Posts Tagged ‘rittenhouse’

…these are a few of my favorite things!

December 23, 2010

Dishes 215-218: Sea bass at Fish, 17th and Lombard

Chicken Vindaloo at New Delhi, 40th and Chestnut

Tofu Aphrodite at Caffe Galleria, Lamberville

Sweet Potato Casserole at Marsha Brown, New Hope

The best part about black tie season is the perpetual sensation of being in a James Bond movie. (And better yet if you are sitting opposite Bond, no?) There is such excess and romance of going to a local BYO for a bite before an event in full attire. So there we are, sitting across from one another in sumptuous burgundy velvet seats, abstract kitchen images lit from behind by spotlights in the background, and perfect slivers of fish sitting center stage. I can’t imagine anything better…

sexy lighting

…until two nights later, standing in the kitchen around a white Styrofoam takeout container loaded with chana masala, dal, and naan. “The trick I found,” I said, mouth full, “to getting the most of the takeout buffet, is to put down a moderate layer of rice, to keep the liquids from spilling. Then load up on the dal and chana masala. Then stuff as much naan as you can in the upper section of the container.” Tim laughed. “Molly and I are still trying to find out if Olive Garden will let us do take out of the never ending soup, salad, and breadsticks. I’d bring a garbage bag and fill it up with lettuce.”…

…Lettuce was hardly the only item available on the vegan-friendly menu at Caffe Galleria, “where the unapologetic carnivore and the dedicated vegan dine together, happily”. I had the Tofu Aphrodite, three thick slabs of breaded tofu baked until crisp and smothered in garlicky vegetables. The tofu was prepared with care and expertise—however, I stuffed myself to the brim with the rich, flavorful veggies on the side. Oops.

Gustav’s friend Sandy showed him, me, and Tracy through the best vintage shops in Lambertville, where we found a delicious Tiffany blue v-neck dress to wear for our Mad Men party the same evening. After working up a bit of a lather, we walked the bridge to New Hope and to Marsha Brown.

Caleb Lentchner of Marsha Brown treated us to the sweet potato casserole, a side dish that could comfortably make a home on the dessert menu- but why? It’s such a scrumptious surprise where it is. Afterwards, we enjoyed a tour of the premises, dominated –of course—by the massive mural in the dining room, an arched painting of several lions and men in combat. My favorite painting has to be the inside of the elevator shaft, which depicts—you guessed it—heaven, on the upper floors, and the descent into hell, with cherubs guiding you all the while.


Stomach Incites Rebellion in Name of Falafel

October 21, 2010

Dishes 152 -153: Hummus and falafel sandwich at 17th St. Falafel, 17th St. between Market and Ludlow

Hot sausage at Hot Dog Truck, SW corner of 17th and Market

I have a natural suspicion of grease trucks. In many areas of New York, as you probably know, they are repugnant. The burnt stench of pretzel or hot dogs can carry for blocks, turning your stomach and making you wonder how they stay in business. And as far as cleanliness goes- let’s just say I’ve heard horrible things.  From people who know. Like pretzels being shoveled straight off a dirty concrete floor. I’m not saying, but—I don’t touch that stuff.

So despite the change in aroma from the burnt garbage of my youth to a pleasant, roasting, beefy scent in this fair city, despite the gleaming metal of the trucks and the charming faces of their industrious proprietors, I hesitated to purchase food prepared in a motor vehicle. You never know! Friends and coworkers coaxed me into it on several occasions, but I warn the youth: show more strength than me and hold out for food cooked under a permanent ceiling!

Until a fateful Saturday several weeks ago: MM and I were walking to lunch, absolutely famished and having underestimated the length of our stroll. Even the soapy scent of laundry venting from a nearby apartment smelled appetizing. With six blocks left to go, we passed the first grease truck, and our noses twitched at the mouthwatering aroma of roasting sausages, pungent fat and juices dripping into the grill, sizzling; two stomachs let out two angry roars, FOOD! Stalwart, we patted them into submission and continued on to a meal eaten sitting down, on china, with forks and knives. There would be none of that street food today.

But the stomachs had already made their proclamation, and rebellion was imminent.

With the end of this challenge in sight and a nip in the air, the pressure increased to hit up the most portable eateries before they might relocate to a garage for the winter. Yesterday, I figured a leisurely constitutional up 17th St. would be fair—if the trucks happened to be where they were rumored to be, I would eat;  otherwise, salad at Duane Morris, per usual. There it was, 17th St. Falafel, in it’s sparkling metal glory, and the customers in line looked jovial. My stomach growled approvingly. As Yoshi prepped the crispy falafel and rich hummus, he gave me advice to grease up my bike properly, and my stomach pointed out how clean the truck was to my brain, who agreed begrudgingly.

So today I repeated the experiment. If the hot dog stand was there, good, if it wasn’t, no biggie. And there it was. Hot sausage!, my stomach ordered, joyously, with mustard and kraut! from the grandmotherly woman and her young partner behind the counter. Three dollars, a spic and span truck, and the heady scent of broiling meat—my stomach grumbled happily in anticipation of a quick meal I no longer had to resist.

And the hoagie bun is so easy to grip-- look at all the packages you can carry!

So… it’s a vegan place?

October 14, 2010

Dish 145: Prime Rib at the Prime Rib, 17th and Locust,

Mystery Man took me to Prime Rib last night for some old-school glamour. We both love that Prime Rib knows exactly what it is and lives it up, leopard print carpets, enormous faux-Ming vases, black floral couches, black walls, baby grand with clear acrylic lid, Sinatra tunes, large-type menu and all. It’s a moment in time, like my high school math tutor who slept in the day that the memo went out that stirrup leggings and big hair were over. Far from trying to be the next communal-dining wine bar that serves small bites, Prime Rib stands proudly, asserting that some things don’t need to change, that some things never go out of style, and once you’re around long enough, you’ll get it. God, my grandmother would have loved this place.

A tuxedoed man—actually, several tuxedoed men, lead us to a four-top and, with the option of chair or sharing the glorious floral sofa, Julie Andrew’s words in the Princess Diaries commanded me to take the chair: “I don’t scootch”. Pffft. I scootched cheekily to the far half of the sofa, in the shadow of a shrubbery-sized plastic floral arrangement.

"Mystery Man, can you IMAGINE their floral bills in a year?" "Lauren, it's plastic."

Mystery Man comes from a faraway place dotted with glacial lakes, where meat occupies the largest bottom layer of the food pyramid; this in mind, he took one for the team and agreed to consume the majority of the Prime Rib’s famous prime rib. (All girls should be so lucky.) And great Odin’s beard, the prime rib at Prime Rib is a prime rib to end all prime ribs, an offering upon the altar of a meatatarian God. A two inch thick opus of beef, lean and buttery at the core, wrapped in a generous layer of gooey fat. I am led to believe that MM found it tasty; I certainly enjoyed the bite I had tremendously.

Maybe you are wondering, as I was, exactly who patronizes the Prime Rib on a Wednesday night. Those who have loved it for decades, naturally, took up several tables in all their bow-tied, white-haired pomp. The others were—just people. Nobody too young, we had some Mom-ish characters wearing their favorite black stretch tops and chunky costume jewelry, some Dad-looking guys in buttondowns sans ties—you don’t even need a jacket any more, on most nights! No hipsters or yupsters, but I would love to see the Prime Rib’s authentic old-fashioned swank and overt rejection of the trend towards small plates make a renaissance. Saturated fats are so hot right now, it’s really not much of a leap. And maybe I’m old-fashioned, or maybe I have been conditioned by many years spent in the Nordstrom shoe department, but there is something to be said for a piano man crooning while you linger over a lovely evening.

A Bright Patch of Sunlight

October 2, 2010

Dishes 140-142: Thousand Layer Bread at Rangoon, 112 N. 9th St.,; Bu Nuong La (grape leaves stuffed with grilled beef) and Bun cha gio chay (spring roll vermicelli) at Vietnam, 221 N. 11th St. & 816 S. 47th St.,

Dish 143: Banger Sandwich at Pub & Kitchen, 20th and Lombard,

At the culmination of a dreary week, during which I took solace in Vietnamese food and a new season of Glee after getting doused on more than one run, today dawned clear and crisp. The minty and Greek-inspired bu nuong la, grape leaves stuffed with grilled beef, and the mild, cabbagey warmth of the bun cha gio chay, spring roll vermicelli, nearly forgotten with the nasty weather they battled. The thousand layer bread from Rangoon, a chewy, crispy pancake paired with a potato curry reminiscent of an Indian dish, is merely a file stored in memory, grab this one when you pass through Chinatown again. Today is a fresh day, a dazzling start, a sun-kissed stroll downtown to quiet south 20th street for lunch with Mystery Man.

There is something so wonderful about not having to choose a dish from the menu, to have it pre-determined, especially at restaurants with a variety of delicious-sounding choices. I never have to worry whether the sandwich is too many calories or if soup will be messy, never have to regret my choice when MM’s dish comes out looking far better, never have to stand in judgment while my companion wonders if I need a side of fries. The food pre-determined, I can sit back and enjoy the company, like the calm moments on Thanksgiving between the last string beans being cut and the table being set. The food will be unforgettable, I already know. It always is. And when it arrives,

gorgeous, juicy, yolk running seductively over salty, buttery white, I can take a bite, enjoy, and then return my focus to MM, who compares the house-made banger to the summer sausages of his home state. “The combination of spices,” he says, “and the higher-quality meat.” He nods, looking at me, as if to say, Today is a good day. Today is going to be a very good day.

This is really embarrassing, but…

June 7, 2010

… I was so busy stuffing my face I forgot to take a picture of the dish. I’m really sorry. Here’s a pic I borrowed from D’Angelo’s site:


Dish 98: Ziti and Meatballs at D’Angelo’s, 20th and Manning,

Mom and Dad would order in a plain pizza from Mario’s (which was then John’s, which was then Mario’s again) on Friday nights, if Brian and I behaved well. Miss Grawehr would take us to Cousin’s for mozzarella sticks if we did well in class. In middle school, the PTA organized Ziti Wednesdays, and the lunch room would be silent as every student happily crammed his face with pasta and butter and meatballs. In high school, we all stayed on campus on Thursdays for the special, calzones. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, we headed to Pizza Factory.

And then I moved to Pennsylvania, where plain pizza has no cheese and tomato gravy contains sugar. And I barely ate pasta, pizza, ziti, calzone, meatballs, or mozzarella sticks for four years.

The fast can end.

I’m being melodramatic. I have had some Italian food in the past four years, and some was fantastic (Vinny T’s in Wynnewood, L’Angolo in South Philly, Osteria, Melograno) but today was the first time that I was transported home, to nights spent babysitting at a certain tan house in Cobblestone Crossing, jogging to open the door for the delivery man, smelling the fresh, hot, oily tomatoeyness oozing from every crack in the greasy paper bag, unwrapping the foil to reveal soft rolls to soak up the excess sauce and basil and parm. The portions were so big you always saved half for tomorrow. Today I couldn’t resist. I wolfed the ziti down hungrily, like we used to after vacations—“shore pizza” we’d say, “it’s no good. Their water isn’t any good. The crust is all strange. The sauce is all sweet. It’s just no good.” Oh, but this was good. This was really good. I’m so full right now.

Special Report: Innocent Celebratory Lunch leads to Existential Crisis

May 26, 2010

Dish 91: Octopus at LaCroix, 210 West Rittenhouse Square,

Octopus is an upsettingly tasty food that I can barely bring myself to eat. Most other types of meat barely resemble the animal from which they came, which makes it easier to compartmentalize. Think of sliced deli ham. It does not oink or snort, or snuffle in any cute fashion. Or a hanger steak, does not moo, nor is it furry. But octopus, is simply octopus, skin and suckers and all. It seems so barbaric to me, straight out of Arabian Nights, to cut off another’s limbs and eat them for dinner. Or lunch. At LaCroix. I just picture a man with a machete, heartlessly hacking at a sea creature made defenseless by its removal from the ocean. Octopi can hold their own in the water; some even have venom with the same toxin as the fugu fish. But on land, what can it do? Would you ever kick a man if he was down? We don’t need meat to live. So why kill?

I apologize. Certain foods get to me. I’m not against eating meat; I am against me eating meat. The given of my argument is that evolution exists. Suppose that certain animals have the right to eat meat—carnivores. Omnivores. I argue that if one animal needs meat to survive and thrive, and can overpower another animal in combat, that one predator has the right to eat the meat, and perhaps his immediate beneficiaries—cubs, girlfriends, baby daddies, etc. Depending on whim, I occasionally expand this combat to include simple tools like a bow and arrow, a rock, basic traps and nets, but never guns. Unless you plan on giving a deer a gun, you shouldn’t be shooting at it. Back to the point. I cannot kill an animal. Not only would I be completely incapable of trapping a squirrel or a bunny or something, I could not end its life. So, therefore,  I do not deserve to eat meat. I cannot earn it. I do it for the blog—but I  think Mr. Jeffers might soon find himself with a new eight-armed assignment.

LaCroix is amazing. What else is new?

On the topic of tasty but unsettling foods, the octopus from LaCroix was incredible. The menu claims to serve it with coconut and lime (coconut and lime? That sounds like the exquisite coconut and kaffir lime chocolates from Antoine Amrani. Haven’t tried them yet? Get moving!!), except when it arrives, there are no coconuts or visible limes! The smoky octopus is served with tiny gelee cubes of a blandish sweet lean, and sprinkled with what appears to be parmesan. In fact, the “parmesan” is a sticky white powder, like confectionary sugar, but its salty and sesame-y. Strange but interesting. And given the perfectly orchestrated and executed service, I can’t wait for my next visit. When I will order something a little more mainstream.

Antoine Amrani:

Yes, we are together. Twitter, meet Mr. Black Belt.

May 26, 2010

Dish 90: Chicken and Lemongrass Soup at Smile Café, 22nd and Chestnut, (215) 564-2502‎

So I returned from a quick lunch and some errands yesterday to find that Philly Picks had retweeted my “en route to smile café!” tweet. Exciting, right? Philly Picks has over a thousand followers. Think of all the unfortunate beings needlessly subjected to my whims on a beautiful sunny day! Just a few short steps to world domination! Soon, Mom and I will fulfill our dreams of reorganizing the Mexican government!

Except that my retweeter had attached a map. It is difficult to pinpoint why the map created a nagging feeling- I had already broadcast my location to anyone with the time to read it. But there was something invasive about a person I had never met- an intern? A mom? Or maybe just an automated program? – giving the world a guide on how to find me. I mean, I’m not worried. I’m pretty fierce. I bake a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies. And Indy could tell you that my belly rubs are unparalleled. If I’m ever cornered in a dark alley, I will send my cookies and belly rubs into battle for me. And they will win.

But just in case. I might start delaying my tweets by an hour or two and take some lessons with Billy Blanks. Or maybe I will follow in the hallowed footsteps of Gaughin and Hemingway and utilize an elite delivery service to complete my mission from a temperate, exotic locale. I always have liked Point Pleasant. Maybe I will simply make up mis-tweets. And if some crazy fan (Paula Deen, for example) tries to find me at Zahav, I will be far away, having dinner with my fresh new black belt.

Wait, I'm supposed to talk about the food?

–>Oh, yes, that food thing. The chicken and lemongrass soup is fantastic– if you like chicken and lemongrass. (We already known my predispositions to chickens and lawns. It’s all fun and games until the lawn mower comes along.)  I added some white rice, and it really made a hearty, filling lunch. The hot sauce floating on top was the best part; the heat contrasted with the fresh coolness of the grassy broth. Picture your mom’s chicken soup– or if your mom doesn’t make chicken soup, your Aunt J’s chicken soup– with some crisp onion and grass. It’s not too hard to like. Next time, though, might skip the chicken.

Noble and Estelle, sitting in a tree…

April 25, 2010

Dish 76: Chickpea Fries at Noble American Cookery, 20th and Sansom,

Noble American Cookery has an interior design twin across town, in Café Estelle. (I bet you thought I didn’t have a yenta bone in my body. Well, take this. I’ll be the for these establishments. Noble, meet Estelle. Estelle, meet Noble. Awww, their names even sound cute together.) Both have light slate blue walls, exposed, clean-looking ductwork, dark wood accents, and a lighter feel than that description would allow. Maybe you get breakfast at Estelle if you live in the condos above it (Cheers for loft conversions!) and then later in the day, after your slightly edgy self gets out of your straightlaced moneymaking occupation, decides he needs a class of wine, he stretches his bounds and heads over to Estelle West- I mean, Mr. Estelle- I mean, Noble.

I didn’t get a chance to peek upstairs last night, but photos on the website show the second floor of Noble to be a stunning skylit space, striking white-painted brick walls, the familiar slate blue cushions, and dark-varnished rafters. Noble’s culinary dominance is demonstrated by the exquisitely to-the-point menu. Dani, Tracy and I sampled the chickpea fries and shared the garlicky wilted spinach, the gnocchi, and the veggie burger, with its sour beets and buttery patty. The chickpea fries are the size and shape of frozen mozzarella sticks, an inch square by maybe four inches long; they arrive standing up in a tart tomatoey compote that breaks up the smooth flavor of the chickpea paste, but we were left wanting for another layer of flavor, maybe a salty hard cheese. The gnocchi are also unusual—I had never seen gnocchi that had been toasted, creating two crispy sides on each niblet.

Clearly the name does not do them justice. Admire the glory.

The darkness of the room, each table lit by a tiny candle, creates an intimacy in the open, airy space. The style of the staff is eclectic and tasteful, fresh and hip with a distinctly classic flair; the hostess wore a filmy floral one-piece palazzo pantsuit while the men wore jeans, dress shirts, and vests, and we wondered who the clientele would be. We saw twentysomething rehabilitated former frat boys and a cool-looking pair of middle aged couples on a double date—more diverse and a bit older than the twentysomethings at Estelle, but then again, there is something classically appealing about the younger woman.

Mama Lynch: You forgot that we went to Max Brenner!

April 11, 2010

Dish 61: Truffled egg toast with fontina cheese, Tria, 12th and Spruce & 18th and Sansom,

Dish 62: Trofie con funghi e patate, L’Oca, 22nd and Fairmount,

Lauren: Hello friends! Mama Lynch visited Philly today to spend some time with her loving children, so we will be writing this article in tandem.

Mama Lynch: Like a tandem bicycle?

Lauren: Precisely.

Mama Lynch: Okay, good.

Lauren: We met at the steps of the Art Museum because I like to watch people run to the top and do the Rocky dance. Then Madre jumped in the Demon Bunny and we were off.

Mama Lynch: I was Robin’s replacement.

L: What? Like Batman? Okay, fine. We were initially going to go to Ladder 15 for lunch to try the new menu, but couldn’t find parking.

ML: So we went to…?

L: Tria. And you made this horrible face!

Loqi and Mama outside Tria

ML: But it was delicious! The garlic-goat cheese-pesto bruschetta was my favorite—I liked how the basil was chopped so fine, it didn’t get stuck in your teeth. The egg on the square thing was… scary.

L: The truffled egg toast with fontina.

The Spread!

ML: I just didn’t like it looking at me. And the salad with the pignoli nuts and the figs was like being in Napa Valley and getting to eat the figs straight out of the crate! It was perfect. The best part was being forgotten by the waitstaff.

L: Oh, definitely. What a gorgeous day. What a surprise to see Krista! It’s been years.

ML: Yes, that was a great surprise. And I loved the prices. They were so low you didn’t mind sampling a couple of things.

L: So then we wandered around Rittenhouse Square a little and I dragged her into Capogiro.

Capogiro-- pistachio and mango, mmm!

ML: We got that far? Did you say that we zigzagged through Philly? I don’t know how big the place is, but we did it all.

L: Penn’s Landing was lovely today.

ML: The duck boats were really cool. I want to drive one.

L: It is a lot of fun. They let us do that on a field trip to Boston once.

ML: One of my favorite parts was the squares, how, if you don’t know the city, you’re wandering around and this little oasis pops up, and you get to see all these people relaxing and talking, and it’s even better when there are sculptures of lions.

Lion Sculpture in Rittenhouse Square

L: I agree.

ML: It was a restaurant-architecture tour. So we went in for our chocolate fix.

L: That was Garces Trading Co. That came later. But, the chocolate bouchon was amazing!

ML: Dense and delicious! The chocolate biscotti was one of the best I have ever had. Crunchy and the nuts tasted very fresh.

L: I loved the chunks of Valrhona in the bouchon.

Pastry counter at Garces Trading Co-- GLORIOUS!

Brian: The root beer was an excellent vintage.

L: Then we wandered back to the museum.

ML: I think I’m actually tired.

L: I didn’t know that was possible!

ML: So where did we go for dinner? Oh, L’Oca! Brian ate wild boar and veal! Brian, comments on your hunting expedition? The menu had a lot of odd meat choices.

B: Tasty.


ML: We had an early dinner, and that five o’clock sun streaming through the window… Good tired. Very relaxing. People should bring wine. We forgot.

L: It’s okay, it was still wonderful. Your toma ravioli was…

ML: One of the best I have ever had. There was barely any sauce on it, so you could really taste it. The sage, butter, and walnut sauce was—just enough to let the ravioli shine through. And yours?

L: The trofie con funghi e patate? Remember when it came out?

–everyone laughs—

ML: I can’t believe you thought the cheese was…

L: The sauce? But it looked just like—it looked like… –whispers—snot! It was much better after it had cooled off a little, then you could appreciate how finely the mushrooms were cooked and the milder flavors in the cheese. Subtle and peppery.

Trofie with mushrooms and toma cheese

ML: I’m going to get my laptop from the car. –disappears—

L: We really covered a lot of ground today. We wouldn’t have to do this if she visited more often.

–reappears with a bag of groceries–

L: When did you go grocery shopping?

ML: Did you have fun?

B: Mom, stop tickling my feet.

L: Okay, I think we’re going to call it a night. Are those snow peas?

ML: –laughs to herself—We did good.

L: That doesn’t explain how you got snow peas to survive twelve hours in a hot car.

ML: We sound like we had too much coffee.

L: I’m cutting us off. Nighty night everyone.

ML: Night night!

Searching for Distraction in a Cupcake

February 4, 2010

Dani’s Pick: Coconut Cream Cupcake at Brown Betty, 20th and Spruce,

Searching for Distraction in a Cupcake

I reached for a pen, and a Brown Betty business card fell out of my bookbag, from when Dani and I got cupcakes last week. Dani is on a mission to find the coconut cream cake of her dreams. Her woman sense tells her that were she to taste the cake, it would instantly become her favorite. Similar to how, in Total Recall, Arnold Schwartzenegger subconsciously knows that he is a secret agent through his dreams of the brunette lady. So she and I embarked on a journey to find this cupcake; first stop, Brown Betty Petite.

College is not all fun and games. (It used to be, and then someone lost an eye.) Now it is strictly academics and stress; this is why college students are perpetually doing ridiculous things. Older people who have forgotten what it is like to be young think that misbehavior is immaturity, when, in fact, immaturity is the fearful reaction to a reality that can be serious and very scary. Rolling-chair races down the dorm halls, toilet paper attacks during midterms week, burrito-eating contests at Chipotle, fort-building nights spent in—these are all demonstrations of a 20something’s realization that their hope of gainful employment is less likely than being hit by a car, and the resulting reversion to a childlike or possibly insane state.

Dani and I like to think that we are more grown up, more sane, or possibly just more boring than other college students. (As a wise man once said: Erroneous. Erroneous on all counts.) Rather than silly pastimes, we obsess over food. We each had a tense week and decide to forget about it over cupcakes—or more precisely, a search for a cupcake of a most obscure flavor and texture.

Brown Betty’s counter is cute and tiny, just one glass case wide, stocked with rows and rows of cupcakes with identical cream cheese icing and uniform pound cake underoos. There it was, on the bottom row, the Grail of our mission.

I chose an almond cupcake that was the dense, cakey iteration of marzipan, heavy and sweet. Dani chose the Grail. If I remember correctly, as the boy behind the counter handed Dani the cupcake, it began to glow. She took a bite, her face, unchanged. The cream cheese icing, she said; it wasn’t supposed to have cream cheese icing. I know the truth. It wasn’t the wrong cupcake; it was the wrong time. I’m thinking she’ll find it in five or six months. I hope.