Saturday, June 30, 2007

I was lucky enough to have a local show me the joys of the Paper Moon Cafe in Baltimore. It's a very cool, 24-hour diner with excellent, but cheap eats no matter what time you or your party roll in.
paper moon
The outside of the building is painted in bright blue and green with a welcoming archway displaying the name of the establishment. I got excited as soon as we turned the corner because this places just beckons to you if you're near it.
Paper Moon (2)
I debated between the Monte Cristo sandwich and the Breakfast Bread Pudding. Both sounded delicious, so I asked the waitress for help. At first she tried to say either was a good choice, but eventually I got down to the skinny and pried out of her that the Bread Pudding is pretty unpopular, so I went with the Breakfast Monte Cristo.
Paper Moon (3)
And I'm glad I did! Look at how beautiful this sandwich was. I ordered mine with bacon and it was served with a side of maple syrup. I poured all the syrup all over my sandwich and ate it with a knife and fork, but you could certainly pick up the sandwich and dip to your heart's content.
Paper Moon (4)
Donal ordered a side of the Paper Moon's sweet potato fries. I gotta say, these were the best sweet potato fries I've ever had in my life. I think they dust them in rice flour before frying them, because they're so crispy and light.

I wish the Paper Moon Cafe was a chain that spread to Philadelphia, but unfortunately it's a sole property and it belongs in Baltimore. I know I'll be back, it's just a question of when.

Paper Moon Cafe
227 W. 29th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
Phone: 410.889.4444
Open 24 Hours, 7 Days a Week

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Aspen

I love fish and chips. There's just nothing like fried white fish and fried potatoes to accompany an evening of drinking. I first grew accustom to the fried food and beer combination during my four year stay in Wisconsin for college. Wisconsinites don't eat "fish and chips", instead it's called fish fry and nearly every restaurant in the state holds one on Friday. Likely stemming from religious restrictions on meat eating during certain times, this ritual has all but taken over dinner plans for Friday night. I miss Wisconsin. But I miss their fish fry even more.
spending mindy's money (1)
The fish and chips in the city that most closely resembles Wisconsin Fish Fry can be found at Aspen in the Fairmount/Art Museum Area. The fish is white, flaky, moist and just perfect with a hit of lemon juice or some malt vinegar (I'm not into that so much). In an attempt to mimic traditional English Fish and Chips, the fries are just a bit bigger, and are crispy. At just $10, the price is better than expected. Aspen also serves food until 1am every day of the week, which is a rarity in the neighborhood.

Stay away from the Mac & Cheese, the noodles are overcooked and it's bland. But do try both versions of their grilled cheese or the Thanksgiving Melt sandwich, all are terrific.

Aspen
747 N. 25th street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
215.232.7736
Monday through Friday: 5pm - 2am
Sat & Sun: 11am - 2am
Sat & Sun Brunch:
11am - 3pm

SERVING FOOD UNTIL 1 AM 7 NIGHTS A WEEK!

Aspen in Philadelphia

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lemons are big and beautiful lately. I find myself only making lemon desserts in the summer time when they're cheap and bursting with juice. Berries are also peaking, so this lemon mixed berry shortbread bar was a logical combination of the season.

3 cups berries (I used raspberries, small strawberries and blackberries)
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3 large eggs
Zest and juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup juice)

Rinse the berries under cold water and set in the strainer to drip dry. Preheat the oven to 400°. Combine the butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1 1/2 cups of the flour and blend together with your fingers until coarse crumbs form. Pour the mixture into an ungreased nonstick spring form or cake pan and press down evenly to form a crust. Bake the shortbread crust for about 20 minutes, it should be light brown in color.

Remove the shortbread from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°. Scatter the rinsed berries evenly over the baked shortbread.

Beat the eggs with the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar in an electric mixer until thick and pale yellow. Whisk in the lemon zest, the lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Pour the lemon mixture evenly over the berries and crust and bake until the lemon cream is set, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Chill for about an hour or two before serving.

Desserts (5)

Since I always use a square spring form pan, I cut mine into bars to serve at the cafe. But it would also make a pretty presentation if you used a more common 9 inch round spring form pan and cut it into slices.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Spiked Watermelon

It's easy. It's awesome. It's summer.
party food (26)
Using a small knife, cut a square of the watermelon rind out, deep enough to see the red flesh. Pour in some good quality vodka. How much? I don't know, however much your watermelon will soak up if you like it strong. Maybe only a cup if you prefer a less potent snack.
party food (32)
I set my watermelon in a bowl, with the cut square facing up, and put it in the fridge for a few hours. I cut it up and served it to friends at a party that night. In the future I'd make it with a little less alcohol, or the same amount of alcohol but with a much more flavorful watermelon.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse

I think I saw a barbecue cook-off show on the Food Network about a month ago, and since that moment, I'd been craving BBQ and planning a return visit to Sweet Lucy's on State Road.
Sweet Lucy's (2)
I ordered a "Double the Fun" which comes with a choice of 2 meats and 2 sides. So I went with pulled BBQ chicken and pulled BBQ pork. Both were delicious, but the pulled chicken is really fantastic and moist.
Sweet Lucy's (3)
For my sides I ordered the garlic mashed potatoes and collard greens. The potatoes were real, not instant and served with a yummy brown gravy that wasn't floury or heavy. The collards were good too, but could have used a little more red pepper. I chose the cornbread instead of the dinner roll, and it was good, but my own recipe is better.
Sweet Lucy's (9)
Alison wanted to try the wings, so ordered a half dozen wings for the table to share. I had one and they were good, though I would have preferred not to have to split apart the wing from the drumstick by hand.
Sweet Lucy's (8)
When we first sat down we were in awe of the idea to have an all you can eat BBQ night, but Sweet Lucy's hosts one on Monday nights from 5:00 to 8:30. At first I thought it was too expensive, I couldn't possibly eat $17.95 worth of BBQ. Then I realized I'd just spent $17.29 on what I'd ordered that night and it was totally worth it. Since the above menu for the buffet pretty much encompasses their entire menu, it's likely to be a pretty sweet deal.
Sweet Lucy's 1 (1)
Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse is also a BYOB, so feel free to bring some beer to wash it all down.

Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse
7500 State Road, Philadelphia, PA
right off I-95, Cottman Avenue exit
215.331.3112
Hours:
Monday through Sunday 11:00am to 9:00pm
Sweet Lucy's in Philadelphia

Thursday, June 14, 2007

North Bowl

A new genre of bowling has landed in Philadelphia. No longer are these establishments all characterized by stale nachos and cheap beer. Specifically, North Bowl on 2nd street in Northern Liberties is a cool place to hang out and drink cheap beer. Or expensive beer. But I happen to like the cheap variety. We went on a Wednesday night, when North Bowl runs a special after 10pm, $2 shoes, $2 games, $2 PBR, and $2 tater tots. This is a popular night at North Bowl, so if you're planning on going, go a little before 10 and reserve a lane. What makes North Bowl even more special is their menu. They have real food! Sandwiches and salads as well as a number of creative appetizers are all available for a reasonable price.
North Bowl 6.6.07 001.jpg
My favorite thing to munch on at North Bowl is their Mac & Cheese. While not as good as Shannon's over at A Full Plate, it is delicious in it's own right. And topped with crushed goldfish cheese crackers, a nice touch.
North Bowl 6.6.07 002.jpg
They also offer corn dogs and a vegetarian version of the corn dog, served with yellow mustard, ketchup and tater tots. Reminiscent of cafeteria food, but way better.

For cheap bowling, cold beer and good eats, head to North Bowl.

North Bowl
909 North 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Mon. - Fri. 5:00pm – 2:00am
Sat. & Sun. 11:00am – 2:00am

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here is another version of a Paula Deen recipe that I play around with at the Cafe.
Azure 020
This version is has a yellow cake crust, vanilla cheesecake filling with mini chocolate chips and toasted pecan halves.

For the crust of the bars, you'll need:
1 18.5 oz package yellow 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
2 eggs
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Meanwhile, using the mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, 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, add mini chocolate chips and make sure everything is mixed together. Spread this mixture over the crust. Line pecans on top and bake 50 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees. The center should still be a tiny bit wobbly looking, with a light golden brown top.
Azure 021
You don't have to line up your pecans in rows if you don't want to, but the bars are easier to cut if you do and it appeals to my orderly nature. Of course if you don't have pecan halves you could use pieces or another nut entirely and these bars would still be delicious.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Johnny Brenda's

Met up with Healey and company for brunch at Johnny Brenda's last weekend. Northern Liberties was bustling with the craft fair, so we hit Fishtown for a little sustenance before heading to Liberties Walk for the Art Star Craft Bazaar.
Johnny Brenda's (2)
The menu changes often, so they don't bother with printed copies. Instead, a single chalkboard holds the days offerings. Brunchie items include omelets made with a variety of ingredients. I ordered my omelet with spinach, mushrooms and goat cheese. It was delicious, but all my photographs were ugly. Johnny Brenda's is poorly lit, which adds to it's appeal for a drink or a concert, but it's bad for food blogging. My omelet came with toast, home fries and an orange slice. The toast was warm and they didn't put butter all over it, which is nice. The home fries were done in the oven with carmelized onions and were tasty but not crispy. I had a water with brunch because the night before I enjoyed a good deal of red wine at the concert in Liberty Lands park. But my dining companions enjoyed beers and a Bloody Mary made with green salsa.
Johnny Brenda's (5)
The only food picture that turned out remotely well was of the Huevos Rancheros. I didn't try any, but it looked delicious, though oddly served with a piece of french bread alongside. We couldn't figure out why. The friend who ate this said the eggs were perfect, the tortillas were crisp and fresh, but the beans needed a bit of salt and seasonings.

Johnny Brenda's
1201 N. Frankford Avenue
Corner of Frankford and Girard
Philadelphia, PA 19125
215.739.9684
Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia
Full menu available 7 days from 11am-1am, with Brunch on Saturday and Sunday

Oatmeal Pies with Chocolate

I've been tweaking the Oatmeal Cream Pie recipe I occasionally use at the Cafe, and I've finally arrived at the right proportion and cooking time.
Cream Pie (1)

For the Oatmeal Cream Pies you'll need:

Ingredients
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or raisins

Cream butter and sugars until smooth and creamy, this could take up to 5 minutes! Add the egg, milk and vanilla, incorporate fully. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Slow the mixer and add the dry ingredients slowly until fully mixed. Add the chocolate chips and mix by hand. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I used a small cookie scoop to dish even balls of the dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Let cookies sit on cookie sheet for two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Continue until all dough is baked.

For the filling you'll need:

4oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening*
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
2 tsp milk
Up to 3 cups of confectioner's sugar

Cream vegetable shortening and cream cheese in an electric mixer until combined, add marshmallow, vanilla, and milk and mix well. Slowly add powdered sugar a 1/4 at a time until a thick consistency is reached.

When cookies are cool use the same size cookie scoop to add filling to the flat side of one cookie and top with another cookie.

Makes two dozen sandwiches.

You can use butter or margarine in place of vegetable shortening, but you'll sacrifice the bright white color of the filling.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Abbaye

On Sunday night I met up with some friends for a late night dinner at The Abbaye in Northern Liberties.
Abbaye (1)
It had been a long weekend, so we ordered a bottle of red zinfandel and relaxed a little bit.
Abbaye (3)
We started with an appetizer of nachos with vegetarian chili ($10). The chips were fresh, there was plenty of cheese and the chili was really good. One friend complained of too much sour cream, but I thought it was the perfect amount.

We also ordered a side of mac and cheese ($3) to try, but it was pretty terrible. The elbow macaroni was extremely overcooked, and the cheese was grainy and bland.
Abbaye (5)
We all ordered cheese steaks($8), two with real steak marinated in beer, the other with seitan. All of them came topped with grilled tomatoes, onions, Gruyere cheese and roasted garlic aioli. I really enjoyed my sandwich, you could taste the beer on the steak and the grilled tomatoes added a pleasant sweetness. The frites that accompanied my dinner were thin, crispy, and skin-on, all things I like. The pickle was also fresh, cold and garlicky. Not as excellent at the pickles served at the Bishop's Collar, but still good.

Overall, a good meal. The Abbaye is also open late Monday through Saturday, so it's a good place to hit if you're hungry at a later than normal hour for dinner. Just stay away from the mac and cheese.


The Abbaye
637 N. Third Street
Between Fairmount Ave & Green Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Abbaye in Philadelphia
Phone: 215 627-6711
Hours:
Lunch
Mon-Sat: 11am-3pm
Sun: 11am-3pm
Dinner
Mon-Sat: 5pm-1am
Sun: 5pm-11pm

Friday, June 01, 2007

Deuce

Deuce is a great place for happy hour if you like to drink lager, it's only a buck for a nice cold pint between 5 and 7. Additionally, they have a second happy hour they call "Late Night" between 10 and 12 with a variety of specials. Not many places have this snazzy little feature, and I think it's a really smart move.

What isn't so smart about Deuce is their food. I've tried a few things over the past year and never felt the urge to blog about any of them. But a string of recent events has really prompted some writing. Most immediately is the grilled cheese sandwich I had last weekend.
Deuce
It sounded delightful on the menu, a blend of asiago, sharp Vermont cheddar and another fancy cheese I can't quite remember. With a price tag of 8 dollars, I was sure this was going to be a flavorful adult version of every kid's favorite. I was wrong. The fries are good (but all you have to do to please me with a fry is leave some of the skin on), but look at my sandwich up there. Vermont cheddar and asiago don't melt like that. Clearly this was an $8 American cheese sandwich. Aside from the visual clues that this was not the sandwich as it should have been, the first bite was okay, the bread was nicely toasted sourdough, but the cheese...it was bland, white, and filmy in that way that only processed American cheese tastes.

I'm not protesting American cheese, but I am protesting menus that don't accurately indicate what food will be delivered to my table.

I have to be honest, this grilled cheese debacle would not have bothered me as much as it did had Deuce not committed other seriously questionable menu choices in the past. In one visit, the server was excited to tell us about an original and exciting new special. It was an entree plate of fried catfish served with a series of southern sides, mac & cheese, collard greens, corn bread, and stewed tomatoes . Wow! Exciting and new or blatantly borrowed from the southern style cafe a block down on Liberties Walk? As a frequent visitor to both places I was disappointed in Deuce. It's not like they don't have an attractive space and really decent drink specials, why did they make a menu decision like that? Deuce's food is expensive in general and it just doesn't come across in the actual experience of eating the food. The Deuce burger is good, but for $16 dollars it should be one of the best I've ever had, and it's not.

With those criticisms made, I'll still go back.
neko
It's convenient, the service is usually pretty good, even during a busy happy hour. I love the $1 lagers from 5-7 and they're really dog friendly at the outside areas, bringing out two dog bowls of water for our furry friends on a hot day. It's also the only place I'll really play Quizzo where on Tuesday nights at nine they run a $2 Magic Hat #9 special.

Go to Deuce for a beer, but only eat if you really need to.

***UPDATE**** 3/25/2008 I've been informed that Deuce has a new chef, and apparently word on the street is he's the best thing to happen to Deuce's menu. I haven't sampled any food since the switch, so give me a few weeks and I'll have a new review.

Deuce
1040 N 2nd St,
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 413-3822
Hours:
Monday - Friday 11:30 - 1:00 am
Saturday 3pm - 1:00 am
Sunday 11:30 - 1:00 am (Brunch served until 3pm)
Deuce Restaurant & Bar in Philadelphia