Archive: March, 2010
|A natural idea|
Though it is unlikely Philadelphia residents have anything blossoming in the garden right now, the spring planting season is just around the corner. File this one away for that summer day when you have more tomatoes than you can eat, and are really wishing for a few ripe peaches.
VeggieTrader.com is a free Web site where gardeners can barter or sell the overflow from their patch; those just looking for local produce can buy posted items available in their neighborhood. Their How It Works page has the nitty-gritty on the possible taxes, licenses and quarantine zones that traders should be aware of.
With only three weeks until the vernal equinox, tiny peat pots and seed packets are calling. Non-gardeners in search of exceptional local produce should mark March 15 on their calendars, when Greensgrow Farm opens their summer CSA to the public.
|Barbara Adams Beyond Wonderful|
Wine is fine for pairing with fermented edibles, but ale, in our humble opinion, is an even better partner. Learn some tricks with like-minded folks when cheese blogger Madame Fromage and Philadelphia Brewing Company conduct a cheese and ale tasting on March 13 at Quince Fine Foods (209 W. Girard Ave.) from 4-6 p.m.
Get schooled on how to connect the perfect pair (of beer and cheese, love connections are not included) while PBC brewer Dean Browne pours goodies including Rowhouse Red and Walt Wit. Email quince[at]quincefinefoods[dot]com to reserve a spot ($12).
Eight months after closing his restaurant Ansill, chef David Ansill has found a new home at Ladder 15 (1528 Sansom St.). Owners Max Tucker and Mike Mastellone, unhappy with Ladder's less-than-stellar food reviews, sorted more than 150 chef resumes before receiving Ansill's. "I called my partner immediately," says Tucker. "I was so excited. Our vision was for phenomenal food, and you need a phenomenal chef to make it happen I can't believe we got David Ansill."
Ladder's new menu, which is still in development, is essentially bar food. "This is the food I like to eat," says Ansill. "I'd rather sit at the bar and order a few apps instead of an entrÃ©e. It's affordable, social and very beer- and wine-friendly." The fryer gets a workout with curried lamb-filled "empanadas" ($9) and a fried cauliflower plate ($7) that Ansill freely admits he"stole from Mike Solomonov at Zahav. It does have a different sauce." Perhaps the piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance is the new Ladder 15 burger ground sirloin topped with wine-braised shortribs, mushrooms and caramelized onions on a Metropolitan Bakery brioche bun, sided with a bone of roasted marrow, black truffle aioli and a wee pitcher of truffle jus ($18).
New wine lists and rotating draft beer selections are currently in the works, but have been overhauled once already. Zach Smith, who opened the restaurant as a bartender, has taken the reins of the cocktail list, banishing the overly sweetened drinks that so annoyed City Paper critic Trey Popp in his May '09 review.
Check out the new menu here, and look for my debut booze column, Spirit Sister, in the March 11 print edition of City Paper for more on the story behind the big changes at Ladder 15.
UPDATE: Check out Ansill's full menu below.
|Click to enlarge|
|Photo | Drew Lazor
We love this place! Where is this place?
The Glenlivet Distillery, located in the craggy, mountainous Scottish Highlands in Speyside, is the oldest legal distillery in the parish of Glenlivet, having operated almost continuously since 1824. Glenlivet-brand whiskies, which are clean, light-tasting spirits -- a result of their characteristic lantern-shaped, long-necked stills -- are the top-selling malt whiskies in the United States and the second largest-selling brand globally.
XIX (Nineteen) restaurant (Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, 200 S. Broad St.) will host Glenlivet brand ambassador and whisky master Ricky Crawford at 7 p.m. on Wed., March 10 for a Glenlivet tasting dinner that showcases the spirit's unique flavor profile paired with chef Marc Plessis' four-course menu. Crawford will act as guide for dinner guests, sharing information about the Scotch whisky-making process as well as notes on each individual whisky.
A reception with hors d'oeuvres and Glenlivet 12 year old precedes the meal; courses paired with Glenlevit 15 year old (Hudson Valley foie gras), Glenlivet Naddura 16 year old (Maine rock crab), Glenlivet 18 year old (butter-poached lobster) and Glenlivet 21 year old (sticky toffee pudding) follow. The evening is capped off with a toast of the rare Glenlivet XXV 25 year old whisky. The $75 ticket price is inclusive of tax and gratuity, as well as the commemorative tasting glass used during the meal.
Tickets may be purchased at XIX restaurant, by telephone at 215-790-1919 or online at hyattbellevue.ticketleap.com; see the full menu after the jump.
|Photo | Neal Santos|
Surely you've caught a bit of the food-geek buzz surrounding the Old City location of Han Dynasty (108 Chestnut St., 215-922-1888), Han Chiang's third area restaurant. (For lots of details, read Trey Popp's Feb. 12 review.) If you haven't been in, though, there's no better way to get the full experience than by dropping by tonight for Chiang's first-Monday-of-the-month tasting dinner.
For $25 a head yes, twenty-five dollars a head Chiang will feed you Sichuan delights until you scream uncle. "I just start bringing food out," he says, "and I keep bringing it out until people tell me to stop." Most of the dishes are off-menu, too, so you won't quite know what you'll be eating until you arrive. In other words, this is not really for diners with multiple dietary restrictions and/or the picky-choosy. If you count yourself among the slightly adventurous, though we know a few local chefs who've attended the tasting and swear by it the deal is unbeatable.
The tasting starts at 7 p.m., and those interested are seated at a communal table. BYOB. Reservations aren't required, but encouraged.
|Real ale for real men|
In the early 1970s, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) coined the term "real ale," defined as "beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide." Real ales are also described by the vessel from which they are dispensed, as "cask" or "cask-conditioned" ale. Aluminum and stainless steel casks descended from wooden barrels are the most common, including firkins (72 Imperial 20-ounce pints, or one-fourth of a full barrel) and pins (half a firkin).
Yards Brewing (901 N. Delaware Ave.) will commemorate the tradition of fresh, locally produced cask ale when they commence hammering dozens of taps into as many bungs at 1 p.m. on Sat., March 21 at the second Real Ale Invitational. More than 25 breweries, invited expressly by Yards for their skillfully made cask-conditioned ales, will pour their best. Music by Jazz Horse, snacks, commemorative glassware and beer are all included in the ticket price ($50 advance/$60 day-of, if available), which can be upgraded to VIP ($65) for those who would like a private tour of the brewery with founder Tom Kehoe.
Eyeball the participating brewers after the jump. Ticket are available on Yards' Web site.
* Allentown/Bethlehem Brew Works
* Dock Street Brewing Company
* Dogfish Head Brewery
* Elysian Brewing Co.
* Flying Fish Brewing Company
* Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
* Manayunk Brewing Co.
* Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant
* Otto's Pub & Brewery
* Oskar Blues
* Philadelphia Brewing Company
* Rock Bottom Brewing Company
* Sly Fox Brewing Company
* Stewarts Brewing Company
* Stoudts Brewing Company
* Triumph Brewing Company
* Troegs Brewing Company
* Victory Brewing Company
* Weyerbacher Brewing Company
* Yards Brewing Company
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
Notes from the Weekend is a new Monday-morning feature that sees the members of Team Meal Ticket compiling all the food/drink highlights uncovered during prime eatin' time, Friday to Sunday. Consider this a place for good deals, great dishes, wicked cocktails, recipe triumphs (and tragedies), bizarro conversations and more. We're eager to share our notes, but especially excited to read yours. We encourage you to leave notes from YOUR weekend in the comments. Have at it!
FD: Felicia D'Ambrosio
MD: Marie DiFeliciantonio
AH: Alexandra Harcharek
DL: Drew Lazor
We were two sandwiches, a square pizza and way too many drinks into the night at Stogie Joe's (1801 E. Passyunk Ave.) when we learned that the bar did not accept credit. But we didn't mind using the on-site ATM: They have it worked out so you get a free pint of Coors Light or High Life if you show the bartender the receipt. If you're gonna drop $2.50 on a surcharge, don't do it thirsty. DL
At Los Amigos (461 Route 73 North, West Berlin, N.J.) on Friday, I quickly ditched my appointed seat on a long banquette for a bar stool after realizing a scary ex-boss and his catty wife were snacking on pre-dinner chips and salsa next to me. This put me in prime position to receive fear-numbing margaritas. MD
Grabbed an early bite at the bar at Meritage (500 S. 20th St.) on Saturday, where we learned that based on popular demand, they'll begin offering their Korean tacos as a special every Wednesday. Also tried a crazy-good new menu item: a fresh crab and papaya salad served with pomegranate-seed-studded avocado purÃ©e, passion fruit sauce and fried lotus chips. DL
The misreading of a biscuit recipe left me with a Stoli bottle covered in sticky dough (I really need to buy a rolling pin) and the post-bake realization that nowhere did the recipe instruct to "roll out the dough." It's a good thing that virtually any bread project can be saved with butter and honey. FD
We hit up the Vintage Brunch at Cantina Dos Segundos on Saturday, where we watched people paw through racks of dresses from Sweet Jane while DJ Kyle Miller spun reggae and soul. In between bites of berry- and caramel-topped hot cakes, friends fought over whether Dos Segundos' bacon-infused Bloody Mary or blood orange Mimosa was superior. In the end, though, it was a guava-infused margarita that won my heart. AH
Not sure why this hasn't earned more fanfare, but chef Mike Stollenwerk has rolled out his infamous $28 Sunday tasting menu, a staple at Little Fish (600 Catharine St.), at his newer, boozier fish (1708 Lombard St.). Pretty convinced there's no better deal in the city. The highlight of the five-course meal for us was a perfect carrot bisque poured tableside over chilled mussels and citrus segments. So orange, so good. Make reservations. DL
Sunday was spent learning how to make the anthracite coal-miners' cure for anything that ails you, Boilo. My mom taught me this recipe that her grandmother used to make with local moonshine in Mt. Carmel, Pa. Lacking homemade hooch, we purchased two gallons of 190-proof Everclear and earned much ribbing from the liquor store staff. My favorite line from the hand-written instructions: "at this point in the recipe the Boilo may explode." FD
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|My funky honey|
In a quality establishment, a typical 1-ounce serving of artisanal cheese with a blingy accoutrement and crisp carbohydrate vehicle generally runs $5 to $8. Though the virtuoso cheese gets butts in the seats, it is often the accompanying spiced nuts, infused honey, preserves or mostarda that coaxes moody fromage into really singing.
This must have been my reasoning when I bought a $25, 8.8-ounce (250-gram) jar of Sabatino Tartufi truffle-infused honey.
It was after the farm-table dinner at Talula's Table; I'll say Bryan Sikora's heady cooking must have fried my food-budget defenses. At any rate, I did retain enough sense to check that the honey did indeed contain the actual spendy fungus and not just 2,4-dithiapentane, the most common chemical compound (marked "truffle essence" or "flavor" on ingredient labels) that's blended with olive oil to produce inexpensive but one-dimensional "truffle oils."
Sabatino Tartufi truffled honey is distributed by Sabatino North America, headquartered in the Bronx. Its ingredient list reads: "acacia honey, white truffle (tuber albidum) 1.5%, flavour." The signature earthy pungency of fresh truffles, chopped and in evidence as a sort of floating plug on top of the golden liquid, is smoothed and tamed by the super-sweet honey.
The complexity of the fungus was highlighted when the honey was drizzled over Black River Blue from Wisconsin (purchased at Green Aisle Grocery, $5 for 8 ounces). The sugary, tongue-coating honey cut through with salty, citrusy blue cheese and the initial funky truffle attack gave way to a long thoughtful finish. The tartufi showed equal ardor for biscuits (pictured) that were too flat to call successful, but too tasty not to repurpose as a scone-like launchpad for other flavors. Sliced hosui (Asian apple-pear) provided the obligatory plant component and a watery crunch to an otherwise fatty plate.
Very well, very decadent. But worth the price? Here's a Bang vs. Buck breakdown:
One absolutely lavish serving of Black River Blue with Sabatino Tartufo truffle honey and Asian pear
One ounce of Black River Blue cheese at $5/8 ounces.: $.63
About 5 percent of the $25, 8.8-ounce jar of truffle honey: $1.25
One hosui pear from Hung Vuong Supermarket: $1
Though 25 clams is a lot of money to spend on a condiment, the stuff elevated the plate from the standard, well-loved combination of blue cheese, honey and pear to a transcendent, money-can't-buy-this kind of moment. Overall you're still saving major paper on a rare and unique gustatory experience -- excellent bang for your buck.
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