Archive: January, 2009
|Pan-seared duck breast with beets and chard at Mémé.|
|Photo l Michael T. Regan|
After trudging through the license transfer process for the last three months, Mémé can now offer glasses of wine and beer with their lovingly prepared dishes.
Chef/owner David Katz celebrated the new acquisition is his typically bombastic style last night: "I'm working on this food, giving it everything I've got, and people are coming in here with a $7 jug of Yellow Tail, and it all tastes like shit!"
"If you want to be a real restaurant, you gotta be able to offer people everything," he added. "It's been killing me for the last three months. I never wanted to do the BYO thing."
Though some customers who adored toting their own wine may be hesitate at the change, the fair-priced wine list should settle them down. Bottles range in price from a fresh, dry $29 Pares Balta ros de pacs '07 from Spain, to the chef's favorite, Merry Edwards pinot noir '06 from California's Russian River Valley, $86.
A choice of of wines by the glass will always include one $6 red and white, and a few half-bottles allow two people dining out to try several wines with their various courses. In particular, the 375 ml. bottle of Elio Perrone moscato d'Asti '07 ($28), with its subtle sparkle and heady pear aroma, could be paired with both a rich appetizer like the foie gras tart with seasonal fruit and onion, or any of the desserts.
Though the food at Mémé is lush and sensual, a quirky, irreverent style pervades the place. Though certainly outspoken in his opinions, Katz takes his food and juice absolutely seriously. Inquirer critic Craig LaBan's review on Mémé is printing this Sunday. The staff had eyeballed LaBan (Katz has been reviewed before, at M restaurant), and Katz was fairly confident the food and service were stellar. Still, "I'm nervous, man," he said seriously. "It's a big deal."
Though LaBan's doling out of bells is indeed a big deal, Mémé has already charmed the locals with their deft touch to gorgeous ingredients. Not even the mighty Inky scribe could cool their ardor now.
Mémé, 2201 Spruce St., 215-735-4900, memerestaurant.com
And now, just because it makes me very happy, here is a picture of a chihuahua standing on some cheeseburgers.
So Brauhaus Schmitz, Kelly Schmitz and Doug Hager's German beer hall at 718 South, is not going to be pouring brews in time for Philly Beer Week (March 6-15), as they'd originally hoped. That would've been amazing, but we are more than willing to wait until late April, which Schmitz believes is a realistic opening estimate.
Right now, the couple (Schmitz is German-American; Hager, who was born in Germany, holds dual U.S./German citizenship) is searching for a head chef to helm a traditional Teutonic menu for the 100-seat space, which'll boast butcher block tables, church pew seating and a 14-person bar. Some strong candidates so far, Schmitz says, but nothing official to announce just yet, other than that they hope their chef will be keen on crafting bratwurst in-house; they're been informally chatting with a deli in the Northeast about the possibility of sourcing sausages, as well.
The plan is to fill their 16-tap system with German beers exclusively, then branch out into the domestic/international selections with an 80- to 100-count bottle list. "Nowadays, you can get great microbrews at any of the Belgian cafés," says Schmitz. "Why compete with that when we can have something unique?" She adds that they're also exploring the idea of asking a local brewery to create an exclusive house beer for them.
You might remember reading a poll on Foobooz back in November in which Schmitz and Hager asked the public if their staff should wear dirndls. Fifty-four percent of voters were in favor of the servers donning the traditional maiden-y peasant dresses. "It was an overwhelming majority for dirndls," laughs Schmitz, "so we'll go with that."
|But it looks so real ...|
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
I'm abstaining from meat for a week. Read why here.
Day 1 was weird.
I blame my abnormal breakfast/lunch intake on superego trepidation. Like a denial-ridden alcoholic coming to grips with his gin-soaked addiction, it took me awhile to full accept that The Week Without Meat (TWWM) was officially upon me. After all, for a burger-chawing dummy like me, the thought of stretching this veg streak out for a fully seven days — through the burnt-flesh carnivale that is Super Bowl Sunday, no less — is sobering. Still, I should probably make it a point to consume more than five peanut butter M&Ms and one green grape in the daylight hours if I am to make it into February alive.
After work yesterday, I made a beeline to Monk's, where Meal Ticket culinary co-conspirator Felicia D. was working the back bar. After mumbling incoherently for awhile and downing the better part of a Russian River Damnation, I ordered their vegan burger, opting for "Monk's style" (bleu cheese and leeks, swiftly un-veganizing it), along with a side of frites and another beer, this time Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA. Monk's superserver Charissa informed me that the burger's inside had a consistency similar to veggie spring roll filling, which I found worrisome. Turned out, though, that it was pretty tasty — crumbly melty cheese notwithstanding, the burger's crispy outside and silky inside lent it a crab cake-like feel, sans the crab meat. Sans the sweet, delicious crab meat ... oh man crab cakes are so good. NO THEY'RE NOT. THEY'RE HORRIBLE. BULGHUR WHEAT IS BETTER.
I ate the entire basket of fries. The little pile of greens on the side, too. Those are vegetables, kids.
Later that night, I wrapped myself up in a blanket on my couch, ate an entire pack of Airheads Xtreme Sour Belts and wept softly.
I have yet to eat lunch today, but I believe that I'm going to pop by Joe's Peking Duck Original 1984 in a bit for a bowl of their vegetarian noodle soup. Dinner plans are up in the air. Ideas and suggestions are welcome! Comment or e-mail drew.lazor @ citypaper.net.
Other TWWM notes:
- Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday's introductory post. A few readers sent in links to some terrific-sounding veggie/vegan recipes, which I will definitely attempt to cook later this week.
- Guardian's Fraser Lewry attempted a Week Without Meat of his own in May 2008 to coincide with World Vegetarian Week. How'd it turn out? "I'm very sorry to say that I won't be joining you on a full-time basis," Lewry wrote. "I'm simply not tough enough to make the choices you've made and live your kind of existence, and I haven't found anything in your world that promises the rapture I know I'll get from a perfect veal cutlet or a simple roast chicken."
- Yesterday evening, I received a press release detailing Xochitl chef/owner Dionicio Jimenez's plans to serve an unusual tasting menu of indigenous/archaic Mexican fare to honor legendary prez Benito Juarez. On the menu — grasshopper tacos, breaded veal brains, crayfish tacos, braised wild boar and buttery garlicky frog legs. I want to eat all of those things. Luckily, this isn't going down until March so I will be able to take advantage.
- Also last night, I got an e-mail from Amy Giuffi of Cochon, one of the premier meat lover's restaurants in Philly. She wanted to share their latest $35 four-course tasting menu. It consists of:
- Chicken Liver Mousse with cornichons, croutons, whole-grain mustard
- Oyster and house-cured bacon chowder
- Duck with sweet potato puree, sauteed spinach, fig vincotto
MUST EAT LIVER OYSTER BACON DUCK NO NO NO DELETE E-MAIL DELETE E-MAIL DELETE E-MAIL SEITAN SEITAN SEITAN
Rouge chef Matt Zagorksi wants you to mix up his menu. Petite Additions is the precious name for his new-ish lunch menu that allows diners to select two smaller plates for $16. "The lunch crowd here is mostly suburban, and business people," the chef said yesterday, "many people who aren't in the city for dinner. This gives three people a chance to share six plates and see what the restaurant is all about, beyond just the burger."
The much-vaunted Rouge burger does makes an appearance in a adorable 3-ounce size, crowned with its customary sautéed onions, gruyere cheese, bibb lettuce and tomato hat, sided with a heap of pommes frites. For those daring beyond burgerdom, gorgeous proteins beckon: line-caught fluke with caramelized cauliflower, spinach, granny smith apples and sweet vermouth sauce; or roasted pork reclining over butternut squash puree and haricots verts in roasted vegetable glaze. First courses include a cup of seasonal soup, steamed mussels with fennel, basil, garlic and wine, or a bright ruby dice of tuna tartare with wasabi-lime aioli in a crisp wonton cup, among others.
There are 14 plates to choose from in all, including Meal Ticket's favorite: half a quail roasted and stuffed with a moist mixture of smoked bacon and brioche, scattered with cloves of garlic confit, over a fresh tomato jam and sherry chicken jus. Seize the lilliputian quail drumstick and gnaw on it for a juvenile moment of fee-fi-fo-fum. These smaller-sized plates also appear later in the day as a bar-only menu, each selling for $8.
The new emphasis on an affordable menu designed for sharing was influenced, of course, by the scary economic reality that has squeezed everyone. "We're feeling the slow economy a little bit at lunch," said Zagorski. "We want to encourage sharing, so guests get to try new things. Of course everyone wants a good deal, and the menu is priced with that in mind."
I asked chef how Parc, which opened in September just a few doors down, had affected business at Rouge. "It actually helped business," he said. "Parc brings different people to the neighborhood — the Stephen Starr crowd came down here. The first week it took people away from us, but after that, lots of new people came to Rittenhouse Square. We kept our customer base and added some."
Zakorski's food is both beautiful and substantial, and the cold, withering Philadelphia winter looks much friendlier while ensconced in Rouge's blush silk-draped dining room. Attentive service from the black-clad staff, the unencumbered view of the park and the crisp Metropolitan rolls with butter and fleur-de-sel are the details that make the new menu stand out for diners in search of a great lunch bargain.
Rouge, 205 S. 18th St., 215-732-6622. The Petite Additions lunch menu is available Mon.-Fri. from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
|Click to enlarge|
Mike Kearney says he hopes to have Ladder 15, in the historical fire station at 1528 Sansom, open by early-to mid-March.
Kearney and partners Mike Mastellone and Max Tucker are going for a more upscale gastropubby feel, a slight departure from the collegiate vibe of their Mad River bars in Old City and Manayunk. The décor of the bilevel space will be modern/industrial (think mahogany and cold-rolled steel); they'll be able to accommodate somewhere in the vicinity of 300 to 400 people, serving as a centralized nightspot/gathering place that Kearney feels the immediate area is lacking.
The space will feature three separate bars, with 18 beers on tap — "we'll definitely get creative with that," says Kearney. The menu at right (it surfaced on Foobooz the other day) was designed by Little Fish chef/owner Mike Stollenwerk, who Tucker befriended after becoming a regular at the acclaimed Catharine Street seafood BYO.What sounds good to us? Sweet potato pierogies with brown butter, sage and shaved chocolate; the chicken gyro with spicy tzatziki, caramelized onion and pita; brussels sprouts served in a duck fat vinaigrette; and the Philly soft pretzel stuffed with corned beef, gruyere and whole grain mustard (!).
|All Photos l Joshua Homacki|
Joshua Homacki, the young chef of Rittenhouse's tiny-in-size, big-on-imagination boîte Snackbar, has sent along his new winter menu. Plenty of hearty savories for snowy nights make the new list, like braised lamb shoulder with smoked pappardelle and sherry-glazed cipollini onions ($22) and braised beef cheeks with chestnut purée, roasted chestnuts and maple glazed quince ($23).
Smaller plates range from smoked barley with black trumpet mushrooms, 60-degree poached egg and truffle ($11), to Brussels sprouts with baby golden beets, horseradish and cranberries ($9).
A peanut butter terrine with chocolate and banana ice cream finishes you off for $7, or snag the city's best deal on a cheese plate — three artisanal fromages, with all the bells and whistles, for $10.
View Snackbar's complete winter menu after the jump.
Soup du jour $8
Tuna Tartare: ginger, lotus root and Chinese five spice $13
Fried Oysters: braised artichokes and saffron rouille $11
Brussel Sprouts: baby golden beets, horseradish and cranberries $9
Crab Cakes: avocado, pomegranate and ancho chile aioli $15
Smoked Barley: black trumpet mushroom, poached egg and truffle $11
Steamed Mussels: andouillle sausage, tomato and mint $13
Roaring 40's Burger: Tazmanian bleu cheese, fig-chipotle marmalade, brioche bun and french fries $14
Fish of the day with seasonal preparation M/P
Stuffed Piquillo Peppers: Israeli couscous, goat cheese, harissa-sweet potato purée and olive oil-milk emulsion $18
Tilapia Gnocchi: tomato raisins, black olive and meyer lemon $20
Chicken Breast: red wine-braised lentils and spiced carrots $22
Duck Confit: wild mushroom ragu with roasted fingerlings $18
Braised Lamb Shoulder: smoked pappardelle and sherry glazed cipollini onions $22
New York Strip: whipped potatoes, steamed broccoli and hollandaise $25
Braised Beef Cheeks: chestnut purée, roasted chestnuts and maple glazed quince $23
A LA CARTE $6
Acorn Squash with Palm Sugar
Quinoa with Chorizo and Onion
Loaded Baked Potatoes
Bok Choy with Orange Chili
Cheese Plate: 3 cheeses with accompaniments $10
Peanut Butter Terrine: chocolate, dulce de leche and banana ice cream $7
Carrot Cake: walnuts, carrot-honey puree and cream cheese ice cream $8
Maple Cornmeal Financier: molasses, date compote and cardamom ice cream $7
Brioche French Toast: peanut butter and milk stout ice cream $6
I mentioned Mark Bittman's Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating earlier today in my first post about about The Week Without Meat challenge, pointing out that my almost-entirely-flesh diet is antithetical to the healthful, low-impact approach to eating the Times columnist introduces in his new book.
A little earlier, he sent over these words of encouragement:
From: Mark Bittman
Subject: you'll be fine
Date: January 26, 2009 4:49:40 PM EST
To: Drew Lazor
Good luck. See you next week, maybe - mb
Thanks, Mark! I appreciate you being so much more supportive than my old college roommate, who's also named Drew. He sent along this charming message when he heard about The Week Without Meat challenge: "I can safely say that by Wednesday, you will won't even be able to see straight and will just be sitting in your office muttering 'bacon ... bacon ... pork chop ... '"
Have a little faith, dude.
Oh, the "next week" engagement Bittman's referring to: He's reading at the Free Library next Wednesday, Feb. 4. Be sure to pick up our upcoming issue to read Kelly White's chat with the author.
OK, now it's off to Monk's to make Felicia D. give me a vegan burger.
|Room-temp bacon fat|
|Photo l Michael Persico|
Animal fat has a closet full of nom de plume: lard, tallow, cod-liver oil, blubber and schmaltz. Though the decidedly un-glam monikers may inspire a shudder in some consumers, animal fats have been eaten by humans for thousands of years. The waste-not way of living demanded that people use every piece of the creatures they had hunted in the wild, or raised as livestock at home.
Raw fat is converted into a product useful for cooking through a process called rendering. Rendering can be done in the kitchen, or on a large scale in slaughterhouses. Rendered fat is either processed to be consumed by humans, or destined for less-tasty places: soap, glue, pet and livestock feed.
In the great fat-free madness of the late '80s and early '90s, saturated fats (such as animal fats) were demonized, and people at risk for heart disease were warned to stay away — see the wholesale rejection of a great dietary building block, the egg. Though there may be a link between consumption of animal fats and cardiovascular disease, other factors, such as a lack of fiber-rich vegetables, exercise and moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine, influence risk factors as well. High LDL ("bad") cholesterol, high triglyceride (blood fats) levels and cardiovascular disease are influenced by a combination of many factors, not just diet.
Assuming one is reasonably active, cooking onions in bacon fat should not be a death sentence. The fat that renders off bacon as it is cooked is a flavorful bonus, and everything from mirepoix for stock to mushrooms for soup can be cooked off in it. On a practical note, all animal fats which are solid at room temperature (fully saturated fats) will clog drains if you pour it down while still hot and liquid. Thus, the double motivation for pouring the hot bacon fat into a jar and storing it in the fridge for later use. The free fat will add a touch of smoky flavor to your garlic, leeks or celery, and keep your drain running free in the bargain.
|(L-R) Chef Josh McCullough with Time owner Jason Evenchik|
City Paper has teamed up with the Center City District to organize a series of Restaurant Week cooking demonstrations featuring Philly chefs. The demos, which are free to the public but limited to 25 spots, are going down through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., at La Cucina at the Reading Terminal Market (12th and Arch streets). Today's installment featured Josh McCullough, chef at Sansom Street's Time.
Here's the lineup for the rest of the week:
Tue., Jan. 27: Chef Brian Wilson of Le Castagne
Wed., Jan. 28: Chef Artt Ward of Roy’s
Thu., Jan. 29: Chef Adam Kanter of Rum Bar
Fri., Jan. 30: Chef Marcie Turney of Bindi/Lolita
- 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