Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A One Pot Meal: Easy and Delicious

There’s an apple orchard near my house, and every autumn when I was younger, we went apple picking. My parents attempted to place some limit on the number of apples we picked, but you simply cannot go apple picking and bring home only twenty or so apples. Thus, we always came home with pound upon pound of apples so that they filled every nook and cranny of the fridge.

For the first couple of days, we would just enjoy the crisp sweetness of plain raw apples. Then we would start dipping them in peanut butter and caramel sauce, and later on, we would begin baking: making apple crisps and applesauce. Some year during this baking period, my mom first made sausage and apples. A dish that perfectly melds the fattiness of sausage with the sweetness of apples and cinnamon, it became one of my favorites.

Since it’s delicious and easy to make, sausage and apples has become one of my staple meals, but last week, when I went to make it, I decided the recipe could do with a bit of a makeover. Into the mix, I added squash and mushrooms, and the recipe below was born. Like its predecessor, this meal is easy to make and tastes great. Sausage and apples will always have a special place in my heart, but this alteration has earned a spot as well.

Sausage, Apple, Squash, and Mushroom Bake
(Serves 2)

1 pre-cooked sausage (I used aidells Chicken & Apple sausage)
1 acorn squash (butternut would work as well)
1 apple (preferably one that is good for baking such as granny smith or Rome)
1 cup of mushrooms
Salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. The squash will take the longest to cook, so I recommend starting with that. First, slice the squash in half from stem to tip. This can be difficult, so use a good knife. If you find the squash is too difficult to cut, microwave it for about a minute and then try again. After slicing the squash in half, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
3. If you’re not in a rush, place the halves cut-side down it in a pan filled with a shallow layer of water, and place the pan in the oven for about 50 minutes or until soft. If you have less time, place the squash cut side down on a plate and microwave on high in four-minute increments until soft.
4. After removing the squash from the oven or microwave, allow it to cool briefly. Then use a knife to peel off the skin. Cut the squash into bite-size cubes and place them in an oven safe casserole dish.
5. Peel the apple and cut it into bite-size pieces. Slice the mushrooms, and cut the sausage into small pieces. Add these all to the dish.
6. Sprinkle all the ingredients with salt, pepper, and cinnamon as desired. Personally, I suggest a generous amount of cinnamon (~2 teaspoons), a fairly generous amount of pepper (~1 teaspoon), and just a dash of salt.
7. Stir all the ingredients together to distribute the spices.
8. Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 10-15 minutes. The key to telling when it’s finished is when the mushrooms and apples are the right texture.
9. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Roundeye Noodle Hits The Bullseye

Note: The business has now been renamed Cheu Noodle Bar as of March 21, 2012.

There is nothing more fun in the restaurant world than pop-ups. Sure, I love exploring tantalizing tasting menus and find dessert carts/rooms are positively rad, but the exclusiveness and menu uniqueness inherent in a one-night-only menu excites me. Pop-ups kill two birds with one stone: customers get to try dishes not usually offered at restaurants, while chefs and restaurateurs can test new menus and concepts and judge consumer satisfaction.

Yesterday evening (Sunday, January 29) marked the debut of Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh’s brainchild Roundeye Noodle. Conceptualized by the four-year Matyson veteran and food and retail marketing expert, respectively, Ben and Shawn wanted to “combine their respective backgrounds and their obsession for everything noodle” to create "a hip noodle spot run by two white boys from the suburbs." The pop-up was hosted in the hallowed dining room of Matyson, with a sign on the front window indicating the restaurant's one-night change.

Short and sweet, the menu was composed of three sections—Vegetables, Noodles, and Juice—of three items each. I wished I had the opportunity to try one of the juices (the pineapple with vanilla, jalapeno, and Thai basil sounded tantalizing), but they ran out by the time we sat down around 6 pm. On the upside, the menu's primary feature was its inventive spins on classic Asian-influenced noodle dishes, and there was no shortage of those yet! My companion and I each chose a bowl of noodles and split our meal so we had a chance to sample some of the kitchen’s magic.

The Duck Pho highlighted duck leg and foie gras dumplings atop a bed of glassy rice vermicelli noodles. The bowl invoked Vietnamese inspiration while simultaneously showcasing a bit of Roundeye flair. Part of the duck was integrated as a filling inside two gyoza-shaped, wonton-like dumplings; unfortunately, the soggy soup-saturated wrapper weighed down the dumplings, taking away from the duck and foie gras’ inherent richness. (I think the dumplings would have tasted fantastic as a crisp pan-fried appetizer.) The rest of the duck in the dish was thinly sliced and adorned the top of the bowl like a flower in bloom; this feast for the eyes was a feast for the taste buds. If this ingredient had a greater presence in the dish, I would have been quite happy. I also wished the broth had a stronger flavor; more cilantro and mint would have perked up the dish and would have still stayed true to its Vietnamese heritage. Luckily, pickled turnips charged the dish with a welcome tangy spark. The clear vermicelli was deliciously slurp-y and acted as a solid base for the dish.

Yet the true star of our meal was the Pork Belly Ramen: it was the epitome of umami (the Japanese “fifth taste” relating to savoriness, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter). The pork belly’s perfectly charred crust gave way to unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth mouthfuls of tender meat. The noodles were plump and thicker than your average ramen, with a good bite and flavor; they were authentic in the way that you can only find at hand-drawn Chinese noodle shops. The broth was rich and savory, full-bodied in the most mouthwatering way possible. Sliced shiitakes and swiss chard added varying textures and tastes in a delightful union of East and West vegetables. A whole soy stained egg—its golden yolk still pleasantly soft within the hard-boiled whites—rounded out the dish. Needless to say, we reached the bottom of the bowl way too fast.

Despite a few shortcomings, Ben and Shawn’s new venture was well-executed overall. Customer popularity can attest to that: Roundeye opened their doors at 4 pm and ran out of food before 9 pm. I wish them all the best in launching a full-time restaurant and hope to be the first one waiting outside, ready to try their delicious fare!

For more information, you can visit their website (http://www.roundeyenoodle.com/) or follow them on Twitter (@roundeyenoodle).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blog Bites: A Round-Up of the Week's Top Food Stories

Where to get breakfast around Penn's campus - 34th Street

• New to West Philly: Crave, a new bar and lounge will serve food and drinks to movie goers at The Rave - The Daily Pennsylvanian

Special K hoagie from Koch's Deli at 4309 Locust St. profiled in Serious Eat's "A Sandwich a Day" series

Midtown Lunch reviews Pitruco Pizza Truck, which can be found at LOVE Park or 34th and Market

Three bells for Stephen Starr's latest Italian venture, Il Pittore - Craig LaBan in The Inquirer

• Check out Uwishunu's "Amuse Bouche Philadelphia" series highlighting must-try menu items at restaurants and eateries around the city

• Yum: Federal Donuts, new to Philly last fall, now has a S'more Donut - Grub Street Philadelphia

• "Travel + Leisure Picks Garces Trading Company And Jones As Two Of America’s Best Brunch Spots" - Uwishunu

• Food LOL: "Little Girl Slaps Mom with Piece of Pizza, Saves Life" - Gawker

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Garces Trading Company

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. This past Thursday, we held our first meeting of the semester at Garces Trading Company at 12th and Locust.

Nicole Woon: Not only did I share great conversations with fellow Penn Appetit bloggers, I also shared my meal! For the entrees, I split the Lyonnaise Duck Salad (duck confit, poached egg, bacon lardons, mustard vinaigrette) and the Pan Roasted Scallops (bagna càuda, radish) with one blogger. The duck, which acted as the base for the salad, was warm (a pleasant surprise) and incredibly tender: GTC does their confit well. I'm not a huge fan of endive, but the mesclun-based salad allowed for a nice variety of leaves. Including the egg also added a nice roundness to the dish The scallops, which came three to a plate, were plump and tender. My only disappointment was the grit that texturally appeared in a couple bites of scallop. The radishes didn't strike me as anything particular exciting, but the entire dish was well-accented by the fragrant, garlicky bagna càuda (a warm oil dip typical of Piedmont, Italy) that spanned the bottom of the plate. If we had any sourdough bread left over, I certainly would have sopped up the remaining oil!

For dessert, another blogger and I shared the Choux Crème (honey diplomat cream, pecan nougat, crème chantilly) and the Chocolat (valrhona chocolate mousse, chocolate-covered pretzels, peanut butter center). The two desserts are drastically different in terms of texture and taste, so it was impossible to compare them. The irresistibly flaky Choux was made of the same type of light dough as you might find in a napoleon. The cream, although fluffy and generously swirled atop, didn't pack as much flavor as I would have hoped. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the rich Chocolat acted as a nice balance to the Choux. While the dome was filled with airy mousse, it still seemed dense to me due to the chocolatey richness (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!). I also expected the pretzels to add a crunch, but they must have become soggy due to the other ingredients' presence; if GTC could have figured out a way to keep the pretzels' naturally crisp texture, I would have preferred that.

I've dined at GTC before and this particular evening was just as pleasant as my previous experiences. Service is attentive, but not overly so; bread is replaced without a question and water constantly refilled. I was excited to try new dishes on this visit, but if you're considering dining here, I highly recommend the Funghi Pizza (duck fat-based dough with maitakes, royal trumpets, taleggio cheese, and black truffles) and the seasonal verrine for dessert (pudding parfait; their Winter Verrine with caramel and pumpkin was excellent). In any case, I still plan to be a repeat customer at GTC!

Elliott Brooks: I was the other splitee of the pan roasted scallops and the Lyonnaise duck salad. The scallops were deliciously tender and juicy. The garlicy herbed oil they were served on top of would not have been my first pick of what to serve scallops with, and yet they blended together harmoniously. The radishes on top of the scallop were quite a surprise: not crunchy but soft, with not hint of hotness. They almost seemed like little sea creatures themselves.

By the time I got around to the Lyonnaise duck salad, I was in seafood heaven and engaged in conversation so I wasn't paying as much attention to what I was eating as I should have. The duck was warm and delicious, and practically melted in my mouth, while the greens on top were crisp and fresh and added a nice hint of bitterness. Needless to say I gobbled it down.

On to dessert. I got the flourless chocolate "bouchon". It's not on the menu, but our server suggested it to me, telling me it would be a perfect gluten-free treat to satisfy my chocolate craving. And it was! Despite being quite small it was incredibly rich, so I got just the right amount of decadence without being overwhelmed. Furthermore, it was only $2, making it a nicely affordable alternative to the other $7 desserts.

Liz Elder: When I was a child, I walked into a Whataburger with a monstrous appetite. I boldly tottered up to the counter with my stretch pants and kitten-print shirt and demanded a triple-burger with cheese. I was that hungry. When my tiny hands could not pick up the whole burger, I knew I made the right choice. I voraciously ripped into the burger; three seconds later, I collapsed like a house of cards. My idea of my hunger greatly outweighed my actual hunger.

I have grown up quite a bit since then – I wear leggings now and cat-print shirts. However, my demon appetite has remained as active as ever. So when our bloggers went to Garces Trading Company, I was starving. Scanning the menu, I looked for doubles and triples, but realized that I am classier than that. I spotted the Pappardelle Lamb Ragu and snapped it up. The verb pappare means to gobble up, so I knew that I had made the right choice. The pasta dish was delicious. The broad noodles were tender and the lamb ragu provided a salty complement to the sauce. There were even peas, which were quite the colorful addition and provided a buffer against the ragu. For dessert, I ordered the Choux Crème. It was a temple of flaky pastry and fluffy almond cream. While it was quite difficult to eat, it complemented the heaviness of the pasta dish.

Overall, Garces Trading Company satiated my hunger, and let me stay as classy as ever with a selection of elegant and delicious entrées and cheeses.

Laura Sluyter: Even beyond the fact that it was warm and I was freezing, walking into Garces Trading Company felt good. The restaurant décor is a cross between rustic and modern with an ambiance that combines comfort and understated sophistication. I did not feel out of place in a group of college students, but I was also confident that we would be treated to an extraordinary meal. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and Garces Trading Company hit it perfectly.

Even more importantly, however, the food exceeded my high expectations. We began with sourdough bread, brought to the table in miniature crates that kept perfectly with the décor. As the waiter swirled olive oil into little dishes on the table, he explained that it was special oil from Spain. I’m far from an olive oil expert, but it did seem to make a difference. The olive oil and bread was a promising start.

For the main course, I finally settled on pappardelle with lamb ragù. Topped off with peas, piave vecchio cheese, and sunchoke purée, it was heavenly. The meat was tender, and the sauce was creamy, flavorful, and applied just delicately enough not to mask the taste of the pasta. The pappardelle, clearly homemade, held its own among its delicious counterparts. I have a soft spot for pasta dishes of this sort, and this is one of the best I’ve had.

Next, it was time for dessert, and as the case of desserts was within sight (one side of the restaurant plays home to an impressive cheese case and an equally impressive dessert display) at our waiter’s encouragement, we all left the table to goggle over the beautiful choices. Picking a dessert was another taxing decision, but I gave into my love of chocolate and peanut butter and selected the Chocolat. A dome of Valhrona chocolate mousse, it had a creamy peanut butter center and a bottom crust that contained bits of chocolate-covered pretzels. While it was perhaps less uniquely exceptional than the pappardelle, I enjoyed it immensely. Despite all the delicious restaurants in Philadelphia that I have yet to explore, I’m sure I’ll be back to Garces Trading Company.

Leyla Mocan: What I ate:

Goat Bolognese: The pasta came in a delicious sauce with ground up goat. It was my first time eating goat, but it tasted like I could have been eating lamb. The best part of the pasta was a little bit of sauce made from horseradish at the bottom of the plate, it added a slightly different taste and made the dish more interesting. Overall the flavor was great, but the portions were a bit small considering the price.

Chocolat: This was a pretzel crust with a bit of peanut butter mousse surrounded by chocolate mouse and then covered in chocolate. The crust at the bottom was a bit soft and I wouldn't have known that it was pretzel except that I was told. The mousses were really light and delicious, I was impressed by the flavor of the peanut butter mousse. Each bite was light but after a whole pastry you get a full sugar fix, good if you're really craving a substantial dessert.

Brittney Joyce: Our meal started with delicious sourdough bread. The thin slices were served with olive oil for dipping (probably one of the olive oils that they were selling but I didn't catch which one). Our waiter also brought a small container of salt with a serving spoon along with the bread, so I assumed that we were supposed to sprinkle some salt on our bread with the olive oil. Although this may not be what we were supposed to do, it certainly tasted good!

For my entree, I ordered the goat bolognese. I had never eaten goat before, but the waiter told me that it was his favorite pasta on the menu so I trusted in his advice. I was not disappointed. The goat bolognese sauce was a satisfying combination of saltiness, meaty texture and sweet tomatoes. The pasta with sauce was garnished with shaved pantaleo and something that looked like clover, and the textures of these components contrasted nicely with the rest of the dish. The pasta rested on top of a horseradish fonduta that was very mild and helped add a little bit of extra creaminess to the goat bolognese. The only thing that I was sad about was that there wasn't more of it on my plate!

I ended my meal with the choux creme. Large layers of puff pastry were filled with a honey cream, topped with pecan nougat, and covered in large amounts of creme chantilly. The top of the pastry was garnished with a square of chocolate and two "mini-choux cremes" attached to the side. The pastry was extremely rich and buttery, so much so that I had difficulty finishing the whole thing. The only part that I did not really like was the pecan nougat, but that's probably because I don't like pecans much to begin with. The rest was delicious and my only recommendation would be to split this with a friend if you have a low tolerance for buttery overload or are already feeling pretty sated by dinner.

Jessica Chung: Having just studied abroad in France, where I used to eat cheese with my host family almost every night at dinner, I was experiencing some French cheese withdrawal. Now the cheese in France is different from the cheese in the US. It is much richer in flavor. So, because there were several French dishes on the menu at Garces Trading Company, I figured that their French cheeses would be pretty authentic. I chose the Tomme Crayeuse, hoping it would be like the Tomme I had in France, with a side of cherry fig marmalade to add some sweetness to the
pungent cheese. The presentation was beautiful. The yellow wedge was placed on a black plank with a little white dish of the red marmalade. The flavor was robust. It had a deep earthy flavor and a firm texture. The cherry marmalade was the perfect complement. It was very sweet and you could taste tiny pieces of cherry skin. The sourdough bread was a little hard though for my liking. Overall, the cheese was comparable to the one in France, but still not as good.

For dessert, there was an overwhelming selection. Displayed in a glass case, we got to see them, as well as read the descriptions. I ended up splitting two desserts with another blogger, unable to pick just one. We shared the Choux Crème and the Chocolat. The Choux Crème was a flaky pastry filled with pecan nougat, topped with honey diplomat cream and homemade whipped cream. I thought it was good, but not to die for. The pecan nougat had a bit of a kick, as if it had some liquor in it. And with so much cream on top, I thought it became a little too sweet by the end. For me, that is rare, as I have a ridiculously sweet tooth: almost nothing is too sweet for me. The Chocolat was a chocolate mousse with a peanut butter mousse center on top of a chocolate covered pretzel crust, all covered with a chocolate glaze. I thought this dessert was also good but not to die for. I felt that instead of a full crust, there were just pieces of chocolate covered pretzels here and there. I would have liked more of the pretzels because the crunchiness nicely complemented the smoothness of the mousse and the slightly salty taste of the pretzels nicely complemented the rich sweetness of the mousses. Both desserts were very different from one another, so I didn’t favor one over the other.

Overall, it was a good experience at Garces Trading Company. The décor was cute and our server was very nice. My food was pretty good, but not the very best. I actually think that it’s a little expensive for the amount you get. So I wouldn’t rush back, but I wouldn’t rule it off my list either.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Food Events @ Penn

Opening of La Calaca Feliz
What: La Calaca Feliz (the Happy Skeleton, for those of you who no se hablan español) opened this Tuesday in the Fairmount Neighborhood. The restaurant features contemporary Mexican cuisine, with happy hour at the bar from 5-7pm weekdays and 10pm Saturdays.
Where: 2321 Fairmount Avenue
When: On-going
Cost: Varies

Annual Beef and Beer
What: Join the South Philadelphia Tap Room for an all-you-can-eat buffet of beef with all the fixins', while drinking beer firkins from local Philadelphia breweries.
Where: 1509 Mifflin St.
When: Sunday, January 29th from 4-8pm
Cost: $50

Food Justice Movie Night
What: If the above event isn't really your cup of tea, come out for the Urban Nutrition Initiative's screening of Forks Over Knives, a documentary posing the question: can we eliminate diet-related disease by adopting a plant-based diet? Come early for a discussion on veganism, sustainability and food as medicine.
Where: The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St.
When: Dinner at 6pm, movie at 7pm
Cost: Free

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What makes a REAL Belgian waffle? And where in Philly can you find one?

Though Belgium is typically under the radar when discussing the world’s best cuisines, spending the past semester abroad in Dutch-speaking Leuven made for many great food experiences. As a University town with 40,000 students, Leuven had no shortage of the culture’s most famous street foods, waffles and fries. During my four-month sojourn, I also got my fill of Belgium’s legendary beers and chocolates. I will be discussing these phe-nom-enal foods in a series of posts—starting with waffles, a treat enjoyed by both the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking regions of Belgian.

The name waffle, or wafels in Dutch and gaufres in French, comes from the 12th century French word “wafel” for “honey bee hive” and emerged from the treat’s resemblance to a honeycomb. The first waffles were sold by street vendors during religious celebrations, and were made mainly from water and flour. Still today, waffles are not eaten by Belgians at breakfast, but instead are sold as street snacks.

There are actually two varieties of Belgian waffles, Liège and Brussels—neither of which resembles America’s “Belgian” breakfast waffles. Our Belgian waffles—crusty, circular, and often served with ice cream, syrups, and fruit toppings—are in reality a far cry from authentic Belgian waffles.

The Liège waffle, invented in French-speaking Liège in the 17th century, is considered the original Belgian waffle and my personal favorite of the two. It is made from a thick dough that results in a dense and chewy waffle with uneven edges. The key attribute of the Liège waffle is its crunchy and golden exterior, formed when chucks of sugar in the dough caramelize. As you can imagine, the smell of hot pressed Liège waffles carrying through the streets is mouthwatering, and around midday in Leuven people can be see lining up for the warm and sweet treats from vendors.

The Brussels waffle, a more recent 19th century creation from Dutch-speaking Ghent, is made from a thin, yeast-leavened batter, resulting in an airy waffle with an even rectangular shape and deep pockets. Brussels waffles are traditionally served with a dusting of powdered sugar and are lighter and less dense than the Liège variety. To the chagrin of some locals, Brussels waffles can often be found in tourist areas topped with whipped cream, fruit, or chocolate syrups. The Brussels waffle was the precursor to the American-style Belgian waffle, making its debut at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

Curious to test out a Belgian waffle yourself? Here in Philadelphia, Bonté Wafflerie & Café claims its waffles are authentic Belgian, street-vendor style. If you want to experience a truly authentic Liège waffle, order the Sugar Waffle. For those that are not ready forgo toppings, Bonté also offers its waffles with a variety of nut, fruit, and chocolate toppings, as well as ice cream.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Delicias = "Delight" (In More Ways Than One)

I admit that I’m not familiar with South American food. This is likely due to my limited accessibility, as I haven’t seen many places that serve such fare here in Philadelphia. Delicias, a new food truck located on Market between 34th and 36th, fortunately seemed to be the answer to my problems.

This authentic Venezuelan food truck officially opened its doors (or should I say window?) a few weeks ago and is quickly building a strong customer base. Delicias’ menu is primarily composed of two traditional South American street foods: arepas (filled griddled corn patties, popular in Spanish-speaking countries) and fried empanadas (crescent-shaped deep-fried turnovers). A few specials (i.e. choripan [a spicy chorizo sandwich]; white clam chowder; rotating weekly special) round out the menu. Having never tried an arepa before, I was tempted to order one, but was distracted by the equally-delicious-sounding weekly special: asado negro. The “blackened roast beef with malt sauce and secret ingredients” description called out to me, and before I knew it, I’d ordered a platter.

The owners behind the counter were quick and efficient in preparing the food. I paid with cash, but I do believe they take credit cards: something to note if you’re averse to carrying bills around. As I searched for a place to sit, the dish’s fragrant smell wafted out of the closed Styrofoam box: it was nothing short of intoxicating. I couldn’t wait to dig in!

Delicias’ roast beef was incredibly tender; its sumptuous, meaty juices exploded in my mouth with each bite. What truly made it superb, though, was the phenomenally flavorful sauce that accompanied it. How I wish I knew the secret ingredients so I could recreate the dish at home! The delicious sauce also served to flavor the fluffy white rice beneath. I was quite pleased with the sides that accompanied the main dish. The black beans—earthy and hearty—were lovingly topped with milky melted cotija cheese, while the plantains lent a sweet, caramelized flavor that made the whole platter sparkle. The serving was generously portioned, with enough there for me to consume over two meals.

While I’m happy I tried the week’s specialty, I’m still interested in trying an arepa. More specifically, I want to sample an arepa filled with traditional pabellon (Venezuala’s national dish, which is a mixture of shredded beef, plantains, rice and black beans). Oh, and another bonus? The arepas are made of corn flour, meaning that they’re wheat- and gluten-free!

Ultimately, I’d go out of my way to enjoy these tasty Venezuelan treats. Maybe I’ll have time to swing by and grab an arepa in between classes this week. (;

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jamonera: Opening Night

Yesterday evening, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran—the dynamic duo behind Barbuzzo and Lolita—opened their new restaurant venture Jamonera. Taken from the Spanish word for the clamp used to hold a ham while cutting, Jamonera is a Spanish tapas and wine bar.

Walking in, the first thing we noticed was the creative and modern decor: dark wood and red lighting highlighted interesting art and unique odds-and-ends on shelves (particular knickknacks of note were the authentic fork and knife molds). Overall, the ambiance was warm, inviting, and a bit funky. The small space was cozy, while the tables were nicely arranged to give diners enough privacy.

Tapas, small dishes commonly served at Spanish bars, are meant for sharing. Our server suggested we order two to three plates per person and share among the table. The four of us ordered eight dishes, which turned out to be the perfect size.

Warm Medjool Dates stuffed with valdeon, wrapped in serrano ham, piquillo pepper dressing, marcona almonds
These were one of the standouts of the evening and a great way to kick off our dinner. I’d had dates wrapped in ham before, and on that occasion I had found them sickeningly sweet. The ones at Jamonera were served over a smokey mayonnaise-like sauce, and the combination of this smokiness, the richness of the blue Valdeon cheese, and the saltiness of the ham made for a multi-layered yet harmoniously delicious bite. The sweetness of the date didn’t overwhelm, but came instead as a pleasant aftertaste for this otherwise savory dish. Once we tried this, we knew we were in for a treat as the night progressed.

Papa Frita crispy skin potato, wood smoked garlic aioli, brava salt, house made sherry vinegar-hot sauce
It’s hard to mess up potatoes, but it’s also hard to make them stellar. Fortunately, the potatoes we enjoyed tonight were extraordinary: they were absolutely delicious and one of my favorite dishes of the night. The wedges retained the perfect crispness and were coated with just the right amount of seasoning. Their full-bodied flavor pleasantly enveloped my mouth after each bite. They weren't too starchy, but had the right mealiness necessary for potato dishes. I didn’t find that the vinegar-hot sauce added much to the already delicious potatoes, so I happily enjoyed the patatas on their own. It would have been easy to make a meal of these alone!

Crispy Cana de Cabra fried goat cheese, olorosso infused medjool dates, greens, toasted hazelnuts
Coated with a texturally-satisfying panko crust, the large medallion of goat cheese was rich and creamy. Its characteristic tang was offset by the sweetness of the date compote. The addition of olorosso, a Spanish variety of sherry, to the dates provided dark and nutty depth. Together, the contrasting flavors were the perfect combination. The greens also added color and a light, fresh bite to the dish.

Ensalada de Aguacate avocado, salt cod, shaved fennel, citrus, arbequina olive oil, mint
I had never tried salt cod before, but knowing it is a popular delicacy in Spain, I felt I had to try it at least once. I was pleasantly surprised. Salt cod is not at all as salty nor as dry as I was expecting. In fact, it is quite moist and a bit briny without tasting overwhelmingly of fish. The generous chunks of avocado weaved throughout the dish added some nice creaminess. With the fennel, oranges, and mint present in the salad, the dish was a pleasant palate refresher.

Flamequines jamon and ibores cheese stuffed pork loin, clementine escabeche, smoked ham fat
At this point in our dinner, the larger dishes were starting to arrive. At the same time, we were starting to get stuffed, but continued to power through the meal. I was surprised at the toughness of one of the stuffed pork loin columns, but realized it must have been overcooked, as the other one was much more moist and tender. The cheese combated the meatiness of the dish, but it was still incredibly overwhelming to have pork-stuffed pork; thankfully, the pickled escabeche added a welcome tartness to break the heaviness. Still, this uninspiring plate wasn’t as exciting as the ones we had tried previously.

Fideos wild mushroom vermicelli, olorosso, caramelized onions, turnip greens, garlic aioli
This was the biggest disappointment of the plates. While the mushrooms were quite flavorful and gave the dish a meaty texture, the noodles and overall dish fell extremely flat. It tasted like cheap Chinese food, but not the good kind. Greasy and bland— I'd pass this dish up to try something else on their expansive menu.

Heirloom Pumpkin Croquetas urgelia cheese filled, pumpkin seed puree, green apple, pickled brussel leaves
Like glorified mozzarella sticks (and I mean this in the best, most delicious way possible!), these marble-sized croquettes packed a punch of flavors and textures. The just-crisp-enough breaded exterior gave way to one of the creamiest, fluffiest, cheesiest interiors I’ve ever had. I couldn’t distinguish the pumpkin very well in the croquettes, but it may have been because the cheese took such a strong role in the dish. The tart salad that accompanied the croquettes contributed a nice pungency. Overall, I was quite pleased with this interpretation; I definitely would have eaten many more of these.

Pulpo y Ensaladilla Rusa grilled Spanish octopus, potato, baby carrots, crunchy bonito tuna aioli, pickled chorizo vinaigrette
The octopus was by far one of the clear favorites of the evening. The grilling technique used gave it a nice smokiness without being overly charred. It was also surprisingly tender—the texture was so soft, it was almost reminiscent of scallops—, which is hard to achieve with such a naturally chewy cephalopod. The accompanying vegetables supplied a fresh crunch, while the vinaigrette was a nice twist on childhood memories of fish and chips sprinkled with vinegar; both added a brilliant brightness and perked up the dish.

The Bottom Line
Jamonera is definitely worth visiting. The plates were mostly all hits, with just a couple of misses. However, the hits strongly made up for any of the sub-par dishes. The great thing about tapas is the chance to explore and try new foods without investing in an entree, which Jamonera provided. I would strongly suggest coming with a group to truly explore their menu.

-Nicole and Elliott

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Food Events @ Penn

Restaurant Week Winter 2012
What: It's that time of year again! Restaurant Week gives you the opportunity to indulge in your favorite restaurant or try a new place. All participants offer 3-4 course prix fixe menus at affordable prices. See the list of participating restaurants and their menus here.
Where: Center City restaurants
When: January 22–27 and January 29–February 3
Cost: $20 for lunch, $35 for dinner

Chinese New Year 2012
What: Ring in the Year of the Dragon with Chinatown festivities! Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) will kick things off with its first ever Flower Market (January 21-22, 10 am-4 pm). The Abakus Chinese New Year Party happens January 21 (6-9 pm) and the New Year’s Eve Midnight Celebration takes place on January 22 starting at 10:45 pm. The annual Chinese New Year parade (January 29, 11 am-2:30 pm) is not to be missed! Uwishunu has an excellent guide detailing other fun New Year's activities.
Where: Various locations (primarily Chinatown)
When: Various event dates and times (read "What" section)

Roundye Noodle Bar Pop-Up
What: Roundeye Noodle will be holding a pop-up restaurant on Jan. 29, 2012 at Matyson. Conceptualized by longtime buddies Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh (four-year Matyson veteran and food and retail marketing expert, respectively), Roundeye Noodle is "a hip noodle spot run by two white boys from the suburbs," with a menu featuring inventive spins on classic noodle dishes like pho, ramen, and soba (i.e. Duck Pho with duck leg dumplings, foie gras, pickled turnips). Check out more info here.
Where: Matyson, 37 S. 19th Street
When: Sunday, January 29, starting at 4 pm
Cost: Pay as you go

Davio's Valentine's Day Dinner
What: Bring your date to Davio's, Philadelphia's favorite Northern Italian Steakhouse, for a romantic rendezvous this Valentine’s Day. Davio’s is offering a special four-course prix fixe menu including items such as the Crispy Fried Oyster, Lobster Ravioli, and Petite Filet Mignon for only $75.00 per person (tax and gratuity not included). Forgetting the flowers and chocolate? Don’t stress. All guests will receive one complimentary flower and handmade chocolates prepared by our Pastry Chef Thomas Heck to take home. What’s not to love? Reservations are required and can be made by calling 215-563-4810.
Where: Davio's Philadelphia, 111 South 17th Street
When: Tuesday, February 14, 5 pm-11 pm
Cost: $75

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Robert Mondavi Facebook and Youtube Launch

Our friends at Robert Mondavi Private Selection have officially launched on Facebook and YouTube! Read on to hear more about their latest developments.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection has officially launched on Facebook and YouTube! To help launch the pages, we created a “Tuesdays with Ted” video series from Robert Mondavi Private Selection brand ambassador and Food Network host, Ted Allen. These videos are rolling out on both social platforms one-by-one in a ‘progressive dinner party’ fashion, starting with the most simple topics such as uncorking and pouring wine to restaurant and food pairings. Robert Mondavi Private Selection hopes to not only educate wine consumers via these channels, but also to help solve the sometimes-daunting wine pairing puzzle. No question (no matter how obvious the answer might seem), is off limits to ask!

Check out the new features today!

Robert Mondavi Private Selection on Facebook: www.facebook.com/robertmondaviprivateselection
Robert Mondavi Private Selection on YouTube: www.youtube.com/RobertMondaviPS

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Best Winter Break Food

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. During winter break, our staff traveled back home or gone on exciting foodie adventures, delighting in both comfort foods and culinary masterpieces.

The question: What was your favorite food experience this winter break?

Elliott Brooks: This winter break, I discovered my new favorite cheese, La Tur. It's the most creamy melt-in-your mouth cheese made from a combination of sheep, goat and cow's milk. The outside is an incredible dripping, oozing goodness surrounding the firmer center. The most amazing thing is that, while it has a pungent smell, the taste is still incredibly mild. I just discovered that La Tur can be found at the Downtown Cheese Shop in Reading Terminal Market, so I won't be deprived of its decadence in Philadelphia.

Hoi Ning Ngai: The best way I could’ve spent Christmas Eve in Philly was sipping hot chocolate at the Ritz-Carlton. Sitting in the lounge, with my unopened mail and my unread magazines, staring at the Christmas tree, with families and couples milling about, the only thing that could’ve made this experience better was having cookies to go with my hot chocolate. And so I ordered those too! My server was hilarious, and even reprimanded me for not taking more than a few bites of three very substantial cookies. Better to savor than overindulge, right? Then again, I did manage to find room for all that hot chocolate….

Nicole Woon: I had an ethereal experience this break with Apizza Scholls' pizza in Portland, OR. We had just arrived in the city and wanted to pick up something before heading to our hotel room: pizza sounded like the perfect option, so it was off to the well-reviewed Apizza for a pie! With a number of equally-delicious-sounding combinations on the menu, it was tough to decide which pie to order. We finally chose a ½ and ½ pizza: ½ Tartufo Bianco (whole milk and fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano, truffle oil, and sea salt) and ½ Bacon Bianca (whole milk mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano, lots of fresh garlic, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and house cured bacon). Those of us not driving dug in as soon as we shut the car door.
Everyone knows that you can't have a drool-worthy pizza in the making without a solid foundation, and Apizza's crust was just that: salivating. It was one of the best I've had with the right chew, spot-on seasonings, and a fantastic wood-fired taste. There's just something in the water in the Oregon/Northern California areas that makes incredible bread and baked goods! The cheese combination had a creamy freshness and the perfect gooey, stretchy consistency, complimenting the other ingredients quite nicely. The Bacon's... well, bacon was generously spread atop its respective pizza half; its crispness and flavorful saltiness added to the full-bodied flavor. The Tartufo's truffle essence also gave the pizza slices a rounded richness, which I can only describe as the ultimate umami. The wait at this restaurant is always long, and it was easy to see why after one bite of this pizza. Bravo!

Abigail Koffler: My favorite food experience over break was at Estancia 460, an Argentine restaurant in Tribeca. We dined for my friend's birthday on modern Argentine dishes. I hope to study abroad in Buenos Aires junior year and if this restaurant is any indication, I will be eating well. Grilled mozarella was my favorite dish (seriously everyone needs to try this). We sampled three types of brushetta, steak salad and salmon. The steak salad incorporated traditional argentine flavors without being heavy. We also couldn't stop eating the warm bread with chimichurri sauce, a total upgrade from the average stale role. The best part, of course, was catching up with old friends in the spacious and well lit setting over delicious food.

Emily Yoon:
Delivery in Korea is super fast. Whatever one orders--fried chicken, McDonald's, sushi, you name it--it will usually arrive under half an hour. In fact, many pizza and fried chicken joints guarantee a 30-minute-or-less delivery time (or the customer gets a discount or a free meal). Amazingly, the food is still good and there is no delivery charge! Additionally, lots of places either deliver until late into the a.m. or for the entire 24 hours. Korea is one country that never seems to sleep!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bainbridge Island Mochi Festival

For the past two years my friends and I have celebrated the new year by going to the Bainbridge Island Mochi Festival. The festival is put on by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC), which uses the event as both a way to celebrate mochi tsuki, meaning the process of pounding sweet rice into patties, and to inform fellow islanders and out-of-town visitors of their history.

Bainbridge Island is a small, forested island in the middle of the Puget Sound, just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. Ever since the late nineteenth century, the island has had a significant Japanese-American community, who played a crucial role in the development of the island's strawberry farming industry. Right before WWII, all the strawberry farms were owned by Issei (first generation Japanese) and were the island's largest industry. However, during WWII the Japanese-American community on Bainbridge was forced to evacuate, and sent to the Manzanar internment camp in California. One of my favorite novels is about this period in Bainbridge's history, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.

While the Mochi Festival is a time to reflect on the dark history of the island, it is first and foremost a time to have fun and learn about mochi tsuki. Mochi is one of the traditional foods eaten for the Japanese New Year celebration. Since mochi is pounded rice, in can be eaten many different ways. Most people are familiar with mochi surrounding icecream or cut into cubes to sprinkle on top of frozen yogurt. The traditional form mochi takes for New Year's day, however, is mochi kagami, meaning "mirror mochi". The mochi is made into two circular disks, one on top of the other, and topped with a bitter fruit, like an orange.

At the Bainbridge Island Mochi Festival the long process of making mochi, from beginning to end, took place. First, the sweet rice was steamed in wooden boxes over an outdoor fire. Once it was sticky, it was quickly transferred to a stone usu, or mortar. One of the BIJAC members then chose three volunteers to pound the rice. As much as I tried to be picked, the BIJAC member always chose three big, strong-looking men. These men were handed kines (wooden mallets) and given numbers, ichi, ni or san. They were instructed to pound the rice when their number was called. "Ichi, ni, san! Ichi, ni, san!" the BIJAC member called, and between each strike he nimbly flipped over the rice without getting his fingers pounded. It was quite thrilling to watch!

Once the rice was completely pounded, it was transferred inside. There, visitors were allowed to roll their own mochi. We were instructed to pull a small piece off with our fingers and, with our hands coated in rice flour, roll it into a ball. We then flattened the ball between our palms, and put a small amount of ahn, or red bean paste, in the center. We pinched the mochi up around the ahn, and again rolled it in our hands until we had our beautiful mochi.

Visitors were also given a cup of green tea and a bowl of ozoni soup to enjoy, the recipe for which is below.

Ozoni Soup


4 cups clear soup, such as dashi, chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
4 pieces plain softened mochi (not with ahn in the center)
Vegetables such as carrots, spinach or daikon
8 slices kamaboko, or fishcake


Mix broth with soy sauce and salt.
Toast mochi until puffed.
Cut vegetables and kamaboko into 1/4 inch slices, then blanch vegetables in boiling water.
Place one or two mochi in each bowl, garnish with kamboko and vegetables, then pour soup on top.

-Elliott Brooks


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food Events @ Penn

Mussels Monday
What: Every Monday enjoy a special of a bowl of steaming mussels paired with a Belgian style Ale or glass of wine for at Bridget Foy's.
Where: 200 South St.
When: Every Monday
Cost: $12

Pop-up Paladares at Cuba Libre
What: Chef Guillermo Pernot has teamed up with some renowned Cuban chefs and each meal will be a collaboration between him and one of these chefs. It is these chefs' first time cooking in the USA.
Where: 10 S. 2nd Street
When: Thursday the 12th and Friday the 13th, seatings at 6 and 8:30pm
Cost: $39 per person

Weekend Fried Chicken
What: Federal Donuts is now offering a fried chicken dinner, available on a first-come, first-served basis on the weekends, until they are sold out. For more information about Federal Donuts infamous fried chicken and donuts, check out our blog post here.
Where: 1219 S 2nd St.
When: Every Saturday and Sunday at 5pm, beginning the 14th and 15th
Cost: $9-$17

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Holiday Traditions

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. This Winter Break, we celebrate both holiday traditions and glorious time off from school.

The question: What food tradition are you most excited for this holiday season and why?

Nicole Woon: I can't remember a time when I didn't go to my aunt's house on Christmas Eve to prepare the classic Mexican Christmas fare: tamales. We'd wake up early in the morning and head to my aunt's house, ready to become part of the tamale-making crew. As soon as we stepped in the door, we were met with a blast of warm air and a kitchen table overflowing with corn husks and gigantic bowls of masa, a sauce-based beef/pork/chili mixture, and olives. The process is simple: select a large husk, spread masa on the surface, add a generous dollop of meat, accent with an olive for flair (and flavor), and fold it up! Tamale-making requires manpower, so family members of all ages would crowd around the table and share stories and laughter while we mass-produced. Tamales would be done by the afternoon, where we'd munch on them with Spanish rice, tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, and a plethora of multicultural desserts. This year went off without a hitch, and I'm already looking forward to the pockets of deliciousness the next holiday season.

Abigail Koffler: Every holiday season, I look forward to the mail. While I anticipate gifts and holiday cards featuring adorable children, I wait for one particular tin. This wonderful tin, an annual arrival from our family friend, features a tempting collection of holiday sweets. Opening the festive tin yields layers of lace cookies, gingerbread, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, and chocolate buttercreams, my personal favorite. Her candies are perfectly textured, coated in not too sweet chocolate. We are in awe of her skill and the time she commits to these treat boxes. While it would be easy to devour these sweets in one sitting, my family opts to savor them, using a ration system of one treat per day. The box usually expires around new years, leaving us plenty of time to anticipate next year's package.

Elliott Brooks: The smell of quaresimali baking is one of the most comforting reminders of being home during the holidays. Every December, my mom makes batches upon batches of these Italian biscotti loaded with almonds and cinnamon. And each year, despite my self-assurances that I don't really like quaresimali, I find myself sneaking one cookie... then another, and another. Despite the fact that they are crumbly and dry (two traits that I avoid in most cookies), quaresimali taste like Christmas. Furthermore, they are downright delicious when dunked in coffee, hot chocolate or wine (I discovered the latter at a young age, much to my parent's chagrin).

Laura Sluyter: Every Christmas since I can remember, my family has turned up the Christmas music, tied on our aprons, and gathered around the kitchen counter to decorate gingerbread cookies. With pastry bags of red, green, yellow, and white frosting, we make Christmas trees and Santas, Rudolphs and bells, my brother's meticulously symmetric stars and my gingerbread girls with fancy dresses. When we were younger, we always set aside our most prized designs for Santa Claus but even as that mission has faded, our love for decorating gingerbread cookies has not. This was the first year that my brother was working and living in another state, but we still made time for decorating gingerbread cookies - my favorite of all traditions.

Alex Marcus: My family and I started a new Hanukkah tradition this year, based on a typical food eaten on the holiday. At my sister's prodding, we made our own jelly doughnuts, which are traditionally eaten to signify... I don't know, a sweet year or something. The food's the important part, and we executed it well. It started with a basic recipe for doughnuts, found online, with plenty of yeast to ensure an airy, doughy final product and not a dense, cakey one. We threw some vegetable oil in a pot on the stove, fried em til golden brown (though we found that taking them out more golden and less brown resulted in a better tasting product). Once the doughnuts were out of the pot, we dredged them in cinnamon sugar (who needs the messy powdered stuff?), and took some kind of mini-turkey baster-like thing to stuff raspberry jelly into their still-steamy centers. We even made doughnut holes that were better than the commercial variety, and boasted a higher jelly-to-dough ratio. Hanukkah or not, any tradition that tastes this good is sure to remain in my family's stable.

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