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Category Archives: bourbon

Pick Me Up

People have been telling me for years how the burger at New Wave Cafe in Queen Village is a hidden gem. However, it just never comes up on my radar while I’m out and about. This weekend though, I had to drop some delicious bourbon off to my friends over at Home Speakeasy/Rock or Neat who live only a few blocks away, so I was ready to indulge in some burger deliciousness. But you know how things go when it comes to friends and whiskey. You decide to stick around and try a little bit, and then a little more, and then before you know it you’re watching YouTube videos and you can’t quite muster the stamina to go to a bar. Well, thank goodness for take-out! Usually I’m skeptical when it comes to ordering burgers for delivery: you never know if they’ll get the order right, toppings could be missing and the burger keeps cooking on the way & you open a styrofoam container and everything’s moist and limp and sad. Since we were only minutes away from the bar, I figured that going to pick it up would be a much safer bet than relying on Grubhub. New Wave’s burgers are 9 oz patties served with lettuce, tomato & onion. There’s also a bunch of other various cheese & topping combinations, but I just kept it simple ordering my standard medium temperature patty topped with cheddar cheese.

My friend retrieved the burger safely and the presentation looked great for a carry-out container. It was on a soft, seeded bun and the burger was perfectly proportional. On first bite, I saw a pink center and was extremely relieved. The burger itself was tasty and flavorful (even after the 3 or 4 bourbons I’d had that evening). All the toppings were fresh and the cheddar cheese nice and gooey. I was also impressed by how well the fries held up in transit. Still had a little bit of crispy to them and tasted freshly hand-cut. It was a great, fancy bar burger – even if I didn’t eat it in a bar. My only 2 regrets are 1) not having tried this burger sooner and 2) not taking advantage of the variety of toppings. I’ll definitely have to get to the actual bar to check out another burger soon!

Burger rating: “B+”

Hamming It Up

Back in February, Top Chef season 7 winner Kevin Sbraga branched out from his fine-dining namesake restaurant and opened The Fat Ham, a good ol’ fashioned Southern dining establishment. The menu is centered around home-style classics like shrimp & grits, fried oysters and hot chicken. A pimento cheese-topped burger used to be on their lunch menu, but unfortunately, they ceased lunch service a few months ago. I had really been looking forward to trying that burger, as pimento cheese is a Southern staple. I even tried a pimento-topped burger in Nashville, but was unimpressed. Well, the burger gods must have heard my prayers, because The Fat Ham just brought the burger back, offering it only on Friday & Saturday nights after 9 PM (kind of like Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch, who at 10 PM each night, serve up a limited 24 burgers). Not only that, the burger comes with fries and is paired with a shot of Four Roses bourbon and a Neshaminy Creek beer (AKA “the Citywide” special) for a mere $18. Considering the burger itself is a 6 oz Wagyu beef patty, it’s probably the best deal in town.

I was not asked how I wanted my burger cooked, but it was a perfect medium-rare (anything else on that quality of meat would practically be criminal). The bun was soft and fluffy, baked in house in the same sesame seed topped style as the table rolls and the slider rolls used for the fried oyster sliders. The pimento cheese was gooey and slightly browned on top, the red peppers and pickles in the cheese giving the burger a nice, tangy kick.. With no toppings other than the cheese, it was simple and delicious. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until 9 PM on the weekend to eat it – I’d order this bad boy all the time!

Burger rating: “A”

Out on a Limb

This winter was brutal but thankfully, Spring has finally sprung! Thanks to this weather warmup, I can finally venture further out in the city once more – or perhaps I should say “branch out” – as this week’s adventure took me to Bourbon & Branch in Northern Liberties. Formerly an old neighborhood bar called Liberties, the space has been slightly updated while also keeping a kitschy & old timey feel (ie. bartenders with curled mustaches, cocktail menus pasted into the pages children’s books). The menu is pretty meat-heavy, as bar food can tend to be. I opted for a make-your-own burger option, upgraded to two 5 oz. patties instead of one, and topped with cheddar.

The menu states that the burger comes with lettuce, tomato & onion but my burger came out completely bare. I was really disappointed. I mean, look how sad all that meat looks alone on the bun! Even though I was asked my temperature preference, because I knew the patties would be so small I wasn’t expecting them to be medium/pink inside. They were still moist & flavorful, but I think I would have enjoyed the burger more with some kind of vegetable buffer. Normally, I would have felt food shame eating such a pile of meat by itself, but my dining companion had me beat; he ordered a 4-piece fried chicken platter with bacon mac & cheese! (We’re convinced a busser came by & asked if he could wrap up the rest of the food because he wanted to prevent my friend from having a heart attack.) The bun was soft and slightly buttery, and since there wasn’t any drippage from the meat, I didn’t have to worry about a soggy bottom.

Speaking of bottoms, Bourbon & Branch also plays host every first Wednesday of the month to the Beauty & Brains Burlesque & Variety show! The food may not have been so hot, but the lovely ladies (and gent!) performing upstairs certainly were!

Burger rating: “C-“

South in yo’ Mouth

Last night I was invited to the Four Roses Whiskey Tasting at Percy Street Barbeque, which also doubled as an unveiling of their delicious new menu items. While the menu had been primarily focused on Texas style BBQ, a lot of other competition in the BBQ arena has started to pop up around Philly (Most notably Stephen Starr’s Fette Sau). Looking to stay ahead of the curve, Chef Erin O’Shea has spiced up a bunch of Southern favorites while still keeping your tummy happy with delicious smoked meats.

First up were a variety of appetizers:

Poached shrimp with spicy pickled vegetables, beer vinegar, saltines. Just think of it as a Hillbilly shrimp cocktail!
 
Lamb ribs with braised sauerkraut and apples; so tender & falling off the bone.
Pork Belly with house made potato bread, cured egg yolk, maple syrup; I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Fried Virginia oysters with sausage and grits; The oyster was so light and moist considering it was fried. This was probably my favorite of the starter dishes.

Meanwhile, we were busy blind sampling five different bourbons from Four Roses’ lineup. We learned that Four Roses uses 5 proprietary yeast strains with two separate mashbills to produce 10 different bourbon blends, each with their own unique character, spiciness, and rich fruity flavors. Each of these bourbons are aged in different distilleries throughout Kentucky, and depending on temperature, evaporation and other environmental factors , each bourbon has a different taste. We were asked to rate each of the 5 samples from 1 (being our least favorite) to 5 (most favorite), and at the end our results were tallied and that would determine which barrel Percy Street will be using this upcoming season.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Philadelphia Whiskey Society, so I’ve gotten used to tasting different whiskeys and adapting my palate.  We were first asked to take a drop from each whiskey and rub it in our palms to heat it up, and then smell our palms to detect the different fragrances in the whiskey. Then, nose the whiskey with your mouth slightly open to pick up more of the aromas (kind of the way snakes use their tongues to smell, right?). Finally, the sipping! With your tongue pressed slightly behind the back of your bottom teeth, letting the liquid slide into the middle of your tongue to get a good “mouth feel”; determining the burn or smoothness, texture, floral or woody-ness, etc. and letting it coat your tongue thoroughly as it works its way though all your flavor receptors. After sampling a bit of each whiskey, I then added a few drops of water to see how it would open the bourbons up. Some of them improved slightly, but for others, not even water could change my mind. I went with the whiskey in the Green dotted glass, which turned out to be the overall winner. I twas just very smooth and sweet and there wasn’t a lot of burn afterward (Percy Street will be revealing the exact name of the bourbon and its distillery location this week, with the barrel arrive in 4-6weeks).

Just when I thought everything was said and done, each of our tables was delivered Percy Street’s epic meat tray; The Lockhart – several slabs of brisket, half a chicken and a handful of ribs, along with five sides. Holy cow (and pig)!
Baked beans, sauerkraut, housemade coleslaw, German potato salad and collard greens: yum!

After all those amazing appetizers, I wasn’t even sure if I had room to eat any of it, but I took a chicken leg, a small rib, some brisket, all the sides and went to town. There were six people at our table and we received three Lockhart trays between us. We were a table full of ladies and could easily have probably just shared one or two between the group; there was so much food left over! (Although I did look around at the Men’s tables and their plates were pretty much licked clean, lol) I’m pretty sure I left in a meat coma and woke up this morning smelling like BBQ, but it was so damn delicious. I definitely can’t wait to get back over there to try more of the pork belly, grits and of course, our specially selected Four Roses bourbon. Keep your eyes on their Twitter feed for the whiskey name and its arrival at the restaurant!
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