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  1. I was down at the GRB Convention Center this afternoon to pick up my bib for the marathon tomorrow, and stopped into Huynh for what was meant to be a quick lunch. I never thought about it until today, but Vietnamese food is an excellent choice for "carb-loading" before a race. Lots of rice/rice noodle dishes, and limited amounts of fat. Clearly many of my running compatriots had thought about such things before, as the restaurant was packed, with a 30 minute wait. The 4-year old and I shared orders of banh uot thit nuong and banh uot tom chay, rice paper wraps filled with grilled pork and crushed dried shrimp respectively. The pork wrap is served as a wrap with herbs and lettuce along for the ride, while the crushed shrimp is more of a loosely folded affair, topped with crisp fried onions. Light and carby. I wanted rice, but the boy demanded noodles, so we settled on bun tom nuong (rice vermicelli with grilled shrimp). As long as the protein is well-grilled, bun is pretty hard to screw up, but the well-seasoned, snappy-but-moist shrimp served atop our tangle of noodles kicks up Huynh's version a couple notches above the standard. Of course, while preparing for a marathon in the hot and humid Houston weather, one shouldn't neglect electrolyte replenishment, and the chanh muoi (salty lemonade) made with pickled lemons (or limes?) hit the spot. Let the rest of the country gorge themselves on plates of pasta. In Houston, we'll stick with Huynh.
  2. Kanella is also a terrific choice for a BYOB--Greek Cypriot food. Really incredible food--the temptation to compare it to Komi should be avoided--but it's awesome nonetheless.
  3. At 1000yregg's urging, we booked a dinner last weekend at Arí´mes, a new spot in Hampden that just opened a couple of weeks ago. Chef Monnier hails from Reims with a résumé that stands on classic haute cuisine spots in Paris and LA, but has chosen to open his small (24-ish seat) operation in a converted rowhouse, specializing in seasonal and local ingredients. Dinner is a prix fixe affair of six courses for $65, or three for $45. Four of the courses are smaller bites to precede the main course, and then you proceed to dessert. Because of the ever-changing menu, it's somewhat academic to repeat what we had, but each course's description sounded simple, unexpected, and maybe even opportunistic, and yet each time what arrived was remarkably integrated, and much more than the sum of its parts to the extent that each component became essential. Also evident was a high degree of technique and care in the preparation. I'm only going to describe a few of our courses, but there wasn't a dud in the bunch. "Beets, umeboshi, pear jam, and lucky plum" combined soft and crisp textures in a small composition of fleshy fruits and root vegetables, plated with a flourish of beet ash. It cleansed the palate for the next course, a little taste of "risotto and scallop chicharrones with Old Bay mayo". I don't know how they struck upon the idea of making chicharrones out of large thin curls of good scallops, but its compelling and concentrated umami was almost unreal, and a worthy match for a few bites of perfectly toothy risotto. The "oyster with green apple and sorrel" was a single oyster on a bed of rock salt, topped with a foam (the only appearance of modernist technique all evening) so you breathed its flavor as much as you tasted it. This course was a bit precious, but whatever oyster they used (it wasn't indicated) was beautifully clean and deeply cupped, almost like a kusshi, which makes me really curious where it's coming from in this region? The chalkboard near the front window held only thank-yous to a number of their suppliers: Vent Coffee Roasters (excellent, btw), Trickling Springs Creamery, Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, Two Boots Farm, Baltimore Organic Farm, and Liberty Delight Farm. It's not a place for wildly crowd-pleasing dishes like Rose's, and to be honest I think a picky eater wouldn't have enjoyed all of these dishes, nor the menu format. But if our meal was any indication, Aromes is worth the serious diner's consideration, and worth the trip.
  4. I may have the opportunity to write an collection of places not to be missed in Philly. With the wealth of the posters in this forum, I am asking for a little help. Please chime in where I should visit, and places that are not to be missed. The spots can range from where to eat, where to dine, where the best public bathroom is , think unusual, think funky, think like a local. Please and thank you for all your suggestions. Once I am chosen to write this book, I will personally throw a party and invite everyone to celebrate my very first publication. This is our opportunity to go public. It is with the support of everyone that I have met along the way, including a few of you in this forum, that will encourage me to crush this challenge. I plan on KILLIN' It. 1st time, kat
  5. We as consumers, want to be able to dine responsibly. Hence the popularity of the farm to table movement, but honestly just about all of the ingredients that land on the table , come from a farm. Present day, you hear a great deal about urban farming, as well as vertical gardening. A new agricultural movement is on the up an up .Hyper local is gonna be the new farm to table. Foraged is a hyper local eatery that recently opened on Chestnut St in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. I went there on Saturday, and had to find out if all the hulaballoo lived up to the hype. I made a reservation for 4 for 6pm. The space is relatively small and I believe it may seat up to 30 people in one seating. You kinda feel as though you are in a farmhouse, and I kinda like it. The overall aesthetic of the restaurant was rustic. On the left wall there are installations of 2 vertical garden panels. Vertical gardens are all the rage you know. All the cool kids are doing it. We brought a bottle of wine to have with our meal. There is no charge for corkage since their liquor license has not been obtained yet. I imagine once they are in full swing, one may expect to imbibe on locally crafted brews, and spirits. We were sat at a lovely table parked right in front the kitchen. The best seat in the house, in my opinion. First look at the menu, I am immediately pleased. There aren't distinctive apps and entrees, but rather plates encouraged to be shared. I like the idea that several dishes can be ordered , and passed around the dining table. Often though when dining with a group of people, this can be a plus, or a minus. I'm am referring to the end of the meal and calculating who pays for what. If you dine with a group that equally shares, then it only makes sense to split evenly, but if one party only partakes in one dish, sharing of the dishes may present challenges. But back to the food. One of my guests happen to have dietary restrictions, and I was pleased that the kitchen was able to accommodate. We were told the entirety of the dish may be presented differently, but changes could be made. Another trend that is happening to menus everywhere is the attention made to feed both vegetarians, and vegans alike. I commend this effort. My guest happen to be neither, but could not consume dairy. The server informed us that it may greatly restrict her choices considering just about everything on the menu was basted or prepared with dairy. The server checked with the Chef before giving his final answer. Otherwise, sadly we would have had to leave and venture to another restaurant. Fortunately , the Chef was able to adjust to my guest dietary requests. I started out with the oyster chowder. I have been spoiled with good soup that has been prepared at the hands of Chef Tom Power of Corduroy, so my expectation was high. I am happy to report, the chowder delivered. The briny flavor of the oysters, paired with the elegant composition of the silky broth made for a perfect chowder. The presence of fennel and a brunoise of aromatic veggies, that I can't put my finger on, elevated the soup. The menu description was appropriately titled. I wanted to tip the bowl into my mouth so that I could savor every drop. It was then followed by a Mushroom stew. It may not have been a traditional stew, but its was amazing. Stewed Hen of the woods mushrooms garnished with dollops of ricotta gnudi, and topped off with a pillowy poached egg. The star of the dish was obviously the mushrooms, but I expected the yolk to add a richness that surprisingly was missed. The addition of what I thought to be sunflower seeds, which actually were pine nuts, added a clever nuttiness to the dish. I only wished there was a bit of bread to soak up the mushroom liqueur in the bottom of the bowl. I conclude my meal with the pastrami pork belly served with greens. My instinct was to order the catfish stew, but was directed to try the pork belly instead. I should have stuck to my gut. Though the pork belly, as good as it was, did not deliver as I thought it would. I found it to be salty, and paired with the greens being briny as well, it was overkill. Pork belly has essentially become the chocolate molten cake of menus. Everyone does it. Nothing ground breaking here. I often follow the guidance of the server, and he versed it to be a sure thing. To me, I should have went with my first choice. The meal as whole, was good. Could it have been better, sure. I will venture back after they have expanded their menu to include spirits, and will follow my own compass as to what to select. One thing is for sure, the Chef followed a bit of advice from his former employer, Sean Brock of the famed McCrady's. The James Beard Awarded chef passed on to the Chef, " Respect the food. Treat it like you would treat a loved one." You could taste the love in the food, especially in the first two courses. The last course, the Chef may have been a bit over zealous, and seasoned the dish aggressively. The setting of restaurant, along with the meticulous details in preparation of all of the dishes,was not missed on this diner. In my travels, I seek out spots that set themselves apart from the rest of the herd. The Chef, Chris Amendola, has made an impression on me that will warrant another visit. I will be back. This time I just won't have the molten chocolate cake, oops, I mean the pork belly. Roaming gourmet, kat
  6. My wife and I live in the Washington DC area, but her family lives in Philadelphia. We were visiting over the Passover/Easter weekend and because we were staying in Chestnut Hill, decided to try Mica, a small BYOB restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. We are used to fine dining and to be honest, found that Mica could hold its own with some of the best here in DC Chef driven, the restaurant only has about 32 seats. The services was superb, and the food outstanding. We started with a smoked trout salad with marinated fennel that was described as "a taste", but actually a small appetizer. Next came Albacore Tuna Tartar with smoked jalapeno and carrots and a house salad. We shared all three. My wife ordered the arctic char and declared that it melted in her mouth. The vegs that came with it were perfectly cooked and were so flavorful that she wondered if she could order just a dish of them next time. I had the roasted sirloin of beef with smoked potatoes. Cooked perfectly (rare side of medium rare) and the potatoes were so good that I asked how they were done. (Boiled, smoked, fried, then dried) Dessert was a chocolate mousse with caramel and sea salt and a sour cream pana cotta. I brought a 2013 Radio Coteau Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir with me and it went perfectly with the meal. And the glassware was perfect (not the cheap jellyglass stuff many BYOs give you) We enjoyed our meal so much that I have already made a reservation for when we are back in Phila next week to visit her parents.
  7. "Alton Brown Names Ma(i)son 'Restaurant of the Year'' by Kevin Stairiker on flymagazine.neet Maison, mark my words, will make it to JBF, along with other Lancaster culinary talents. My goal is to add Central Pa, to the dining map, one bite at a time. hungry, kat
  8. 45. Moonlight Cafe Incredible.Charming.. Courteous.Warm. Delicious. These are are just a few words to describe my new fav place to eat. I knew I was in for an great meal when I was seduced by the aroma of sauted garlic as I was parking my car. Moonlight Cafe is a tiny cafe in Dover, Pa that probably seats roughly 40 people at one seating. The size of the dining room is propably smaller than your average Doctor's office waiting room. The kitchen is open,so if you are lucky enough to be seated close to the kitchen , take it. Two whirling dervishes, disguised as highly proficient cooks knock out rapidly incoming tickets like a well oiled machine. Everything is prepared a la minute. I ordered the Veal Piccata, and watched the chef dust the veal and saute it just minutes before it arrived to my table. perfection. Briny capers dotted all throughout the dish with the brightest lemon sauce coating perfectly a dente spaghetti. But wait, what did I start off with? I know its well past summer ,but I could not resist ordering the Caprese salad. The star, the mozzarella. I was expecting buffalo mozzarella, but was pleasenty surprised by what I got instead. If I didnt know any better, I would say they used ricotta salata. Mozzarella ++ as I refer to it. It had a saltiness to it, that I found to be yummy. Rather gourmand term for crazy delicious. The plate was finished off gluttonously with torn basil, and drizzled with a sweet Balsamic reduction. Superb! the desserts naturally delivered a sweet ending to a rather perfect, rustic Italian meal. A slice of Limoncello spongecake. The only missing detail would have been to finish with an Americano. But I do not think they had a Cappucino machine. all in all a most pleasant meal. Ill be back, many times over. Bueno Appettito!!! kat I would have included a photo, but max mbs wont permit it. --- Edit: Im not sure how I missed it, but they do in fact serve espresso based beverages! Perfection!!!
  9. Has anyone been to Eigensinn Farm, two hours north of Toronto? Rated as high as the fourth best restaurant in the world, $300 CD per person (food only) and books six month in advance for the dinner in a farm house by candlelight. Everything is grown onsite or sourced nearby. Twelve people total.
  10. Zeppoli is a very good restaurant indeed. We've been there several times when staying in South Jersey on the way up to see my dad. Be forewarned, though - it is VERY tight quarters and can get quite loud.
  11. "Medford's ITA101 Serves Up Seasonality and Refined Simplicity with Fresh Pastas and Seafood" by Craig LaBan on philly.com For those of you wanting a taste of Italy in New Jersey, even closer to the city, last autumn I had the pleasure of dining at another BYOB in Collingswood: Zeppoli - it's a 35-seat restaurant, and *very* popular in Collingswood, so make sure to get a reservation - dress is extremely casual, but the food and service are both terrific (it has been a James Beard semifinalist for four consecutive years (2013-2016), even though you wouldn't think it when you set foot in the door).
  12. My wife and I had dinner at Laurel last night, which I've seen consistently seen reviewed as one of, if not the best, restaurant in Philadelphia. We had a positive experience, though it definitely did not live up to the hype. On the positive side, it is rare to dine at a restaurant of this caliber that is also BYOB, and the $85/8-course price fix is exceedingly reasonable by the standards of refined dining in major American cities. The restaurant is a tiny hole-in-the-wall place devoid of any character or ambiance whatsoever, and it's a pretty tight squeeze. The service was good - servers were attentive, provided a helpful explanation of each dish, and weren't overbearing when monitoring our wine glasses. Generally speaking, Laurel tends more toward the food-as-art concept than food-for-enjoyment. The first two dishes were frozen - hamachi with frozen horseradish powder and green apple and shaved frozen foie gras with granola and champagne grapes. These were two of the most unusual dishes I've ever eaten with very complex flavors and textures that would be a challenge for even the most refined palette, but I would be hard pressed to describe either as "delicious". The high points were the smoky sea scallop with ginger and the arctic char with seaweed butter, and the pork cheek with blueberry miso to close out the savory portion of the meal was also a nice dish. In summary, Laurel is good value, lacking in ambiance, and best suited to adventuresome eaters who are really into refined, experimental cuisine.
  13. Interesting. Where I was in Pennsylvania, you were BYOB regardless of your license status, so the restaurant just decides if they want to allow it or not. TIL In VA, it seems you have to have an ABC license to be BYOB. That's dumb. Over the last five years, I noted that Virginia's laws tended to be a lot less stupid than Pennsylvania's (like the ridiculousness of not being able to buy 6 packs at grocery and convenience stores, but you could go to a bar an buy them at jacked up prices; also, you could only buy 2 six packs from a bar. So, it's a real logic puzzle of how to buy exactly 18 beers, since at the beer stores they sell them only in 24 packs). Talk about byzantine ... Anyway, that's just plane silly...
  14. Radicchio Cafe in north Old City is a great modern Italian BYOB. Had an excellent lunch there in June of this year, with a focus on the scallops and fresh seafood. Clean. distinct cooking, very enjoyable vibe with a lot of regulars bringing their Tuesday afternoon hooch.
  15. I visit the area fairly regularly because my wife grew up in Willow Grove and her parents live there. We normally look for a place for the two of us to eat out by ourselves once during a visit. Several visits ago we happened on Bistro Albertino because it is on OpenTable.com. and is close to the hotel we normally stay at. This bistro does not have an alcohol license so they encourage you to bring your own wine or beer. No corkage fee (something you folks in PA might be used to but in DC something that is rarer than hen's teeth) so I normally take a bottle of wine with me. I have taken my in-laws, who can be picky eaters here, and all of us have enjoyed the food very much. The grilled squid appetizer was fantastic and my father in law loved the mussels. Pastas are house made and very good. We have never tried a pizza (in fact I don't know if they even serve such) but have enjoyed the food we did order.The Bistecca Albetino, beef and spiral pasta in a creamy mushroom sauce, was excellent and my only problem was that there was just too much of it. The salmon my wife ordered the last time we were there was superb and the warm Mediterranean salad it was served on was delightful. The linguini alla Pescatore was excellent (I ordered it with white wine and garlic, but you can get it with fresh tomato sauce) and my mother in law really enjoyed the Grilled Romaine salad she had as her meal. There are not a lot of places to eat well in Willow Grove so Bistro Altertino is a very welcome addition.
  16. Bibou French BYOB close to the Italian Market It's not that the food wasn't great. It was. But Bibou was more a revelation in the atmosphere it produced; homey and intimate don't nearly encapsulate the feeling we had by the end of our meal. If the words don't do it justice, well, use your imagination. Here are a few snapshots from the night-- Our sexagenarian server in an amusing French accent- "I have one order left of the last oysters of the season. West Coast. Very briny." Later on a lamb special- "We also have lamb chops from Colorado. Very expensive." (They were $45). After reading some of the reviews I thought I could prepare myself for the bewitching effects of charm but the earnestness and honesty of the place resonated deeply. We started with the oysters (which were more briny than I'm accustomed to from the west coast), a first for my dining partner. Overhearing us Charlotte (Chef Pierre Calmels' wife) came over and told us how she didn't try oysters until she was 29. Tonight was my lady's 28th birthday. More traditional foodie note-The mignonette they served with the oysters was mild enough not to overpower the Pacific ocean. Next up was the escargots in a bordelaise sauce with trumpet mushrooms, fava beans, tarragon, and plenty of diced shallots. Really delicious and wonderfully different from the classic butter-garlic version most are accustomed to. We cleaned out the snail shaped bowl with our bread. I was able to talk my partner into the veal bone-marrow, which came next. It was decadently rich and served in the bone. It resembled stuffing but was so concentrated I actually asked my adopted papi/server why he brought it out before the fletan (halibut)--he replied "We just wanted to slow it down for a nice dinner." Maybe I've eaten in and worked at too many bistros but a novel concept like "slowing down the meal" really floored me. The halibut didn't blow me away, but that was a good thing following the bone-marrow. Served with an English pea puree and orange Sicilian veal jus it was a model of restraint. The fish itself was expertly cooked and flaked under the pressure of a fork edge. This was all despite the fact that they split the dish, unrequested. As advertised Chef Calmels did indeed stop by the table. Maybe it was the wine, which by the way was the only disappointment of the night (thanks in part to the terrible selection of Philly's "premium" PLCB stores), but I blurted out something like "If I were a writer I'd say we are full in belly and spirit." Ugh. Might as well have just drunk texted him.. The [less feminate synonym for magical] evening wrapped up with one last bit of grace-- while we posed for a self-shot outside of Bibou a busser/food-runner (who had early recognized my dining partner from her work at a tavern he frequented years back) came outside and took the picture for us. I've had some fantastic dining experiences in Philly over the years (Tinto, Morimoto, etc.) but Bibou would be the very first place I would return to.
  17. Having urged Bill to try Marigold Kitchen, I guess I should chime in to add that from my one experience, Marigold Kitchen is as fine a dining experience as I've had in months. I had that same lamb dish Bill ordered and thought it was superb. The halibut was 50% cheaper and 100% better than the halibut I had the night before at the ridiculously expensive Striped Bass. The clam-chowder risotto was fabulous, and the amazing grilled-cheese is legitimate charity at $8. Marigold Kitchen is BYOB, so there is zero corkage for bringing your own wine - it would be difficult, if not impossible, to spend $50 a person here. And the service was even better than the food - this place goes atop my list of 2005 restaurants. Cheers, Rocks.
  18. Richard Gorelick of The Baltimore Sun, reviews Bottega, a 20-seat (!) BYOB in Charles North. "Bottega might make you think of Philadelphia, where there was an explosion about 10 years ago of tiny mom-and-pop BYOB restaurants, many of them about the postage-stamp size of Bottega, which seats around 20 people, tops. The boutique BYOB trend never really caught on in Baltimore, but with Bottega, you can see how a city full of diners fell in love with it."
  19. Had dinner on Sat at Alison at Bluebell. Definitely add this one to the list of great Philly BYOBs (though it's in the northern suburb of Bluebell). Things I had a taste of: Chili dusted skate wing with a cornmeal and avocado tart Best skate I've ever had and the tart (of sorts) was delicious. Monkfish with chorizo, potatoes and greens Interesting preparation, as the monkfish was pounded very thin, breaded and fried. Fresh fig salad with goat cheese dressing Mango tart tatin Blueberry-corn polenta cake This was really delicious. The 'cake' part of the ramekin had corn kernals and blueberry in it. It was topped with a creme brulee like layer containing more blueberries. I'm curious how they made this. Great service too. Alison came out to chat with us after dinner, as our server told her we were up from DC, which I thought was nice.
  20. Craig LaBan of www.philly.com reviews The Avenue Delicatessen, a Jewish-Italian Fusion Deli in Lansdowne that features items such as Reuben Arancini. Dean Gold, this looks like it was custom made for you. Start your engine!
  21. Had dinner at Farmicia this past weekend and had an enjoyable meal. Highlights for me were the Tuscan Grain Salad (organic spelt, chopped garden vegetables, lemon-basil vinaigrette, arugula) and the Crispy Fried Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (atop a trio of fries, bloody mary dipping sauce). My entree of Boneless Pork Chop Dijon (grilled, honey glazed turnips, broccoli, cider-sage sauce) was good, but the meat was slightly overcooked and therefore a bit dry, but the sauce helped. It did have a nice bit of char from the grill that went well with the sweetness of the turnips.
  22. They changed owners a few years ago and the quality improved. I am admittedly biased because of how well they treat my grandmother and her canasta friends but beyond that it's a good place for an honest, decent, family Italian meal. We've never had the pizza but it looks good. Of course, that's coming from someone who eats DC pizza.
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