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

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Weekend Update: Italian Market Festival

After our Spring Patio Brunch, Kerry came to scoop Tom, Dre, & me to join her at the Italian Market Festival. 9th Street was alive with South Philadelphians, music, arts, &, of course, amazing food! We settled our brunch over a few beers and perused our snack options. Dessert was up first! The Italian Market has always had a battle of the cannoli between Isgro Pasticceria on 10th & Christian and Termini Bros. on 7th & Dickinson. This day, Termini Bros. wins with their fresh “filled to order” cannoli! The cream was a cool, decadent on a hot South Philly day.

Termini Bros. Cannoli - Filled to order with a smile!

Termini Bros. Cannoli

Making our way back down 9th street, we relocated the impressive Trompo of marinated pork for some tasty Tacos al Pastor. Again, “to order” service with a smile!

Trompo of Al Pastor on the Italian Market

The spiced pork was moist & tender and brimmed with flavor & depth. What I was truly impressed by, however, were the tortillas. Each order didn’t just call for hand-shaved pork, but also hand-pressed & fresh grilled corn tortillas. To top them off, literally, were fresh cilantro, mango, and salsas. Taqueria Los Taquitos de Puebla (9th b/t Ellsworth & Federal Sts.) “officially” wins best tacos in Philly!

Tacos al Pastor

UPDATE: Special thanks to Drew Lazor, of CityPaper’s Mealticket food blog fame, for the shout-out! Without you, dude, we wouldn’t be able to do what we all do so well.

Italian Market + Food Love = Al Pastor Lust

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!

To Taste: Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

I got alot accomplished today considering I spent Monday sick in bed, so I needed something quick & healthy for tonight’s dinner. A “buy one get one” spinach sale had left me with a whole bag to get through before it spoiled. I’ve been trying to get more protein, less carbs into my diet so lean chicken breast & white beans seemed like perfect accompaniments. I poked around the pantry for some added flavors and got to cooking. With the richness of balsamic vinegar and the aroma of thyme, I came up with a delicious, filling dish that was rich in iron, protein, & fiber and only 550 calories per serving. Enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

2 Servings – 550 Calories each

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – (2) breasts, about 4 oz each
  • Olive Oil – (0.5) T + (0.5) T
  • Balsamic Vinegar – (2) T
  • Dried Thyme – (0.5) tsp
  • Chicken Stock – (0.75) cup
  • S&P
  • Garlic – (2) cloves, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Fresh Spinach – (1) pre-rinsed bag or (0.5) lb
  • White Beans – (1) 15.5 oz can, drained & rinsed
  • Worcestershire Sauce – (1) tsp
  • Sriracha – a few squirts of your fave hot sauce
  1. Heat (0.5) T of Olive Oil on medium in a non-stick saute pan (with lid for later).
  2. Rinse chicken breasts under cool water & pat dry. Sprinkle one side with S&P.
  3. Place seasoned side down in hot pan. Sprinkle other side.
  4. Brown for about 4 min. Flip & brown other side.
  5. Add Balsamic & Thyme to pan. Bring to boil & flip chicken to other side. Reduce liquid for about 3 min.
  6. Add Chicken Stock. Bring back to boil. Reduce liquid to half for about 5 min.
  7. Remove chicken from pan & set aside.
  8. Add (0.5) T of Olive Oil to pan & heat on medium. Add garlic & saute for 1 min.
  9. Add onion & reduce heat to medium low. Allow onions & garlic to simmer for 5 min, stirring occasionally.
    • If you want to add chopped tomato or bell peppers, this would be a good time. Saute for about 5 min before moving on to the next step.
  10. Add a few handfuls of spinach & place lid on top. Return heat to medium.
  11. Once spinach reduces by half, stir & add more handfuls. Return lid.
  12. Continue adding handfuls of spinach until all is wilted
  13. Add Worcestershire & Sriracha. Add White Beans. Stir.
  14. Simmer on medium for about 5 min.
  15. Place chicken on top of Spinach & White Bean mixture. Return lid & heat for about 1 min.
  16. Serve & Enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

Restaurant Rewind: Varga Bar w/ Sunshine

Easter came & went and I’m finally resurrected from the blogging dead. Between a full hardrive and an external crash, I was graciously interrupted by a perfect vacation to Miami with Dre. I’m back in Philly now with some catching up to do, so here goes!

In early March, Sunshine suggested meeting up for dinner snacks at Varga Bar. I’ve been wanting to give it a try and surely looked forward to catching up with one of my favorite people. There was some Yelp! drink special going on so I went for the Cadillac Margarita & Sunshine chose the Renegade Root Beer, both $4 apiece.

Soon after our cocktails arrived, the waitress presented a marble slab with 5 cheeses & accoutrements. I’ve blanked on the specific cheese varieties, but I know we had (2) raw goat cheeses, a goat’s milk sharp cheddar, a creamy blue, and a gouda that was definitely not a gouda (but still delicious!). The platter included pairings of garlic dolce de leche, some other dolce de leche, bourbon honey mustard, grapes, granny & gala apple slices, & a fruit relish. We each had our favorites and surely appreciated the server who graciously brought us a 3rd plate of baguette.

Next up, a tower of crisp fries topped with melted white cheddar, parmesan, & tender jump lump crab. With or without the peppery homemade ketchup, they were quite tasty. Overall, the service & ambiance were ok, the food was good, & the company was certainly great!

Cheese Plate & Jumbo Lump Cheese Fries - Varga Bar

Quickie: Grilled Somen Tuna Steak & Chili Oil Bok Chok

Waiting on the new external, so here’s a quick little treat to hold you over! I defrosted an individual tuna steak, marinated it in Somen dressing, & seared it on each side. While my grill marks set, I tossed baby bok choy in my wok with Somen dressing, chili-infused macadamia nut oil, minced garlic, chicken stock, & a splash of fish sauce until wilted and flavorful.  In under 15 minutes, I had a perfect, healthy dinner for 1.

Grilled Somen Tuna & Chili Oil Bok Choy

To Taste: Grandma’s Chicken Divan

I grew up with the luck of enjoying my Grandma’s home-cooked dinners every night. My favorite of her dishes was the Chicken Divan – a casserole of broccoli, pulled chicken, & a cheesy sauce. If she wasn’t making it fresh for dinner, she was always sure to have portions frozen to indulge my divan requests. Not too long ago, I finally convinced her to share her recipe.

Grandma's Chicken Divan

We had a serious surplus of broccoli in the fridge so I had to get creative with ways to get rid of it. A giant casserole of my Grandma’s Chicken Divan seemed perfect. The first direction on the recipe was to blanch broccoli and layer it in a greased casserole.

Broccoli Base

I thawed half a chicken worth of white & dark meal STILL hanging out from my Rustic Roasted Chicken dinner. I can’t believe how many Leftover Lightning! meals came out of it!. I pulled it & layered it on top of the broccoli.

Pulled Chicken layered on the Broccoli Base

I was missing some ingredients from the next step, so I improvised with what my pantry staples could offer. I only had (1) can of Cream of Broccoli & Cheese Soup, so I combined it with mayo, lemon juice, & some water to loosen it up. Grandma’s recipe called for smoked paprika, but all I could dig out was some chili powder. My spice cabinet is really a disaster right now. Once the cheesy mixture was combined, I spread it on top of the pulled chicken & broccoli layers.

Cheesy Soup Blend over Pulled Chicken over the Broccoli Base for Chicken Divan

I melted some butter, combined it with seasoned bread crumbs, & sprinkled it over the whole casserole.

Breadcrumbs over the Cheesy Mixture over Pulled Chicken over the Broccoli Base

And then I realized I missed a step in the recipe. What’s new. But this was an important step. The CHEESE! How could I FORGET THE CHEESE? I quickly shredded mild & sharp cheddar cheeses and had no choice but to layer it on top of the breadcrumbs. It was only a minor mistake, just a good thing that I caught it. The casserole looked & tasted so delicious. I know I did my Grandma’s recipe proud!

Grandma's Chicken Divan

P.S. Follow along with my steps & feel free to recreate, but my Grandma’s actual recipe will remain a secret among family 🙂