Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appétit's blog staff. On September 20th, Penn Appétit bloggers went to the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll.

Elliott Brooks: Despite living on Baltimore Avenue, last Thursday was my first ever Dollar Stroll- a recurring summer treat where all the restaurants and markets along the avenue set up side-walk stands selling $1 goodies. I started off my stroll by declaring it to be a "backwards day" and eating dessert first. Milk & Honey Market was giving out generous scoops of Bassetts ice cream which, as always, was pure creamy comfort. Word on the street is that they now sell Lil' Baby's Icecream too.

The next stop was Aksum, where I got two stuffed grape leaves. I have yet to meet a stuffed grape leaf I did not like, however Aksum's were at the lower end of my "grape leaf tastiness" scale. I prefer my grape leaves to be flavorful little pockets of rice, meat and spice goodness. Aksum's grape leaves were vegetarian, so the nice meaty richness was missing.

Down the street from Aksum was my favorite Malaysian-Laotian restaurant- Vientiane Cafe. They were serving out grilled skewers of tender chicken morsels and spring rolls bursting with fresh vegetables and mint. I ate both happily before moving onto my last stop, Atiya Ola's Spirit First Foods. This was my first time at Atiya's, which is located in a side street off Baltimore. They specialize in Caribbean health food, including a lot of vegan and raw options. The smoothie I tried was sweet and refreshing, and tasted like a non-alcoholic pina colada. I can't wait to go back to try their other options- I have a feeling Atiya's might be Baltimore's hidden gem.

Nicole Woon: For a queue that was as long as one you might find for a Disneyland ride, you would think the food waiting at the end would leave your taste buds starstruck. As we learn in Marketing 101, however, satisfaction is based on both our expectations and the perceived performance, and the concept of "disconfirmation" was about to play out in real life. Such was the case at Elena's Soul.

Just to experience a taste of the South, we waited a solid half hour--if not longer--in a line that eked along at a snail's pace. The servers were friendly (at least during our brief interaction), yet inefficient; orders had to be repeated multiple times to multiple people and only one woman was dishing out orders. Elena's could greatly improve this aspect for future Dollar Strolls, especially considering how popular the spot is among the West Philly crowd. In any case, we at last reached the front and for $1 per serving, I picked up a Fried Chicken Wing, Candied Yams, Macaroni and Cheese, and Peach Cobbler.

Elena's leaves the wing tip, a part that is mostly skin and bones, attached to each chicken wing. While the drumette and flat portion of the wing were fairly moist and had a nicely-spiced coating, the thin crust was not crunchy enough. Additionally, the amount of meat present was minimal. The yams were indeed quite sweet, as their moniker suggests, and rather liquidy; it could have easily substituted as a pie filling, if that's your cup of tea. With the countless ways chefs interpret mac and cheese, I was curious to see how Elena's would prepare their version. The mac and cheese served was tasty, but ultimately unremarkable. The side was more creamy than cheesy and lacked the delicious crust that normally develops from baking in the oven. The peach cobbler was happily laden with chunky peaches, but I was disappointed with the dish's cool temperature and lack of flaky crust; I had been expecting a warm dessert with a crisper dough crust.

Fortunately, I was much more pleased with my findings at Desi Village, a spot I discovered at my first Dollar Stroll in October 2010. The pyramidal samosas were plump and crispy, jam-packed with cumin-scented potatoes and peas and dressed with a thin chutney. The show-stopper was the mango lassi, some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of sipping! The Indian yogurt-based drink was so smooth, genuinely fruity, and absolutely refreshing for the palette on a warm summer's night.

Farrel Levenson: If I told even a Penn student there was great food in the Baltimore area, he would probably think I was referring to Baltimore, Maryland. My natural inclination would be to think of Maryland as well, if it wasn’t for the Baltimore Dollar Stroll. Previously, whenever I was looking to vary my cuisine, I gravitated towards the more obvious areas: Old City, Rittenhouse Square, South Philly. Save for a few restaurants near Locust Street in the mid-forties, I was convinced a quality meal was a SEPTA ride away.

However, last Thursday I indulged in a hot, savory samosa, sugary sweet plantains, spicy mushrooms, a peanut butter-chocolate cupcake, a succulent chicken kebab, and a scoop of the famous Basset’s ice cream. All were acquired within a four-block radius, to my surprise, on Baltimore Avenue.
Little did I know, the street I believed to be mostly residential was actually a mini-melting pot of cuisines, offering everything from Ethiopian to Indian to Chinese fare at reasonable prices.

As I participated in the Baltimore Dollar stroll, basking in the perfect 70-degree weather, I marveled at my ignorance. Who knew a street a few blocks from my house had so much to offer? My accompanying friends and I immediately began formulating future dinner plans, eager to explore our new-found options. Penn students often joke about rarely leaving the “Penn Bubble,” and it's unfortunate to think that Baltimore Ave. is often excluded from this realm. Both myself and my taste buds have the Baltimore Stroll to thank for pulling us a few blocks out of the bubble, and into a new slice of Philly.

Jessica Chung: The Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll is a great concept: seven blocks of restaurants selling food for a dollar that you would normally pay up to $5 for! Unfortunately what that also means is a lot of waiting and only a little bit of food. My first stop was Elena’s Soul. Personally, I didn’t think it was worth waiting thirty minutes for a couple dollars’ worth of food. Nevertheless, I was craving good mac and cheese and candied yams, so I chose to stick it out. The mac and cheese was good, but not exceptional. It was very simple with no breadcrumb topping. There was a layer of cheese baked on top, but it didn’t make the dish stand out. And there were some spices mixed in, making the macaroni taste peppery. The candied yams were almost bitter. They sat in a nice amount of glaze, but I think there was too much cinnamon in it, making what could be a sweet spice actually the opposite. I also tried a chicken wing, worried that the other restaurants would be running out of food by the time we got through this line. The chicken was a little dry on the inside, but nice and crisp on the outside. Although it was greasy, it was flavorful. I also tried a samosa from Gojjo. Again, I was not thrilled. The fried shell was thick, but on the verge of being soggy, which is to be expected from sitting outside. The potato and pea filling was lacking in peas, and was a little too spicy for my liking.

However, the night ended on a good note. Desi Village was selling mango lassi’s, which were perfectly sweetened, creamy, and full of mango flavor. I also tried what I believe is called gulab jamun, mini fried doughnut-like balls soaked in a sweet syrup. These were very good too, although a little denser than usual after sitting in the syrup for so long. By the end of the night, I was certainly full. However, many of the restaurants did run out of food before the Dollar Stroll was over. I would have liked to have tried Sweetbox’s cupcakes, Mariposa Co-Op’s banana whips, and Green Line Café’s carrot dogs. Nevertheless, it was a good experience, as it allows you to try a variety of foods for just $1 each. Next time, I think we’ll just have to split up, each of us buying one another a variety of foods from different restaurants so that we can all taste a larger gamut of goods!

*Photo courtesy of University City District

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kiwi Berry, Ho!

On Wednesday, I had a Columbus-and-the-New-World, Galileo-and-the-moons-of-Jupiter, Benjamin-Franklin-and-electricity-kind-of moment. Granted that my moment was of considerably smaller scale, I was still pretty excited when amidst the farmers’ market’s apples and concord grapes, its strawberries and cherry tomatoes, I found a new kind of fruit. On Wednesday, I discovered the kiwi berry. Unwilling as I was to leave my new discovery behind, I purchased a little carton of the smooth, green, grape-like berries, brought them home, and as the farmer’s market sign had instructed me, patiently waited until they were very soft and wrinkly. In the meantime, I turned to Wikipedia and discovered that the kiwi berry grows on a vine native to Korea, Northern China, and Siberia. The vine is very hardy and able to survive temperatures well below freezing, but it has not yet been widely commercialized because the fruit has a short shelf life and an unpredictable ripening pattern. Wikipedia also told me that the kiwi berry should taste just like an extra-sweet kiwi.

When my kiwi berries were finally ripe, I was excited to do a taste test of my own. Biting the little berry in half, I was immediately blown away by how similar its taste was to that of it bigger cousin. Judging on flavor alone, it was as if I had discovered nothing new. Even more remarkable was that the inside of the berry looked just like the inside of a miniature kiwi. Despite these similarities, however, I feel in love with the little berries because while the bigger kiwifruit is equally delicious, the tiny berries are so easy to eat. This coming Wednesday, I plan to return to the Beechwood Orchards stand and rediscover my new world. If you’d like a little hump day adventure, I recommend you come along.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thai Style Eggplant with Chickpeas

When you think of comfort food, what comes to mind? For me, comfort food is a spicy stir-fry over a mound of fragrant steamed white rice. Although it may not be the traditional American concept of comfort, hot savory vegatables and rice is a combination that not only stimulates my tastesbuds, but also gives me the warm feeling of being "at home" no matter where I'm enjoying the meal.

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, authentic Chinese food (no I'm not talking about orange chicken) was nearly impossible to find outside a Chinese family's home kitchen. I rarely dined out and even more seldomly visited Chinese restaurants. Stir fry and rice is something that I associate with home and sharing a meal with family and friends. After arriving at Penn, most of my sustenance has been from the campus dining halls. Although the food is quite good, (waayyyyy better than that stuff they served us in high school, space nuggets anyone?) it is relatively bland as to cater to the tastes of most students. There is a special something that distinguishes a home-cooked meal from cafeteria food: that extra kick in your mom's noodle soup, that special shape of your neighbor's homemade dumplings. While one of my roommates and I were devouring the leftovers from today's recipe, she told me that the dish reminded her of her mother's home cooking. I was truly flattered because in my opinion, there is no dish more comforting than one that reminds you of the people and places you treasure. For some people comfort food is a rich, bubbly macaroni-and-cheese, for others it's a crunchy taco with all the fixings, yet for others it's a simple plate of stir-fry over steamy rice. Whatever your idea of a comfort food, I hope that it brings you pleasure beyond your taste buds.

This week's recipe features tender baby eggplants, lots of chili, garlic, and ginger, and fresh basil. It was yet another delicious meal from the farmers' market. Feel free to reduce or increase the amount of chilis according to taste. Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Thai Style Eggplant with Chickpeas
Makes 4 servings

4 small Japanese or baby eggplants (about 2lbs), diced into ½’’ cubes
3 tbsp. canola oil
2 jalapeños or Fresno chilies, finely chopped (adjust amount according to taste)
4 green onions, sliced, white part and green parts divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1’’ piece of ginger, minced
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 small vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water
Sea salt and white pepper, to taste
About ½ cup chopped fresh basil
Hot cooked jasmine rice, for serving

Heat oil in large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant, season with about ½ tsp. sea salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, white parts of the green onion, and chilies and sauté one minute more, or until fragrant. Dissolve sugar in soy sauce and vinegar. Add to skillet and stir until mixture is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and chickpeas and cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and stir. Turn off heat. Wilt in fresh basil and green onion tops. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Serve with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Food Events @ Penn

Restaurant Week!
WHAT: Dear freshman or anyone else living under a rock, let me explain Restaurant Week to you: it's the magical time of year where fancy Center City restaurants offer three-course dinners for $35 and three-courses lunches for $20. And it starts THIS SUNDAY. Participating restaurants and reservation links can be found here.
WHERE: Center City
WHEN: September 30-October 5 & October 7-12, 2012
COST: $35 for dinner, $20 for lunch

*Photo courtesy of Le Castagne

Oktoberfest Block Party
WHAT: Brauhaus Schmitz, the German restaurant and beer hall, is shutting down South Street to share with us live oompah music (kinda like the Polka) and lots of great German beer! Oh, and a pig roast. Did I mention the pig roast?
WHERE: South Street
WHEN: September 29, 12-8pm
COST: Varies

Distrito Monday Night Football Fiestas
WHAT: Distrito is serving up all-you-can-eat tacos and enchiladas for the return of their football fiesta! For those who are 21+, you can also snag yourself some two-buck Don Equis Amber and Lager.
WHERE: 3945 Chestnut St.
WHEN: Every Monday from 8-10pm
COST: $25 per person

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Philly's Shake Shack

I was once told that eating at Shake Shack was a bucket-list worthy activity. The moment I heard that I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to eat at the newly opened location on 20th and Sansom. Starting as a food truck in New York, Shake Shack quietly rose to fame in the Big Apple and is now a chain in various cities across the United States. Known for its long lines during lunchtime, it is a staple in the lives of many.

I ate at Shack Shake for dinner when the restaurant was bustling with customers. The clean hardwood sheen of the tables, the large open kitchen and the eating area both inside and outside made me all the more excited for the experience to come. I ordered a Smoke Shack burger (6.25), fries (2.65), and a chocolate milkshake (5.00).

The Smoke Shack burger was a cheeseburger topped with bacon bits, chopped pepper, and their special ShackSauce. I have to admit, when I got my burger, I was underwhelmed; the burger was about the size of my palm. However despite its size, the burger itself didn’t disappoint. The bun itself was soft and complemented the burger itself very well. The bacon bits weren’t crunchy but soft to create an easy eating experience. The chopped pepper was actually very strong and created just enough punch for the hamburger, but I would suggest those who aren’t fans of spicy foods to stay away from it. The special ShackSauce really made the burger a medley of flavors.In my opinion, the crinkle-cut fries were sub-par. Though they were made with what tasted like fresh potatoes, the fries weren’t crunchy enough to keep me interested, nor did they have any flavoring. I did appreciate that the fries weren’t greasy, and they served as a muted contrast to the flavors of the burger itself.

Since I couldn’t go to Shake Shack without trying a shake, I stuck with what the cashier said was the classic flavor—chocolate. Not wanting to spend an extra fifty-cents, I got the unmalted version. The drink didn’t have chunks of ice nor did it get stuck in the straw, making it a delicious and easy milkshake-drinking experience. It was rich without being overly sweetened, so I got all the goodness of chocolate without feeling too guilty. At the end of the drink, I was satisfied without feeling like I had had too much.

All in all, Shake Shack was both filling and delicious, but I felt that it was not exactly worth the money I paid. I’ve had plenty of cheaper burgers that were larger and just as good. As for being bucket-list worthy, it’s definitely up for debate.

*Photo courtesy of Shake Shack.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Week in the Life of My Stomach

Often, when I tell people that I cook at school, they ask me what I make. I never know what to say. I make a little of this and a little of that. It varies with the busyness of my schedule and my mood, and I rarely use a recipe. This post is my attempt to answer that question, so for all those who’ve ever wondered what I eat, here’s a dinner menu for a week as typical as any.

On Friday, I made whole wheat angel hair with lots of asparagus, pesto, and a sprinkle of crushed hazelnuts. Hazelnuts may sound like an odd addition, but a year or so ago, I had an amazing pasta dish with crushed hazelnuts at Boulud Sud in New York. The nutty taste was the perfect complement to the pasta, pesto, and short rib ragu, and ever since that dinner, I’ve been adding hazelnuts to my own pasta dishes.

On Saturday night, I went to the Bellini Grill downtown with a few of friends. Despite having pasta the night before, I couldn’t resist and ordered the Fusillli con Salmone. I was impressed by the uniqueness of the dish – it’s not something I’ve seen at other Italian restaurants in the city – and enjoyed the combination of fresh salmon, pasta, and the aurora brandy sauce, which was much like a vodka sauce. Although the restaurant was rather cramped, I enjoyed the food and would put the Bellini Grill near the top of my Philadelphia Italian list.
Then on Sunday, it was back to cooking, and happily, I had some ingredients that I had gotten at the Clark Park Farmers’ Market the day before. I enjoyed corn on the cob, a toss salad, and a tuna melt. Instead of mixing tuna with the traditional mayonnaise, I opted for balsamic vinegar with a drizzle of olive oil. Topped with tomato and gruyere cheese and swerved on limpa bread – a sweet Swedish rye flavored with anise and orange peel – it made a delicious sandwich.

On Monday, I took the easy way out and defrosted leftovers that I had in the freezer. Ratatouille and sausage pot pie is one of my all-time favorite meals, and while it’s more time consuming than I would take on at school, I almost always make it with my mom when I go home. I love all the vegetables in the ratatouille and the cornmeal biscuits are delicious enough to eat on their own.

I actually decided to use a recipe – although loosely – on Tuesday and made Spinach and Spaghetti Squash Casserole from Daily Unadventures in Cooking. (Click here for the recipe.) In this case, I dare say that my procrastination technique of food blog perusing was put to very good use. The recipe is quite easy, healthy, and so delicious, and with the tomato sauce, onion, and gruyere cheese, it’s packed with flavor. It’s also up to the challenge of satisfying the meanest of cravings for lasagna, and for all the starch lovers out there who aren’t the biggest fan of vegetables, it is much heartier than the typical vegetable dish.

On Wednesday, my menu plan changed at the last minute when I picked up some fresh corn at the farmer’s market. I sautéed the corn – cut off the cob – with mushrooms, a tomato, and tuna fish; mixed in some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and rosemary; and served it on top of fresh spinach. It wasn’t the prettiest looking meal, but it was super easy and tasted pretty good. I didn’t bother to photograph my Thursday dinner as it’s a meal that’s quite familiar to most. I had pizza at a 6pm meeting and basically left it at that. The vegetable monster in me did feel the need to eat a bit of salad when I got home, but that wasn’t really worthy of a photo either. And there it is: a week of dinners in my life as a college student – some cooking, a little eating out, some reliance on reheating in the microwave, and a night of pizza. In the coming week, I probably won’t have any of the same meals, but at the end of class each day, I know I’ll be looking forward to enjoying dinner with friends. Wherever your dinners take you, I wish you the same.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sweeter than Its Lassies

The Baltimore Stroll was what I expected- great food, long lines, and assembly-line style service. The perfect 70-degree weather coupled with the variety of offerings offset the waiting time and made for a charming experience. However, my most memorable moment at the stroll actually came when I strayed from it.

Near the conclusion of the stroll, around 46th and Baltimore, one of my friends wanted a drink. After seeing an extensive lassi menu through the storefront window, we wandered into the Mood Café. The decor was casual and unassuming- white walls and a smattering of couple of colored tables and chairs. It was essentially empty, save for the owner, a middle-aged Indian man, and his coworker. His face lit up upon seeing us, and he rushed over to his computer and toggled the mouse, showing us Mood Café’s 5-star Yelp rating he already had already up on the screen. Thoroughly convinced of this small restaurant’s abilities (not that buying a drink wasn’t planned already), my friend ordered the honeydew lassi. I was intrigued, having rarely heard of a beverage involving honeydew. The owner gave her a large drink (certainly worth the $2.99 price tag), and made a little extra for my other friend and I to sample. The beverage was refreshingly cool, sweet, and used real fruit, so I decided to peruse the menu. Peach? Rose? How is that even possible? My friends and I discussed the options out loud, and the owner was listening. He approached us with a plastic spoon containing a glob of brownish textured pieces. We looked at the spoon skeptically, and then took a whiff- he had brought us genuine rose pieces. It was strange having something so fragrant on my tongue, and was surprisingly sweet.

I ended up choosing the mango lassi. The owner was so pleased with our patronage, that he made two, giving a free full-size one to my other friend. I’m generally just a moderate mango fan, but this lassi was simply incredible. I kept sipping and sipping on it the entire walk back, waiting for the fresh mango flavor to dull my taste buds, and it never did. Before we left the café, the owner made sure to mention a couple of his normal food dishes. He ensured we knew what samosas were, then chaats, highly recommending something called the “crazy chicken chaat.” He loved teaching us about his offerings, and his overeager demeanor was simply endearing. He also made sure to stress that if we didn’t like anything he made, from the lassis to the chaats, he’d make us something else, free of charge.

Normally I wouldn’t have wandered all the way down to 46th and Baltimore, but I’m certainly glad I did. The Mood Café treated me to a reminder of how kind people can be when they genuinely care about your experience and enjoyment of their food. Three lassies, rose petals, and a mini Indian food lesson later, I know I definitely will be returning to the Mood Café in the future.

Friday, September 21, 2012

News Feed: A Round-Up of the Week's Top Food Stories

• Coming Soon: Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar expects a late September opening at 40th and Walnut Streets

• BYOB: 34th Street lists the best "BYOBaltimore" spots. Also check out Uwishunu's latest installments to its BYOB guide, University City and South Philly

• Hungree Girl is back on The Walk blog with a guide to Philadelphia's best vegetarian restaurants

• Secret dishes? That's right, Grub Street Philly has the lowdown on Philly's best off-menu dishes, from Nutella Pizza at Osteria to Foie Gras Kebab at Zahav

• Fall Fests: Foobooz has compiled a list of the best upcoming Philadelphia food and drink festivities 

Who is Peter Serpico? Philly foodies went bonkers when they heard the former Momofuku Ko chef is partnering with Stephen Starr on a new South Street restaurant. Eater Philly explains the excitement behind the news.

• Bizarre Eats: PYT in Northern Liberties is now offering up a Fried Butter Burger, while the folks over at Little Dan's food truck have conjured up a Vanilla Oreo Crusted Chicken Breast

• Foodie TV: Bravo has announced season 10 of Top Chef is taking place in Seattle; premiere is November 7

• Food Photography: Check out this awesome photo series on literature's famous food scenes, from Catcher in the Rye to Alice in Wonderland 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Clark Park Farmers' Market

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appétit's blog staff. On Saturday, September 15, Penn Appétit bloggers explored the nearby Clark Park Farmers' Market at Clark Park (43rd and Baltimore).

Elvina Yau: I’ve heard plenty of hype about the Clark Park Farmers' Market before coming to Penn, so when the opportunity to check it out finally arose, I felt compelled to go! As an avid foodie and lover of fresh and organic items, visiting the farmers' market was nothing short of divine. I snapped photos like a madwoman and was enraptured by the plump fruits, the twisty hot peppers, the vivid floral arrangements, and the decadent chocolates. It was a lovely experience to drink in the sights of the array of comestibles, meet the vendors, and learn more about how they make the transfer of their goods from farm to table. I ultimately ended up making a sole purchase: a jar of scrumptious apple butter. Upon the insistence of the seller himself, I grabbed a spoon and ate straight out of the container. Tasting the concentrated flavor and natural sweetness of the apples was definitely life-changing. I can say for sure that I’ll be a chronic visitor to Clark Park on Saturdays!

Nicole Woon: The heady perfume of freshly-picked flowers wafts through the air. Rosy sun-kissed apples—including Honeycrisp, my favorite variety—spill out of wooden crates. Spacious straw baskets hold various breeds of voluptuous mushrooms. Long queues trail from food trucks and carts lined up along Chester Avenue. This is the Clark Park Farmers' Market in its prime, which just happens to be every Saturday throughout the year. The local market is the perfect location to stock up on farm-fresh produce and just-made baked goods. On this visit, I dove into a plump loaf of cheddar cheese bread accented with hints of cayenne from Lancaster-based Slow Rise Bakery. While the bread could have used the addition of more cheddar, it still had a delectable crumb and soft interior. I also sampled Slow Rise's satisfyingly-crunchy pretzels and became an instant fan; these will surely be on my shopping list next time around. Slow Rise offers a whole host of organic baked delicacies, from classic seven grain loaves to sourdough banana bread, brownies to dog biscuits. Be sure to give them a try next time you swing by the farmers' market.

Chacha Wang: Today was the first outing of the Penn Appétit bloggers and what a start! We headed to the University City District Clark Park Farmers' Market, definitely one of the hidden gems of West Philly. Just a short stroll of ~15 min away from campus, the market boasts over a dozen vendors and is one of the largest in the city. Starting at the front were mouthwatering bakery booths that showcased everything from cookies and pies to freshly baked bread. It was really difficult to contain myself from wanting to linger by those tables forever, so I had to quickly devour the goodies with my eyes and move on. Then came booths filled with fresh, crisp organic vegetables and fruit that looked so good, they were almost as irresistible as the buttery baked goods. Eden Garden Farm is heaven for apple lovers: there's apple cider, fresh apples, apple butter (which is especially good! I was bombarded with compliments about it from random shoppers), you name it. Other miscellaneous goodness included Little Baby's ice cream, organic meat, drool-worthy food trucks, and a very unique chocolate booth called John & Kira's. Personally I've never seen such intriguing and delicate-looking chocolates: there are at least 15 flavors like pistachio, lemongrass, honey, and fruit. What's even cooler is that the fruit chocolates actually look like miniature versions of the real fruit themselves. Check them out at John & Kira's website!

Laura Sluyter: Being the fruit fanatic I am, I've always been a fan of farmers' markets. While I was in California this summer, however, I fell in love. Thus, I was very excited that the first Penn Appetit outing of the summer was to the Clark Park Farmers' Market. The market was full of activity and had a good variety of fruit and vegetable stands as well as a couple bakeries, some food trucks, and a little ice cream stand. In no time, I had happily accumulated a couple vegetables, quite a few delicious fall apples and the last of the summer peaches (so sad to see them go). I was also tempted by a carrot loaf and a four seed cookie from the Special Rise Bakery. The bakery's focus on wholesome food was apparent in both treats. The cookie was just slightly sweet with a great chewy texture. Accented with a sprinkling of chocolate chips, it made a great midday snack. The bread was similarly delicious. Like the cookie, it was not too sweet with a fairly dense wholegrain texture.

Dylan Sun: There is something to be said for good frosting. But first, a little bit of semantics. Though there is an adage which refers to the “icing on the cake,” cakes are much more often slathered with frosting. Some maintain that the two are basically interchangeable, but I believe frosting is creamier on the tongue and more matte in appearance, generally with a higher proportion of (butter) fat to sugar. Regardless of the terminology, however, a good frosting is difficult to come by. Supermarket varieties certainly do not cut it for me; I always bear the brunt of a hundred disbelieving eyes when I scrape the stiflingly sweet varnish off my cake. Good buttercreams often elude me in the kitchen as well, chunks of unmixed butter marring what should be a perfectly smooth affair. Last weekend, however, I finally found my perfect frosting at the Farmer's Market at 41st and Baltimore. I was immediately drawn to the pastry tent. Being from only an hour and a half away in New Jersey, I've always associated this region with honest, uncluttered baked goods, worlds away from the manicured eats one might find at a high-end New York shop. I got exactly what I was searching for. For only a dollar, I nabbed a whoopie pie, created in what I hoped was fine Amish tradition. Chocolate cake and peanut butter icing. One bite was enough to convince me never to scrape the frosting off anything sold to me by anyone wearing a wide-brimmed hat. The cake was certainly stellar, but the frosting took center stage. It was smooth and rich, but definitely not too sweet. The texture was fluffy, but it was strong enough to stay unrefrigerated on the warm fall day. This is the frosting that everyone should be making. Perhaps I should forgo my electric mixer the next time I try my hand at frosting and simply wait for the butter to soften properly. I was relieved, frankly, that I had attained my frosting nirvana in such an unpretentious environment. Sitting on the grass in the warm sun, there was absolutely nothing stopping me from licking the last bit of frosting from the wrapper.

Alina Grabowski: If I had to make a list of my top five favorite things, farmers markets would claim one of the coveted spots (following desserts and campfires). So when I got the e-mail from Penn Appétit about heading to the Clark Park Farmers’ Market, there was no question about whether or not I would go. I was not disappointed. In comparison to my local farmer’s market, which takes place in the parking lot of our commuter rail station and features a handful of vendors, the Clark Park market was a sprawling oasis of locally sourced goods. Everything from glass jars of amber honey to neat rows of hand-drizzled truffles could be found tucked beneath the white tents. I was particularly fascinated by a table lined with crates of apples with familiar names, like Granny Smith and Gala, and unfamiliar ones, like Jonagold and Honeycrisp. I bought two Honeycrisps because of a recommendation by one of the blog editors and its marbled red-green skin. It would not be an overstatement to say that they were the most delicious apples I have ever eaten (and this is coming from a picky apple-eater who can spend hours browsing produce). The Honeycrisps had a satisfying crunch while also being remarkably juicy (I think I sprayed a fellow blogger with my enthusiastic chomps). I’ll be returning to the farmer’s market, and this time I’ll be sure to buy more than two Honeycrisps.

Farrel Levenson: After a few weeks of sourcing my food from dining halls and corporate conglomerates (i.e the “Fresh” Grocer), I found it easy to forget that food couldoccasionally be both fresh and natural. Processed and packaged were common themes in my diet. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that on a bright and sunny September day, I found myself utterly enchanted by the array of brightly colored stalls at the Clark Park Farmers’ Market. Real fresh fruits, homemade baked goods, and organic chocolate free samples welcomed me; the vendors could name the very town their goods came from. I was charmed by the Amish vendors in traditional garb- a shy young boy in conservative dress was quite the adorable salesman. The uniqueness of many of the goods intrigued me- goat milk caramel pudding and corn-and-blueberry bread aren’t your typical grocery store fare. Browsing through the market was an exciting and fun experience, except for when I had to choose which delectable goods I had to forgo.However, my enjoyment didn’t end when I left the market. A day later, a bite of a plump Honeycrisp apple and a sip of fresh apple cider brought me back to days of apple picking with my family. For a second, I was back outside among fallen golden-colored leaves, a brisk wind blowing through my hair, rather than inside my stuffy airless apartment. Even better was later that day, when I treated myself to Amish-made pecan-raisin sticky bun. Sugar-sweetness and warm dough mingled in my mouth while I marveled at the ability of people from such a foreign culture to bake such an incredible good from scratch, and the comforting aroma reminded me of dozens of bakery trips past. The nostalgic power of food never fails to astound me, and the Farmers’ Market fare was no exception.

Lauri Bonacorsi: I was so anxious to visit the Clark Park farmers market this past weekend as my first Penn Appetit outing, and my high hopes were certainly upheld. When we arrived, Roopa, Evie and I decided to survey of all the booths before making our purchases. It felt like the same routine when we eat at 1920 Commons, but of course the food and ambience are significantly less exciting in the dining halls:). After marveling over an impressive array of sweets, fresh fruits and veggies, spreads, and sandwiches, we finally made up our minds. For lunch, I tried "The Joy" sandwich from a food truck called "YumTown," consisting of beer braised pulled pork, BBQ sauce, sesame slaw, jalapenos, and aioli on a challah bun. It was my first food truck experience, and didn't disappoint! The pulled pork reminded me a bit of my dads special BBQ back at home (in my family's humble opinion, he is the best at barbecue), and the toasted challah bun was buttery and flaky... perfect. In addition to the sandwich, Roopa and I bought a some pumpkin butter and a couple loaves of fresh bread to take back home - zucchini and pumpkin! Pumpkin ranks high on my favorite food list, and anyone who knows me knows that I will eat it in just about anything. We tried the breads Sunday night during a spontaneous study "break," that really turned into the end of our studying for the evening. The bread was delicious and moist, and the pumpkin butter was light and sweet. Bring on the fall season!!

Katelyn Behrman: Host to crisp apples, luscious peaches, juicy tomatoes, and delicate desserts, the Clark Park Farmer’s Market springs to life each Thursday and Saturday. I delighted in walking up and down the park, peering at the food choices, and engaging in conversation with the farmers. Each stand offered delicious items—cheese, produce, desserts, or juice—all of which were fresh, and most of which were organic. I made a rather eclectic purchase--three apples, three peaches, a handful of green beans, one potato, a pint of apple cider, and a loaf of pumpkin bread. All of these items proved equally as delicious as the rest. The farmers’ pleasant attitudes added to my enjoyment—they explained the difference in apples, helped me pick out peaches, and even explained how to properly bake my potato! So, if you’re looking to leave the “Penn Bubble,” looking for edible produce, or looking for yummy bakery items, I hope that you spend your next Saturday morning strolling through the greenery of Clark Park.

Picnicking bloggers after a bountiful farmers' market trip!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Farmer's Market Recipe: Oven Roasted Tomato and Garlic Linguine

There are many ways to identify the changing of the seasons. My favorite way to identify the time of year is through the variety of fresh produce available at the local farmer's market. To me, there is nothing that says the end of summer like the flavor of a juicy vine ripened tomato. The taste of the produce from our trip to the Clark Park Farmer's Market brought back memories from my earlier years; picking tomatoes from my garden and savoring the last tastes of summer. The Clark Park outing was my first trip to a farmer's market in Philadelphia, so naturally I was tempted to buy a little of everything. Unfortunately, I only possess two limbs capable of carrying grocery bags so I limited my purchases to one yellow sweet potato, two purple sweeet potatoes, four eggplants, one yellow tomato, one basket of red tomatoes, fresh basil, goat get the idea. My fingers are itching to cook up all of the delicious fresh ingredients but I'm a busy college student that likes to sleep. Today's post features fresh tomatoes, summer squash, and sweet basil. You can look forward to recipes with the other ingredients in my future posts.

These are the beautiful tomatoes and the fresh basil straight from the farmer's market. The yellow tomato was of the heirloom variety (meaning the plant was not hybridized through genetic cross breeding)and I couldn't help but to devour it raw as soon as I reached home. True to its reputation, the tomato was bursting with sweet tomatoey flavor that can't compare with its bland supermarket counterparts. Also, here is a trick I like to use to keep basil fresh. Cut off the stems diagonally about 1/4'' from the bottom and place in a glass fill with water. Like so:

The remaining tomatoes and basil are the feature of my recipe. I roast the tomatoes along with some summer squash and a whole head of garlic in the oven to carmelize and bring out their natural sweetness. After boiling linguine, I created a sauce from the roasted garlic, some butter, and pasta water. Finally, everything is tossed together with some savory parmesan cheese and finished with a generous sprinkling of basil. This dish was light yet comforting and really highlights the late summer season. There are a few things I would change to improve the dish. I felt that there wasn't enough of the delicious roasted tomatoes and squash in one serving of pasta so I would recommend doubling the amount of roasted vegetables for veggie lovers. Also, some cayenne pepper thrown in with the roasted garlic and butter mixture would add some nice heat. Anyway, without further adieu, here is the recipe: Oven Roasted Tomato and Garlic Linguine Serves 4-6

About 2-3 lbs roma or large cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 medium summer squash, sliced
1/2'' thick horizontally
1/4c.+1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp. dried majoram 1/2 tsp. dried basil
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 head fresh garlic
2 tbsp butter
1 lb. dried linguine
1 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 c. loosely packed julienned fresh basil + more for garnish

Preparation: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking pan (or two smaller ones) with aluminum foil. Arrange tomato and squash in a single layer making sure the tomatoes' cut sides are up. Whisk together 1/4 c. olive oil and next three ingredients. Drizzle mixture evenly over the tomatoes and squash. Cut the top 1/4-1/2'' off the garlic, revealing the individual cloves. Reserve the top section for later use. Encase the bottom part in aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Seal the aluminum foil. Place the baking sheet and wrapped garlic in the oven and roast for 40 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400 degrees and roast 15-20 minutes more, or until the vegetables are nice and carmelized. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions (make sure to generously salt the cooking water!) and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Remove the garlic from the oven and turn off the oven. You can keep the veggies in the warm oven while you prepare the pasta. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves and mince to a fine paste. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add roasted garlic. Saute briefly. Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, stir, and let simmer until it reduces about 1/3. Remove from heat. Add pasta, veggies, and toss. Continue tossing with parmesan cheese, adding more pasta water to loose, if neccesary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil. Divide among plates and garnish with more basil. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ramen Bar

Ramen Bar, which opened at 4040 Locust on Tuesday, is a welcome addition to the University City dining scene, filling a gap in noodle offerings in West Philly. The restaurant boasts a fully renovated space, with clean lines and hardwood finishings. The food is tasty and the prices are reasonable (most of the entrees are around $10 and most of the appetizers are below that). I ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen, a pork bone soup with hunks of pork belly, scallions, ginger, bamboo and mushrooms. The pork belly was tender and well-seasoned, and the broth was the perfect combination of salty and savory. For $9, this is a great dinner deal--it's so much soup that I couldn't finish it. I also tried the seaweed salad ($5), a standard that was good if not exceptional, and the green tea ice cream ($5), another bargain portion size-wise. Like many new businesses, though, Ramen Bar has a few kinks to work out before it's ready for primetime. The service was slow (it was a long time before they brought the water I asked for and I had to ask twice) and they might want to spell-check their menu ("appetitizers," anyone?). However, I'm confident that given time, Ramen Bar will smooth about these little hiccups and make this place a must-try for noodle lovers the city over.

Check out the full menu over at Grub Street Philly.

-- Kiley Bense

I am a huge ramen fan. My first experience with ramen was in the summer of 2010 in Tokyo, and I fell in love with it. After that I visited a number of ramen restaurants in Seoul, Busan (another Korean city), Philadelphia, New York, and even London. Still, the ramen I had for the first time remained the best. The ramen places that I visited in Korea were good, some amazing, but some of the ones I went to in Philly and New York were disappointing. Maybe I had picked the wrong restaurants, but it was enough to chisel in me the notion that if I wanted really tasty and authentic ramen, I would need to wait until my next visit to Korea or Japan. I had been satiating my ramen cravings at Tampopo (near 44th and Spruce), which actually sells okay ramen, but being always in search for great ramen, I was more than ready to try out Ramen Bar on 40th and Locust. My friend and I arrived at Ramen Bar around 7:15, and since the restaurant just opened, it was no surprise to find the place brimming with people. After waiting 20 minutes, we were seated, but had to wait another 10 minutes for the waiter to bring the water. I ordered my favourite Tonkotsu Ramen, and my friend ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen. Then waited another 30 or 40 minutes for the food. The Tonkotsu ramen has pork bone broth, while the Miso of course has miso base. I ladled my long-anticipated Tonkotsu ramen soup to my mouth, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually quite delicious. The broth was rich and savory. The meaty flavour was there, but did not overwhelm; and was not too oily or salty, which was the opinion of a couple of my friends who had already eaten here. The yolk of the egg was moist, and the slice of pork (chashu) was very generously thick and succulent. My only complaint is that the noodles were clumped together. The clump did not separate well at all, so I felt like chewing on a big piece of flour at times. I only had a ladle of the Spicy Miso ramen soup, which was equally good, but did not try the noodles, which were thicker than my Tonkotsu ones. Lucky for my friend, his noodles were not all stuck together. So overall, the meal itself was highly satisfactory, and the decor and location are very nice--but I was not impressed with the service. Of course, the place was jam-packed even when we left but the waiters were not very attentive. Hopefully when the hype dies down a little bit, the service and speed will improve, because I do want to visit this place again... and again... and again.

-- Emily Yoon

Ramen Bar
4040 Locust St

Friday, September 14, 2012

News Feed: A Round-Up of the Week's Top Food Stories

Welcome back to another semester of news bites from the Philadelphia food scene!

• Opened in University City: Japanese noodle restaurant Ramen Bar officially opened at 4040 Locust Street on Tuesday! Check out the full menu at Grub Street Philly

• New to Campus: Bridge Café located on the ground floor of Huntsman Hall officially replaced Au Bon Pain over the summer

• West Philly Scene: the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll returns on September 20

• Penn Community: Class of 2015's Amanda Shulman, also know as Hungree Girl, writes a "An Homage to Apples" for The WALK blog

• Laban: 2 Bells for Southern bistro Rex 1516 located in the "happening now" neighborhood of South Street west of Broad

• Speaking of Laban: the elusive Philadelphia Inquirer food critic has won the Association of Food Journalists' prize for best newspaper restaurant criticism

• Did someone say BYOB? Uwishunu has you covered with a round up of Philly's best offerings in Center City west of Broad and east of Broad

• Foodie TV: Former Mercato chef Christina Wilson is the season 10 winner of Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen"

• National Wire: New York City's Board of Health on Thursday approved a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks

A Salsa Saga

Salsas, apparently, are not for the faint of heart—or, for the faint of chopping. One must daringly place their fingers in close contact with knives, their finger nails in contact with fiery ingredients, and their eyes in the midst of tear-producing onions. Sometimes, one must even expose their lungs to stifling odors. To make a salsa one must have courage, one must be nimble, and one must prepare for the possibility of suffocation. And so begins a salsa saga.

Pico de Gallo
Light and simple, this salsa may be made in a matter of minutes. For me, the hardest part consisted of chopping the onion, tomato, cilantro, and jalapeño (be sure to wear gloves while chopping this spicy ingredient!) I found that waiting for an hour or more allowed the ingredients to marinate wonderfully together. Pico de Gallo enhances a taco or merely a tortilla chip wonderfully!

Mango Salsa
Mango Salsa is my favorite summer salsa. The lush mango serves as the perfect contrast to the crunch of the ripe cucumber and onion. Hidden beneath these juxtaposing textures lies a single tablespoon of chopped jalapeño, a tablespoon so small it merely suggests innocence in flavor. Yet, the opposite holds true. The tablespoon bursts with flavor and perfectly secretes its juices throughout the salsa, providing the perfect kick to an otherwise mild dish. Try this salsa with panko-encrusted chicken tacos!

Yucatan-Style Habanero Salsa

There are some recipes that you wish you had looked at the comment section before beginning. If I had only read cdmclean’s comment “This is not a recipe for humans…This recipe is, I kid you not, a science experiment…” (Bon Appetit online), perhaps I would have steered clear of the, so-called, science experiment. Unfortunately, however, I did not. And, so, I too embarked on the most physically exhausting and painful salsa experience of my lifetime.

The recipe called to char 25 habanero chiles in the broiler while simultaneously toasting the garlic in a dry-cast iron skillet until charred. As the chiles and garlic charred I suddenly felt my eyes begin to water. The fumes engulfed my lungs and I began coughing hysterically. The whole house filled with smoke until the blare of the fire alarm sounded. My parents ran down the stairs thinking I had started a fire. Through rattled breaths, I cried, “Everything is burning! And it’s supposed to!” My mom quickly ushered me outside and had me down a glass of water to open my lungs. If you try this recipe, I strongly suggest charring the chiles outside.

After cooling both the chiles and garlic, I commenced to unravel their crackling skins. The garlic skins glided off the cloves; however, the chiles presented a different story. Wearing gloves, I tried to elegantly peel away the skins. Instead, I ended up peeling away the entire chile. I could not find the inside in half of them. Seeds spewed out of the chiles and into the processor. I added the other ingredients into the processor and turned it on. Needless to say, after pulsating together the garlic, lime juice, salt, and measly dissected chiles, my salsa failed to form a coarse puree. Instead, it resembled a soup. And, it was incredibly HOT. The recipe did warn that the salsa was “searingly hot,” but, as a lover of spice, I never expected to drink an entire glass of water after placing a dollop of the salsa (or, soup, as it turned out in my case) onto a tortilla chip. Although the salsa did not turn out as expected, I found it quite fun to make, although, at times, quite scary. A tiny portion tasted delicious on the tacos, but I could not stomach more than a few drops at a time. But, if you like adventure, spice, and daring—this could be the perfect recipe for you!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Intro GBM! | Monday, Sept. 10 | 8 pm | Kelly Writer's House

Love food? Love magazines?
Come to the Penn Appétit Intro Meeting.

What: Intro meeting for Penn Appétit, the country's oldest campus food magazine
When: Monday, September 10 @ 8 p.m.
Where: Kelly Writers House - Arts Café (across from 1920 Commons)

Penn Appétit is recruiting its fall staff, and we'd love for you to join! There are plenty of ways to get involved, whether it's writing, blogging, photo, layout, business, or publicity that you're interested in. Come by, learn about our magazine, and grab some delicious food while you're at it. All members of the Penn community are welcome.

See you there!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roasted Mushrooms Escargot-Style

Let’s be honest—the best part of escargots is the garlicky, parsley-flecked butter that the snails are cooked in. In this playful vegetarian spin, meaty mushrooms turn out to be the ideal vehicles for soaking up all that buttery goodness. Capers add a briny pop that fits right in. Serve with crusty bread to soak up all the great leftover juices.

Roasted Mushrooms Escargot-Style

1 lb mushrooms such as cremini or white, halved lengthwise if large
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF with rack in middle.
2. Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, oil, and 1/8 tsp each of salt and pepper in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt shallow baking dish.
3. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Stir in lemon juice and parsley.

Looking for recipe ideas? It happens to all of us. One week there is just no inspiration and no energy to make anything besides salad, a chicken breast, and a carton of mediocre ice cream. Those are the days when you wish you had a personal chef, or that at least the take-out guy would appear. Instead of languidly flipping through your old cookbooks, why not take a quick look into your inbox at a Weekly Recipes e-mail? Our weekly newsletter is chock full of beautiful photos and delicious recipes ready to inspire you to end your cooking rut. We carefully cull the best of the web to bring only the most delicious and exciting new recipes straight to you. The excellent recipe above and many more great recipes will be featured when you subscribe to Weekly Recipes. Subscribe here!

-- Francis Tan, CurateHub

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