We're Here to Help
Café Estelle, the latest darling of the Northern Liberties brunch crowd, turns out a truly inspirational croque-madame and some seriously quality pizzas, fruit pancakes and slow-cooked brisket sandwiches. They also support local artists, featuring a new exhibit each month. Less than a month ago, the brother of local artist Chris Clark passed away at the age of 23, leaving behind a young son, Kayden Michael.
The café's owners, Marshall Green and Kristin Mulvenna, will be putting that toothsome brisket to work this Saturday, Dec. 6, in a Beef & Beer to benefit the education fund of Kayden Michael Clark. $20 admission at the door buys all-you-can-eat brisket sandwiches and brews from the Memphis Taproom and local distributors.
A raffle includes gift certificates for the Pub on Passyunk East, Tria, Ansill, B2, Primex Garden Center, the Memphis Taproom; as well as pieces of original art donated by local artists and photographers.
Café Estelle Beef & Beer to benefit the Kayden Michael Clark Education Fund; $20, Sat., Dec. 6 from 5-9 p.m., 444 N. 4th St.(between Spring Garden and Callowhill), 215-925-5080
|Unrelated but cool: Ming Tsai gets down with the grill at Geno's|
From 10 a.m. Thu., Dec. 4 through 10 a.m. Fri., Dec. 5, all proceeds from the sale of steaks, hoagies, fries and soft drinks at Geno's Steaks at Ninth and Passyunk in South Philly will go to the family of Sergeant Tim Simpson of the Philadelphia Police, who was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 17, 2008.
Sgt. Simpson, 46, was responding to a burglary call at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 when his patrol car was struck by an intoxicated driver. He later died from his injuries at an area hospital Simpson served the Philadelphia police for 20 years and left behind a wife and three children.
Five of our Philadelphia police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year — two from car crashes, and three from gunfire. Geno's has held prior fund raisers for the survivors of fallen police officers, including Officer Isabel Nazario and Sgt. Patrick McDonald. Though a donation of funds will not ameliorate the grief of the Simpson family, the spirit of the holiday season benefits the giver as well as the recipient.
Direct donations to Simpson's survivor benefit fund can be made by contacting the Philadelphia Police Department at 215-686-1776.
|No seitan, either.|
|Landau and Jacoby|
|Photo | Michael T. Regan|
|Dynise "The Urban Vegan" Balcavage with her husband, John "Omniman" Gatti|
|Photo | Steve Legato for New York Times|
|Photo | Greg Bezanis for South Philly Review|
|Hello, I am seafood!|
I was looking over the menu for the brand-new Thai Chef & Noodle Fusion (2028 Chestnut St., 215-568-7058) when I came across this tantalizing item:
Winning Alligator Sauteed slice alligator, eggplant, onion, bell pepper with julienne ginger, soy bean, green peppercorn Thai aromatic herb sauce "Customer vote the meat soft tender, better than chicken"
This sounds great and I can't wait to try it — I've had gator meat a couple times, but it's been deep-fried and/or smothered in a heavy sauce, so this seems like a good opportunity to really get a feel for the taste. One thing threw me off, though — "Winning Alligator" is listed under "Seafood Specialties."
Is alligator seafood? Technically, gators are aquatic creatures, so I was initially thinking yeah. But then a coworker posited that they shouldn't be considered seafood because they kick it in fresh water. But by that logic, wouldn't a fish like trout also be barred from a seafood classification, as it resides solely in non-sea fresh water, as well? Have I had too much/not enough coffee this morning? Help!
|Raw duck and pork scrapple|
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Got this interesting question from a Meal Ticket reader yesterday:
My friend has lived in Philly for 11 years, and has never eaten scrapple. She is getting ready to leave for China for a year, and a few friends are going to take her on a scrapple tour of Philly — so I am asking if you know of any fabu scrapple dishes in the city.
In all your food travels, have you run across any scrapple dishes out there that we can add to the tour?
The reader goes on to mention two spots on the list so far — Sabrina's for their house-made scrapple and Davio's for their scrapple risotto.
There is no shortage of good, plain ol' scrapple in this city. (For the uninitiated, it's traditionally pork "trimmings" — talkin 'bout ears, snouts, whatnot — ground up, seasoned, mixed with a cornmeal binder, and left to set overnight before being sliced into slabs and pan-fried.) I would say the South Philly greasy spoon Melrose/Penrose/Oregon trifecta is good for a classical scrapple experience.
A call over the Reading Terminal Market, organizers of the annual Scrapplefest (where RTM vendors whip up scrapple-based dishes for terrified onlookers), turned up just two vendors that serve it regularly — Down Home Diner, which tops Lancaster County slabs in poached eggs, and Dutch Eating Palace, where you can get it in an omelette and/or on the side.
The best version I've eaten was Rich Freedman's duck and pork scrapple. Freedman, former chef at the Sidecar at 22nd and Christian, walked me through the process of making the stuff for an article back in July, even sharing his top-secret recipe. (Freedman has since left the bar to take a gig at Harry the K's in CBP.) Sidecar co-owner Adam Ritter, however, tells us that they haven't offered any type of scrapple on their brunch menu in a bit.
Back in May, Mac & Cheese told us about Vrapple, or vegetarian scrapple. Freaks me out.
This is tough one!
So how about it, Meal Ticketers? Are there scrapple-based dishes — or uniquely prepared scrapples, at the very least — out there that our inquirer should check out? Let's hear it in the comments.
Whether it's an allergy to chlorophyll, a fear of bread crusts, or antipathy to trying even just one bite of something new, children can be frustrating, picky little bastards at the dinner table.
In her series of toddler's board books, World Snacks (Tricycle), Amy Wilson Sanger introduces the wee ones to festively rendered edibles from around the globe. Simple pronunciation guides and glossaries accompany the bright little books, encouraging small children to become familiar with more exotic foods than chicken fingers and buttered pasta. Sanger's cut-paper and mixed media collages and rhyming text provide a jumping-off point for parents to introduce new foods to wary children.
Serving the young ones a diverse diet is a wise investment in our foodie future: someday our elderly selves will no longer be able to pestle our own pesto or scour the greenmarket for the best beets. Though someday we will be at the mercy of the more nimble generation, I have no desire to spend my twilight years eating fish sticks.
B.A. Nilsson, restaurant critic for the Metroland alt-weekly in Albany, New York, recently tapped Meal Ticket for restaurant suggestions for a weekend trip to Philadelphia. We came up with a big list of destinations, and he went for it. Check out his full eating recap, with photos, below. —Drew Lazor
This is about dining in the age of the GPS, making it possible for a
hungry out-of-towner to graze across the length of several
neighborhoods during the course of a weekend. Thanks to my daughter
Lily's recent passion for Panic at the Disco, her mother and I were
bringing her to Philadelphia, one of the stops on the band's Rock Band
Tour, and Susan, my wife, generously relieved me of any need to sit
through the show.
I review restaurants for Metroland magazine, the alt-newsweekly published in Albany, NY. It's an area that struggles to achieve any multi-ethnic culinary variety, and often seems like the red-sauce capital of the universe. Right now we're being inundated with Japanese steakhouses, provoking the fear that I'm doomed to an eternity of forcing a chuckle at little plastic squeeze-dolls pissing on teppanyaki flames.
Why not see what Philadelphia has to offer? There’s a strong collegial feeling among alt-weekly writers, so I sought the advice of Drew Lazor. I’ve been so consulted in the past, and Drew, it turned out, also has turned to a far-flung counterpart. He and Felicia D'Ambrosio put together a list
After depositing the family at the Spectrum’s Pattison Street entrance, I continued north for a taste of the grilled octopus at Dmitri's. Here’s where the GPS got wacky. Instead of sending me to Queen Village along the river, I was led through a maze of one-way residential streets, each block ending in a stop sign, traffic light, or, as far as I could tell, free-for-all. And the tiny dining room of my destination was packed, the sidewalk thick with waiting customers. It was approaching 7. I couldn’t imagine the crowd thinning too soon.
On to Chinatown. The route was more direct, but parking on the narrow streets eluded me. I dropped the car at a for-pay lot where it was crammed into an array that couldn’t possibly be untangled when I chose to depart.
|Pork kidneys at Potluck Café|
|Photo | B.A. Nilsson|
I had the rest of it wrapped, and carried it a short distance down N. 10th to the Potluck Café. We’ve got a million of these tiny storefront takeout joints in my area, but none offering "Frog with Three Kinds Mushroom in the Hotpot." I like to boast of epicurean adventurousness, but that was daunting. Presented with tasty morsels of salted chicken as I studied the menu, I settled on pork kidneys with hotbean paste.
"They make their own hotbean paste," Darren Finizio told me. "It's excellent." He was dining at an adjacent table, and couldn’t extol the Potluck too highly. “I’m the one who told Drew Lazor to review this place,” he said. My conclusion: If I'm going to eat kidneys, let it be in a hotbean paste. But with lots of rice.
I marveled at the parking attendant's skill at vehicular Tetris, quickly bringing my car to the head of an exit lane. I wanted to get to Indonesia. I was eager to sample fare from Ethiopia or Eritrea. And I was running out of hunger. I drove a short physical distance for a huge change of neighborhood, and entered Wazobia for a Nigerian meal.
|Photo | B.A. Nilsson|
And then pathetically addressed each item individually, forking into my face a bit of this, a bit of that. "This is Nigerian food," explained a man named Peter, taking pity on me. "You mix it all together, that's how it's supposed to be eaten." Then he launched into a fascinating comparative survey of African cuisines, describing so many unfamiliar aspects that I failed to follow much of it. He even left me with his phone number should I wish to learn more.
Still trying to pace myself, I added this fresh round of leftovers containers to the car and journeyed south. A navigational pattern was emerging. No matter where I headed, once the GPS signed off and left me in front of the restaurant and I continued on to find parking, I ended up on Broad or Market St. with City Hall looming in front of me. You can’t fight it.
Had I done more research, I would have discovered that the recently reopened Minar Palace closes Saturdays at 7. It was well past 9 when I read the sign on the door. My luck continued lousy: Vic Sushi had just closed when I neared the place, taking my hope of sushi with it, and the walk to Almaz Café also proved fruitless — I missed the place by minutes.
|Zilzil tibs at Almaz Café |
|Photo | B.A. Nilsson|
|Carnitas tacos at Distrito|
|Photo | B.A. Nilsson|
"I used to work for the chef when he had a restaurant in Chicago," our server, Jessica, told us. So she contrived to move to Philadelphia to work here. "He's honestly the nicest, most generous chef I've ever known."
"We could move to Philadelphia," my wife observed as we strolled back to the car, adding, with the braggadocio of the infrequent drinker, "and I'd have a margarita every day." And why not? I enjoyed the food and the friendliness and was confident that I’d soon solve the mystery of parking. And I felt like I was beginning to know my way around the city, so I set off for the hotel without bothering to set the GPS, looping around City Hall a couple of times before returning to that instrument's surety.
Earlier this week, I received an e-mail from B.A. Nilsson, restaurant critic for the Metroland alt-weekly in Albany, New York:
[I] am making my first visit in many years to Philadelphia this weekend. Here's what I'm facing.
My eleven-year-old daughter is celebrating puberty's onset with obsessive worship of the group Panic at the Disco, who will be playing at the Wachovia Center on Saturday night. My wife, blinded by motherly love, will accompany the kid to the concert. I'll drop them off — and then I'd like to find a restaurant or two to sample, preferably smaller, more unusual venues. Albany has a dearth of ethnic variety; I can see from your City Paper listings that your city is hipper.
So I'm hoping you might be able to recommend a restaurant or two. Sunday I'll be touring historic sites and museums with the family, so I suspect I'll have less latitude in dining.
I took this same exact approach — tapping the local food types for suggestions — when I took a trip to Portland this August, with remarkable results. So I know I have to pay it forward this time around.
Culinary co-conspirator Felicia D'Ambrosio and I collab'd on a list of some of our favorite ethnic dining destinations in Philly — you can check it out after the jump. But what about YOU, Meal Ticketers? Is there somewhere we overlooked? A cuisine we totally glossed over? If so, let us have it in the comments. Let's all pitch in to make Nilsson's Philly trip one to remember.
Since the Panic show is all the way in deep South Philly, I didn't want
to send our friend to some far-flung corners of the city that'll require you
to drive forever. That's why our sort-of-short list consists of places that are in the
general South Philly/Center City vicinity.
- Kind of in the middle of nowhere South Philly is popular Indonesian hole-in-the-wall type place Hardena (1754 Hicks St., 215-271-9442). The aptly named Indonesia (1725 Snyder Ave., 215-829-1400) is a bit more centrally located for the same type of cuisine. Lots of satay skewers and good soups and whatnot.
- Dmitri's (795 S. Third St., 215-625-0556) is a Greek/Mediterranean institution in Queen Village. Very simple and affordable plates; they're famous for their grilled octopus, which we highly recommend. It's a BYOB so grab a bottle of wine if you can ... it's not very big, though, so it can get crowded sometimes.
- If you go to the corner of 11th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philly, there is a huge shopping center called Wing Phat Plaza that features multiple Vietnamese bakeries/restaurants and one relatively new Chinese restaurant called Wokano. A lot of the same options at these places, but we've found the quickest, easiest and most consistent for solid noodle soup is Pho Hoa (1111 S. 11th St., 215-755-4000). Directly next to this place is a really well regarded Thai/Laotian spot called Cafe de Laos (1117 S. 11th St., 215-467-1546). In fact, if you drive east on Washington Avenue (that's going down the numbers), you'll run into a million and one ethnic options, from dim sum and classic red sauce Italian places to some pretty good Mexican taquerias.
- Sang Kee (238 N. Ninth St., 215-925-7532) is another super-institution in Chinatown. Famous for their roast duck but they have a lot of atypical items for the more adventurous. If you want to go REALLY off the wall, try Potluck Cafe (220 N. 10th St., 215-627-5898). A gigantic menu of some of the weirdest stuff we've ever seen.
- Also in the general Chinatown-ish area is an African/Nigerian restaurant called Wazobia (616 N. 11th St., 215-769-3800). Definitely try the "stews," basically just very thick and spicy meaty sauces over rice.
- Philly has some really great Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants, but a majority of them are in West Philly, kind of a haul from where you'll be. One place that is much closer (and in my opinion, just as good, if not better) is Almaz Cafe in the heart of Rittenhouse (140 S. 20th St., 215-557-0108). It looks like any other coffee shop from the outside, but if you pop in and flip over the menu, there are some great Ethiopian options. We really love the kitfo, the beef tartare dish.
- One of our new favorite Indian restaurants is Ekta (250 E. Girard Ave., 215-426-2277), where chef Raju Bhattari has built a big following despite only being open for a couple months. The only thing is it's not all that close and it's mainly a takeout place. A more centrally located Indian option is Minar Palace (1304 Walnut St., 215-546-9443). Favorite dishes: the goat and lamb vindaloos and the shrimp nirgisi.
- Finally: Capogiro Gelato for dessert. They have two locations: 20th and Sansom (117 S. 20th St, 215-636-9250) and 13th and Sansom (119 S. 13th St., 215-351-0900). They make all sorts of crazy flavors from scratch daily, and they're always changing.
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