|Four pinks, 10 bucks.|
|Photo l Michael Persico|
Korbel is easy to sneer at. The cheap bubbly bills itself as "Champagne," even though that nervy claim makes real French Champagne producers froth at the mouth. It is more correctly a California sparkling white wine; though it is produced in the traditional bottle-fermented Methode Champenoise, the everyday white-labeled Korbel Brut doesn't leave much of an impression other than a wicked hangover headache.
My intellectual knowledge of the sheer crappiness of Korbel Brut went to war the other day with my desire to drink all things pink and fizzy. The diminutive four-pack of 187 ml. bottles of Korbel Brut Rosé called out, "Drink me! I'm so cute and rosy in my tiny bottle, and it's nearly Valentine's Day!" The gorgeous fake-spring day and the $9.99 PLCB price sealed the deal.
Korbel Brut Rosé is blended from Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc and French Columbard grapes. The juice spends a short time resting on the skins of the crushed grapes to lend the wine its baby-pink hue. This rosé has won a number of awards and has received an 87 score from Wine Enthusiast. Fortified with this knowledge, I whipped my church key out and cracked open a bottle.
The wine pours a blush hue, with moderate effervescence. The nose is of melons and cherries, which appear on the tongue as well as strawberries. There is decent acidity and though fruity, it is very dry (brut). Twelve percent ABV is well-concealed — two of these on an empty stomach should pie-eye most bubbly drinkers. To avoid that, pair Korbel Brut Rosé with smoked chicken (as the producer suggests) or sushi. This would complement many spicy foods, as well, especially some romantically buttery Indian takeout. If a cocktail is in order, add a splash of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur for a sophisticated twist on the Kir. All in all, for $2.50 a glass, this is a stellar deal that will certainly help along a sparkly, starry Valentine's Day.
Snag a four-pack of these petite quaffs at Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits Stores, $9.99.
|The sweetest things.|
|© 2009 Courtney Grant Winston|
Alison Barshak has been making headlines for her self-taught culinary skills and ambitious business style for more than a decade. The red-headed chef first made a splash cooking at the original Striped Bass, then went on to open and close her own restaurant in Philadelphia before heading off to New York City. The diminutive Alison Café, opened in 2001, gave way to Alison at Blue Bell, which re-opened yesterday after three months of freshening renovations.
Her latest endeavor, Alison two, is in full swing serving Barshak's and chef Bill Lewis' take on modern, international cuisine. In addition to fusing savory global flavors, the kitchen takes time to create desserts that will leave a lasting final impression on diners. Signature boxes of cookies, packaged in a clever chest-of-drawers box, make charming gifts for Valentine's Day. These sweets aren't just empty calories, either: through February and March, $5 of the $15 price will be donated to Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania.
The assortment includes inventive cookies baked to order that day; like pistachio macaroons, cardamom orange madeleines, granola Concord grape jam bars, lemon poppyseed biscotti, raspberry almond sesame sandwich cookies and Mexican wedding cookies. Call 24 hours in advance to give the kitchen a chance to bake your cookies fresh -- boxes can be picked up at Alison at Blue Bell or Alison Two.
Call 215-591-0200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order cookies.
Alison at Blue Bell, 721 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, PA, 19422; 215-641-2660; alisonatbluebell.com
Alison two, 424 S. Bethlehem Pike, Ft. Washington, PA, 19034; 215-591-0200; alisontwo.com
|Pretty and delicious.|
|© 2009 Courtney Grant Winston|
Those watching the Super Bowl last night may have been disappointed in the creativity of the pricey commercials. Pepsi's trans-generational "Refresh Anthem" appealed to nostalgia; Coca-Cola relied on CGI flowers and bees and Cheetos reminded us that snobby bitches in silver Uggs look down on those who eat flourescent orange snack food.
The only one that stuck out in my mind was Denny's offer of a "free serious breakfast" — their classic Grand Slam. Two eggs, two pieces of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes comprise the oversized plate — and tomorrow, it's free. Every Denny's is offering a free original Slam to each customer from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tue., Feb. 3, as well as 1000 coupon books to be used later that include buy-one, get-one deals, 25 percent off, free dessert and free puppy pancakes (made with real puppies!).
If you don't have time to eat your free breakfast in, find a manager and ask for one of the 500 Grand Slam rainchecks they have on hand. I haven't been to a Denny's since high school, when it was our preferred hangout for sucking down gallons of coffee and smoking endless butts. Now that the ashtrays are off tables across PA, the food might taste of fake syrup and fake butter instead of used nicotine.
Click here for a list of Denny's in the Philadelphia area — not a one in the 215, though.
|Obalma, bias-blasting lip goo.|
Utah-based skin care company Shaka Laka celebrates the 44th President and his veep with a commemorative set of practically edible lip balms. Obama's flavor is a patriotic Red, White & Blueberry, a smoothie-style blending of raspberry, cream and blueberry with SPF 15 and vitamin E to soothe wind-whipped lips.
BidenBalm is a Ham & Cheese flavor, chosen to match the V.P.'s favorite lunch on the campaign trail. Ham and cheese on a sandwich is a reliable American combination sure to please most of the people; ham and cheese in a 2-inch oily cosmetic stick is an unholy union fit only for the olfactory-addled. Though the stick is a noncommittal white color, one whiff reveals a cold Lunchable aroma that turns the stomach as it boggles the mind.
Shaka Laka's other lip products are convincing doppelgangers for the real thing: sharp peppermint, sweet coconut and tangy citrus. They are made with healthy SPFs, natural oils and beeswax. We attribute this Ham & Cheese nonsense to press-baiting. You won, Shaka Laka. Now take this stinky stick off my desk, I don't want to touch it.
Shaka Laka lip care (including the foul Ham & Cheese balm) can be purchased online at ShakaLakaHut.com.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
The candy aisle at Hung Vuong Supermarket (11th and Washington) is one of my favorite stomping grounds. You can often find me there on weekday evenings, feebly "reading" foreign-language labels and pretending I give a rip about the nutritional value of lychee chews. It is great fun, and it is just one of those things.
The other day, I came across Men's Pocky, a rendition of the popular Japanese snack stick ostensibly designed for those who possess both an XY chromosome and a sweet tooth. This version replaces the traditional cracker-like base with what they claim to be a pretzel, and swaps out the milk chocolate dip with a dark bittersweet counterpart. As a man, I found them quite satisfying. But my girlfriend also really enjoyed them. Since I don't think there's any sort of latent chemical compound in the batter that damages lady parts exclusively (yes, we've heard about the melamine thing), I would encourage any and all females to skewer the patriarchy by throwing down a box of these. It's not like they are not being served on a sterling silver platter at Mahogany alongside a $650 snifter of Louis XIII.
"The combination of crispy pretzel and smooth dark chocolate brings a whole new flavor to fun," reads the box. That is so sexist.
Men's Pocky, $1.99, available at Hung Vuong Supermarket, Wing Phat Plaza, 11th Street and Washington Avenue, 215-336-280
|Oysters on ice|
Normally half a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell tops out at about $16, and the pleasure you get from the cold, briny mollusks is worth it. Sadly, it's a short-lived buzz. Jeweler Erica Weiner satisfies the craving for more with her quirky oyster earrings.
The dimensional shells are cast in brass and hang from short gold-plated hooks, with plastic stoppers to keep the lightweight earrings in place. At just $25, these baby bivalves should have the same aphrodisiac effect as a plate of the real thing -- no shucking required.
Order at EricaWeiner.com, and check out her fun cicada earrings and pretzel knot necklaces while you're at it.
|Wally reclines among the winter squash at Fair Food.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
A cook friend and I were discussing vegan-izing recipes the other day. He is a rather strict vegetarian, and was a vegan for years. "To make, say, a seven-ingredient recipe vegan, it will take at least 20 ingredients," he said, adding that eggs are the hardest to replicate, and that's why vegan baking can be very challenging. "That's why meat substitutes have such texture issues," I thought to myself. I never seem to enjoy meat substitutes. From spongy soy to heavy, soggy seitan, their textures are always so disappointing, no matter how assiduously flavor is applied.
The very next morning, I was shopping at the Reading Terminal Market's Fair Food Farmstand (soon to take over the primo former Rick's Steaks real estate) and spied a familiar-looking block with an unfamiliar label: Vrapple. A cheerful pig in a chef hat grinned out, next to the legend Vrapple: The Vegan Breakfast Treat. Wally says, "We kick the crap out of scrapple!"
With a tagline like that, I had to try it.
Sarah Cain is the evil genius behind Sarah's Savories, which produces Vrapple. When a vegan friend pined to Sarah that she missed the hometown pig-part treat, Cain began ruminating on ways to reproduce the porky patty. Her final product is constructed from a base of organic mushrooms, wheat gluten, cornmeal, buckwheat flour, a touch of organic cane sugar and plenty of black pepper. The breakfast non-meat is sold in familiar scrapple-ish blocks, frozen for freshness.
Once defrosted, I sliced my Vrapple in to serving-size slices, and fried it in canola oil in a very hot pan until both sides were crispy and browned. I forked off a piece of the hot meat substitute, closed my eyes and took the plunge.
It is freaking delicious. It's BETTER than scrapple. The crisp outside and soft inside perfectly mimic scrapple's characteristic texture. The slice yields immediately under fork and tooth pressure and has a meaty, mushroomy base and a sweet, peppery finish. It is satisfyingly spicy and rich. It was so good I stopped writing my impressions to fry myself another slice. A splash of organic Grade B maple syrup took the already-delightful Vrapple to an even more decadent place. I could not believe how good it was.
Cain has converted me to actually preferring one meat substitute to the real thing. As Wally, the pig mascot, smiles out of the package at me, I grin back, pleased to feel so virtuous while eating something so tasty. Then I go back for another slice.
Vrapple is available at the Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch streets, 215-627-2029. It is sold by weight at an average of $5-$10 per frozen block.
I'm from Maryland, so I grew up tossing Old Bay Seasoning on every edible item you can imagine — pizza, fries, chicken, popcorn, steaks, and, of course, steamed seafood. You name it. Some people do this with hot sauce or sriracha. I rocked the yellow and blue tin with the goodness inside.
Now, I am slightly embarrassed, but ultimately excited, to announce that a new universal sprinkle-on has usurped Old Bay's celery salt-based dominance — BACON SALT.
Available in all Acme stores in the Philly area, Bacon Salt was developed in 2007 by Dave Lefkow and his friend Justin Esch, using $5,000 Lefkow's son won on America's Funniest Home Videos. (Watch the clip here.) The zero-fat, zero-calorie, 100 percent vegetarian and kosher seasoning comes in four varieties — Original, Hickory, Peppered (my fave) and Natural.
Humanity's visceral longing for bacon is something Lefkow is extremely familiar with, as evidenced by these photos from his recent visit to Philly (he and his colleagues dress in giant bacon costumes to promote their product). In October, he managed to sell 6,000 jars of the stuff on QVC in just 5 minutes. "People act ridiculous around bacon," Lefkow tells me. I cannot disagree, especially considering my lustful, now-no-longer-clandestine affair with the stuff. So far, I've generously applied Bacon Salt and its smoky, woody properties to tuna salad, Lazaro's pizza, a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from Ants Pants, a T-bone steak and some fried rice. It does indeed make everything taste like bacon, which means it makes everything taste infinitely more delicious.
I'm so sorry, Old Bay, but it's time I moved on. You still got me for crabs. Though I haven't tried Bacon Salt on those yet ...
On Tue., Dec. 16 at 1 p.m., Philadelphia Magazine will commemorate their 100th year misinforming suburbanites about what goes on in the big bad city with a colossal Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet.
Tasty Baking Co. CEO Charles Pizzi will join Larry Platt and Herb and David Lipson of Philly Mag to cut the kake in the rotunda of the Liberty Place shops at 16th and Chestnut. The Krimpet will be 1,261 times larger than standard size, ensuring plenty of slices for those in attendance. Anyone who tries to get a piece off mascot Kirby the Krimpet does so at their own risk.
If you can't make it on Tuesday, the Internet abounds with Krimpet-copycat recipes, like this one from King Arthur flour. Paeans from far-flung Delaware Valleyites are in ample supply, as well, from professional journalists to a video installation artist who constructed her entire wedding cake out of of krimpets ordered by the case.
Transcendent local snack cake joins forces with dandy centurion publication ... I sense a bid for world dominance. Who knows what sort of secret labs and think-tanks will be brewing in Tasty Baking Co.'s planned Navy Yard facility? Not just greener and more efficient production of 4 million Tastykakes a day, certainly. That's got to be a smoke screen.
|Candy-Nirvana nymph says, "Take it, you won't find it anywhere else!"|
|New York Times News Service via the Taipei Times|
Mint and dark chocolate is one of those flavor combinations that is just so Christmas. At my grandmother's Christmas Eve dinner every year, a little bowl of foil-wrapped Andes mint chocolates would be on the sideboard, and I would shadily decimate them long before dinnertime.
Pursuit of mint-chocolate confections has since expanded into a year-round pastime for me. York Peppermint Patties, the mint stracciatella gelato at Capogiro and the new chocolate-peppermint cookies at Benna's Cafe have been satisfying the primal cool mint urge so far. But, like all good addicts, I'm always on the lookout for a new way to get my same old fix.
3 Musketeers has tapped into the "girls love chocolate and mint" zeitgeist with their latest hard-to-find candy bar, 3 Musketeers Mint. They have surpassed their normal too-sweet milk chocolate coating with a darker chocolate, and the bar is very pretty indeed, with the characteristic swirled top of shiny chocolate. Nougat is the fundamental filling of the 3 Musketeer — a pretty fake version of nougat, though. Real style nougat is either white or brown, comes in soft or hard versions, and generally incorporates honey and nuts. The only thing 3 Musketeers nougat has in common with the authentic stuff is egg whites, which are what give it the fluffy texture.
Moving on. Inside the thin dark chocolate shell is a white-as-a-Gossip-Girl's-teeth nougat filling, flavored with, you guessed it, mint. The chocolate snaps and gives as you bite into it, and the soft, chewy mint filling has a pleasant, not-too-sweet mint oil quality, which lingers in the back of your throat after swallowing. I could still feel a little mint tingle a few minutes after I had destroyed the candy bar.
Tasty as the new candy is, it's bloody hard to find. Mars, which produces 3 Musketeers, has provided a helpful product locator on their Web site. You can type in your zip code and the distance you are willing to travel for your sugar fix, and it spits out the closest chain drug store that carries the Mint. There are also seriously frightening (but probably delicious) recipes that incorporate the candy bar on the site, themed with the Kentucky Derby in mind.
Its a safe bet that 3 Musketeers Mint Julep Rice Pudding (with bourbon!) will not earn you any accolades from foodie friends, but that won't stop me from making it. Addicts are predictable like that. We take our junkie specialization seriously.
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