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Monthly Archives: October 2012

National Food Day

Yesterday was National Food Day, and as part of promoting well, food, the Philly Mobile Food Association hosted a pop-up inside the courtyard of City Hall. Usually relegated to the space across the street in LOVE Park, this was the first time Food Trucks actually set up shop on City Hall’s property in what vendors hope will be a new spot where they can serve the public and hopefully bring attention to the growing popularity of food trucks in order to get Philly’s archaic mobile vending laws changed.

I decided to check out the Street Food Philly truck because they’re kind of elusive (They don’t even have a Twitter account, guys!). They post their location on Facebook and are usually set up around Drexel/U-City, which is hard for me to get to for lunch during the week. Their menu also changes daily so there’s always something new to try.

I decided to go with the Local Dry Aged Burger and the Sea Salt fries, obviously.

The burger took a while to cook, but that gave me time to check out what everyone else was getting. The brisket cheesesteak tacos didn’t really look so hot but they’re were flying out the window, along with the lentils & braised pork. Finally, my burger was done and I took a seat in the courtyard to enjoy my meal.

The burger came on a pretzel bun (because, Philadelphia) and was topped with white american cheese & a housemade mayo. I was really excited about the bun at first, but it kind of made everything too salty. Once I isolated the burger itself, it was actually pretty tasty. I tried putting some of the homemade ketchup on it but it was a fail. My big problem with some homemade ketchups is that they can either taste really good or taste like marinara sauce; this one was the latter. Since I’m not into putting Ragu on my burgers, I ate it sans my favorite condiment.

There was a lot of bun left in the end since it was so big, but I appreciated that the bun was kind of woven like a braided pretzel as opposed to some other pretzel buns that are just a roll and split. It fell apart in the right places and it’s thickness helped hold in all the juicy goodness from the meat.

The sea salt fries were ok but they were obviously frozen, cafeteria style fries. (I’m sure my cholesterol was through the roof with all the sodium I had that day!) And paired with the house ketchup, I could barely even finish eating them. I think my other problem with the ketchup was that it was cold. If it had been room temp and maybe a little sweeter, it might have been better. Either way, I think Street Food Philly is a solid addition to the Food Truck scene here and I hope to get the chance to try some more of their stuff in the future.

Queue for BBQ

If you work in a fairly large city, you probably already know that if you don’t bring your lunch with you that you’re destined to spend a good portion of your lunch hour fighting the other throngs of lunch-less office dwellers in the quest to eat. (And you find yourself spending more time waiting to actually get your food then you do eating it.) Oh sure, you could try to time it so you beat the rush. Or maybe  you go a little bit later once things have settled down. But there’s at least a dozen other people all using your same trial & error method.

I work in Center City Philadelphia and my main option down the block from my office is the Market at the Comcast Center, which provides of a plethora of options from Mexican to Chinese to Sushi to Jewish deli sandwiches to a DiBruno Bros outpost. But one of my favorite places – and a pretty recent addition to the market – is Percy Street BBQ. If you’ve ever been to the Percy Street location on South St, then you already know how amazing their food is. I mean, why get a McRib when you can get the Percy Street boneless pork sandwich for just a few bucks more? (Which is HUGE and you could probably save half of it for dinner, but I’m a fat kid so I ate the whole thing in one sitting.)

Heaven on a Hoagie Roll

They’ve changed up their menu items since they first opened this past winter (sadly, that delicious beast above is no longer featured), but the quality is unbeatable. And even with a side and a drink, you’re still coming out just around $10. So if you’re in the Comcast Center area and looking for a lunch that won’t break the bank, definitely pop by Percy Street!

Real & Delicious Pulled Pork for only $7!? It’s true!

A Twofer at Tria

So I went to Tria for the first time last weekend…. and I also went there for the second time last weekend as well. Yes, I loved it so much that I went to 2 different locations two days apart; Tria Wine Room in University City on Friday and then Tria Cafe on 12th & Spruce on Sunday.

Friday night’s adventure was dinner with a friend. From 4-6 PM they have $5 wines during happy hour. (I tried a white wine which I completely forget what it was and am by no means a wine connoisseur so you’ll have to excuse me. ) And for an appetizer, my friend and I both got their truffled egg toast with fontina fontal.

I had been smelling truffle the entire time I was waiting for my friend and knew that I just had to get it (especially after my last truffle encounter). And as soon as I put fork to mouth – OMG – immediate mouthgasm. Every bite was a little bit of ecstasy. Everything about this dish was just perfect; from the way the cheese perfectly fit the bread to the truffle oil mixing with the egg yolk. I wanted to order like, five more of these.

And then I got an amazing fig, gorgonola & pine nut salad with this rich balsamic vinaigrette and I was so hungry I ate it all before taking a pic.

But that’s ok! Because then I went to Tria again for their weekly “Sunday School”, which features a beer, a wine and a cheese at a discounted price (the caveat being that you can only order one of each item). This week’s menu was Toro “Tinto Robles”, a robust red wine, butterscotchy Ascutey Mountain cheese and Ommegang Scythe and Sickle, a celebratory Harvest Ale.

I started out with the Ommegang, which according to the menu was a refreshing alternative to all the other “pumpkin” and “Oktoberfest” ales that are out this time of year. I was worried it would be too hoppy, but it had a nice flavor and a bright amber color; very smooth, balanced and very tasty. I really enjoyed it.

Then I paired the cheese and the Tinto. The cheese was very soft and creamy, and came with a side of local honey which I drizzled on and was very complimentary. The wine was also really good; smooth without an aftertaste that you can get from some red wines (And my entire mouth wasn’t totally purple afterwards!).

The best part about my visit? All this amazing-ness cost less than $15 (before tax)! I definitely encourage any and everyone to check out Sunday School if you haven’t already. It’s definitely the best deal for a classy “Sunday Funday”.

Royal Jubilee

Royal Tavern is celebrating their 10th anniversary this week and with it comes an uber-celebration featuring some of their greatest menu items of all time, with each day having a theme such as “most amazing appetizers” or “best brunches of the past decade”. Kick off night was 10/10 and they were spotlighting their “Burger Birthday” with a surf & turf burger topped with a crabcake, a hawaiian burger, a falafel burger for the veggie crowd and – for the most gluttonous of us – the bacon burger – which had actual ground up bacon mixed with beef. Clearly, that’s the one I decided to go for.

Mmm. Bacon burger topped with more bacon.

I wasn’t sure about the whole bacon in the burger thing but on first bite, I was sold. The flavor combo was pretty delicious and didn’t at all taste like you were eating a giant chunk of bacon. The fat from the bacon I think also kept the meat nice and juicy. It was also topped with cheddar & grilled red onions and came with a side of chili mayo which I was a little indifferent about; it didn’t take anything away from the burger but it didn’t really give it anything extra when I added it either.

My only complaint would have to be that my bun was a little over-toasted (as you can see in this pic). While I don’t mind a toasted bun, the fact that my burger bites were interspersed with this kind of charred bread taste was kind of a turn off. Otherwise, it was a solid burger! I hope maybe they’ll break this one out of the vault again in the future. I definitely think I enjoyed it better than their usual Royal Angus burger (which I sampled a few months back & which is currently being touted as the “Best Burger in Philadelphia”).

Angus Burger at Royal Tavern (and a much less burnt bun)

Burger rating: Bacon Burger “A-” (only due to the bun issue, otherwise it would have been an A) &  Angus Burger “B+”

Me vs. Maradona vs. Ela

Forgive the confusing post title; I’m just running with the theme at Ela, where all their cocktails are named after songs by the band, Brand New.

I’d been meaning to come to Ela for some time now, mostly because they have an elusive burger that is only offered on their happy hour menu Tuesday-Friday and they only make 10 of them a day. Made from house ground sirloin and short ribs and topped with aged cabot cheddar, watercress, shitake, sauce and a house black sesame bun that’s baked an hour before serving, the Ela bourbon burger is as rare as a four leaf clover!

And boy was it rare alright! I ordered the burger medium and it was still bright red inside when I bit into it – yet perfectly cooked at the same time. The bottom of the bun fell apart a little bit when I was eating so it was hard to maneuver this massive patty. It was still pretty tasty though! The side of tots were just alright. They were more like little potato puffs – and they kind of had that fried, carnival food taste, almost like a funnel cake without the sugar on it. (And I didn’t even get any ketchup, you guys!)

I also got 2 of the pop-punked themed drinks off the ELIXIRS menu as well: The “Last Chance to Lose Your Keys“, which had tequila, rosemary, kaffir lime, citruses. I didn’t really like it. Maybe it was the kaffir lime and rosemary combination, but it tasted a little too chemically to me. And it was gray. I don’t know about you, but that’s about the least appealing color I want to see in a cocktail glass. I also got the “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad“, not just because that’s one of my favorite Brand New songs, but because it sounded delicious.

It had gin, burnt sugar, absinthe and lemon in it – absinthe rinse on the glass and then it appeared that the gin and lemon were already mixed because the bartender squeezed it out of some kind of seltzer bottle into my glass and waited for it to settle. (That’s where the foamy bits come from) Then she topped it off with the drizzle of burnt sugar. The effect was pretty cool and it tasted great; I just wish that there had been more actual liquid in the drink. I felt like I was getting nothing but foam at the first few sips.

I’d definitely love to come back and check out the rest of the drinks, as well as their regular food menu. The couple next to me were doing the chef’s tasting and everything that came out looked amazing.

Burger rating: “C”

PS. Rumor has it they will be rolling out the burger on their new brunch menu this Sunday so you won’t have to run to happy hour just to get it (but you’ll still want to because, c’mon guys, it’s happy hour).

Hole-y Moley!

It seems like just the other day I was talking about donuts. Oh wait, that’s because I was. Well, it’s with good reason: donuts are delicious! And also, because Federal Donuts just opened their second location. Proving that the strange mix of fancy donuts and fried chicken is the key to success, FedNuts is now serving up fancies, birds and hot donuts in Center City Philadelphia on 16th and Sansom. Not only that, but their menu is completely different from their Pennsport location, giving you some great new variety not just for donuts, but in the types of dry/glazed chicken as well.

I ventured out early on their opening day (Tuesday, October 2nd) and was please to find the place all to myself! Oh wait, that’s right, because they pushed up the opening from Wednesday and I pounced on the chance. (Which was great because there was a massive line the next morning which I wasn’t about to try and fight people on.) Overwhelmed by all the attention on myself, I wasn’t sure where to begin! I thought maybe I’d get a minute here to mull over a menu as a dozen other people went before me, but I had to be quick on my feet!

Process of elimination: Don’t like mint, don’t like lemon, don’t like butter pecan.

That left me with Green tea-sesame, Maple Bacon (!) and Spicy PB&J. I ordered. I paid on their super cool, totally high tech iPad (which they use with Square), which I can’t tell if it’s a good or bad thing; if every person paying with a card has to sign an iPad & then select a receipt option (email, text), won’t that slow down the ringing up process? Meh. Moving on! I got my donuts, I got my coffee and then, as I was putting cream in my coffee I was given a hot, fresh Turkish Mocha!! Yay bonus free donut!

Mmm.. Donuts. *drool*

Ate the Turkish Mocha first because WARM FRESH DONUT, duh. Other then being hot and sugary, the flavor didn’t really stand out to me. In fact, I wouldn’t even have known it was Turkish Mocha unless the employee told me when he gave it to me.

Next I tried the Green Tea-sesame. OMG soooo good. I loved how rich the green tea tasted. It reminded me of powdered matcha that they have in restaurants in Japan where you pour the powder directly into your mug and then use a table side faucet to add hot water. Matched with the sesame, it was a perfect combination.

After that was Maple Bacon. Now, I tried the Maple Bacon bar at Voodoo Doughnuts and wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t sure if this was just a ploy to hop on that bandwagon or not, but I took a bite and WHOA. It definitely packed a punch. It was maple and bacon in all the right places. And definitely not as sweet as the bar at Voodoo (or as stale). I don’t know if I could have eaten one of these all by myself. Good thing I had co-workers to help me! I put the leftovers on my desk to share and immediately, my one co-worker stopped short and went “ARE THOSE FEDERAL DONUTS DONUTS!?” and then they just all swarmed my desk.

Lastly, Spicy PB&J. I’m not a big PB&J fan in general. Never ate the sandwiches as a kid. In fact, I pretty much hate jelly, period. But I gave it whirl. I was waiting for the spiciness and then POW! It hit me. Please note, I have very mild taste buds and am not good with spicy/hot things though, so I’m not sure how you “normals” will react. But the jelly – ugh. I just couldn’t get past it. So my co-worker gladly finished the rest and kept coming by my office throughout the day asking if I had anymore left. I think I created a monster fan!

Eventually once the crowds die down, I’m looking forward to trying the different types of fried chicken. (And by that I mean convincing my new supervisor, who has an affinity for throwing fried chicken parties, to order FedNuts chicken for us on a bi-weekly basis.) So look forward to a bird update soon!

A Full-On Monet.

“What’s a Monet?”

“It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess.”

…..

That’s kind of how I felt about the Betty Burger at Smokin’ Betty’s. But it was kind of a big, delicious mess.

The September meeting of Burger Club Philly took place here recently and I was admittedly swayed by the promising description of the Betty burger: 1/2 lb sirloin, confit pork belly, avocado, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli AND a sunny side egg? This was like my burger soul mate.

Seriously, everything that I have ever wanted on a burger was on this bad boy (or girl, as the case may be). So I ordered and waited with anticipation and then…

The wrong burger was placed in front of me.

So I waited some more and then finally, she arrived. With a giant steak knife through the center, she was a thing of beauty.

Or was she…?

As soon as I pulled out the knife, all hell broke loose. There were just too many elements contained under one brioche bun. But I knew I could do this. So I got my bearings, gripped hold of that bun tight, and tucked in. There were run away avocados, there was leaky egg yolk, but I didn’t care. I just kept on trucking through it and I finished before everyone else at my table. /wipe sweat from brow.

Was it the best burger I’d ever had? Sadly no. I had just been temporarily blinded by all its amazing qualities up front, kind of like when you first start dating someone and you think they’re ‘the one’ even though they have completely differing opinions & do little things that irritate you that you try to overlook but can’t. But it wasn’t terrible! I just think I got a little over zealous trying to find my meaty life partner. Sometimes you don’t have to put all your eggs (and avocados and pork belly) under one bun.

Overall rating: “B-“

The Vulgar Chef

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