Weird Regional Foods
Last Tuesday, we told you about Gravy Wars author Lorraine Ranalli's plan to battle New York-based New Jersey-based writer/chef Johnny DeCarlo in an Italian Market gravy-off. (Y'all shared some choice words in the comments.) Now comes word that the tasting challenge did not have a clear winner. From Ranalli's blog:
Discerning taste buds enjoyed both pots of gravy and meatballs as evidenced by their quick disappearing act. In the end, itï¿½s fair to say that the ''war'' was a draw. Both Johnny DeCarlo and Lorraine Ranalli are entitled to declare victory.
We're still not used to this "New York and Philly being nice to each other" thing. Teach us how?
Drop by Center Court at Reading Terminal Market this Saturday, Nov. 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for RTM's first-ever Festival of Forgotten Foods, a celebration of odd and/or esoteric delicacies from the area. (There's never been a more appropriate time to apply our "Weird Regional Foods" category.) You'll be able to sample specialties like fried catfish and waffles, black walnut cupcakes, teaberry ice cream and the like, which'll likely freak out (or win over?) a few hungry tourists.
It's worth noting that many of these "forgotten" regional foods are still available here in Philly, and many in new contexts, as touched upon by Rick Nichols in the latest Inquirer. Daniel Stern's MidAtlantic is doing multiple varieties of from-scratch scrapple, among other PA Dutch dishes; Oyster House does a tasty snapper soup and the fried oyster/chicken salad combo; Cape May Salts are available via tons of local buck-a-shuck deals; stalwarts like City Tavern have been serving pepper pot soup for years.
In an extension of our World Series clash with our neighbors to the north, Lorraine Ranalli, author of the book Gravy Wars: South Philly Foods, Feuds & Attytudes, is taking on New York-based New Jersey-based caterer and writer Johnny DeCarlo in an Italian Market red gravy cookoff this Saturday, Nov. 14. They'll be set up in the Rizzo Lot at Ninth and Montrose starting at noon, and shoppers/passersby will get the opportunity to sample each competitor's gravy to vote on whose is superior. (Prior to the competition, Ranalli will be signing copies of Gravy Wars at the nearby Canulli's Meats starting at 11 a.m.)
As far as this DeCarlo character goes ï¿½ the self-proclaimed ""modern Guido for this Generation" looks like this:
And here's an excerpt from his most recent post on the Cliffview Pilot:
Ok, I probably spend the same amount of time prepping as my girl does -- maybe even more. Itï¿½s about perfectly spiking the hair with styling glue, Aqua Net, comb and blow dryer. Then you gotta get the spray tan on, the Axe body cologne, the outfit (tattoo design t-shirt and jeans). Oh, and some bling.
Lorraine. Take. This. Dude. DOWN.
Chef Eric Paraskevas over at terra (243 S. Camac St.) has converted The Schmitter ï¿½ the deliciously bastardized cheesesteak featuring salami and special sauce, which originated at McNally's in Chestnut Hill and is a CitBank staple ï¿½ into teeny slider format for a World Series special. He's doing an order of three, plus a Left Hand Sawtooth Ale, for $11.95.
Thanks to our girl Cathy of Gastronomy, a former Philly resident who now eats out of L.A., for putting us on to The South Philly Experience, an upcoming City-of-Angels food truck that aims to fatten up Cali with all our PHL specialties. A few details on the project, run by two local cousins (OK, dudes are from Jerz but we are still down), from the L.A. Times' Daily Dish blog:
As its name suggests, the South Philly Experience will offer South Philadelphia-inspired sandwiches: meatball subs, chicken cutlets, pulled pork with broccoli rabe and, of course, cheese steaks. Made on bread that will be shipped from the popular Amoroso's Baking Co. in Philadelphia [...]
You can also get a side of French fries, and to please East Coast transplants hungry for a treat that's rare in Southern California, dessert will come in the form of Tastykakes. Specifically, the truck will sell Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes, Butterscotch Krimpets and chocolate cupcakes.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
The Philly food press has been skyrocketing their cholesterol levels frantically covering this summer's two new burger joints: Stephen Starr's SquareBurger in Franklin Square Park, and Paper Street promoter Tommy Up's burger lounge in the Piazza at Schmidt's,ï¿½P.Y.T.
No matter which sandwich you find superior, both derive major taste and texture from their signature bun: Martin's Potato Rolls, a product of Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe in Chambersburg, Pa. Founders Lois and Lloyd Martin perfected their recipe for the pillowy, golden bread in the 1950s before taking their family favorite commercial. By 1978, demand required the construction of the plant at 1000 Potato Roll Lane, now fully modernized with "continuous proofers, spiral coolers, automatic baggers, and robotic packaging machines."
It's not just Philly consumers who love the buttery buns, either. Jason Perlow, founder of eGullet, lauds the rolls as critical to the appeal of his favorite hot dogs from Amazing Hot Dog in New Jersey. Danny Meyer, who installed Shake Shacks in New York's Madison Square Park and new Citi Field in homage to the roadside burger stands of his native St. Louis, has Martin's buns griddled to toasty perfection before they meet up with their meaty middle. Ditch Plains, in NYC's West Village, goes absolutely wild with their Ditch Dog, slapping a Sabrett into a toasted Martin's bun and then smothering the whole thing with macaroni and cheese, which we can definitely get behind. The magic of Martin's is all in the way the bun merges with the spreads, toppings and juices, unlike most supermarket rolls, which just keep your hands dry as you bite.
At home, potato rolls are a perfect match for sweet and spicy pulled pork sandwiches or a eggy breakfast sammy; they also lend richness to a veggie or turkey burger without adding a ton of fat.ï¿½ Dianna Marder of the Inquirer recommended Martin's smaller, cuter Party Potato Rolls as the ideal vehicle for tiny "slider" burgers.
Are you not yet convinced of the absolute superiority of Martin's Potato Rolls? Then check out the many thrilled video reviews on product review site ExpoTV.com.
Martin's Potato Rolls are available at grocery stores up and down the East Coast; a package of eight sandwich-sized rolls is usually three bucks and change.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Brown's hot doughnuts|
Craig LaBan, most powerful food critic in five counties, blew up my spot. His July 12 article on cheap Shore eats led with a mention of "Freakies," the misshapen, dollar-a-bag doughnuts you can occasionally snag at Brown's. Located on the Boardwalk at St. Charles Place in Ocean City, New Jersey, Brown's only serves from Easter to Thanksgiving and is a must-stop for breakfast whilst down the Shore.
Though the omelettes, waffles, pancakes and coffee at Brown's are all worth a mention, it's the doughnuts that draw the crowds. The line forms daily around 8 a.m., trailing north from the window where teenage boys furiously drop batter into the conveyor fryer that turns out the sweet treats. At 70 cents each, $4.05 for six and $8.10 a dozen, the mini cakes are both delightful and appealingly inexpensive. Get yours plain or dipped in vanilla or chocolate icing, rolled in cinnamon or powdered sugar, or my favorite, glazed with honey syrup.
You used to be able to run up to the window, skipping the impatient line and ask if there was a bag of Freakies for a buck. Now, bargain-hunting beachgoers with eyes as glazed as doughnuts are asking every five minutes. Damn you, LaBan.
Brown's, Boardwalk & St. Charles Place, Ocean City, N.J.,ï¿½ 609-391-0677, brownsnostalgia.com/restaraunt.html
Here, watch food author/CP copy editor Carolyn Wyman, who penned our recent cover story on the 10 best cheesesteaks you've never had, get steak-ified by none other than chef Georges Perrier. What goes into Le Bec-Fin legend's riff on the regional staple? Prime filet, caramelized onions, Dijon, pickled carrots and onions, beef au jus and Gruyere cheese. Interviewing is Michael Klein of The Insider, who penned the piece this video accompanies.
Follow the Jersey Turnpike north until you get to the mystical exit of 1-95, the gateway to hundreds of shore points as foreign as Nepal to the typical Philadelphian.ï¿½ Here, amidst the swarms of unapologetic Giants and Mets fans, we find the Point Pleasant location ofï¿½ Jersey Mike's Subs.
Founded in 1956, Jersey Mike's was on its third owner in 1972 when 17-year old store employee Peter Cancro overheard his boss talking about selling the shop.ï¿½ With the help ofï¿½ his football coach -- who was also a banker -- the high school senior assembled $125,000 to purchase the business.ï¿½ Today, Cancro is theï¿½ CEO of Jersey Mike's, presiding over a franchise system with over 350 locations.ï¿½ Meal Ticket visited the original Point Pleasant locale to see if the famous subs matched up to our hometown hoagies.
The basics: Meats from quality producers (Dietz & Watson, Boar's Head), cheeses and bread are all sliced to order, an absolute requirement for a superior sandwich.ï¿½ The slicer-operator engages in friendly repartee, a personal touch espoused by Cancro, while they assemble the elements of your personal sub.ï¿½ Choose your toppings (lettuce, tomato, onion, oil, vinegar, mayo, "spices", pickles, hot and sweet peppers) and watch as they are applied and the sammy is wrapped.ï¿½ A "regular" sub runs six to seven bucks, a "giant", which easily makes two meals, about $10.
The results: Not only is the sandwich fresh, it's bangin'.ï¿½ Jersey Mike's trims and roasts their own Angus beef and bakes all the bread on premises and it shows through in the taste.ï¿½ Not only are the cold subs a harmonious balance of meat, cheese, toppings and spread, the place turns out a completely respectable cheesesteak, a claim Meal Ticket would not apply lightly to a far-afield from Philly location.ï¿½ Wraps, salads and something called "a sub in a tub", a complete sandwich minus the bread, are also on the menu.
On the cheesesteak and cold sandwich fronts, Jerseyï¿½ Mike's is doing it up right.ï¿½ The bread is a little bit squishy for Meal Ticket's taste, but this half of the team grew up in Philly on Cacia's and Sarcone's and will always consider them the ne plus ultra when it comes to sandwich bread.ï¿½ Otherwise, heaven. Use the zip-code locator or widget that finds every Jersey Mike's in a 15-mile radius ofï¿½ your route the next time you take a roadtrip -- this shop is Jersey Perfect.
Visit JerseyMikes.com for more information and to find a location.
Strange, blatantly pro-Joey Vento fake news blurb from yesterday on CBS 3:
According to sources, police said [Geno's owner Joey] Vento may have been targeted by a gang of robbers who planned to steal some of his hard-earned money.
Vento says detectives warned him to take precautions after investigators uncovered an alleged plot to target employees and steal proceeds as they were being deposited.
"I really don't feel comfortable with driving or making a deposit worrying that somebody's going to come up and blow my head off," Vento said.
Vento, who has raised more than half a million dollars to help the families of murdered police officers, says he is more insulted than frightened to learn robbers were apparently targeting his business.
"If they did it and I got that gun out, you're dead ï¿½ I will not sit around trying to wound you in the arm," Vento said.
"Hard-earned money"? The completely unrelated sentence about the dude supporting the families of slain officers? Does Vento share a publicist with Kim Jong-il?
The story goes on to reveal that the "alleged plot" stems from the arrest of two men who were brought in on seemingly unrelated offenses. Neither has been charged with anything related to Vento. Regardless, it's comforting to know that if the cheesesteak baron were to encounter these fake criminals who don't exist, he would shoot to kill.
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