Archive: October, 2009
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 email@example.com.
In this installment of The Good Word, weï¿½re chatting with Kelly White of Living on the Vedge. The nine-year vegetarian began her writing career as a City Paper intern in 2005 and contributed to Philebrity from 2006 to 2008. She started LOTV, which touches on all aspects of the local and national vegetarian scenes, in 2007.
You travel quite a bit ï¿½ so where does Philly rank among other cities in terms of being veg-friendly? What do we do better than other places? In what ways are we behind?
Philly vegans used to eat the same five places. There were no tablecloths or flatware. I would say it's a lot better now, but we still only have one fully vegan upscale dining experience. [Horizons]. That needs to change. The ethnic food scene here is remarkable and you can find a lot of stimulating flavors in any given neighborhood, where menus are generous with vegetables and grains because those were the cheap, native ingredients. Brunch is one of the easiest meals for vegetarians and is also one of the best meals to have in Philadelphia.
The major difference now is that Jose Garces is doing a black bean burger [at Village Whiskey] and chefs are starting to respect that a plate of vegetables can be more than that. I ask for chef's plates a lot if I don't see anything I want. Another huge deal here? Ray's Seitan of Philadelphia has made it the most seitan-saturated city that I know of. Can you think of any place where "wheat meat" is more common? Do you know why? Most seitan is junk. It's not cost-effective to make from scratch in bulk. Ray's is extraordinary.
The Northwest has the edge on everything else. New York has the best vegan chefs and tofu cream cheese bagels, but at the end of the day, it's New York. Vienna has the most impressive outdoor market, Naschmarkt.
Are people still scared of tofu these days? Any tofu-based dishes in these parts that you'd recommend to the uninitiated?
Tofu fear is down, my friend. I served Vietnamese tofu bruschetta from the Horizons cookbook at a party and everyone from the 4-year-old to the 90-year-old devoured it. Maybe it's the middle-aged folks that don't get it.
The pan-seared tofu at Horizons has a high success rate with omnivores. Everyone loves a banh mi with tofu. Tofu scramble is also a really great starter dish and is familiar to people (Honey's, any brunch place or pub).
You're a cocktail head. If you could drink one drink for the rest of your life, what would it be? It could be a tipple in general, or a specific drink from a specific bar.
Now the real questions come out. Caipirinhas! From Alma de Cuba, which has a talented bar staff and that fantastic plantains entrï¿½e. I enjoy the Franklin, but I always get something different there. I wish I went to Southwark more.ï¿½ The shot I like to fall into bed with on my lips is Don Julio 1942. My regular drink is usually Jack and Diet. I abide by some cocktail law: I only finish drinks if they're worth it. The company and the bartender matter a lot more than the actual spirit. No blue drinks.
Of all the more popular higher-end restaurants in Philly, which have you found to be surprisingly veg-friendly?
Osteria will do so much Beyond the pizza and pasta, they will do veggie antipasti plates according to the number at your table, and everything is always top-notch. Zahav and Buddakan are a lot of fun.
Are there any meat or seafood items that evoke visceral longing within you? Or are they universally off-putting no matter what?
I have no idea what meat tastes like anymore. I think it's hard to crave something if your memory can't aid you. Pepperoni pizza, perhaps. Nobody forgets that. I had a limited culinary experience as a child.
I'm not put off by it at all and get all wide-eyed watching Top Chef like the rest of you. The craft turns me on. However, the meat part of my brain shut offï¿½ a long time ago. I never even consider it. I do eat what I want.
Jennifer Carroll and Jose Garces aren't the only Philly chefs repping on the small screen right now. This coming Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 10 p.m., check out Prive chef Peter Karapanagiotis and georges' exec Jeremy Duclut duke it out on Chopped, the Food Network's fast-paced cook-off show. (It's basically an hour-long Quickfire Challenge, for any unfamiliar Top Chef heads out there.) Check out the description of the episode from the show site after the jump. Here's hoping neither of our boys are responsible for this "oh-my-gosh mistake."
UPDATE: Sorry that we failed to mention initially that there will be a third Philly rep on this episode ï¿½ Lower Merion-based caterer Barbara Esmonde. (h/t Inqlings)
A slippery shocker in the appetizer basket starts things off on a terrifying note. Then in the Entrï¿½e Round, the judges are stunned by the oh-my-gosh mistake one chef makes with an umeboshi-arugula salad. Good gracious, parsnips and soda crackers for dessert? The finalists have to act quickly to make it work.
|Photo | Drew Lazor
This one snuck under our G-Ho noses just a bit ï¿½ Pico de Gallo's "Baja Room," the space directly across the street from the original Mexi stop (1501 South St.), opened in late September. The interior's kitschy and fun, with church pew booths and all sorts of tsotchkes scattered about; the cash-only space is BYO for now, but if you grab a sixer across the street and walk it over, they'll take $2 off your bill. We like getting paid to drink beer.
After the jump, the mainstay menu (they're keeping it simple) and a shot of a recent specials board.
|Click to enlarge
Classic hamburger $4.45
1/2 lb. hand-formed chargrilled beef sirloin, sesame bun accompanied w/ onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle
lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, cheddar/jack
French Fries $2.25/$4
Brisket chili $5.50
Grilled chicken breast $5.50
lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion
Philly cheese nachos $6.95
ground sirloin, cheese, salsa, sour cream
Coke, Diet Coke $2
|Dining with 'Dre|
Last night, Andre Ethier went 3 for 5 in the Phillies' squeaked-out Game 1 NLCS victory over his Dodgers. He'd probably be batting worse this postseason, however, if he paid a little more care to Dining with 'Dre, his MLB-sponsored food blog. The outfielder hasn't updated since January of this year, when he sang the praises of Mexican fry bread in Phoenix. (In the past, though, he's done elaborate writeups on places like L.A.'s Pizzeria Mozza, which Meal Ticket peeped out in April.) We think it's only fair that some Philly restaurants invite Ethier in for a meal when he gets here for Game 3 this Sunday ï¿½ you know, get his mind off work a little bit.
Comedy and comestibles join forces on Saturday, Oct. 24, when comedian Bill Bellamy performs at the Kimmel Center (300 S. Broad St.)ï¿½ to benefit the Community Partnership School, an educational partnership between Germantown Academy and Project H.O.M.E.
The evening of comedy begins down the street at the Ritz-Carlton with a cocktail reception complete with hors d'ouvres prepared by celeb chefs Marc Vetri (Vetri, Osteria)ï¿½ and Jennifer Carroll (10 Arts, Top Chef) and a custom cocktail designed for the event by 10 Arts.
Tickets range from $100 to $250, and all proceeds go to the Community Partnership School to provide scholarships to low-income students and provide them with an education comparable to the best private schools.
RSVP by visiting communitypartnershipschool.org
We know, we know: Few things appear douchier to the average person than watching a bunch of people taste wine. But y'all oenophobes should know that all the sniffing and the swirling and the holding it up to the light stuff is imperative to the process. The dumping of perfectly good vino into classy silver spittoons, however? I could take it or leave it. This is probably why the only tasting notes I ever really write are about Fruit by the Foot.
Mike V, who found himself at the bottom last week, started off Episode 8 the only way a person coming off a poor performance should ï¿½ by comparing himself to Babe Ruth. You know, the Bambino totally "struck out once our twice in his career," and last week's screwup was totally the same deal. I glossed over the sheer egotism of this comment and immediately moved on to the "What if Mike V was in The Sandlot?" stage of the process:
Quickfire: Chef Charlie Palmer, the American culinary mogul who coincidentally employed both Mike V and his brother Bryan in the past, tasks the remaining nine cheftestants with creating a dish that somehow incorporates Alexia Crunchy Snacks, which are "made with real vegetables!" and have "lots of flavor!" (Y'all too good for Doritos? Snots.) Chaz was not feeling Robin, and used the phrase "too creamy" to describe her mousseline, which I found hilarious because I am mature; our girl Jen C, who accidentally overcooked her pork; and Ash, who did something "peculiar." At the top: Bryan with some steak; Kevin, who is always killing it (will he win?); and eventual winner Eli, who does a warm potato and clam salad and thinks it's cool to announce on national television that he lives with his parents rent-free. BALLER!
Then Eli and Robin get in a stupid fight over some stupid scallop-related shit. It's stupid.
Elimination: Palmer has the kids pick out a Pinot Noir and pair it up with a random pork part for a charity tasting event. My two favorite portions of the tasting/judging part of this ep were typically erudite Food & Wine EIC Dana Cowin calling Laurine's botched pork rillette attempt "cat food" and Palmer lamenting that he could not taste any "porkiness" in Robin's ... pork chop. (You know you screwed up when your pork chop lacks porkiness.) At the top are the usual suspects: Both V bros, Kev and Jen C, the latter of whom earns high praise from Palmer for crafting the lightest rendition of pork belly the chef's ever tried. (I didn't even know that was possible.) Kevin takes her home again, though, earning himself a table at the 2010 Pigs and Pinot event in the process. The dude has a pig tattooed on him! He deserves it.
And at the bottom are, well, the usual suspects again ï¿½ Robin, whose sauce was too gummy in addition to her missing porkiness; Laurine, whose "terrible" Friskies-caliber rillette earned her a (very polite) tongue-lashing from Palmer because she cooked it completely incorrectly; and Ash, who should've been hacked last week anyhow. He explains to the judges that he was planning on doing a dish with polenta and jack cheese, but second-guessed himself, and that's enough to convince the panel that his confidence is too shaky to let him continue on.
Next week: Mike and Bryan fightfightfight, possibly armed with kitchen apparati. Jesus, somebody throw Bryan a microplane or something.
|Photo l Michael Persico|
|Dr. Oetker's Funghi pizza|
Meal Ticket just touched base with chef Joseph Scarpone, who says the first few weeks of November should see the opening of Agiato at 4359 Main Street in Manayunk.
"The fine dining concept is ï¿½ I don't want to say it's a dying animal ï¿½ but people are moving more toward a casual setting," says Scarpone, whose new all-day panini/small-plate/wine bar concept is a 180 from his highly regarded Sovalo (now Kong), which he closed in October 2008. "Smaller plates give people more options and gives them a more dynamic experience." They'll open at 7 a.m. to offer full breakfast and coffee, and Scarpone says there's no reason why he won't be able to keep the 30-seat space (with a 12-person communal table) running till last call if demand necessitates it. (He and his partners from the Belvedere Restaurant Group are also working on Agiato Bread Company a few doors down from the restaurant; this retail space will supply both Scarpone's restaurant and Matthew Levin's forthcoming Rubb.)
Food-wise, they'll do a seasonally driven selection of panini, salads and soups, plus small plates. Scarpone says hearty fall-weather items like ribollita (Tuscan cabbage, bean and bread soup) and sandwiches like porchetta with broccoli rabe and bresaola (cured beef) with pickled raddichio will appear on his opening menu. The wine list will be "very heavily old world," with a tight by-the-bottle and by-the-glass selections spanning Italy, France and Spain, with a little Cali mixed in for good measure. (Scarpone knows Napa ï¿½ early in his career he cooked under chef Michael Chiarello at Tra Vigne.)
As for the Manayunk location ï¿½ Scarpone hopes projects like his and Levin's will be a shot in the arm for the area. "Marc, Stephen and Jose, they can carve up Center City," laughs Scarpone. "Let's hang out out here and have our fun."
Nick Macri, whose charcuterie work at Beneluxx (33 S. Third St.) garnered some good looks from the foodie crowd, is out of the Old City tasting room, the chef tells Meal Ticket. He wants to focus on La Divisa Specialty Meats, his fledgling wholesale meat operation; he hopes to have a space up and running by the coming spring.
|The store at 399 Market St. will close this month.|
Just heard from a keen-eyed Meal Ticket tipster, who spied a sign in Foster's Urban Homeware announcing that the hip home store will be shuttering their location at 399 Market St. and moving to 33 N. Third St. in Old City.
Foster's inventory manager Brian Markee confirmed as much in a phone conversation with Meal Ticket, citing the Market St. store's location as the reason behind the move. "This is not an ideal location... it's not really a retail spot," said Markee. "We're moving to a more central, boutique shopping district location."
The new Foster's will open Saturday, Oct. 31; until then, merchandise not slated to make the move is marked down 50 percent.
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