Eat This Immediately
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a lollapalooza as "something outstanding of its kind." As far as Hanukkah events go, you can't get much more outstanding than Latkepalooza.
The spudly event is held every year at the Gershman Y on Broad Street, and celebrates Hanukkah by serving upwards of 3,000 potato pancakes (latkes) to more than 500 adults and children. Chefs from restaurants spanning the city join in the fun, preparing their own versions of the traditional holiday treat. This year, representatives from Zahav, Bar Ferdinand, Rae, Estia, Jones, Singapore Chinese Vegetarian, Sabrina's, Whole Foods, Cabot Cheese, Kildaire's, Las Bugambilias, Max & David's and more will be cooking.
In addition to a mountain of oil-fried pancakes, there will be entertainment by Neshirah, the Jewish Chorale of Greater Philadelphia, as well as face painting, arts and crafts, a clown and a magician.
Latkes and other foods fried in oil are the traditional foods of Hanukkah. They represent the small amount of consecrated olive oil that miraculously burned for eight days and nights while the Second Temple of Jerusalem was rededicated at the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE.
Latkepalooza, Sun., Dec. 14, 2-4 p.m., $10 for children 6-12 and $15 for adults, Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St., 215-446-3012, gershmanY.org
Procession of S. Domenico, 1913-1928
The story goes like this: In the little town of Cocullo, in the province of L'Aquila, Abruzzi, there dwell the serpari. These charmed descendants of Circe may handle the deadly biting vipers of Abruzzi with absolute impunity.
Catholic tradition is overlaid onto ancient pagan rites in the annual Procession of San Domenico in Cocullo, which simultaneously honors San Domenico and the powers of the serpari in a weird melding of magic and devotion.
The townspeople and serpari gather to drape the statue of San Domenico with live snakes, parading from the church down the main drag, imploring for protection from toothaches, snake bites and the bites of rabid dogs.
The first recorded procession in Cocullo took place in 1392, and has traditionally been accompanied by pizzelle, the crisp, wafer-like sugar cookie native to Abruzzi.
Though the procession of San Domenico takes place in the first week in May, Italian-Americans generally associate the cookies with Christmas and Easter.
Pizzelle are typically flavored with anise or fennel seeds, vanilla or citrus zest, and are baked in task-specific irons held over a stove top or newfangled electric models. The irons turn out two or three thin cookies at a time and require a fast hand and grandmother-like patience and timing.
For those without the iron or inclination to bake their own, quality pizzelle are turned out by a number of local bakeries. In descending order of notoriety:
Termini's Bakery (multiple locations, termini.com) sells stacks of 10 pizzelle for $8. Their classic version contains the tiny fennel seeds so delicious and irritating to those with closely-spaced teeth.
Follow your nose to Isgro Pastries (1009 Christian St., 215-923-3092, isgropastries.com) where stacks of anise flavored pizzelle are $6.50, as well as chocolate-drizzled individuals for 50 cents each.
BellaPizzelle (1-866-858-6384, bellapizzelle.com) of Morgantown is the only pizzelle maker who will ship their delicate sweet nationwide. A stack of 20 runs $24 and arrives packaged in a giftable, reusable gold round. The mother-and-daughter team also offers a wide array of flavors, including original anise, chocolate chip and ones spiked with Frangelico or whiskey.
Farther south and less famous, but just as desirable, are Cosmi's Pastries (1221 Oregon Ave., 215-218-2000) pizzelles. A stack of 26 wafers is just $5, your choice of classic anise or nouveau chocolate.
Snap your way through a few of these, and the idea of handling the vipers of Abruzzo seems a bit less scary. Grazie mille Abruzzese e serpari!
|Here comes the sun!|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Straight from the sunny citrus groves of Spain, the smallest of the mandarins is now arriving on the East Coast, just as we stare down winter's gritty, slushy maw.
The bright, sweet flavor and diminutive size of clementines make them popular with children and adults. Add in the lack of seeds and easy-to-peel skin and you've got the recipe for the top-selling orange of the winter season.
The origin and history of clementines are weirdly shrouded in mystery. Produce Pete cites a popular myth that Father Clement, an Algerian monk, discovered a mutated tree while tending to his mandarin grove. The tiny oranges he nurtured are a hybrid of the Chinese mandarin (tangerine) and the sweet Seville orange, and he named them "clementino." The Japanese botanist Tanaka suggests that clementines were a natural mutation in the mandarin orange trees of Asia, and were brought to Europe and North Africa by migrants.
There is some debate on when clementines were introduced to the United States. Michelle Naranjo on the Dave's Garden Web site claims clementines were brought to the Citrus Research Center at the University of California in 1909. Produce Pete marks their introduction in 1989, after a devastating freeze in Florida destroyed the greatest part of the American citrus crop.
An average-sized clementine is between 50 and 75 grams, and typically contains between 30 and 50 calories and up to 60 percent of your vitamin C requirement for the day. They are available in the US from late October through March, but are at their peak sweetness for a short three- to five-week period in December and January, so get 'em now. Choose fruit that has a bright, unblemished skin, and feels heavy for its size. The oranges should smell sweet and appealing, as well.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
If you're up on your trendy food get ups, you know that Korean fried chicken was the darling of the food media about a year back, thanks in no small part to writeups like this Feb. 2007 New York Times piece that employed words like "apotheosis" to describe the disparity between the Seoul food specialty and its greasier, craggier American counterpart.
The mesmerizing delicacy is available up in the North Philly corridor that people to refer to as "Little Korea" or "Koreatown," most notably at Café Soho (468 W. Cheltenham Ave., 215-224-6800), a popular spot that Elisa Ludwig dubbed the "Korean version of the Peach Pit" thanks to its "brightly colored lights, young wait staff and crowds of teenagers with asymmetrical haircuts drinking milk shakes." It has not, however, been easy to come by in the greater Center City vicinity.
That is, until Steve Cho, chef/owner of Meju in Old City, decided to start slanging the stuff. We tore apart two plates of the chicken for lunch the other day. Meju is doing it two ways — a spicier red pepper chili version and a garlicky, soy-based sweeter variety. Both are served, sprinkled with scallions and sesame seeds, next to a jagged row of pickled daikon radish with which to cool one's mouth.
The sauces are surely key, but it's the crunch that truly separates Korean fried chicken from its Yankee cuz. Cho attributes this to a double-frying technique and the addition of corn starch into the batter. ("It's ... so ... CRISPY!" one sauce-smeared coworker exclaimed on our recent trip.)
Eat this immediately.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
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