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Category Archives: truffle

Keeping it Pin-teresting.

Don’t get confused by this post’s title: it doesn’t have anything to do with Pinterest; it’s meant to be a nod to Varga Bar‘s playful pin-up girl decor. This week we stopped by during a very, very, very, very busy Sunday brunch (the three extra very’s are for the three other restaurants that I tried to stop at before I was able to finally snag one of the last bar seats here) to check out their veggie burger. The menu touts the burger as being topped with heirloom tomato, English cucumber, cheddar and truffle aioli on a country white roll.

The burger came out and it was positively massive! I mean, just look at that thing! I was also excited to find another veggie burger topped with cheese, especially given how delicious the one I had last week was. The patty had lots of fresh veggies in it – I tasted red peppers and there were even some visible corn kernels & chickpeas! I love to see that a restaurant is making their own veggie burgers instead of just throwing some frozen fake meat patty on a grill and then putting toppings on it. The tomato and cucumber topping was crisp and fresh, helping balance out some of the softness of the veggie patty and giving it a better mouth feel. The truffle aioli was present, but used sparingly so as to not overpower the taste of the veggies. I really enjoyed the side salad that it came with, dressed in olive oil & white balsamic vinegar. But then the couple next to me order fries and I had so many regrets! It was a very large salad portion though, so it filled me up quickly especially after how big the burger was. I wound up not even finishing it and still felt really healthy. I can’t wait to come back and try their regular burger (but make no mistake, I’ll definitely be getting it with fries)!

Business Lunch

Working in Center City leaves you all kinds of options for lunch: fast food, fast casual, food carts, your office vending machine. But sometimes you just need a nice, relaxing sit down spot that isn’t the cafeteria or your desk. Matyson is certainly a place that fits the bill: small, upscale, and there’s no bar (It’s a BYOB) so you don’t have to explain to your boss why you’ve come back to the office smelling like a brewery. I chose Matyson for several reasons: 1) proximity to my office (a whole two blocks away!), 2) owned and operated by the same awesome team behind Cheu Noodle Bar and 3) They had a $10 burger on their lunch menu. The Matyson Burger comes topped with lettuce and tomato, but you can accessorize however you please for a few shekels more (I added cheddar to my burger for a buck), and it is paired with fries or a salad (or Parmesan truffle fries for only $2 more). When I walked inside, I was instantly hit with that sweet truffle oil smell, so clearly, I had to go with the truffle fries.

The burger came out fairly quickly, a must for us business types with limited lunch hours. The bun was a buttery brioche style, housing a fairly large patty underneath. Temperature wise, the burger was cooked medium as requested, although I prefer a little bit more of a pink center (The meat used seemed very similar to the mix that comprised Cheu’s Ramen Burger over the summer). Crisp lettuce, a nice sized tomato slice (hidden beneath the bun in the above pic) and a little sprinkle of salt & pepper gave it a very fresh taste; it was very similar to the way I cook my own burgers at home. Definitely a solid burger choice if you’re lunching downtown, and a great place to bring co-workers and business associates if it’s a “working lunch”; just make sure you tip well on the company tab!

Burger rating: “B+”

Working out the Kinks

As most good burger adventures of mine also involve great beer, I optimized my latest burger eating experience by partaking in the biannual Philly beer event known as the Craft Beer Express.  I had been trying to get around to The Sidecar bar for quite some time, and it just so happened that this fun beer crawl aimed to land me there right in time for dinner (as well as for some much needed alcohol absorption). Scoping out the menu beforehand, I knew I wanted to try the “Kinky” burger as it came topped with a crispy poached egg, gruyere and truffle mayo.

The burger was cooked to well done, despite being requested medium (they were pretty slammed with all the beer bussers, so I’ll give them a pass). The bun was a ciabatta roll, which was good for containing the egg yolk drippings, but sadly, the patty was much too small and I had a pretty good bit of bun leftover. (Luckily, there was truffle mayo and egg yolk to dip my excess bun in!)

Overall, I thought the components of the burger worked pretty well together. I love truffle mayo and I love unique buns. And it was so cool how they had the crispy outside on the poached egg; it had my drunk little brain working overtime to figure out how they make it! I’d love to try this burger again at the right temperature.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: I paired the burger with the Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout from Ommegang Brewery! (Because Jon Snow is fine as hell, ya’ll)

Burger rating: “B”

The Re-visit: 500 Degrees

The last time I ate at 500 degrees I hadn’t created this site yet, even though I did make my review of the place my very first post! Since I did a revisit with the burger at London Grill after having reviewed it without posting pictures, I figured I’d go ahead & give 500 Degrees a 2nd time around as well. So, just to catch you up – 500 Degrees is owned by Rob Wasserman, who also owns Rouge in Rittenhouse Square and organizes the annual Burger Brawl. Their menu has been revamped a little bit since my first trip two years ago. I opted for “The Classic” – your choice of cheese, lettuce & tomato – cooked medium, and a side of truffle tries.

My burger was a little more on the medium well side; I’m guessing because I took it to go & it was probably still cooking in the middle on my way back to work. They’ve moved on from the super shiny brioche buns I remember from my previous trips, and the bun was nice and soft, holding up well through each bite. Crisp, fresh plum tomato slices topped the patty. The meat itself has an excellent flavor; just the right ratio of fat to lean meat to produce some juice without being bland and dried out. And considering both my burger & fries ran about $11.50 including tax (adding extra for the truffle fries), I would definitely rather spend the dough on this burger then some place like Five Guys for the same price. It was a solid, delicious, sit-down restaurant quality burger in a fraction of the time! So beat the other fast casual crowds at lunch time and check out 500 Degrees instead.

Burger rating: Previously given a “B”, upgrading to a “B+”.

Whiskey & Waffles

This year for St Patrick’s Day, I decide to eschew the grand traditions of drinking copious amounts of green beer and eating a bunch of food that has all been boiled together in a giant pot for something a little more upscale. Seeing as St Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday this year, you couldn’t ask for a better new tradition to start then the Whiskey & Waffles brunch at Ela, helmed by Scott Schroeder & Mark Regan from South Philly Tap Room. It consisted of five delicious courses with twists on some of your favorite brunch concepts; there was also an optional whiskey pairing. (I opted to get a Truffle Bloody Mary instead. My problem is I always think I want a bloody mary so I order one and get bored with it halfway through because it’s either too tomato-y or too spicy, but the truffle really gave the tomato a nice flavor; they had a few other non-traditional bloodies as well.)

First up: A pancake with syrup shot, a whiskey and OJ starter shot with maple syrup. I didn’t find it too be too sweet, but some of my dining companions found it to be too sweet to drink all at once.

Next came the cereal doughnuts: Fruity Pebbles encrusted fried balls filled with a cream based on the milk that is left behind after you eat all the cereal. The batter for the donut tasted great, wasn’t too heavy, and paired nicely with the sweetness of the cereal. (It’s about time the East Coast had a cereal donut trend like Voodoo in Portland – but these certainly blew those donuts out of the water!)

I’d never had oysters before, so I was nervous for the next dish. I’m really weird about giggly, slimy consistencies in food; they make my skin crawl. But the oyster was a lot better than I expected. It wasn’t slimy at all and had an almost  hollandaise-like sauce on it. I enjoyed it so much that I ate someone else’s oyster because they didn’t want it! This was paired with a hashbrown drizzled with bone marrow gravy and now I may never want to eat a McDonald’s hashbrown ever again (unless I’m really hungover).

On the more savory side, the next dish was coffee-coddled eggs with duck hash. Piercing the egg and mixing the yolk in with the duck made for an amazing flavor combination that was only heightened by the coffee infusion. Now this would definitely be the perfect hangover food! It also came with a little bit of bread to sop of the extra yolk and coffee gravy. I finished this before everyone else at the table, so clearly I hated it.

Last, but certainly not least, the piece de resistance, the reason we were all here in the first place: sausage waffles with foie gras whipped cream and smoked maple-whiskey syrup. They were delicious, fluffy and decadent. It was almost like the Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper of breakfast foods: First you tasted the sausage, then the waffle, then the whiskey, then the foie, then the maple, back to the whiskey, and then you were practically licking the plate clean. I was glad they only gave us half a waffle because I don’t think I could have managed a full portion of this without having to take a break and do some light cardio in between.

We all agreed once we finished eating and spending another 45 minutes digesting  – both physically and mentally – that the best part about this brunch was that  you didn’t have to choose between any of your favorite aspects of brunch. Normally you have to pick one dish: Sweet (waffles, pancakes), Savory (eggs benedict, omelets), or salty (sandwich and fries) – but this brunch had a little something from every category. All the portions were just enough and every course was spaced out with plenty of time for you to get psyched for the next dish.

The Ela/SPTR crew is hoping to make Whiskey & Waffles an annual St Patrick’s Day weekend tradition, so if you missed it this year, make sure you mark your calendar now to get a spot in 2014!

I’ll Melt With You*

*I swear the timing of this post with Valentine’s Day is purely coincidentally.

The Grilled Cheese sandwich: The pinnacle of  your childhood. The rainy day snack. The easy-to-throw-together dinner now that you’re a lazy adult. Maybe you like to keep it old school with Wonder Bread and a Kraft Single or maybe you like to get fancy with a little Gruyere and sourdough. Whatever your pleasure, Valley Shepard Creamery’s newest outpost in Reading Terminal Market – Meltkraft – is putting a twist on your favorite classic.

All the cheeses are made on-site, including their mozzarella, which is hand pulled and fresh daily. Their sandwiches are panini-pressed and are sure to please the palate; from the Valley Thunder with brisket and mac & cheese to the Somerset, a variation on the Cuban sandwich.

Plus they use this ridiculous, industrial, automatic panini maker!

You can also opt to add other things to your sandwich like duck fat, bacon or truffle oil. I decided to go for the Valley Thunder with truffle oil, and was given a choice of sea salt or dill pickle chips on the side. I went with pickle because – duh – when would I ever have pickle chips again?

The sandwich was a little more squished then I would have expected, but I guess that’s the nature of the industrial strength beast. I also smelled the truffle oil more then I could taste it, and there was less brisket and mac & cheese in the sandwich then I would have expected, especially in a sandwich I’m paying nearly $10 for (Then again, there’s also the time I paid $17 for a truffle short rib grilled cheese). Maybe this truffle grilled cheese idea is good in theory and not so much in execution. I guess it’s just a case of “Fool me once, fool me twice”.

Either way, I’m interested to check out some of their other menu items (including the sandwich with watercress – which the girl who ordered in front of me asked what that was as she was in the middle of ordering said-sandwich), and especially their fresh mozzarella which I anticipate I’ll probably buy and consume by the pound. Meltkraft is a great addition to Reading Terminal and sure to create a cult following.

Cornered.

I think we can all agree that sandwiches are awesome. They’re probably the most imaginative food creation on the planet. You take two pieces of bread – whatever kind you want: wheat, white, whole grain, kaiser rolls, ciabatta, naan, crust, no crust, etc. Then, you put some awesome stuff between those two pieces of bread – meat, cheese, spreads, sauces, glazes, veggies, what have you – and BOOM! Insta-meal. It can be hot, it can be cold, you can fry it, grilled it. Traditional or haute cuisine, there are just endless combinations of deliciousness in the sandwich kingdom.

Exhibit A: The truffled grilled cheese at The Corner.This bad boy came stuffed with braised short ribs and a hefty $17 price tag, but I figured I’d give it a whirl. I mean, truffled grilled cheese with short ribs – doesn’t that sound absolutely decadent?

Unfortunately, this sandwich was a complete let down. Yes, the braised short ribs tasted nice but I just kept struggling to find even the slightest hint of truffle in this sandwich. Was it in the cheese? Were the ribs cooked in it? Was the sandwich fried in it? Nothing. I felt cheated and lied to. How could you be so cruel, $17 grilled cheese? (God, I can’t believe I paid $17 for a fancy grilled cheese)

Exhibit B: The burger club at Supper. Available only on their brunch menu, this double decker monster features a 6 oz Pat La Frieda blended patty, and the traditional BLT elements of a club sandwich.

Now, imagine my surprise when I began tasting truffle with each and every bite. Prominent, delicious, finger lickin’ good even! I didn’t remember seeing it on the menu description but on a quick Google search, low & behold, the burger is topped with truffle mayo! I wasn’t losing my mind; this is what truffle should taste like. It should be present and in your face, caressing your taste buds gently. I practically cried tears of joy. Sandwich redemption had arrived.

Like snowflakes, no two sandwiches are alike. There’s no greater proof of that then the two sandwiches that I ate recently. Both came served on fluffy, thick bread, cut diagonally and served with a side of fries. Both claimed to have contained elements of truffle oil.  But taste wise, sometimes one sandwich fulfills all your hunger needs while another just leaves you high and dry.

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