Archive: October, 2008
|Michael Symon in action in Jefferson's kitchen|
|Courtesy of Food Network|
In honor of May's National Nurses Week, 250 notable Nightingales from Thomas Jefferson Hospital were treated to a prime-time meal thanks to Food Network's Dinner: Impossible. Airing tomorrow, the previously taped episode features DI star/Iron Chef Michael Symon racing against time and Murphy's Law to feed the deserving, expectant throng. Assisted by his sous chefs and three patients whose lives were changed by Jefferson nurses and doctors, Symon hit up the bountiful Reading Terminal Market for the ingredients to create his banquet. Camden's Aaron McCargo Jr., who worked as Jefferson's executive catering chef before winning Season 4 of The Next Food Network Star, lent a hand preparing dinner on his home turf.
Wan's Seafood and Iovine Brothers Produce were among the RTM merchants Symon sourced for his meal. You can check out his recipes for marinated tuna and chilled carrot soup here.
The episode debuts Wed., Oct. 22, at 10 p.m. EST.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Oh man, this one is a total gimme (I think).
That being said, what is your favorite dish at this place?
Progressive restaurant shopping list: soda charges, basil seeds, pork belly, mirin ... Jolly Ranchers? Peering into the pantry at Snackbar (253 S. 20th St., 215-545-5655) can be an exercise in puzzlement. Vanilla beans jarred in sugar makes sense; quart containers of Jolly Ranchers throws you for a loop. The answer lies in the modern cooking style often termed "molecular gastronomy," a somewhat scientific approach to technique popularized by Spanish chef Ferran Adria of the revolutionary restaurant El Bulli. Top-notch kitchen gear here is essential: vacuum sealing machines and appropriate polyethylene bags, immersion circulators for cooking under pressure, soda canisters, liquid nitrogen. Critics of the style claim the science-project approach steals the soul from preparation. But many proponents, including Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se, assert that such practices are meant to showcase exceptional ingredients in a new way.
Snackbar executive chef Joshua Homacki uses some of these techniques for his menu, which features recognizable plates with unconventional tweaks. He loves his Mini-Pack vacuum sealing machine, essential equipment for the sous vide method. "We bag and seal pretty much everything," he cheerfully admits, slicing open a packet of harissa spice paste. Sous vide, French for "under vacuum," is a cooking technique where raw food is sealed into a plastic bag from which all air is removed. Sometimes called "Cryovac-ing," the sealed bags can then be cooked in liquid, under pressure, at a much lower temperature than usual.
This is where those Jolly Ranchers come in. Using the Mini-Pack, Homacki creates an apple "kimchi" infused with an acidic solution of green apple Jolly Ranchers melted into mirin and white vinegar, sparked with a custom-blended harissa and hot pepper paste. The sweet, spicy potion is concentrated into the flesh of sliced Gala apples when put under the vacuum, forming a tight, colorful package of space fruit.
Crisp, spicy, sweet and gorgeous to look at, Homacki's concoction is still in the R&D stage. The chef, when pressed for likely combinations for the fruit accompaniment, suggests seared pork belly or buttermilk-fried veal sweetbreads. He shares his recipe for Jolly Rancher Apple Kimchi after the jump. A cook without a home vacuum sealing machine (like a Foodsaver) can simply jar the mixture, making sure the apples are completely covered with liquid, and store in the fridge.
JOLLY RANCHER APPLE KIMCHI WITH HARISSA AND HOT PEPPER PASTE
(Joshua Homacki, Executive Chef, Snackbar)
20 green apple Jolly Ranchers, stripped of wrappers
270 g. white vinegar
70 g. sweet mirin
8 Gala apples
2 tsp. Korean hot pepper powder
2 tsp. harissa paste
Then Do This:
1. Combine the Jolly Ranchers, white vinegar and mirin in a small saucepan. Place over low heat, stirring frequently, until the candies are completely melted.
2. Slice the apples in to quarter-inch slices, set aside in a large bowl. No cores, please.
3. Once the candies are completely melted, pour the liquid into a container. Place in refrigerator until completely cooled, at least half an hour.
4. Combine the Jolly Rancher infusion with the hot pepper powder and harissa until well mixed.
5. Pour the liquid over the apple slices and mix well with gloved hands. Don't get the hot pepper powder in your eyes or on your hands, it will suck.
6. Scoop the apples into glass jars and fill to the top with the remaining liquid. Make sure the apples are completely covered in liquid.
7. Refrigerate at least three days and up to a week.
8. Makes enough to share. Eat!
Joseph Poon opened Joe's Peking Duck Original 1984 in late September to little fanfare — I expected the chef's return to the kitchen to be a little more lauded, considering his status as one of the city's most adored and established kitchen ambassadors.
When some coworkers and I stopped in for lunch a recent weekday, we were the lone party in the joint. But before I could even sip water and utter some hushed "hope they make it!" concerns to my companions, a giant horde of diners — judging by Poon's rapport with them, they struck me as longtime followers of the chef — descended on the dining room, filling up close to every available seat.
Goes to show: Who gives a rip about fanfare when you've got a loyal audience that couldn't care less about trendiness or publicity?
The name Poon chose for his new Old City eatery is an homage to the year he debuted the Arch Street spot that got him headlines in the first place. Fittingly, the menu is heavy on his classic noodle soup and fried noodle dishes, in addition to some atypical choices (tortilla sandwiches, pasta, risotto).
- Artichoke, asparagus, black bean and jicama salad
- Peking duck salad with grilled flatbread
- Vietnamese pho with beef carpaccio, tripe and beef balls in a demiglace broth
- Roast duck noodle soup
- Roast pork and wonton noodle soup
Best thing about lunch? Prices are right, topping out at $9.50. Download a PDF of the lunch and dinner menus HERE.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Also: Where'd YOU eat this weekend? And where can I can good soup? It's definitely soup weather.
Capogiro's Stephanie Reitano wants to make you breakfast. No, not pork roll-flavored gelato (ooh): She and husband John are in the very early stages of opening a small restaurant that'll serve hot food.
The couple is currently constructing a large-scale wholesale production kitchen in the Falls Center (3300 Henry Ave.), the former location of the Women's Medical College that's now a big-budget multi-purpose residental/commercial complex. (The kitchen should be ready by the end of 2008.) On the grounds, there's a free-standing structure that was originally used as a stable; it once housed a café. This'll be the home of the Reitanos' as-yet-unnamed breakfast and lunch spot. "It will definitely serve Capogiro gelato, but will [also] have a hot kitchen serving fresh, simple, delicious food," Stephanie says. "The concept is not completely baked." URBANSPACEDEVELOPMENT, the firm responsible for crafting Cap's two Center City gelaterias, is handling design for both facets of the East Falls-based project.
This is all in addition to the third café location going into the Radian Buidling at 39th and Walnut.
Timeline, timeline, timeline: Unclear right now. Reitano says she's met opposition from the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation in regards to funding a percentage of the project. Come on with it, PCDC. An omelette or a sandwich or a frittata-y innovation directly followed by pistachio gelato plopped atop toasted brioche? Recession-proof.
Sandra Lee, the blonde and bubbly host of the Food Network's Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee, is famous for her telegenic smile, outfits matched to her TV kitchen and outrageously festive "tablescapes." Less well-known: She's a total mogul. Lee's the host of an Emmy-nominated TV show, founder of the multi-million dollar Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade company and author of 17 cookbooks published under her own imprint. Lady's holdings are better vertically integrated than McDonald's.
Currently on a national book tour in support of her three new cookbooks — Semi-Homemade Money Saving Meals, Semi-Homemade Fast-Fix Family Favorites, and Semi-Homemade Desserts 2 — Lee will be visiting the suburbs Philly this Mon., Oct. 20. At the Doylestown Bookshop (16 South Main St., 215-230-7610) from 1-2:30 pm, Lee will be signing copies and dishing out tips on food budgets and holiday entertaining. Later, fans can mingle with the empress of cake mix at her Sweet & Simple Cocktail Hour, which'll be held from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at the Chester County Book & Music Company (975 Paoli Pike, West Chester, 610-696-1661). Anyone who's seen Sandy's eyes light up during the colorful cocktail portion of her show knows this will surely be entertaining.
After the jump, Meal Ticket touches base with Lee to get her take on feeding a family during an economic crisis, what she says to her critics and why scraping beef tendon is just not for her.
Meal Ticket: Most people know you from Food Network show, but your first company, Kurtain Kraft, was designed to help people decorate their homes on a budget. What inspired you to delve into the food world?
Sandra Lee: When I launched Kurtain Kraft, I had no idea that it would be on its way to become a million-dollar enterprise. However, by 1995, the company began to struggle and I decided to start over and create a total lifestyle company. I diversified the product line, creating everything from crafts to gardening products, floral preserving and flower arranging kits. I wanted to design solution-based precuts that would make women heroes in the home. When I noticed that one group not being served in the marketplace — women who didn't have enough time to whip up tasty meals from scratch — I was inspired to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada. I refocused my energies by closing down the lifestyle company and followed my passion for cooking.
MT: What was it like learning classical technique at Le Cordon Bleu?
SL: The classical training ... was not really for me. I was scraping beef tendons and I thought, I'm outta here! While learning to cook the old fashioned and longhand way, I began to devise some shortcuts and Semi-Homemade was born. I quickly learned how to make substitutions to gourmet recipes and knew I was on to something special. When you look at a recipe, you want to know that at least four of the ingredients are available at your grocery store. It's more cost effective and less time-consuming.
MT: What do you say to people who criticize your concept of basing meals on packaged ingredients rather than fresh ones?
SL: I believe there is a difference between being a home cook and a chef — and God bless the chef! When people criticize the Semi-Homemade approach, they take a shot at every woman or man in America who is trying to get a meal on the table and make it special. People don't like change, but what they don't realize is everyone is living the Semi-Homemade way. We all buy groceries from the grocery store. We're modern people, with overstretched schedules, commitments and overburdened budgets. I'm simply giving people the tools and options they need to make life simpler and sweeter.
MT: What are ways an everyday family can save money on groceries?
SL: I recommend looking to see when such items as cookie mixes, cream cheese and butter go on sale. It's always good to flip through grocery circulars to watch for sales on these staple items. When cooking the Semi-Homemade way, you can embellish almost anything, honey! Buy three or four of each — you are going to use them. Instead of reaching for expensive jars of spices, look for inexpensive packets of spice mixes, particularly when they go on sale. One package can get you through the fall — how great is that? Another great trick is the slow-cooker — buy an inexpensive piece of meat and you will be able to create a flavorful, moist, delicious meal.
MT: What kinds of cuisines and restaurants do you gravitate toward?
SL: I love food period, but I have a special place in my heart for Mexican dishes.
MT: Philadelphia is famous for its local specialties — cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, hoagies. Are there any regional foods from your home that you've adapted with your Semi-Homemade method?
SL: I learned how to make brats when I was growing up in Wisconsin. The recipe for Wisconsin Beef and Cheddar Sausages with Beer-Braised Onions can be found in my Semi-Homemade Grilling Cookbook, but there's a little trick to it. Simmer the onions in beer and cook until the beer has evaporated. When mixed together with the juices from the kraut, you have a simply sizzlin' Semi-Homemade dish.
|Root chef Christopher Hora's rabbit and oxtail raviolo|
|Photo | Shirley Nicole Fonner|
- David Snyder checks out what well-traveled chef Christopher Hora is doing at Root on Spring Garden. "What I like about Hora's cooking is that fresh and local is not treated as a goal or a gimmick," he says. "Rather, it's merely a launching point from which Hora builds complex yet accessible flavors in bold, refreshing ways."
- In Feeding Frenzy, I go over Mi Lah Vegetarian, Mt. Airy's new Earth Bread + Brewery, the new menu at SPTR and plugplugplug the hell out of this here blog.
- Trey Popp, who a few weeks back was blown away by the sheer scale of Georges Perrier and Chris Scarduzio's immense Table 31, reviews The Plaza, its cheaper, more casual sibling. The space itself "gives the lunch crowd a slice of high-urban love that is without parallel in Philadelphia."
- Meal Ticket queenie Felicia D. scours the city for five of her favorite tartares. Bistrot La Minette and Almaz Café make the cut. Where else? Rarefied.
- Nikki Volpicelli's got all the deets on upcoming food events in What's Cooking, including Biketoberfest and the astoundingly out-of-your-budget Garces/Vetri collabo dinner.
|Bad picture, good dinner|
Last night, Jon Myerow and Michael McCaulley of Tria presented in front of the South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) to establish a dialogue with neighborhood residents regarding a proposed branch of the beer/wine/cheese café at 2054 South Street. Meal Ticket attended the meeting, which was held at St. Charles Senior Center at 1941 Christian Street. Our report after the jump.
Tria was introduced by James Romeo, who owns the property (formerly a MAB Paint store) that Myerow and McCaulley would like to turn into their third Philadelphia location. (Other businesses on this corner — 21st and South — include La.Va and Ten Stone.) The two parties are still negotiating the lease, so nothing is on paper in that respect just yet.
Myerow and McCaulley kicked off their portion of the presentation by providing background on themselves and the café. The duo possesses close to 40 years of combined experience in the industry — Myerow is the former director of operations for Neil Stein, while his sommelier partner's CV includes big names like Le Bec-Fin and Brasserie Perrier. They outlined the basic offerings of Tria — a rotating seasonal selection of 34 wines, 27 beers and 16 cheeses, with a small hot fare menu that caps off at $10.50. "We're into the real stuff," Myerow told the crowd, mostly composed of young professionals.
Myerow then presented a six-point list outlining why Tria would make a good neighbor — they don't serve hard liquor, they don't require a massive cooking ventilation system and they don't run one-cent swill happy hour specials that would attract the wrong crowd. (You can download a PDF of a three-page handout the Tria team distributed at the meeting by clicking HERE.)
If all this seems like common knowledge, remember that not everyone is up on Tria's concept — establishing such key points with locals is essential, since there are residents out there who hear the words "liquor license" and automatically hit the roof. It's often the biggest obstacle in a bar or restaurant's quest for unequivocal community support. "A new liquor license is a scary thing in a residential neighborhood," Myerow told the crowd.
The SOSNA board proposed a conditional attachment to the license that would link it unconditionally with Tria — basically, if Tria were to go out of business, a proviso would prevent a nuisance bar or other unwanted drinkery from sliding in without gaining neighborhood approval. Myerow, McCaulley and Romeo were all in full support of this suggestion. (Note that this project is still in its infancy — Tria has not yet begun the liquor license application process.)
Other vocalized concerns included the hours of a proposed outdoor seating area, wheelchair sidewalk access and parking strains. But for the most part, attendees were supportive, many throwing their voices behind Myerow and McCaulley in statements. SOSNA passed around a sheet for attendees to notarize their approval. There has been word of several neighborhood residents who stand in opposition of Tria's plans, but none of these individuals spoke up at last night's meeting.
Myerow expects to receive a letter from SOSNA, outlining advisories and community support, in the next two weeks. But that's just the first of many, many steps. "I think [the meeting] went well," Myerow said today, "but there is still plenty of opportunity for people to protest the liquor license application." Settling the lease is another priority. If/when both of those hurdles are cleared, it'll take three to four months to design the location before construction can even begin.
"It's really hard for me to say how this process is going to turn out," added Myerow.
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