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Category Archives: fried

Sunnyside Up

I know I’ve had my issues with brunch in the past, but Sunday mornings are quickly becoming my favorite part of the week. I mean, what’s not to love about brunch?! A whole menu full of both sweet and savory foods plus a socially acceptable atmosphere in which to get completely wasted before noon? It’s a beautiful thing! This time, I decided to keep it local and check out Derek’s in Manayunk so I could sample their brunch burger: a 1/2 pound prime sirloin patty topped with a fried egg and bacon (plus the option to add cheese for $1 more; I went with cheddar).

In a rather bold move, I opted to order the burger mediumrareas I feared that dining outside of Center City might mean receiving a burger closer to well done if I ordered it medium (I was also splitting the burger with a friend who wanted to order the burger rare, so this was our middle ground). The burger did come out pleasantly pink inside, somewhere between medium-rare and medium, much to my surprise and delight. When the burger arrived, the bun was doing a little wiggle as it floated on top of the poached egg underneath. It was pretty cute; kind of like when Jell-o jiggles! The bacon was thick and crispy and the bun soaked up all the juices of both the meat and egg yolk quite nicely. It was a tasty burger, but nothing spectacular. And as far as burgers I’ve had that were topped with fried eggs & bacon, it was certainly no Cyclops from Sketch Burger. But if you happen to be in Manayunk during the Sunday brunching hour, I would definitely check it out. (Oh, and did I mention Derek’s offers $2.50 mimosas?)

Burger rating: “C+”

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Hou-la-la!

I’ve been in a New Orleans state of mind lately since it’s the setting for both Top Chef & American Horror Story this season. All those cajun flavors and accents (and these frigid Northeast temperatures!) had me longing for a little bit of the south right now. Naturally, Catahoula seemed like it would be the perfect place to satisfy these cravings. In addition to catfish po-boys and Jambalaya, they’ve also got a great lineup of Abita beers and some awesome South-ified burgers. I decided to go with the Houla burger: an Angus beef patty topped with pulled pork, cheddar & fried pickles (It’s also topped with lettuce and a huge slice of beefsteak tomato, which is hidden under the lettuce in the pic below). Their fries are seasoned with Creole spice for a little bit of a Cajun kick.

I ordered the burger medium. For being such a large patty, it had a fair amount of pink inside, bordering on medium-well while still being juicy. The outside had a great backyard BBQ grill char to it. I just love the flavor that a good char gives to a burger; it always tastes a little bit like summer. The pulled pork was sweet and succulent. I would definitely love to come back and try the pulled pork alone! The fried pickles had a great snap to them; the breading was light enough so they weren’t gross, fried soggy messes (and didn’t burn your tongue with leftover oil when you bit into them). The bun was thick and very proportional to the burger – I mean, with all those toppings, it had to be! It did a great job of holding everything together once I took out that little stick placeholder. Unfortunately, the bottom bun did start to disappear after a couple of bites since the burger was very topping heavy. I eventually flipped the burger upside down so that I could try and get rid of the top bun and get to the pulled pork & pickles faster. I managed to make it to the last few bites before the bun totally broke off, so not too shabby.

It was a beast of a burger! I was actually afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish it, but I made it and it was totally worth the food coma I experienced an hour later. Paired with an Abita Purple Haze, it almost made Front Street feel like Bourbon Street – well, until anyone opened the door, that is.

Burger rating: “B+”

Flying South

When the weather gets cold, the birds migrate south to warmer weather. So on one of the chilliest days yet this Fall, I decided to head south to the cozy shelter of South Philly Tap Room for brunch. I’d been meaning to get down here for quite some time to check out their breakfast burger: a 100% grass fed beef burger topped with thick strips of bacon & a fried egg.

The burger is accompanied by a bowl of hollandaise sauce, homemade ketchup, and a small pickle salad (hidden behind the bun). I ordered the burger medium as usual, and found it to be slightly more on the medium-well side, but with a nicely charred exterior; the sign of a great grill-master. Between the char and the use of 100% grass fed beef, it gave the burger a great overall flavor. The homemade ketchup was delicious (despite my preference for high fructose corn syrup enriched Heinz). The hollandaise sauce left a little to be desired. It was starting to congeal slightly & I just thought, presentation wise, it was awkward to be in such a big bowl. It was pretty tasty though once I put it on the burger and I even dipped my fries in it. The ciabatta bun was soft and thick, perfect to soak up all the juices from the beef and the runny yolk of the egg without getting soggy. And the bacon was the best! Nice, crispy, thick slabs – not some whimpy Oscar Mayer bullshit! All in all, a fairly solid bar burger.

Burger rating: B

The “Hunger Games”

I’m probably the last person on Earth who hadn’t been to Sabrina’s cafe for brunch – until this past weekend. And it’s a good thing that I did because their ever changing & always fun themed brunch specials were in honor of the upcoming release of the Hunger Games sequel: Catching Fire (In theaters everywhere November 22nd!) I opted for ‘Enobaria’s Big Bite Burger”:  a grilled Angus burger served on brioche with shredded Napa cabbage, carrots, caramelized leeks, papaya-sriracha aioli, fried panko-encrusted Japanese eggplant, and a fried wonton (it was also topped with shitake mushrooms, but I ordered it without them because, ew mushrooms).

The burger came out & it was massive! Much like Katniss, I would have to use my smarts and skills to work my way through this. I gripped the burger with both hands and took careful bites to make sure all the toppings stacked on top didn’t spill out on to the plate. But halfway through, I noticed I was starting to run out of bottom bun! I had to make some maneuvers, but I was able to successfully finish each bite without running out of bun too soon. The burger was cooked perfectly medium. The papaya-sriracha aioli had a great flavor (my friend even ordered a side of it to dip his fries in). There were too many leeks on the burger for my liking & I did eventually have to pick some of them off. And even though I was skeptical about the slice of fried eggplant, I thought it worked really well with the burger. In the end, I defeated this beast of a burger and emerged victorious!

Burger rating: “B-“

Falling in Strangelove

Strangelove’s is a beer bar that opened this past spring on 11th and Walnut. You may remember this spot in one of its previous short-lived incarnations such as the Blue Bear Tavern, The Butcher & The Brewer, or the Boilermaker. But with the masterminds behind Memphis Taproom, Local 44 & Resurrection Ale House manning the helm, it seems set to fair a lot better than its predecessors. (It already jumped to the top of my favorites list when they hosted Toshiyuki Kiuchi of Hitachino Nest beer fame during a tap takeover back in May.) While sometimes throwing in some of the familiar cast of characters on their beer list, they tend to lean towards the eclectic: rare finds, one offs and collaborations – such as their own Duet, with Manayunk brewery and WD-70, with Yards.

Naturally, I stopped in to have a burger. Their namesake Strangelove’s burger features a fried green tomato, goat cheese and a bacon BBQ sauce. I wasn’t feeling quite that adventurous, so opted for the Joe burger: lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar, pickles, mayo – and added truffle bacon.

The burgers are paired with your choice of chips, salad or coleslaw. I went with coleslaw, because what better way to eat your vegetables then to have them slathered in mayo? Unlike last week’s dilemma where I found myself quickly running out of bun, there was the perfect bun to burger ratio. The bacon was thick and crispy, but the truffle flavor wasn’t really present; possibly overwhelmed by the rest of the toppings.

The burger itself was a little more on the medium well side, probably due to the thickness of the patty (you’re definitely going to need both hands for this bad boy!), but still fairly juicy. My only regret was getting the coleslaw because there was just way too much of it (at least a full 1-cup serving). I thought about putting some of the coleslaw on top, but I think it would just sog it down. I do have another suggestion, though: If you come in for the Strangelove’s Express lunch during the week (Mon-Fri, 11:30-3PM, 2 courses for $14), try ordering the fried green tomatoes as your appetizer and put some of them on top of the burger. Boom! Now you’ve got your own mash up of both the Joe & the Strangelove’s!

Burger Rating: “B+”

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!

Hangover Food

After a night of excessive drinking in the Kabuki-cho district of Shinjuku while in Tokyo last year, some friends and I ventured back to the area the next day for lunch. In the basement of Alta shopping center lies Silver Octopus (築地 銀だこ ) which serves up Takoyaki – a fried batter ball filled with octopus.
Now you may be asking yourself, why would you subject yourself to something with octopus when you are in a state of hangover half-death and everything you smell makes you nauseous? Well, my friends, Takoyaki turned out to be the most amazing hangover cure ever. Obviously, anything fried will always do the trick, but for some reason, this was extra delicious. Maybe it was the mayonnaise on the side, or the sprinkling of bonito flakes on top – who knows? Whatever it was, it definitely was the cure for what ailed me.

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