Archive: February, 2010
In the latest food section, we told you a bit about Pho King, the UPenn foursome that's been gaining a bit of notoreity for its underground beef noodle soup operation.
"The Four Amigos," as they like to be called, wish to remain anonymous, but I was able to get a bit of information out of them regarding the origins of their underground soup-slanging business. At least two of the Amigos are Vietnamese by heritage. They got together to perfect a pho recipe â always a painstakingly crafted clear beef broth, gently flavored with stuff like the aforementioned aromatics, then hit with rice noodles and meat â after deciding that a solid bowl of the universally loved Viet specialty was hard to find close to campus.
Well, Monday is the night that the team distributes its $5 soups from a dorm somewhere on Penn's campus â the catch is you gotta ask around to discover where. We don't even know! If you find them, though, pick us up and quart and we'll pack you back, promise.
|The barrel-aging room at Lost Abbey|
Lock up your daughters and prepare your liver, 'cause The Brett Pack is coming to town.
Hot on the heels of Port Brewing and Lost Abbey genius brewer Tomme Arthur visiting Memphis Taproom tonight , Dogfish Head owner/chief visionary Sam Calagione will be stopping by Earth Bread + Brewery on Thursday; you'll have to wait until March 11 to see Allagash Brewing founder Rob Tod when he does events at Jose Pistolas, Teresa's Next Door, Beer Yard and Craft Ale House.
Tonight at 6 p.m., Memphis Taproom (2231 E. Cumberland St.) will begin pouring Tomme Arthur's Mongo Double IPA, anniversary Hop 15, Wipeout IPA, frankincense-and-myhrr-infused Gift of the Magi '08 vintage, Carnivale and the super-boozy, seriously coveted Older Viscosity aged barleywine on draft, as well as "some super limited edition surprises". I would say arrive early to this one; the ubergeeks have no compunctions about setting a pick/and or boxing the neophytes out from getting the truly rare stuff. In addition, bald folks with glasses get an extra dollar off all drafts. I'm headed out to buy a swim-cap now.
Sam Calagione will be bringing 7 or 8 of his "wild concoctions" to Earth Bread + Brewery (7139 Germantown Ave.) on Thu., Feb. 25 at 6 p.m., and guests get to keep their curvy "off-centered" pint glass. Expect the juice-infused Red+White, Black+Blue and Fort, Raison d'Etre, 60 Minute IPA and Indian Brown Ale, plus limited seasonals like ApriHop.
Check back for details on Rob Tod's March 11 appearances closer to the event.
|Photo l Albert Yee|
|David under his cloak of anonymity|
It is with major regret we bid a fond adios to David Snyder, one of our two restaurant critics here at City Paper and writer of local food and drinks blog PhilaFoodie. David has been lending his laser palate and piercing prose to the Food & Restaurants section since August of 2008, ingesting everything from the exotic (duck tongues) to sheer corruptions of nature (gnocchi "heavy enough to bend space-time").
In his exit interview, he filled us in on what it means to be a consumer advocate, what aspiring critics have to know and why he's leaving what is surely one of the most-envied gigs in town.
Read our Q&A with David after the jump.
Meal Ticket: What were your most and least favorite reviews to write? Why?
David Snyder: My favorites lie at the extremes. It was fun and effortless to write about brilliant restaurants such as Bibou, Marigold Kitchen, MÃ©mÃ© and Talula's Table, for example. Their strengths are so mature and well-defined that the reviews virtually wrote themselves, like I was merely channeling good juju from the meals I had eaten. Plus, it felt good to let folks know that if they decided to spend their hard-earned cash at those places, it would be money well-spent.
Negative reviews were often easy to write, too, if the restaurants' weaknesses were loud and pronounced. On occasion, having a sour experience afforded me the playful luxury of torturing my readers with puns (DaVinci) or using a quirky format (Aladeen). Some critics say that they don't like to write negative reviews, but that never made sense to me. It's like a criminal judge saying he doesn't like to sentence convicted felons. Being a consumer advocate is what you sign up for as a critic, and sometimes that means writing a negative review. It's important to take that responsibility seriously.
The restaurants that were the most challenging to write about were the ones in the middleâspots that were neither spectacular nor terrible. Finding a place in the spectrum for these restaurants and putting the experiences into context was not an easy task sometimes.
My favorite review to write though, by far, was Wokano. When you've eaten duck tongue and fried pig intestines with friends, you've bonded for life. To be able to write about that experience was pure joy.
MT: What did you learn from your reviewing gig?
DS: For one, dining out as much as I have for this job has fundamentally altered the way I view the dining landscape. I don't see the dining scene in terms of ârestaurantsâ anymore. I view it more in terms of plates or meals. Most restaurants have a mix of dishes, some good and some not-so-good; it's rare for every menu item to perform at the same level. When people would ask me for recommendations, I found myself talking about what they should eat across the dining scene instead of where they should eat.
Another thing I learned was just how much you can derive about a chef's psyche just from eating his or her food. After eating at terra, for example, it seemed obvious that the duck dish was a reconceptualization of the less successful acorn squash hot pot I had tried earlier, even though the two dishes did not look or taste anything alike. Based on that, I suspected that Chef Paraskevas had a healthy and constructive attitude about failure. When I interviewed him later, I was surprised at just how accurate my hunches were. Every confidence and every insecurity is right there on the plate if you just look carefully.
MT: How can a reader spot a poorly-done restaurant review?
DS: A restaurant review is well-done if it's engaging, either by weaving a tale or providing some context or metric to gauge whether the restaurant is successful in what it's trying to do. Reciting a list of dishes you ate isn't enough; you have to tell a story.
MT: What should people take away from a well-done review?
DS: It's up to the reader to determine what he or she takes away from a particular review or reviewer. A review is merely a guide. As a consumer, the key is to be making informed decisions. With so many resources now available (including food blogs, Yelp, eGullet), consumers seem to be as hungry for information and perspective as they are for a worthwhile meal. That's a beautiful thing.
MT: Do you have any crucial advice for aspiring critics?
DS: The most important thing is to develop solid writing and interview skills. At its core, food writing is journalism. If you are not a strong writer or if you do not have the skill to pull information from a chef who's unwilling to talk about his or her craft during a post-meal interview, it won't matter how well you know your way around a kitchen.
You also need to develop your palate, a database of flavors in your mind against which to measure the food you'll be eating. In other words, you have to eat a lot. The goal is to forge a palate that's both broad and deepâyou need to know what food is supposed to taste like across a wide spectrum of cuisines. Part of developing your database also entails understanding the chemistry of how flavors and textures work together; Harold McGee's âOn Food and Cookingâ should be required reading.
This should go without saying, but it's important to be an adventurous eater. I understand it can be challenging to cope with foreign textures and flavors. But in this job, being a picky eater is not an asset. The more boundaries you create, the more your database will suffer, and the less effective you'll be at reviewing.
And don't be afraid to be provocative.
MT: Why would anyone leave this awesome job?
DS: Reviewing restaurants for the City Paper has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. It's been a privilege to review restaurants for City Paper during what continues to be an amazingly vibrant time in the Philadelphia restaurant scene. And, believe me, it pains me deeply to give it up. But a fresh and exciting opportunity has opened at my day job that I simply could not resist. In order to fully exploit it the way I want to, I'll need to spend more time in the office, which unfortunately will leave little time for a full schedule of restaurant reviewing.
|Hugs For Soldiers|
|The Girl Scouts "Cookies From Home" program sends treats to troops fighting overseas|
Nothing is more seasonal in February than Thin Mints, Caramel deLites and Peanut Butter Patties. That's right, fat kids, it's Girl Scout Cookie time. Though this fat kid loves nothing more than mowing down a sleeve of Thin Mints like she'll never have wear a bikini again, there comes a point where one must back away from box.
But how can anyone with a pulse resist those adorable little Girl Scouts with their big eyes, earning their way to summer camp through advanced cookie marketing? Support the kids (without the calories) and our men and women in the armed forces by participating in the Girl Scouts' Cookies From Home program.
Just buy a few $3.50 boxes from any Girl Scout for inclusion in cookie shipments to troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last year Liberty USO of Pennsylvania & South Jersey, who facilitates the shipments for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, delivered 4,626 cases all over the world. That's 55,512 boxes of sweetness for folks who will actually burn it all off during P.T .
You can find Girl Scout troops selling cookies near you by entering your Zip code into their Cookie Locator; do it now, 'cause the cookie sale ends March 7 and doesn't return until Jan. of 2011.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Vinyl's fanciful label by poster artist Jim Pollock|
One of the first craft beers I ever really got my tongue around was Magic Hat #9, brewed in Burlington, VT. Not quite as bitter as a true pale ale but still appealingly dry and slightly touched with apricot, #9 was a veritable staircase out of my grim, sweaty NattyIce dungeon into the sunshiny wonderland that is craft beer.
Magic Hat's Spring Seasonal Variety Pack, samples of which arrived at my door on Tuesday accompanied by a branded coaster in the shape of a record (pictured), includes the brand-new Vinyl, a limited-run amber lager.
Magic Hat scores straight off with unique graphic design that should grab consumers by the eyeballs when the beer is on the shelf. Vinyl's whimsical label artwork is by artist Jim Pollock (he of Phish concert-poster fame), who is also producing a limited-edition Vinyl poster series to benefit the nonprofit Waterwheel Foundation.
Once cracked, the 12-ounce bottle poured a deep coppery color with a moderate bright white head that quickly dissipated. The nose is slightly toasted and grassy -- true to the Vienna or amber lager style, fruitiness from esters is considered a defect. This has none. On the tongue is a solid, not-too-sweet malt backbone with a fresh bread quality and a very slight, crisp hop presence that finishes dry. Vinyl is certainly easy-drinking at 5.1 percent ABV, the result of lagering at the low end of ale fermentation temperatures with bottom-fermenting yeast.
Overall Vinyl is extremely quaffable -- smooth, clean and pleasant. It's what Yuengling Lager would taste like if it wasn't mass-produced crap. You can find Vinyl, as well as the Spring Seasonal Variety Pack, with Magic Hat's Sipcode locator.
Performance Enhancing Meat Snack Company founders Brian Levin and Matt Keiser were riding the chairlift towards a day of skiing when they discovered that their breakfast package of beef jerky had been soaked with energy drinks spilled during the previous night's revelry. Undeterred, the pair consumed the dried beef anyway, and soon realized that the caffeinated liquid had added both an undeniable boost and appealing tenderness to the bark-like strips. Perky Jerky had been born.
"A true story," Levin assured me over the phone. "That was the inspiration, anyway." Levin and Keiser, who met as undergrads at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, realized they "wanted to make a cool and special product" and spent four years perfecting the recipe for Perky Jerky. "We marinate the beef in eight ingredients, one of which is guarana, a sort of Brazilian fruit cousin of the coffee bean which is naturally caffeinated," Levin explained. "It's only available in "original" flavor now -- a sort of teriyaki -- but Turkey Perky Jerky is coming soon." Each one-ounce serving of jerky has 60 mgs. of caffeine (for comparison, a Red Bull has 80 mgs.), but since it is metabolized with protein, "the energy curve is steadier and lasts longer," says Levin. "There's no sugar crash."
The partners, who live in Colorado, have focused on markets in skiing areas so far, but are eager to break into Philadelphia. "We're looking for stores to carry it in Philly," said Levin. "I so miss the Philly food trucks, and I can't find a decent pretzel anywhere else on earth."
Perky Jerky can be purchased on the Web; local retailers who might like to carry the product can e-mail Brian[at]perkyjerky[dot]com.
|Photo l Neal Santos|
|Fettucini with pink sauce and scallops at Lafayette Bistro|
-- Trey Popp visits Lafayette Bistro in Fairmount and points out patron absence despite decent Mediterranean-Tunisian influenced eats, including the "decadent and delicious" pink-sauced fettuccini with scallops, pictured above.
-- Drew Lazor followed the floating aromatics of Vietnam all the way to UPenn's campus. He can't Pho King believe the underground operation he found.
-- As the restaurant world turns, flips, and turns again, Feeding Frenzy has the skinny on new joints to check out like Hoof + Fin, Garces Trading Company and Healthy Bites ToGo. Also, the elusive liquor license has been granted to anxious Zavino.
The James Beard Foundation has just released their list of semifinalists for their 2010 Restaurant & Chef Awards, and hot damn, Philly is reppin' hard.
We cherry-picked our local men and women in white out of the master list (which you can see here) after the jump.
Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurant Organization, Philadelphia
Marc Vetri, Vetri, Philadelphia
RISING STAR CHEF OF THE YEAR
David Gilberg, Koo Zee Doo, Philadelphia
Charles âChipâ Roman, Blackfish, Conshohocken, PA
Lee Styer, Fond, Philadelphia
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Koo Zee Doo, Philadelphia
OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF
Carla GonÃ§alves, Koo Zee Doo, Philadelphia
Jessie Prawlucki, Fond, Philadelphia
OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE
OUTSTANDING WINE AND SPIRITS PROFESSIONAL
Michael McCaulley, Tria restaurants and Fermentation School, Philadelphia
Greg Moore, Moore Brothers Wine Company, Pennsauken, NJ, NYC, and Wilmington, DE
Fountain Restaurant at The Four Seasons, Philadelphia
BEST CHEF: MID-ATLANTIC
James Burke, James, Philadelphia
Pierre Calmels, Bibou, Philadelphia
Douglass Dick, Bona Terra, Sharpsburg, PA
Terence Feury, Fork, Philadelphia
David Gilberg, Koo Zee Doo, Philadelphia
Jeff Michaud, Osteria, Philadelphia
Konstantinos Pitsillides, Kanella, Philadelphia
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia
|Photo l Todd Quarles
|This was NOT at a costume contest.|
Saturday, Feb. 20 is shaping up to be rife with opportunities for mass consumption -- good thing all those snow days have gotten us into fightin' (read: heavy drinkin') shape.
The Institute (549 N. 12th St.) will be roasting whole pigs and pouring draft Yards brews from 2-7 p.m., including IPA, ESA, Philly Pale Ale, Brawler and a special firkin of George Washington Porter. $40 buys all the pork and pints you can handle, plus vegetarian options and mashed sweet potatoes.
Chris LaPierre has a Situation. His class-defying golden barleywine is strong, has a big nose and will definitely appeal to ladies who understand a Situation can be more than just dark and sweet. Join Lappy, co-conspirator Suzanne "Beer Lass" Woods and Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes at Iron Hill Maple Shade (124 E. Kings Highway, Maple Shade, NJ) from 1-5 p.m. for The Situation release party complete with big hair, majorly broiled tans and a bedazzled array of faux Affliction gear. (That's for the costume contest, kids.)
We told you about the Foodery Beer Academy on Wed.; class is in session at Local 44 (4333 Spruce St.) at 3 p.m. on Saturday. $15 scores tastes of 12 brews across a range of styles and instruction on expanding your beer vocabulary.
Pomegranates, a fruit associated with fertility and hospitality since ancient times, only became commercially popular in the last decade as research revealed the berry contains enormous amounts of vitamin C, potassium, minerals and antioxidant polyphenols. Separating the tiny, juicy arils (the edible seeds of the fruit) from the white, bitter membrane that surrounds them is the task that makes breaking down pomegranates a messier and more time-consuming endeavor than peeling an orange.
The Arils Removal Tool (ART) won the 2010 Fruit Logistica Innovation Award for its design, which takes the spatter and stain out of the pomegranate process. A halved pomegranate is placed cut-side down on the screen of the three-part tool, over a rubber collection cup. The fruit is covered with the rubber dome cap and then smacked vigorously with a heavy spoon (not included), knocking the seeds into the collection cup.
Et voilÃ , a cupful of tasty, healthy arils for ready consumption. The ART is available locally at Fante's Kitchen Wares Shop (1006 S. Ninth St.) or on Fante's Web site for $14.99.
- barstool scientist
- Brew Revue
- Chef Salad
- Dirty Dishes
- Don't Front
- Eat This Immediately
- Field Trip
- Food and Art
- Food and Holidays
- Food and Movies
- Food and Music
- Food and Politics
- Food and Sports
- Food and Web
- Food Blogs
- Food Books
- Food Events
- Food News
- Food TV
- Happy Hour Hopper
- In Print
- Meal Ticket
- Menu Time
- Not So Quickfire
- Notes from the Weekend
- On Wheels
- Patio Drinking
- Philly Beer Week 2010
- Private Chef POV
- Product Placement
- Snack Time
- Stiff Drank
- Ticket Stubs
- Top Chef
- Weekly Candy
- Weird Regional Foods
- We're Here to Help
- Where'd We Eat?
- Drew Lazor's Ill-Advised Rant Factory
- Ill-Advised Ranting
- The Week Without Meat
- Philly Beer Week 2009
- Real Big
- Where'd I Eat Last Night?
- Top Chef Masters
- The Good Word
- Next Iron Chef
- Arterial Terrorism
- Food and Radio