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The Splatty Awards!

Welcome all to our 100th post! In honor of this milestone, I bring you a little something I like to call “The Splatty Awards!”: recapping the best things I have been eating, drinking & doing for the past year or so.

Best food item that comes in a jar: Tomato Conserva at In Riva 

Briefly removed from their winter menu for a few weeks in December (in which I cried into my pillow every night), the Tomato Conserva is back in action!

This sweet bruschetta will have you licking the jar clean & begging for more!

Best New York City to Philly transplant (other then myself): Shake Shack

Danny Meyer’s fast-casual burger joint quickly gained a fandom on Sansom Street in the summer of 2012, and expanded this year with outposts in University City & King of Prussia.

The Smoke Shack was initially conceived for the Philadelphia location, but has expanded to all Shacks globally.

Best food I used to be terrified of but now can’t stop eating: Oysters

Yeah, they’re slimy and salty and weird and jiggly, but they’re also delicious!

I’ve been making it my mission to hit every buck a shuck & half price oyster night in town.

Best pop-up: Lucky Old Souls’ Patty Melt Pop-up at Kennett

 When the LOS truck’s engine went kaput this fall, the team at Kennett lent them a hand – and their kitchen – for the evening to raise money for a new one.

And maybe I’m a little bit biased because it was my suggestion to turn out patty melts; a once in a blue moon burger special they were serving up on East Passyunk last spring.

Best Beer Drinking Event: Philly Beer Week Opening Tap

I’ve been partaking in Opening Tap for the past two years now, and seriously, if you’re not making this a priority during PBW, you’re missing out.

Opening Tap showcases the best and brightest of the local Philadelphia beer scene under one roof (the Independence Visitors Center, to be exact). But remember, it’s a marathon – not a sprint!

Best Beer Drinking Event Involving Animals: Summer Ale Fest at the Philadelphia Zoo

Great Beer + Local Food + Adorable Animals = One of the most awesome times you will ever have. Don’t forget to take a selfie of yourself “drinking a beer” with a tiger!

Most of the animals are actually awake compared to a day trip, and zoo docents are on hand to provide detailed information on your favorite critters.

Best Happy Hour (tie): Sampan and Alla Spina

Sampan gets the advantage as they have happy hour 7 days a week from 4-7 PM, but Alla Spina offers some great bar bites and their Victory Brewing beer collab, Novello, for only $3!

Don’t miss Sampan’s edamame dumplings or the pretzel bites with beer cheese at Alla Spina (they come in an adorable wooden piggy)!

Best Brunch: Jerry’s Bar

The Brunch crowd mourned the loss of Cafe Estelle for many months, but Marshall Green’s famous & delicious sticky buns have finally found a new home in Northern Liberties.

I hated Bloody Marys until I tried the one at Jerry’s and now I’m hooked. Seriously – best Bloody Mary ever!

Best Restaurant: Spot Burger

But isn’t Spot Burger a food truck?”, you’re probably asking yourself. Well, who says a restaurant needs to be defined by four brick walls?

 SpOt Owner/Grillmaster Josh Kim is the hardest working man in these streets right now, and he proves it on a weekly basis with his innovative specials (like a $10 Lobster Roll this summer), as well as his philanthropic efforts. He supports dozens of college organizations and local charities, frequently running specials and donating portions of his proceeds to these causes. He’s been a champion for food truck rights in Philadelphia, residing on the board of the Philly Mobile Food Association, and turned the corner of 33rd and Arch St into the “Food Truck Mecca”. So next time you see his yellow cart around, grab some grub; you won’t be disappointed! Spot serves up one of the best burgers in town.

And that concludes our awards ceremony! I hope you’ll at least check out some of the places and foods I love, in addition to the delicious burgers I recap for you guys each week. Got any great places and foods you think I should try? Post em up in the comments section and maybe they’ll wind up on my “best of” list next year!

2013 Burger Brawl

I was so upset that I had to miss the Burger Brawl last year that I made sure that I did not miss it again this year! As soon as I found out, I got my tickets and waited (impatiently), plotting all the delicious burgers I was going to enjoy. In case you’re not familiar, the Burger Brawl was started in 2011 by Restauranteur Rob Wasserman of Rouge/500 Degrees fame (who I got the pleasure of meeting by accident while taking a much needed burger time-out), and the proceeds go to support local Philadelphia-area schools by constructing new technology labs. Past winners include London Grill and Bobby Flay (which just so happen to be two of my favs).

I’d already tried a handful of the competitors that were participating this year and my strategy was to cover the burger bases that I hadn’t touched on yet like Misconduct Tavern and Percy Street BBQ (whose burger topped with ham and a cured egg yolk just happened to be my favorite of the bunch).

Percy St BBQ’s burger entry

There were all kinds of burgers on display in the competition, in many different shapes and sizes. Some decided to go the “slider” (or “mini burger”, if you want to get technical) route like Rouge and 10 Arts.

Rouge “slider”

Others were grilling up full sized patties and then slicing them into halves (like Table 31) or quarters (like The Industry); a slightly better strategy and easier to get out to the masses.

Table 31’s Burger Entry

The Industry Burger

There were burgers with crazy toppings like South Philly Tap Room’s Ham-Hamburger with Scott Schroeder’s Super Ham Salad, and Silk City’s Banh Mi Burger, which on top of the Vietnamese influences, contained a layer of liver pate! (Plus they both had awesome, detailed burger illustrations!)

I made it about halfway through the burgers before I eventually gave up and decided to take a timeout for about an hour. But unfortunately by the time I was ready for Round 2, most of the burger stations left were all out of meat! Luckily, I didn’t miss too many that I hadn’t already had like Alla Spina, The Dandelion and London Grill. The one I was most disappointed about missing was George Sabatino’s burger (his station was near the entrance when I came in, but his grill wasn’t set up yet). Luckily, Morgan’s Pier re-opens this Thursday, so I’ll have all summer long to try out this crazy burger that is supposed to be dipped in liquid nitrogen and deep fried!

So who were the big winners? The People’s Choice award went to Lucky’s Last Chance of Manayunk for their Peanut Butter, Bacon & Jelly burger! (Nice to get some neighborhood pride going!) I know that combination of things on a burger sounds kind of scary, but it was actually really good – and I don’t even like jelly!

Lucky’s Last Chance

And the Judge’s Choice went to Fat Jack’s BBQ for their “Ultimate Memphis Mauler Burger” topped with… Well, just read the description below; it’s certainly a mouthful:

Ultimate Memphis Mauler Burger

My indigestion considered, the Burger Brawl was an amazing event with an even more amazing turn out. I definitely can’t wait to check it out again next year – Hopefully it will be even bigger and better! And while you’re waiting for next year’s Burger Brawl, check out the rest of this year’s awesome burger action on our new Facebook page (Don’t forget to “LIKE” us while you’re there!): Facebook.com/ASideOfKetchup

Ommegang Presents: Hop Chef

Last night was the Second Annual Hop Chef competition in Philadelphia, hosted by Ommegang, where six local chefs go head to head creating dishes that incorporate and pair with various beers from the brewery. Competitions are held in various cities, with the winners from each city being granted the opportunity to compete at the brewery’s annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown beerfest. (Last year, Philly’s own George Sabatino took home the crown!) This year’s competitors were Mike Deganis of Alla Spina, Lucio Palazzo from La Calaca Feliz, Nick Macri of Southwark, Pat Szoke from The Industry, Eli Kulp of Fork and Yun Fuentes from JG Domestic.

Look at all those handsome dudes!

So let’s take a look at the dishes:

The first one I tried was Yun Fuentes’ dish: A duck arepa with duck confit, jamon, a cherry-fig marmalade and a glaze incorporating the beer, Rare Vos – which was pairing for the dish. I thought the duck was succulent, and the marmalade gave it just the right amount of sweetness. The Rare Vos glaze definitely brought everything together as well; it was definitely the most balanced dish I had all night. (I liked this dish so much, I snuck seconds!)

Next up, Mike from Alla Spina’s BPA braised lamb neck with fava bean, mint fregola (a tiny round Italian pasta similar to couscous), topped with a BPA vinaigrette. While I did enjoy the lamb, the fava beans and pasta didn’t really add anything special to the dish (but it sure looked nice on the plate!)

Third was a Foie Gras hot dog, topped with kimchee relish & Abbey Ale mustard on an Abbey Ale potato roll, paired with an Abbey Ale pretzel topped with Cracker Jack & mustard powder and a potato wedge seasoned with Old Bay – “Crab Fries” style – from Eli Kulp of Fork. Having just been to Fork on Saturday, I thought this dish was quite a contrast to the upscale items on the restaurant’s menu (but that’s part of the challenge when having to incorporate beer and have it pair well with the beer as well, right?). I really enjoyed the Foie dog, but the solo potato wedge just seemed like it was just thrown in and didn’t complement anything else on the plate.  I got that it was supposed to be a ballpark tribute since Cooperstown is where the Baseball Hall of Fame is, but maybe sometimes less is more.

Nick “Meat Man” Macri of Southwark cooked up a dish of Hennepin cured coppa, pickled chilies, “Ballpark” nuts with grains of Paradise bread crumbs and an orange & coriander sauce. Because you can’t win friends with salad, but you can win friends with a meat salad!

Pat Szoke of The Industry created a “slider” of Three Philosophers braised beef short ribs with pickled long hots and a Three Philosophers cheddar sauce. I thought this was the worst dish at the event. I think the cheddar sauce completely drowned out the flavor of the short ribs ( it was just kind of slathered on top). It just seemed very sloppy and I thought that a better job could have been done given the quality of the food at the restaurant itself (I mean, they have buffalo sweetbreads on their menu, for crying out loud!)

Lastly was a lamb barbacoa taco on a hominy tortilla topped with watercress, radishes and a Witte consommé, made by Lucio Palazzo of La Calaca Feliz. Again, this is another one of those dishes where I felt there was a lot of reaching going on. I wasn’t sure how the consommé was supposed to work with the taco (because honestly, who is eating consommé with a taco?) And I get that tacos are pretty easy to make and for people to eat when they have to walk around a giant room sampling a bunch of other finger foods, but seeing as the taco was the main part of the dish and it didn’t even incorporate the beer, that was kind of disappointing. (I was also disappointed because this was the only dish that I had to wait on line for a long time for and I wish I hadn’t.)

So, drumroll please…. The People’s Choice winner was Yun Fuentes of JG Domestic and the Judges’ pick was Nick Macri of Southwark! Overall, I had a great time at the event and can’t wait to check it out again next year!

Doubling Up

After not eating any burgers for almost an entire month, I book ended my juice cleanse by eating 2 burgers. And not just any burgers – 2 double stacked burgers. What can I say? I was making up for lost time. 

The night before the cleanse, we stopped into Lucky’s Last Chance in Manayunk. I feel bad for Manayunk because city people never want to come out there because it’s “too far”. (I live there so I feel kind of slighted by it, because then I feel like I’m too far for everyone. /sadface) Lucky’s is a fairly new spot – having opened earlier this year – that serves up awesome burgers, hot dogs & a great craft beer selection. I decided to go with the Bacon, Egg N Cheese Burger.

Bacon Egg N Cheese Burger

Now, all their burgers come standard with 2 patties, but you can get a “junior” with one patty. (Kind of like the ‘Little Hamburger’ option at Five Guys.) I went for the double: go big or go home, I say! I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It came on a deliciously soft Liscios Bakery roll and I opted for out-of-this-world onion strings on the side. The meat was still really hot when I bit into it, so even if they were trying to go for medium well, it was continuing to cook well after it was on my plate. It also wasn’t very juicy, so I’m guessing they probably used some kind of ground chuck blend? But the bun was the perfect size, holding all the toppings in nicely.

EAT ME!

There was definitely room for improvement. If I had been given the option to have it cooked to order, I think that would have been better. Also, a better meat blend. The website says all the patties are hand formed, so maybe just flattening them out a bit more would have helped eliminate the hot spot in the middle of the burger. All in all, I would give it a “C+”. 

A few days after the cleanse, we went to Alla Spina who just added a double decker burger to their menu called “The Burgamo“, which is built like an imitation style Big Mac, except using a LaFrieda meat blend and an in-house baked potato bun. Again, I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked (and maybe this is a thing because I’m getting 2 patties?) but the patties were thinner then at Lucky’s so more on the “well done” side. 

The Burgamo – Belissimo!  

I loved the concept, but I think the execution needs to be tweaked just a bit. While I loved the pickles, there were kind of a lot of pickles. The “special sauce” was a little too vinegary for my liking and I thought it could have had a creamery consistency if they were trying to replicate the McD’s special sauce element. I also thought maybe it could have used another slice of cheese. Overall, I gave it a “B”.

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