Friday, August 29, 2008

In celebration of Peanut Butter Exhibition #4 I'm doing something a little different.

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A friend of mine was raving one day about his wife's amazing skills in the kitchen. He cited many examples, but one struck the Peanut Butter Exhibition cord with me! In the middle of a heat wave here in Philly, I had a craving for something sweet, and quickly e-mailed her to get the details on these no-bake treats. My next e-mail was to Nick, The Peanut Butter Boy, insisting that our next PBE theme be No-Bake so that I could share this recipe with the world! The following recipe is not mine, it belongs to my friend Debbie, but she has agreed to let me enter it via Foodaphilia into Peanut Butter Exhibition #4. It's quickly become a go-to dessert for me this summer, I've brought them to a few picnics and eaten quite a few from home out of my freezer in the middle of the night, they're just that good.
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What's even more beautiful about this recipe is that there isn't really a recipe, rather its a short list of ingredients in general proportions that you can mess around with to your own liking. Basically you need just 5 things to get started:

Peanut Butter
Vanilla
Butter or Margarine
Oats
Sugar

I started with about 1 cup of peanut butter, I used chunky because that's what I had, but smooth would work just as well. Melt it in the microwave with about 1 Tablespoon of butter or margarine for about 30 seconds and blend with a fork. Add around 1/2 cup of oatmeal and a few drops of vanilla and blend again. Add enough sugar to make the peanut butter mixture into a consistency that will easily roll into balls. The picture above illustrates the consistency you're looking for. Debbie uses white sugar, I used a mixture of white sugar and brown sugar, mainly because I ran out of white sugar in the middle of making this dessert the first time around. In subsequent attempts, however, I've repeated the substitution because I like the carmely flavor the brown sugar adds to the peanut butter.
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Use a good size cereal spoon to measure out the peanut butter mixture and roll into balls. Then stick them in the freezer to chill out for about an hour.
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The final ingredient you'll need is some chocolate for the coating. You can use any chocolate you like, I've used semi-sweet, milk, a combination of those two and white chocolate. My favorite is the semi-sweet, but I tend to like my chocolate on the less sweet side and I find the semi-sweet chocolate is a nice compliment to the sugary interior of these treats. I used one whole bag of chocolate chips and 1 tsp of vegetable oil melted together in the microwave to coat my peanut butter balls.
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Once all the balls are coated in chocolate, stick them back in the freezer until completely firm. At this point I took them off the cookie sheet and tossed them into a plastic container with a lid and stored them in the freezer. I wouldn't recommend keeping them outside of the freezer, the texture of this No-Bake treat is just superior in frozen form.

Seriously, there's never been an easier or more adaptable recipe for such a wonderful dessert. If you're not that into chocolate, just drizzle some over each ball instead of coating the whole thing. If you don't like chocolate at all, or are really trying to count those calories, just roll the balls in a light dusting of white sugar. Similarly, you can replace the oatmeal with crushed pretzels or fiber cereal to increase the saltiness or crunch of the filling. The possibilities are endless, so I hope you try it out and let me know of alterations that provided you with something tasty

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There is still plenty of time to get a team together and enter the 2nd Annual Northern Liberties Rib Cook-Off!
Rib2
With a minimal entry fee, A Full Plate Cafe is providing Rib Cook-Off teams with 10 racks of ribs to lay their BBQ magic all over. You provide the sauce, utensils and creative ideas, they provide the meat. You still have time to enter!

Don't have a grill you can wheel down to Liberties Walk? You can rent one from A Full Plate Cafe for just $20.

Live entertainment and local beverage sponsors will be on site to provide an entire evening of fun and food.

Not a griller, but love to eat? Join us starting at 4pm to purchase a general admission ticket which gets you samples of the contestants ribs and access to a full buffet of A Full Plate's side dishes. You can't go wrong at this event whether you're grilling or eating.

I've fallen under the spell of Metropolitan Bakery's Granola. You could say I've become a little obsessed even. It's just a great product with no funky preservatives or anything artificial. Seriously, if you read the ingredient list, it all just makes sense. More food should just make sense.
Metropolitan Cookie Bars (2)
So as well as eating the granola by the handful as a snack or on yogurt in the morning for breakfast, I've also been baking with it! The recipe that follows is one of my most successful attempts are working the granola into cookie form.

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 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups Metropolitan Bakery Granola, chopped, dried fruit removed and saved for later

Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the butter and sugar.
Metropolitan Cookie Bars (4)
Stir to incorporate all of the flour. Add the two cups of granola (with the dried fruit removed!) and mix to combine. The dough is very stiff and I usually end up using my hands to really make all the oats stick.

Press half of this dough mixture into the bottom of a 13 X 9 non stick baking pan that you've lined with non stick foil. Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

To the remaining dough, add the reserved dried fruit, 2 more cups of chopped granola and 1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut. The mixture will be crumbly. Set aside.

After 10 minutes, remove the bottom crust from oven and let stand 2 minutes before spreading it with 1 cup of raspberry jam. I used a jar of seedless raspberry jam that I picked up from the farmer's market, but you can use whatever jam you prefer or are trying to use up.
Metropolitan Cookie Bars
Crumble the remaining dough/granola mixture evenly over the top of the jam layer and place back in the oven for 18 minutes. The topping should be a light golden brown and the center of the bars should still be a tad wiggly.

Let cool completely on your countertop or in the refrigerator before slicing into bars. Depending on how large you cut them, you could get between 24 and 36 bars.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thanks to Taylor and her excellent organizational skills, a bunch of us foodies got together in a sweet spot in Fairmount Park this past Sunday to eat and hang out in the company of other food nerds. It was a totally gorgeous day, the park was full of happy people and everyone at our gathering brought something delicious to share.
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Even though she's a strict veggie, Taylor was kind enough to procure locally raised venison, beef and pheasant for the meat eaters to grill up. I had a venison burger that was cut with a little beef. This not only minimized the slightly gamy flavor of the venison, but because deer is so lean, the beef provided just the right amount of fat to keep things moist and yummy. Just below the burgers are venison kebabs, and the silver bowl contains a delicious North Carolina pulled pork made by Sara from The Real Potato. That beautiful dish of guacamole was made by my roommate, Alison. Most of the time she pretends she doesn't cook, but then whips up magical things like mini fritattas and impresses us all. She's also one of the best guacamole chefs I've ever had the pleasure to meet and she didn't let us down on this day. Taylor also put together some veggie kebabs and Neal from Burning Pasta brought a jar of pickled peaches. They weren't sweet, but lightly spiced and still firm enough to eat as a compliment to meat or just on their own.
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One of my favorites from the day was this dish of lettuce wraps with marinated shrimp. Patti from Philly Food Guys made this snack and revealed the recipe was from The South Beach Diet Cookbook. My mother owns that book, so I'm going to have to borrow it and page through it on a search for the recipe.
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Alex from Le Petit Cochon made a delicious salad of corn, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro that reminded me of a salad my mother used to make during the summertime when we lived in California and the produce was always so good. Alex's version was light and perfect for this picnic. Other highlights (not pictured) included shrimp marinated in shallots and whole peppercorns and a cold red cabbage and soba noodle salad.
Dessert Mosaic
Dessert is usually my favorite category of potluck food and this edition was no let down. Wendy has been perfecting her chocolate chunk cookie recipe and loaded this batch up with three kinds of chocolate, whole wheat flour, almond meal and tons of chopped almonds. Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies made an appearance thanks to Taylor and her friend Stephanie made a fresh blackberry cobbler. The most unusual, but my favorite sweet treat of the afternoon was the Bacon Toffee. Yes, Bacon Toffee! Neal from Burning Pasta made it at home and it was delicious. Salty and sweet as well as crunchy and chewy - that's the perfect combination of flavor and texture and I hereby declare Bacon Toffee one of the best bacon creations I've had the pleasure to taste. I don't have photographic evidence of the rest of the goodies on the sweets table, but Collin made sure to bring some Famous 4th Street Deli cookies and Patti and Bill brought a healthy peanut butter dip with apples.

Another good event with great food and both old and new friends. It was fun to meet the faces behind The Real Potato, Phoodie.info, and Burning Pasta for the first time. I hope you all had fun and will join us at our next get together where hopefully we'll be experimenting with Miracle Fruit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No plans this Thursday night? Now you've got them. Head over to Liberties Walk on August 21st around 7pm for a night chock full of live entertainment and the neighborhood's newest pizza.
Drag Queens
The lovely ladies of Bob & Barbara's fame will be hosted by Miss Lisa Lisa on the Walk in front of A Full Plate Cafe and Home Slice Pizzeria.
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From 7pm till 9pm, Home Slice will be giving away FREE slices of their delicious pizza. White and whole wheat crusts are available, as well as traditional and non-dairy cheeses. Stop by to check out what's on the menu and scope out the beautiful interior of the newest restaurant on Liberties Walk. Thursday night they'll also be featuring a Six-Foot Long Cheesesteak and a Six-Foot Long Vegetarian Cheesesteak!

Also on the line up for the evening is a live performance by The Names and a fashion show featuring clothing from Delicious Boutique.

I'll be there helping my friends celebrate the 2-Year Anniversary of their charming cafe and the Grand Opening of their newest business venture. Come on down to say hi and enjoy the entertainment.

Home Slice Pizzeria
1030 N. American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
215.627.2726
Home Slice on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2008

Metropolitan Bakery

The very moment a member of the Metropolitan Bakery team called on me to come down the bakery for a visit, I did a happy little dance in my office at MPIP. Being a lover of all things baked, I couldn't believe I was going to get a personal tour of one of the best bakeries in the city.
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The moment I stepped inside the bakery, James (pictured above) and the whole staff at Metro made me feel very welcome and not the least bit in the way, though I know I was. The entire facility smells glorious, like baking bread of course, which is one of the most comforting smells in my opinion, but also one that starts my tummy grumbling even if I'm not really hungry.
Metro Bread
I took copious amounts of pictures, and would have loved to post them all, but feared this page would take a day and half to load, so I created a few mosaics, like the one above. If you're interested you can check out my entire set of photos from the Metropolitan Bakery here via Flickr.
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Over thirty varieties of bread are made at the Metropolitan Bakery. Each and every one of them begins as a yeasty starter similar to the one pictured above. There are faster ways to make bread, but James and Wendy are devoted to the art of Old-World bread making, a process which is slow but extremely rewarding.
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Dough is needed by hand and allowed to rise at a specific temperature depending upon the type or variety. The Metro facility, located in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, is chock full of bread in various stages of preparation. I was allowed to help with the production of their Metro baguette, and the Cracked Wheat. All of their breads are made with the finest and freshest ingredients and are handled by bakers who love what they're producing. This is a combination that leads to nothing but amazingly good bread.
croissant
It's a three day process from start to finish when it comes to the chocolate croissants. Dough is folded together with butter, rolled thinly, hand cut and then rolled up around a stick of high quality chocolate. The finished product is a melt in your mouth, flaky, buttery, slightly sweet way to start the day, and is available at each Metropolitan bakery location.
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I was also lucky enough to get my hands in a dough I'm a bit more familiar with: cookie dough! A huge batch of chocolate chip cookie dough was whipped up while I was in house, so that meant I got to get my hands dirty helping to weight out three pound portions of dough, roll them into logs and wrap them up for storage. This dough is loaded with chunks of chocolate, nuts, and shavings of milk chocolate. If you're in the mood for something sweet and chocolaty, this cookie is sure to satisfy.
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In addition the the artisan breads and sweet treats in production at Metropolitan Bakery, one of their latest and greatest additions to the line-up is a healthful and delicious granola. Made with oats, honey, maple syrup, canola oil, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, milk powder, almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and spices, it's as close to homemade as you can get without actually having to make it yourself. You can pick up a bag or two of this granola at any of the retail locations, or you can opt for the bar version which is both crunchy and chewy.

I've completely fallen in love with this granola. As a baker, it's been easy to work this amazing mix of all natural ingredients into a few of my most trusted recipes and come up with new twists on old favorites. I'll be sharing a recipe or two with you soon that utilizes my favorite new granola.

Metropolitan Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm excited to go to this guided tour through a bourbon tasting, something I've never done before. I hope to learn a little bit and taste a bunch! Anyone else in the area going?

Morton's


MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE LEADS GUESTS ON A BOURBON JOURNEY FROM BARREL TO BOTTLE TO TASTE

Morton’s in Philadelphia Hosts Premium Bourbon Event Featuring Whiskey Professor Bernie Lubbers on Monday, August 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Cost is $45 per person. For reservations, call 215-557-0724.

Morton’s The Steakhouse in Philadelphia is celebrating bourbon, a distinctive American spirit, with an evening tasting of premium bourbons on Monday, August 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m. Guests are invited to sample a variety of select bourbons from the Small Batch Bourbon Collection and listen to Bernie Lubbers*, a whiskey professor, take them on a fascinating journey from the barrel to the bottle—all complemented with Morton’s fare.

Cost to attend is $45 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity, and reservations can be made by calling 215-557-0724. Space is limited.

Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey Professors, such as Bernie Lubbers, travel the American Whiskey Trail in an effort to educate and entertain people about this American Native Spirit and are well trained to guide guests through a unique learning and tasting experience.

Lubbers has a passion and interest in sharing the history, process and many nuances of color, age and proof among the different bourbons. He is one of three whiskey professors who underwent in-depth training at the Jim Beam distillery in Kentucky and represent Beam Global Spirits & Wine from this educational experience.

“What an incredible time this will be for our guests who prefer bourbon,” said Thomas Allen, general manager at Morton’s in Philadelphia. “The evening promises to inform and delight them about the art and science of processing bourbon with the added benefit of taste comparison among four premium bourbons in signature cocktails.”

Bourbons to be served in the Small Batch Bourbon Collection include:

Knob Creek: Knob Creek’s bourbon is a small-batch bourbon, created in limited quantities from a recipe dating back two centuries. Aged nine years in charred American white oak barrels allows the bourbon to absorb more sugar, giving a sweeter taste and nose and full-bodied flavor. Knob Creek will be mixed in a “Mint Julep.”

Bookers: The late Booker Noe, master distiller and grandson of Jim Beam, originally created Booker’s as a holiday gift for his friends. This bourbon ages for six to eight years until it is bottled at its natural proof, straight from the barrel, uncut and unfiltered. Such care and consistency in the aging process delivers a range of intense flavors from oak tannin and smoky vanilla. Booker’s will be mixed into a “Manhattan.”

Basil Hayden’s: Enriched by a hint of peppermint, Basil Hayden’s mellow taste and dry, brief finish bourbon was developed in 1796. It is made in small batches and its recipe requires a larger percentage of rye than other bourbon recipes. It rests eight years in wood at a mild 80 proof. The spicy flavor of the rye and the sweet smoothness of the corn give Basil Hayden’s a unique flavor that is light-bodied in taste. Basil Hayden’s will mixed as a “Southern Citrus Smash.”

Baker’s: Named for Baker Beam, grandnephew of Jim Beam, Baker’s bourbon is a robust, small-batch bourbon for the bourbon connoisseur. The mix of corn, rye and barley grains, yeast and seven soothing years in new oak combine to give this bourbon a deeply mellow, richly flavorful, medium-bodied taste, with a fruity, warm sugar-vanilla aroma. Baker’s will be showcased in “Washington Apple.”

“We are eager to have guests attend the Small Batch Bourbon Collection evening,” added Allen. “The format is perfect to showcase how to nose, sip and taste this spirit.”

Morton’s The Steakhouse is located at 1411 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Valet parking is available. For more information and to make reservations, call 215-557-0724 or visit www.mortons.com.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Food Blogger Potluck

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 the 4th Philadelphia Food Blogger Potluck!


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 mac.and.cheese.review[at]gmail[dot]com. The event is scheduled for Sunday, August 17thth. Please send Taylor an email at the above address and she'll send you the full details in return.

See you there!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

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Since it's sweltering here on the east coast, I convinced The Peanut Butter Boy that our 4th event highlighting peanut butter should be No Bake. We've already asked you to make the perfect peanut butter cookie, the most decadent peanut butter breakfast,and the ultimate peanut butter cake or cupcake, so now it's time to challenge you in the kitchen without using your oven!
Check out The Peanut Butter Boy's post for his witty banter on the subject. Also, the full details can be found there.

Here's a mini run-down:

Submit your recipe, a photo, and the following information for an original No-Bake recipe involving copious amounts of peanut butter!

Name:
Blog:
Recipe:
Permalink:

Send all this information along with your recipe and photo to pbe@peanutbutterboy.com by August 31th @ Noon (PST). The Peanut Butter Boy and I will take on the arduous task of wading through the entries, imagining them in our mouths, and choosing at Top 3 to be featured prominently on each of our blogs.

You've got three full weekends to whip up, photograph, blog about, and submit your recipe to PBE #4, so get in the kitchen and let those creative juices start flowing!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Devon Seafood Grill

It's rare that I eat out near Rittenhouse Square. Not that the restaurants around the square aren't worthy of my attention, in fact, they're positively droolworthy in reputation. It's simple really, I'm a graduate student, I live off a stipend, which is like a ghostly reflection of a paycheck, and as much as I'd like to dine at Rittenhouse eateries on a regular basis, places in this league have been relegated to special occasions only. However, close inspection of the menu has changed my stereotype about the affordability of this part of town, ordering wisely can grant you a delicious meal that won't break your budget, so I encourage each and every one of you to head to Devon Seafood Grill. Now, on to the food.
Devon Seafood Grill (1)
We started with a tomato bruchetta topped with bruleed goat cheese. Served with toasted foccacia, Calamata olive tapenade and a simply dressed green salad, I could have made a meal out this appetizer alone. The goat cheese was of high quality and the thin veneer of charred cheese on top was to die for. Couple the tangy cheese with the ripest dice of local tomato and you've got a real winner.
Devon Seafood Grill (3)
Calamari was lightly dusted with a cornmeal coating and fried to perfection along with thin slices of jalapeno. The accompanying Creole remoulade had a significant kick, and because I'm a fan of all things hot and spicy, I really enjoyed this starter.
Devon Drinks
Devon Seafood Grill has an eclectic list of signature cocktails that I was more than happy to sample. Some were a little on the sweet side for my tastes, but I particularly enjoyed the Cucumber Dill (bottom left) and the Ruby Red Margarita (top right).
Devon Seafood Grill (8)
The scallop starter was ridiculously good. A large fresh sea scallop was crusted in prosciutto then seared until it was just cooked through. Served with a crunchy fennel salad and garnished with basil oil and balsamic glaze, this dish is an elevated form of every one's favorite bacon wrapped scallops.
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One of Devon's signature dishes is their jumbo lump crab cakes. Made with only the highest quality crab meat and barely any filler, you truly get what you pay for when you order this dish. The creole remoulade from the aforementioned calamari makes another appearance with the crab cake, but far more interesting is the addition of a mango tarter sauce which adds a layer of sweetness that complements the crab.
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Next up was Tuna Tartare. Only the best fresh tuna is selected for this dish as it's served completely rare. The tuna is diced and dressed with a wasabi vinaigrette then nestled on a bed of pickled cucumbers and served with a homemade sesame cracker. There is enough wasabi in this dish to bother sensitive palates, but I loved it! It was the perfect balance between the sweet fish and the spicy vinaigrette.
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Chilean Seabass was broiled for a crunchy crust, topped with a leek fondue, served over potato sage gratin, and accented with a mustard vinaigrette so perfect that I wanted a spoon to help me devour it all. Since it's kind of a nice place I refrained from this action, but I really really wanted to.
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Devon prides itself on highlighting seasonal fish and produce, so the Stripped Bass was a logical choice. The bass was seared and served over a sweet potato, corn and bacon hash then drizzled with a corn infused butter. Total bliss.
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Finally, I sampled the Char crusted Hawaiian Yellow Fin Tuna. It was just seared on the outside, leaving the middle rare, which I love. The crust was peppery and crunchy, a nice contrast to the cool and calm interior of the fish. The tuna was accompanied by perfect roasted potatoes, fresh asparagus and a Foyot sauce.

I'll certainly be back with friends who appreciate fresh seafood prepared in delicate and successful ways. You should stop by too, even if you're not into fish, the menu is extensive enough to provide something you'll enjoy, and the cocktails are not to be missed either.

Devon Seafood Grill
225 S 18th Street
Philadelphia PA 19103
215.546.5940
Devon Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Drag Show Must Go On

As some of you may have heard, L&I found some critical violations at Bob & Babara's last week and they've had to shut down while repairs commence. Don't worry about your favorite Drag Queens, though. They'll be performing on Liberties Walk outside of A Full Plate Cafe and the unofficially opened Home Slice every Thursday night in August. A five dollar donation is encouraged. Speaking of Home Slice, the newest addition to Liberties Walk will be selling slices during all of the Drag Shows, so stop on by to be entertained visually and gastronomically.
Home Slice
Home Slice has both whole wheat and white crusts as well as traditional cheeses and a homemade vegan cheese made with almonds and herbs. Both are picture above along with with two attractive and charming fellows who work at Home Slice.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bust Out! A Huge Success

This past Friday my friend Caralea hosted an amazing event in Northern Liberties. Fourteen restaurants donated their time and created Breast Inspired dishes. Half of the proceeds from the sales of those dishes went to a local organization, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, that provides support to women in recovery. We all got together at North 3rd and had a few drinks. I got to meet a new blogger friend, Alex, of Le Petit Cochon as well as catch up with Messy & Picky and Taylor from Mac & Cheese.
Bust Out!
I had the pleasure of sampling the seared duck breast from Bar Ferdinand. While I can't say that I love duck, I enjoyed this preparation above any I've had so far in my life, but would have liked it even more cooked just a minute longer. The presentation was beautiful, and I'd expect nothing less from the kitchen of Bar Ferdinand.

The night ended in the garden of The Arbol Cafe, where I watched a movie projected on to the side of a row home, ate Beth's chewy chocolate chip cookies and enjoyed the company of friends.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Home Slice

You heard it here first, Home Slice, a new venture by Liz Petersen and Shannon Dougherty, who successfully run A Full Plate Cafe seven days a week, is going to be giving away free samples of their pizza this Wednesday night.
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The crust is thin, but not paper thin, and has a good crunch and bite to it. The sauce isn't too sweet and there isn't too much of it. Everything seems just about right at this pizza joint.

The official opening of Home Slice is still a couple weeks out, but join us this Wednesday evening for the Art Show on Liberties Walk and stop by Home Slice for a free sample of pizza. If you love it as I know you will, you'll join us again on Thursday night when the beautiful ladies of Bob and Barbara's Drag Show tear up the walk with their style and grace! Slices will be sold before, during and after the show hosted by the infamous Miss Lisa Lisa.