19 November, 2009

The Atlantic visits Vetri

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, who writes the "Everybody's a Critic" column for the Atlantic Food Channel but is better known as the Special Advisor for Health Policy to the White House Office of Management and Budget, visits Vetri. Aside from some quibbles with bland gelato, he raves about the service and Vetri's signature sweet onion crepe:

The second proper dish was a crepe over-stuffed with golden sweet onions caramelized for 10 hours. The circular slice of the crepe resting in a white truffle foundue was nothing short of phenomenal. The caramelized onion was brown and mushy, like mole, and had this wonderful sweetness. The white truffle sauce added complexity without being overpowering. This caramelized onion crepe may well be one of the top 10 dishes I have ever tasted.

A Restaurant Lives Up to Its Hype [The Atlantic Food Channel]

21 October, 2009

Comfort food

Sunday dinner. Sometimes, a simple roast chicken is all you need.

Today I got a shipment of pork belly from Flying Pigs Farm (a gift from my in-laws -- how cool is that?), which will become pancetta over the next few weeks. I might have to set some aside for braising... I can't wait to try this pork.

08 September, 2009

A look at Village Whiskey

Mal and I, along with our friend Lou, checked out Village Whiskey on Friday. It was opening day and we arrived around 2 for a late lunch (Lou and I were on a joint birthday barhopping excursion, but that's a story for a different post).

There just happened to be three open seats at the bar, so we sat down, ordered a round of beers and took in the scene.

The space is gorgeous, with a long slate bar and tile on the floors and some walls. The dark wood backbar frames row upon row of whiskey bottles - most of which I'd never heard of. Black leather booths surround circular marble-topped tables beneath large windows painted with the restaurant's logo. The whole room is bathed in light. Past the bar toward the kitchen and bathroom are two marble drink rails, one wider for seated eating and the other narrow.

The draft beer list is short but strong, with a half-dozen selections of American craft brews. I chose the Sixpoint Righteous Rye, Mal ordered the Lagunitas Pils and Lou had the Founders Dirty Bastard. I'm a sucker for a good rye beer and the Sixpoint was righteous indeed (in fact, I think our next brew session will be a rye pale ale); it was malty with a dry, almost astringent quality from the rye. No whiskey or cocktails for us; Mal was on lunch break from work and Lou and I needed to pace ourselves for a long afternoon.

Beers in hand, we moved onto food. Mal and I split the famously expensive ($24) Whiskey King: 10 ounces of farm-raised Angus beef on a milk stout potato roll with applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese, bourbon glazed cipollini onions, and a healthy slice of seared foie gras. Lou ordered the black bean veggie burger, which came on a sesame roll topped with guacamole and pickled cabbage. We also ordered the duck fat fries with Sly Fox cheddar sauce and the soft pretzels.

Soft pretzels (there are 5 to an order but I was slow on the draw with my camera)

The pretzels came out first - piping hot, studded with salt and resting in a bowl of the best mustard ever. $3 buys five of these little fluffy sticks. I could've eaten these all day.

Duck fat fries with Sly Fox cheddar cheese sauce

The skin-on fries arrived in a paper cone with the cheese sauce on the side. They were much bigger than I expected -- not too many places serve steak fries in Philadelphia, and these were even larger than your typical steak fry. Flecked with herbs and salt, they were perfectly cooked and incredibly tasty -- and despite being cooked in duck fat, not at all greasy or heavy. The Garces restaurants probably go through a lot of ducks, and I'm glad their rendered fat is being put to good use. The cheese sauce was great -- it would be amazing on a cheesesteak.

But on to the main course. This was what we came for: the most decadent burger in the city (with a price to match). Did it live up to the hype?

I am the Whiskey King, and I can do anything...

I think the answer is a qualified "yes." $24 for a burger in Philadelphia seems absurd on its face. But the Whiskey King's ingredients are all top-notch, especially the beef, and foie gras isn't cheap. It's also huge - 10 ounces plus all those toppings makes for a big burger. If you split it with a friend, the price and the sandwich are much more manageable. For me, half a Whiskey King is just the right size. My biggest gripe is that none of the burgers come with fries; you have to buy them separately ($5 and up).

Mal and I agreed that the burger was delicious. It was perfectly cooked to order, incredibly juicy and intensely beefy. With so many high-grade toppings it was inevitable that a few would get lost in the shuffle, and I thought the onions and bacon were overshadowed by the cheese and foie gras. Speaking of which, the slice of foie was larger than I expected but didn't overwhelm the beef.

Veggie burger

I didn't try Lou's veggie burger, but as the picture shows, it sure is pretty. Lou said it was tasty, too.

The staff were smooth, polished and attentive, as one would expect for a José Garces establishment. Our bartender said there were the usual opening day glitches, but aside from a malfunctioning beer engine, none were apparent to us.

I won't be making a habit of ordering the Whiskey King, but I do look forward to trying a few more items on the menu (Kentucky fried quail and housemade pickled vegetables in particular) and a few of cocktails next time.


In a post this afternoon, Shola Olunloyo announced plans for a new incarnation of Studiokitchen: 30 seats, dinner only, 5 nights a week. Talula's Table and Momofuku Ko are his points of comparison.

No doubt, foodies in Philly and beyond are already salivating...

30 August, 2009

Sunday dinner

Sly Fox Royal Weisse; salt grilled shrimp; kale sautéed with onions, white beans and balsamic vinegar; pan-seared striped bass. (Not shown: potato & sweet potato salad.)

25 August, 2009

...and we're back.

We're working on a few backlogged reports from summer travels, tastings, meals and brew sessions. In the meantime, check out this very interesting Meal Ticket article explaining Chimay's relative scarcity on local taps.

Where have all the Cinq Cents drafts gone?

07 July, 2009

Resurrection Ale House

Jack Curtin had the news first, and we're way late to be posting this, but it's exciting nonetheless.

Two of our favorite publicans, Leigh Maida and Brendan Hartranft of Memphis Taproom and Local 44, are preparing to open Resurrection Ale House in the building formerly occupied by Yello'bar (Catherine St. at Grays Ferry Ave.).  Klein says they'll have 12 taps and 50 bottles; otherwise this one will be a little more food-focused than Memphis & 44, which bodes well for the new place indeed -- 'cause the food at those joints is pretty great. (We previously wrote about our dining and drinking experiences at Memphis Taproom here, and Local 44 here.)

They are shooting for September, maybe just in time for this Brogger to sip a birthday beer there... 

09 June, 2009

A First Look at the Swift Half

This past Friday Amanda and I met our friend Bekah at her new apartment which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the new Piazza at Schmidt's. The Piazza is pretty impressive and worth a post of its own at some point. The developer claims inspiration from Rome's Piazza Navona, but its best not to compare the two. Granted I haven't been back to the Eternal City in a few years but I think its safe to say there isn't a permanent jumbotron broadcasting sporting events in Navona. What Schmidt's does have in common with its Old World brethren is that its a great public space. There are interesting shops, art galleries and some intriguing new entries in Philadelphia's restaurant world.

Amanda, Bekah and I walked the few hundred steps to The Swift Half, which is a pub run by the same folks behind The Good Dog in Center City. The name refers to the last half a drink you say you're going to have on your way home (which, more often than not, turns into a bender). The space is handsomely appointed with a faux-tin drop ceiling above the bar and comfortable booths lining one side of the dining room. The beer list is similar to Good Dog's: American Craft Beer.

The menu is, for the most part, typical pub fare. The three of us decided to share a few dishes to maximize our sampling potential.
Our first course was the the combo plate, which consists of any 4 selections from the cheese and charcuterie sections of the menu. It comes with cornichons, mustard, pickled beets, candied almonds and olives. We chose the molinari salami, the duck prosciutto, keen's farmhouse cheddar and the moliterno sardo bianco. Both meats and cheeses were great. The duck prosciutto was tasty. The color of the meat itself was darker but the flavors were remarkably faithful to the real thing, with only a hint of gami-ness that suggested "fowl-play". Waka waka.

We were a little underwhelmed by the portion size of this combo plate, however. For $17 we expected a healthier serving of cheese and meat. Also, the olives were oddly terrible. They seemed to be half frozen and I could barely break through the oddly fluorescent green skin with my chompers.

The burger was ordered medium but came closer to well. It was tasty though (topped with our choice of provolone) and still juicy, despite the overcooking. The fries were a disappointing pile of soggy ends. I suspect we got the bottom of the basket. Good Dog's fries are also similarly greasy and broken down into tiny bits, not sure why this is or how the kitchen can rectify the situation.

The fish and chips was our favorite dish of the night. The batter was cooked to a delicious, well-done crisp hiding the tender, flaky morsels of fish inside. Doused with malt vinegar and ketchup this is pub fare at its finest.

The chips (nee fries) were of the same ilk as the soggy pile that accompanied the burger. That didn't stop us from finishing most of them though!

As for beers I had a Flying Dog Doggystyle IPA and a Sly Fox Dax Maibock. Both beers held up well with the food. The IPA being of the milder, less smack-you-in-your-face-with-the-hops variety. Not too familiar with the maibock style but the Sly Fox Dax was very quaffable indeed.

Service at The Swift Half was pretty great overall. None of the condescension you get at other gastropubs in the city.

I'm sure The Swift Half will iron out the inconsistencies in the kitchen, and when they do I will be back.

08 June, 2009

Art + Beer = Weekend

There are two very cool arts-and-beer-related events going on this weekend in Olde Kensington and Northern Liberties.

First, brother-Brogger Malachy is one of the many talented artists selling wares at Inliquid's 10th annual Art for the Cash Poor, 1-6pm Saturday at the Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American Street, Philadelphia.  (Check out Mal's Flickr stream here.)  All art is priced under $199, with most pieces under $100.  To sweeten the deal, there will be live music, DJs, food from local restaurants and beer from Philadelphia Brewing Company.  AFTCP also runs on Sunday with the same hours (but sans Malachy).

The other event, if you're in the mood for a little exercise, is First Person Arts' Edible World Food Tour: Joe Sixpack's Northern Liberties, wherein Daily News beer columnist Don Russell leads a group of lucky folks on a walking tour of past and present beer landmarks in NoLibs.  Stops include the Foodery, Standard Tap, 700 Club and Ortlieb's.  The tour runs from 2-5:30pm on Saturday, starting at the Swift Half (1002 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia).  The cost is $75 person or $140 per couple ($65 per person for First Person Arts members).  Advance tickets required.

05 June, 2009

Duck-Rabbit Redux

Just when I was starting to think that the Atlantic didn't care very much about craft beer, Clay Risen pens a great writeup of the Duck-Rabbit Brewery in Farmville, NC, whose brown ale I recently enjoyed at Amada. As a homebrewer, I admire founder/brewer/former philosophy professor Paul Phillippon's desire to do one thing really well: brew dark beers. Judging by that pint of brown ale (an admittedly small sample), he's doing just that. For you philosophers out there, the article explains the Wittgensteinian origins of the brewery's logo.

As I mentioned the other day, Duck-Rabbit has only recently started showing up in the Philadelphia area. If you hurry it may still be on tap at Amada; bottles are available at the Foodery and by the case at the Beer Yard in Wayne.

01 June, 2009

Now boarding: Catalan Express

What happened to May?  Birthdays, Mother's Day, weddings, graduations, Memorial Day cookouts, and lots of post-lawn-mowing Kenzinger...  

And now it's June.  Your Broggers will try to be more attentive this month.

On a recent day off from work, I spent the afternoon in Center City.  I decided to have lunch at Amada, where the "Catalan Express" is one of the best deals around -- a soup and salad or sandwich for $12.50.  Not to mention that Amada has a good draft list.  Their rotating seasonal beer was the Duck-Rabbit Brewery's Brown Ale: yes please.  After a few sips I ordered the Salmorejo soup (Cordoban gazpacho with Serrano ham, olive & egg) and the Skirt Steak Pepito sandwich.  I noticed chef/owner José Garces at the other end of the bar, eating lunch and holding court with the afternoon staff.

Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale, framed by  Amada's artful plate storage

The beer was light-bodied for a brown ale, but just heavy and malty enough for the chilly weather outside.  Very nice.  Duck-Rabbit, from North Carolina, is relatively new to the Philadelphia area and I'll be on the lookout for more of their offerings.

Salmarejo: Cordoban gazpacho, Serrano ham, olive & egg

The day was really too cold for gazpacho, but as I came in near the end of lunch service, they were out of the heartier white bean stew.  Despite the chill, the gazpacho was really delicious, and the shmear of fruit (strawberry purée?) added a nice sweet contrast.   

Skirt Steak Pepito: Caramelized onions, Cabrales, sliced tomato & olive oil

Where the soup was better suited for warmer weather, the sandwich totally hit the spot: hearty and full of big, bold flavors.  The classic combination of beef, caramelized onions and blue cheese (queso de Cabrales), served piping hot on a crusty baguette, was the very definition of upscale comfort food.  The fries were great too, dusted with paprika and drizzled with a tangy aioli.  

The Catalan Express runs weekdays from 11:30am to 2:30pm.  

06 May, 2009

Fried chicken, ramp risotto, Oskar Blues

It was cold and rainy on Sunday - perfect for spending the whole day in the kitchen making decadent food.  I'd decided on Saturday to make Sukhamvit Soi Five Fried Chicken, courtesy of Jarrett Wrisley and the Atlantic Food Channel, and it was marinating happily in the fridge.  HM had brought home some beautiful bunches of ramps from Reading Terminal Market; I used half to make compound butter and reserved the rest for risotto to go with the fried chicken. 

All the rich food called for a crisp beer.  I chose Mama's Little Yella Pils by Oskar Blues, Longmont, Colorado.  Oskar Blues had a big presence at Philly Beer Week, and their line is rather new to Pennsylvania.  Along with Sly Fox, they are part of the small-but-growing segment of craft breweries that use aluminum cans rather than glass bottles for retail sales.  Sunday was the first time I'd seen their cans at my local distributor.

Now, as some people know, I have a serious jones for fried chicken.  For years my go-to recipe has been the Bon-Ton style (Gourmet via epicurious), which is unbelievably juicy, crunchy and nicely spicy.  Jarrett Wrisley was definitely speaking my language in his account of fried chicken on the streets of Bangkok.  The man worked hard to get this recipe!  

Chicken marinated for 18 hours in coriander root, pepper, garlic, etc.

While the frying oil was heating up, I set to work on the risotto.  With our absurd bounty of ramps, I doubled the recipe.  

Ramps, cleaned and ready to use

Risotto ingredients

Finished risotto

Once the oil was ready, in went the chicken...

Almost-fried chicken

The chicken was just as crispy and juicy as promised, and the garlic and coriander lent a subtle tang to the crust.  I thought it could use a bit more heat, so next time I might double the amount of hot pepper flakes, or maybe include some finely chopped Thai chiles in the marinade/batter. A nice big dollop of Sriracha sauce is essential for dipping.   I'll definitely be trying this recipe again in the future.

On a normal day the risotto would be too heavy to complement fried chicken, but with Sunday's weather, it just seemed right.  The pungent yet delicate flavor of the ramps melded nicely into the rich rice.  And Mama's Little Yella Pils was a good choice to cool the Sriracha heat.  I wasn't blown away by this beer --  while it's appropriately bitter for the style, a little more emphasis on the flavor and aroma hops would really put it over the top.  Next time I'll stick with Sly Fox Pikeland Pils if I want pilsner in a can.

05 May, 2009

I'm trying hard to withhold judgement about the upcoming Varga Bar that will be opening in the former Azul Cantina spot. After all, it will have Victory Brewing's root beer on hand pump (Root beer. On. Hand. Pump.), as well as 22 beers on tap - eschewing the Coors/Miller/Bud triangle for "hard to find" American craft brews. Sounds fantastic. The menu - described as something called "comfort food", topping out at $22 - isnt quite as exciting but looks to be at least solid.

I guess the thing that troubles me is the driving theme behind the operation: it is a bar designed around the pinup girl artwork of Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chavez. I realize they're from different eras but theres something vaguely 1990s/swing dancing/Reel Big Fish about the fashioning of a gastropub around Vargas' purdy lady drawings.

Like I said, I'm not trying to judge (I guess I am...a little). But if I see one Vince Vaughan or Jon Favreau silk-shirt-wearing wannabe I'll head elsewhere. After I finish my root beer of course.

28 April, 2009

Gland Slam

Tonight I paired homemade pizza (potato & margherita; dough courtesy Sarcone's) and a Kenzinger with the Phils 7-1 victory over the Nati'nals. Beer, pizza and 7 Philadelphia runs make for a most pleasant fake summer evening in '09.

Also, got to enjoy a Kenzinger (or two) at the homerun derby/game against the Nats on Monday. One of the best games I've seen in person. Ra-oooooooooooooooooool!!!

NYT ♥ Pennsylvania Pilsners

Eric Asimov, wine/beer/spirits critic at the New York Times, reviews pilsners and fully half of the top ten were born in PA.  First place went to Victory Prima Pils, Pennsylvania Brewing's Kaiser Pils came in 2nd, and Troegs Sunshine Pils rounded out the top three.  Sly Fox Pikeland Pils (#7) and Stoudt's Pils (#8) also made the top ten.

26 April, 2009

Travelbrog: New York & Atlanta

Last weekend HM and I celebrated our anniversary in New York.  Lunch at Per Se was phenomenal and filling, though beerless (I had hoped to try the Blue Apron Ale by Brooklyn Brewery but decided to let the sommelier choose a few wines for us).  I may write about it another time, but suffice to say it was superb in every way.

After a long walk around Central Park that afternoon, we ate dinner at the Fatty Crab in the West Village.  It's a tiny Malaysian-inspired place with a small but thoughtful beer list.  At the bartender's recommendation, I had the Pork Slap Pale Ale from Butternuts Beer & Ale in Garrattsville, NY.  It went well with our shared appetizer of steamed buns (pork for me, veggie for HM), and with the spicy eggplant and sepia entrée.  Butternuts is one of the few microbreweries to use cans instead of bottles (along with Sly Fox and Oskar Blues).  Too bad they don't distribute to Pennsylvania - I'd like to try their other brews.

On Thursday, I had a quick trip to Atlanta for work.  I stayed in the Buckhead neighborhood and had a great dinner at Holeman & Finch Public House.  It's a hip little restaurant with a serious commitment to meat and charcuterie, as well as a decent beer list.  Naturally, I loved it.  

With rustic-modern decor and mostly young, tattooed (and very knowledgeable) waitstaff, H&F would fit right into the Philly beer bar scene.  The draft list included import staples like Guinness, one local brew (Terrapin Rye Pale Ale) and surprisingly, two Philly-area beers: Victory Prima Pils and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.  They were out of Terrapin, so I settled on a bottle of Shipyard Brewery's Old Thumper from Portland, Maine.

From left: lonzino, smoked lardo, bresaola

The menu was a collection of appetizer-size plates, with a few larger dishes meant for sharing.  To start, I sampled three of H&F's charcuterie offerings: bresaola (cured beef shoulder eye of round), lonzino (cured pork loin) and smoked lardo (pork fatback, cured and smoked).  The bresaola and lonzino were good but on the dry side, both enhanced by the house-made spicy mustard.  The lardo, however, was simply sublime.  I think it might be the best lardo I've ever had -- slightly sweet, meltingly fatty and a hint of smoke that lingered on the palate.  

Pork belly confit, because the lardo and lonzino just weren't enough...

I followed up with pork belly confit, served with collard greens and chow-chow.  I'd never heard of chow-chow before -- it's a Southern condiment, a sweet relish of pickled vegetables.  This one was slightly spicy as well, and the sweet and spice helped to cut the fattiness of the pork belly.  The confit was delicious, with a crispy exterior and rich, yielding interior. 

The cheese stands alone...  except for the bread, horseradish and honey

The cheese board was my final course: Humboldt Fog, an English farmhouse cheddar and a semi-soft cow's milk cheese whose name escapes me, all served with nice crusty bread, spicy horseradish and a dish of honey.  A satisfying end to a very good meal.  I highly recommend Holeman & Finch to anyone visiting Atlanta.  

11 April, 2009

What We Brew Is Secret #1: British "Pub Ale"

Today your Broggers set to bottling a batch of beer we brewed on February 28.  This was a second attempt at the beer of January 17: originally meant as a Boddington's-inpsired "cream ale," it ended up stronger and hoppier than its Mancunian forebear.  On February 28, we tried to re-do the recipe to tone down the alcohol and get a little closer to the "Cream of Manchester."  

The January 17 beer is on the left; February 28 on the right.

Did we succeed?  Perhaps -- this version seems lighter in color, body, bitterness and hop flavor.  It comes in around 4.9% ABV, about 0.9% less than our first batch.  (By comparison, Boddington's is 3.5% ABV in its canned version.)  

While we didn't nail the ABV, we did get close to its flavor profile: malty and somewhat fruity at first, with a hop finish and a very distinctive roasted-malt aftertaste.  The January 17 attempt also had these characteristics, but with more malt and hops and less residual sweetness.  With the added alcohol, that beer was closer to an India Pale Ale than we intended.  We'll taste our second version again in a couple of weeks, once the bottles are conditioned.

No comment.

07 April, 2009

Troegs Wins!

Villanova may not have made it to the finals this year, but Troegs did.  Hopback Amber Ale beat Ommegang Hennepin to win this year's Washington Post Beer Madness!

Congrats to the team at Troegs and to the panel at the WaPo for having such good taste.  

06 April, 2009


Last Thursday I had a hankering for spicy food.  I had errands in Center City, so I stopped by José Pistola's and enjoyed their fish tacos with a Troegs Nugget Nectar for lunch.  The tacos were really good, with a spicy mayonnaise, but I needed more.  Intrigued by reports of MangoMoon in the City Paper and Inquirer, I called up Mal and we agreed to meet in Manayunk for dinner.

For a place that got a very positive two-bell review from Craig Laban the previous Sunday, the resatuarant was curiously empty on what seemed to be an otherwise busy Manayunk night.  After the meal we had, I can only assume this is more due to the (lack of) adventurousness of Manayunk restaurant patrons than due to the quality of the food.

Seated next to floor-to-ceiling windows by the third-story bar, beneath a dramatic ceiling tapestry, we ordered a round of beers from Japanese craft brewery Hitachino Nest: Red Rice Ale for Mal and Real Ginger Brew for me.  

Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew

I expected a sweet, fruity beer heavy on the ginger, but was pleasantly surprised that the Ginger Brew wasn't sweet at all, and the ginger was quite refreshing.  The Red Rice Ale was much richer, with some earthy, funky overtones.  

MangoMoon seems to specialize in small plates, with their more interesting items offered under that section of the menu (rather than the entrees).  We ordered four to start, thinking we might need more, but the portions were generous enough that four was plenty. 

Baby octopus salad

First up was baby octopus salad with plenty of cilantro, lemongrass and chilis.  The baby octopi were tender and plentiful, and the peppers added the heat I'd been craving.  This was by far the spiciest dish of the night (though my heat tolerance is limited, so maybe I'm not the best judge).

Crispy taro and tofu

Next was a plate of crispy slivers of taro and tofu -- sort of a Thai adaptation of french fries.  The tofu were superior, I thought - crisp on the outside and molten inside, while the taro seemed a bit soggy outside and mealy inside.  They were served with a sweet chili dipping sauce studded with bits of peanut.  I forgot to take a picture before we attacked it -- hence the rather empty plate above.

Northern Thai style sasuage 

After reading Trey Popp's rave, I knew I had to order the sausage.  It was indeed delicious, cooked to a nice outer char and still juicy inside.  I could see loading a hoagie roll with one of these along with some onions and cilantro and a spicy mayo.  

Grilled pork neck

Our final dish was marinated and grilled pork neck -- little nuggets of pork with a chili-peanut dipping sauce.  These were very tasty but probably the least interesting plate of the evening.  By this time I'd finished my Hitachino and ordered a Chang, Thailand's native beer.  It reminded me of Yuengling in both color and taste.  For an industrial lager, I thought it was rather well done.  

Too full for dessert, we headed to our respective homes.  Next time I need spicy food, I know where to go.  

Photo credit: MangoMoon

Shola Olunloyo Dinner @ Blackfish

Here's another extremely tardy report from Philly Beer Week.  Actually, this wasn't officially a Beer Week event, but since beer was drunk at dinner I think it counts.

I'd read a lot over the years about private chef Shola Olunloyo, and his now-legendary Studiokitchen dinners in West Philadelphia -- but never had an opportunity to try his food.  Food bloggers and eGulleteers raved about his modern cuisine, and Shola's own Studiokitchen blog - featuring his considerable photographic skills - fueled the fire.  When Phoodie announced that Shola would be cooking a 4-course meal at Blackfish restaurant in Conshohocken, I scrambled to score a table.  

So the night after the Vintage Beer Brunch, Mal and I found ourselves at Blackfish with a bomber of our own British-style ale and a bottle of 2005 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Pinot Blanc Rosenberg.  

Carrot soup, miso applesauce, aromatic milk

We drank the beer with the first course, switching over to wine during the second course. The beer, a British-style session ale somewhere between an ESB and a pale ale, was a good but not inspired pairing to the carrot soup. The soup set the tone for the meal, with a combination of familiar and novel flavors that was interesting in a thoughtful way: rich and sweet, pungent and perfumed at the same time.  

Hiramasa, spicy yuzu glaze, peanut-cauliflower, brown butter

Next up was the fish course, featuring hiramasa (also known as yellowtail amberjack).  This dish was more subtle than the soup, and the "spicy yuzu glaze" didn't seem all that spicy.  But the fish was perfectly cooked and the peanut-cauliflower purée was so delicious that I found myself using bread to mop it up off the plate.  

Veal breast and ravioli, celeriac-apple purée, 
black trumpet mushrooms, hazelnut sherry jus

The meat course followed.  A single ravioli, cooked al dente, rested atop a round of veal breast and the whole assembly was crowned with trumpet mushrooms and a pair of veal sweetbreads.  This course was the night's highlight -- though the ravioli didn't seem to add much, the veal breast was outrageously good and the sweetbreads were crispy on the outside and molten on the inside.  And again, the purée was so good that I mopped it up to savor every last bit.  The wine was a perfect complement to this course, nicely rounding out the savory portion of the meal.

Yogurt sorbet, berries, elderflower, yogurt powder

The dessert course was right up my alley.  I can usually do without sweets at the end of a meal - just a good espresso.  I wish more desserts were like this one: easy on the sugar and with a bit of sourness from the yogurt.  The yogurt powder was the most interesting aspect of the plate - when it dissolved on the tongue, it released a burst of intense, pure yogurt flavor.  The berries were lightly dusted with it too.  With some La Colombe coffee, it was a nice end to the meal.

During the meal, we watched as Shola worked the room, stopping to pose for pictures and chat with his fans.  Several other diners were taking pictures of their meals, and we saw Phoodie doing the same as we waited for our table.

After all the internet hype from Shola's fans, I'm not sure if the meal met my expectations -- I wasn't blown away by culinary fireworks, but certainly charmed by the obvious creativity and attention to execution.  I think that says more about my assumptions than it does about the meal and I look forward to eating Shola's food again.

I highly recommend Shola's website and blog - both are chock full of creative thinking, cooking and photography.

Vintage Beer Brunch @ Memphis Taproom

This is way, way late but I've been meaning to write about the highlight of my Philly Beer Week 2009, the Memphis Taproom's Vintage Beer Brunch.

The day's moving had worked up the thirsts and appetites of your humble Broggers and the MTR did not disappoint. The concept for the brunch was to serve two vintages of a particular beer, paired with a dish from Chef Jesse Kimball.

I've always enjoyed eating at Memphis - the kitchen turns out some great comfort food. But for this brunch, Kimball really stepped up in a big way and delivered a killer 5-course tasting menu to complement owner Brendan Hartranft's beer selections.

1. Orval. Mini pancakes with speck, maple syrup and crumbled cheddar.

2. Cantillon Gueze. Smoked salmon terrine with red onion compote, fried capers and tomatoes.

3. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter & Stone Oatmeal Stout. Shirred egg with braised beef short rib.

4. Rochefort 10, 2004 & 2008. Asparagus salad with goat cheese and blood orange.

All the beers were excellent (sadly I neglected to write down the vintages of the first two courses). The Rochefort course stood out in particular; the older 2004 bottling had an appealing roundness and deep malt character that the newer bottle only hinted at, its alcohol heat overshadowing more delicate flavors. The Flying Dog Imperial Porter was also fantastic; if I remember correctly that bottle was also from 2004. The 3rd and 5th courses paired two different beers rather than a true vintage tasting, though they were similar in style.

As I mentioned above, the food was great -- showing not only a knack for creative flavor combinations, but also an eye for visually appealing dishes. (And naturally I forgot my camera.) The second course, smoked salmon terrine, was the most visually dramatic and also the most surprisingly tasty dish for me. I'm not normally a fan of smoked salmon, but in chef Kimball's hands, the fishiness of the salmon blended with creamy goat cheese, fried capers and sweet onion compote to create a harmonious whole. The Cantillon paired well, with its bracingly sour notes.

While the terrine was my favorite individual dish, the best pairing of the afternoon was the third course: the dark, velvety Flying Dog Gonzo with luxurious braised short rib and shirred egg. After such a rich course, the asparagus salad refreshed us with its bright goat cheese and vibrant blood orange. A cheese plate rounded out the meal with three generous cuts of artisanal goat, sheep and cow cheese and tasty house-made condiments.

The brunch was so good that Mal and I will be attending chef Kimball's upcoming gastropub cooking class at Fosters. Maybe we'll see you there.
Thanks to MTR co-owner Leigh Maida for helping me out with the menu information.

30 March, 2009

SBP Logo

Lew's got the logo finalists up for comment at Session Beer Project. Go vote for your favorite! I'm not telling you to vote for mine (the 2nd one shown) or anything. But do take a look and let your voice be heard. Cheers!

27 March, 2009


Joe Sixpack has the skinny on the starting lineup (of beer) at Citizens Bank Park - home of the 2008 WFC of Baseball, your Philadelphia Phillies. Appropriately Victory Prima Pils has been added to the mix. I have no doubt it will fit right in with the other pilsners on the concourse: Sly Fox Pikeland and Troeg's Sunshine. Oh, man. First pitch of the '09 season is almost a week away! I think I'm going to go get some tickets. Ahem.

*The image above is of a T-shirt available from the phine pholks at Birdland & The Fightins.

26 March, 2009

Johnny Simulcask

As has been reported ad infinitum (here, here and here) there will be a "Simulcask" (I love puns!) tapping of Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA firkins tonight. Guess what time this simultaneous flowing forth of brew will take place. 7:50pm! 75 minute, 7:50...Get it? Good. The list of participating bars in Philadelphia is below. Get thee to a taproom!

Standard Tap
Monk's Belgian Cafe
Memphis Taproom
Devil's Den
Grey Lodge Pub
Jose Pistola's

25 March, 2009

Beer School

For St. Valentine's Day m'lovely lady got me a gift certificate to the recently founded Beer School (Tim wrote about it here). They have a number of interesting classes lined up for the spring. I'm thinking about signing up for the "IPA & Beyond: Hops Class":

Americans love hopped-up beers like India Pale Ales. Now it's time to learn (and taste!) how different hops affect the taste of beers. Tastings will include the difference between American and British hops, wet versus dry hopping, and a multitude of hopping styles. You may not know the difference between Cascade and Centennial hops, but after this class, you will!

I love me some bitter beer. But I could stand to learn more about this amazing plant and its place in beermaking...

Right now the Beer School is offering a discount (of almost 50%!) if you purchase tickets to any of their classes online. See the full schedule here. And educate yourself.

Beer Madness Update: Troegs Makes the Finals!

The Washington Post has revealed its Beer Madness finalists: It comes down to Troegs Hopback v. Ommegang Hennepin. Last year Troegs made the Final Four but was shut out of the chamionship.

23 March, 2009

Spring Classes at Foster's

There are some cooking classes in the next few weeks at Foster's Homeware that will put a springtime spring in your step. We're looking forward to these:

Tonight, March 23 - Michael Solomonov of BROG favorite Zahav leads a culinary tour of Israel.

Wednesday, April 15 - Jesse Kimball of Memphis Taproom (Mal's new neighbor) demonstrates how to turn out gastropub fare at home. The three course menu will include beer pairings.

Saturday, May 2 - Brad Spence, chef de cuisine at Vetri, instructs on the dark arts of charcuterie: sausage and salumi (a subject near and dear to this Brogger's heart).

18 March, 2009

I'll have a scrappletini

Meal Ticket points us to Scrapplefest this Saturday, March 21 from 10am-4pm at the Reading Terminal Market.

First Beer Week, now this. I love this city, but it must be trying to kill me (with delicious pork).

Beer Week 09 is Over. Long live Beer Week.

Had to take a few days to decompress and assess after the whirlwind that was BW 09. In between hauling large pieces of furniture to Fishtown (thanks Jim and Tim) and giving myself a blister putting together Ikea furniture I managed to get to a few events and sample some amazing beers.

Sunday after moving a couple carloads to our new place on Memphis St., Amanda (along with Julie and Christy), Tim & I just made it to Memphis Taproom in time for the Vintage Beer Brunch, to which we had reservations. My physical exhaustion gave way to elation as each course trumped the previous (salmon terrine! shirred egg with short rib!). And the beer...Oh! the beer! ('04 flying dog imperial porter! rochefort old and new!). I think Tim is trying to cobble together a more coherent post on this event so I'll just leave it at that for now.

Also, made it to Caribou Cafe for a happy hour sampling of some Bieres de Garde as well as some tartines. We tried the Ambree from Brasserie La Choulette, which the menu described as being a classic representation of the style. It was malty sweet with hints of caramel and nuts; delicious, but I think I preferred Olivia's Gavroche.

They also had a couple beers from Brasserie du Mont Blanc. Neither the blanche nor the blonde from Mont Blanc were Bieres de Garde but I decided to try one anyway. I am glad I did. The blonde was delicious. Light in body and in color, it had the crispness of a helles or a pilsner. It was the surprise of the afternoon and a beer that I will definitely be seeking out this summer.

Let's see...what else? Oh, yea there were the random nights, after rearranging furniture for hours, that Amanda and I decided to hit our new local for dinner and their 'No Repeat Beer Week'. Really enjoyed the Fuller's they were pulling from the cask, as well as the Great Divide Wee Heavy. And Amanda had a chance to savor an Obamagang just before the last keg kicked.

See also: Tim's eloquent account of our harrowing journey into the belly of the Great Northbeast.

In short, it was a crazy 10 days. Im glad the moving is done. Sad that I have to wait 12 months til PBW 2010. But that sadness is tempered. For, in this Greene Countrie Towne of ours, every week is beer week.

17 March, 2009

15 March, 2009

Blog Watch: The Atlantic Food Channel

The Atlantic magazine has launched a new Food Channel (to accompany its Politics and Business Channels).  Curated by senior editor and food critic Corby Kummer, it's packed full of excellent writing from the magazine's own staff as well as contributions from such luminaries as Alinea chef/owner Grant Achatz, health policy expert Ezekiel Emanuel (brother of Rahm) and rancher Bill Niman.  The Atlantic's food writing, like its politcal and cultural commentary, will be thought-provoking for sure.

14 March, 2009

Friday the Firkinteenth and Yards "Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em"

Yesterday was Friday the Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge: every Friday the 13th, the Lodge lines up dozens of beers and pours cask ale until the firkins are empty.  Yesterday's Firkinteenth was extra special since it fell during Beer Week, and starting at 9:00 am they had about 30 firkins on hand.  I had taken the day off and took the El up to the Lodge where I met Mal, Amanda, Julie and Lee.  Over the course of the morning, we sampled almost everything tapped thus far:

  • Arcadia Sky High Rye (my 2nd favorite - I love rye beers)
  • Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA (at 12% the strongest I tried, but it was like drinking syrup)
  • Iron Hill (West Chester) Irish Red
  • Sierra Nevada Stout (my favorite of the day - smooth, creamy and slightly sweet)
  • Sly Fox Standard Ale
  • Dock Street Hop Garden (which had bits of hop in it)
  • Voodoo Wynona's Big Brown Ale

The atmosphere was great - even though the place was packed, the wait for beers wasn't too long and everyone was in a good mood.  Every time someone would walk into the bar, the place would erupt in a cheer (and conversely, people would get a good-natured "boooo" when they left -- it is Philly, after all).

The glorious Beer Week Hammer of Glory was in the house, and making the rounds for photos (we sadly forgot our cameras, but Mal got a pic of this guy on his camera phone).  There were plenty of local beer mavens in attendance, including Lew Bryson, William Reed and Brian O'Reilly.

We rolled out around 1pm, aiming to hop the free shuttle to the Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em smoked beer and barbeque event at Yards Brewing.  After waiting a while for the shuttle, we decided to hop the 66 bus and the El over to Yards.  Like the Grey Lodge, Yards was crowded but not oppressively so.  The new brewery is very impressive - high ceilings, huge spotless kettles and fermenters and at the rear, a giant tasting bar where they were pouring 18 smoked beers from various breweries.  Around the perimeter of the tasting room, local restaurants had set up tables offering smoked meat in all its glorious forms: ribs, brisket, pulled pork and so on.

Hungry from standing around drinking all morning, we hit the tables with gusto.  Victory's pulled pork was excellent and Tommy Gunn's wasn't too bad either (and their corn salad was good).  Some of the other tables weren't as well marked so I can't give props to whomever made the awesome ribs.  On the beer side, I tried offerings from Oskar Blues ("Smoke on the Water"), Sierra Nevada (Smoked Imperial Porter) and Sly Fox.  Stuffed and sated, we wound down the day at Mal and Amanda's place watching the replay of the World Series.

It was a really fun day and I'm already looking forward to the next Firkinteenth in November.