Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Tiffin Location

Tiffin Store Front
If you were lucky like I was, last week you were invited to Friends and Family night at Tiffin's newest location in Mt. Airy. The same quality food and service you've come to love at the flagship restaurant on Girard Avenue is now readily available with a shorter drive to those who live in or around Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy.

Friends and Family night had a festive air and a feeling of community building as owner Munish Narula made time to talk with each of his guests while they sampled items not currently on the Tiffin menu. Some favorites included a cheese, poppyseed and sesame cutlet complemented by mint chutney called Anarkali and Tangari Kabab tender chicken drumstick with Tiffin's characteristic charbrioled taste. It would be great to see these items incorporated into the already popular menu.

The new location will carry the flagship location's menu and that is a great thing as I've never had an entree at Tiffin that I didn't like. If you crave spicy food like I do, try the firey lamb vindaloo or ask for whatever dish you order to be made spicy. If you have a more moderate palate try the chicken korma or the butter chicken, and don't forget to order plenty of naan to sop up all that delicious sauce!

Also, apply for The Tiffin Card and be rewarded on your birthday with a free appetizer and entree. It's completely free to sign up and has additional benefits such as:

- 10% discount on the movie rental under the “Tiffin and a Movie” program
- 10% discount on any purchase from the tiffin spice store (coming soon)
- Monthly discounts and special offers
- Priority call ahead seating in the Tiffin dining rooms
- One free movie rental with purchase of $50.00 or more


Tiffin - Mt. Airy Location
7105 Emlen Street
Philadelphia PA 19119

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bust Out!

If you don't have plans yet for Friday night, you've got them now. Dine out at one of fourteen participating restaurants featuring a "breast inspired" drink, appetizer or dessert.
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'Bust Out!' is an event built to support women with breast cancer. Inspired by breast cancer patients' resilience, strength and courage, 'Bust Out!' is committed to raising money and awareness for those fighting breast cancer. Honoring these womens' ability to rise above, and find humor where others might find none, 'Bust Out!' aims to be fun and lighthearted, while still being an event with a important purpose on its plate.

The whole night gets started at North 3rd at 4pm. Enjoy appetizers, friends and drink or two before heading off to sample more breast inspired dishes at one of the participating restaurants listed below. End the night at Arbol Cafe where the garden area will transform into a movie theater showing a breast inspired film.

A Full Plate Cafe

Bar Ferdinand

Cafe Estelle

1 Shot Coffee

Franklin Fountain

Swallow

The Abbaye Bar & Restaurant

Higher Grounds Cafe

North 3rd

Cascamorto Piano Bar

The Arbol Cafe

Silk City

The Random Tea Room

The Coffee House (Front & Girard)

The proceeds from 'Bust Out!' will be going to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a national non-profit organization based in Haverford, PA. Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) is dedicated to assisting women with breast cancer, whether newly diagnosed, in treatment, recently completed treatment, or years beyond or living with advanced (metastatic) disease. They are also available for family members, caregivers, friends and healthcare providers to provide breast cancer information and support.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cantina Dos Segundos

While it's only been open a couple of weeks now, Cantina Dos Segundos is making it's mark in Northern Liberties. Of course there are some kinks to work out. Even though the owners are veterans to the restaurant biz, every new restaurant deserves some time before it gets a thorough critique, so what follows should be considered a preliminary review.
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We decided to start with some simple and straightforward items from the menu. The guacamole was good. Not too chunky and not too smooth, it had a nice garlicky kick and was studded with bits of cherry tomato and slices of jalapeno pepper. A pitcher of traditional margaritas on the rocks was brought to the table along with a plate of limes, a plate of salt and enough glasses for everyone. I really enjoyed the traditional margarita, it was just sour enough from fresh lime juice and just potent enough from the white tequila we chose to include.
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Two bowls of salsa were served with complimentary chips. The chips were different than the ones served with the above guacamole, these were thinner and saltier. I enjoyed the green salsa more than the red (not pictured). The red was too pureed and too sweet for my taste, and while the green could have used a touch more heat to it, at least it tasted like salsa.
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Tacos are available with numerous fillings to please omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike. We sampled the tuna tacos. The tuna was cooked to about medium which we all appreciated, but lacked any noticeable Mexican flavor. A little cumin and cayenne could have bumped up the experience here.
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We also sampled the Chicken Tinga enchiladas with a side of refried beans and rice. The beans were the star of this platter of food. Prepared in the traditional manner with bacon and lard (yes Lard!) they were silky and addictive enough that I wanted to get every last bit on my fork and in my mouth. As for the enchiladas, I felt they needed a little more flavor. For a dish that contains spicy in the name, these were far from spicy. I did enjoy the bits of potato and chorizo that came rolled inside of the white corn tortillas, but wished the flavors were more pronounced.
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A small plate of ceviche was also a hit. Topped with crushed peanuts and sprinkle of cilantro, it was the most flavorful, yet balanced dish we tried.
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It's hard for me to resist dessert and this night was no exception. We ordered the chocolate and banana empanadas and I'm very glad we did. Three pockets of dough were stuffed with banana and semi-sweet chocolate, then fried to perfection, dusted with powdered sugar and served with a vanilla salsa. Not greasy in the slightest, these empanadas were hot, crispy and filled with molten sweetness that is causing me to drool a little bit just remembering their taste.

I only expect that as the weeks pass the food and service will be fine tuned and provide a consistently good option for a new place to hang out with friends and enjoy some food and drink in this great neighborhood. I've had no problems with the service when I've visited this new establishment, and I think that's due to the high volume of staff from Azure that stayed on with new management.

Cantina Dos Segundos
931 N 2nd St
Philadelphia PA
215.629.0450
Cantina Dos Segundos on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2008

The competition in Peanut Butter Exhibition 3# Cake and Cupcakes was so fierce that Nick and I had to pick a Top 4 instead of our usual Top 3! All of the entries were droolworthy, but we managed to pick out the best of the best based on Peanut Butter Weight, Presentation, Dessrt Before Dinner Factor, and Preparation Time.
pbe3

1st Place - Cocoa Buttermilk Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream

2nd Place - Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Tie for 3rd - Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Buckeye Cupcakes

Check out all the wonderful entries below and listen for the next Peanut Butter Exhibition Theme.

Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pound Cake
Peanut Butter Éclair Cake
Banana Cupcakes
Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Bliss
Dreamy Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Mousseline Buttercream
Right Royal Peanut Butter and Banana Cupcakes
Elvis Cake
Brazil Nut Brownies (a bit of an oddball entry, but we show love anyway!)

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling (recipe below)from Katrina who loves Peanut Butter, but doesn't yet have a blog to showcase her baking prowess.

Makes 12 regular cupcakes.

3 ounces Dark Chocolate
1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Cup Raw sugar
2 eggs
1/3 Cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 1/4 T unsweetened Cocoa powder
3/4 t baking powder
small pinch of salt
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t honey

1.) Melt chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave until smooth in a large microwave safe bowl. (small chunks of chocolate are OK. That is how I like to do it because then you get a little chocolate surprise when eating the cupcake.)
2.) Add sugar and stir, let cool for about 10 minutes.
3.) Stir well for 3 minutes.
4.) Add one egg at a time, mixing between each. stir in the applesauce.
5.) In a separate bowl mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
6.) pour dry into the wet and mix wet and dry ingredients thoroughly.
7.) Add vanilla and honey and mix until blended.
8.) Scoop into cup cake cups and bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Filling

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1//2 T Vanilla extract
1 1/2 T Milk. ( I usually use vanilla or chocolate soy milk)
1.) Mix all ingredients until well combined.
[ This filling recipe will only make enough to fill 8 cupcakes. I like to let people decide if they want to eat them with or without the filling because some people say the peanut butter filling is too much peanut butter flavor. I just fill as many as I can and leave the rest for the non-peanut butter lovers...]

Chocolate Frosting

2 ounces Dark Chocolate
2 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 T butter at room Temp.
1 Cup Powdered Sugar.
1.) Chop chocolate and keep in a heat safe bowl.
2.) Heat cream until bubbly around the edges of pan, pour over chocolate.
3.) Let sit for 1 minute, stir to combine.
4.) Add butter and vanilla and stir. Let cool for 10 minutes
5.) Add powdered sugar and beat until combined. Continue to beat until lighter in color and has a creamy texture.

Assemble

1.) With a small knife, cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake. Flip the cone over and remove the cone leaving you with a flat top.
2.) Fill the cupcake with the Peanut Butter filling and replace the top.
3.) Frost with Chocolate frosting with whatever method you choose.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Azul Cantina

It would be hard for me to pick out just one ethnic cuisine as my favorite. I think I vacillate depending on the day, the temperature outside, and whatever I'm craving at the moment. However, Mexican food is almost always something I'm willing to eat. When I first moved to Philadelphia there was a severe lack of Mexican food available in the city limits. Now, however, our options in the city have seemed to multiply exponentially. When I heard about Azul Cantina via Phoodie.info weeks ago, I immediately marked it down in my "To Eat" book and ventured there as soon as I possibly could.
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Margaritas are served by the glass or the pitcher and come in a plethora of varieties. We adored the mango version. A pitcher served three of us two nice sized drinks each.
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While the presentation was a bit lacking, the guacamole was simple but good. No fancy stuff here, just ripe avocado, lime, garlic and hint of cilantro. The chips were very good, slightly salty and still warm from the fryer.
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On recommendation from our waitress, who was excellent, knowledgeable and friendly, we tried the black bean and goat cheese enchiladas. Filled with creamy goat cheese studded with the occasional black bean and covered in a traditional red Chile sauce, we all really liked the flavor, but thought a bit more texture to the filling would have been nice.
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I was very excited to try the pulled pork enchiladas, but they ended up being the most disappointing dish we sampled. Pork is cheap, especially a cut used to make a slow-cooked pulled pork, therefore the pitiful amount of pork found in these enchiladas was inexcusable, you could barely see the filling, never mind taste it!
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Luckily for every downside there's usually an upside. Azul Cantina's upside was this order of Mahi Mahi tacos. Covered in a spicy BBQ sauce and served with a pineapple salsa, the fish was dense and smokey and was complimented nicely by the sweet salsa and crisp red cabbage slaw.

With a sidewalk full of tables and a beautifully decorated interior, Azul Cantina is a nice place to spend a summer afternoon sipping away on delicious margaritas. As far as the food is concerned, there are hits and there are misses, but it's a good choice for a small plate or some munchie appetizers in a fun and lively part of the city.

Azul Cantina
941 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA
215.627.5200

Azul Cantina on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Phoebe's BBQ

Wow. It's been over a full week since my last post and I haven't even been on vacation. I've got a million excuses, none of which seem to fit the bill individually, but when taken on the aggregate, I've been pretty darn busy. I just finished a small project working with Philadelphia Weekly, I'm swamped with map-making at MPIP, and the class I'm teaching in the second summer session starts in less than a week, so I've been preparing for that, too. And, of course, I've been eating. Not cooking so much due to the high temperatures in my house, but as the following post will illustrate, take out can be just as fun, if not just a little less delicious than homemade.

In my quest for the most delicious BBQ in Philadelphia, I've been trying all the little BBQ joints I can find. Phoebe's BBQ is a simple pick-up location with a decent selection but a relatively grumpy staff. When I picked up this bundle of food I certainly felt as if I were bothering the men behind the counter. I was glad to get my food and run home to eat with friends.
chicken
The whole roasted chicken was served with Phoebe's sweet sauce on the side. The skin was deliciously charred and easily peeled off if desired. The meat was tender and moist, but lacked any real flavor. Nothing a dip in the sauce couldn't fix.
Ribs
By far the best thing available at Phoebe's is the pork ribs. For those who prefer beef ribs, they have those available too, but I'm less into Texas style beef BBQ than I am into more traditional southern pork BBQ. These pork ribs were massive, tender enough that the meat fell off the bone and served with some of Phoebe's hot BBQ sauce on the side.
pulled pork
Pulled pork smelled great, but tasted less so. It was dry. I like to consider myself a pulled pork connoisseur, making a homemade version myself that would blow this pulled pork out of the water. It just shouldn't be dry and stringy like this.
mac and cheese
Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of their macaroni and cheese either. Even a nuke in the microwave and an additional splash of milk didn't transform this pile of overcooked noodles and tasteless cheese into something anyone could enjoy.
slaw
The slaw was pretty good. Not too wet or too sweet, the cabbage was cut thinly enough that it wilted a bit in combination with the dressing, but not so thinly that it became soggy.
cornbread
Stay away from the cornbread. Even if they gave it to me for free I wouldn't eat it. It lacks any flavor or moisture. Though it might make a good base for cornbread dressing, I'd rather make my own.
Greens
The greens were tasty, but unfortunately not vegetarian. I understand tradition enough to know that real collard greens are made with the inclusion of ham hocks or other pork parts to impart flavor, but it's really unnecessary and keeps those who enjoy BBQ side dishes, but not meat, from enjoying them.
BBQ beans
The BBQ beans were also worth a spoonful or two. Not sneaky spicy as advertised on the menu, but yummy all the same, the beans were a great consistency, not too thick or too thin, with a variety of spices and tang. Also, not vegetarian.
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Finally, my favorite side of this BBQ adventure was the potato salad. Made with white potatoes, celery and carrots, this salad was simple and not overdressed with mayonnaise. Perhaps stirred one too many times it was a bit on the mashed up side but had a nice vinegary tang and only needed a dusting of black pepper before it reached flavor perfection.

Go to Phoebe's for the ribs or the chicken, but pass on the macaroni and cheese. If you're living on the veg, be careful what you eat here.

Phoebe's BBQ
2214 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
215.546.4811
Phoebe's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon