Food and Art
|Courtesy of Honest Tom's
"Honest" Tom McCusker just dropped us these pics of his food truck's ridiculously amazing new paint job, executed by muralist Shira Walinsky and the Mural Arts Program. McCusker, who slangs great tacos at 33rd and Arch, says that several other local trucks, including Koja Korean on 38th and the peanut dude at 15th and Spring Garden, have received makeovers, as well. We haven't spotted any new work yet, but if you do, snap a pic and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it here.
All that retina-burning psychedelica is a far cry from Tom's much more modest original look, no? Three more shots after the jump.
|Courtesy of Honest Tom's|
|Calcium crystals for crunch|
Glamorous things to ingest that were made in 1998: single-malt Scotch, right bank Bordeaux, Champagne and now, Hook's 12-year cheddar.ï¿½ DiBruno Bros. (930 South 9th St.) stocked a 40-lb. wheel ofï¿½ the super-aged fromage just before the holidays; even with aï¿½ retail price of $49.99/lb, only about eight pounds remain.
Hook's Cheese Company is a family-owned business in Mineral Point, Wisconsin that produces over 35 cheeses, including America's oldest commercially-available cheddar, their rare 15-year. Though the 15-year has not yet made it into Philadelphia (the next batch is due to be released in March), I got a bite of the 12-year while braving the DiBruno Bros. Dec. 23 line.
An abundance of calcium lactate crystals pervade this cheese, adding a crunch and pleasant textural change from the smooth, rich paste.ï¿½ The distinct sharp flavor of cheddar is magnified here by an earthy, almost dirty undertone that screams long-aging; it's definitely a cheese-head choice. Like Hook's other offerings, the 12-year cheddar is madeï¿½ from the pasteurized milk of Wisconsin cows and curdled with a vegetarian "rennet".
A quarter-pound, enough to satisfy two cheese dorks when paired with some crusty bread, an Asian pear and a New Holland Dragon's Milk stout (or even a Victenaar, for the adventurous), is $12.50. Think of it as supporting the arts.
Last week, we told you all about the Vaudevillains Mummers brigade's "Philly Phood Phantasia" New Year's Day performance. Here's a clip of the troupe in action on Broad Street Jan. 1.
Apparently, one of the pizza slices in the clip is none other than Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross. "Iï¿½ve known [co-captain] Hillary [Rea] and a few of the other Vaudevillains for a long time and loved their performances the last two years," Gross tells Meal Ticket. When Rea sent out a note welcoming new members to the troupe, Gross and his wife Holly ï¿½ she was also a slice ï¿½ jumped at the chance. "It was awesome," Gross adds. "Can't wait for next year."
He's not just a "hellbeast bent on destruction" ï¿½ he's your civilized Brit neighbor. You know, Raisin Bran Crunch can keep you from packing on the pounds from all that cerebral fluid and red meat. Meet Miles Melman!
|Courtesy of Hillary Rea
The Space 1026-associated Vaudevillains comic troupe made its Mummers Parade debut in 2008, and the group's chaotic but ultimately triumphant inception was chronicled by Ryan Creed in a Dec. '07 CP cover story.
Back then, they worked off the theme "Mummers in the Global Warming-Induced Perpetual Summer," and in the 2009 parade, they earned fifth place in the Comic Division for "Mummers in a Post-Apocalpytic Nuclear Winter." For the 2010 parade, the Vaudevillains are cutting their struts with a Food Inc.-style sensibility, fancily addressing big agribusiness with the theme "Philly Phood Phantasia."
Vaudevillains captain Tip Flannery, a friend of Meal Ticket, explains that the troupe's performance will address federal corn and soybean subsidies, aka the practice of the government financially rewarding American farmers for raising crops used to produce soybean oil or high-fructose corn syrup ï¿½ "building blocks for fattening foods." Critics place at least partial blame for our country's obesity epidemic on this practice, which negatively affects consumers both health-wise and financially.
Yes, it's pretty heady stuff for a Mummers troupe to tackle, considering that most understand the backbone of the venerable Philadelphia tradition to be, well, fizzy beer-fueled buffoonery. But we're confident the Vaudevillains' performance will deliver the goods.
We're going to have to wait till this Friday to see just how it all plays out on Broad Street, but for now, here's a sneak peek at the Vaudevillains' Phood Phantasia costumes, as modeled by troupe co-captain Jay Roselius. (Thanks to co-captain Hillary Rea for the photos.) Above is the pizza costume that multiple 'villains will don (they'll come together to form a whole pie at some point in the performance). After the jump, a wearable pulled pork sandwich, and a lettuce/tomato costume that we're pretty sure will hoagie-fy something or someone.
|Courtesy of Hillary Rea|
|Photo | Monica Simpson|
Apparently, throwing whatever relatively edible creatures are available (including squirrels) into a pot to create "stew" is as American as apple pie. This I learned at Wednesday nightï¿½s First Person Festival event at the Painted Bride.
During this taste-and-tell evening, foodie author Pat Willard discussed the research behind her book America Eats! and Fairmount restaurant Jackï¿½s Firehouse provided a down-home meal of biscuits, cornbread, pulled pork, brisket ï¿½ and stew. Strangers shared tables as they scarfed down the good food, and this combo of meet-and-eat reflected well the topic of Willardï¿½s book. America Eats! draws its source from papers from the Great Depression's Federal Writer's Project, which enlisted out-of-work wordsmiths to chronicle aspects of American culture. Part of this chronicling involved researching how America eats ï¿½ the result being not just recipes, but more importantly, tales of a time when eating was a community event, not just a necessity.
|Photo | Monica Simpson|
Willard showed photos of a church meal with tables lined far into the distance and an old-time barbecue where neighbors dug a big pit in which to roast the meat, shooting the shit until the cooking was done. Hygienic concerns may have been lacking then, but it's almost as if we've replaced companionship with efficiency these days. Yet while many of our meals have moved away from the table, an audience member was quick to point out that we still have comparable traditions such as the tailgate. And like the group stews of yesteryear, tailgates still involve meat of a questionable origin. Hot dog, anyone?
The First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art, now in its eighth year, is all about telling stories. But at last night's Foobooz Burger Cruise, the connection between delicious burgers and storytelling was tenuous at best: There was a brief explanation of First Person Arts, followed by a rundown by Foobooz creator Arthur Etchells, during which he dabbled in memoir by recalling his parents taking him to restaurants when he was a kid.
|Photo | Helen Horstmann, phillyfoodie.com|
At our first stop, Good Dog, Etchells spoke to his beef-hungry followers about the cruise stops, as well as a few that didn't make the cut (including too-small-for-a-crowd Rouge and Village Whiskey). Some cruisers chimed in: "I had a burger in Switzerland once ... "; "When I was in a Japan I had a burger and ï¿½ " Alright, so we got some storytelling going ï¿½ but then it stopped. For the most part, folks just talked to their friends and munched mini versions of Good Dog's super-juicy Roquefort and caramelized onion burger (above).
Next stop was Barclay Prime, which gets props for serving rare beef to a crowd of 30. Iï¿½m a girl who likes her red meat red, so I was pleased ï¿½ in fact, this burger, made from dry-aged and Kobe beefs, was by far my favorite. It was juicy, flavorful and it didn't need much on it to make it mouth-watering ï¿½ just some "special sauce" and onions. And on the side? The tastiest tater tots Iï¿½ve had. We sat with strangers at tiny tables, rather than standing against a wall, like at Good Dog. This set-up was more encouraging for tale-tellers, at least between fellow eaters.
|Photo | Helen Horstmann, phillyfoodie.com|
At Noble: An American Cookery, we had their signature burger, which is topped with a beet. I was nervous: In my mind, the words ï¿½beetï¿½ and ï¿½beefï¿½ should never meet. But it was actually good ï¿½ the beet part, at least. The burger was too well-done, leaving little flavor in the beef. Here again everyone was sitting in close quarters, and keep in mind the beer had been flowing at each stop ï¿½ by now everyone was feeling a bit looser, a bit more apt to speak up. I sat with Etchells and listened to him and another foodie discuss the best roast pork in the city, and why South Philly pizza tends to suck. (Etchells shared a mob-related theory on that debate.)
Our last cruise stop was Pub & Kitchen, which was saved for last for a reason. P&K was the only place to provide condiments, and they also served up plenty of fries. Oh, and raw oysters for appetizers. (My feeling, though, was while the burgers and beer were getting along just fine in my stomach, if I threw some shellfish into the mix there might be a battle, with me on the losing side.) P&K provided Sly Fox cans to wash it all down. Their Windsor burger was tasty and traditional ï¿½ no Kobe or beets in sight.
Here's an opportunity to tell your girl you're going to a strip show without getting in trouble ï¿½ this Saturday, Nov. 7, will see the opening reception for The Bacon Show, a cured-pork-themed exhibition at Mew Gallery (906 Christian St.). Featuring the work of 10 artists (including several who belong to the Meat Artists collective), the show will deal in multiple media, with bacon-centric paintings, crafts, drawings, photos on offer. You can peruse the entire show over on the Meat Artists Web site, where pieces are also available for purchase.
|Photo | Carolyn Huckabay|
|Chicha: A schematic.|
Thursday night at Penn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ï¿½ among the stone sculptures and priceless artifacts ï¿½ Sam Calagione, founder and president of Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery, and Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the museum, threw a kegger.
The event, a lecture and tasting entitled Uncorking the Past: Ancient Ales, Wines and Extreme Beverages, was a lecture and sipping detailing Calagione and McGovern's work recreating ï¿½ from analysis of archaeological evidence ï¿½ what are believed to be the oldest known recipes for alcoholic beverages. Much of this information is contained within McGovern's fascinating (and, as per CP food critic Trey Popp, beautifully written) new book, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages, which McGovern (aka, adorably, Dr. Pat) signed last night, as well.
The results of the duo's archaeological sleuthing was also on hand in liquid form, as Calagione brought samples of four of his recreated beverages:
- Chateu Jiahu (based on examination of pottery jars found in the Neolithic Chinese villiage of Jiahu)
- Theobrama (an alcoholic chocolate beverage based on pottery fragments found in Honduras)
- Pangaea, more of a theoretical ancient ale that culls ingredients from all seven continents in an attempt to imagine a drink from the supercontinent
- and a "mystery beer" that pretty much everyone in the packed house knew to be Dogfish's purple corn Chicha, aka "the spit beer" (see Calagione explain it here), a recreation of an ancient meso-American beverage whose production involved the chewing of corn as a means of kickstarting the conversion from starch to fermentable sugar.
Chicha's a tough beer to explain, and it's a lot of work for Calagione to present it in a way that makes people want to drink it (with the main focus being on it being sanitary, as alcohol kills off the nasty micro-organisms). It's also a tough beer to make ï¿½ "we had palate fatigue" admitted Calagione of all the chewing. These two facts make it an unlikely commercial viability. But it sure is an interesting idea.
|Photo | Carolyn Huckabay|
|This is literal mouth watering: Calagione dispenses the Chicha.|
During the lecture, Calagione spoke often of the Reinheitsgebot: the German beer purity law that's led to the mass homogenization of beer in the world, and which is essentially the antipode to Dogfish Head's world view. One of the main themes of the lecture, and of the pair's work, is to rediscover methods and processes for creating alcoholic beverages that predate the more modern and rigid definitions of beer.
After the lecture, attendees got to sample the Dogfish brews (including the very last keg of the Chicha) as well as other like-minded beers including Dock Street's Sudan Grass, a gluten-free beer made with Sorghum (which had a nifty grassy note) and Fraoch's venerable Scottish Heather Ale and Viking Alba Scots Pine ale.
So how was the Chicha? Well, it did not taste like spit, which I suppose is a decent baseline for any beer, but especially encouraging for this one. It was served cold, which I think is probably a best practice for serving spit beers and a disarming first sensation ï¿½ though the beer's foamy head had me thinking of, well, spit. It had a fruity taste (from the strawberries) and a nutty, or woody, or earthy (am I just trying to not say corny?) aftertaste that was actually pretty pleasant. The mouth feel was, I guess, a little on the thick side, but not in the way you're thinking.
I don't know if I'd order a full pint, or a full goblet ï¿½ and I suspect that's not a situation I'll ever find myself in given the slim market for this beer and the labor-intensive production process ï¿½ but having tasted it, it's now something I'd consider.
Christopher Gabello, pro photographer and owner of Cafï¿½ Loftus, has teamed up with Varga Bar owner George Anni to create a 12-month calendar featuring real girls done up in the pin-up style popularized by Alberto Vargas. They've already got their chick for January (Jessica, above), but they still need some more local ladies to fill out the rest of 2010. If you're interested (Ettore is doing hair and makeup, and Smak Parlour is taking care of wardrobe), send two photos and three sentences about why you should be a Varga Girl to email@example.com.
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