Archive: January, 2009
|Cut-off scraps = free flavor|
|Photos l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Remember Janina? That thrify vegetarian cook saves her vegetable scraps in a jar and makes stock once a week. Her theory: vegetable stock is free and tastes better than water. Which makes everything taste better. For a detailed, ridiculously useful method on stock-making, including what vegetables to go wild with, and which to use sparingly, take a peek at Janina's stock article at IsGreaterThan.net.
|One piece of beet lent a lovely hue. |
SNACK TIME: my guilty Brazilian puddin', the truth on The Sugar, fifteen and breakin' down ducks, which came first: hard times or egg salad, gastropubs poised to scoop up serious chefs
|Found at the underground market|
Every Wednesday, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what's simmering.
- Jovialism confesses his vices: chocolate, macchiatos, garlicky things and Pocky. Since the many faces of that sweet, dipped biscuit stick have been on our radar lately, it seems only right to include Jovialism's new flavor of choice: Brazilian Pudding Pocky. "The coating is like a cross between dulce de leche, Nutella, and yogurt, with a hint of chocolate," deems J, "and even manages to evoke São Paulo."
- Foodaphilia blogger and pastry artiste E announced last week that she has been diagnosed with diabetes, and has changed her life to include finger sticks, insulin shots, increased exercise and a sharp reduction in sugar intake. Her new blog, The Sugar, explores cooking and baking for diabetics — though the recipes are appetizing enough for anyone seeking to break their addiction to the white stuff. Since E doesn't live without brownies, her recipe for Black Bean Brownies is sweetened with agave nectar and builds structure with black beans instead of flour. Fiber desserts for good health!
- Foodie at Fifteen Nick H. has to juggle academics, track practice, high-school romance drama and an apprenticeship at Lacroix. The just-turned-16-year-old is also way stoked on his new immersion circulator, man. Sous vide short ribs at the lunch table should get at least some of the girls intrigued.
- Serious Eats is the repository of all things bacon-y, burger-y and cheese-dipped. Blake Royder keeps it homey with his grandmother's method for simple, classic egg salad. Along with a few practical tips, he submits that egg salad sandwiches must be cut into quarters for maximum enjoyment. Truly serious eats.
- Mike Klein at The Insider notes the arrival of former Table 31 and Le Bec-Fin cook Justin Hoke at Fairmount gastropub The Kite & Key. He also makes a prescient prediction as to which eateries will best weather the economic storm... hint hint, beer is involved.
Above, check out a preview clip of tonight's Quickfire Challenge, which features the cheftestants preparing dishes for Philly's own Stephen Starr. What exactly is Hosea, aka one half of Gross Couple, thinking calling the restaurateur "one of the highest-regarded chefs in America"? Not that I doubt Steve could throw down in the kitchen.
The episode airs on Bravo tonight at 10 p.m. There's a slight chance I may be late with my usual Thursday episode recap, as LOST is returning tonight with a two-hour season premiere. Yes, I am one of those people.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
South Philly’s Marc Vetri is mine and your favorite Italian chef. He’s won James Beard Chef awards. His fazzoletti with duck ragu is the item I’d be buried with if they allowed food in coffins. His Vetri and Osteria are among the finest Italian restaurants in this half of the United States. He hasn’t gone corporate or multi-restaurant mad, despite top-dollar offers. And he won’t say much about the rumor I dropped in a November Icepack mentioning that a Kimpton/Falcon Hotel at the Robert Morris building at 17th and Arch would house a Vetri restaurant on its ground floor. What he is up-and-adamant about is his Il Viaggio di Vetri: A Culinary Journey.
This coffee-table-size tome doesn’t just drop a tasty dime on around 120 of his most fantastic dishes. In the book, he also Vetri talks about his love of culinary exploration, as well as his desire to credit all the master chefs he worked with and apprenticed under, in both America and in the Bergamo region of the old country.
Vetri’s doing a free reading and book signing at the Free Library's Central Branch (1901 Vine St.) tonight, Tue., Jan. 20, at 7:30 p.m. I caught up with him beforehand.
Meal Ticket: The book is very generous to the chefs you worked with in Italy in the '90s. That's refreshing, really. In this flash-in-the-celebrity-chef-pan planet, your lack of self-credit and understatement is rare. How do you think that works to your advantage? Do you think that's what makes Il Viaggio di Vetri stand out among the gazillion other Italian recipe volumes?
Marc Vetri: I really don't look at things like that. I just kind of do what I feel. So, when you ask how will it help me? ... I can't not credit people who have made such an impact on my life. I've made a lot of decisions at this restaurant that people would assume would actually work against me ... no PR firm, for starters. It just works for me, [but] maybe not so much for someone else, since PR is such a big aspect of the industry. As for the book, I just wanted to tell a story and share some recipes. The fact that people find my story interesting still boggles my mind. Of course it's interesting to me ... I went through it. But to others? I never really thought about it. I do think that people are touched by stories, It draws them to things, makes them reminisce about heir own lives and feel good. I think that's what people like at Vetri. It wraps you up like a warm blanket the moment you walk in. It's a feeling you have when you go to a friend's house for dinner. People need to be touched in this way.
MT: The gentlemen you worked with in Italy — have they read the book, and do you know what they think?
V: I went over there in October to present the book to them. They were so emotional. I brought each of them big photos of some shots in the book. The boss, who is the leader of the pack, called me the next day. We were in the mountains hiking up to this restaurant where we had a really rustic lunch with Marco — from the book — [Vetri/Osteria co-owner] Jeff Benjamin and Brad [Spence, chef at Vetri]. He just had to tell me how overwhelmed he was, and that I couldn't possibly understand what this meant to him. He said that he rarely sheds tear for anything, but he was so overcome that he noticed himself wiping tears from his eyes. Then, while Marco and I were finishing coming down the mountain, we were talking about it a bit. For me, it was like paying these people back for what they gave to me. For them, it was the most amazing gift, [but] for me it did not even scratch the surface of the debt that I owe them.
MT: You've stayed in Philly without moving to AC or NYC. I like your rooted-ness. Where does that come from?
V: It just feels right here. Not to say I wouldn't go somewhere else — [but] Philly just feels comfortable, with all of its quirks. It's just home.
MT: Think you'd have stayed here if Philadelphia had not truly blossomed as a restaurant town?
V: I think so. There [are] always people who want to eat good food and have a great experience, even if it wasn't such a restaurant town. I don't think Kennett Square [home to Talula's Table] is much of restaurant town, but there are still people who want and need good food, and good places to create community. That's the most important thing: community.
MT: Ever dance with the red gravy devil? Certainly the food at Vetri is never about that — so how, in your mind, can it be done right?
V: I was raised on that stuff. I love it. I love going to D'Angelo's on 20th Street and getting ziti with meatballs and broccoli rabe. When it's done right, there is nothing better. I just choose to cook a different kind of food in a different kind of atmosphere. I would never diss good old fashioned macaroni and gravy.
MT: So what's in your fridge? And what, since this a practical cookbook, is the best, most versatile ingredient one should have to create a Vetri-like meal?
V: I have two kids, so this is not a good question — soy milk, cereal, chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, oatmeal, grain bars and lots of goldfish. One ingredient — good olive oil.
MT: I love how elegant simplicity is the key to your food. How can people learn that? How should new chefs avoid overcomplicating things?
V: Chefs get caught up the food world, I can't have a conversation with a young cook without hearing [terms like] "protein station," "fish programs" and "oui, chef." How about "meat station," "What are you using for fish now?" and "OK Marc"? [When] people are wrapped up in the formality of cooking, they lose all the passion, flavor, heart and soul of food. If you really want to appreciate something, you need to go to the root. Go to a slaughterhouse, watch an animal be killed and watch the process of what happens to all of its parts. Then, when you are making something with a piece of meat, you can understand where it comes from, have respect for the animal and the process and make something beautiful with it. This goes for fish, vegetables, meat, poultry ... two and three ingredients on a plate, cooked perfectly and balanced to bring out the flavors of the ingredients. That's it. No big secret.
Sal Kucuk, who owns Roxborough's Ridge Diner and Mt. Ephraim's Black Horse Diner, is aiming for early February to open S & H Kebab House at 611 E. Passyunk, just off the corner of Fifth and South. He's the S in the name — the H is Huseyin Yuksel, who's going to be cheffing at the BYOB. Both partners are Turkish, so expect classics like the doner kebab with housemade yogurt sauce in addition to stuff like broiled fish kebabs, gyro, etc.
Kucuk is amped on his prices. Appetizers will hover around $4.95; sautéed dishes will cost an average of $13.95. And the kebabs themselves will be affordable, he maintains. "When I went to [a comparable restaurant] to check out the competition, they gave me six pieces for $18.95," says Kucuk. "We're going to do eight pieces for $11.95."
Proposed hours: Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-mid; Sat., 3 p.m.-mid; Sun., 3-9 p.m.
|Obalma, bias-blasting lip goo.|
Utah-based skin care company Shaka Laka celebrates the 44th President and his veep with a commemorative set of practically edible lip balms. Obama's flavor is a patriotic Red, White & Blueberry, a smoothie-style blending of raspberry, cream and blueberry with SPF 15 and vitamin E to soothe wind-whipped lips.
BidenBalm is a Ham & Cheese flavor, chosen to match the V.P.'s favorite lunch on the campaign trail. Ham and cheese on a sandwich is a reliable American combination sure to please most of the people; ham and cheese in a 2-inch oily cosmetic stick is an unholy union fit only for the olfactory-addled. Though the stick is a noncommittal white color, one whiff reveals a cold Lunchable aroma that turns the stomach as it boggles the mind.
Shaka Laka's other lip products are convincing doppelgangers for the real thing: sharp peppermint, sweet coconut and tangy citrus. They are made with healthy SPFs, natural oils and beeswax. We attribute this Ham & Cheese nonsense to press-baiting. You won, Shaka Laka. Now take this stinky stick off my desk, I don't want to touch it.
Shaka Laka lip care (including the foul Ham & Cheese balm) can be purchased online at ShakaLakaHut.com.
|Drafting at Triumph Brewing Company|
|Photo l Mike Mergen for The New York Times|
Our bevy of small, local brewpubs and breweries just got big ups from The New York Times Sunday Travel section, in a piece entitled "Breweries of Brotherly Love". Times writer Betsy Andrews rounds up the best bets for small-batch, craft brews in Philadelphia, aka the places where we have been holding the bar up for ages.
From historically minded breweries that pay homage to our founding fathers, to bohemian pubs that craft unusual ales, the city is undergoing a kind of beer renaissance.
Earth Bread + Brewery, Nodding Head Brewery, Triumph Brewing Company, Dock Street Brewery and Restaurant, Yards Brewing Company, Philadelphia Brewing Company and Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant all appear either in Andrews' article or accompanying slideshow. She even gets our boy Joe Sixpack into the act:
The new breweries, said Don Russell, who as Joe Sixpack writes a weekly column about beer for The Philadelphia Daily News, “are filling a need that’s out there being created by the local bar scene. Every single bar that has been opening up has a multitap system and is featuring microbrews.” Combine that robust tavern scene with cheap real estate in emerging neighborhoods, and you’ve got the ingredients for a beer blast.
It's sweet to get some props from the only big newspaper that matters, but come on, Betsy baby, catch up! Rosemarie Certo and Jeff Ware opened the first iteration of Dock Street Brewery in 1985, with the new version landing in West Philly in August of 2007. Yards brewed its first for-sale batch in Manayunk in 1994. Manayunk Brewery poured its first drafts in 1996 and Nodding Head opened in 2000.
|Change was needed.|
Belgian-owned, Cooperstown, NY-based Brewery Ommegang was recently slapped down for having too much fun by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The feds rejected the name "Obamagang" for the brewery's commemorative inauguration beer, to be released tomorrow.
Apparently, it is unlawful to use anyone's name or likeness for profit without his or her consent. Almost-President Obama is filing a suit against every street-corner T-shirt hawker as we speak.
Ommegang begrudgingly changed the official name of their "porter-stout with a hint of kriek and chocolate" to Inauguration Ale 2009, but kept the original Obamagang moniker on tap handles accompanying 600 kegs of the beer destined for select bars in Syracuse, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and New York.
In the Philadelphia area, drinkers from both sides of the aisle can taste Inauguration Ale 2009 at London Grill, both Tria locations and Teresa's Next Door in Wayne.
London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., 215-978-4545
Tria, 123 S. 18th St., 215-972-8742; 1137 Spruce St., 215-629-9200
Teresa's Next Door, 124-126 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, 610-293-9909
|Original pressed-tin walls and ceiling.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
I hate to say it, but it's all about the bread.
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