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Everything posted by MarketStEl

  1. Joining the party late: Katie, you may recall that I stopped in with two fellow PGMC board members in tow not long after the official opening, on the fourth Wednesday in June, after we had offically given our concert season a grand sendoff that included a dunk in the pool for me and my cell phone. (That occurred the Saturday prior to when you saw me.) Patrick Hagerty and I are a little miffed, for we returned as we said we would the following Friday to see you, only you weren't there. It's all good, though, as we had ourselves libations -- I tried the Blonde Caesar before switching to beer; it was quite tasty -- and then decided to try the oyster of the day special. I think that day's featured oyster was the Bluepoint. We each ordered six oysters. Twelve dollars and not much more than that many seconds later, we found ourselves staring at six empty shells and saying, "Those were delicious." "Should we have more?" I asked. "I don't know. Maybe we should save our money for something more substantial before trivia night," said Patrick. He paused. We looked at the plates, then at each other. "Aw, hell, let's order more," Patrick said. Twelve more dollars and maybe half as many minutes later, we found ourselves staring at six empty shells and saying, "These could be addictive." We will return. We hope you will be behind the bar, Katie. I'm taking on more freelance work so I can afford to clear you all out of your oysters of the day.
  2. Fellow I spoke with as I walked past there on the way to jury duty this morning estimated they'd be out of commission a week. He was wearing an apron, as were the girls with him, and he answered my questions using the first person plural, so I'm guessing he worked there.
  3. As Holly already said, there's really no bad places to eat at the RTM, and most of the eateries have something to recommend them, so it depends on what you want most. I'd second his endorsement of Tommy DiNic's roast pork sandwiches and Bassett's ice cream as the lunch to have if you're having only one, but if roast pork isn't what you're in the mood for, here are some other places you should put at the top of your list: --For hoagies: Salumeria and Carmen's, in that order --Soul food: Delilah's at the Terminal --Homestyle cooking: If you're there on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday, the specials at the Dutch Eating Place, otherwise, the Down Home Diner --Pizza: By George --Seafood: Pearl's Oyster Bar (very much old school, fried-and-broiled) The Chinese places are all right, but if you're in the mood for that, Chinatown's one block away, with much better options. Little Thai Market, however, can hold its own with the Chinatown Thai eateries. And while the following places are quite good and very popular, unless you're really hungry for that sort of fare, I'd try some of the other places on the grounds that better examples of each can be found outside the RTM, in many cases in the general vicinity: --12th Street Cantina (Mexican) --Tokyo Sushi --The Original Turkey (actually, with the demise of Bassett's Original Turkey, from which this stand descended, there isn't anyone serving up what they serve anywhere near as well as they serve it, but I generally think that hot roast turkey sandwiches are somewhere down the RTM food chain from the places above; however, again, if you find yourself craving turkey, there's none better) This still leaves lots of RTM eateries unmentioned. Edited to add: Though perhaps I should mention one simply because it is distinctive and not easily found elsewhere in the city: the Basic 4 Vegetarian Snack Bar.
  4. In the space most recently occupied by Crescent City. Funny, but I didn't find the ribs I had at Q late last month dry and tough -- and I did smell smoke coming from somewhere in the restaurant's bowels, though there was no telltale smoke ring on the ribs. Maybe the cook was having a rare on night? (The waitress wasn't, at least not at first, but then again, this was a Philadelphia Speaks meetup, and we are a large and unruly bunch.)
  5. I do love Taconelli's but I'd put it in round two. If the mission is to go to Philadelphia for the stuff that's better than New York, the list is fairly short -- at least based on what I've experienced in Philadelphia thanks to guidance from several Philadelphia-based eG people. If it's more a question of going to Philadelphia to experience a variant of something both cities do well, then the list gets a lot longer and includes Taconelli's and a lot of the other suggestions that have been made on this topic. ← I don't know whether you followed my aborted "Best of Philly Review Tour" of two years ago -- my attempt to revisit every (well, almost every; does Pizza Hut deserve a review visit?) winner of Philadelphia magazine's "Best Pizza" honor since they began handing the thing out, dragging other PhillieGulleteers in tow -- but in it, I explained the mileage-based rating system I've used ever since to evaluate pizzas. I've had to do some explaining about the highest-rated pie on the list -- one at a pizzeria in Brooklyn's Borough Park (I think) section whose name escapes me (Rich, Katie, someone else who was on that trip help me); by definition, it was a 100-mile pie, for that's about how far we drove to eat it (adding the rough distance from midtown Manhattan to the pizzeria to the 90-mile distance from New York to Philly), but people ask me, "Yeah, but how would it rate really?" That's in part because, that pie aside, I haven't eaten a pie I'd travel more than 50 miles to eat, Tacconelli's being that 50-mile pie. Until the Lombardo pizza I had at Osteria last Friday. (Yep, finally made it there, no thanks to the Review Tour. And were it not for the generosity of the president of the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus, who treated our Artistic Director, his partner, and any Executive Board member who wanted to come along to dinner there after the AD won an award at a new arts festival, I wouldn't have made it there Friday either.) The fried egg, sweet sausage and tangy cheese-and-sauce combo was like no pizza I've eaten anywhere else yet -- the combo worked so beautifully I didn't mind at all that it made the crispy crust soggy in the middle. To be fair, I'm not sure there really is a 100-mile pie anywhere in the country on an ordinary scale, though that Brooklyn pie did come close. But I'd say the Osteria pie is definitely worth a 70-mile trek. Re Reiker's: Reiker's is in the vast and mysterious Northeast Philadelphia - a definite car trip, though Sandy could probably get you there by bus. ← My ears are burning? Not only by bus, but by train: Nearest SEPTA service: Bus Route 18 (Cedarbrook to Fox Chase) eastbound from Olney Transportation Center (Olney station, Broad Street Line) or Bus Route 24 (Frankford Transportation Center to Southampton) from Frankford Transportation Center, Market-Frankford Line, to Oxford Avenue, Rhawn Street, and Pine Road. Walk back the way you came one-half block down Oxford Avenue. Next nearest but faster SEPTA service: R8 Fox Chase Regional Rail line to Fox Chase. Turn left onto Rhawn Street at the end of the platform, then left onto Oxford, and walk one half block down Oxford. Or make your way across the parking lot behind the station shelter to Oxford Avenue; you should emerge right next to Joseph's, home of another highly regarded Philly pizza. Turn right onto Oxford and walk up one half block. Edited to add an aside: Did I tell any of you that someone inside SEPTA is doing his level best to get me hired there? Maybe they're easier on the ladies, but I pick out my own vegetables all the time. Or maybe it varies from stand to stand. Or week vs. weekend. Worth noting though that these are not pristine pretty farmer's market vegetables. For that, go to Reading or Headhouse. A $5 crate of mangoes or 6-for-$1 red peppers, that's the Italian Market sweet spot. It's not just the ladies, jm chen, though it may be just on the weekends. But it is the case that more 9th Street vendors will let you not only touch, but pick out, the produce you want. I attribute the change in attitude to two factors: one is the demographic changes in both the surrounding neighborhood and the people who shop the Italian Market (both populations have become more multiethnic, and both have a higher number of more affluent members than 9th Street's traditional clientele), and the other is the addition of Asian vendors who never had the no-touch policy to the street-stall mix, along with the one 9th Street produce stand that offers consistent quality (at a higher price): Scott & Judy at the market's north end, which usually does offer pristine, pretty farmers' market vegetables at prices comparable to those at the RTM. Indeed you can, but if you've got to have a cheesesteak, why not have the best? Neither of these places are that any more.
  6. What's the Ethiopian dining scene in New York like? We have a few decent ones in West Philadelphia. Dahlak at 47th and Baltimore is one of the best known, but I haven't been there in a while and have heard it's slipped a bit. Then there's the place at 45th and Locust that has gone by various names; I knew it last as the Red Sea, but I think it goes by another name now. West African immigrants are making their presence felt in Southwest Philly too -- it's not a part of town most visitors venture to (or care to), but ISTR Craig LaBan visiting an eatery in that part of town run by Liberians and liking it. (I suspect that in New York, African immigrants settle in southeast Queens. Just a hunch.) As it's been a while since I've eaten Ethiopian fare here, I can't vouch for the current quality of any of our local establishments, but it's great for group dining.
  7. While you're up in the vicinity of Steve's Prince of Steaks, you might want to check out an example of a great value for your money: Churrascuria at Picanha Grill. Ambience is 1970s diner (which is what this place was before Brazilian immigrants took it over), salad bar is a mixed bag (iceberg lettuce on the garden salad and bottled dressings from the Save-a-Lot in the next block south of the restaurant, but the house-made items are generally quite good), but the meat is every bit as delicious and just as copious as what you'll find at Fogo de Chao -- for less than half the price of dinner at Fogo ($20 AYCE when I was last there). And you can complement it with the wine of your choice as long as you remember to bring it with you. The staff couldn't be friendlier, either. I'm sure you can find "better" in New York -- and I'm equally sure that the difference won't be so great as to justify the difference in price, unless you insist on deluxe decor to go with your meal. It's on the next main N-S thoroughfare W of Bustleton Avenue (where you'll find Steve's Prince of Steaks), a little bit S of Steve's cross street. See my foodblog #2 for more detailed description, photos, and address (with directions via public transportation).
  8. The tide of media opinion is apparently turning towards those who argue that the roast pork Italian is -- or ought to be -- the signature sandwich of Philadelphia. The issue was joined this morning in this Inquirer article. It's not the first time someone has raised the issue in the Inky's pages: columnist Karen Heller argued for the cheesesteak's replacement last summer. But she's since been joined in print -- and on the plate -- by others, including out-of-town judges, several of whom are cited here. It's now only a matter of time, folks, before Tony Luke's becomes a tourist trap too.
  9. Didn't know SL's served baby backs. Those you usually don't find at Q joints. Spareribs, yes -- whole racks, half racks, St. Louis-style, or just a few on a combo platter. But baby backs, no.
  10. Clearly not St. Louis-style there. Think I'll have to check this place out next time I'm on 9th Street. With all these new places opening, it struck me that we seem to have developed a wavelike barbecue cycle here: A raft of places open, and suddenly, barbecue is on everyone's lips (and the sauce is on their fingers); then, the weak fall by the wayside and the strong survive and either continue to prosper or fall into a comfortable rut. Tommy Gunn's (remember them?) and Sweet Lucy's are the residue of previous waves. Another wave appears to be cresting right about now. Anyone care to predict which places will survive when it recedes? Or will it recede?
  11. It was the former I was thinking of. I read the Wikipedia article after making my prior post. After reading it, I will allow that they do barbecue in St. Louis, but I still maintain that the city lacks the barbecue history, tradition and culture of Kansas City. (Not to mention the molasses in the sauce -- though my favorite Kansas City sauce, Gates', eschews that ingredient completely; their "Sweet & Mild" sauce is a late addition to their product line, and their regular sauce is tangier, tarter, and a little more peppery than people have come to expect from Kansas City sauce.* I prefer their Extra Hot myself. You can order it online from Gates' Web site.) It's been my understanding that St. Louis-style ribs are so called because they are trimmed and separated before smoking, not because of the sauce or cooking method itself. Kansas Citians smoke ribs in whole, untrimmed slabs, which are then either sold whole or cut in halves ("short end" and "long end"). The chief difference between Memphis and Kansas City ribs is that the latter usually have a touch of sweetness to them, either from the sauce or the rub (in which brown sugar is often used). But I will allow that some of my reaction springs from wounded hometown pride. As with the strip steak, barbecue has a very close association with my hometown -- it's usually mentioned along with Texas and North Carolina as the places barbecue pilgrims must visit, and the official sanctioning body for barbecue competitions has Kansas City as part of its name. And here everybody's talking about St. Louis. Sorry, but that hurts. *I noticed at the Super Fresh the other week that the store brand barbecue sauce comes in Original, Bold, Hickory, and Kansas City Style. Sure enough, molasses was one of the ingredients -- but (as was the case with Wegmans Kansas City Style barbecue sauce) high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient listed. I passed on buying it.
  12. I have already commented on the growing misuse of the term "St. Louis-style ribs." Consider this another warning. Now that I think of it, I may have been to this place in a previous incarnation. Fixing another omission: Nearest SEPTA service: Trolley Route 10 (City Hall to 63d and Malvern via Lancaster and Lansdowne avenues) to 48th and Lancaster.
  13. Walnut and Locust. Outstanding burger, $10. Rest of the menu that price or lower. Loud when it's busy. Lawyers and bike messengers routinely rub shoulders here.
  14. Haven't had to dine there in a hurry, but Ted's Montana Grill is right across the street and not that expensive. Further afield from the Kimmel Center, there's Minar Palace (really good, really cheap Indian) in the 1300 block of Walnut and More Than Just Ice Cream in the 1200 block of Locust (no liquor license). Both are within a 10-minute walk of the Kimmel. I've heard good things about Du Jour in the Symphony House, but I've never eaten there so can't recommend it. The reborn Girasole is probably above your pay grade for this event. Copa Too! on 15th btw Locust & Spruce was good, but I don't know whether it still is.
  15. I can think of more than a few movie references that probably reinforce the idea that a "dry martini" contains nearly indetectible amounts of vermouth. One is from a film in which the character requesting the martini says, "Spray vermouth in the room and walk through it." A similar line in another movie instructed, "Whisper 'vermouth' over the glass." Get exposed to this enough and you too will misunderstand. Perhaps a counterpropaganda campaign is needed, both for the benefit of the bartending profession and of those who truly prefer just a hint of vermouth in their martinis. Back to Parc for a minute. I finally got to eat there as part of a Philadelphia Speaks meetup, and found the food good, as the food is usually at SRO establishments. But -- as I've come to realize -- Starr's true genius is in creating a stage set. Parc is simply his biggest and most complete stage set yet. The food matters, sure -- serve mediocre food in a fabulous stage set and you won't get repeat business -- but it is merely one element in an elaborate dramatic production, one in which the diners are the lead actors.
  16. Which raises this question: What are the truly superlative local seafood restaurants? You can find in Philadelphia superior local examples of just about every other genre of chain restaurant, from steak to Mexican to Italian to casual to even barbecue, but with the Fishmarket long gone and Philadelphia Fish & Company recently joining it in the dustbin of history, what's our winner (what are our winners?) in the seafood category now?
  17. Flashback to the 1980s, which PGMC reprised two weekends ago: "It's a really big bun." "Yes, it's definitely a big bun." "Where's the beef?" Philly's own version of the dreaded Bridge & Tunnel crowd. ← Thought those were the despised "Yellow Tags" who clog your part of town, Katie. But I guess we should have something more distinctively Philadelphian, for New York gets those too. It would be most Philadelphian for our obnoxious louts to come from the upper and not the lower middle class.
  18. A few random comments: --Had the occasion to dine at Devil's Alley a few weeks ago (when the carpenters weren't picketing) and was underwhelmed. The ribs tasted grilled, not smoked. The sauce was OK, though. (The carpenters were picketing because the owners are using nonunion labor on their forthcoming restaurant @ 11th and Sansom. Despite my experience at Devil's Alley, I will probably give the new place a try when it opens. --Sounds like I need to head out to Dante's soon -- looks like a worthy successor to Dwight's, which was (is still?) in that same area. --Of course, I'm sensitive to mislabeling when it may involve my hometown; the battle against the "New York strip", I'm afraid, is lost, but I note another growing misusage that it may be too late to nip in the bud: "St. Louis-style ribs." Inasmuch as the term is used to describe how they are cooked or seasoned, it is wildly inaccurate: St. Louis has no native barbecue tradition -- the city's big contribution to common cuisine is Steak 'n' Shake. The term refers to how the ribs are prepared for cooking -- rather than being cooked in a whole slab, as they are in the cross-state city that does have a native barbecue tradition, they are partially separated before cooking. In terms of preparation, the differences between Kansas City-style and Memphis-style ribs are quite small; the chief distinguishing feature is the sweeter taste of KC BBQ.
  19. Oh, it's a pretty good soul food menu if it's Louisiana soul you're talkin' 'bout. With a few extras (pan seared salmon, strip steak, arugula...) tossed in. Shoot, my dad passed on some Cajun dishes to me along with stories about some lost relatives in Louisiana as I was growing up. Though I note that the chef-owners are at pains to point out that their menu is Creole, not Cajun. (Gumbo -- a dish whose required vegetable is of African origin, or at least whose name is a corruption of a Yoruba word for said vegetable -- is common to both.) Though I will admit that when I perused the menu, my first thought was: "Okay, they got their greens, but where's the fried chicken?" The absence of chitlins from any soul food restaurant menu doesn't faze me; I don't think any place that served them would long retain its patronage, for the smell of them cooking would drive them away.
  20. MarketStEl

    Brussels Sprouts

    Well, last night, after perusing the early posts on this thread again, I decided to try a variant on the basic roasted Brussels sprouts recipe. I had bought some very young sprouts at the Reading Terminal Market the previous Saturday: there were almost no loose leaves to remove from these, and they were about half the size of the mature sprouts I usually see. So I just sliced off a little of the stem end and otherwise left them whole. I then sauteed them in butter with crushed garlic, as philadining recommended, but did not remove the crushed garlic from the pan before drizzling Japanese mirin cooking seasoning over them. Then they went into the 400F oven for 10 minutes. No bacon, but no matter -- they came out great, with a deep green hue, and IMO the mirin was just as effective a complement as the maple syrup would have been.
  21. Doesn't look too bad -- looks handmade, in fact, which is a good thing. What's it look like on the bottom?
  22. Before that happens, Apple will come out with the first circular laptop computer, the Apple pi.
  23. Sorry I missed this. By the time I arrived here, an Ethiopian restaurant, Cafe Nyala, occupied the space. OTOH, that place gave me my first taste of Ethiopian fare, which is still one of the best ways to entertain and feed a large group of people simultaneously.
  24. Well, I will agree that they were rougher than they should have been in dealing with Rick, but if the "end" is to preserve the Market as a fresh food source first and foremost, then...while I wouldn't go the Malcolm X route and say that they should preserve that function "by any means necessary," I don't think that subsidizing the lower-margin fresh food vendors out of the profits of the prepared-foods sellers is all that outlandish, and it's my understanding that Rick was a real PITA on this point, carrying on the fight past the point where it should probably have ended. The RTM having much less selling space than Pike Place Market, keeping the fresh food vendors viable in its location is not a simple affair. Pike Place struck me as far more crafts fair and tourist magnet than food market on my visit there, but it's so huge that both roles can coexist comfortably. The RTM doesn't have the same luxury: it would be all too easy for the place to become a funkier version of the Bellevue food court in toto. If I'm not very much mistaken, in terms of number of businesses as opposed to total square footage, the non-fresh-food vendors currently operating in the RTM outnumber the fresh food sellers. Absent the thumbs on the scale in the form of the Operating Policy Guidelines and this policy, I could see them gradually becoming 100% of the tenants if things were left to their "natural" course. It would certainly make things easier for the management and more lucrative for the PCCA.
  25. If the Food Court at the Bellevue closes at 6 pm, then its hours and the Reading Terminal Market's are in sync. Rick Oliveri won't lose business due to shorter hours there. He won't, however, have tourist and conventioneer traffic to bolster his bottom line at the Bellevue. I hope there are enough office workers chowing down there at lunchtime to make up for the loss. I finally got around to reading the PhillyMag article. (Note to self: I should give Steve Volk a call and see how he's doing.) From what I know of Steve, he generally tends to sympathize with the "little guy" in a dispute between the Powerful and the Pipsqueak, and in this struggle, Rick Oliveri was definitely the Little Guy. But his "Jeans vs. Suits" metaphor certainly fits the meta-story within which this drama took place. As long as my friend Paul Steinke has been running the Market on behalf of its new owners (I believe he is the second RTM General Manager under PCCA ownership), I've heard continual complaints about how the new owners were trying to manage the Market as though it were a shopping mall. Certainly, doing research on how shoppers view the Market vs. its competition would probably rub Market traditionalists the wrong way; their likely response, I suspect, was "The Reading Terminal Market has no competition." Strictly speaking, they are right, in that there is no food market like the RTM anywhere near it, but as Paul knows, the shoppers regard it as functionally interchangeable with Whole Foods, their neighborhood supermarket, or 9th Street, and if the Market is to both fulfill its mission and do so profitably, it must pay attention to that competition and meet it while remaining true to its own character. (Which, btw, is why I would not endorse language in the RTM's Operating Policy Guidelines explicitly referring to history and tradition in addition to character; doing so would put the Market in the same straitjacket this city seems to like to wrap itself in until somebody comes along with something too compelling to let history stand in its way.) All this regular shopper can say is that the Market has never looked better, and the quality and variety of fresh foods available is as good as it's ever been. If a $7.50 cheesesteak is the price we must pay for this, then IMO it's worth it; you can get an equally mediocre cheesesteak at Geno's for the same price right now.
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