it's okay to play with your food

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm a little late jumping on the P.Y.T bandwagon, having missed the blogger luncheon that owner Tommy Up so smartly arranged last month. But I made my way to the new joint at the Piazza at Schmidt's before the ROOT Cocktail Competition and finally tasted the burger that has been - both literally and figuratively - on the lips of food bloggers around town.

I could just let the photo below speak for itself. Gooey melted cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, a soft potato roll and a perfectly medium rare patty. The creamy onion spread, which tasted more garlicky to me, was excellent. Can a burger melt in your mouth? The P.Y.T Burger can.

Since I was there by myself, it was hard to rationalize getting the burger, the fries AND a full alcoholic milkshake. But I really wanted one of those milkshakes! I wondered aloud if they ever made half-sized ones and they happily obliged. I selected the Jon Valdez: coffee ice cream, Kahlua and Patron XO. The alcohol wasn't overwhelming. It's a thick, delicious milkshake with just a hint of something adult in there. And though the menu only includes 4 varieties, 15 recipes exist. I eagerly await when the others will make their debuts.

From Tommy Up's active tweeting, word is that the menu is expanding to include a Cobb salad and Tempura (yes, fried) burger. I definitely want to check out the non-beef options on the P.Y.T menu, like the Calibunga Burger (seared white beans) and TLC (ground chicken burger).

Summer 2009 is the Summer of Burgers in Philly. The question is, where do I eat next? Squareburger? Newly anointed home of the best burger in town, Butcher and Singer? Personal favorite Good Dog? The nationally burger-famous Rouge? With so much awesome burger action, you'd
almost forget that Philly is a cheesesteak town.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

7 Simple Salads: Salads 2 - 7

To recap, despite my disdain for Mark Bittman, I was intrigued by his recent NYT article, 101 Simple Salads for the Season. So I decided to spend a week trying out a new salad each day, starting with number 2, tomatoes and peaches with cilantro. My recent quality time with Bittman has been more fruitful than I expected. The nice thing about these salad recipes is how flexible they are and once you acquire a bunch of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and accessories, you can start making up your own dishes and playing with what he's suggested. Of all the ones I've tried so far, I think the first one remains my favorite.

Number 14. Thinly slice carrots, or grate or shred them (the food processor makes quick work of this). Toss with toasted cumin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice and cilantro. Raisins are good in here too. There is no better use of raw carrots.

Lemon juice and cumin are a delicious combination. I could just drink this dressing straight. I bet that marinating the carrots in the dressing for 15 minutes or so would be nice.

48. Toss roughly chopped dandelion greens (or arugula or watercress) with chopped preserved lemon, chickpeas, crumbled feta and olive oil. (Before you start cursing me out, here’s a quick way to make preserved lemons: chop whole lemons and put in a bowl with the juice of another lemon or two, sprinkle with a fair amount of salt and let sit for an hour or so.)

The preserved lemon trick didn't work out as well as Bittman promised, though maybe I could have chopped the lemons up smaller.

39. Yucatecan street food as salad: Roast fresh corn kernels in a pan with a little oil; toss with cayenne or minced chilis, lime juice and a little queso fresco. Cherry tomatoes are optional.

This doesn't look particularly great, but it was tasty. The tart lime was nicely paired with the sweet corn. Though it wasn't as substantial as some of the other salads and would have been better as a side dish rather than a meal.

18. Roughly chop cooked or canned chickpeas (you can pulse them, carefully, in a food processor) and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, lots of chopped fresh parsley and mint, and a few chopped tomatoes. Call this chickpea tabbouleh.

This ended up being a nice variation on no. 48 above. I used the remaining preserved lemons and added feta. No tomatoes on hand though.

30. Fast, grown-up potato salad: Boil bite-size red potatoes. While still warm, dress them with olive oil, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, capers and parsley. Chopped shallots, bell peppers, etc., all welcome, too.

I mixed together a dollop of Dijon with another dollop of mayo. Spicy, creamy and tangy. The warm potatoes are key.

So this isn't a salad exactly, but rather a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with cheesy rice and topped with a black bean salad and additional queso fresco. Full recipe forthcoming but it was definitely inspired by my fridge full of cilantro, mint and cheese.

Blueberries in my coffee

Trust me, kitchenplayers, I haven't forgotten you. In fact, there have been Bittman salads made, homemade soft pretzels ruined and P.Y.T grub taste-tasted. I just haven't written about it all yet. Blame it on the heat. Blame it on Live Arts. But in the meantime, check out this blueberry-laced shout-out to Newbold favorite, Ultimo Coffee at Brew.

Philadelphia Weekly's 50 Must Eats...

Counter Culture Idido Misty Valley Coffee 

“It tastes like blueberries,” the floppy-haired barista at Newbold coffeehouse/beer box Brew says when asked about the single-origin 
Ethiopian blend called Idido Misty Valley. Dude looks like a CW tween soap star, not a joe pro, so we’re skeptical. But there they are: blueberries, sure enough, a whole Hammonton meadow of them rolling across our tongues like ball bearings. Organic, shade-grown and sun-dried in the traditional Ethiopian method, the coffee beans are roasted by North Carolina’s Counter Culture and delivered to Brew, where the fresh grinds are brewed individually in Bee House’s pour-over drippers for a clear, pure coffee that really sings. Voluptuous body. Dazzling acidity. It’s the best cup poured in Philly. Brew, 1900 S. 15th St. 215.339.5177.

This just begs the question, who wants to gobble through all 50 "must-eats" with me???