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Monthly Archives: February 2013

In LOVE with Vernalicious

Every week, LOVE Park on 16th and JFK has a rotating lineup of some of the finest food trucks in Philadelphia. (Try saying that last part 5 times fast!) This Tuesday I conveniently forgot my lunch and the very awesome VERNALICIOUS truck was there to save the day!

They’re mostly well known for making an amazing pulled pork grilled cheese and on top of that, they just won the People’s Choice Award at the 2012 Vendy Awards. Once I found out they were parked down the block for lunch, I was really looking forward to one of their other hit menu items: the banh mi.

 

I opted for the tofu banh mi, since I am gearing up for Meatless March (I seriously considered getting  a burger but stopped myself). I’m a big fan of tofu banh mi and was excited to try Vernalicious’ take on the Vietnamese sandwich.

The sandwich was definitely smaller then you would get at a place in Chinatown or on Washington Ave, and it was $6 compared to QT’s $5.50 for a sandwich almost double in size. (I suppose you do have to take into consideration the cost of running a mobile food business compared to brick & mortar, though). The presentation was great and the flavor composition was in the right area. The tofu was nice and moist, and was balanced out well by the crusty bread and crunchy cucumbers.

I would definitely try this again if I was looking for a healthy lunch alternative or sticking to my vegetarian diet post-March. And if you happen to be in the LOVE Park area when Vernalicious is, and the banh mi is on the menu, you should check it out too!

I’ll Melt With You*

*I swear the timing of this post with Valentine’s Day is purely coincidentally.

The Grilled Cheese sandwich: The pinnacle of  your childhood. The rainy day snack. The easy-to-throw-together dinner now that you’re a lazy adult. Maybe you like to keep it old school with Wonder Bread and a Kraft Single or maybe you like to get fancy with a little Gruyere and sourdough. Whatever your pleasure, Valley Shepard Creamery’s newest outpost in Reading Terminal Market – Meltkraft – is putting a twist on your favorite classic.

All the cheeses are made on-site, including their mozzarella, which is hand pulled and fresh daily. Their sandwiches are panini-pressed and are sure to please the palate; from the Valley Thunder with brisket and mac & cheese to the Somerset, a variation on the Cuban sandwich.

Plus they use this ridiculous, industrial, automatic panini maker!

You can also opt to add other things to your sandwich like duck fat, bacon or truffle oil. I decided to go for the Valley Thunder with truffle oil, and was given a choice of sea salt or dill pickle chips on the side. I went with pickle because – duh – when would I ever have pickle chips again?

The sandwich was a little more squished then I would have expected, but I guess that’s the nature of the industrial strength beast. I also smelled the truffle oil more then I could taste it, and there was less brisket and mac & cheese in the sandwich then I would have expected, especially in a sandwich I’m paying nearly $10 for (Then again, there’s also the time I paid $17 for a truffle short rib grilled cheese). Maybe this truffle grilled cheese idea is good in theory and not so much in execution. I guess it’s just a case of “Fool me once, fool me twice”.

Either way, I’m interested to check out some of their other menu items (including the sandwich with watercress – which the girl who ordered in front of me asked what that was as she was in the middle of ordering said-sandwich), and especially their fresh mozzarella which I anticipate I’ll probably buy and consume by the pound. Meltkraft is a great addition to Reading Terminal and sure to create a cult following.

Give a Hoot about the Red Owl Burger

I’d been meaning to get over to Red Owl Tavern for a while. Hotel Monaco just opened back in September and I’d been to their rooftop lounge, Stratus, but Red Owl is their cozier (and warmer) bar downstairs. I stopped in for Sunday brunch to try – what else? – their Big Red Owl Burger topped with crispy bacon, cheddar, herb sauce, onion marmalade and a side of pepper jack cheese fries. (Other people who had been here told me that they melt shredded cheese on top of the fries and it sounded amazing.)

So I sat at the bar and placed my order while perusing their ridiculously large liquor selection. (Is that a bottle of Hibiki? I didn’t even know  you could get that in PA!) They also had a “To Go” cafe inside the restaurant for hotel guests looking to just get a quick pastry and coffee, and an upstairs seating area as well. Finally, my food came out and it was just a pile of cheesy deliciousness.

The waiter warned that the fries side of my plate would be hot, obviously from them sticking it under the broiler to get the cheese to melt. I liked the little bit of cheese; I was originally worried they would be too ooey-gooey, like diner-style cheese fries.

I had ordered my burger medium and it was slightly medium-well. But I really the herb sauce & onion marmalade; it helped distract from the overcooked flavor. Tomato & lettuce were nice and fresh, bacon was nice and crispy, and the bun was a cute little seedy brioche. (What can I say? I love cute buns!)

Sup?

I would definitely try the burger again in the hopes of getting it spot on pink & juicy. The other elements of the burger really helped keep it together instead of making it a disappointment.

Burger rating: “B”

Oh, You Fancy, Huh? (Philly Edition)

A friend and I went out to celebrate my very belated birthday with dinner this weekend and found ourselves at Rittenhouse Tavern, which is very much un-tavern-like and very underrated. It’s located inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance building, so if you blink you’ll miss it if you’re walking down the street. I joked that I was going to get the burger (a special LaFrieda dry-aged blend, topped with Ed’s special sauce and sharp provolone on a brioche roll), but since my friend knew the chef (the very talented Nick Elmi), we got a little bit of VIP service.

Chef Elmi put together an amazing tasting  featuring a few of their menu items, as well as some special treats (like a rosemary smoked marshmallow for the dessert course!). I didn’t want to take pictures of everything and distract my dining companion or the other patrons since the lighting was pretty low, but once the table next to us cleared, I was able to capture some of my favorite dishes from the tasting.

Amuse Bouche: Truffled jelly-crema duck egg.  It was rich with truffle flavor, great texture, and it came in an adorable, hollowed out egg! This was sinfully delicious and produced the quote of the evening: “I’m a slut for truffles.”

Main course: Sweetbreads – It was my first time having sweetbreads so I didn’t have anything to compare them to. But they were amazing, beautifully plated (accented with cute little flowers!) and delicious; buttery smooth. They are not currently on the menu but hopefully the Chef will bring them back soon!

Dessert: Panna cotta – OMFG. This was ridiculous. So rich and velvety. I wanted to basically stick my face in the cup and lick it clean. That’s how much I loved it.

There was also a chocolate marbled foie gras that was part of the terrine plate that was out of this world. (Who would have thought that foie and chocolate pair so well together?) A veal and shrimp ceviche -part of the amuse bouche – brought back memories of my ex-bf’s love of fried veal cutlets, but this dish was certainly above his “refined” culinary palate. A chilled soup with salmon roe was tasty, but not really my cup of tea. (Although the roe was much on par with roe I’ve had in Japan and far less salty than the kind they use in local sushi joints.)

In a city rife with top chefs and award winning restaurants, Rittenhouse Tavern is definitely an overlooked gem. Why they didn’t make any “Best Of” lists was something we spent a good while speculating over in between courses (money and favoritism being some pretty obvious factors), but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for an amazing tasting menu experience. Every dish was elegantly prepared and wonderfully delicious.

Five courses will run you $60/pp, with an additional $40 wine pairing option.

Showing LOVE for LOS

I can’t believe I haven’t written about the Lucky Old Souls Burger Truck on here yet. I’ve done a Yelp review on them before but I haven’t talked about their awesomeness on this site yet, so here we go. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, Lucky Old Souls (or LOS) is an awesome burger truck that roams the streets of Philadelphia from LOVE park to Chestnut Hill – and they play fun jazz music while you wait.

They’ve got a great array of burgers: from build your own to their special burger of the day/week to the signature LOS burger, which is what I got for lunch the other day.

The LOS burger is a Lancaster grass fed beef burger topped with their homemade bacon, smoked cheddar, pickled tomatoes, sauteed onions and their signature “LOS sauce”. They also make their own ketchup (spoiler alert: It’s amazing!!), which is delicious and a perfect compliment to their handcut fries. 100x better then that burger I just had in D.C. and probably one of my favorite “on-the-go” burgers in town. So if you see a giant truck with diagrams on it and music blaring, stop by and satiate your burger craving! You won’t regret it.

The Vulgar Chef

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