Sunday, December 30, 2007

Chocolate Pecan Truffles

These truffles are intensely rich and just one satisfies a serious chocolate craving. They're easy to make, too. The recipe comes from an issue of Everyday Food.

1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2 tablespoons bourbon (or any of your favorite liquors or cordials)
1 cup chopped pecans (or any of your favorite nuts)

Heat the cream over medium heat until it boils. Turn off heat, add chocolate chips and liquor of your choice. Let sit three minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl or dish and refrigerate for 2 hours.

truffles (3)

After the time in the fridge, use a 1 tsp measure and form balls from the chilled chocolate mixture. Chill the chocolate bals for 30 minutes.

truffles (5)

Ater the additional time in the fridge, quickly roll one ball between your hands and then in the chopped nuts. Transfer to a plate or storage container. I ran out of chopped pecans, but still had about 8 balls of chocolate left. I decided to roll them in powdered sugar and they looked really pretty. However, after a night in the fridge, the sugar absorbed the sugar and the outside turned sugar turned a bit slimy. I don't suggest powdered sugar for this recipe.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hot Potato Cafe

My roommates and I were looking for a nice comforting meal on a weekday night and decided to head up Girard to the Hot Potato Cafe. When this place first opened a few months back it received a terrible review by the Philly Weekly. But I don't always agree with "professional" critics, so we went in with open minds.
Hot Potato Cafe
We started with an order of fries. A generous portion was brought out to us on a large white platter, but five minutes went by before our waiter returned with ketchup, and we all had doubts about whether the fries were freshly cut or simply frozen from a bag.
Hot Potato Cafe (2)
I had a difficult time deciding what to order. Unfortunately it wasn't because there were so many appetizing choices, in fact, the opposite was true. Nothing sounded appealing or jumped off the page at me. I started with a bowl of the potato soup, figuring if the Hot Potato Cafe could do anything right, it would certainly be a soup with the potato as the star. Sorry folks, unless you like thick, gluey, potato soup, stay away!
Hot Potato Cafe (4)
Liz ordered the meatloaf. It was probably the most appetizing looking thing we ordered. A huge slab of meatloaf, wrapped in bacon, was nestled on top of mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. The downfall was the tasteless, yet salty brown gravy they poured all over it. Unnecessary and in this case, damaging.
Hot Potato Cafe (5)
No joke, the Hot Potato Cafe serves Mrs. T's Pierogies. A local grocery store favorite, but we were shocked to discover the lack of homemade pierogies especially in the neighborhood where we were dining. It's not that they were bad, but we could have made them at home ourselves.
Hot Potato Cafe (6)
To supplement my disappointing potato soup I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. It was a huge salad, and the lettuce was fresh and crisp. That's about all I can muster in terms of positive comments. The dressing was skimpy and bland, and the chicken was ice-box cold. I understand a little prep work is key to running a smooth kitchen, but maybe they could have microwaved the pre-cooked chicken breast before just plopping it on top of my salad.
Hot Potato Cafe (7)
With Liz in tow, I'm always sure to have someone to share my sweet-tooth, and after hearing the dessert list we decided on the Oreo cheesecake. It was clearly made off-premises, and that's alright, but it wasn't excellent.
Hot Potato Cafe (10)
I have to say, there's only one reason I'd ever go back to the Hot Potato Cafe, and here it is, the homemade Butter Cake. It's a rich, chewy, cake baked in a tartlet shell and dusted with powdered sugar before serving. This cake is awesome. It smells divine and I had a few bite more than my fair share, but I don't care. After such a unsatisfying meal, I could have eaten three of these by myself.

Overall, the service was decent. It did take a while to get ketchup or refilled water, but the server was knowledgeable about the menu and friendly. The decor of the Hot Potato was a bit puzzling. Deep red walls and interesting art were coupled with table tops covered in plastic table cloths and a terrible radio station blasting out of a boom box in the corner.

If you like Mrs T's pierogies, have no taste buds, or enjoy confusion, hit up the Hot Potato Cafe. Make sure to order the butter cake though, I still think about it from time to time.

Hot Potato Cafe
529 East Girard Ave (Fishtown)
Philadelphia, PA
215.425.0905
Monday - Saturday, 11am to 9pm
Hot Potato Cafe in Philadelphia

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sabrina's Cafe down in Bella Vista is an institution among brunch places in the city. Lucky for me, the owners recently opened up a second location, Sabrina's Cafe and Spencer's Too on 18th and Callowhill, so I no longer have to wait outside in Bella Vista for a table. Now I can wait outside closer to home.
Sabrina's (1)
The menu is nearly the same, but the size and decor of the restaurant is not. The capacity of the entire place is nearly double the original location, and the kitchen is larger, too. These things together meant only a 20 minute wait for a comfy booth and only about 15 minute wait for our food after we'd ordered it. A vast improvement over the flagship location.
Sabrina's (3)
There's no french toast in Philadelphia that can compete with Sabrina's stuffed challah french toast. Cinnamon, bananas, and cream cheese are stuffed inside thick slices of challah, then dipped in egg and fried. This batch was quite good, but was still cool in the center, so could have used another minute in the pan before serving. The portions are huge to the say the least. I could only eat one half of this plate of french toast, and my friend had a few bites too! I took the other half home, but could never figure out the best method for reheating it so it ended up going to waste. Your best bet would be to only order this if you have a huge appetite or are going to split it with a friend.
Sabrina's (2)
My buddy J-Rye ordered the Juevos Rancheros. Tasty guacamole and salsa covered a fried egg that was nestled on top of a meaty and spicy chili. This dish only suffered from one aspect, the egg was over cooked. Part of the sublimeness of Juevos Rancheros is the way the yolk breaks and melts all the other flavors together into mouthfuls of joy. Because of the hard cooked egg, this was impossible to acheive, but a minor error in terms of the overall meal.
Sabrina's (4)
The sweet potato fries were also delicious. I found the fries on top of the pile overwhelming, as cinnamon and powdered sugar were just dumped on top of them. Gross. Once I removed these offensive fries, the rest were ready for a shake of salt and dash of ketchup. The fries themselves were good, sliced thick enough to maintain the essence of sweet potato flavor, but fried long enough to give them color and crunch.

Visit the new location of Sabrina's Cafe. A larger space reduces the wait time but doesn't take away from the fabulous portions or innovative ideas.

Sabrina's Cafe and Spencer's Too
1802 Callowhill Street
215-636-9061
Sabrina's Café and Spencer's Too in Philadelphia