Archive: December, 2008
Philadelphia chef and wunderkind Jose Garces is opening yet another high-concept Latin restaurant in early 2009. Chifa will take over 707 Chestnut St., serving a fusion of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisines. This hybrid was created in the late 19th and early 20th century, when a vast influx of Chinese immigrants came to Peru and began merging their own techniques with local ingredients, creating the style known as chifa. Amada chef de cuisine Chad Williams, who assisted Garces in his victorious Iron Chef: America bid last year, will helm the kitchen.
Garces and company hosted a holiday cocktail hour at Amada yesterday, and previewed just a few dishes they are working on for the new restaurant.
A twist on ceviche featured a bright, luscious slice of big-eye tuna tossed with coconut puree and lime juice, topped with cilantro tapioca pearls and sharp, palate cleansing rounds of pickled jalapeno.
A bite-size fried scallion pancake was crowned with impossibly tender sous vide pork cheeks, five-spice peanuts and pickled scallions. The Meal Ticket crew tried not to take a second pancake when the servers passed by with more tempting trays, and failed miserably.
Meal Ticket was also treated to an insider-y tour of Amada's basement prep kitchen, which hums like Penn Station at rush hour. Two young women gracefully managed epic sheets of chestnut fettuccine, while pork cheeks cooked gently in an immersion circulator beside them. The tiny, glorious bites that have turned Garces into a household name are created here, in an underground tunnel crowded with young cooks as sharp as their knives.
Founded in 1824, the Macallan distilery in Speyside, Scotland produces a diverse portfolio of whiskys for both the novice and the seasoned Scotch drinker. As a bartender, I often recommend Macallan 12 to guests desirous of a gentle Scotch 101; the liquor is neither inaccessibly priced (as single malts go) nor extremely smoky. Its appeal to a broad audience is evidenced by its huge share of the single-malt market in America; it is second (in sales) only to Glenlivet.
One of the best ways to be introduced to the mysteries of Scotch whisky is with a familiar tour guide. In the case of Macallan 12, the best tour guide available is an all-American coconut cream pie. The dreamiest version of the tropical treat comes from the candy-pink sugar shack at 2nd and Arch, Tartes.
Tartes chef and owner Teresa Wall's coco-for-one is built on a base of toasted coconut cookie crust, filled with coconut cream, topped with whipped and sprinkled with more toasted coconut. It is a dessert tour de force on its own, but when paired with the slightly sharp whisky, things get pretty crazy.
The method for marrying the sexy duo goes like this: take a bite of the coconut pie, and just as the last bits of cream dissolve on your tongue, take a sip of whisky. The European oak sherry casks that the whisky ages in lend notes of spice, specifically ginger and cinnamon, that cut through the creamy dessert. Conversely, the sweetness of the pie brings out the subtle fruity sweetness of the Scotch -- the figs and apricots that lie beneath, as it were.
If coconut cream pie just doesn't do it for you, apple pie with cinnamon ice cream or crème brûlée play the sweet ingenue role just as adeptly.
But don't take my word for it -- Eat This (together) Immediately!
|A few examples of Belgian lambic bottlings.|
Lambic is one of the most misunderstood creatures of the American beer scene. I can't count the times I've offered some insanely beautiful, tart and wonderful lambic to a drinker who doesn't like traditional (read: yellow, fizzy) beer, and they respond with "No, I hate lambics. They're too sweet."
This conception of lambics as sweet is utterly wrong. People who think lambics are syrupy, sickly, fruity pink brews have generally only had Lindeman's Framboise, which is totally atypical for the lambic style. Lindeman's are very popular because they are more like an alcopop — low ABV, super sugary, marketed to girls who don't drink beer. A true lambic is a different animal altogether.
Lambeek is a region in Belgium where the style originated more than 500 years ago in the Senne Valley. The beers are unique in that they are brewed with at least 30 percent unmalted wheat in addition to malted barley, preserved with aged hops, aged in oak barrels, and most differently, are spontaneously fermented. In traditional lambic brewing, the beer is boiled for an extraordinarily long time — usually at least three hours — and then the warm beer is pumped into a broad, shallow vessel called a koelship. The brew is left to cool overnight, uncovered, and the microbes that live in the brewery and blow in through open louvers settle into the liquid and begin the fermentation process. The "infected" liquid is then pumped into oak barrels to ferment and age for at least one year.
This is a method that horrifies many brewers, who pitch their carefully controlled house yeast into scrupulously clean tanks. Before there were chemical and enzymatic cleaning methods, Brettanomyces, one of the native yeasts that lend lambic its characteristic sourness, was impossible to remove from an infected brewery or winery. You'd have to burn the whole operation down to get rid of it. Even today, there are winemakers in the Russian River valley who will not enter Vinnie Cilurzo's Russian River Brewing pub because they fear bringing home the Brett he uses in his beer, and totaling their own wineries as a result.
Lambic brewers, paradoxically, welcome Brettanomyces. Its nose and taste in finished lambic is described as horse blanket, barnyard, band-aid and wet leather. The nose of these beers can literally smell like the business end of a horse. It is truly a love it or hate it style; fans seek out the funkiest unpasteurized brews in existence, while haters wrinkle their noses and condemn the stuff as nothing but vinegar.
Ten years ago, lambic was dying. People in Belgium didn't even drink it anymore, and no one anywhere else had ever heard of the stuff. Who wanted sour beer, anyway? These days, with Belgian beer bars springing up like mushrooms after a rain, lambic is experiencing a renaissance.
Lambic is bottled and kegged in several different ways. Unblended lambic is beer aged from 1 to 3 years that is drunk straight. It is extremely tart and generally has little remaining carbonation, since the oak barrels in which it was aged are permeable and the CO2 escapes. Gueuze (pronounced Gooze, or Gher-ZE, depending on who you ask) is blended beer, usually a mixture of old (3 and 2 years old) and young (one year old) lambics. The nature of the spontaneous fermentation means that each barrel of lambic is different — blending many barrels creates a balanced and recognizable product from year to year. Gueuze is also quite tart and usually low in carbonation and alcohol. The best-recognized type of lambic has fruit added to the aging barrels, especially cherries and raspberries. Blueberries, peach, banana, cloudberries, cassis and strawberry-flavored lambics are also available. The well-know Lindeman's fruit lambics are much sweeter than a traditional, unsweetened example.
The most revered producers of heritage Belgian lambic are Cantillon, Drie Fontanen, Girardin, Boon and Hanssen's. Their lambics and gueuzes are available in several beer bars in Philadelphia, including Eulogy, Monk's Café, The Memphis Taproom, Jose Pistola's and Zot. Tomorrow Meal Ticket will review a one-off, single barrel cherry lambic specially selected at Cantillon by Monk's co-owner and lambic booster Tom Peters.
I'm from Maryland, so I grew up tossing Old Bay Seasoning on every edible item you can imagine — pizza, fries, chicken, popcorn, steaks, and, of course, steamed seafood. You name it. Some people do this with hot sauce or sriracha. I rocked the yellow and blue tin with the goodness inside.
Now, I am slightly embarrassed, but ultimately excited, to announce that a new universal sprinkle-on has usurped Old Bay's celery salt-based dominance — BACON SALT.
Available in all Acme stores in the Philly area, Bacon Salt was developed in 2007 by Dave Lefkow and his friend Justin Esch, using $5,000 Lefkow's son won on America's Funniest Home Videos. (Watch the clip here.) The zero-fat, zero-calorie, 100 percent vegetarian and kosher seasoning comes in four varieties — Original, Hickory, Peppered (my fave) and Natural.
Humanity's visceral longing for bacon is something Lefkow is extremely familiar with, as evidenced by these photos from his recent visit to Philly (he and his colleagues dress in giant bacon costumes to promote their product). In October, he managed to sell 6,000 jars of the stuff on QVC in just 5 minutes. "People act ridiculous around bacon," Lefkow tells me. I cannot disagree, especially considering my lustful, now-no-longer-clandestine affair with the stuff. So far, I've generously applied Bacon Salt and its smoky, woody properties to tuna salad, Lazaro's pizza, a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from Ants Pants, a T-bone steak and some fried rice. It does indeed make everything taste like bacon, which means it makes everything taste infinitely more delicious.
I'm so sorry, Old Bay, but it's time I moved on. You still got me for crabs. Though I haven't tried Bacon Salt on those yet ...
SNACK TIME: use hamburger scents to attract carnivorous ladies, potential gelato cocktails from Capogiro, Will Travel for Beer, Tiffin throws down the Girard Ave. gauntlet, Triangle Tavern closes its doors
|I'll take that boy with pickles, no onion. |
|A Hamburger Today|
Every Wednesday, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what's simmering.
- Adam Kuban of A Hamburger Today takes Burger King's new cologne, Flame, for a nose-drive. The olfactory decision? Sniffers characterized it as "truck-stop air freshener," "lincoln logs," or a junior high girlfriend's leather jacket. No trace of meat was registered, sadly. I think I'd take a second whiff of a guy who smelled like the king of sandwiches.
- Bhiladelphia wonders if Capogiro Gelato Artisans is seeking a liquor license for an upcoming location. From personal experience, I'd say that a glass of sparkling Prosecco topped with a poco scoop of clementine or pear sorbetto is one of the finest things in life. Café corretto, a shot of espresso spiked with Sambuca, also lives in that category. Give it up, LCB!
-Travelin'-son-of-a-brew Adam Erace of Blogalicious heads south to Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware for some sweet beer sampling at the source. He gets down with the wintery Chicory Stout, winey Red & White, and the wood-aged, GABF-medaling Palo Santo brown ale, which we insisted he try and then haul back to PA for us.
-Phoodie.info announces Tiffin's strikeback against the hordes flocking to Girard Ave.'s latest Indian darling, Ekta. They have made their move, and it is brunch. $8.50 buys you all-you-can-eat specialty entreés, apps, breads, rice, tandoori grilled kebabs and dessert. And it ain't no buffet! We anxiously await Ekta's next move in this fabulously fragrant curried chess game.
- Michael Klein of The Insider reports that the Triangle Tavern at 10th and Reed has closed. The bar served a five-day liquor license suspension in September, a consequence of serving intoxicated individuals and minors in 2007. They were the scene of an alleged hate crime over the summer. With their liquor license unrenewed, it is unlikely the Triangle will open under current management anytime soon.
|Rockets, shooting stars and one outer-space octopod.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Like the Grinch and rich old Scrooge, I heartily dread the Christmas season. The irrational consumer spasms of otherwise normal people, the breathy voices full of fake wonder emanating from every speaker, the obligatory purchasing of useless candles and fancy lotions in discount flavors. It really brings out the dread in dreadful.
This year, rejecting the dominant paradigm is less a statement and more of a necessity. Doom-ish pronouncements for earnings, employment and life itself are repeated incessantly from every news outlet, and have cowed all but the oblivious into cutting back on Christmas. In order to show appreciation for those I really care about but cannot afford to spend money on, I'm baking.
I am not a baker. I am hardly a cook — just an avid eater who makes the necessary moves to get fed. Baking is a alchemical blending of precision and a talented hand, neither one an attribute that appears on my résumé. Yet cookies it had to be, so I picked out my favorite seasonal treat and set about improvising.
Gingerbread is the most seasonal sweet of them all, and tends to summon up big grins from the recipients of a ribbon-tied box of iced treats. Gingerbread men and ladies being just too predictable, I figured rolling out some unexpected shapes would help my spicy crew stand out.
Foster's Urban Homeware (399 Market St., 215-925-0950, shopfosters.com) stocks a whole wall of tin cookie cutters at a $1.50 each, from traditional snowflakes and Santa hats to dinosaurs, letters and bugs. Rolled cookies like gingerbread have a well-deserved reputation for being a pain in the nether regions, so selecting cutters with a minimum of tiny details is critical. Gingerbread also has a tendency to go from perfect to overbaked in a nanosecond, so choosing a cookie cutter that allows for bigger finished cookies also increases success. I chose three cutters, based on a theme of a Combustion Christmas: rocket ship, shooting star and motorcycle.
I also picked up four gel food dyes for tinting icing at Foster's, $2 each, and stopped at the grocery store for confectioners' and brown sugar, as well as a shaker of cinnamon and ground ginger for spicing. A knob of fresh ginger stored in the freezer was my secret weapon. I was going to put some serious zing in those cookies.
The blog Gillian's Goodies yielded up a simple fresh gingerbread recipe, as well as suggestions on baking. My improvisations for baking when you're not a baker after the jump.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
1. Don't sweat the small stuff. If your eggs and butter are room temp, textures will be right. Don't fudge the technique, but don't freak out if you don't have every little thing. For example, I had no rolling pin. I used the Pam canister instead.
2. Measure everything ahead of time. Measure salt over the sink, not over the mixing bowl.
3. Mix dry ingredients together, separate from wet ingredients. It's critical to developing the right texture.
4. Make a pastry bag by mixing a little royal icing (1 cup confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice) with a drop of food coloring in a sandwich-size plastic bag; then snip a TINY corner off the bag and pipe decorative icing on to your cookies. Go all Jackson Pollock on them if you're not the neat type.
5. Cool cookies thoroughly before icing.
6. Chill the gingerbread dough overnight before rolling out a little at a time; the cold dough will be infinitely easier to work with and less sticky on the board, your Pam canister, and your hands.
Blink and you'll miss City Paper's cameo 42 seconds in.
(Via YouTube user bry2086)
Mark Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything as well as the "The Minimalist" columnist for The New York Times. His approach to eating well is always streamlined, reducing every recipe to its elemental bones.
Veal osso buco made an appearance in his Recipe of the Day feature, and takes the classic Italian supper to a new place with just a bit of chicken stock, a few mashed anchovies and cloves of garlic. Omitting the typical aromatics speeds the braising process along, with the whole recipe taking only 2 hours, largely unattended. Omitting osso buco's constant companion, gremolata, make the dish faster but on the whole less satisfying. The fork-tender veal and melting marrow get a friendly punch from the traditional accompaniment.
Gremolata is a condiment made of mashed or finely diced garlic, chopped parsley and lemon zest. It brightens the homey braised veal and adds color to an otherwise brown plate. For those who don't enjoy the bite of raw garlic (me, for one), roasting the whole bulb adds sweetness and depth to the gremolata without sacrificing the lemony acidity and peppery parsley contrast.
Roasted garlic technique and gremolata recipe after the jump.
My recipe for instant polenta, a soft pillow upon which to rest your tender veal.
Roasted Garlic Gremolata
Go Get This:
One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed, dried and chopped
The zest of two lemons
Two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
One bulb of garlic
Now Do This:
Roast the garlic, either in a specific garlic-baking clay utensil or just on a baking sheet covered with foil. To do this, slice off the top of the bulb, revealing the cloves but leaving the papery skin. Slice just a bit off the bottom so the garlic stands steady.
Place the cut bulb on the baking sheet or in the baker. Douse the bulb with one or two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Cover with foil or the lid of the baker and place in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and golden but not burnt.
Scoop the cloves out of the bulb and place in a bowl.
Add the parsley, chopped fine, and the lemon zest to the garlic, season with salt. Mix and mash with a fork to obtain an evenly mixed paste.
Use gremolata as a condiment on meat, fish, vegetables or whatever. It's good on pizza, too.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
When I eat at Vietnamese places, I tend to stay pretty boring with my appetizers, opting for simple spring or summer rolls. (Deviation, however, usually manifests itself in my pho order, which tends to lean toward the tendon-y tripe-y end of the spectrum.) But I just couldn't pass up the roast quail (chim quay) starter at Nam Son, tucked into the shopping center at 16th and Washington. (It was previously called Nam Phuong, like the one at 11th and Washington; word has it that the principle of that location sold it to another party and is now operating solely out of this spot.)
Offered on an oval platter atop a rather negligible bed of lettuce, shredded carrots and cilantro, two quails are quartered, their teeny wings tucked aerodynamically close to the breast as if they were caught and cooked in mid-divebomb. The roasted skin is crisp but not greasy, boasting a sweet garlic and five-spice-enhanced glaze that's nice with a bit of the vinegary soy dipping sauce. Tiny bones crop up with some frequency, so keep an eye out.
As I coarsely ravaged my plate with my hands, I noticed a group of eight Viet-speaking diners shooting occasional glances over at me and whispering. At first, I figured they were impressed by my immersive culinary gusto, steering clear of the Americanized junk for their real deal countrymen's food. Then I realized I just looked like a total slob and had stuff all over my face. They were probably saying "get this poor kid a napkin" to each other in their native tongue.
Eat this immediately.
Nam Son Vietnamese Restaurant, 1601 Washington Ave., 215-545-4067
|Sweets at Jean-Pierre Hévin, Paris|
|Ed Alcock for The New York Times|
New York Times writer Amy Thomas spins readers through her bicycle tour of the haute chocolatiers of Paris is this week's travel section, buzzing her way through five arrondissements on a chocoholic's dream ride. Using the city's year-and-a-half-old Vélib bike sharing program, Thomas pedals through streets that seem like a "quaint Gallic village" rather than the financial and cultural capital of France. The truffles, pavés and bombes she consumes are pure porn to the devoted foodie, even those who temper their envy with the knowledge that everything tastes better in France.
|Making Veselka's cabbage soup|
|Illustration by John Burgoyne, Photo by Kang Kim, from New York Magazine|
Contrast that decadent tour with New York Magazine's In Season column, featuring a classic poverty staple: cabbage soup. Their Recession Special edition taps East Village institution Veselka for their hearty soup recipe, and makes a nod to the perennial dinner at the home of Charlie Bucket before he hit the Willy Wonka jackpot.
Let's read this as instructive fable: cabbage soup now could lead to a candy bonanza after — all it takes is a lot of heart and a golden opportunity. I wonder if Charlie Bucket grew up to be a factory chocolate man just like Willy, or if he just moved to Paris and settled in right next door to Michael Chaudun and his magical melting pavés.
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