Archive: October, 2009
Mike Stollenwerk's fish, at 1708 Lombard, finally opens to the public tonight. Go here for more pics of the interior; here's the opening menu. Just checked in with the restaurant and there are still tables available for tonight, so get on the horn!
Watch out, food industry professionals! Vince McMahon of World Wresting Entertainment is making threatening legal rumbles towards The Wine School of Philadelphia over their wine class series "Sommelier Smackdown".
WWE lawyers issued a cease-and-desist letter to Keith Wallace, founder and director of The Wine School of Philadelphia, over the term.ï¿½ Wallace's series pits a professional sommelier's food and wine pairings against those of a member of the Wine School team, with the students voting for the winner.
Wallace has no plans to cease using the phrase in contest. ï¿½They don't have a leg to stand on. I am not going to bow down to a bully,ï¿½ he says in a press release. ï¿½They claim that they own the term ï¿½smackdownï¿½ but they don't.ï¿½ï¿½ In response to the WWE threat, Wallace is calling out Mr. McMahon and the wrestler Chris Jerico to a wine-tasting double-team cage match.
ï¿½I feel kind of special,ï¿½ says Keith Wallace.ï¿½ ï¿½I am being picked on by Vince McMahon. I better start working out.ï¿½
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
Donï¿½t Front is an occasional Meal Ticket feature in which we explain to you why you should not hate on the many terrible food items we enjoy.
Stroll down your local cereal aisle and it's easy to gather that we're in the thick of Boo Berry/Frankberry season. (All apologies to any healthful seasonal produce items that may be reading this right now.) But turns out these delicious monsters have influence over more than just breakfast ï¿½ they've got massive teeth-rotting candy game, as well. We picked up these Boo Berry and Frankenberry Fruit by the Foots at Pathmark the other day for a ridiculous $2 a box, and ate somewhere in the range of 24 to 30 feet of the stuff before our dentist kicked our door down and pummeled us into submission. Here are our tasting notes: Frankenberry is sugary on the nose, with bright notes of sugar; lingering sugariness on the finish. Boo Berry, on the other hand, touts a classic sugar backbone, but you may be surprised to find that the eloquent sugar characteristics so common to candies produced in thisï¿½ particular appellation are reinterpreted ï¿½ reimagined, even ï¿½ through a lively, youthful sugar lens.
|Photo | Drew Lazor
Spotted this mysterious sign for Philly Cupcake a few weeks back, in the White Building space at 12th and Chestnut that until recently housed Blue in Green. Details are still a bit tight, but here's what we were able to squeeze out of the co-owners so far.
They'll offer a wide selection of "old-fashioned cupcakes" ï¿½ classic flavors like chocolate, vanilla, lemon, Red Velvet, pumpkin, carrot and so forth. They'll also do a "To Die For" section that'll feature eats like Rice Krispies treats, mini Oreos, marshmallows on a stick and chocolate-covered mini cupcakes; doggy-friendly treats safe for canines (plus maybe dog outfits ... !); and coffee coffee coffee. A gift section toward the front of the store will be stocked with an array of vintage cookie jars, inside of which we will likely be caught putting our hands.
We'll have more on the opening soon; in the meantime, those wishing to get details on cupcake event catering should drop a line to the e-mail address on the sign above.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
Best in Philly? We think so.
If this ends up being too cryptic, we've got a third photo for you, but give it a shot.
If you're on the Osteria (640 N. Broad St.) newsletter mailing list, you've just received this nice little rumination by Marc Vetri on the casual trattorie of Rome.ï¿½ The clean flavors and straightforward cooking of these simple restaurants helped clarify Vetri's vision for his upcoming restaurant Amï¿½s, at 13th and Waverly.
From the Osteria newsletter today:
I kept thinking that a simple trattoria was definitively our next concept, but we struggled to keep it cohesive.ï¿½ Then, it all came together on a trip to Rome. Our first meal was at a trattoria recommended by Mario Batali called Matriciana. When we landed, we couldn't get into the hotel yet so we walked over to the restaurant. It was such an eye opener. We had tonnarelli with artichokes and pecorino, a salad and tonnareli all'amatriciana. We were floored by the simplicity of the dishes and the flavors.ï¿½ Everything was perfect! We decided to only eat at trattorias the rest of the trip and ate dish after dish after dish. Upon returning and sharing the experience with Jeff and Brad, we have all been hard at work recreating Roman classics for the restaurant. Simple small dishes, clean flavors, nothing hidden...old school cooking at it's best. This is the stuff that makes people feel good and puts a smile on their face.
Brad [Spencer] will head up the restaurant with Jeff Michaud and me assisting with the menus. The wine list will be about twelve white and twelve red wines carefully chosen by Jeff Benjamin and Steve Wildy. We will also have fully stocked bar with creative beers on tap and interesting cocktails. All wines will be available by the glass and by the bottle. We will also offer corkage for those who choose to bring their own wine to the restaurant.
Amï¿½s, which is Bergamascan dialect for "amici", friends, should open early in 2010. To subscribe to the Osteria newsletter, visit their Web site.
|Photo | Drew Lazor
Busted this 2.5-pound-plus package of short rib from Natural Meadows Farm out of the freezer last night, meaning they'll be all thawed out and ready to go for this evening. We're really looking forward to getting down ï¿½ the only problem is we're a bit stuck in terms of which direction to go with them. That's where y'all come in ï¿½ please share your best ideas/recipes in the comments, and give us a little direction. Don't have a reliable slow cooker (or much patience), so naturally leaning toward a grilling-type situation, but truly open to any and all thoughts. So what have you got, Meal Ticketers? Barbecued? Braised? Short rib sandwich? Just put them in the microwave with some Kikkoman? We want your suggestions!
Totally missed this earlier this week because we were too busy working, but October 7 was this little blog's first birthday. (Look, it's our first post!) A huge thanks from Team Meal Ticket for reading, commenting, linking and contributing to our way-obsessive discussions of Philly's dining scene. Keep it up, and we'll try our best to do the same.
If you ever have any questions, comments, thoughts, concerns, etc., remember that we always, always want to hear from you ï¿½ e-mail us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
OK, back to work. Thanks again, and cheers.
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 Kirsten Henri, editor of Grub Street Philadelphia. Kirsten, who reviewed restaurants for the Philadelphia Weekly from 2005 to 2007, worked with Foobooz editor (and fellow Good Word-ian) Arthur Etchells for about a year and a half before signing on for the national expansion of New York's Grub Street blog this past July. Kirsten's notoriously camera-shy, so the picture she submitted is her grandmother brandishing a plate of cookies.
If it wasn't writing about food, what would it be?
Hmmm. If I wasn't writing about food, I'd probably still be serving it. HA! Do you mean "still writing, but not writing about food in particular?" In that case, I'd say I really like interviewing people, especially surly ones, so I think writing profiles of public figures would be fun. Observational essays might be in my future? Love notes to Rick Nichols for writing such beautiful articles?
If you mean "not writing as a job anymore," I have no idea. Judging from my employment history, I clearly seem to be incapable of any other work. If I were a few years younger and less terrified of $150,000 worth of debt, I would probably go to law school. I love to debate ï¿½ some might say argue ï¿½ the merits of just about anything, so I think that would be a more lucrative use of those skills. Plus, lawyers all become food writers anyway (see: Jeffrey Steingarten, David Snyder, the guy who writes the Gluten-Free Philly blog). See, if you're a lawyer first, you can a) afford to eat out with the frequency necessary to develop your palate and b) save up the money to sustain yourself when you realize that writers are paid crap. Also, I think getting paid $400 an hour gives you an inflated sense of self-esteem, which is a handy skill to have in general and one which most writers lack.
My dream job is kind of doing what I used to do at Foobooz with Restaurant Yenta, which is essentially picking out plum locations and matching them up with the right concept and/or restaurateur. I don't know if this job exists ï¿½ I don't want to be a commercial realtor because I don't really traffic in numbers ï¿½ but I think it would be really fun and it may be one of the few things I have a knack for. I'm a big believer in the transformative power restaurants/bars have on a neighborhood, in both a positive or negative sense.
You've reviewed and reported on plenty of amazing food. But is there a dish you make at home that could never be replicated at a restaurant the way you do it?
Me? No. I'm happy to be outcooked by any chef. But my Grandmom Fiorella? Absolutely. I grew up with her ï¿½ in her house ï¿½ and she pretty much cooked for me since I was a baby. She's territorial around her stove ï¿½ I kind of have to force her to show me how she cooks things because she's not all that interested in teaching me how to do it. It would rob her of the pleasure of cooking for me if I knew her methods. I know that sounds insane, but it's totally true and who am I to rob a 5-foot-tall 83-year-old lady of her pleasures?
So, to answer the question, her food is impossible to replicate in a restaurant, and it's kind of impossible for me to replicate, either. One specific dish is what we call potato pizza ï¿½ it's sort of like this focaccia situation, but it is flaky and has potato and onion involved and it will make you cry it's so good. Also, she makes these little stews in winter ï¿½ like with chunks of potato and zucchini and maybe some egg beaten in there ï¿½ in this shitty banged-up pot that I think she got at the dollar store or John Wanamaker's or something. They have some sort of magic mojo in them that can elevate your spirits and cure a cold and fortify you to do battle with whatever.
We're not related to the Italian Market sausage Fiorella's, but we come from the same tiny town in Puglia where there are like three surnames to go around. I will say that Fiorella's sausage also has that magic mojo, so I have a theory it has something to do with the specific town. I can't tell you the name because after I become a lawyer I'm going to back there and buy up all the real estate and turn it into an agriturismo hotel and charge people thousands of dollars to visit and harvest my olives for me. I'll be able to do that because I will have such high self-esteem then.
What's the best cocktail you've had lately?
Being indecisive and not able to follow directions well, I'll pick three. Colin from The Franklin made me something off the menu and I can't remember what is in it right now, but it's very, very delicious. I wasn't drunk, mind you, I was just not working so I didn't feel obligated to write anything down. I also had a Modern at Village Whiskey that I enjoyed a lot. And George Costa from Southwark makes me this Americano on the rocks with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, which is pretty much the perfect drink for all occasions as far as I'm concerned.
Without naming the place, tell us about the single worst dining experience you've ever had at a restaurant.
I can't really say I've had one single "worst" experience ï¿½ I guess I've been lucky or good at reading the warning signs and getting out before things head south. For example, I went to one place where we didn't stay to have a dining experience because when we got to the door, the waiter who greeted us was covered head-to-toe in what were either angry hives or furious blisters. He looked like Robert the Bruce's father in Braveheart ï¿½ the one who hides up in that tower because he has syphilis or leprosy or something. Whatever it was, someone should have taken him off the floor even if he wasn't contagious, because half of dining out is visual. I still get grossed out thinking about that when I pass by the place.
|Photo | Carolyn Huckabay|
|Chicha: A schematic.|
Thursday night at Penn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ï¿½ among the stone sculptures and priceless artifacts ï¿½ Sam Calagione, founder and president of Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery, and Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the museum, threw a kegger.
The event, a lecture and tasting entitled Uncorking the Past: Ancient Ales, Wines and Extreme Beverages, was a lecture and sipping detailing Calagione and McGovern's work recreating ï¿½ from analysis of archaeological evidence ï¿½ what are believed to be the oldest known recipes for alcoholic beverages. Much of this information is contained within McGovern's fascinating (and, as per CP food critic Trey Popp, beautifully written) new book, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages, which McGovern (aka, adorably, Dr. Pat) signed last night, as well.
The results of the duo's archaeological sleuthing was also on hand in liquid form, as Calagione brought samples of four of his recreated beverages:
- Chateu Jiahu (based on examination of pottery jars found in the Neolithic Chinese villiage of Jiahu)
- Theobrama (an alcoholic chocolate beverage based on pottery fragments found in Honduras)
- Pangaea, more of a theoretical ancient ale that culls ingredients from all seven continents in an attempt to imagine a drink from the supercontinent
- and a "mystery beer" that pretty much everyone in the packed house knew to be Dogfish's purple corn Chicha, aka "the spit beer" (see Calagione explain it here), a recreation of an ancient meso-American beverage whose production involved the chewing of corn as a means of kickstarting the conversion from starch to fermentable sugar.
Chicha's a tough beer to explain, and it's a lot of work for Calagione to present it in a way that makes people want to drink it (with the main focus being on it being sanitary, as alcohol kills off the nasty micro-organisms). It's also a tough beer to make ï¿½ "we had palate fatigue" admitted Calagione of all the chewing. These two facts make it an unlikely commercial viability. But it sure is an interesting idea.
|Photo | Carolyn Huckabay|
|This is literal mouth watering: Calagione dispenses the Chicha.|
During the lecture, Calagione spoke often of the Reinheitsgebot: the German beer purity law that's led to the mass homogenization of beer in the world, and which is essentially the antipode to Dogfish Head's world view. One of the main themes of the lecture, and of the pair's work, is to rediscover methods and processes for creating alcoholic beverages that predate the more modern and rigid definitions of beer.
After the lecture, attendees got to sample the Dogfish brews (including the very last keg of the Chicha) as well as other like-minded beers including Dock Street's Sudan Grass, a gluten-free beer made with Sorghum (which had a nifty grassy note) and Fraoch's venerable Scottish Heather Ale and Viking Alba Scots Pine ale.
So how was the Chicha? Well, it did not taste like spit, which I suppose is a decent baseline for any beer, but especially encouraging for this one. It was served cold, which I think is probably a best practice for serving spit beers and a disarming first sensation ï¿½ though the beer's foamy head had me thinking of, well, spit. It had a fruity taste (from the strawberries) and a nutty, or woody, or earthy (am I just trying to not say corny?) aftertaste that was actually pretty pleasant. The mouth feel was, I guess, a little on the thick side, but not in the way you're thinking.
I don't know if I'd order a full pint, or a full goblet ï¿½ and I suspect that's not a situation I'll ever find myself in given the slim market for this beer and the labor-intensive production process ï¿½ but having tasted it, it's now something I'd consider.
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