Restaurant Rewind: Max Brenner & the Family

The weekend before Mom’s Day, my sister & I met up with my parents for Sunday dinner. Kerry decided on Max Brenner, a global chain focused on inspiring a new “chocolate culture.” Many a man has named a restaurant after himself and this bald guy seemed a bit suspect. But in the spirit of celebrating Mary Ann’s birthday, it made sense to give our family chocolate lover an indulgent experience. And that is was!

The menu consisted of familiar items with a “Max Brenner Chocolate Culture” twist. It was hard to focus on savory dinner items with a bible of chocolatey confections tempting you, so we made up our minds on dessert before placing our dinner order. I ordered the Veggie Conscious Burger. The soft, herb-flavored patty topped with tomato & avocado engulfed a brioche bun smeared with avocado-cilantro mayo. chili-chocolate powder dusted waffle fries with some yummy spiced mayo dipping sauce sat opposite  on the long oblong wooden serving plank. My dad ordered The Brenner Burger and we loved both!

NOTE: 2 pickle spears and I didn’t even have to ask!

Veggie Conscious Burger @ Max Brenner

Dad & I decided to share a side dish as well and were fully impressed with the Black & Tan Beer Battered Vidalia Onion Rings w. Dark Chocolate Ranch. You heard that right – time to get some chocolate Ranch dip in your life!

Black & Tan Beer Battered Vidalia Rings w/ Dark Chocolate Ranch Dressing @ Max Brenner

Kerry was underwhelmed by the fish tacos, but Mary Ann seemed to really enjoy her Deep Bleu Cobb Salad. A sampling on my part deemed it quite tasty & crisp. Rabbit food (complete with ears) done right!

Deep Bleu Cobb Salad @ Max Brenner

Now, on to the important stuff, CHOCOLATE! We were quick to place our dessert order since our minds were already made up. Spoons in hand, the four of us waited for our two selections to arrive. Mary Ann went with the Melting Chocolate Heart, a classic chocolate bomb with a oozing raspberry filling, for a tart & rich end to a great meal.

Melting Chocolate Heart @ Max Brenner

I chose my favorite approach to a dessert crepe – Banana & Hazelnut – finished with a side of ice cream, berries & molten chocolate syrup. Took me back to the La Crêperie truck of my Temple days. I loved it –  every last bite & every moment with the fam!

Banana & Hazelnut Cream Crepe @ Max Brenner

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY ANN!

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Saturday w/ Sarah: Ansill’s Menu @ Ladder 15

This past weekend, Dre & I went on a mission to the bookstore for Dalai Llama wisdom, food rules via Michael Pollan, & hopefully a continued subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. He headed off to work at 3 and I ventured across Broad is pursuit of a long-overdue Saturday w/ Sarah.

I’m glad I recalled that David Ansill (of Pif & Ansill restaurant notoriety) had revamped the menu* at the relatively new Ladder 15 – 1528 Sansom Street. Our waitress was great and beyond adorable, so I took her recommendation on the Pear Complex from their (also newly revamped) cocktail menu. DELICIOUS! We started off the meal with the Curried Lamb Empanadas. The three rich, crispy, & dense pockets were  savory and perfectly paired with an Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt.

Curried Lamb Empanadas w/ Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt

Ahh, the new buzz menu item around Phily – the Ladder 15 Burger! This burger is on a new level of decadence. Eff a kobe burger… a sizzling bone full of marrow & truffle sauce are where it’s at! For those that can’t handle it, they have a classic burger, too. Both are paired with perfectly crisp fries & parmesan mayo dipping sauce… with caviar on top?!?!

Burger 15 - Prime Sirloin, Braised Short Rib, Red Wine Mushrooms, Grilled Red Onion, Bone Marrow, & Truffle Sauce on Metropolitan Bakery Brioche**

Ansill’s self-titled restaurant (that unfortunatley closed last Summer) had a buzz menu item of its own – Korean Tacos! I never had the opportunity to try them, so it was exciting to have a second chance. The order came with (2) soft tacos – a Pork Belly one & a Braised Short Rib one. They were of a richness beyond my imagination with a fatty Korean BBQ marinade, kim chi, scallion, & sesame seeds. I WILL be back for these again soon… and to try whatever flaming dish I envied as it was delivered to another table.

Ansill's Korean Tacos - (1) Pork Belly & (1) Braised Short Rib

The highlight of the experience was not one, but two visits to our table by Chef Ansill. He made a welcome point to show Sarah his vision on topping off the Burger 15 and popped over again to see how we were enjoying everything. Now that’s a chef I can surely respect & support!

*Check out Ansill’s full new Ladder 15 menu HERE!

**Thanks to Metropolitan Bakery for their Twitter shoutout of my Burger 15 pic on Flickr!

Restaurant Rewind: Swift Half for Game Day

I took a momentary hiatus from blogging as my priorities shifted a bit over the last month or so. Tonight’s priority, however – watching the Eagles on the couch with Lexi. Less than two minutes into the game tonight, DeSean Jackson ran 67yds for a touchdown. At the risk of sounding cliche, it made me think maybe it’s time for me to get back in “the game.” I luckily had an easy return with a blog post already drafted about a perfect September day enjoying my utmost priorities! GO EAGLES!

It was about time for Dre to meet the parents, so we planned a sunny Sunday afternoon to watch the Eagles game in Philly. We met at the Piazza at Schmidt’s, knowing Dad was interested in seeing the new hip spot in the city. Food and drink is an important part of family time so we snagged an outdoor table  at Swift Half with a perfect view of the Piazza’s jumbotron tv . After a round of beers and conversation, my sister Kerry joined us just in time to place our lunch order. Dre matched Kerry’s request of a B.E.L.T, stacked accordingly with an over-medium fried egg. I went with their Traditional Burger, served medium-rare with Applewood Smoked Bacon & Colston Bassett Stilton. Their fresh, shoestring cut Idaho fries paired with the sandwiches may now be in my top ranking in the city, just under Misconduct’s.

B.E.L.T. - Swift Half

B.E.L.T. - Swift Half

Burger from Swift Half

Traditional Burger with Applewood Smoked Bacon & Colston Bassett Stilton

Dad doesn’t front when it comes to his love of Scrapple, retelling stories of making homemade batches at Penn State. Swift Half managed to serve it in a most appetizing way for a non-fan like me – battered, fried triangles paired with a Maple Ketchup & Potato Hash. Mary Ann, the biggest Eagles’ fan I know, went with an epitomous game day snack of Potato Skins with Applewood Bacon crumbles, Melted Cheddar, & an Herb-Mayo dipping sauce. We all shared the Fudge Board for dessert highlighting Bacon Fudge, Vanilla Fudge, & Pistachio Fudge.

Despite an embarrassing loss by the Eagles, it ended up being a fantastic Sunday afternoon relaxing, laughing, & eating with the most important people in my life.  We even enjoyed seconds with Swift Half’s tender and tasty Buffalo Shrimp, which were eaten too fast for me to snap a pic! And no lie, now less than 2 minutes to halftime and there goes DeSean Jackson with another touchdown. All these great memories of food, family, & football – I think I’m officially back in the game.

Scrapple, Potato Hash, & Maple Ketchup - Swift Half

Scrapple, Potato Hash, & Maple Ketchup - Swift Half

Bacon & Cheese Potato Skins - Swift Half

Bacon & Cheese Potato Skins - Swift Half

Bacon Fudge, Vanilla Fudge, & Pistachio Fudge - Swift Half

Bacon Fudge, Vanilla Fudge, & Pistachio Fudge - Swift Half

Check out Swift Half’s Website and Twitter. Yum!

Family-Style: Labor Day BBQin’

I couldn’t make it thru Labor Day weekend without some BBQ action, so I dug deep into the freezer for some ground beef & turkey to make burgers. The budget was tight, so I did my best to work with what I already had, including fresh Plum Tomatoes, a variety of Bell Peppers, & Sweet Corn on the Cob from my Zern’s stop on Saturday night. I seasoned the burgers, tossed them and the corn onto a hot grill, & chopped veggies for a light, simple Pasta Salad. Friends arrived, beers were cracked, & BBQ action we had!

Labor Day BBQ

Labor Day BBQ

Labor Day BBQ:

Grilled Beef & Turkey Burgers – Topped w/ American, Triple Smoked Bacon, Ripe Plum Tomatoes, Romaine, Ketchup, Gulden’s, & Mayo

Balsamic Pasta Salad – 1lb of Mini Shells, Farm Fresh (non-waxed) Cucumbers, Yellow Peppers, Violet Hybrid Peppers, Ripe Plum Tomatoes, & Shredded Asiago – Dressing: 3T Balsamic (or any vinegar), 1T Olive Oil, S&P, Fresh & Dried Herbs, 1 tsp Hot Chili Garlic Sauce, 1 tsp Dijon Mustard

Grilled Sweet Corn on the Cob – Finished with Butter & Salt

Labor Day BBQ Feast

Labor Day BBQ Feast

Restaurant Rewind: P.Y.T.

Friday night, I scooped the man from work & we headed to PYT, TommyUp’s newly-launched burger & shake bar at the Piazza at Schmidt’s. My patronage is the least I can offer to someone who has provided me with some epic party memories over the last 5 years! A storm was astir, so we sat ourselves at the strategically-placed yellow tables protected by the tunnel entrance-ways. We placed our order with the anticipated hipster waitress, adorable in her leopard dress, platinum bangs, & bright smile. 20 minutes later, magic arrived… complete with a stunning boom of thunder!

PYT Cheeseburger w/ lettuce, tomato, onion, fried egg, bacon, & mayo on a potato roll

PYT Cheeseburger - med-well w/ lettuce, tomato, onion, fried egg, bacon, & mayo on a potato roll

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