Blindfolds and Brown Butter: Cooking with Campbell’s

I love the cooking process. The chop of vegetables, the sear of meat, the sizzle of oil, and the aromas filling the kitchen. Unfortunately, my “kitchen” is actually just a stove in a hallway and bumping into hanging pots and pans when I turn to grab the salt makes the whole experience a lot less pleasurable. When I was presented a chance to try my hand in something a little spacier, I jumped at the chance.

When can I move?

When can I move?

Sure, the folks at Campbell’s aren’t technically in Philadelphia, but just a quick trip over the bridge in Camden, you’ll find the Campbell’s Campus complete with kitchens, cafeterias, and kettlebells (well, I’m not sure about the last one, but they do have a gym for the employees). Their kitchens are where the magic happens, and thanks to a partnership with Camp Campbell’s last year, I was able to visit this cave of wonders with the wizards themselves. Certified Master Chef Tom Griffiths, Executive Chef Maria Gamble, and Chef Carrie Welt brought the heat (get it?! kitchen humor!) teaching us about how and why the chefs at Campbell’s “Own the Flavor”.

The Master at work!

The Master at work!

We started out discussing the importance of the entire sensory experience, and there was even a little sniff-off.

Half of us were blindfolded, and the other half administered “the test”. Guess who didn’t miss one?!

50 Shades of... Smell?

50 Shades of… Smell?

Wanna know my secret? Every single ingredient has been in a cocktail I’ve enjoyed lately. Finally, being a part-time cocktail queen pays off!

Thank you, Volver, Sassafras, and 1 Tippling Place for all the help.

Thank you, Volver, Sassafras, and 1 Tippling Place for all the help. Ginger, lemongrass, limes (“This smells like shots!”) and lemons!

My prize was yet to come, but I did get a hint…

I see you, baby.

I see you, baby.

Before we got too sweet, though, we had to get a little savory. And, for savory, we went to the sea. Namely: Scallops.

My buddy KT making fast work of these little suckers. And there were a lot of them.

My buddy KT making fast work of these little suckers. And there were a lot of them.

We learned how to yank the muscle out of the scallop and we prepared these bad boys for cooking two ways:

  1. Poached in green tea
  2. Sautéed in brown butter

I know.

Poaching is something that I typically only equate with eggs, but Chef Tom let us know that it can create a clean, fresh take on seafood. Green tea poaching was something I’d never considered, and the scallops came out of a brief bath with a hint of earthy lightness (think the suggestion of grass).

So fresh and so clean

So fresh and so clean

We were momentarily sated.

And then the butter came out to play. Sorry, green tea, but you really didn’t stand a chance.

What's that you say? You need to be tastier?

What’s that you say? You need to look tastier?

You got it.

You got it.

I ate more scallops this evening than I may have ever consumed in my life, total. And I thought I couldn’t eat any more. But when Chefs Marie and Carrie let us know things were about to get sweet, I somehow found some room.

After discussing the differences between dark chocolates, and how well they pair with Port (spoiler alert, very well), Chef Marie got to serious business. The business of honey tuile cups and macerated fruit, of homemade ricotta (and the subsequent homemade ricotta ice cream), and of washing it all down with sweet, rich Port.

(I had some trouble telling them apart. I had to try a lot of each one...)

(I had some trouble telling them apart. I had to try a lot of each one…)

Take me to this Dessert Island

Take me to this Dessert Island (notice the Port glass has magically refilled itself)

The trip was, to say the least, incredible. Eye-opening. Decadent. We saw the kitchens where products I’ve eaten my whole life were tested (I practically grew up putting way too much Prego in my pasta!) We met the folks who eat, sleep, and breathe food innovation and creation.

These aren’t the chefs that are touted in magazines for using molecular gastronomy to create the most sublime tasting menu (for a paltry $300 [$450 with wine pairing]). These are the men and women who are striving to make flavorful and nutritious accessible to everyday men and women cooking for their families. Sure, they served us scallops. But they demonstrated how the same techniques could make a piece of cod sing with flavor. Chef Tom proved that cooking time and proper seasoning makes the difference between green beans that taste like they’re from a can and those that are crisp and zippy.

Real food that matters for life’s moments. Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.29.06 AMThanks, Camp Campbell, and here’s to many happy returns.

And brown butter.

Win a Chance to Spartan Up with a Spartan Race GIVEAWAY!

If you know me at all, you probably know I hate a few things.

Mushrooms. Miniature golf. Cookie cakes (OMG DECIDE ARE YOU A CAKE OR A COOKIE YOU CAN’T BE BOTH!!)

Oh, and running.

So many of my best buddies have incredible pictures of them completing races. And I’ve scoured my photo archives. I think this may be the only one of me running:

ya like this face of misery?

ya like this face of misery? Yup, that was in 2012.

But with a spring thaw slowly and surely taking place in Philadelphia, I had a thought.

Maybe I should run a little bit. It’s time for a new challenge.

I just needed the right incentive to train myself. To pound the pavement, if you will….

Be Well Philly’s Underground Growler Run gave me my first chance to get some miles in with a 2.25 run ending in…. BEER!

unnamed-2

Alas, that was just a one time affair… I still needed something to get my butt in sneakers and hit the ground running (literally). And then, like gritty, muddy, hardcore angels, the folks from the Spartan Race reached out with an opportunity. An opportunity to try one of their races. So in a mere 32 weeks (and two days, but who’s counting?) I’m going to head to the Citizen’s Bank Park Sprint to Spartan Up in Philadelphia!! It’s a sprint, which means 3+ miles and 15+ obstacles throughout the course. And for most folks I know, that would be chump change. But for me, it’s something to work for, and I can’t wait to see how it goes. I’ve been rocking out to the Spartan Up podcast to get hyped up. But I think I’d feel even more hype with a buddy.

Less scary with a friend

Less scary with a friend

SO the folks at the Spartan Race ALSO gave me a code for one of my readers! If you’d like a chance to win an entry in ANY Spartan Race’s open heat (non-confirmed start time) in the continental US, enter in the comments belwo. The only mandatory entry is:

Tell me one challenge you’re tackling this year!

For bonus entries, follow Spartan Race on Facebook, follow @foodsweatnbeers on Twitter, or subscribe to the Spartan Up Podcast and leave separate comments for each.

Again, you don’t have to be in Philly to win this. You’ve got a week to enter, and I’ll select a winner April 9th at noon!

Let’s Spartan Up!

(PS: For 10% off any race, enter the code SPARTANBLOGGER in case contests aren’t your bag.)

UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS TO JANE, COMMENT NUMBER FOUR! She’s training for her second marathon, hopefully this race will help!!

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 1.47.09 PM

Juniper Commons: Who wouldn’t want brunch with Tom Selleck?

I was born in 1987. Despite the fact that this technically makes me an 80s kid, I have virtually no memories of my tender first few years. I do know, however, that I look damn good dressing to the decade (thanks for the memories, LivingSocial).

GNARLY!!

GNARLY!!

But Kevin Sbraga, Philly’s original Top Chef… he was born in 1979. Chances are, he probably gets it a little more than I do. Good thing, since his newest venture, Juniper Commons, channels the era through atmosphere, edibles, and attitude.

Photo credit to Yelp user Margaret W. Click for profile

Lounge in the evening! Photo credit to Yelp user Margaret W. Click for profile

Lately, I’ve been chin deep in hitting up classes all over Philly courtesy of ClassPass so, on Saturday, my brother and I decided to treat ourselves, post-Spin class, with a time-traveling trip to the JC. The walls are covered in a wallpaper made up of 1980s newspapers, there’s a gin-centric bar at the rear, and the open kitchen vibe feels homey and warm.

While I’m typically a savory breakfast babe, the description of the pancakes (complete with peanuts, bananas, & toasted marshmallow) had me requesting insisting my brother get that, having me stick with their take on Eggs Benedict (with country bread, roast beef, and hollandaise [Ideal for a gal who would take roast beef over ham in a second]).

unnamed-1

The slightly toasted puffs of marshmallow fluff were TOTAL game-changers, making these pancakes borderline s’more-like.

This characteristic is a VERY good thing.

Brother bear and I both agreed, though, the winner was the savory.

My very own skillet? Why THANK YOU!

My very own skillet? Why THANK YOU!

I think the country bread over an English muffin was right up my alley, and they did NOT skimp on the roast beef, served juicy, salty, and hot. And while I rarely get into brunch bevvies without some sort of reason, a quick trip to the bathroom before brekki gave me more than enough reason.

Hey there, handsome.

Hey there, handsome.

Yup, this dapper dude, this mustached man is just waiting in the ladies’ room… probably waiting for your call.

By the time breakfast began, I was so hot and bothered I had to cool off. And what’s cooler than being cool?

unnamed-2

Wine Coolers. That’s what.

Juniper Commons makes their OWN wine coolers! This Pinot Noir (can’t even type that without thinking exclusively of Kimmy Schmidt’s Titus) was fizzy with hints of blackberry and apple brandy (or so I was told. It mostly tasted like bubbly wine juice, which I’m into).

I took a gander at the dinner menu and, truth be told, I think it’s a little pricey for what the descriptions of the dishes sound like. But for a semi-schmoozy, little bit boozy brunch and/or lunch, the vibe would bring me back and the price point seems pretty level with the rest of the Philly scene.

Found in the heart of the city, you can’t beat the location. Throw a burly, shirtless Selleck in the midst…. I’ll be back again.

Juniper Commons
521 S. Broad Street
Tastemade Philly: Juniper Commons

National Puppy Day (or: Gratuitous Great Dane Puppy Pics)

Once upon a time, in June of 2014 (which practically feels like an eternity ago and WILL I EVER BE ABLE TO FEEL MY FINGERS AGAIN?!), a new man entered my life. Only instead of really being a man, he was just a baby. And actually…. he was a puppy. His name was Cornwallis (though he immediately became Wally) and it was pretty much love at first sight.

Hello little man, welcome home!

Hello little man, welcome home!

He’s not even a year old yet. But, since it’s National Puppy Day (sure, that’s a thing!) and I love him even though we recently discovered I’m allergic to his saliva (lucky me, he is the drooliest dude in the kingdom), I figured…. why not?

He puts the Dane in Dainty (you just have to sound it out)…. Wally Dog, Beast of the East.

Just for scale, this is the first picture we have of our little baby.

unnamed-1

I know. I really do.

And now… some recent snapshots.

Sometimes he’s sleepy. Must be all the growing.

Supporting his favorite rugby team, the Rabbitohs. That is a queen sized bed.

Supporting his favorite rugby team, the Rabbitohs. That is a queen sized bed.

Sometimes, he is a gentleman.

Please, have a seat in my office. Would you like a water bottle to chew on?

Please, have a seat in my office. Would you like a water bottle to chew on?

He is never a scholar, because he is actually quite a fool.

Most of the time… he is trying to play with my mother. Who, for the record, is 5’4″ on a good day.

Dwarfed by the dog

Dwarfed by the dog

But, no matter how big he gets (last measurements, he’s taller than she (easily) and weighs about 145 lbs), he will always be our little puppy brother.

Our first meeting. I'm smitten.

Our first meeting. I’m smitten.

Happy National Puppy Day to all you dog lovers out there, and thank you for tolerating my excuse for gratuitous Great Dane pics.

The Best App You’ve Never Heard Of

Here’s the thing: I’m no Craig LaBan, my favorite Philly food critic. But, as Marc Vetri implied and Sandy Hingston supported, perhaps traditional food journalism and critique are a thing of the past. It’s no surprise to many of you that I’m a wildly active Yelper. I’ve been known to review restaurants on my blog, and I’ll talk about the Philly food and drink scene with anyone who will listen. And probably some people who don’t want to listen.

No, seriously. The lamb at Zahav will NOT QUIT, stranger on SEPTA! You feel me?!

Because of this, when a friend of mine mentioned off-hand some app coming to Philly looking for “tastemakers”, I was intrigued. What I stumbled onto (thanks to Google and a few email forwards) wasTastemade, an app I was shocked I’d never even heard of before. And, with a quick download and a few clicks of some buttons, I was on it like brown and cilantro on rice (can you tell I’m hungry?)

Photo from the Tastemade Site

Photo from the Tastemade Site

Tastemade basically seems like a way to rave about your favorite food spots in Philly or BEYOND! However, instead of mere photos and words to paint the picture, you’re able to take videos, mash them together with some built-in bits and pieces like music and filters, and VOILA you’re a regular producer.

You can either choose a quick take (just a few quick snippets) or a “Full Scoop” video, which only ends up being about a minute long.

Gimme that full scoop!

Gimme that full scoop!

If you do a “Full Scoop” you’re expected to get on film (read: SELFIE VIDEOS!) and take a bit of footage to capture the ambiance and the food. You can choose different themes for different spots, and there’s matching background music to pair with each (that’s all the words on the bottom, like Quartet, Postcard, UP LATE, etc).

unnamed

Apparently this is a real spot in Camden!

I’ll admit, it took me a minute to knock away the initial oddness of filming myself in random places (‘Scuse me? Miss? Are you filming those vegetables or can I take a squash?) but once I got past it, it kinda felt like being a hot shot Food Network champ for a few seconds. And who better to share the best spots to eat in a city than the folks that are experiencing it RIGHT THAT MOMENT?!

I’ve so far done three videos but, after hitting up the Philly Tastemade Launch Party last night, I’m feeling pretty stoked to do more. PLUS with the impending trip to NYC to visit my best buddy for her birthday, we’re dining at a buncha spots unreviewed. As Claire stated: They’re MINE FOR THE TAKING TASTING (see what I did there?)!

Wanna see me talk about hummus? Interested in capturing moments like this tasty screenshot?

Precious moments

Precious moments

Scope out the @foodsweatnbeers Tastemade Page! Join and let me hear how weird YOUR voice sounds on camera! HELP NORMALIZE VIDEO SELFIES!

(And don’t blame me when folks start walking into tables at your local restaurant whilst trying to capture selfie ambiance all at once…. I recommend sitting or standing still.)

The 5 Devices and Services That Changed My Life

Life is full of crossroads.

Some are Blues inspired musical dramas

You know that’s not what I mean.

Britney gets it

Nope. Not even close.

Bone Thugs get it.

Oh, come on. Now you’re just being silly.

Nope. They’re those points in life where you make a decision, and everything changes. I’ve had quite a few. The joyful decision to head to Chapel Hill for undergrad and the terrifying one to leave North Carolina 7 years later.

The most heartbreaking decision that was made for me, not by me.

And, of course, the most important, life changing decision of all that I made almost 5 years ago today (March 21, 2010, at 215 lbs). It’s insane to look back at what can change over 5 years. And, though I know that it takes a strong, independent woman to take that leap, I also recognize that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be who I am without a little help. Some helpers were monumental, and some may seem small, but all 5 have one thing in common: they brought me where I am today (and, in case you didn’t catch it, that’s a place where I am blissfully happy.)

  1. The Big One: Weight Watchers
    I was never one for dieting, growing up. I actually didn’t realize I had put on a ton of weight until I felt like a balloon. I’ve written about my success with Weight Watchers in the past, but I’d be extremely remiss to not mention it. Because it not only changed the way I look and think about food, it made me begin cooking and falling in love with food. So that’s a given.
  2. Heart Rate Monitor / FitBit
    It’s like two generations of the same big change. My initial Garmin FR60 was actually a prize from an online contest. And it changed the way I worked out. Suddenly, I was competing again, even if it was just against myself. I watched my efforts steadily increase, I could see improvement in my workouts. And now, with the FitBit, I actively strive to walk and hit my step goal every day. I am sure it’s pretty apparent, but I love technology. And being able to utilize it to improve my physical fitness, to me, is the bees knees.
  3. Vegetti
    Wait a minute. Does everyone know of the power and glory of zoodles (zucchini noodles)?
    Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.25.31 PMTruly, these, the next generation of spaghetti squash, have totally rocked my world. I got a Vegetti sometime over the summer, and I never looked back. I probably eat zoodles about 3x a week (spaghetti squash almost that often when it’s in season) but all of the sudden I’m able to have filling, nutrition lunches that taste wonderful and can take the spot of spaghetti.I know, it seems like a little thing. But goodness, it’s just… everything.
  4. Untappd
    So life is all about moderation, right? There was a time, at the beginning of this journey, where ALL I could think about was food-in, exercise-out, and almost no extracurricular activities. And then I found Untappd, my favorite beer-tracking app, and the craft beer community. And it added some spice back into my life.

    Ahhh remember June 2011? I was just a baby!

    Ahhh remember June 2011? I was just a baby!

    Now, I track my brews religiously, I socialize with friends near and far, AND it’s given me a great hobby and brought my into this pretty fantastic beer gaggle. All work and no play makes Jordy a dull girl. And craft beer variety…. well, that’s the spice of life.

  5. ClassPass
    Sure, initially I started writing about ClassPass because they gave me a free month to try it out and I wanted to review.

    Nope. That's not me. I get way sweatier.

    Nope. That’s not me. I get way sweatier than these chicks.

    Now, all the sudden, I’m scheduling two-a-days. I’m throwing my entire body into my workout instead of visiting a bland Zumba class and feeling whiny about the slow music and repetitive moves. I’m getting bendy at yoga, I’m leaving it all in the studio at FlyWheel, and, as I just recently purchased my OWN ClassPass, I’m actually down almost 10 lbs since I started. Not only this, my pants are fitting better and I think the switch from pure cardio to strength, cardio, stretching, and tiny muscle movements like Barre classes…. I can feel my body changing. My mom and dad noticed it, I even braved my winter bod to try on/buy some bathing suits at Target!

    I know. You can hold your applause until we’re together in person. This ClassPass thing has just brought a renewed excitement into my fitness regime.

It’s been a pretty incredible 5 years. And for those of you who have been reading for a while, thanks for sticking with it. For everyone else, so glad you’re along for any of this ride. Who KNOWS where the next five will take us?

What’s the biggest change in your life that’s occurred over the past 5 years?

That Time Yards Brewery Took Me on a Date

Who would’ve thought that an abysmal “attempt” at a date in college would’ve led to a night on the town courtesy of one of my favorite local breweries, Yards? In honor of Valentine’s Day, love, and (most importantly) their malty, rich brew, Love Stout, Yards hosted a contest online for the entrant with the worst date they wish they could “do over”. And I can’t tell if I should be proud or ashamed of this, but yours truly was the lucky winner!10404855_10153025475933070_5522467349947890047_n

However, the misfortune of 19 year old Jordan proved the boon for the Jordan of today! And after shooting a few congratulatory emails and scooping around to find a suitable date partner, I was treated to a #LoveStoutDoOver Date this past weekend! Our first stop was the PHS Flower Show, one of Philly’s signature yearly events that brings visitors from all over to bask in floral glory at what blooms can be transformed into by talented horticulturists, florists, and gardeners alike.

GUESS THE DISNEY MOVIE!!

GUESS THE DISNEY MOVIE!!

This year’s theme was “Movies” (namely, Disney flicks) and it was truly impressive to see this flora recreate some of my favorite flicks. My top two favorites (pictured above)included a beloved movie (left, can you guess?) and one I hadn’t seen (right, a little tougher, and it’s NOT Aladdin!) But the best was yet to come. Because, considering how well their annual Pop-Up Beer Garden has been going the past few years, PHS decided to establish one inside the convention center!

Yards treated us to eats and, of course, beverages.

Roast beef and cold Philly Pale Ale -- Can't beat it!

Roast beef and cold Philly Pale Ale — Can’t beat it!

I tried (and surprisingly enjoyed!) the PHS Horticulture Cider whipped up by Wyndridge Farm especially for the show, but knew we had bigger fish to fry (oysters are fish, right?)

We boogied home to change into some more “date night” appropriate attire and digest our late lunch, in order to clear some room for a romantic trip to Pennsylvania 6… that NEARLY turned into another date that needed doing over!

If you’ve never been to Pennsylvania 6, it’s a pretty cozy establishment. At night time, the tables have tea light candles, and it’s all very cute. Know what that’s not good for?

A 6’1″ oaf rocking a puffy coat and trying to be “dainty”.

Upon my arrival do you think I:

a) ran into the table?

b) bumped into a water glass having it fall on the table?

c) accidentally dipped my coat into a neighbor’s drink?

d) nearly burnt a menu?

If you chose: E) all of the above, CONGRATULATIONS!

Sorry candle. Sorry water glass.

Sorry candle. Sorry water glass.

All was forgiven and forgotten (except by the table got the jacket dip, I’m pretty sure they’re still pretty ticked.

And then, our oysters (fried and raw) and Love Stout were dropped off, complete with adorable miniature Tabasco sauce. So I felt better.

Pardon that camera tilt, I felt so awkward snapping shots with a DSLR in a tight squeeze like PA6!

Pardon that camera tilt, I felt so awkward snapping shots with a DSLR in a tight squeeze like PA6!

My dish was the winner, IMHO, and was a slow roasted bone-in short rib that just fell apart at the mere suggestion of a fork.

Yup.

1926752_10102636853586098_1833322065595749647_n

We took our “dessert” (a six-pack of Love Stout) and some Yards goodies home, and they even treated us to cab fare (because they’re classy like that).

SO despite my clumsiest, best efforts at ruining a date on my own terms, Yards in fact took me and my date out on a lovely evening and treated me like a lady.

….I hope they call soon.

(Meat)Ball So Hard on South Street

I never had one of those Italian grandmothers that you see in the media. You know, the short, plump ladies who you never see without an apron, hand permanently glued to a saucy wooden spoon that practically lives in the kitchen.

“Eat, eat! You’re wasting away!!”

My grandmothers’ specialties were deviled eggs and baked beans, or sneaking me Godiva chocolates from the fridge. Needless to say, I loved them…. But I kinda liked the idea this Italian grandma. Someone whose only goal was to fill the bellies and hearts of everyone around her and keep the house warm and smelling of gravy and sausage. It’s no surprise, then, that I immediately felt at home walking into the doors of Me N Mo, South Street’s new meatball home, specializing in balls of meat and pasta to eat!

11024718_10102611107606248_4300518456023421343_n

I was lucky enough to attend a pretty fantastic grand opening party and the staff pulled out all the stops. And, by all the stops, I mean just about any meatball you could imagine!

10473976_10102611107396668_7745953110060823354_n

Stuffing fontina into meatballs? Brilliant.

Making ANY chicken based dish Buffalo-style? My kinda joint.

10403011_10102611107506448_4531821187138172198_n

They also have some more traditional options, including spicy pork and beef. But, oddly enough, my favorite was a combination I never even considered.

I believe they call this their "Hong Kong" meatball

I believe they call this their “Hong Kong” meatball

Pork and Shrimp?! No, these bad boys aren’t Kosher at all. But they ARE delicious, moist, and jam-packed with savory flavor.

As I am a dainty and delicate lady, I made sure to enjoy tiny portions of each. I literally couldn’t stop eating these saucy spheres.

This may or may not have been my second plate.

This may or may not have been my second plate.

The cost for four meatballs of any type and some Sarcone’s bread is $8 which is honestly a little steep for beef meatballs alone, IMHO. However, I think that for some of the more interesting options (Pork and shrimp, lamb!!) it would be worth a trip. Surprisingly, the vegetarian balls tied for second place for me and my buddies. So whether you want your balls meaty and spicy, meat-free and creamy (their mushroom-cream sauce would be a great option for the veg-heads!), Me N Mo has got you covered. You can also get a buttload of balls from their catering menu, as a few of my friends did for Super Bowl Sunday this year. Nice little variety from the standard pizza and wings offerings, and who doesn’t wanna show up to a party armed with buckets of balls?

….Maybe don’t answer that.

Me N Mo: Meatballs & MORE!
214 South Street
Philadelphia, PA

Townsend does East Passyunk Restaurant Week…. perfectly.

Fun Facts about Chef Townsend Wentz:

  • He goes by Tod.
  • He’s a pro at deboning entire pigs (check it out!) and posting it on Instagram
  • Homeboy KNOWS how to do Restaurant Week right.

I’ve always been a little wary of restaurant week. My inner cheapskate breaks down the numbers of the restaurants offering everything from special dishes to old favorites to one-off dessert experiments, and weighs this with my typical levels of hunger. Most often, the result is a decisive Nahh, I’ll just wait for the crowds to die down and order the exact amount of food I want for the price I expect/am willing to pay. 

That said, when I saw that East Passyunk Avenue, Philly’s hottest nook of up-and-coming dining spots, was hosting their own neighborhood restaurant week, I immediately raced over to OpenTable to make a reservation for my two girlfriends and I. I gotta say that, while I was A-OK with the mandatory phone-in reservation at Zahav a few weeks ago, there’s a remarkable ease and convenience to being able to filter using number of diners, date, and time when we were looking for a Monday night out on the town. We spotted space at Townsend and booked it post-haste.

We made the right choice.

You can look at the EPRW menu here if you’d like, OR you can check out this difficult-to-read but beautifully lit photograph below.

Elegant and simple

Elegant and simple

Since there were three of us, we figured we’d try one of each course. Then we saw that one of the first courses was a foie gras butternut squash terrine. And since I’d just binged on terrines last week…. looks like we’re doubling up on Brandades!

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 3.45.50 PM

Course one (served shortly after a DIVINE bread basket [that may have been divine or may have merely been ‘good’, we were pretty hungry]) included a creamy parsnip veloute with brown butter chestnuts, a hint of black truffle, and just enough brussels sprout leaves to leave us wanting more (hee hee). The brandade, a dish I’d never had before, was a crunchy brioche topped with a quail egg, shellfish bouillabaisse, and pernod. How such a tiny little toasty brioche could be so full of flavor…. well I don’t (per)nod, but it was incredible. The veloute was rich and creamy, a nice complement to the light fluff and crunch of the other appetizer. But the best was yet to come…

Enter: the mother lode

Enter: the mother lode

I’ll shoot you straight, the saffron malloreddus, pictured top right, was a little cold by the time it got to us. Flavor-wise, it was fairly unremarkable, and the tastes of caramelized onions and fennel, while there, were hints. If you were only getting this dish, I would not consider your experience worthwhile. BUT if you’re lucky enough to have some dining pals, perhaps they’ll slip you bites of the glorious speck-wrapped cod (bottom right) atop Tarbais bean garbure with tiny cockles (that came with their own fork!) This fish fell apart the moment your fork touched it, delicate… dare I say exquisite?

Oh, if I dared, I’ll repeat that word for the venison en crepinette (different from the online menu, description here). Exquisite. We nearly came to (fork) blows over these half-dollar sized medallions, each soaking up the jus and pairing perfectly with the parsnip pureé. This dish would bring me back again and again.

Somehow, we had room for dessert. Luckily, it was both light and a delight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.11.01 PM

The crème brûlée, flawless. Visible vanilla bean is my jam. The blue cheese plate was a nice tangy option for those without a sweet tooth. And for those WITH a sweet tooth: enter pavlova. No, she’s not your exotic, sexy neighbor (maybe she is, I don’t know where you live). She is actually an it, specifically a crunchy meringue dish topped with mixed berries and strawberry coulis, speckled with fresh mint.

Yup. Imagine the finest cotton candy you can even fathom. And then make it fancy, and French, and bury it in berries. We couldn’t get enough.

Take your dates, your dads, your dudes, your dames, yourself, take them all to Townsend. I’ll be back soon to try out their take on rabbit…. I’ve only heard (read* since I practically live on Yelp) the best things.

Thanks, Tod and team, for the tasty treats.

Cinder-eat-a: A Night Out at #PhillyCooks

As far as princesses go, I’ve never identified much with CInderella. Sure, I’m blond and my whistling skills have been known to call woodland critters to my side (though, in Philly, it’s mostly pigeons and Rittenhouse rats. Gross.) But I can’t stand house cleaning, I get along famously with my siblings and mother, and I’m rubbish on heels, glass or otherwise.

Last night, however, I think I had my Cinderella moment. Instead of a fairy godmother, I had the team from Philadelphia Magazine as my benefactor. My pumpkin coach was an UberX, and my gown was a hastily thrown together number sourced from Athleta and Nordstrom. Most importantly, instead of seeking out a dance with the handsome prince, I was here for one reason.

header-largev2

Philly Cooks.

One of the city’s premier dining and drinking experiences, this soirée is put on every year by Foobooz, my go-to for all Food and Booze news in Philly. Tickets range from $85 for the early birds to $100. This plucky princess managed to win a pair, due to some sort of pixie dust I’m sure. And so I grabbed my date (read: my mom) and headed to the castle Marriott.

Imagine an enormous room with vaulted ceilings, complete with warm lighting and the dull roar of live music, chock full of Philly foodies, sprinkled with some of the top chefs in every genre of edibles from neighborhoods far and wide.

Yup, I was in paradise.

Yup, I was in paradise.

From ceviche and smoked salmon to pork, pizza, and potatoes to more terrine than you could shake a stick at (seriously…. what’s with all the terrine, chefs?) With a gauzy, tent-like speakeasy stationed in the middle of the vast space pouring cocktails from Franky Bradley’s, Olde Bar, and Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. (my personal favorite was a Reverse Valencia from Olde Bar – Tanqueray, Oloroso Sherry, Manzanilla Sherry, and apple bitters), the party was in full swing by the time we arrived around 7pm.

Cocktail line-up looking so fly

Cocktail line-up looking so fly

After we obtained our beverages of choice, we began to loop around. Laurel’s Nicholas Elmi (who all Top Chef fans know as a winnnnnerrrr and all Philly folks know as proprietor of restaurant you can’t get reservations to) started off my night the right way with duck confit and foam, and the party kept going strong from there.

I’ll shoot you straight, when you’re surrounded by ravenous hoards of hungry folks all queueing up for tiny plates, whipping out your phone for photos becomes low on the priority list. In fact, I kinda forgot about it for some standouts. Like, sure I can’t recall EXACTLY where I consumed the most divine lobster (maybe) grilled cheese and tomato soup, when my mother thrust it in my hands (Maybe… The Hunt Room?). But I guess when I went back for my 2nd 3rd, let’s be honest here, slow roasted boar and foccaccia panino with pickled red onion, I deemed it worth for a photo (SERIOUSLY SOMEONE TAKE ME TO CAPOFITTO POST HASTE!)

 unnamed-3

I want to fall asleep on this soft focaccia next to a pile of that boar. Is that an appropriate way to describe food?

Probably.

Weirdly enough, though I rarely have much of a sweet tooth, the dessert area was my dream-come-true last night. Wonder why….

Sweet Box glory

Sweet Box glory

Goat cheese ANGLAISE?

Goat cheese ANGLAISE?

Huge up to The Master’s Baker, who have given a new lease on my concept of goat cheese’s LIFE.

But then, I reached the mecca.

Oh, what's that? JUST A S'MORES BAR!

Oh, what’s that? JUST A S’MORES BAR!

Yup, 10 Arts brought the HEAT quite literally. Because, in case you didn’t know, s’mores are my favorite dessert. Want proof?

YOU GOT YOUR PROOF

YOU GOT YOUR PROOF

That’s unbridled joy at the thought of consuming a s’more consisting of graham cracker, housemade marshmallow, AND A REESES CUP.

The rest of the night was a blur of snacking, sipping, spinning around in awe, and sadly seeing some spots sans sustenance. By 8pm, a TON of vendors were fresh out. Made me wish we’d come early, but no one wants to be THAT Cinderella. Princesses need to make an entrance. And as my stomach swelled happily, and the clock struck midnight (JK it ended at 9pm but all that eating tuckers a gal out), my mother and I raced down the escalators, pausing only for one farewell photo.

unnamed-4

Foobooz and Philly, you know how to feed a gal. And you just let me know if you spot any glass slippers in a women’s size 12. I’m not saying they’re mine or anything…. but you wouldn’t believe the blisters those puppies give ya!