Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rembrandt's in the Rain

I was itching to sit outside and get something yummy to eat, I ventured down to the Bishop's Collar, but found all their outside tables occupied, so my friend Donal and I walked around the block to Rembrandt's. Luckily, they have awnings covering their outside tables, because the weather turned and rain started falling on us as soon as we sat down. I've sung my praises about Rembrandt's happy hour in a previous post, but this time I'm singing about their food.
Anniversary Party 004
The tavern menu is available outside all day long and provides a nice selection of sandwiches, entrees and wood-oven pizzas.
Anniversary Party 005
Donal ordered the Paesano Burger. His huge burger came topped with gorgonzola cheese, bacon, sautéed onions, garlic aioli, and french fries all drizzled with a reduced balsamic syrup.
Anniversary Party 006
I tried the scampi pizza. It came out with a bubbly crust and was covered with rock shrimp, roasted garlic, broccoli rabe, asiago and pecorino cheeses, and red pepper flakes. I enjoyed the spicy shrimp in combination with the tangy cheeses.

Rembrandt's Restaurant and Bar
741 N. 23rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Corner 23rd & Aspen Streets
Phone: 215-763-2228
Rembrandt's in Philadelphia

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Brunch @ A Full Plate Cafe

I spent both Saturday and Sunday brunch seeing my friends at A Full Plate Cafe. Saturday, Alison and I hit Fishtown's community plant sale and then grabbed brunch before heading down Columbus Boulevard to do some more shopping.

I skipped coffee and went with a huge mason jar full of lemonade. It's something new they're offering at A Full Plate along with iced coffee.
Breakfast Burrito
My breakfast burrito was stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese. I asked for a side of the homemade hot sauce and it was perfect!

Donal rolled into town later on, so on Sunday before he left to go back home, we stopped by A Full Plate again! I loved the lemonade so much the previous day that I ordered it in the place of coffee again. This isn't to say I didn't drink two cups at my house before we got to the restaurant.
Broccoli, Cheese, & Bacon Omelet
I ordered the Omelet of the Day, Broccoli & Cheddar but also added bacon on the inside. Three smoky pieces of bacon and tons of broccoli were covered in melted cheddar. I'm definitely a ketchup on eggs kind of girl, as you can see from the huge blob in the foreground.

A Full Plate Cafe
1009 N. Bodine St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
215-627-4068
Hours:
Monday—Thursday 11am—9pm
Friday 11am—10pm
Saturday 10am—10pm, brunch 10am—3pm
Sunday 10am—3pm, brunch 10am—3pm
A Full Plate Cafe in Philadelphia

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mint Chocolate Bundt Cake

Vegan Baking 006

Chocolate Mint Cake (Vegan)

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
8 fresh finely cut mint leaves
2 cups of water
3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine water, vegetable oil, vinegar, mint leaves and vanilla paste and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour batter into a greased bundt pan and bake for at least 45 minutes or up to an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool and carefully remove from the pan.

For the Chocolate Glaze:

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
Soy milk

Mix cocoa and sugar with whisk, slowly add soy milk a teaspoon at a time until the desire consistency is reached. Pour over the cake and let set.
Vegan Baking 011
Next time I make this cake I'm going to add even more mint leaves as the mint flavor was not very pronounced. The cake was moist and very chocolaty. The glaze set up nicely and was also very chocolaty. I also might omit the cocoa from the glaze and replace a bit of the soy milk with spearmint extract to boost the mint contribution.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Azure

I needed a drink after working Mother's Day Brunch at the Cafe. We just went around the block up 2nd street and landed at Azure. In reality we wanted to eat at North Third or Standard Tap instead, but both take a break on Sunday between Brunch and Dinner and we just couldn't wait an hour to eat, so Azure it was.
Mojito madness
You should all know by now that I'm a big fan of mojitos and Azure makes a pretty tasty one. Usually I go for the traditional lime mojito, but on this lovely afternoon I opted for the mango flavored mojito and enjoyed it quite a bit. Marissa tried the pomegranate and Shannon stuck with the traditional lime. I took a sip of them all and I'd be happy with any one of them placed in front of me.
Azure 012
After working a hectic Mother's Day brunch we were all starving so we ordered some appetizers right away. Here are the vegetarian pot stickers($6), stuffed with spinach, onions and some other unrecognizable veggies, they're deep fried and served with a tangy orange/soy/sesame sauce.
Azure 011
We also couldn't resist the allure of the Chipotle Chicken Fajita Potato Skins ($10). They looked delicious, but ultimately I thought they were lacking any real flavor kick that I was expecting from the chipotle peppers, and came with the smallest teaspoon of guacamole to share amongst the three large potato skins. Liz and Marissa enjoyed them more than I did, so they can't be all bad.
Azure 015
Shannon ordered the Seitan Caesar Salad ($11) for her dinner and loved it. I had a bite of her seitan and I'd say it's some of the best I've had around Philly. Very nice texture and a real spicy kick at the end. The salad was built with hearts of romaine, garlic-Parmesan dressing, crumbled cotija cheese and warm polenta croutons.
Azure 014
Liz ordered the Spanakopita ($10) but upon one bite decided that wasn't what she was craving for dinner, so she ordered something else and we all had a few bites of the spinach pie. I thought it was pretty tasty, especially the crunchy Fillo dough top. Both Shannon and Liz agreed that the spinach tasted as though it was from a can. I can't say that I've ever knowingly had spinach from a can, but I like spinach in all it's imputations so it didn't bother me in the least.
steak
Liz was much happier with her second attempt at dinner. She ordered the round steak topped with Roquefort which came with house mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and asparagus ($16).
Azure 017
Finally, I had the Greek Baked Shrimp ($15). Shrimp were baked with peppers, onions, Greek olives, white wine and feta cheese, then served with toasted bread. It was delicious, I just wish they had left the tails on the shrimp and not cut them up into little pieces, which I prefer to do myself.

Eat and drink at Azure. The mojito's are so good they ease any trouble.

Azure
931 N 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Between Laurel & Poplar
Phone: 215-629-0500
Lunch
Mon-Fri: 11:30am-4pm
Dinner
Sun-Thu: 4pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 4pm-12am
Brunch
Sat-Sun: 11am-3pm
Azure in Philadelphia

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Saturday was a beautiful day and Alison and I were in need of food, as quickly as possible, preferably served to us in an outside setting. Wanting a little more than greasy diner eggs, we headed to Northern Liberties and grabbed an outside table at Azure.
Azure (1)
The brunch menu has many options, but none were jumping out at me as the ideal brunch order. Actually, what sounded really good was the Monte Cristo sandwich, but it was one of the few Brunch items I've eaten and posted about previously, so it was off limits. I was almost lured to the French Toast, but it was stuffed with banana and peanut butter which sounded far too heavy for the hour.
azurebenny
Alison tried one of the three versions of eggs Benedict that Azure offers. She opted for the Azure Benedict, English muffins, grilled ham, poached eggs and hollandaise. The other versions involve smoked salmon and spinach as well as a crab cake Benedict.
Azure
I ordered the pancakes, served with mango butter and blueberry compote. Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, no blueberry compote came with my pancakes, and upon asking the waitress about it, she informed me that they were out of blueberry compote that morning. Would have been nice if I knew that before I ordered, because I really only ordered the pancakes to see what the blueberry/mango combination was all about. She did bring me a small plate of fresh blackberries as a substitute, but I'm sure this wouldn't have happened if I hadn't questioned the absence of the blueberries. That said, the pancakes were decent and the mango butter was awesome.

Even with the blueberry mishap, I like Azure. They make a mean mojito, which I enjoyed alongside my pancakes. Check out Azure for brunch and if you're in the mood for people and dog watching sit outside.

Azure
931 N 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Between Laurel & Poplar
Phone: 215-629-0500
Brunch
Sat-Sun: 11am-3pm
Azure in Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rembrandt's

In my neighborhood there are lots of options for food and drink in the late afternoon. When it comes to a really great happy hour however, the Art Museum Area is a little lacking. Except for Rembrandt's. With specials starting at 4:55 and running to 7:05, Rembrandt's claims to have the longest happy hour in Philadelphia.

Alison and I arrived at about 4:30, so we sucked it up and ordered a full-price drink just to start. I opted for the mojito in a pint glass for $8. I'm a sucker for a good mojito. I just love the combination of fresh lime and mint with a decent amount of rum, but unfortunately this was not a good mojito.
Rembrandt's (1)
I'm not sure whether they used a pre-made mojito mix or if I had just brushed my teeth too recently, but this drink tasted funny, and I don't mean in a good way. It was artificial tasting with not nearly enough mint to even taste it. But you know me, I'm not one to waste a drink, so it was all rapidly consumed.
Rembrandt's (7)
I ordered a "Small Plate" from their cafe menu of toasted flat bread and hummus. This was by no means a small plate, it was a huge plate of 6 or 7 pieces of flat bread, covered in hummus, green and black olives and roasted red peppers. I devoured it, and it was very reasonable at just $7.95.
Rembrandt's (10)
After the mojito, happy hour was in full effect, so draft beer and well drinks were just three bucks a piece. Our server (I think his name was Greg) was nice enough to invent a little cocktail for us, Pineapple, Cranberry and vodka with a twist of lime. Yum. I think I had 4 which apparently was one too many, because by the time 7:05 rolled around I was walking home and making plans to put on my pj's and go to bed.

Rembrandt'sRestaurant and Bar
741 N. 23rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Corner 23rd & Aspen Streets
Phone: 215-763-2228
Lunch & Tavern Menu Hours:
Sunday - 2:30PM till 10:00PM
Monday - Thursday 11:30AM till 10:00PM
Friday - Saturday 11:30AM till Midnight
Dinner Hours:
Monday - Thursday 5:30PM till 10:00PM
Friday - Saturday 5:30PM till 11:00PM
Sunday - 5:00PM till 9:00PM
Brunch Hours:
Sunday - 11:30AM till 2:30PM
Pizza Menu Hours:
Sunday - 2:30PM till 9:00PM
Monday - Thursday 11:30AM till 1:00AM
Friday - Saturday 11:30AM till 1:00 AM
Rembrandt's in Philadelphia

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A while back I ordered the paperback version of Paula Deen's Dessert Cookbook. I'd seen her make her Oooey Gooey Butter Cakes on TV and decided I would try them if the recipe ever crossed my path. Luckily, it was tucked inside her southern desserts cookbook. I followed her recipe once or twice, then made some variations of my own. I make these for A Full Plate often, but the servers hated saying "Oooey Gooey Cakes" so we changed the name to Cheesecake bars.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
This is my favorite variation I've tried so far. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake bars.

For the crust of the bars, you'll need:
1 18.5 oz package chocolate cake mix
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, melted

Using an electric mixer, mix the cake mix, egg and melted butter until a thick dough forms. Press into an even layer in the bottom of a 13X9 glass dish. I like to press the dough up the sides of the pan a little bit, too.

For the filling, you'll need:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Meanwhile, using the mixer, cream together cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Add eggs and beat well. Dump in the box of powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce the speed of the mixer and drizzle in butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure everything is mixed together before spreading this mixture over the crust. Spread into an even layer and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Bake 50 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees. The center should still be a tiny bit wobbly looking, with a light golden brown top.

Cool completely, cut into bars. These bars are rich, so feel free to cut them into very small bars.



Here is what they look like when you cut one. This photo actually came from a repeat customer to A Full Plate. She got a much better profile shot than I did. Thanks for letting me use this picture on Foodaphilia, Tanya.

Happy Mother's Day!

e

Friday, May 11, 2007

Restaurant & Recipe Index

Recently, I spent some time going back through old posts from the past two years and making categorical lists. I've made clickable lists and put them on the sidebar. I hope this helps with navigation around Foodaphilia. For reviews of restaurants in and around Philadelphia check out "Philadelphia Restaurants". For recipes featured on Foodaphilia check out "Recipes" and "Vegan Recipes". I hope to add another list soon, "Eating Elsewhere", a list of restaurant reviewed outside of Philly and other eating adventures.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Part of my mission at A Full Plate Cafe is to have a delicious, decadent, and vegan dessert every week. Chocolate Pudding Cake totally fits these requirements. Honestly, this cake tastes so rich it's hard to believe there's no fat or eggs in it.
Chocolate pudding cake
I doubled the original recipe and baked it in a 13X9 glass dish, but if you don't work at a restaurant or don't have a large enough family to eat this cake in a day or two, feel free to halve the recipe and bake in an 8X8.

For the Vegan Chocolate Pudding Cake you'll need:

2 c flour
4 T apple sauce
1 c water
1/4 t salt
1 & 1/3 c sugar
2 t vanilla
4 T cocoa
4 t baking powder
1 & 1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c cocoa
3 & 1/2 c hot water

Mix the first eight ingredients together, mixture will be thick. Spread the thick batter into a 13X9 rectangular baking pan. Mix the brown sugar and 1/4 c cocoa. Sprinkle over the batter. Pour the hot water over the entire top surface of the cake. I know it looks weird, but it totally works!
hot water cake
Bake at 350 for about 45 or 50 minutes. You might want to put the baking dish on a cookie sheet, in case some of the pudding mixture spills over the sides. The magic of this cake is that as it bakes, the brown sugar/cocoa topping mixes with the water and sinks through the cake to form a pudding layer at the bottom.
pudding cake
I like to let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes and served warm, or chill it and serve cold.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Peanut Brittle Bars

One my favorite baking blogs is Baking Bites, formerly known as Baking Sheet. This blogger does a lot of baking as well as a lot of reading and writing about baking. I've made numerous recipes found on her site and recently tried this recipe for Peanut Brittle Bars at A Full Plate when I noticed a huge Ziploc bag of peanuts on the supply shelf.

Peanut Brittle Bars

Peanut Brittle Bars
- from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies (The following is a double batch of the original recipe)

2 cup (4 sticks) butter, softened
2 cup white sugar
4 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped and divided

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add flour, mixing at low speed, until fully incorporated. Stir in 1 cup of the peanuts.

Turn batter into ungreased half sheet pan and press batter into thin layer. Sprinkle remaining peanuts on top of the batter and press down with your spatula or a piece of wax paper.

Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cookies cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slice into bars. Let the bars cool completely in the pan. They will be quite firm when completely cooled. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36 delicious and crunchy bars.

And with only 4 ingredients!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Coconut Cake

Monday's are crazy busy baking days for me. I don't work at MPIP, instead I go to A Full Plate Cafe and waitress and bake desserts and cornbread for the week ahead. This week the most delicious thing I made was Coconut Cake. When I first stumbled upon the recipe I had some fears about it. Well, one fear really, surrounding one ingredient: Tofu. Tofu in a cake? Really? Yes, really. It's amazingly delicious.
Vegan Baking 013
And look how pretty it turned out! Even if you have no dietary restrictions, this cake is a lower-fat version of a traditional coconut cake and has a beautiful crumb and texture despite the absence of eggs and dairy.

For the Coconut cake you'll need:

8 ounces silken tofu (1/2 of a package)
3 cups of sugar
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups coconut flakes
1 cup canola oil
5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9 inch round cakes pans.
Place tofu, sugar, coconut milk, coconut flakes and oil in the bowl of a food processor and puree until thick and uniform in texture. In a large bowl sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder to remove lumps. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. The batter will be thick. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for about an hour.
Vegan Baking 009
I let my cake cool for about 15 minutes in the pans, then turned them out onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the icing you'll need:
2 cups Earth Balance
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 box of powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer combine the Earth Balance and coconut milk until smooth, then add the powdered sugar. My frosting didn't really come together, even after adding another cup of powdered sugar. My original plan was to make a traditional layer cake and cover it with more coconut, but looking at my soupy frosting I knew it wasn't going to happen. Instead, I cut large wedges from a single layer of cake, spooned a generous helping of the icing over the slice of cake and garnished with a bit of toasted coconut. Delicious and not terribly bad for you either!
Vegan Baking 014
Again, if you weren't aware ahead of time that no animal fats or products were used in making this dessert, you wouldn't know they weren't really there. And no, it doesn't taste like tofu either, it just tastes like wonderful awesome coconutiness.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Bishop's Collar

When I first moved to the Art Museum area, the Collar was one of the first places I had a really great meal. It's only a few blocks from home, so I go occasionally for a beer or a cocktail, and often a bite to eat.
The Bishops Collar
No contest, I have a favorite dinner at the Bishop's Collar, the flank steak sandwich. It's served on that awesome chewy french bread, covered in sharp provolone cheese and fried onions. Just seeing this picture makes me want to walk there right now and order one immediately. Did I mention it's only $6?
The Bishops Collar (2)
If you go, make sure to ask for Old Bay on the fries. Did I mention every sandwich comes with a very crunchy garlic pickle?
The Bishops Collar (1)
The grilled chicken wrap is also a good meal and a good deal, served with lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing, for just six bucks. I can also vouch for the hummus, served with crispy pita and red pepper coulis and their nachos, with or without grilled chicken come with salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

You can check out the Bishop's Collar and their Menupages listing, too.

Bishop's Collar
2349 Fairmount Ave- Btwn N 23rd St & N 24th St
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Hours
Daily:11am-2am
Phone: 215.765.1616
Bishop's Collar in Philadelphia

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Set Table, East Falls

Saturday I met up with some friends in East Falls. According to my friend, East Falls is "a little chunk of heaven between Manayunk and the Art Museum". And she may be right. It's a neat little area, lots of neighborhood character.
The Set Table 011
We walked up this gorgeous street and passed this picture perfect house next to a picture perfect blossoming tree. I love Philadelphia in the Spring! Our destination was a new little place called "The Set Table". The place is cramped. They might think about removing one table in order to ease the congestion. Otherwise, it was a pleasant environment. Mismatched tables and chairs, a counter for coffee and a few to-go items. Great colored glass panes in the front window and lots of plants around made the place feel warm and sunny.
The Set Table 003The Set Table 005
We were seated in the corner by the window. Two mugs of jam, organic ketchup and hot sauce sat waiting on the table. We were one of two tables when we arrived, but after we ordered, the place filled up quickly.
The Set Table 009
The brunch menu was not large, but that's often a good sign. One friend went with the tofu scramble and turkey bacon. Often tofu scramble with have veggies and some seasonings, but this was simply scrambled tofu. Not offensive, but nothing special.
The Set Table 008
Another friend had egg whites and bacon. Both thought the potato accompaniment was visually unappealing, but tasty.
The Set Table 010
I went with the apricot stuffed french toast with almonds. The french toast portion of this dish was pretty good, though the bread wasn't thoroughly soaked with the egg mixture, it was a good thick cut of bread and the flavorings were right on. I only disagree with the shear amount of apricot cream cheese filling. It could be that I just don't enjoy apricots very much and they were pureed with the filling, causing apricot overkill for me, but all that filling made the bottom piece of toast soggy and unappetizing. In retrospect, I ordered incorrectly. I love french toast, but I do not love apricots. I should have gone with something I know I would have liked: Multi grain pancakes with banana. How could that not be good? Before you go thinking I didn't like this place, let me say:

The coffee was great! After a little research when I got home, I learned that the owner roasts her own beans on-site. That's pretty sweet.

They also only serve natural foods, so instead of Coke or Pepsi, you get 365 Cola. This also explains the organic ketchup on the table. I love all these things.

This is a decent neighborhood place. Both of my friends, who live and hang out in the area often, are planning on going back to try lunch. I don't think I'll be back, but I would have enjoyed brunch with my friends regardless of where or what we were eating.

The Set Table
3572 Indian Queen Lane,
East Falls
215-843-0955
Set Table in Philadelphia

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A big inspiration for recipes I make at home and at A Full Plate is the Internet. I like to stumble upon recipes that sound interesting and bookmark them, then come back to them. Occasionally I alter a recipe to suit my tastes more than the original recipe would have. This was the case for Kitty Kat Bars posted on AllRecipes.com and over at Cookie Madness.

The recipe originally called for Ritz Crackers, but I have a strong aversion to them. They're too buttery and crumbly for my liking. What I LOVE are Club crackers from Keebler, so I substituted them in this recipe. I made a few other slight adjustments and my end result was decadent and very close in taste to a Twix bar, so that's what I'm calling them.

For the Twix Bars you'll need:

About 80 Club crackers (1&1/2 sleeves or so)
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c brown sugar
1 c sugar
3/4 c butter
1/2 c half and half
1 bag (12oz) butterscotch chips
1 bag (12oz) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c peanut butter

Twix Bars 008
Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment (don't skip this step!) and lay down a layer of Club crackers. I fit three rows of 9 crackers in the bottom of my glass dish.
Twix Bars 001
In a saucepan, stir together graham crumbs, sugar, butter and milk. Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil. When mixture begins to boil, set timer for 5 minutes and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour half of this mixture over the crackers, then lay another layer of crackers over the graham cracker caramel mixture.
Twix Bars 012
Pour remaining graham cracker caramel mixture over second layer of crackers, then top with one last layer of crackers.

In a medium glass bowl combine butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and peanut butter. Using 50% power, melt the chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Spread melted mixture over top.
Twix Bars 013
Let this cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes then move it to the refrigerator for about an hour or as long as it takes for chocolate & butterscotch & peanut butter layer to set. When it has set, remove from refrigerator by lifting the parchment paper. Place on a cutting board and cut into bars.
Lilly Allen Concert 003
I brought a batch of these to my disseratation proposal class, and people loved them. I next made them at the cafe, and they went quickly. You can cut them into fairly small bars because they are rich and gooey.