Restaurant Rewind: Bday Dinner @ Rittenhouse Tavern

Jeez, 28 crept up on me quickly! I’m usually one of those gals that celebrates my birthMONTH rather than just my birthday, but this year intimate and minimal turned out to be a meaningful approach. I spent most of the day of my birth doing what I love most – cooking – from prepping & freezing portions of my BBQ beef & cauliflower rice stuffed collard greens as soon as I got out of bed to concocting late night Mexican hot dogs with some close friends. But my real foodie birthday celebration came Saturday night as Dre & I joined my family at one of the city’s newest fine dining spots – Rittenhouse Tavern.

I love reading the new restaurant hype in the Philly food scene but usually don’t play into it. I’d rather give a place some time to settle, and for Rittenhouse Tavern it didn’t seem to take long. Despite the pedigreed management & culinary staff at this Restaurant Associates-owned establishment and its prime location on the SE corner of Rittenhouse Square, most of what I’ve heard in its first couple months of service was word of mouth versus plugs on the typical food outlets – Foobooz, Grubstreet, Eater, etc. I take this as a good thing – PR shouldn’t make a restaurant, guest experience should (Yelp feedback of course being an exception) – and “on the street” talk amongst my hospitality & foodie friends was all recommendations & accolades.

Rarely would I notice or comment on my experience with a host/hostesses (unless it’s a bad one), but who knew a greeting and a walk to our table could be such a pleasure. The smiley hostess confirmed if we would still like to sit on the patio (of course we do!) and led us right to our seats. All night, on each trip to the ladies room, I encountered that smile. I think I have a new girl crush.

Now let’s get to the food – that’s what we’re here for, right? I had reviewed the menu a week before we went as I like to ponder what collection of items would give me the most diverse experience of the food. All of that went right out the door when the Farmer’s Market Tasting Menu hit my place-setting… SOLD!

NOTE: If there’s a tasting menu, get the tasting menu. Let the chef show off!

That being said, there was one thing from the standard menu that I couldn’t skip – the deviled eggs with pork scrapple. This wasn’t your typical deviled egg presentation, but the flavor was beyond expectations. I’m not usually a scrapple fan, but crispy, fried, & salty, it served as a perfect base for a swirl of deviled yolk mousse. I could eat 100 of these!

Keeping reading for more food love as I make my way through 5 courses with wine pairings from the Farmer’s Market Tasting Menu. Continue reading

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Restaurant Rewind: Pumpkin @ COOK

I’ll say it again, I LOVE COOK! Each night, their studio kitchen presents a fresh opportunity to let chefs shine and the culinary team from Pumpkin, west South Street’s BYO-of-choice, was damn near blinding. Walking into COOK that Halloween night was like ringing the door bell on a house that gives out the best treats on the block. Treats tossed in lots of butter. HELL. YES. We were off to a great start.

What Pumpkin laid before us that night was a beautiful balance of refinement and approachability; effortless expertise; living proof that loving what you do is the only option. Executive Chef/Owner Ian Moroney, Chef de Cuisine Chris Kearse, and Sous Chef Craig kept us laughing as they “stacked flavors” through 6 of their classic courses & new creations. Hey, guys!!

I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about food (I read cookbooks like great novels), but these guys were throwing around ingredient names that I’ve never heard of. Good thing class was in session as they took turns explaining the obscure items and processes being used. I can’t act like I didn’t have to look some up again when I got home – like nasturtium. This peppery & tangy watercress was featured in an ice cream created using agar, flavored with black cardamom, atop ground almond, next to a sudsy mountain of sudsy apple cider foam.

What’s the orange and crimson flame on the back rim, you ask? A speck of flavor-packed honey-miso with a beautiful edible petal. It was already a bowl of amazingness and the starring layer was still to come – a simple velvety autumn vegetable soup. Lily, executive director of COOK, helped pour lakes of the sweet puree, flooding the textural shores with flavor and color.

If I didn’t know 4 more courses where headed my way, I’d have asked for seconds. Luckily, Chef Ian shared the recipe and some words of wisdom after my own food-loving heart.

“Recipes are meant to be changed. It’s most important to use quality ingredients and good cooking practices.” – Chef Ian Moroney

Pumpkin’s Autumn Vegetable Soup

1/2 lb of each, peeled & chopped

  • carrots
  • apples
  • rhutabaga
  • sweet potato
  • onion
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 1/2 qt heavy cream
  1. Melt butter in a heavy pot and add onions, sweating until translucent over medium heat.
  2. Add remaining vegetables and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender. Drain any excess liquid and return to pot.
  3. Add heavy cream and salt, to taste. Puree with an immersion blender or standard blender. Serve.

4 more courses for your viewing and reading pleasure after the JUMP! Continue reading

Restaurant Rewind | Airport Edition: Paschal’s + One Flew South ATL

On my way back from visiting Sunshine in Sarasota, I was stuck with a 2.5hr layover in the gigantic Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I figured with 5 terminals, there had to be some decent food to discover. I did a quick poke around the internet and came across Food & Wine’s Ultimate Airport Survival Guide. Since I was below the Mason-Dixon, their suggestion of Paschal’s classic Southern fare seemed like the perfect choice. And why have I never heard of Bruce’s Green Hot Pepper Sauce before?!?

At Paschal’s, I threw down on some fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, collards greens, + cornbread.

After I savored my last bite, I checked my Twitter to see that Taylor from Mac & Cheese shot me a strong recommendation to try One Flew South, the other suggestion on the F&W guide. Then there was Taylor’s follow-up: Do not miss anything “Benton’s” on the menu – bacon or ham – if you do pork. Oh, I do pork and I def have to do pork recommended by someone who’s been a vegetarian for over 20 years. I hopped on the tram and headed to Terminal E – proud in my Phillies shirt on a quest for bacon.

Sweet jesus… a beautiful, fine dining restaurant serving sushi and southern fusion… in an airport. While I waited for my Benton’s selection to arrive, I sipped on a serious, perfectly-made Vesper. Thank you, bartender who’s name I forget who has a dad who lives in Philly!

And then my glorious plate arrived… crisp frisee tossed w. a pink peppercorn vinaigrette flanked by Benton’s bacon + Sweet Grass Dairy goat cheese topped w. basil poached pears. It was so fresh with truly beautiful flavor combinations and damn near the best bacon I’ve ever had.

Did I mention I was in an airport?

Restaurant Rewind: Barbuzzo

The food was pretty outstanding. The Salted Caramel Budino is HEAVEN!

The service was fairly underwhelming – pretty typical during Restaurant Week.

The pictures sum it up.

Barbuzzo
110 S. 13th St. | Philadelphia, PA 19107 |215.546.9300
www.barbuzzo.com

Restaurant Rewind: Green Eggs Cafe

While a I fully agree with Saveur that there’s no better place for lunch on a roll than Philly, I think we’re also a serious contender for best brunch, too. There’s notorious waits at Sabrina’s & Honey’s Sit-n-Eat and Carman’s eccentric interpretation of “down home” at her Country Kitchen and a South Philly spot proud to where its heart on its chef sleeve, Green Eggs Cafe.

Green Eggs’ namesake is about taking care of our Mother Earth, as noted in their mission. Their full commitment to conservation, sustainability, & environmental responsibility deserves respect as does the locally-sourced food they gracefully deliver. They don’t even have freezers so they’re certainly not faking the funk like many other places w. their guarantee of freshness.

As most solid brunch places go, a wait is expected on the weekends. Green Eggs alleviates that with comfy couches & free coffee in their next door waiting room. Finally seated, Dre, my sis, & I mulled over what deliciousness to order and indulged in a “complimentary” bottle of prosecco paired with a carafe of chilled fresh-squeezed orange juice. Just as the mimosa buzz hit, our youthful server delivered the best of their sweet & savory breakfast selections.

Creme Brûlée French Toast w. Fresh Berry Compote

Artichoke + Mushroom Frittata w. Truffle Cream

Cheddar Grits w. Scrapple Toast

Waffles w. Berry Compote + Crème Anglaise

Green Eggs Cafe
1306 Dickinson Street | Philadelphia, PA 19147 | 215.226.EGGS (3447)
http://www.greeneggscafe.net/

Restaurant Rewind: The Very Best…

…Wiener Shop, that is! I grew up spinning on the counter stools at this Pottstown institution. While Sunshine & I love our shopping adventures at Zern’s in search of insanely cheap produce, Lebanon bologna & $1 vintage jewelry, it’s not necessarily a place we stay to eat. On our way out of town, we decided instead to stop for a bite at The Very Best, a downtown deli known for its chili dogs for almost 90 years. I LOVE their perfectly textured tangy chili atop a flat-top seared dog with raw onions & cheese (add mustard for an “everything dog”). With a side of macaroni salad, a fountain coke, & the debate over a slice of their homemade cakes, you can’t ask for a better greasy spoon lunch. It is still is one of the “very best” places to grab a bite in Pottstown…

The Very Best Counter Companion

The Very Best Chili Cheese Dog

The Very Best Aftermath

The Very Best Weiner Shop | Since 1921
252 East High St. | Pottstown, PA 19464 | 610-323-5224
http://www.theverybesthotdogs.com/

Restaurant Rewind: Phillips Seafood in AC

On May 19th (bear with me, folks! I just started a new job!), I had the pleasure of attending a food blogger dinner hosted by Breslow Partners and Phillips Seafood. I have yet to share my personal philosophy on sharing my restaurant dining experiences, so what better time than the present. It pretty much boils down to a commitment to post only about positive encounters (gratis meal, as in this case, or not) and our evening at Phillips definitely fits that criteria.

Dre & I rushed to AC after work that Wednesday, checked into our amazing room in the new Chairman Tower at the Taj Mahal (thanks, Mike!), and hurried over to the Pier at Caesars. We arrived at Phillips first and were greeted with smiles from Tina & Jennifer, the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind Breslow Partners. Our server, Mike, took drink orders as we got to know our hostesses and perused the amazing menu of food coming our way. How could you not be excited for this?

Phillips Seafood Blogger Dinner Menu

Cocktails arrived and so did 5 other new friends. It was so great to meet the people behind the local food blogs I enjoy, let alone dive into an indulgent seafood feast with them. Lisa & Lisa joined us first, from Jersey Girl Cooks and John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey, respectively (har-har!). We then welcomed Allie of A Food Coma and her guest Mikey with Elaine of Elle Eats rounding out the group. No sooner did we finish our introductions when our first course arrived, Steamed Mojito Clams.

The GM, Brian Fountain, and Executive Chef Paul Drew were nothing short of hospitable, informative, & accommodating through out the meal. They joined us between each course to explain the history & philosophy of Phillips along with all the juicy ingredient and prep details that really  make foodies like us drool.

Steamed Mojito Clams from Phillips

We all had already dove into the tender clams while Chef Drew recapped the Mojito-inspired ingredients that flavored the dish. Phillips excels in freshness when it comes to their seafood and these middle necks fit the bill. They were cooked in butter, rum, mint (which I believed is mis-mentioned on the menu), slivers of garlic, & anaheim peppers and served with a ramekin of extra Mojito butter on the side. We happily sopped up the remaining butter with the warm bread we were served. I appreciated learning that Phillips strives to maintain the option for sustainable seafood by returning all clam shells to the Chesapeake.

Next up was a raw bar lovers dream, The Chilled Plateau. Its top tier featured fresh Maine Lobster and Alaskan King Crab Legs, each steamed with cinnamon, cloves, lemon, Phillips seasoning, pickling spice, & orange and served chilled. Melpac & Blue Point Oysters and Middle Neck Clams on the half shell outlined the bottom tier with fresh lemon wedges and a red wine, shallot, & garlic mignonette. Bowled in the middle, were Tuna Tartar (ahi poke style), U15 Shrimp, and Jumbo Lump Crab Meat with sides of cocktail sauce & mustard sauce for dipping. It was a tower of raw seafood indulgence and I loved every bite (and swallow in the case of the oysters) of it!

The Chilled Plateau from Phillips

The penultimate course for our dinner were the famous Phillips Chesapeake Crab Cakes,  packed with their own pasteurized crab meat, a process first developed by Phillips. 300 million tons of their crab meat are canned each year with 1/3 of that coming from our Gulf. The effects of the current outrageous oil leak saddens me beyond words and I’m sure this will have a grave effect, short & long term, on Phillips crab meat distribution. Let’s all hope for the best that can come out of this unimaginable disaster. But, this afternoon, it’s back to the crab cakes…

Chef Paul Drew explained that Phillips variety includes jumbo lump, back fin, & special lump crab meat for a variety of taste & texture. The whole chunks of crab are seasoned and bound with Phillips seasoning, lemon, mustard, Worcestershire, egg, & mayo. They’re formed into mounds and chilled at 40degrees until broiling them at 450degrees. Dre inquired about their cooking approach, as growing up in Maryland he was used to the deep-fried variety. Without solicitation, the Chef was happy to whip up a batch of fried crab cakes for comparison.  Their table was split on their cooking preference, but I think Lisa (of John & Lisa) summed it up perfectly – “They’re really good baked, but ethereal fried!”

Chesapeake Crab Cakes, Potato Gratinée, & Broccolini

The crab cake entree was well-rounded with sides of Potato Gratinées with Swiss cheese and tender Broccolini. We discussed our final thoughts on the meal over a palate-cleansing dish of mango sorbet. Overall, it was a great experience to try a restaurant I normally would not have with great fellow food bloggers. It was a refreshing experience, as sometimes a classic presentation of a seafood indulgence truly hits the spot. I couldn’t ask for a better meal that this beachside feast to kick off my Spring/Summer!

Blogger Dinner Contacts

Breslow Partners

Phillips Seafood AC

Jersey Girl Cooks

John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey

A Food Coma

Ell Eats