Monday, August 31, 2009

Goodbye Philly

As of today, I've officially left my hometown. And, in very Philly style, I was given a parting gift from the PPA. Although it's surely not my last ticket from them, it's a nice reminder of at least one thing I won't miss about Philly.

During my last month in Philly I tried to eat out as much as I could. I managed to visit it to Talula's Table, Amada, Distrito, Vetri, Zahav and Savona. As much as I love upscale dining, that's not all that Philly has to offer.

Saturday I made it to my favorite hoagie place in South Philly: Lombardi's. I just have a feeling that Western Massachusetts is going to disappoint me in the hoagie department - big time. Who knows what they even call them up there?

While I usually get the VIP, a more traditional Italian, I decided to get my Dad's favorite: the Italian Inferno. The usual Italian, but with shooters (provolone stuffed hot peppers). As I devoured this gloriousness in my car outside the hoagie shop, I was reminded that the Philly food scene really has it all.

So worry not, between the people and the food, I know I'll be making quite a few trips back to Philly.

Lombardi's Specialty Hoagies
1226 W. Ritner St.
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Suckling Pig at Amada

We all know that I'm a huge fan of Jose Garces. I've blogged about every restaurant he has in Philly, besides Chifa. However, I've never officially written about Amada: the one that started it all.

I've been to Amada countless times since I became a foodie during my last year of college at Penn. It was one of my first mind-blowing food experiences. With Tinto close behind, it's still my favorite Garces place. Everything is impeccable, time after time.

Every time I go to Amada, I look at the menu and see "Whole Roasted Suckling Pig - For 4 or more" $32/Person. I've always wanted to do it, but never had the motivation or foresight to pull it off. As it turns out, Suckling Pig is the perfect event for a going away dinner. My friends Scott and Vicki managed to organize the whole thing, and with the addition of Dr. Joel, the date was set.

Upon arrival, the big question was, "How much more food do we order?" The pig itself comes with four vegetarian sides. After deciding that we were very comfortable having leftovers, we ordered four additional tapas to start.

So now I'll let the pictures begin...

Bread Service: Tuna and Black Olives

Serrano Ham and Fig Salad, Cabrales & Spiced Almonds

Aragones, Garrotxa, Torta del Casar

Grilled Chorizo

Heirloom Tomato, Mezze Sorrel & Mahon Flatbread

Grilled Green Onions, Rosemary White Beans, Garbanzos con Espinacas, Herb Roasted Fingerlings

The Pig!

Table side

Left overs!

Dessert Tasting

The pig itself was so mouth-watering good. It was salty, moist and tender. I want to eat it for days and days. And thanks to the leftovers, I'm going to be able to. The side dishes were also very good. The white beans were a particular hit.

Throughout the meal we all shared a bottle of Brooklyn Local 1 and two bottles of Ommegang Bier de Mars. Both were great food beers; not too much flavor, and certainly not too little flavor.

All in all, I completely recommend the Suckling Pig dinner. It's an incredible deal, a ton of exquisite food, and a really fun dining experience. It was the perfect going away meal...

Thanks to Scott and Vicki, and Dr. Joel. I'm up for a repeat anytime!

Amada Restaurant
217-219 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Temptation at McMenamin's

Last night, a fellow Russian River follower, and Tria friend indulging in my obsession, kindly let me know that Temptation was on tap at McMenamin's Tavern in Mount Airy. Seeing as I don't have a job for the next two weeks, I drove right over.

While you wouldn't necessarily expect it, this local Mount Airy bar has an excellent beer list. Both European and American craft beer classic styles are well represented. And, their prices are more reasonable than most beer bars in Philly. This chalice was only 7 dollars.

And yes, they have Temptation on before many others in the area. I have to say, it was drinking very, very well. Nice winey nose, good tart sourness up front, and a citrus/tropical fruit palate that lingers. Believe me, it's worth the drive to Mount Airy.

McMenamin's Tavern
7170 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19119

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Talula's Table: Food & Beer Geekery

Last week I had the privilege of eating at Talula's Table in Kennett Square, PA. While I've never eaten at the actual "Farm Table," I have eaten at the "Kitchen Table" three times. With reservations booked a year out to the day at "The Toughest Table in America" to get a reservation at, I do consider myself pretty lucky.

Talula's Table seats 8-12 people at the Farm Table, and sometimes, a few guests are able to dine in the kitchen. Having worked in restaurants for the past 5 years, I'd much rather be in the kitchen at a place like this.

Owned by Aimee Olexy and Brian Sikora, this restaurant will always have a special place in my heart. I actually dined at their restaurant in Philly, Django, for my 19th birthday. This was way before I was a foodie, and I remember something about an organic game hen and local vegetables. The meal was delicious, but I didn't even know what I was partaking in. Looking back, I view it as my first foodie experience.

Anyway, enough reminiscing. Last week's dinner at Talula's was perhaps the best experience I've had to date. Interestingly, I have been one of the few quests to bring beer to dinner. I happen to know the other two groups; one of them being Tom Peters of Monk's, and the other, my friends Vicki and Scott.

I've always used Talula's as an excuse to break out good, rare beer, and attempt to pair it with delicious food. After the food pictures, I'll go over the beers.

Carpaccio of Zucchini and Button Mushrooms, Parmesan Lace, and Truffled White Bean Puree

Porcelet Ravioli, Sweet Corn Broth with Hand Stretched Mozzarella

Shrimp and Scallop Sausage with Garden Cucumber Relish and Roasted Bell Pepper Foam

House Smoked Mid-Atlantic Bluefish, Carmelized Potato Hash, Braised Chard, and Mussel Bisque

Creamy Risotto of Glennrose Farm Heritage Chicken with Fava Bean and Chicken Liver Mousse (forgot I was taking pictures, so this isn't the original plating...)

Summer Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Chester County Lamb with Tomato Lamb Jus and Crispy Eggplant Frites

"Grassroots" A collection of local cheeses

Sugar Plum and Bing Cherry Soup with Cardamom Ice Cream

Eclat Chocolates

And...the beer line up:
- Les Deux Brasseurs - Allagash
- Russian River Temptation Batch 4
- Russian River Consecration Batch 1
- New Belgium La Folie 2008
- Jolly Pumpkin Noel 2008
- Westmalle Tripel 2007
- Hanssens Artisanal Cassis
- Avery The Reverend 2008

I have to thank my friend Ryan for contributing to our beer line up. Only someone with a few connections can bring Russian River Temptation to dinner.

Best Dish: Carpaccio of Zucchini and Button Mushrooms, Parmesan Lace, and Truffled White Bean Puree. Say what you will of truffle oil, and I'm certainly one to avoid it's overuse on every menu these days, but this dish was a cornucopia of flavor. The truffle oil enhanced every other ingredient on the plate perfectly.

Best Texture: Shrimp and Scallop Sausage with Garden Cucumber Relish and Roasted Bell Pepper Foam. The shrimp and scallop sausage was pretty unbelievable. This isn't the first time I've seen Bryan take items and make them into entirely different forms.

Best Beer: New Belgium La Folie 2008. This beer is special: a sour brown ale, aged in French oak for one to three years before bottling. Without a doubt, it's one of my top 5 favorite beers. This one had mellowed nicely, but still retained the perfect amount of tartness and great acidity.

Best Pairing: Porcelet Ravioli, Sweet Corn Broth with Hand Stretched Mozzarella and Russian River Consecration. This one happened by accident. Basically, we drank the Russian River Temptation way too fast. I had meant to enjoy Temptation for two courses, but that didn't work out. I thought the Consecration, a strong dark ale aged for 6 months in Silver Oak Cabernet barrels with currants and brettanomyces, would be too much for the sweet corn broth and mozzarella. However, the delicious baby pork inside the ravioli was perfect with the dark beer. Additionally, the beer was actually light enough, and had enough acidity to not overtake the more delicate flavors of the dish.

Most Sour Beer: Hanssens Artisinal Cassis. I've been holding onto this beer since last October. I received it by chance, at Tria, after a Fermentation School class with Matthias Neidhart of B. United imports. I remember it being sour, but the additional 10 months aging in the bottle made it even more sour. It was perhaps the most sour beer I've ever had. It was out of control with wet horse blanket and musty basement flavors.

I have to thank Aimee and Bryan for allowing me to dine at their incredible restaurant. They are responsible for 3 of my top 10 dining experiences, lifetime.

Each time is different, and each time is special. And I'm especially thankful that I was able to get there one more time before my move. Not that I won't be back trying to make a reservation in December...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Best of Philly Sommelier: Melissa Monosoff

While I may shamelessly self-promote myself (and Tria), I rarely shamelessly promote my friends and their places of business.

With the Best of Philly awards coming out last week, I'm inspired to write a little homage to my good friend, and Best of Philly Sommelier, Melissa Monosoff.

We first met at a *small-scale* restaurant project you might remember as Maia. While the restaurant didn't turn out so hot, I'm thankful for the people I met at Maia.

Immediately upon meeting Melissa I realized that she was not like every other wine person. She was very down to earth, willing and happy to teach (not preach) at every turn, insanely knowledgeable, and personally inspiring. Her innate love of all things beverage-related is hard to miss. PS. She's also a big beer geek.

I have to credit her for my love of wine, and all of my basic wine knowledge. For as long as I live, Kimmeridgian clay, Salon, and Richard Betts will always remind me of Melissa.

So congrats, MM, you deserve it! :)

Currently, you can find Melissa at Savona/Bar Savona in Gulph Mills.
And, in case you missed it, here's what Philly Mag has to say:

"Sommeliers, with their esoteric winespeak and predictably expensive recommendations, can ruin a nice dinner out. Not the laid-back Monosoff, who’s more supportive wine cheerleader than intimidating salesman. She’s added handy features like a half-bottle list at Savona. And while her wine list is terrific, nothing beats getting her friendly, jargon-free, budget-sensitive wine recs."

Savona / Bar Savona
100 Old Gulph Road
Gulph Mills, PA 19428