Archive: August, 2009
Today is the last day for 4 Corners Management's Loie (128 S. 19th St.), a source tells Meal Ticket. The bistro's shutting down to make room for Zama, former Pod chef Hiroyuki "Zama" Tanaka's Japanese restaurant that's aiming for a fall opening. We had more info on that project back in June.
Zavino (112 S. 13th St.), from the extremely well-traveled Steve Gonzalez, is up for an October opening in the bustling Midtown Village cluster that'll soon welcome newcomers like Michael Schulson's Sampan and Jason and Delphine Evenchik's Bar, among the many existing eateries/drinkeries. Chef Gonzalez will serve a seasonal, affordable Italian menu (with an "authentic European sensibility"), from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, in a space that'll accommodate just under 40. (Philly Chit Chat has an artist's rendering of the interior.) Pizzas will be fired in a wood-burning oven that'll blister dough at 900 degrees. Check out a few sample dishes after the jump.
- Artichoke pizza: thinly sliced artichokes, Swiss chard and pecorino Romano cheese
- Rosa pizza: tomato sauce and roasted garlic
- Margherita pizza: tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella, topped with fresh basil
- Polpettini pizza: tomato sauce and provolone cheese with veal mini-meatballs
- House-made beef ravioli with brown butter and sage
- Roasted red and golden beets with pistachios and goat cheese
- Roasted lamb with fried eggplant and mint
- Traditional panzanella
- Cheese and charcuterie
Le Cochon Noir, the West Philly barbecue/live jazz venue out by the Mann (5070 Parkside Ave.), has been serving up outdoor barbecue since opening July 4 weekend. But owner Jamal M. Parker tells Meal Ticket that there are big plans up for the business come fall. Soon they'll start moving the operation from outside (they have smokers and an auxiliary kitchen set up) to a 7,000-square-foot space inside the Philadelphia Business and Technology Center, which sits at the same address.
Features will include a glass-enclosed kitchen ï¿½ "I liken it to a 'show kitchen,'" says Parker ï¿½ an indoor smoker, a chef's table (also enclosed in glass), a raw bar and a steam kettle bar for ï¿½touffï¿½e and jambalaya. They're acquiring a liquor license to build up a wine portfolio to complement chef Daniel Rosen's grub. (As of right now, his specialties include St. Louis-style pork spare ribs, marinated barbecue chicken and sides like corn relish and mac and cheese.) Of course, there'll be an indoor stage for live jazz and blues, with long-term plans to add a deck to host steel drum and reggae performances in the summer of 2010.
Oct. 15 is the target date for the grand reopening, and Parker hopes most of all of these elements will be in place by then. Currently, Le Cochon Noir's outdoor space is open Fridays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 3 to 8 p.m.
The Good Word is a new weekly Meal Ticket feature where we ask Philadelphia food people questions. We're going to start by highlighting the city's 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, we're chatting with Nick Normile, the now 16-year-old who writes the blog Foodie at Fifteen. Normile, who's entering his junior year at Lower Merion High School, juggles classes, cross country and SATs with a weekend apprenticeship at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. (This is a kid who celebrated his birthday at Per Se.) For the record, the young cook says he wants to study business in college, with long-term plans to attend culinary school and eventually open his own restaurant.
We know you stage at Lacroix on the weekends, but we don't know how you landed the gig. When did you start and how did you get in?
One day about three years ago, the Inquirer did a special in the food section about cooking classes and demonstrations in the area. I saw that Lacroix was holding something called "Shopping with the Chefs," where people would go with the chefs at Lacroix to Di Bruno's, try some cheeses and pick out some ingredients, and then go back to Lacroix. The chefs would then show the guests how to cook the ingredients, and the guest would get a finished three-course lunch. I convinced my mom to let me go to this and I really enjoyed it. It was just me and a few adults and I was just talking with the chefs the whole time, telling them how I liked to cook, and at the end of the lesson, the chef told me that I could come back on weekends, which I've been doing ever since.
In addition to Lacroix you've apprenticed at Osteria and Amada. All top-notch spots ï¿½ all with excellent beverage programs. Do you ever feel jipped that you can't partake in wine and cocktails due to your age, given that they're important to a dining experience?
Yeah, I definitely wish I could try wine. Wine is kind of similar to cheese in terms of production (that it takes a lot of care to produce, that there are so many varieties from everywhere, that it tastes different depending on where it's from) and it really interests me. I'm going nuts on my 21st birthday.
Read on your Twitter that you believe there's a "strong correlation between food and my mood." Do you mean that you gravitate toward certain foods when you feel a certain way, or vice versa — do you find certain foods affect your mood, for better or for worse?
When I said that, I meant that the food I eat affects how I feel. It is definitely true that how we feel determines how we eat, but I think the reverse is true, as well. Eating good, whole, healthy foods makes me feel good, whereas heavy, fatty, processed food, when not eaten in moderation, makes me feel like crap (cheesesteaks, hamburgers). It goes deeper than that, but that's the basic idea.
Do you pack a lunch to bring to school, or do you eat cafeteria food? If you pack, run us through your average brown-bag meal.
I always pack a lunch. If I'm in a hurry, I'll do something like peanut butter, banana and dulce de leche on this great whole-wheat bread from a nearby bakery. If I have more time to prepare something, however, I'll crisp up the skin on a sous vide chicken breast and put it in a Tupperware with some grilled asparagus.
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Going Out of Business
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All of us at Cornerstone Market & Produce sincerely appreciate your business and friendship over the last year and a half. Unfortunately, however, we will be closing our business by the end of August and invite you to stock up on any of the items we have remaining in our store to complement your pantry.
We sincerely apologize to our customers who have come to rely on us day in and day out. If it was not for your support, we would not have come this far and we are truly grateful.
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The Elimination Challenge on Wednesday's season premiere was cooking a dish inspired by a personal vice. Zavala, formerly of El Camino Real and now at Xochitl, was sent home for a seitan-stuffed chile relleno (representing her fiery temper) that perplexed the judges. But the chef reveals that doing just this dish wasn't her initial plan. Zavala says she was under the mistaken impression that she had to cook two separate dishes, so she bought ingredients for a jalapeno cucumber gazpacho as well as stuff for the relleno.
"When I went back to the cast house, [I realized] we only had to have [one], so I thought maybe I should change my vice to that I don't listen well," laughs Zavala. (Note: When you say "one" on Top Chef, it's actually two plates, as you're actually required to double up your dish in the time limit ï¿½ oneï¿½ plate for photographers, one for the judges.) Weighing her options, she decided that doing the soup alone would be "kind of lame," so Zavala, who cooked with seitan regularly at ECR, said "fuck it ï¿½ I'll just go with it. ... I took a risk. That's what a Top Chef does, right? They take risks."
Zavala says that she observed that judges Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi, as well as guest judge Wolfgang Puck, were unfamiliar with seitan, or textured wheat gluten. "The only one who knew was it was was [judge] Gail [Simmons]," Zavala says. "She said, 'I've had it before and I enjoyed it. But for me, you didn't represent it well.' That was enough for me."
"I didn't sell it well and I didn't plate it very well," she adds of the dish, which is on the menu at El Camino Real. "But I definitely would've done it again. I felt other people kind of played it safe. I definitely wanted to stand out." She chalks up the dish's lack of heat (a criticism vocalized by the judges) to the fact that the woodfire grill in the Top Chef kitchen was extinguished by the time she got in the door. Since all 17 chefs couldn't fit into the kitchen at the same time, they had to cook in flights, and Zavala says there simply wasn't enough time to get the grill going again once her group hit the stoves, meaning she cooked her chiles at a lower temp than usual.
Zavala has nothing but kind words for her former employer Owen Kamihira, owner of El Camino Real, whom she says supported her all the way when she was filming Top Chef. That being said, she's extremely happy with her new gig ï¿½ she started a week ago ï¿½ at Xochitl under chef/co-owner Dionicio Jimenez. "I wanted to go a different direction with my career," she says.
Zavala laughs at the rumors that the Mexican restaurant hired her based on her appearance on Top Chef. "There was a lot of BS going on about why Xochitl hired me," she says. "Xochitl does not care about Top Chef at all. [Dionicio] is so old-school. He doesn't roll like that."
Zavala has no plans to put a seitan dish on Xochitl's menu.
Top Chef Masters, the 10-episode miniseries run that tested the limits of how much petty, humiliating crap one group of bewildered superstar chefs can be put through, is history. Who won?
The Chicago-based chef bested Hubert Keller and Michael Chiarello in a four-course cook-off judged by the Masters crew, the regular Top Chef-fers (Tom C., Padma and Gail, who should have a spin-off that involves them driving around in a Saturn and solving food-based mysteries) and past TC winners Harold, Ilan, Hung, Stephanie and Hosea.
The thematic approach for each course ï¿½ the final three had the help of their favorite sous chefs for the meal ï¿½ was melodramatic to say the least, but at the end of the day it was the ideal challenge for these three, all of whom
For the opener, the finalists whipped up a dish that represented their first food memory, Anton-Ego-scarfing-ratatouille style. Bayless, whose family ran a barbecue restaurant when he was a kid ("barbecue sauce coursed through my veins"), prepped smoked quail with watermelon. Chiarello got the ladies at the table to crack a little with his story of his momma guiding his hand over the gnocchi board. Keller accompanied his Alsatian lamb/beef/pork stew with a paint-a-peasant-portrait story about women in his teeny French village eating the stuff on laundry day. He's the only dude in history capable of making laundry day sound idyllic. "You can feel that he's been cooking that dish since he's been a child," coos Ilan, who probably used his leftover broth to drizzle-write his digits on a side plate for his new French BF.
Second, the chefs were asked to prep the dish that made them want to become a chef. Keller's beautiful salmon soufflï¿½ and Chia's polenta in a claspy jar were hits, but it seemed like Bayless ran away with this one thanks to a 27-ingredient Oaxacan black mole with ahi tuna. Alright fine, but I will say that I feel like food heads are predisposed to caressing mole over all other sauces because it's so whimsical and sexy, what with all the painstaking effort and million-and-one secret elemental components that comprise it. Mole is The Wire of sauces.
Third challenge ï¿½ each chef had to recreate a dish from his first restaurant. Ahh, so '80s. Bayless' cochinita pibil gave way to Chia's Miami-influenced ginger-stuffed rouget with mango salad and Keller's lamb chop with a vanilla merlot sauce. "Rick's speaking my language here," says Hosea.
Fourth and final task ï¿½ developing a "heady dish" that conveys where you're heading as a chef. Keller wants to stay budget-conscious since we're in a recession, so he serves sweetbreads (OK, affordable) and Wagyu beef cheeks (is Wagyu anything affordable?). Chia brines a short rib with five kinds of onions, while Bayless gets a little guff for draping chorizo "air" (too fussy for the Rickster?) atop a paella-type deal with tomato/jalapeno broth.
Each man gets stuck with a few quibbles at judges' table, but in the end, Bayless takes home the bragging rights and the $100K charity prize with a score of 18 stars, edging out Chia by one.
I definitely had some critical things to say about Rick and his presumptuous television personality, and I still think he's kinda enamored with the sound of his own voice, but it would be wrong of me not to point out that I didn't warm to the guy quite a bit as the championship round of Masters transpired. There's something about his geeked-out, child-like excitement over all aspects of Mexican cuisine ï¿½ even after cooking in the same style for decades ï¿½ that's infectious. I called his victory earlier this season and it's dope to see him give a hefty boost to his Frontera Farmer Foundation.
So congratulations of a well-deserved win, chef Bayless. (I'm still ambivalent about the fact that your brother is Skip Bayless, but we'll talk about that some other time.) Now producers: If Tom C. isn't a competitor next season, I'ma pitch a fit.
The International House of Pancakes location that took over for Passage to India (1320 Walnut St.) opened to the public this morning, a rep tells Meal Ticket. The chain's doing a "kids eat free deal" through Sept. 13 ï¿½ families with children 12 and under who eat in from 4 to 10 p.m. get a gratis kid's meal with the purchase of an adult entrï¿½e.
Who's excited? He is:
Meal Ticket had the scoop on Izakaya chef/TLC star Michael Schulson's Sampan back on July 13, but we've just snagged a few more details on the tour-of-Asia menu. Check out the latest teases after the jump. (Menu will be affordable, with prices hovering between $7 and $29.) The restaurant (122 S. 13th St.) will open sometime in November.
- Edamame dumpling with black truffles, onion sprouts and sake
- Tuna tataki summer rull with ponzu gelee, somen noodles and chiles
- Skate wing sandwich with oshinko, arugula and tartar sauce
- "Steak and eggs": braised short rib with egg and Asian pear
- Veal tonkatsu burger with panko, kimchee and katsu sauce
- Young fried rice with shrimp, gold chives and congee
- Crispy frog legs with Chinese celery and blue cheese
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