Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another Holiday Gift Idea!

My gift list is getting longer and longer, I am in desperate need of some ideas. Coming a from a family of foodies (and proud Italians), and I can see these cool map plates being a hit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Hi Penn Appetit Blog Readers,

Penn's Winter Break is upon us, meaning that posting on the blog is going to slow down for the next few weeks as our staff gets some much-needed rest and relaxation. We still encourage you to to check back every so often as there will be some activity, including some holiday-focused posts. We'll resume our normal, daily posting schedule in mid-January. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Alex
Blog Editor

Thursday, December 18, 2008

La Colombe (Manayunk)

I was intrigued enough by my trusted copy of NFT's description of La Colombe in Manayunk as the "good twin to Center City's Israeli trash evil twin" and decided to venture to the neighborhood to investigate further firsthand.

La Colombe is plain as far as modern cafes go. There are no plush armchairs that are inseparable from iPod-listening, web-surfing denizens. No colorful walls with mystical aphorisms and quotes from unimportant people. No CDs, books, or coffee paraphernalia for sale. Just a simple cafe focusing on the java drink, a small selection of French pastries and panini sandwiches, an uncluttered counter, some wall space for an independent photographer, light music, exposed ceilings, unassuming furniture, and plain lighting. Nothing that would steal the show from a good cup of coffee, the main purpose of visits from loyal patrons.

I ordered a single-shot cappuccino of their house roast, which arrived promptly from the masterful hands of the barista, served in porcelain (not 5% recycled wood pulp). So far so good. The test is in the brew and if there is such a thing as a perfect cappuccino, La Colombe's version is pretty close - topped by a slightly glistening foam with an intricate heart-shaped pattern, smooth but robust taste, and just the right temperature on a cold winter afternoon.

And to accompany my cappuccino, I had a delicious pain au chocolat which the barista (not so secretively) revealed was from a bakery in Havertown. It was very soft and flaky, filled with just the right dose of smooth and moist chocolate, and was perfectly sized for a nice little bite. Once again, a complement to the coffee, instead of an overbearing sidekick.

And what about the crowd here? This caffeine-stopover attracts many local cycling enthusiasts after their morning pedal. We saw two to three parties stop by just long enough to sip and savor their coffee and then go off on their bikes again, fully energized. Just like these folks, I'll definitely be back again to this favorite twin.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stracciatella Soup

This recipe comes straight from my Grandfather's collection. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:
1 quart fresh chicken broth
4 eggs, whipped
4 heaping tablespoons Parmesan or Romano grated cheese
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, or fresh spinach, chopped (optional)

Directions:
Heat stock to a boil. In a bowl, whip eggs, cheese, salt and pepper and nutmeg. Add to boiling stock. Remove from heat. Add parsley or spinach, stirring gently. Serve with additional grated cheese.

Monday, December 15, 2008

iCupcakes

These adorable cupcakes took first prize in the NYC Cupcake Decorating Championships. Maybe next time they'll do blackberry?

Click here to learn more.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

This will be our last week of upcoming food events until after Penn's winter break, but if you have an event you'd like us to feature in the future, just email the details to pennappetit.blog@gmail.com.

Philadelphia's Christmas Village
Where: West side of City Hall, 15th St. and Market St.
When: Continuous until December 24, 11:00 am - 8:00 pm daily (7:00 pm on Sundays)
What: A variety of vendors in a medieval-style Christmas village selling crafts, ornaments, and European food, sweets, and drinks.

Klezmas Eve and Cantonese
Where: Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, 18th St. and Spruce St.
When: Wednesday, December 24, Banquet: 6:00 pm, Concert: 8:00 pm
What: A Jewish gathering on Christmas eve featuring a kosher Cantonese banquet followed by a lively klezmer concert. Reservations required for the banquet, but not for the concert.
How much: Banquet: $18 for adults, $10 for children, Concert: Free!

Boxing Day Beer Festival
Where: Memphis Taproom, 2331 E. Cumberland St.
When: Friday, December 26, All day
What: A special tasting of some of the best holiday and seasonal ales from around the world.
How much: A la carte pricing by beer, but save $1 off each beer for every coat, blanket, or 3 cans of food donated to benefit Philabundance and Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin'- Olive Penguins

PhotobucketBlog: Once Upon a Plate

These delightfully whimsical hor d'oeuvres only require three ingredients--olives, carrots and cream cheese. They're easy to assemble, inexpensive and, most importantly, adorable. So adorable that you may not want to eat them!



Note: Click here to see the original post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eat and Be Berry


Photo from Farmicia's website

Most Penn students are familiar with Metropolitan Bakery, the quaint café home to hand-baked bread, locally crafted cheeses and widely coveted house-made granola. Those partial to organic ingredients and eager to support artisan traditions appreciate the store’s natural approach to food. But few that frequent the fondly dubbed "Metro" know of Philadelphia's Old City offshoot of the bakery, Farmicia Restaurant.

The brainchild of Metropolitan owners James Barrett and Wendy Smith Born along with White Dog Cafe's Kevin Klause, Farmicia cultivates the same principle of connecting to local sustainable agriculture as Metropolitan. Its extensive menu brimful with unprocessed and environmentally conscious dishes offers a sit-down dining experience for Metropolitan devotees seeking to spend a little more time at the table.

In fact, as a supporter of the Slow Food movement, Farmicia literally invests more time and consideration in the preparation and serving of its cuisine. Assistant manager Josh Meal explains, "It's the process of slowly growing foods that take time to grow properly without any kind of outside help. The food [also] takes time to prepare, plate and present."

Meal says the restaurant's subscription to the Slow Food mentality is a large part of the appeal of working there. So, too, is the camaraderie among employees. "The people I work with are more family than co-workers," he says.

Waitress Hilary White-Speir seconds the testament to the amiable atmosphere. "I like the people I work with a lot," she says. "There's not a lot of drama here."

The bonhomie shines through to customers. Penn senior Carlin Adelson loved Farmicia’s hearty but healthy menu, but really relished the dining experience for its amicable vibe. “The ambience was delightful,” she recalls.

White-Speir also appreciates her job at Farmicia for its eco-consciousness. As a vegetarian, she prizes the restaurant's environmentally friendly bill of fare. Another Penn senior and Farmicia fan Jane Sussman attests to the fact that the restaurant caters to meat-abstainers. White-Speir's favorite dish right now is the new Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. Meal and another Penn senior, Laura Sagues, named the salad as their top pick as well.

But the seasonally rotational menu, changing four or five times a year according to Meal, provides an abundant sample of local tastes. The owners pride themselves on offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch menus that all capture the essence of the Pennsylvania farming community. “If you are from outside Philly and you want to get a taste for what’s local here, it’s kind of nice to have that opportunity,” says White-Speir.

Even the wine list boasts bottles made from organically grown, biodynamically cultivated grapes. "We buy a lot from the Amish," says White-Speir. "Everything is fresh, nothing is pre-made or shipped from somewhere else."

Farmicia bartender Ed Jones particularly appreciates the venue’s wholesomeness as his previous work experience consisted solely of mainstream commercial bars. “I like the commitment to local farming and the clean quality of the food,” he says.

But the deeply personal investment of the owners is what really sets Farmicia apart in Meal's eyes. "There are so many corporate restaurants that are more about money-making than anything else," Meal says. "I feel the love and care behind [Farmicia] makes it unique." Kevin, one of the owners, designed and decorated the rustic-themed space himself, and the servers treat customers warmly and are intimately familiar with the menu.

Jones says Kevin also keeps the community connection strong outside the 122-seat restaurant. “He is very committed to local recycling projects and school outreaches,” Jones says.

Yet another Penn senior, Natalie Pitcher, confirms the uniqueness of Farmicia in that she ate there three years ago and still remembers how delicious she found the meal. "It was the best lunch I've ever had at Penn," she proclaims.

Meal says the owners have shelved their plans to expand to Delaware for now, so in the meantime Philadelphians can pride themselves on the uniqueness of this local hot spot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 5

11:16
As expected, Team Blue is granted the first reprieve, so it's down to Eugene, Carla, and Danny for the boot. Danny's out and deservedly so. He was delusional about both the dish and his departure, so it's nice to weed out another person who was never going to take the title. Martha Stewart is the guest judge for next week's holiday episode. It looks like more high drama will ensue, and hopefully I'll be back to let you know about it as it happens.

11:07
The Borrowed and Old teams are the top achievers this week. Jamie's carrot puree falls short to Ariane's lamb. Poor Jamie, she's nothing if not consistent, but she never takes the top spot. I expect to see her around for a while, though, so she should have plenty more opportunities for a win. So, the other two groups, Blue and New, are in the bottom. While the Blue team suffered from blandness, the New team almost completely fell apart with their ambitious sushi-sorbet-salad effort. Danny, master of sneaking some apparently foul mushrooms into Carla's salad, should absolutely get the boot, because he was a part of virtually every component of the dish. Eugene, however, messed up a lot too, so his head may be on the chopping block instead.

10:55
Well the Bravo team pulled out all the stops for Gail's bridal shower, and they put it in a gorgeous ballroom at a fancy hotel and choose Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin as the guest judge. Faux-shower host Padma steps in to make the toast before the first team serves their trio of tomato dishes, and Jeff's peculiar tomato sorbet seems to take top honors among the guests. Danny, Carla, and Eugene's dish doesn't get the women to stand up and take off their clothes. In fact, they dislike most of the components. It's awesome to see all the chefs contributing to the assembly line for Jamie, Ariane, and Radhika's Indian inspired lamb dish, which turns out to be a smaking success all around. Last up is Jamie, Melissa, and Fabio's sea bass, and the women fall for Fabio's schmoozy introduction, but the lack of seasoning does the dish in.

10:35
Carla makes the weekly Top Chef Whole Foods shopping spree even more of a spectacle than usual as she begins to call out "Hooty Hoo" in the middle of the store in an effort to find her teammates. Every time she comes on screen she seems to do something to reaffirm her status as Carla the crazy caterer. I knew from the moment that I saw that digital rice cooker that Eugene's sushi rice was in trouble, and it screws him over when the rice comes out too sticky. Stefan reveals that he's been married twice to the same women, but he's now divorced. Now, he's just full of surprises isn't he?! Melissa chooses to speak for approximately the third time this season only to say that she thinks that her team's dish lacks "pizazz." Yeah, I think she should just keep her mouth shut from now on, unless she's actually going to lend anything of interest.

10:21
The chefs draw knives labeled as "old," "new," borrowed," and "blue" to mark the occasion of the bridal shower that Padma is throwing for Gail. Ok Padma, you can take as much credit as you want, but we all know this little soiree is coming out of Bravo's budget. The teams of three have to use their keyword as inspriation for their menus, and apparently Danny thinks that pickles are "new." As Carla is quick to point out, although a little more eloquently, what the hell is he smoking?

10:11
Continue suffering in term paper hell or take a break to watch this week's new episode, is that even a decision? So Stefan has a thing for the last remaining member of Team Rainbow, Jamie. The only problem is that she's a lesbian. Well, I guess the Fin can dream, right? Luckily or unluckily, they are drawn against one another in the quickfire challenge, tasting a sauce and attempting to identify as many ingredients as possible in a sort of bracket format. Stefan ruthlessly takes out his crush, but he falls to Hosea at the final hurdle.

Personal Discovery: El Bulli

Lamb's tongue with red mullet
Photos from El Bulli's website

A few days ago, a friend directed me to the site of the restaurant El Bulli, knowing my love for ingenuous, original dishes.

I found myself scrolling through images of the craziest edible inventions--Iberian ham "tapioca," fish cotton candy (fish meat formed with a cotton-candy consistency), and pine-nut marshmallows. Many of these feats are carried out using the latest kitchen technology.

I've always been interested in food inventions, unlikely ingredients carefully placed together, forming surprising concoctions. Unfortunately, the really shocking creations are usually constructed at the expense of taste. Image my surprise when I learned El Bulli had been rated the Best Restaurant in the World by "Restaurant" a record number of four times (although I do wonder if they accounted for El Bulli's use of cutting edge kitchen technology when judging taste...).

That's when I set about finding all I could about this amazing place. Where was this restaurant? How could I get a reservation? How much would a meal cost? El Bulli is a cozy edifice nestled in the outskirts of Roses, Spain and can only house around fifty diners at a time. The restaurant is only open from April to September, and for the 2,000 reservations they book every year, the restaurant receives over 400,000 "applications." That's right. After prospective diners submit their reservation request, eager epicures wait for months for their letter of rejection or acceptance. Surprisingly, a meal only costs 165 euros, or around 200 dollars per person (not bad for the 'best restaurant in the world').

If you're wondering how Chef Adria can cover his overhead--the cost of running a restaurant that uses expensive cutting-edge techniques, but can only house a small number of diners--your concerns are not at all off-base. Chef Adria uses the money he commands from interviews and guest lectures (not at all a stingy sum) to cover the costs.

And really, the dishes are a spectacle themselves. Here are some more of the creations that Chef Ferran Adria has cooked up:

Irish coffee of green asparagus and black truffle

Lychee soup with apple lattice, bilberries, and fennel water

Note: If you type 'El Bulli experiences' in Google, a quite a few personal blogs, penned by fellow food-philes, will pop up detailing their dining experiences at El Bulli.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuscan Honey Roasted Pears

Here's a sweet winter warmer-upper straight from my Grandfather's collection. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:
4-6 large Bosc or Anjou pears
1 cup chianti wine
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2/3 lb. Pecorino Toscano (Tuscan goat cheese)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom of pears to allow pears to stand upright. In small glass oven dish, place pears upright. Pour wine and sugar over and around pears. Place in oven and cook 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from liquid and cool. Set liquid aside. Place pears on individual serving plates. Drizzle with honey and red wine sauce. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin pieces of pecorino cheese over pear and serve.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Answers to Our Quiz

Answers: 1. d) 2. a) 3. b) 4. c) 5. c)

LUNA- For Women Only?

Dancing female silhouettes pose against a large crescent moon. A dedication section contains hokey messages of appreciation from women to their mothers, daughters, or friends. The Breast Cancer Fund logo is stamped across the back.


The women of LUNA add a heartwarming note on each of their products: “We believe that what we put in our bodies matters. Food feeds our souls, lifts our spirits, nourishes and sustains us. That’s why we created LUNA, the blissfully good, whole nutrition bar for women. . . . Join us in creating a healthier, more sustainable future!”

Luna also sponsors LUNAFEST, a traveling film festival “by, for, and about women,” and supports the Safe Cosmetics Campaign, which encourages the “health and beauty industry to phase out chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects.”

Have you ever encountered a more gender-biased, girl-powered nutrition bar? Its words of empowerment, support of female-oriented charities and events, and design of women figures prancing across the logo motivate me to take up yoga, concentrate on my inner zen, and hug my mother.

It simultaneously provokes a slight feeling of nausea.


Why do LUNA bars specifically target women? How come no semblance of masculinity mars this product? And why can’t men enjoy the same “blissfully good whole nutrition bar”?

Owned by Clif Bar & Co, these entirely natural low glycemic treats, boasting 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, over 20 vitamins (including a generous supply of Vitamin C, Calcium, Folic Acid and Iron), pack in all these nutrients into 180-calorie soy-rice crisp bars. And they are 70% organic. There are over a dozen flavors, such as Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Peanut Butter Cookie, Lemon Zest, S’mores, Nutz Over Chocolate, and Caramel Nut Brownie just to name a few. The product makers created these bars to attract women based on their specific nutritional needs. But that doesn’t mean that men can’t use the same nutrients in their diets.

Unfortunately, a certain stigma has evolved regarding men and LUNA bars. Skimming through product reviews, I’ve read my share of estrogen/PMS/breast-enhancing jabs for men who eat these snacks.

Just to clarify, let me set some of these rumors straight: no, these snacks aren’t infused with Midol, and no, men will not sprout breasts or grow effeminate. There is no risk or damage for men or children who consume LUNAs other than minor ridicule. They may not necessarily provide the same amount of energy that other bars do, but they will keep you relatively satiated.

And they actually taste pretty good.

So to those of the opposite gender: I encourage you to be real men and revolt against the prejudice! Don’t let the wrapper discourage you! Feed your souls, lift your spirits, and indulge in the LUNA nutrition bars. You deserve it too!

Flavors to try: My personal favorites are the Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Cookies ‘n Cream Delight and Iced Oatmeal Raisin. S’mores and Lemon Zest are popular flavors, though I’m not as crazy about them. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try the Chai Tea and Dulce de Leche (personally, I find them a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth it to sample them). If you want a bar without any chocolate or yogurt coating on the bottom, go for the Toasted Nuts ‘n Cranberry.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Test Your Culinary Clout!

1. Tequila is a spirit made in Mexico. From what cactus-like plant is tequila made?
a) Hueve
b) Jalisco
c) Quintana
d) Agave

2. What is the difference between Mediterranean green olives and black olives?
a) Green olives are picked early; black olives ripen fully on the tree
b) They grow in different climates
c) They grow on different kinds of olive trees
d) All of the above

3. The white mushrooms that are commonly found in local supermarkets are best known by what name?
a) Hump
b) Button
c) Cap
d) Puf

4. Which one of the following dishes would NOT include rice?
a) Risotta
b) Paella
c) Goulash
d) Pilaf

5. Tandoori chicken is a very popular Indian entree. Where does the name tandoori come from?
a) The region where it originated
b) The sauce used in the dish
c) The clay oven in which it is cooked
d) The manner in which it is eaten

Upcoming Food Events

Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to feature next Sunday, just email the details to pennappetit.blog@gmail.com.

Gingerbread House Decorating
Where: Reading Terminal Market, 12th St. and Arch St.
When: Sunday, December 7, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
What: Decorating elaborate gingerbread houses at Reading Terminal Market. Call (215) 922-1170 to register.
How much: $40.00 per person

"Festeggiamo In Italiano": Celebrating in Italian
Where: La Cucina Demonstration Kitchen, Reading Terminal Market, 12th St. and Arch St.
When: Monday, December 8, 5:45 - 7:45 pm
What: A fun workshop that involves learning about--and eating--Italian specialties. Call (215) 204-6946 to register.
How much: $55.00 per person

Jose Garces Cooking Class
Where: Reading Terminal Market, 12th St. and Arch St.
When: Tuesday, December 9, 5:45 - 7:45 pm
What: Learn from famed chef Jose Garces of Distrito and Amada. Call (215) 922-1170 to register.
How much: $65.00 per person

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Berries

Bright and fresh berries. Photo by Rachel Stone.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Snickerdoodles

Blog: Vegan YumYum

I am definitely looking forward to the upcoming holiday season, especially for the cookies! This snickerdoodle recipe is perfect for a vegan, but looks delicious enough for anyone to enjoy! Check out this award winning blog for more vegan-friendly recipes!




Note: Click here to see the original post.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Quest for Home

We all crave for the taste of home once in a while. Two weekends ago, a bunch of my Indian friends and I agreed, in a moment of nostalgia, that our taste buds needed some reawakening. We also knew, without a doubt, where we were going to go- Udupi Dosa Palace. Rumors had it that Indians from all over Bucks County flocked in droves to sample the delectable South Indian buffet at Udupi.

The six of us squished into my friend’s Acura, our excitement fueled by the colorful rhythm of Bollywood music blaring from the speakers. Thankfully in our cacophonic exuberance, no one noticed the slow growling emanating from our stomachs- clearly we were all ravenous. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we arrived at the restaurant, and we all scrambled to get out of the car. The smiles of rejoice melted away quickly, as we found ourselves staring into dark windows- the restaurant was closed. Wails of disappointment and some very innovative curses erupted into the night air. And then we noticed the bright orange paper taped onto the door. In bold black letters read- “This restaurant has been shut down for not maintaining proper health standards…” Some Dosa Palace!

Even though our stomachs turned a little, we were still determined to find some semblance of home. Thankfully my friend had a GPS in his car, and we hastily scrolled through the list of Indian restaurants within a 3 mile radius. We found one that seemed appealing- Tandoori & Dosa. After twenty minutes of whining and my friend yelling angrily at the dulcet voice of the GPS (who was insisting that he had taken a wrong turn), we finally discovered that Tandoori & Dosa had turned into Kashmir Garden. Not surprisingly, considering it was 9pm, we were the only customers, and the kitchen was closing in half an hour. We ordered seven main course dishes, rice, and a big bread basket- the waiter cautioned us that it might be too much food. We assured him that we were hungry enough to order the whole menu, and looking convinced he hurried off to start getting our food ready.

The smells from the kitchen made us salivate, and we munched on the papad, wafer thin discs of spicy lentil crisps to keep our mouths engaged. Our waiter finally came out, expertly balancing the plates of food. He presented them with a flourish and the moment he was gone we attacked the food in a clatter of porcelain and silverware. The food, to describe in a single word, was exquisite. The chicken and lamb kebabs melted in your mouth, the tadka dal or lentils was the perfect combination of home-made goodness and simplicity. The bread basket was an impressive collection of whole wheat tandoori rotis, stuffed potato parathas, garlic and butter naan. The kofta (or fried balls of paneer or cottage cheese), paneer masala, and dal makhani had just the right amount of spice tempered with the creaminess of the curry. They even had dosa! The pancake had been fried to the perfect crisp, and the ghee or butter seeped into the warm potato filling inside. The accompanying chutney was, as my friend described it- “out of this world”. The most impressive part was probably the size of the portions; New Delhi and Sitar usually serve portions that two hungry people, let alone six, can barely share. Despite our colossal appetites, we had several doggy bags, and lunch for the next day.

Kashmir Garden is a delightful surprise tucked away on Krewstown Road, in Bensalem township in Bucks County. The restaurant doesn’t have the fancy ambience of New Delhi, but it offers a flavorful variety of Indian food, and the sincerity and skill of the chefs is evident in the quality of the food. I would definitely embark on another adventure to eat at Kashmir Garden again. At least they don’t have a health warning issue.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 4

11:00
Alex leaves and returns home to get married, not too surprising or upsetting, especially considering that I could barely remember him on a week to week basis. Next week the chefs have to cook for Gail's bridal shower, which Carla describes as a "frickin' disaster" and during which Fabio woos dozens of middle-aged women. Looks like another good one!

10:50
Haha, that psycho Kathy Lee is helping judge the winner, and it's not pretty as she spits out Jeff's shrimp right of camera. Ariane takes the win, and Carla claps and screams excitedly in the apartment. She seems more into it than Ariane herself. Rocco gives her a lame tool set of cooking tools, but her better prize is a live spot on the Today Show tomorrow, so tune in everyone, because I'm sure it will be absolutely riveting to watch her make a salad with watermelon. I think Jamie will be safe just based on past performances, but it's a toss-up between Alex, for his faulty creme brulee, and Melissa, a victim of apparently inedibly spicy shrimp, for the boot.

10:38
I'm not really sure what the point of doing the demonstrations ahead of time for the judges is. In the interest of entertaining television, I would just throw them on camera completely raw and watch them crash and burn. I mean nothing happens at all during the fourth hour of the Today Show anyways. So they chose the top 3, which includes Jeff, Fabio, and Ariane for the first time. She may be around longer than I anticipated. Jamie falls to the bottom 3 courtesy of the raw egg on top of her salad. She better get her act together, of else Team Rainbow will disolve completely. Tom comes to wake up the top 3 at 2 AM to take them to the studio at 30 Rock. I think that's the average bedtime of most Penn students these days.

10:23
That segment was seriously like 3 minutes long, and all we got to see was the shopping portion at Whole Foods, which never ceases to entertain me and Lea saying that she was planning on making a seared duck breast with corn and blueberrys. She says it works, but I think that she's lucky that she has immunity for this one.

10: 14
Ok, sorry. I knew I said that I would blog last week, but I didn't get around to watching the Tivo-ed episode until like 11 on Thanksgiving night, and I was in a semi-vegetative tryptophan induced state, so I barely recall the hopefuls assembling Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters in microwaves and toaster ovens. I do remember quite vividly Ariane rising from the ashes of the bottom three with a successful turkey and being dubbed a cougar by her teammates.

The quickfire this week is to make a breakfast amuse-bouche, and everyone does decently in impressing guest judge Rocco DiSpirito. Actually, I want to eat 90% of what the chefs cook, especially Jamie's mini breakfast BLT. Lea comes away with the win and gets a paperback of Rocco's new book. Paperback, come on, I think you can provide the hardback copy of your own book Mr. DiSpirito. Padma introduces the elimination challenge: cooking a 2.5 minute segment live on the Today Show. Carla, who is quickly rising the ranks of my favorites, says that if you go over your time limit, the producers will "cut you." I'm pretty sure she meant "cut you off," but I'll forgive her, because she reminded me of Bon Qui Qui and because she's repping my hometown of Washington, DC

Top Chef Live Blogging Tonight!

Click photo for officlal Top Chef website

Don't miss a live blog of this week's Top Chef episode from Tucker, starting at 10 pm tonight!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recap of Event with Naked Chocolate

Thanks to everyone who came to the event last night to celebrate the launch of Penn Appetit! For those who couldn't make it, here's a little rundown of what happened:

Tom Block, from Naked Chocolate, talked about how he got into the high-end chocolate business after owning an ice cream shop for many years in Princeton, NJ. His daughter, Sara, wanted to go into business with him and open a store in the city. After traveling around Europe, to some of the best chocolate cities (among them Paris and Brussels), Tom and Sara opened the Center City location of Naked Chocolate in 2006. Why "Naked," you ask? Well, they didn't have much of a marketing budget, so they wanted a name that would grab people. Originally the idea was to open a shop exclusively for chocolates, but Tom realized that the niche might be a tad too specific, so they went for the full-out concept of "dessert cafe." The store took off, due to, in Tom's opinion, an increased American tendency to appreciate high-end or gourmet chocolates. Because of the success of the first Naked, they recently opened their store on 34th and Walnut, right on Penn's campus. (I guess Princeton wasn't quite good enough...)

Students in the audience asked questions, including Tom's favorite Naked truffle. He unequivocally said that a good piece of dark chocolate, with no frills, would be his ideal choice. One person asked if he was interested in trying a chocolate and cheese combination; and while he hasn't yet, he has tried something with bacon and chocolate--and is always open to new possibilities.

The over 400 pieces of chocolate that we ordered were mostly gone within 20 minutes...though I must say that even though I didn't get a morsel of food at our event with Ellen Yin in the spring, I was able to snag a few pieces of chocolate this time. And of course, they were delicious!

Sticky Rice with Chicken (Lo Mai Gai)

For those of you who love Chinese dim sum, this is a slightly different, fuss-free version of a perennial favorite known as Lo Mai Gai (in Cantonese). You can get pretty much everything you need below at an Asian grocery store and prepare this in 20 minutes flat. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. white sticky rice (also labelled as sweet rice or glutinous rice)
1 3/4 c. water
1 lb. chicken thigh, deboned, sliced
1 chinese preserved sausage, sliced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, julienned
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 lb. chinese kale or bok choy

Directions:

Marinate the chicken and sausages with the ginger, 1 tbsp. of sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and pepper. Leave aside.

Wash the rice with cool tapwater and steam in a microwave rice cooker with 1 3/4 c. of water and 1tbsp of sesame oil for 6 minutes (may differ depending on your microwave). Give it a good stir with a pair of chopsticks. Then top it with the marinated meat on top of the rice. Steam for 6 more minutes in the microwave.

Steep the vegetables in boiling water for 2 minutes. Then top with 1 tbsp. of oyster sauce and mix well. Serve on the side.


This should leave you with enough Lo Mai Gai for two people, and for a unique variation, you may also add in Shitake mushrooms or slices of barbecued pork (char siew) to the marinated meats.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Penn Appetit's Fall 2008 Issue


Today is the launch of Penn Appetit's third issue! For those of you who are new to this site/blog, Penn Appetit is a student-run food magazine at the University of Pennsylvania, started in 2007. We include all kinds of food writing in our magazine, from recipes and restaurant reviews to interviews with people in the Philly food scene to discussions of food issues.

If you're at Penn, you can get a copy of Penn Appetit on Locust Walk, in the dining halls, or in your dorm/academic buildings all this week. If you're not at Penn and would like a magazine, please email me at pennappetit@gmail.com with your name and address so I can send you one. You can also look through our website, www.pennappetit.com, to see the PDF of the latest issue and to find out more about our organization.

I also want to let you know about an event we're having tonight. To celebrate the launch of this issue, we've invited Tom Block, the chocolatier at Naked Chocolate Cafe, to speak about his experiences in the chocolate/confection industry. After Tom's talk and a Q&A session, we will have a reception with FREE chocolate from Naked and other hors d'ouevres. This will be tonight at 7PM in Rodin's Rooftop Lounge, and again, it's free!

Hope to see you tonight - and enjoy the new issue of Penn Appetit!

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…

What's the first thing you turn to when you end a long relationship? Or when you’re pretty sure you just failed your midterm? Or when you have two papers due in an hour? I’m sure a few would immediately say their moms or their best friends. But let’s be honest. We take a trip to Wawa and buy the biggest bar of chocolate we can find. Throughout history, chocolate has been considered a mood-booster. The Aztecs even believed that it had the same effects on the body as falling in love. Well, they weren’t too far off.



Every year, lovers around the world indulge in nature’s greatest gift to mankind. Last Valentine’s Day, over 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate were sold, bringing in over $1 billion. This extraordinary figure is a result of the universal love of chocolate. In fact, in a recent survey, most women said that they preferred chocolate over flowers on Valentine’s Day, especially women over 50 (so guys, take note). Even if you find yourself alone on Cupid’s day, chocolate can easily replace a significant other. It isn’t an aphrodisiac, but it does trigger the brain’s production of natural opiates. What those love-struck Aztecs were feeling was the effects of phenylephylamine, the same hormone that the brain triggers when you fall in love. Chocolate also has a decent amount of caffeine—enough to perk you up, but not enough to leave you feeling shaky. In addition, this addicting comfort food stimulates endorphin production, giving a feeling of pleasure, and contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. Cocoa even contains cannabinoids, substances that mimic the effects of marijuana. But don’t get excited. A 130-pound person would have to eat 25 pounds of chocolate all at once to get the effect of marijuana. And I’m pretty sure heart disease would set in before that happened.

But maybe not. Chocolate has an undeservedly bad reputation as a “guilty pleasure”. Chocolate actually contains natural antioxidants called flavonoids, which can help prevent heart disease and lower blood pressure. It only takes 40 grams of milk chocolate to obtain the same amount of antioxidants as a glass of red wine. Dark chocolate is even more beneficial, containing almost as many antioxidants as a cup of black tea. But a warning to chocoholics: don’t go thinking that you can stuff your face with chocolate and not feel guilty. Trust me; I’ve already tried it. Chocolate is a pretty high-calorie food, so although it’s a good idea to incorporate it into your daily diet, make sure you create room for it. You only need about half of a dark chocolate bar’s worth of antioxidants to receive the benefits, so don’t go overboard. And don’t try to trick yourself this winter into thinking that a cup of hot chocolate is doing you some good. Hot chocolate only has about half of the antioxidants of milk chocolate because of its dilution. But hey, after a long day, throw some marshmallows in and just enjoy. In addition to antioxidants, one study even found that a specific substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide, which contributes to healthy blood flow and blood pressure.

For those of us who aren’t fans of technicalities, let’s sum it up: chocolate relieves anxiety, increases energy and alertness, provides antioxidants, reduces pain, and provides a feeling of pleasure. So who even needs a significant other? If you find out that your roommate is now dating your ex-girlfriend, who’s also actually sleeping with your current girlfriend, don’t get upset. There’s always chocolate.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to feature next Sunday, just send the details to pennappetit.blog@gmail.com.


Where: Rodin Rooftop Lounge
When: Monday December 1, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
What: A celebration of the release of Penn Appetit's Fall 2008 issue! Features free food and guest speaker Tom Block of Naked Chocolate Cafe.
How much: Free!

Where: Valley Forge Convention Center
When: Sunday December 7, 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
What: A fundraiser for the Jewish Relief Agency that is a celebration of Jewish food, culture, and community.
How much: $12

Where: Main Street, Manayunk
When: Weekends until December 24
What: Visit a transformed Main Street replete with holiday decorations, roasted chestnuts, holiday music, holiday craft demonstrations, and more!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just in case you forget how to prepare a turkey, here are the complete directions, courtesy of my 5 year old sister, Ariana, complete with her artistically cropped illustration.

"You get the turkey from a store and then my Dad puts salt on it and cooks it on the stove. Then my Dad tells me that it's ready and then you eat it when it's on the plate and it tastes good!"

Response from my father, a chef: "There are some very gourmet salts. There are salts that are only harvested during high tide in certain parts of Japan."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Squashed

With my right hand gripped tightly around the knife and my left strangling my subject, I lifted the blade above my head as the wind howled violently outside. I can do it, I tell myself, I will demolish him! He will suffer for the unbearable pain he caused me! I released my hand, stabbing his lifeless body, piercing through the skin again and again, ripping him to pieces.



How did I, a relatively mild and peaceful Penn sophomore, end up in such a violent frenzy? The story begins a few weeks ago, November the fifth, a breezy autumn Wednesday in University City…
“Do you have any pumpkins?” I inquired at the farmer’s market stand on 36th and Walnut. The previous week, the fruit men had brought crates full of pumpkins for Halloween. Ever since, I had this unbearable craving for freshly cooked pumpkin sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon, just tender enough to spoon out and savor on the tip of my tongue.
“We have a ton of pumpkins, but we didn’t think anyone wanted them anymore. So we didn’t bring any,” The man responded. My face dropped. “You know what, if I remember, I’ll try to bring you a pumpkin next week, okay?”
I can’t say I was too hopeful, so I just purchased my fruits and politely thanked the men working at the stand. But I really wanted a pumpkin. I was craving it.
The following Wednesday, I returned to stock up on my usual round of fruits. As I approached the apples, the man behind the table came up to me with a smile. “We brought it! Just for you!” He pointed to a box on the side.
Ecstatic, I ran over and peered into the box. An average sized lumpy pumpkin rested on top of another. “Thank you so much!” I gushed, “I’ll take that one!”
“No no, we brought you the other one,” The man replied, as he lifted the small pumpkin to reveal a monstrous orange sphere hiding underneath, “We brought this one just for you!”



I stared at the beast, and my eyes widened. There was no way I could carry that back to my room. Absolutely no way. I glanced back at the man, alarmed. His voice echoed in my head, We brought this one just for you! I needed some way to get out of it.
“This is huge! I mean, how much is this gonna cost me?” I attempted, trying to pull the penniless-college-student stunt.
“You know what, I’ll give it to you for just five bucks. Great deal. I brought it for you.” He had to remind me. I took a deep breath, took out my Penn card, and asked to pay using dining dollars.
I put one bag of fruits on one arm, strung the second around my other arm, and lifted the monstrous vegetable. And let me tell you, it was actually heavier than I expected! My arms could barely wrap around its circumference. I staggered under the weight, finally leaning back to balance out.
“Thank you for the pumpkin!” I managed to call out, as my trembling legs wobbled to support the equivalent of quintuplets--in a full-sized crib.
“It’s actually a squash, by the way,” The man called out, waving goodbye.
So there I was, lugging an enormous mutant squash down Walnut. The wind hardly provided any relief, as its fierce breeze could not counter the wave of heat that suddenly permeated throughout my body. As my fingers began to get clammy, my grip started to loosen. I tried to walk faster, rushing towards Rodin, my dorm, but the squash seemed to accumulate weight with every step. What the hell type of squash is the size of an oversized pumpkin? I asked myself, cursing under my breath.
People on the street began to turn and stare, snickering as I passed. Random strangers offered to help. But I couldn’t stop--I didn’t want to prolong the trip. I wanted to get back, to reach my dorm, to put down this squash and rip off my scarf and winter jacket (and, quite frankly, everything else as well), and just fall into my mattress and pass out.
I ended up taking a few breaks along the edge of the street, but I eventually made it back. I plopped the squash down on the kitchen table, eager to rid myself of this heavy burden, and sank into a nearby chair.
I stared at the squash. There was no conceivable way a squash could be that large. It was like an athlete on steroids--unnaturally buff and muscular. Spasms involuntarily shot up and down my arms, as the pain from that arduous journey four blocks away began to take its toll. I was craving a pumpkin, and now I have an enormous squash that resembles one instead. What do I do with this thing?
I’ll tell you what I did; I took revenge.

Additional Fun Facts:
- I later found out that this was a Golden Nugget Squash. On average, they weigh three pounds each.
- I cut up some of the squash into pieces, added a dab of honey on each chunk, sprinkled some cinnamon on top, and cooked it in the oven. It was delicious.
- With the remaining squash, I cut it into chunks and cooked it in the oven for a few hours until it softened. I then scooped it out and mashed it together. It now resides in the freezer in three containers. At some point, I plan on making some squash soufflé.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Mother's Pumpkin Bread


To be honest, this recipe is not my mother's. It has been passed along amongst friends for some time and I'm not quite sure who created the concoction. This "bread" recipe can only really be considered as such because of its shape; otherwise, I'd call it a cake.

Ingredients:
1 c. oil
4 c. sugar
1 large can pumpkin (15 ounces)
5 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1tsp. salt

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl combine all wet ingredients: oil, sugar and pumpkin. Then add the dry ingredients: sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Grease and flour two loaf tins and bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Check the bread with a toothpick and when done, let cool to room temperature.

Thanksgiving at my house always includes my mother's pumpkin bread as the highlight; it's nothing short of amazing and is definitely worth the calories. The most difficult part of it all is waiting for the bread to cool!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ask-A-Nutritionist (Tucker)

Q: I've been getting sick already, and it's barely November. Although I've been loading up on cold medicine and vitamin C, I'd like to know if there are other foods that will naturally strengthen my system to prevent such colds in the coming months or if there are foods that can help me eliminate a cold once I catch it. -Tucker

A: Hi Tucker,

Winter is fast approaching, but you don’t have to get bogged down by catching a cold. Staying healthy is just a matter of knowing which foods to load up on as the cold weather creeps in. Getting extra doses of vitamin C is always a good idea. We recommend trying Emergen-C once or twice a day; it is easy to drink and tastes great. But if you are really feeling under the weather, here are some foods you should include in your diet:

  • Yogurt: The probiotics, or “good” bacteria in yogurt may help improve your immune system’s response to viruses. They can also help protect the body against harmful bacteria or infections
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is a yellow spice that’s most commonly found in curry and yellow mustard. It contains curcumin, a polyphenol lauded for its strong flu and cold-fighting properties
  • Garlic: Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer and antioxidant properties. The pungent smell is a small price to pay for all these health benefits
  • Ginger: Ginger can help reduce congestion and has anti-inflammatory and anti-nauseant properties. It can also help prevent nausea and vomiting, making it useful to have in case you do catch a cold
  • Green tea: A cup of tea provides more than just warmth and comfort. Green tea is filled with flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Most of the flavonoids in tea are catechins, which are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are probiotic – they help our body strengthen itself and fight off illness restoring our body’s balance and natural resistance to disease. Mushrooms also have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and blood pressure-lowering effects. White button mushrooms are good for you, but try more exotic varieties like shitake and maitake for different health benefits.
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, turnips, Brussels sprouts, radishes, arugula, bok choy, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and more. Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants. They are a great choice in the winter months when summer fruits like berries are not available.

Rachel S. Beller, MS, RD
Beller Nutritional Institute, LLC
www.bellernutritionalinstitute.com

Want to see your nutritional question answered here? Simply submit your questions to pennappetit [dot] nutritionQandA [at] gmail [dot] com.

Not So Fresh Grocer

Photo by Olivia Coffey

A mouse skitters across the tiled floor, racing for the shelter of the dark hollow beneath the sushi station. A serpentine queue of customers hums with impatience, shopping carts and baskets crammed with paper towel rolls and tomatoes and frozen dinners. A customer in the dairy section examines the scanty selection of yogurt only to find that most cartons are overdue their shelf time.

Any of that sound familiar? Horror stories abound in the perilous aisles of Fresh Grocer, presenting Penn students with a grocery shopping conundrum. Considering the widespread disparagement of Fresh Grocer, its most convenient resource, West Philadelphia is sorely devoid of a reliable grocery store. Senior Stephanie Simon, who has lived off campus since sophomore year and is thus familiar with the struggle to find quality groceries, puts it aptly. “FroGro is the definition of sub-par,” she says, using locals’ familiar moniker for the store. “They routinely have food on their shelves that is past its expiration date... when they have food on their shelves, that is. Most of the time it seems like West Philly is on rations.” Aside from inconistent inventory and unsatisfactory food quality, customer service is also lacking. “It's like Home Depot,” says senior Laura Sagues. “You have to go in there knowing what you want because the people who work there know nothing at all.”

So where do Penn students turn when in search of an apple that isn’t mealy or a fresh loaf of bread without mold trimming its crust?

Many are willing to go the extra mile (literally) to find alternatives to Fresh Grocer that are still realistic for an undergraduate budget, yet promise unspoiled produce, a reliable range of products and a pleasant aisle-browsing experience. Trader Joe’s at 2121 Market Street, Whole Foods Market at 2001 Pennsylvania Avenue and Philadelphia farmers markets offer three nearby resources that meet each of these criteria.

Trader Joe’s bills itself as the ideal neighborhood grocery store, combining healthy and plentiful food and beverages with the guarantee of affordable prices. What makes the chain unique is its versatile product base, including unconventional brands and alternative dietetic products ranging from vegan to kosher to gluten-free. Senior Carlin Adelson touts in particular the healthful ready-made options. "The Trader Joe's frozen meals and sides are great additions that are generally lower in sodium and calories for a quick meal," she says.

A generally congenial atmosphere contributes to the appeal of Trader Joe's. After all, this is a grocery store that outfits its staff in Hawaiian shirts because, as its website proclaims, "grocery shopping should be fun." Food demonstrator Ellen Bohrer, who cooks and distributes food samples at Trader Joe's (yet another shopping perk), says the employees enjoy a high morale, which she believes fosters a pleasant shopping experience. "None of us consider that we work at a grocery store- we consider it a little bit more than that," she says. "The bottom line is, we’re all just a bunch of goofballs and we all get along." Bohrer can attest to the popularity Trader Joe's holds for local undergraduates. "We always know that in September we have to beef up our shift because the students are back," she says. The budget-friendly facet of the TJ's experience is the capstone to what makes a trip to the store ideal for students. Senior Jocelyn Rosenwald phrases it simply: "It's better food for better prices."

Just down the road from Trader Joe's lies Whole Foods Market. In a similar vein to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods embraces high quality nutritional standards, pledging to sell products free of trans fats, artificial preservatives, colors, flavors and sweeteners. The store also delivers in terms of prices. Through "The Whole Deal" program, customers have access to money saving tips, Whole Foods-specific budget friendly recipes and over $40 in coupons. Whole Foods Marketing Specialist Amy Chidichimo adds, "We give free value tours twice a month that focus on how to shop Whole Foods Market on a budget.”

But Chidichimo says Whole Foods Market is attractive to student grocery shoppers for more than just budgetary reasons. "We have a lot of grab-and-go stuff, for when you're studying for a test and you don't have time to think about what to make,” she says. Arguably, the strongest pull for students is the consistent availability of local and organic fruits and vegetables. Adelson confirms that the fresh produce is the biggest draw. "I know it's closely monitored, organic and won't spoil before I bring it home," she says.

For an even more eco-friendly option in giving a wide berth to Fresh Grocer’s inadequate goods, many students turn to farmers markets such as the Clark Park market at the corner of 43rd and Baltimore. The stalls feature an array of fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, honey, herbs, dairy products and meat every Saturday and on Thursday afternoons April through December. Senior Jane Sussman lauds the high quality standards: "Fresh produce, lots of variety and an amazing antidote to the rot at FroGro.” The University Square market is an even closer option, located outside the Penn bookstore on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.- students can even charge the fruit, vegetables, dairy products and Amish canned and baked goods to their Penn card. Senior Brad Murtha says, prices aside, he prefers a trip to the market over Fresh Grocer because “their stuff is better than grocery store stuff that’s been sitting in the freezer.” Another go-to site is the Rittenhouse market, vending produce, flowers, meat, eggs and dairy from pastured animals Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Although a trip to farmers markets may stretch the purse strings a little more (a quart of
apples at the Rittenhouse market costs five dollars, and a small bottle of honey sells for six), many Penn patrons consider the chance to contribute to the local agricultural community well worth the money. Junior Andrew Rogers says the trip to a farmers market is all the more worthwhile for the good time it affords, what with the taste of cultural diversity and connection with other Philadelphians. “The experience makes the grocery shopping less of a chore,” he says.

The next time your fridge needs re-stocking, consider branching out from the disappointing aisles that put the “gross” in Fresh Grocer to one of the many other clean and reliable grocery shopping resources our neighborhood offers. Your wallet, your stomach and your conscience will thank you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

Thanksgiving is more or less everyone's food event for this week, so we only have one thing to post. But for future weeks, if you have an event you'd like us to feature, just send the details to pennappetit.blog@gmail.com.

Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Where: Benjamin Franklin Parkway
When: Thursday, November 27, 8:30 am
What: The nation's first Thanksgiving Day Parade! Features special guest Rachel Ray. And don't miss the Winter Wonderland tent by the Art Museum with hot cocoa and other treats.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Effie's Greek Restaurant

I went to Effie’s Greek Restaurant on 11th and Pine on a Tuesday night. I ordered the egg lemon soup to start, and my mom’s friend (who was taking me out) got the calamari. The egg lemon soup was thin and only subtly lemony. I much prefer the thick, intense avgolemono soup I get at the family-owned Greek restaurant in my hometown. Effie’s soup did have chunks of chicken, though, which was an authentic touch. Out of the dishes we ordered, the calamari was the best for what it was: soft and light, and not too crunchy or oily.

I ordered the lamb lemonato for my entrée, which was disappointing. The lamb was fatty and chewy, and when your meal is just chunks of lamb sitting in sauce on a plate, you want the meat to be good. The sauce itself was pretty oily and the flavor was nothing to write home about. My mom’s friend ate lamb souvlaki, which she enjoyed, though I didn’t try it.

My biggest beef with Effie’s wasn’t the food, though. It was freezing cold outside, and the small dining room opens to an outdoor patio. The atmosphere seems nice and quaint at first, but it gets old (and cold) when the waitress keeps coming in and out of the door to the outside…and is leaving it open. The waitress also recited the long list of specials in such a way that I could barely recall any of it—when it gets to be that long, the restaurant should have a specials menu. Twice while the waitress was away the CD that was playing started skipping. My mom’s friend had to get up to switch the track both times.

These may seem like minor complaints taken separately, but when you’re paying $11-$19 for an entrée, you want the service to be good if not flawless. I’m sure on a Friday or Saturday it’s more happening and the atmosphere is less about service. But the mark of a good restaurant is that it’s good all the time and for every customer. I didn’t get that when I went to Effie’s.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Phyllo and Pumpkin and Marshmallow, Oh My!

Blog: Baking Obsession

This baking blog is full of decadent desserts and these Caramelized Phyllo and Pumpkin Marshmallow Napoleons are no exception. Serve them with your Thanksgiving feast, and expect them to get more attention than the turkey!



Note: Click here to see the original post
.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 2

10:59
Basically the bottom three were all totally pathetic, but Jill sealed her fate with her lame explanation. Inexplicably, Ariane seems way more upset than Jill as she weeps in Carla's arms. Jill says she'll always be cooking, but I hope she stays away from ostrich eggs. Next week, the chefs are making Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters, so get ready, because even though I'll be at home, I'll still be logging to share my thoughts.

10:52
After the judges praise Carla, they begin to lay the compliments on Fabio, but he misunderstands and begins to make excuses. It's kind of cute, I guess, but he's already grating, and I think he'll be around for a while. He wins the elimination challenge, unsurprising considering that he hogged about half of this episode's screen time. Props to Gail for calling out Jill's pathetic defense of her nasty quiche. That may be enough to drop her below Ariane on the elimination ladder.

10: 40
I'd just like to interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to say how excited I am for the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion on Tuesday, seriously, best show ever. Ok, back to my second favorite show. Ok, Fabio is funny, or whatever, but why does he get to talk so much? I haven't even half of these strangers since their introductions last episode, and he's talking about dragons and princesses every other second. These diners are just like I expected, overly critical and just plain annoying. "You go on Top Chef and you make meatloaf. I mean, come on," says one of them. You don't make it on Top Chef and all you can do is make fun of meatloaf. I mean, come on, at least come up with a better insult to entertain me. I wasn't going to comment on the individual dishes yet, but that avocado mousse looks repulsive. Rhadika is lucky that she has immunity. I'm calling Ariana to go with her "violently sweet" lemon meringue martini.

10:22
So the elimination challenge is to create a three course New-American lunch menu. I always love watching the chefs shopping for groceries. Scratch that, I love watching the faces of the other people in the store who either ignore the camera or look extremely confused. Jill's making an ostrich egg quiche, and it's appropriate, because she actually kind of looks like an ostrich with that long neck. Tom comes in an drops the bombshell that they'll be cooking at Craft, his restuarant, and even better, that the chefs will be cooking for people who tried out for the show but didn't make it. It will be nice to see these not-quite-talented reality show hopefuls be as critical as possible.

10:11
Ok, so we're back for another week, and we get a quickfire hot dog competition right off the bat, and they actually have to make the hot dogs. Ew, I don't think I want to see this. Yeah, I didn't need to see the sausage stuffing, but some of the chefs came up with some innovative stuff. Eugene's sushi dog actually looks foul, and based on the look on the guest judge's face it tasted that way too. Radhika won with her Indian-inspired dog, which looked delicious, although I find it funny that last episode she said that she wanted to venture away from Indian cuisine, yey she's already resorted to it once or twice.

Top Chef Live Blogging Tonight!

Love Top Chef?

Stuck doing work or in a meeting while it's on?

Not to worry! Beginning at 10:00 pm, tune in for a live blog of this week's episode of Top Chef by our own Tucker Johns, right here on the Penn Appetit Blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bagels: My First Yeasted Dough

Photo by Olivia Coffey

I bake all the time but I rarely leave the realm of muffins, cupcakes, cookies, or brownies. The only times I've used yeast were for challah, which we make in the bread machine at my house (don't gasp, we just make the dough in there and then braid it and bake it in the oven).

So I decided to try my first real yeasted dough - for bagels! I got the recipe from this post on Baking Bites, which is my go-to for any kind of baked good. In fact, we've posted about that blog before on Penn Appetit. If you go to the original post, there are great instructional photos for how you should shape the dough. I also consulted Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything about adding toppings and such.

The recipe is reprinted below, with my notes in italics. I made poppyseed, onion, plain, and poppyseed-onion bagels, and ate them with lox and cream cheese. Damn good.

Homemade Bagels (from Baking Bites)
makes 1 dozen

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. active dry yeast (I actually used Perfect Rise Yeast which claims to be a "fast rising active dry" yeast)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 3/4 c. water, warm, about 100-110F (I didn't have a thermometer so I just guessed. I found a website that claims it's better to have the water too cold than too warm.)
4 c. bread flour
1 tbsp. salt (again, I would cut this down to 1 or 1 1/2 tsp.)
1 egg, for egg wash

Directions:
In a large bowl combine yeast, sugar, and water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in flour and salt. Mix dough thoroughly until it comes together in a large ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add an additional tablespoon of flour or water, if needed.

If kneading by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead dough with the dough hook until elastic, about 8 minutes on a low speed. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil and preheat the oven to 400F.

When dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces (first quarters, then thirds). Shape each piece into a tight ball (as shown in the photos on the Baking Bites blog) pinching the corners together at the bottom of the piece of dough. When all the balls are shaped, let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered with a clean dish towel.

Once dough balls have rested, the bagel shape can be formed. Using your fingers, poke a hole through the center of each dough ball. Stretch out the dough into a ring with your fingers and be sure to make the hole a little larger than you want the finished bagel to have, as it will shrink slightly while the bagel is expanding during the baking process. Let bagels rest for about 10 minutes.

Working four at a time, drop the bagels carefully into the boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and boil for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer bagels to a clean towel to drain for a moment, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (At this point, you can dip the bagel in poppyseeds, sesame seeds, sauteed onion, etc.) Repeat process with remaining bagels.

Brush boiled bagels with lightly beaten egg (only if they don't have toppings!) and bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Upcoming Food Events

Remember, if you have an event you'd like us to feature next Sunday, just send the details to pennappetit.blog@gmail.com.



Food, Freight, and Garbage
Where: Irvine Auditorium, Armando Recital Room (First Floor)
When: Tuesday, November 18, 4:00 pm
What: A special panel discussion exploring how goods, especially food goods, come into our cities; where food originates, and what become of our waste.



CSA Dumpling Fest!
Where: LGBT Center, Carriage House
When: Tuesday, November 18, 6:00 - 8:00 pm
What: Learn how to make dumplings and eat as many as you want!
How much: $6

Where: Christian Association Building, 37th and Sansom
When: Thursday, November 20, 6:00 pm & 8:00 pm
What: Learn about fine beer while drinking responsibly (Students 21 and older only)
How much: Free! (First come, first served)

Where: To be determined
When: Friday, November 21, 5:00 - 7:00 pm
What: A "flavor tripping party" that offers fun-filled flavor experimentation with foods from cheese to Tabasco sauce.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Almonds

Up close and personal with this superfood. Photo by Diane Dao.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Fabulous Fall Gnocchi

Blog: flagrante delicia

Gnocchi finally gets its just desserts! This Chestnut gnocchi with hazelnut and milk chocolate sauce is a creative twist on the Italian favorite. Check out this blogger's other tantalizing treats!



Note: Click here to see the original post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 1

11:14
Ok, so we've learned that inspiration is more important than execution, and Patrick is eliminated second, although I'm sure that the judges will contradict that at least six or seven times this season. The season preview looks fantastic, with appearances from Martha Stewart, and Philadelphia's own Stephen Starr, or so I hear. Padma wraps things up with "That rice was appalling." I can't wait for next week.

11:07
I'm calling it now, Stefan is going to be the cocky success story of this season, at least one of them, as there are usually more than one. I mean just look at that smug grin as Gail tells him that she adores his lemony hummus. I think that they're being a little harsh on Ariane; only one aspect of her dish was off. Patrick should be a goner, thanks to those gooey black rice noodles. Uh oh, Ariane may have just done herself in with that book comment. Master Tom is not happy.

10:57
God, the first sight of this food makes me hate my daily meals at Commons that much more. Three teams down, and no huge disasters yet. Come on people, it's early so feel free to crash and burn. Ok, Jeff's plate looks just pathetic. He might have considered spending less time on his hair and more time on his plating, but apparently his dish still tasted good, because he won his duel. Where was Padma's "This is not risotto" from the preview? She needs to throw down a little more if she wants to recapture my affection.

10: 40
Nice opening elimination challenge, taking advantage of the plethora of ethnic neighborhoods in New York. Carla the caterer, preparing to cook a Russian dish, decides to "let the spirits guide [her.]" Ok, you just do that Carla. I'm also thinking that some of these groups got a little screwed. Most of them would probably have a wider knowledge of Middle Eastern or Italian cuisine than Jamaican...right? I'm surprised that there are so many salads coming through, as I thought that some of these chefs would want to bring out the big guns from the get go.

10:25
Well I was wrong, big surprise, but I'm relieved that I don't have to listen to that grating accent for an entire season. The digs are nice, as usual, but I'm convinced that they just live in the same place every season and teleport to the challenge sites. At least that's what it looks like. And we're not even halfway through the first episode and some of these egomaniacs are already arguing about the differences between a vinaigrette and an emulsion. Oh how I've missed this.

10: 15
Woohoo, it's finally back! After a little bit of getting to know the contestants, Padma and Tom wasted no time in laying down the law with the first quickfire challenge. At first the thought of watching the chefs peel apples seemed pretty mundane, but the combination of incredible speed and a little bit of blood quickly got me interested. I'm predicting that Patrick is going to go after the break, but both of those dishes looked pretty lackluster.
PS - I'm excited to know that they were as excited about seeing Padma as I was.

Hearts of Palm (aka palm heart or palmito)

What are they?

These delicious cylindrical “hearts” come from the inside of palm trees. With the look of a chestnut, texture and flavor of an artichoke – they add a lovely touch to a salad (and can also be used to make dips). Since the harvesting of palm hearts originally killed the trees they come from, they were expensive and salads that included them were deemed “millionaire’s salads”. However, what you find now comes from trees with multiple palms, so that when one section is chopped off, the tree continues to live.

Why eat them?

It’s simple. They’re tasty and healthy, a rare combination. The amount of nutrients packed into one cup, which is 41 calories worth, is incredible: iron (25% of your daily value), protein (7%), vitamin C (19%), folate (14%), magnesium (14%), potassium (9%), and zinc (11%)! The only downside is the amount of sodium – 622mg (26%), which is mostly due to preservation needs and is comparable to the amount of sodium found in other canned vegetables.

Ready to try?
These scrumptious treats are available at Fresh Grocers or Whole Foods (for $2 to 5 per can/jar). So if you are bored of lettuce, tomato, and onion salads, then add some hearts of palm!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guacamole


If you can chop, dice, and mix - you're capable of making guacamole.

Here's what you'll need to do it:
2 ripe avocados
1 medium tomato diced
1/3 cup of chopped onion
1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro chopped
1/4 of chopped jalapenos OR 1/8 cup of serrano peppers
Lime juice
Salt

Directions:
Mash the avocado separately. Then, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Add the lime juice and salt to taste. I recommend 1-2 teaspoons of lime juice, it brings all the flavors together.





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