Archive: August, 2009
We've been hearing whispers about this for awhile, but now it looks like it's finally gone down: Tonight is the last night for Stephen Starr's Tangerine (232 Market St.). According to our source, the Starr Restaurant Organization plans to hold on to the space for catering and banquet purposes, with plans of reconceptualizing and reopening it as something new in the coming year. Staffers will be offered jobs elsewhere within the Starrship Enterprise.
The Mediterranean restaurant/lounge first opened in the winter of 1999. From former CP critic Maxine Keyser's Feb. 2000 review:
Despite all the opulent drapings, and the African wail of the music, there is no whiff of the desert here. When the black-garbed waiter describes the meal, you realize youï¿½re in a sophisticated urban venue, not Algiers (the most dangerous city in the world) ï¿½ more likely Paris. As in Starrï¿½s other places ï¿½ Buddakan, the Continental, The Blue Angel ï¿½ you are just an actor in a carefully scripted evening. Settle back among the stylish crowd and give yourself up to Moroccan food for neophytes.
The Good Word is a new weekly Meal Ticket feature where we ask Philadelphia food people questions. Weï¿½re going to start by highlighting the cityï¿½s many excellent food writers and bloggers, with eventual plans to extend beyond the scribeosphere. The questions will be different every week unless we come across a really sweet one we want to reuse. Want to nominate a future Good Word candidate (yes, you can nominate yourself), or submit ideas for questions? E-mail email@example.com.
In this installment of The Good Word, weï¿½re chatting with local food writer Adam Erace. He's best-known as the restaurant critic of Philadelphia Weekly, but you can also catch his work in Philadelphia Style, New Jersey Monthly, the Courier-Post and DiningOut Philadelphia. He also runs a personal blog, and is teaming up with his brother, Andrew, to open Green Aisle Grocery on East Passyunk Avenue next month. Slow down, Adam.
PW did a great job with its 50 Must-Eats story. How many of the 50 dishes have you personally eaten? And do you have a favorite item on the list?
I wrote 23 of the items, and have eaten all 23 either during reviews, research trips, personal dining and cooking at home. I'm kind of a milkshake/malt/float/ice cream soda maniac, so the frullato from Golosa is probably my favorite on the list right now, especially given the weather. It's thick with this great cappuccino-like froth on the surface and made with really dark chocolate, which I love, and fresh fruit and spices like cardamom and cinnamon. The frullato also comes in this modern curving beaker of a glass, like something you'd find at hip housewares boutique in Rome, with a bendy straw, which, let's be honest, makes everything better.
Former New York Times culture editor Sam Sifton was named the paper's new food critic this week, and unfortunately for him, there are pictures of his face all over the Internet. Since you're a critic who tries his best to stay anonymous, what's your take on this? How much does the incognito thing really matter? Everyone knew what outgoing Times critic Frank Bruni looked like.
Anonymity is definitely important, but it's also definitely an increasingly elusive state to maintain given the Internet, Facebook, etc. That said, I'm not planning on wigs, glasses and a Gael Green hat parade to stay undercover. I find walking in (rather than making reservations), a credit card with an alias and just acting inconspicuous work well. To my knowledge, I've only been recognized during reviews a handful of times, and more often than not, it winds up being detrimental to the experience. Once I was reviewing a new spot, really splashy opening, really well-known chef, and I knew from the beginning I was made. The food was wonderful, but the service sucked. Skitterish, hover-y, an onslaught of managers coming over to see how everything was between every course. The extra attention hurt the overall experience.
Of all the meals you eat out, what percentage of them are straight-up crappy?
In a given year, during which I'm typically eating out two to three times a week, the percentage of truly crappy meals is only about 10 percent. On the other side of the spectrum, truly perfect meals are only about 10 percent, as well. The remaining 80 percent all falls somewhere in between. There are restaurants with insane food but creepy servers I feel like could strangle me in my sleep; ones with smart, well-edited beer lists but god-awful burgers; others with good looks and nothing below the surface. All these factors push a review in positive, or negative, territory. But it's rare that a restaurant doesn't have at least one redeeming quality.
Have you ever taken a date out to a review meal? If so, how does that turn out?
Taking dates on reviews either goes incredibly well, if the girl in question is really into food and curious about my job, or incredibly badly. I'm actually a pretty terrible date during a review. I don't talk much, I'll tell you what to order and eat your food while you're in the bathroom. It's an occupational hazard. You could tell me you invented Post-Its, and I'll nod along, wondering the whole time about whether that flavor in the sauce is allspice or clove.
Chef John Strain has been handed the reins at Valanni (1229 Spruce St., 215-790-9494). Strain, chef de cuisine for five years under R. Evan Turney, is taking over now that Turney's focusing the whole of his energies on his new pub Varga Bar. After the jump, a full section-by-section run-down of what Strain's introduced to the restaulounge's menu, including his brand-new vegetarian tapas section.
LUMP CRABCAKES 14
spicy mango puree
STEAMED BABY CLAMS 8
jalapeno-lime drawn butter
SALMON & GOAT CHEESE AGNOLOTTI 10
beurre-blanc, American sturgeon roe
JALAPENO POPPERS 6
buttermilk bechamel, Oaxaca cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, sofrito coulis
BAKED BRIE 9
herbed French baguette, Grand Marnier-soaked cranberries, sliced pears, hazelnuts
pico de gallo, tortilla chips
phyllo dough, spinach, feta, caramelized onions, tzatziki
CHICKPEAS FRITES 6
roasted garlic aioli
MARINATED OLIVES 6
baked feta, olive oil, fresh thyme
MARINATED TOFU 6
pomegranate molasses, tahini, smoked paprika
"FIERY" POTATOES 5
smoked paprika, chipotle aioli, toasted cayenne
marinated grilled zucchini, carrot and chickpea salad, fingerling potato salad, feta and olives, pickled beets, balsamic red onions, cucumber salad, white beans and pesto, hummus and pita
BEEFSTEAK TOMATO NAPOLEON 12
buffalo mozzarella, aged balsamic, basil ice cream
WATERMELON & FETA SALAD 9
micro arugula greens, sherry vinaigrette, mint, 50-year-aged balsamic
NEVAT w/ pickled beets
SPAIN, Catalonian goat cheese, bloomed rind, sweet w/ tangy finish
GRAYSON w/ gingered buckwheat honey
USA, cow's milk, washed-rind, tangy, fresh and sweet
CASHEL BLUE w/ bacon and fingerling potato salad
IRELAND, mild, creamy, somewhat soft, caramel and cedar-y flavor
FREE-RANGE CHICKEN TAGINE 21
fingerling potatoes, haricot verts, apricot, almond, mint jus
GRILLED YELLOWFIN TUNA 25
jasmine rice, peas, pickled cucumber slaw, balsamic reduction
HONEY-GLAZED MAGRET DUCK BREAST 25
turnip puree, peach and bell pepper succotash
CRISPED SKIN STRIPED BASS 24
Israeli cous cous, baby artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, saffron vermouth beurre blanc
GRILLED DAY BOAT SCALLOP 24
crispy potato gnocchi, truffled corn, caramelized onion sauce
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Chef Adedotun "Dot" Adepoju tells Meal Ticket his West African eatery Tastee D's, in the former Django at 526 S. Fourth Street, will open to the public this coming Monday, August 10. We had details on the spot back on July 16.
UPDATE: Check out the full menu after the jump. Many of Adepoju's dishes are traditional to his native Nigeria.
Fried chicken wings marinated with tomato blend sauce 8
Fried Yam slices with a tomato blend sauce 8
Deliciously seasoned chicken or turkey gizzard, fried and marinated with a tomato blend sauce 6
Meat Pie or Fish Pie
Pastry stuffed with savory beef or fish 5
Black-eyed peas blended in a savory tomato blend sauce with Corn beef and hard-boiled eggs 8
Large bananas fried and served plain or with tomato blend sauce 6
Hard-boiled egg removed from its eggshell, wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep fried 8
SNAIL on a bed of lettuce (seasonal)
Succulent seasoned snails marinated in onions, peppers and tomatoes, fried on a bed of fresh lettuce 12
Three Grilled beef marinated in a blend of traditional African and Exotic Spices served on a skewer 12
Assorted Meat Pepper Soup
Broth cooked with a blend of African herbs and exotic spices and served with beef, tripe, and cow leg 12
Fresh Fish Pepper Soup
Broth cooked with a blend of African herbs and exotic spices and served with fresh fish 10
Goat Pepper Soup
Broth cooked with a blend of African herbs and exotic spices and served with goat meat 10
Seafood Pepper Soup (seasonal)
Broth cooked with a blend of African herbs and exotic spices and served with seafood 12
Mix of Cabbage and fresh lettuce, eggs, cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, cheese with African dressingï¿½ 8
Chicken Caesar Salad
Romaine lettuce with grilled chicken with Caesar dressing 8
Fresh lettuce, eggs, cucumbers, onions, peas, carrots, tomatoes, cheese, croutons with House dressing 9
Steamed White Rice w/ Corned Beef Stew and Plantain
Corned Beef cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices served with Basmati Rice and large bananas fried. 13
Steamed White Rice and Plantain w/ Choice Meat and Efo Elegusi or Efo Riro
Spinach cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices and grounded melon seed or Spinach served with Basmati Rice and large bananas fried. 17
Jolof Rice and Plantain w/ Choice Meat
Deliciously cooked rice in onions, tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional spices and large bananas fried. 18
Jolof Rice and Plantain w/ Choice Meat and Efo Elegusi or Efo Riro
Deliciously cooked rice in onions, tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional spices and Spinach cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices and grounded melon seed or Spinach and large bananas fried. 22
Fried Rice and Plantain w/ Choice Meat
Tastefully seasoned rice stir-fried with mix vegetables and large bananas fried. 16
Fried Rice and Plantain w/ Choice Meat and Efo Elegusi or Efo Riro
Tastefully seasoned rice stir-fried with mix vegetables and Spinach cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices and grounded melon seed or Spinach and large bananas fried. 20
Cous Cous and Plantain w/ Choice Meat
Deliciously seasoned cous cous stir-fried with mix vegetables w/ shrimp and large bananas fried. 15
Plantain and Spinach w/ Choice Meat
Large bananas fried and Spinach cooked with tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices. 12
Bean Cake (Moin Moin) and Spinach w/ Choice Meat
Black-eyed peas blended in a savory pepper-based sauce with Corn beef and hard-boiled eggs and Spinach cooked with tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices 14
Beans and Sweet Corn and Plantain w/ Choice Meat
Beans cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices and sweet corn and large bananas fried. 14
Beans and Sweet Corn and Plantain w/ Choice Meat and Efo Riro
Beans cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices and sweet corn and large bananas fried. 18
Ewa Aganyi (Beans cooked in palm oil stew)
Ewa Riro (Stewed Beans mixed with peppers)
Yam Pottage and Spinach w/ Choice Meat
Cubed yam cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with crayfish and traditional herbs and spices and Spinach cooked with tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices 18
Yam Pottage and Spinach w/ Choice Meat and Beans
Cubed yam cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with crayfish and traditional herbs and spices and Spinach cooked with tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices 24
Yam w/ Corned Beef Stew and Choice Meat
Boiled yam and Corned Beef cooked in tomatoes and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices 15
Steamed White Rice w/ Designer Stew and Plantain
Pepper based stew with combination meats served with basmati rice and large bananas fried. 20
Whole Tilapia served w/ Choice Rice and Plantain
Tilapia tastefully seasoned with traditional herbs and spices served with Fried Rice or Jolof Rice and large bananas fried. 30
Vegetable Stews served w/ Cassava/ Rice/ Yam Wraps and Choice Meat
Efo Riro: Spinach cooked with tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices 16
Efo Elegusi: Spinach cooked with tomato and pepper-based sauce and ground melon seed with traditional herbs and spices 16
Ila: Okra blend with traditional herbs and spices 14
Ila Asepo: Okra blend cooked in tomato and pepper-based sauce, palm oil with traditional herbs and spices 18
Ogbono: Okra blend cooked with ground mango seed in tomato and pepper-based sauce, palm oil with traditional herbs and spices 18
Obe Ata: Traditional tomato and pepper-based stew 12
Made to order
Gbegiri: Blended peeled beans, palm oil and traditional herbs and spicesï¿½ 18
Ewedu: Chopped jute leaves, cooked and served with stewï¿½ 18
Cassava/ Rice/ Yam Wraps
Amala: Roasted Yam skin flour kneaded to firm dough in boiling water
Eba: Cassava flour kneaded to firm dough in boiling water
Ground Rice: Rice flour kneaded to firm dough in boiling water
Pounded Yam: Yam flour kneaded to firm dough in boiling water
Beef Chunks (fried beef in a tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices)
Chicken (baked or fried with traditional herbs and spices)
Fish (fried whiting in a tomato and pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices)
Goat (fried in a tomato pepper-based sauce with traditional herbs and spices)
Fish and Chips 7
Beans served with plantain and beef or chickenï¿½ 8
Fried Rice served with plantain and beef or chicken 8
Jolof Rice served with plantain and beef or chicken 8
Apple Pie w/ Vanilla Ice Cream 5
Chocolate Fudge Cake 4
Sweet Puff-Puff 3
Sparkling Cider 10/bottle
Tastee Dï¿½s Tropical Thunder 5
Virgin Pina Colada 4
Bitter Lemon 2
Apple Juice 3
Cranberry Juice 3
Orange Juice 3
Pineapple Juice 3
|Mrs. Pleasant's flickr|
|Raw mango "cobbler"|
Certain humans are too prolific to be limited to a single profession. Lawyers morph into bakers (see Kate Carrara of the Buttercream Cupcake Truck); a psychiatrist turns from the couch to the batch freezer (John Reitano of Capogiro Gelato).ï¿½ Emily Amarnick, proprietor of Mrs. Pleasant Vintage in the Piazza at Schmidt's, is a super-slashie.ï¿½ Artist, vegan cook and shop owner, Amarnick treats her various endeavors as one lifetime calling.
From her blogspot profile:
Emily has been into vintage clothing and eating well for as long as she can remember. She's always been fascinated by the story each piece tells, as well as the art that goes into preparing food.
In addition to presiding over an array of men's and women's vintage apparel, Amarnick sells her ever-changing healthful vegan and raw fare in her shop.ï¿½ If time is of the essence, she also prepares and delivers a week's worth of vegan and raw meals to customers' doors.ï¿½ Her sample menu for the last week of July included creamy avocado soup, an "everything but the kitchen sink salad", veggie bahn mi, a Middle Eastern sampler of tabbouleh, hummus, babaganouj and dill-cucumber salad and finishes off with raw mango cobbler and raw freezer fudge.
Learn the Pleasant way tomorrow at 2 p.m., when Amarnick will share her methods for mango guacamole, nectarine salsa and dill white bean spread at Foster's Homewares' free Saturday cooking demonstration.
Mrs. Pleasant at Foster's Homewares, 399 Market St., 215-671-0588, shopfosters.com
We originally had Kong, Bistro 7 chef Michael O'Halloran's Hong Kong street food spot (702 N. Second St.), opening this week, but now we hear they've firmed up an opening next weekend, sometime between August 14 and 16. More details soon; for now, hit up Felicia D's May 13 rundown on the concept.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Looks like Aso Sushi has opted not to renew a 10-year lease at 719 Walnut. Their last day of business was this past Friday, July 31.
Who'd have thought that a well-mannered vegan celiac chanteuse would be the first person to give five world-class chefs pause?
Yes, universally adored emaciated-boy crush object Zooey Deschanel was featured on last night's Top Chef Masters, joining NPH and the dudes from Lost as the latest example of this miniseries' celeb-pulling power. ("I loved her in Elf!" exclaims Art Smith.) And yes, Z is a vegan ï¿½ and gluten-intolerant and anti-soy. The girl probably has more wispy scarves and vintage berets than she does true meat-eating experiences.
While tasking these bad-ass chefs to create vegan dishes may seem a bit like tasking a philharmonic orchestra to play Jonas Brothers songs ï¿½ just ain't in their wheelhouse ï¿½ you gotta admit it's a fascinating, albeit cruel, thing to watch on TV.
Quickfire: So there was one other "celebrity" featured this ep, as well ï¿½ Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock, whose over-coiffed handlebar mustache rivals Rick Bayless' goatee as least awesome facial hair ever to appear on Bravo, joined former cheftestant Spike Mendelsohn (D.C.'s Good Stuff Eatery) and Sang Yoon (L.A.'s Father's Office) to judge a burger cook-off between the remaining chefs ï¿½ Bayless, Smith, Hubert Keller, Anita Lo and Michael Chiarello. (Eating a shitload of McDonald's for a month makes you burger expert? I got nothing.)
Keller, who owns Burger Bar locations in three cities, does a beef/roquefort burger with rustic taters. Bayless serves his with three types of guac ï¿½ judges hate on it, and he hates on them back all nasal-like ("There's three kinds of guacamole that are very unusual ... they can't even perceive that!"). Chiarello makes a 2.5-pound beast dubbed "hamburguese enorme." Art wraps his patty in a hoecake with fried green tomato chips, while Lo does some Dali-inspired cheese soup that causes Mendelsohn to recoil and compare the burger element to "boiled meat." She gets shafted with 1.5 stars, while Chiarello and Bayless tie up with 4 a pop.
Click here for a joke about Lo that's probably a little more racist than it is topical.
Elimination: In a challenge eerily similar to the plot of every one of Deschanel's movies, the chefs bend to her every whim because she is cute and emits the sweet stench of unattainability when she sweats. They're asked to cook a five-course vegan luncheon for a group of 20 crunchy people, with each chef tackling one course.
And South-in-your-mouth Smith ï¿½ aw, Art ï¿½ so flummoxed by having to do a dessert without butter, lard or a combination of both, purchases rice milk ice cream (sadtrombone.com),ï¿½ ribbons it up with fresh strawberry and tops it with almond brittle for a lackluster meal-ender that not even Deschanel's look-on-the-bright-side compliments can save. He's offed with a total of 12.5 stars, while Chiarello takes home $10K for charity with his 22-star pasta effort.
Next week: Top Chef alums come back to assist the masters, including Dale, my favorite pissy Filipino chef!
A tipster tells Meal Ticket that your boy Jake Gyllenhaal, whose girlie Reese Witherspoon will be filming that James L. Brooks movie here till October,was just in Bacchus Market at 2300 Spruce. His order? "A bunch of salads," says our source, "but he did splurge on some tuna. He left in some SUV-looking thing with a bunch of tweens running after him." Always getting chased by the tweens ...
Above: Not the outfit Gyllenhaal was wearing during the stop-in.
|Photo | Jessica Kourkounis|
- Trey Popp finds that Sam Mink's revamped Oyster House hits all the right notes ï¿½ the menu's more ambitious than your average seafood restaurant's, but they don't take it too far. "I don't usually go looking for raw oysters in late July," he writes, "but it was hard to go wrong here."
- David Snyder heads up Baltimore Avenue to The Gold Standard Cafï¿½, from Abbraccio's former owners. An overreaching menu renders some dishes disappointing, but he does dig up a number of tasty highlights.
- Lock in your food itinerary for the week with What's Cooking ï¿½ the Stephen Starr/Garry Maddox BBQ cook-off and an Allagash beer dinner at Fork are just two upcoming draws.
- Feeding Frenzy has word of three openings ï¿½ Avril, Sakana Sushi Cafï¿½ and the new Shank's Original.
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