Archive: October, 2009
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Brahim Ighladen left a career in the jewelery business to open Marrakesh Express (4407 Chestnut St., 215-222-9008), a 32-seat Moroccan eatery, about five weeks back. He's serving a traditional Moroccan menu, with eats like tagines (lamb or chicken), shawarma and plenty of lamb ï¿½ one popular derivation sees leg morsels marinated in herbs and olive oil overnight before being piled onto bread Moroccan sammy style. Prices top out at $10.50.
It's run as a halal establishment, meaning it's an alcohol-free environment. (Also, yes, we know about the song.)
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-8 p.m.
|Courtesy of Dish It Up!
Meal Ticket had the honor of judging last night's Dish It Up! culinary competition at Moore College of Art & Design, which saw female chefs/restaurateurs from around the city competing for the first-ever Purple Dish Award. (Since this was fundraiser for Women Against Abuse, all plates featured elements of purple, the color of the anti-domestic abuse movement.)
So many excellent dishes were had, but the one that really jumped out to the judges (us, NBC's Kristen Welker, WRNB's Moshay LaRen and Grub Street's Kirsten Henri) came from 10 Arts chef de cuisine and current Top Chef competitor Jennifer Carroll, who presented a poached salmon with a burgundy/beet puree, a tarragon-infused butter sauce, beet "caviar" and pickled onions.
Pic (L-R): Welker, Women Against Abuse director Jeannine Lisistki, Carroll and Laren.
After the jump, a quick pic of Carroll's winning dish.
|Photo | Drew Lazor
|Courtesy of Morimoto
Here's a quick shot of the cheesesteak Morimoto (723 Chestnut St.) started offering yesterday as a World Series special. It's Wagyu beef, "wit" soy-sautï¿½ed onions, enoki mushrooms and grilled scallions on an Amoroso's roll, and it comes with a salad, fries and tonkatsu dipping sauce for $35. They've also just introduced Cracker Jack-flavored ice cream for $10.
In tangentially related news, here is an awesome pic of Morimoto pitching. The chef was actually a highly touted baseball prospect in his day before a serious injury precipitated a career change. Picture source: Marinerds, etc.
The Good Word is a weekly Meal Ticket feature where we ask Philadelphia food people questions. Weï¿½re going to start by highlighting the cityï¿½s many excellent food writers and bloggers, with eventual plans to extend beyond the scribeosphere. The questions will be different every week unless we come across a really sweet one we want to reuse. Want to nominate a future Good Word candidate (yes, you can nominate yourself), or submit ideas for questions? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this installment of The Good Word, weï¿½re chatting with Phyllis Stein-Novack, longtime restaurant critic for the South Philly Review. Phyllis has been grading area restaurants on her signature "tips of the toque" scale since the mid-'90s.
How did you get your start in food writing?
My life in food began with my grandmother, who was born in Vienna and was a modern accomplished cook and baker. She would have been the first on her block to own a Cuisinart. I think Austrian and Hungarian Jews are the best cooks. When I was in graduate school, I shared two floors of a Victorian house near Penn with three other women. I made them an offer they couldn't refuse: "I'll cook, you clean up."
A love of cooking led me to the Daily News. In 1982, I called the food editor with a story idea. It was about a Mother's Day breakfast in bed that children could cook with adult supervision. I wrote many food stories for the paper, often including my own recipes. I've been the restaurant critic and food columnist for the South Philly Review for 14 years. I am the author of The Best of the Book and the Cook cookbook and am now adding spit and polish to a proposal for a cookbook. I don't want to give myself any "kine-ahoras" and will tell all about it when it's a firm go.
Your husband Edward and your cousin Carl are featured frequently in your reviews. What makes them the ideal dining companions for restaurant meals?
Neither are picky eaters. Edward has a very dry wit and likes to kibitz with the wait staff. I enjoy Carl's ideas and conversation immensely. My readers feel like they know them. I've also included my sister Sandy, who is a picky eater, my computer techie Kevin, who runs marathons, and my friend Richard, a young talented painter and photographer. My mother, who passed away in July at age 94, often went to restaurants with Edward and me.
Are there certain ingredients you find chefs overusing these days? From your reviews, it appears you're not so keen on brioche.
I do not necessarilly think chefs misuse ingredients, although no one should serve a big, juicy burger on a sweet brioche roll. Most fine chefs respect fresh ingredients. I like my beef rare, lamb medium rare and cooked vegetables with a bit of crunch. Ingredients come in waves. Remember when crab cakes were on everyone's menu? I don't want to see crab cakes anymore because they are rarely well-prepared. Right now, halibut, pork belly, line-caught striped bass, sweetbreads and microgreens are popping up on restaurant menus.
It's no secret that your favorite drink is a gin martini. What makes a great martini? And who does it best?
According to my sister, I developed a taste for gin and vermouth when I was about 2 or 3 years old, when my chubby little hand would pluck the olives from my father's martini. I prefer Bombay Sapphire and Bluecoat, which is made here. The formula for a fine martini is simple: The glass should be chilled. Gin and a touch of vermouth go into a stainless steel cocktail shaker filled with ice. The cocktail is then vigorously stirred, not shaken. It is strained into the cold glass and topped with two olives. There is nothing worse than warm gin. I strongly believe $14 or $15 for a martini is ridiculous. One of the best barkeeps around was Murray the bartender when he worked at the original Ritz-Carlton, now the Westin. I recently enjoyed a perfect martini at XIX. Edward makes a good one, and I do too.
Describe your ideal meal. Do you think you would find it in a restaurant, or would it be something you'd make at home?
Describing an ideal meal is difficult. I am reminded of the words of M.F.K. Fisher, who wrote: "There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly." Conversation is important. A meal is not just about the food. I adore caviar, lobster, foie gras ... but I also adore a good roast chicken or capon, especially when I am preparing one at home. The aroma is heavenly. In a way, I think an ideal meal is one I cook myself. Although we have a dining room table, I prefer eating in our kitchen. It is warm and cozy. People can let their guard down and laugh out loud, which would be rude to do so in a restaurant. I have savored many memorable meals in restaurants throughout the country and abroad, but inviting friends and family to our home, especially during autumn and winter, when my creative juices are flowing and I work with rich, lusty, gutsy ingredients and serve family-style.
What, in your opinion, is missing from Philadelphia's dining scene?
I wish we had a Hungarian restaurant. Cousin Carl's sister's mother-in-law is an amazing Hungarian Jewish cook. I've been to Hungarian restaurants in New York and lament the fact we have none.
More importantly, what is missing in many is what bugs me about dining in restaurants. Service-oriented issues and food issues, as well. "Hello, I'm so and so and I'll be your server ... what kind of water do you want?" The spiel about water drives me nuts. A "hello" or "good evening, would you like a drink?" begins a good meal. I really admire professional staff. Those men and women who know how to orchestrate a meal, serve and clear with ease and watch the tables make for a memorable meal. Overly chatty wait staff, those who are constantly asking "is everything all right?" especially when I have food in my mouth and cannot answer, interrupts conversation.
What is also missing in many places is adequate lighting. The Italians say, "first you eat with your eyes." I want to see the chef's creations on the plate without the aid of a flashlight, which I have used in the past, espcially in order to read the menu. What is often missing is soft background music. Loud screaming on the sound system coupled with loud noise in a room makes it difficult to speak with dining companions.
As for missing food issues ... some are elementary. A hot soup should be hot with steam rising from the bowl. Hot food should be served hot, not lukewarm or cool. A friend of mine who is a chef told me he would send back to the kitchen a dish which was not hot enough or prepared the way he ordered it.
Like the one depicted in this here Distrito World Series flyer? We would like to wear one while we jump off a turnbuckle and leg-drop Jorge Posada's chinless face in our awesome Mexican wrestling-themed dreams.
As far as watching the Series at Jose Garces' Mexi spot (3945 Chestnut St.) goes, they're not offering any specific dealage for the games, but their usual specials ï¿½ $5 Cantina margaritas, $2 Tecates, $6 beer/tequila shot combos ï¿½ are pretty a-OK. They've got the $3-$10 Cantina menu going, too, with eats like guac, Mission-style quesadillas, tacos and esquites.
|Photo | Michael T. Regan
Moon Krapugthong, chef/owner at Manayunk's Chabaa Thai (4371 Main St.) and MangoMoon (4161 Main St.), has been gradually tweaking MM's menu over the past few weeks to take more of a Bangkok street food-focused approach. (The original menu was more international in approach.) Sai auh (above), the Northern-style Thai sausage that had Trey Popp squealing with joy this past February, is still available.
Check out the new menu, plus the latest sake, cocktail and wine lists, after the jump.
|Click to enlarge|
The Chairman's Selections, wines displayed front-and-center in dump bins and often tagged with hype-building ratings from Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast, offer decent value and affordable new tastes to wine drinkers stuck in a PLCB store before dinner.ï¿½ A case of Merryvale Merlot 2005 branded with the Chairman's seal of approval caught my eye on a recent pre-BYOB foray to the Wine & Spirits store at 232 W. Girard Ave (215-574-1268).
Merryvale is a big-ish Napa Valley winery deservedly famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, especially bottlings from the Starmont vineyard. I'd never had a Merlot of theirs, and picked the 2005 vintage up based on its high rating (90 out of 100) and appealing price ($19.95).ï¿½ï¿½ Merlot has suffered tarnish to its image in the last decade, the butt of wine snob jokes from dinner parties to Miles' memorably neurotic rant in the film Sideways.ï¿½ The worst Merlots, the plonk that earned an entire varietal such scorn, are soft, flabby fruit juices that offer no depth or structure. This Merlot, however, defied such generic stereotypes.
2005 was a weird year in Napa, as Merryvale's Web site notes:ï¿½ "The 2005 harvest was one of great extremes. A very wet spring provided a lot of potential for a big harvest of very juicy fruit. A fantastic Indian summer resulted in long hang times allowing the grapes to mature at a leisurely pace giving us outstanding character and added complexity."ï¿½ 100 percent Merlot from vineyards in the Carneros and Oak Knoll Districts of Napa Valley underwent extended maceration on their skins and 18 months in French oak barrels (37 percent new).
The finished product poured inky purple, with sharp vegetal notes on the nose. This is no Cali sweet fruit bomb -- dark plum, cherry and cocoa lead, with toasted and sharp edges of cigar tobacco.ï¿½ The finish lingered on the tongue, dry and smoky.ï¿½ It would make a welcome addition to a slow-braised dinner, or with duck glazed in fruit sauce.ï¿½ The PLCB Product Finder can aid you in finding a bottle -- today's search revealed 50 units at the Girard Ave. store where I first saw it.
This 2007 Canadian public service announcement reminds us that workplace safety is of utmost importance. To that effect, we suggest the lady "chef" in the thing buy some mats, pronto, and learn how to carry a stockpot.
|Photo | Mark Stehle
Chef Mark Tropea's Sonata (Liberties Walk, 1030 N. American St.), which earned a solid review from our David Snyder earlier this month, has a new deal going on Wednesdays and Thursdays ï¿½ come in for dinner and you'll get a free glass of red or white on them. Of course, you're still encouraged to BYO. Check out Tropea's recently launched fall menu, which features entrï¿½es like that potato-wrapped black cod in a sweet onion cream sauce.
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