Archive: March, 2009
|Chocolate-Carmel Matzoh Crunch|
A heathen baby like myself cannot, in good conscience, write anything worth reading about Passover foods. Not only are the kosher rules more stringent during Passover (which begins at sunset April 8 and ends at nightfall on April 15 this year) but certain foods are absolutely required. Instead of some Wiki-informed prattle, here is a loving roundup of links to writers who know what the hell they're talking about, and local events worth attending.
- The wonderful Zoe Bakes blog features three desserts for Passover, including Coconut Haystack Macaroons, Chocolate-Caramel Matzoh Crunch, and three different Fruit Jellies.
- Chabad.org provides this informative list and recipes for the traditional Passover foods, including explanations of the meanings and allusions inherent to the Seder meal.
- For the uninitiated, eHow provides a simple explanation of how to conduct a Seder on the first night of Passover, and suggests resources for more detailed directions.
- Serious Eats comes up with A Beginner's Guide to Passover Coke and suggests where to find sodas sweetened with sugar, since corn syrup is banned under the "no grains" stricture of the holiday.
- If your favorite thing to make is reservations, Foobooz rounds up five spots serving traditional and twisted takes on the Seder in Philadelphia.
- Last year, Dianna Marder wrote a great article in The Inquirer on the book Pesach For The Rest of Us: Making The Passover Seder Your Own by Marge Piercy, and interviewed several Philadelphia Jewish chefs and restaurateurs.ï¿½ Marder also includes recipes for Cinnamon Roasted Lamb, Mizrachi Charoset and Alison Barshak's recipe for Chocolate Matzoh.
- If you are disinclined to prepare your own Seder but can't afford the luxe restaurant versions,ï¿½ join the free, campus-wide Seder at Houston Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, 8 p.m. on Wed., April 8. Everyone is welcome to partake in matzah, wine, a full dinner and learn about the traditions of Pesach.
|Simon & Schuster|
Everyone who missed Foie Gras Week's $5 plates will get a second shot at liver love this Sunday, April 5, when The Foie Gras Wars (Simon & Schuster) author Mark Caro visits London Grill for an evening meet-and-greet, complete with foie, beer and sauternes specials and representatives from controversial producers and sellers Hudson Valley Foie Gras and D'Artagnan.
London Grill owner Terry Berch McNally and chef-owner Michael McNally led the charge against Philadelphia animal-rights protesters, who began picketing restaurants that serve foie gras in mid-2007. Hugs for Puppies and Nick Cooney, who originally took credit for forcing restaurant owners to remove fattened duck liver from their menus, have renamed themselves Humane League of Philadelphia and no longer use public protest as their main tool. This year's Foie Gras Week, compared to the first iteration in 2008, was quite peaceful.
The hotly contested issue has since cooled in Philadelphia, and Caro's book devotes two full chapters to the charged debate of 2007-08. Simon & Schuster's Web site describes Caro's book and how he was thrown into the maelstrom:
In announcing that he had stopped serving the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese at his world-renowned restaurant, influential chef Charlie Trotter heaved a grenade into a simmering food fight, and the Foie Gras Wars erupted. He said his morally minded menu revision was meant merely to raise consciousness, but what was he thinking when he also suggested -- to Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Caro -- that a rival four-star chef 's liver be eaten as "a little treat"? The reaction to Caro's subsequent front-page story was explosive, as Trotter's sizable hometown moved to ban the ancient delicacy known as foie gras while an international array of activists, farmers, chefs and politicians clashed forcefully and sometimes violently over whether fattening birds for the sake of scrumptious livers amounts to ethical agriculture or torture.
Chicago has since reversed the ban. Whether you're for, against or simply curious, meeting the author of The Foie Gras Wars should add a little spice to an already hot pot.
Sun., April 5, 6-8 p.m, London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., 215-978-4545, londongrill.com
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
There's one more not-safe-for-work shot (yes!) after the jump.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
This half of Team Meal Ticket is taking a little trip to Los Angeles starting this Wednesday. I pray that I do not run into either of these psychotic broads. Also, I'm hoping to eat and drink a lot of good things. If you've got a spot I should check out, leave it in the comments! I'll be sure to check back in next week with a full recap of the trip. That is, if I am not eaten by a demonic mud-caked homeless man who lives in a dumpster behind Winkies Diner.
In January, Thien Ngo, executive chef and eight-year veteran of Old City staple Fork, announced he was hanging up his apron and retiring to the balmy shoes of his native Vietnam.
In less time than it takes to buy an airline ticket direct to Tan Son Nhat, Ngo turned up at Fifth and Bainbridge, cooking at Cary Neff's bistro Coquette.
Neff told The Inquirer's Michael Klein that Ngo "got bored and wanted to get back to work." Since his arrival, Ngo has added "Specks" to the menu, small $2.50 snacks to enjoy alongside a glass of wine or beer. They include an edamame salad, Mexican pork and rice albondigas (meatballs) in guajilla salsa and crisp fried smelts.
Larger plates incorporate global flavors and top out at $18. Duck breast is glazed in maple syrup and served over polenta; a half or whole rack of babyback ribs are slicked with hoisin, honey and five spice; a whole fried fish -ï¿½ usually bronzino or snapper ï¿½ is served over crunchy Peruvian slaw; hanger steak is marinated in chimichurri and served with yucca fries and spinach.
Bivalve lovers can still snag a seat at the raw bar for a great deal on half-shell oysters, which are just a buck each all night, every night.
Coquette Bistro and Raw Bar, 700 S. Fifth St. 215-238-9000; coquettebistro.com
|Photos | Drew Lazor (click to enlarge)|
Chip Roman, chef and owner of Conshohocken's Blackfish (199 Fayette St., 610-397-0888, blackfishrestaurant.com) recently started offering a four-course tasting menu every Monday for $45 a head. While plenty of restaurants are touting Restaurant Week-style specials these days, Roman's is unique in that every week, he switches up his focus and creates a meal around one signature ingredient. Above are shots of a few dishes from the inaugural tasting, a celebration of porcini mushrooms. Tonight, Roman messes with asparagus, the king of all vegetables. Menu after the jump; call 610-397-0888 for reservations.
A Study Of Asparagus
First Course: White asparagus soup, champagne, smoked salmon egg
Second Course: Asparagus tempura, sweet and sour sabayon
Third Course: Salmon, asparagus, morel mushrooms, asparagus sauce
Fourth Course: White asparagus ice cream, chocolate, malt
|Photo l Christopher Gabello|
Cafï¿½ Loftus, located on 15th Street between Walnut and Sansom, is celebrating its third anniversary this April.ï¿½ To celebrate, owner Chris Gabello has instituted Free Coffee Fridays for the entire month.ï¿½ From 7 - 10 a.m. every Friday, cups of La Colombe drip coffee are on the house.
ï¿½Itï¿½s just our way of giving back,ï¿½ says Gabello, who is a photographer and photojournalist in addition to owning Cafï¿½ Loftus.
Cafï¿½ Loftus, 136 S. 15th St., 267-334-1875; cafeloftus.com
|Portrait of Natalie Walker l Jason Frank Rothenberg||All food photos l Michael Persico|
Fans of electronic music know Natalie Walker for her powerful, haunting voice that emerges from a sweet and childishly beautiful face.ï¿½ Walker got her start as the lead singer of Daughter Darling, and released her first solo album, Urban Angel, in 2006 to critical acclaim from Billboard, Urb, Trace and All Music Guide.ï¿½ National exposure came in the form of a Thievery Corporation remix of her song "Quicksand", featured in Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette. Walker's second effort, With You, stirs a few poppy singles into the album of ethereal, textured sounds and layered songwriting.
What fans of her sound don't know is that Natalie is as accomplished a cook and hostess as she is a musician. "I'd love to start a catering business," she said.ï¿½ Natalie invited Meal Ticket into her Fishtown home for a pitcher of white sangria and a few tastes of her culinary talent.
Tender scallops got a light sear on both sides and were dressed with a simple salad of sectioned grapefruit, fennel and red onion.ï¿½ Once the guests arrived, Natalie put them to work dipping summer roll wrappers in warm water to soften, then rolling them up with a filling of shredded cabbage and carrots, sauteed mushrooms and vermicelli.ï¿½ The fan favorite, however, were the silver dollar potato pancakes topped with Korean-style shredded short ribs.ï¿½ Check out Natalie Walker's recipe for Korean-ish Short Ribs over Potato Pancakes, after the jump.
Now Do This:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Season the meat with plenty of salt and pepper and then sear on medium high in large oven safe pan or dutch oven in a bit of canola oil until brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
In same pan with heat lowered to medium, cook garlic for a few seconds and then build your sauce by adding sriracha, pineapple, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, orange zest, applesauce, soy sauce and cook together for a few minutes until bubbly.
Place short ribs back into the pan and then add your water and bring to a simmer. Once the liquid is simmering, cover with tight lid (or foil if you don't have a lid) and place in preheated oven.
Cook for 2-2.5 hours turning short ribs in the sauce every half hour. Cook them until they are very tender and easily pull apart with a fork. Let them rest on the stove top once they are finished cooking for 30 minutes and then pull them apart and stir the shredded short ribs into the sauce.
If you want to eat them as a main course, I would serve them over jasmine rice with some steamed broccoli or sweet peas. As an appetizer, though, I served the shredded meat on my potato pancakes.
While a personal commitment kept me from attending last night's CineFest event opener, nothing will stop me from catching the rest of the flick-ering fun. (Check out all of CP's CineFest coverage.) And while weï¿½ll start tonight with Tony Luke Jr. and The Nail at the Prince Theater ï¿½ discussed in this here feature ï¿½ some of you might not care about a Luke movie other than say, this one:
That's because that video tells you how to best prepare his Tony Luke Frozen Cheesesteak. That's the product that ate up 3+ years of Luke's life, trying to find the right meat (sliced Black Angus sirloin instead of the fat-marbled ribeye he uses at his stand on Oregon Avenue), the right rolls (in separate wrappers) and how to get the cooking process just right ï¿½ whether you dunk it in water or nuke the whole thing in microwave-safe pouches.
Getting the sandwich absolutely right was crucial to Luke and Ray Rastelli III, the vice president of South Jersey's Rastelli Foods Group, which distributes Tony Luke Frozen Cheesesteaks. Rastelli also happens to be a big benefactor when it came to the money end of The Nail. "The guyï¿½s a saint," says Luke of his partner in crime.
Before he started the process seriously and wound up happy with the product, he found that ï¿½ Luke said this to very loudly ï¿½ "you cannot, under any circumstances, take a full and complete sandwich ï¿½ a loaded sandwich that is frozen ï¿½ put it in a microwave or in an oven and expect that the sandwich will taste good. By the time that the heat gets to the center of sandwich, the rest of the it is completely overcooked or is dried out." The first thing he had to do? "I had to separate the two ï¿½ the meat from the bread. I cannot put the sandwich together."
Luke did try to Cryovac meat from a microwave and it tasted like garbage ï¿½ "it was dry and it was rubbery." He added and subtracted stuff from the packet. "It was burnt and barely OK ï¿½ and inconsistent."
That is until his partner Rastelli made a comment: "It's not in the packet. It's in the meat."
Luke canï¿½t comment more. He has a patent pending on this. He has this process. He got industry experts to sign confidentiality agreements. When they said it couldn't work. Luke said "humor me." He loves that saying. He says it a few times, as if to humor himself. "I'll pay you. Just humor me."
After Rastelli and Luke devised what they came up, they believed they'd revolutionized something special ï¿½ making a frozen cheesesteak that was good. "People have to do a little bit of work to knock this out," he explains. "You're gonna cook it. But not much ï¿½ in fact, you can either do it in microwave which is easier or in the boil-in bag where you toast the roll and quickly boil the meat in the bag."
Funny thing was, Luke was going to try to something more like a Steak-Umm. He got the best meat. Got a focus group. Everybody fried it and tried it. Everybody got the roll. Everybody ate it. "Everybody in the focus group loved it ... 95 percent said it was fantastic. So I said, 'Will you buy it?' and 90 percent said 'Absolutely not.'"
He laughs hardest at that.
"Because we gotta cook it. These people are used to throwing something in the microwave and two minutes later eating their dinner. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" he yells.
A lot of people this time around don't get the sous vide "boil in bag" process where the 180-degree water bath breaks meat down and creates a juice that's phenomenal. "Three minutes in a bag ï¿½ let it rest so that the cheese doesn't stick to the bag. It's ready in 3-4 minues. Shake it a second and youï¿½ll find that the juice from the meat is so flavorful you will lose your mind. Take that roll. Put it in a toaster oven 3, 4 minutes. It comes out crisp and soft. Put it together ï¿½ amazing."
He laughs after having read the blogs and the responses to his process. "Youï¿½d a thought I set off a bomb in the middle of Center City. But all Iï¿½m trying to do is represent the cheesesteak and Philly better than it has been by bigger companies."
Left Coast/formerly Philly food blog Gastronomy recently checked out The Bazaar by Josï¿½ Andrï¿½s, which earned a four-star review in the Los Angeles Times.
One of the tapas on the El Bulli vet's menu? A cheesesteak. "Waaay cheaper than the one at Barclay Prime," says Gastronomy's Cathy.
The Philly Cheesesteak ($8) marked the transition from cold plates to hot ones. ï¿½Air bread,ï¿½ making its second appearance of the evening, was piped full of oozy cheddar cheese and topped with Wagyu beef. The cheesesteakï¿½s flavors and textures were nothing short of fabulous; definitely one of the stars of The Bazaar.
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