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Category Archives: pork belly

Feeling Hollow

This week’s “trek back from the ‘burbs” landed me in Mount Airy once again, this time at Goat Hollow (not to be confused with Goat’s Beard in nearby Manayunk). I’d heard good things about the burgers here so I figured it was worth checking out. They had four specialty burgers which you can get with your choice of beef, chicken or veggie – as well as a lamb burger that is listed under their sandwiches. I opted for the signature Goat Hollow burger, topped with pickled pork belly & provolone – because I love pork belly (even if I have had some hit or miss run-ins with it used as a burger topping in the past).

The burger came out and looked pretty promising. However, once I picked the burger up, the beef looked like it was a frozen, pre-formed patty, which was kind of a let down since I’d heard such good things. When I took it bite, it was definitely not medium as requested and quite overcooked, which confirmed to me that it was probably a frozen patty. The pork belly was overpowered by the pickled flavor and also very overcooked and chewy. The sharpness of the provolone clashed sharply with whatever was used to pickle the pork belly, giving it a harsh, bitter flavor. The bun, a boring brioche. With no other toppings aside from a smear of the same aioli they gave me for my fries, this burger definitely left me feeling hollow. I was disappointed because the atmosphere inside was cozy and they were playing tons of my favorite 80’s songs (The Smiths, A-ha, Men at Work and the Talking Heads twice? Yes please!). Oh well, at least the draft list was decent!

Burger rating: “C-“

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Rockin’ Burgers

So you’ve decided to go out and catch some live music. You’ve pushed through crowds to get a beer and a good spot to watch the band when your stomach begins to rumble. You know you should’ve eaten before the show but now here you are, minutes away from seeing  your favorite band and you’re hungry. What will you eat? Well, I’ve got a few burger suggestions from some local venues to help you out.

First up, Festival Pier. This re-vamped, outdoor space on the Delaware River plays home to Michael Shulson’s (of Sampan & Izakaya fame) Independence Beer Garden Truck, a mobile outpost of the newly opened beer garden on Independence Mall. The burger here is a simple patty topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, mayo and provolone on an onion roll. Considering the food is coming out of a truck while trying to accommodate a massive festival crowd, my burger was cooked perfectly medium without me even having requested such. It was juicy and delicious, showing that the crew running this truck has gotten handling long lines down to a science. Plus, they take credit/debit cards, so you can save the rest of your cash for an overpriced $12 can of Miller Lite! They also offer hot dogs, hoagies, fries, mac & cheese and grilled Mexican-style street corn.

Next, Boot & Saddle, a revived musical institution on South Broad Street catering to the indie and local music scene- with the occasional big name act on the bill (check out the events calendar for upcoming shows). With a solid craft beer selection and a menu created by George Sabatino, it sure beats your average dive bar fare of peanuts and PBR. The burger here is topped with smoked gouda, chili relish and braised pork belly (!).  My only issue with the burger itself were that I wished there had been perhaps a glaze or sauce to accompany the pork belly; the chili relish didn’t really add anything to the burger and the single piece of lettuce underneath just seemed out of place. It was also paired with a house-made ketchup that was far too citrus-y to use for dipping, although I did add a little on one bite of the burger to try and give the pork belly some more flavor. Otherwise it was perfectly cooked to medium as requested, another rarity you might not find in a dive bar.

 

Burger Ratings:

Festival Pier “A”

Boot & Saddle “B-“

Fishing for a Good Burger

Very rarely do I find myself in South Jersey, but on a particular adventure one Friday night to Wegman’s, we decided to stop at recently opened Cherry Hill outpost of The Farm & Fisherman. The Philly spot is a small BYOB, while this suburban destination boasts both a Tavern and Marketplace. We opted to sit at the bar since we just wanted something quick, and obviously I had to try their Colonial Burger: a blend of Wyebrook grass-fed beef and Heritage pork belly, topped with Jersey cheese and malt mayo.

While the presentation was nice, I was very disappointed. The ciabatta bun was nice and soft, but way too big for the size of the burger patty. The burger was requested medium and completely overcooked. I had hoped that the blend of beef and pork would give it a nice, succulent flavor and be really juicy, but it was totally dry and almost painful to eat without lots of mayo and ketchup. The shredded iceberg lettuce topping also seemed really awkward and too fast-food like for this venue.

I had originally wanted to try their other burger, The Industrial, which is a dry-aged brisket patty topped with cheddar cheese and onion jam, but thought the pork belly blend would be interesting. Next time, I’ll stick with my gut.

Burger Rating: “C”

Cheu Carefully

What’s that? You haven’t been to Cheu Noodle Bar yet? Well what are you waiting for!? Ever since their noodle pop-ups at Matyson last spring (and their previously controversial name), there’s been much buzz around Ben Puchowitz & Shawn Darragh’s Asian inspired cuisine. And now that they’ve finally secured their own brick & mortar spot, the only thing you have to worry about is beating the crowds to get there.

I stopped in on a Friday night around 7 and snagged a spot at the counter where you can see the chefs doing their thang, listen to funky fresh beats and check out the dope art lining the walls; this certainly isn’t your typical ramen spot, that’s for sure. I was waiting for a friend so I figured I’d get some appetizers in advance and promptly ordered up some pork belly dumplings that were on special, BBQ pig tails and some pork belly & cheeseburger buns to start, plus a bowl of ramen since it was a little bit chilly out. Everything came out quickly and was delicious – and good thing my friend didn’t show up right away because I’m not sure that I would have been willing to share!

BBQ Pig tails: fall off the bone delicious!

Pork belly dumplings in chili oil: because you can never get enough pork.

I don’t want none unless they got buns, hon.

Ramen: The broth was nice and rich. Bet it’s even better on cold days, too!

The menu is ever changing, with lots of weekly specials in addition to their small plates and noodle offerings. So bring a friend or two (or three), some beers (it’s BYOB) and head over to Cheu to order practically everything on the menu. Or check out their new lunch menu starting TODAY! (6/5) and every day (except Tuesdays) from 12-2 PM. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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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