Archive: April, 2009
In this week's Feeding Frenzy, we shared a few new items off the spring menu at Mï¿½mï¿½ (2201 Spruce St., 215-735-4900, memerestaurant.com). Now things are getting even more sunny thanks to chef/owner David Katz's decision switch his once-a-week lunch service to strictly fried chicken. That's right ï¿½ on Thursdays (starting next week), drop in and throw down $11 to cop some pollo, a homemade biscuit and a High Life. There'll also be sides like mac 'n' cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, etc. Fingers are getting greasy just thinking about it.
Back on the main menu, Katz adds that he's going to start doing some more Moroccan-style dishes ï¿½ think housemade merguez sausage, grilled kefta (ground meat kebabs) ï¿½ inspired by his grandmother (mï¿½mï¿½).
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Don't Front is a new occasional Meal Ticket feature in which I explain to you why you should not hate on the many terrible food items I enjoy.
Scrunchy Marshmallow Dreams (SMD) is generic-ass Lucky Charms from ShopRite. I'm going to go to bat for Brand X here by listing a few reasons why I believe this cereal is vastly superior to its General Mills counterpart:
- SMD is something like $2.50 to $3 cheaper than Lucky Charms.
- This is purely anecdotal, but I feel as though the marshmallow-to-oat ratio in SMD is much higher than in Lucky Charms. There's nothing worse than a bowl full of soggy-ass sugar-coated oat pieces with no mallow accompaniment because you ate all the rainbows and pots of gold and whatnot at the outset.
- Note the shape of SMD's oat piece ï¿½ it's a five-point star, meaning there is plenty of sharp surface area that aids in the collection of marshmallows with each spoonful. Lucky Charms' oat pieces, on the other hand, are shaped like the letter X, Jesus fish, etc. ï¿½ the GM cereal engineers clearly didn't think this shit through. The large-brained geniuses behind SMD simply improved on a flawed original model.
- SMD has a hot air balloon-shaped marshmallow, which reminds me of this and therefore it is better than Lucky Charms.
- The Irish Leprechauns make me uneasy, so the fact that SMD's mascot is a stoned-looking bear is comforting.
- IT'S CALLED SCRUNCHY MARSHMALLOW DREAMS Y'ALL
Non-Colicchio'ed version of the picture after the jump.
Top Chef host and constant Meal Ticket fixation Padma Lakshmi recently posed for Allure's Naked Issue, which hits newsstands on April 21. Her brief Q&A with the magazine is sure to infuriate people with weight issues worldwide:
ALLURE: What did you do to prepare for the shoot?
PADMA LAKSHMI: "I exercised a little bit extra, but I actually think I look better when I have a little bit of weight on ï¿½ my breasts are fuller, and I'm curvier than when I'm at my thinnest."
Crazy ï¿½ I feel like I look better when I gain weight, too! We have sooooo much in common, Padma.
|Photo | Jessica Kourkounis
- Trey Popp has his sights on chef Nicholas Cassidy's Front Street BYO Sautï¿½, and he likes what he sees.
- Who's the American Dream? Ernesto Atrisco, that's who ï¿½ theï¿½ Acapulco native came from nothing, but now owns two businesses in Philly, including new Mexican restaurant El Costeï¿½o. David Snyder gives it a try.
- Quinoa is so 2008. At least according to our Lauren F. Friedman, who runs down her Top 5 favorite "strange" grains. Available at Whole Foods and Essene, each member of Fried's hit list is healthy, hearty and atypically satisfying.
- Lauren Fleming always knows What's Cooking ï¿½ as in, check out her info-packed blurbage on DJ brunch at Cantina, a Sam Adams Brewfest in Manayunk and more.
- In Feeding Frenzy, I got your notes on Old City's Bocca, Michael's Cafe on Passyunk, the opening of Q and the new spring menu at Mï¿½mï¿½.
|Photo l Michael Persico|
|Beer served mountain-style|
For more than a century, the Saranac (Matt Brewing Company) has turned out craft beer traditional to their German heritage as well as brews without precedent, like their new Pomegranate Wheat, included in their Beers of Summer 2009 mixed case.
A sunglass-wearing, pomegranate-juggling brown bear adorns the label of this Utica, New York beer, and the label promises "wheat beer fermented with pomegranate juice." As one of the oldest extant East Coast microbreweries, it is interesting to see Saranac take on the trendiest juice of 2007, pomegranate, for this offering.
A hearty pour from the 12-ounce brown glass bottle generates quite a bit of thin, creamy white head, which leaves minimal lace on the glass. The liquid is hazy and a pale amber-gold. A nose into the glass reveals a tart aroma that reminds me unpleasantly of tinned Chef Boyardee tomato sauce, or even worse, bile.
Sadly, tentative sips do little more than bear out the acidic spaghetti-and-meatballs theme. The brew is thin and assertively tart for a wheat ï¿½ perhaps a product of fermenting with pomegranate juice instead of adding it after lagering.ï¿½ It seems any natural sugar from the pomegranate juice was long digested by the yeast, leaving behind nothing that says "fruit" or "summer."
Hate to say it, but there is nothing redeeming about this foul punch. Stick to Berlinerweisse when searching for a wheatie with a bit of refreshing grapefruit sourness.
Got some new info on Village Whiskey, the 30-seat speakeasy-inspired brown liquor bar chef Jose Garces is opening this June at 118 S. 20th Street, right next to Tinto.
On the booze: close to 100 choices for whiskey, bourbon, scotch and rye, spanning countries of origin like Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Japan. Sparkling wines will also be on offer behind the bar, as well as a selection of American craft brews. Bar manager Paul Rodriguez has constructed a 16-cocktail list that'll feature both classic American tipples ("Prohibition") and nouveau drinks ("Repeal"). Examples include a nice Old Fashioned with Noah's Mill 114-proof bourbon (!), Boissiere Italian vermouth, Fee Brothers bitters, cherry and orange; a Sazerac, with rye, Herbsaint absinthe, Peychaud's bitters and lemon; the Latin Quarter Club, with Cazadores reposado tequila, Flor de Cana rum, Johnny Red, grapefruit and grapefruit bitters; and the Sansom Street Flip, with Charbay blood orange vodka, fruit and egg whites. Cocktails will range from $11 to $18.
On the eats: Chef de cuisine Dave Conn, who's currently at Tinto, will offer up raw bar, charcuterie and cheese selections, house-cured pickles and "American Bar Snacks" like housemade cheese puffs and spicy cheddar popcorn. More substantial plates will include three types of burgers (Angus beef, veggie and bison) and all-beef hot dogs with duck fat fries and Sly Fox boozy cheddar cheese sauce. Prices here will top out at $20.
|Emerick's barn in Hyndman, PA|
Maple sugaring season is reaching its crescendo right now in Pennsylvania, which is one of the top five maple syrup producers in the United States. To celebrate the sweet treat, retailers at the Reading Terminal Market are featuring the ingredient at Maple Daze this Saturday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Second-generation maple syrup producers Matthew and Stephanie Emerick will visit the Pennsylvania General Store to teach customers about the process of turning the sap of maple trees into syrup, cream, sugar and candy. Their maple syrup, produced in Hyndman, Somerset County, will be available at a 20 percent discount during Maple Daze.
|Emerick's Maple, on Ebay|
Emerick's maple candy, with
The festivities will be focused at the Center Court of the Market, where you can try such treats as:
- Cupcakes with maple-buttercream icing from Flying Monkey
- Down Home Diner's pulled pork with maple, made by owner Jack McDavid
- Bassett's maple ice cream
- Maple fudge, maple walnut fudge and maple-cream filled chocolates from the Pennsylvania General Store
- Stephanie Emerick's maple sugar candy, "the most teeth-shatteringly sweet substance known to man," according to Pennsylvania General Store owner Michael Holahan
Meal Ticket caught up with Holahan, who along with his wife Julie has owned the Pennsylvania General Store since 1987. Holahan invited Matthew's father Ed Emerick to visit the Market 1992 as a way to convince his doubtful customers that maple syrup was indeed made in Pennsylvania.
Holahan on the basics of syrup-making:
To produce maple syrup you need two things: maple trees and mountainous terrain.ï¿½ Mountainous terrain is important because cool evenings and warm days are required.ï¿½ You want the trees to still be pulling energy from ground during the cold night.... feeding itself at night and producing sap. Then as the temperature warms during the day theï¿½ sap runs.ï¿½ When it gets too warm, the sap becomes bitter and you don't want to eat it.
After the jump, read Holahan's anecdote about introducing Emerick's Pennsylvania maple syrup to a suspicious public.
I actually started selling PA products in the RTM in 1987, and I had a maple syrup producer who stopped wholesaling.ï¿½ I heard about this big maple fesival in Somerset County, PA, on the Maryland border.
I went to this festival in 1988 which was really great ... a big event in a very small town, a very rural part of the state. Ed Emerick won the blue ribbon and I figured I should buy the winner's maple syrup for the store... he was suspicious of me, this guy from Philly. He and his wife lived up in a mountainous area ... he said he had so few neighbors he could walk outside naked and not disturb anybody.
I started buying syrup from him, and people in the store would ask why was I selling maple syrup from Vermont in the Pennsylvania General Store. I'd show them it was from PA, and they'd say, we don't have maple syrup here. I had to figure out a way to convince people that syrup comes from PA, so I invited Ed out in 1992 to meet people.ï¿½ We had a pancake eating contest ... the event continued for many years and Ed would always bring his young son Matthew.
We stopped doing it in part because we had a family and it became hard to pull off, and there was no space in the Market to do it. We were doing pancake breakfast for the firefighter's hepatitis C awareness fund, and eventually the maple thing became taken over by the firemen.
We decided to revive the event this year, and I called Ed up and sadly, his wife is dealing with cancer. But his son Matthew is married and has a baby now, so Matthew and his wife are coming out to teach everyone about maple syrup.
Matthew will be doing a thing his dad always did ... he pours heated maple syrup into this wooden trough on legs and works it back and forth and it converts into maple sugar. The syrup crystallizes into solid sugar, and it's very cool to watch.
So it's back to the future ... the next generation of Pennsylvania maple syrup makers selling in the Market.
SNACK TIME: getting high off ramps, Waldorf gets avant Belgian makeover, Rx still burns it up at brunch, where the cougars will circle come summer, a local's guide to Champagne
|The Sustainable Kitchen Cookbook|
Every Wednesday, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what's simmering.
- Art Etchells teases his Ramping Up for Sping article for the Metro on Foobooz, as well as posting Pub & Kitchen's brand-new spring eats and wine menu. Bye-bye Brussels sprouts, hello boquerones!
- That old apple-and-raisin warhorse, Waldorf Salad, gets a Belgian makeover by Neal at Burning Pasta. Click over for the sparky orange-infused olive oil and a brand-new va-voom picture of the blogger.
- Kelly of Living On The Vedge ventures to "high Spruce" and finds that brunch at Rx is still live after all these years, though the kitchen did manage to burn Vrapple.
- Adam's got a bad jones for summer. He admits it by posting the menu for Chip Roman's upcoming Shore destination, Blackfish Stone Harbor on Blogalicious. The cougars are oiling their hides even now in preparation.
- David McDuff's Food & Wine Trail plugs Food & Wine writer and Champagne resident Peter Liem's ChampagneGuide.net. For $89 a year, subscribers are privy to Liem's expert tasting notes for more than 600 sparklers of choice, as well as in-depth profiles of estates and producers for an insider's guide to those tiny bubbles.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
I recently made my way across the country to Los Angeles for a few days of vacation. No, I didn't see any celebrities. But I did gain like five pounds. Pictures and recap of my trip after the jump.
On my first night in town, the girl and I landed an early table at Pizzeria Mozza, the brick-oven pizza parlor from chefs Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali and NY restaurateur Joe Bastianich. The hype surrounding this one was thicker than one million vertically stacked Little Caesar's crusts ï¿½ Meal Ticket's Felicia D. had tried it and loved it. The L.A. Times gave it a three-star review. And pizza scholar Ed Levine of Serious Eats ï¿½ who quite literally wrote the book on the topic ï¿½ said in 2007 that the Highland Avenue restaurant might be "where you'll find the best pizza in the world right now." I half-expected to see the reincarnated corpses of Pope John Paul II and Frank Sinatra high-fiving each other behind the counter when I walked in.
The spot was packed for early Wednesday night, which I took as a good sign. We ended up getting shoehorned into a teeny two-top next to a table of middle-aged gay guys who all resembled Brian Grazer. Our server, a tall, sleepy-eyed dude who had the look of a collegiate volleyball player, was as pleasant as can be as we tossed in our order ï¿½ a marrow plate with accompaniments of roasted garlic, toasted baguette and a sea salt; baby peppers topped with tuna; a beast of a meat pie topped with tomato sauce, mozz, sausage, salami, bacon and guanciale (pig cheeks); and a sauceless pizza with mixed mushrooms and taleggio and fontina cheeses.
My opinion? Starters were tasty. The pizza? It was ... good. The meat lover's was rich in all the right places, and a subtle hand with the sauce and cheese ensured the deep flavors of all those greasy, amazing toppings (housemade fennel sausage was my pick) weren't overwhelmed. The mushroom pie was aromatic as hell, but I couldn't help but wish that some sauce had been applied here ï¿½ the salty bite of the taleggio quietly begged for an off-sweet accompaniment. The dough, Silverton's canvas ï¿½ she's a lauded baker ï¿½ was perfectly crackly and light in the middle, but I found the framing crust heavy and bready, not unlike a wheat-based hula hoop.
So Mozza's pizza is good. I would definitely go back and try more. But did the face of Christ appear in the crema of my double espresso, as I was basically promised? Naw.
On Night 2, the girl somehow finagled us a table at The Bazaar by Josï¿½ Andrï¿½s, inside the way-outside-my-pay-grade SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. (Peep game: No one is better at talking her way into a supposedly impossible-to-land reservation than this girl. Get like her.) The Philippe Starck-designed restaurant, which looks a bit like what would happen if Salvador Dali, Tarsem and the cast of characters from Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes had a really sterile orgy, is the hallucinogenic magnum opus of chef Andrï¿½s, the renowned elBulli alum best known for his successful Latin spots in the D.C. area.
There are two dinner menus at The Bazaar: One's traditional Spanish tapas, while the other's straight-up crazy molecular nutso stuff. Though I hit up some deliciously recognizable items ï¿½ fat kumamoto oysters floating in olive oil like high-style sardines, tissue-paper-thin jamon iberico de bellota (ham from black Iberian pigs that feed only on acorns) ï¿½ we focused most of our energy on consuming science experiments. Some truly odd (and intermittently amazing) things on offer here. Cotton candy-wrapped foie gras. A baby ice cream cone filled with flying fish roe. Buttery slabs of toro draped atop watermelon (in place of rice in a nigiri setup) with a potent jalapeno slice and Don King-like poofs of some type of, ahem, "air" (I forget what kind precisely). In a truly innovative coup de grace to Joey Vento and his ilk, a "Philly cheesesteak" (hollow "air bread" filled with melted cheese and topped with decadent thin-sliced rich-person beef) and a "Hilly cheesesteak" (same thing, but with mushrooms instead of steak). And perhaps the nerdiest dessert on the planet ï¿½ a nitro coconut floating island, with liquid nitrogen-dunked meringue resting atop bananas and passion fruit drizzle like a cream-colored pith helmet. Crack that helmet with a spoon and it shatters like an egg from outer space, spilling its whipped meringue guts all over the fruity battlefield. So very cool and so very good.
I had fun, but did the experience as a whole "arrive like fireworks bursting in the night," as L.A. Times reviewer S. Irene Virbila recently wrote in her criticism-free four-star coronation? Not precisely. I found myself chuckling at the sheer silliness of it all throughout the meal. I know that's the point ï¿½ stuff like this is supposed to be playful ï¿½ but at the end of the day, I realized I was laughing more at the Fosse-ian hand movements our various servers used while describing Brussels sprouts and the sunburnt European businessmen strutting around sockless in $900 loafers sipping "Magic Mojitos" than the inherent whimsical novelty of Andrï¿½s' crown jewel.
We ate normal person food for the remainder of the trip.
The next day, we took a drive out to Orange County ï¿½ Laguna Beach, specifically ï¿½ to visit my dude Chris Boucher. Despite your nasty notions of this town thanks to the MTV show, know that it's actually a very quaint, peaceful and beautiful place ï¿½ kinda like a Left Coast New Hope. Boucher took us up the road from his place to Taco Loco, a sick little Mexican counter where we grubbed out on carnitas, calamari and fish tacos. I sipped on a decent Hemp Ale from Humboldt Brewing.
That evening, made our way back to L.A. to meet up with some old friends and quickly became drinkdrankdrunk at a handful of different bars. You know what that means ï¿½ junk food! A stop-in to a 7-Eleven to get beer (be jealous, PA) ended with armfuls of munchies, including El Sabroso Pork Cracklins (holler) and a too-weird-not-to-buy tallboy of Budweiser with Clamato ï¿½ literally that beer mixed with tomato and clam juice. It tasted exactly how you might expect it to taste. (That's my L.A. resident friend Jenelle wielding and sampling it in the photos.) Laterlaterlater that night, I paid my first-ever visit to the famed In-N-Out Burger, where I was instructed to order a double-double (double burger, double cheese) "animal style," which means they smother your grub in a Thousand Island-like relish-y dressing and fried onions. My memories of this experience are admittedly fuzzy, so the only thing I can really tell you about it was that I ate all my food in about 5 seconds and enjoyed the shit out of it. It was so incredibly satisfying and made the whiskey in my tummy go to sleep.
On our last day in the city, we drove down Santa Monica Boulevard to check out Point Point Joint, a Filipino eatery with several locations. I grew up with Filipino grub, but since there's but one Pinoy restaurant in Philly ï¿½ Manila Bay in the Northeast ï¿½I wanted to check out what L.A. had to offer. Ooh right: The place is called "point point" ("turo turo" in Tagalog) because you do just that ï¿½ a bunch of sneeze guard-protected steam trays await you, and you let your friendly spoon-wielding attendant know what you'd like with a gentle thrust of the finger. I ended up ordering lechon (roast pork with super-crispy skin), fried bangus (milkfish) and pancit (a lo mein-ish noodle staple). The girl, who eats only seafood and no meat, had a bit of trouble here, as every Filipino dish in the history of ever has some sort of animal in it. She eventually landed on salmon belly and fried rice. Sorry about that!
For our final dinner in Los Angeles, we hit up Real Food Daily, an organic veg restaurant in Hollywood that'd been recommended to me by quite a few people. My first experience with tempeh left something to be desired, so I decided to give the stuff another shot here by ordering "Vivas Las Pasta," a tempeh spaghetti and meatballs type of thing. Yeah ... I don't like tempeh. I gave it a fair shot, my vegan friends! I really did! I just don't like that stuff. I sampled some of my companions' dishes, though ï¿½ the Tac-O' the Town, with seasoned seitan and amazing chunky guac, was particularly yum ï¿½ and thought everything else was solid.
Looking back on it, I think I should attribute my occasional disappointments in L.A.'s restaurant scene less to the hype around specific restaurants (The Bazaar) than to the all-pervading buzz attached to pretty much everything in the City of Angels. As far as I can tell, it's just part of the natural machinations of the place, and perhaps I was just hypersensitive to this coming out from the East Coast. I wish I had a few more days to delve into some of the time-honored institutions (Pink's Chili Dogs, Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, El Cholo, etc.) I missed ï¿½ meaning I'll definitely be back. Here's hoping I'll see Justin Bobby or somebody next time.
Check out the premier episode of Rob Rawlings and Brendan Huffman's Salt Pepper Ketchup, a new Web series celebrating Philly street food. This one focuses on breakfast sandwiches. They'll release new installments every Tuesday at noon.
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