Archive: September, 2009
Chef Peter McAndrews says he's getting ready to sign papers that'll put a location of his mega-popular Paesano's (152 W. Girard Ave.) into the old Butcher Cafï¿½ location at 901 Christian. The expansion (first noted by Phoodie earlier today) is not official yet, but McAndrews says the deal should be sealed by tomorrow or Monday. "Hopefully we'll be able to function and do some volume down there," says McAndrews, whose Girard Avenue sandwich shop is sometimes hampered by its tiny size. The plan is to have ample seating at the second spot, so people "don't have to stand in the street" to eat.
Last night, I was talking to a local chef who's a big Top Chef fan. He explained that any chefs who claims they never tune in to the show are most likely lying their clog-wearing asses off. Now that I know this ï¿½ what's up, chefs? Wasn't last night's episode French as shit? Did any of you have mortifying flashbacks to culinary school? Night terrors about aspic or anything? I'm here for you.
Quickfire: The world-renowned Daniel Boulud invites the cheftestants to his Vegas brasserie, and asks them to impress him with a dish highlighting snails. A tough enough challenge on its own (also a "high stakes," with $15K on the line) ï¿½ but then they learn that while the QF winner will earn immunity, the loser will be shipped home. "Whoever thought that a snail looked good to eat had to be really fucking hungry," quips Jen C.. That's kinda like a Philly version of that famous oyster quote from Jonathan Swift. "Escargot is like my whole youth, you know?" says Mattin as he preps his dish. No, we hadn't noticed you were farcically French.
Among Boulud's favorites ï¿½ Kevin, who Southerned up his dish with a candied bacon jam; Mike I, who impressed the big-shot chef with a soulful ouzo broth; and Jen C., who grilled ramps and threw yuzu into the mix. It's close, but Kevin ends up with the chip. (He also ends up with probably the dopest perk in Top Chef history ï¿½ more on that in a sec.)
Bottom three for the QF ï¿½ Jesse, Ashley and Robin. As they brace to hear who'll be sent packing, Tom C. throws them a bone, giving them 20 minutes to whip up an amuse bouche to prove their mettle. Jesse, who does the pre-dinner bites at her Bmore restaurant every night, doesn't impress with her tuna tartar, and Boulud says au revoir. "The thing I want people to know is that I don't suck this bad," she laments post-axing. That sounds depressing but it reminds me of an important distinction ï¿½ as much as I like to poke fun at the ridiculous things these people say on TV (my long-standing rule of thumb: If they're on the screen, you are allowed to make fun of them), some people just aren't predisposed for success when it comes to the spontaneous challenges these sick-in-the-head Top Chef producers concoct. I don't think it has much to do with raw ability, either ï¿½ remember Roy Yamaguchi stumbling on Top Chef Masters? Wacky on-the-fly cookery just ain't in their makeup. "Why do they sign up for the show, then?" you might ask. Wouldn't you?
Elimination: The cheftestants draw knives ï¿½ some are assigned classic French proteins, while others land classic French sauces. Then they pair up in six groups, combining a sauce with a protein to create a coursed tasting for some of the biggest French chefs in modern memory, including Boulud, Laurent Tourondel, Hubert Keller, Jean Joho, and "chef of the century" Joï¿½l Robuchon, whose restaurant hosted the dinner. Not competing? Main man Kevin, who gets to sit with all the culinary giants and eat dinner. The dude's face lights up like a bearded Christmas tree when he gets the news. Seriously unbelievable.
Not enough time to go into how big of a deal Robuchon is here, but please read former TC finalist Richard Blais' extended-Star Wars-metaphor writeup on the guy. My only quibble, Richard? If you're gonna get all Lucas on us, how could you not liken JR to Emperor Palpatine?! They got the same tailor and everything:
"To be cooking for the chef of the century, honestly I feel like throwing up," admits Ashley.
The cooking and service segments are intense and FrenchFrenchFrench, as are Robuchon's monolingual thoughts on the dishes (a little translator guy helped break it down), e.g. "If you go into the details, I'm caught a little off-guard" re: Eli and Laurine's middle-of-the-road lobster/sauce Amï¿½ricaine dish. At the top: Jen C. and Mike V. (love connex? seems that way), whose rabbit/chasseur plate was "cooked perfectly," according to Robuchon; and Bryan and Mike I., who took a big risk ï¿½ that paid dividends ï¿½ by desconstructing a bernaise to go with trout. Bryan is selected as the individual champ, his second Elimination W. I still think they look like lifeguards, but it's clear the Voltaggio brothers are serious, serious business.
At the bottom: Mattin and Ashley, who screwed up a veloutï¿½ with too much bacon (anyone else notice Mattin curtsy like freaking Madeline in front of all his countrymen? cute); and Hector and Ash, whose Chateaubriand steak was unevenly cooked and ill-presented. Hector, sadly, gets the boot for his sloppy meat-slicing, but there may be a buddy comedy in this duo's future ï¿½ Ash was already working on the treatment early in the episode ("So this Puerto Rican and this gay guy have to make dinner for Joï¿½l Robuchon ... ")
Next week: Cookin' in the desert with Tim Love.
|Ideas in Food|
Dried pasta is cheap, filling and rather easy to cook. Fill a pot with salted water, wait until the whole thing is at a rolling boil, and dump the penne in. Twelve minutes later, dinner.
H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa of Ideas In Food took a look at this process and asked how it could be made more efficient. The answer?ï¿½ Hydrating pasta in a Ziploc bag filled with water, the same way cooks hydrate beans before cooking. When their tests were successful ï¿½ pasta hydrated for 12 hours cooked up in one minute, just tossed into a pan of simmering sauce ï¿½ the pair shared their method with fellow chef/friend Shola Olunloyo, who experimented with hydrating pasta in mozzarella water (the water drained from making mozzarella at home) to infuse flavor.
Speaking of flavor, now they are roasting and smoking pasta to add even more nuances.
We caught up with these thinkers for the implications behind debunking of one cooking's greatest wives' tales, to cook greener, faster and smarter.
Does pre-hydrating pasta have a time- and energy-saving application in the commercial restaurant kitchen?
H. Alexander Talbot: Aki and I had been bouncing the idea of cooking pasta more efficiently, we have a young daughter so we try to cook things faster ... we were wondering what we could do with pasta. We did different tests, and Shola being a good friend of ours, we called him up on it.
We do private workshops with chefs, and we shoot them our ideas/informations. Shola had mozzarella water on hand from making cheese, so he had it on hand and gave it a shot with hydration. He was thrilled with the results.
Shola Olunloyo: YES Yes and yes. Certainly "fresh" pastas cook very rapidly but dry pastas can be dramatically reduced in cooking times by this process, and there is no reason why it would take longer that 4 minutes tops to make any dry pasta dish. It speeds up service in a restaurant and certainly saves energy in terms of boiling water forever, using gas or electricity. It's completely greener than the old school method. Seems the Italian rule is an old wives tale. This has huge implications. I could not taste any difference between unhydrated or hydrated pasta except one took 3 minutes and the other took 12.
Can home cooks make flavored hydrating liquids like mozzarella water without special equipment?
Shola Olunloyo: You don't need any special equipment to make mozzarella water, it's essentially the identical process to making mozzarella cheese. Stainless steel bowls, double boiler, pots, skimmers and cheesecloth. That being said I doubt any home cook short of the most avid have the time or interest. There are, however, other, simpler flavoring agents, it just has to be strong flavors.
H. Alexander Talbot: Water and linguine in a ziploc bag. After that, surely we can do flavors, thinned tomato sauce on hand with rigatoni. Ideally you finish pasta in sauce and we are just reversing things. Hydrate pasta in flavored liquid, then finish it in the sauce itself without putting a pot of water on to boil.ï¿½ We're building in efficiency.
In restaurant with dried pasta, you blanch it ahead of time and cool it, then you reheat it again to finish cooking for service. This is a soak, pat it dry and it's ready.
On a hot summer day, you don't have to have stoves going all the time. Linguine soaked for hour and half, rigatoni soaks for 2 hours, overnight ... a 2 hour soak took 3 minutes to cook. An overnight soaked pasta cooked in about a minute. Funnily enough, we did a rehearsal dinner and made a vegan lasagna and shrimp lasagna, and didn't blanch the lasagna noodles. Just added more sauce to our pan ... it cooks and hydrates at the same time. You don't have to blanch or buy no-boil lasagna noodles.
We ask why ... what is possible, just because we've done it the same way for so long doesn't mean you have to keep doing it that way.
Friday's opening of Village Whiskey (118 S. 20th St.) was chaotic in the way only restaurant openings can be: loud with the shaking of cocktail tins and excited babble, crowded with scenesters eager to get their first taste to brag on.
Among the proles who crammed into opening weekend was one Arthur Kade, who seized his chance to devour a veggie burger with "cheese and avocado" and meet fellow Philly celeb, Village Whiskey chef/owner Jose Garces.
Is it us, or does chef look distinctly unimpressed with Arthur's broad shoulders and most excellent opinion of himself?
Just for fun, an excerpt from Artie's post:
The glare is terrible here, so itï¿½s difficult to type, but here is a taste of last night (Opening of new restaurant by Jose Garces (Hottest Chef in Philly who owns Amada, Tinto, Chifa, and Distrito) who was introduced to The Brand (I told him I was a huge fan of his, and that I wanted to write about how much a genius I think he is on my ï¿½Famous Blogï¿½ because he is ushering in the Tapas Appeal in Philly, and is my favorite chef and concept creator in the city), then Rouge Domination, then Mint.
To celebrate Restaurant Week, CP's teamed up with the Center City District to sponsor chef-led cooking demos at La Cucina in the Reading Terminal Market. (Check out a recipe from last go-round, with Rum Bar owner Adam Kanter.) Two left this week ï¿½ today, check out Gregory Aversa from Smokin' Betty's, and tomorrow drop by for Anne Coll of Meritage. The hourlong demos are free and begin at noon.
A "StephenStarrSRO" started following Meal Ticket on Twitter last night, teasing these details about pies in R&D at Starr's forthcoming Stella Pizza. An orange marmalade and chorizo pizza sounds so, so good, but we're gonna wait for airtight confirmation from SRO (checking with them now) before fully embracing the fact that the captain of the Starrship Enterprise is now kicking it with all us 140-character-or-less schmoes. Sorry if we're being overly skeptical, but we got burned by Ed Rendell in the past and it hurt so bad.
UPDATE: Yeah, this ain't him, says SRO.
The entire food court in the historic Bourse building in Philadelphia, is taking the day off... and one man is filling in. Robert's mission is to simultaneously open 7 restaurants, with 7 different cuisines in just 8 hours. Robert must work through the night to stock each location with enough food to handle the hundreds of tourists who visit the Bourse each day.
We've excited to see what he'll turn Flamers into!
Eric Paraskevas (Slate, Lolita) is opening terra in the restaurant space below Tavern on Camac (243 S. Camac St.) tomorrow, and Meal Ticket's snagged the chef's opening menu. (Check out our chat with Paraskevas from last week for some more info on the place.)
What sounds good to us? The hoe cake flatbread, with spinach, roasted peppers and fried egg; Blithering Idiot-braised lamb shank; the burger, topped with crispy leeks, tomato confit and goat cheese boursin; and the acorn squash hotpot with udon noodles, shaved duck breast and bean sprouts. Full menu after the jump.
-baby spinach salad, blue cheese, spiced almond, mango, apple, red onion, 3 herb vinaigrette
-terra salad- mixed greens, grilled red onions, cucumber, roasted beets, creamy queso fresco dressing, toasted hazelnuts
-seared pieces of black cod, rosemary almond puree, olive oil, red shiso
-roasted brie, apple and squash, cinnamon crackers
-hoe cake flatbread, spinach, roasted peppers, fried egg
-sauteed shrimp, spicy mango butter, beet and grilled scallion salad
-trio of sliders (burger, local cheddar), (lamb, fig aioli), (Cubano)
-prosicutto pizza, fig, mozz, red pepper pesto, balsamic drizzle
-pork and cheddar spring rolls, apple slaw, rosemary BBQ
-blithering Idiot braised lamb shank, turnip puree, brussel sprout esecebe
-pan seared scallops, broken red pepper vinaigrette, goat cheese polenta, mushroom saute
-pan seared pork chop, glazed salsify, pear salsa, fresh horseradish jus
-burger, crispy leeks, tomato confit, goat cheese boursin, rosemary fries
-pan roasted chicken thighs, honey mustard spatzel, lemongrass bisque, radish tomato salad
-rigatoni with tempeh bolognese
-housemade basil fettuccine, lamb shoulder, ras el hanout jus, mushrooms, cherry tomato, feta
-grilled beef tenderlion, fried mashed potatoes, red pepper pesto, thyme cream
-seared tuna, celeriac puree, pistachio brown butter, pea tendril salad
-acorn squash hotpot, udon noodles, shaved duck breast, bean sprouts
-shrimp and chorizo hash
-brussel sprout and bacon
-herb roasted root vegetable
-mini blue moon orange ice cream float
-chocolate tres leches, dulce de leche, banana saute, salty pecans
-geniose, mango anglaise, bacon pot du creme, spiced almonds
-irish coffee bread pudding, baileyï¿½s ice cream -creme brulee
|Furthermore Oscura coffee lager|
At tiny cafï¿½s all over Italy, it's common to see a row of beer bottles and a grappa or two lining the top shelf of the coffee bar.ï¿½ A short beer with lunch or a cafï¿½ coretto (espresso spiked with grappa) is a normal part of the day.ï¿½ Now Philadelphians can capture that vibe, and take in a brew accompanied by free WiFi and dessert at The Coffee Bar (Radisson-Warwick Hotel, 1701 Locust St., 215-789-6136).
South Philly Tap Room expat Stephen Stetson has taken over management of the former Capriccio space, which is owned and encompassed by the Radisson-Warwick Hotel. When Stetson found out the cafï¿½ came complete with a liquor license, he wasted no time assembling a list of excellent craft beers.
"I recently came to the Coffee Bar, in many ways, to refocus its original vision. I personally have a love of coffee and well-made craft beer, and I see no reason why they can't work together in the same comfortable spot," writes Stetson in an e-mail. "I realize it shocks some guests that we are a coffee shop that serves great beer, and others that we're a beer bar that serves dessert and coffee."
The bottle list, which features seasonals like Brooklyn Post Road pumpkin ale and locals like General Lafayette's Abbey Brune, will change monthly. Stetson hopes to install two draft lines in the near future. For now, The Coffee Bar is running a daily "Post-Happy Hour" Happy Hour, Monday to Friday, from 6 to 8 p.m. with all craft beers for $3. Larger 22-ounce bottles are $10.
"Philadelphia has such a proud and vibrant beer culture, it would be foolish to limit that passion and quality to gastropubs and corner bars," adds Stetson. Take a look at The Coffee Bar's full bottle list (with non-Happy Hour prices) after the jump.
Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin $5
Boulder Obovoid Oatmeal Stout (22 oz) $18
Coronado Islander Pale Ale $5
Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA $5
Dark Horse Raspberry Ale $5
Eel River Raven's Eye Imperial Stout (organic) (22 oz) $16
Founders Porter $5
General Lafayette Abbey Brune $6
Furthermore Oscura (Coffee Lager) $5
Sprecher Hefe Weiss $5
Steamworks Colorado Kolsch $5
SNACK TIME: The return of StudioKitchen, Starr figures out A.C. is a graveyard, first looks at Daniel Stern's two projects, lounges get back into the act, owners on Restaurant Week
|Guess the location of the new Studiokitchen.|
Every Wednesday, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what's simmering.
- Ever since the days of StudioKitchen, Sholo Olunloyo has been our most noted chef without his own place. Now, he's ready to go commercial with a new venture, which he calls "the un-restaurant."ï¿½ No word on the space that will be graced by Olunloyo's brand of postmodern cooking, but the conjecture is already speeding ahead.
- More big news: Stephen Starr is pulling out of his of A.C. ventures. The man is ditching his two restaurants in The Chelsea boutique hotel, Teplitzsky's and Chelsea Prime, notes Phoodie via The Press of Atlantic City. An ongoing lawsuit accompanies his efforts to bail out of Buddakan and The Continental at Caesars. I guess the gambling and sex workers of the coastal version of Dark City just aren't his thing.
- The Illadelph has a peek at renderings of Daniel Stern's two upcoming spots, R2L and MidAtlantic. R2L keeps the classy vibe of Rae alive, while MidAltantic takes a more casual, rustic approach.
- Get even more Illadelph this week on Grub Street, where he is filling in for the vacationing Kirsten Henri. He reports that Strongbox is reopening on Friday with our favorite early-'90s DJ visiting, while the Arthur Kade-approved Recess is set for Saturday. Better get groomed now if you want to make it past the velvet ropes.
- We know what Restaurant Week means to us, but now the Restaurant Club finds out what it means to owners. They dish with Steven Cook (Xochitl, Zahav), Audrey Taichman (Audrey Claire, Twenty Manning) and Kathryn Faenza (Salento) on $35 meals.
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