Archive: September, 2009
Before we get started, can everyone just talk a moment to bask in the they-are-good-sports glory that is this flyer for Sept. 20 Farmhouse Ale Dinner at SPTR (1509 Mifflin St.)? SPTR has had some great ad spoofs in the past, and they're keeping the tradition alive with this one, from chef Scott Schroeder in overalls to a foursome of the Newbold bar's lovely servers doing the coquetteish farmer's daughter thing. (Full flyer after the jump.)
Onto the event itself ï¿½ $75 a head might sound like a lot of money, but please take into consideration what you're getting. Schroder has invited chefs Sheri Waide (Southwark), Gene Giuffi (Cochon), Nick Macri (Beneluxx) and his friend Patrick O'Malley (Soho's Balthazar) to offer up all-you-can-eat grub walk-up buffet style. Menu hasn't been set in stone yet, but Schroeder sees Waide doing stuffed duck, Giuffi doing something with pork, Macri bringing some signature charcuterie (we hear he has some baby suckling pig legs hanging up in his curing room for prosciutto) and O'Malley handling all things bread and pastry.
Then there's the all-you-can-drink farmhouses, which we all need to drink before it gets too chilly ï¿½ a total of 10 on tap, with plenty more in bottles (a few teasers on SPTR's site). "We don't what to put it out there exactly what," says owner John Longacre of the full brew lineup, "but there are definitely going to be some treats." (He also hints of a potential surprise guest chef, but won't say who.)
Cop tix on the Web or call 215-271-7787.
|Click to enlarge|
|Photo l Drew Lazor|
|What does a pabbit wish for?|
On Wednesday, Sept. 9,ï¿½ Pub & Kitchen (1946 Lombard St.) will celebrate its first birthday with $2 drafts, $3 glasses of ï¿½End of Summerï¿½ sangria and Cape May Salt oysters on the half shell for a buck each.
Festivities kick off at 9 p.m., with the tapping of a special barrel of One Year Anniversary Pub & Kitchen Ale (catchy!), a collaboration between P&K executive chef Jonathan McDonald and the boys at Yards Brewing. Birthday cupcakes from Betty's Speakeasy and champagne will be served to partygoers at 11 p.m.
Cheap drinks, free cupcakes and arguably the most attractive service staff in town. Just try to resist any of these things. You can't. Maybe you'll love it so much you won't ever want to leave. Then you should try to get employed ï¿½ they're looking for a bartender and a foodrunner.
My friend Travis Douglas currently works at sustainable architecture firm Re:Vision, in Manayunk (winner, Best of Philly 2009, Best Green Architecture), but before he constructed enviro-houses, he built cakes. The man spent a year and a half as a pastry cook at Metropolitan Bakery, baked at the High Point Cafï¿½ in Mt. Airy when it first opened, and put in three months at Pasion!, which he noted had "really creative desserts."
Though his paycheck is no longer made from sugar and egg whites, Travis brought this incredible chocolate angel food cake drizzled with chocolate ganache to a recent dinner party. The cake was airy and light but had an intense cocoa flavor; we gilded the lily with sliced local peaches and organic vanilla ice cream.
His original recipe, after the jump.
Travis Douglas' Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache
In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment:
20 egg whites
1/2 T cream of tartar
1ï¿½ 1/4 Cï¿½ sugar
In a large bowl:
1/2 C + 1 T cocoa
1/4 C + 2 T hot water (more if necessary)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
In a small bowl:
1 C + 1 T flour
1/4ï¿½ tsp + 1/8 tsp coarse salt
3/4 C + 3 T sugar
Whisk egg whites til frothy (I think that I use 4 or 5 speed on kitchen aid)
Add cream of tartar
Whisk till stiff peaks (there is a danger of over-beating)
Slowly rain in sugar while whisking
Whisk till stiff peaks (there is virtually no danger of over-beating)
While it's whisking:
In a small bowl sift flour, sugar and salt together
In a large bowl combine cocoa, hot water, vanilla together to form like a melted chocolate
Fold 1/3 of egg whites and cocoa together in cocoa bowl with spatula
Sift flour mix in 4 additions into remaining 2/3 egg whites. Whisk it in.
Make sure to fold gently so that you don't beat too much of the "air" out of the egg whites ï¿½ they are essentially holding the rest of the ingredients in suspension.
Combine the two until color just "un-marbelizes."
Fill angel food pan 3/4 full (I don't oil or flour the pan). Take a knife and run it around through the batter a couple times to get out any large air bubbles from pouring (this is important).
Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Do NOT open that oven until an hour has past ï¿½ it will collapse. Cake is done if after an hour you press and it springs back and feels dry. It is OK for top to caramelize a little, so don't stress much about letting it go too long.
Immediately invert onto tabs of pan. Cake cools this way. Don't try to unmold until completely cool ï¿½ I always bake at night and wait til the next morning.
To unmold, my secret is I find the largest plastic lid that I can ï¿½ and cut the lip off.ï¿½ this will get cleaner results than any knife. Slide it between the cake and the pan and essentially roll it around.
Cover cake with chocolate ganache:
6 oz semi-sweet (half bag)
1/2 cup heavy cream
melt on bain marie
I probably made this look more complicated, because I was trying to give tips.
|Photo l M. Elizabeth Hershey|
|Festival bar revs up|
Live Arts/Fringe Fest kicks off tonight, with performances that take artists out of their element, like Urban Scuba and Felon Fiercely's Open Mic in Hell, to Michael-Jackson inspired comedic meditations on fame (Joe Penhall's Dumb Show). Peep our picks in this week's cover story.
After you take in some culture, take in some liquid fun at the pop-up Festival Bar (626 N. Fifth St.), located in a massive space on the southwest corner of Fifth and Fairmount. Perennial publican and sponsor of the arts Fergie Carey (Monk's Cafï¿½, Fergie's Pub, Belgian Cafï¿½) is again orchestrating the party in the 6,000-square-foot warehouse, hosting visual art and media installations designed and programmed by Philadelphia Open Studios Tour and local artists.
A chiller, loungey atmosphere prevails Sunday through Wednesday, when the bar opens at 9 p.m., but things get a bit more art-school dance party on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when DJs start sets at 11 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 4: DJ Lee Jones
Sat., Sept. 5: Dave Tat
Thu., Sept. 10: Mikaal Sulaiman
Fri., Sept. 11: DJ/VJ Yakov
Sat., Sept. 12: Robotique DJs
Thu., Sept. 17: Ross of Love
Fri., Sept. 18: The Broadzilla DJs
Sat., Sept. 19: DJ Apt. One
Monk's Cafï¿½ (264 S. 16th St.) owner Tom Peters just shot out an email announcing that the Belgian bar is again open for business.ï¿½ The back bar room will open in a week or so, when construction on the building's fire tower is complete.ï¿½ After the jump, Peters' email and a synopsis of the tragic event that required the evacuation of the building's 13 tenants and the closure of the restaurant.
We are OPEN! ï¿½ The City of Philadelphia told us that we could open our doors at 11:30 AM today.ï¿½ All the City officials that we dealt with were amazingly helpful.ï¿½ So we want to give a big thanks to Bart, Scott, Mrs. Ward and everyone else for their extraordinary efforts.ï¿½ Philadelphia Rocks!
The workmen our landlord hired worked long hours to get us reopened.ï¿½ Our landlord has been on-site for 20 hours each day...seriously.ï¿½ He has spared no expense getting the apartments back up to code in as expeditious a manner as possible.
For those few that are not aware of what occurred, Iï¿½ll give the Cliff Notes version of the events.ï¿½ But first Iï¿½d like to make it totally clear that we do NOT own the building.ï¿½ We are tenants in the building, just as are the apartment dwellers upstairs.
1. Near the end of our Saturday eveningï¿½s business (just before our 2AM closing time), one of the upstairs tenants fell from the fire escape tower.ï¿½ He had a third floor apartment and he and a friend apparently were leaning on a metal railing when it gave way.ï¿½ They both fell several stories.ï¿½ He died and she miraculously is already out of the hospital.ï¿½ We are devastated about what happened. ï¿½ Our landlord knew the gentleman that fell.ï¿½ He is also heart broken.
2. Philadelphia Department of License & Inspection decided to close the building until a structual engineer could do an inspection and certify that the building was safe.ï¿½ They also required our landlord to update the safety systems in the entire building.
3. The landlord has already received the engineerï¿½s certification, but updating the apartment section of the safety systems will take several more days.ï¿½ The restaurant portion of the building is already approved.
Since our back bar areaï¿½s emergency exit is under the apartmentï¿½s fire escape tower, we cannot open the back bar today.ï¿½ We expect the landlord to have everything finished by next Friday.ï¿½ When his work is done, we will be able to open the back bar to the public.
The Front Bar and the Front Two Dining Rooms are Open!ï¿½ The Ktichen is Open!
Hopefully that information answers most of your questions.ï¿½ Thank you all for your support during this very difficult time.ï¿½ We hope to see you soon.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
Meal Ticket landed a screener copy of the first episode of season two of Food Network's The Next Iron Chef, which debuts Oct. 4 (a month from today) and features none other than Philly's Jose Garces vying for a spot in Kitchen Stadium alongside Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and NIC Season 1 winner Michael Symon.
While we love to yuk it up about Top Chef around these parts, it's important to point out that this particular show is SERIOUS BUSINESS.ï¿½ Yes, Top Chef Masters was too, but since everyone was competing for charity, there was some sense of camaraderie, as we noted ï¿½ but judging by the take-no-prisoners approach of many of the NIC competitors (full rundown here) in Episode 1, there will be very little back-patting among this crew. (Look how mean they all look!) This probably has something to do with the extreme histrionics practiced by the mysterious Iron Chef Chairman, aka the guy from Double Dragon who is not Scott Wolf.
A few quickie details on upcoming episodes and our dude's official chef shot after the jump.
Each of NIC's eight episodes features a challenge themed around some sort of buzz word. There are two of these for Episode 1: "Memory" and "Fearlessness." The chefs are first asked to cook a dish "that has played a significant role in their lives"; then, they're tasked with cooking another dish using "exotic ingredients" (unlaid eggs are involved ... shudder). Of course, we would never spoil the ending of the show for you outright, but even if we wanted to, we couldn't ï¿½ the screener cut off right before they announced who got eliminated. Well-played, Food Network.
We're not gonna ruin the rest of the episodes for you, with the exception of one ï¿½ Episode 4, which airs on Oct. 24. Peep the description:
Host Alton Brown asks the remaining seven chefs endure a tough test of Adaptability. The chefs have 90 minutes to prepare a savory and sweet duo of Mexican-inspired dishes and a creative beverage that successfully utilizes a secret ingredient flown in from Mexico on American Airlines. At the iconic Grand Central Market, the chefs shop for additional indigenous ingredients to effectively capture the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. They are judged on how well they adapt the secret ingredient to their culinary creations.
Holy crap, that's the food competition show equivalent of a hanging curve straight to Garces. Hope he hits it out. Oh yeah, here's chef looking all SERIOUS BUSINESS:
|Courtesy of Food Network|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this installment of The Good Word, weï¿½re chatting with our very own Trey Popp, who's been reviewing restaurants for City Paper for close to three years. Readers who are fans of his entertaining, often-travelogue-like prose might wonder where his style and expertise stems from. Take it away, Trey.
So what makes you qualified to tell us what and where to eat?
Aside from my six-million-dollar bionic tongue? I'd love to have an answer as short and easy as that. But Iï¿½m not sure it would qualify me to tell anyone else what to eat or drink. I guess what I try to do is convey why I like or dislike the things I taste ï¿½ how harmonies and contrasts of flavor and texture add up to something that's greater or lesser than the sum of the parts. As far as what qualifies me to sit in judgment, I think Iï¿½m lucky in that I have a broader experience as an eater than most people I know.
The way I first tried to break into restaurant reviewing was as someone who could bring a little more knowledge to bear on so-called "ethnic foods." I spent most of my mid-20s traveling around the world. I spent a year tracing a route Mark Twain described in his 1897 book Following the Equator. I spent another trying to go from one end of the Indian Ocean to the other with a no-airplanes-allowed rule. I only made it to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, where I got typhoid fever from what I believe was a mango-ice drink from a street stall in Lahore. I spent some months in the former Yugoslavia. Anyway, it adds up to a lot of eating in a lot of places. And in a lot of people's homes. One of the best things about traveling without much money is that you discover again and again that your brother really is your keeper. So I ate dried fish and chilies for breakfast with people who put a roof over my head in southeast Sulawesi. I've had heirloom rice that's kept for special occasions by farmers in Bangladesh. I snuck into Bhutan with villagers who killed a chicken for me after the eight-hour hike through that began in an Indian tiger preserve. But it went from homes and truckstops to the kinds of places where bankers have lunch in Bangkok, or where the well-heeled go for dinner in Istanbul. I also have parents who love to eat and have taken their kids everywhere from Gary Danko and the French Laundry to some of the culinary temples of France and Spain.
But it's not like the mere act of chomping a bull-testicle sandwich in Morocco, or saying you ate downstairs at Chez Panisse, makes you a worthwhile critic. Television has a way of reducing dining and cooking to a series of dares or testosterone-fueled chef duels, which is something I hate. It reduces one of the most intimate and sensual manifestations of human culture into a mere fetish. I love the way careful cooking can forge a profound connection between the person making food and the person eating it. When that happens when I'm in a restaurant, I try hard to reflect it in my column.
Your review of Tommy Up's P.Y.T., which came out yesterday, has stirred up controversy among some local food bloggers who felt you were being critical of them.ï¿½Can you clarify your position?
Judging from Wednesday night's post on Phoodie, and a few other murmurs people have passed along to me, my main impression is that Tommy Up is an unparalleled master of promotional jujitsu. I think Kirsten Henri, at Grub Street, wrote what will probably be the sanest and most astute commentary that anyone's going to offer on this teapot tempest. My review simply pointed out that one of the many ways Up pumped up buzz for P.Y.T. was to invite food bloggers for free meals. And some of them took him up on it. It's a great way for Up to whip up publicity and good will, but if bloggers who took advantage of his generosity think they're not influenced by it, they're kidding themselves.
I donï¿½t know Collin Flatt over at Phoodie, but I was surprised that he didn't even acknowledge, much less address, the fact that Up had invited bloggers for freebies, preferring instead to launch straw-man and ad hominem arguments. It sounds like he didn't personally partake of the comped burgers, which is all to the good, but he might have at least tackled the issue head-on, as Kirsten Henri did. Instead he punted, and opted to defend his purity and integrity ï¿½ which I had never challenged in first place.
If Collin had engaged the issue, he might have found some cogent things to say. For instance, I do pay checks at the end of my meals, and I haven't used my name for any reservation in the last three years, and I donï¿½t attract attention by pulling out a camera to snap photos ï¿½ but City Paper does reimburse me for (at least most of) my expenses. One might argue that since my meals are subsidized ï¿½ even if not by the restaurants Iï¿½m evaluating ï¿½ my perceptions are skewed in favor of pricey items whose full cost burden I don't have to bear. As it happens, I tend to get more complaints from people who accuse me of stressing value-for-money overmuch, but I think that argument has some merit. And there are probably others. The fact is that every system has its drawbacks and vulnerabilities. And I think that Philly's more thoughtful bloggers can recognize their own.
Since you grew up in South Carolina, we're curious where you've found some of the most accurate representations of Southern cooking in Philadelphia.
I was sad to see that Erin O'Shea had been lured away from Marigold Kitchen. I really liked her contemporary Southern menu there, and I thought she executed it superbly. But Southern cooking is a two-headed beast. There's the veggies that are cooked to death, which I've never liked. There are soul food restaurants around town where you can get oversweet yams and such. But then there's the recent renaissance happening in places like Charleston, where some high-end chefs have their own farms and are resurrecting stuff like heirloom pole beans and pickled ramps. That's a little more in line with what O'Shea was doing.
Nobody does South Carolina barbecue up here that I know of ï¿½ it's mustard-based ï¿½ but Bebe's collards are pretty damn great.
You and your wife have a young son. What restaurants have you found to be especially child-friendly? Also, any general tips for those who love to eat out, but have kids?
First, a piece of advice to anyone who's about to have a baby: Take that newborn out to eat with you as often as you can, because you've got about four months before her lungs are big enough and her bedtime firm enough to make family meals out a total disaster.ï¿½ If you're as blessed as we were in the first four months, your tiny baby will sleep through dinner and not even know the difference.ï¿½ This will change radically when she develops her own ideas about when and what she wants to eat.
Our son was barely a week old the first time we took him to Sidecar for a sidewalk meal, and that was our go-to place the first few months. Sidecar's always done a great job with food and beer, and sidewalk tables are key if you want to protect little ears from noisy interiors. I actually testified at City Council in favor of the city granting a permit for Sidecar's sidewalk tables, on the grounds that theyï¿½re not just good for neighborhoods, theyï¿½re family-friendly. But these days he's too active to and prone to jump into traffic, and we almost always get a babysitter when weï¿½re going out to eat now.
That said, there are a few places that have been more than gracious toddler hosts. Hinge Cafï¿½, out in Port Richmond, was great. They even had toys. Earth Bread + Brewery is a great place to take active kids ï¿½ but probably best for kids who can navigate steps. The roof terrace at Continental Mid-town was an easy place to have a beer with a baby who could stand but not yet walk. Smokin' Betty's needs to work on some things, but it is pretty kid-friendly.
Probably the best thing a toddler's parent can do is to cook a wide variety of things at home, hoping that by the time she's got some table manners down, she'll be able to make it through a nice meal and appreciate some parts of it. Just be ready for a bumpy ride. I will never forget the first thing ï¿½ beyond single-ingredient purï¿½es ï¿½ I cooked for my son. It was a mild lentil curry, and I doubt I've ever felt better than when he lapped it up like it was chocolate sauce. But a more recent memory is of him nonchalantly spitting out bites of lentil burgers that I'd not only slaved over, but made in bulk for freezing.
So I guess if Tommy Up or anyone else thinks I've been too critical of them, they can take satisfaction knowing that what goes around comes around.
Later this afternoon, we'll be posting a Good Word Q&A with City Paper restaurant critic Trey Popp, who's stirred up a bit of a shitstorm with his recent review of Tommy Up's P.Y.T. You'll have to wait till then for Trey's take on this "issue," but in the meantime, we'd like to share two of our favorite Twitter updates touching on it, courtesy of @tylersnotes and @adamerace:
We first wrote about the possibility of a Chinatown Restaurant Week back on Aug. 5, but now the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. has confirmed the plans to Meal Ticket ï¿½ 17 different Chinatown restaurants will offer prix-fixe menus ranging from $10 to $30 from Sun., Sept. 20 to Fri., Sept. 25. After the jump, check out the official poster of the promo, which lists all the participants.
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