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!

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!

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)

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


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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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!

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)

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

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


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

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!

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.

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.

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!

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


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 with your name and address so I can send you one. You can also look through our website,, 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.

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