Archive: July, 2009
Let it be known that it ain't easy getting info out of Daniel Stern. But Meal Ticket really wanted to try for more details on the chef's forthcoming Philly projects ï¿½ R2L in Two Liberty Place and MidAtlantic at 3711 Market (here's what we got so far) ï¿½ so we caught up with him via e-mail.
After the jump, find out what he's willing to divulge about his two new up-for-autumn restaurants, why he thinks Rae didn't work out in the Cira Centre, how often you might spot him at his flagship restaurant Gayle (617 S. Third St.) and more.
So where have you been lately? We haven't heard from you in awhile.
Iï¿½ve been around! Iï¿½ve been really been focusing on these two new projects, in addition to my babies: Gayle and my son, who is 18 months old.
What, in your view, tripped Rae up at Cira? Was it a result of the economy?
I'm sure the economy was a factor. It has not been the best environment for any business, but we were able to make great relationships and have a great run, and I look forward to seeing what comes next from that area.
The idea behind MidAtlantic ï¿½ celebrating the culinary backbone of this very region ï¿½ is an interesting one. How did you land on it?
Iï¿½ve always been very interested in history and stories and how they relate to food. The heritage and regionality are a great jumping off point for creativity. I grew up in Philly eating this type of food and itï¿½s really influenced me, even though Iï¿½ve worked and lived all over the world.
Are we right in thinking there will be a bunch of local beers on draft at this "modern taproom"?
Yes ... there are a ton of great local beers and weï¿½ll definitely have those on draft.
Regarding R2L ï¿½ should we take the "R" to represent a reincarnation of Rae?
The R is the creative inspiration behind the restaurant. Literally it stands for my grandmother, Rae: She was a major influence not just in my cooking, but in my outlook on hospitality. It just grows from there.
This is a completely new restaurant with a serious focus around the bar and bar dining. We're going to have a significant beverage program and the food will be refined contemporary cocktail cuisine.
Where are you eating these days? Any Philly restaurants, new or old, that you've been impressed by lately?
I always love to stop at Ansill on my way home, and look forward to seeing him back open in the fall. I haven't been yet, but when I get some time I need to stop in at Bibou. I've heard great things.
How often might we find you at Gayle, whether dining or cooking?
Every day. I've been working on all of our development out of Gayle and the back patio is also my favorite hideaway in the city.
The Good Word is a new weekly Meal Ticket feature where we ask Philadelphia food people questions. Weï¿½re going to start by highlighting the cityï¿½s many excellent food writers and bloggers, with eventual plans to extend beyond the scribeosphere. The questions will be different every week unless we come across a really sweet one we want to reuse. Want to nominate a future Good Word candidate (yes, you can nominate yourself), or submit ideas for questions? E-mail email@example.com.
In this installment of The Good Word, weï¿½re chatting with Shao Zhi Zhong of FriedWontons4U. Shao, a native of Guangzhou, China whose family came to Philadelphia when she was 5, is an avid home cook with an insane knack for food photography.
You grew up in the restaurant industry here in Philly, working at your uncle's restaurant in Chinatown. Why do you think you ended up on the coverage end of food via your blog, as opposed to having a full-time career "in the biz"?
I still work there a few times a week. The economy is rough. I'm very thankful I have this small part-time job until I could find something more stable. As for being "in the biz," I could see myself doing something in the management side, but never as a chef or enrolling in culinary school professionally. I have terrible knife skills! For me, cooking is about making mistakes, and trying to get it right over and over again at my own pace. Cooking professionally would take some of the joy out of that.
When I first started the blog, I did it because I had all this down time after I left my last job. I always enjoyed cooking, but the blog has made me realize how much I love the whole process of it. Researching for recipes, shopping for the ingredients, selecting the plate for the dish and even the occasional cooking hiccups. I have as much fun with these steps as I do cooking the whole meal. If I ever do something that's "in the biz" full-time, it would have to be something as enjoyable as trying to perfect an ice cream recipe over and over again.
Your photos are beautiful. Everyone wants to know how you do it!
Thank you! I mostly shoot with a Nikon D60, and sometimes with a Nikon D90, as well. I tend to stick to a 50mm and a 35mm lens for all my food photos. Need to catch all the little crumbs on the plate! My speedlight also helps when I'm working with less-than-perfect indoor lighting conditions, but you don't really need to invest in a SLR to take good food photos. If you have a point and shoot, natural light is your friend. My first post was shot with a small Canon PowerShot.
What's really important, though, is patience. Snapping pictures as you watch the food you just made slowly getting cold is torture. The blog has changed how I react to food. When a plate of food is presented to me now, the first thing that comes in mind is not "I can't wait to dig in, yum!" but rather it's "if I turn it slightly on this angle and rearrange this lettuce leaf ... "
If you weren't cooking/covering food in Philly, which other city would you like to blog about?
I was in Seattle and San Francisco a few months ago and had some amazing meals there. I also love the dinning atmosphere of Rome and Japan when I was over there. It would be very hard for me to pick just one city. I want to eat my way through every continent if I could! Every region has their own unique dining culture. That's whats so great about eating in a different country, or even in a different town ï¿½ you get to learn so much about the area by the dish that's presented in front of you.
You have five ingredients to cook with for the rest of your life. What are they? Choose wisely!
How could you make me pick?! Well, garlic is a must. Lemon, fish (please don't make me choose which type), eggs, and, of course, bacon. Garlic goes good with just about everything. Lemon juice and zest will brighten up any dish. Fish is one of my favorite proteins. I can eat eggs any time of the day. As for bacon, well, it's BACON, and you can never go wrong with some pork fat in your life.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
If case you haven't been following the war of (mostly one dude's) words between P.Y.T.'s Tommy Up and Starr Restaurant Organization by way of SquareBurger ï¿½ last week, Up, confident in the menu at his new Piazza eatery, challenged Stephen Starr's Franklin Square burger/shake shack to a taste-off via Twitter. Then SRO, without responding directly to the PaperStreet promoter, announced that they would be dropping the price of their $16 Butcher & Singer burger (left) to $5.95 for a limited time. (We tried it for lunch yesterday.)
If you know Up, you know he's not one to relinquish the last word that easily. So he trained his photon torpedoes at the Starrship Enterprise again with a counterdeal ï¿½ bring a Butcher & Singer receipt to NoLibs, and you get a P.Y.T. burger (right) on the house. Up tells Meal Ticket that he'll keep his promotion going as long as B&S keeps theirs on.
Go ahead and say what you will about PR and buzz and egos and self-promotion and competition and what have you ï¿½ at the end of the day, y'all have been given a golden opportunity to eat cheap-as-hell/free food here. If you consider yourself a burger fan, to fail to take advantage of both deals would be tragic.
Last week, we told you about Otolith Sustainable Seafood's relocation, and its plans to launch a CSS (community supported seafood) program out of its new digs at 2133 E. Huntingdon Street. Original deadline to sign up ï¿½$180 for three five-pound shares of the freshest sustainable Alaskan salmon, which works out to $12 a pound ï¿½ was this Sunday, but Otolith owner Amanda Bossard tells us they're extending that to August 14.
Daniela D'Ambrosio and Todd Braley originally planned on opening French bistro Pickled Heron (2218 Frankford Ave.) before the summer, but — you know how it is — hit some snags. Now, D'Ambrosio's happy to report that they're back on track, in the thick of the build-out process. "We're really taking our time ... to be as responsible as we can for construction," says D'Ambrosio, who with her husband is focusing on keeping the process green. They've acquired some salvaged lighting, for example, and just purchased a 16-foot, 100-year-old white chestnut church pew to serve as a long banquette.
They're hoping for a late September or early October opening.
We had more info on the couple, and a few menu details, back in March.
|AP via Telegraph
On Monday, we asked you to nominate the beer for President Obama's Rose Garden sit-down with Harvard prof Skip Gates and Cambridge cop James Crowley. Some great responses in the comments, in addition to our selection of Sam Adams Boston Lager as the one beer to end racial strife.
The so-called Beer Summit finally took place last night, and here's who drank what (veep Joe Biden ended up chilling along with):
- Obama: Bud Light. The most popular man in American selects the most popular beer in America. Works on paper, we suppose ï¿½ but straight-up Bud would've endeared this choice more to all those people in the Rust Belt or wherever who still think O is Al-Qaeda. [GRADE: C]
- Biden: Bucklers. The VP is a longtime teetotaler, so he opted for this "beer," which carries less than 1 percent ABV. We've never had Bucklers, but for some reason it seems more legit than O'Doul's, so respect. [GRADE: B]
- Crowley: Blue Moon. Coors makes this some-ladies-love-it wheat beer, which is often served with an orange wedge. (They wouldn't let photogs close enough to the meeting for us to determine whether or the sergeant went with the citrus.) Kind of an anemic choice, but in post-racial America, we suppose it's OK for a cop to be seen drinking this in the company of men. [GRADE: C+ with orange wedge; B- without it]
- Gates: Sam Adams Light. Leave it to the Ivy League brain to listen to us! Though he didn't go with Boston Brewing Co.'s flagship beer, this works ï¿½ Meal Ticket typically tries to avoid light beer at all costs, but we've had this stuff on several occasions and were pleasantly surprised. [GRADE: A]
Wait, wait ï¿½ here's what Gates said to some reporters post-summit regarding the circumstances of his arrest:
"Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters ï¿½ as metaphors, really ï¿½ in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control," he said, striking a suitably scholarly tone.
People who drink beer shouldn't talk like that. A REVOKED! [NEW GRADE: B]
At the outset ofTop Chef Masters, I predicted that it wasn't going to get compelling till the championship round, when the winners of the first six eps would face off in a series of so-below-them challenges in the name of a hefty $100K charity prize. Last night, the finals got rolling, and my prediction held true, as the Quickfire featured the cut-above six-pack ï¿½ Hubert Keller, Suzanne Tracht, Rick Bayless, Anita Lo, Michael Chiarello and Art Smith ï¿½ rocking menial tasks they probably haven't rocked in decades.
Yes, it was time for the mis en place relay race. (Y'all remember when Season 3 winner Hung STRAIGHT DESTROYED the chicken butchering challenge?) Working in threes, the chefs had to take on the thankless jobs that their staff typically handle ï¿½ shucking oysters, dicing onions, chopping birds and whipping up egg whites into a stiff froth. Our fave Tom C. ï¿½ heretofore known as "Big Daddy," thanks Art Smith ï¿½ who dressed like how your dad dresses for church for the occasion, acted as ref.
Impressions ï¿½ Lo, who did the chicken thing like a champ (lesson: always pick the Asian to do the chicken), kills it when she describes Season 3 race participant Casey as "some poor woman chopping onions for way too long." Bayless referring to Keller as a "French demigod" = somehow creepy. Smith making a "cry myself a river" crack while hacking his onions = fully expected, fully appreciated.
Keller's team wins, and the chef, who took on two tasks in the race, picks first for Elimination ï¿½ each chef must reinvent a competitor's signature dish. Keller picks Lo's scallop/urchin, sticking her with his lobster cappuccino; Tracht and Smith flip-flop, taking on seared grouper and chopped sirloin with a fried egg, respectively. (The Obamas love that grouper, says Smith ï¿½ hey, have you heard he's friends with them? Also Oprah?) The last pair-up sees Chiarello handing his quail over to Mexican master Bayless, who puts his roast lamb with pasilla chiles and figs in the hands of the Italian chef.
Judging the plates are a group of TCM cast-offs, including the dude Ludo Lefebvre, who apparently enrolled in dialect lessons after Bravo subtitled him, Morimoto-on-Food-Network style, in Episode 3. Producers didn't feel the need to do this to him this time around, causing Ludo to be like "the fuck?"
The judges like Keller's urchin cream, so he gets 21.5 stars. They're also all about Bayless' not-that-Mexi interpretation of Chiarello's plate,ï¿½ earning him 23. Winning, though ï¿½ and earning a gushing "genius" nod from Britcrit Jay Rayner ï¿½ is Lo, who tallies up 24. (Her twist on Keller: corn chawanmushi, champagne gelï¿½e and a lobster biscuit sandwich.) Smith, who stuffed a boiled egg inside a ball of undercooked lamb (Gael Green calls it "grotesque") gets just 15 stars, but the ax falls on Tracht, who drastically overcooks her fish.
Nice how this group worked out to be relatively diverse ï¿½ two women (one Asian), a French dude, a Medi-looking dude, a gay dude, a white dude who at least knows a lot Mexican people ... foreal, we're about one armor-wearing dog and one wheelchair-bound child away from
Next week: Zooey Deschanel. (500) Days of Forcing Chefs Against Their Will to Cook Vegetarian.
Back in June, it was announced that Marigold Kitchen owner Steven Cook would be giving up his West Philly BYO to chef Robert Halpern to open Percy Street Barbecue with current Marigold chef Erin O'Shea. To say goodbye, they announced they were planning a six-course collaborative dinner featuring the work of the three chefs who've held down MK in its modern era ï¿½ï¿½ Cook, O'Shea and Michael Solomonov, Cook's partner in Zahav.
Well, the dinner's scheduled for this coming Saturday, and the thing's completely sold out. But aren't you a little curious about what the threesome will be cooking? Check out the menu after the jump, and see if you can guess who's cooking what.
|Click to enlarge
Rittenhouse's Alma de Cuba (1623 Walnut St. 215-988-1799), most recently the site of a Gyllenspoon sighting (oh no, did we just say Gyllenspoon?), just unveiled some seasonal plates crafted by exec chef and recent Top Chef Masters contestant Douglas Rodriguez. Check out the new spread after the jump.
|Click to enlarge
Franklin Fountain's Eric Berley, whose brother Ryan talked to Felicia D. for an interview earlier today, tells Meal Ticket that Man v. Food just wrapped up two days of shooting at their Old City scoop shop. Host Adam Richman dropped by the old-school ice cream parlor (116 Market St.) to sample their banana split and their "Mt. Vesuvius," the gigantic hot fudge sundae bulked up with brownie pieces, malt powder and whipped cream. Berley says that the Philly episode of the Travel Channel show ï¿½ it will also feature Richman attempting to eat a five-pound cheesesteak from Tony Luke's ï¿½ should air in late September.
For more Franklin Fountain goodness, check out Felicia D's fresh feature on Moxie soda.
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