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Everything posted by sara

  1. Hi! Couple of things...yes, in general I am saying the Vietnamese places in Philly don't stack up to those I'm accustomed to in VA. (Specifically, I am talking about Vietnam, Vietnam Palace, Pho 75, Nam Phuong, and Pho Ha, all of which I've been to--I will get to Pho Xe Lua soon....(tho no, I don't consider Chinatown all that close to U.City!)) Pho 75 is a chain w/ branches in the DC area, and yet the pho served at the Philly branch doesn't stack up. Pho Ha's is probably the best in the area, but given that the pho served at Vietnam (and don't even get me started on what's served at Vientiane) lacks depth, complexity, and quite often doesn't appear to have been cooked long enough, that's not saying much. Come to VA and try our Pho 75s, or anything at the more than 3 dozen Vietnamese restaurants in the Eden Center, and you'll see what I mean. I want a place like Cafe Dalat in Arlington--five-spice chicken, caramel pork, shrimp w/ sugar cane, fairy combination, pho several ways, intensely fresh spring rolls--where dinner for 2 with tons of food is still $20 or less. Nearly everything is grilled, simple, incredibly fresh. I like Vietnam on 11th, but I've found most dishes oversauced, occasionally dried out (even their vermecelli is occasionally under or overcooked), etc. One other mention--I agree w/the call for more Eastern European restaurants, and I wouldn't count Warsaw Cafe in any assessment of what we already have--it's awful, IMO. A cheap Russian joint, like the Pie in NYC, serving borscht, blinis, and stuffed cabbage at reasonable prices, that'd be nice. In general, we need more of every kind of restaurant (except Ethiopian and pizza) in West Philly...
  2. Vietnamese! (In much larger numbers) We have a major shortage of good, cheap Vietnamese restaurants. None of those in Philly hold a candle to those in the Falls Church/Arlington VA area. I would give (almost) anything for a pho shop here in West Philly. A place near campus w/ pho, grillled meats w. vermicelli, and spring rolls at reasonable prices would make a killing near Penn's campus.
  3. Well, I went to find the promised trout on Saturday...but it wasn't there!! Everyone was asking for the fish guy, but I guess he didn't show. Got the most rockin' cheese and iced tea and fudge (YUM) from the His Kids Dairy guy (Paul) at the Clark Park market. Go and try his new 'fudge shots'--so good.
  4. Ok, now my mother is thinking about David Greggory--my instinct is that it violates several of the requirements, and especially may be very noisy. Anyone been and have thoughts?
  5. Couple of items from today's Powelton Village farmer's market newsletter that will interest y'all: FIRST: THERE WILL BE TROUT AT THIS SATURDAY'S MARKET!!! "Danny Gerber (of UNI) has found another fish farmer in the Poconos, and this week they will have a limited amount of fresh whole trout! We hope that those of you who have felt bereft without your trout will get there early, try the trout, and report back. If the trout is as good as your memory of Tom Ryan's, they will add more varieties, and will try to make arrangements for a smokehouse." SECOND: YOU CAN PRE-0RDER YOUR BREAD FROM BLUE SKY BREAD "Dave of Blue Sky Bread wants you to know that you can pre-order any special bread you might need by calling the Bakeryat 302-475-9494 by Tuesday, and he will have your order for you that Saturday. They can make almost any combination of fruit bread, extra large Challah, many wheat-free products,cookies, etc. or anything else you would like. Dave will have his usual large variety of fruit and yeast breads; come and see (and taste) what surprises he has for us this week." This market is at 37th and Lancaster Aves Saturdays 10-2 pm. There's also a guy making great bbq pork sandwiches and selling whole bbq'd chickens and another guy selling homemade ice cream...
  6. My family is full of picky people--some are cheap, some don't know good food when it hits them in the face, some are rude to servers, some are simply unhappy at any restaurant they're at. That said, I need help. My family is going to see Barbara Cook at the Kennedy Center Friday night and they need to eat somewhere first (thank god, I get to skip this outing). It's 6 people, maybe around 6 pm. The original plan was Marcel's, but my uncle thinks the place is overpriced and overrated, even tho you get 3 courses for $42 and a limo ride to the KC. We need: --a place that is simple, not a scene, not noisy --serving simple fare, done well---preferably w/ steak frites on the menu (remember Le Steak? It closed but would've been perfect) --nice polite service --no more than $40/person --somewhere not too far from the KC (and Arlington would be fine) The wine list matters not, they don't drink. It doesn't have to be cutting edge food, or exciting in any way. I'm the only Chowhound in the family. Please help!!
  7. Have you all tried the Japanese turnips? They are small and white, and I get at both the 2nd and South and the Powelton markets on Saturdays for about $2/ bunch. They're delicious--just slice right up (no cooking!) and sprinkle w/ lemon juice. Crisp, refreshing and good for you!
  8. The Asian pear lady is due out in late July. I stocked up on her jams/ jellies last year and am still giving them as gifts, and they are still delicious. Don't know the name of the meat guys--but one of the two guys who comes uses a crutch--are those the guys? My favorite vendor above all else is the guy who runs His Kids Dairy. The dad's name escapes me, but he is SUCH a great guy, and makes the best fudge and iced tea, and hot sausages, and the cheese is pretty good too.
  9. To my knowledge he was the only vendor selling fresh fish at the markets--has anyone noticed any other fish vendor this year?? I tried the meat vendor at the Powelton Market--I had the flank steak and wasn't thrilled. It wasn't better than what I get at Genuardi's. I am curious about the rabbits they have tho. The Big Sky bread guy is fantastic--I love his bread filled w/ ham & cheese--last time it was brie. Any other market tips would be greatly appreciated..
  10. The Pocono Trout guy isn't coming back. Suzanne Minnis, who writes the weekly Powelton farmer's market newsletter, told us about a month ago that his boss decided coming to the market wasn't financially working out. It's a big loss, I agree.
  11. I don't know why you all are saying that Django is cash-only--it's not. I went there w/ 3 friends the other night and we charged dinner. Also--I've been 5 times now, and this was the only time I was disappointed. I didn't take notes, so forgive my lack of detail, but I had the asparagus soup and then the striped bass with the same preparation as the durango described earlier--and honestly, both were pretty boring. Not nearly as fresh and delicious as previous visits. My friend's pea ravioli was nice, but not great. The cheese plate was lovely, as usual tho.
  12. We did try out the gizmo (well, we being the 4 men I was with--I never got to try it!) but didn't like it. It turned itself off too quickly when you weren't using it, it was apparently hard to manipulate and hard to read. The waiter noticed the problems my friends were having w/ it, and brought over the printed version, he said for "the over 40 crowd" (which I found hilarious, as I am 26, my friends 31, 39, and 50). Unfortunately, the list was 6 weeks old (from when they opened) and hadn't been updated--so it didn't match the electronic list perfectly. In my perfect world, we don't need electronic wine lists--we just need enough lists for the table. I can't stand fighting over the darn list, and as a woman the list is hardly ever handed to me first.
  13. Hi I had dinner at CPS last night w/ four friends. Overall, I'd say the restaurant is beautiful, but a bit on the too-large side; the service was attentive, but occasionally absent-minded; the food was generally of high quality, with some notable flaws; and the wine list was substantial, but isn't full of great, interesting choices (at least in terms of red wines). Some details: We brought 4 bottles of zinfandel (this was a plan): 2001 Seghesio Zinfandel Alexander Valley San Lorenzo 2001 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma (this was a mistake) 2001 Jackass Vineyards Martinelli 1999 De Loach OFS Russian River Valley The waiter poured three at once, and the latter Seghesio last, after we finished the 1st three. The wine service was impeccable, with one exception: The corkage fee was never discussed or mentioned. The wine list (both the electronic and printed versions) states "Corkage fee: Domestic, no charge, Other, $25." No mention of the 2 btl limit (We had heard about this, but figured on being reminded/told if it was true). The entire meal went by, no mention. We got the check, no charge for the extra 2 btls. We charged the meal, and it was only when our credit receipts came that we saw they had added $50 for the 2 btls--what pissed us off is that they never came by with a corrected receipt and apologized for the omission-- instead, they added it, charged our cards, and never mentioned it. Then, when we were puzzling over why over receipts were around $67 ($336/5) instead of $57 ($286/5), they sent 3 waiters over to ask if there was a problem--clearly, they came as a team expecting us to be pissed, which we were. Obviously, we didn't argue the charge, just their manner of presenting it. Anyways, that unpleasantness aside--here's what we ate: Amuse bouche--chicken pate w/ foie gras center (this was the best thing we ate all night--like a fancy chicken salad) Appetizers: Chopped salad w/ blue cheese and pancetta ($9); Seared Octopus ($11); Chesapeake Blue Crab Gratin ($15). I had the gratin, it was too much filler, not enough crab, as previously noted. The octopus looked oddly compressed, but good, and unfortunately I didn't grab a taste quickly enough. Entrees: 2 veal t-bones ($31 each), 1 double pork chop ($26), 1 porterhouse ($63). I shared the porterhouse--it was good, not great. I tasted the pork, that was great. Sides: fries ($5), morels ($12), broccoli rabe ($5). Fries were terrible, morels ok, rabe was awesome. Dessert: Creme Brulee ($7) served 3 ways including lavender and ginger--very good. Chocolate plate w/ a caramel tart, raspberry coulis, etc.($7). This was honestly pretty boring. I also had a nice glass of Dr. Konstantin Frank, Johannisburg Riesling Semi-Dry NY 2001 at the bar when we arrived--I really liked that. The waiter pushed a $34/glass of dessert wine (can't recall what it was) but we didn't bite. They do have that lovely Andrew Rich Ice Wine at $10/glass, but other than that the consensus at the table was that the winelist (which we spent a lot of time looking at) really didn't have many interesting wines. They are still building the list tho, so we'll see what happens after they're opening a couple more months. Service--I went to the ladies room, left my napkin on my chair, and when I returned it was entirely gone! Odd...Other than that, I just felt we were a bit over-attended, and the corkage incident was unpleasant. Overall---it was a fine experience, but not good enough to go again anytime soon.
  14. According to Mike Klein's Table Talk this morning...Jackie left b/c of a horrible commute, and is now consulting from her farm in Montgomery County. Her chef de cuisine is now in charge. Bummer!
  15. I was pretty surprised to see the positive review of Rio Bravo in today's Weekly: http://www.phillyweekly.com/ae/feed/ I stopped by there a few weeks ago and took out the spicy shrimp dish Rinaldi mentions in here review...for like $13-14, I got a couple small shrimp overly coated in spices, rather dry, not that hot...Once again, I guess I was comparing it to Zocalo's dish and was disappointed. Anyways, at 7:30 pm on a Tuesday the place was entirely empty. I was the only person in this huge cavernous place except for the staff, and I was doing takeout! I got the impression perhaps they had just opened--but this was less than a month ago--is Rinaldi not giving them even a month to get things going before she does a review? Has anyone else been there? How does it compare to the other places we've been discussing in this thread?
  16. Mummer...No, I really do mean the Eastern Market, in Washington DC...there's a little lunch spot in the market famous for its crabcakes.
  17. I've been to Bobby Chez's in Marlton several times (or is it Cherry Hill)--the one near Miel, etc. I think the crab cakes are perfectly good, if a little pricey, but they don't even touch those I'm used to from Eastern Market in DC. Bobby's are low on filler, but it's still too much filler for my taste. And the LONG LONG lines waiting to buy and go, well, it's almost a complete deterrent. My aunt and I waited there once to buy dinner around 2 pm on a Saturday (I know this is a busy time but still) for 45 minutes! This should be helped w/ more locations opening up tho. Oh--and the mashed potatoes at Bobby's rock! (But they, like everything else, are Fresh Fields-pricey.)
  18. Thanks. I found that recipe the other day and look forward to trying it out. Anyone know the best place to buy head-on shrimp? My contact at Fresh Grocer isn't there anymore...and I've never seen them in Reading Terminal. Best place in Chinatown maybe?
  19. Andrew--I have heard great things about the Taqueria in Kennet Sq from one of my professors--she and her husband make the drive out there frequently. I have to go sometime. Katie--Maybe you're right about the situation at the DDC dinner. I don't know how else to explain the great variation--my soup was neither spicy nor warm. I felt pretty safe in the Mexico Lindo neighborhood, but I live in West Philly and maybe am a bit jaded or whatever b/c of it. My only concern was my car, which sat alone in an abandoned lot-- but we could watch it from the window, so I wasn't really worried. We were done with dinner by 7:30 or so, so I wasn't there late to see any after-dark action...but I'd say you should feel as safe there as you would around 5th and Girard at night. As for the food--I agree that Lindo's food is more street grub, but their mole was topnotch--definitely up there w/ Las Cazuelas. Very casual atmosphere, laid back service, etc--but it feels more sit-down than takeout (compared to Veracruzana where I always takeout). Has anyone else been to Frontera or Topolobampo in Chicago and understand why I'm lusting for a restaurant like THAT around here??
  20. Well that was quick--I emailed Mike Klein and he responded to my query about whether he knew about the change at Zocalo with " Yes, keep an eye on Table Talk." I guess I'll have to wait to hear where Jackie went...
  21. Regarding the Taqueria in Norristown, I have to be honest and say I was very disappointed by the meal I had there at the DDC dinner. I found the posole soup had far too much oil (you could see it on the surface) and the vast majority of the dishes were rather boring. Out of the entire meal I was only really taken with the salsas. I know it was hard for the kitchen to cook for such a large group, so I won't dismiss the place entirely, and I did appreciate the experience and the planning involved, but honestly, I doubt I'll go back. Closer to home, I very much like Mexico Lindo in Camden, and Las Cazuelas on Girard. I am not a fan of Tequilas--I find it overpriced for what you get, or of Mexican Post in Old City, and of the Wash Blvd taquerias, I've only been to Veracruzana thus far and liked it. But Zocalo offered a few outstanding things-- the homemade tortillas & guac remain, as do the margaritas. There were quite often some beef dishes in really intense, complex sauces-- Jackie told me once that she tried to cook in the style of Rick Bayless, Frontera chef, and while it wasn't quite the same, she often came close. It would be a real thrill if a chef opened a place in Philly at all similar to the cooking of Bayless or the chef at Cafe Azul in Portland OR (I think her name is Claire Archibald but I could be wrong--she's formerly of Chez Panisse). I will contact Mike Klein as suggested...
  22. I stopped by Zocalo (37th and Lancaster) last night hoping for what is one of my alltime favorite meals--an especial margarita, the homemade guacamole & tortillas, and camarones de infierno. I asked the waiter if Jackie Pestka, the chef, was in the kitchen, and was told "She's no longer with us." I was surprised--I hadn' t read anything about it in Table Talk, and I know Jackie's been there quite awhile (last time I visited she took me into her kitchen & taught me how to make the camarones). I asked who had replaced her, and he said "no one-- we're chefless--we just have the regular staff." Well, this should've been a warning... The guacamole was fine, but lacked a little of the usual punch. But the camarones, which have been renamed something like "camarones al diablo," are a sad imitation of Jackie's fine dish. Instead of head-on shrimp (a prereq for Jackie's dish since the head and shell provide so much of the fat & flavor), there was lots of little shrimp, minus shells (I asked the waiter about this--he said head-on shrimp were hard to find--whatever, I see them in Chinatown plenty, and I know they can be ordered at Fresh Grocer. More importantly, the price of the dish stayed the same even with the cheaper shrimp substituted). Jackie's dish uses plenty of butter (12 oz for 1.5 lbs of shrimp) without coming off greasy, but these shrimp were practically swimming in a very buttery sauce that was spicy but not complex. Finally, the dish, and its spinach and rice accompaniments, were totally overly salted. Just AWFUL. The camarones were a Zocalo signature dish, and I am so sad that Jackie and those great shrimp are gone. Thank goodness I have the recipe, but still... The waiter wouldn't say or didn't know where Jackie went. Does anyone have any info on where she's cooking now??
  23. Herb, thanks for your candor--it is sorta what I was trying to figure out (tho I'm not sure if you meant 'dating service' in a positive or negative sense exactly). In some ways, that's a reason to try the Brats sometime--tho I may wait for a slightly more interesting event. But in general, I'd prefer occasions that combine quality wine & quality people (and quality single people even better!). I guess I'll see if Philly wine is like that at my first event on Wednesday. Anyone else planning to sign up by tomorrow and go?
  24. sara


    Katie-- I got it at the TJ's in VA on a recent trip home. Couple of funny things about it--it's not $2 on the East Coast, only the West. Here, it's $3.50. So I was wandering around, looking for a Charles Shaw wine w/ a $2 pricetag and kept walking by the $3.50 display! Second, apparently some other winemaker is now producing a wine that's actually called "Two Buck Chuck." Sneaky. I bet some people will get confused...
  25. sara


    A friend and I went to Rx tonite to try their new tasting menu. We had a wonderful time! To accompany us we brought two bottles of '2 buck Chuck'--a merlot and a chardonnay, for fun and to try those bargain bottles out (my verdict, merely ok wine, but still, yes, a ridiculous bargain)... Anyways, there wasn't a set menu for the tasting, the waitress said the chef would send out what he wanted, so we only made a few requests (me, no foie gras, but langostinos please) and he was on his own. We had: 1. King shrimp w/ beet salad and orange segments--good, not great. The shrimp was yum but the tempura batter could've been crisper. Still, found myself sucking the heads of those babies. 2. Amebi (this was a complementary sushi course, waitress said chef wanted to try out on us)--delicious. Perfectly fresh, I think the wasabi was freshly grated too! 3. a. Foie gras and bbq'd eel w/ fiddlehead ferns (for my friend) b. Scallops and bbq'd eel w/ fiddlehead ferns---I only tried this one, and really really liked it. Nice combination. The ferns were just ok tho, an acquired taste for sure. 4. Suckling pig w/ sweet maine shrimp risotto and cockles. I felt like this was 3 good things on a plate, nice to have all 3 but they didn't really match. My friend felt the pig & cockles were a nice salty/savory combo but the risotto was odd. All 3 separately were quite good tho. 5. a. Langostinos w/ pasta and greens (me) b. Lamb chops w/ baby vegetables (friend) The chef came out at the end of the pig course and asked what we wanted next--seafood or meat--we said 'we don't know'--he brought both! My opinion---the langostinos were the best dish of the night. They were on the menu ala carte--I have to go back for more. (Had langostinos at Rx last fall, were great then too) 6. Dessert sampler--Jewish apple cake (roz), pecan pie, chocolate pot de creme, rhubarb tart, creme brulee, raspberries & strawberries. Chef asked what we wanted for dessert, my friend is very into dessert & said everything, so that's what we got! (before he asked that he also asked if wanted another course beforehand! god we were so stuffed!) The pecan pie and rhubarb tart were standouts, w/ chocolate and creme brulee close seconds. I love Roz's applecake but this sample tasted a bit stale. All told, we enjoyed excellent attentive service from our waitress, 2 visits from the chef, great food...all for $45 each before tip! I fell in love w/ Rx when it opened, waited things out when the food declined a few months back, and finally returned for this--and it was completely worth it. This new young (cute!) chef, Greg, is talented and definitely one to watch--and I'll enjoy his cooking only 2 blocks from my home hopefully for a long time to come!
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