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Category Archives: eating

Oh, You Fancy, Huh? : Birthday Edition

I’ve finally awakened from my food coma so that I can recap the amazing dinner I had this past weekend at Zahav’s chef’s counter; a must-try culinary experience of 10-12 courses crafted by Chef Michael Solomonov himself. Here are the rules: The chef’s tasting is only offered on Friday & Saturday nights, there’s only one seating at 7:30 PM, and there’s only 4 seats available; you must purchase 2 seats at least a month in advance (It’s only $90/pp & they go like hot latkes!). You can also opt for a $50/pp beverage pairing when you arrive. DO THE BEVERAGE PAIRING! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

I apologize in advance for the lack of details on some of the dishes, as there was no written menu. But just sit back, relax & enjoy the food porn!

Course 1: Potato Chip starter, topped with chives & bottarga

Course 2: Zahav’s infamously delicious hummus, served with fluffy pita bread, lamb’s tongue & pickles

Course 3: Dried figs topped with feta

Course 4: Beet “tartare” with an Avocado crema & Salmon roe (I know lots of people are not keen on beets, but this was tasty & creative!)

Course 5: Lentil Soup with Bone marrow & Challah (This was featured on Zahav’s Instagram page earlier in the day before our dinner, so I was super psyched!)

Course 6: Lamb crudo with Eggplant & fried artichokes (One of our favorites of the night)

Course 7: Sage & brown butter “dumpling”

Course 8: Branzino sashimi with baba ganoush (Our least favorite dish of the night; it was incredibly salty.)

Course 9: The Entree – Short rib with brussel sprouts, radishes & carrots (The short rib cut like butter!)

Course 10: Dessert #1 – Poached apple & Quince

Course 11: Dessert #2 – Dates & Turkish coffee crema

The whole entire dining experience was amazing, start to finish. Chef Solomonov even came out halfway through service to check in on us and see how we were doing. I’m glad to finally add myself to the list of people who have lived through the Chef’s Counter and can now brag/rave about it to everyone else I know! Since there isn’t a pre-set menu, they do ask you in advance if you have any allergies or dietary restrictions. They also ask if you are down to eat anything; just say yes – don’t be a baby about it! I highly recommend it for your next big special occasion – or if you just feel like having a fancy, adventurous dinner. Just dress comfortably, reserve all  your daily calories and prepare to have one of the best meals of your life.

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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.

No Reservations

Until today, I’d only had a casual relationship with Anthony Bourdain; slightly acquainted through bits of pieces of episodes of “No Reservations” I’ve just happened to flip through on the Travel channel. But tonight, I sat down and watched a marathon of episodes, including his new show ‘The Layover’ and absolutely fell in love with this man. (You know that phrase ‘ugly sexy’? He’s the perfect definition of this.)


Other than food, my other passion is traveling. I developed a severe case of wanderlust after my first trip to Japan in 2007 and it hasn’t seemed to calm down yet. I’m constantly making mock itineraries in my head of where I would go, perusing Travel sites and scouting Kayak for cheap fares. I would probably sell my soul to the Devil (if I hadn’t already sold it for a Tickle Me Elmo in the 90s) to be able to be a travel and food writer full-time. But eating is certainly a lot cheaper then traveling, and so you’ve got this blog to read instead.

In case you’re not familiar, Anthony Bourdain is this sexy, sass-mouthed New Yorker who travels the world eating the things you’re afraid to eat and doing the things you’re afraid to do; basically you live your life vicariously through Tony. He loves lamb balls (yes, testicles) and despises vegetarians. He also talks a lot of shit in the process. (It’s that whole rugged “New Yorker without a filter” thing.) From talking about how he would eat a Spam sushi roll while stoned at 2 AM, to wanting to dip his penis into a container of fake cheese, to comparing a barbecued cow’s cheek to an erect nipple – he’s essentially my dream man.

This is really just kind of a bullshit filler post, I suppose, but I’m gonna share some of my favorite Bourdain-isms that I kind of think parallel my own philosophies as far as food and traveling are concerned. So enjoy!

…….

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

“Any place that refuses to serve you a burger under medium temperature is basically on the side of the Terrorists.”

“PETA doesn’t want stressed animals to be cruelly crowded into sheds, ankle-deep in their own crap, because they don’t want any animals to die-ever-and basically think chickens should, in time, gain the right to vote. I don’t want animals stressed or crowded or treated cruelly or inhumanely because that makes them probably less delicious.”

s-EAT-tle

I just returned from a 4 day trip exploring the Pacific Northwest city of Seattle – and what trip would be complete without a visit to the World Famous Pike Place Market?

In case you didn’t know, Pike Place Market was opened in 1907 as a way for people to cut out the middle man and avoid high prices for their food and produce. This way, people could “Meet the Producer” (Their slogan to this day) of what they were buying. Every space is rented out on a daily basis, sometimes with vendors rotating if they can’t get there early enough to get their usual spot. They offer everything from fresh fish, to fruit, to flowers, to honey, cherries, beef jerky, t-shirts, wood carvings, calligraphy, bracelets and more.

And of course, there’s the fish throwing.

My first morning in town, I went to a delightful little restaurant near my hotel called Toulouse Petit, which offers an awesome breakfast happy hour with most dishes for a mere $7.50 from 8-11 AM, Monday through Friday. I’m a total sucker for some eggs benedict with avocado, so I ordered up their Avocado & Roma Tomato eggs benedict. My food seriously came out so fast, I wasn’t even sure it was mine – not to mention, I hadn’t even gotten served my morning cocktail from the bar yet. The menu touted the dish as being served in a Creole-style hollandaise sauce, but I could barely taste it. The avocado melted in my mouth though and the potatoes were crispy and delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try their beignets and creme caramel french toast!

That afternoon, I walked around the International District, hitting up Uwajimaya, a Japanese/Asian supermarket akin to Mitsuwa here on the East Coast in Edgewater, NJ. I pretty much died and went to heaven. If I ever moved to Seattle, this would be my mecca. I got melon pan and a chocolate stuffed bread for snacks (which were my favorite when I visited Japan). My sole purpose of this visit was to get some fresh, delicious sushi. So I walked a few blocks over to J-Sushi. When I first walked in, I was a little put off because the staff were sitting at a back table all eating lunch. Having worked in the restaurant business before, I just think it’s bad form to be eating in front of your customers – especially if it’s food from another restaurant. So of course I was skeptical about the food and didn’t really want to leave and find another place to go because I was in the mood for sushi, so I took my chances (even when the waitress took my order with a piece of rice stuck to the side of her mouth). I ordered the J-Combo, which included miso soup, 5 nigiri, 4 sashimi, a roll, 2 gyoza and a little bit of seaweed salad. Well, appearances can be deceiving because the food was fantastic! The soup hit the spot on a cold, misty day. The sushi was very fresh and delicious. The spicy tuna roll was especially spicy; I had to keep eating ginger to cool my mouth down. The gyoza were warm and plump. Definitely worth the $18.95 (as opposed to a lot of place that will overcharge you for a minimal amount of food.)

Later that night, I tried Dick’s Drive In – a local fast food burger place – on the recommendation of a friend who told me that if I did nothing else on my Seattle trip, I must visit Dick’s Drive-In for great post-drunkenness food. Well, I wasn’t drunk but I was hungry and didn’t feel like eating at a sit down because it was pretty late, so I headed over to Dick’s. There was a line but it moves pretty fast because most of their burgers are pre-packaged and ready for the crowds. Had to pay for ketchup which is like UGH for a severe ketchup addict like me, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. The fries were delicious; greasy and fresh hand-cut shoestrings. The burger was better then McDonald’s/BK/Wendy’s quality and definitely hit the spot as far as a quick burger goes.And it was cheaper for a whole meal too! Came to under $6 for fries, burger & small drink. (Obviously, I’m not going to go as far as saying it was the best or worst burger in Seattle; We’ll wait until I go back to visit again to try a whole Seattle Burger Quest.)

The next day, I snacked on one of my Japanese breads for breakfast because I was saving my appetite for that afternoon’s Savor Seattle Gourmet Food Tour, which promised 3 hours of food and booze filled enjoyment while walking around downtown Seattle. The tour started at The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company, where we met our tour guide Eric (aka the guy in the Kilt) and got to have a little chat with the owner of the cupcake shop while sampling 2 of their most popular cupcakes:

chocolate with sprinkles (top) & pancakes and bacon (bottom)

The pancakes & bacon one was out of this world. Tony & Michael, the owners, rotate 220 different flavors of cupcakes at the shop throughout the year. (They also shared some tricks of the trade that are going to come in mighty handy whenever I decide to move my ass and start my own cupcake business.)

Next stop was Serious Pie, owned by restauranteur Tom Douglas – aka Seattle’s answer to Stephen Starr here in Philadelphia. (Which I guess makes Serious Pie the West Coast version of Pizzeria Stella…) We tried 2 different pizzas: roasted chanterelle mushrooms & truffle cheeseand yukon gold potato, rosemary & pecorino. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, so I tried to take a slice with the smallest one I could find. The truffle cheese was amazing. On the potato pie, the pecorino is shaved onto the pizza when it comes out of the oven, making it delicate and flaky and delicious.

Third stop was Icon Grill, where we tried a succulent, well prepared tenderloin topped with blue cheese, an Orange Drop martini (their take on a traditional Lemon Drop), and a side they dub “Ultimate Mac n Cheese”, which contains 4 cheeses and is topped with bread crumbs – to which they add more cheese sauce on top when it comes out of the oven. (HINT! The secret ingredient is Velveeta!)

We then walked over to the Pike Place Market, stopping into La Buona Tavola for a little bit of potato leek soup with truffle oil and some samples of aged balsamic vinegars. Next in the market, we went downstairs into Il Bistro, for their seafood risotto with clams and tomatoes, as well as a rich, Sangiovese red wine.

Oh, but we’re not done yet, friends! Next, we got a private tour of the Pike Place Brewing Company – getting to see how they store their grains and brews and how they bottle and fill the kegs. After that, we went upstairs for a beer and cheese pairing. I bet you never though of pairing beer with anything other then the cheese on your nachos, but these were pretty great. We tried an Ale and an IPA with an aged cheddar and a blue cheese, the brewery’s own house made spent grain bread on the side. (Because who doesn’t love carbs with their carbs??)

Second to last stop was Thoa’s Vietnamese restaurant where we ate Vietnamese Pad Thai served with Nuoc Cham – or fish sauce – as opposed to the more gooey, peanut infused style Pad Thai you’re probably familiar with. I really enjoyed this dish because I love Nuoc Cham, especially over Bun (Vermicelli). It was just really light and flavorful. I’ll probably start making my pad thai more like this at home.

Finally – Dessert time! Gelatiamo, serving up delicious, homestyle gelato and sorbetto. We sampled the Caramel gelato and Fragola (Strawberry) sorbetto.

The next day was my very last day in Seattle. I got up early, went back down to Pike Place Market to stand on line for my signature favorite drink: Skinny Caramel Macchiato, at the Original Starbucks.

The line moves pretty quickly and there’s a gift shop as well. The staff are fun and fast (unlike some Starbucks I know – cough18thandMarketcough). They even still use an original hand pressed espresso machine!

I really wanted Fish & Chips – had been craving them for weeks and decided to save the craving for Seattle. I popped into the Athenian Inn in Pike Place, which apparently was where they filmed a scene from Sleepless in Seattle (never saw it so I couldn’t tell you). I got a nice window seat to watch the ferry boats come in and ordered a Pike Brewery Auld Acquaintance, one of their seasonal beers, in a nice, frosty mug.

I’m not sure what they used to batter my fish in, but when they came out, they were neon orange. I was a little skeptical, but I still ate them because I was starving. I’ve definitely had better fish & chips from the freezer section at the supermarket, but I guess you’re paying for the ‘experience’ of eating here.

And that was it! I ate some amazing things and some mediocre things and some kind of questionable things, but I guess that’s true of pretty much any place that you go. I definitely had a lot of other places on my list where I would have liked to eat, plus suggestions that were given to me by friends I made along my journey. I just didn’t have time or the stomach capacity to fit it all in!

So consider this the first installment of S-EAT-tle, for now. I promised I’d be back soon.

As if there aren’t enough food blogs!

Yes, yes. I’m well aware that anyone who loves to stuff their face and has internet access probably has created (or has thought about creating) some type of food blog while enjoying the “best they’ve ever had”. Today, that time has come for me.

Long ago, I had a short lived blog rating local Mexican restaurants. (To the best, I gave Five Sombreros.) Today, my food fancies range from the quest for Philadelphia’s Best Burger to scoping out the latest Food Trucks to hit the city streets. Do I consider myself a “foodie”? Not by any means. I like to eat. I like things that are tasty and interesting. I like sharing those tasty, interesting edibles with other people. I’m not a snob about it and I’m not trying to be. That’s why I created this blog.

I’ve called it ‘A Side of Ketchup‘ because growing up, I was a very picky eater. My go-to food was chicken nuggets and french fries, and I would put ketchup on literally everything. (Including filet mignon – leading to many a dinnertime cringe fest.) Since my teen years I’ve eaten lots of different things that I never would have imagined eating, broadening my limited ethnic cuisine range from “Fried” and “Italian” to Vietnamese, Sushi, Indian and beyond. Now, I will try anything once. My mother used to tell me, “You don’t know if you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it”. And I have a feeling that’s the case for most people who have never tried foods and simply ‘don’t like them.’ I’m here to try and alleviate some of your food fears – and hopefully make some friends in the process. So enjoy reading and feel free to eat along!

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