Monday, January 28, 2008
I recently spent a significant amount of money on cookware and other necessities at the Philadelphia Area Outlets. This is a humongous new development/outlet shopping center in Limerick, Pennsylvania. I scored an incredible straight sided, 13X9 Calphalon baking dish for about 12 bucks, a silicon spatula that matches the color of our kitchen, and a set of silicon cupcake liners that I'm dying to try out. All that shopping makes a girl, and her friends, very hungry. We took a short drive to BongJung, in Collegeville.
BonJung is a BYO, so we enjoyed some Saki and a bottle of red wine. We were very hungry and started with some appetizers. First, we had edamame. Boiled in salted water and served when tender, the edamame are easy to pop out of their shells with your fingers or better yet with your teeth to maximize the impact of the salt which clings to the outside of the shell.
We also ordered the wasabi shumai. Steamed pork dumplings with green horseradish were not gummy as these types of dumplings can sometimes turn out, and had a nice kick of wasabi at the finish.
Our order was ambitious for just three of us. In addition to the appetizers we devoured, we ordered 2 rolls and 4 specialty rolls, all of which came out beautifully arranged on a gorgeous blue plate with plenty of pickled ginger and wasabi.
The lobster roll was filled with lobster tail tempura, cucumber, asparagus, and scallion served with spicy sauce. I really liked the combination of the slightly sweet lobster and the slightly sweet and crunch cucumber.
The Mudslide roll was incredibly delicious. Tuna and avocado were topped with a crunchy mixture coated in miso and a spicy sauce. I couldn't get enough of this crunchy stuff. I even ate bits of it that fell off the top roll with pieces of other rolls.
The Volcano Roll contained shrimp tempura, scallion, crunch, and avocado topped with crabmeat in a spicy sauce. This might have been my favorite. The spicy sauce on the crabmeat topping was similar to the spicy sauce on the Mudslide roll.
Finally, the Spider Roll was made with soft shell crab tempura, scallion, flying fish eggs, green leaf lettuce, and more of that spicy sauce. They call it the Spider for obvious reasons, but this was incredibly hard to eat! I ended up picking the legs off first, there was no other solution.
We ate every last piece and were totally stuffed. I wish this restaurant was closer to the city, but I will definitely return if I'm in the neighborhood to do any more outlet shopping.
50 W. 3rd Ave. #220
Collegeville, PA 19426
Thursday, January 24, 2008
One of my past roommates made a delicous bar cookies she called an Oatmeal Carmelita. It was a dense oatmeal cookie crust with caramel and chocolate chips. I've played a little with her recipe and have gotten good reviews from friends. This cookies combines oatmeal, pecans and caramel.
For the base you'll need:
2 sticks, plus 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Stir to incorporate all of the flour. Add the two cups of rolled oats and stir. The dough is very stiff and I usually end up using my hands to really make all the oats stick.
Line a 13 X 9 inch pan with non-stick foil. Divide the dough in half. Press half the dough onto the bottom of the pan lined with foil, bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl combine one 12 ounce jar of caramel ice cream topping and 3 tablespoons of flour.
Sprinkle one cup of toasted nuts (I used pecans) over the crust and drizzle the caramel over the top of the nuts.
Add one bag of butterscotch chips to the remaining oatmeal dough and crumble together. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the caramel and nuts and bake for an additonal 20 minutes. The top will still look and feel a little loose, but remove from the oven anyway, it sets up as it cools.
These bars are delicious and a crowd pleaser, but cut them small because they're dense and rich.
Another variation that I've had success with is to replace the butterscotch chips with 2/3 of a cup EACH of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, as well as substituting peantus for the pecans.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This recipe comes straight from Anna over at Cookie Madness. I read her blog like crazy! She usually posts a new cookie recipe a day, so she can always be counted on for inspiration. This recipe for Frito Candy is simple to make, but I didn't have any of main ingredients on hand, so had to go to the store for Fritos, Reese's cups and pretzels.
I didn't so much measure out the fritos or the pretzels as much as I just crunched up enough to cover the bottom of a non-stick foil lined 13X9 glass baking dish. Then I cut up the Reese's peanut butter cups and scattered them on top.
In a medium pot, melt a stick and half of butter and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, whisking to combine over medium heat. Let it come to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour this hot mixture evenly over the Fritos, pretzels and candy mixture. Bake in a 350 oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle a bag of chocolate chips on top. Put back in the over for 1 minute and remove, the chips should be easily spreadable across the surface of the candy. Anna suggests sprinkling crushed peanuts on top for a bit of garnish, but I forgot to buy them, so I had to go without. Refrigerate until cool and break into pieces.
Try not to eat all in one sitting.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Philadelphia area food bloggers came together recently for our second potluck and meet up. This time, Taylor from Mac & Cheese offered her boyfriend's house for the event, and they were gracious hosts. Taylor even organized a food White Elephant exchange that was huge success and lots of fun.
This is a picture of the table early on in the night, before everyone had arrived, so doesn't truly represent the variety of dishes we shared that night. Some that I remember include the roasted red pepper dip, parsnip and sweet potato soup, sherry infused mushroom pate, vegan key lime muffins, mini key lime pies, cranberry pilaf, spicy cauliflower, figs wrapped in prosciutto with blue cheese and walnuts, and much much more I can't recall, but not because I didn't enjoy it. I continued to nibble on a little of everything, even after I swore I was done eating.
The Two Fat Als made dessert kebabs featuring chocolate-dipped rice crispy treats, chocolate-dipped strawberries, mini chocolate muffins and star fruit. These were very yummy and photographic evidence proves they're fun to eat.
As I mentioned earlier, Taylor organized a white elephant exchange for those who wished to participate. This was my first white elephant so I had to have the rules explained to me. We all brought a foodie product that we enjoy, wrapped up to conceal it's identity, and take turns choosing a gift from the pile in the order that we drew random numbers. The trick is, once you've unwrapped your gift in turn, those who choose after you have the opportunity to steal your gift away from you!
At one point I had a jar of home-canned peaches and blackberries, but lost it to the last participant! No worries though, I got to pick another gift from the pile and it was a very cool reusable six-pack bag from Trader Joe's as well as an assortment of chocolates, including unsweetened baking chocolate, a hunk of Ghiradelli semi-sweet and three mini bars of milk chocolate. Thanks, Marisa! Other gifts included a set of wooden spoons, a tin of chocolate-dipped ginger, a six-pack of spicy ginger ale, a citrus zester and a fine Mexican hot sauce.
Great seeing all you bloggers again. Can't wait for the next one at my place in the Spring!
Stay tuned for two upcoming posts on what I brought to the potluck Pecan Caramel Squares and Frito Candy.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
On one of his most brilliant episodes, Alton Brown makes a quick dip in the food processor with loads of different kinds of cheese and garlic. I'd never felt I had an adequate variety of cheese in small portions to warrant making the dip, until this past weekend. Post-holiday, our cheese drawer was overflowing! After weeding out the inedible ones, I had a nice mix of little bits.
Alton instructs using around a pound of cheese and to either shred hard cheeses or cut semi-firm cheeses into one inch cubes. I don't own a kitchen scale and am relatively bad with judging both height and distance, so who's to know if I actually used a pound of cheese.
To the cheese in the food processor add 1/4 cup of white wine, 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped, and 1 tablespoon of butter. Pulse to get the mixture going, then puree until creamy. Because my cheeses were mostly firm or grated cheeses, I needed to use 1/4 cup more wine to achieve the right consistency. If you add brie or cream cheese to your mixture, you'll probably be fine with just the 1/4 cup.
I tasted the mixture at this point and thought the wine was overpowering. I was disappointed but thought I could spruce it up with some black pepper and red pepper flakes. This toned down the winy-ness with a little heat and tasted much better.
Finally, I removed some of the plain cheese dip and set it aside. To the remaining cheese in the food processor, I added about 8 basil leaves, roughly chopped, and pureed. I only did this because I had some leftover basil from attempting red curry chicken the other night, but it was a nice addition to the cheese dip.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I took the plunge and finally purchased my very own domain. You can now find all of my content at http://www.foodaphilia.com
Going to the old address will automatically redirect you to Foodaphilia for a while, but please update your links if you have them.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Happy New Year! It's a few days past, but I'm just getting around to uploading the pictures. We had a hard time picking a restaurant for dinner, there were six of us, one who desperately wanted Mediterranean food and one who needed a vegetarian option. We also were looking for a BYOB that offered it's normal menu, not just some set price three or four course dinner. So, mainly because it fit every criteria we set for it, we wound up at Effie's Greek Restaurant on 11th and Pine.
We were starving when we arrived, probably because we were late, and immediately ordered the Thessaloniki Platter, a sampler of tzatziki, hummus, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) feta, olives, Meletzanosalata (roasted eggplant and red pepper dip) and pepperonicini. The hummus doesn't hold a candle to Dimitri's, but the grape leaves were some of the best I've had and I really enjoyed the garlicky Meletzanosalata dip. I'm going to try to make a version at home soon.
Shannon picked out the Picantiki for us to share. It was like a Greek coleslaw, cabbage, celery, carrots, roasted peppers, oil and lemon, salt and pepper. It was crunchy and tangy and I liked it worlds better than any mayonnaise or salad dressing based coleslaw I've ever had.
Alison is also a big fan of octopus, ordering it every single time we eat at Dimitri's. We tried it here, and found it disappointing and overly chewy, though it was dressed nicely in good olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Our vegetarian oohed and ahhed over the night's special, roasted stuffed peppers in a tomato sauce. She's a funny vegetarian in that mushrooms are a bit of a turn off and the peppers were stuffed with a huge amount of them, luckily they were kept in large enough pieces to pick out.
I went with the recommendation of the waitress and ordered the Lamb Stew. Lamb and orzo pasta were cooked in a rich tomato sauce, then ladled into a ceramic dish and basked with cheese and oregano on top. The lamb was extremely tender and the orzo grains were embraced with just the right amount of tomato goodness to be called a stew. I'd eat this again, and again.
Angela came up from D.C. last minute and joined us to celebrate the New Year. She ordered the Shrimp Regata, which I can't find a description of on Effie's website or on Menupages.com. But I had a taste, so I can tell you it was penne pasta with about a dozen small tail-on shrimp in a lemony garlic sauce. I actually thought the pasta was a bit overcooked and the sauce was too tangy, but Angela enjoyed it.
Lamb is the secret to Alison's heart, and if it's rubbed with garlic and olive oil and grilled, it's even better.
Aside from my dinner of lamb stew, Liz ordered the next yummiest entree. Having eaten at Effie's before, she understood the power of Effie's stuffed chicken. It was packed with feta and spinach and was juicy and tender, not dry or overcooked the way some stuffed chicken breasts can be. Next time I go to Effie's, if they don't have the lamb stew, I'd definitely order this.
Only two desserts were offered that night, rice pudding and baklava. Neither screamed "Eat me!" but we ordered two baklava's for the table to share. It was very tasty baklava, though we could have used a change of silverware to help us eat it. The service wasn't the greatest, but it was New Year's Eve and our poor waitress was serving tables both in the main dining room and out in the back building where we were seated, so we tried to be reasonable and filled our own water glasses and retrieved extra napkins ourselves. Overall, it was a great meal, and totally reasonable, as the six of us were stuffed with all those appetizers and an entree each for about $180 including tax and tip.
Best of all, we drank lots of wine and got sappy about the past year and the year to come. I also got to spend my very first New Year's Eve with Angela, who has been one of my closest friends for the past nine years!
After dinner, we played it cool and got safely home before opening the last few bottles of wine and watching the ball drop in Times Square on television. Zoey even got in a festive mood and wore some decorations.
Hope all your New Year's were equally pleasant and safe!
Effie's Greek Restaurant
1127 Pine St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Home for the holidays, I mentioned to friends and family the arrival of the Nebraska Brewing Company to Omaha and suggested we go. I'd caught a few posts on Gastronimc Fight Club, a local Omaha food blog, including a sneek peek at the Nebraska Brewing Company. A week came and went, and I arrived at the airport Friday morning not having been to this new brewery. In a funny twist of bad weather, I was delayed and had to spend another night in Omaha. There was one last dinner to be consumed and it was going to take place at the Nebraksa Bewing Company.
A small basket of house chips comes to every table. The chips are thick cut and crispy, dusted with a salty seasoning.
I had a great beer, the Belgian Wit. Unfortunately, at this time I can't find a description of the beer on the Nebraska Brewing Company website. I must have caught it at the end of its season. It was a wheat beer, served with an orange, and had a very smooth finish.
All the burgers on the menu are "infused" with flavor. This means that my bacon cheeseburger was not topped with bacon or cheese, instead, bacon and cheese were mixed in the meat and then grilled. It didn't really work for me. I didn't get any of the flavors I was expecting and was turned off by the side salad served without any vinagrette. Fries were decent.
Compared to the burger, dessert was incredible. I shared the chocolate cobbler with a friend. It would be wrong to call it a brownie, as the consistency is much softer, but it's not really pudding either. It is warm and gooey, topped with vanilla bean ice cream and cinnamon whipped cream. Totally delicious.
Wheneven I'm in Omaha, I'm going to try for a beer and dessert, but I'll probably skip the burger.
Nebraska Brewing Company
Shadow Lake Towne Center
7474 Towne Center Parkway Suite 101
(Highway 370 and 74th Street)
Papillion, NE 68046