Sunday, June 28, 2009
Alex got the pad thai the other night, which is how I learned of the change. I never loved Plan-Eat-Thai's pad thai, so the fact that it was underwhelming isn't indicative that the quality of food has changed along with the name. I'll be sure to order from there soon and let you know if anything has changed on the kitchen side of things.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday morning I was wooed by the strawberries and plums at Reading Terminal Market. They were pretty, cheap and I’ve been meaning to jam anyway so… I bought 5 pounds of them.
I started poking around the internet and asking friends for advice:
“So what’s up with this “jar” business? Where do I find them?”
“Pectin… is it really necessary?”
“I’m sorry, you need a pot that’s HOW large?”
Thursday night I got to work, ignoring for a few hours the fact that Acme was sold-out of jars, meaning I was still jar-less. I took advantage of the optional first step in Marisa McClellan’s strawberry jam recipe: let the fruit stew overnight in sugar and vanilla bean. This would buy me some time. With Thriller playing in the background, I mashed up the berries and plums, brainstorming other places I could go for some proper canning jars.
Marisa and E had both suggested the Shop-Rite on Snyder Avenue for jars and pectin, but that was very out of my way and I had a window of about two hours before work in which to make something happen. Kitchen Kapers on 17th looked promising and it was on my way to the office.
Indeed, I made it into work on Friday with 8 jars, 4 5-oz (so cute!) and 4 17-oz. Kitchen Kapers carried three different types of jars, including French jars. The ones I bought had caps for vacuum sealing, which seemed appropriate. (Again, I really didn’t know what I was looking for, but they were jars with lids, so I bought them!)
So my next question was, how long does jamming take? Taking another look at Marisa’s strawberry jam post reminded me that she herself had even left the berries in the fridge for two nights and they were fine. I decided to take the chance and spend early Saturday morning jamming. I figured if I started around 9, that would leave me enough time before heading out for the day.
So here I am. It's now Saturday morning and jamming has begun. I started around 7:30, just to be safe. I'm cooking the fruit in two batches since I don't have enough big pots. I was lucky enough last night to score a large pot for canning from Jim and Aditi. I also never got pectin. Mike said he never uses it when he jams and plums have pectin naturally. It's all been working out so far, I'm hoping my good luck continues. What's the worse that could happen?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I haven't found a recipe yet but I trust that strawberries and plums will taste and look lovely together. My first stop for a possible recipe will be Food in Jars, local writer Marisa McClellan's blog about, well, jars with food inside of them. (Her blog was even recently featured on The Kitchn!)
Does anyone have any advice for a novice jammer? Or a great recipe to share?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
partnership of the two beverages to come to Philly.
submitted to the La Golondrina coffee project. By going to cuppings - the coffee version of a wine tasting - Ultimo brought the coffees that he found truly exceptional to Brew.
chocolates provide truffles. Simple sandwiches on Four Worlds baguettes include triple cream brie with apples and honey or goat cheese, arugula and olive tapenade. The sandwich options, like the coffee, will be seasonal.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I roused myself from a post-coffee cupping nap to join a group of our friends for BBQ and popsicles. Few would disagree: a trip to North Carolina isn't complete without a healthy dose of BBQ, but paletas, aka Mexican popsicles? Apparently, a trip to the Triangle isn't complete without a couple of those either, thanks to a local chain, Locopops.
But first, we stopped for lunch at the Barbeque Joint, a favorite in Chapel Hill. While on the BBQ border, we were still technically in East North Carolina BBQ territory, meaning a vinegar dressing as opposed to a thick tomato-based sauce. And with BBQ, the sides are just as important as the meat. Sydnor recommended the Brussels sprouts, cooked with garlic and bacon. Being the huge Brussels sprouts fan that I am, I ordered them. And a side of mac & cheese. And a pulled pork sandwich.
Can pickles be described as "fresh?" Because if so, these were the freshest pickle slices I've eaten, washed in brine rather than soaked. The BBQ itself was good, though not the best I've ever had. The meat wasn't as tender as I like and while I love vinegar, I'm just more of a West North Carolina BBQ gal. Give me a tangy, sweet red sauce with a bit of kick any day. The sprouts were delicious, as most things with bacon and garlic are, but needed a good mixing to give the vegetables a nice coating of their topping. The mac & cheese was a winner, with a nicely seasoned crust. I didn't sample them, but the fried green tomatoes looked awesome too.
From The Barbeque Joint it was off to Locopops, a local Triangle chain. I visited the first storefront years ago with Samara, just after it opened. The barebones decor, standard for paleterias it seems, didn't trumpet their tasty wares, in flavors like chili chocolate, all homemade with good ingredients. And I'll be honest, it's location, slightly off the beaten path in downtown Durham, neighboring a gun shop, didn't augur great success down the road.
Fast forward four years and Locopops is a foodie destination in the Triangle with four locations, even garnering national attention in a recent Bon Appetit article on the area. Fresh flavors, both juice and cream based, like Plum Black Currant, Tamarind Lemonade, and Thai Rice Pudding, comprise the menu. I sunk my teeth into a Grasshopper: white chocolate with fresh spearmint. It was like eating a refreshing white chocolate bar, cool and invigorating with each fleck of spearmint. If I hadn't just gorged myself on a three-course BBQ feast, I would have gone in for another one. Maybe Cookies and Cream... or Cherry Bergomot Truffle... or Berry Hazelnut... or...or... or...
Next up: a pre-wedding jaunt to the Durham Farmer's Market.
Two weeks ago, a pair of my close college friends wed in Durham, North Carolina. The Triangle (Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill) is also home to Counter Culture Coffee, where Ultimo Coffee at Brew gets their beans. When I told friends I was planning on hitting a coffee cupping at Counter Culture on Friday at 10am, I was met with a couple different reactions, all some variation on the theme of surprise. Most people didn't believe I would make it up that early after a bachelorette party the night before. This response was typically followed by, "What the hell's a cupping, anyway?"
In my ignorant pre-cupping days, the easiest comparison to make was that it's like a wine tasting, but with coffee. I now think that a better description might be, it's like a first-year college seminar, but on coffee.
After a night of mechanical bull riding and many glasses of a new cocktail named in honor of the bride and groom, I managed to get myself out of bed for the cupping. Shockingly, I was even able to wrangle a coffee cupping partner-in-crime, Melanie.
I can't speak for Melanie, but I was overwhelmed by the coffee cupping process. About 20 people, mostly good-looking, hipster, twenty and thirty-somethings, were sniffing and slurping coffee with acumen, tasting for brightness, body and aftertaste. The crowd also included a three-week old baby and a 9-year old boy.
We were greeted by Lydia, who gave us a sheet for taking notes, a pencil and a spoon. She briefly broke down the different coffee qualities for which we would be tasting: fragrance, aroma, break, brightness, flavor, body and aftertaste.
The Break: Using a spoon, "break" the top layer of foam, releasing steam and fragrance. Dive in with your nose to capture the smell.
The Slurp: capture a bit of coffee on your spoon and literally slurp it, quickly and cleanly, into your mouth, tasting for brightness (acidity), flavor (sweet, salty), body (mouth-feel), and aftertaste.
Baked beans, cinnamon sugar, citrus splash, rooty/medicinal, peaches, bright summery were some of the words used to describe the first coffee, which turned out to be Counter Culture's Bwayi coffee from Burundi.
I can't say that a novice such as myself tasted with such specificity, but everything that the other tasters said made sense to me. The first coffee was brighter, sharper, citrus-y; the second coffee did have mellow tones of chocolate and toffee (it turned out to be La Golondrina, my standby at Ultimo Coffee, which maybe explains why it was my favorite of the three). I feel like I'll be a bit braver at my next cupping and trust my instincts enough to taste with confidence. The cupping was followed by a tour of the roastery, but the previous night's fun was catching up to me and I needed to go home and take a little nap, so we skipped out on the tour.
Counter Culture's emphasis on coffee education is not limited to their Chapel Hill headquarters. They have opened up training centers along the east coast, including DC and NYC. Melanie sent me a Washington Post article on Counter Culture's educational mission that came out just a few days after our first cupping. Aaron Ultimo has mentioned that he hopes to bring cuppings to Brew in the near future. I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A chef is yet to be hired so the menu is far from finalized, but the food philosophy at Lucky Old Souls will be based around local, sustainably-produced ingredients. Feldman plans on consulting with Fair Food Philly in establishing relationships with local food vendors and farmers. Ben Merkel, currently a server and manager at Rx, will manage at Lucky Old Souls.
Lucky Old Souls will start out with a seasonal menu consisting of small plates, sandwiches and entrées, all served in the evening. Possible future plans include adding weekday lunch and/or weekend brunch. As with the food menu, the emphasis at the bar will be on local products, with six draft beers on tap from nearby breweries. Bottled beers, wine and soft drinks will round out the selection.
The building, on the 1700 block of McKean Street, has been vacant for over 25 years and will be completely rehabbed. Cicada Architecture/Planning, the firm behind West Philly's Lovers & Madmen Coffee Lounge, is in charge of the venture. Look forward to a two-story space with balcony-type seating on the second floor overlooking the bandstand. I don’t know about you, but it makes me think of the set-up at Johnny Brenda’s.
And of course, there will be the music. Feldman’s main interest is jazz but he plans on programming a wide variety of musical styles, including blues, “world” music and classical chamber music.
Feldman knows two things very well: good music and good food. You can trust that both will be in abundance at Lucky Old Souls. He’s hoping for an opening in early 2010. Expect updates at kitchenplay as Lucky Old Souls becomes a reality.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Mike of Mike's Bikes was there too and we both chimed in that a Brew/DiBruno tie-in event would be excellent idea. Maybe a Beer and Cheese Night once the liquor license is set up?
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Italians are big teases, or so says Franco Iovino, owner of Girasole in the Symphony House at Broad and Pine. And no, he wasn’t referring to matters of amore, but rather his carpaccio, delicately sliced raw beef or fish that tickle your palate before melting in your mouth. The point isn’t to gorge yourself on the blue fin tuna with salty olives and sun dried tomatoes, or the filet mignon with crisp arugala and shavings of Parmigiano cheese, but to enjoy the moment, trusting that something else delicious is sure to follow.
“Mediterranean” is how Girasole describes its cuisine. It is decidedly Italian, with dishes touching upon multiple regions. Almost everything is made in-house, including their pasta, desserts, crudo and carpaccio. Their cheeses come from Claudio’s in the Italian Market. Dessert options change daily, and can include a mille crêpe filled with marron glacé sauce or zuccotto, a semi-freddo dotted with candied nuts and chunks of chocolate.
The carpaccio and crudo selections stand out on the Girasole menu. Il crudo refers to raw seafood “cooked” in marinades of citrus juice and olive oil, like ceviche. Girasole offers both caldo (warm) or freddo (cold) carpaccio, thin slices of octopus, blue fin tuna, bronzino or filet mignon. Capers, slices of fresh peppers or tiny bits of grapefruit or avocado serve as garnish.
Girasole is Italian for sunflower and the restaurant takes its name seriously, with fresh sunflowers dotting the bar and a painting of a sunflower field along one wall. Benches along the wall are swathed in ultra-luxe burnished gold Versace fabrics. More Versace fabric dressings hang from the ceiling. The bar greets you when you enter, with the dining room just beyond it. They are planning additional outdoor seating on Pine Street for the summer.
Taking advantage of its prime position on the Avenue of the Arts, Girasole caters to the theater crowd. They are open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, a perfect post-show spot for dessert or a cocktail. They also offer a three-course prix fixe theater menu Sunday through Friday. Thirty-five dollars gets you three courses, including coffee with dessert. This is in addition to their lunchtime prix-fixe, two- courses priced at $19.95.
And yes, the carpaccio freddo is available on the prix-fixe!
Photo credit by Albert Lee
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Philadelphia Weekly restaurant critic and Blogalicious blogger Adam Erace and brother Andrew announced today that they are entering the grocery game this September, when they debut Green Aisle Grocery on the 1600 block of East Passyunk Avenue.
Adam and Andrew are both serious eaters, and their broad range of edible interests will be reflected in Green Aisle’s stock. Think local and organic produce, free-range eggs, coffee, cheese, honey, pasta, loose-leaf tea and other tasties. Customers will be able to pick up a single lemon to supplement cocktail hour or a luxe Spanish olive oil to gild the dinner lily.
Prepared foods from the experts will make appearances, too; the Erace boys have already worked out a deal with James chef/owner Jim Burke to carry his intense mostardas and toothsome pasta.
Passyunk Avenue sure is a-changin’; we’ve got designer sushi at Izumi, our own Capogiro scoop shop and yet more access to local produce and craft food when Green Aisle opens. If we keep on behaving and stimulating the economy down here, can we get our street cleaning back?
I think this is awesome news, but as the neighborhood changes, I hope it doesn't exclusively cater to the gourmet-going crowd. The beauty of South Philly is its diversity: culturally, racial and socio-economically. Gentrification doesn't have to be a four-letter word; it can strike a balance between catering to the new money coming in and keeping things accessible to the original people of that neighborhood. It is exciting to see how quickly and, thus far at least, successfully East Passyunk has morphed from empty storefronts to a foodie destination. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the 1600 block of Passyunk doesn't become an alien land to the people who have been living around there for decades.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
The solution: a cocktail party with a twist, all gifts had to be about cocktails, thereby stocking up Bill and Sydnor's bar at their new home.
Naturally, cocktails were at the center of the party. The makings for gin gimlets and rye and gingers lined Daniel's counter top. Homemade lavender shortbread, chocolate cake, cheese, hummus and bread provided sustenance to counter the cocktails.
Gifts included bottles of St. Germain and gin, the most versatile corkscrew I've ever seen, and lemon bitters. Daniel gave all the makings for a quality Sazerac, from the absinthe to the Sazerac rye whiskey to the Peychaud's bitters to the highball glasses. With the permission of the guests-of-honor, we opened the St. Germain and toasted the event with St. Germain and champagne.
Lisa also asked Sydnor and Bill's friends to send Lisa a recipe for their favorite cocktail. Recipes for drinks like Sazerac, French 75, and the Arnold Palmer Firefly were lovingly handwritten by Lisa in a tiny notebook and presented to the bride and groom-to-be at the party.
And it didn't go unnoticed that this is the gift that gives back; now we can all look forward to well-stocked cocktail parties at Bill and Syd's new apartment in Philly!
From Daniel & Aaron for Bill & Sydnor
1 sugar cube or teaspoon sugar
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup rye whiskey
2 teaspoons absinthe
1 lemon peel twist
Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice, set aside. Place sugar cube in another old-fashioned glass. Pour bitters, followed by water, over the sugar cube. Muddle with spoon until sugar dissolves. Add ice to fill glass, add whiskey. Let stand, stirring often, about a minute. Discard ice from first glass, add absinthe. Swirl to coat inside of glass, then pour out absinthe. Strain whiskey mixture into glass. Twist lemon peel over cocktail (releases lemon oil in the drink) and run along lip of glass. Discard lemon.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Yesterday, rather than simply biking past Parc, I went inside for breakfast, my first visit since it opened last year. Daniel is leaving soon for a summer teaching gig in North Carolina, so we went out for an informal send-off. Seated near a window with a view of the park, lush and green on this rainy morning, it was a calming way to start the day.
The most commonly heard complaint about Parc (when you can actually hear each other) is that the acoustics are poor. As the large bistro gets crowded, and it often does for lunch and dinner, it becomes incredibly noisy. Arriving for breakfast at 8:30am on a Thursday, I encountered a practically empty Parc. Maybe 15 people were quietly chatting or drinking their coffees alone while reading the paper, so noise wasn’t an issue.
Daniel and I both dislike it when brunch places try to “tart up” their dishes. Why does French toast need to be stuffed with pineapple chunks in ricotta, covered with vanilla maple syrup plus peach compote plus candied nuts plus chestnut whipped cream? Now I know some of you kitchenplay readers like the sound of that, which is fine. I just prefer less complicated dishes, particularly when I’m still waking up in the morning…
The simplicity at Parc was refreshing. The menu offers an elegant selection of traditional egg and bread dishes. Pain perdu with apples and hazelnut butter caught my eye, but I am more of a savory person when it comes to breakfast/brunch, so I selected the ham and Swiss omelette. Daniel opted for 2 eggs any way (preferring sunny-side up) with a side of Nueske bacon. Both dishes came with Lyonnaise potatoes.
And the food was just fine. The ham and Swiss omelette was just that, eggs folded around chopped ham and melted cheese, adorned with speckles of parsley and chives mixed into the raw egg. Daniel liked his eggs and toast. And while his potatoes were fine, mine were a tad too salty. The bacon, from Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats, was nice and crispy, but a little too one-dimensionally smoky. The coffee was dark and strong and frequently replenished by our attentive server.
So the food didn’t blow me away, but like most of Stephen Starr’s ventures, it was the total experience that made the visit a lovely one.
Postlude: Later on I went to Happy Hour at the Continental Mid-town Roofdeck, one of my favorite spots in Center City. I noticed some changes on the menu, and apparently it was just updated this week.
But thank God the grilled octopus is still being served, just as oily and lemony and tender and delicious as always. I'm including it in this post just cause it's so pretty...
Two Stephen Starr spots in one day? He just might have to be my June Crush-of-the-Month.
I'll be doing more writing for them in the coming weeks and the majority of it will be about food. Stay tuned...
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Since I’ve been back I’ve only added a bit more cardboard. A few isolated chunks of mold remained so I’ve been focusing on a) getting rid of them completely and b) letting the current batch completely break down before introducing any new plant waste. I can’t say I really know what I’m doing, but this strategy makes sense in my head.
A common concern about composting is the potential for unwanted odors and animals. The only smell from our bin is a musty, earthy scent and the only critters are a swarm of fruit flies that never stray far from the compost bin itself. My worry now is knowing exactly when it’s ready to use, particularly on my indoor plants… are the flies going to be a problem? Will they follow the compost into the house or will they want to stick around the composter where the real action is?
The timing works well too, as I finally planted in my community garden plot a couple weeks ago. The
I’m also planning on getting my soil tested for lead ASAP. It’s a hot topic right now, with the rising popularity of gardening in the past couple months. In
And in case you missed it, here is another peak at the article on urban composting from April's Metro, with a quote by and shout-out to kitchenplay.
Our compost today…
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Sarah's birthday was last week. I'm all about handmade gifts, but May isn't the best time of year for knitting a pair of fingerless gloves. So I opted to make her a hot fudge sauce. I found a recipe suitable for refrigerator storage on The Wednesday Chef. The only change I made was to substitute Jack Daniels for the more refined brandy or cognac suggested in the recipe.
7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tablespoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
1. Melt chocolate pieces in large stainless steel mixing bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of gently simmering water. Be sure water does not touch bottom of mixing bowl to prevent chocolate from burning. Turn off heat and keep warm over warm water until ready to use.
2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder and instant coffee to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and to prevent burning on bottom of pan.
3. Whisk in melted chocolate. Boil hot fudge for few minutes to reduce to consistency you desire. It should be quite viscous and surface should have glossy shine. Cool slightly and beat in Cognac or brandy.
The steps for sterilizing glass jars can be found here.
Sarah hosted a potluck on her porch in West Philly and good eats abounded. Everything was vegetarian and options included a Gorgonzola and mushroom quiche, Mediterranean platter and garlic and herb cheese spread (all from Di Bruno Bros.); a salad of quinoa, sunchokes and strawberries; and even gelato from, my favorite, Capogiro.
We even stumbled upon one of the rogue miscapped bottles of Yards. That's a Washington Porter bottle cap on a bottle of Brawler.