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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Vegging out!

So, I’m preparing to go on a monster eating tour of the Pacific Northwest in a few weeks, hitting up Seattle again (which feels like my West Coast “home away from home”) and Portland for the first time (which I am super excited about since everyone touts it as a ‘Foodie Paradise’). As part of that preparation, I’ve decided not to over-indulge in all the delicious foods of Philadelphia so that I can make room for all the delectable goodness that will surely cause me to tip the scales upon my return. So no burgers, no pizza, no pasta, no rice, no junk food, NO BEER (!!) – and other treats in limited quantities, until August 9th!

So far on my “Snack Sabatacle”, I’ve managed to be pretty good. We took a little trip to Elevation Burger and it was soooooo hard not to order something with meat. (Guys, dead animals are delicious; don’t trick yourselves into thinking they’re not.) But I showed tremendous restraint and ordered a veggie burger #2, while my dining partner ordered veggie burger #1 and we split both of them as well as a side of fries. (That was also hard because I hate sharing fries!) 

Veggie Burger #2 is supposed to be the totally vegan, all veggie burger. It has a little bit of  visible corn in it as well as some other veggies. I obviously am not a vegan because I put cheese on it. (Another thing I am trying to limit, but I was worried it would taste like cardboard if I didn’t put cheese on it.) And I was pleasantly surprised! It was totally tasty. I wanted to eat it all but remembered we were splitting them.

As for Veggie Burger #1, it was supposed to have a “fire roasted taste”; maybe if it was fire roasted BLAH! It had absolutely no taste at all, the cheese didn’t help, and I wanted to cry about how bland it was after I finished eating it.

So, survey says: Veggie #2 > Veggie #1. (But obviously in my world, Meat > Veggie, period.)

I also took a raw foods adventure at Jar Bar Philly, ordering a delicious Asian Kale salad. I mean, I guess that’s not really jumping head-first into the raw food movement since salad is already raw, but I dipped my toe in the pool. 

 This + Asian Ginger Dressing = soooo yummy! Kale ❤

I also got a Strawberry Kale Lemonade elixir, which was totally delicious and surprisingly filling. And we split a chocolate mousse pie for dessert, which did not taste like cardboard or like it was some lo-cal diet gross thing. It was super yummy and now I wanna make it forever and ever.

Photo courtesy of http://www.bridgesburgersbeer.com/
I can’t believe it’s vegan!

The trip to Jar Bar was basically just to get an idea of what exactly raw food is since we are planning on doing the 3-Day Catalyst Juice Cleanse right before our trip. (In case all the trying to be good about eating and stepping it up with the exercising isn’t working out well enough.) I’ve never done a cleanse before, but I read up on a friend’s experience with the same cleanse and it seemed not to be soooo bad. I’m still a little bit nervous about it, but another friend is also doing a FIVE day cleanse right now and he seems to be doing alright. I’m sure a lot of it is easy if you have good willpower and self-control. I think maybe if I was eating fast food and other junk stuff all the time already prior to this, it would be difficult to go cold turkey and just drink juice six times a day for three days. 

The part I’m most worried about is not being able to drink coffee! You are restricted to water and decaf tea as the only other beverages other than the juices during the cleanse; reason being that since you are detoxing your body of the gross stuff, you will have more energy and not need coffee.(We’ll see about that…)

The countdown is ON! 

Days until the cleanse begins: 8
Days until Seattle:14
Days until Portland: 18
Days until I bring all my pants back to the tailor to have them let out: 23

Feelin’ Seedy…

…Or “A good bun is hard to find.”

I’ve expressed my disdain in the past for brioche burger buns, mostly because people get thrown off about the quality of a burger if it’s wedged between two shiny pieces of bread. But the fact of the matter is: a burger’s bun can really make or break the burger sometimes.

For example, this burger from Farmer’s Cabinet:

Looks totally great right? The bun felt really soft and tasted buttery – which overwhelmed the taste of the burger, so it was kind of disappointing. (I felt like I was getting the Paula Deen special.) Plus, even though it was flavored like butter, it was definitely not as smooth as butter. The bun’s buttery softness actually made it a little dry and crumbly, and the burger wasn’t juicy enough to even it out. Even with the amount of ketchup I tried putting on it, I felt like it was hard to swallow at times.

Example #2: One Mile House‘s Bowery Burger
Photo credit: Bridges, Burgers & Beer
The bun was just your basic, supermarket-style hamburger bun. Plus, the burger-to-bun ratio was totally off here. Bet you can guess what happened when I picked it up to eat it. It promptly began to fall apart in my hands – especially after adding ketchup and burger juices flowing. A bad boy burger like this needs some backup. You can’t just throw it on a whimpy potato roll! (Especially since it’s loaded down with all those toppings.)
But the Parliament Burger at Pub & Kitchen gets it right:
Good burger-to-bun ratio, gets everything nestled under there nicely, plus the adorable pickles on top. It was a sturdy bun, it looked good and it tasted delicious. It didn’t add or take anything away from the burger itself; it was the perfect compliment. (And did I mention how cute it looks!?)

However, sometimes great buns happen to not-so-great burgers:
Photo credit: Bridges, Burgers & Beer
Oh yeah, I want you inside me.

Here’s that trick I was telling you about: Using a sexy looking bun to reel  you in and trick you, while secretly disguising a less than stellar patty underneath.
Photo credit: Bridges, Burgers & Beer
It’s like the morning after the bar and you wake up next to someone realizing you had total beer goggles on the night before. Look how small that burger is compared to the bun! Not to say the burger itself wasn’t tasty. But I was eating a lot of bread most of the time when I was wishing I was biting into a delicious, juicy patty. (Industry Burger – The Industry, Philadelphia)
Let’s recap: A good bun should be – firm yet soft, stand up to anything you pile on top of it, be willing to take in anything that’s thrown it’s way, never overwhelm, look cute, taste delicious and go down easy. (FYI, these are the same things I look for in a relationship.Hey-o!)

Smorgasburg!

A few weeks ago after a Friday night bender in NYC, my hangover left me with an insatiable hunger to eat ALL THE THINGS! But what did I want? (Making decisions when hungover is wayyyy hard, bro.) Enter – SMORGASBURG: An outdoor food flea market wonderland located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You want a chicken pie pot with a corn on the cob on the side and a vegan, low-fat, organic smoothie, plus some s’more macaroons for dessert? Well, your wish has been granted because you can find pretty much anything and everything your palate desires in this lot located down by the East River which houses several dozen vendors every Saturday. 

 Yummy-ness awaits just past these chain-link gates!
With so many options to choose from, we were unsure just where to begin. We did a lap around first so that we didn’t choose one place and then walk 5 feet, see an awesome-r place and then go “SHIT! I shoulda went there instead! 
Obviously I was tempted to go for a burger first, especially when DuMont was serving up 6 oz mini sliders. Since we were sharing, it was kind of a one-bite deal, but still pretty juicy & tasty! I loved the tiny brioche bun, but the bread & butter pickles were kind of meh. (Those are my dad’s favorite, not mine.)

Our next stop was Lumpia Shack. If you’re not familiar with lumpia, they are delicious Filipino spring rolls – and I’m a giant sucker for them. 

They had a special roll of the day, which was Kaldereta – a short rib filled spring roll – so we got an order of those, as well as their “vegetarian option” consisting of a fresh veggie and tofu salad on a crepe, almost like an inside-out spring roll. The Kaldereta rolls were good, but the salad was a little bit lacking. I was kind of unsure what to even do with the crepe since it was soft and mushy from the salad, so it was too hard to eat. I think maybe if they kind of rolled the crepe around the salad like a wrap, it would be a little easier to eat. 

Kaldereta lumpia!
“Fresh Lumpia” salad – tasted good, but not well executed.
Just shortly down the walk from Lumpia Shack we found Brooklyn Piggies, where they were serving up fat little pups in puff pastry. Too awesome to pass up, and at only $2 a pop, we just had to get one. My only complaint is that the puff pastry crumbles as soon as you take a bite, so you’re kind of like, grasping at these bits of dough falling out of your mouth. Still yummy, though!

What food adventure would be complete without dessert? We stopped at Dough, whose slogan is “We Fry in Bed-Stuy”. These doughnuts are probably the best thing to come out of that part of Brooklyn since Biggie Smalls! They’re big and yeasty and delicious – and they blow Federal Doughnuts right out of the water.
I ordered a Cafe Au Lait doughnut and it was so friggin good that I was greedy and didn’t even share with my dining buddy. (Sorry! But c’mon, look at that thing! You wouldn’t share either.)
And finally, just when we thought we had eaten everything we could and we were going to explode, we decided we just had to get a little bit crazy and try out fried anchovies at Bon Chovie. With an awesome, rockin’ name like that, how could we not check them out??
 For those about to Nom, we salute you. 
(Yes, I know that is AC/DC and not Bon Jovi, but just go with it.)
So, I’d never had an anchovy before. I have never had a desire to have an anchovy. But I’ll try anything once. Because hey, you never know – you might like it. 
 And… yeah, that’s it. I took one bite and I did not like it. Anchovies are not for me.
(This was also probably the worst thing to eat when it was 97 degrees out.)
Smorgasburg has something for every one, so pack up your shit and head over there some Saturday afternoon already! (And if you can’t find anything you like there, then you’re the pickiest eater alive and I have no respect for you.)
 

Comida!

Back in the day, I used to run a little blog called “Mexican Fridays“, where, you guessed it – we would choose a different Mexican restaurant every Friday to eat at. I use the term “eat” very loosely as it was mostly us sharing a pitcher of margaritas and drunkenly shoving some chips and/or fajitas into our faces. It was kind of a short lived thing because we usually got too tanked to remember what we ate and my waistline started rapidly expanding from the all the empty calories. 

Mexican food is definitely one of my favorite kinds of food – and when I say Mexican food, know that I’m referring to the Tex-Mex, Americanized version of the cuisine that most of us have come to know as “Mexican”. Don’t be a total snob about it and say “Oh well, that’s not real Mexican food!” I grew up in an area that was very heavily populated by Mexican immigrants, so I’ve been to my fair share of hole in the wall taquerias, but obviously, that good ol’ Americanized stuff is what’s more readily available. 


A lot of places are trying to incorporate finer cuisine into their Mexican-style menus, and there’s no greater sign of this then in the Philadelphia area. From El Vez to Distrito to La Calaca Feliz, there are nopales salads, duck confit nachos, hamachi ceviches and pulpo tacos side by side with jumbo margaritas and bowls of fresh guacamole topped with lump crab meat. But the thing that really gets on my nerves the most is that they’ve all appropriated the same aspects of Mexican culture into the decor: the bright colored roses, the skeletons, the low rider bikes, the Luchadores. So every place has become a carbon copy of the other because someone said “Hey, I like this! People here like this! Let’s do the same thing at our place!” 

 El Rey’s skirt steak sopes: pretty and delicious

Can we maybe tone it down a bit? Yeah, the Day of the Dead festival is awesome but maybe we do it for a day or a week in the fall? I’d like to walk into a mexican restaurant and actually see a Mexican flag, maybe some paintings on the walls of Aztec ruins, even some cheesy mariachi guys with a horn player strumming “La Cucaracha“. Something that actually feels like a little, roadside cantina in Tijuana. Anything but these overkill, super-hipster neon Mexican places adorning Center City. 

Exhibit A from one of the biggest offenders
On the opposite end of this spectrum, one of the better mexican places I’ve eaten at here in Philly is Mexican Post (Love Park/Cherry St location). The decor inside is so minimal, you might forget that you’re even eating in a mexican restaurant, but the food is pretty great. On my most recent visit, I got a chicken chimichanga that was ridiculously good; covered in sauce, slathered in cheese with a side of rice and beans.

Look at that bad boy! 
Who needs Kobe beef tacos with truffle oil infused avocado reduction sauce when you’re getting a delicious version of something that’s standard? Plus, something like this takes the guesswork out of paying $15 for something you’re not sure you’re going to like and that probably won’t even fill you up. Mexican food isn’t meant to be fancy and overpriced; it’s meant to be comfort food, to taste good, fill you up, and want you coming back for more. And I definitely plan on visiting Mexican Post again whenever the mood strikes.
The Vulgar Chef

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