Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Are you a food blogger? Do you live within a reasonable distance of Philadephia?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, let's get together for a Philadelphia Food Blogger Potluck!
Spring is here and Philadelphia Food Bloggers are looking forward to another satisfying potluck dinner. This time my gracious roommates and I are hosting at our house by the Art Museum.
If you consider yourself to be a food blogger/vlogger/podcaster/writer and you live in the area, we happily invite you to join us. If you're not already on the food blogger list and you want to attend, please give Taylor a shout at taylorhigh24 (at) hotmail (dot) com. The event is scheduled for Friday, April 18th. Please send Taylor an email at the above address and she'll send you the full details in return.
See you there!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Just down the block from the great cafe where I bake two days a week, a new BYOB restaurant named Swallow has opened. It took a few extra months due to unforeseen circumstances, but the brown paper is off the windows and Cindy and Jason are now both behind the line at Swallow.
Liz, Shannon and I visted Swallow on a recent weekday night. Liz and Shannon had both seen the inside of the restaurant prior to its opening, but I was a complete virgin to the space. The lighting was too low to take any decent pictures of the beautiful wallpaper or funky light fixtures, so you'll have to go check it out yourself. I can say I felt like I was dining in someones sexy bedroom, and I liked it. We started with the cheese plate from the appetizers portion of the menu. Three cheeses were accompanied by crusty bread, apple and pear slices and some awesomely delicious fresh honeycomb. The cheeses were all very good, each of us had a different favorite. In the background was my favorite, a semi-soft with a sweet aftertaste that went very well with the honey. Shannon was a big fan of the aged Parmesan pictured at the front of the plate, and Liz's favorite is pictured on the right, the slightly yellow creamy looking cheese, the name of which I've completely forgotten. We also sampled a bowl of the day's soup, tomato basil. Shannon is a huge fan of tomato soup, I normally find them a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I really enjoyed this basil heavy, thick puree.
It wasn't hard to figure out what Liz was going to order, she loves flank steak and since it was accompanied by rice, I knew right away she was going to love it. We agreed that the marinade was very delicious, slightly sweet and salty, likely from the additions of sugar and soy, the steak was tender and cooked well. It was served with sticky rice and seasoned swiss chard.
Overall, the menu at Swallow has a few veggie friendly options. There is a Quiche du Jour, which occasionally is vegetarian, but on this day it contained pork belly and mushrooms (yum!). There are also salads and appetizer choices. On this night, the chefs were willing to make Shannon a special vegetarian frittata with goat cheese, swiss chard, and asparagus, she was happy and full.
Because our server said that the chef recommended the tuna, I couldn't seriously consider ordering anything else. I ordered it rare and that's how it came out, beautifully pink. Perched atop a salad of baby arugula and white bean puree spiked with olive oil, then topped with an olive tapenade, this dish was very delicious. I cleaned my plate.
Faced with dessert choices, we decided to abandon choice all together and try one of each dessert they bake in house. First was the apricot tart. None of us are huge fans of apricots, but this tart was tasty, especially the simple but well executed buttery crust.
Liz and Shannon enjoyed the profiteroles with vanilla bean ice cream. I also thought they were delicious, but the real highlight of this dish was the addition of the brandy chocolate syrup, I wanted to take shots of it.
As much as I enjoyed the first two desserts, I have to give my favorite vote to the Creme brulee. Served in a shallow dish to maximize the ratio of crunchy sugar top to creamy custard underneath, it's one of the better creme brulee's I've had in my life, and I've eaten quite a few.
The menu at Swallow is slated to change frequently, perhaps keeping a few of the more popular dishes daily. I'm excited to try it again in the coming weeks and see what new Euro-style dishes Cindy and Jason have come up with. Don't skip dessert, and bring a good bottle of wine.
1030 N American St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I've mentioned before the numerous peanut butter lovers in my life. They're easy to please, but I like trying to find the ultimate in peanut butter awesomeness. These were a good effort, but I was hoping for a chewier cookie than I got from this recipe. They were rich and the peanut butter flavor was intense, so if you have as many peanut butter lovers in your life as I do, you may want to give them a try.
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg and sugar until well combined. Add vanilla extract, baking soda, and peanut butter and mix again. When well combined, stir in the chocolate chips.
The mixture will be a bit crumbly, but press together with your finger tips and drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 8 minutes. Let the cookies cool for two minutes on the cookie sheets, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 32 cookies.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
As much as love my Elvis cake, sometimes I like to experiment with different flavors and types of cake when I bake at A Full Plate. A co-worker mentioned his mother making an Irish Cream Cake around St. Patrick's Day, and while the recipe never came through, I took the idea and made a traditional two layer butter cake spiked with Irish Cream in both the cake and frosting.
For the cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 tsp if you use table salt)
1/3 cup Irish Cream Liqueur
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until well combined, about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl often. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after the addition of each egg.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, Irish Cream, and vanilla.
Alternate mixing the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture. Always start with a third of the dry ingredients followed by half of the wet, and always finish your mixing with the last of the dry ingredients. Make sure you scrape the bottom of your bowl well.
Divide the batter between two 9 inch round cake pans that you've buttered and floured. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. A toothpick inserted in the center should show a few moist crumbs.
Let cool for 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup Irish Cream Liqueur
Up to 1 small box of confectioner's sugar
In an electric mixture, cream the butter and cream cheese until well combined. Add the Irish Cream and mix again, it will look lumpy and weird, but don't worry about it. Add confectioner's sugar, a 1/2 cup at a time until you reach the consistency for spreading
Frost your cake generously, it was hard to keep fingers out of this mixing bowl as I was constructing the cake. The Irish Cream flavor is excellent and also smells glorious. Try it with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.
If you're a fan of beer in even the smallest capacity, the past week has been a busy one here in Philadelphia. On this particular night we met at the Foodery in Northern Liberties to sample some brews from a line called "Heavy Seas" brewed by Clipper City Brewery out of Baltimore, Maryland. I tried a few of the sample from Heavy Seas, but none really caught my attention.
Since we were at the Foodery and waiting on some friends, I decided to buy a single bottle of something I'd never tried before, and this bottle of Wild Blue, a blueberry lager caught my eye. Purple and super sweet, I liked it, but every single one of my friends turned up their nose. I guess fruity beers are an acquired taste.
We made the trek down to McGillin's Old Ale House at 13th and Sansom and had a few samples of the Stoudt's beer they were offering. McGillin's is a popular hang out for many after work and on weekend nights, and this Tuesday night was no exception. Because it's Beer Week and Carol Stoudt from Stoudt's Brewery was in the house with her husband giving away samples, the place was even more crowded than normal. Pints of Stoudt's beer, such as their Scarlet Lady, were going for $3.75, a good deal for mid-week. My friend Shannon, who is perhaps the biggest Stoudt's fan I know, had a nice chat with Carol and her husband, and I even snapped a nice photo to remember it by.
How's everyone else enjoying Beer Week? What events are you looking forward to in the next few days?
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Hey Philadelphia! If you haven't heard any of the press about Beer Week in the past month, where have you been hiding??
Seriously, a full ten day of events kicked off last night here in Philly. While I didn't attend any beer events last night, I did go out to dinner near Rittenhouse and noticed a few places hosting events with fairly decent crowds.
Any and all events are sure to please, so please check out the full events schedule here. Vote for your favorite local beer in the City Paper's Beeramid Contest here. And please, drink responsibly, walk home or take a cab, and most of all, have a
Thursday, March 06, 2008
An old friend from the early days at the cafe recently scored a hostessing job at one of the most popular new restaurants in Philadelphia, Osteria. I'd seen great pictures on Philafoodie and read amazing reviews in all the local food sections, so I was very excited when my friend said she could get us a reservation on a slow Tuesday night.
The dinner menu is split up in various sections, and we attempted to sample something from each. Osteria has a number of traditional and non-traditional pizza varieties. On recommendation from our server (who was fantastic, knowledgeable, and funny) we ordered the pizza zucca ($18). I didn't think I was going to love this pizza, but I was completely wrong. Roasted squash, fresh mozzarella, golden raisins and toasted pine nuts were sprinkled over a chewy, crunchy crust and served piping hot. The slight sweetness of the squash and the raisins was in perfect contrast to the slightly salty cheese and nuts. I'd order this again and again.
Because Liz is a meat lover and we ordered one of the two vegetarian pizza's to start with, we also ordered the house cured salumi plate ($14). For the life of me I can't remember a single detail about the names of the meats that passed my lips that night, but they were all pretty tasty. I also thoroughly enjoyed the presentation of the meats on a pig shaped cutting board.
We were lucky enough to be seated a big round table, practically dead center of the restaurant and directly adjacent to the meat slicer and shelf full of cheese and honey. Whenever prosciutto di parma was ordered for the salumi plate or to accompany another dish, a server would go to the slicer and with a few quick pulls, have paper thin slices of prosciutto di parma ready for the customer.
Pictured here is the canederli with cabbage($16). Canederli is similar to gnocchi, but is made with rustic bread instead of potatoes. They were light and fluffy and melted in your mouth, but we all wished there was a little bit more of the delicious cabbage to go around.
Liz, ordered the casoeula, braised pork ribs with homemade black pepper sausage and cabbage($24). The black pepper sausage was the highlight of this second course, it was slightly spicy from the pepper and paired nicely with the cabbage.
Because I'd never had it before, I decided to go with the rabbit entree($26). I figured if I were going to eat rabbit in this city, it should be at one of the nicer dining establishments. The rabbit was roasted with pancetta and sage, served over soft polenta with a sauce of brown butter. The polenta was delicious and creamy, and I ate ever last bite, but rabbit is not something I'd order again. It's likely that my inexperience with eating game ruined this for me, it's not that I didn't enjoy the taste of rabbit, it has a lovely flavor, but I was unsure about how to go about eating it. I didn't recognize the pieces on my plate, and fumbled a bit trying to get the meat off of the very small bones. I probably only ended up eating half of the meat, because I couldn't negotiate my utensils well enough to finish the job.
My friend Brittany ordered the chicken, which was served with a salad of escarole, parmigiano and pomegranate seeds($24). While Brittany enjoyed her dinner, I couldn't help but think that both the presentation and taste were a little on the boring side.
For our party, what really stood out at Osteria were the desserts. Again, on recommendation from our excellent server, we ordered the chocolate flan with pistachio gelato($10). While called a flan, this was really more like a molten chocolate cake, gooey on the inside, cakey on the outside, and the gelato was incredible.
I ordered the goat cheese frittelle($10). These were very very delicious little goat cheese fritters, studded with chocolate and pistachio and served with tangerine curd for dipping. I could have eaten two plates worth.
Finally, we tried the polenta budino($8). Budino is Italian for pudding, and this one was smooth and creamy with a delicious caramel flavor topped with candied hazelnuts.
I'd definitely stop into Osteria again, but it's more likely I'd sit at the bar with a friend to split a pizza and sample different wines from their extensive list, rather than sit down at a table for a full dinner. If you haven't been to Osteria yet, it's definitely worth a try.
640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130