Thursday, October 30, 2008

El Vez: Get Ready for a Good Time


Photo from

Click photo to visit the official website of El Vez

Even from a few blocks away, El Vez grabs your attention. A glowing pink neon sign spells out the name of Stephen Starr’s Mexican restaurant high above the surrounding Center City storefronts. Upon entering, the dazzling décor, including a rotating hot pink convertible above the bar, draws your eyes in countless directions, while the din from the bar and the delicious smells of dishes passing by contribute to a total sensory overload.

You should come, however, for the food, if nothing else. The Cesar Chavez guacamole ($14), with oaxaca cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, is perfect for three or four, especially when paired with the queso fundido con carne ($11): a blend of chihuahua and oaxaca cheeses and tender chorizo. Served with flour tortillas, it's surprisingly light on the grease and has just enough bite. And if you aren’t already full, the pollo annatto ($19) will definitely satisfy. The dish features a slice of poblano cornbread topped with a tender sliced chicken breast as well as a chile relleno, stuffed with a blend of shredded chicken and tomatoes. 

El Vez is definitely not cheap, but, if you order intelligently and plan on sharing, it isn’t too expensive either. Try to make reservations, especially on weekend nights, because the restaurant, although large, fills up almost instantaneously. Before you graduate, make sure you try El Vez at least one time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lover swans - oh my gourd!

It's always fun to observe some unabashed public display of affection! These sweet pair of lover swan gourds were spotted in the eclectic Hill Tea Bar up in Chestnut Hill. And they lived happily ever after:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Extra Food Event!

We found out about this event after posting upcoming food events on Sunday, so here's the information:

Multicultural Cooking Series: Asian Hot Pots
Thursday, October 30
DuBois College House (3900 Walnut St- entrance behind Hamilton College House)
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Come learn about culture, cuisine and cooking style, while enjoying a delicious meal.

Let the PAACH Student Programming Committee guide you through a traditional Asian communal style meal called Hot Pots (visit for more information). The evening will feature traditional Chinese, Japanese and Thai stations. Learn about the cultural significance of the meal and how to prepare and share this delicious cuisine. Penn students, staff and faculty welcome.

Please RSVP to by Thursday at Noon. Walk-ins welcome but space is limited!

A Simple Pot Roast

Pot Roast (Serves 5-8)


1-2 can(s) of cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion
6 potatoes (red-skinned recommended)
2-3 pound roast
1 teaspoon of oregano
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
dash of chili powder


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Empty the soup into a deep pan - use one can for a 2.5 pound or smaller roast, and 2 cans for larger roasts. (Note: The soup is the secret to this recipe. It cooks the potatoes faster than oil does and it is less fatty - plus it also keeps the meat incredibly moist! You can even use the remainder of it as gravy.) Halve or quarter the potatoes, depending on their size. Place skin-side down around the pan. Sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of oregano and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Place the roast in the center of the pan. Sprinkle the remainder of the spices on top. Add sliced onion to the potatoes and the roast.

Cover pan with aluminum foil. Cook for 1.5 to 3 hours. Check on it after an hour and then every 20-30 minutes until ready. Simply cut a slice of the beef to see if it is the right level of “pink” for you. Once it is, enjoy!

For Vegetarians: This recipe (minus the beef) is a quick, easy way roast potatoes if you are out of oil or simply want a less fatty option. Just fill the pan up with potatoes and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Answers to our Quiz

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

Sodium: the tasty killer!

Sodium is one of those metals in the middle of the periodic table that people need to consume regularly to survive. However, we don't need to eat very much of it (about 500 mg a day, although the USDA recommends a more generous 2300 mg), and most people eat far more than they need. Just about everything that comes in a bag, bottle, or served with french fries has much more sodium than you need: one cheeseburger from McDonalds? 750 mg.

High levels of sodium don't have the same health effects on everyone, but everyone can reduce their risk of high blood pressure and heart disease later in life by consuming less salt today. In general, you can reduce your salt intake by following some or all of these recommendations:

*Instead of using canned fruits and veggies, cook with frozen, or better yet, buy them fresh;
*Avoid processed meats, especially sandwich meats like bologna and spam;
*Drink juice or water instead of soda pop, and avoid pretzels, chips, and candy - these are also high in calories;
*Whenever possible, choose "no salt added" for staples like butter and tuna;
*Cook at home from fresh ingredients instead of heating up frozen dinners.

If you're worried about a family history of high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, a group of conditions responsible for 30% of annual American deaths, it's never too early to start being salt-conscious. Healthy eating!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Test Your Culinary Clout!

1. What wine is sweet in a Manhattan and dry in a martini?
a) Sherry
b) Vermouth
c) Port
d) Dubonnet

2. The name for this pasta translates into "little ears," which they resemble. This pasta is called:
a) Rotini
b) Vermicelli
c) Rotelle
d) Orecchiette

3. This plant gives the characteristic yellow color to Thai curries:
a) Turmeric
b) Saffrom
c) Longan
d) Carrot

4. Something that is served "Cordon Bleu" means that it is:
a) Covered with mushroom sauce
b) Set on fire using rum
c) Stuffed with ham and cheese
d) Deep-fried

5. Tzatziki is a yogurt-based sauce. Which vegetable is the main ingredient used in its preparation?
a) Potato
b) Celery
c) Tomato
d) Cucumber

Upcoming Food Events

Here's a list of upcoming food events as part of a series that will begin to appear on Sundays. If you have any food-related events that you'd like to be included in future listings, please email

Get [your hands] Dirty, the Jewish Renaissance Project's Alternative Spring Break trip is a week-long experience focused on getting to know an awesome group of people while exploring food ethics, sustainable agriculture, local food through hands-on volunteer work, building community, and exploring the intersection of social justice and Jewish values.

Upcoming Info Session: Wednesday, October 29, 8 PM
Civic House Seminar Room (first floor) **Snacks provided!!!**
- - -
Goulish Gourmet Trick-Or-Treat Adventure
Presented by City Food Tours
This adult version of Trick-Or-Treat in the heart of Center City features hauntingly yummy treats and BOO-ze to make this the best Halloween ever!

Your 2 ½-hour adventure makes stops at 8 of the city’s best specialty food shops and restaurants, including 
Capogiro Gelato, Joe Coffee, McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Naked Chocolate Café, Solefood, Tavern 17, Tbar, and Valanni Restaurant. Delicious samples at each shop are included!

Tour Date and Time: Thursday, October 30, 6 PM

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Potato Gratin

Delicious, cheesy potato gratin with a golden brown crust. Photo by Kendall Haupt.

Buy for your Halloween party (and please invite me)!

Dean and Deluca's assortment of Halloween goodies seem to be equal parts adorable and delicious. I know I should be morally opposed to a $200 Apple Crate Cake, but it's hard when it's so cute:I'm not drooling over all their offerings, though. My conscience does kinda kick in in regards to consuming tiny costumed children. Even though they do look tasty.

Because there will be too many Sarah Palins this Halloween

Endless simmer has compiled a list of the ten weirdest food Halloween costumes.

Now ladies, I know dressing as an American cheese slice might not be very sexy, but just look at how #4 rocks her bun.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - It’s Great Pumpkin Fudge, Charlie Brown!

Blog: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Check out this recipe for sweet and delicious (not to mention seasonally-appropriate) Pumpkin Pie Fudge. And check out some of the other entries on this "Confections of a Foodie Bride" blog, especially their photos; the author is as talented a food photographer as she is a cook!

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Parc: the Bistro Experience

Photo from Parc's website:

As you walk down Market Street, the first thing that really catches your attention is Rittenhouse Square, with its bright flowers and dapper old people lounging on park benches. As my friends and I plopped ourselves on the grass, only on an afterthought did we notice the restaurants that lined the sunny green paradise. Parc is one of these restaurants. From the outside, the restaurant looks deceptively low-key. Tables that face onto the park sit outside the restaurant, and the windows are accented by wood that gives the place a light, casual feel. We ate early, around six on a Wednesday, so the restaurant was nearly empty. A considerable amount of effort was put into making the restaurant resemble a ritzy French bistro--the vaunted ceiling, open lighting, the long oak wooden bar, and the images of 'French' life on walls. Sure, the setting was a little contrived, but the view of the park and the elegant ambience sets you at ease immediately.

The main courses ranged from cheeseburgers to beef bourguignon, and most of the twelve main dishes would fall into the category of French-American gourmet. Over the course of the evening I tried the Trout Amandine, Shrimp and Linguine, and the Pan Roasted Salmon. The meats were very tender and flavorful. The linguine has a light buttery sauce that balanced the shrimp, and the salmon was flaky and moist, as it always should be. On the down side, the portions were tiny and very pricey. So was the food good? Very. Overpriced? Unfortunately. Thankfully, the service was quick and my waiter friendly, so when the bill arrived I didn't cringe (too much). All in all, this was a great place to dine. Whenever you're meeting up with friends to commemorate a big occasion (or you just have cash to spare) head down to Parc for a good meal in a setting that can't be beat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slithering vegetables

I came across this snake gourd at the Clark Park Farmers' Market on 43rd and Baltimore Ave last weekend and then again along 22nd and South St. Not sure how it tastes but certainly makes for a fashionable accessory or a floral arrangement for some!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fresh Basil and Tomato Sauce

This recipe comes straight from my grandfather's collection.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 sprig parsley, chopped
1 28 oz. can tomatoes, chopped
3 oz tomato paste
1 big handful basil leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
red cayenne pepper (optional)

In saucepan, add olive oil, garlic, onion, parsley, salt and pepper. Saute until onion is golden and soft. Add tomatoes, paste and basil leaves. Bring to simmer. Cook about 3-4 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Pinch red pepper optional. Serve.

Local Food for Penn Dining

Meredith Aska McBride wrote an interesting opinion piece for the Daily Pennsylvanian today about the push to get Penn Dining to source their food locally. How likely do you think it is that Penn Dining will shift towards using local food? Will students be willing to give up their pineapple at the fruit bar?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Answers to our Quiz

Answers to Sunday's quiz: 1.d) 2.b) 3.d) 4.b) 5.c)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Test Your Culinary Clout!

1) How many rows does an ear of corn have?

a) 12
b) 15
c) Always an odd number
d) Always an even number

2) What kind of meat is Coq au vin made with?

a) Pork
b) Chicken
c) Beef
d) Veal

3) This dish takes its name from the pan it is cooked in, which in turn comes from the Latin word for 'pan' or 'dish.' The name of this Spanish dish is...?

a) Pilaf
b) Jambalaya
c) Risotto
d) Paella

4) It is called 'mahi-mahi' in Hawaii, but what is another common name for this delicious sea fish?

a) Porpoisefish
b) Dolphinfish
c) Whalefish
d) Swordfish

5) This tropical tree and its fruit is native to India, and is actually part of the cashew family. The name of this fruit is...?

a) Cantaloupe
b) Pineapple
c) Mango
d) Papaya

Answers will be posted tomorrow!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Peeping Peas

Peas peeping out of their pods. Photo by Alyssa Birnbaum.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - So Here it is Home Made Ice Cream

Blog: Fullblown Technicolor

There's just something about Friday nights that lend themselves to ice cream cravings. Why not try out this no frills, super editable ice cream recipe to curb your hunger? No ice cream maker required!

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The skinny on late night dining - New Deck Tavern

It’s hard to believe, but some people may not know about New Deck Tavern’s phenomenal late-night food and drink specials. Here’s the lowdown: from 10 PM to 12 AM six nights a week there’s a second happy hour with drink specials. Then, from 11pm to 1 am, the entire food menu is half price. If you don’t mind acting Spanish and putting off dinner, this means two people can easily eat for $15 or less, including drinks. Just make sure you don’t put your food order in until 11, or they’ll be more than happy to charge you full price. I recommend the outstanding County Cork Chili ($3.50), served piping hot with a dollop of sour cream, and the enormous Chicken Spinach Salad ($8.25) which is loaded with veggies (hold the bacon bits – they just get in the way) and served with a spicy ranch dressing. The Nachos Supreme ($7.25) are another great appetizer. And obviously, everything tastes better when it’s half price!

Here are the drink specials for the late night happy hour:

  • Sunday: $2 Domestic Pints
  • Tuesday: $5 PBR Pounders + Shot of Jack; $2 Well Drinks; $3 Miller High Life & Miller High Life Light Bottles
  • Wednesday: $6 F-Bombs; $4 Guinness, Harp & Smithwick's Pints; $2 Domestic Pints
  • Thursday: $2 Miller Lite Pints; $3 Miller Lite Bottles; $3 MGD Bottles
  • Friday: $3 Blue Moon Pints
  • Saturday: $2 Coors Light Pints; $3 Coors Light Bottles; $4 Absolut Vodka Drinks

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rocketberry Salad

This salad is simple - just assemble all your favorite fruits and voila! you've got a tasty, nutritious, and colorful starter.

Rocketberry Salad (for 4)

1 qt. rocket salad mix (otherwise known as arugula)
1 pt. strawberries, halved
1 c. seedless green grapes
1 c. cherry tomatoes
1 c. baby carrots
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar dressing
1 lemon


Plate the salad and fruit individually. Sprinkle some squeezed lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning. Scatter the chopped walnuts and a spoonful of the dressing over each serving.

Optional: Serve with Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Natural Booster Shots

I hate to say it, but flu season is upon us! Instead of raiding the medicine aisle at CVS, try the following foods - they are some of the best to prevent infection and boost your body's natural defenses:

Photo by Rachel Stone.

Lean beef - Zinc is essential to the development of white blood cells, which are responsible for recognizing and destroying invading bacteria and viruses. Even a slight zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection, so it is important to get the daily recommended intake of 15 mg. If beef isn't your thing, try zinc-rich oysters, fortified cereals, poultry, yogurt, or milk.

Sweet potatoes - Foods containing beta-carotene are also rich in vitamin A. Why does vitamin A matter? It is important for our skin, which is the first line of defense for our immune system. So think orange: pick up some carrots, squash, pumpkin, or cantaloupe.

Mushrooms - Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive against foreign bacteria. Try shiitake and maitake varieties for the best defense.

Garlic - Garlic contains allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates -- three powerful compounds that destroy bacteria and inhibit the growth and reproduction of many viruses. Crush one or two cloves of fresh garlic and add it to virtually any dish to fight illness.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Yellow, green, and red tomatoes. Photo by Rachel Stone.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Blog Lovin' - Mandelbread from Simmer Till Done

Blog: Simmer Till Done

Check out this blog written by a former pastry chef, with flowy writing, beautiful photos, and delicious food. This post about mandelbread reminds me of the same almond-flavored biscotti my mom makes.

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Hummus - who's your daddy?

Some things never change...especially conflict in the Middle East. Why are we writing about this on a food blog, you ask? Well, the conflict has extended from territorial disputes to culinary disputes. Get the full story from the New York Times here or take a look at what the Jerusalem Post says here. As crazy as this claim seems, I think he's actually right. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What do we have here?

So the saying goes, "That was the icing on the cake," implying icing is just an additional perk (or downfall, as it may be). It turns out people really love their icing. Cruising down the baking isle at Fresh Grocer, I saw the plethora of choices for cakes, cookies, brownies, and my favorite: the crazy varieties of icing! They had chocolate, vanilla, whipped, creamy, cream cheese, mint chocolate, low fat, greens, blues, pinks, confetti. The best (and most gourmet) variety I found was coconut pecan, the classic pairing for German chocolate cake. I suggest adding some pizzazz to your next batch of decadent chocolate cupcakes or cake with coconut pecan icing. Variety makes life exciting, no?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Night on the Town

Photo by Alice Gao

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fun and Philanthropy

This addictive word game is not only a fabulously fun way to waste time (and learn new words that you may never use: entomophilous = pollinated by insects) but also an easy way to make a difference.

According to the website:

"FreeRice has two goals:

  1. Provide education to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free."
Better than facebook, and your homework.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cream & Sugar - Hits the Sweet Spot

Tucked in an unassuming Spruce St. storefront just beyond 40th st., the new shop Cream & Sugar seeks to satisfy Penn’s sweet tooth. In fact, there is hardly anything savory in sight - the handful of bagels is overshadowed by a wall of candy dispensers, a freezer full of ice cream, and a display case of pastries.

Most of the items at Cream & Sugar are not produced on site (except for the cannoli filling and cream cheese, among others), but are sourced to local bakeries in Philadelphia or New Jersey. But the spread covers almost any dessert imaginable, from cupcakes to rice pudding to torrones.

After some deliberation, I bought a blueberry muffin, a chocolate chip cookie, and a chocolate cupcake, intending to eat them over a couple of days. My cookie was delicious, firm on the outside and soft in the middle with just enough chocolate chips. The muffin, covered in clumps of sugar, was too sweet but still enjoyable. The raspberry chocolate cupcake was easily the highlight, as the airy cake included bits of real raspberry and a perfectly complementary icing.

If you ever get a sugar craving, be happy that Cream & Sugar has moved in right up the street. It's ready to sweeten you up.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Come, Mr. Tally Mon, tally me banana

While in the Fresh Grocer, I stumbled across the red banana. I immediately thought it was something I had to try. The red banana has reddish-purple skin and is smaller and plumper than its yellow counterpart. After peeling it and taking a bite, I also noticed the flesh has a softer, sweeter texture with a tint of pink coloring. Simply delicious! If you're into bananas, I suggest giving the red banana a try. If you're not... it's still a red banana!

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