Big news for the Erace brothers! Adam and Andrew, brothers separated by 16 months and natives of Girard Estate, have been selected to star in a Food Network travelogue show called “Great American Food Finds.” Six episodes are set to start airing Aug. 3, and their South Philly-successful Green Aisle Grocery stores are front and center.
The 1618 E. Passyunk Ave. location, which opened about five-and-a-half years ago, is only 260 square feet, and it’s perhaps this economy of space that makes them so choosy about the gourmet products they tightly pack on their shelves such as: hummus from Old City’s Zahav, Ric’s Bread English muffins, ReAnimator, Stumptown and Rival Bros. coffee beans, and ice cream from Zsa’s, Little Baby’s and Weckerly’s Creamery. They source from more than a dozen farms for produce, milk, meat, eggs, fish and poultry: Tap Root Farm in Shoemakersville, Green Meadow in Gap, Hope Springs and Sandy Ridge in Downingtown, Griggstown in Princeton, N.J., and N.S. Troutman and Sons in Freeburg, PA to name a few.
“The reaction is so great when people walk into the store. ‘Wow, this is it?’” is generally how they react,” said Andrew, 29, a resident of the 2300 block of South 21st Street, the block the brothers grew up on. “Then they’re in the store for 20 minutes looking at every product. ‘You guys really have it packed in here,’” customers say. “So we have to be super-selective about what we put in there.”
The Food Network blitz that announced their new membership in a very special club, reads like this: “With a sixth sense for the unexpected and delicious, brothers Adam and Andrew Erace travel the country in search of America’s hidden food treasures to fill their family market’s shelves. Whether it is a mac’ and cheese pie at the out-of-the-way farm stand, or the bacon-studded fudge brownies at the hole-in-the-wall bakery, the Erace brothers are on a mission to find it and put it in on your plate.” The release goes on to say “fans can relive the highlights from Adam and Andrew’s adventures crisscrossing the country in search of artisinal, unexpected foods.”
Maybe not the whole country. More like the immediate near farms, bakeries and organic food producers that are accessible from Philadelphia.
“The show is going to be about Adam and my exploration throughout the region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut finding unique products from small mom and pop purveyors,” Andrew reported.
Adam, 31, is the more creative food-obsessed half of Green Aisle, something he’s honed spending years as a food critic in town, currently for City Paper.
“It’s definitely a travelogue show so for these first six episodes we’re staying relatively close to home,” the older sibling said. “It’s a look into how Andrew and I go about sourcing products, how we make these decisions.”
They opened their second location at 2241 Grays Ferry Ave. a little more than a year ago with closer to 800 square feet (and a kitchen where they can make pickles, jams and nut butters that they resell under their own names). They’re even set to open a Fishtown location on Girard Avenue this month. As for the East Passyunk Avenue location, they’ve watched it take off alongside the avenue.
“From the get-go, Andrew and I decided to open Green Aisle to fill a need. Five years ago, [East] Passyunk Avenue was a very different place,” Adam said, rightly observing that Acme and Shop-Rite aren’t exactly teeming with organic products, and that Whole Foods on South Street might as well be in West Philly for some South Philadelphians. “We really just knew that in the neighborhood there was a business that could be successful and serve the needs of the neighborhood. We put some savings into it, we maxed out some credit cards and opened the store, and it’s been really successful.”
“We’re South Philly through and through, we’re Neumann guys,” Andrew said with pride. “We just love the community sense that you get in South Philly. That’s why we decided to open our business here. We’re Italian Americans, so food was such an important component to our upbringing,” adding a mention to his mother’s famous Sunday gravy and the Seven Fishes at Christmas.
Strangely, it was trips to Stephen Starr restaurants like The Continental in 1999 that started to show the young food fanatics what was emerging as trendy and cool in food worlds. But it was Marra’s Italian Restaurant, 1734 E Passyunk Ave. that molded Adam’s sense of comfort food.
“Big planks of veal Parmesan crispy and thin, that’s my definition of comfort food,” the food critic admitted.
Their mother cooked, their father “not so much.” They said he was finicky, but approved of Mancuso & Son’s, 1902 E. Passyunk Ave. for wet mozzarella and water ice with bits of lemon in it.
“We are totally pumped. It’s something we’ve been working on for a while, and we’ve had a lot of time to prepare. It’s sinking in, this is happening – every stage it feels a little less surreal,” Adam noted.
They both watched the Food Network as hungry amateur cooks and point to Rachel Ray, Michael Chiarello and Ina Garten (also known as the Barefoot Contessa).
“Her recipes are always spot on,” Andrew said of Garten.
When pressed to wax poetic about the growing Avenue where their business has taken off, Adam, who lives on the 1700 block of South 11th Street, has nothing but raves for the now-en-vogue corridor. “We absolutely love the changes that are happening here. It’s a real testament to the revitalization of downtown corridors. People don’t want to go to the mall,” he said.
They hear it all in their little shop, including neighborhood raves from house hunters thrilled to see their store, from New York City to Los Angeles to Portland, OR.
“The development around it is so organic. It has always been a really nice neighborhood to live and do business with people who’ve lived in South Philly all their lives living next to people who just moved here from other parts of the city,” Adam added.
As for their chemistry, on and off screen, they claim it’s healthy and happy.
“We were pretty much raised as twins, [we were even] put in the same outfits until about six,” Andrew joked. “That’s why we have the relationship that we do, we don’t fight. Maybe because of Adam over-ordering something or not consulting with me. Fortunately, we have a great relationship in and out of work.”
Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 117.