster chained to a cliff somewhere in western Ukraine. When there are many eggs that are written that year, his chains will tighten up and goodwill prevails over evil for one more year. And so, she says, everyone who writes Pysanky is saving the world one egg at a time.

Pysanky by Blanka

Upcoming Pysanky Workshops: Artists of Yardley

Pysanky Flowers for Mom's Day, May 3, 9:30am-12:30pm
949 Mirror Lake Road, Yardley Pa. 19067

Tyler Park Center for the Arts| May 7, 11am - 2pm
10 Stable Mill Trail, Richboro, Pa. 18954
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A single egg can take her anywhere from 30 minutes to 50 hours, depending on the size of the egg and the intricacy of the design.


Pysanky by Basia: Saving the world one Ukrainian Easter egg at a time
Basia Andrusko has been writing Pysanky since she was a child, etching ornate designs on everything from chicken, finch and quail eggs to ostrich, emu and rhea eggs.

Pysanky comes from the word pysat, which means to write. Pysanky is the plural form of the word, and Basia describes it as almost like hieroglyphics.
A sheaf of wheat, for example, stands for prosperity and bountifulness; horses or rams stand for strength. The color blue stands for good health and white for purity.

She makes Pysanky jewelry and holds classes, teaching others the more than 2000-year-old tradition.

When Christianity was adopted in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv in 988, Pysanky became part of the Easter tradition with the eggs in Easter baskets.

Basoa says Pysanky were considered good luck charms and the art was passed down through the generations.
A single egg can take her anywhere from 30 minutes to 50 hours, depending on the size of the egg and the intricacy of the design.

She says legend holds that there's a monster chained to a cliff somewhere in western Ukraine. When there are many eggs that are written that year, his chains will tighten up and goodwill prevails over evil for one more year. And so, she says, everyone who writes Pysanky is saving the world one egg at a time.

Pysanky by Blanka

Abe Fisher, Essen Bakery offering take-home kits for Passover
Abe Fisher in Center City is known for its modern take on classic Jewish cuisine and you'll see that on the special Seder Meal being served the first two nights of Passover.

It starts with the mandatory matzo, homemade with everything spice and designed to pair perfectly with the schmaltzy onion dip.

There's a Sephardic style Charoset (or haroset) with carrots, raisins and fresh herbs, salmon cured with beets and traditional matzo ball soup.

The centerpiece of the Passover table is brisket, but in keeping with the 'put a twist on it' ethos of Abe Fisher, it's cooked with a little bit of coffee to enhance the savory elements.

Passover, one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar, celebrates the Biblical exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

At Abe Fisher, you can bring the whole family and dine in or order a heat and eat take-home kit, designed to generously feed four because, as GM Wolf Williams says, "if you go home hungry, your Bubbe would be upset."

Abe Fisher | Facebook | Instagram
1623 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103
215-867-0088

Passover Kits must be pre-ordered and are available for pickup Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16, from 3-5pm

At Essen Bakery in South Philadelphia, Chef/Owner Tova du Plessis is making Passover kits too, for the dessert course of your Seder meal.

Designed to feed 4-8 people, the kits come with a 6-inch cake, four coconut lime macaroons and a half-pound of matzo crack, which is matzo covered in toffee, dark chocolate, almonds and sea salt, a combination Tova calls dangerously delicious.

It's so popular she is selling it with the kit and by the pound, along with her homemade matzo, made plain and with everything spice, and her matzo ball soup with local pastured chickens "the way my mom makes chicken soup."

A four-time James Beard nominee for outstanding baker, Tova also makes a mean hot cross bun for her Easter celebrating customers and the chocolate Challah babka, while not Passover friendly, is her claim to fame.

Essen Bakery | Facebook | |Instagram
1437 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19147

215-271-2299
Passover Kits must be pre-ordered and are available for pickup Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16

'Flying to Blkulla' is a ride through Swedish Easter Witch tradition
While Easter in America typically involves a bunny and eggs, in Swedish tradition, there are Easter witches and letters left on stoops. In this week's 6abc Loves the Arts, Karen Rogers takes us to The American Swedish Historical Museum in FDR Park where a new exhibition explains it all.
Flying to Blkulla: Letters from an Easter Witch is a ride through the history of the Swedish Easter Witch tradition.

Legend holds that the devil threw parties there during the Easter season, a story that formed the basis for how Swedish children still celebrate the Easter holiday today.

And they go door-to-door, giving residents a hand-drawn Easter letter in exchange for candy that they collect in a copper pot.
The witches were said to sometimes carry dolls and horns.

The exhibition is based on a set of Easter letters from a local Swedish family that immigrated to Philadelphia in the 19th century.

There's also a book on the history of witchcraft that was used during the Witch Trials in Sweden, Germany and America.

The Easter Witches folklore started as a tactic to keep children on their best behavior.

"Remember what Easter is all about. If you don't do those things, then you're going to be taken by one of the witches and flown to this little island called Blkulla," says Malone.

Now, it's a season of celebration. You can catch "Flying to Blkulla: Letters from an Easter Witch" through May 1st.
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The American Swedish Historical Museum | Facebook | Instagram
1900 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19145
Museum hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday, 12pm-4pm

FYI SHOW EXTRAS
The Cherry Blossom Festival is back for the first time since 2019.

It runs from April 8-10 on the grounds of the Horticultural Center and is free and open to the public.

While the festival typically showcases Japanese culture, in the wake of George Floyd and anti-Asian hate, there's a focus on diversity with music and food representing both Japanese and Black cultures.

There will be food vendors, a beer garden and cultural and musical performances, featuring everything from Taiko drums to hip hop, jazz and reggae.

Shofuso Japanese House & Garden is offering a free Taiko drum workshop on the Saturday of the festival, and every Saturday through October.

Shofuso Cherry Blossom Festival Facebook |Instagram
Horticulture Center in West Fairmount Park
100 N Horticultural Dr, Philadelphia, Pa. 19131
Friday, April 8-Sunday, April 10

Carangi Bakery in South Philadelphia is famous for its seeded loaves, the roll of choice for some of the city's favorite cheesesteak purveyors.

But at Easter time, it's the Easter bread that puts this place on the map.

Owner Louis Carangi says there's a couple secret ingredients he puts in there to make it so special.

The three braids in the long Easter bread symbolize the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.

The braided loop represents the crown of thorns and the pastel-colored eggs baked right in symbolize a new beginning, a new life.

Lou has worked in bakeries since he was 13 and opened his own place 26 years ago.
He got his Easter bread recipe from the first bakery he ever worked at, as a cleanup guy. That bakery has long since closed and Lou now works side by side with his son, Santino.

They start baking the Easter Bread the Friday before Palm Sunday, selling it both with eggs and without, but always finished with icing and non-pariels.

For those who've never tried it, Lou describes it as a cross between a brioche and a Danish and promises "it's worth coming back for."

Carangi Baking Co. & Cafe | Website |Facebook |Instagram
2655 S. Iseminger Street (Oregon Ave. between 12th & 13th Streets), Philadelphia, Pa. 19148
215-462-6991

Manakeesh Cafe Bakery in West Philadelphia has a selection of Lebanese specialty dishes on the menu for Ramadan.

It's a month of dawn to sunset fasting, starting this weekend.

The restaurant closes during the daytime and opens at sunset with a hearty menu that includes appetizers of hummus, fattoush-a salad topped with fried pita chips, and a cheese stuffed pastry called sambousek.

The main courses are Kabsa- a baked chicken and spicy rice dish, Sayadieh-a fish and rice dish, and Maqluba.

Maqluba literally means flipped and the dish is meat and vegetables cooked in a pot then flipped onto the plate.

For dessert, there's Qatayef. It's like an empanada, stuffed with sweet cheese and nuts, then deep fried and coated in a lemon-y syrup.

Manakeesh Cafe Bakery & Grill | Facebook | Instagram
4420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa.19104
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