Monday, October 31, 2011

Seven Layer Bars: Heaven in a Dessert

Warning: you should discontinue reading this if you are the type of person who will take a bite of dessert and then stop eating it. With seven layer bars, you will be tempted to eat the entire pan. Good news is, this is the easiest and most delicious recipe you will ever make. For all those college students who cannot manage to put together an apple tar tar tan (I do not blame you), this is the perfect dessert for you.

Growing up, this was the one recipe that my brothers and I could make without my mother. We just threw everything into a pan (sometimes arguing over which ingredient we each got to add), and in 35 minutes we had a delicious dessert. So, since I know at this point you must be on your toes about what the seven ingredients are, I will go ahead and list them. Butter, graham crackers, semisweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. The recipe could not be simpler. First, you add one stick of melted butter to the bottom of the pan. Then, sprinkle the graham crackers on top. Afterward, toss the semisweet chocolate chips on top followed by the butterscotch chips. Next, add the chopped walnuts and the coconut. Lastly, the sweetened condensed milk is poured on top sealing all of the ingredients into one, flawless dessert. The different textures of the coconut, chocolate, walnuts, and graham crackers combined with the sweetness of the condensed milk makes for that perfect gooey bite that will melt in your mouth.

So, next time you want to impress your roommate or significant other with an exquisite but scrumptious dessert, pull out this recipe (or just remember it like I do). Trust me, they will think you spent hours on the intricate layers. One last suggestion, this is the perfect break-up food. You will eat the entire pan and never look back on your ex. All in all, I am ever endowed to the genius that created this recipe and after trying it, you will be too.


1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of graham crackers
1 normal sized bag of semisweet chocolate chips
1 smaller bag of butterscotch chips
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 cup of coconut
1 can of sweetened condensed milk


Layer the ingredients (starting with the melted butter, and ending with the sweetened condensed milk in 9x13 pan. Bake it for 35-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

As the air becomes colder and Halloween creeps closer, my thoughts turn to earthy fall foods. Squash, in particular, is foremost on my mind. Thoughts of delicious roast acorn squash and delectable butternut squash soup make my mouth water. Pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream sounds like a realistic dinner option (okay, most things smothered in whipped cream sound pretty good to me but pie is especially appealing). Carving pumpkins certainly crosses my mind also, but since I don't usually eat my carved pumpkins this does not hold quite the same appeal.

Butternut squash was not always so high on my most-sought-after fall foods list. Its rich flavor and texture were despicable to my childhood palate and it wasn't until high school that I really started loving it. The turning point? While babysitting my neighbor during freshman year of high school, I was left butternut squash ravioli with sweet brown butter to heat up in the microwave for dinner. My young charge ate about three raviolis before deciding that she was ready for dessert, and I felt bad letting so much pasta go to waste. I tried half a ravioli, then the other half, and then finished the bowl. How could I have avoided this delicious food for so long?

Imagine my dismay when I realized that my small dorm kitchenette did not have an oven. Preparing squash without roasting it at all was something that I had never done before, and hadn't really considered before this predicament. Fresh Grocer also did not seem to have any delicious ready-made butternut squash ravioli. However, I couldn't let that stop me from eating one of my favorite fall foods. A risotto recipe from held the cure to my squash cravings in a preparation that was totally oven-free. Although a bit skeptical about whether or not this would work, I decided to ignore my misgivings and try the recipe with some slight modifications. The results, I'm happy to report, were deliciously squashy and pleased even my previously-doubtful tastebuds.


4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced
1.5 cups mushrooms (whatever kind you like- I just used sliced white button mushrooms)
1.5 cups butternut squash, diced (pumpkin can also be used if you prefer)
1.5 cups Arborio rice
4-5 cups chicken stock
Small bunch of fresh parsley, minced
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Olive oil


1. Put about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/8 stick butter into a very large sauce-pan/similar large, not too deep pan
2. Add garlic and onions and stir gently for several minutes
3. Add rice and stir until completely coated in oil, about 1 minute
4. Add butternut squash, mushrooms, and 1 cup of chicken stock*
5. Stir frequently until chicken stock is totally absorbed, then continue adding one cup at a time and stirring frequently until the rice is tender (25-35 minutes)
6. When rice is done, add parsley as well as salt, pepper and Parmesan to taste
6. Serve and enjoy!

*keeping the chicken stock warm will help the rice absorb it more quickly

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food Events @ Penn

Robert Mondavi Prize Pack Giveaway!
What: You have until 7pm to enter our giveaway contest! The giveaway will include Ted Allen's cookbook, “The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes,” a water bottle, a keychain, and an apron. Check out instructions here.
When: Thursday, October 27th 7pm

Halloween Extravaganza at Cantina Dos Segundos
What: Cantina Dos Segundos will be serving spooky snacks all day, followed by a night of drink specials and $2 tacos starting at 7pm and DJ-ed music starting at 10pm.
Where: 931 N 2nd St., Northern Liberties
When: Monday, October 31st; 11am to 2am

Halloween "Mischief Night" at Cantina Los Caballitos
What: Cantina Los Caballitos, a neighborhood bar and restaurant in South Philly, will be hosting a Halloween costume contest all day, followed by a fiesta with music, refreshments and special fiesta fare!
Where: 1651 East Passyunk Ave, South Philly
When: Sunday October 30th all day, with the fiesta lasting from 10 pm-2 am

Oh, You Bake
What: The Green Line Cafe will be hosting baking classes meeting every Monday for eight weeks or one-time thematic classes every Tuesday. Next Tuesday will be teaching cupcakes, and the week after jams and preserves. More info here.
Where: 4239 Baltimore Avenue
When: Every Monday and Tuesday for the next eight weeks
Cost: $50 for each Tuesday class, $400 for the Monday eight-week course

Up in Smoke
What: Varga Bar will be hosting a roast of an array of local chicken, pork and lamb and autumnal side dishes.
Where: 10th and Spruce
When: Saturday October 29th, 1-8pm
Cost: $25 for your choice of meat and two side dishes

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There's a New Yogorino in Town!

Ok, so full disclosure, I work at Yogorino so this post is going to be a bit biased. I hope you'll forgive that and just be excited about this announcement like I am.

There is a new Yogorino now open at 12th and Walnut! The soft opening this past weekend was well attended and well received. The grand opening this Wednesday is sure to be one of the biggest events in the frozen yogurt community.

Yogorino is an Italian company which made its debut in the United States a little over two years ago right here in Philadelphia. While it is still not well known throughout the country the company is slowly opening up new locations as itbegins its quest to bring real, Italian frozen yogurt and gelato to the American market.

The newest Yogorino to open is also here in Philly. However, this store is different than all the others opened in the US so far. This store is the first to offer both frozen yogurt and gelato. For the soft opening this past weekend there were over 10 flavors to choose from including Bacio, Chocolate, Pistacchio, Pastrocchio Wafer, Tiramisu, Barley, Dark Cherry Pastrocchio, Fior di Latte, Stratchetella, Nutella Pastrocchio, Hazelnut, and Raspberry in a free gelato giveaway. Customers flocked to the store and were treated to gelato that some called "to die for," and "pure perfection." One enthusiastic customer even said "It's as good as the gelato I had in Italy, if not better." While I've never been to Italy, this gelato made me feel like I was getting a little taste of Italy. I wanted to try all the flavors but was only able to try three because I felt bad eating more when there were so many people in line anxiously awaiting their free gelato.

Each flavor of the gelato is created by mixing a simple, creamy, delicious base flavor with different added flavorings and mix-ins. One flavor that I tried and fell in love with is called Pastrocchio Wafer which added chocolate wafers and a decadent chocolate swirl to the base flavor. It was the perfect mix of chocolate, wafer and the delicate flavor of the gelato. The other two flavors I had were Hazelnut and Nutella Pastrocchio. They were both excellent as well the first being a subtle and tasty hazelnut flavor with chopped hazelnuts on top and the second being basically gelato with a Nutella swirl. (Need I say more?)

Yogorino's yogurt is already regarded as some of the best in Philly (In fact it won Best of Philly in 2010). With the new addition of gelato it is gaining an even bigger reputation for its sinfully delicious Italian confections. Yogorino takes its products seriously. They even flew in an Italian gelato artisan to teach us how to make the gelato. Let me tell you, this guy is the real deal. He doesn't speak a word of English so he needs a translator (my boss speaks Italian so she fills this role) and he really knows what he is doing. He treats the gelato like he would treat his child, with care and love, gently folding in the chocolate, softly mixing in the wafers and other additions. I was so pleased to see him at work that I was speechless. The concoction would go in and just minutes later out came this beautiful snowy white gelato. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water.

For those of you who already know and love Yogorino, trust me, you are going to want to check this place out. The new store is bright and has a very cool feel to it; I could spend an hour just looking at it and marveling at its beauty. Plus, with both the yogurt you already know and love and the addition of gelato, how could anything be better?

For those of you who have never been to the old Yogorino, take a trip downtown to 12th and Walnut to see this place (and eat the gelato and yogurt of course!). You will not be disappointed, I promise.

The grand opening today, Wednesday the 26th so make sure you get over there and check it out! Regular hours will begin starting that day so head on over this weekend too if you want.

1205 Walnut Street

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A "Wine"derful Time with Robert Mondavi Winery (TASTE Philadelphia Pt. II)

The 6th Annual Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour made its final stop in Philadelphia for the 2nd Annual TASTE Philadelphia Festival. The wine tour aims to bring “the Napa Valley wine country experience to wine lovers across the United States” through various educational seminars and interactive stations. At TASTE, Mondavi set up a Napa-inspired tasting pavilion with details down to the very last trellis. I was fortunate enough to attend a cooking demonstration with Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s “Chopped,” and participate in an intimate wine tasting session.

My evening began with the delicious cooking demo, complete with excellent samples. Ted has been a Robert Mondavi Private Selection Food and Wine Ambassador for five years running; his enthusiasm for the role was evident as soon as he took the mic. After explaining his passion for Mondavi Winery, he engaged the fifty-person audience in a toast and soon took center stage in the makeshift kitchen. He happily answered questions from the audience and offered helpful tidbits of advice throughout the demo, from identifying the best steak to serve “blue” (a.k.a. very, very rare) (after much thought, he suggested a filet) to encouraging chefs at home to “taste as they go” to produce the best dishes.

For this festival’s demonstration, he prepared corn salad and grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. The corn salad included its namesake ingredient, beefsteak tomatoes, garlic, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. The salad was crisp and refreshing; the plump corn kernels had a sweet juiciness, while the other components meshed to satisfy my taste buds. It reminded me of summer; it would be the perfect side to bring to a backyard barbecue.

Ted next prepared the chimichurri sauce—which I always think of as an Argentinean pesto—for the steak. After humorously warning us about the “obscene amount of seasonings” he was about to use, he blended parsley, chervil, cilantro, red wine vinegar, red wine, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. This produced a thick, herby paste with a vibrant green hue. Moving on to the steak, he suggested seasoning the steak “aggressively with salt and pepper” to bring out the flavor. He insisted that it should not be cooked long: at most, it should be medium-rare. It took under five minutes for the steak to cook perfectly, after which it was left to sit for a few moments so the juices could absorb into the meat. The skirt steak was extremely flavorful, but the true star was the chimichurri sauce. Each ingredient shone through, enveloping my tongue in garlicky goodness. It inspired me to make the recipe at home myself!

In addition to the cooking demo, the audience was able to sample two wines from Robert Mondavi’s Private Selection. We tried the Meritage (sounds like “heritage”), which was a “classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc that offers lavish black fruit flavors, a plush texture, and supple tannins.” This dark wine was contrasted by a white Chardonnay with “enticing fruit flavors and floral aromas.” The “partial barrel fermentation and sur lie aging” during the winemaking process incorporated “just a hint of oak through the silky texture and lingering finish.” Everyone acted as true wine connoisseurs as they gently swirled their glasses, took a deep sniff to soak up the aroma, and sipped away to their heart's content.

An exclusive blogger tasting followed the largely attended cooking demo. I was guided through four different wines, learning about the production process and the best way to navigate each tasting. At a small wooden table set up for the tasting, the three of us were introduced to two red and two white wines, my favorite of which was the Chardonnay, which I could imagine pairing with a pecan and herb encrusted grilled salmon, an excellent food and wine experience indeed. It has been well established that Robert Mondavi was an innovator in Napa Valley’s early wine industry, introducing to California the cold fermentation process and the use of stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels, a mix of new technology and beloved tradition. A lesser known fact is that he did not launch his winemaking business until the age of 53, proving that it is never too late to follow your passion. His passion: sharing his love of food, wine, and art with family and friends. Interestingly, the representative from Robert Mondavi Winery seemed to follow a parallel path: he switched careers and has found great joy in becoming a wine expert. It seems that we could all learn a lesson from their stories about following our dreams. It was a unique opportunity to engage in such an intimate wine tasting experience and to get a sense of Robert Mondavi’s philosophy, “drink what you like, and like what you drink.”

I greatly enjoyed my time at the TASTE Festival, especially my Mondavi experiences. Thank you to Robert Mondavi Winery for giving me the opportunity to partake in such great sessions!

Don’t forget about Penn Appetit’s Mondavi prize pack giveaway! Contest ends on Thursday, October 27, at 7 pm; contest rules can be found here.

A Taste of Home

I love fall break because I get to spend time with my family, relax, and enjoy all the comforts of home. But I also love fall break because of the food- specifically, my mom’s food. While I’m at school, I always miss eating fish, so on the way home the Friday of fall break, we stopped at the local fish market. When we finally made it back home, I first admired our kitchen. After several weeks cooking in a tiny kitchen in Rodin, it seemed unbelievably spacious. More than a few square feet of counter space, a big stove that can comfortably fit several large pots and pans, and a massive sink. The sink was what I missed the most. Who knew that I could love a sink so much? In the couple of hours before dinner, I also took advantage of the fruit collection in the fridge and enjoyed some Crenshaw melon and grapes. Nothing like a delicious afternoon snack!

When it was time to make dinner, there was double the excitement. First, my mom and I made the arctic char we had bought at the fish market with sautéed mushrooms and asparagus with a sauce of made from sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. While sauteing the char, we simultaneously baked sheet after sheet of cookies. My mom had made the dough for these "everything cookies" (comprising of chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, and oats) in advance and let in sit in the fridge for thirty-six hours. A couple of years ago, there was an article in the New York Times about how to make the best chocolate chip cookies (best article ever), and one of the insights that the crusading journalistic team uncovered was that refrigerating cookie dough for at least 36 hours in advance makes for better cookies. As a result, even when we’re not making the cookie recipe from the New York Times, we always try to let cookie dough sit in the fridge. Of course, sometimes this can be really hard. When I make cookies, I normally want to eat them, not wait a couple days. However, this time I was lucky since my mom had made the dough in advance. I got to eat them on the first night home: a delicious dessert after a great dinner.

After four days of good food, I was back at school making my own meals again. Of course, I did manage to bring a few bags of food back with me, so tonight I’m enjoying a taste of home: an "everything cookie" taken from my stash in the freezer. Of course, that’s served up with a heaping side of work, but it’s delicious all the same.

The everything cookie recipe we use is Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookies recipe. You can find it here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Study Breaks: Coffee Shop Edition

While many residents of the northeast are savoring the crisp fall air and idyllic trips to the apple orchard, Penn students are visiting the library in droves. Midterm season is upon us and with that comes important decisions: where to study and where to snack. While libraries are the obvious choice, I like to mix it up every now and then with a visit to a coffee shop. Studying in a coffee shop offers an entirely different intellectual experience. Instead of feeling trapped in a library, you are an intellectual expanding your mind in a cozy setting. You seem at once hardworking, sophisticated and classy. In short, coffee shop studying is a win-win situation.

A good study snack is satisfying but quick, a real escape that won’t take hours to consume. My first recommendation is Metropolitan Bakery at 40th and Walnut, more specifically, their chocolate chip dried cherry cookie with sea salt (pictured). Metropolitan Bakery has the added perks of staying open until 7 pm and a 10% Unieats discount. I also recommend the pound cake. It’s deceptively simple but refreshingly delicious.

Another worthwhile spot is Café Clave, located at 43rd and Locust. While this University City destination is a bit of a trek for some students (ahem Hill/King’s Court), the added walk ensures that you will work for a solid few hours, so as not to have wasted your journey. Café Clave is a place to settle in and get stuff done. My GA introduced my suite to Café Clave, and it’s a real treasure. The best part is the little known quiet back room, which features desks, chairs and outlets aplenty. It’s a perfect place to study while the front room is good for chatting or working. Outdoor tables are nice during warmer months. The coffee is good and they are famous for their empanadas, which run out quickly. I recommend their parfaits and grilled cheeses (although definitely not together) with an iced coffee.

Lastly, and not to be overlooked are on-campus coffee shops, notably Williams Café. As a humanities student, I visit Williams Hall at least four times a week. Its central location makes Williams Café the perfect spot to grab a snack and coffee during the day, filling those awkward half hour breaks between classes. Grab some coffee (it’s La Colombe, not Starbucks) and one of their notoriously flaky croissants and grab a seat, either in the Café or Silfen Study Center. Newspapers are readily available, and a few minutes of relaxation or reading does wonders for a stressful day. Even better, there are opportunities for free stuff with punch cards that give a free small or medium drink every 10 drinks. For the social media savvy, you can follow @WilliamsCafe on Twitter to find out about free drink giveaways (the first one is this week).

School is stressful. Routines are easy to establish but hard to break. Deviate from your routine just once; study at a coffee shop; try a new flavor of tea; spend 10 minutes eating a croissant and just thinking. A little study break makes all the difference.

Tasting Our Way Through TASTE Philadelphia

This past Friday, October 21, was the kick-off evening to the 2nd Annual TASTE Philadelphia Festival of Food, Wine and Spirits. Located at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, the festival hosted more than 150 stations over the course of the weekend, featuring food, liquors, and more from regionally renowned restaurants and brands. My friend Amy and I had the exciting opportunity to attend this delicious event. Below are some of our favorites of the evening:

Seasons 52 had the best desserts of the night by far. Their decadent yet surprisingly low-calorie “Mini Indulgences” are served parfait-style in shot-size glasses, inspired by the French layered dessert known as a verrine. That evening, they had crowd favorites on hand: Key Lime Pie, Rocky Road, Red Velvet, and Pumpkin Pie with Double Gingersnap Crust. Each elegant dessert was a piece of art with the greatest attention to detail. The parfaits were sumptuous and full-bodied, flawlessly capturing the essence of their original namesake desserts. The citrusy Key Lime was stellar; it had a refreshing zesty flavor that would be the perfect ending to any meal.

The first thing we noticed upon arriving at Sweet Addiction was their festive Halloween décor. Their tables were decked out in colorful orange and black, with their candies appropriately designed to fit the upcoming holiday. They specialized in treats involving chocolate, and for good reason: their chocolate was milky and smooth. Crunchy pretzel clusters, creamy giant peanut butter cups, chunky peanut clusters, and more came in both milk and dark chocolate varieties, all tempting my wallet to become much lighter.

Peanut Butter and Co. had a vast variety of their namesake nut butters on hand. There were more than just your normal smooth or crunchy types. The Heat is On brings in fiery spices to the mix, while The Bee’s Knees includes scrumptious honey. Our favorites were the Dark Chocolate Dreams, featuring peanut butter swirled with rich dark chocolate; Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, incorporating aromatic cinnamon and plump raisins; and Mighty Maple, blending peanuts with sweet Vermont maple syrup. All the additions complemented the peanut butter’s natural nutty taste, which would certainly make for a unique PB&J. Plus, each purchase came in an adorable tote bag emblazoned with a picture of their Dark Chocolate Dreams jar!

Mama’s Famous BBQ Sauces embodied true Southern flavor and hospitality. With its Texas-raised owner bringing the mouthwatering BBQ sauces she grew up with to the public, Mama’s offers a wide selection of flavors to tantalize your taste buds. The owner pays the greatest attention to detail, keeping her samples warm over lit candles. My favorite was the savory-sweet pineapple sauce. The fruit added a nice tang that spread throughout the succulent marinade; it’d be perfect seasoning meat/poultry or eaten by itself.

Quite the original assortment of cookies could be found at Cookie Confidential. Beyond your standard chocolate chip, we sampled such options as the Cheese Steak (dehydrated grass fed beef and dehydrated red onions mingled in a cheesy cheddar cookie, topped off with sweet tomato cream cheese) and Sriracha Mango (a sweet, savory, and spicy mix composed of its namesake ingredients). These were extremely bizarre flavor combinations and I was a little wary of what to expect; I can handle Bacon Chocolate Chip, but dehydrated beef and sriracha? I couldn’t taste anything past the cheesiness in the former, but the latter had a fruity sweetness followed by a mild kick.

More tasty offerings we encountered that evening:

Pick your poison… olive-oil style! Cape May Olive Oil Co.

Goat cheese and local grilled vegetables on whole-wheat flatbread. Becca’s Restaurant.

Salts and sugars for all your cooking needs. Cape May Olive Oil Co.

Liqueur-enriched cakes, from Mango Coconut Rum to Amaretto. Full Spirited Flavours.

Award-winning Canela Tres Leches cupcakes. Sweet Spot Co.

See tomorrow’s post to read Amy’s recap of Robert Mondavi Wine Tour’s exclusive experiences!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Robert Mondavi Prize Pack Giveaway

Two of Penn Appetit's writers had the exciting opportunity to attend this weekend's TASTE Food and Wine Festival in Valley Forge. (Recap of the festivities will be up tomorrow!) In honor of their "Discover Wine" Tour (an exhibit at the festival), Robert Mondavi Wine is offering Penn Appetit readers an exclusive prize package! The giveaway will include Ted Allen's cookbook, “The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes,” a water bottle, a keychain, and an apron.

For a chance to win, describe the best wine and food pairing you've had lately in 140 characters or less in the comments or tweet us on Twitter.

To increase your chances of winning, you can also:

● “Like” Mondavi wines on Facebook
● “Like” Penn Appetit on Facebook
● Send a tweet to @pennappetit and @RobertMondavi

We will pick a winner by Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 pm!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gourmet Mac and Cheese at Its Finest

Out of all of my culinary discoveries in New York City last weekend, S’MAC was my favorite. S’MAC, which is short for Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, is located in Manhattan and opened in June of 2006. Since that time, this East Village eatery has attracted thousands of customers, like myself, who have fallen in love with the decadent macaroni served at this establishment. Strolling into the store, I was immediately impressed with the hip orange and yellow décor, whose color scheme hinted at the scrumptious macaroni that I was about to consume. After glancing at the menu for a few seconds, I immediately knew what I was going to order—the 4 Cheese. Considering my love for cheese, my menu selection was a no brainer. However, S’MAC’s menu features a variety of options for those who are not as attached to cheese as myself. Regardless of your food preferences, an item on the menu is sure to appeal to you.

● Are you a lover of Italian cuisine? Try the Napoletana (fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, fresh basil) or Mediterranean (goat cheese, sautéed spinach, kalamata olives, and roasted olives).
● Trying to get all of your veggies in for the day? Go for the Garden Lite (lite cheddar, parmesan, roasted cauliflower, portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, broccoli, and scallions).
● Do you consider yourself a carnivore? You can’t go wrong with the Cheeseburger (American, cheddar, and seasoned ground beef.
● Are you not feeling adventurous? No worries, stick with the All-American (American and cheddar).
● Do none of these categories accurately describe you? Then design your own macaroni dish by choosing a size, up to two cheeses, and three mix-ins.

Not only does S’MAC’s cater to different taste buds but the eatery has vegan, reduced lactose, and gluten-free options as well.

After selecting my preferred variety of macaroni, I then had to choose a size. Since I knew I was going to get frozen yogurt (my other food obsession) after eating at S’MAC’s, I opted for the smallest size which is Nosh. However, if you aren’t saving room for dessert or can’t enough of the cheesy goodness, then order the Major Munch or Mongo size.

After paying for my food at the counter, I sat down and after a few minutes, a friendly server brought my food out in a warm skillet. I took one bite, and the rest is history... the comfort of the quintessential food of childhood returned to me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food Events @ Penn

Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour
What: Cooking demonstrations and tips by Food Network "Chopped" host Ted Allen, a Robert Mondovi Private Selection Food & Wine Ambassador, who continues to engage with consumers and solve - and simplify - the food and wine pairing mystery. Along with Ted at the Robert Mondavi Winery’s Napa-inspired tasting pavilion will be educational seminars and other interactive events all communicating Robert Mondavi’s message that wine is for everyone, not just connoisseurs and sommeliers.
This is part of the TASTE Philadelphia Food & Wine Festival; more information about the weekend festival below.
Where: Valley Forge Convention Center
When: October 21

2011 TASTE Philadelphia Food & Wine Festival
What: A festival celebrating food, wine and spirits featuring cooking demonstrations and live music. Get tickets here
Where: Valley Forge Convention Center
When: October 21-23
Cost: Varies by day. $10 off with discount code "samba."

Women of Beer
What: Celebrate The Women of Beer and benefit breast cancer as Midatlantic welcomes the ladies of Stoudts, Allagash, Dogfish Head, Victory, Ommegang and Rogue. Please contact Midatlantic to make reservations for the 8-course beer-paired dinner.
Where: Midatlantic Restaurant, 3711 Market Street
When: Tuesday, October 25
Cost: $150 per head all-inclusive, with $50 benefiting the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For the Cure

2nd Annual Great Meatball Match Up
What: Villa di Roma, Marabella Meatball Co., Village Belle, Pastaficio, Ikea, and more businesses will be on hand for this meatball tasting contest. Even amateurs get in on the meat/breadcrumb/minced onion action. Tasters can vote for their favorite in the pro category, while a special panel of judges will choose the best amateur meatball extraordinaire. More info here.
Where: American Swedish Historical Museum, 1900 Pattison Avenue
When: Sunday, October 23, 4-6 pm
Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $4 for ages 4-12

Photo courtesy of Marabella Meatball Co.

South Street Headhouse District Pumpkinland Event
What: Experience the city’s only downtown pumpkin patch at Pumpkinland, which aims to bring the farm to the city. From a petting zoo to balloon art, pumpkin decorating to pony rides, this is an event for the whole family to enjoy. More info available here.
Where: Headhouse Square, 2nd & Pine Streets
When: Saturday, October 29, 10 am – 1 pm
Cost: Free

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Best Ice Cream Ever: The Juice Bar

This review could be written in five words. The best ice cream ever. However, I will add some more detail to entice you a bit more.

The Juice Bar is the only scoop shop in Nantucket, Massachusetts that sells homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt. It is located on Broad Street, right near the Steamship Wharf, where the ferry dock is located. However, it is not just any ice cream shop; the word “delicious” does not do enough justice to the thick, creamy, and scrumptious ice cream that they serve.

I grew up going to Nantucket every summer, and going to The Juice Bar was definitely a highlight. It was a ritual for my family and I to wait in the long line out the door (if not down the street) during the summer. The sweet smell of the homemade waffle cones wafting out of the store lured us in each time. There is a large sign that displays all of the flavors each day (there are several flavors that are prepared fresh daily). My favorite flavors include chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter cup, coffee heath bar, blackberry, chocolate peanut butter cookie-dough, and mint chocolate chip. The coffee heath bar is definitely one of the Juice Bar’s most popular flavors. It is a low fat ice cream, but is unique because it does not taste like the typical Turkey Hill or Healthy Choice product that lacks the rich and smooth quality that the coffee heath bar flavor contains. Additionally, the blackberry ice cream is perfect for those who prefer a fruitier flavor. The blackberries are handpicked from local Nantucket farms and the fresh ingredients are apparent in just one single bite. The daily flavors are also mouthwatering and creative. Some examples have been Almond Joy, caramel cookie crunch, and peppermint stick.

I also cannot forget to discuss the homemade hot fudge. There is no doubt that it is the richest and most delicious hot fudge I have ever tasted. It is the perfect, indulgent treat that pairs perfectly with any ice cream. Just a drizzle will enhance the flavors and leave you in a dreamy and wondrous state.

One last thing. For those of you who are not huge fans of ice cream, their fresh squeezed juices and smoothies should not be missed. My personal favorite is the watermelon juice that is squeezed right in front of you. I do not know how they do it, but I promise that they use the sweetest watermelons to ever exist. It is the perfect refreshment on a hot, summer day.

Trust me, attending The Juice Bar will be the best ice cream experience you will ever have. It is a must to add to your itinerary next time you are in Nantucket!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

LaDurée and a Macaron Fad

Walking along the streets of New York over Fall Break, I was surprised to see a line forming outside one of the fashionable shops on Madison Avenue. The elegant gold letters above the door read “LaDURÉE” and the store window displayed a beautiful arrangement of pastel boxes and artfully arranged macarons. The inside was equally exciting, with gorgeous decorations and cases of macarons in a multitude of colors and flavors. Not being a tremendous macaron-connoisseur myself, I googled "macarons" and "LaDurée" to discover what was so particularly enticing about this store.

Macarons—not to be confused with coconut macaroons—are small cookies made principally of egg whites, sugar, and ground almonds. While the simple macaron biscuit dates to the 16th century, the sandwiched macaron filled with ganache was invented in the 20th century by LaDurée itself. The macaron has enjoyed enormous prestige in France and across Europe as a whole, although the United States generally has had less of an appreciation for them. However, recent days have seen a surge in American macaron consumption with shops opening across the country and Bon Appetit declaring the macaron “the new cupcake.” The New York LaDurée is the first to be opened in North America. Lines like the one I saw continue to form out the door even though it has been open since late August. One newspaper article even reported that a woman in labor had her husband stop on the way to the hospital to run into LaDurée and buy macarons.

Part of what makes the macaron so special is the variety of colors and flavors they come in. LaDurée invents a new flavor each season. Existing favorites include vanilla, pistachio, strawberry-mint, rose, chocolate, blackcurrant violet, and caramel with salted butter. The two seasonal New York flavors thus far have been green apple and cinnamon raisin. Each flavor also has a correspondingly unique color. Not all flavors are globally accepted, however. One variety, the licorice macaron, was not granted FDA approval and thus is not sold in the US!

Although prices are steep at $2.70 each, the dainty boxes with arrangements of the colorful cookies make a beautiful gift. The macaron itself is light and sweet. So the next time you’re in New York, hazard the lines for a taste of something deliciously French!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Food Classes for Spring 2012

With the opening of advance registration, the rush to find those interesting and obscure classes to pad your schedule has begun. In honor of foodies all across Penn, I have compile a succinct list of food-related classes for the following semester:

Photo courtesy of Boy_Wonder on flickr
Metropolitan Food Systems
Dominic Vitiello
This course introduces students to the planning and development of metropolitan food systems. Major topics include regional planning and policy; sustainable agriculture; food access and distribution; and markets. The class includes a mix of lectures, discussion, and field trips; and students will work on real-world projects in Philadelphia. Ultimately, the course aims to develop students' broad knowledge of food systems planning in the global North and South, with an emphasis on community and economic development strategies for sustainable food systems and food security.

Food and Feasting:
Archaeology of the Table

Katherine M. Moore

Food satisfies human needs on many levels. Anth 248 explores the importance of food in human experience, starting with the nutritional and ecological aspects of food choice and going on to focus on to the social and ritual significance of foods and feasts. Particular attention will be paid to the way that archaeologists and biological anthropologists find out about food use in the past. Contemporary observations about the central significance of eating as a social activity will be linked to the development of cuisines, economies, and civilizations in ancient times. The course will use lectures, discussions, films, food tastings, and fieldwork to explore the course themes. An optional community service component will be outlined the first week of class.

Food Habits in Philadelphia Communities: Exploring Eating and Changing Food Habits in Philadelphia Middle Schools

Jane Kauer

Academically Based Community Service Class
In this course, Penn Undergraduates will explore and examine food habits, the intersection of culture, family, history, and the various meanings of food and eating, by working with a middle-school class in the Philadelphia public schools. The goal of the course will be to learn about the food habits of a diverse local community, to explore that community's history of food and eating, and to consider ways and means for understanding and changing food habits. Middle school students will learn about the food environment and about why culture matters when we talk about food. Topics include traditional and modern foodways, ethnic cuisine in America, food preferences, and 'American cuisine'. The course integrates classroom work about food culture and anthropological practice with frequent trips to middle school where undergraduates will collaborate with students, their teachers, and a teacher partner from the Agatson Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI). Undergraduates will be responsible for weekly writing assignments responding to learning experience in the course, for preparing materials to use middle school children, being participant-learners with the middle school children, and for a final research project. The material for the course will address the ideas underlying university-community engagement, the relationships that exist between food/eating and culture, and research methods.

The Biology of Food
Richard Scott Poethig
Living World Sector
This course will examine the ways in which humans manipulate - and have been manipulated by - the organisms we depend on for food, with particular emphasis on the biological factors that influence this interaction. The first part of the course will cover the biology, genetics, evolution, and breeding of cultivated plants and animals; the second part will concern the ways in which food/plants can cause and cure human disease.

Food in the Islamic Middle East: History, Memory, Identity
Heather Sharkey
Benjamin Franklin Seminar
In the tenth century, a scholar named Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq produced an Arabic manuscript called Kitab al-Tabikh ("The Book of Cooking".) This volume, which compiled and discussed the recipes of eighth-and ninth-century Islamic rulers (caliphs) and their courts in Iraq, represents the oldest known surviving cookbook of the Arab-Islamic world. Many more such cookbooks followed; in their day they represented an important literary genre among cultured elites. As one food historian recently noted, "there are more cookbooks in Arabic from before 1400 than in the rest of the world's languages put together". This course will take the study of Ibn Sayyar's cookbook as its starting point for examining the cultural dynamics of food in the Middle East across the sweep of the Islamic era, into the modern period, and until the present day. It will use the historical study of food and "foodways" as lens for examining subjects that relate to a wide array of fields and interests. These subjects include politics, economics, agricultural and environmental studies, anthropology, literature, religion, and public health. With regard to the modern era, the course will pay close attention to the social consequences of food in shaping memories and identities - including religious, ethnic, national, and gender-based identities - particularly among people who have dispersed or or otherwise migrated.
(Editor's note: Please, don't all sign up for this class. I'm trying to get in it!)

Writing Seminar: Global Foodways
Durba Chattaraj
(Editor's note: No syllabus has been posted, but I took Durba Chattaraj's writing seminar last year on the globalization of Indian cuisine, and it was excellent.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Food Events @ Penn

Reading Terminal Market Harvest Festival
What: Fall is here, and that means it's harvest time! Celebrate the foods of the Pennsylvania harvest at the Market's 11th Annual Harvest Festival. Filbert Street will be closed to vehicle traffic and transformed into an urban farm with hay bales and corn stalks. Kids and adults alike will have the chance to climb on an authentic farm tractor for a hay ride around the Market, take a walk through a pumpkin patch, and enjoy freshly made donuts, locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, candy apples, and more. Check out last year's coverage to know what to expect!
Where: Reading Terminal Market, 51 North 12th Street
When: Saturday, October 15; 10 am to 4 pm

Brew Debut by Yards Brewing Company
What: Yards Brewing Company will debut its new Cerebus Triple Wet Hop IPA. Cerebus was brewed using fresh “wet” hops (24 hours from picking to brewing) from the Pacific Northwest including Citra, Chinook and Amarillo varieties. The event will be pay-as-you-go.
Where: Percy Street Barbecue, 900 South Street
When: Tuesday, October 18; 7 to 11 pm

2011 TASTE Philadelphia Festival
What: A festival celebrating food, wine and spirits featuring cooking demonstrations and live music. Get tickets here
Where: Valley Forge Convention Center
When: October 21-23
Cost: Varies by day. $10 off with discount code "samba"

Film Screening: Pressure Cooker
What: Join Urban Nutrition Initiative for a dinner and film screening of Pressure Cooker, a documentary about three Philadelphia high schoolers competing in a citywide cooking competition.
Where: Claudia Cohen Terrace Room
When: Monday, October 17 6 to 8:30 pm
Cost: Free

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall Break Frozen Yogurt

Photo courtesy of Inju on flickr
For fall break, I had the pleasure of heading to my home state of Massachusetts to spend a few days hanging out with friends and family. Specifically, I spent a significant amount of time in Harvard Square and for me, no trip to Harvard Square is complete without a trip to Berryline. Berryline is a locally owned group of frozen yogurt stores with four locations in Cambridge and Boston. Although Penn boasts several frozen yogurt options around campus, Berryline will forever have my undying loyalty. Maybe it's because it was the first real tart frozen yogurt that I ever had, or maybe it's because of the excitement that driving into the city from my suburban home in pursuit of a sweet frozen treat provides- the sentimental reasons are various and a bit hard to define, but the taste begs no argument in terms of absolute deliciousness.

On this particular trip, I found myself venturing slightly from my usual Berryline ritual. I almost always go with the original tart accompanied by a fruit topping, and my satisfaction with this particular combination has been so great that I have a hard time convincing myself to try something new. However, my frozen yogurt dining companion convinced me to step outside of my comfort zone and give the two current yogurt flavor specials a try. We got peppermint-oreo frozen yogurt with crumbled oreo cookies on top and strawberry frozen yogurt with raspberries on top, deeming this to be a good balance between rich chocolate and lighter fruity flavors.

The strawberry frozen yogurt with raspberries was delicious. The frozen yogurt had a tasty strawberry flavor without being too sweet, and the raspberries added a nice texture and complementary fruitiness that made for a delicious sweet-tart treat. I was slightly more apprehensive about the peppermint-oreo frozen yogurt, because I have previously maintained a certain suspicion for what I consider to be flavors better suited to soft-serve ice cream than frozen yogurt- when a frozen yogurt loses its tartness I often feel that it has transformed to a soft-serve imitator rather than a proud tangy yogurt. However, the peppermint-oreo frozen yogurt was a pleasant surprise. I was impressed by the way that the peppermint and oreo flavors were present and blended harmoniously with the classic frozen yogurt tartness. The crumbled oreos amplified the chocolate flavor already present and made for a dessert that provided a refreshing contrast with the strawberry-raspberry combination. The moral of this particular trip to Berryline has been this: stepping out of your comfort zone can provide truly delectable results.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Night Market: Chinatown Edition

Chinatown is usually a busy neighborhood during the year, but this past Thursday it exploded with food, friends, firecrackers, and fun at the latest installment of Night Market. Organized by The Food Trust back in 2010, this pop-up festival has experienced humongous crowds and fantastic success in East Passyunk, University City, Mount Airy, and now Chinatown. Philadelphia's Night Markets consist of several blocks lined with food trucks and tables offering a wide variety of ethnic foods. Because it draws vendors from throughout the Philadelphia region, it’s the perfect opportunity to sample dishes from businesses you normally wouldn’t get to try.

After recovering from our initial shock at the crowds and endless lines, my friend and I dove into the chaos. We scanned aisles packed with grocers, arts and crafts merchants, and lion/dragon dancers. Of course, the real draw was the food vendors. We first made a stop at Zsa's Gourmet Ice Cream, a food truck specializing in locally made ice cream. The creamy scoops of deliciousness are served in cups or sandwiched between two just-as-satisfying cookies. I went with an ice cream sandwich: Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Double Chocolate Cookies ($4). The sandwich was just the right portion (about the size of my palm), especially with all the other awaiting Night Market delicacies. The ice cream’s peanut butter taste was subtle, but nicely balanced the decadence of the cookies. If I had more room in my stomach, I would have loved to try their Toasted Coconut (coconut ice cream with golden brown coconut flakes) or Pumpkin Gingersnap (pumpkin ice cream packed with their own gingersnap cookie pieces).

Momentarily detered from continuing up 10th Street because of the huge crowds, we branched off to the side onto Spring Street. My friend headed off to the stall manned by Avenida, a food vendor specializing in Latin cuisine. He ultimately selected a Chicken Tostada ($5). He later told me that it was "tasty" and "pretty good overall"; he "especially savored the sauce/marinade." However, the amount he received was "small compared to the price."

For me, on the other hand, it was time to cupcake-party! I knew there were a couple cupcake vendors stationed here and was excited to participate in a taste test. Right next to Avenida was Sweet Box Cupcakes, the truck that took the cake (no pun intended) at this past summer’s Philadelphia Vendy Awards. I purchased a Love Park (“classic southern red velvet cupcake topped with a vanilla cream cheese frosting”) and a Chocolate Ganache (“Ghirardelli chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate ganache”) ($3 each). Back on the main drag was Jimmies Cupcakes. All their menu items have unique monikers based on famous James/Jims/Jimmies; I got a James Bond (“classic, moist red velvet cake topped with smooth, buttery cream cheese icing”) and a Jimmy Neutron (“dark, rich sour cream chocolate cake topped with Oreo cookie buttercream icing”) ($2 each).

My verdict? Both companies make scrumptious cupcakes! All had a good ratio of cake to frosting and the flavors of both cake and frosting came through well. Jimmies’ frosting is slightly sweeter than Sweet Box, so it truly depends on your tastes. In terms of appearance, Sweet Box adorns their cupcakes with cute decorations; for instance, my red velvet was topped with a fortune cookie containing a sweet fortune: “I don’t drown my sorrows; I suffocate them with chocolate!” (Don’t worry, I didn’t eat four cupcakes in one sitting.)

So far, I had only bought desserts, so I craved something with a little more sustenance. I had been looking forward to Say Cheese, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck normally stationed at Temple, but their truck looked dark; they unfortunately seemed to be out of power at the time I was there. Instead, we concluded our Night Market experience with a visit to Nomad Pizza. I was certainly impressed by their efficient made-to-order assembly line approach in preparing the pies. In a matter of seconds, they transformed hunks of puffy pizza dough into thin yet substantial crusts, painted scarlet San Marzano tomato sauce across the surfaces, and liberally sprinkled fresh mozzarella on top. However, when I saw the wood fired brick oven built directly into their custom REO Speedwagon, I was stunned. Amazing! The line was long, but moved quickly for the quantity of people waiting; we got our pizza a few minutes after we ordered, toasty hot from the oven. We chose the Pepperoni Pizza ($12 for a whole pie). A pizza’s foundation is its crust, with everything else dependent on its quality. Nomad did not disappoint: the dough was yeasty and chewy, its rustic aromatic taste permeating my mouth for the rest of the night. The mozzarella was top quality and delightfully gooey, the sauce fragrant and flavorful, and the pepperoni crisp and subtly spicy (my friend noted it was “almost like bacon”). It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had in Philadelphia. I can’t wait until their second location has their grand opening this fall near South and 7th.

Night Market can be an overwhelming experience for a first-timer, but it is definitely a must-see. When the next Night Market is announced, trek out there and take the rows one at a time. Where else do you have the chance to indulge in a diverse selection of mouthwatering international foods, all in one place? It’s absolutely worth the trip!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dante and Luigi's

I recently had the pleasure of eating at Dante and Luigi's. It is a phenomenal restaurant known both for its Italian food and its history with the Italian mob (it was the site of an attempted murder in the late 80s). It's a little off the beaten path in the residential area of Bella Vista in South Philly. It's near South Street but far enough away to have a distinctly neighborhood sort of feel to it. Don't be fooled by its location, though; this place is not your average local eatery.

The first thing that lets you know this is the decor. When you walk in you're met with a fairly formal looking dining room. The restaurant has an upscale feel, making it a great place to try to impress a date but at the same time the customers make you feel like you just stepped into an Italian family's Sunday dinner.

Another more upscale element to the restaurant is the prices. Going in, my friends and I weren't exactly sure what to expect because the prices were not listed on their online menu. The prices were a little high, especially for poor college students, but we weren't going to let them get us down since we had already decided we were going to splurge. So we ignored the prices and just ordered whatever we felt like eating. While the prices were a bit high, they certainly seemed worth it once we saw the portion sizes. They were huge and most of us ended up walking away with enough leftovers to make another meal. If you go make sure to order appetizers, entrees and desserts. Every course is delicious here and it will still only cost you about $40 per person. It's a little steep, but worth it. Also make sure to bring cash because they charge a fee for credit cards; do yourself a favor and take money out of an ATM.

Now for the important part: the food. First we shared some appetizers. If you want to save some money you could forgo this part, but I would suggest getting some for everyone to share so you can try some. You won't need a lot because you'll need to save room for the main course. We got the eggplant parmagiana. It was really tasty with good-quality mozzarella cheese melted on top. The real star of the dish, though, was the marinara sauce. It was literally one of the best sauces I have had in my life, second only to that of my Italian grandma. The other appetizer we had was the stuffed whole calamari. While there was only one stuffed calamari on the dish, it was really big and stuffed to the brim with tasty crab meat. Additionally, there were plenty of tasty calamari rings on the dish that amounted to a very decent amount of squid. This was then placed in a bowl with more of their delicious sauce. My friends and I ate forkfuls of the sauce by itself and sopped it up with our bread because it was just that good.

Next came our main courses. We were all extremely happy with the food we chose and were intrigued by so many dishes on the menu that we actually had a hard time choosing just one each. We had rigatoni carbonara, ziti with broccoli rabe and sausage, and the gnocchi romano. Each dish exceeded our already high expectations. This place would beat any other Italian restaurant easily. The carbonara was creamy, cheesy and delicious with peas, bacon, and fresh tomatoes. My friend liked it so much that he ate the whole thing. The ziti with sausage was so flavorful and garlicky. They had also managed to cook the bitterness out of the broccoli rabe, which is not an easy thing to do. For my main dish I had the gnocchi. I am not overstating this at all when I say that these were literally the best gnocchi I have had in my life. They were tender and light, almost to the point of melting in your mouth. They were in a really nice rosetta sauce, which topped off the perfect gnocchi in the best possible way. Like I said before, the portions were so huge that I came away with enough gnocchi to eat for dinner a couple of nights later. Who could ask for more?

My friends and I were extremely full, but there was no way we could pass on desserts: I am very glad we didn't! One of my friends got the vanilla gelato, which I didn't try but heard was good. My other friend got the Italian cream cake with rum, which was as excellent as the rest of the meal had been. My favorite dessert though was the tiramisu. The ladyfingers were delicate and not overpowered by the amaretto; the layers of custard in between were creamy yet light. This portion was huge too and I gladly took home leftovers.

The only downside to the whole experience was our waiter. He was both attentive and inattentive, giving us a sort of weird impression of the service. At times he was coming over to ask us how we were doing and grating cheese for us on our pasta, but other times we felt like we were waiting forever for him to even pass by our table. He also seemed to be a bit sexist, choosing to only be attentive towards me as a woman and somewhat ignoring my male friend. However, since the service was the only downside to an overall fantastic meal, I would hardly hesitate to go back to Dante and Luigi's.

Dante and Luigi's
762 South 10th Street

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