|Courtesy of Zahav|
Not like, for real for real, but in word form. UWISHUNU's blog reprises last week's food-centric With Love Letters feature, this time getting all warm-and-Philly with Zahav chef/owner Michael Solomonov.ï¿½ Last week it was Jose Garces revealing his fondness for Osteria; now chef Solomonov shouts it out, too.ï¿½ Makes sense, since he worked for owner Marc Vetri at Vetri (check out the cover of Il Viaggio di Vetri).
Read the lovey-dovey Q&A on UWISHUNU and look for more With Love Letters features every Friday.
After the jump, chef Jose Garces touches base with Meal Ticket to talk about his upcoming appearance on The Next Iron Chef (debuting Oct. 4 on Food Network), food TV, his new restaurant project and more. Garces can't say too much about the show just yet ï¿½ the Iron Chef America victor is competing to join Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and Michael Symon as a titan of Kitchen Stadium ï¿½ but check out what we got him to share.
It's been unfolding greatly for us. It's been really well-received, and we're excited about it. How could you not be excited about bourbon and burgers? And the Whiskey King, that's a pretty decadent, tasty morsel ... let's go on a per-night basis. For example, on Friday night [Sept. 4], we sold 140 burgers, and of those 140, 40 were Whiskey Kings and 100 were Village Burgers.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
How did your appearance on The Next Iron Chef [TNIC] come about?
Well, as you know, I did compete against Bobby Flay. They had that piece of footage, and I cooked and did pretty well on the show, and I guess [they selected me] based on that. I did interviews for the first season of The Next Iron Chef, but I didn't make the cut for that one. So I'm glad I was able to come back for the second season. I think [the first season] was a pretty stacked lineup.
There's been speculation that you missed this year's James Beard Awards, where you won Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, because you were off filming TNIC. Any truth to that?
Yeah, the show was taped during the spring, and it happened to land during the James Beard Awards. It was a really tough decision to make, but I weighed both options. The James Beard Awards has been something I've been working toward most of my career, so I was somewhat disheartened not to be there, but I was well-represented by my wife and my brother and my director of operations.
Plenty of people have asked us if you were approached to do Top Chef Masters.
No, actually. I haven't been asked to do Top Chef Masters.
How many of the other TNIC competitors did you know personally prior to the competition?
I knew of some of the other competitors, but personally, I knew only Roberto Trevino, because we've done some events before in the past.
From the looks of the first episode, it seems that the competition is going to be pretty intense, as Iron Chef is a huge title. What were interactions like off-camera? Were you friendly, or was too much at stake to get really buddy-buddy?
I think that it definitely was really competitive, and especially during the first episode. During that time leading up to the first episode, it was a lot of feeling each other out, people getting to know each other. Obviously, with what was at stake, it was highly competitive, with that energy, that aura, that competitive nature in and around at all times. My focus going into it, my goal, was to go in and win, and be the next Iron Chef. It was good to meet people, but when it came down to it, that ultimate goal was what was in my sights.
You have an insane schedule as it is. If you were to win this competition, how would you fit filming Iron Chef episodes into your itinerary?
I'm a huge fan of the show, and I highly respect the chefs that are Iron Chefs, so I would take it very seriously. I would definitely set some time aside. I'm flexible enough right now in my career and in my company that I can do that. If I did become that person, I would definitely put a lot into it.
Is it difficult to keep a straight face when you hear some of the over-the-top things Iron Chef chairman [actor Mark Dacascos] says? The stuff he says is so campy. What is he like in real life? Is he really intense, or kinda zen?
I think you're pretty accurate on that ï¿½ï¿½the chairman's routine is pretty funny, but when you have such high stakes on the line, you can't help but take it very seriously. You definitely crack a smile and there is some humor to it, but the competitive nature [of the show] kept me pretty serious. Off-camera, he was very nice, very charming and I think he wanted to make all the competitors feel welcome and comfortable more than anything else. I could see myself having a beer with him.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
On shows like this, there's often a lot of strategy and gamesmanship ï¿½ sometimes, people in these types of culinary competitions get eliminated for reasons not exclusively dealing with their cooking. Do you think this devalues the art of cooking in general?
I feel like of all the cooking shows out there, I think Iron Chef definitely has the most credibility compared to the other shows. Starting from the first episode, it was apparent to me that it's definitely more about the cooking than a lot of the other shows, some of which can be kind of gimmicky [or] a little more whimsical. Even on Top Chef Masters, on the first episode, they had these great chefs cooking in a dormitory with toaster ovens. That takes away from who you are as a chef. I'm happy to say that on The Next Iron Chef, I definitely felt like it was about the cooking 100 percent ï¿½ whose food was the best.
In the first episode you identify Seamus Mullen, of New York's Boqueria, as your heaviest competition on the show. Is that because he also does Spanish food?
I think that on the first episode, I felt that his confidence level was very high. Some of the food he did on the first episode was pretty solid, and of all the competitors I felt he had the most confidence.
Were there certain things ï¿½ aspects of personality, maybe ï¿½ that you gauged when sizing up your competitors that you also look for when hiring chefs for your kitchens?
It's a hard read, you know? I've seen people, although they're quiet or introverted, who can cook their tails off. I've also seen chefs who are really confident and talk a huge game about food and their expertise, but when they get into the kitchen, it's a whole different story. Then there's the end results, what happens during the battles, what happens during the presentations ... there's a lot of factors that are involved.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming Garces Trading Company at 1111 Locust Street?
The Trading Company is going great. We already started our commissary. The Trading Company has three functions. The commissary is one, so it's a producer of different products for all the restaurants ï¿½ pastry and bread production, [our] charcuterie production and sausage making, the [meat] grinds for the burgers [at Village Whiskey] ... that's all being done out of that operation. Then we're going into construction in the next couple weeks to set up what will almost be like a market with a wine cellar. We have a partnership with the PLCB, so it'll be a wine, cheese and charcuterie shop, as well as a cafï¿½. We'll launch our Garces Trading Company coffee there. [The cafï¿½] will be eat in for lunch, and [for] dinner we'll convert it into a full-service restaurant. The experience should be you walking into a wine cellar, picking up one of these exclusive bottles of wine only available there ï¿½ we'll have 200 selections ï¿½ and then you can sit in our cafï¿½ and we'll give you some food that matches that wine. [It will open] around November 15.
Finally, we've heard a few rumors that your friend, chef Marc Vetri, recently filmed an episode of Iron Chef America. So?
I cannot confirm or deny that.
Chef Guillermo Tellez just checked in with some great info on Square 1682, his up-for-fall restaurant in the Hotel Palomar by Kimpton (121 s. 17th St.). A native of Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Tellez was the longtime chef de cuisine at the renowned Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, and more recently worked for Stephen Starr as both a menu consultant and the executive chef of Striped Bass. He's planning a menu of globally influenced New American cuisine, with a serious focus on local, organic and sustainable sourcing.
Kimpton is well-known for the "chef-driven" restaurants in its hotels. How did you become involved with this project? Did it help that you had experience here in Philly?
I think they figured Iï¿½m familiar with this market here, and also my background working with small farmers and organic, sustainable agriculture. Iï¿½ve been doing sustainable cuisine for the past 30 years, so that was a big part of what they were looking for in a chef for this restaurant.
Square 1682 aims to become the first LEED-certified restaurant in Philadelphia. What must be addressed to ensure the food meets the requirements?
[To earn LEED certification], you must undergo a review. I am very careful of the farms weï¿½re selecting. This is a little bit of a challenge, though, because some farms are not certified organic officially ï¿½ï¿½ they practice being organic and they follow all the guidelines, but unfortunately, to be able to get certified is very expensive for them, so theyï¿½re not able to call themselves organic because of the financial part of it. I live in Downingtown, so I always go to Amish country and many small farms to try and get some good stuff for us. I just had a meeting with a farm called Shellbark Hollow ï¿½ they gave me some unbelievable samples, and Iï¿½m going to use them for goat cheese and for yogurt. Really, really good.
How will the global influences promised for Square 1682's menu be conveyed, considering all the local products you'll be using?
The main proteins will be sourced from local farms around here, farms that follow hormone-free guidelines and raise free-range animals. There will be flavor influences, but [full-on global dishes] are not going to be the main staples. Itï¿½ll be a couple spices, a few ingredients ï¿½ curry, just to throw an example out there, might be paired with seafood or some kind of meat. Iï¿½m going to have some Latino influences in there, and Asian influences, too ï¿½ a little bit of everything. But theyï¿½ll be more like finishing touches.
Many people view your former boss Charlie Trotter's 2002 decision to stop serving foie gras as the tipping point for the foie controversy in America. Philadelphia has also been a hotbed for the debate. Will foie be on the menu at Square 1682?
We totally believe in animals being raised in a very humane way. [Working for Charlie Trotter's], we toured a lot of the foie gras farms, and I got to see everything. The particular farms that we toured, their whole systems were very good, so we didn't have a problem serving foie gras. I love foie gras. But back then, they didn't have a high demand, so they were able to work and raise the animals in a humane way. When the demand started pressuring them, though, that's when people started falling out of the circle. When we found out, we sent some people to check it out, and indeed they were doing something that we did not agree with. That triggered the whole thing. Foie gras is a great thing, and I love to have it on a menu, but it's all about the principle.
For Square 1682, I can't tell you I'm not going to have it on the menu, but I can't tell you that I will have it. Right now, I don't have it on the menu, but you never know when you'll come across a small farm that does it right.
The seafood you'll serve will also be sustainable, adhering to the guidelines set by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program. Is maintaining high standards with fish more difficult than with meat or produce, since the threatened species change so frequently?
Itï¿½s not easy. [You have to be] really willing to go the distance. Itï¿½s just a matter of researching and doing additional things. Weï¿½ll be using wild and line-caught seafood ï¿½ things that are not endangered. If you work closely together, you can stay on top of the changes.
I think a lot of [chefs ignoring sustainability] comes from laziness. We donï¿½t want to read about it, we donï¿½t way to stay in tune. But the guidelines that they give you ï¿½ itï¿½s a lot of seafood. Youï¿½re not limited to just three or four kinds. Itï¿½s quite a few things, and itï¿½s up to you as a chef to really develop your menus around it.
Yesterday, Meal Ticket asked you to come up with a cheeky moniker for the as-yet-unnamed pig that'll serve as the mascot for chef Matthew Levin's forthcoming barbecue restaurant Rubb. Today, we're talking to the former Lacroix chef, who's sharing the latest info on that spot, his anticipated NoLibs restaurant Masano ï¿½ and a few clues for what we can expect from him in the future.
The first thing we asked Levin: With Masano up for a late '09/early '10 opening, why'd he decide to take on a second project out in Manayunk ï¿½ especially a barbecue spot, when it seems like quality smoked meat is cropping up all over Philly these days?
Turns out the idea's been on the burner for a minute now.
"When I set out that I was going to do restaurants, I had four concepts in mind," says Levin (pictured with dogs Arthur and Saddie)."One of them was a barbecue restaurant, one of them was a tweaked-out raw bar place, then there was a pizza place, and Masano, my progressive bar food place. [But] the more that I started to dig into the Masano project, the more I realized it was a bigger deal than I had originally imagined."
Given Masano's timetable, Levin figured he might as well tack something off his restaurant list in the meantime. That's how Rubb, scheduled for a mid- to late-September opening at 4445 Main Street in Manayunk, came about.
The 25-seater, an all-brick, terracotta-floored space, will feature four in-house smokers, each of which will employ a different kind of wood. The menu will be unconventional for a barbecue spot ï¿½ while they'll do pulled pork, brisket, ribs and sausage, Levin's also planning on offering up options like smoked turkey breast and Berkshire pork belly. The meat Levin seems most excited about, though, is Elysian Fields lamb, a hyper-exclusive purveyor that supplies the likes of Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller and Danny Meyer. Levin, who built up a relationship with Elysian during his time at the Rittenhouse, says he'll serve the coveted lamb with a North African mombasa pepper sauce. Levin adds that he plans on going for a beer-only license ï¿½ "no booze in the bug juice," he laughs. There will be a small outdoor seating area.
"Everybody always told me that, me personally, I never fit into Lacroix," says the be-tatted Levin. "I guess it was a little too snooty?" Now, with Masano ï¿½ a portmanteau of his name, with the names of sons Sam and Noah ï¿½ Levin feels that he has "an opportunity to be myself." The 4,000-square-foot space, in the 201 Green complex, will carry a "really stripped-down, warehouse kind of feel." Food will be more along the lines of the food-forward stuff the chef did at Lacroix ï¿½ï¿½ it'll be prix fixe format, along with an a la carte bar menu and a "large raw bar component." Servers will rock mechanic shirts and Chucks, in another move distancing this concept from Levin's former employer.
So Rubb by the fall, Masano sometime in winter. Anything else we need to know about, Matthew? "There is something working," the chef teases. "But I can't talk to you about it yet."
Let it be known that it ain't easy getting info out of Daniel Stern. But Meal Ticket really wanted to try for more details on the chef's forthcoming Philly projects ï¿½ R2L in Two Liberty Place and MidAtlantic at 3711 Market (here's what we got so far) ï¿½ so we caught up with him via e-mail.
After the jump, find out what he's willing to divulge about his two new up-for-autumn restaurants, why he thinks Rae didn't work out in the Cira Centre, how often you might spot him at his flagship restaurant Gayle (617 S. Third St.) and more.
So where have you been lately? We haven't heard from you in awhile.
Iï¿½ve been around! Iï¿½ve been really been focusing on these two new projects, in addition to my babies: Gayle and my son, who is 18 months old.
What, in your view, tripped Rae up at Cira? Was it a result of the economy?
I'm sure the economy was a factor. It has not been the best environment for any business, but we were able to make great relationships and have a great run, and I look forward to seeing what comes next from that area.
The idea behind MidAtlantic ï¿½ celebrating the culinary backbone of this very region ï¿½ is an interesting one. How did you land on it?
Iï¿½ve always been very interested in history and stories and how they relate to food. The heritage and regionality are a great jumping off point for creativity. I grew up in Philly eating this type of food and itï¿½s really influenced me, even though Iï¿½ve worked and lived all over the world.
Are we right in thinking there will be a bunch of local beers on draft at this "modern taproom"?
Yes ... there are a ton of great local beers and weï¿½ll definitely have those on draft.
Regarding R2L ï¿½ should we take the "R" to represent a reincarnation of Rae?
The R is the creative inspiration behind the restaurant. Literally it stands for my grandmother, Rae: She was a major influence not just in my cooking, but in my outlook on hospitality. It just grows from there.
This is a completely new restaurant with a serious focus around the bar and bar dining. We're going to have a significant beverage program and the food will be refined contemporary cocktail cuisine.
Where are you eating these days? Any Philly restaurants, new or old, that you've been impressed by lately?
I always love to stop at Ansill on my way home, and look forward to seeing him back open in the fall. I haven't been yet, but when I get some time I need to stop in at Bibou. I've heard great things.
How often might we find you at Gayle, whether dining or cooking?
Every day. I've been working on all of our development out of Gayle and the back patio is also my favorite hideaway in the city.
|Photo l Michael Persico|
Moxie, that 19th-century soda superstar, stole the whole food sidebar this week, pushing out other sugary worthies stocked byï¿½ The Franklin Fountain.ï¿½ Since Moxie's noble lineage and herbaceous, medicinal flavors ate up my entire word count, scope the expanded, soda-centric Q&A below from Ryan Berley, who owns Franklin with brother Eric.
Meal Ticket: How do you find these obscure/old-fashioned sodas?ï¿½
Ryan Berley: We've traveled the country visiting old soda fountains & confectioneries.ï¿½ While on the road, we're always looking for and asking about regional sodas.ï¿½ Glassbottlesoda.org has a list of the bottlers for most of them. We buy pallets direct from the bottlers and have them shipped to us.
MT: Do you drink them yourselves?
RB:Yes, we do.ï¿½ I like to have a soda with my lunch.
MT: Have you considered looking for "original" recipe sodas, that are made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup?
RB:We always are looking for sodas that use sugar instead of corn syrup, as that was the original way. However, corn syrup has its place in modern cooking and is actually less "sweet" that sugar so it works for certain recipes.ï¿½ Corn syrup is not inherently evil as many have made it out to be. We do sell a Mexican-made Coca-Cola which uses cane sugar, and our fountain Dr. Pepper syrup comes from Dublin, TX where they are the last bottling plant to use cane sugar in the original way.
MT: Which is each of your favorite sodas?
RB: Mine is Moxie.ï¿½ Eric likes the "Hot" Blenheim's Ginger Ale, and suggests it with a splash of raspberry syrup.
MT: Do you blend any of the sodas with cocktails?ï¿½ I know you sell the Blenheim's Ginger Ale to Sassafras for a Dark & Stormy.
RB: Only in our off-time.ï¿½ I like the Fentimans Orange Jigger with a spash of Bluecoat Gin.ï¿½ And yes, the Blenheims is great in a Dark & Stormy or with Kentucky bourbon over ice.
MT: Besides a Moxie float with teaberry ice cream, do you have any other ice-cream soda pairing recommendations?
RB: Green River (lemon-lime) with Lemon Sorbet.ï¿½ Manhattan Special Espresso Soda with Chocolate Ice Cream. Try the Nu-Grape soda floated with Vanilla Ice Cream, also known as a Purple Cow, something our dad made for us as kids.
Food, Inc., director Robert Kenner's exploration of America's hidden food-production system, opens tomorrow, June 19, in Philadelphia. (See Cindy Fuchs' review.) The award-winning director even has a local connection, having attended the Solebury School in Bucks County.ï¿½ "It's great to see the whole food scene that has evolved here," said Kenner. "There was nothing like it when I was here." Meal Ticket sat down with the filmmaker last week, when he visited the South Street Whole Foods, to talk about Food, Inc., and what we are really eating.
Meal Ticket: What was the inspiration behind this film? Did you have some kind of motivating personal experience?
Robert Kenner:ï¿½ It wasn't really that. I was just curious, you know, to find out where our food comes from. An interesting exploration. I wanted to talk to all the different producers of our food system, and I found out agribusiness did not want to talk. Not only could I not see into their kitchens, they didn't want to speak to me at all. I was a threat. They don't want us to know where our food comes from. Food has fundamentally been transformed without us seeing it, or thinking about it. What we realized was that there is a movement percolating ï¿½ we didn't know about it until we got out there.ï¿½ It's going to take a movement to change things.
MT: One thing that really stood out to me in the movie was the statement, "It's not a tomato, but the notion of a tomato," and that there are only 12 slaughterhouses in the U.S. that are processing almost all of the beef eaten in this country.
RK: It is the notional tomato. It is flavorless, of course, and practically devoid of nutrients. It's just an idea of a tomato. Did you know that there is a major purchase about to go through that will make the four major meat processors into three? Those three will control 80 percent of the market. It's total consolidation. There are aisles and aisles of things in the supermarket, but they all come from the same corporations. We are offered the illusion of choice. Everything is owned by the same people. It's an Orwellian transformation that has been hidden from us.
MT: In the film, you show a family that eats from the dollar menu at fast-food restaurants because they cannot afford whole foods in the supermarket. Do you think there is a disconnect between the middle and upper classes, who can afford to question where there food comes from, and the poor, who have to eat just to exist?
RK: Money is a concern. The Baldwin Park family was spending $400-$500 per month on medications [for the father's diabetes and blood pressure]. This low-cost food comes to us at a very high cost. You don't see the real price at the checkout. This is the future of health care ... you can't have health care reform and still have this food system. Listen, one out of two minority individuals has diabetes.ï¿½ To say that poor people can't afford good food is ridiculous ... these corporations, subsidized by the federal government, are selling food to low-income people that makes them sick.
MT:ï¿½ Do you think the Obama administration is interested in reforming the American food system?
RK: We screened the film for them ... the heads of the FDA and USDA, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.ï¿½ There is interest in this administration, but they didn't come into office with that interest. They want to reform health care, and you can't change health care or the environment without changing the food system. Twenty to 25 percent of oil used in this country goes into the production, growing and transportation of food. The intensive raising of food pollutes water, the earth ... it exploits animals and human workers. What is the human cost? This food system cannot continue. It's unsustainable and it's going to end. We need to figure out a different system.
MT: What can the average consumer do?
RK: This film is meant to be empowering. It's a film for the non-converted; I want to turn minds, not stomachs. We can change the system two ways, on two levels. On the personal level, we vote three times a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. We can shop at farmers markets and support our local farmers. When that is not practical, we can buy local and organic at the supermarket. You can encourage your market to increase the amount of local and organic produce they carry. When consumers started telling Wal-Mart to remove rBST [recombinant bovine somatotropin] from their milk, they listened. Consumers should also read labels and buy less processed food. Don't buy things made with words you can't pronounce.
On another level, you can influence government. The tobacco analogy is the best one ï¿½ really powerful, wealthy corporations were lying and putting out false information about the safety of their products. Ultimately we were able to fight them and get these products labeled as dangerous. The Web site TakePart.com has a list of organizations you can join, like Slow Food.
Things will change when people know what is in their food and we get the right information. At some point, we have to turn the Farm Bill into the Food Bill to benefit consumers. We need a movement to make this happen. I believe it will be mothers with young children who will lead it. This will become like the civil rights movement. This is a major issue, and so much is building at this moment that we are a part of. Some person, some event will set it off, like Rosa Parks.
|via White Beer Travels|
|Jean Van Roy serving Cantillon|
Lambic fans who stood in the rain for a ticket to last night's Cantillon dinner at Monk's Cafï¿½ were well-rewarded for their soaking by the effusive presence of fourth-generation Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy, whose mavericky brews are the point of obsession for drinkers of the obscure lambic style.
"Jean-Pierre Van Roy told me in 1987 he had 200 accounts in Brussels," Monk's owner Tom Peters told me. "By 1997, he had 20. America is the reason they survived. We get a full third of Belgium's lambic production, and we'd take more if they would give it to us."
Meal Ticket crashed the dinner to chat with Jean Van Roy about what makes lambic special, and what it's like to feel the love in Philadelphia on his first visit to the United States. (Learn the history and qualities of lambic beer here.)
Meal Ticket: When did you begin brewing at Cantillon?
Jean Van Roy: Well, do you mean when did I begin brewing alone, without my teacher? Seven years ago, but I have been working at the brewery since I was very very young. It is the brewery of my great-grandfather, and I began brewing with my father in 1989.
MT: Is lambic beer popular in Belgium?
JVR: No. It is not popular. Lambic is too special ï¿½ it is the last beer to be made with spontaneous fermentation. It is a product totally apart ï¿½ made from the natural yeasts of the air, aged in casks like wine ... it is something very special. Ninety-nine percent of beer in the market that is labeled "framboise" or "lambic" is not traditional. We are making something else.
MT: Why isn't lambic more popular?
JVR: Lambic is really for beer specialists. It is popular with beer lovers, who search for these things.ï¿½ For classic beer drinkers, no. In Belgium or outside of Belgium. It is a taste totally apart. When you begin to learn this beer and you like it ... it becomes difficult to drink a beer with a sweet taste. We have customers who come to the brewery who say they don't like beer, but they love Cantillon. We have very good contacts with the wine world.
MT: That's very true. Don't tell Tom [Peters], but lambic has pretty much ruined me for beer. Many people who only drink wine are easy to convert to lambics. Where do you get the barrels that you age your beer in?
JVR: All our barrels are from France. They have been used, generally, two to five times for wine before they come to us. When we get them, we clean them very thoroughly, but a bit of liquid remains in the wood from the wine or cognac ... so the first time you use that barrel it produces a very special lambic, a very good one.
MT: Are there any beers here tonight that are especially interesting to you?
JVR: Ah, there is the Cuvee Monk's Gueuze. Tom came to Brussels in September and we chose together the lambics for this special blend, including a lambic with Amarillo hops. [Ed: This is the very hoppy lambic brewed by The Brett Pack during a visit to Cantillon. More on that here.]
MT: Yes, I heard your father did not approve of that very hoppy lambic.
JVR: We thought that the balance between hop and lambic was not perfect. But as a blend with classic lambic, such a blend made a beer with excellent balance.
MT: Cantillon has a huge following in Philadelphia. People here love your beers.
JVR:ï¿½ It is incredible ... I cannot express the feeling here. There is nothing like it, even in Brussels.
MT: What do you think of Philadelphia?
JVR: It is a big city, yes? One million people?
MT: About that, yes.
JVR: It's very quiet here, even though it is a big city. I get a feeling here, that I also get in Brussels, which is of a village in a city.
MT: Are you visiting any other places on your trip?
JVR: Tomorrow we go to New York. People here have been telling me it will be something else.
While a personal commitment kept me from attending last night's CineFest event opener, nothing will stop me from catching the rest of the flick-ering fun. (Check out all of CP's CineFest coverage.) And while weï¿½ll start tonight with Tony Luke Jr. and The Nail at the Prince Theater ï¿½ discussed in this here feature ï¿½ some of you might not care about a Luke movie other than say, this one:
That's because that video tells you how to best prepare his Tony Luke Frozen Cheesesteak. That's the product that ate up 3+ years of Luke's life, trying to find the right meat (sliced Black Angus sirloin instead of the fat-marbled ribeye he uses at his stand on Oregon Avenue), the right rolls (in separate wrappers) and how to get the cooking process just right ï¿½ whether you dunk it in water or nuke the whole thing in microwave-safe pouches.
Getting the sandwich absolutely right was crucial to Luke and Ray Rastelli III, the vice president of South Jersey's Rastelli Foods Group, which distributes Tony Luke Frozen Cheesesteaks. Rastelli also happens to be a big benefactor when it came to the money end of The Nail. "The guyï¿½s a saint," says Luke of his partner in crime.
Before he started the process seriously and wound up happy with the product, he found that ï¿½ Luke said this to very loudly ï¿½ "you cannot, under any circumstances, take a full and complete sandwich ï¿½ a loaded sandwich that is frozen ï¿½ put it in a microwave or in an oven and expect that the sandwich will taste good. By the time that the heat gets to the center of sandwich, the rest of the it is completely overcooked or is dried out." The first thing he had to do? "I had to separate the two ï¿½ the meat from the bread. I cannot put the sandwich together."
Luke did try to Cryovac meat from a microwave and it tasted like garbage ï¿½ "it was dry and it was rubbery." He added and subtracted stuff from the packet. "It was burnt and barely OK ï¿½ and inconsistent."
That is until his partner Rastelli made a comment: "It's not in the packet. It's in the meat."
Luke canï¿½t comment more. He has a patent pending on this. He has this process. He got industry experts to sign confidentiality agreements. When they said it couldn't work. Luke said "humor me." He loves that saying. He says it a few times, as if to humor himself. "I'll pay you. Just humor me."
After Rastelli and Luke devised what they came up, they believed they'd revolutionized something special ï¿½ making a frozen cheesesteak that was good. "People have to do a little bit of work to knock this out," he explains. "You're gonna cook it. But not much ï¿½ in fact, you can either do it in microwave which is easier or in the boil-in bag where you toast the roll and quickly boil the meat in the bag."
Funny thing was, Luke was going to try to something more like a Steak-Umm. He got the best meat. Got a focus group. Everybody fried it and tried it. Everybody got the roll. Everybody ate it. "Everybody in the focus group loved it ... 95 percent said it was fantastic. So I said, 'Will you buy it?' and 90 percent said 'Absolutely not.'"
He laughs hardest at that.
"Because we gotta cook it. These people are used to throwing something in the microwave and two minutes later eating their dinner. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" he yells.
A lot of people this time around don't get the sous vide "boil in bag" process where the 180-degree water bath breaks meat down and creates a juice that's phenomenal. "Three minutes in a bag ï¿½ let it rest so that the cheese doesn't stick to the bag. It's ready in 3-4 minues. Shake it a second and youï¿½ll find that the juice from the meat is so flavorful you will lose your mind. Take that roll. Put it in a toaster oven 3, 4 minutes. It comes out crisp and soft. Put it together ï¿½ amazing."
He laughs after having read the blogs and the responses to his process. "Youï¿½d a thought I set off a bomb in the middle of Center City. But all Iï¿½m trying to do is represent the cheesesteak and Philly better than it has been by bigger companies."
|Erick Wong | SF Chronicle|
The best fruity brew you
The first few days of warm weather has us thirsty for some patio-friendly quaffs. We caught up with DRAFT magazine editor-in-chief Erika Reitz, who took a moment to talk aboutï¿½ fruit beers' new place in the sun. DRAFT reviewed six fruit brews in their March/April issue ï¿½ to subscribe, check out their Web site.
Meal Ticket: What are the origins of fruit beer?
Erika Rietz: Oh, I donï¿½t have the best answer for that question ï¿½ the origin of beer is biblical. Actually, the first beers were fermented from honey. I donï¿½t think there is aï¿½ good answer for that question ï¿½ itï¿½s pretty difficult to say.
MT: Are fruit beers gaining in popularity?
ER: Yes! They are creative beers that people enjoy because they have an idea what they will be ï¿½ people can relate to it. With new versions of fruit beers, and youï¿½ll find more on the market now because they are popular, and craft breweries are allowed to express creativity and reach out to new beer drinkers.
MT: Are all fruit beers sweet, low-alcohol brews, like the popular Lindemanï¿½s Framboise?
ER: There is a total range. People donï¿½t know that its not supposed to taste just like one fruit.ï¿½ Say, Watermelon Wheat [from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco] is a wheat beer and the watermelon is a complement. The well-known Lindemanï¿½s fruit beers are lambics, which are sour and then the fruit is added. People think of those and itï¿½s kind of misleading. Any kind of beer could have fruit added to it. It depends on the baseline style. For example, Gordash Beer Company in Ft. Lauderdale makes Mack in Black, an imperial stout fermented with a Belgian yeast strain with pomegranate added to it. This gives the robust qualities of a stout with pomegranate underlying it.
MT: What foods pair well with fruit beers?
ER: These are so different from one style to the next, so there is no hard and fast rule. It depends on the style of the beer. Sweet beers, like Oï¿½Fallon Cherry Chocolate (MO) or Lindemanï¿½s Framboise (BEL), you should pair with chocolate.ï¿½ If you pair the actual fruit with something, it will probably work with the beer.
|But you can get this tart take on a Berliner Weisse.|
MT: Yes, it seems like some of these beers work best standing alone. That Watermelon Wheat just needs to be paired with a sunny day.
ER: Absolutely! That is such a refreshing beer ï¿½ you donï¿½t pair watermelon with many other things ï¿½ maybe a refreshing salad. But those round, big flavor profiles are so complex that they are just great standing alone.
MT: What American brewers are making great versions of fruit beers?
ER: There are so many right now, itï¿½s hard for me to pick just a few! Dogfish Head in Delaware makes a Berliner Weisse, Festina Peche, with some really wonderful peach touches to it. The Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment is one of the best. Iï¿½ve also had my best fruit beers from homebrewers! You can really find awesome fruit beers at your local brewpubs, as well.
- barstool scientist
- Brew Revue
- Chef Salad
- Dirty Dishes
- Don't Front
- Eat This Immediately
- Field Trip
- Food and Art
- Food and Holidays
- Food and Movies
- Food and Music
- Food and Politics
- Food and Sports
- Food and Web
- Food Blogs
- Food Books
- Food Events
- Food News
- Food TV
- Happy Hour Hopper
- In Print
- Meal Ticket
- Menu Time
- Not So Quickfire
- Notes from the Weekend
- On Wheels
- Patio Drinking
- Philly Beer Week 2010
- Private Chef POV
- Product Placement
- Snack Time
- Stiff Drank
- Ticket Stubs
- Top Chef
- Weekly Candy
- Weird Regional Foods
- We're Here to Help
- Where'd We Eat?
- Drew Lazor's Ill-Advised Rant Factory
- Ill-Advised Ranting
- The Week Without Meat
- Philly Beer Week 2009
- Real Big
- Where'd I Eat Last Night?
- Top Chef Masters
- The Good Word
- Next Iron Chef
- Arterial Terrorism
- Food and Radio