Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kung Fu Hoagies

Tucked away on 38th street between Chestnut and Walnut along a strip of food trucks is a new face on the scene – Kung Fu Hoagies. Once you get far enough up the block you can’t miss the little food cart with bright red umbrella and brilliant green and blue dragon on the side (painted by the owners themselves!). Kung Fu Hoagie specializes in Vietnamese hoagies and noodles that are all vegetarian or vegan. I went for lunch with two friends – one an omnivore, the other a vegan but both huge fans of the truck. I’ll have to say that after my lunch I was converted, too.

The menu is quite limited offering only 4 options (not including specials) but they are all delicious so it doesn’t really matter. We got the Traditional Banh Mi as well as the Veggie Pho. The Banh Mi is basically a Vietnamese hoagie, it comes with lemongrass tofu, vegan chicken or beef (we got the tofu) and is topped with picked carrot and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, vegan mayo and their special Sriracha sauce. They make the sandwich right in front of you on an impossibly small cart. We had fun chatting with the owners while they lightly grilled the fluffy rolls and filled them with deliciousness. I’m happy to say that the sandwich didn’t disappoint. The tofu was satisfying, even for people who aren’t regular tofu eaters. The acidity of the carrots and daikon went with the sandwich perfectly. At $4 a hoagie it’s a perfect lunch size and a great bargain. We also tried the Veggie Pho, which I think might have been the real star. The broth is vegetarian but tastes so much like traditional pho broth that I was startled. They also include several pieces of vegan beef and chicken “meatballs.” For someone who likes to eat meat I was happily satisfied with the vegan alternatives. Pho coming from a food cart was certainly a pleasant surprise and made for a lunch that I’d be happy to repeat anytime. The bottom line is that everyone – vegans, vegetarians and those of us who eat everything – can find something to like at this food cart (not to mention that it’s both really healthy and affordable). Check them out for Thursday lunch on 38th street and follow their twitter for more location updates!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Canal House visits Penn

Near the banks of the Delaware, just across from an old-fashioned hardware store, tucked on the second floor of a red brick building, is a kitchen-studio.

On a normal day, it’s a hotbed of activity. Eight burners and two ovens blaze. Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton are turning food on.

The team self publishes their own seasonal cookbooks, the newest of which, Canal House Cooks Every Day, hits book stores this month. This hardcover tome is different from the triannual books they have published in the past.

But this day isn’t a normal day for the Canal House cooks. They’re not in their Lambertville, New Jersey studio. Instead, they’re in West Philadelphia introducing Penn students to the Italian snack tramezzini. Hamilton presents a silver platter bearing stacks of whitish spongy bread and silky truffle butter.

She opens one of her cookbooks and reads, “The truffle’s heady, intimate fragrance is powerful. Choose your company wisely.” She grins.

When Canal House started out, self-publishing was “a bit of a dirty word,” Hirsheimer says. But the former Saveur editors believed if they were interested in a subject, others would be, too. “I love this work,” Hirsheimer adds. “I’m excited every day. I like to be turned on.”

Hirsheimer and Hamilton prize reader-writer intimacy. Rather than simply listing recipes, they offer stories. A comment – signed C.H. or M.H. - ushers in each culinary concoction. “The head note has to illuminate,” Hirsheimer explains. “It has to tell something about our experience or have useful information.”

One inscription recounts the time Christopher and Melissa lugged a thirty-five pound Cinderella pumpkin home, coated its insides in pimetón and preserved lemon, and filled it with chicken broth. When the gourd was roasted, guests scooped soup and flesh straight into their bowls. They declared it the best thing they had ever tasted (“Aw, shucks!” writes C.H.)

Another head note accompanies photographs showing a cross section of a boiled egg’s insides after sequential minutes. When Hamilton told Hirsheimer she was going to nail the boiled egg, the latter loved the idea so much she leapt off her desk chair. “When people really know how to cook, often they talk about this,” Hirsheimer says, touching the egg diagram. “They think this is really wonderful!”

Self-proclaimed “platterists” (translation: they think plating each individual dish is missing an opportunity), Hirsheimer and Hamilton know meals create bonds. When they feed a group of people who don’t know each other well, they hand one guest a platter and let her figure out what to do next. The passing of a platter “engages people,” Melissa explains. “It breaks the ice, it gets people to be courteous. It’s a way of warming them up to each other.”

One more thing about the truffle (there are still a few sandwiches left on that shiny platter.) “The quality of a truffle,” Hamilton reads, “Like sex, is hard to describe. Its taste is so fundamentally good that even if you know nothing about it, your body will recognize the experience and know what to do.”

“Eating a truffle,” she says, “Involves following your senses and then some, so close your eyes and go with the feeling.”

The room erupts into laughter. Intimate, indeed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Recipe: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

This past summer, I decided I was going to cut down on my intake of flour. As a person whose breakfasts consisted of bagels and whose lunch always included a sandwich, I thought I would have a tough time removing unnecessary bread from my diet. Slowly but surely, however, eggs replaced bagels, and greek yogurt or chicken leftovers replaced sandwiches, and I hadn’t looked back until a week ago. After my friend talked to me about the amazing pizza in New Haven (it really is incredible), I was reminded of how much I love pizza. For me, the single greatest ingredient in the world is an aged cheese, and pizza is the world’s greatest vehicle for any cheese. With my desire for pizza reignited, I set about looking for a delicious alternative to the classic flour-filled pizza dough crust. What I found amazed me.

From eggplant crust to spinach crust pizza to “meatza” (a crust made entirely out of meat), the internet threw tons of suggestions my way. I finally settled on using cauliflower as it is excellent at absorbing flavor but would not add enough of its own to remind me I was not eating real pizza. After testing out several different recipes, I found one that yielded a perfectly crispy and stable crust. I tweaked it and added some helpful notes. I was surprised at how good this healthy pizza turned out and I think you will be too.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Slightly tweaked from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Makes a little more than two servings.

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup finely chopped cauliflower (chop in food processor)
1/2 cup finely grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
~6 T almond meal/almond flour (Much cheaper if you make it yourself; just throw almonds into a food processor until they become a fine powder. Make sure to not overdo it as this will result in almond butter)
3 T finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of salt
1 large egg, beaten

Pizza Toppings:
Whatever you like!
I like to top it with pesto (click for link to good basic pesto recipe), whatever cheese I am into at the moment, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms.

Turn on the oven or grill, place the pizza stone inside (if using), and preheat grill or oven to 450F/230C. (If you don't have a pizza stone I might let the temperature get slightly higher.)

Use a food processor to finely chop the cauliflower until it resembles small kernels of rice. Put the cauliflower into a bowl and microwave until it's cooked through and soft, about 5-8 minutes. (Don't add water; the cauliflower will release moisture.)

If you don't have finely grated Mozzarella, pulse it a few times in the food processor so it's more finely grated.

In a small bowl, combine the cooked cauliflower, 1/2 cup finely grated low-fat mozzarella, almond meal, Parmesan cheese, dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Beat the egg with a fork and then mix it into the other ingredients, combining them well. The dough should be sticking together pretty well at this point. If the dough is still very wet at this point, add another tablespoon or two of almond meal to soak up excess moisture.

Spray a heavy cookie sheet with non-stick spray (or cover with non-stick foil for easy cleanup). Form the crust ingredients into a ball and place on the cookie sheet, then use your fingers to form the crust, spreading it out as thin as you can get it. Put the cookie sheet on the pizza stone in the oven and cook with the door or lid shut until the crust is firm and lightly browned, about 13-15 minutes.

When the crust is done, spread with pizza sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and arrange toppings on top. Put pizza back in the oven and broil for about 3-5 minutes it to melt the cheese and heat the toppings. Be careful as the toppings will burn if you broil the pizza too long.

Enjoy while still warm! Note: All pizzas other than the one pictured were circular, but I was not patient enough to take pictures before I devoured them.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

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

• "Squash City, Bitch": This week's 34th Street is all about the seasonal vegetable

• Continuing the trend, The WALK blog has a recipe for Pumpkin Trifle

Halloweek: Shake Shack is serving up two spooky specials--the Halloweenie hot dog and a Shack O’ Lantern pumpkin milkshake

• Uwishunu has three great food-related roundups this week: Harry Potter’s Guide To Philadelphia, Top Picks For Philadelphia-Made Candy And Chocolate, and Philly Restaurants With Heat Lamps Or Fire Pits for Fall Outdoor Dining

• Rumor mill: Another It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia bar may be coming to Philly

• Reading Terminal Market: Soul food restauranteur KeVen Parker taking over former Delilah's space

• More updates on Le Bec Fin: new owner Nicolas Fanucci offering cheaper dining options and iPad menus

• Peanut butter and pickle sandwich? New York Times blog Diner's Journal shares its readers favorite odd food combinations

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin Bread

It seems that with the onset of fall, everyone is pumpkin-obsessed. From everyone's undying love for Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, to the miraculously edible pumpkin soup in Commons, fall is the season of pumpkin. Which is fine by me. Pumpkin has such a smooth texture that it can go into virtually anything. Since pumpkin is technically a vegetable, I can devour sugared up pumpkin treats all in the name of getting in my daily serving of vegetables.

Which brings me to the awesomeness of pumpkin bread. It's a vegetable and bread so it's a perfect fall themed snack. I adapted this recipe from all recipe's Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread. Although there's a long shopping list of spices, I you can just use a ton of pumpkin pie spice, which is usually a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Enjoy, and don't skimp on the chocolate chips!

Pumpkin Bread

1 can pumpkin puree (15 ounces)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2+ cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans
2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, vanilla, water and sugar until well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice cloves and ginger
4. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended and add the chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pans.
5. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Be sure not to over bake or it'll become spongy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Philly Food Events

Shake Shack Halloween Specials
WHAT: Shake Shack is taking the craft of milk shaking and snack making to a whole new level. Just in time for the spooky holiday, they're offering two scary good specials. The "Halloweenie" all-beef Vienna hot dog is split, grilled, and topped with pumpkin mustard, bacon crumbles, cranberries and sage. Follow it up with the Shack O'Lantern: hand-spun frozen vanilla custard infused with pumpkin, marshmallow and autumn spices. More info here.
WHERE: Shake Shack, 2000 Sansom Street
WHEN: Friday, October 26-Wednesday, October 31
COST: $5.50 for Shack O’Lanterns, $4 for Halloweenies

Chili Cookoff at The Cambridge
WHAT: South Street’s The Cambridge is getting ready to host heir first annual Chili Cook-Off next weekend, Sunday, November 4, and they’re inviting home cooks to show off their spicy/sweet/meaty/vegetarian ladled creations. In addition to loading up on bowls topped with sour cream and cornbread, event-goers can enjoy two dozen pumpkin beer varieties and live tunes all day. Contestants showcasing winning recipes of this favorite classic fall dish will receive prizes supplied by The Cambridge. To sign up for a limited spot, chili-testants should email More info here.
WHERE: 1508 South Street
WHEN: Sunday, November 4, starting at 2 p.m.
COST: Free

Eating & Meeting: Iron Chef José Garces & His Cuisine

One of the greatest perks of living in a culturally vibrant city like Philadelphia is obtaining access to a grand food scene. During Center City Restaurant Week, I took full advantage of the scrumptious food being offered at discounted prices and dined at Garces Trading Company…owned by none other than Iron Chef José Garces! I’ll admit it: I’m a T.V. junkie. The Food Network, especially, is one channel that I watch rather religiously, with Iron Chef being one of my favorite shows. When the opportunity to eat at one of Garces’ amazing restaurants arose, of course I seized it! The culinary gods awarded me another dream come true when I found out he was going to appear at Penn Bookstore for his newest cookbook release later that week!

But first, let’s discuss the restaurant. The clever décor of cargo, barter, and ship wood emanated an aura of a voyager’s journey, priming the diner for a culturally diverse synthesis of a meal. Now, allow me to give a descriptive rundown of my menu choices (I agonized over the delectable options for quite some time, by the way). For my first course, I had the Salmorejo, a chilled tomato soup with Serrano ham and egg yolk, garnished with mini croutons, crab meat morsels, flat-leaf Italian parsley, cubed, hard-boiled egg whites, and drizzled olive oil. Never had I seen a soup with a color so rich and vivid. I also loved how the dish reflected the consideration that chefs put into presentation. On the visual level alone, you can see the various colors, textures, and placement distributions upon first glance. It’s a wonderful sight to behold, and an even greater marvel to taste. With the initial spoonful, your palate detects a sourness and acidity from the tomato that are not too assertive, for the plainer, calming flavors from the egg whites, the grating crunch of the croutons, the dairy creaminess of the soup, and other interactive factors present themselves in conjunction.

Next, I ate the Jardiniére Sandwich, which consisted of radicchio relish, shaved zucchini, quince paste (fruit jam), and fontina val d’aosta (artisanal premium cheese). It was a lovely vegetarian dish, and I liked the inherent sweetness and refreshing quality it contained. The bread was perfectly toasted (a must), and the quince paste gave an exquisite sheen to the center of the sandwich, as it glazed the zucchini ribbons and seaweed-looking radicchio into charming undulations. The cheese was nicely melted as well and complemented the other components of the sandwich. Another accompaniment was a bowl of magical, salted potato chips that provided almost a cotton candy-like experience. You pop them into your mouth, and poof—they dissolve like air. The crunching moment is so phenomenal but short-lasting, which makes consuming the entire chip bowl even more desirable.

Lastly, I ordered the French 77 for dessert. Presented in layers, the dish was comprised of a macaron, champagne strawberry, and elderflower, lemon panna cotta strata. It was pictorially adorable, for one, but don’t let the cuteness deceive you. The power of the elements behind that dessert forever changes any diner who tastes it. Floral and citrusy, the divine, palate-cleansing French concoction was a delightful note to end on.

However, in terms of notes to end on, it came second to me actually meeting Iron Chef José Garces! I’ve had a few celebrity encounters in my lifetime thus far, and I never manage to play it cool, always succumbing to starstruck-related embarrassment. But this time, I was calm, cool, and collected. I waited in line at the bookstore, and at the table where Chef Garces sat, they provided another seat for people to sit down and converse with him for a few minutes. Once it was my turn, I began by introducing myself, saying I blog for Penn Appétit (name dropping, holla!) and that I had the pleasure of dining at Garces Trading Company. I told him about my sensational experience of those three courses, showering him with culinary praise for his ingenuity in constructing all the flavorful intricacies present in those menu items. He said he was happy to know I enjoyed his food so much and encouraged me to maintain my foodie passion. I bid him “good eating” and left all smiles, with an autographed business card and a popcorn goodie bag! I honestly could not have asked for anything better. The opportunity to eat an extraordinary meal and subsequently meet the mastermind behind it and discuss his creations with him? Never in a million years would I even imagine such an experience. It’s of gastronomical proportions, yes, but ‘tis possible if you just believe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your favorite food is… lettuce?

“Your favorite food is… lettuce?”

I dread the unavoidable question, “What is your favorite food?” While the most common answers include some sort of chicken, a pasta dish or the always-popular pizza, I hesitate to say that I often scribble the word “salad” when I come across this question on any survey. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You can tell so much about a person from what their “favorite” things are. Whether it is food, music, or academic subject, while trying to get to know someone these types of questions are the ones people ask first. So, when I voice that the food I enjoy the most is a mixture of raw vegetables, I usually get some puzzled looks automatically wondering if I am (a) a vegetarian (b) a freakishly health conscious individual or (c) just a really bland person. Well, the answer to that question is none of the above. Yes, I often run for the salad bar in a dining hall (and not only because this is sometimes the safest choice), but I could not imagine not eating meat, I am no more concerned with my weight than the next person and I happen to think that I’m far from ordinary. Yet, the frequency of which I consume salad has given me a bad rap.

However, out of all foods, salad allows a person to express him or herself more than any other. The possibilities for how to create your own salad are endless if you think far beyond the standard lettuce, tomato and cucumber combination often used as an appetizer for the more flavorful meal to follow. Skeptics, especially the male ones who find their masculinity threatened by the idea of a salad as a meal, should start at a place like Sweetgreen, located ironically right next to Chipotle and Bobby’s Burger Palace on Walnut Street (so, if your stomach is really aching for a burrito or a burger after a salad, you’re in the right place, though I can almost guarantee it won’t be). There, you’ll find tasty and unique options from “Guacamole Greens,” a mixture of mesclun lettuce, roasted shrimp or chicken, avocado, grape tomatoes, red onion, crushed tortilla chips and drizzled with lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette dressing or their “Chic P” salad which is baked falafel, chickpeas, cucumber, peppers, and pita chips topped with a lemon hummus tahini dressing over baby spinach leaves. Once you have graduated from the options already created for you, Sweetgreen allows you to combine all the vegetables, meat, and crunchy topping you desire to build a salad that caters to whatever you’re in the mood for at that very moment. Though a little overpriced, it is places like Sweetgreen that prove that it is OK to like salad as much as I do. I’ve learned to embrace the quizzical glances as I joyously dive into sweet corn, plump red grapes, carrots, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts over baby arugula and keep quite as my eating habits are constantly questioned. Those who have labeled salad as boring or to be only consumed while on a diet are sadly mistaken. There needn’t be anything painful about eating lettuce, you just need to know mix it up a little.

-- Xandria James

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


After tough weeks of midterms, we’ve finally earned fall break! While it is very exciting to go out exploring for exquisite restaurants (which sometimes gives me feeling of awakening when I find the one I really like), enjoying mom's homemade food is also joyful. Nothing can be more comforting than savoring home food that instantly brings you back into good relaxing times that I used to enjoy as a young kid. I was fortunate enough to visit home over the fall break. There, my mom made me one of my favorite Korean food, Ddukbokki, on Saturday afternoon, which immediately brought me feelings of comfort.

My all time favorite Korean snack, Ddukbokki, is likely very new to many people (unless you’ve been to Koreana - on 37th and Chestnut, right behind Chili’s- quite often). Ddukbokki is a popular snack amongst Koreans that serves very well as a good, filling snack. It originated as a food sold by street vendors. The major ingredients are cylindrical rice cakes, fish cakes, spicy Korean pepper paste, and sugar. From these basic ingredients, you can then make your own twist from here on, putting whatever you like or think would blend well to make your own style of Ddukbokki. For me, I like adding sliced onion, green onion, fish cake, boiled eggs and tempura in the cooking stage. Some other popular ingredients that people enjoy are ramen noodles. There also are many different types of tempura from sweet potato to pepper to squid (ultimately whatever you want to fry). This time, my mother made a very special Ddukbokki which I had tried for the first time. She made me Sea Food Ddukbokki with cylindrical rice cakes, sliced fish cakes, boiled eggs, onion, green onion, sugar, spicy Korean pepper paste, and on top of those, added squid and crab which made it really special. It was my first time trying Sea Food Ddukbokki and it was quite good compared to other ddukbokkis that I’ve eaten.

Ddukbokki is a very popular and I would say most beloved street food and snack in Korea. If you ever get a chance to visit Korea, I would highly recommend you trying many different ddukbokkis from different street vendors and find the one you most like. I can guarantee that you’ll never be able to forget the taste once you try the authentic ddukbokki from a street vendor in Korea.

The Soul Food Niche: Search for the Perfect African American Cuisine

Upon arrival at Penn, I desperately wanted to find an authentic soul food restaurant. Philadelphia, known for its array of traditional southern cuisine, enticed my inner gourmand. Yes, Philadelphia offers the best cheesesteaks and water ice, but soul food is my most recent calling. After performing an extensive Google search and asking fellow Penn students, I narrowed down my options to four distinct restaurants all within a ten-minute Septa ride; Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food, Elena's Soul, Fat's Breakfast & Soul Food, and This Is It.

This past Saturday I dined at Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food and was pleasantly surprised. Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food boasts homemade sweet iced tea and seafood, chicken and BBQ platters all under $13. When asked about the most popular items on their menu, a waitress revealed that their yams and mac n' cheese are their best sellers. The restaurant also offers breakfast sandwiches, omelets, pancakes and grits.

I ordered the pork-chop platter with two sides of mac n' cheese and collard greens. The authentic flavoring of collard greens with hints of smoked turkey and the tenderness of my well-seasoned pork-chop contributed positively to my first encounter with Philadelphia soul food. The mac n' cheese had the right mixture of crunch and flavoring on the top with a warm and cheese-filled middle. My pork chop wasn't over saturated with fat and was nicely seasoned with a special dry rub of cumin, pepper, Mrs. Dash and coriander. Most importantly, my meal cost less than $18 dollars for pork chops, two sides and a fountain drink- definitely noteworthy as a splurge for penny-pinching college students like myself.

In the following weeks I plan to try Elena's Soul, Fat's Breakfast & Soul Food, and This Is It. Hopefully these restaurants live up to the high report of Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food. I've only just begun on my quest for the perfect Philly soul food.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Contest Recipe: Mini Pumpkin Pie Tartlettes (And Strawberry Tartlettes)

Saturday was Stouffer's Fall Festival and baking contest. Despite having never entered a baking contest before, I won! There was intensely fierce competition (okay, actually only two entries total in the whole contest) but my opponent's marbled brownies looked super delicious. In the end, I walked away with my prize: an old Stouffer Move-in Day t-shirt.

Because the Stouffer contest was a fall festival baking contest, I thought it was natural that the treat should be fall themed. Pumpkin pie immediately came to mind. Pumpkin pie is traditionally spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, sweetened with brown sugar and enriched with evaporated milk. A classic pastry crust usually envelops the creamy pumpkin custard filling. I wanted to create a twist on the original using honey and almonds as the theme. To make the treats more portable, I decided to make individual pumpkin tarts in muffin tins. Crushed up honey grahams and ground almonds were the base for my crumb crust. For the filling, I decided to use honey instead of brown sugar and heavy cream instead of evaporated milk for extra richness. Finally, to top it all off, I baked candied cinnamon spiced almonds to add a contrast to the creamy filling and provide crunch.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Mini Pumpkin Pie Tartlettes and Honey Almond Fruit Tarts

1 package Honey Graham crackers (about 1 1/2 cups crumbs)
½ c. ground almonds or almond meal
6 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3 large eggs
¾ c. heavy cream
½ c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice or substitute:
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. salt

Fresh whipped cream
1 c. heavy cream
4 tbsp powdered sugar

Candied Almonds
2 tbsp melted butter
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp flour
7 oz. sliced almonds

Whipped cream cheese filling
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ tsp. almond extract pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp honey ½ c. whipped cream

Fresh Fruit (blueberries, strawberries, diced peaches, whatever you like)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line 21 muffin cups with paper or foil liner.
Crush graham crackers into fine crumbs. Mix crumbs together in a bowl with almond meal, butter, and sugar. Press mixture evenly into prepared muffin tins.
Bake 5 minutes and let cool completely. Set aside 6 tart shells. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Blend together pumpkin, eggs, honey, vanilla, spice, and salt. Pour and divide evenly among 15 tart shells. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until filling is set. Let cool completely on a wire rack and chill in the refrigerator.

To make whipped cream:
Chill bowl and beaters for at least ten minutes in the refrigerator and make sure the heavy cream is thoroughly chilled as well before beginning. Beat heavy cream at med low speed with a hand held mixer for about one minute. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in powdered sugar.

To make Candied Almonds:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together butter, sugar, honey, cinnamon, salt, and flour. Add sliced almonds and toss until evenly coated. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray nonstick with cooking spray. Spread almonds in a single layer on prepared sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on wire rack and break apart.

To make whipped cream cheese filling:
Beat together, softened cream cheese, honey, almond extract, and cinnamon. Fold in 1/2 c. whipped cream by hand until well incorporated.

To assemble:
Make sure the pumpkin tarts are cooled completely. Fill a pipet or ziploc bag (just cut off a small section of corner) with the remaining whipped cream. Pipet small rosettes on top of the pie and sprinkle a generous dose of candied almonds on top. Divide the cream cheese mixture among the remaining six tart shells. Top with fresh fruit and candied almonds. Enjoy!

Makes 15 + 6 extra tart crusts

Notes: Feel free to scale down the recipe so you don't have to make two kinds of tarts. Just decrease the crumb crust recipe by 1/3 and only make the pumpkin filling. You can also make extra tart shells and double, triple, or quadruple the cream cheese filling recipe to accomadate. I don't know...improvise! That's what I did. Good luck!

Friday, October 19, 2012

High Steaks: Square 1682's 3rd Annual Cheesesteak Challenge

Square 1682 hosted the Third Annual “Cheesesteak Challenge: High Steaks” block party on a sunny Sunday afternoon on October 14. The chef showdown saluted Philadelphia’s signature dish while benefiting local public schools through Philadelphia Academies. This culinary competition featured three hours of unlimited cheesesteaks from 12 gourmet beef-griddlers, Smartwater and Victory Brewing Company libations, and Eagles game-airing TVs so attendees wouldn’t miss a touchdown. Who doesn’t love a deliciously spirited event that benefits Philadelphia’s public school students, fosters community, and celebrates culinary excellence?

Check out the masterpiece contenders below:

Square 1682's Chef de Cuisine Caitlin Mateo created this aged “double goat cheesesteak” with peppers, onions, and house whiz on a soft roll.

Chifa’s Chef de Cuisine Natalie Maranski interpreted her cheesesteak as an item you could find on a dim sum cart. The core of braised beef cheek marinated in Victory Brewing Company’s Storm King Stout gained extra flavor from Spanish Idiazabal cheese. Wrapped in taro dough and fried, the balls were served with a sriracha onion sauce.

Chef David Boyle from Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse brought his infamous cheesesteak spring rolls. (Check out Penn Appetit's interview with him!)

Red Owl Tavern's Pot Pie came from the mastermind of Executive Chef Guillermo Tellez; the flaky crust housed a stew of beef, carrots, peas, and onions.

University City-based chef Wayne Whiteside from Aksum Mediterranean Kitchen introduced this vegan-friendly “steak” composed of grilled seitan soaked in red pepper ketchup.

R2L’s chef Daniel Stern also took the spring roll approach. Instead of beef, however, he stuffed them with calamari and shrimp.

Hailing from Baltimore, MD, B&O American Brasserie’s chef Thomas Dunklin came all the way out to Philadelphia to share his cheesesteak rendition. A caramelized onion roll injected with beer and cheddar served as the base; a thick slice of brisket rested on top, while a lone slice of pickled pepper completed the morsel.

The expert judge’s panel consisted of local culinary personalities, media folks and Philadelphia notables, including WMMR’s on-air personality and producer Matt Cord, legendary cheesesteak wizard Tony Luke, Kristina Jenkins from Where Magazine, Marlie Hall of PHL-17, and The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book author Carolyn Wyman. Live music entertained the massive crowds.

Guests also got to munch on Philly Pretzel Factory pretzels and Krispy Kreme donuts. All proceeds went to Philadelphia Academies, a program dedicated to expanding life and economic options through career-focused learning, college readiness supports, and positive adult networks to prepare young people for success in college and in careers. Under the current leadership of Lisa Johnson Nutter, serves 4,500 youth in Philadelphia public high schools each year through 10 career academy programs in 16 Philadelphia public high schools. The career academy model was founded in Philadelphia in 1969 and has since been replicated in more than 2,500 schools nationwide.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Philly Food Events

Lunch Truck Gathering
WHAT: The Philly MFA (Mobile Food Association) and the Navy Yard are teaming up to bring Philadelphia an afternoon of food trucks, including Vendy-award winning Sweetbox, Vernalicious and Gigi's & Big R's. More info at MFA's website.
WHERE: The Navy Yard
WHEN: Afternoon of October 18th
COST: Varies

Plenty for the Planet: A talk with Anna Lappé
WHAT: Drexel's Natural Academy of Sciences is bringing sustainability advocate Anna Lappé and local experts to try to answer the question "Can we feed the world and heal the planet?" They will discuss sustainable food systems and address the roots of hunger. This celebratory evening will feature local food tastings and a chance to honor participants of the Delaware Valley Farm Share and Winter Harvest programs. More information can be found at their website.
WHERE: 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
WHEN: October 21, 6pm
COST: The program is FREE, the reception is $10 for members, $12 for non-members

Just a Pinch: A Brief and Unofficial History of Jewish Cooking in America
WHAT: The National Museum of American Jewish History is offering a savory journey through their collection, with readings by special guests and a light reception featuring the vintage recipes highlighted in the tour. Check out the museum's website for tickets and more information.
WHERE: 101 S. Independence Mall E
WHEN: October 24, 6:30 pm
COST: $8 for student, $12 for adults

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Night Market Chinatown, Round II

After the thrilling adventure I had at last year's Night Market Chinatown, I was more than ready to tackle the spectacle this year. On Thursday, October 4, Penn Appétit bloggers and Penn Gastronomy foodies experienced the 2nd Annual Night Market Chinatown, Philly's last Night Market of the 2012 season. The festival featured over 50 different vendors from around the city and shut down 10th Street between Arch and Vine Streets, and Race Street between 9th and 11th Streets.

I was quite pleased with the way the festival was organized spatially this year. While foot traffic was plenty busy in all directions, the food trucks and stands located on the side street stretch were now on Race Street, an enormous improvement over last year's cramped Cherry Street. With such a vast variety of places and cuisines to choose from, there was no doubt in my mind that I'd leave the festival pleasantly full.

After giving the various booths a once-over, I selected Local 215 as my dinner of choice. The newly launched food truck, which first hit the streets in August, is committed to sourcing all ingredients locally and acting as sustainably as possible. A quick glance of the menu and I instantly knew that pork belly over creamy polenta was on my hit list. I forked over $7 and was pleasantly surprised at the heft of the box when the woman at the truck window handed me my order; it was at least a pound, if not more. Needless to say, the satisfyingly-portioned entrée lasted me two meals. The pork belly was flavorful and as unctuous as it could be, the golden-yellow polenta coarsely-ground yet still relatively smooth. While the smattering of dressed microgreens bonneting the dish added color, they did little else.

My companion elected for Street Food Philly, located just down the street. The truck is headed by individuals with impressive kitchen cred (i.e. Susanna Foo's, Russet, Parc) and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Along with a core menu, offers a continually rotating list of tantalizing regional dishes (think "South of the Border" chicken tacos and Southern BBQ Brisket). From the variety of equally-delicious-sounding items offered, my friend chose a takeout box of butternut squash gnocchi. Sweet and hearty, it was the perfect comfort food for the evening.

I was thrilled to see Zsa's Gourmet Ice Cream again; I had first tried their awe-inspiring scoops at last year's Night Market and was ready to continue the tradition. I was delighted to find a new ice cream sandwich option I hadn't seen on their menu before: vanilla ice cream between salted toffee almond grahams. Just the name made my mouth water, and I quickly exchanged $4 for a neatly-packaged homemade sandwich. In short, it was a revelation. The salted toffee almond grahams were out of this world: sweet and salty, perfectly crisp, nuances of caramel tones. I could have simply eaten these and been a happy camper. The creamy artisanal ice cream added a lovely taste and texture contrast. As my colleague exclaimed, “The first bite is fantastic—and it just gets better!”

A stop at my beloved Sugar Philly was in order before we left. The fabulous dessert truck based in University City was debuting a new macaron flavor: pumpkin pie! With the classic French treats in tow, we left with full stomachs and the hopes that the 3rd Annual Night Market Chinatown in 2013 will be bigger and better than ever.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recipe review: Food Network's "Truffle Brownies"

I know how stressful the past two weeks have been for me and I'm sure that a lot of you have experienced that mind-numbing panic and work as midterms encroached upon us. For me, nothing cures stress as well as chocolate. Well, in my opinion, nothing cures anything as well as chocolate does. I will admit it--I am a chocolate addict. I especially love baking so I find working with and consuming chocolate to be quite satisfying. Every month or so my grandmother even sends me a "Pound Plus" Dark Chocolate Bar from Trader Joe's (which I highly recommend as well). The recipe I want to share to help you all get through studying until morning or to celebrate the end of midterms (at least for the time being) is one of my personal favorites. I discovered it this summer when I reunited with my best friends from home for a girls' night. I wanted to make brownies but I didn't want your ordinary brownies. So I went to my favorite website,, and started a search. I stumbled upon Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh's recipe for "Truffle Brownies." I love truffles; I love brownies. So what could be bad about that? Absolutely nothing.

This recipe proved to be super easy and can be replicated in any sort of kitchen. Hint: although the recipe calls for the use of a hand mixer, we are college students. Unless you are an avid baker who had his/her mother bring you your personal hand maker during family weekend (i.e. me), this recipe can definitely be done without one. Whether you are having a movie night with some friends or want to take a break from work and treat yourself to something sweet and topped with a thick layer of chocolate ganache, I highly recommend trying this recipe. What could be better?

Here's the recipe, enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Midterm Drink: Sweet Thai Iced Tea

Following up Amy Yu’s post on “Cranberry White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies” on food that are favored during exam times, I have inclination to always look for drinks (usually coffee or tea) during stressed midterm periods. Even as I am writing this post in between studying for my midterms and worrying about weekly assignments for classes, I am sipping on Wawa coffee. I look for drinks (during the exam periods, I am always addicted to them) more than sweets (although I love cookies and cupcakes) I guess because drinks just last longer. While I try to concentrate on something and therefore stressed at the same time, I would repeat the same action without really being aware of it. If I had some sweet treat next to me while studying for a test, then I would constantly grab a piece of that and bring it to my mouth, chew, swallow and repeat the same action without being aware that I am getting full and getting fat. Whereas for drinks, although I would repeat the same action of sipping (since the drinks are usually hot, I cannot drink too much at a time), it would just last longer. Okay. Enough being said about how I got addicted to drinks while studying for midterms, after drinking coffee and tea from Starbucks, Mark’s Café and Wawa (all for convenience of proximity– they are mediocre drinks, personally), I wanted to drink something of new and of distinct flavor that would satisfy my tiredness of dullness I was having from same coffee and tea every day. Daydreaming about new and peculiar flavors, the memory of having this Thai drink at Thai Singha House on 39th and Chestnut passed suddenly my mind.
My first exploration of Thai food was during my first year at Penn when my friend took me to Thai Singha House for lunch on one Saturday. I remember I had shrimp Pad Thai which was also excellent (to my personal opinion it’s the best Pad Thai on campus), and my friend asked me if I wanted to try Thai Ice Tea as she was ordering hers. She explained to me that it’s one of the drinks that people have extreme opinions on, those who like it really like it and those who don’t do not want to try it again. So I’ve decided to try this as it sounded very interesting. When I took a first deep sip, the flavor that I could not describe with any other food or ingredient swished through my mouth. It was too unique that I could not decide whether I liked it or not just by one sip. In courtesy of my friend, I took another sip and another and I was actually getting into it. It was sort of an awakening and also a funny moment as my other friend who tried Thai Ice Tea with me for the first time did like it so much yet neither of us really knew how to describe its flavor.
Having the memory pass through my mind, I made a quick visit back to Singha Thai House from Van Pelt. The restaurant was very vibrant with lots of people since it was about dinner time. I’ve ordered my Sweet Thai Ice Tea and Shrimp Pad Thai again but this time for take out since I was in a midst of cramming for my midterm. While I was waiting, I got to see a waiter making Thai Ice Tea by pouring already extracted Thai tea from its leaves and mixing with half & half cream (unfortunately, I was talking on the phone with a friend so I could not get to take a picture of this process). This time, I could more enjoy the taste of tea as I was getting more used to it. And it actually tasted sweeter than my first try. But it was definitely worth walking to 39th and Chestnut from Van Pelt for its distinctive taste that I was craving for. Actually, since it has already been a week since I made the exploration, I am craving Sweet Thai tea again as I am writing this post and finishing my Wawa coffee.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

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

• Penn Sophomore and Foobooz intern Amanda Shulman offers a guide to Philly's best french toast!

• Zagat Shockers: Four Philly restaurants scored a 29/30 in the 2013 survey, Fountain, Vetri, Birchrunville Store, and Bibou

• West Philly Updates: Capogiro now offering selection of peasant-style soups with a side of fresh Metropolitan bread

• Renaissance: The Daily News reports on the blooming restaurant scene on East Passyunk Avenue

• BYOB: Uwishunu finishes up their 2012 Philly BYOB guide with a list of the top picks in Fairmount, Northern Liberties and Fishtown

• Foobooz asks: Is Center City Over? New restaurant openings in the area have fallen in the past year

• Cooking: Peel garlic with this 20-second microwave tip

• Surprise! Pumpkin Pie vodka tastes just as bad as every other dessert-flavored vodka, according to HuffPost Food

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Night As A Brazilian Queen

A wide assortment of vegetables, savory meats, and cheeses, illuminated by a crystal chandelier and adorned with a large colorful bouquet, displayed at a bar you could return to as many times as you pleased. Unlimited warm cheese bread- little bites of air that melted in your mouth. Bottomless sweet caramelized bananas, crunchy hot polenta sticks, and garlic mashed potatoes with the perfect sprinkle of cheddar cheese. 16 types of succulent meats, ranging from bacon-wrapped chicken to Parmesan pork loin. And finally, a choice of cool, refreshing key lime pie, smooth and creamy cheesecake, or for the invincible, rich and decadent chocolate cake.

This was the feast I enjoyed last Friday, at Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian Churrascaria. I was able indulge in such a luxury courtesy of the glorious event (and more glorious prices) known as Philly Restaurant week. Dinner at Fogo de Chão wasn’t just a meal, it was an experience. I felt spoiled, treasured, and extremely satiated- it may as well have been a love affair.

It all started with the bread. I’m a huge cheese person- its probably one of my favorite food groups. My friends and I had entered the restaurant hungry, making a beeline past beautiful high ceilings, ornate wood-paneled walls, and shimmering chandeliers, to our table. Little warm round puffs were immediately bestowed upon us, which upon melting inside your mouth, revealed their cheesy innards. They were dangerous, threatening to occupy room in my stomach that I knew I should save for the meat.

The huge salad bar was no less tempting. I consider the Houston Market salad bar somewhat fancy, so this was heaven. I came away with a huge plate of succulent prosciutto and salami, smooth mozzarella and creamy manchego, roasted potatoes and potato salad, assorted veggies, and a light and refreshing basil dressing. My meal probably could have concluded at this point, but I did not go to a steakhouse to eat lettuce.

As our waiter explained to us, at Fogo de Chão, each person has a circular card with a red side and a green side. You flip it to the red side when you’re satisfied, and green when you want more meat. After the salad course, my friends and I flipped our cards to green, and this is when the experience truly began.

We were first brought piping hot dishes of polenta, mashed potatoes, and caramelized bananas. These were the perfect palate-cleansers throughout the meal, balancing the various meats in our mouths. The soft and sweet bananas were particularly tasty, although as a lifelong potato lover, I was extremely fond of the mashed potatoes as well. We soon learned that there was no need to worry about devouring our sides too quickly, as once one of the dishes was more than half eaten, a waiter magically appeared to replace it with a new one.

There have been few times in my life I’ve been as excited as when huge shiny metal skewers of meat appeared at my table. Waiters dressed as gauchos arrived with skewers and knives, touting everything from rows of individual chicken sausages to giant slabs of succulent meat. On these larger chops, they’d ask my preference (medium rare please!), and slice it from the perfect section. I was provided a tiny pair of silver tongs, as was every other guest, and we used these to help the waiters transfer the slivers of meat from the skewers to our plates.

The meats did not all arrive at once, rather, each new circulating waiter brought a new surprise. Over the course of two hours (serious pacing skills were needed), I enjoyed twelve types of meat. Each type, from the filet mignon to the lamb chop, was super juicy and perfectly seasoned. For me, the clear winner was Fogo de Chão’s Signature steak, the Picanha. I received this top sirloin prepared two ways. First came a thin rounded slice of traditional Picanha, flavored primarily with sea salt. For such a lightly seasoned meat, I was astounded at the amount of flavor the traditional Picanha had. I had never tasted a more flavorful steak; my taste buds were dancing long after the last bite.

My absolute favorite, however, was the garlic Picanha. The garlic sirloin was served in thick pieces, versus the thin slice of the Traditional. Having never enjoyed garlic-flavored meat before, I had no idea what to expect, but the sirloin was possibly the best meat I have ever tasted. This was the dish that kept me sighing happily throughout the entire meal, and raving long after it. The meat itself was perfectly tender, and garlic flavor was intense and rich and addictive. I was lucky enough to be brought the garlic sirloin twice (the waiters probably heard my exclamations), once selecting a medium piece, and the next selecting medium- rare, and I still believed I was dreaming. This may appear to be an overstatement, but I am convinced that this would turn any garlic-loving vegetarian back into a carnivore. It was that good.

After the ode-inspiring garlic sirloin, along with lamb chops, filet mignon, bacon-wrapped chicken, bacon wrapped-filet mignon, parmesan pork loin, chicken sausage, and a variety of other incredible cuts, I thought I would never eat again. That was, until dessert. I tried all three options; the key lime pie was perfectly tart and smooth, the cheesecake rich and creamy, and the chocolate cake deliciously rich. Dessert was wholly unnecessary, but my sweet tooth and I were perfectly happy with it.

Overall, Fogo de Chão was the experience of a lifetime. I was waited on hand and foot, and felt like royalty with the lavish salad bar, constantly refreshed side dishes, and dozens of suitors (waiters) seducing me with their offerings of meat. For only $35 for the salad bar, meats, and dessert, my meal was an incredible deal. I would definitely consider it worth returning to during normal pricing periods, particularly with a big group. I got to dine like a queen for a night, enjoyed endless indulgences, and my taste buds are forever thankful for that garlic sirloin.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Think Healthy: Frozen Treats

I don’t know about you, but I’m never satisfied until I’ve had dessert. I always crave something sweet from right when I wake up until the moment before I fall asleep. Most of the options at Wawa aren’t the healthiest, though, and I’ve finally learned that there are definitely better things to reach for than one of those ice cream milkshakes or a bag of chocolate covered pretzels!

My newest discovery is homemade ice cream with only one ingredient: bananas. Simply freeze a sliced banana, take it out, and stick it in a blender (Magic Bullets work great for this) for a few seconds, and you’ll get an amazing, creamy concoction that looks and feels like ice cream. Obviously, it tastes a bit like banana, but the flavor isn’t too strong. If you’re not a fan, try adding in peanut butter (or anything else of the sort, for that matter – even Nutella works), chocolate chips, or even frozen berries for a delicious, froyo-like dessert. Sure, you can get a similar dessert at Frobana, Philly’s new banana ice cream shop, but making it at home is just as easy! If you want to take it a step further, check out this awesome recipe from Averie Cooks for avocado banana ice cream. You can’t taste the banana at all, and this version has a way creamier texture. It’s also a lot more filling!

1 ripe avocado
1 medium banana (previously frozen in chunks)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (nut milk, vanilla flavored nut milk, milk, cream, or water can be used as substitutes)
1/2 cup sugar (agave or stevia work too)
1 cup ice cubes (optional)

Throw it all in a blender and mix away! My second go-to dessert is frozen grapes. I know it sounds weird, but give it a try. Just take some grapes (red is preferable to green because the green ones freeze rock solid) and after washing and drying them, take them off the stems and stick a plate of the grapes in the freezer. In a few hours, you’ll get these amazing fruity creations that taste like little popsicles – they’re irresistible! It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, once you try frozen grapes, you’ll never go back to regular grapes again. Another great way to spice these up is by covering them in some Jello powder before you freeze them; my personal favorite is strawberry, but any flavor works great. Just shake the grapes up with some powder in a little Ziploc bag and you’ll have a healthy treat in no time!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cranberry White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

It's midterm season; a time of cramming; a time filled with stress; and most importantly, a time for cookies. There's a reason Insomnia Cookies makes such great profits this time of year. But wait; who need's Insomnia Cookies when you can bake them yourself? There's just something about the warm, buttery, sweet taste of a fresh baked cookie that lifts one's spirits. In fact just the enticing aroma of cookies in the oven is enough to clear my worries. Today's post was guiltily written in the midst of midterms. Just thinking about all of my exams, homework, and extracurricular commitments makes my head hurt. So, I've decided I'm just not going to think about it. Instead, I baked some cookies and took a bite of heaven that had no guilt attached. These cookies are the perfect compromise between crispy and chewey. If you want to share and have picky friends, this recipe is sure to please them all. The edge is buttery and crisp while the center stays moist and chewy. Irresistibly studded with dried cranberries, macadamia nuts, and white chocolate, they will be gone before you know it. Next time you're feeling the blues, I hope these cookies will help you too. (Wow, that almost rhymed.) Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Cranberry White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies
2c flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ c melted unsalted butter
¾ c brown sugar
½ c granulated sugar
Zest from one small orange
1 tbsp vanilla
½ tsp instant expresso
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
¾ c chopped macadamia nuts
½ c white chocolate chips
½ c dried cranberries

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large separate bowl, blend butter with sugar until smooth. Dissolve instant expresso in vanilla in a small bowl. Add orange zest, vanilla mixture, the egg, and egg yolk to butter mixture and mix well. Stir together wet and dry ingredients with a spatula or wooden spoon. Fold in nuts, chocolate, and cranberries. Cover with plastic wrap and chill about 30 minutes. (This makes the dough easier to work with.) Preheat oven to 325. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart (you can use two spoons for this or just use your hands if you're like me.) Bake in batches for 12-18 minutes or until the edges are golden. Don't over bake them! Oven temperatures and cookie size will vary, so check them after the minimum time and adjust accordingly. The cookies will be slightly soft in the center when done. They'll continue to cook a little bit after you remove them from the oven.(Return the remaining dough to the fridge while you bake your first batch). Remove from oven and cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy! Notes: If you are fortunate enough to have a large oven and multiple cookie sheets, feel free to bake them all at once. Just make sure to rotate the pans and switch the rack they’re on halfway through the baking time. Also, these are most delicious warm out of the oven but you can recreate that gooey, melty state by nuking them for 8-15 seconds before eating.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

This Brunch is Urgent: Cafe Lift

Some weeks at Penn seem to last forever. By last Tuesday, I was already dragging. The quickest remedy is to plan something to look forward to: in this case, brunch. Café Lift unassumingly occupies a not so prosperous section of Spring Garden at 13th and Callowhill. Walk inside and you’ll see why the walk was worth it. Insdustrial metals, a long coffee bar, and a Williamsburg-esque crowd let you know something good is coming. The wait was short and comfortable in their little seating area. We arrived at our table and took advantage of Café Lift’s byo status with some Saturday mimosas. The orange juice was pulpy and tangy and well, we all know how great champagne is. Café lift serves breakfast all day and every foursquare tip told us to get the huevos rancheros. I now echo every foursquare tip to tell you: get the huevos rancheros. Not only are there perfectly poached eggs on a crispy tortilla with fresh salsa and homemade hot sauce, there are refried beans and house made chorizo sausage baked onto the tortillas with cheese. These were epic, not the kind of huevos rancheros that uses guacamole to cover up bland flavors and soggy tortillas. The chorizo and the beans were like hidden morsels, not in every bite but when you found them, it was good. The homemade hot sauce really ought to be sold by the bottle, as I would put it on everything. My friend ordered a special, the baked eggs, which was baked with pork shoulder and a layer of cheese. They were excellent, but my savory recommendation goes to the huevos rancheros.

Finally my friend and I pulled an aggressive brunch move I like to call the brunch dessert. I can’t eat giant sweet brunches but after a nice dose of eggs and sausage, we were ready for a sweet finish. Splitting the special pumpkin cannoli French toast seemed like the right thing to do. When we tasted it, our hunch was confirmed. Picture the best challah French toast you’ve ever had. The outside is crispy but the inside is soft without being too sweet. Then imagine cannoli filling, that sweet ricotta, infused with pumpkin. This is not the saccharine “pumpkin spice” flavor that we all know, this tastes like a pumpkin you picked from a patch, made insanely delicious and topped with bittersweet chocolate and walnuts. This French toast is one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. This French toast, huevos rancheros, and a mimosa or two are waiting for you at Café Lift. Get ready, because brunch just got urgent.

Philly Food Events

3rd Annual Cheesesteak Challenge
WHAT: Gourmet cheesesteaks by great chefs. Band. Beer and free Smartwater. Benefits Philadelphia Academies. Lisa Nutter will speak as well. Who doesn’t love a deliciously spirited event to benefit Philadelphia’s public school students while fostering community and celebrating culinary excellence?
WHERE: 121 S. 17th Street; block party on Sansom Street between 16th & 17th Streets
WHEN: Sunday, October 14, 2-5pm
COST: $17 via CityEats deal (admission, cheesesteaks, two beers); $25 at the door

Meet Philly Chef Jose Garces
WHAT: Philly's own Iron Chef Jose Garces will be signing copies of his brand new cookbook, The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru. Chef Garces owns and operates fifteen restaurants in five cities, including local favorites such as Amada, Tinto, Village Whiskey and Distrito.
WHERE: Penn Bookstore
WHEN: Thursday, October 11, 6-8 pm
COST: Free

Nutella Food Truck
WHAT: stop by it’s daily location to get a free sample of the chocolate hazelnut spread. While the truck is giving away waffles and bread to accompany the samples, feel free to BYO croissants, bananas, Oreos or anything edible. Or not edible, if you just want to bring a giant spoon, thats cool too. They will also be selling T-shirts and some other Nutella merchandise. More information here.
WHERE/WHEN: Monday, October 8 | 111 South Independence Mall (Historic District) | 7am – 12pm
Tuesday, October 9 | 1735 Market St (Mellon Bank Center) | 7am – 12pm
Wednesday, October 10 | Temple University (1801 North Broad St) | 7am – 12pm
Thursday, October 11 | Reading Terminal Market (51 North 12 St) | 7am – 12pm
Friday, October 12 | 1650 Market St (Liberty Place Center City) | 7am – 12pm
Saturday, October 13 | near Franklin Field for UPENN vs Columbia Football game (235 South 33rd St) | 9am – 2pm
COST: Free

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