Archive: February, 2009
Next Friday, March 6 marks the beginning of Philly Beer Week. Start the festivities off right by checking out the Beer and Cheese Smackdown at The Sidecar (2201 Christian St.,215-732-3429, thesidecarbar.com) starting at 6 p.m.
Two Michigan-based breweries, Arcadia and New Holland, are going head to head, matching beers with a lineup of six cheeses provided by the Italian Market's Claudio's. Thirsty/dairy-craving attendees will sample the brews with each cheese in a blind tasting to determine which beer they think complements each queso best. Fred Bueltmann of New Holland and Tim Suprise of Arcadia will be in the house, talking up their beers and pairing prowess while scrapping for Wolverine State supremacy.
And here's perhaps the most nonexistent biggest draw of them all: Yours truly will be hosting the event. There may even be a Felicia D. sighting. Meal Ticket: We exist in real life!
Space is limited. First come-first served tickets are $12 at the door.
Check back here regularly ï¿½ category: Philly Beer Week 2009 ï¿½ for all your Beer Week coverage.
|Photo | Michael T. Regan|
- Trey Popp visits MangoMoon, the new Asian small plates restaurant from Chabaa Thai chef/owner Moon Krapugthong. The Main Street Manayunk eatery does a lot of stuff right, but the Trey's particularly smitten by the homemade Thai sausage — the best sausage he's ever eaten. Ever.
- David Snyder eats like an Egyptian at Mazag Café, the Mediterranean coffee shop/eatery at 10th and Carpenter. Not to miss: the koshary, an Egyptian specialty you can only get on Wednesdays.
- Cured, pickled and fermented: Nick Bronson shares his list of the Top 5 foods "mummified" by local chefs and artisans. Sliced pickled beef at Nan Zhou and kimchi jigae at Giwa are but a few that make the cut.
- Brazilian carnivals, stupid-cheap Blackfish lunches and dinner with Phil Roy and Marc Vetri are all featured in Nikki Volpicelli's What's Cooking this week.
- In Feeding Frenzy, I've got deets on South Jersey's Seasons 52, the awesomely named coffee shop Lovers and Madmen and some Italian eatery deals you need to know about.
Juicing can mean two things — either a Jack LaLanne-inspired commitment to turning fruits and veggies into liquid, or pumping your bod full of anabolic steroids and shrinking your nuts in the bargain.
East P'unk Ave. cafe B2 takes the first tack, with a selection of fruits and veggies you can combine any way you like. Meal Ticket opted for a virtuous blend of beet, carrot and ginger that poured a vibrant magenta shade. B2 barista Amelia was looking forward to juicing cucumbers and grapefruits into a blend that begs for a hit of gin.
We're not advocating getting toasted in the morning, mind you. It's just that B2 is open until 8 p.m., and we'd feel heaps better about happy hour if fresh blackberry-parsley-lemon juice were making the scene, too.
B2, 1500 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-271-5520
Produce a 30-second Primo's commercial and then use your winnings to buy me a hoagie every day for a year
The other day, I went to the optometrist for a routine exam and had my pupils dilated. It was an extremely sunny when I left my appointment, meaning I was as blind as an elderly pug as I treacherously swerved through Center City on my bike en route to the office. Despite my temporary Magoo status, I still managed to pull up in front of the Primo Hoagies location on 11th Street and use a series of hand gestures to order my usual Big "T" Diablo — turkey, ham and American, with that spice blend, oil and L-T-O, of course.
I luckily arrived at work in one piece, plopped down at my desk and downed my out-of-focus sandwich with great gusto.
Yup, I'll risk life and limb for one of those damn hoagies. Turns out, though, there's more than one way to show your love. From myprimocommercial.com:
PrimoHoagies wants you to produce a :30 television commercial with the theme, “Prime Time for Primo” and tell us when its your Prime Time. We encourage you to be creative in your interpretation, however, the PrimoHoagies product and brand must be portrayed in a positive way. Students can log onto primohoagies.com to get more information on the PrimoHoagies brand, or to find one of the 50 locations nearest them.
First place? A $200 Primo's gift card. Barring you using it to cater a football party, that thing could keep you up to your sideburns in Turkey Schwartzies until Obama's up for re-election. Three runners up wll receive $50 gift cards. Full contest details here; deadline is March 13. Get to camcordin'.
Season 5 of Bravo's Top Chef wrapped up last night. Meal Ticket readers and I have been blabbing all week about who we thought would take home the title among last-chefs-standing Stefan, Carla and Hosea.
Full commentary after the jump (warning for DVR people — immediate spoilers).
Boulder, Colorado's Hosea — who I've consistently labeled as an underachiever thanks to his back-of-the-line shuffle through this year's competition — is Top Chef.
I did not anticipate this happening AT ALL, and I don't think anyone else did, either.
The final challenge is always simple — cook the best three-course meal of your life. It's a task that I felt Stefan, ever the steely-yet-eloquent tactician, and Carla, whose bubbly, soulful nature has come through in her food in the second half of the season, would destroy. Yet both made odd, uncharacteristic mistakes and decisions that tarnished their final offerings so much that Hosea's inspired, well-executed meal was the clear champion.
It's just one more thing to argue about for the two schools of Top Chef judging thought: determining a cheftestant's fate based on his or her collective output, or picking winners based solely on a singular challenge. It doesn't seem that Top Chef has a hard and fast policy regarding this — if they did, Stefan would've been eliminated for his extremely overcooked salmon in Episode 12 instead of Leah for her runny eggs. Last night, however, Hosea was clearly the best — and this stroke of superiority was enough to convince the judges that he deserved the crown.
What the hell happened here? Let's see.
After an idyllic breakfast on a paddleboat, we got to hear the contestants rave about what winning would mean to them. "It would suck to go home without the title," Hosea said at the outset. At this point, I don't think anyone thought the guy was capable of going home with it. We were so wrong.
The Final Three learned that they would be cooking their meals at NOLA restaurant Commander's Palace for a group of tasters that included all our judges' table friends in addition to the likes of elimitaliano Fabio, Rocco DiSpirito and Hubert Keller. Then they tossed a sous chef twist into the wind by bringing back close-but-no-$100K-cigar finale participants from previous seasons — Season 2 chem slanger Marcel, twangy Season 3 debutante Casey and Season 4 frontrunner Richard (who was featured on Meal Ticket back in November). After knife-drawing, the ladies were paired up, while Richard and Marcel ended up with Hosea and Stefan, respectively. ("He's a bit of a twat, but who's not?" Stefan observed of his sous chef. I'm not a twat man.)
A prep period saw the baldies bitching at each over the distribution of foie gras and caviar, which ranks as the most presposterously insensitive first-world debate I've witnessed this season.
The next morning, Tom C. materialized in the Commander's Palace kitchen with another twist: Each contestant was required to prepare an additional passed hors d'oeuvres using one of three native NOLA ingredients — crab, red fish or alligator. To determine who would get to pick first (as well as assign the other cheftestants their food), they ate pieces of king cake, which Felicia D. told you about the other day. Whoever found the plastic baby in their wedge would get the advantage. (Please just read this.) Hosea landed the infant/choking hazard — he took red fish, giving Carla too-easy crab and leaving the gator for Stefan (of course). This ended up being irrelevant to the finale's outcome, however, as all the judges and guests dug the bite-size starters of each chef.
It all came down to the coursework.
Hosea started with sashimi drizzled with hot fennel oil, following that up with a scallop/foie gras dish on pain perdu with apple compote and foie gras foam and the third course, a Colorado-like venison dish with 'shrooms, chestnut/celery root purée and Richard-fied carbonated blackberries. No dessert — but no one was required to make one. All dishes were approved by the judges (small criticisms included blandess in the first course), though Tom C. and Toby butted heads over the lack of a sweet plate.
Carla began with a beautiful seared red snapper bouillabaisse-type thing with saffron aioli, moved on to a NY strip cooked sous vide (Casey's suggestion, though Carla had never used the technique; judges found the meat tough and Toby called it "rather anemic") and ended with an incomplete cheese plate that she sent out sans a souffle that got effed in the oven. (She originally wanted to rock one of her signature tarts, but went instead with Casey's suggestion.) A lot of people are blaming Casey for "sabotaging" Carla's chances, which I think is horseshit. The chef had 100 percent creative control over her menu, and was not obliged to take any of her (admittedly overly opinionated) sous chef's suggestions and run with them. Why did she do it? It had to have been nerves. It's just sad and unfortunate that it cost her $100K — if Carla had cooked her steak traditionally and put together her cheese tart as originally planned, she definitely would've won.
Much to Marcel's befuddlement, Stefan decided to freeze a hyper-fresh portion of halibut so he could slice it thin for a first-course carpaccio with smoked salmon, a decision that led to the judges ripping the dish for being too watery and bland. In the middle, he whipped up a homey, extremely well-received pan-seared squab (Tom's favorite of the night) before concluding with the universally reviled dessert trio at right. My girl Gail, whose soul-screaming cleavage was my change-of-heart pick for Top Chef after I knew Stef had lost it, said it looked straight out of 1982. Padma called it "pedestrian at best." I don't quite understand what happened here, especially considering a) Marcel surely had more than a few tweaks and tricks in his bag for his chef; and b) Stefan has dominated with his desserts in previously (see Restaurant Wars).
"Cooking basic food is much sexier than doing a bunch of bullshit," Stefan said while going over his menu. I agree, but there's nothing basic or sexy about something that looks like it could be served at one of the restaurants from American Psycho. You were my pick, Stef! What went wrong?
On paper, Hosea deserved to win — IF (big if) your criteria is strictly the final challenge. He did a better job than his two competitors, who succumbed to unfortunate lapses in judgment (Carla's over-reliance on Casey's ideas) and in imagination (Stefan seemed to resent being asked to cook with no boundaries or stipulations). It's just difficult for me to accept that Hosea deserved the title. IF (another big if) you look back and absorb what he did in Season 5 as part of your decision-making process, you'll find that though he did win a handful of challenges, the chef side-stepped his way through most rounds by squeaking through in the middle.
In Seasons 1 through 3, I felt that each Top Chef winner — Harold, Ilan and Hung — was the premier talent of his season. In Season 4, I didn't have a favorite, but was comfortable with either Richard or eventual winner Stephanie taking it.
This time around, however, I can't bring myself to say that the show rewarded the chef who possesses the widest breadth of culinary ability. I'm not taking issue with Hosea's on-paper talent — he proved in this episode that he can do it and do it well. Rather, I'm flummoxed because his victory proved that this season was nothing more than a game of Sharks and Minnows — keep your neck above water long enough, and catch a couple lucky breaks, and you may just find yourself the last fish in the pool.
As much as I have crapped on Hosea this season — for both his creepo relationship with pout factory Leah and his irritating Stefan's-little-brother inferiority complex — you have to give him credit for pulling off something that a majority of Top Chef fans thought was impossible. It just makes me wonder — with the producers aware of the identity of the winner some time before the airing of the finale, why did they make absolutely no effort to build audience empathy for Hosea in the episodes leading up to last night's? Throughout this season, he was never portrayed as scrappy enough to become default underdog. (That was Carla.) Most of his camera time was dedicated to complaining about Stefan. And they made sure to squeeze every bit of manufactured "he's a scumbag!" drama out of the Leah/infidelity subplot. In other words, they basically skipped over any and every opportunity they had to connect Hosea with viewers, so much so that no one (no one I know, at least) was rooting for him — or even really thinking about him — come finale time.
What does this tell us about Season 5? It tell us the producers probably didn't want — and certainly didn't expect — Hosea to win.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, I'll be scouring the Internet for a high-res picture of Gail's bosoms.
UPDATE: Here are some pictures of Gail's boobs for archival purposes. Many thanks to PW's Style Blog:
Sectioned citrus is a healthy and flavorful addition to spring salads. You can apply the method below to any citrus fruit; larger specimens are easier to section.
First cut the stem end off the fruit to create a flat surface, then use a sharp, serrated knife to cut away the peel and pith.
Hold the skinned fruit over a bowl to catch the juices, and use a smaller knife to cut the flesh out of the membranes in wedges.
Once all of the flesh is cut away in sections, squeeze the membrane skeleton to extract all the remaining juices.
|Sectioning a grapefruit|
|Photos l Michael Persico / Animation l Neal Santos|
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
|Cold beer, hot pear pair|
|Photo l Michael Persico|
With spring just over three weeks away, we're coming up hot on outdoor drinking season. The sidewalk tables emerge from storage, and the wheat beer starts pouring like April rain.
Wheat beers come several major styles, including Belgian Witbier spiced with coriander and curaçao orange peel; German Weißbier, a category that includes hefeweizen, dunkel Weisse, kristall Weisse and Berliner Weisse; and American wheats in styles both mimicked and original.
These beers are almost always top-fermented with ale yeast and brewed with unmalted wheat instead of malted barley, which produces a lighter colored beer (hence "white"). The popularity of these easy-drinking styles increased dramatically as American drinkers and brewers alike were exposed to such classic quaffs as Hoegaarden White and Spaten Franziskaner. Some American brewers have made wheat beers that are faithful homages to original styles; see Allagash White. Others seek to take the typically low-alcohol wheat brew somewhere more extreme.
Southampton Publick House is located halfway between the Chanel and Saks boutiques and the barbecues smoking on the beach, in the village of Southampton on Long Island, New York. Connecticut brewer Phil Markowski was recruited in 1996 to handle brewing operations, and has since garnered accolades from publications (BeerAdvocate best brewpub, 2003) and medals (Great American Beer Fest, World Beer Cup). One of the most popular beers at the brewpub that is also bottled for distribution nationwide is Southampton Double White.
A hazy, unfiltered wheat beer, Double White differs from other styles in that is rings in at nearly 7 percent ABV. Otherwise, it holds true to Belgian form, refreshingly flavored with coriander and bitter orange peel. Publick House executive chef Randall Wilson took a few minutes to tell Meal Ticket about cooking with, and pairing, Double White.
"One of my favorite beers that we serve is Double White," says chef Wilson. "I especially like to finish sauces with it. If you cook beer for a long time, the bitterness from the hops takes over and becomes unpalatable. If you use the beer, cut with wine for sweetness, to finish a dish, the subtle flavor of the beer comes through opposed to the bitterness." Take a look at Wilson's recipes for pan-roasted cod with Double White butter and bruléed pears after the jump.
Meet Southampton brewer Phil Markowski during Beer Week, on Tuesday, March 10 at 6 p.m. at The Belgian Cafe, 21st and Green streets, 215-235-3500.
Randall Wilson's Method for Pan-Roasted Cod with Double White Butter
Chef suggests searing a fillet of cod in a little neutral-flavored oil, three minutes on each side over medium-high head to ensure a crisp sear on each side. Add a few sliced shallots and garlic cloves to the pan; 7 minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven should cook the cod through.
Pour out the old oil and add a splash of fresh olive oil, a lump of butter, a splash of white wine and a splash of Double White beer. Over low heat, baste the fish with the liquid until liquid is slightly reduced. Toss in a bit of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Serve immediately.
Randall Wilson's Method for Bruleed Pears at Home
"In the restaurant, I would do this with a propane torch," says Wilson, "but at home, it can be done on the stove in a Teflon pan." Cut a pear in half lengthwise and scoop out the seedy center with a spoon. In a non-stick pan, melt a small lump of butter and splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the pear flesh side down in the pan when it is very hot, and allow it to sear for 4-5 minutes, without moving it. Chef likes this served immediately, as he enjoys the textural contrast between the cool crisp pear flesh and the sticky, burnt surface. If you like your pear cooked through, stick the whole pan in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. Wilson eats this dish with a cold glass of Double White close at hand.
It was sad coming home from Manhattan last weekend to hear that Chef's Market, the gourmet shop and caterer that's been open at 231 South Street since 1985, would close on Sun., March 1. Its goodies will be gone, and I’ll never be able to snag a Manyunk sandwich or grab a bag of fresh ground coffee.
“Had I known before the vultures swooped in I would’ve snagged your espresso,” manager MJ Jordan told me. The
Georgiou family-owned biz got hit — like most bizzes on South got hit — by a lousy economy and the change in the block’s audience from adult to kids. Other likely contributors include the long-brewing streetscape project as well as a neighboring farmers market. “Even little things like increased parking prices haven’t helped,” said Jordan.
But it meant more than just that to most of us shoppers. When my mom was sick, I got them to cater more than a few Thanksgiving meals. When I schmoked a bunch of weed (uhm, ah, years ago), there was no better come down than a basket of pignoli nuts. “Since we made the decision last Thursday, we’ve only been open to sell off equipment and the remainder of our stock,” said Jordan. (Remaining are being offered at a 50 percent discount.)
The bright spot is that Chef’s Market will keep its catering operations — for family, private and corporate events — in one third of the building. “We’re going to play to our strengths,” said Jordan. “By streamlining and doubling our catering business, we’re doing the right thing. But that doesn’t make it any less hard.”
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Chef Peter Woolsey's Bistrot La Minette (623 S. Sixth St., 215-925-8000, bistrotlaminette.com), which opened on Sixth Street in August 2008, it expanding its service to include lunch starting Tue., March 3. They'll be open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and will offer a la carte selections in addition to options for two- and three-course prix-fixe meals.
April will see the introduction of al fresco dining, both out on the sidewalk and in the beautiful courtyard alleyway space between the restaurant and its just-north neighbor.
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