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philadining

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  1. I was excited to see a small artisan bakery open up on Phoenixville's Main street a while back. They have opened gradually, with more and more breads of their own, along with some brought in from Sweet Water Baking. They also have a nice selection of cheeses, some charcuterie, smoked meats and fish, etc. With those ingredients, they'll make sandwiches, or party trays. Here's a sandwich made with locally-smoked pork loin, apple butter and cheddar, on one of their baguettes. It was very good. The baguettes are really good, featuring a nice crust, and a chewy, but airy crumb. Bagels are a work-in-progress, for now, they're pretty tasty bagel-shaped bread, but the texture isn't quite right... I was especially excited to see a sign out front last weekend advertising Pizza Night. On friday and saturday nights, (they may have added thursdays too) they use that brick oven for Neapolitan style pizza crusts, and top them simply with a few good ingredients. They're not fooling around, they use Caputo 00 flour for the crust (based on a recipe by Roberto Caporuscio of Keste pizza in NY) and San Marzano tomatoes. The results are pretty righteous. That's a basic Margherita. They also do a white pizza, and you can add a few basic toppings if you like, depending on what they have around. The texture of the crust was very nice, with a good spotty char on the bottom. It might have been a little crisper and firmer in the middle than some classic Neapolitan preparations, but I actually prefer that... The pies are the classic Neapolitan size, about 10-inches in diameter, perfect for one person, or for sharing a few at the table. I've only made it in once, so I can't say anything about consistency, but they seem pretty serious about what they're doing, and they have a good oven to work with, so I feel pretty confident. It's not a classic domed wood-fired oven built specifically for pizza, but it's doing a nice job with the crust. I'm not sure if it gets to the super-high temperatures of those purpose-built beehives, but I had my pizza in less than 10 minutes, and that includes assembly as well as its time in the oven. Downtown Phoenixville just gets more and more interesting. The very good Thai restaurant called Thai L'Elephant is just about ready to open, having moved from the outskirts of town to the corner of Bridge and Gay, Majolica is still putting out excellent food near that same corner, the Guatemalan restaurant Antigua Guatamala a couple blocks up Main st has expanded their menu, John Mims seems to be doing good business with his Louisiana-themed place, there are a couple of new Mexican markets... The town is certainly worth a visit, especially if it's pizza night. Brick Oven Bread and Cheese Shop 138 Bridge Street, Phoenixville PA, 19460 (610) 933-3003 www.brickovenbreadshoppe.com (website is pretty out-of-date...)
  2. Just checked with Maks, and he says that you can drop an email via the website: http://betacocktails.com/ (There's a contact link on the right column) They'll get back to you with a link to paypal them $7, and they'll mail you a copy. It's just a basic photocopied thing, not like the original Rogue book, but there are some very good drink recipes in there! I'd say it's easily worth the $7.
  3. I've been going to all three sporadically for the last year: it just so happens that the Exton location is relatively close to work, Royersford is not too far from home, and Center City is close to most of my friends. I'll certainly say that I prefer the Center City location, but I'm not even sure it's all about Han, I've been there a few times when he wasn't there. I think I might just like the style of the chefs there. But I've still gotten very good food at the other two, even very recently, I even slightly prefer a couple of dishes at Royersford... I've had no big complaints about service at any of them. Obviously, Han knows me, and so does his mom, so if they're around I get treated nicely, but I've definitely been to both suburban places when I didn't know any of the servers and they didn't recognize me, not even just as a repeat customer, and it's been fine. Yes, it's definitely better to have Han wait on you, and yes, many of the other staff at the suburban places aren't going to win any awards for outstanding service, but at least in my experience, they haven't been a problem. So I'm not writing-off the Exton or Royersford places yet. But it's true, I do tend to drive into the city when I can. Speaking of which, Han mentioned something about this a while back, and I just finally saw some concrete details: He's doing a fusion-y dinner in collaboration with David Ansill and Sam Jacobson (from the very good restaurant called Sycamore out in Landsdale). Sounds fascinating. Details: http://foobooz.com/2010/11/chinese-izing-american-food/
  4. The three menus are a little bit different, mostly because they have different chefs, who have some of their own specialties. I've definitely noticed that certain dishes, even with the same names, are done differently at each restaurant, and I actually kind of like that. Sure, it can be frustrating if you prefer how it's done at one place, but it's more convenient to go to another one, but I like the variation, that it's not just a chain pumping out food by a formula. As for the spicy noodles with pork vs. Dan Dan noodles: it's always a little confusing when there are similar dishes, especially if a server might have misunderstood and brought something else. But I'm pretty confident that on all the menus, those two names are used for the same dish, listed on the menu in Chinese as: 成都旦旦麵 (which is actually Chengu Dan Dan Noodles.) There are a couple of possibilities: maybe someone brought you the (not spicy) Noodles with Meat Sauce: 四川炸醬麵 and that's the one you like. Or maybe there's just some variation in how the different places make their Dan Dan noodles. But generally, at Han Dynasty, noodles with spicy meat sauce = Dan Dan Noodles. I don't speak or read Mandarin, but I have found it really helpful to recognize some of the names, or at least some of the characters. The Dan Dan noodles is pretty easy to spot, because of the repeated character: 旦旦 (And 麵 is noodles.) 炸醬麵 is zhà​jiàng ​miàn​, the not-so-spicy version of noodles with meat sauce, although it might still have a little chili kick. Again, that last character is noodles, and if you're curious, the 炸 means fried, and 醬 is sauce. So it's often worth memorizing, or making a note of, the Chinese characters for dishes you like, that way you can at least point at the dish on the menu, especially if there's some ambiguity between similar preparations. The names of dishes are not always so straightforward - sometimes they are - basically the name of the primary ingredient, a cooking style and often the size/shape of the cut of the main ingredient (fried-sauce-noodle, or sliced-stirfried-chicken, etc.) But just as often, they have more poetic names, so you might just need to memorize what the name looks like. --- On another note, I got some takeout from Exton recently, and noticed that they had a sign up for a tasting menu there on Wednesdays. I meant to make a note about which Wednesdays, but I forgot... I'll try to update here, but it appears that one can do tasting menus at all three locations: every other monday in Center City, every other Tuesday in Royersford, and perhaps every other Wednesday in Exton (or at least one Wednesday per month.) The website doesn't say anything, but it's worth calling and asking about if you're interested.
  5. I would generally agree with Tim's assessment of things - but might be a tiny bit more enthusiastic about Cooper's and Mango Moon. As you've figured out, there's nothing mind-blowing out there, but you can certainly have a nice time and a good meal without leaving Manayunk if it's more convenient. I wasn't blown-away by all I sampled at Cooper's, but some of it was very good, and it's quite a pleasant space to chill and have a glass of wine and a casual bite. Next door at Jake's is a little more formal, and while it's not cutting-edge, the cooking is solid. I enjoyed Mango Moon quite a lot, and was sorely disappointed by Chaaba Thai, which is weird, given that they're owned by the same people. I found all 4 things we ordered at Chaaba Thai to be shockingly bland and carelessly prepared, while I found almost everything at Mango Moon to be pretty vivid and well-made. Might have been day-to-day variation in either case, but I'd suggest that you'd have better luck on the south end of the street at Mango Moon if you're feeling like Thai. Anybody tried the new-ish Agiato? It looks more like a cafe/sandwich place than I thought was intended, but there had been a little buzz about it before it opened. In any case, Busboy, if you feel like heading into Center City Philly, you're right to be worried about traffic jams, they can be pretty horrendous, even though you don't have very far to go. But you have two other options. For one, there's a train station, that would zip you down to Suburban Station at 16th and Market, which is pretty central, or to Market East, which is right by Chinatown and the Reading Terminal Market. Or if you feel like driving, you can avoid the Schuylkill (76) altogether by just driving south on Main Street out of Manayunk, then getting on Kelly Drive, which is a lovely winding road along the river, which will put you in front of the Art Museum, and from there you can just kind of go with the flow around the big traffic circles, down the Benjamin Frankin Parkway, into the middle of Center City, just head toward city hall. But although Manayunk is not currently a culinary hotspot, you could do worse, and if you're more in the mood to chill and socialize, rather than hit the latest exciting dining destination, you can do fine there...
  6. Yeah, I was surprised the first time I ordered a "regular" coffee at a truck in Philly and got a not-insubstantial amount of cream and sugar in it. I'd been expecting a black coffee when I said regular, but I'm not sure where I developed that expectiation, diners maybe? That might make sense because you'd expect to be able to make it yourself from items on the table - except at the Melrose diner in Philly: they used to ask if you wanted cream, and they'd put it in for you. Not sure if that's still true. I was also amazed at the phenomenon that Chris referred to: ordering a coffee with cream and sugar at a Dunkin Donuts in New England resulted in something more like coffee-flavored cream, with so much sugar that it was precipitating out of the solution! (Mike: yes, all added in by the counter person before it was handed-over, not delivered separately.) Live and learn. Thankfully "black" seems to be universally understood.
  7. Yeah, Holly, as Blether said, there are plenty of ways to resize your photos within Photoshop, you don't need another program. After you've done all your tweaking to the shot, I'd save an un-compressed version of it, either as a photoshop file or maybe a tiff, in case you want to do something with it for print. yes, this eats up a lot of disc space. Get over it. Big hard drives are cheap these days, get a large one, or two, or a RAID set to mirror (RAID level 1.) Then, if you're posting to the web, go to the Image menu, choose Image Size, and change it to the size you desire: 72 dpi for the web, then whatever actual dimensions you want in pixels or inches or whatever dimension you want. Be sure to check the Resample box, along with the Constrain Proportions box. Then, after it's been resampled, you may want to do some sharpening... or not... Then, if you choose "File>>Save for Web & Devices" you'll get a dialog that allows you to choose the image type and tweak the amount of compression you want, giving you a before and after pane that shows the consequences of your choices, both visually and as a file size. Also - regarding your white-balance issues - you'll have LOTS more control if you shoot RAW, and then upon opening the RAW file, use that dialog to adjust the color temperature until the whites are white. That gives you much more to tweak than the post-processing adjustments of levels, or curves, or color balance, or hue and saturation. The auto button often gets close, but you'll still usually want to tweak the blue-yellow (temperature) slider a bit, and then, you almost always need to adjust the exposure setting, and/or the black levels. Of course it's even better to have the white balance set right in the camera, but the real-world lighting conditions don't always play along. You should try to avoid having different light sources with different color temperatures hitting your subject at the same time. If your plate is being lit by an incandescent lamp, but you're also sitting near the window, and it's simultaneously being lit by sunlight, you'll end up with parts of the shot too yellow or too blue, and there's no easy fix for that...
  8. Holly, I know it's a bit too far for a scooter ride, but The Whip Tavern out near Coatesville has a very good Welsh Rarebit on the menu. but just to be a nudge, I'd put that in the toast-and-cheese camp, rather than toasted cheese. For me, it's grilled cheese, over toasted, all the way, particularly if it's grilled under pressure, like my grandmother used to do in her waffle-iron that had grills that would flip to a smooth side. That created a very flat, compressed sandwich with cheese oozing out the sides. She made them with plain white bread, Kraft singles, and plenty of butter. Now, I tend to use better bread and cheese, but I still try to simulate the form of those sandwiches by leaning pretty hard on it with a spatula as it's browning in a regular pan. I think the term "grilled" is confusing to many, evoking the image of cooking on a grate over hot coals. I presume using the word for frying something in a pan evolved from doing the same thing on a flattop "grill" in a diner. Why flattops are called grills is beyond me.
  9. As part of a big gumbo cooking extravaganza, I decided to also make some boudin. It was largely motivated by the fact that at that time, friends were roasting a whole pig, so I figured there would be a nice fresh liver to be had... I did a lot of reading of recipes, which only served to confuse me, this seems to be another one of those things that everybody makes a little differently. But it's fascinating reading, some of the best info is here: http://www.southernboudintrail.com/ So I just decided to go for the recipe in Donald Link's Real Cajun. I love the fried boudin balls at Cochon, and the steamed links at Cochon Butcher, so I figured that was a good starting point. I ended up doubling it, and making a few minor substitutions. I couldn't find both chili peppers he listed, and curing salt seemed unnecessary, given that we weren't storing these for long, but more or less it was his recipe, which has a 4:1 ratio of Pork Shoulder to Pork Liver. So, sure enough, the day after the pig roast, I found a bag in the refrigerator: And it was a lovely liver. I didn't even use all of it, that would have made WAY too much boudin for this context. I used a little over a pound of it, paired with about 5 pounds of Pork shoulder. I combined the spices and vegetables, Chopped the meats into approx 1 inch cubes. added the meat to the spices, stirred well, and marinated overnight. Steamed some rice for use later. The next day, I got a pot of water going, once it was boiling, I added the marinated meats,and all the vegetables and spices, then reduced the heat, and poached the mixture for about 2 hours. Then strained, being sure to reserve the poaching liquid. The recipe says that the meats can then be ground, chopped by hand, or run through a food processor. Sure enough, a few pulses got this to the perfect texture. I think a meat grinder would have been overkill. Then, added in the cold cooked rice, and most of the poaching liquid, and stirred vigorously. It turns out, this stirring phase is crucial for developing the right texture, and getting everything to hang together. We probably stirred it for about 15 minutes, which was surprisingly tiring, but it's good to have help! The mixture went in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, and then we rolled the mixture into small balls, and coated them in panko. Again, it's really good to have help! We had a couple of what we came to call "jet woks" out back, which seemed to be the perfect gear for deep frying these, plenty of space for them to bob around. As it turns out, the first few simultaneously fell apart and stuck to one another, so we re-rolled them a little smaller, and fried them in smaller batches, manually keeping them away from one another with the skimmer. Did I mention that it's really good to have help with this? That did the trick, and they turned out really well. Served them with some Zatarain's mustard, and they were a big hit, even with people who made nasty faces when I'd mentioned the word "liver" earlier. I don't think I'd change a thing, I think the 4:1 ratio of shoulder to liver is just right, at least with a nice fresh liver... This ultimately wasn't too hard to do, it just took a while, so I'd encourage anyone interested to give it a shot. I see pig livers pretty regularly in Asian groceries, or perhaps your local butcher could get you some without too much trouble. For many of us, it's easier than making at trip to Cajun country, if perhaps not as much fun!
  10. I expected to have a stronger opinion about Jacobs vs. Pochés, but to be honest, next year I might flip a coin! I apologize for not taking a good cross-section photo of the Jacob's. I do have one of the Poché's, but please not that this photo is NOT a side-by-side comparison of Jacobs and Pochés, the smaller sausage in this photo is a very good-tasting andouille, but one made close to me, by Leidy's. The only real cross-section photo I have of the Jacob's is this one: It's hard to compare the two from these photos, but the Jacob's is smaller in diameter, a bit more finely-ground, but still chunky, and denser. They were both quite good though, eating them on their own, or in the gumbo. A local food critic here in Philly, who had been a restaurant reviewer in New Orleans for several years, had recommended Jacob's, and was somewhat dismissive of Poché's, because Poché's uses liquid smoke in their andouille. I found that hard to believe, but sure enough, they list it plainly in the ingredients... But that really doesn't bother me: the sausage was delicious, and I could detect nothing artificial about its smokiness, perhaps they just put a little in to add an extra kick. Hey, if it works, it works. The Jacob's tasso was in smaller pieces than the Poché's, but I don't know if that's always true, or just what I happened to get from each place. And I'm not even sure which I prefer - the smaller pieces certainly have a higher spice and smoke ratio, but are also a bit drier, and more tedious to chop. Both places shipped in a timely manner. The Poché's packaging was a little better, they used a styrofoam-lined box and a chunk of dry ice, while Jacobs just used a regular cardboard box and a regular freezer pack. But that's almost an insignificant distinction, these are smoked meats, in cryovac, I suspect they're pretty hardy. I used 2-day shipping from Jacob's - Poché's says they only do overnight, and the Poché's was definitely a little cooler when it arrived, but I don't think it actually made any difference. The two places calculate the costs differently: Poché's per-pound prices include shipping, and there's a 10 pound minimum. Jacob's says they charge you only for the actual shipping cost, and don't add a premium for handling it. As it worked out for me, on the east coast, it cost a little more for the Jacob's order: about $100 total for 10 pounds of meat and shipping. Poché's would have charged $82.50 for a similar order. But the Jacob's shipping charges will likely be different for different areas, it might be cheaper if you're closer, and in the end, it's not THAT big of a difference. I sincerely enjoyed the products from both places, they seemed very similar to me in terms of quality. The Poché's was larger in diameter, coarser, and less dense than the Jacob's, but I honestly can't say that I strongly preferred one over the other. I found that the shipping costs and speed of other sources, such as Cajun Grocer, were not as good: both pricier and slower. I placed an order for some popcorn rice and some Steen's cane syrup from the Prudhomme online store, and they didn't even ship the order for almost 2 weeks (not in time... ) My Cajun Grocer order took longer than I'd expected it to, but arrived just in the nick of time. Cajun Grocer carries Pochés, and does not have the minimum 10-pound order, so it might be more convenient to order from them, but the prices, especially shipping, are definitely better ordering direct from Poché's. So, sorry that I can't say anything definitive... maybe sometime I'll order from both! And more than just Andouille and tasso too.
  11. No solid plans yet, but, as always, I'm hoping to be down your way before too long - always appreciate any tips on new places to try! It's funny, a friend asked me the same sausage question: whether I got any other sausages along with the andouille from Jacobs' and I had to smack myself in the head... of course, that would have been a good idea! The chicken and sausage gumbo turned out plenty smoky, with the andouille, the tasso, and the smoked paprika in the spice blend, but I definitely like the idea of a mix of sausages. I noticed that one of Besh's recipe uses primarily other sausages, with the Andouille more of an accent. Will definitely try that next. Interestingly, the duck breasts that I rescued from the inferno wasn't smoky at all - I guess they didn't have time to absorb smoke, they were just subjected to a rapid, high-heat roast (the built-in thermometer on the smoker was pinned past 800 degrees!) I know what you mean about worrying about spice levels. I just trusted my math in quintupling the recipes I riffed-on (for each pot) although I intentionally went a little light on the seasoning, and then added some more toward the end. I put NO salt in the spice mix, and none in the stocks either, and waited until pretty close to service to adjust for salt. Of course I ended up putting a good amount in at that point, but at least I wasn't surprised by it over concentrating as the gumbo simmered. The final result wasn't quite as dark as I had intended. The roux itself was pretty dark, but that was one scale-up that I got wrong. I actually started out intending to make two batches, but when I was done with the first, it just seemed like SO much roux that I convinced myself that I must have done the math wrong, and didn't need any more. In the end, I would have liked a bit more, so I should have trusted my numbers, not my eyes. I think that next time, I'll do a batch of roux ahead of time and have it standing by for last-minute adjustments. If I'm making a small pot of gumbo, I'm like you, and just use chicken thighs, browning them off first and using both the fat and the fond. But for this project, I needed so much stock, both chicken and duck, that it seemed more practical to roast whole birds, pick all the meat and toss the carcasses in a stock pot. The breast meat from either bird stays fine, as long as you don't put it back in the gumbo in too early. Even if you do, it just falls apart, which isn't so terrible... Thanks again for the sausage reminder - I hereby vow to diversify! I do sometimes find Andouille a little dry, but I've decided that it's not as big a problem if I put most of it in late in the game. I like to chop some up finely and get it in early, so the flavor fully permeates, but it seems that if you put all of it in too early, you can cook all the fat right out of it, and while your broth tastes great, the sausage itself can be a little cardboard-y. I don't expect to ever perfect this recipe, and look forward to tweaking it, often.
  12. I've been making gumbo semi regularly for the last couple of years, using continually-evolving recipes based on info in this thread, with tweaks based on reading lots of cook books. I especially like some of the recipes in Besh's My New Orleans, and Link's Real Cajun. Each batch is enjoyable, but I have to admit that they're partly a warm-up for one particular dinner. Each fall, I vacation with a group of friends that can range from 20-30 people, and we trade-off cooking duties, and gumbo works well for a crowd. Plus, the leftovers just get better and better. Last year I had good luck making a big pot of duck and mushroom gumbo, and another of classic chicken and andouille. But they disappeared too quickly, so this year I upped the quantities, and made about 4-5 gallons of each. I'm still getting my head around working with these large quantities, but it worked out pretty well this time (with only a couple of minor tragedies...) and I managed to document most of the process, so I figured I'd share. Last year I mail-ordered andouille and tasso from Pochés, and was very happy with it, but I'd gotten an enthusiastic recommendation for Jacob's, so this year I tried them. I can't say that I strongly prefer one company's products over the other, I like them both. I got 6 fresh ducks, 6 chickens, made a trip to Penzy's for spices, picked-up the requisite vegetables, and worked on it over the course of a couple of days. I had enough time to do some prep well ahead, and had many friends to aid in chopping, so I started early. First, I roasted off the ducks and chickens, picked the meat, and made stock from the bones. I actually had one big mishap - some friends had roasted a pig a few nights before I was scheduled to serve the gumbo, so I had the bright idea of popping the ducks into that big smoker after the pig came out. Seemed like a good plan - but I hadn't anticipated that the ducks would put of so much fat so fast that it would overwhelm the drip pan, overflow into the coals, and ignite! By the time we noticed, and wrestled the rotisserie mechanism off of the smoker, the ducks were pretty much charcoal... Amazingly, I was able to recover most of the breast meat from these 4 ducks, it tasted just fine, but the legs were too far gone, and the carcasses were no good for stock. Thankfully I still had a couple more ducks that I roasted conventionally in the oven, and got a decent amount of meat from them, and stock from those bones (with a couple of chickens thrown in) and a good supply of duck fat, so I was able to continue on my plan. I also made pork stock from the pig roast bones, so between 6 chickens, 2 ducks and leftovers from a 75 pound pig, I had plenty of meat, and lots of bones for stock. Skimmed, de-fatted, chilled the stock, had it ready for the next day. The next day, I chopped about 20 onions, 10 bell peppers and several bunches of celery. Then sliced up the Andouille and Tasso. Browned about half of the sausage, left the rest as-is. I also got some slab bacon from Jacob's, and added that to the duck gumbo, to add the smokiness that I did NOT get from cooking the ducks in the smoker... Made my spice mix: Three kinds of paprika (sweet, hot, and smoked) cayenne, a couple of kinds of freshly ground chili powders, black and white pepper, garlic powder, toasted onion powder. Got that all organized, and ready to go, and got the stock simmering, before starting the roux. The meeze: I saved the fat from the ducks I roasted in the oven, and used that as a base for the roux. That was a very fine smelling roux, if I do say so myself! It got much darker than this, but there was no opportunity to take pictures at that point, it was pretty frantic. As the roux got very dark, I dumped-in the onions. That's something I picked-up from the Besh cookbook: to do the onions first, before adding the peppers and celery. I think I'm going to keep doing that, I feel like the onions got better caramelized on their own. I split the roux out into two pots, added the rest of the vegetables and the spice mix, sautéed them for a while. I then added that roux-spice-vegetable mix to the stocks (one pot of duck/chicken stock, one of chicken/pork stock.) Added the tasso and a little bit of chopped andouille. Added bay leaves to each, a bunch of thyme to the duck gumbo, and let them simmer for a few hours. Skimmed fat. Then a couple of hours before service, I added the picked chicken and duck, and the andouille. Continued simmering, skimming fat, and then shortly before service, added salt to taste, and adjusted the spice a bit. Cooked rice, served it, and then sat down for the first time in about 8 hours, and had an Abita. In all the chaos of serving, I failed to get any pictures of the finished product, but it turned out well. I think I'll follow this basic procedure, except for being a little more careful when smoking ducks... Lessons learned: Jacob's Andouille is tasty. It's good to have help chopping. Roux is $*&%##ing hot, especially when it spatters on your hand. Ducks output a lot of fat. Good gumbo is worth the trouble.
  13. The bar Southwark in Philly has a pretty deep selection of Rye, and a Sazerac is my default drink there, but I haven't been very scientific about making comparisons. Sounds like a good project... I usually request Sazerac 6, they use Herbsaint as a rinse by default. But recently, I have been splurging on Rittenhouse 100, with a rinse of Vieux Carré absinthe. That absinthe is a little weird in this drink, more minty than most, but I like it quite a lot in this combination. The bartenders there also tend toward a 4-dash hit of Peychauds, which I've come to prefer. I was recently sequestered away in a remote location with my only whiskey being two bottles of Saz 6 and one of McKenzie rye. I'd planned to use the McKenzie for other things, but I ended up making Sazeracs with it, as well as Manhattans with Carpano Antica and Whiskey Barrel bitters. The McKenzie has been dissed a bit up-thread for being young and overpriced, but I thought it made a delicious Sazerac, especially with the original-formula Herbsaint, and worked great in the Manhattan too. It's got a very pronounced rye flavor, a little edgy, which I like, and which I think worked very nicely in the mix. So, sure, the McKenzie might be a little too expensive for what it is, but it's interesting, and tasty, so I'm buying another bottle the next time I see it...
  14. I've only been to 7 of these places, so I can't argue too much with the list, except to agree with Mike's "no Cure?" And although I like Angel's Share, I'll second Kathryn that their ranking does seem awfully high. If you read the text in the slide show, they were definitely considering some intangibles, not just listing places with the best drinks, and it's hard to quantify vibe.
  15. I've eaten there a few times recently, and I think the kitchen is really on their game right now. I've had a few of their sausage platters - all of which have been quite delicious. Chicken Chorizo Black Pepper Sausage Their sous-chef is making the sausages in-house, along with various other charcuterie. They had a duck prosciutto recently that was beautifully done: tender, intensely-flavored, a little halo of fat practically vaporizing on the tongue, contrasted by crunchy canary melon and purslane. Duck prosciutto That roasted half-chicken was juicy, with perfectly crisp skin, and was seated on a bed of creamy succotash. Textbook comfort food, as was the shortrib, the braised pork belly... But the food's not all farm-style and old-fashioned. We tried a fluke ceviche recently that featured peaches, summer squash and micro-tomatoes. That dish would have been right at home at the hippest restaurant in any big city. So, short version: go! The food's always been good, but they seem re-energized right now.
  16. That actually sounds low to me... I'd guess that I probably eat 4-5 sandwiches per week, and I feel like I see folks around me eating lots too. But then, Philly is a really good sandwich town, so maybe we're outliers.
  17. I'm generally a fan of bags that don't broadcast that you have something valuable inside, so I tend to carry my camera in a generic book-bag-ish thing. I have a partitioned backpack for real shoots where I need all my lenses and various other accessories, but for in restaurants, one camera one lens, low profile...
  18. >McGillin's (can't help it...it's a cozy pub, and treated the locals well), yes, still there... >Capogiro Of course, going strong. >Indonesia (now in South Philly...at least, I hope) Yep still exists in South Philly if you want to reminisce, but if you just want Indonesian food, there are a few more options these days: Hardena, Sky Cafe, Java Colonial Cafe, etc. >La Lupe yes, but again, LOTS more to choose from if you want that style, rather than the specific memory pings. >Tony Luke's Yes, same as ever. >Tamarind ditto >Mr. Martino's Trattoria. ditto >Some of the most memorable oysters I've eaten (New Englander here) were from Oyster House... >I'd love to go to the actual bar and gorge myself. No reason not to, they always have a wide selection of oysters, and some good drinks to accompany! >I know Django closed a few years back. Are they still doing the country table thing? "They" split up, but Aimee Olexy is still helming Talula's Table out in Kennett Square, where they do indeed do the big farm table thing. I'm not sure whether they're still riding on the national press-attention buzz, but I suspect it's still hard to get a reservation, even though the chef, Bryan Sikora is no longer there. His former sous chefs are reputedly still putting out good food. >We used to love going to Little Fish on 6th & Catharine. Are they still around? That building has closed for renovations, but the chef has moved to a bigger place at 17th and Lombard, called Fish. It;s not exactly the same, a little buffed-up, but still a similar concept, except that they have a liquor license. >It looks like our little neighborhood bakery is now Cochon. Possibly, but that's a good thing. Cochon rocks. >Chloe was a little jewel of a restaurant on Arch St. between 2nd & 3rd. >We loved that little BYOB. Transcendental foie gras. Are they still cooking? Still there. Haven't heard anything about them in a while, but they're still there! So it looks like you can have a pretty complete nostalgia tour, and I can totally see the appeal, but let us know if you want some updated recommendations.
  19. A friend called me and asked what she could substitute for Uni. Sorry, I don't have a funny story about a suggested replacement, the recipe wisely did not offer any alternatives, but I was amused/stumped while contemplating it...
  20. We had a surprising experience at Han Dynasty this past Saturday: no Han! Jeeze, he wins a Best of Philly and gets three Bells from Laban and now Han thinks he can take a few hours off?!? Slacker... The good news is that the food was as good as ever, and things ran just fine in his absence. Of course it's always fun to chat with Han, and if you're new to the place, it's very helpful to have his guidance, but it's reassuring to know that things don't go all to hell if he's checking in on one of the other locations, or maybe even getting some sleep for a change. I had some friends visiting from NYC, who are very knowledgeable (and picky) about Sichuan food, and I'm happy to say that they were very pleased with the meal. I ordered mostly my favorite stuff, along with a few things they specifically wanted to compare to their favorite places. We had: Dan Dan Noodles Wontons in Chili Oil Cold Chicken in Chili Oil Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce Green Bean Noodles then Fish in Dry Pot Deep-Fried Shredded Beef Tea-Smoked Duck Sichuan Green Beans It was all really tasty. If I had any small complaints, it would br that the beef was a little tame. I think this chef makes it relatively mild compared to the chef in Royersford, and I forgot to ask for it extra spicy, but it was still very good as it came out. With the inevitable spice-level creep, leftovers became just about perfect! The Dan Dan noodles might have been just a touch overcooked, but that slightly soft texture didn't really detract much from the great flavors. The Tea Smoked Duck was outrageously good. Even the one member of our party that doesn't usually like that dish ended up raving about it. And the Fish in Dry Pot is simply one of the best things to eat in the city right now. Of course we would have enjoyed chatting with Han, his advice, jokes, or verbal abuse can definitely add to the overall experience, but if you already know what you want to order, you can do just fine if he's otherwise occupied. If you DO need advice and Han doesn't happen to be there, ask if Eric is around, he can take good care of you too. The chefs are back there doing what they do, so you can be pretty confident of getting good food in any case. In other news: in an attempt to keep up with demand, they added another night for the tasting menu - it's now on the first AND third mondays of the month. But I'm not sure the tactic has worked, both of the nights are apparently booked-up into November or December... Still, it's worth a call to see if space has opened up, if you're interested.
  21. You're absolutely right, and I've been guilty of that syndrome, but I try to fight it. Sometimes famous touristy things are actually pretty awesome. I wouldn't say that the experience of a cheesesteak in Philly quite rises to the level of a great pastrami sandwich in NY, or Beignets from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, or a lobster roll in Maine. It's probably more like getting a well-made Chicago hot dog, or Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar: pretty good, kind of fun to experience the "real thing," but not life-changing. It's always surprising how seemingly simple foods just are never made correctly away from their point of origin, there's usually some little detail that doesn't survive the trip. So if you've had a cheesesteak, but not in Philly, you haven't really had a cheesesteak. Even if they were made by ex-pats, if they're out of town, the roll was wrong, or the cut of meat wasn't quite right, or something. So try the real thing while you're here if you're curious, but just be ready, the original is probably not going to blow your mind...
  22. I'm always a little torn about the cheesesteak thing: on one hand, I kind-of like them, and indulge from time to time. I find that visitors are often very curious about them, and feel like they're missing out on a quintessential Philadelphia experience if they don't have one and so I sometimes take visitors to one place or another, depending on the circumstances. That said, most serious visiting foodies skip them, there are too many other more interesting things to expend calories and stomach space on... But if you're here for a few days, or a cheesesteak just sounds intriguing/appealing, go for it. I tend to be a little broader in my range of destinations too, it depends a lot on what one is looking for. If one really wants the BEST steak, I'd try to get to John's roast pork before about 2pm on a weekday, and have one with fried onions and sharp provolone. If I can't make those range of times (and to be honest, cheesesteaks taste better to me late at night...) I'd go to Tony Lukes, and maybe go for the sharp provolone, or maybe whiz, I happen to think whiz tastes pretty good on a cheesesteak - nowhere else, but pretty good on that one sandwich. But I think it's also worth acknowledging that the cheesesteak is a cultural icon, not just a culinary one, so there's something to be said for going to the legendary places and experiencing the whole thing - the lights, the lines, the attytude, the gestalt of the cheesesteak. And I know it's not a popular opinion in foodie circles, but I think one can get a good steak at Pat's or Jim's if you time it right, and have a little luck. (I'm leaving out Geno's, just because I personally feel that the owner's aggressive, public, anti-immigrant stance is especially abhorrent in that multi-cultural neighborhood, one that's been positively revitalized by an influx of people from many different countries, so I'm not interested in giving him any money. One is certainly free to have a differing opinion on this. Despite the lively competition, and people with strong preferences, I find the steaks from Pat's and Geno's to be virtually indistinguishable, so go wherever you feel good about...) But it's kind of fun to go down to that Pat's and Geno's corner, or to 4th and South, and stand in line (no, not just with tourists, mostly with Philly natives) and deal with the gruff counter guys, and the arcane ordering rules, etc. I think locals that write the famous places off often do so because they refuse to stand in those lines, but the lines are crucial - that's what guarantees that the meat is freshly-cooked. If you go sometime that there's nobody there, or only 5 people in line, you're VERY likely to get meat that's been sitting on the flattop keeping warm (and getting tough and dry.) I find the quality of the meat at all of those places to be variable, but often quite good, and usually nice and juicy if it's spent the right amount to time on the grill. That said, there's no justification for standing in a crazy long line, the sandwiches are not THAT good, but a meduim-length line, that's actually good. Jim's rolls are kind of squishy and lame, but the fried onions are really good, and the steak is thin-sliced and shredded on the grill, if you like that style. Pat's and Geno's both have better rolls, and use thicker, un-chopped slices of meat, and some people prefer that style. John's Roast Pork chops/shreds the meat. Steve's up in the Northeast uses the thicker un-chopped slices. In the end, I'd say there's better, more interesting food to be had in Philly, even in the realm of sandwiches, but if you feel the need to have had the cheesesteak experience, try to decide what you're looking for. If it's the pure culinary experience, get to John's Roast Pork or Tony Luke's or Steve's in the Northeast. If you want the experience as much as the food itself, go to Jim's or Pat's. If you want the REAL philly experience, drink too much, then go to Jim's or Pat's at, like 2:30-3:00 am and wait in line with all the other drunk maniacs. Even a pretty crappy cheesesteak tastes pretty good in that context...
  23. eGullet forums are not always easy to search, although the process has gotten much better... but still, a little poking around this area should probably have given you a FEW more places to consider. More importantly, you'll get better answers if you give us a little more guidance about what you're looking for. Do you want high-end formal dining? Prefer inexpensive, informal places? Looking for innovation or the classics? Interested in ethnic food? Anything you get plenty of back home, so you'd rather skip while traveling? Also - when are you coming? To add to some of the replies you've gotten already: Han Dynasty isn't a "chain" in the traditional sense of them having a standardized menu and essentially being the same, but there are three of them, each of them a little different. Two of them are out in the suburbs, so unless you happen to be staying in the 'burbs near one (in Exton or Royersford) you'd be going to the latest, and I'd say best one, on Chestnut st, in Old City Philly. As I assume you've figured out if you've perused the thread, they serve traditional Chinese food from Sichuan, most of which is pretty spicy. They've been well-reviewed recently, so they'll be pretty busy for a while, especially on weekend nights. You mentioned Zahav, which is a very good restaurant, and the concept of upscale middle-eastern street food is fairly unusual, so if that sounds good to you, put it on your list. You Mentioned Vetri: the flagship restaurant is often mentioned as one of the best Italian restaurants in the country, but especially recently, I have read some mixed reviews. It's hard to know whether that's just a reaction to the hype, or the result of chef Vetri's expansion (he has two other restaurants now) or just the normal variation of opinion. FWIW, they've just appointed a new Chef de Cuisine there. Vetri himself bounces around in-between Vetri, Osteria and Amis, while the previous Chef de Cuisine at Vetri has moved over to Amis. Dizzy yet? If you're looking for a luxurious, elegant, expensive, special-event meal, the original Vetri is probably what you're looking for. But you can also get a taste of that cooking in more informal settings and at a lower price point, at his other places: Osteria and Amis. Neither of them is exactly cheap, but one could drop into either place and just have a couple of dishes if you're reluctant to commit to the full-on Vetri experience. The pizzas and pastas are especially good at Osteria, and Amis has a wide variety of smaller plates from which one can assemble a meal, or just a snack. As others have mentioned, the other powerhouse restauranteur in town right now is Jose Garces, and you're likely to get an interesting meal at any of his places. I think I'd agree with Buckethead's rankings: Distrito, then Amada or Tinto, then Chifa, although to be fair, it's been a little while since I've been to any of them except for Distrito, and the Chifa menu in particular has been extensively tweaked since I last had dinner there. He has a new-ish, less-formal take-out market/BYOB restaurant called Garces Trading Company that I've been hearing good things about, but I haven't gone. For better or worse, the rough generalization one can make about his places is that he buffs-up what are usually more casual cusines: Amada and Tinto riff on Tapas(Tinto concentrates on the Basque region); Distrito upscales Mexican fare; Chifa purports to be doing Peruvian-Chinese, but it's looking a little more like more general Asian-fusion these days. Whether that approach to these cuisines is appealing or appalling is a matter of opinion. I usually find his food to be quite delicious, but at the same time, I'm occasionally struck by how odd it is to eat precious, meticulously-composed, tiny, expensive versions of rustic dishes. Of course, it's not really a fair comparison to contrast his places with informal ethnic joints, the ingredients at the Garces places are very high quality, the preparations are meticulous, the setting and service are refined, there are good cocktails to be had... It probably sounds like I'm criticizing Garces or dismissing his places, which I don't mean to do, I think they're among the best restaurants in Philly. But the general approach might not be everyone's cup of tea. I suppose you could say the same thing about many "upscale" restaurants - there are a gazillion inexpensive Italian joints in Philly, but Vetri is something different. There are a few good little sushi joints, but if you opt for the flash of Morimoto, you'll get good fish, and pay a lot for it, but also have a different experience, a dramatic evening, as opposed to a simply tasty meal. But if you are looking for upscale, you should consider Vetri, Le Bec Fin (for old-school French haute-cuisine) or Lacroix (for more modern, even experimental, fancy dining.) Mid-upscale, try any of the Garces places. Then there are steakhouses if that's your thing, we've had some very good food at Union Trust. There's the Steven Starr empire, which tends toward the dramatic, as mentioned above. Morimoto serves good sushi and elaborate Japanese-fusion, including an interesting omakase tasting menu, in a cool-looking room. Buddakan remains very popular, and finally got a menu update recently, but I suspect people go there more for the overall experience than for the food in particular. Chris Hennes mentioned Alma de Cuba, and I have to agree that I've always enjoyed the food there, but it's another case of buffed-up cuisine, in this case Cuban, at a premium price. That's not good or bad, it just is what it is. His Barclay Prime is often mentioned as among the best steakhouses in town, and Butcher and Singer is a retro-styled steakhouse/supperclub thing that makes for an elegant occasion, if you're into that kind of thing. Parc is a startlingly accurate simulation of a French bistro, with OK food. In the mid-level, as has been mentioned, Philly's very strong in small chef-driven places, often BYOBs that don't have liquor licenses, so you can bring your own wine, which makes them extra-affordable. Bibou has collected numerous accolades for their rustic, yet elegant French cuisine, served in a small, intimate setting. Matyson rarely dissapoints: the weekday-dinner thematic tasting menus are usually fun, delicious, and good values. Koo Zee Doo serves updated Portuguese food, and remains a favorite of most everyone I know, it certainly is for me. Cochon serves hearty, sort-of French-ish, bold-flavored food, focused on the pig, but not exclusively. Kanella is serving pretty amazing Greek/Cypriot food. There are plenty more good choices: Melograno, Pumpkin, Marigold, Nan, Fond... the list goes on and on. Then there are the small-ish personal spaces, often owned and run by the chefs, but that do serve wine and beer, perhaps a full bar. The place called Fish is very good, you might be able to guess its focus. I've had some very good food at Meritage lately, ranging from country-French to Asian fusion. MeMe has a small-ish menu, but everything's good. I keep hearing good things about Supper, although I haven't been there for dinner in a while. I did have a very good brunch recently. Bistrot la Minette is very good, you know, bistro food. Southwark does really good hearty farm-to-table food, and has a killer cocktail program as well. You didn't say when you're coming, but there's considerable excitement building about Speck, and its kitchen-counter tasting menu experience called Studio Kitchen. That should be open soon, but it's hard to say exactly when, or how possible it will be to get seats at the Studio Kitchen counter (check the Studio Kitchen blog for info.) A couple people mentioned the Oyster House, which would be a very specifically Philly experience, it's an update of an old-school fish house, where you can get a huge variety of oysters, some uniquely Philly dishes like Snapper (turtle) soup, and Fried Oysters with Chicken Salad along with other seafood classics. And you can get some great cocktails there too. As has been mentioned above, perhaps the strongest sector of our dining scene is the "gastropub." The neighborhoods are full of little bars that have really good beer on tap, and have kitchens that serve serious food in the casual bar context. It'll range from burgers and sandwiches right on up through sophisticated entrees, and that's part of the beauty of it, you can have a sandwich while your friend can get a steak or an elegant fish dish, and your other friend can just snack on fries. The granddaddy in this movement is the Standard Tap, and it's still very good. But depending on where you are, you can get great food and beer at the Royal Tavern, Pub and Kitchen, South Philly Tap Room, North Third, Monk's, Brigid's, Memphis Tap room, Resurrection Ale House, Local 44... there are really too many to list. There's recently been a pizza renaissance, with Stephen Starr's Stella Pizzeria and Zavino leading the pack. On the ethnic side, we have a small, but very interesting Chinatown. The above-mentioned Han Dynasty isn't in Chinatown, but in that neighborhood, there's some very good Cantonese seafood (Ken's Seafood), casual Shanghainese (Sakura Mandarin and Dim Sum Garden) and much more, wander around a little... There's also a very good Burmese place (Rangoon) and a couple of Malaysian restaurants (Penang and Banana Leaf.) There are dueling Vietnamese restaurants on the edge of Chinatown (Vietnam and Vietnam Palace) but if you're really interested in Vietnamese, you're better off heading south to the Washington Avenue area, between about 8th and 11th, there are lots of good places down there. That neighborhood is also home to an increasing number of good Mexican Taquerias. Walk up and down 9th st, you'll see something good. We especially like the Tacos al Pastor at Taquitos de Puebla. That neighborhood is still called The Italian Market, and there are lots of homey Italian-American restaurants, what are sometimes called "red-gravy" restaurants, places for good basics like spaghetti and meatballs, or Veal Parm, etc. We take these places for granted, often dismiss them, but I often find out-of-town visitors love them. And last, but not least, as has been referred-to a few times, Philly is a great sandwich town, and not just for Cheesesteaks. There are a few threads about sandwiches, so look around if you want recommendations, but briefly: try DiNic's, Tony Luke's or John's Roast pork for a roast pork sandwich with greens and sharp provolone. Paesano's is making insanely great sandwiches of various types, from a roast pork to lamb sausage, to a hot dog with bolognese sauce, to a lasagna sandwich, and beyond. There are lots of good hoagies in south philly, and they really are something different than the standard submarine sandwich. Sarcone's is the standard=bearer down on 9th st, largely because of their bread. And that's just barely scratching the surface. So yeah, there are some worthy places to eat here. Maybe not that many get national attention, but that's OK, we like to be able to get tables without a 2-month wait. Give us some more details about what you're interested in, and I'll bet we can give you better-tailored recommendations. And less snark!
  24. We'd been curious about a new-ish place called Mile End, serving traditional Montreal Smoked Meat (and if you're lucky, or order-ahead, Bagels shipped from Montreal.) Partisans for Montreal's smoked meat insist it's even tastier than the best pastrami, so we had to see for ourselves. So? It's pretty damn good... This particular platter of meat wasn't quite as moist and juicy and internally unctuous as the best pastrami I've had from Katz's, but the one member of our party who has been to Schwartz's in Montreal remembered too late that his revelatory experience there flowed from an order of extra-fatty meat - we just ordered a platter here, with no instructions to go nuts with the fat if they wanted. As you can see, there's some, and it lent a good measure of moisture, but it's possible that they had something even richer if we'd asked. I'm going to hedge and say that Pastrami and Smoked Meat are actually different things - the smokiness of this meat was quite awesome, lending a distinctive flavor that's quite different from the typical NY deli style pastrami. The smaller slices from the thinner end, obscured in this photo, had both impressive smoke flavor and a strong spice component that was very impressive. If I only had time to go either Katz's or here: OK, it's probably still Katz's for me, but I'd pause and consider this place. FWIW, this platter costs about as much as one sandwich at Katz's. And the rye bread is pretty good. I wouldn't mind some caraway seeds, but... As a bonus, they also have a pressed (grilled) salami sandwich on an onion roll. There's an extra charge for leaving off the mustard, but why would you? This was also very good, I especially liked how the roll's onions got all toasty. Pickles were a little weird, kind of sweet... The slaw was pretty good though, just basic red cabbage in a vinaigrette. Their Poutine looked really good, but we'd just come from another meal, so we decided to leave that for next time. Which I hope will not be too long from now. Oh, and they serve Labatt's. Mile End 97a Hoyt Street, Brooklyn 718.852.7510 www.mileendbrooklyn.com/
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