Friday, December 30, 2011

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes: Chocolate Paradise

Cupcakes have a way of making me smile. Maybe it’s the fact that these perfect treats resemble miniature cakes, and who doesn’t smile at the sight of an iced celebratory cake with perfect loopy prose spelling their congratulations? But cupcakes are really something special: eating a cupcake is like saying congratulations to yourself for picking such a lovely treat to feast on. Also, eating a cupcake always presents a bit of a struggle. It’s so hard to get the perfect balance of cake and frosting in each bite. But this struggle makes the cupcake even more fun. The petit round desserts are always beautifully decorated; it is the simplicity that really adds to their perfection in my opinion. There are countless ways a simple cupcake can taste, so many bold flavors can be baked into the cake base and the frosting is what really gives a cupcake its character.

The other day, I really needed to make cupcakes. There was no occasion, I just had to bake. I chose cupcakes to play the main role, and set out to pick the batter flavor and frosting that would play the lead supporting actors. I didn’t go into this search haphazardly though, I was prepared, I had an idea. My idea took me to 4 years ago when I went to visit family in Iran for a wedding. One sunny afternoon before the wedding, my aunt took me and my mother to a cute but crowded corner bakery called Bebe (pronounced bee bee). We chose as our poison a lovely chocolate cake with a thick rich chocolate icing that had hints of espresso baked right in. This cake was delicious: it was the yummiest cake ever, seriously. I needed to recreate this flavor in my cupcakes.

After searching through online baking blogs, I finally found a good recipe for a flavorful but not overpowering chocolate cake base and an amazing recipe for a bold dark chocolate espresso frosting. This recipe is adapted from a blog titled Bakeaholic. After a quick trip to the grocery store, I was ready to bake. The recipe is shown below.

Chocolate Cupcake Base
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon. flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon instant coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tin with paper liners.

2. Stir the instant coffee into the boiling water until dissolved. Set aside.

3. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl. In another bowl, combine milk, oil, egg, and vanilla. With an electric mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add the coffee with the mixer still on.

4. Distribute the batter, filling each cupcake well 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Frosting
1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 confectioners’ sugar
1 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Combine the cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until the cocoa has dissolved. Add the instant coffee. Stir until dissolved.

2. Melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave and then place then in the refrigerator to cool. Be sure not to let it harden!

3. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar until fluffy. Add the melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined. Beat in the cocoa and coffee mixture.

4. Use a pastry bag to pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

This recipe took some alterations from the original, but the final product was just what I had hoped for. The cupcake base not too sweet or overpowering and the frosting was absolutely amazing. What really makes the frosting excellent is using good quality dark chocolate. I used Ghiradelli 60% cocoa bittersweet dark chocolate chips. These worked perfectly because they melted quickly and tasted delicious. Because the frosting did not have much added sugar, I wanted to use a dark chocolate that was sweet enough on its own and not too bitter. Also, the bold flavor of the instant coffee added hints of rich espresso to the frosting. The original recipe had called for unsalted butter but all I had in the house was Smart Balance butter. This worked perfectly and had a much lower saturated fat content than regular butter so you feel less guilty. Also, I felt as though a little salt in the butter really enhanced the flavor of the dark chocolate (think Starbuck’s Salted Caramel Mocha minus the caramel, yum!). This recipe made 14 cupcakes and was very easy and quick. Bake some for a New Year’s gathering for family or friends and your cupcakes will be talked about for the entirety of 2012, they are that good. Happy baking and Happy New Year’s!!

--Monica Purmalek

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Lucky Old Souls Became “McDonalds for the Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill set”

No food truck has drummed up more hype lately than Lucky Old Souls, the locavore burger-joint-on-wheels from jazz promoter Matt Feldman. We sat down with Feldman to discuss the music-food connection, his methods for local sourcing, and the wacky menu specials that have made his truck stand out from the crowd.

You’ve been performing and promoting jazz under the “Lucky Old Souls” moniker for years, and you chose to attach that name to this endeavor too. How exactly does a jazz show translate to a burger truck?

I have two main passions in life: music and food, and my interests in both of them focus on avoiding things that are mass produced, in favor of things that are genuine and heartfelt. To me, they really go together; I support local musicians, and I support local farmers. It might seem like an odd pairing, but it’s truly how I live.

I’ve had long-term plans to open a jazz club, and for various reasons, that hasn’t happened yet. I saw the truck as a way to spread the word about shows I promote and about jazz in Philly in general. If and when the club does open, the truck will be a mobile ambassador for it. As for the burgers, it bothered me that there was no place in Philly to get a relatively inexpensive, take-out burger made with good beef—that is, local, grass-fed beef. I have a family, and that’s the way we eat, and the only way to get anything like that would be to go to a bar.

Once you figured out that a burger truck was the right thing to pursue, how did you know what first steps to take? Like, where does one even buy a food truck?

I didn’t go about it in a particularly methodical or premeditated way. I had this idea in the spring, and my wife and I discussed it, and we decided that it was a good idea but—for personal reasons, mostly—not the right time to do it. Fast forward to the end of July, and I saw that the Renaissance Sausage truck was for sale. [Don’t worry, it's still around on new rolling stock – ed.] I was familiar with it, just as a customer, and it seemed like the price was very reasonable. I did some quick research to verify that my initial reaction was right, and it turned out it was a good price. That same day I saw it was for sale, I called the owner, went and saw it, and put a deposit on it. A few days later, we closed on it, and by the beginning of August, the truck was mine.

Around then, my wife and I started working on recipes. Most of them were based on ingredients we used at home. The beef, for example, comes from Rineer Family Farm, and we’ve been using their beef at home for at least two years—they sell at a couple of local farmers markets. I did try some other local farms’ beef to do my due diligence, but we still ended up going with Rineer. Same thing for the rolls, which are from Wild Flour Bakery—we’d been using those at home for a while.

Your specials—which can be really out there—seem to be the biggest thing setting LOS apart. What’s the process for creating them?

It’s not all that systematic. Something comes to me, I try it out, I taste it, and then I have some people taste it. If we think it’s pretty good, we go with it. Generally it starts with me looking at what’s available from the farms and thinking, “What sounds like fun to play with? What can I do with this?”

What are some of the most popular combinations you’ve offered so far?

We’ve been running a special that’s been really popular with collard greens, because they’re so available this time of year. I cook the greens with bacon (which I cure and smoke myself), and thought one day, “That might be good on a burger.” I tried it once, and it was.

Another thing that’s been really popular that, I’ll be honest, took me by surprise, is the smoked poblano mayonnaise. One of my purveyors had poblanos that were pretty cheap, and I honestly didn’t even know what I was going to do with them. I threw a few into the smoker that I use for my bacon, then I pureed them into homemade mayo, and I liked it so much I ended up not even adding anything else.

Other things are just happenstance. With the maple-black pepper shake, for instance, I had bought a whole big case of syrup for my bacon cure, because it was at a good price. I was talking with one of my employees, and he said, “Let’s do a milkshake with it.” At first, that sounded too sweet, but then I immediately thought of black pepper. To me, those are two things that just naturally go together—they’re both in my bacon cure, for one.

The ginger spice milkshake we’re doing now took a while to get right. It was never gingery enough, so I ended up making fresh ginger tea, then straining the ginger out and putting the tea in the shake.

What’s next?

Our next special starts Thursday. It’s going to have sliced apple, homemade mustard, Swiss cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do something with apple, and last week my wife was eating apple, sausage, mustard, and cheese as a snack, and I thought, “Oh, maybe we should try that on a burger.” We tried one right then and there, and it was great.

Most of these sound at least somewhat reasonable, but how’d you come to pair blueberry jam with habañero cheddar?

That’s a combination you can get on our breakfast sandwich and breakfast burger, and for me, sweet, savory, and spicy are the flavors of breakfast. Every time I go out for brunch, I always have the dilemma: do I get sweet, or do I get savory? In fact, my ideal brunch is when I’m with someone else and we can share one of each. I love getting pancakes, eggs, and potatoes, then putting hot sauce on the potatoes and syrup on the pancakes—to me they just counter each other very well.

You’ve tried locations all over the city. How do they vary in terms of customer preferences?

Depending on location, people are more or less likely to “get” something like the breakfast burger. When I was at the Punk Rock Flea Market, people really got it, and told me, “man, this works together.”

Love Park during the week is mostly office workers, on the lunch rush. Clark Park on a Sunday is more relaxed. We go up to Chestnut Hill on Saturdays to do a farmers market, and there we get a lot of families. We’ll have fathers come and get six burgers to bring home to the family, and that’s something we don’t see anywhere else. We’re like McDonalds for the Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill set, who appreciate grass-fed beef and want their children to be eating that kind of meat.

We also tried a Wednesday stop last week at 33rd and Arch, and there’s a good chance we’ll be adding that as regular Wednesday stop sometime early in the New Year.

What else is on the horizon for LOS—both as a truck and as a jazz organization?

Well, I have to keep reminding myself that we started at the end of the nice weather, so as well as we’re doing now, spring and summer are going to be even better. Plus once spring hits, there are a lot of different possibilities for ingredients.

As far as other LOS stuff, we’re still doing a concert series, and we’ll see what happens with the club. Certainly I can’t be on the truck every day forever, but as far as when and how that change will be made, I don’t know yet.

--Alex Marcus


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Latkes and Brownie Pudding: It's Hanukkah Time

(Yes, I painted this menorah. No, I'm not a fine arts major.)

Unfortunately for various Jewish clubs on campus, Hanukkah fell during winter break this year. Fortunately for me, this signified eight homemade meals, a welcome respite from dining halls. To commemorate the third night of Hanukkah, my family invited my close friend’s family for a festive dinner. My Greek friend and her family took their maiden Hanukkah voyage. While my dad produced the excellent spice rubbed chicken main course, my sister, cousin and I took the lead on dessert and the Hanukkah staple of latkes.

First, we made dessert. We have two ovens in my house, but the dessert we chose bakes for an hour so we wanted to clear the space for other items (keeping latkes warm and roasting chickens).

One of my favorite Food Network personalities is Ina Garten. Watching her show is so calming, and she and Jeffrey are adorable. I would love to attend a dinner party at her beautiful Hamptons house. Several years ago, I saw her make brownie pudding and had to try it. Well, let’s just say this was not our first time preparing it (and it always gets rave reviews).

Here’s the recipe from Ina Garten and Food Network with my notes in bold:

Brownie Pudding

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish (melt this when you begin so it has time to cool)
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder (Ina always asks for good ingredients, just get unsweetened. I like Trader Joe’s brand)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out using a knife going in one direction. You may have to do it twice to get most of them out. You should get a little pile of seeds. Vanilla beans are expensive so you can substitute vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon framboise liqueur, optional (I never use this)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.

(Don't forget to sift; cocoa powder can be lumpy.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

(Action shot.)

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise, if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

(Our two pan set up (mix and match your own pans).)

(How good does that look? The batter's delicious (but you didn't hear that here).)

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Look around your cabinets to find two pans that fit together. We use a normal cake pan inside a roasting pan (you want something kind of deep for the water). Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. Pouring the hot water can be tricky, but it’s much easier if you use a liquid measuring cup that’s easy to pour from. I tried to use a mug once and water spilled everywhere. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding, a.k.a. it’s very delicious.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

As the brownie pudding baked, we moved on to latkes. Potato latkes are eaten on Hanukkah to remember the miracle of the oil (oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight). This year we made three types of latkes: zucchini, sweet potato, and the classic potato. The formula varies slightly for each variety. We made each batter before we started cooking to save time, grating the main vegetable with a grater attachment in the food processor, which sped everything up. Cooking latkes gets very hot and smoky, so we made them and placed them in the oven on “keep warm” so we could air out the house before our guests arrived.

I got the recipe for zucchini latkes from one of my favorite food blogs, smitten kitchen. She posted it in August, but that’s not important. You can read about it (and see her gorgeous photos here).

Here’s the recipe, again with notes in bold:

Zucchini Fritters
Adapted a bit from Simply Recipes

Yield: About 10 2 1/2 inch fritters (we doubled this)

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying

To serve (optional) (highly recommend this topping. We served it with all three latkes)
1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice (This is about a half a lemon. Save the other half to keep the potatoes from browning later)
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. The latter is my favorite as I’m convinced it creates the coarsest and most rope-like strands and frankly, I like my fritters to look like mops.

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. You’ll be shocked (I was!) by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess. (Wringing out AS MUCH LIQUID AS POSSIBLE is essential to make any type of latke crispy.)

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet — cast iron is dreamy here — heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don’t become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.

(Zesting up some sour cream.)

For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving. We sprinkled some paprika on top to differentiate the jazzed up sour cream from regular. It also added a nice color. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top, trust me.

Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp again.

(The final toppings result!)

Zucchini batter done, we moved to the potato and sweet potato versions, once again using our grater attachment for the food processor. I remember grating potatoes by hand for latkes when I was younger and let me tell you, it takes forever. My dad always jokes that that version includes some skin (and he’s not talking about potato skin).

Our recipe for latkes comes from Jewish Family Celebrations: The Sabbath, Festivals, and Ceremonies. We make "Aunt Tissy’s Latkes," found on page 98, notes in bold:

Aunt Tissy’s Latkes

Yield: ~12 latkes

6 potatoes (we used the same recipe for sweet potatoes)
1 onion
2 eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons flour (to thicken)
oil (You’ll need a lot)


(Sweet potatoes nearly ready to fry.)

Peel and grate the potatoes and onion. Add the beaten eggs to the grated vegetables. Add the rest of the ingredients except the oil and mix well. Drop by tablespoons onto hot oil. Shape the potato mixture into round, flat pancakes. In hot oil, fry on both sides a few at a time until they are crisp. Drain well on paper towels. (We put them in the oven on keep warm in paper towel-lined cookie sheets.)

(Latkes frying away.)

Batters made, we got to frying. You need to watch the latkes and use oil liberally. It gets smoky and hot, but the result is worth it.

(The "Latke" spatula was a Hanukkah gift this year.)

When we sat down to dinner, we tasted the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, the crispness of the potatoes and the freshness of the zucchini, topped with sour cream or applesauce. Latkes are a tad labor intensive so they tend to be annual food. Making different types is time consuming but oh so worth it. (And there’s no law declaring them an exclusively Hanukkah food; make latkes in March, why not).

(A decadent red velvet cake.)

(The finished brownie pudding!)

No one had any complaints about the rich chocolaty dessert (or the red velvet cake our guests brought). Brownie pudding had a flaky crust and a creamy chocolate interior. As Ina often says, “How bad can that be?”

Our Hanukkah feast was satisfying and delicious. A mix of new and old recipes combined into the perfect winter spread. We also may have gained about five pounds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aztec Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

There is nothing better than spicy, rich hot chocolate, often called Aztec hot chocolate. Except for maybe cupcakes. Therefore, when I stumbled upon this recipe for hot chocolate cupcakes, I just knew I had to try an Aztec version. The result was the richest, most chocolatey cupcakes I had ever tasted, with a molten center, just like thick European hot chocolate. The cayenne pepper and cinnamon I added gave each bite a nice spicy kick.

I made a gluten-free version, by substituting the flour in the recipe with the all-purpose gluten-free flour mix at the Gluten-Free Girl blog. I'm sure the recipe is just fine with regular all-purpose flour however.


6 oz extra dark chocolate, chopped into pieces (I used Green & Black's 85% chocolate bar)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
whipped cream
more cinnamon, for sprinkling on top


1. Line a muffin pan with 12 muffin papers.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate together over low heat until smooth. Set aside.
3. Beat the sugar, eggs and egg yolks together, until a thick ribbon falls from your whisk. I did this by hand, and it took over 10 minutes. (My arm started burning after the first minute!) If you have an electric beater, lucky you, this step will be a lot easier. If not, persevere. I did it and so can you!
4. Mix cinnamon and cayenne into the flour, and then sift it all over the egg and sugar mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold the flour into the egg, so that it doesn't loose its fluffiness.
5. Gently pour the molten chocolate on top of the mixture, and once more use a spatula to gently fold it all together.
6. Pour the batter into the muffin papers, and refrigerate for over an hour. When you are ready to bake the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
7. Bake the cupcakes for around 7 minutes. You want the outsides cracked and the insides moist and gooey.
8. Serve warm, with whipped cream for frosting and cinnamon sprinkled on top.


Monday, December 26, 2011

An Even Jewisher Christmas at Zahav!

As a special holiday splurge, I decided to treat myself to "An Even Jewisher Christmas" at Zahav -- a special event featuring a surprise film and Michael Solomonov's take on Chinese food.

As soon as I walked in the door (30 minutes early as requested), I was greeted by servers dressed up in kitschy red t-shirts, and by the smell of, well, burning popcorn. With the staff working furiously to re-set the old school popcorn popper, a number of us waited patiently (ever so patiently) to be seated.

After 30 minutes of semi-starvation, I was taken to a table at the front of the house, right by the projector and the makeshift screen. Not a bad seat, if I do say so myself. Plus, they didn't make me sit with random strangers. Brownie points -- check.

As we all waited for the movie to start, servers brought out little brown paper bags of seasoned popcorn to tide us over until the main courses came out. (It would've been lovely to try one of several Chinese-themed cocktails, but I doubt my alcohol allergy would've agreed with me.)

The movie of the night turned out to be (drumroll, please) Big Trouble in Little China. Starring Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall in their early days, this was definitely not something I would've chosen for myself. That said, it was the perfect flick for this setting. Campy, kitschy, and all-around ridiculous. Brilliant pick.

To kick things off, servers brought out the shrimp salad -- which I considered to be a lighter version of the traditional walnut shrimp dish. Here, the shrimp was less battered, the sauce was less rich, and everything was placed nicely atop a crunchy (non-green) salad, which had a bit of acid that cut through the cream.

Next up was one of my favorite dishes of the night -- the Szechuan-style pork belly. While I could've done without the bitter greens and the useless carrots, the pork belly was perfect in all of its unctuousness. Sliced thin like bacon, I could've lived off this dish alone.

Considering that I normally don't eat much red meat, the veal dumplings were probably the heaviest items of the night. The skins on the dumplings were lovely and smooth though, which made up for the slight grittiness of the filling. The harissa oil added a bit of heat, which was balanced by the chill of the diced cucumber.

At this point, I was already starting to feel sated, yet I still had four more courses to go. I did what I could to power through, but I definitely realized that eating solo at some events is nearly impossible, especially if I actually want to enjoy what I'm taking into my body. Oh, the trials and tribulations of single-dom.

With sweetbreads being one of my favorite things to eat, I was sad that this dish didn't come out earlier, especially since my stomach was shrinking furiously. That said, I wasn't too pleased with the dish as a whole, so perhaps everything worked out for the best.

The exterior of the salt and pepper sweetbreads was definitely more breaded than usual, and the interior was quite mealy. I'm also (shockingly) not a fan of lo mein or water chestnuts, so I essentially picked off the protein and left the carbs and veggies untouched.

Like every meal I had growing up, which had to have at least one big dish of greens, Chinese broccoli arrived at the table, topped with shreds of smoked mackerel. Being used to having greens served au naturel, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the fish/veggie combination. Ultimately, I don't think the combination of textures worked very well.

Even with no appetite left, there was no way that I was leaving without finishing the entire plate of moo shu duck set before me. Not only did this dish look absolutely breathtaking, but the flavors and textures were more than spectacular.

While moo shu pork is fairly ubiquitous in the Chinese takeout world, moo shu duck is rare, if not non-existent. This preparation appears to have been a cross between moo shu pork and Peking duck, given that tortilla-like pancakes and white rice were brought out as accompaniments.

Although the meat was a bit salty, it was also tender, moist, and flavorful. In addition, red chilis and green onions added both heat and color. From the looks of it, I really shouldn't have been able to finish everything on the plate. That said, where there's a will, there's a way.

The way being that I barely touched the white chocolate cake at the end of the meal. As one friend indicated, that was pretty much sacrilege given my love of sugar. At the very least, I made it through the tiny scoop of mandarin orange sorbet. The rest of the cake was a bit too dense, and the berry sauce was a bit too sweet.

All in all, this was a delicious experience. The food was creative and flavorful, and the service was excellent. I couldn't believe how many times I had to fend off water and rice, but I certainly didn't find the attention excessive. Plus, I was greeted by Michael at the beginning and end of the meal, which was very considerate and certainly gracious.

Zahav continues to be one of my favorites, and special events like this that showcase Michael's culinary breadth are definitely not to be missed.

237 St. James Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Penn-e" Pasta for Finals Crunch Time

During finals period, most of my cooking falls by the wayside as I turn instead to cereal, cheese, crackers and take-out. I tell myself that grocery shopping and cooking take too long, and sometimes this is true. However, if you find yourself with a lull in your tests or need a reason to procrastinate studying, this recipe is a great one. It yields a delicious meal with a mouthwatering sauce that even tomato sauce novices can successfully produce. It is tasty and filling and will provide plenty of leftovers to carry you for at least a day. (See? You're saving time already!) There is also the added benefit of cooking providing a productive form of relaxation- you get a nice break for your brain and create something that is edible in the process. Without further ado (I too have studying that I should probably be doing), I present said recipe:


1/2 Cup olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (can be more or less, depending on desired spiciness)
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 (12 ounce) package dried Penne pasta
2 eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound thin chicken breast cutlets


1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Next add red pepper flakes, and saute for one more minute. Pour in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and add basil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add Penne pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.
3. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Place breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and mix in garlic powder, salt and pepper. Dip chicken cutlets first into the egg, then press in the breadcrumbs until completely coated in both sides.
4. Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry chicken for about 5 minutes per side, or until the coating has turned a nice golden-brown to dark brown color.
5. Remove chicken and slice. Toss chicken slices with sauce, and let simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve sauce over Penne pasta and enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

So Sweet a Snapshot

What happens when you combine an artist's eye with a gastrophile's love of chocolate? Bars of chocolate that look like old-school Polaroid photos, of course! Former artist-turned-cake-decorator-turned-chocolate entrepreneur Rae Vitorelli recently launched her new initiative, Cocoagraph. I stopped to chat with her at HyLo Boutique's holiday fête, showcasing ten of Philadelphia's best artisans.

Rae prints an edible photo on top of every Cocoagraph chocolate bar. Although she has already created a set of generic bars, ranging from photos of adorable owls to jolly old Saint Nick, she can also create customized bars of any photo sent to her. Consequently, Cocoagraphs make the perfect gift as a way of sharing an (edible) treasured moment with a friend.

Cocoagraph chocolate bars are available in white, milk and dark varieties. The chocolate comes from the family-operated Santa Barbara Chocolate Company, which prides itself in its ethical trading practices. From my sampling I can assure you that not only is their chocolate fair-trade, it is also quite yummy.

More information on Cocoagraph is available at the Cocoagraph website. You can order Cocoagraph chocolates from Rae's Etsy store front.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Food Events @ Penn

Meritage Foie Gras Tasting Menu
What: Check Chef Anne Coll's latest five-course tasting menu at Meritage! From an amuse bouche of Foie Gras Mousse with pomegrante molasses and pickled apple with toasted brioche to Crispy Duck Confit (accompanied by a cured spiced torchon of foie gras, curried lentils, pineapple and kumquat chutney and a port wine reduction) to Peanut butter and Foie Gras Mousse (with dark chocolate and currant jam sauce), your taste buds are sure to thank you. See the full menu here and make reservations here.
Where: 500 S. 20th Street
When: now until Friday, December 16
Cost: $39

Zahav Holiday Celebrations
What: Zahav is hosting three special dinner events for the holiday season, each with a festive prix fixe menu. Start with Chanukah (Tuesday, December 20 until Wednesday, December 28) ($45), where you can enjoy classic fare such as Hummus with Glazed Brisket, served with house-made laffa and a selection of salatim; a selection of Latkes; and Sufganiyot with dates and orange. "A Very Jewish Christmas” features Israeli-inflected Chinese food, movies shown on a big screen, and hot buttered popcorn. Screenings of the to-be-determined movies (make your movie request via Twitter!) will be at 6 and 9 pm. On New Year’s Eve, the restaurant will serve a spectacular four-course dinner with menu highlights including Glazed Veal Shanks with saffron, apples and cinnamon and Chocolate-Hazelnut Babka with orange-vanilla ice cream. Check out more info here.
Where: The rotunda at the Shops at Liberty Place
When: Chanukah- Tuesday, December 20 until Wednesday, December 28; "A Very Jewish Christmas”- Thursday, December 22; New Year's Eve- Saturday, December 31
Cost: Chanukah- $45; "A Very Jewish Christmas”- $50 ($100 with bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for the table, additional $9 each for Chinese-inspired cocktails); New Year's Eve- $65 ($100 with drink pairings)

Complimentary Brunch for Toy Drive Donors
What: In the true spirit of the season, Le Castagne Ristorante is offering its customers a complimentary Sunday brunch entrée in return for donating a new unwrapped toy for charity. Toys go to the 23rd annual CBS-3 Joy of Sharing Campaign, which has provided thousands of holiday toys to underprivileged children throughout Philadelphia and benefits The Salvation Army, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. Eligible Sundays for the complimentary brunch entrée offer are December 11 and 18. Enjoy delectable offerings like Brioche french toast stuffed with Nutella & finished with dark rum & caramelized banana; and apple glazed braised pork sandwich. Reservations are not required.
Where: 1920 Chestnut Street
When: Sunday, December 18, 11 am-2 pm
Cost: One unwrapped toy per guest

Sabrina's Cafe Breakfast Deal
What: All three Sabrina's Cafes, included the newly opened University City location, will be offering a special of any of four breakfasts and a cup of coffee for only $6.99. The breakfasts offered are Two Eggs Any Style plus your choice of a breakfast meat and toast, Short Stack Buttermilk Pancakes, Challah Frenchtoast or Pigs in a Blanket.
Where: Any Sabrina's Cafe
When: Weekdays, 8-10 am, through December and possibly into January
Cost: $6.99

Monday, December 12, 2011

Federal Donuts - Fried Chicken & Hot Donuts: What's Not to Love?

As a special belated birthday treat, my friend Erich and I took an impromptu foodie trek over to Federal Donuts, a little outpost of deliciousness in South Philly. While I'd been keeping tabs on Michael Solomonov's newest co-owned venture ever since its opening two months ago, I'd been waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Due to the speed with which the donuts (available at 7 AM daily) and the fried chicken (available at noon daily) disappear, pouncing (and planning) is by all means necessary. Well, generally, that is. This particular time, we decided last-minute to check out Federal Donuts for Saturday brunch. And with serendipitously impeccable timing, we showed up at approximately 11:55AM.

After thanking Erich for expeditious parking, we dodged in front of an older couple walking towards the entrance to the corner store front. (No one gets in the way of me and my brunch!) And I couldn't have been happier to enter a warm room permeated by smells of fried chicken, hot donuts, sugar, and spices.The space was indeed small, with the majority of the room taken up by fryers, trays, carts, and a wraparound counter.

With only a few seats available, the set-up is definitely meant for take-out service. While I wasn't quite sure what to do when we walked in, we made our way to the counter to grab our numbers for our half chicken orders. Word on the street is that there are only so many chickens fried each day, so if you don't make it in time to grab a number, you're essentially out of luck. Happily, we'd arrived in time to be 41st and 42nd in line.

While we waited, we checked out the minimalist menu overhead, and made some key decisions on how we wanted our chicken finished off, what donuts to pick up, and which beverage to pair with our savory and sweet treats. We also had the opportunity to sample various donuts that the staff cut up for all of their patiently waiting customers. Erich was good (and strong) enough to restrain himself -- I, however, demonstrated absolutely no self-control. Yummy yummy donuts.... Nom nom nom....

When our numbers were called, Erich chose the Za'atar Crispy finish on his chicken, along with a combination of Fresh and Fancy donuts. With my sweet tooth, I went with the Honey-Ginger Glazed finish on my chicken, along with the Vanilla-Lavender, Key Lime, and Nutella-Tehina-Pomegranate donuts. Having tasted a number of donut samples, I have to admit that I found most of the Fancy ones way too sweet. And given my general love of sugar, that's saying a lot.

To top off my take-out meal, I went with a Dr. Brown's celery soda. Given that I'm not a big fan of soda, I was essentially choosing something that I'd never heard of nor tasted before. With his Dr. Brown's root beer in hand, Erich collected our semi-greasy white paper bags, and we made our way out of South Philly, in search of the perfect spot to dive into our fried chicken and donuts.

We quickly found our way to Fitler Park in Fitler Square, and made a beeline for a park bench in the sun. As soon as we opened our bags, we realized that the restaurant had given us each a free Fresh donut! Setting those aside for dessert, we focused our attention on the task at hand -- getting through a half chicken without creating a greasy mess.

As neither of us chose to share (shocking), I can only comment on my order. That said, I was more than satisfied. The chicken was crispy without being shiny, and the fact that it wasn't entirely covered in batter was actually quite pleasant. (I really hate the feeling of eating equal parts meat and batter.) The glaze was both savory and sweet, and the stickiness contrasted nicely with the crispness.

I had no trouble finishing my entire order, though I must say that the chicken breast was my least favorite piece, being quite dry and stringy. It seemed like it'd been left in the fryer just a few seconds too long. On the other hand, the free Fresh donut was my first experience with a truly phenomenal cake donut. While I'm still very much committed to my beloved Krispy Kremes, I definitely have a new-found appreciation for the cake donut. The celery soda was also surprisingly amazing, and washed down everything quite nicely.

By some miracle, I was able to save my other three donuts for several days -- before promptly inhaling them all in one sitting. As expected, the Key Lime was, like the other Fancy donuts, way too sweet. The Nutella-Tehina-Pomegranate was slightly better, and not as overwhelmingly saccharine. The Vanilla-Lavender, like the free Fresh donut, was another perfect cake donut. (By the way, I ate them all too quickly to have photos of them. *Sigh*)

Given that Erich polished off his chicken almost as quickly as I did, I suppose he liked the Za'atar as much as I liked the Honey-Ginger. He also seemed to prefer the Fresh donuts over the Fancy ones, which were scrumptious in their simplicity. And not only was the food delicious, but affordable as well. With the Fresh and Fancy donuts costing $1.25 and $2, respectively, and the half chicken costing only $9, I'd choose FD over KFC any ole day. All in all, this was a wonderful foodie experience, and I can't wait to come back for more. Now I just need to make sure and time my visit to a tee....

Federal Donuts
1219 S. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Christmas Tradition: Candy Cane Cookies

The holiday season- a time that embraces the smell of pine, the crispness of a winter breeze, the comfort of hot chocolate by a fire, the sight of a brightly lit tree, the melodious sounds of carolers, and the taste of candy cane cookies of course!

Every year, my friends and I come together during the holidays to bake this delicious treat. Although this dessert requires more effort to make than your typical slice-and-bake cookies, the end result is worth the extra exertion.

The hardest part of making these cookies is rolling the dough ropes into a shape of a candy cane. My friends and I found it was easier to twist the dough into straight “canes” rather than actual canes that bend. We also got creative and began to make twisted candy cane hearts amongst other figures. We had a lot of fun while making these cookies, and I encourage you to enjoy the process as much as we did by listening to Christmas music, wearing cute aprons (if you’re a girl), drinking sparkling cider, and just enjoying the company of your friends!


1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red food coloring
1/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes
1/3 cup sugar
1 package mini candy canes


1. Cream shortening and butter in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is fluffy.
2. Add the following ingredients and mix well: powdered sugar, egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, and salt.
3. Divide the dough equally into two separate piles.
4. Choose one of the piles and add red food coloring to it. Make sure you the dye is evenly spread throughout the dough.
5. On a lightly floured surface, role a teaspoonful of each type of dough (plain and red) into 4 ½” long ropes.
6. After rolling out all of the dough, carefully twist a red rope and a white rope into the shape of a candy cane.
7. Repeat procedure with the remaining dough.
8. Put cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 minutes or just until the edges begin to brown.
9. For the candy cane sugared topping, open up the package of mini candy canes and begin to break them apart.
10. Put the candy cane pieces into a food processor and grind them until they form a fine solid powder that resembles sugar.
11. Add sugar to the mixture of crushed candy canes.
12. When the cookies are done baking, immediately remove them from the oven and sprinkle them with the candy mixture.

Enjoy! But don’t forget to share with your friends and family!

-Carissa Gilbert

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food Events @ Penn

Vegan Cocktails Philly
What: Enjoy vegan drinks and grub as you while mingling with vegans, vegetarians and the veg-curious at Khyber Pass Pub. A Philadelphia tradition, the latest installment of Vegan Cocktails Philly will highlight vegan specialty cocktails for the event, including a salute to vegan singer-songwriter with the Fiona Apple Cider, organic apple cider with a choice of Buffalo Trace Bourbon or Kraken Spiced Rum, served hot or cold.
Where: 56 S 2nd Street
When: 6pm - 2am
Cost: Varies

Cookie Contest
What: Only the best thing ever, a free cookie giveaway! It's a cookie contest featuring some of the best pastry chefs in the city, and you get to vote on the winner. If you like charity, bring a couple bucks for Saxby's coffee, since all the proceeds that afternoon will be given to the winner for the charity of their choosing.
Where: The rotunda at the Shops at Liberty Place
When: Friday, December 9, 12-2 pm

(Photo courtesy of Matthias Rhomberg)

Sommelier Smackdown
What: Imagine two of the city's top wine professionals competing to create the perfect food & wine pairing... and all for you! The Wine School is pitting one of Philadelphia's top sommeliers against one of their top wine educators. Those attending try each of the food & wine pairings, and get to choose the winner. Buy tickets here. Plus, they're giving away free tickets via their Twitter.
Where: 127 S 2nd Street
When: Wednesday December 14th, 7:30-9:30 pm
Cost: $65 or if you're lucky, free!

Sabrina's Cafe Breakfast Deal
What: All three Sabrina's Cafes, included the newly opened University City location, will be offering a special of any of four breakfasts and a cup of coffee for only $6.99. The breakfasts offered are Two Eggs Any Style plus your choice of a breakfast meat and toast, Short Stack Buttermilk Pancakes, Challah Frenchtoast or Pigs in a Blanket.
Where: Any Sabrina's Cafe
When: Weekdays, 8-10 am, through December and possibly into January
Cost: $6.99

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Israel to New York: A Familiar Aroma

Israel is associated with countless political issues, hummus and more. When I think of Israel, I think of coffee shop called Aroma. Aroma is the Starbucks of Israel in terms of ubiquity, although not atmosphere. At locations around the Starbucks-free nation, drinks are served in ceramic cups, bread for gourmet sandwiches is baked on site and every order comes with a sweet piece of milk chocolate. In 2007, I visited Israel and subsequently Aroma daily. Believe it or not, it is easy to get into a routine of starting one’s day with delicious coffee, a croissant and a little bit of chocolate. I even visited Aroma after climbing Masada, a mountain in Northern Israel and the site of an ancient Israeli struggle. Israel’s desert climate meant we began our hike around sunrise, and were hungry for lunch around 10:30 am. Aroma was there, thankfully. On the plane back to America, as I ate an Aroma sandwich I hoped I would find my way back to the Holy Land and my beloved Aroma.

Back in New York, Google came to the rescue. A quick search revealed Aroma’s first US location in Soho had just opened, a quick subway ride from my house. A few weeks later, jet-lag having been conquered, my travel companion and I set off on a mission. We arrived at the storefront, at the corner of Greene Street and West Houston and felt at home. The familiar red and black logo was no longer executed in Hebrew but the fresh bread in the display case, along with the large population of Israeli expats and small pieces of chocolate on every plate assured us that we would not be disappointed. We ordered iced Aromas, their signature blended iced coffee drink (they have a diet version made with skim milk) and two types of sandwiches (you can order a half or a whole) to sample both. I recommend the mozzarella and the chicken Caesar salad, which I have since sampled. Aroma’s bread is fresh and fluffy and their salad dressings are delicious. During winter, their soup is hearty and filling. The store's layout of long tables and a bar encourage lingering and it’s a great place to rest and refuel after a long day of shopping.

My first visit to America’s Aroma left me thoroughly impressed. Since then, I’ve dragged countless friends to Aroma for a snack or coffee after a day of shopping in Soho. It’s steps from the subway and a true respite. Aroma was the site of a mini family reunion prior to my sister’s Bat Mitzvah in which my family monopolized half the tables and was entirely too loud, in keeping with Israeli traditions.

During Thanksgiving break, I visited the Upper West Side Aroma (on 72nd Street and Amsterdam) for the first time with a friend who I previously took to the Soho location after her trip to Israel. The uptown location not only featured the great food we know and love, but a wine bar, beers on tap and a rooftop patio, as well as seating upstairs. Even a glass of wine comes with their signature chocolate. We dug into a mozzarella sandwich on multi-grain bread, along with cappuccinos and iced Aromas. People spoke English rather than Hebrew and we wore jeans and jackets rather than shorts and t-shirts. New York City is far from the Middle East, but sitting in Aroma, the distance is bridged, even if it's only for one bite.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Want to be on the Penn Appetit Board? Apply Now!

Penn Appetit, the student-run food magazine at the University of Pennsylvania, is excited to announce that applications for our 2012 board are now open. Positions include:

Photo Editor(s)
Design Editor(s)
Blog Editor(s)
Business Manager(s)
Publicity Manager(s)
Recording Secretary
General Board Member(s)
Outreach Chair(s)
Events Chair(s)
Culinary Director(s).

Descriptions of all board positions are below. There are openings for all positions, including Editor-in-Chief. Applications are due by 11:59 pm on Saturday, December 10th. Late applications cannot be accepted.

To apply, please read the position descriptions below and submit an application to consisting of the following:

- Name
- Email address
- Year/School
- One paragraph on the experience that qualifies you for the position, with Penn Appetit and otherwise
- One paragraph explaining why you want to be involved with Penn Appetit and this position specifically, including what you believe you would bring to the publication.
- Some positions require additional application materials, as noted below.

Important notes on board applications:
- The board term lasts for one year starting in January (Spring 2012 to the end of Fall 2012). The Class of 2012 is not eligible to apply.
- Anyone is welcome to apply, although some positions require specific experience, and we give preference to individuals who have contributed to Penn Appetit in the past.
- We encourage you to speak with the individuals who currently hold any position for which you are considering applying. (Culinary Director, Webmaster, Recording Secretary, and Events Chair are new positions, and thus are not currently held by anyone.)
- You may apply for more than one position, but if you do, rank the positions starting with the one you most want.
- Current board members must re-apply if they wish to retain their positions.
- If you are studying abroad for one semester of 2012, you are still eligible to apply, but you MUST note this on your application.
- Several positions require additional application materials:

Design Editor: A detailed list of design experience, including two (2) samples of your work
Photography Editor: A detailed list of photography experience, including two (2) samples of your food photography
Blog Editor: Two (2) samples of blog posts you've written, either with Penn Appetit or another blog, plus the URL of any personal blogs you'd like us to consider as part of your application
Webmaster: A detailed list of web design or website maintenance experience.
Culinary Director: A note detailing what access to a kitchen you will have over the term (including next fall), and at least one (1) recipe developed on your own.

Email with any questions about the applications/application process. Good luck!


Position Descriptions:

1. Editor-in-Chief. There shall be an Editor-in-Chief or Co-Editors-in-Chief. This person is responsible for the general workings of the magazine. The Editor-in-Chief’s duties are as follows:

1. He/she shall set up all writing, editing, and general body meetings. He/she shall attend all said meetings, as well as meetings for other staffs, as appropriate.
2. He/she shall oversee the submissions and the editing process. He/she shall assign stories in a general meeting with all Members of Penn Appétit. With all general Members, he/she shall set deadlines for submissions, dates for layout, and the date of Penn Appétit’s distribution on campus.
3. He/she shall oversee the business aspect of the magazine, advising the business staff on money matters, advertising, and publicity.
4. He/she shall oversee the layout of Penn Appétit. He/she shall resolve all disputes about placement of advertisements and submissions.
5. He/she shall make final decisions about appropriateness of magazine content, with the help of the Advisor (if there is one).
6. He/she shall send out informative communications to all Members of Penn Appétit.
7. The Editor-in-Chief must have previous experience on the Editing Staff of Penn Appétit, except in the first year of its publication.
8. He/she shall authorize expenditures from and deposits to the Penn Appétit bank account.

2. Treasurer. The Treasurer’s duties are as follows:

1. He/she shall attend all Business meetings.
2. He/she shall maintain the bank account for Penn Appétit. He/she shall write checks and handle deposits.
3. He/she shall update the budget spreadsheets. There shall be a magazine spreadsheet keeping track of all expenditures, as well as the Student Activities Council online budget account.
4. He/she shall send updated budget reports to the Editor-in-Chief once every two weeks.
5. He/she shall execute all reimbursements for Penn Appetit Members.
6. He/she shall work closely with the Business Manager and the Editor-in-Chief on all money-related matters
7. He/she shall take minutes at all Business meetings.
8. He/she shall work closely with the printer to obtain estimates and plan the printing process.
9. He/she shall attend Student Activities Council General Body Meetings.
1. This person shall act as the liaison between Penn Appétit and the Student Activities Council.
2. He/she shall attend all SAC meetings as necessary.
3. He/she shall apply for re-recognition by SAC annually.
4. He/she shall keep Penn Appétit up to date in regards to SAC guidelines.

3. Publicity Manager. The Publicity Manager’s duties are as follows:

1. The Publicity Manager shall be in charge of all magazine publicity, including flyers, banners, and any other publicity campaigns.
2. He/she shall organize all walk shifts, both for magazine distribution and for flyering.
3. He/she shall work with the Events Chair to assist in planning and executing all events for the magazine.
4. He/she shall attend all business meetings and general meetings.

4. Photography Editor (Head of Photography Staff). The Photography Editor’s duties are as follows:

1. He/she shall organize all Photography Staff meetings and inform all members of the Photography Staff of these meeting dates.
2. The Photography Editor shall preside over all Photography meetings with the Editor-in-Chief.
3. He/she shall assign all photography tasks to the Photography Staff.
4. He/she shall coordinate all photographers for the blog.
5. He/she shall assist all photographers in the photographing process, or find someone to do so.
1. There shall be a photography training session at the beginning of each semester, as necessary. The Photography Editor shall be the instructor, or shall find an experienced photographer to do so.
2. He/she shall help photographers arrange photography shoots as needed.
3. He/she shall ensure that all photographs taken are of quality high enough to be published in the magazine.
6. He/she shall choose all photographs that will run in the magazine, in conjunction with the Editor-in-Chief and the Layout/Design Editor.
7. The Photography Editor shall edit or assist in editing all photographs that are intended to run in the magazine.

5. Layout/Design Editor (Head of Layout/Design Staff). The Layout/Design Editor’s duties are as follows:

1. He/she shall organize all Layout/Design Staff meetings and inform all members of the Layout/Design Staff of these meeting dates.
2. The Layout/Design Editor shall preside over all Layout/Design meetings with the Editor-in-Chief.
3. He/she shall work with the Editor-in-Chief to place articles, photographs, and all other submitted pieces in the magazine.
4. He/she shall be present at all Layout sessions.

6. Blog Editor (Head of Blog Staff). The Blog Editor’s duties are as follows:

1. He/she shall organize all Blog Staff meetings and inform all members of the Blog Staff of these meeting dates.
2. He/she shall preside over all Blog meetings.
3. He/she shall assign and schedule blog posts at the bi-weekly meetings.
4. He/she shall monitor blog traffic and the blog’s email.
5. He/she shall work with the Photography Editor to capture photos to accompany blog posts.
6. He/she shall edit and subsequently publish all blog submissions.
7. He/she shall submit photos featured on the blog to food photo websites (to increase blog traffic).
8. He/she shall work with the Editor-in-Chief to transfer articles, photographs, and all other submitted pieces that were not selected for the magazine onto the blog.
9. He/she shall post about upcoming food events.
10. He/she shall run the Penn Appetit Facebook and Twitter accounts.

7. Business Manager. The Business Manager’s duties are as follows:

1. The Business Manager creates and executes strategy for advertisement sales in the magazine.
2. He/she directs and monitors the business staff in this activity.
3. He/she is to seek out and evaluate all new opportunities for advertisements and other revenue generation.
4. He/she shall help with publicity activities as needed.
5. He/she shall attend all business meetings and general meetings.

8. Recording Secretary

a. He/she shall attend all executive board meetings.
b. He/she shall record minutes at those meetings.
c. He/she shall assist the business, publicity, blog, and editorial boards as needed.

9. General Board Member

a. He/she shall attend all executive board meetings.
b. He/she shall assist the business, publicity, blog, and editorial boards as needed.

10. Outreach Chair

a. He/she shall oversee all community service and other outreach initiatives.
b. He/she shall be in charge of creating new outreach events and programs as appropriate.
c. He/she shall organize one day of food-related outreach for the executive board each semester.

11. Webmaster

a. He/she shall update and maintain the Penn Appetit website.
b. He/she shall renew the domain name as needed.
c. He/she shall register the website with Penn each year.

12. Events Chair

1. He/she shall plan all magazine events (e.g., speakers, competitions, trips).
2. He/she shall plan all social events for magazine members.
3. He/she shall delegate tasks as necessary to other board members to execute events.

13. Culinary Director

1. He/she shall plan and execute menus for magazine events.
2. He/she shall test recipes to be featured in issues and make revisions as needed.
3. He/she shall develop recipes upon request for inclusion in the magazine.
4. He/she shall prepare all cooked items for magazine photo shoots.

'Tis the Season for Hot Chocolate!

The beginning of winter means different things to different people—hope for snow, the impending winter break and an end to the misery that is finals, heartwarming Christmas songs—but for me, it signifies that it is once more socially smiled-upon to drink hot chocolate. Hot chocolate, a drink generally delegated to children, once possessed both nutritional and status-related value in Europe and South America. Before cocoa powder and chocolate candy bars were invented, chocolate was only consumed in a thick, liquid form. Following the extraction of the cocoa oil, chocolate’s value as a solid food grew, in part supplanting its use as a beverage. While hot chocolate continues to be drunk today, its consumption in the U.S. at least is mostly restricted to colder months and younger people. That should not deter anyone of any age from enjoying this special drink, however, and to add a little spin on the familiar ingredients you could try one of the following add-ins! Hot chocolate is a wonderful treat that you can adjust to your own taste. Here are a few additional ingredients—some more creative than others—that fellow Penn students recommend:

The Classics
Whipped cream

The Spices
Chile pepper

The Caffeinated
Coffee (mocha)

The Candies

The Fruits and Nuts
Coconut Milk
Hazelnut (Nutella)
Orange (rinds or melted chocolate)

The Adventurous
Peanut Butter
Black licorice

And if chocolate isn’t your thing but you are still looking for a warm, seasonal beverage, you could try hot vanilla! Boil milk on the stove (or microwave), add a few drops of vanilla extract, and cinnamon and sugar to taste!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Davio's Executive Chef David Boyle

Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, a refined restaurant residing in Center City, focuses on simple, regional Italian foods with an emphasis on the grill. The Philadelphia location joins other branches situated in Boston, Foxborough, and Atlanta. Located in the historic Provident Bank Building near Rittenhouse Square, the open space inside is elegant with tall arched windows, high ceilings, and beautiful wood floors. Yet there is still a warmth and intimacy that glows throughout the restaurant, making it the perfect spot for a birthday meal, special anniversary, or business dinner.

I had the pleasure of talking with charismatic Executive Chef David Boyle, captain of Davio’s well-oiled machine of a kitchen in Philadelphia. Born in this “City of Brotherly Love,” David grew up in a suburb of Anchorage, AK, before returning to his roots and enrolling in the Restaurant School of Philadelphia. After an enriching externship at the Four Seasons Hotel, he stayed with the team past graduation with a yearlong interlude at the Michelin Hotel Restaurant in Le Grande Monarque Hotel in Chartres, France. He eventually took his talents to Jake’s in Manayunk and worked his way up to Executive Chef in only eight months. After years of rave reviews (including complimentary words from Zagat and Philadelphia Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan) there, he brought his honed skills to Davio’s.

NW: How did you get your start in the food business?
DB: I first dabbled with the food world when I worked on a vegetable farm as a teenager. You’d wake up at 6 am, grab a burlap bag, and start picking in the field until sundown. Corn, tomatoes, you name it… I learned a lot during my time there from the people I worked with and the overall experience.

NW: Was it difficult transitioning between the different restaurants you’ve cooked at during your career?
DB: There was no real transition. Being trained classically, you learn how to use ingredients and apply basic techniques. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of kitchens, whether it was strictly French or had a heavy Asian influence. You find over time that a steakhouse is much different from a normal fine dining establishment versus a tapas bar versus a BYOB. It’s really a continual education.

NW: What makes Davio’s different from other steak houses?
DB: We pride ourselves on quality. Sometimes the steak itself will be 50% of the end price, so excellence is certainly important to us. We take the finest ingredients and prepare them properly to create an exceptional final product. Our dishes don’t necessarily have to be complicated: they just need to be consistent, simple, and good.

NW: Speaking of something that’s good, you’re known for inventing the Philly Cheese Steak Spring Roll in 2003. How did it come to life?
DB: My wife is Vietnamese, so she definitely inspired the spring roll concept. We used to have a duck and vegetable spring roll at the Four Seasons, which was quite popular. Eventually, we thought, “Why not apply that to a Philly classic?” We use spring roll wrappers because they’re a little thinner and crispier than egg roll wrappers. The rolls are also complemented with a spicy house-made ketchup and Sriracha dipping sauces, which both add a dash of Asian influence. After we put the new spring rolls on the bar menu and heard rave reviews, we sent it up to Boston; before I knew it, the spring rolls were being sold in the freezer section at the local supermarket! Now there’s a range of flavors available, including Buffalo Chicken and Chicken Parma. The classic will always be the Cheese Steak version, though—that’s what people come for.

NW: What motivates you in the kitchen?
DB: There are two vital criteria that I constantly aspire to meet with the dishes we serve: one, I would feed it to my mother, and two, I would feed it to a blind person. If you can satisfy these and achieve phenomenal look, smell, and taste, you’re set. I’m also fortunate to have a loyal crew that wants to come to work. My career keeps me busy, but it makes me happy. I’m able to balance my family and work lives and am creatively challenged every day.

NW: Does that mean you have a lot of autonomy with the menu, even though there are multiple Davio’s branches?
DB: We do have the opportunity to feature our own dishes. This especially applies to plates that feature seasonal ingredients. If one of my sous chefs has something special up their sleeve, I’m happy to feature it on the menu that evening. Of course, we always have our classic dishes—these should be cooked the same way all the time. It shows our attention to detail and expresses our commitment to a consistent quality product.

NW: What’s one of the lessons you’ve learned during your career?
DB: You’re only as good as your staff and your dishwasher.

NW: What’s your favorite food memory?
DB: Wow, there’s a lot… one would have to be when I was in Cleveland, OH. It was very simple, extremely casual: we barbecued turkey legs and had pitchers of beer. I’ll never forget how juicy the turkey legs were. For me, it’s all about taking simple, perhaps mundane ingredients and making them fantastic.

NW: Do you have a food weakness?
DB: I’m happy with ramen soup—add some cilantro, some bean sprouts, make it spicy… I cook all day, so I want something that’s easy to make when I get home! That being said, I’m fortunate that my wife is an excellent cook!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Stanton Social

There are a lot of things to love about New York (and a good number not to love), but my favorite part is undoubtedly the food. The number of outstanding and unique restaurants is mind-blowing, and I am quite confident that I will never be able to try them all even if I make it my life’s mission. Considering the wide array of restaurants, my family and I generally like to try new places, so it is quite a compliment when we return to a restaurant for the second time. This weekend, we paid that compliment to the Stanton Social, an eclectic tapas restaurant in the Lower East Side.

The restaurant itself is rather chic, or as my brother called it hipster, and according to the restaurant website, its design is supposed to pay tribute to the Lower East Side’s past as the heart of the garment industry. Most of the tables are round – all the better for sharing plates – and the walls are lined with circular booths which I find to be quite comfortable as well as stylish. When it comes down to it, however, the design is little more than a side note. This restaurant is all about the food.

As I mentioned, the Stanton Social is tapas style, so it has a menu full of small plates that are meant to be shared. Our server recommended that we choose two to three per person. Luckily, there were five of us, so we had the ability to make lots of choices from the amazing menu on which just about everything sounds delicious. The waitress was also very accommodating in offering to scale all the dishes to the size of our group so that each dish had at least five pieces. After some serious deliberation, we settled on an order that I had the task of memorizing and reciting to the waitress. It was a matter of life and death to make sure that no dish was forgotten.

Before long, the constant flow of plates began. We started with the Baby Spinach Salad and the Red Snapper Tacos. The spinach salad was served with smoked goat cheese and spiced nuts and had a great smoky flavor. Even my brother, who doesn’t like spinach, enjoyed it. The snapper tacos were also tasty. The snapper was mixed with avocado, which gave it a creamy texture similar to a very upscale tuna fish salad. The tacos were then topped with spicy mango salsa. Although I found the salsa to be a bit spicy, my dad declared the tacos to be one of his favorite dishes.

Next came the French Onion Soup Dumplings, which are a signature dish of the restaurant and probably one of my favorites. Although the name sounds a bit puzzling, the dumplings are exactly as described. They are crispy dumplings, shaped a bit like donut holes, that are covered in cheese and filled with onion soup.

After the dumplings, came Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogies, which were delicious as well although not particularly unusual. Next, we got a Grilled Apple and Brie Quesadilla that was perfectly crispy with melted cheese dripping out the sides and crumbled bacon sprinkled on top. As I am a fan of fruit with cheese and particularly fruit with brie, this is a dish that couldn’t go wrong.

Next, we had Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Ravioli – a mouthwatering combo of tender pasta, smooth and flavorful filling, and a browned butter sauce. Like any recipe that includes sweet potato or squash, it found a special place in my heart. Additionally, the Stanton Social distinguished their ravioli with a very unique seasoning, but although I wish I could say what it was, none of us was able to figure it out.

Next (yes, the courses do keep coming), we had a Wild Mushroom Pizzetta (little pizza) and roasted beets. I have a soft spot for mushrooms as well, so the Pizzetta won me over. It also had a thin New York crust that put the pizza around Philadelphia to shame. Topped with cheese, the roasted beets made a delicious accompaniment.

For our second to last course, we had Braised Short Rib Soft Tacos, which were undoubtedly my favorite of the two types of tacos. They were served with a fairly simple tomato relish, but the meat was so tender and juicy that no additional flair was needed. Finally, we ended our savory courses with Thai Spiced Baby Back Ribs. Like everything else we tried, the ribs were good, and the meat fell right off the bone.

After finishing out whirlwind tour through all the savory dishes, it was time for dessert. Since our first visit to the Stanton Social last summer, my dad has not stopped talking about their warm doughnuts, which are large poofs of dough, coated in sugar and served with chocolate, caramel, and raspberry dipping sauces. My dad insisted on ordering two plates of warm doughnuts and concluded that they tasted just as good as he had remembered. While I agree that the doughnuts are good, I actually enjoyed the other two desserts that we chose even more. For one, we ordered a pumpkin sundae that had pumpkin pie ice cream, toasted nut streusel, and cinnamon whipped cream. Generally, I avoid ice cream at restaurants and favor the cakes and other carb desserts, but the sundae was amazing. The ice cream, with a strong pumpkin and spice flavor, was truly unique and was layered with generous amounts of scrumptious streusel. The final dessert we ordered was actually another ice cream dish –peanut butter bon bons. The rich peanut butter ice cream was covered in a layer of dark chocolate and playfully paired with grape sorbet. Yum!

From start to finish, the Stanton Social provides a fun and delicious experience. It’s exciting to be able to try so many dishes rather than just having to choose one, and after two amazing dining experiences, I am confident in saying that at the Stanton Social, you can’t go wrong.

Photos courtesy of The Stanton Social

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...