Archive: March, 2009
I phoned Drew L. ï¿½ Mr. Meal Ticket ï¿½ while cabbing down Walnut on Wednesday to tell him that I spied signs going up and custom furnishings getting re-configured and heading into Strongbox ï¿½ Brett Perloffï¿½s new, kinda-privï¿½ bar with consultants Andrew Greenblatt and Wayne Schulick, etc. at ye old Monkey Bar spot. It didnï¿½t open on Wednesday as surmised in a recent Icepack. But Perloff mentioned theyï¿½d Twitter and send e-mails out when they were ready.
|The tables glow, apparently.|
I guess this means theyï¿½re ready:
We have set out to create a place ï¿½ a nightlife experience ï¿½ that does not yet exist in this city. At the outset, we realized that the most important element to accomplish the ultimate nightlife experience is not the size of the venue, the lights on the wall, or the complexity of the specialty cocktails. While all of those things are important ï¿½ and rest assured, we have payed close attention to layout, design and cocktails ï¿½ they are simply not the MOST important. The single most important factor is, without a doubtï¿½ï¿½ï¿½the people. With that in mind, our venue will be hypersensitive when deciding who will pass through the door each night. While the standards may be higher on a Saturday than a Wednesday, know this: There will always be standards. We understand and champion the notion that our product is very much about who you are standing next to and who you can see from across the room. Itï¿½s about knowing that when you arrive, you are at Philadelphiaï¿½s elite social ground zero. Itï¿½s imperative to provide an atmosphere where our guests feel comfortable networking, flirting and celebrating because of the people they are doing so with. There will be no compromise. Sometimes luxury isnï¿½t about material things but rather the experience. And the luxury of this experience wonï¿½t be about the label on the bottle you are drinking but rather the people you are drinking that bottle with.
|Photos | K. Ross Hoffman|
The sun's still struggling to come out from the clouds on this blustery first day of spring, but that's not stopping small but respectable crowds from gathering at Rita's Water Ice locations around the city to celebrate with a free frozen treat. The chain's 1511 Spruce Street branch opened at noon today ï¿½ an hour later than usual, to better prepare for the onslaught ï¿½ and they were backed up almost immediately.ï¿½ That's because the entire third-grade class of the Independence Charter School showed up (for a well-deserved break after a week of state standardized testing) as soon as the store opened for business.
Well, not exactly business. As manager Stan Scott puts it, "It's not always about making money ï¿½ today is all about the love." The four fast-working members of the "treat team" loudly concurred. Scott expects a few thousand customers over the course of the day; the staff mentioned they'd be getting reinforcements for when schools let out this afternoon.
Once the third-graders cleared out, giddy and grinning, the line shrank to a more manageable two dozen or so, still long enough to allow time for some weighty decisions. "I've already changed my mind five times about what flavor I want," one girl exclaimed. In addition to standbys like mango and cherry (no sour apple today, sadly), there's a special new option on offer: the pale pink "mystery flavor," whose distinctly berry-ish taste is suspiciously reminiscent of strawberry lemonade.
Actually, I'll let you in on a little secret: I got a behind-the-scenes look at the operation and happened to spy the mixing instructions for the new flavor. It turns out the ingredients are: "sugar," "stabilizer" and "mix."
|Photos | K. Ross Hoffman|
Meal Ticket dropped by Ladder 15 (1528 Sansom St.) yesterday to grab some pics and details for y'all.
Though word the other day was that the gargantuan gastropub from the Mad River guys would not open to the public until next Friday, partner Mike Kearney tells us they'll definitely by up and running for any and all patrons next Thursday, March 26 at 9 p.m. They'll be offering passed menu samples until next Sunday, when they'll kick off with regular daily hours of 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The space, an old firehouse, has an interesting feel ï¿½ it's a bit like an industrial ski lodge, what with all the mahogany and steel intermingling throughout. A fireplace framed by a container full of birch logs sits on the ground floor between two bars; on the mezzanine level, a series of two-top tables rest next to cage walls filled with rocks. (Kind of hard to explain ï¿½ check the pic above.) Plasmas throughout. A third floor, which will be available for private parties, should be ready in about a month's time, says co-owner Max Tucker.
After the jump, check out the latest menu (some minor changes from this one), specialty cocktail list and beer/wine lists.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|But will they explode in the microwave?|
Today I just noticed Just Born Sugar-Free Peeps in the hyper-pastel Easter candy aisle at CVS.ï¿½ The diatetic treats are made with Splenda, and carry the appetizing warning that "excessive consumption may cause stomach discomfort and/or a mild laxative effect." Good times! Anyway, since that the female half of Meal Ticket is a card-carrying candy fiend, the sugarless marshmallow chicks had to be put to the test in a side by side comparison with traditional, corn-syrup filled Peeps.
|Traditional Corn-Syrup Peeps||Sugar-Free Splenda Peeps|
|Looks||Slightly mashed and misshapen,
these are less than gorgeous,
even in spring green
|Packaged in a wasteful but effective plastic box, these chicks get the star treatment and wind upï¿½ looking cartoonishly perfect|
$1.50 for 10 Peeps,
|$1.50 for three larger-than-average
Peeps, equaling one serving
|Taste & Texture||Crispy sugar exterior provides a
subtle crunch to the very soft, fresh
Peep marshmallow. Very sweet.
|No sugary crunch or texture contrast. Marshmallow is still soft,
but does not spring back when bitten. Less sweet than regular
Peeps, with a slight chemical off-flavor characteristic of sugar alcohols.
Behaved in the predictable manner, blowing up
Swelled into a hostile blob-like MegaPeep.
140 calories per 5 Peep serving, 0g fat,
60 calories per 3 Peep serving, 0g fat,
Gold-standard Easter basket filler.
Cheap, unhealthy and way sweet.
Lacks the crispy outside/soft inside texture
Visit Just Born's Web site, marshmallowpeeps.com, to find stores that carry Sugar-Free Peeps, or to take a tour of the Just Born factory in Bethlehem.
In this week's food section, I wrote about my experience recreating the famous roast chicken recipe from Zuni Cafï¿½ in San Francisco. Thanks to some sage advice from Zuni chef/owner Judy Rodgers, the results were extremely successful. Above, check out step-by-step photos of the entire process, from the beginning dry brine to the triumphant finished product. After the jump, read the full recipe from Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
UPDATE: Here's what Zuni bird looked like right as I pulled it out of the oven. "Kittens Inspired by Kittens" quotes courtesy of Michelle and Kibby:
Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
From the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
Recipe source: msnbc.com
Serves 2 to 4
For the chicken:
- One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
- 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
- About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- A little water
For the salad:
- Generous 8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
- 6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried currants
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or as needed
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered
- 1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part
- 2 tablespoons lightly salted Chicken Stock or lightly salted water
- A few handfuls of arugula, frisï¿½e, or red mustard greens, carefully washed and dried
Seasoning the chicken (Can be done 1 to 3 days before serving; for 3-1/4- to 3-1/2-pound chickens, at least 2 days)
Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough ï¿½ a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.
Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove and herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper )we use 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken). Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but donï¿½t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Starting the bread salad (Can be done up to several hours in advance)
Preheat the broiler.
Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all of the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust. Reserve the top and side crusts to use as croutons in salads or soups. Brush the bread all over with olive oil. Broil very briefly, to crisp and lightly color the surface. Turn the bread chunks over and crisp the other side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear the chunks into a combination of irregular 2- to 3-inch wads, bite-sized bits, and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.
Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.
Place the currants in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside.
Roasting the chicken and assembling the salad
Preheat the oven to 475. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 or as low as 450 during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking by 5 to 10 minutes.
Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
Place the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesnï¿½t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over ï¿½ drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour. [NOTE: Even though it's in the original instructions, Rodgers tells us she doesn't think it's necessary for home cooks to flip the bird like this anymore. We didn't and our chicken turned out just fine.]
While the chicken is roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and set in the hot oven for a minute or two, just to warm though. Add them to the bowl of bread.
Place a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Donï¿½t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold in. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again. Taste a few pieces of bread-a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well. Since the basic character of the bread salad depends on the bread you use, these adjustments can be essential.
Pile the bread salad in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil; set the salad bowl aside. Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time.
Finishing and serving the chicken and bread salad
Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes of so.
Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting oven, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.
Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.
Set the chicken in a warm spot and leave to rest while you finish the bread salad. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.
Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.
Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste-the juices will be extremely flavorful.
Tip the bread salad into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle-wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.
Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the warm platter, and nestle the chicken in the salad.
Capitalizing on leftovers: Strain and save the drippings you donï¿½t use, they are delicious tossed with spatzle or egg noodles, or stirred into beans or risotto. You can also use them, plus leftover scraps of roast chicken, for the chicken salad which follows.
|A little tequila, then a little blood.|
... and you've got the limited-time Benito Juarez dinner at Xochitl, ending tomorrow night.ï¿½ Chef/owner Dionicio Jimenez's pre-Hispanic menu honors the guy who kicked the French out and became united Mexico's first president. Meal Ticket previewed the menu in February, and it knocked our gringo socks off.
The $45 prix-fixe gives you choices, including grasshopper tacos, breaded and fried veal brains and frog legs, among other, more familiar options.ï¿½ General Manager Sergio Ruiz created coursed cocktails that harmonize with each item, but one of Xochitl's staple drinks, tequila chased with sangrita, works brilliantly as well.
Sangrita, which means "a little blood," is a blend of fresh tomato, orange, lemon and lime juices spiked with hot chilies. A sip of sangrita follows a sip of tequila, the spicy, refreshing juice smoothing the liquor's way.
Sangrita can also be blended with tequila, ice and a bit more lime juice to create a Vampiro, the bastard baby of Bloody Mary and Margarita.
Ruiz takes a precise approach to bartending ï¿½ he always uses jiggers to ensure his cocktails are perfectly balanced -ï¿½but Meal Ticket works in a more offhand style.ï¿½ A splash of this, a dash of that; it's all about modifying things to your own taste. Easy recipe after the jump.
Xochitl, 408 S. Second St., 215-238-7280, xochitlphilly.com
Meal Ticket's Take on Sangrita
Go Get This:
Three parts tomato juice
One part lemon juice
One part lime juice
One part orange juice
Lots of your hot sauce of choice
Then Do This:
Blend well in a pitcher. Taste after the first addition of hot sauce, add more if desired, and add cayenne pepper a tiny dash at a time. That stuff is powerful. Rim shot glasses in a mixture of salt and cayenne, if desired. Serve with neat shots of good tequila. We like Siembra Azul Blanco.
|Snapshot from the Create Dunkin's Next Donut Gallery
|Check my Richie CrunchCream front and center!|
Ever wandered into Dunkin' Donuts and wished you could frankenstein up the crueller of your wildest dreams? You can now. Part of the You 'Kin Do It ad campaign, DD is offering fans the chance to give cyber birth to and name their custom fatty and enter it into theï¿½ Create Dunkin's Next Donut contest ï¿½ the grand prize winner gets $12,000 and a the joy of seeing their personal donut desires commodified nationwide.
Choose a shape, dough, filling, icing and a host of sprinkly toppers for yours; then register with the DD to enter. Work up a catchy name and make your artist's statement of inspiration for the win.
Good naming is key. My fave so far: Donut on the DL. Avoid anything "cheesecake"-themed or named. The contest is cheesecake-saturated already.
There are few weird ingredients, like chocolate chipotle filling, that could be exploited into a vaguely ethnic creation for that affirmative-action appeal.
Taste on your mind's tongue. Cherry filling, maple icing and Reese Pieces equal vomitdonut.
|Erick Wong | SF Chronicle|
The best fruity brew you
The first few days of warm weather has us thirsty for some patio-friendly quaffs. We caught up with DRAFT magazine editor-in-chief Erika Reitz, who took a moment to talk aboutï¿½ fruit beers' new place in the sun. DRAFT reviewed six fruit brews in their March/April issue ï¿½ to subscribe, check out their Web site.
Meal Ticket: What are the origins of fruit beer?
Erika Rietz: Oh, I donï¿½t have the best answer for that question ï¿½ the origin of beer is biblical. Actually, the first beers were fermented from honey. I donï¿½t think there is aï¿½ good answer for that question ï¿½ itï¿½s pretty difficult to say.
MT: Are fruit beers gaining in popularity?
ER: Yes! They are creative beers that people enjoy because they have an idea what they will be ï¿½ people can relate to it. With new versions of fruit beers, and youï¿½ll find more on the market now because they are popular, and craft breweries are allowed to express creativity and reach out to new beer drinkers.
MT: Are all fruit beers sweet, low-alcohol brews, like the popular Lindemanï¿½s Framboise?
ER: There is a total range. People donï¿½t know that its not supposed to taste just like one fruit.ï¿½ Say, Watermelon Wheat [from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco] is a wheat beer and the watermelon is a complement. The well-known Lindemanï¿½s fruit beers are lambics, which are sour and then the fruit is added. People think of those and itï¿½s kind of misleading. Any kind of beer could have fruit added to it. It depends on the baseline style. For example, Gordash Beer Company in Ft. Lauderdale makes Mack in Black, an imperial stout fermented with a Belgian yeast strain with pomegranate added to it. This gives the robust qualities of a stout with pomegranate underlying it.
MT: What foods pair well with fruit beers?
ER: These are so different from one style to the next, so there is no hard and fast rule. It depends on the style of the beer. Sweet beers, like Oï¿½Fallon Cherry Chocolate (MO) or Lindemanï¿½s Framboise (BEL), you should pair with chocolate.ï¿½ If you pair the actual fruit with something, it will probably work with the beer.
|But you can get this tart take on a Berliner Weisse.|
MT: Yes, it seems like some of these beers work best standing alone. That Watermelon Wheat just needs to be paired with a sunny day.
ER: Absolutely! That is such a refreshing beer ï¿½ you donï¿½t pair watermelon with many other things ï¿½ maybe a refreshing salad. But those round, big flavor profiles are so complex that they are just great standing alone.
MT: What American brewers are making great versions of fruit beers?
ER: There are so many right now, itï¿½s hard for me to pick just a few! Dogfish Head in Delaware makes a Berliner Weisse, Festina Peche, with some really wonderful peach touches to it. The Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment is one of the best. Iï¿½ve also had my best fruit beers from homebrewers! You can really find awesome fruit beers at your local brewpubs, as well.
VendrTV, the street food Web series that debuted in February, just released its first Philly episode. Check out host Daniel Delaney digging into a falafel platter from Christos' (known colloquially as "The Falafel Man") at 20th and Market.
Living on the Vedge posted her take on the cultish cart last summer. Though we'll make an exception in Kelly's case, we generally don't trust those who worry about the inclusion of deliciously char-grilled chicken. Don't fight it. Just let it happen.
|Become a novice Itame (sushi chef) at Otolith|
This Saturday, March 21, you can learn to make sushi at home with Otolith's Amanda Bossard, using only sustainably caught seafood.
Bossard's novice sushi-rolling winter session concluded on March 7, and she is progressing onto intermediate work.ï¿½ Classes are held on the first and third Saturday of every month. "I whipped up a program for people who are pure novices, or had maybe attended a class or rolled sushi at home," Bossard explained. "I'm hoping as the students progress, we can move on to crazy fun things." She pauses. "Provided I have the liability insurance to hand out that many sharp knives."
This week's class will focus on rolling maki with king salmon, king crab and sweet pink shrimp, all wild-caught from unthreatened fish populations.
Otolith's entire raison d'etre is to provide consumers with fish that is environmentally responsible. When asked about farmed fish, Bossard noted that wild-caught does not always equal sustainable. "We look at them both [wild-caught and farmed fish] as extremely challenging, requiring oversight and responsible managing."
"It's easier to characterize certain wild-caught fish as sustainable," she said,ï¿½ "But fifty percent of seafood consumed is farmed.ï¿½ It's not something that is going away, so we have to find ways to farm fish better.ï¿½ There can be no world without it."
Otolith sushi classes are held every first and third Saturday, 7-9 p.m., $25; 124 W. Girard Ave., 215-426-4266, otolithonline.com
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