Summer at Opa: Cheese Pies & Blue Skies

Summertime in Philly…

The temperatures are sweltering, the weekend trips to the shore test our patience, and Center City Sips has filled the streets every Wednesday with drunken 20-somethings rocking suit jackets and teetering on heels.

But there’s a distinct joy that comes with some of the sweat – Summer Menus are hitting the Philly Restaurant Scene. Seasonal produce and ingredients, seafood, and creativity galore. And Opa, known for contemporary Greek plates in Center City, is bringing out the big guns. Or, in this case, the small plates.

The highlights?

19030341_10104668050441318_3629580810111224448_n.jpg

Dakos – Barley toast with sour cherry marmalade, fresh chevre, and fennel.

I may be on a toast kick lately (check out my latest post from Fitt for the Top 9 Spots Artisan Toasts in Philly!) and Opa’s take on the dish features a tart cherry marmalade that I want in all food and drink in the future.

19105579_10104668050411378_9120305407336902686_n.jpg

Aritchokes stuffed with crab, fresh herbs, Meyer lemon, & squid ink romesco. Then topped with cheese. Whoah.

Anything stuffed with crab is a-okay in my book, but this artichoke dish had us scraping the plate clean.

19105574_10104668050456288_2540713080378772179_n.jpg

Beet Cured Salmon – carpaccio style, melon, vidalia, arugula, pickled pepper

Lox comes to dinner with Opa’s beet-cured salmon. The little melon cubes add a hint of sweetness, though the pickled peppers are ENTIRELY too hot to eat.

So, ya know, don’t make the same mistake I did.

19030307_10104668050361478_7270489125835519314_n.jpg

Spaghettini – lobster, spicy tomato, olive oil crumbs

That spicy tomato is NOT A DRILL. But neither are the chunks of juicy lobster scattered throughout this dish. A small enough portion to not weigh you down, but large enough to satisfy for a summer dinner.

And now my FAVORITE two dishes:

19146017_10104668050401398_7022294614064970092_n.jpg

Lamb Loin – filo, lamb demi, charred spring onion, potato purée

Beef Wellington goes Greek! The filo is crispy, flakey, and buttery. The onion is perfectly charred, and the lamb is juicy AF. For only $10, this dish is the star of the new menu offerings.

19113947_10104668050351498_6191698651033884056_n.jpg

Tiropita Kataifi – kefalograviera & robiola, filo, orange, honey

Cheese. Pie.

Typically speaking, that’d be enough for me. BUT for your sake – I’ll hit you with some thoughts. Crunchy pastry strings surround a core of kefalograviera (a hard Greek table cheese typically made with sheep milk) & robiola (y’know – more cheese). The whole mess is drizzled with honey and tastes of bright citrusy orange.

Dessert has arrived. It’s unexpected and whimsical and delights the tongue.  Try not to fight over the last bite.

Chef Bobby Saritsoglou and his team are making a serious name for themselves in Midtown Village, and I can’t wait to see what fall brings. Just try to keep your visits limited to Thursday through Tuesday – those Wednesday SIPs crowds are an unforgiving lot.

 

 

Advertisements

Taste Testing with Chef Jose Garces

Slamming my phone into my pocket, I raced out of the office building. I scanned the street and, as luck would have it, spotted the trolley pulling up along 36th and Market. Flashing my SEPTA pass, I hopped in and prayed for a quiet ride to 22nd Street. Time seemed to be moving too quickly, the trolley too slowly, for this to ever work. But I jumped out the vehicle, scampered up the stairs, and dodged snow piles and construction as I made 23rd Street my 40-yard dash (ok, more like my 500-yard walk-sprint, but who’s counting?) I collected myself for a moment, hoping I didn’t look exactly like the sweaty mess that I knew I was, and walked inside.

“Donkey Sauce.”

And, just like that, I was in.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 2.33.46 PM.png

Nestled in the back of 24, Garces’ newest Philadelphia venture (“Italian-inspired wood-fired fare”, overlooking the Schuylkill River), is Estudio, the test-kitchen of the Garces Group, the restaurants that make up the Chef Jose Garces EMPIRE!

In this kitchen, Garces and his team get to play mad scientists with menu items for any of the 16 restaurants in the family. And, in a brilliant move, Chef Garces decided to open this kitchen up to four lucky fans using Instagram to give out a secret password (hence the rushing to be one of the first four and the breathless gasp of DONKEY SAUCE.)

My sprint through Philadelphia was handsomely rewarded, though, with a special treat: we were testing the early stages of brunch development for Distrito, Garces’ modern take on Mexican taqueria fare.

17353672_10104387761322958_4574254507298025493_n.jpg

Chilaquiles verdes with chicken, crema, queso fresco, avocado, and egg

I’ve gotta say, food always seems tastier served out of its own cast-iron skillet.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 8.22.19 PM.png

Sope benedict featuring poached eggs, guajillo hollandaise with just a slight hint of heat, and chorizo

Whoah. New favorite take on an eggs benny.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 8.23.05 PM.png

Torta ahogada (“drowned sandwich”) – this torta was stuffed with carnitas, glazed onions, and eggs, then smothered in a red chile sauce 

17353360_10104387761387828_4739225565114364297_n.jpg

Huarache Desayuno (sort of like… a Mexican breakfast flatbread, topped with black bean puree, crispy potato, egg, tomatillo/poblano salsa and queso mixto

Though I did not partake in the alcoholic portion of the breakfast cocktails, even the virgin versions were tasty enough to tip back with enthusiasm!

17361969_10104387761203198_4092252461063230319_n.jpg

Yup, that’s MORE chilaquiles – This time served with a Mezcal Maria (hold the Mezcal) – Typical garnishes include shrimp AND olives.

Also on the cocktail menu:

  • Carlito XO – Garces & Sons Espresso, Patrón XO Café, Kahlua, Brown Sugar, Canela, Mexican Chocolate and Crema.
  • My TOP choice A Mango Bellini (or was it with vodka? Hard to recall when you don’t choose the booze!) PLUS a smoky spicy rim

17352370_10104387761238128_1119818006191245125_n.jpg

Throughout the experience, Chef Garces answered questions AND took constructive criticism. In fact, he welcomed it. When one of us suggested an ingredient or flavor, he not only noted it, but chased our commentary with some other ideas of how to best incorporate the concept.

One of the first meals I had in Philadelphia was a lunch at Amada in Old City. I was hooked.

When Bar Volver opened, I visited five times in one week, bringing different friends and family each time to share the amazing concept and cocktails. Village Whiskey serves the drippy, finger-licking burger of my (and my sister’s) dreams. I remember eating a birthday dinner at Tinto and periodically adjusting my tiara, because I kept tilting my head back in pleasure with bites of tantalizing tapas.

My experience at Estudio was exceptional. However, the opportunity to dine one-on-one (well, four-on-one) with the man who’s made so many of my culinary dreams come true… That was extraordinary.

Cheers, Chef. Thanks for the memories.1334x1334.jpeg.jpg

Scarpetta Comes to Philadelphia

As you stroll out of the picturesque Rittenhouse Square and through the revolving doors of Scarpetta, the ultra-modern Italian restaurant and bar that recently opened in The Rittenhouse, the feeling is almost instantaneous.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

From the warm and sexy lighting to the bumping bass, the bustling staff and the attentive hostesses, Scarpetta feels like you’ve been transported to a hip Manhattan joint. Everyone we saw, from dates to businessmen, girls groups and buddies, was dressed to impress. The wine flowed like water and the bread baskets flowed like slightly-doughier water.  Scarpetta is a place to see and be seen, a place to bring your boss, a place to show-off to your parents, and a place to woo. I’ve gotta confess:

I loved it.

unnamed-4.jpg

So sleek. So sexy.

But I’ll also admit, if you wanna hear about the scene, the square footage, Uwishunu and Foobooz have done a much better job than I ever could.

I’m here to tell you, instead, about one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten.

Remember that bread basket I mentioned? Yeah, that bad boy is filled with some flawless, airy and crunchy foccaccia AND house-made stromboli.

unnamed-7.jpg

Heaven in a basket

Served alongside mascarpone butter, citrus infused olive oil, and an eggplant spread that wouldn’t quit, we definitely had them refill this basket (….twice).

Scarpetta’s menu is divided into four parts.

  • Crudo (raw!)
  • Primi Piatti
  • Pasta
  • Proteins (including fish, meat, and poultry)

The folks at Scarpetta were generous enough to give my date and I a little bit of everything, and I’d definitely recommend going that route if you have the opportunity.

The options for the crudo were honestly the biggest challenge we had as every dish looked better than the last. In the end, we had three of four options (don’t worry tuna, we’ll be back for you!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scarpetta manages to elevate each dish in a way that not only let’s the quality of the fish shine but accentuates the natural flavor with expertly chosen garnishes. Our favorite was the  scallops. The pea and aleppo purée brought a zip to the smoothness of the scallop flavor I’d never experienced before.

The primi piatti that spoke to my date and I was something we’d tried at their preview party: Braised short ribs of beef with vegetable & farro risotto.

As expected, it didn’t disappoint. It merely melted in our mouths.

unnamed-8
Up next: the pasta!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scarpetta’s signature dish is their spaghetti, a flawless example of the classic dish. But I suggest you get at least one more pasta dish: the duck & foie gras ravioli. Velvety, rich, and drizzled with a marsala reduction, this is easily the most delicious pasta I’ve ever tasted. Each pocket was stuffed with a perfect blend of tender duck and creamy foie gras.

unnamed-3.jpg

Dry-aged ribeye, featuring trumpet mushroom, cipollini onion, fingerling potato & truffled spinach. Our “Carne” choice, cooked medium rare and served pink and juicy.

Full to the brim, I assumed we were done.

I assumed wrong.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m so sorry that these photos don’t do the food an ounce of justice. I’m sorry I didn’t feel comfortable enough to bring my bulky DSLR to a gorgeous resto.

I’m also sorry I don’t have a vat of “unknown crunchy bits” to pour over all future desserts.

Scarpetta is a place to be spoiled, and to spoil someone. It’s a place I could easily write a thousand words about, but I’ll let these photos try and make up for about 400 of them.

Just go. Eat here. Be happy.

 

Butcher Bar in Philadelphia: Eat All The Meats

There’s a new kid on the block. This kid is juicier, meatier, and full of whiskey. And he’s a welcome addition to an area that is mostly populated by a hodge podge of restaurants full of, sushi, Thai, and other pan-Asian cuisine. Welcome to town, Butcher Bar. Our meat mouths have been waiting.

IMG_3969.JPG

Butcher Bar, located at 2034 Chestnut Street

Butcher Bar is warm and welcoming AND has the ability to have all those beautiful windows hurled open and transform into an open-air party spot.

Last night, my beau and I joined a few foodies for a real sausage fest as the Butcher Bar team flung out the red carpet for friends and family. They brought the meat, and the heat (literally, we were a sweaty mess). Luckily, the bartenders were happy to cool things down with refreshing cocktails.

IMG_3986.JPG

Their cocktail menu is bourbon-centric and this New York Sour packed a tart and boozy punch. But if you’re a fan of old school classics (See: Old Fashioned, Sazeracs, and Vieux Carres) you’re in business. And baby, business was BOOMING.

IMG_3972.JPG

Just a few close friends…

Highlights ranged from the small….

unnamed-1.jpg

Fontina stuffed Italian meatball made with pork, veal, and beef (side of Mint Julep!)

…to the less small.

IMG_3982.JPG

The Trough

That’s right, “The Trough”. Carried by two men, this bad boy is a cornucopia of carnivorous pleasures: rotisserie chicken, house-made sausages, grilled skirt steak, rack of ribs, kabobs, house-smoked bacon, bone-in short ribs, fries and grilled pita. For $250 (and 24 hours notice), this could be yours (though they recommend sharing with 6-8 friends. For health.)

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

IMG_3979.JPG

Don’t mind that beautiful, dripping skirt steak… Sleeper hits included their seafood sausage (made with scallop, lobster & shrimp) and the french fries (could’ve eaten a trough of them alone). If you’re looking for a big, celebratory meal, I can’t think of a better way to reconnect with your inner animal.

This space also has a cute little dessert menu, which we didn’t get to sample, but sounded delicious and simple. Butcher Bar would totally make for the perfect late-night date spot. Their kitchen’s open until midnight, and who wouldn’t wanna woo with some whiskey?

Thanks for the meat sweats, Butcher Bar. We can’t wait to see what else y’all can do with your beautiful kitchen.

 

 

Take a Holiday in Maine (Portland, Specifically)

Whoah, it’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? Blame August, it’s rubbish for second dates (according to the Washington Post) and also for blogging. With weekends at the shore, helping put together a small, understated pop-up party for 5,000 in this city I love, and trying not to fall completely off the health wagon after finishing Whole30, there’s been less time to write it all down.

LUCKILY, I did manage to find time for a quick vacation to Portland, ME with my Main(e) squeeze. It was picturesque as can be, but I spent more time snapping shots of our eats than light houses or sunsets (sorry, not sorry.) We did a LOT of recon before our jaunt to make sure that we enjoyed the tastiest treats and most delicious drinks. I’m pretty proud to say we succeeded; demonstrated especially by the fact that we were inadvertently tailing the New York Times, in town to update their “36 Hours in Portland” piece.

13907012_10103714543262348_5218300434799889644_n.jpg

Ok, fine, I took one picture of a sunset. You’re welcome.

The drive from the Philly area to Maine isn’t TOO bad, a comfortable 7ish hours. Luckily, en route, you pass almost DIRECTLY through New Haven, CT. Cue a fully necessary stop at Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana. I’m no expert, but as a pizza lover, you’d be remiss to skip any opportunity to stop by for some of that New Haven-style Pizza GOODNESS!

13925020_10103714543227418_1275376749369081917_n.jpg

Not from Portland, but I had to mention it.

This “apizza” isn’t a perfect circle, just an oblong oval of crunchy, cheesy perfection. We also got pepperoni, because YOLO. But… I digress. Onto the Maine attraction (hehehe).

Portland: I love you. You’re breezy and chill when the rest of my world is muggy and hot, you’re lobster rolls when everyone else is grilling burgers, and you’re full of weird and wonderful shops and eateries. Here’s the tip of one of the most scrumptious icebergs ever….

We were in town for three mornings. Two of them featured breakfast from Portland’s “The Holy Donut”. By breakfast, I just mean a buncha Maine Potato Donuts.

13901537_10103714544125618_6681889655778216419_n.jpg

My favorite: Blueberry!

Don’t get me wrong, my heart is always in Philly with Federal Donuts. Whether it was the crisp air, the morning rush, or the delicious glaze, this donut tasted ethereal. Apparently, the addition of Maine potatoes makes the dough especially moist. And if you’re one of those people that hates the word moist, get over it, because these donuts are insane.

The next image may LOOK like it’s still breakfast, but don’t like your eyes fool you.

13886417_10103714543307258_549419042682744802_n.jpg

One skillet. Seven slots. Infinite joy.

Boda is a hip little joint inspired by Thai street food and tapas, serving up gems like these Kanom-Krok Quail Eggs seasoned with soy sauce and scallions. I know we ate other stuff, I promise you. I have vague memories of killer brussels sprouts that are all but washed away by the distinctly crispy edges of these huevos, the salty soy, the vibrant bite of the scallions. If I could eat only these for all meals, I’d be happy. Minus the high cholesterol, or something, but definitely happy. And hey, while we’re on the topic of eggs…

Duckfat was our singular “breakfast” that wasn’t donuts. And also, we kinda ate lunch. BUT the egg on our poutine basically makes it brunch, right?

Right.

Belgian fries cooked in (what else?) duck fat, cheese curds, duck gravy AND chives. Served with (let’s call it a side of?) a house-smoked brisket panini. You know, gotta keep that girlish figure… The “vegetable chow chow” in the brisket panini is practically a salad.

And while I could talk about Portland eats for hours, but the thing is, when you go to Eventide Oyster Co., you basically hear an imaginary mic drop on your tastebuds. So here goes nothing.

Y’all.

This place.

It screams MAINE in the way that a true Maine-iac might. Which is to say it’s cool as a cucumber, hip AF, and probably tosses around the word “wicked” for good measure. We had lobster chowder (lobstah chowdah? top right), salmon poke, and (of course) our only lobster roll of the trip. But, despite the trendy take on the roll (instead of a “roll”, EOC used a steamed bun and brown butter for the lobsters. Enough of that brown butter that Paula Deen would’ve been proud.

Shoot. It’s been well over 700 words. And I’ve scratched the surface…. I guess I’ll just have to visit again.

Cheers to you, Portland. I can’t wait to come back.

13901443_10103714543596678_2144597561637588087_n.jpg

On the scene at Allagash. Doing important research.

 

 

Stargazy: Got Me Pie-Crazy

I’m a big fan of Harry Potter.

My best friend’s about to get married to a bloke from the UK.

My favorite non-alcoholic breakfast drink is Earl Grey tea, over-steeped and served somewhere between room temperature and piping hot.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes makes me melt a little with every episode.

benedict-sherlock

Smoldering

I believe that’s about where my direct connection to anything British ends. Until now.

Sam Jacobson, a dual UK/US citizen, decided to bring a little taste of home to 1838 E. Passyunk Ave. this summer. Stargazy is now THE place for pies and mash in Philly.

5a69fb73-8f73-400e-a1bb-080d20e8d032.jpg

The offerings change daily, but the charm, that’s always available

Admittedly, it may also be the only place for pie and mash in the city, but don’t let that hoodwink you into thinking it’s anything less than dreamy.

Despite opening in the summer, Stargazy still manages to rock that “New Resto Smell” and the lines haven’t stopped for these flaky, piping hot meat pies. My buddy and I picked a (slightly) chilly December day to stroll down south and see what the hype was about.

2b108913-4fdf-4d43-9b3e-8f4756c06ab8.jpg

Starvin’ like Marvin, girl

We were the first ones in the door, and the pies weren’t quite ready, so we loitered outside, reviewing the day’s menu on my phone, licking our lips and clutching our empty bellies. Oh, and sipping some (free!) tea.

Our patience was soon rewarded.

8b33c21e-640b-4928-bedd-ed3285b5226b.jpg

Come to mama

Pie, mash, and parsley liquor (spoiler alert: no actual liquor in there, you’ll have to hit the pub afterwards). So simple. So very, very satisfying. BONUS: If you spot a star on the bottom of your pie, they reward you with… ANOTHER PIE!

As you can see in the case below, Jacobson is also offering an assortment of British treats straight from the source. I haven’t dabbled (yet), but I had my eyes on the prize.

Or, should I say, I had my eyes on the pies?

4890423a-885f-4018-9f48-a8f89f949ce3.jpg

Hot sausage, broccoli rabe, and mozzarella. I went “off-tradition” away from the regular offerings of beef and onion pies because I spent most of my life trying to find new ways to enjoy spicy sausage ( #notaeuphemism).

It was absolutely to die for. The crust was perfect. The fillings were steaming and rich in flavor. The parsley liquor made me consider a life of sobriety if I could, instead, just have a steady stream of that to pour over any and all savory treats.

You catch my drift?

Sure, I didn’t have the stomach capacity at the time for a sausage roll or one of their legendary bananoffee tarts. But that’s the point, right? Much like with the velvety voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, all it took was one taste for me to begin jonesing for more.

Stargazy, I’ll see you soon. Keep the kettle boiling, and I’ll be looking for stars.

The Hunt for ThanksgivWiches #1: Jake’s Sandwich Board

I’ve got a fever.

And the only prescription is…. more Thanksgiving sandwiches.

200_s

Luckily, the prognosis is looking good. See, ever since I was a little lady, the concept of Thanksgiving was a little intense to me. I’m the eldest of five kids, and most years my siblings and I split up for different family celebrations. But often, we made up for the big night with Fakesgiving, or just an informal dinner of Thanksgiving Sandwiches.

ThanksgivWiches.

Since then, something about this concept of Thanksgiving on a Roll has always appealed to me. I’ve made a new goal of chasing down that perfect ThanksgivWich within the city of Philadelphia, since my beloved Capriotti’s is too far. Up first?

901f63df-8552-4d00-aef2-0bb90932cd23.jpg

Bathroom Doors: Charming, no?

Jake’s Sandwich Board’s Turducken (click HERE for video)

Jake’s has always been a favorite spot of mine, mostly because it’s truly a place that reminds you how high you are on the food chain. Sandwiches topped with turkey, brisket, bacon, pulled pork, or a mix of a few…. Seeded rolls, sriracha mayo, and a number of other toppings from long hots to bitter greens, avocado to cheese, roasted vegetables to pickled red onions. But I had tunnel vision.

19c1998a-cc79-454e-bf47-23ba2993e8d4.jpg

Sandwich of the Month: Turducken

I had heard tell of this “Turducken” Sandwich, but finally today took the 5 block stroll over to get one of my own.

77abef7a-1700-44af-9218-d69e164bb733.jpg

Why not add a side of fried potatoes to this sandwich topped with fried potatoes?

This sandwich was delicious… and super busy. The base of cranberry-apple sauce was the spread, but some of the flavors might have been lost in the…. well, in the other flavors.

I think a great challenge of the ThanksgivWich is to allow the multitude of ingredients to sing in harmony. And while the Turducken was tasty, it was rare to get a bite that contained more than 1 or 2 ingredients. The seeded roll, however…. that was just a crusty delight.

This is a sandwich meant to be served and consumed hot, and the addition of the potato pancake was an EXCELLENT one. Unfortunately, due to the size of the medallions, only a few bites of the sandwich actually contained the potato crunch. I actually think that there could be a few more if they were smaller, and that could lead to more potato bites. Which is a good thing.

I’ve got my eyes out for others, and I’ll definitely be checking out the offerings from Wawa (the Infamous Gobbler), Nick’s Roast Beef in Old City, PERHAPS a trip to Fairmount’s Rybread for their Savannah, and a jaunt to Reading Terminal Market for Bassett’s Original Turkey. Now welcoming suggestions, especially the seasonal ones!

Spring Fling with Bing Bing (Dim Sum)

If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Unfortunately, I think Philadelphia has a case of the opposite. We, as a city of foodie folks, expect the very best from our chefs. The new ones. The veterans. The young ones. The oldies (but goodies). And then, if they don’t deliver to every single expectation…. Philly people get ticked. I feel like there’s a general air of disappointment that surrounds eaters in this city when they enter a restaurant that’s been hyped up.

Like those overly aggressive dudes that go into every bar, party, or pub ready for a fight, they, too, are looking for someone (or something) with whom they can take issue. I say this because I finally had a chance to mosey down to Bing Bing Dim Sum, East Passyunk’s new contemporary dim sum spot opened by the fellows that brought you Cheu Noodle Bar. Everyone that I’ve talked to has given this place the typical “Oh yes, it was decent BUT __________.” I’m here to tell you it was delicious.

Pac Man Bun: scrapple, quail egg, and pickles

Pac Man Bun: scrapple, quail egg, and pickles

Admittedly, my last dim sum experience was what I like to call my “brush with death” at Joy Tsin Lau, a mere few days before one of Philly’s biggest food poisoning outbreaks. So maybe all there was to go was up…. but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s perfectly cooked quail eggs and savory scrapple. I think it’s an outdoor seating and happy hour that, though newly launched, brought joy to my tastebuds (and wallet).

$5 bites, $3-5 bevvies

Cumin lamb rolls ON FLEEK. Truly, these were ethereal. Crunchy and filled with a tangy, stringy lamb. Oh, yes.

Sure, it’s not “bargain dim sum”. But I don’t think you’d want it to be. You pay a bit of a premium for something new, something different. And with dumplings like these, you get what you pay for:

Jade dumplings full of shrimp and leeks

Jade dumplings full of shrimp and leeks

My pal from grad school was in town and, though I love her, it’s hard to admit…. she’s gluten free. Yup, one of my best friends…. she can’t enjoy a normal beer, pizza, or bagel with me.

The struggle’s never been more real.

Luckily, Bing Bing gets it. Beyond our Pac-man Buns, scallion pancakes, and the lamb rolls, we enjoyed a variety of gluten free options that tasted anything but.

Green beans with fermented garlic and crunchy fried quinoa

Green beans with fermented garlic and crunchy fried quinoa

Fried cauliflower with shrimp salt, lemon, and scallion

Fried cauliflower with shrimp salt, lemon, and scallion

The vegetables, our first two dishes of the night, were filling and delicious enough to make an affordable, tasty meal for one. But dim sum is all about MORE.

Scallion pancakes with black bean hummus

Scallion pancakes with black bean hummus

Un-pictured: a delightful set of (gluten free) ruby red beet dumplings full of tofu and crispy garlic, and a bowl of (also gluten free) ginger scallion rice, chicken, furikake, long hots, and a pickled egg that had me playing the fun game where you see if you can pluck single grains of rice using your chopsticks.

If your food tastes that good, you’ll find a whole new set of skills.

Rice noodle rolls with garlic sausage, peanuts, and herbs

Rice noodle rolls with garlic sausage, peanuts, and herbs

These rice noodle rolls came out last, after I thought I couldn’t fit any more food in my belly. I was (luckily) mistaken. This nutty sauce, complimented by the hot chili oil Bing Bing has on each table, were full of garlicky sausage that both sated any leftover appetite, and guaranteed I wouldn’t be smooching any vampires that night. Not that I’m into that kinda thing #teamJacob.

Sure, we went during Happy Hour so the prices on some of the items were a little cheaper. But between the four of us, each getting at least one (DELICIOUS) alcoholic beverage, we came out paying $100 before tip. I’m more than cool with that. Throw in a wacky, dumpling themed decor (they’re everywhere. Even in the bathrooms) and you’re in for a unique night, to say the least. And while I rarely encourage anyone to follow the advice of Sylvia Plath (for assorted reasons), I think she’d make a hell of a food critic.

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

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.)