In 2009, Annie Baum Stein and her husband, Mauro Daigle, opened their first market on Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia. Three years later, in May 2012, they expanded into Center City with a cafe in the newly renovated, gorgeous Sister Cities Park on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “It's been an awesome adventure!” Baum Stein exclaimed.
What's your history with food?
Baum Stein: I grew up as a restaurant brat. My mother's family was in the restaurant business. My father's family was in the newspaper business. My grandma Ceil (dad's mom) wrote a recipe column for 50 years that I inherited after she passed. My first real experience with food professionally was as a food writer. I had no training, but I ended up writing a weekly column for four years.
With a family so ingrained in food, who do you credit as your biggest influence?
My biggest food influence both as a consumer and as a professional is my mother. She has been dedicated to the local food movement. She is a pioneer and a real champion of the local food movement. She was influential with connecting farmers to chefs at Windows on the World, my grandfather, Joe Baum’s restaurant, that was on top of the World Trade Center.
My mom had a nonprofit when I was growing up called Public Market Partners. She consulted to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Philly’s Reading Terminal Market and New York City’s Greenmarket.. She held conferences that she co-chaired with Alice Waters. She really strove to educate food consumers and stressed the importance of purchasing local. You know, vote with your fork.
So that’s why there’s such a heavy local food theme in your establishments?
Naturally — if I was going to have anything to do with food, I would be promoting local.
Baum Stein: We try to respond to customer requests as quickly as possible. With the market, we had to add a lot more convenience items. At Sister Cities, we added more easy, grab and go baby items and toddler food. At first, we thought our housemade prepared foods would be kid-centric enough, but later found that we needed baby food brands that are recognizable by kids and caregivers.
How did Pairings on the Parkway come about?
It was a fun program we started in mid-summer to increase activity in the park in the early evening to take advantage of the longer days. We also wanted to feature other items from our specialty market so we started with cheeses.
How do you select your cheese each week?
We pick cheeses that go well together and highlight at least one that is local. Through our social media and flyers, we will tell you what we recommend you bring to pair — wine or beer. Keeping with the local theme, we recommend mostly local beer. We also pair the cheese with a condiment; for example, we use our Urban Apiaries honey, which is harvested in five Philadelphia ZIP codes, with Birchrun blue cheese. You can’t really go wrong with honey since it pairs well with most cheeses, super strong and assertive to the mildest.
You have quite the cheese knowledge.
I'm learning. (laughing)
Besides cheese, what are your favorite local products that you sell?
If you can't make Pairings on the Parkway on Thursdays from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., definitely stop by anytime for an espresso and light lunch. Even better, try their weekend brunch before you head to a museum!
The Bubbi Project