Friday, September 30, 2011
Being the foodie that I am, there was no way that I was going to miss out on this Penn tradition. My chosen eatery that afternoon was Hill, which happened to feature crisp apple cider, fresh tilapia, steamed potatoes, decadent butternut squash soup, and scrumptious blueberry scones for dessert. I began my meal with a refreshing glass of apple cider. The cider was exceptional as it retained a perfect balance between the distinct juiciness of the apples and the saccharinity of the sugar. Previously, my extent of apple drinks consisted solely of apple juice. However, after trying the cider at Hill, I know that I’m going to have a new favorite apple beverage.
After downing the cider, I switched my focus to the butternut squash soup. I have had many excellent bowls of butternut squash soup in my life, and the bowl at Hill happened to be one of the finest. The soup had a hearty, thick texture that was coupled with the sweet and savory taste of cinnamon. Next on my list was the main course of tilapia and potatoes. The tilapia had a tender consistency and tasted extremely ocean-fresh while the potatoes were finely roasted and tasted even better when paired with the organic ketchup. Last but not least on my agenda was the blueberry scone dessert. The texture of the scone was soft on the inside and had a satisfying slight crunch on the outside. Fresh blueberries were drizzled on top and proved to be a worthy sweet, yet subtle, addition to the scone.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with my experience of eating locally at Hill. The options were as plentiful as ever, and the flavors were more distinct than normal. This event really opened up my eyes to the possibilities of sustainability. If Penn students and staff are willing to put forth the effort, then every meal served at Penn could potentially be made from organic and local ingredients. Thus, my only question after the 2011 Eat Local Challenge is “Why isn’t every day an eat local day?”Tweet
Thursday, September 29, 2011
National Free Coffee Day
What: In honor of National Free Coffee Day (yes, apparently it's a holiday) all Dunkin' Donuts will be selling their hot and iced coffee for 50 cents with coupon, while Krispy Kreme will be giving out free coffee all day long.
Where: All Dunkin' Donuts and the Krispy Kreme in Center City.
When: Thursday, September 28, 2011
PAFA's Party on the Plaza
What: In honor of the new Lenfest Plaza, PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) will be celebrating all day! Particularly notable for foodie fans: local Philly food trucks will be serving up food to the crowds throughout the day. We’ve confirmed appearances by Tyson Bee's, Dapper Dog, The Crepewalk, Jack N Jill, Buttercream, SugarPhilly, Cantina Burrito and House of Pita. More information here.
Where: Broad and Cherry Streets
When: Saturday, October 1, 12 pm - 1 am
Photo courtesy of Tom Crane, PAFA
What: New food truck's grand opening on Spruce Street, serving up soups, sandwiches, and salads. View more information here.
Where: 37th and Spruce Streets
When: Saturday, October 1
Night Market Philadelphia
What: Food trucks, live music, lion dancing and Asian arts for one night only in Philly's Chinatown! For more info, visit this site.
Where: 10th and Race Streets
When: Thursday, October 6th, 7-11pm
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. This Sunday we went to Marathon on 19th and Market to try their renowned brunch.
On a sunny morning at 10 am, three members of the Penn Appetit blog team set out to find some Belgian waffles. We had a destination in mind: Bonte, an authentic waffle shop in Center City (on 17th St. between Sansom and Walnut.) Elliott, blog editor and past resident of Belgium, was particularly excited to sample these delicacies. Upon arrival at the small basement Bonte, we could tell something was amiss. The cashiers were no longer taking orders; they were short staffed and the waffle batter was sticking. Belgian waffle sampling: delayed. With that plan squashed we continued on in search of sustenance.
We next visited the Philadelphia Chutney Company, a dosa specialty shop that had sadly not yet opened. Finally we reached Marathon Grill at 16th and Sansom and settled in for brunch. Marathon is a group of six restaurants that focuses on local ingredients, some of which are sourced from their own Philadelphia farms. Marathon also happens to be known for its chocolate chip cookie dough pancakes, which all three of us were tempted to order. Of course, as foodies we opted for diversity. Nicole ordered the signature pancakes, Elliott chose the French toast with mascarpone and I opted for the breakfast quesadilla. As the weekend brunch crowd filed in, we discussed everything from classes to attempts at cooking in the dorms to plans for spring break (thinking ahead is key) and more.
After a wait that bordered on too long, our food arrived. The portions were generous and satisfying. The chocolate chip cookie dough pancakes were sweet without being overtly so, with a tender batter that didn’t turn mushy with the addition of syrup. The French toast was well seasoned with the mascarpone adding a tangy richness. My quesadilla featured sharp cheddar, tomatoes, peppers and well-cooked eggs in a wrap. The home fries could have been a tad crisper but for $8.50 I cannot complain. Marathon’s front room is full of windows and as the Sunday morning sunshine streamed in on our flavorful meal, I felt refreshed and ready for the week. The power of a good meal is that it forms friendships, satisfies the soul and opens your horizons. Our trip to Center City took us not to a Belgian waffle, nor an Indian dosa but to somewhere entirely different: a local brunch that reminds us all why we care so gosh darn much about the food we eat. -Abigail Koffler
Brunch was on my mind when I woke up on Sunday. All I could think about was sinking my teeth into a fluffy Belgian waffle courtesy of Bonte’s. Imagine my disappointment when Elliott, Abigail, and I walked into the nondescript store and witnessed Bonte’s two staff members panicking over the broken waffle machine! No matter—the element of surprise only makes for a more exciting foodie adventure. Fortunately, we soon happened upon brunch hotspot Marathon.
Marathon prides itself on adhering to the “buy local” movement, sourcing fresh seasonal products from urban farms and upholding the highest quality of food in all its dishes. I went with the chocolate chip cookie dough pancakes, a house specialty and one of Marathon’s bestsellers. Service was a bit slow (which was expected at peak brunch hour), but flowing conversation made the time pass quickly. When the pancakes arrived at the table, I was stunned by how large they were: the three lofty hotcakes encompassed the entire surface area of the plate. By just looking at the dish, it was hard to identify any semblance of chocolate chips or cookie dough. However, after I generously drizzled syrup on top and tore hungrily into the stack, rich chocolate oozed out and erased any uncertainty I had. I easily could have eaten the same type of dish for dessert. The serving was certainly large enough for two people to enjoy; I had leftovers even after sharing some with my dining companions! My only suggestion is that the added fillings (i.e. chocolate chip and cookie dough) should be distributed more evenly throughout the pancakes. Yet this factor is small potatoes compared to the light, airy pancake batter and fantastic union of sweet flavors. The dish is a truly delicious and decadent treat. Although we didn’t have the chance to try Bonte’s (I’ll have to return when everything’s back up and running!), I was more than happy to satisfy my brunch cravings at Marathon. -Nicole Woon
The true Belgian waffle is so very different from those fluffy things we Americans serve with syrup or whipped cream. Known as liégeoise waffles to the Belgians, these dense, gooey and caramelized treats can be bought from waffle trucks and hole-in-the-wall waffleries all across the small country.
I've heard Bonte Wafflerie and Cafe serves genuine liégeoise waffles. But then, that's just word-of-mouth. When we went this Sunday, this wafflerie was out of their speciality. Apparently their waffles were sticking to the griddle, a problem that you would think a place specializing in waffles would know how to fix, but apparently not. We left without receiving an apology, as did the other customers in line.
Luckily, a few blocks away was Marathon. We settled in for their Sunday brunch, excited to try our respective orders. The wait, almost an hour, was a bit too long for three girls who hadn't eaten breakfast. When the food finally arrived, we dug right in. I feel bad giving the only critical review, but I was disappointed.
I ordered their blueberry mascarpone-stuffed French toast. I'm a fan of French toast with a custard-like interior and a buttery griddled exterior. Marathon's French toast, however, was too dry for my liking. I was hoping the mascarpone would add a rich creaminess, as it does when served at room temperature. However, melting it seemed to make it cheesy and bland. While quite filling, it was nothing to write home about.
But I still had hope! I was excited to try the chocolate chip cookie dough pancakes. I'm a huge cookie dough ice cream fan, and I imagined Marathon's pancakes to be a breakfast incarnation of my favorite dessert. To me, however, the pancakes were much too airy and boring, a dead ringer for the pancakes you get from a Bisquick box. On top of that, the cookie dough clumps were infrequent and large. In fact, they were so large that I ended up eating some pancake, then some cookie dough, and then some pancake again, but never the two combined.
All in all, while I appreciated Marathon's creative brunch concepts, I found the execution lacking. The brunch, while fun, is not worth the $8-$11 spent on each plate. -Elliott Brooks
Photos by Nicole Woon
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
In my time at Penn, I have had the pleasure of trying (and often returning to) several savory food trucks around campus. Until last Friday, however, Sugar Philly's desserts had gone untasted by me. It is surprising that I was able to go all of freshman year without venturing over to the cheerfully decorated vehicle at 38th and Walnut, given my ferocious sweet tooth- I have been known to eat the sugar packets at diners while waiting for my food and am guilty of keeping a jar of vanilla frosting in the fridge for a handy snack. Obviously, I was extremely excited to try Sugar Philly's offerings and their desserts certainly did not disappoint.
|Photo courtesy of Sugar Philly's website: www.sugarphillytruck.com|
I also tried Sugar Philly's vanilla creme brulee. Dan torched the sugar topping as I waited, creating the classic caramelized sugar top layer. The creamy, sweet custard was extremely smooth and had a pleasant vanilla flavor that was present without being too overpowering. The crunch of the slightly warm sugar topping paired perfectly with the cool custard and made for a delicious combination of textures and flavors that left me feeling a little sad when the creme brulee was all gone.
So, if you're ever in the vicinity of the Sugar Philly truck (or even if it's a little bit of a walk!) it is definitely worth a visit. Try going on different days of the week so that you can try all of the available macaron flavors!Tweet
Monday, September 26, 2011
As the leaves begin to flaunt bright colors of autumn and the air suddenly starts to dance with the crisp smell of approaching windy chills, nothing sounds more inviting than a trip to your local orchard. Eager-eyed children embark on their first hayride while mothers gush over fresh apple cider and sugared donuts. Nothing says fall like the fact that the two most sought after treats of the season have finally ripened to perfection: pumpkins and apples. The pumpkin patches are overflowing with massive orange fruit while the apple trees are teeming with varieties ranging from the sweet and subtle to the statement-making tart. The one food that comes to mind when I think of what has single-handedly described my autumn experience for as long as I can remember is pie.
While growing up, I lived close to a family owned orchard that made the most delicious fruit pies. Every once in a while when my mother and I stopped by the orchard to pick up some fresh peaches or apples, we couldn’t help but wander over to the pie display and choose a perfectly crafted pie to take home with us. After eating so many scrumptious slices of this sweet treat, my mother and I decided to try our hand at making our own pies. From then on, it became a family tradition to venture over to the orchard every fall, pick our own apples, and make a yummy pie to share with friends and family. For this reason, I have become something of a pie aficionado. As for apple pie this year, I probably won’t be able to make it to the orchard anytime soon, so the apples at the farmer’s markets around the city will definitely serve as an excellent substitute.
This summer, I made a delicious peach blueberry pie that I shared with family and friends. Below is the recipe for the super easy pie that will be sure to please!
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sliced peeled fresh peaches
1 cup fresh blueberries
Two pie crusts (9 inches each)
Milk, to brush
1) In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the peaches and blueberries and toss gently.
2) Line a pie plate with bottom crust, add the filling, and top with the remaining crust. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
3) Bake at 400° for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cool completely and serve!
-- Monica Purmalek
Friday, September 23, 2011
I was especially happy to see the food trucks lining the streets in and around Penn when I first arrived here as a freshman because I love food trucks. The food is cheap, convenient, and usually pretty tasty. Korea is one country with a huge street food culture. Korean street food is usually sold at stands or carts, not trucks, and served as snacks, not meals. There is a huge variety of these snack foods, but the most standard street food stand would be ddeok bok yi, uh-mook, and twi-gim. Ddeok-bok-yi is possibly the most popular among spicy-food-loving Koreans: it is a dish of chewy rice cakes, thin slices of uh-mook, and boiled eggs smothered in hot, spicy sauce whose prime ingredient is red pepper paste. Uh-mook sold on food carts is white fish pureed into a paste, steamed, then stuck on skewers. Such a food cart would have the uh-mook on the skewers bathing in broth so the fish cakes would stay warm and chewy. There are usually ddeok (rice cake) skewers among the uh-mook skewers as well. Customers are free to scoop the broth into paper cups to sip, even if they eating something other than uh-mook. Twi-gim is fried batter-dipped vegetable (such as potato, yam, and pepper) or meat; most food carts only carry a variety of vegetable twi-gim. A popular way of eating it is with the ddeok-bok-yi sauce: Koreans really like their food hot!
Although those three kinds are probably the most famous street foods, soon-dae (pig or cow intestines chopped and rolled into a sausage-like form), jjin-bbaang (moist, steamed round bread filled with sweet bean paste, vegetables, or meats), and hotteok (pancake-like dough filled with sticky sweet sauce) and many, many others remain popular. These street foods may vary slightly in terms of size, shape, fillings, and/or strength of the flavor across the country. For example, the city of Busan is famous for their uh-mookk with various fillings.
For a quick fix, I may run to Koreana to eat the Korean favorite, ddeok-bok-yi. Even though “street food” made in restaurants or at home may taste good, it will always taste better eaten standing in front of the food cart while the rest of the world busies itself about, blurred by the steam rising from the cup with the uh-mook broth I have in my hands.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Sausage Fest at Standard Tap
What: Standard Tap will be celebrating Oktoberfest with a wide selection of beers and wieners all week long. A mostly local selection of sausages--including D’Angelo’s of Philadelphia, Birchrun Hills Farm of Chester Springs, and Standard Tap's own special house-made sausage--will be sold at a wallet-friendly $5, along with festive local beers.
Where: 901 N. 2nd Street
When: Friday, September 23 - Thursday, September 29
Popped! Music Festival Food Bazaar - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER
What: A community food celebration showcasing some of the city's best. Try pizza, gelato, a multitude of vegetarian items and much more!
Who: Nomad Pizza, Gigi & Big R, Cantina Dos Segundos, Jimmies Cupcakes, Cucina Zapata, Farm Fresh Lunch Truck, Sweetbox, and more
Where: Festival Moved from FDR Park; Food Bazaar Cancelled
When: Friday, September 23 - Saturday, September 24
Cost: Single day ticket $59.90. Visit poppedphiladelphia.com for more information.
What: Beginning at 10 am, get into tons of museums and attractions for free with your student ID. Plus, snag great discounts on food. Then, head to Center City that evening for a free screening of the film 50/50 at the Popped! Music Festival. For more info, go here: http://www.campusphilly.org/collegeday2011/
Where: various locations
When: Saturday, September 24
What: Girard Fest 2011 celebrates the diversity and revitalization of Girard Avenue! Experience eclectic multi-genre music booked by Philly F/M Fest, numerous artists and crafters, the city's best food vendors, family fun, and more. For more info, go here: http://www.girardfest.com/
Who: Call Me Cupcake truck, Zykal Water Ice, The Real Latin Flavor, Lil Dan’s Sandwiches, Chef Johnny Bravo’s Surf n Turf and Yumtown USA
Where: Girard Avenue between Front and 2nd Streets
When: Saturday, September 24, 12-8 pm
Birdies, Beers + Booze
What: MidAtlantic Restaurant & Tap Room is excited to host "Birdies, Beers + Booze" at MidAtlantic Restaurant & Tap Room. A multi-course fowl dinner, with beer and cocktail pairings from Dock Street Brewery & Philadelphia Distilling.
Where: MidAtlantic Restaurant
When: Thursday, September 29, 6pm
Cost: $35 for dinner, $25 for beer and cocktail pairings
Edible Books Party
What: Celebrate works of art inspired by books and created in kitchens. Edible books could show up as depictions of literary characters or scenes, interpretations of titles or themes, or sculptures of actual books. Prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories, including "most punny," "most literal," and the "creative spirit award." All are welcome to join the festival to browse the library of edible titles or to contribute their own! To participate, please email Erin Gautsche (email@example.com) by Sept. 30 for more information.
Where: Kelly Writers House
When: Wednesday, October 5, time TBD
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
This summer I learned how to make moonshine... legally, of course. I interned at Kings County Distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in New York City since prohibition. After a summer filled with farmers, restaurants, bars, markets, Brooklyn, and bourbon, I would venture to say that it was the best internship ever.
Although Kings County has the title of oldest distillery, it is actually less than two years old. New York recently passed a law allowing for “farm distilleries,” or small- scale distilleries that use local grain in their alcohol production. The whiskey at Kings County is made with corn from the Finger Lakes region of New York. One of my projects this summer was actually finding a way to source local rye for future production. Through the Grow NYC stand at the Union Square farmers market, I was able to get in contact with multiple local farms, and now the distillery gets rye from the same farm that supplies the bakery at Mario Batali’s Eataly.
Because the owners of the distillery have day jobs, I was left with a key to the distillery and a few general goals. I quickly realized that the value of my time at Kings County was dependent on how much effort I wanted to expend. I like to make the most of opportunities, so I tried to accomplish as much as possible in the six weeks I was there. I learned that seemingly minor tasks, like making business cards and doing inventory, are actually incredibly important. Organization makes production run much more smoothly, especially in a 325 square-foot space.
Kings County Distillery is really just comprised of two small rooms in a second floor loft. The building is on an unmarked side street in an industrial area of Williamsburg. The distilling room is like a mad scientist’s lab: There are large buckets of corn mash fermenting, five small stills dripping away, and a chalkboard wall with names, dates, and spirit numbers. The tasting room, with its wooden bar and stacks of barrels, is almost reminiscent of an old-fashioned saloon. The distillery’s space is incredibly apropos- it certainly has lots of character.
My favorite part of working at Kings County was the people. I absolutely loved everyone there, from Colin and David, the owners, to the distilling team of Matthew, Tristan, Chris, and Nate. Each person added to the story of the distillery, and the story is the best part of the job (aside from the whiskey). I also met a variety of different people during my time selling the whiskey. I spoke to bartenders, general managers, and restaurant owners around the city.
My goal was to explain to them the role of Kings County in a new movement: The idea of eating and drinking local and sustainable products has hit food, beer, and even wine. Most people, however, are not aware that it is also beginning in the spirits industry. New York is the perfect place to market local, sustainable spirits because of its educated and interested dining and drinking community. Kings County is looking to spearhead that movement with the help of establishments and consumers.
The experience I gained at Kings County Distillery is invaluable. I did so much, from sending product to Japan to making experimental bitters, from bottling and delivering whiskey to marketing the distillery, and so much more. Although summer is over, I will continue to help Kings County as it grows. Next time you’re in Brooklyn, you should definitely check out the distillery- I’ll bet you’ll find the best moonshine you’ve ever had.
-- Becca Goldstein
On September 14, Stephen Starr, Audrey Claire Tachmann and Michael Solomonov hosted the second annual Philly Feastival. Feastival, a benefit for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, brought together 75 of the city’s best restaurants for a celebration on Pier 9.
The space itself is not what one would expect in such a high-profile event, but it reflected the spirit of the performing-arts festivals it supports. One would barely notice the uneven asphalt underfoot as smoke and neon-green lights enveloped the tutu-clad men and women along the walls overhead. Acrobats twisted and swung from ropes and iron frames above the packed bar and white-clad tables. Frankly, it was a little unnerving to order Time’s blueberry lemonade or Ranstead Room’s Hemingway Daquiri while a lithe young man clad only in jeans arched and swayed from a delicate tether just a few feet above.
But on to the food! Union Trust, somewhat surprisingly, showed up with a smoked salmon dish. At the next table, Sampan’s spicy king crab gazpacho was fiery and full-flavored. Square 1682’s yellowfin tuna tostadas were mounted on impossibly salty corn shells. Marigold’s foie gras “cherry” with pistachio crumbs tasted, according to my companion, like a “fatty, salty dessert.” Vetri played the throwback card with Sal’s Old School Meatballs, which were exactly as awesome as you’d expect.
Fish made a strong showing with a mouthwatering rock shrimp escabeche with Marcona almonds. J.G. Domestic went soigné with Hudson Valley potted duck. Headhouse Square’s new Twisted Tail fired up juicy ribs, and Opa kept it traditional with keftedes (Greek veal meatballs).
Pork seemed to be the preferred protein of the night. Cooperage brought messy pork nachos with pineapple salsa. Fork served an inventive calamari dish with pepperade and prosciutto. Talula’s Garden represented with blue-cheese-stuffed figs with a crispy slice of ham. And Le Virtu held strong on the Italian front with an agnolotti alla porchetta.
Highlights of the night included Matyson’s hiramasa poke, light and vibrant with pineapple and lotus root. Oyster House kept it real with raw clams and Cape May Salt oysters, which stayed chilly and perfect even in the hot, hazy venue. Le Castagne, which I was encountering for the first time, served shrimp in savory lemon-pepper ravioli pockets. Supper got creative with Lil’ Dixies, country ham and pimento cheese puffs. The Roots drummer ?uestlove premiered his fried chicken drumsticks, and the best dessert of the night was Darling’s assortment of cheesecakes. They create crusts with house-made cookies and fill the light, creamy cakes with peanut butter, Bailey’s, and all kinds of other comforting goodies.
To top off the evening, the La Colombe truck and Federal Donuts stand flanked the red carpet on the way out. What better way to end the night than with a hot, sugary, spiced treat from the Donut Robot? All in all, Feastival is an incredible event with great food and good people, benefitting a truly worthy cause.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
In other news, Penn Appetit partnered with Uwishunu to curate a list of choice West Philly food trucks. Check out the post here!
Much has been written about Barcelona, Spain’s second city. It exudes youth, culture, fun and food. I’ve read countless accolades about the city’s tapas bars, sangria and seafood. And then I visited.
Barcelona, at least Barcelona on a budget, translates to a lot of sandwiches, a lot of potato based tapas and a noticeable lack of fruits and vegetables. Tapas felt transitory, more like snacks than meals. I can, however, advocate for the sangria. At the bar I went to on three consecutive nights it was the three euro drink special, and it was good. After five days of ambitious touring, awe inspiring architecture and a sleep schedule that can only be described as nocturnal, my cousin and I left. We hauled our luggage to the crowded train station, grabbed a final hurried meal at a train station cafeteria and boarded a train to a different world.
Four hours and one national border later, we arrived in Toulouse, France’s fourth largest city. With a restorative night of sleep under our belts, we set out to explore.
A quick chat with the British concierge garnered one suggestion: Café Wallace in Place St. George, a short walk from our hotel. We arrived at 11:40 am and were informed that lunch began at 12 and breakfast ended at 11. Oh, Europe. We ordered café au laits and relaxed for the first time in days. Our itinerary was open, our stomachs were empty and we were ready to eat.
A half an hour later our food arrived: a wrap for me and a croque monsieur for my cousin. As I took my first bite, I knew that Toulouse would be different. It would be a place full of gelato, crepes, coffee and friendly people. The wrap was filled with crisp lettuce, grilled chicken and well seasoned dressing. Alongside it sat a salad, the first one I’d eaten in a week, topped with a grainy mustard dressing that felt essentially French. The plate was complete with the addition of a crisp potato cake, the rare potato dish that would have not have benefited from the addition of ketchup. For less than the price of a rushed tapa in Barcelona, I ate a meal in Toulouse, and what a meal it was.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Rumor has it that Estia serves the best Greek food in the city. Estia, as it calls itself, is an “upscale Greek restaurant” and the décor certainly confirms that. Jerusalem marble, white washed wall and a cozy indoor courtyard all add to the illusion of being transported to the Greek isles.
Rumor also has it that they are the best place to go for fresh, simply prepared fish. Estia is proud of their fish, and they make sure no one forgets it. Their display of fish, shipped in daily from the Mediterranean, is placed for all to see.
I’m a bit dubious of any fish served in Philadelphia. As a Northwest native and the granddaughter of a fisherman, I’m used to fresh Dungeness crab and wild Alaskan salmon, seafood that packs a punch. For me, Atlantic varieties have always paled in comparison. I was interested in seeing if Estia would make me change my mind.
We ordered from the Restaurant week menu, a three-course meal for the fixed price of $35. I dived into Estia’s seafood offerings right away and ordered the grilled octopus for my first course. The octopus was spot-on. It was perfectly salted, and the grill gave it a heavenly smoky taste. Octopus has a tendency of turning into rubber- so chewy that your jaw gets a workout. Estia’s octopus managed to avoid that fate. It had just the right amount of chewiness and, for an octopus, was almost tender. The sliced onions it was served on, however, was a disaster. I don’t particularly enjoy eating raw onions, especially not spicy ones. I ended up avoiding them, since the uncomfortable raw onion burn I kept getting was interfering with my enjoyment of the octopus.
I will add that my nibbles of my neighbor’s spanakopita, or spinach pie, were incredible. I like spanakopita to focus on the spinach, not the feta, which is exactly what this one did. The addition of leeks was a nice touch, adding a deep umami flavor.
Next up, the main course. Of course, I ordered fish. I chose the tsipoura, known as “Royal Dorado” in English, a supposedly extremely moist but mild-flavored fish. My tsipoura was served per usual at Estia- charcoal grilled, butterflied and served drizzled with a lemon and caper sauce. And no wonder they serve their fish this way, it works. My filet was juicy and delicate and had that wonderful taste of straight-from-the-sea fresh fish. The lemon and caper sauce was a perfect complement without masking the fish in too much flavor. Finally, the grill caused the outside skin to become crisp. The contrast between the snap of the skin and the tender inside was perfect. As picky as I am about fish, Estia’s definitely got my approval.
We moved onto dessert, a choice between baklava (Estia is a Greek restaurant, after all) and galactobourico, as stated on the menu “a semolina custard wrapped in phyllo dough and served with orange and lemon zest syrup.” I’m a fan of trying new things, so I went for the galactobourico, but I was quite disappointed. The best part about the dessert was that it wasn’t too sweet, as so many others are. However, there also wasn’t anything special going on. It was dense and, perhaps due to the syrup, I found the phyllo dough bitter. I certainly wouldn’t order the galactobourico again if I came back.
Go to Estia for their fresh fish and Greek offerings. Skip dessert and stroll along Avenue of the Arts, stopping at wherever strikes your fancy. That is a recipe for a fine evening.
What do you get when you combine teenagers from New Orleans, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Alabama, Pakistan, Atlanta and New Jersey? Penn loves to remind us about the confluence of ideas, perspectives and languages on our diverse campus. While these things are well and good, I’m more concerned with culinary diversity.
Every day follows more or less the same pattern. We study, sleep and somehow find ourselves sitting around the same table, complaining about how much work we have, and without fail: eating. On Monday, Molly from New Jersey shares the homemade chocolate chip cookies her mom just dropped off. We all envy how close she is to home and savor the taste of non-institutional food. Tuesday requires an exotic twist courtesy of Parker from Kentucky who shares his favorite candy from Croatia. Although the product turns out to be glorified starbursts, it tastes better with foreign packaging. Yashar from Atlanta insists on keeping Craisins in the communal fridge, which is the exact same temperature as the ineffective freezer. James interrupts a late night of studying with the jellybeans he received and reluctantly shares. We readjust to weekend homework with a visit to Café Clave in University City, reading, sipping iced coffees and repeating. Our difficult first week of classes culminates in a sparkling apple cider toast, which we sip out of the wineglasses our GA, Keon, purchased for a steal at Ikea.
Nearly as notable as the omnipresent snacks are the absent foods; the ones constantly pined for. Lisa from Alabama misses her parents’ Chinese food. I long for a real New York bagel (if it’s not boiled, it doesn’t count). Some miss sushi; others even miss the distinctively crisp French fries of their high school cafeteria.
Eating together reminds us of what we have and what we left behind. We crave the comfort of a familiar meal and relish the taste of a new nibble. Friendships are formed over a mutual favorite chip or brand of pretzel. Many challenges lie ahead of us this freshmen year, but I know that my suite will never go hungry.
Friday, September 16, 2011
We had a lot of fun rolling our own chocolate truffles at our blog meeting last night. Although these decadent treats are a breeze to make, their success is dependent on the quality of ingredients. Try to get the best quality chocolate you can without breaking the bank; personally I like Trader Joe's Pound Plus dark chocolate bars.
Dark Chocolate Truffles
1 pound dark chocolate
1 cup cream
1/3 cup sugar (or more, or less depending on how sweet the chocolate is)
Around 1/3 cup cocoa powder
Optional: cinnamon, anise, cayenne pepper, raspberry puree, coffee etc
Crush or cut the chocolate into tiny pieces.
Heat the cream and sugar, stirring constantly, right to the point where it starts to boil. Then add the vanilla, and any other flavorings.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.
Stir until mixed.
Refrigerate for 3 hours.
Roll into balls and coat with cocoa powder.
|These delicacies are in fact a breeze to make!|
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Penn Park Opening Night
What: Come to Penn Park's grand opening and enjoy food, life entertainment, club sports and fireworks!
Who: Various food vendors
When: Thursday September 15th, 5-7:30 pm
Where: Penn Park
In The Small Kitchen Book Signing
What: Meet-n-greet, food tasting and book signing and presentation of the cookbook In The Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes From Our Year of Cooking in the Real World. You can check out the blog here.
Who: Food bloggers Cara and Phoebe
Where: Penn Bookstore
When: September 16th at 3pm
University City Sustainable Saturday
What: A"Sustainable Saturday"celebration at various locations throughout the neighborhood. Top picks include an apple cider tour and tasting at Bartram's garden, a home brewing competition at Dock Street Brewery and a tour of Mariposa Food Co-op's new building, which will be opening this fall. For a complete list of events, go here: http://www.universitycity.org/sustainable-saturdays
Who: Bartram garden, Dock Street Brewery, Mariposa Food Co-op, JG Domestic, The Restaurant School
Where: Various locations around University City
When: September 17th
What: Over 100 restaurants across the city are offering $35 three-course dinners. Reservations suggested.
Who: Check out the list of participating restaurants here: http://www.centercityphila.org/life/RWRestaurants.php
When: September 12th-16th and September 18th-23rd
Distrito Student Specials
What: Distrito is currently offering a 20% back to school discount for individuals with any form of college ID (students, professors, administrators) until the end of September. In addition they are offering specials every Monday for Monday Night Football as well as discounts during all home sports games.
Where: 40th and Chestnut
When: Month of September
What: Khyber Pass Pub is having "Wednesdays for Women" where they will donate a percentage of food sales to the Up the Volume Foundation for gynecologic cancer research. Check out our review of Khyber Pass Pub here.
Where: 56 S. Second Street
When: Every Wednesday in September, 6-7pm
Philly Homegrown is a project sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation that aims to persuade people here to buy their food locally, that is, from within the Philly “foodshed” that reaches from Lancaster County to the Jersey Shore. This goal involves publicizing and expanding the existing local food movement as well as partnering with other organizations to ensure that more consumers (including restaurants) are sourcing local. Philly Homegrown’s newest push is in conjunction with Center City Restaurant Week (September 12-23). When you’re out taking advantage of Restaurant Week’s deals this year, a tiny red tractor logo will appear next to menu items that are made from local ingredients, giving you the option to make your dinner about more than just tasty, affordable eating. For a short tour through some of what Philadelphia’s local food movement has to offer, I spent a little time in the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market, followed by a trip to try Garces Trading Company’s Restaurant Week lunch menu. Read more about Philly Homegrown here.
Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market
The Rittenhouse Market is run by Farm to City, a Philadelphia company that also operates farmers’ markets in Mt. Airy, University City, Passyunk, and Walnut Hill, among other neighborhoods. Farm to City’s founder, Bob Pierson, says he was inspired to start this business after a 1960s visit to Italy revealed a concept totally foreign to Americans then and especially now: most Italians knew where their food came from, so specifically that they often argued over which farm was the best to buy from. With this ideology in mind, Pierson insists on supporting only local vendors; if you’re not selling local products, his markets have no place for you. This means that purchasing your groceries from the Rittenhouse Market is an easy and delicious way to champion regional agriculture and industry, and to give back to the community instead of lining big national corporations’ pockets.
Because I visited the market on a Tuesday, there were only a few white tents clustered around the corner of 18th and Walnut. On Saturdays, though, the market stretches for a block in two directions, offering everything from fruit and vegetables to eggs and beef. One of the stands I tried was John & Kira’s chocolates, a great example of a local company that makes a point of sourcing many of its ingredients in the city and its surrounding areas. Some of the chocolates are even named after the purveyors of the farms their centers came from: “Glenn’s Raspberry” takes its label from Farmer Glenn in Gap, PA. The mint in the Urban Garden Bars is grown—you guessed it—in urban gardens. One of these is the Urban Nutrition Initiative’s School Garden, right here in West Philly.
This is all highly admirable: the glossy brochures littered with origin stories for every flavor, bright wrappers printed with information about the community-oriented gardens that made the chocolate possible, an ethos that is open and persistently environmentally friendly. But how does it taste? The dark chocolate-dipped figs pumped full of whiskey ganache are gooey and sweet in all the right ways; it’s kind of like eating a bite-size Christmas ornament shaped candy. And if you were laboring under the misapprehension that artificial mint extracts are just fine in chocolates, I’m here to set the record straight. You can taste the fresh mint so vividly it’s like a real mint leaf were under your nose. It makes a world of positive difference in flavor, and if you care about desserts, it’ll probably blow you away. John & Kira’s also has cute, vibrant packaging; the little ladybug (raspberry) and bumblebee (lavender and honey) painted chocolates are nestled in red and green boxes tied with twine.
Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market
18th and Walnut
Saturdays, year-round, 9am-3pm
Tuesdays, (until November), 10am-1pm
More information here.
Garces Trading Company’s Restaurant Week Lunch
Garces Trading Company’s lunch menu has the distinction of being almost completely locally sourced; only the dessert course offers no local option. I chose the cheese plate for the first course, an entirely local dish, featuring two wedges of soft cheese and a house-made honey condiment to pair it with. The cheese and honey went together well; my only complaint would be that it was a fairly small portion, and only one type of cheese was given. For the second course, I had the grilled organic black pearl salmon, with a golden heirloom potato salad, hefty chunks of bacon, romesco and green onions. It was a tad too salty but otherwise overflowing with complementary, and not competing, flavors. The dessert, a pumpkin cake, was a bit heavy on the spice, although the silky texture was lovely. If you’re heading to Garces Trading Company for lunch this week, definitely go for the salmon, but order the chocolate panna cotta instead of the pumpkin cake.
Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Tuesday, September 13 | 6:00 - 7:00 pm | Huntsman Hall, Room G60
Come by to learn about opportunities in:
. . . and to enjoy some free (good) food! All members of the Penn community are welcome.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Tucked away on the 10th floor of the Venetian Resort, Hotel, and Casino is Bouchon. American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer Thomas Keller helms Bouchon, which opened at the Venetian in 2004. After great success—multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, Michelin Guide, and Restaurant Magazine—with his landmark Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, California, he joined forces with his brother Joseph (currently owner/chef of Josef’s in Las Vegas). Together, they opened the Yountville location of Bouchon in 1998, subsequently opening the Las Vegas location in 2004 and the Beverly Hills location in 2009. Keller explained that “Bouchon is based on [his] memories of the amazing bistros [he] would frequent while traveling in France, such as Chez Paul and Hugon, where they serve meals almost family-style in very small dining rooms. Oftentimes the husband cooks and the wife greets and serves. First courses, headcheese, or a charcuterie plate may be passed from table to table. These neighborhood places serving simple, traditional dishes in a home-like atmosphere provided the model for what [he] hoped to create in Yountville.”
“Bouchon” is actually a term describing a type of restaurant found in Lyon, France, known for serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. Dishes are commonly quite fatty and heavily oriented around meat, such as sausages, duck pâté, or roast pork. Not all the dishes at Keller’s Bouchon are overrun with lipids, fortunately. His goal was to showcase his favorite French bistro food at a restaurant more casual than The French Laundry, where he could “explore and deepen the culinary heritage that [he] admires so much.”
The meal began with bread and butter. This was no ordinary bread and butter, though. The epi bread was shaped like a shaft of wheat, its leaves easy to peel off and consume. It was perfectly crusty on the outside, light and chewy on the inside. Each bite was imbued with flavor. It reminded me of the amazing baguettes I ate every day when I visited Paris; I thought I wouldn’t be able to find this type of bread anywhere outside of France! The butter, served in a ramekin, was top-notch. Its rich, creamy taste and texture paired perfectly with the bread. They were also accompanied with pistachios warm from the oven, a way of cooking the nuts that had never occurred to me before. (From now on, I’ll always pop my pistachios in the microwave for 20 seconds!)
My dining companion and I shared the appetizer special, a Dungeness crab salad. The crab was mixed with only the barest hint of crème fraiche and chives. You could tell this was practically pure crabmeat. The mixture was piled high in a glass container and topped with a smooth avocado puree, then served on a wooden board accompanied by roasted tomatoes, toasted brioche, and more crème fraiche and avocado puree. The different textures and flavors worked together seamlessly. Our waiter suggested using the salad as a spread on our toast points, so spread we did! The crab was extremely fresh; the two other ingredients in the “salad” only helped bind the many shreds and pieces of crab together and hardly detracted from the overall straight-from-the-sea flavor. With the brioche as a baseline, the avocado provided creamy depth and the tomatoes left a smoky, acidic punch.
At last, our entrees came! I went with the special of the day, a skirt steak served with English peas, turnips, eggplant frites, and cheese fondue. The meat was incredibly tender and sliced as easily as butter. It was absolutely succulent, oozing with juices and rich with flavor. The seasonings used, although simple, were just the right amount and accentuated the savory beefiness of the meat. (My mouth’s watering just writing about it!) I didn’t care for the eggplant frites so much (each was about the size of a string cheese stick and rather plain in taste compared to the rest of the fare) nor the cheese fondue (although velvety, it was too thin and didn’t adhere to the frites very well). However, the rest of the food we dined on more than made up for that little hiccup. My companion went with steak-frites, classic French bistro fare. I can honestly say that these were the best French fries I’ve ever eaten. Thinly cut—practically shoestring—and salted just enough to draw out the potato’s natural flavor, the fries had the perfect crisp exterior with a soft interior that melted in your mouth. The pile served with her dish towered over her steak (quite the impressive feat), so I was quite happy to help her demolish the stack. She quite enjoyed her steak as well, a pan-seared prime flatiron topped with caramelized shallots and a thick round pat of maître d'hôtel butter.
We didn’t have room for dessert, although I wish we did! The menu included sweet offerings like Marquise au Chocolat (dark chocolate mousse with burnt orange cream), Ile Flottante (meringue with vanilla crème anglaise, almond, and caramel), and Profiteroles (filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce). Luckily, they have a related kiosk downstairs known as Bouchon Bakery, which serves up breakfast treats (i.e. croissants, pain au raisin), lunch offerings (i.e. sandwiches, quiches, salads), and after-meal treats (the true stars of the place! i.e. French macarons, tarts, éclairs, chocolate brownie-like bouchons). Their oatmeal raisin and double chocolate chunk cookies are phenomenal. Needless to say, we frequented the bakery many times during our stay in Las Vegas.
Our Bouchon experience was unforgettable. From the refined brasserie interior to the impeccable service to the wonderful food, this special place is worthy of its acclaimed recognition.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Supper prides itself on fresh, local, seasonally driven cooking, and the restaurant’s aesthetic mirrors its mission. It’s bright, saturated with sunlight from the large windows that look out on South Street. The look is about elegant, rustic simplicity: the honey-colored shelves with burnished handles and knickknacks casually perched atop it; dark, sleek chairs; a richly varnished hardwood floor. Supper’s hope for both its food and its décor is that it embodies an “urban farmhouse” ideal: a city space that’s firmly grounded in the field.
Since opening, Supper has carved a reliable niche amongst its small-plate, locavore competitors. The New York Times raved about it recently in an article about the unexpected glamor and appeal of the Philly food scene; Inquirer critic Craig Laban was a big fan back in 2008. Penn Appetit has weighed in too, with a printed review in 2007 and a recipe feature of the carrot-marshmallow soup.
Because of its seasonally motivated mores, Supper’s offerings change shape often. I enjoyed a three-course meal (not the special vegetarian option, though it was tempting), of a “first,” “plate” and dessert, the terms Supper uses to divvy up the menu. The chilled soup was a corn and coconut mash-up, poured at the table over radish slivers and parsley. While the ingredients were married well, the soup lacked punch and needed salt. The portion is quite large, and unfortunately by the last spoonful, it becomes a bit bland. The “supper burger,” a ½ pound of brisket with bacon, gruyere, caramelized onions was juicy and perfectly charred, and topped with a vividly orange slice of tomato. Of course, there’s nothing adventurous about combining beef, onions, cheese and bacon—they’ll always be good together, no matter their sources.
The dessert captured my imagination where the entrée had failed to. The “dense” chocolate cake looks more like a chocolate bar than a wedge of cake. Its decadence is not to be overstated. The dessert is brushed with crystals of sea salt and sits on a smear of caramel sauce (my friend described it accurately when she said it tasted like “a melted Werther’s candy”) and paired with vanilla sherbet, which offsets the silky richness of the cake. A delicate wheel of a cocoa wafer pokes out of the top like a lacy flag. There’s a lot going on, but as with Marcie Turney’s award-winning budino, which it shares flavors with, the elements unify beautifully.
The waiter was amiable and helpful—and allowed us to linger over our scraped-clean plates. It’s nice not to feel as if you’re being hurried out of your seat; nothing kills an attempt to savor slowly like assembly line dining. In the end, this is Supper’s best achievement. They've created an environment that’s homey and warm, filled it with tasty, comforting dishes, and allow their customers to revel in the delight of both.
926 South St