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Andrew Fenton

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  1. And then it was time to swap the soup! Soup chefs picked numbers from a hat and went around, each person choosing one soup at a time. Sort of like the NFL draft, only far more competitive and cut-throat. There were prizes, for the first soup picked and the last soup picked. (Next time I'll do it for the first last soup to go.)

    I'm confused. Wasn't the point to make one soup and leave with six different ones, or twelve, or however many were made? Why didn't everyone just get one of each? (Or, given allergies and dislikes, do some swapping.)

    There were twelve different soups; each person brought six quarts of one kind and went home with six different quarts. (In each round, you'd choose one quart of soup and there were six rounds.) So nobody got to go home with all of the different soups.

    It's true that there was potential for hurt feelings-- I tried to salve that by awarding a lovely parting gift to the creator of the last-chosen soup. I think everybody went home happy!

  2. We hosted our first soup swap this weekend, and it was a lot of fun. It's not like those other swap parties that they used to have back in the seventies: basically, the idea is to bring homemade soup to a party, and come home with a variety of homemade soups. Or as I put it in the invitation email:

    Come welcome the approach of chilly weather at our Soup Swap!

    Cook up a batch of your awesome homemade soup, and in return, go home with an assortment of six different soups. Show off your bitchin' borscht, your kickin' chicken or your hot tomato, and in return, stock your freezer with the soups of others!

    Any kind of soup is welcome! The only rule is that you must bring

    * six quart containers of soup (six quarts is about what a decent-sized stockpot will hold), and

    * six copies of your recipe.

    Your soup should be something that freezes well (cream-based or potato soups aren't great). Beyond that, let your imagination be your guide!

    Kids are absolutely welcome. We will also be accepting donations of canned food to the Food Cupboard of St. Peter's Church: leave your canned soup with us!

    We got underway at around 3. About twenty people come to the swap, and twelve soups were represented. They were:

    • French Onion
    • Winter Mushroom
    • Mom's Wonton Noodle
    • Pumpkin Bisque
    • Shiitake Mushroom Consomme
    • Fabio's Creamless Creamy Squash
    • Cuban Black Bean
    • Corn & Ham Chowder
    • Midwest Corn Chowder
    • Chicken Tortilla
    • Spiced Butternut Squash & Asian Pear
    • Bean, Kale & Sausage

    Here is the table of soups in all their glory:


    After an hour or so of mingling, eating and drinking (including a truly outstanding Mother's Ruin Punch from eG's own Katie Loeb), we got down to the BIZNESS of soup swapping.

    First was the Telling of the Soups. Each person told a little bit about their soup: some were family recipes or a personal favorite, others something new. Some soups represented a personal struggle, overcoming long odds to create an awesome soup. Inspirational stuff. As you can see, this soup chef is mesmerizing the crowd with a description of her winter mushroom soup:


    And then it was time to swap the soup! Soup chefs picked numbers from a hat and went around, each person choosing one soup at a time. Sort of like the NFL draft, only far more competitive and cut-throat. There were prizes, for the first soup picked and the last soup picked. (Next time I'll do it for the first last soup to go.)

    Eventually only a few soups were left:


    And here is the creator of the first soup to be picked (the Cuban black bean), proudly brandishing her prize: the coveted Spoon of Destiny!


    At the end of the afternoon, everybody went home with six quarts of different homemade soups, and the food pantry got a whole bunch of cans of soup as well. It was a good time, an easy, low-stress event, and a great way to stock your freezer with some easy weeknight dinners.

    So: have you ever been to a soup swap? What did you make? Do you have any tips?

  3. Not rarities. Extinct.
    I am 54 years old. I have lived in various places in the US. I have never seen a butcher shop.

    In Philadelphia, I can think of at least three or so butcher shops (depending on whether you count the poultry-only place) in the Reading Terminal Market alone. There are some other butchers elsewhere in the city as well. So, unless we have different ideas of what a butcher shop is, not extinct, no.

  4. The star of the night might have been the octopus and squid salad, as mentioned above by professor Fenton. Ours was heavier on the squid than the octopus, but that squid was absolutely perfecty cooked, almost alarmingly tender. With its potatoes and a light dressing, it reminded me a bit of a great octopus salad that chef Painter used to serve at Tangerine. It made a great opener to the meal. I don't think I could tell from the menu that it would be cold, but I can't say I was disappointed.

    I'm glad you tried it! It really was my favorite dish, and while I agree that it'd have been nice to see more octopus and less squid, both were perfectly cooked. I love cold octopus salad- it's one of those dishes you just don't see enough of, and this was really well done: tender, nicely dressed and with some, but not too much potato. Even my two year old loved it and kept asking for more octopus (I predict she'll be grossed out by the idea by the time she's four, but oh well).

  5. Stella was packed at Sunday lunchtime- lots of people out enjoying the beautiful fall weather, and, I imagine, more than a little spillover from the Head House Square farmers market. We sat outside- a little hot given the lack of shade, but great for people watching.

    I enjoyed the margherita pizza: good sauce, good cheese, good basil. The crust wasn't as puffy (or as well done) as in Phil's photos: obviously there's always going to be some variation, but this seemed a little bit underdone. The sausage pizza was even less well done than the margherita: I think the crumbled sausage weighed the crust down. I wasn't wild about it.

    Probably my favorite dish was actually the octopus and calamari salad: one of my favorite simple Italian dishes. I'd get that any time I went.

    I caught at least three or four typos on the menu, but I guess that that's to be expected at a little mom and pop restaurant that can't afford to hire a proofreader.

  6. I recently bought a Fra'Mani salametto, and was disappointed by it. The main flavor is salt; there's some garlic there too, but it's mostly salt with a pork aftertaste. It's not awful, but it's not something I want to eat on its own, or even in a sandwich (except maybe one in which it plays a supporting role, like a muffaletta.)

    Still, at $18 a pound, I want to use it up. So I'm looking for recipes that incorporate salami, in which the salami is balanced by other ingredients.

    How do you cook with salami?

  7. See, those are just plain ol' delicious-looking sandwiches. THIS is obscene:

    Two breaded fried chicken patties surrounding bacon and cheese, for people who like sandwiches but feel that all that healthy bread spoils the experience.

  8. And in this corner, the Nick's Special from Nick's Charcoal Pit at 13th and Snyder.  charcoal grilled filet, spinach and cheese on Sarcone's seeded bread.


    Hot Dog - a combo with whiz and bacon - is kinda great too.


    Thinking now that the hot dog might be superfluous.  A Whiz and bacon sandwich could be the ultimate non-vegan sandwich.

    Also also also also, I tried Nick's the other day. I wanted to like the filet sandwich, I really did! But it just didn't taste like much. Granted, they're not exactly going to be featuring wagyu on an $8 sandwich, but even so, I didn't get a lot of beef flavor or grill flavor, for that matter. I think there's a reason why filet isn't the standard cut for sandwiches. I'd rather have a roast beef Italiano, or a cheesesteak, for that matter.

    But I did really like the couple of bites of hot dog I had. And there are a lot of other things on the menu that I'd like to try.

  9. Also also also, I had what was just about the best hoagie of my life last week at Chickie's. It's a new sandwich that they'd posted in the window: Italian tuna, prosciutto, artichokes, olive spread and balsamic vinegar. The tuna gives it body, the prosciutto richness, the artichokes a bit of vegetable sweetness, olives for salt and the balsamic just ties it all together into something that's just amazing.

  10. I learned about Nick's Charcoal Pit from Hawk Krall first on Facebook and then following his link to Drawing For Food

    If you haven't happened upon Hawk's work, he does terrific hot dog illustrations for Serious Food.

    Yep, that was it! And I'll second the recommendation of the hot dog art: I started following Hawk Krall's blog after seeing (and linking, up above) this excellent illustration of a Philly surf n' turf combo.

    Also, how great of a name is "Hawk Krall?" God, I'm jealous.

  11. What they called Roman-Style Tripe got rave reviews all around, I think I liked it as much as a similar preparation I'd had at Osteria, and I loved that one. 

    "Naples-style", actually. Which seemed a little odd: I'd never heard of it as a Neapolitan dish (though I'm sure they eat it there), and it wasn't substantially different from the more well-known Roman version. Chickpeas, maybe? Anyway, I thought it was pretty fantastic, probably the best tripe I've had in the city.

    A Bistecca Fiorentina garnered similar raves. 

    Bistecca siciliana- breaded & fried, topped with an egg and served with soppressata. Mouth-watering, artery-hardening goodness!

    So, all in all, a pretty typical Modo Mio meal in our experience: head-spinningly delicious food, head-scratchingly odd mistakes.  And still a bargain, so it's hard to get too upset if one element comes up a little short.

    I'll be going back, I'm OK with taking my chances...

    Quoted for truth. The place is oddly inconsistent (seriously, why spoil the agnolotti by going so heavy on the lemon juice?), but it gets enough right-- and the price is so right-- that I'll return.

  12. Well, it's the first beer summit. Give them time to develop the concept.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to the Vodka Summit with the leader of Kyrgyzstan or wherever. That should be a good time.

  13. The onion rings at Varga Bar are very good (though I'd prefer the sauce on the side.) And we really enjoyed the clambake for two. I'd like to try the confit Buffalo wings, one of these days.

  14. I want to update this to say that Lazaretto Creek is definitely the place to go for seafood. If you're staying at Tybee, definitely, but even if you're downtown it's probably worth the drive. If you turn off the main road just before Tybee, there's a complex with several businesses (all with the same owner, I'm sure): a restaurant, a dolphin tour boat, and a seafood stand.

    We bought seafood there several times during our most recent trip. The shrimp are fantastic, of course-- fresh Savannah shrimp have spoiled me for all others-- but it's worth it to check out the fish as well. There wasn't a lot of selection, just what had come in off the boat, but it was all very high quality. I asked what had come in that day, and got a couple of Spanish mackerel that grilled up wonderfully. The luck of the draw as far as what what you'll get, but definitely worth checking out.

  15. I sometimes fry (to a depth of 1" or so) in olive oil. I just fried some artichokes yesterday, and a week or two back, did up a fritto misto of squash blossoms and vegetables. They were all pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. But I don't know if I'd want to fill a deep fryer with olive oil- the oil gets nasty a lot faster than peanut oil does, that's for sure.

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