Archive: November, 2008
|Martha Williams | betweenchicago.com|
Last week, on the season premiere of Top Chef New York, you stated that you didn't want the judges to pigeonhole you based on your Desi background — basically, you were worried that they would be expecting all of your dishes to feature Indian spices and ingredients. A legitimate concern, I thought.
For the very first Quickfire Challenge, you made apple chutney.
For the second "throw together a cool wiener!" Quickfire — which you won — you made an Indian-inspired kebab hot dog.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaning on one's proclivities — take Season 3's Brian Malarkey, who capitalized on his mastery of seafood (he's the exec chef of San Diego's Oceanaire branch) to run deep into the competition. That's why I don't understand why you would stress about being culturally typecast — pulling the Curry Card, henceforth — when your cuisine, by and large, tends to feature Indian elements. (Rad's menu at Chicago's Between, which boasts braised duck samosas, mini lentil burgers and a chutney sampler, sounds sophisticated and stellar.) Guest judge Donatella Arpaia even went out of her way to specifically praise the Indian approach of your dish.
Of course, it's early, and I'm sure girlie has plenty of tricks up her crispy white sleeve, vindalooed or not.
Onto this week's Elimination Challenge: Cooking up "New American" dishes at judge Tom Colicchio's famed Craft for a group of sourpuss Big Apple chefs who didn't make the cut for Season 5. Colicchio, considered by many to be the capo of the characteristically slippery New American school of cooking, was disappointed by the cheftestants' overall output. "If this is your take on New American, then you've set American cuisine back 20 years," he told the kids. Ow. (Colicchio offers his own definition of New American on his Bravo blog.)
There were handful of dishes the panel was feeling — Jamie's corn purée, Tony Todd/Didi Pickles lovechild Carla's apple pastry with cheddar cheese, and the winner, Fabio's beef carpaccio with "spherical olives," a technique that he claimed was cutting-edge. (Colicchio, on the other hand, says it's exactly "seven years old.") Of course the champion New American plate was cranked out by a motherloving Euro.
Padma regurged Ariane's too-sweet dessert into her napkin, which was great because she is transcendently beautiful and it's funny to watch transcendently beautiful people behave like toddlers. But Jill — "she's probably really into Antigone Rising," offered one of my friends — ended up getting axed for making an ostrich egg thing that one taster likened to dog food. The dish looked gross, but she was really sent packing for being a complacent schlub at the judges' table/her ineffective execution of the Blair Waldorf headband.
Favorite quote of the episode: "Congratulations for be here still." – Fabio's declaration to the remaining contestants after Jill's elimination.
I can't wait to see Dave Grohl eat things next week. Think he'll get punched right before?
|Raw duck and pork scrapple|
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Got this interesting question from a Meal Ticket reader yesterday:
My friend has lived in Philly for 11 years, and has never eaten scrapple. She is getting ready to leave for China for a year, and a few friends are going to take her on a scrapple tour of Philly — so I am asking if you know of any fabu scrapple dishes in the city.
In all your food travels, have you run across any scrapple dishes out there that we can add to the tour?
The reader goes on to mention two spots on the list so far — Sabrina's for their house-made scrapple and Davio's for their scrapple risotto.
There is no shortage of good, plain ol' scrapple in this city. (For the uninitiated, it's traditionally pork "trimmings" — talkin 'bout ears, snouts, whatnot — ground up, seasoned, mixed with a cornmeal binder, and left to set overnight before being sliced into slabs and pan-fried.) I would say the South Philly greasy spoon Melrose/Penrose/Oregon trifecta is good for a classical scrapple experience.
A call over the Reading Terminal Market, organizers of the annual Scrapplefest (where RTM vendors whip up scrapple-based dishes for terrified onlookers), turned up just two vendors that serve it regularly — Down Home Diner, which tops Lancaster County slabs in poached eggs, and Dutch Eating Palace, where you can get it in an omelette and/or on the side.
The best version I've eaten was Rich Freedman's duck and pork scrapple. Freedman, former chef at the Sidecar at 22nd and Christian, walked me through the process of making the stuff for an article back in July, even sharing his top-secret recipe. (Freedman has since left the bar to take a gig at Harry the K's in CBP.) Sidecar co-owner Adam Ritter, however, tells us that they haven't offered any type of scrapple on their brunch menu in a bit.
Back in May, Mac & Cheese told us about Vrapple, or vegetarian scrapple. Freaks me out.
This is tough one!
So how about it, Meal Ticketers? Are there scrapple-based dishes — or uniquely prepared scrapples, at the very least — out there that our inquirer should check out? Let's hear it in the comments.
Water, water everywhere, but
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Beer geeks play a game that casts them in their typically greedy role when it comes to their beverage of choice. It's called "desert island beers," and it requires you to name the three quaffs that would sustain you for the rest of your life on a desert island. No more Foodery, no more trekking all the way up the turnpike to Shangy's. Three are all you get.
My answers to this silly game tend to change, but always include one light (colored, bodied), one dark, and one sour. Brouwerij De Regenboog BB Bourgondier is recurring on the desert island in the "dark" category for several reasons: It's complex, high enough in alcohol (12 percent ABV) to possibly debrede wounds, and freakin' delicious.
The 11.2-ounce bottle should be poured into a roomy, chalice-shaped glass to give this big guy some space to breathe. It pours a tawny golden-brown with a dense tan-colored head that has minimal staying power. A nose into the glass reveals a caramel-y but slightly sour aroma. This is brewed with herbs in addition to hops; namely, valerian and lemon balm, which are apparent in the overall spicy flavor of the beer. Candi sugar is also added to pump up the alcohol content, in traditional Belgian style.
This beer is listed as both a barleywine and a quadruppel in various reviews, and it is big enough to qualify as either. The spice flavor is accompanied by a warm malt sweetness that is lifted up by De Regenboog's characteristically funky house yeast. This underlying, refreshing sourness is what separates BB Bourgondier from other beers of its style, which tend to be tongue-coating and ponderous.
"De Regenboog" is Dutch for rainbow, an appropriate analogy to the expansive, colorful flavors in every bottle of this unique brew.
Local distributor of De Regenboog, Bella Vista Beer Distributors, is currently sold out of this rare brew. Pick up a bottle while they last at beer bars like Monk's Cafe, The Belgian Café and the Memphis Taproom.
|Swine of charity.|
Though the twister of holiday merrymaking is poised to touch down any day now, too many parties result in the bloat of self-indulgence rather than the glow of providing for others.
The friendly farmers of Greensgrow have been working with St. Michael's Church at Trenton and Cumberland streets to develop a community kitchen, in the true spirit of the holidays. The existing facility is in need of a functional exhaust hood (hence the name, get it?), and Greensgrow will be joining forces with other local businesses to help St. Mike's get the equipment they need.
Festivities kick off at 1 p.m. at the church with tons of food for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. At 2 p.m., everyone makes for the historic Martha St. brewery of the Philadelphia Brewing Co. for liquid cheer imbibed to the tunes of 16-piece jazz brass band the Big Horn Cavaliers. Throw $5 down for a raffle ticket, with a grand prize of a share in Greensgrow's spankin-new Winter CSA (quite sold out, thank you), and a Thanksgiving basket loaded with baked goods.
A non-profit, Greensgrow turned an icky North Philly brownfield in to an Eden of local produce and nursery plants. The farm is a model for others interested in turning unused urban space into food-producing farms. Help out these perennial do-gooders at their annual fundraising party, sowing the seeds for another year of community growth.
Sun. Nov. 23, 1-5 p.m., $25-$250 suggested donation. RSVP to events[at]greensgrow[dot]org.
SNACK TIME: Joe Sixpack vs. Penn on the Man Full of Trouble, chicken and waffles=magical healing properties, cast your vote on Prop. dirndls, designer chocolate and booze melt winter at once, and a Snoop Dogg holiday mashup
Every Wednesday, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what’s simmering.
- One to add to the Why the Hell Not File: Adam Kuban of Serious Eats reported on Snoop Dogg's recent appearance on The Martha Stewart Show, where he and the Martha-bot smash up some cognac mashed potatoes. The two original gangstas have a splendid visit, with the Dogg turning Martha on to correct usage of "Snoop-guistics" and inducting her producer as a junior member of his posse, all while whipping the shizzle out of some taters with "a machine. (It's a KitchenAid, dude.)
- Joe Sixpack, aka Don Russell of the Daily News, takes deep issue with the University of Pennsylvania's neglect of the oldest standing tavern in the city, the Man Full of Trouble at Second and Spruce. Penn was bequeathed the building 14 years ago and has declined to get on the stick, despite development offers from interested parties. Russell wants to see it made open to the public again, ideally in conjunction with a program that would celebrate the role taverns played in the founding of the nation. He softens the slap with an offer to discuss the matter with Penn prez Amy Gutmann over a pint of Dock Street's new Man Full of Trouble Porter.
- Indefatigable food explorer Adam Erace of Blogalicious shares his latest discovery: Merl's South Philly Breakfast Spot. A baby blue dining room and thick china mugs of coffee set the stage for some soulful diner chow. Erace is particularly hot on Merl's take on the Southern classic, chicken and waffles. The best news: Merl's is only a short crawl from the South Philly Taproom, so if the Belgian beers are beating you over the head come morning, Newbold residents are well-placed to fight back with cheese grits and the detoxifying effect of maple syrup poured over fried chicken.
-Kristin Henri at Foobooz is assisting Doug Hager and Kelly Schmitz, owners of upcoming German beer bar Brauhaus Schmitz, with the hairy issue of staff uniforms. Hager is pushing for those wonderfully fetishized dirndls, while Schmitz is not interested in owning a theme park. Ever democratic, Henri put up a survey so readers could weigh in on this most pressing issue. As of noon today, results are standing at 52 percent for and 3 percent against, while an 18 percent minority doesn't care if the waitresses even have heads, as long as the beer is good.
-Set your tasers to drooool: Collin Flatt at Phoodie.info pops in for a cocktail at an Old City institution, Fork, and ends up with a deconstructed, spiked hot chocolate that will melt down even the bitterest winter day. Frothed milk, Barbancourt rum and Bailey's Irish Cream are served with a swizzle of Hot Éclat, a decadent paddle of dark chocolate that drinkers can stir into a hot bev in their own sweet time. It's not for nothing Éclat won Philly Mag's "Best Chocolate" category for 2008.
|Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione|
|Photo | Martin Schoeller|
Burkhard Bilger of The New Yorker wrote a lengthy profile of Milton, Delaware's Dogfish Head, creators of the 60- and 90-Minute IPAs that Meal Ticket gets down with on the really regular.
The story, which starts off by unraveling the origins of the brewery's Palo Santo Marron (Brian Howard told you about it here), focuses on how Dogfish became the poster fermenters for America's oft-contrarian craft beer culture.
The King of Beers, once served in splendid isolation at many bars, is now surrounded by motley bottles with ridiculous names, like jesters at a Renaissance fair: SkullSplitter, Old Leghumper, Slam Dunkel, Troll Porter, Moose Drool, Power Tool, He’brew, and Ale Mary Full of Taste.
Dogfish is something of a mascot for this unruly movement. In the thirteen years since [Sam] Calagione founded the brewery, it has gone from being the smallest in the country to the thirty-eighth largest. Calagione makes more beer with at least ten per cent alcohol than any other brewer, and his odd ingredients are often drawn from ancient or obscure beer traditions. The typical Dogfish ale is made with about four times as much grain as an industrial beer (hence its high alcohol content) and about twenty times as much hops (hence its bitterness). It is to Budweiser what a bouillabaisse is to fish stock.
In true New Yorker style, there are plenty of odd tangential details tucked into the piece — for example, did you know that the tailors who craft crests for the British Royal Family also create Brooklyn Brewery-branded blazers for brewmaster Garrett Oliver?
Baby bok choy, exotic gummies, soba and green tea noodles, S&B curry and
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Wing Phat Plaza, on Washington Avenue at 11th Street, bustles like Penn Station at rush hour all day long. The anarchic parking lot was surely designed by some mad trickster bent on watching cars wheel and dart as though in a pinball machine. Though you can purchase nail salon supplies, book a trip to Vietnam or drown your stuffy nose in a steaming bowl of pho, the gem of the plaza is the cavernous Hung Vuong Supermarket.
Aisles stuffed with inventory beckon the grocery shopper weary of Whole Foods' dizzying prices or Acme's endless Saturday lines. Produce here is a great bargain — especially if you are keen on the sharp, bitter greens of Filipino cuisine or the various funky fruits of Vietnam — but more familiar grapes, lettuces, onions and apples are stocked, as well. At the stainless-steel barbecue counter, glistening roasted ducks wait patiently for a buyer to convey them home and serve them with pancakes. An expansive seafood counter holds dozens of fish and mollusks, some of them still swimming. Dry goods range from literally a thousand types and shapes of noodles to any of the myriad sauces that lend authentic Far East flavor to home cooking. The selection is so broad, American monoglots could spend all day peering at the mysterious labels searching for what they want.
An entire aisle is dedicated to biscuits, cookies and candy wrapped in cellophane packaging on which cheerful characters romp. The much-hyped Kasugai gummies, purported to be the best in all of Gummy World, are in full force. The melon, mango and kiwi flavors were soft and juicy, packed a realistic, not-too-sweet fruit flavor. Though the litchi flavor was underwhelming, even those pale gels left the Haribo bears in the dust.
Though you might need to call your insurance agent after a zoom through the parking lot, Hung Vuong yields up a treasure in every dizzying aisle.
Hung Vuong Supermarket, 1122-38 Washington Ave., 215-336-2803, phillychinatown.com/grocery_market/hungvuong
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Two surfers sit on their boards in the unpopulated lineup that is typical of late fall in New Jersey. Though the water is cold and the ambient temperature colder, the best waves of the year happen only after the summer crowds are long departed. Waiting for the next set to roll in, the two watermen make conversation.
That casual beginning was the seed of the Jersey Shore's most lauded restaurant in recent memory, Blue, and now a new Philadelphia venture, Noble American Cookery.
The two surfers were Bruno Pouget, original owner of Caribou Café and a current principle of Apothecary, and Todd Rodgers.
Connected by their shared love of surfing and passion for cuisine, the two partnered with chef Steven Cameron to open Blue in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
Though Blue is open just five months out of the year, Cameron quickly earned a semi-finalist nod from the James Beard Foundation for "Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic", as well as a seriously favorable review in The New York Times, which called his cuisine "far-reaching, inspired and ambitious."
The trio is on the verge of graduating from feeding summer folk to opening Noble at 2025 Sansom St., a property they have owned since 2005. Cameron will focus on using local ingredients from his farmers and fishermen, with special attention to avoiding unsustainably harvested seafood. Seasonally changing menus will highlight herbs picked from the restaurant's rooftop garden.
The space has been painstakingly restored to its original condition, with reclaimed wide hickory plank floors, a 20-foot bar and an upstairs dining room illuminated by three skylights. Noble will be the first restaurant in Philly to feature alfresco dining tables that face into the restaurant, as well.
Opening is projected for early in 2009, just about the time even the most dedicated surfers thaw out and head indoors for some comforting food and a drink.
|Photo | Michael T. Regan|
Chef David Gilberg, who opened The Ugly American (1100 S. Front St.), has left the Pennsport gastropub. Owner Kevin Kelly says the parting was amicable, and they worked out a deal to keep Gilberg behind the line until he landed another gig. He's now cooking at Bar Ferdinand.
Merlot Pagnatti, who's been the sous chef since UA opened in late fall of 2007, has taken the reins. The menu of reappropriated American regional specialties (try the beef on wick!) is staying pretty much the same, not counting the addition of a few more vegetarian-friendly items — the veg meatballs served in the mushroom po'boy, for example, are now available over Pagnatti's house-made fettucine. There's a brand-new veggie sandwich, as well.
Though Kelly has yet to confirm this, we are guessing that Carla Goncalves, Gilberg's wife who was responsible for the amazing biscuits UA offered in lieu of traditional bread service, has departed too. We'll update as we hear more.
Photo at right: Gilberg's venison chili from Elisa Ludwig's January 2008 review.
The Basque people, dwellers of the rugged, mountainous region of northeastern Spain adjacent to the far southwestern corner of France, have long been associated with the passionate defense of their culture and language, and their refusal to become assimilated into any other nation.
This is an ethnic group that has always done its own thing. They wouldn't let the marauding Romans or Visigoths occupy them, they speak a language (Euskera) that is unrelated to any in the world, and they fiercely opposed Franco in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. The bombing of the Basque town Guernica inspired the Picasso masterpiece of the same name.
The Basques also became known as formidable fishermen, building boats which took them long distances seeking cod and whales. This passionate approach to life extends to their cuisine, with the pinxtos bars of San Sebastien regarded as the best in the world. Seafood plays a major role in Basque fare, as well as a sharp white wine called Txakoli and the sheep's milk cheese Idiazabal.
Tinto, of course, is chef Jose Garces' Stateside take on the region. Only the most beautiful ingredients — especially fish — make it on to the menu. Stunning flavors and presentations are standard — and unfortunately, come at a price that makes it tough to dine there with any regularity.
Enter brunch, that great weekend equalizer. Tinto has just introduced a $25 prix-fixe menu to its regular brunch service (Sundays, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) that employs the same boutique ingredients and deft touch of dinner service. Shirred eggs with trumpet and porcini mushrooms and goat cheese foam; and a salmon plate with egg salad, cornichons, chive cream and a toasted bialy are among your options. Full menu below.
|Click to enlarge|
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