Archive: February, 2010
Before joining Team Meal Ticket, contributor Marie "Lucky Porkchops" DiFeliciantonio worked as a private chef for a prominent area family. As you can probably imagine, she's got a few stories.
The recent snowfall reminds me of a particular blizzard two years ago. Let us turn the clock back roughly 730 days to find me sitting in the kitchen of an estate in the tri-state area, where I worked as a private chef. I was roasting tomatoes with olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper, shallots and garlic, preparing them to meet their fate in a large stock pot via immersion blender.
I kept peeking out the window at the elaborately fashioned stone bird bath in the center of the courtyard. Snow piled and piled. Even as the nasty winds blew, the height of the snow never seemed to diminish. Without realizing it, I began pacing, worrying about how I would possibly mount the steep, quarter-mile driveway before tackling the hour-and-change drive home in my old Honda Civic. On my tenth trip to and fro across the kitchen, I came face to face with Mrs. X.
"Maaarrrie, what arrrre you doing?" (She LOVED to accentuate the long "A" sound in my name and roll the "R" as though she were French. She was not.)
"Oh, I, uh ... I'm making roasted tomato soup for your lunch, Mrs. X. Oh, and I am chilling some hard-boiled eggs for the egg salad you requested. And I have just brewed some â¦ "
"That will no longer be necessary. The Captain [this was her pet name for her husband, as he was a champion sailor] and I will be leaving for the afternoon."
"Of course, Mrs. X."
With that, she turned and walked away. I wanted to ask so many questions. Where the hell were they going in this weather? Did they really think their luxury sedans would get them past the garage door? Was I done for the day?
Lesson one of private chefdom, at least in my experience: Never ask questions. So I continued pacing. I finished the soup, packaged it and brought it down to industrial freezer in the basement that held another 25,000 soup varieties, along with back-ups of Mrs. X's favorite bread, muffins, ice cream, cookies, and Cryovac-ed meats. (Perhaps, in the future, it would also house disobedient employees?) I returned to the kitchen, prepared the egg salad then left it in the refrigerator neatly wrapped and labeled in a pretty crystal bowl.
I puttered around the kitchen organizing drawers, researching recipes and cleaning crevices for about an hour or so. Later, as I started getting a few dinner items thawed and prepped, I kept peeking out at the bird bath. I noticed another few inches of accumulated snow and an open service garage door, minus Gardener's SUV. Interesting. Hopefully, Office Manager was still around. I found her frantically ruffling through papers on Mrs. X's desk. "Office Manager, Mrs. X left pretty quickly and I didn't get a chance to ask her what she wanted for dinner. Did she mention anything to you? " I asked.
"Dinner? They left for the weekend. Gardener took the X's to a hotel downtown. Captain has a meeting tomorrow that he cannot miss. Everyone is gone, what are you still doing here?"
This where my eyes got all wide and my voice got all high-pitched. "I wasn't aware they were GONE gone. It would have been nice if someone let me in on the plans" â especially since it was getting downright nasty out there. "I already started thawing the steaks and preparing the gratin for dinner. Mrs. X came into the kitchen and canceled her lunch. Would it have been so hard for her to add, 'By the way, Maaarrrie, we won't be back for supper'? What is with these people?"
Office Manager stopped ruffling for a second. "I'm sorry. You know how things change around here."
"I do. But apparently not as soon as everyone else knows about it." I turned and stomped down the long corridor back to the kitchen. As I passed pictures, statues and antique vases, I fantasized about knocking them all down with a swing of my arm. But then I would be tasked with cleaning all of that up, I'm sure.
I'll save that move for my last day.
Sweets slinger It's A CupCake, which has been operating out of 958 N. Second Street since this past summer, is getting ready to open a brand-new retail space at 219 W. Girard Avenue either this weekend or on Tuesday, according to owner Mona Wilson. She and partner Erica Adams will offer a full array of dessert cupcakes, and there'll also be a retail aspect to the store (formerly run as the boutique Homebody), featuring giftable items like baby clothes candles, glassware, toys and pet stuff (dog-friendly cupcakes are on the way). They'll be open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 to 6.
Since the new space is not certified at this time to handle extensive cookery, Quince Fine Foods, right down the block at 209 W. Girard, will be the exclusive retailer of IAC's savory cupcake lineup, which includes varieties like buffalo chicken, Southwestern (spicy corn base, tomatoes, onions, lime chicken black bean sauce) and "Sassy Salmon" (spicy corn base, smoked salmon, Champagne mustard dill sauce).
During last year's crawdad season, which runs from Mardi Gras time till June-ish, Chris' Jazz CafÃ© (1421 Sansom St.) served 1,000 pounds of Louisiana crawdads to satisified crustacean-cracking customers. This year, Chris' owner Mark DiNinno plans on doubling that to 2,000 â yes, a ton of pinchy little critters for all y'all Fat Tuesday revelers.
Chef James Palmer, who'll be receiving live shipments of Red Swamp crawdads from a private Louisiana farm, cooks 'em up in a secret-recipe house boil (it includes potatoes and corn on the cob) and serves them by the 1.5- to 2-pound bucket for $10. They offer buckets of Coronitas to go along with the crawdads for the same price. Grab a bucket of your own weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and on Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Chef Palmer also has plans for dishes like crawdad mac 'n' cheese and crawdad mashed potatoes.
On Fat Tuesday this year (Feb. 16), Chris' will be doing a bottomless bucket deal for 20 bucks, as well as gumbo, Cajun beignets, King Cake and other NOLA specialties. Musical stylings by the Hoppin' John Orchestra, Philly's only "postmodern New Orleans-style brass band." Laissez les bon temps rouler, as they say.
This coming Tuesday, developer Bart Blatstein will break ground on The Shops at Schmidts, the second phase of the Piazza at Schmidts complex he debuted last year off Second Street in Northern Liberties. Half of the 100,000-square-foot space (currently the empty lot where Piazza shoppers enjoy free parking) will be dedicated to a new-look Pathmark grocery store, a two-story destination that'll feature a prepared foods elements and what's being characterized as "a dramatic increase" in local/sustainable products. (Sounds like it'll shape up to be a regional competitor for the Mega Whole Foods that recently debuted in Plymouth Meeting.) A bank, a hardware store and other as-yet-unidentified retailers will also take up residence in the complex; there are also plans for 600 new residential units in three free-standing buildings, with a landscaped courtyard in the middle.
Northern Libertarians have lamented the lack of a proper grocery store for years, so this project, on paper at least, seems to be a major boost for the 'hood.
The Shops at Schmidts is projected to be completed in late 2010.
Next week, this half of Meal Ticket is digging out of the snow and escaping to sunny, beautiful SAN DIEGO for a few days. Since it's our first time, we would love suggestions for places to eat and drink, as well as suggestions for stuff to do in general. Nine thousand fish tacos are a definite priority, as are brewery visits to Stone, Green Flash and Ballast Point. But what else? Please leave any and all ideas in the comments. Thank you!
Today marks the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and in true Philly fashion, five local bars have joined forces for a timely competition in the name of both charity and wanton drunkenness. The "Barstool Olympics," as it's being called, will involve the five watering holes named above â New Wave CafÃ©, South Philly Bar & Grill, *smiths, Swift Half and Kite & Key â duking it out to see who can sell the most $3 Molson bottles, as that prominent Canadian brewery calls 2010 host city Vancouver home. The competition, which runs through last call on Feb. 28, will end with (yes!) a medal ceremony for the gold, silver and bronze bars. Along the way, each spot will offer Canucktastic food specials, including Canadian bacon sliders (!), poutine and maple-glazed salmon salad.
A portion of the overall proceeds from the Barstool Olympics willl benefit the Fraternal Order of Police Survivors Fund, which provides support for the families of fallen officers.
|Photo | Neal Santos|
- Trey Popp visits the third location of Han Chiang's Han Dynasty (it's the first in Philly), and discovers that the owner's hyper-opinionated approach to Sichuan cuisine is exactly what our Chinese food scene needs.
- Felicia D says screw a Whitman's Sampler: Impress your sweetie for real this year by organizing a chocolate tour around the city. She's got all the spots to hit up, from Zahav and Betty's Speakeasy to Mr. Martino's on East Passyunk.
- In Small Bites, check out info on two locally crafted chocolate beers just in time for V-Day, Stumptown putting down roots in NoLibs (along with first word on a big cafe expansion) and chatter about chaat in West Philly.
- Alexandra Harcharek runs down the week in eats in What's Cooking, including a canning class and a NOLA-tastic Mardi Gras party at Reading Terminal.
- For word on the latest openings, check out Feeding Frenzy, which details Fat Salmon, Falafel Factory, Xochitl's new plans and more.
- Outside the food section, in Loose Canon, Bruce Schimmel visits the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture convention and finds that the outlook for local farmers is brighter than ever before.
Meal Ticket video vixen Felicia D. spent some time at the venerable Jim's Steaks at Fourth and South to get some first-hand experience building a cheesesteak. Above, check out her spatula-wielding skills (not bad for a first-timer, according to veteran grillman Ali) and get schooled on some Jim's history by owner Abner Silver.
Stephen Starr's Continental (138 Market St.), whose relevance to Philly's dining scene we've discussed here on Meal Ticket, has always been known for its martini list, but the restaurant has been getting into the beerier swing of things lately by introducing an eight-tap draft system. Check out the current lineup, which features local craft choices from the likes of Yards, Sly Fox and Dogfish Head, after the jump. (We're told Yuengling and Amstel Light will be the mainstays, with the rest of the lineup rotating regularly.) They're also offering flights for $9.50.
Yuengling Lager 16oz $4.50
Amstel Light 16oz $5.50
Yard's Philadelphia Pale Ale 16oz $6.00
Sly Fox Pikeland Pilsner 12oz $4.50
Dogfish Head 60 min IPA 10oz $6.00
N. Coast Brother Thellonius Abby Ale 10oz $7.00
Brooklyn Weisse 16oz $6.00
Bell's Double Cream Stout 10oz $5.00
Red Eye Flight 5oz Pours $9.50 * Sly Fox Pikeland Pils * Yuengling Lager * Dogfish Head 60 min IPA * Bell's Double Cream Stout
Connecting Flight 5oz Pours $9.50 * Amstel Light * Brooklyn Weisse * Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale * North Coast's Brother * Thelonious Abbey Ale
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