Thursday, July 31, 2008

Taramosalata is my BFF

Taramosalata is possibly the most delightful thing on the planet. It is whipped creamy acidic salty goodness... A Greek delicacy - whipped olive oil, caviar, lemon juice. Mmm!

One of my all time favorite meals in the city features Taramosalata. It's from South Street Souvlaki.

I go back again and again for the same thing... the Tom's Special Salad and the Octopus.

"Tom's Special Salad - taramosalata, dolmades, olives, feta cheese, and peppers, on a bed of tossed greens"


"Octopus - tender baby octopus charcoal broiled, marinated with olive oil and vinegar"

The portions are large and in charge so (after you factor in the big bowl of bread and pita they bring out and a Greek beer) the order is surly enough to split between two.

SO goood...

South Street Souvlaki - 509 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19147

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Are SO Breaking Up

My Dearest Distrito,

Last night when I came over I was wondering whether or not we were going to make it work.

I mean, I prepared myself for the worst but I was willing to get over all of the bullshit. I was going to forget about your juvenile appearance, your hot dog attitude, and the way you flaunt your trust fund insisting on surrounding yourself with big flashy theatrical things.

It wasn't looking good when you crammed more chairs in the first floor then one human could possibly imagine, or when your waiter didn't know what a "Kettle and Soda" was, but I didn't hold that against you.

I was even going to ignore the fact that you totally single-white-female the hell out of that biotch El Vez. I EVEN told myself to forget that you have a fucking car inside of you.

When I tasted your food *cough*ElVez*cough* I still had a faint hope that we would make it somehow... someway... But when you served me those two seasonal margaritas - watermelon style - I knew we were through.


FUUUUUCK YOU DISTRITO. We're over. Your shit is on the sidewalk. Lose my number.

Distrito - 3945 Chestnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Monday, July 28, 2008

Purple Beans

Uncle Jimmy Ramble

Beans, beans, the magical fruit...

Burgundy beans are out on the prowl. They aren't as creepy looking in real life... it's my picture. I must have captured their bad side. In real life they're one smokin' veggie.

Just don't cook 'em or they'll turn green like their more boring counterpart.

The Trend That Won't Quit

There are eggs everywhere.
I mean, I'm not upset about it, I'm just saying that there are eggs all the F over everything these days. If you are looking to boost your protein intake you're in luck.

Keep your eyes peeled for:

Shirred Eggs

Boiled Eggs

Baked Eggs

Eggs on Burgers

Poached Eggs

Fried Eggs

... And oldies-but-goodies like:

Japanese Uni With Quail Egg

Korean Bibimbap

Ethiopian Doro Wat

Pad Thai

You can even get a thousand-year-old egg in a turnover at New Harmony Bakery.

Happy Digesting.

New Harmony Bakery - 901 Race St., Philadelphia PA

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Melons of a Tiny Variety

I've spotted miniature melons at the Headhouse and Rittenhouse farmers' market.

Fun treat for a summer party no?

Headhouse Farmers' Market - 2nd & Lombard Philadelphia, PA

Rittenhouse Farmers' Market - Walnut Street on south sidewalk west of 18th Street Philadelphia, PA
Tuesdays 10 am to 1 pm, Saturdays 9:30 am to 3 pm, through November 22nd

Best New BYO F Yeah

Last week some friends and I went to Cochon. I have been meaning to go for a long time but never got around to it. I made reservations expecting good and was thrilled to discover great. The food was fantastic.

We started with the Crispy Chicken Livers, Smoked Frog Legs, Fried Head Cheese and Escargot. Any restaurant that has wacky stuff like head cheese on the menu already has a little piece of Uncle Jimmy's heart space - so things were looking up before the food even came out.

It was all delicious with (in my opinion) the escargot taking the cake. I have never had better. It was served with pancetta, tomato concasse, & parsley garlic butter.

The head cheese wasn't exactly my cup o' tea, but... it's head cheese for Christ's sake.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Head cheese (AmE) or brawn (BrE) is in fact not a cheese, but rather a terrine of meat from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow). It may also include meat from the feet and heart ...

Historically the cleaned (all organs removed) head was simmered to produce a gelatin (formed from the collagen in the bone) containing any incidental meat which came off the head. The more modern method involves adding gelatin to meat, which is then cooked in a mould.

Ugh... even gives ME the heebie-jeebies.

The crispy chicken livers were succulent. No word could describe them better. The frog legs were a rich and smoky.

For a main dish I got the gnocchi. Again, I may never have had the pleasure of a gnocchi so delicious. It literally melted in the mouth and it was served with a ton of veggies cooked to perfection... all dressed up in a light butter sauce... "shiitaki mushrooms, asparagus, tomato confit and herb-garlic butter".

The others at the table had rainbow trout (holy smokes was it good), lamb (its perfect crust flavored with mustard made us weak in the knees) and a pork shoulder which was the evenings special. Wow. Color me impressed.

Desserts were also stellar. We got one of each.

The meal proved to me that they were totally deserving of their best new BYO honor from Philly Mag. A recognition I didn't know they had been honored with (just that day) until the waitress informed us as we drooled over the food.

Of this I'm sure - I'll be back (said in bad Arnold Schwarzenegger accent).

Cochon - 801 E Passyunk Ave Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 923-7675

Friday, July 25, 2008

You Thought Gordon Ramsey Was a Dick

...Try this guy on for size:

He raised the spawn of Satan otherwise known as Gordon Ramsey and schooled him when Gordon was still wiping the snot off his nose.

Marco Pierre White - the original bad ass in the kitchen. He could eat Anthony Bourdain for dinner, have sex with your mother, and still have you kissing the hem of his apron after you eat his creations.

The book is good. Read it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You May Want to Sit Down For This One

There are all kinds of crazy gourmet chocolate bar flavors out there these days... Pumpkin, Chili, Wasabi, and Olive just to name a few.

The Crème de la Crème of crazy chocolate bar flavors may have to be the bacon bar by Vosges.

Chocolate + Bacon = The holiest of all things holy

You can grab one at Di Bruno Bros. Along with 6,000 other over priced food thingies that will temp you to high heaven when you stop in. We hate to love you DB but we do... we love you oh so much.

Di Bruno Bros. - 1730 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

Old Timey Cocktail

I've talked about Southwark before. It is one of my favorite spots in the city.

Kip Waide is the bartender and tend to the bar is what he does best (he's also owner along with his Chefy wife). In fact, I am willing to bet that he is the best bartender in the city. Kip knows his shit... and by shit I mean booze.

He is a flawless example of someone who knows about, respects, and loves what he does... an artist armed with a jigger and ready to use it.

If you're in the mood for a cocktail, particularly a classic cocktail (Think Martini, Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Dark & Stormy, Sidecar, Gin Fizz, etc.), then this is the bar at which to perch. His right hand man - George - is also a wiz with a shaker.

Kip's wife Sheri mans the kitchen. She is also a master at her trade and the two pride themselves in sourcing local ingredients.

The place also has the oh-so-coveted outdoor area, but that's just for dining. If you know what's good for you you'll eat at the bar and spend your time picking Kip's big brain... Exactly what's the difference between a dry and a sweet Vermouth....???

Uncle Jimmy says - Cheers, Salute, Prost... whatever your flavor.

Southwark Restaurant - 701 S 4th St. Philadelphia, PA 19147-3101
(215) 238-1888

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Love

Meet my lunch:

Ain't she purdy?

Yesterday I strolled over to the Farmer's Market in Rittenhouse Sq. and lay my eyes on this beauty. I had to take her home with me. I will eat her today.

...And the cycle of life continues.

I just love summer, and I l-o-v-e summer produce... the way it looks, the way it smells... I want to photograph it like I would a child, and display it in my home like a fine piece of art.

The sight of an overflowing bushel of heirloom tomatoes can make me gidy, weak in the knees, sometimes I even tear up a little. Do you think I should see someone? Like a mind doctor?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Mario. Stop. Just stop it.

You look like a jackass.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Have Three Words for You... Awe-some

Ripped this from today's Philebrity Horoscope by Loren Hunt:

TAURUS: This week finds you stewing in your annoyance with a whole bunch of unrelated trivialities. For example, Twenty Manning down the street has just put in some kind of sidewalk misting system attached to the awning, covering their sidewalk tables. The result of this is that the al fresco diners are surrounded by lovely jets of superfine, dry-ice-machine style fog that may or may not help keep them cooler as they hog the entire sidewalk with their seared tuna, pomegranate martinis, and overstuffed senses of entitlement. The other result of this is that people using the sidewalk for its intended purpose, namely, walking down the street minding their own fucking business, are forced to walk directly through it. Is this new super-bourgie sidewalk dining feature hurting or even really inconveniencing anyone? Nah. Does it foster an even higher degree of preexisting knee-jerk resentment for the people eating there, making Twenty Manning an Official Asshole Establishment of sorts? You tell me, Taurus. In fact, tell everyone about it. That’s the kind of mood you’re in this week.

... damn. Uncle Jimmy should have been born a Taurus.

Why Not do Coffee?

I constantly drop way too much money on food and drink. I'll starve myself of most other comforts in life (wearing new clothes, buying soap, paying my electric bill) in order to pay ridiculous amounts of money for food... often times mediocre food.

I worship food of high quality and I'm ceaselessly seeking it out. I go out of my way to experience bigger and better flavors and would cross mountains to try a new restaurant. No expense is too great, no location too far.

Having said that, the other day a friend and I met up for brunch. I had a few new hot spots in mind. We were ready and willing to pay $21 for Eggs Benedict as long as it was served by a ridiculously good looking waiter, on a ridiculously good looking plate, and we were surrounded by a ridiculously good looking crowd.

Walking from one "hot spot" to another it became clear that nothing was open on 4th of July weekend and it was not the time to find brunch.

Out of sheer desperation and extreme hunger, we ventured to Ten Stone (we were in the neighborhood). They were open but it smelled like pee so we left... disheartened.

We were about to give up when someone suggested we go into the coffee shop across the street - La Va.

We went in and grabbed a table.

To make a long story short - we ended up ordering coffee, relaxedly ordering a snack, a friend met up, we ordered another snack, we talked, we laughed, we got more coffee, we ordered yet another snack, we didn't feel rushed, and when we were good - and full - and all talked out - and the early afternoon was turning into late afternoon - we got up to pay. My total was $6.00.

It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

Don't get me wrong. I am still going to frequent the hipster brunch spots. I'll wait in line for obnoxiously long periods of time, order something ridiculously expensive, and be rushed away from my table before my coffee is half gone. I will do all of these things, but I will no longer discount the relaxing informal beauty of the coffee shop.

La Va was great. It was good. It was fine. The beautiful Jewish pastry was a pleasure to eat and my yogurt and granola was absolutely dreamy. I am not saying anything terribly good or terribly bad about La Va but by George coffee shop breakfast may just be the way to go.

La Va - 2100 South St. Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 545-1508

Saturday, July 19, 2008

That's What She Said

I know it's redundant. EVERYONE raves about Sarcone's bread.

I just can't help it. The fact of the matter is that they have the best damn bread I have ever tasted.

A friend of mine is a hater. He hates everything - including the sound of someone eating cereal, bra straps, and babies.

He REALLY hates hipsters and he REALLY REALLY hates Sarcone's bread.

After he spent 20 minutes rambling on about "a zillion better bakers in the city" I challenged him to a "Bread-Off-2000-Hate".

We blind tasted a half a dozen yeasty concoctions... I need not detail the results here - let's just say the sweet smell of fresh baked victory still lingers in my nostrils.

I don't know what it is. I don' t know if it is the water, or the 8-million-year-old family recipe, or a assembly line of magical leprechauns they have in the back... any way you slice it (pun intended), that shit is gooooood.

Mwa! (Me kissing my fingers Italian-style).

Get a loaf of seeded Italian for less then $2 and serve it with anything.

Also, you might just crap in your pants a wee bit if you opt to grab a slice of tomato pie for the road.

There's also a Sarcone's deli up the street that sells Italian hoagies which are better then anywhere else around.

They are hard as hell to chew because the bread is so crusty but who cares. Just don't bring a date... or someone with a broken jaw.

I was actually in the deli once and saw a man cry (literally) over the pepper shooters. It was the most bizarre thing, but what can I say? When it's good it's good.

P.S. Get to the bakery early, they sell out quick.

Sarcone's Bakery - 758 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147 - Just above Catherine on 9th
Sarcone's Deli - 734 South 9th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147 - 9th and Fitzwater

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crazy Salty Shiz

Holy Depression Era weirdness of delicious. It's the kind of thing that you'd make to be kitschy but it's so DAMN tasty that you end up making it all the time.

Oww... Maybe you should make it for your next Mad Men Party.

Saltine Toffee Cookies
  • 4 ounces saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  2. Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer.
  3. In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread t cover crackers completely.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts. Cool completely and break into pieces
  5. Eat the shit out of it

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's Black, It's White

One of my new favorite things in the whole universe right now is Sambuca.

I don't know why, I don't know how. It just is.

It's probably a sign of aging. It seems like that's what happens to you when you grow up. You invest in stocks, have a Sambuca after dinner, and start to wear you pants higher. Shrug. Either way I don't give a damn. It's goooood stuff.

Kip at Southwark serves it perfectly (as he does nearly every other cocktail known to man). It comes in a snifter with three coffee beans (no more and no less, as Italian folklore would have it) and they briefly light it on fire before serving - in order to increase the flavor.

It is a delectable delight of deliciousness.

There is also such a thing as black Sambuca. I'm not as much a fan although some swear by it.

One time my fellow Sambuca-drinker and I were out sipping the junk and I ordered a black to her white. She tried it (for the first time) and wrinkled up her nose in disgust.

She was convinced that it was foul so I made her do a blind taste test. Black vs. Clear. You guessed it ladies and gentlemen... She liked the black better. Having said that, she still orders the clear and so do I. There is just something about seeing those three coffee beans bobbing around in their clear sea... just as the Italians intended.

Mmm... just makes me all warm and fuzzy like.

Southwark - 701 South 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Who Knew ?

Who knew you could find something deliciously healthy in South Philadelphia?

About a year ago I was working in a photography studio just up the street from 8th and Dickinson. The job was great but come lunchtime there was only two choices for lunch - Greez, or greez with a side of fried greezy sticks (greeze juice for dipping optional).

I began eating inventive things like saltines with yellow mustard, or ketchup on pickles (kind of like vegetables, right...?)

One of the two choices was Cosmi's Deli. It was a half a block away so we ended up going there a ton. My coworkers raved about the cheesesteaks, and I protested and became dehydrated from the unnaturally high sodium intake brought on by my "vegetables".

Then one day a shining light came from the heavens in the form of the Grilled Blackened Yellowfin Tuna salad.

I don't know what to say about it other then it is a cool drink of water on a hot day... a diamond in the rough if you will... a godsend.

Fresh veggies, an extreme piece of grilled fish... a delicious ray of sunshine.

I love you Cosmi's for reintroducing water to my suffering body.

South Philly's Health Food Pre-Cosmi's:

Cosmi's Deli - 1501 S. 8th St. Philadelphia, PA 19147 - 8th and Dickinson

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ruth In a Wig

Another must read - Garlic and Sapphires. I have never read food writing more beautiful and more provoking. She describes a meal in the most desirable way, touching on all of the senses and leaving you yearning to share the same experiences.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Memphis is a Place I Don't Want to Go, Again

A friend and I went to the Memphis Taproom for brunch over the weekend.

The place has a nice pubby neighborhood feel, and our waitress was pleasant in a gruff-talkative-friendly-diner-waitressey sort of way.

In regards to the food... I truly feel bad even saying it because the owners/chef just seem so damn sweet and enthusiastic... it was mostly down right bad.

To be fair, I didn't order a ton of things from the menu... for example a friend swears by the Beef & Onion Pasties which I didn't try... so maybe I need to go again.

The Pasties that I did not have.... Hmmm... don't look bad:

We started off on the right foot. We got the soup du jour - chilled cucumber soup. This was very good. Heavy on the garlic, with a kick of spice, and garnished with balsamic. Very good and very refreshing.

Then we started going downhill. I got the Jersey Tomato Salad. My dining partner was very upset to find that we had to choose EITHER the mozzarella OR the olive oil marinated tofu to go with the tomato, basil and pesto. I went with the tofu.

In theory this dish would have been good (it was beautiful, and the ingredients all seemed to work well together) but Jebus was working against us. It was July 6th, and unfortunately tomatoes just aren't good yet.

I want no excuses. NO ONE. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES should have a dish featuring fresh tomatoes on their menu unless the tomatoes are good. There are good tomatoes and there are bad tomatoes. There is good food and there is bad food. Do the math.

Next came the Alt. "Avocado “bacon”, lettuce & tomato on toast, roasted tomato brown sugar mayo".

There were four pieces. We ate one... collectively. There was no bacon (even though both of us expected fake-bacon). Now that I re-read the description I see this, but it wasn't so clear to either of us when we ordered). The avocado was old (looked and tasted so). Again with the shitty tomato. The bread was gross. It was dry. Yuck. My friend ate the fries. They seemed good.

So that was that.

Again, the owners are so damn cute that you should ignore everything I just said and go there anyway. Support a local Mom and Pop Shop... maybe just order a beer and some Pasties instead.

Memphis Taproom - 2331 East Cumberland Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dining Alone

I have recently discovered the beauty in dining alone.

I've never been the kind of person that minds dining by myself, but recently I have come to enjoy it so much more.

It is incredible - the sights, the new sounds, and the smells you become aware of when you don't have the distractions of pesky dinner conversation (that was a joke... kind of).

The hiss of steam from the kitchen, the smell of a steak that is just ready leave the kitchen, and the taste of food when it's just the two of you... just you and the food... It all becomes more alive, more concentrated and with more of a purpose.

The clink of wine glasses get so much louder, while the ding of the bell signaling food-is-up gets so much more personal. You hear other diners dine, and waiters chat, and men pursuing women, and mothers chastising daughters, and the sounds of eating and of people enjoying food.

It's a wonderful thing.

... Not to mention you can wear weird bag lady clothing and stick dinner rolls in your pockets, and watch while the waitstaff talks about you in the back. That's fun too. Just saying.

Where Ambiance Means Everything

I was traveling on business in Nueva York on Thursday, and decided to stop in at Mario Batali's Lupa for lunch.

(insert LONG pause)

I wanted to like it. I REALLY did!!! (said in whiny voice)

A number of trustworthy people told me it's a restaurant-of-note so I strolled in off Thompson Street with high hopes.

A solo diner, with a boatload of anticipation in tow, I grabbed a seat at the bar and began studying the scene.

The restaurant's ambiance was comforting... big rustic farm-style tables, a welcoming staff, and warm lighting - all absolutely fitting for a true osteria.

When I requested some guidance the bartender happily coached me on the menu.

I was sad to see that the lunch tasting was only available to parties of 7 or more (must have missed that one online) but instead I ordered two antipasti - the Lingua and the Baccala with Potatoes - and a first course of pasta. I chose the Tagliatelle with Pork Shoulder which was the day's special (The dish my bartender "loved best").

I sat at the bar scribbling happily in my notepad, anxiously awaiting the meal to come.

My seat at the bar positioned me next to the server's station and I could overhear everything. I was delighted to hear that, instead of bitching about difficult customers, they playfully argued over their knowledge of grape varietals. When no one could answer a question they looked up the answer in their wine bible (possibly co-owner Bastianich's?) and rejoiced over the new found knowledge before hurrying back to tend to their tables.

My bartender presented me with bread-for-one. "Owww... yay!" I rubbed my hands together and ripped off a hunk of bread to dunk into the accompanying olive oil (bread to me is one of THE truest signs of a restaurant's worth if not the most true).

"Yum! Bread." I thought, still happy as a clam.

Then I took a second bite and thought "Hmmm... kind of dense... and kind of rich with oil."

I had wanted it to taste good so badly that I had tricked myself into thinking it did. Damn that second bite and the onslaught of reality... the reality that it just wasn't that good no matter how badly I wanted it to be. The rest of the meal followed suite.

The lingua and baccala came out together. Both were very good but... I don' t know... just good.

The tongue was served with raw onions. The dish was sweet, and acidic, and smooth. The baccala was flaky, just the right amount of salty, and was laced with capers so fresh they popped when you bit into them.

The pasta came out next. It was (very) lightly dressed in a red sauce and (in addition to the pork shoulder) came mixed with greens - radicchio and some type of green lettuce leaf.

The sauce was nothing noteworthy, the pork too scant, and the pasta itself not particularly toothsome. The addition of the salad greens was just plain weird.

The bill was $40 and with tip ended up close to $50 (no booze).

I can see why people would love this place. It really feels like you're in the belly of an Italian beast. You can almost trick yourself into thinking that might just be the taste of Nonna's sweat in my ravioli, or I think that IS Sophia Loren sitting next to me, or I really AM in Emilia-Romagna (you get the idea).

BUT, leaving that aside... The food - it just didn't do much of anything for me.

Next time I go to Lupa I will be sure to force my dining mates to speak in a faux Italian accents and focus the discussion primarily around "the old country".
My guess is my experience will be much more pleasant.

Lupa Osteria Romana - 170 Thompson Street between Houston St. and Bleecker St. New York, NY 10012
(212) 982-5089

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Impress with Your Fermentation Skills

I'm finding it difficult to procure crème fraiche from the grocery stores here in Philly. There are a few places that carry it but most do not.

As a result, I have decided to start making my own. It is so simple and it will highly impress your dinner guests. Imagine... "here is a salmon with dill pesto served with a dollop of homemade crème fraiche". You're gonna knock 'em dead.

Here's how:
For every eight ounces of heavy cream, you’ll need one ounce of buttermilk. Combine these two ingredients with a quick stir, then pour into a glass mason jar, closed with a screw-top lid. Let the filled jar sit out at room temperature for 24 hours to thicken slightly and ferment. Then refrigerate the cheese until cold, even more thickened, and ready to use.

Worshiping at the Altar of Julia

I love Julia Child. If I had ever met her I might have wrapped my arms around her ankles and never let go.

If you like food - or eating - or not being dead - you must, must, must read My Life in France. It is inspiring, beautifully written, romantic and an ode to French cuisine.

If it doesn't make you want to eat copious amounts of homemade mayonnaise I don't know what will.