Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Still flung out from Fling? Try these non-alcoholic mocktails at your next party or get together.

Lychee Martini
2 parts apple juice
2 parts pear juice
1 part pineapple juice
the juice of one large can of canned lychees
Mix ingredients in large pitcher, then refrigerate until cool. Serve chilled in a martini glass, and garnish with a canned lychee on a stick.

Passionfruit Margarita
1 part passionfruit juice, sweetened (sold at Trader Joe's, but mixed with other juices)
1 part orange juice
juice of 1/2 lime
Mix ingredients and blend with ice, then serve in margarita glasses.

Love on the Rocks
1 part cranberry juice
1 part ginger ale
splash of grenadine
Mix ingredients and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a rock candy swizzle.

The Dragonfly
1 part pineapple juice
1 part guava juice (sold at Fresh Grocer)
splash of grenadine
Mix ingredients and serve in a tumbler glass, garnished with dried, sweetened hibiscus flower (sold at Trader Joe's).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grande Mocha Frap? No, Thank You. I'll Have A Grande Tea.

By the end of the 1990’s Starbucks was a household name. They lined the streets in almost every major metropolitan area, supposedly offering some of the most unique coffees and lattes and espressos in a fresh, hip setting. The Starbucks brand became ubiquitous with caffeine. Chains like Saxby’s, Juan Valdez, and Seattle’s Best subsequently began sprouting up around the country trying to mimic Starbucks’ success. Ultimately, they helped make coffee the next “it” thing. Celebrities started toting cups around as their new favorite accessory and businessmen and women lined up before work for their daily fixes.

is tea the new coffee?
photo by Alice Gao

But now, in the twenty-first century, coffee and coffee drinks are no longer so desirable. People are trying to cut back their spending because of the economy, and they're watching out for the calories that all that cream and sugar carries. Instead, an ancient form of beverage that has existed for centuries seems to be taking the spotlight, maybe even becoming the next big thing. That beverage is, of course, tea.

Tea . . . is it the new coffee? Well, it’s significantly less expensive than coffee, carries almost no calories or fats and provides great benefits like antioxidants. In the health-conscious, budget-aware consumer world we live in nowadays, we want something that is cool yet cost effective yet high quality. Im most fields and products, this may be hard to find. But tea seems to have it all. It can be combined and produced in a variety of flavors, from orange to plum to ginger to chocolate, is available in large quantities, and is simple to find and make.

To emphasize this, many new century figures - pioneers of the hip - are turning to teas instead of double espressos. founder Kevin Rose, according to a recent article by, began spending up to a thousand dollars a month on tea for his employees. He acknowledges the benefits of the beverage and the potential it has in making people productive and energetic which, unlike the caffeine in coffee and energy drinks, is something that seldom wears out. Being a product that is natural and literally from the Earth, many people are drawn to the prospects of specialty teas. There’s no need for hundred dollar coffee makers or gallons of creamer when all you need is a tea bag, some water and maybe a teaspoon of honey.

It seems the world is quickly catching up on this. To replace the tired old coffee shops, tea bars are popping up all across the country, from the Silicon Valley to right here in Philadelphia. Tea, it appears, is fast on its way to becoming the new, healthy social lubricant. Even coffee retailers like Starbucks have picked up on the trend and now offer a wide range of teas along with the standard lattes and mochas. Here in Philadelphia, one can also find quite a few specialty shops offering nothing but organic, wholesome teas. Remedy Tea Bar (16th and Sansom Streets) owned by sisters Kristen and Courtney has become a gem in the city, providing innovative ways to make tea appealing to both skeptics and long time connoisseurs. The Hill Tea Bar (6 East Hartwell Lane) in Chestnut Hill offers a scenic English garden in which to sip your tea, in case the bustling city crowd isn’t you thing. Midtown Village’s chic T-Bar (117 S. 12th Street) serves the yuppie and hipster crowds with rare and distinct blends, as well as offers great tips and recipes for do-it-yourself drinks. And, of course, there is always the simplest option - buy a box of tea for a few bucks, brew it at home, sit back and enjoy.

Monday, April 27, 2009


homemade hamantaschen, a traditional Jewish cookie, filled with apricot jam
photo by Kendall Haupt

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Basic Pesto Sauce

This recipe comes straight from my grandfather's collection and has its origins in Liguria, Italy.

2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts (may be substituted with sweet walnuts or shelled almonds)
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
a pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients until a paste-like consistency is achieved. If fresh basil is unattainable, use 2 cups fresh parsley, plus 2 tablespoons dried basil. The condiment can be stored by covering with olive oil and refrigerating for future use.

Variations: use of different types of grated cheeses; orange or lemon rind; 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream; eliminating garlic, including ricotta; adding a few anchovies

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

Blog: Nosh and Tell

These quintuple chocolate brownies are not for the timid.  The recipe, from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours, includes cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, semisweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.   I'll never settle for single chocolate brownies again.

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sazon Restaurant

Over, the weekend, I supplemented my diet of fried oreos and Ben & Jerry's with some Venezuelan food from Sazon.

Don't let the location fool you. It's located on 10th and Spring Garden (near a certain copy center in which certain cards can be obtained), but the hearty, delicious, and inexpensive food make it well worth the trek.

I ordered a cafe mocha, motivated by a rave review. I was surprised at the richness of the flavor and the perfect mingling of coffee and chocolate. For an appetizer, I had tequenos, which resembled mozzarella sticks--minus the excessive grease. My dinner, an arepa (a corn flour patty) stuffed with black beans and cheese, was simple but very satisfying. For dessert, I enjoyed a tres leches cake that that was a tad over-frosted for my taste, but otherwise delicious.

The service was prompt and helpful, and the restaurant overall was very cozy, warm and inviting. It was my first foray into Venezuelan food, and it certainly won't be my last.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Better Free Samples Than Whole Foods!

It's almost that time of the year again! Get ready for delicious farmers market food this spring. Here's an account from an awesome trip last May:

I arrived at the Headhouse Farmer's Market at 2nd and Pine at a few minutes till 10, the scheduled starting time. Vendors were open for browsing, but wouldn't sell until the official starting bell was rung at 10:00 on the dot. It was a transformation; as soon as the bell rang, samples appeared, vendors started explaining their products to interested customers, and the number of people browsing seemed to multiply.

Goods ranged from the usual leafy greens to potted plants to baked goods to prepared foods. Samples were numerous, not to mention delicious. Highlights included Betty's Tasty Buttons, showcasing Lemon Curd and other sweet dipping/topping sauces, and Wild Flour Bakery's rosemary garlic bread and chocolate chip cookies.

Grass-fed beef and pastured eggs seemed to be the norm, as did organically farmed produce. I was overjoyed.

Personal purchases consisted of a block of (grass-fed!) sharp cheddar from Hillacres Pride, a small tub of whipped shea butter from Demarah as a belated birthday present for my mom, a (gigantic) blueberry scone for myself from Wild Flour as well as two chocolate chip cookies for my students (I was, of course, on my way to work) from the same. That's not to mention the absurd quantity of free samples of which I partook.

Unfortunately the semester is winding down and I am swamped with work so I couldn't warrant buying tons of fresh produce for fear of having to let it rot in my fridge, but if you have more time than I, I would strongly urge you to spend a lovely Sunday morning taking a (looong) stroll down to 2nd and Pine and checking out this gem of a farmer's market.

Headhouse Farmer's Market
South 2nd Street, between Pine and Lombard
Sundays beginning May 3, 10 am - 2 pm

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Schedule!

Hi Penn Appetit Blog Readers,

If you've read our blog before, you may have noticed our weekly schedule of topics, including Weird Food Wednesday and Friday Blog Lovin'. Well, I'm happy to say that, as we grow in readers and contributors, we're moving on to a new schedule, starting today!

Visit us each Monday to see a beautiful food photo from the Penn Appetit Photo Staff, learn something new about food every Tuesday, and read about all sorts of topics on Wednesdays, when anything goes. Thursday and Friday will be "Eat Out" days, with profiles and reviews of restaurants, gourmet stores, coffee shops, and more all over Philadelphia, and occasionally beyond it as well. Saturdays will now feature our popular "Blog Lovin'" posts, and a new recipe will be posted every Sunday.

This new format creates greater flexibility for our writers and spaces out the content more evenly over the week. It will allow us to improve our coverage of countless aspects of food around Penn and beyond, and should provide a more pleasurable reading experience for you as well. Thank you for helping us grow our readership so substantially over the last year, and we look forward to providing many exciting, interesting, and appetizing posts well into the future!

Blog Editor

Milk of the Irish, or: How I Learned Everything I Never Thought I Wanted to Know About Whiskey

photos by Jonathan Coveney

The tables were spread with an aesthetic arrangement of six whiskeys ranging in hue from light amber to deep honey, and complicated flavor diagrams and timelines lay in front of us. After an extensive description of whiskey's history, production, and politics - Ireland and Kentucky, pot stills and column stills, moonshine and prohibition - we got down to the tasting. We were informed, not without a definite sense of superiority, that whiskey possesses orders of magnitude more flavor profiles than wine - when you smell whiskey (learned: don't swirl or you're alcohol will evaporate) you are smelling 1000s of smells. The motions are similar to those of wine; don't swirl, but hold by the bottom and tip the glass back over your mouth and nose and inhale to catch all the smells, then taste, and perhaps circulate - all sides, tongue, throat - and aerate your sip on the palate, swallow, and judge. What kinds of smells are there? Depth of flavor? Does the flavor linger or just disappear? (Learned: Finish is important!) How do you know what you're tasting and if it's 'good' or not?

Whiskey #1: Irish Whiskey; yeasty, toasty, floral, sweet, smooth, clean, fades off the palate, weak, unassuming Learned: women smell more things than men, they can taste more and pick up more flavor notes.

Whiskey #2: Single Malt Scotch (Glenlivet; Dad would be proud); light, sweet, simple, strong but clean finish Learned: The Glenlivet distillery used to be protected by armed guards / 100% pot still distillation therefore no two batches are alike - single malts are variable and seasonal / water is critical to the flavor profile: the limestone in the Scottish highlands give Glenlivet it's prized flavor.

Whiskey #3: Blended bourbon (Crown Royal); sweet, gentle molasses - a blend of bourbon, single malt, and grain alcohols Learned: not all Canadian whiskeys are rye / Crown Royal was blended for the queen. Bourbon takes three years to make.

Whiskey #4: Single Malt Blend (Johnny Walker/Chivas Regal); sour, smoky, peppery, harsh, bite lingers. Learned: the longer a whiskey is barrel-aged the more concentrated - higher proof - it becomes / the greater the proof, the higher the tax

Whiskey #5: Single Malt (Bruichladdich); iodine, tangy, spicy, not so sweet, salty, salt caramel, ocean, smells like nausea. Learned: Before WWII there was no Single Malt to speak of in the U.S. It came from Europe. It tastes like the ocean because the distillery is on the ocean; environment influences flavor!

Whiskey #6: Bourbon (corn) (Wild Turkey); butterscotch, cinnamon, cloves, caramel corn, robust, 100 proof. Learned: Bourbon needs a higher proof because it needs more flavor. All whiskeys and red wines have acetone in them.

(Surprise!) Whiskey #7: Single Malt (Bushmills 21); tangerine, caramel, citrusy, fruity, strong beginning, smooth end. Learned: That burn? Not alcohol, but rye. Single malt is over 1000 years old, distillation originated in the Middle East (alembic) and eventually got to Scotland via monks (and presumably some other people).

The following statements are up for debate but were the gospel by which the class was taught:
Do not add ice or water: whiskey has to be full proof or else you're robbing it of its soul.
Whiskey is artisanal; it reflects a particular tradition, history, and place, and is one of the last true artisanal spirits.
There is not a bad whsikey in the world; there are some that are better than others.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken Curry Salad

The curry powder in this recipe adds a kick to traditional plain chicken salad. The salad is incredibly quick and easy to make, and can be stored in the fridge to be enjoyed over the course of a few days.

1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless cooked chicken breast, diced
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup halved red grapes
1/2 cup chopped celery
Salt and ground black pepper

In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise and curry powder. Fold in the chicken, grapes and celery and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve as a sandwich on bread or as a salad over a bed of lettuce.                                                                                                                                                           photo by Lydia Gau

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pomegranate: A Superfruit!

The term “superfruit” refers to a fruit that is not only rich in nutrients and antioxidants, but one that also has the power to affect cellular and molecular structure, and the potential to be beneficial to overall health. Pomegranates are said to have three to seven times as much antioxidant value as green tea and red wine. Furthermore, pomegranates are low in calories, with an estimated 110 calories and 25 grams of sugar from the whole fruit. Juice made from pomegranate seeds provides 16% of our daily Vitamin C requirement, per 100 ml. The fruit is also a good source of Vitamin B5, potassium and fiber. Many dietary supplements use extracts from pomegranates such as ellagic acid.

Regular consumption of pomegranate juice containing high levels of antioxidant improve blood circulation by preventing build up of plaque and hardening of artery walls. Laboratory studies have shown that pomegranates can prevent breast and skin cancer. A recent study conducted by researchers at UCLA also showed that pomegranate supplements containing ellagitannins can significantly reduce blood levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) and slow down the progression of recurrent cancer cells. The antioxidant power of pomegranates may also be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, cholesterol, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and the common cold. It’s no wonder that pomegranates appear in every list of “Must-Eat” foods.

Culinary uses of the pomegranate are most evident in the native regions of southwestern Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In parts of South India, like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the seeds are eaten raw either in a simple vegetable or fruit salad (the watery arils are very refreshing for the hot weather of these regions) or with curd and rice. In North India and the Middle East, it is also used as a garnish for grilled meats, hummus and tahini. Wild pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice known as anardhana or pomegranate in India and Pakistan, and as a substitute for pomegranate syrup in Middle Eastern cuisine. Pomegranate syrup can also be found in the sweeter and thicker form of grenadine, which is used in alcoholic drinks and found widely in traditional Iranian dishes such as fesenjan, a thick sauce made from grenadine and ground walnuts (eaten with duck or chicken and rice) and ash-e anar, a pomegranate soup.

In Turkey, pomegranate molasses or syrup is used in muhammara- a spread made with roasted peppers, garlic and walnuts. In Greece, pomegranate frequents many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur and grenadine is used in fruit confectionery, ice cream toppings, mixed with yogurt or spread as jam on toast.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fried Oreo

the inside of a fried Oreo, from a stand in the Quad during Spring Fling
photo by Alex Marcus

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Blog Lovin' - Potato Bread

Blog: The Boastful Baker

This blogger claims her potato rolls are the "best rolls ever. end of story." After looking at some pictures, my mouth is already watering.

Note: Click here to see the original post

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Philly Alfresco

Although it’s been hard to tell lately, it is, in fact, springtime in the city. Yes, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and it’s beginning to warm up (most days). After the winter we’ve had, what better way to enjoy the weather than to take it outside? Your food that is. Dining alfresco is like an event in the city. On any mild day you can see lines of people vying for those outdoor seats, waiting to see and be seen. Here are some of the top places those warm-weather crowds are flocking to wine, dine and take in some of that well deserved sunshine.

The Plough and the Stars (123 Chestnut St): This warm Irish restaurant, which opened in 1997, is known as much for its outdoor seating as it is for the grand former bank building in which it is now housed. An Old City fixture for years, Plough and the Stars specializes in Irish fare with a Continental flare, and an appreciation for locally grown produce and ingredients. They also feature live music most days, often of the lively traditional Irish variety. The alfresco seating offers awesome views of the most bustling part of Old City and even comes with some large umbrellas to provide a little shade. So, if you’re ever in the area, Plough and the Stars is a can’t miss - literally, the bustling crowds are often the loudest on the street.

El Vez (121 S. 13th St): Of course, no talk of Philly restaurants is complete without a mention of a Stephen Starr creation. El Vez, often overshadowed by its more famous Starr cousins, is at the epicenter of Midtown Village, one of the up and coming neighborhoods in the city. Serving funky and fun Mexican food in a funky interior (complete with a bejeweled motorcycle and gold velvet booths), it also has some of the city’s best outdoor seating. With things on the menu ranging from classic burritos to the “Cesar Chavez” salad, Mexican food lovers will love the loud and over the top atmosphere of El Vez. It’s also great for people watching due to its proximity to some other great Midtown dining spots (i.e. Raw Sushi, Capogiro Gelato, Vintage Wine Bar, etc.)

Tria Washington Square (12th and Spruce Sts): Its high profile sibling, Tria Rittenhouse Square, is already quite well known for its sidewalk seating so close the park. This second Tria venture, while conceptually the same, is contextually very different. Located on a much less bustling corner of the quaint Antique Row section of the city, Tria offers some of the best selections of bruschettas, cheeses and white and red wines in the city. While they do offer a few salads and sandwiches to quench the hungry, their concentration - what they are best known for - is the continental beer, wine and cheese. On a good day, it is almost always packed with neighborhood locals hoping to take in the picturesque tree-lined streets and prewar townhouses. Don’t fret even if you can’t get a seat outdoors; the windows slide open fully to allow an open air experience for indoor diners too.

Le Bus Rittenhouse Square (135 S. 18th St): This small, local bread chain has quickly become one of the most popular bakeries in the area. Started nearly twenty five years ago, they began serving food from an old converted school bus on our very own Penn campus. Gradually, it gained so much popularity that it became a bread supplier to restaurants across the region. Now, it has established a Rittenhouse bakery that is often packed with locals yearning to get a taste of their wide variety of breads and pastries. From bagels to brioche to croissants and scones, Le Bus is a baked goods lover’s dream. While it’s outdoor seating is limited, if you go on a good day and manage to grab a sidewalk table, it can be unparalleled. Located right down from the square on one of the busiest city streets, Le Bus is a great place for people watching while munching on a muffin or sipping on some coffee.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Well, we didn’t win but we sure had fun. Nearly four hours after the start of the bake-off, the results were in. The two-tiered “present cake” (as it was fondly and unofficially dubbed by fellow participants in the bake-off) came in first place, winning its bakers $100 and points in the College House Cup. This cake—complete with a “wrapped present” exterior made of fondant and a raspberry coulis—dazzled the senses and the judges. My team’s cake slices, however, well… didn’t make the cut.

My friend Peter and I formed Team Nine of the College House Bake-off which took place in the Hill dining hall this past Friday. Together we created a delicious dessert: carrot cake with cream cheese icing—a family recipe. Each step of the recipe flowed smoothly, and there was a natural ease with the two of us in the kitchen; one of us would hand the other a spatula the moment the other seemed in need. As two bakers, we clicked, and it showed in our culinary result. The carrot cake batter came out with the perfect consistency and cooked evenly in the convection oven, gently pulling away from the sides of the pan in which it was baked. The icing, silky smooth, was delicious—just the way my mom makes it.

But, of course, there was that inevitable moment of putting our cake on the presentation table, comparing our results to those of our competitors, and eagerly awaiting judgment. As we placed our cake on the stand, Peter and I knew our faults: our competitors has used intricate chocolate drizzles, multiple icing colors, three dimensional fondant, and hardened sugar structures. Shoot. Our cake tasted amazing, but in a competition in which “presentation” and “creativity” accounted for two-thirds of the points, we were the underdogs.

The results were announced and we didn’t win, but it didn’t feel like a loss whatsoever. Do you know what? We had a blast. During the competition, music had blared from a speaker which was attached to another participant’s iPod. Peter and I danced our way through grating the three cups of fresh carrots the recipe required. The fun continued as we cleaned (and danced around) our cooking space while the cake baked in the dining hall’s convection oven, and as we put the final touches on our finished cake, Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” kept the beat.

Win or no win, this competition was a way for people to get back into the kitchen—even if it was that of Hill dining hall. Spirits were high. Friendships formed. Compliments and helpful tips bounced around in all directions, as members of separate teams interacted positively with one another. Moreover, the sense of competition in the kitchen was tempered by the friendliness and generosity of the bakers. The sifter and handheld blender Peter and I used to make our cream cheese icing was borrowed from another team. Our measuring cup was used by several other teams. Yes, there were nine teams in this competition, but altogether they formed a unit, sharing the space of one large, communal kitchen. The competition occurred in a dining hall kitchen, but somehow it soothed the soul. Perhaps that’s the magic of cooking, that the activity itself is so comforting that even the most industrial of kitchens can feel like home.

And at the completion of the day—whether it was spent in class, at the office, or running errands—it’s really nice to put an end to all the chaos and spend some quality time in the kitchen. Lots of fun. Good friends. Good love and a good meal—or for us, carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

Only Peanuts and Salt

As the alien jar crept from the brown paper bag, I became fixated on the grotesque, thick layer of oil floating atop the unusually jaundiced goo. Why must I subject myself to this peanut butter imposter? The expression on her face told me that I had no choice in the matter. My mom proceeded to hand me the mutilated bread and implausibly dry peanut butter. I could barely swallow my first bite. Peanut butter was just the first in the long line of transitions that were to come. . . .

organic, healthy, and tasty peanut butter options are out there
photo by Jonathan Coveney

But with a little coercion and self-education, I had an epiphany! Awareness of hydrogenated oils led to my most significant edification, and I am now a major proponent of natural and organic foods. Here is why:

Hydrogenated oils are commonly known as trans fats. The process of hydrogenation involves adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils in order to reconfigure the fat into a solid. This chemical process is designed to increase the shelf life and “flavor stability” in food, hence why you can open a bag of Cheetos or Oreos that you think you bought a few months, or even years ago, and they probably still retain their flavor and crunch. Why is this bad you ask? Well, consumption of trans fats increases LDL “bad” cholesterol and decrease HDL “good” cholesterol. Consumption of trans fat also leads to increased risk of heart disease, strokes, and diabetes, and is also linked to various cancers. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, effects occur even at low levels: if you add just 2% more calories from trans fat to your diet, there is a 23% increased risk for heart disease.

So while it was maddening to surrender my favorite foods one after the other, I now realize how important avoiding hydrogenated oils are. I have found, however, getting people to swap their chemically enhanced staples such as peanut butter for organic versions is no easy feat. Thankfully, though, organic and natural options have evolved so that the tastes and flavor profiles now match the quality of the food, and I promise that tasty alternatives can be found!

It is important, however, to still check the ingredients of all products since it has become a deceptive marketing technique to add “zero trans fats” labels. According to the FDA guidelines, products that contain less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving can be listed as containing zero trans fats. In terms of peanut butter, which I have chose to focus on, you should look for products that contain only peanuts and salt. The layer of oil on top—which I once found revolting—is just the naturally occurring separation of the peanut oils after the “crushing” process. It takes only a few seconds—and a little strength—to stir the natural peanut butter until the oil is incorporated and then voila, you have a jar of delicious and natural peanut butter. There are many brands of natural peanut butters available now (some don’t even require mixing!) and all different types and flavors. My current favorite that I highly recommend is Santa Cruz Organic. And while I like my peanut butter crunchy and not smooth, I’ll hold off on the that debate for another day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

‘09 New Twists to the Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie

try these nine new twists to classic chocolate chip cookies
photo by Dana Robinson

Why is it so hard to come across the perfect chocolate chip cookie? It seems that cafeterias and grocery stores are plagued with the curse of the plastic-like or hard cookie. Well guess what, starting now you will never have a failed experience again. With these few alterations to this classic recipe, your cookies should come out gooey and deep with flavor:

1 cup melted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chip cookies

Cream the butter and sugar, and add the eggs and vanilla extract. Sift and combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and then stir into the wet mixture. Add the chocolate chips. Chill dough for up to 36 hours to deepen the flavors. Drop in rounded tablespoons onto baking sheets (make sure these are cool in between batches!), and bake for 9-11 minutes at 350 F, or until golden brown around the edges.

Although it’s impossible to tire of these morsels, the dough is amazingly versatile. Here are some ideas to explore your newly reformed cookie.

Sandwich it: Take two freshly baked cookies and fill with any combination of ice cream, Nutella, bananas, peanut butter, frosting, marshmallow cream, or whatever you can think of. The combination of peanut butter, bananas, and Nutella zapped in the microwave for a few seconds to ooze it all together is enough to convert anyone to this method.

Embellish it: Just because it’s called a chocolate chip cookie doesn’t restrict your dough to just chocolate chips. Mix and match with whatever you can find: shredded coconut, butterscotch chips, toffee bits, white chocolate chips, hazelnuts, walnuts, and cut up candies. My personal favorite is the subtle addition of hazelnuts and chopped up heath bars, adding a nutty crunch without overwhelming the flavor. Believe me, the baking aisle is waiting to be explored.

Healthitize it: Finally my two favorite concepts can live together in harmony: healthy and cookie. Switch half or all of the flour for whole-wheat flour, half or all of the butter for applesauce, and add some oats. While lowering the fat content and adding an element of heartiness, these alterations don’t sacrifice flavor for nutrition. While you’re taking the au naturale route, consider adding a dash of cinnamon, dried cranberries or raisins, and some nuts.

Chocolatize it: Chocolate lovers rejoice. You can make this a delicious chocolately whirlpool by adding ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder and white chocolate chips. Brave? Two teaspoons of espresso powder will wake these up.

Dechocolatize it: Believe it or not there are those that simply prefer their cookies sans the chips. Still, it’s not the end of the day. Experiment with almond extract or add some cinnamon. This will add a little pizzazz to the cookies and make you forget you had to surrender your beloved chocolate.

Peanutize it: Recess pieces and a cup of peanut butter. What more needs to be said (other than use unsalted butter)…

Freeze it: Trying to cool down? In a pie or baking pan layer cookies, ice-cream and any of your favorite additions as suggested earlier in the sandwich section. Mix and match with fruit, candies, and sauces. Stick it in the freezer to keep it cold before serving.

Brownitize it: How many times have you been faced with the ever-so-difficult decision between a brownie and a cookie? Well now, conveniently, you can have both, in one bite. Follow the recipe for brownies and take them out of the oven with about 20 minutes left. Top with a layer of cookie dough, put them back into the oven, and bake until brownies are done and cookies are golden brown.

Supersize it: It’s your friend’s birthday, and she doesn’t like cake, but oh does she enjoy her cookies. What to do? Simply spread the batter in a 14-inch pizza pan (or heart shaped pans) and bake it for 20-25 or until golden brown. You can top it and personalize it with any combination of icing, whipped cream, crumbled oreos, sprinkles, various candies, or whatever you can think of. Voila and happy birthday!

Not only will you never suffer from a hard chocolate chip cookie again, but also you will never run out of ways to excite your taste buds. Think you’ve seen it all? As demonstrated above, combining can make these twists even better . . . now just imagine a brownitized-chocolatized cookie. . . .

Monday, April 13, 2009

Penn Appetit Issue 4 - Today!

I am very pleased to announce the launch of our newest issue of Penn Appetit, the student-run food magazine at UPenn that is the basis for this blog. Here's the cover:

Some highlights from the new issue include an article about Jordanian cuisine (complete with a recipe) by Audrey Farber; an interview with the owner of Dock Street Brewery by Jen Green; a review of Supper by Jamie Png; and a narrative about growing up with a cookbook author mother by Lucy Medrich (daughter of famed chocolate expert Alice Medrich). This is just a sampling of the articles in the mag, so be sure to check out the whole thing. If you're on Penn's campus, you can pick up your copy on Locust Walk, at the Kelly Writers House, or in the new magazine racks around campus. If you're not at Penn, you can look at/read the mag online (or we can mail you a copy by special request).

We'd love to hear what you think about Issue 4 - feel free to comment on this post or email me at

To celebrate the launch of this issue, we are hosting a launch party, which will feature a discussion panel with the owners of Dock Street Brewery, Cream&Sugar, Rx, and City Food Tours. The panel will be followed by a free tasting. This event will be in the Rooftop Lounge of Harrison College House (39th and Locust) at 7:30PM tonight, and is free, of course!

Just a quick shoutout - thank you to all FORTY-SEVEN staff members who contributed to this issue, plus all of our bloggers who keep up our online readership. This magazine definitely definitely definitely could not exist without you. And I'd also like to thank our magazine and blog readers, both at Penn and around the world. We hope you enjoy the Spring 2009 issue!

-Emma, Editor-in-Chief

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

The San Francisco Bay Area is no doubt a culinary destination, where foodies from all over the world flock to try renowned restaurants such as The French Laundry, Gary Denko’s, and Chez Panisse. Having grown up in the Bay Area, however, what I appreciate most about the cuisine is not the incredible Fine-Dining options—which yes, are amazing—but rather the countless number of wonderful restaurants found in a variety of unique “gourmet ghettos”—a term which has come to define the many enclaves full of top rated restaurants. Napa County, which is most known for wine, cheese, and spa treatments, is actually one of the most established of these gourmet ghettos. Some of the best bakeries, markets, and restaurants, using the finest and freshest ingredients, are conveniently located along the picturesque countryside. So when I am back in the Bay Area, I like to take a relaxing drive up to Napa County and spend the day eating, rather than drinking, my way through wine country.

My parents had recently been up to Napa to eat dinner at a restaurant called Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. My mom called me (mid-meal might I add) to tell me that when I am home, we must all go back. While I am usually excited to hear about a restaurant discovery, at the time of the call I was eating yet another flavorless bagel from Mark’s Café in VP. As you can imagine, I was not particularly thrilled to be listening about great meals found 3000 miles away, and so I didn’t pay much attention to both her mid-and-post dining review. After my last of 3 midterms in 2 days, I came home exhausted and turned on the TV. I found myself watching Giada’s Getaway Weekends on the FoodNetwork where what do you know, she was spending the weekend in Napa. I love shows that highlight restaurants in different cities, especially when they are cities I am familiar with or know that I will be in or near in the future. So Giada was eating dinner at this restaurant and ordered a delicious looking meal: fig and caramelized onion flatbread, an oven-roasted duck, and the most ridiculously incredible looking “s'mores pie” dessert. Knowing that my mom would want to go up to Napa when I came home for spring break (and I definitely wanted to check this place out), I re-winded to find out the name of the restaurant and funny enough, it was Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.

My parents and I decided to drive up one Sunday and spend the afternoon sampling cheeses and baked goods at the many bakeries and markets, and then wrap up the day by eating dinner at Cindy’s. The restaurant itself is very open and inviting, and the wait staff was very friendly. The meal started out on a high note: the specialty “classic and hip house cocktails” and wines were extensive and top-quality. Even the “bread course” so to speak was incredible: Cindy’s served delicious, freshly baked bread that not only had the perfect crust, but also a perfectly balanced chewy-soft center. The bread was served with locally produced unsalted butter and artisan salts. With some restaurants, the bread is forgettable, but this bread is seriously worth noting. And such restaurants that take pride in all aspects of a meal really stand out in my mind.

The appetizers were just as phenomenal. I ordered the oven-roasted wild mushrooms with fromage-blanc and griddled polenta. I almost ordered another one it was so good, and the sauce was perfect to dip the leftover bread in! The next appetizer was my parents’ choice: Oysters Pablo. I despise oysters, mussels, and clams because I am just not a fan of the texture, or the taste for that matter. My parents, however, are huge oyster fans—especially the Oysters Pablo here, which are served on the half-shell on a bed of spinach and garlic—and forced me to try one. I had three out of the six. Alright, maybe I like Oysters done right…

Despite the cute names like the “Hail Caesar” and “Brutus Caesar,” the three of us decided to skip salads and just go straight to the main course. My mom ordered the house-special Wood Oven Duck which is slowly cooked (I think for 6-8 hours) and served with cranberry-apple wild rice and fried risotto cheese balls—need I say more. My dad ordered the Sunday Prime Rib which is marinated for 24-hours and served with some sort of baked, potato-cheese puff (his meal was my least favorite, but I happen to think prime rib is only best at Prime Rib Only restaurants or Steak Houses). I ordered the popular Pablo Pollo Loco: a perfectly seasoned—with a Mexican flair—half chicken with avocado and toasted pumpkin seed salsa, accompanied with a cheese stuffed green chile. While the duck was delicious, consensus at the table was that my dish was overall the best.

Okay so yes, yes the dinner was wonderful, but the entire time I could not get my mind off of the “s'mores pie” that Giada had ordered. But when it came time to choosing the dessert, I realized that I wanted to try them all! We decided to get two: the Pineapple Upside Down Cake and the Campfire Pie. The pineapple cake was decadent and delicious, with rum-caramel, pecans and homemade vanilla ice cream. I was still however, focused on my pie. The Campfire pie has an Oreo cookie crust that is almost brownie-like, a layer of thick fine-quality chocolate sauce, some homemade almond toffee, and a 5-inch top layer of marshmallow fluff that has been slightly roasted in the oven to create a topping reminiscent of campfire-marshmallows. The presentation definitely gives the dessert an immediate “WOW” factor, and it was hands down one of the best desserts I have ever had. Even my mom who is not really a chocolate or s’mores fan was loving it. I unfortunately don’t have a picture of the pie since it was devoured within 5 minutes of being set on the table!

Overall Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen offered the best kind of meal—one that is fantastic from start to finish. The chef and owner, Cindy Pawlcyn, also has two other restaurants: the beloved Mustards Grill and new GoFish that I hear are equally wonderful. To be honest, it is hard to find a bad restaurant in the gourmet ghettos of Napa County—home to some of the best chefs in the United States with the freshest ingredients at their disposal. But after having eaten at Cindy’s, I would recommend it to any visitor and hey, if Giada loved it you know it has to be worth trying!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Blog Lovin' - Matzah Toffee

Blog: BitterSweet

This blog features several ideas for jazzing up matzah. Check out this simple and delicious matzah toffee recipe!

Note: Click here to see the original post

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tea at the Ritz

I could barely contain my excitement as my boyfriend and I walked through the elegant entrance hall of the Ritz in London. It may seem silly to some, but it’s not everyday that one gets to take afternoon tea at the Ritz, an institution synonymous with aristocratic elegance and the glory of a bygone era. Being a hardcore tea drinker (although I have always been perplexed by coffee aficionados), I love afternoon tea: an affair which the Ritz is famous for taking to decadent heights. As we walked down the gilded hall, the soft lull of music guided us to Palm Court, the Ritz’s stately and bejeweled tea room.

Once seated, I looked around the room. Despite the price (about sixty-six dollars per person), the twelve week advance reservation requirement, and it being a Wednesday, the room was packed with elegantly dressed individuals. Neither jeans nor sneakers were to be seen in this crowd of cocktail-dress wearing and coat and tie bearing customers—the Ritz has a very strict dress policy. I savored the old-world charm of the room: the gilded ceiling, the crystal chandeliers, the waiters in tails, and the ever present tinkle of china and conversation. The place exuded charm, refinement and over all luxury. I was definitely ready to start.

Within moments our waiter appeared with menus and a three-tiered silver cake stand, which was quickly covered with dainty, no-crust sandwiches on the bottom, freshly baked scones with preserves and clotted cream in the middle and topped with delicate little pastries. Our teas were prepared in silver teapots and served in fine bone China designed exclusively for the Ritz. Feeling very posh, we started eating, as we thought logical, from the pastries down.

It was only half-way through devouring our pastries that I noticed that we were the only ones consuming our sweets—everyone else was nibbling away at their sandwiches. Feeling very plebian for neglecting some rule of afternoon tea, which I later tried to Google, but never found, I too started nibbling on these crustless bites. Waiters, rushing about the room, refilled trays with more sandwiches, scones and sweets than I thought humanly possible for any individual to consume.

After eating and drinking tea until we were about to burst, we finally had to beg our waiter to stop placing more food in front of us. Two hours in Palm Court left me satiated both physically and spiritually. I had drunk in enough of the beautiful décor, the melodic piano music, the superior service and the wonderful sensation of feeling swank and special. The Ritz is definitely more than tea, it’s an experience.

If, unfortunately, time, distance and price make afternoon tea at the Ritz in London impossible, do not despair, there are options in Philadelphia for even the snobbiest tea drinker. The Four Season on Logan Square offers tea every afternoon from 3 to 4:30 in its Swann Lounge. Additionally, the Rittenhouse Hotel’s Mary Cassatt Tea Room and Garden also offers an English style tea daily from 2-5pm. However, for a different type of tea experience, try Ray’s Cafe and Tea House in China town, where you can enjoy their bubble tea or their famous coffee (if that’s how you roll), while nibbling on Taiwanese fare.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Culture of Food & Eating

Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture by Eugene Anderson is one of the many fascinating books we read in my anthropology class called “Food & Feasting: Archaeology of the Table” (I highly recommend it! Not for an easy A though . . . ). Yes its true, everyone who has the ability to eat, eats. But, one often forgets why we eat what we eat and the vast cultural differences that exist in food preferences. For most of us, food means pleasure. We eat to enjoy, savoring both the tastes and nostalgia associated with that food. More often than not, foods that we were raised with are our favorites. This goes right back to the womb! Not only do babies learn to love sweet and milky foods; they also learn to love foods like garlic, onions and chiles, whose powerful flavors print through in the milk. According to Anderson, some mothers self-consciously eat their ethnic foods when nursing their babies, so that these tastes are ingrained into their children’s food preferences. As a child gets older, these “innate” preferences are further influenced by “what everyone else eats”- this means different things in different cultures. In America, it might be white bread, hamburgers and ketchup, while in rural parts of Zambia, a list of “favorite foods” might include caterpillars, millet mush and hippo meat!

Another astounding factor I read about is the universal tendency to avoid foods identified with poverty. For instance, sweet potatoes- that are viewed as delicacies in many parts of the world- are detested in China and parts of the American South, because they were “poverty foods” in these places. Another interesting example the processed meat known as Spam; this food item was frequented tables during World War II in countries like United Kingdom, and consequently became stigmatized. The same meat, however, is used creatively and regularly in Hawaiian cuisine.

Perhaps more obvious is the fact that the availability of a food influences its “status” in a society. An excellent example of this includes caviar in Russia- it was introduced into the diet because it was widely available. However, as time progressed, overfishing made this item rare, and now it is predominantly a luxury food.

Personal taste is probably the overruling factor; there is a scale of “openness to the exotic” that often comes into play when deciding where to eat out on a Friday night- Tex-mex or Ethiopian? One is always in search of the perfect combination of familiar and new, but there are some food traditions that are not effaceable. Those who ate homemade bread every day cannot stand the taste of factory-made bread and will even actively avoid it, while those who grew up in typical Southern American society insist on putting oil, butter, AND cheese in their eggs. And of course, there are the South Asians who will drown the very same eggs in Tabasco. Some call these stereotypes, but really--pardon the pun--it's all in good taste.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Braised Chicken with Apples and Honey - Kosher for Passover!

For those who observe it, the Jewish holiday of Passover offers some very difficult culinary hurdles to overcome: no yeast, no leavened bread, and no legumes (for reasons I can't quite fathom). But by focusing on the foods that are acceptable to eat, anyone can come up with some delicious meals to last the eights days of Passover. This braised chicken recipe can be made a few different ways, but it's kosher for Passover in this form.

1 1/2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 apples(your favorite tart apple) evenly sliced
1 medium onion sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs boneless chicken breast

Sweat the sliced onion in a small sauce pan until soft. Then add apple juice, honey and water to the small sauce pan and reduce mixture, whisk if necessary to dissolve the honey quickly. In a deep pan that is large enough to hold all of the chicken, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat and brown the chicken on both sides. Then add the sliced apples, ground cinnamon and the reduced apple juice mixture to the chicken and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, basting every so often.

Note: A non-Kosher for Passover alternative to this recipe would be to use hard apple cider and add a pinch of chili powder with the ground cinnamon. Either way will give you a delicious chicken dish.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Answers to Yesterday's Quiz

1) b; 2) c; 3) d; 4) a; 5) b

Superfood Synergies

Perhaps you’ve always intuitively eaten certain foods together out of habit or because they taste great together. Or maybe you’ve never before considered pairing some of these foods. Either way, certain food combinations work together in synergy to maximize their health benefits to you. Try these food combinations to lower cancer risk, strengthen bones, boost immunity, and get better skin!

Pair: Salsa and Avocado
Get: Lower cancer risk
No wonder Mexican cuisine always combines salsa and guacamole! A study in Ohio State University found that the healthy monounsaturated fat in avocado helps you absorb four times more of the cancer-fighting lycopene and almost three times more of the immune-boosting beta-carotene in the salsa than just eating salsa alone.
Also try: Tomato with Olive Oil. Lycopene in tomato is a fat-soluble nutrient, so the olive oil can help you soak it up.

Pair: Iron-Fortified Cereal & Orange Juice
Get: Even More Energy
This breakfast combination is a great way to get supercharged for your morning classes! Nutritionists at Boston University say that drinking half a cup of orange juice along with iron-fortified cereal increases the amount of iron absorbed by six times. Getting enough iron is one of the best ways to feel enhance energy.
Also try: Marinate iron-rich tofu with ½ cup of fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Grill over medium heat and enjoy!

Pair: Peanut Butter & Milk
Get: Super Strong Bones
A peanut butter sandwich with milk is not only a classic lunch, but also a super-healthy combination. Peanut butter is packed with the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which helps you maximize your absorption of milk’s vitamin D, which helps build your bones. Make a peanut butter smoothie by blending together 1 cup of low-fat or skim milk, 1 teaspoon peanut butter, 1 banana, and ½ cup of ice.
Also try: almond butter, tahini (sesame paste), cashew butter, or any nut-butter with milk.

Pair: Cantaloupe & Yogurt
Get: Extra Immunity Boost
Cantaloupe is excellent just by itself, but you may want to eat it with yogurt to maximize your body’s benefit! The zinc in yogurt helps your body get almost 100% utilization of the virus-fighting vitamin A in the cantaloupe. This super healthy combo makes for a wonderful snack or dessert.
Also try: Beef tenderloin with roasted carrots. Beef is packed with zinc which helps you to absorb the vitamin A in the sweet, succulent carrots. Another great combination is spinach with sweet potatoes.

Pair: Green Tea & Lemon
Get: Heart Support
Here’s a post-meal treat that your body will love you for. Try squeezing a lemon into your green tea. Your body will be able to use five times more catechin, an antioxidant that supports heart health. A Purdue University study found that this is because vitamin C helps to slow the breakdown of catechins in the digestive system. If you don’t have fresh lemon, you can use pre-squeezed lemon juice for the same benefit.
Also try: Dark chocolate with strawberries. Chocolate is another great source of catechin, and the vitamin C in strawberries helps your body use the antioxidant more efficiently. Truly a match made in heaven dessert!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Test Your Culinary Clout!

1. The popular kind of pasta known as "linguine" translates into:
a) Little threads
b) Little tongues
c) Little ribbons
d) Little bells

2. This food has long been known as a symbol for eternity. Ancient Egyptians took an oath of office with their right hand on it and Byzantine architects used its symbolic shape in the design of their religious structures. What food is it?
a) Bread
b) Tomato
c) Onion
d) Potato

3. Among the 50 foreign countries where Spam is sold, which two countries are the biggest markets?
a) Rhodesia and Mexico
b) Russia and China
c) Canada and Poland
d) UK and South Korea

4. Cheese fondue originated in:
a) Switzerland
b) Germany
c) France
d) Britain

5. Natural vanilla flavoring comes from what flower?
a) Honeysuckle
b) Orchid
c) Lily
d) Magnolia

Check back tomorrow for the answers!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Farm-Fresh Eggs

photo by Alice Gao

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Blog Lovin' - SMEEP!

Blog: The Curious Domestic

I have blown up countless peeps in the microwave, but melting them has never served a greater purpose, until now.  Behold the Smeep.  Part s'more, part peep, all delicousness. Check out this blog for more fun and tasty ideas!

Note: Click here to see the original post

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rim Cafe's Volcano

I stumbled on this quirky cafe near the Italian Market one weekend and what a pleasant surprise:) Rim's electic mix of furnishings and an occasional jazz quartet practicing for a gig lends itself to a feeling of being transported out of the city to bohemia. Rene, the owner, personally tends to the making of the signature hot chocolate that Rim is famous for. The beverage is flamboyantly named Volcano and this definitely upped my expectations, especially with the visible hype in the form of awards plastered all over the cafe's windows and walls.

click the photo to visit Rim Cafe's official website

As Rene hums and sings, he fusses over our orders, grating a dizzying array of dark and milk chocolate, cinammon, and spices on top of a tall glass of hot chocolate. It was almost like a chef plating an elegant dessert. He definitely has that flair of being a performer and it's a spectacle just watching him preparing the drink in a non-chalant but still meticulous manner.

Sipping the Volcano for the first time, it was clear that this was no ordinary hot chocolate. Make no mistake - this is THE hot chocolate to savor, especially on a cold wintry day. Volcano is such an apt name because it's more a lava-licious glass of molten chocolate warm mousse than it is a beverage. And unlike normal hot chocolate, it's not as sweet and the hints of spices and grated dark chocolate make it a truly unique treat.

While the Volcano is more pricey than most hot chocolate in other cafes (it's priced at $5 each), it is truly deserving of its hype, various awards, and multiple repeat visits. . . .

Taste of Philly!

For those of you who missed “Taste of Philly” this past Thursday, here’s a quick recap. Hosted by Alpha Phi Omega, Penn’s co-ed service fraternity,“Taste of Philly” featured food taken from the diverse culinary culture found in our city. Many of our campus’ hotspots donated food and gift certificates to the event. The menu included: Mini-cheesesteaks from Pat’s Steaks, pork rolls and various appetizers from Sang Kee, Fettucine Alfredo courtesy of Maggiano’s, and assorted desserts from Asia Bakery. Jimmy John’s, Davios, Bistro St. Tropez, Roy’s Restaurant, Kabul, Dahlak, and Bubble House also donated various goods!

On a non food-y note, there were also performances by Freaks of the Beat, Simply Chaos, PennSori, Chord on Blues, Chinese Music Society, Pan-Asian Dance Troupe, and Ya’lla to serenade us while we dined.

Finally, all proceeds were donated to “Givology”, an organization devoted to helping children in developing countries receive an education. For those of you who were there, we hope you had fun and enjoyed sampling the various tastes of Philly. For those who missed it, I better see you there next year!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Enjoying the Seasons

Unlike many of my peers, I had a rather uneventful Spring Break this year, with home as my vacation destination. After three straight days of zoning out in front of the TV in my pajamas, however, I decided that I needed to do something somewhat productive with my precious time off from school. Since eating, (as opposed to extra studying), has always counted as a productive activity in my book, I opted to gain some new and exciting culinary experiences in the Atlanta area.

Seasons 52 focuses on fresh, seasonal food that's low in calories and fat
photo from restaurant's official website

One of the places I discovered was Seasons 52, a restaurant chain based in Florida. Before you judge though, let me make it clear that Seasons 52 is not just another Applebee’s or Red Lobster. Seasons 52 distinguishes itself from the pack as a casually upscale grill and wine bar. When I first walked into the restaurant, I sensed a relaxed and unpretentious, yet quietly sophisticated, ambiance. The interior design featured a blend of rich mahogany and cool slate, subdued wall lighting and foliage accents, which provided an intimate and contemporary feel to the space. The restaurant was divided into three main sections - piano and wine bar, dining area with tables and booths and kitchen behind glass dividers. The live jazz music coming from the piano bar, coupled with the bustle from inside the kitchen, created a relaxing yet sophisticated atmosphere.

Another distinctive feature of Seasons 52 is its commitment to serving market-fresh, seasonally-focused meals without sacrificing flavor or nutrition. The “Seasons” part of the name touches on the changing of the menu that coincides with the seasons, while the “52” refers to the weekly switch of soups and vegetables. This is hardly a new concept in restaurant dining, but certainly an innovative undertaking for a chain establishment.

Something else unique about Seasons 52 that you definitely would not see at another food chain - or at any other restaurant, for that matter - is that no menu item contains more than 475 calories! Instead of cracking out the deep-fryer and slathering on the butter, Seasons 52 focuses on cooking techniques such as grilling over open fires and sprinkling generous amounts of herbs and spices to enhance the food’s natural flavors, but not its calorie content. To be honest, I was a little skeptical as to how the food would taste, so I was prepared to be a little unsatisfied, but to my delight, the food made me feel just the opposite.

The first dish that my friend and I sampled was the plum tomato flatbread with fresh basil, roasted garlic and melted Parmesan. All the ingredients were bursting with flavor, without being too overpowering, and the melted cheese on top perfectly balanced out the other flavors. The flatbread wasn’t too greasy or salty, which is usually the problem when I order similar items at other restaurants; this flatbread was the perfect balance of crunchy and chewy without the oily mess.

scallops with sundried tomato pearl pasta from Seasons 52
photo from restaurant's official website

For our entrees, we ordered the roasted crab stuffed shrimp and the caramelized sea scallops. For less than 475 calories, I was expecting child-size portions, so I was surprised to see that each dish was actually what I would expect a healthy, moderate-portioned meal to look like. The shrimp was sautéed with a medley of asparagus and peppers in a light garlic sauce and then stuffed with oven-roasted crabmeat. The chef definitely did not skimp on the crabmeat, as each shrimp was thoroughly and properly stuffed, which cannot be said about food at even the more upscale restaurants. The shrimp and crab were delicious - perfectly cooked, popping with flavor and fresh-tasting. The dish was accompanied with a wedge of grilled lemon, which I squeezed over the seafood; the fresh lemon juice added a pleasant “zing” to the shrimp and complemented the garlic flavor from the sauce.

The other dish we ordered was the sea scallops. They were grilled and served over a bed of roasted asparagus and sundried tomato pearl pasta. The scallops were fantastic - juicy and a little smoky from the grill. The pasta, with the pieces of sundried tomato, was also a standout and went very well with the scallops. All the vegetables featured in both dishes were fresh, crisp and vibrant, which added to the simple yet beautiful presentation. And nothing was drowning in sauce, which was a pleasant change; for once, the flavors of the dish came from the actual food, and not the sauce covering it.

Even the desserts are guilt-free “mini indulgences,” which come in three-ounce shot glasses that contain no more than 300 calories. The menu includes everything from strawberry cheesecake to key lime pie. We settled on the mocha macchiato and pecan pie, which were both rich and creamy and completely satisfying with only a few bites, which is how dessert should be enjoyed.

My experience at Seasons 52 was completely refreshing as it is not everyday when you come across a restaurant where good food and healthy food are not considered to be mutually exclusive. And what about those in the Philadelphia area that are dying to have a taste? Well, good news - Seasons 52 just opened up a new location in Cherry Hill, NJ, which is definitely a feasible - and worthwhile - trip!

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