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foodzings: May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cooling Off At Art Star

This weekend turned out to be just right for the Art Star Craft Bazaar. I didn't get to eat anything before I went so I needed some cool sustenance, stat. So I had me a mango/orange smoothie from this Maui Wowi smoothie cart. Not sure what's in these but they have yogurt in them and are somewhat icy, yet smooth. I enjoyed it, despite the crazy inflated outdoor fest prices. The little umbrella is a nice touch, but kind of a waste, as they all went flying.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whoa... Portillo's...

I was in Chicago for the day to visit a potential client (very famous cup maker) and had to have lunch. J is very familiar with Chicago, so he wanted to take me to an institution - Portillo's. This place is beyond busy during lunch. I mean seriously. There is a drive-thru and that had a long ass line. And inside, there are multiple sections (sandwich line, pasta line, salad line) and all the lines were long. But they know how to run a tight ship.
There's tons of space to eat in. The decorations are wacky. That's a giant bra hanging on a clothesline. Random. When you order in the sandwich line, long before the registers, a guy takes your order and writes it in shorthand on a takeout bag. So at the register, you only pay. Then you get a number and then wait to pick it up on the pick up side. You really don't have to wait that long, which is impressive considering how many people there are. It's like a machine!
So what did we get? The combo sandwich - with a giant heap of italian beef with gravy, grilled sausage, mozzarella, and sweet peppers. You can pick your choice of cheese and whether you want peppers or not. So um... this sandwich is big. And it has tons of the italian beef. And I ate the whole thing. And I certainly shouldn't have, but I couldn't help myself, it was so freakin good. Like seriously good. Like I could eat this all the time, if it weren't for the fact that it can't possibly be good for you. But you know I would. If you're ever in Chicago and want an iconic sandwich, stop in Portillo's and stuff your gourd. You will leave happy!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Huge Slices From Lorenzo's

We were feeling a bit peckish later on memorial day night and decided to take a drive by Lorenzo's and grab a few slices. Man, did this giant pizza hit the spot. It's no frills. There's only cheese pizza. There's no toppings, no accessories, no nothing. But it's so good. Cheap too. There's no scale to this photo, but these slices are ginormous.

Lorenzo & Son Pizza
305 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 627-4110

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Memorial Day Lunch

After failing miserably at trying to eat brunch at Morning Glory, we kept our feet moving and ended up on South Street. We went to S&H Kebab House and man, it was awesome. It was another nice day, so we dined outside. They have a great lunch special. When you buy a kebab dish, you also get an app or a salad. So we tried it all - hummus, babagannush, and tabuli. All three were excellent. And you get a heap of warm sliced pita! Yey for warm sliced pita. I love me some eggplant. I need to learn how to make my own babagannush. J got the shish kebab which is grilled lamb chunks. All of theses lunch platters are served with two different types of rice pilaf (one regular and one spicy), and two helpings of a refreshing cabbage and carrot slaw/salad type thing, plus grilled tomato and a grilled green pepper. Seriously, everything on this plate is awesome. J got the doner kebab, which is the thinly sliced lamb. Also amazingly delicious. I kept stealing bits and making little sandwiches with it using the pita. I got the adana kebab, which is chopped lamb with a bunch of seasonings, which happens to be a bit on the spicy side. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. The service was odd. Our actual server was completely bonkers. He was older and seemed to be in outer space. Like completely out of it. And we also had the owner (or someone who certainly seemed to be the owner) also wait on us a lot. And he was attentive. Perhaps too attentive. A bit too much. So it was a strange combo. It would have been lovely to have had a happy medium. Another fine meal, and a nice and inexpensive one at that. Thanks to J for the suggestion!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Brunch At Bar Ferdinand

The last few times W has been in town, she's always wanted tapas, especially for brunch. We tried to go to Bar Ferdinand for brunch on a saturday once, and found out it was only open for brunch on sundays. So this sunday, we made sure to go. It wasn't busy, so we got a table outside. It was a perfect day for al fresco dining.
The cafe con leche. Like the ones J got in spain? Kinda sorta. They probably don't serve it with freakin splenda in spain.
The patatas brava... fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with aioli. The aioli was a bit too much, but the potatoes and the spicy sauce were great.
They have a brunch special where you get 4 tapas for $15. You get to choose from 3 different 4-tapas combos. In one of them is this egg based tapas - Huevo Escalfodo, which is poached eggs, chorizo, spinach, and toast, with a saffron hollandaise. Everybody dug this. It's slightly creepy looking though, don't you think?
The hot tapas that came in one of the combos was chorizo al vino. Behind the chorizo is the pan tosta which came with all the combos. This was just a very crunchy piece of toasted flat baguette. Nothing to write home about. A bit too crunchy if you ask me.
W and I both got the Huevo Verde Y Jamon, which was an egg crepe, filled with serrano ham, green beans, and mahon cheese, with a smoked paprika aioli. This was good, but both the ham and the cheese were salty. And with those together, it was too darn salty. I'm not a salt fan.
One of the croquettes... I totally forget which one.
I got the Granola Con Frutas Secas, of house made granola, dried fruit, nuts, low fat yogurt, drizzled with honey. Oh my word. This granola was unbelievable. Like seriously unbelievable. I've never had house made granola, but I can't ever go back to store bought! So. Damn. Good.
W got the churros. This chocolate sauce is thick and bitter. Super dark chocolate. Not for me. The service was ok. I swear we had a server and she must have just started. I asked if there were any brunch specials. And she said no. Then after a long pause she said except for the brunch special. Then she got us the brunch special menu. My brother asked what was on tap. And she said I do not know. Then she got him the draft menu. Really, it wouldn't hurt to actually know some of the stuff you're schlocking. It was still tasty and good though. I need to go back for dinner!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gaya - Fancy Korean

My bro and his wife were down for the holiday weekend which meant korean food time. Whether it is mom's cooking or going out, it's always good to get a hit of korean food every once in awhile. After a lunch at the H Mart food court and an afternoon of rambling about town, we decided to hit up a new spot for dinner. We went to Gaya, which is a korean restaurant / banquet place in the burbs. It's kinda fancy and all, which means expensive. We saw at least one wedding banquet going on while we were here. There's actually also a japanese place here. So it's a korean restaurant, japanese restaurant, banquet spot trifecta.
Some of the random banchan and other condiments and stuff we got with our meal. An array of lettuces and blanched cabbage and raw veggies (had never seen the raw carrots and cucumber that was included before in any other korean restaurant before). The bowl with the clearish liquid and radish? I have no idea what the name of this is, but it's incredibly refreshing in the heat. Zesty too.
Their banchan was nothing special, except for the dish all the way in the front. It looks like a weird red mess, but it's actually raw blue crab marinated in a red pepper sauce. I know the concept is wackadoo, but this is one of my favorite korean dishes, ever. And I totally ate this up. I made my mom ask for a refill. It's just awesome. Yes, the crab is raw, but this doesn't phase me at all. It's just the greatest thing ever. But as my mom said, this has to be beyond fresh. So I'm hoping these buggers were alive on the morning I ate this.
We got the seafood pancake, and it was pretty darn good here. Thick, but not too thick, and well cooked.
We also got the ojingaboekum, the stir fried squid. And get this, at Gaya, they serve it with a heap of udon noodles. Freakin brilliant I say. Everyone should do this. Their squid was on point. I'm a big fan.
We also got a bunch of meat and cooked it at the table. All the tables have their own little cooking pit here. I think it's a gas grill system but there's real wood so it gets all charcoaly and stuff. The ventilation must be good because we didn't come out of there stinking of bbq. Perhaps that's why it's so pricey? I totally forgot to take pictures of the actual meat. Duh. We got the house galbi, which ended up being kinda bland. I mean it was excellent quality meat, so it was as if we were eating steak, but there wasn't enough flavor. So it was like eating korean bbq, but not.
Service was good though, and it better well have been because it's not cheap. i mean korean food in general is not cheap. It's one of the more expensive asian foods out there. Is it worth the extra $$? Eh, not sure. It was good enough, but maybe not quite worth it. It wasn't extraordinary or anything. But if I have to go to a wedding banquet, I surely wouldn't mind. I'll just make sure that I'll be able to get some of that crab!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Smokin It Up At Ron's

Whenever you walk down a particular strip of south street, you can't avoid the smell. You know, the char smell... the grill smell... the bbq smell. The Ron's Ribs smell. J invited us out to join him for a visit to Ron's Ribs. Man, when you walk in there, you are punched in the face with the bbq fumes. And it soaks into your pores, your hair, your clothes. It's very much like korean bbq smell in the way it immediately permeates into your being. It's pretty much a take-out place, and bbq is on the menu.
We got two beef platters, which was a heap of beef ribs with your choice of sauce and two sides. We got cole slaw, mac and cheese, and an additional side of yams. After having just been in Oklahoma and having real slow smoked and pit bbq, this was quite a drastic change. These are big ass beef ribs, not the little pork ribs. And there's a lot of bone. Probably too much bone and not enough meat. It was tasty, but perhaps not enough meat for what you're actually getting. The cole slaw is crazy sweet, good, but perhaps a bit too sweet. And rarely are things too sweet for me. Again, a crazy contrast from the vinegar laced slaw I'd just eaten in Oklahoma. The mac and cheese was delish. The yams were good but nothing exciting. The yams are Tootsie's blow these out of the water. It's not cheap, but two platters between 3 people was just right. There seems to be a surge of bbq places around philly lately. I'm excited to try them all out!

Ron's Ribs
1627 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 732-3561

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Brunch Specials At Kanella

J loved our last visit to Kanella so much that he made his mom come down especially so he could take her there. Plus, she's a whole lots Greek so it was a bit of a tribute to her ancestors. There was a nice mix of diners there, but it wasn't too crowded. We were smart and made reservations since this was graduation weekend.
J had wanted a frappe before but didn't get one the last time, so he definitely got it this time. It was suprisingly light and airy. How do they make this thing? And why does it form the layers? Scientists, please tell me. Something with density? Polarity?
C got the kanella platter, especially because she loves grape leaves. It's a smorgasbord of stuffed grape leaves, tabuleh, falafel, zucchini fritter, spicy tomato salad, tzantziki, olives, and pita. She had requested to have hummus instead of the spicy tomato salad, but they just gave her hummus along with everything else. Can you see why we love Kanella so? Every last thing on this plate was delicious.
J got one of the specials which was a half cornish hen cooked in foil and served with roasted potatoes. While the dish was delicious with an amazing sauce, J would have been happier with a whole cornish hen. He didn't realize how small and bony of a bird this would be. And he always has a hearty appetite. Despite the smallness, he still loved the dish and the flavoring. Seriously, the sauce was yum.
I also got a special, which was a penne pasta with pulled pork and peas and an assortment of other spices and accoutrements. And again, amazing dish. I totally ate all of this up. I have no idea what was in it, but it was delicious. I left pretty much nothing on this plate.

Service was good. And once again, the chef/owner came by several times to check up on us. And just like last time, his wife and the kids were there as well, along with lots of happy eaters. They are starting up monthly cooking lessons in June. Sounds fun!

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Latest Good Dog Visit

After a saturday mid-day trip to trader joe's that actually wasn't excruciating (thank goodness for the mass exodus of the college folk!) and a good day of roaming around town in the heat, hot, heat, we stopped in at Good Dog for a quick dinner. We didn't really know where we wanted to eat, and it's always a safe spot, so we just made the quick decision.
You know the drill. They've got awesome burgers here. Just look at how big that is. That's what she said. This is the traditional burger with cheddar cheese and their dreamy fries. I was picking at the sweet potato fries, because you know, I can't help myself.
I wasn't particularly famished so I got the chicken chorizo quesadillas. It's considered a small plate but I couldn't finish it. It's a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with homemade chicken chorizo, scallions, manchego cheese, and potatoes and topped with sour cream and avocado salsa verde. Really good. And look at that little arugula side salad that J got too. To try to make up for the giant burger and greasy fries he inhaled.

It was a memorable night of servers because we had one who had a strange hipster goatee and another server who was clearly a bit too beer gutted to be wearing skinny jeans and a size small polo shirt. Borrowing from the immortal wisdom bestowed upon us from the hosts of What Not To Wear, dress for your size now, not what size you were in junior high.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sidecars and Eats

After the philly pho pheast, we hopped on over to Sidecar, again. And had sidecars, again. Do I sound like a broken record? Seriously, this is a good drink. And it's only $6. And I don't know what's in it, but it's all booze, so it will do quite a number on you. Or at least it does on me. I think it's a bargain.
We stayed awhile and got peckish. So we ordered a couple of apps. The onion rings. Super good. Thick cut and nicely cooked, so that the onion melts in your mouth. I'm not a fan of onion rings where the onion is actually still crunchy. And it came with a good dipping sauce too. But I prefer to eat my rings plain.
The grilled corn. It's corn on the cob absolutely drizzled in butter (amazingly buttery, beyond buttery) and drizzled with chili butter. It was such a strange combination of opposing tastes, but I loved it. The corn wasn't super sweet, but sweet enough, and then it was absolutely drenched in butter, and the "chili butter"on top was quite spicy, but added a really nice unexpected flavor. I'm not sure if this was really chili butter. It just seemed like a combo of sriracha, maybe some louisiana type hot sauce, and melted butter. And most of it, I rubbed off, but what little hint of spice I left, was just enough. I would totally order this corn again. It's good for soakin' up all the sidecars I keep drinkin!

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Pho Only

We met up with C and S for some pho... on an incredibly warm and muggy day. C's a big fan of Pho 75, so we went there. I'd never been there before. Since C is half vietnamese, I trusted his pho tastes.
Pho 75 serves pho only. That's right folks, no rice plates or vermicelli or spring rolls. Just pho, and a few drinks, and some scary looking technicolor desserts. If you don't want just pho, then move along. Despite having a couple of asians along for the party, we all got very safe pho bowls, with safe meats... steaks, briskets, flanks. Not an innard to be had between any of us.

They serve a hearty bowl of pho here. The broth is actually a bit stronger than any of the other places I've been to in philly, and I've been to quite a number of them. So if you're looking for a stronger flavored broth, Pho 75 is your place! Everyone agreed that the meat quality here is superior.
For the healthy ones with us, they liked that it was less fatty than other places. And it seemed that you get more meat than at other places. We all stuffed our gourds.

I usually bastardize my pho with a giant heaping of sprouts and a few little squirts of sriracha and hoisin sauce. That's usually it. I don't put in jalapenos, and I normally don't squeeze any lime. But C did the lime. And he doesn't know why he does it but he does it cuz his mom does it and she's vietnamese. So J and I both followed suit and limed our pho this time. We both liked it. Just a little squeeze. I can't explain how it changed the pho, but it made it a little bit better. I'm convinced.

It was a good, filling, and cheap meal. The only down side is that on this hot and muggy night, all the windows were closed and there was no a/c on at all, so it was just uncomfortable. And it was also eerily deserted. There were a few people there when we showed up, but by the time we left, it was just us. Perhaps they just close early? Or perhaps real pho eaters don't eat pho for dinner? I don't know, but it was slightly weird. Oh, and they're cash only. Considering the upcoming weather, I'm not sure how much more pho I'll be eating until it gets cold again!

Pho 75
1122 Washington Ave # F
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 271-5866

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost Feast

Yes, I watch Lost. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. I haven't grown tired of it or lost interest. In fact, I probably like it more now than ever. Yes, it's incredibly frustrating but I love everything about it. And for wednesday's season finale, R hosted a little shindig, complete with tiki decorations. Because really, aren't we all a little lost on our own islands? The spread, including fruit salad, veggie platter, cookies, crackers, and nuts.
Some amazing supermarket sushi. This was an especially nice surprise, thanks H/A.
And even shrimp cocktail! Whoo hoo! A wonderful party with a wonderful hostess. And the finale blew my f'in mind. Damn them! And now the torture of waiting until season 6 begins...

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Almaz - Ethiopian

I love it when other people decide where to eat. While A was here, she'd compiled a list of a few places she wanted to try. Because I didn't feel like driving up to the northeast, and because I'd actually wanted to go there the night before, we ended up having an ethiopian feast at Almaz Cafe. I'd passed by this place dozens of times before in my life, but I didn't realize it served food until a few weeks ago. I thought it was just a little coffee shop. It's much more!
The place is pretty small though, there's some seating downstairs, and a little bit more in the upstairs. They have regular coffee shop and cafe fare (coffee, sandwiches, breakfast) but also have a small menu of ethiopian items. We got the Dorowat, which is a stewed chicken dish, and the Veggie Combo, which came with misir, tikil gomen, kik-alchia, shiro, and one more unknown dish. What does all this mean?

The chicken is stewed in a red pepper sauce, but is not spicy at all. It's full of flavor and super juicy. It's all pretty much dark meat, so nothing dry here. The misir is red lentils in berbere sauce mixed with chopped onions, tikil gomen is a veggie stew which was my absolute favorite, kik-alchia is yellow split peas, and shiro is mixed greens which was my least favorite. I'm just not that into greens. The one mystery dish was a red colored dish at the top of the photo. Whatever it was, it was still good. All these items get served on a big plate on top of injera bread. Injera bread is a spongey crepe like bread with a sourdough flavor. You tear of pieces of the bread and scoop up the different dishes with it. You get a basketfull of injera as well. This was plenty of food for the two of us. Our server was super nice. I believe it's the husband who serves and the wife who cooks. Now that I know they serve such good food, I'll definitely be back!

Almaz Cafe
140 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 557-0108

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Saxbys - More Than Just Coffee

Some of you may have noticed a new coffee chain popping up all over philadelphia - Saxbys. They're a local chain that is trying to compete with starbucks. I've started to see them all over. They recently opened a fairly large location in Ardmore. It looks like a big old house, I'm not sure what it was before Saxbys took over. It's Saxbys Coffee, but dude, they have so much more. Not only do they have coffee of all kinds, they also have smoothies, frozen yogurt, salads, and sandwiches, breakfast items, and desserts. Really, everything you could ask for. And the place is really large, so there's tons of seating, including some comfy leather chairs. If you're thirsty or hungry, there's bound to be something you want. They have hot coffees, iced coffees, tons of crazy flavored lattes, frozen lattes, teas, juices, and smoothies. I would never have guessed there would be so much stuff here. Never ever. I just thought they sold coffee. We both got some of the flavored lattes, iced. A got a caramel macchiato and I got a british islander. They were pretty darn good. The cups they use for the iced coffees are made from corn and fully biodegradable and compostable. I find this to be very cool. In fact, a lot of their stuff seems to be green. Kudos to them. It's not cheap here. They're obviously competing with starbucks so you know it's going to have starbucks price tags. I like this place. It's comfortable without being snooty. And I like the variety. Even though variety can be bad, as I am horrible at making decisions. I'll do my part to help a local chain out.

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Impromptu Brunch At Sabrina's

After a soccer game in the nof'east, we were famished. We were going to head over for our regular helping of pho/rice plate/vermicelli bowl, but as we passed Sabrina's, we saw empty tables and decided to eat there instead. We got a lovely table outside and it turned out to be a great decision. It was in the shade and the weather was perfect. The egg white fritatta with turkey bacon. Mmmm... as good as the last time. These potatoes were amazing, crispy on the outside and fully cooked on the inside. It was pretty hot so I wanted something cold, or at least not hot. So I got the crispy fried tofu served with a soba noodle salad tossed in a peanut sesame sauce topped with mango salsa and thai chili dipping sauce. Whew, say that 3 times. So basically, there was a bunch of soba noodles on a plate. It wasn't really a salad as there were no greens on this plate at all. It came in a peanut sesame dressing. There was also some chopped mangos and sweet chili sauce was drizzled on top. The whole thing was great. Everything about this dish worked, all of the flavors, sweet, spicy, savory, it all melded really well together.

Service was just fine. The server had a bit of trouble keeping the tables straight, as she got both the orders and the check mixed up between our table and a neighboring table. If you don't have to wait, it's a great spot for brunch. There's a reason why it's packed every weekend.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Viva Venezuela

J wanted something "interesting" to eat on friday night, so that's how we ended up at Sazon. Usually, friday night involves deciding which pho place to go to on washington ave, as it's easy, close, cheap, filling, etc. But sometimes, we go buck wild crazy.
Sazon is an adorable little venezuelan restaurant on Spring Garden, near the spaghetti warehouse. It's not the nicest location in the world. But once you're insice, it feels positively south american. A husband and wife own the place, he works the tables, she cooks the food. J got a cafe con leche. Loved it.
For a starter, we got sweet plantains with queso blanco. I love me some sweet plantains. This should come as a side with every meal I ever have.
J got the arroz con pollo, good ol rice and chicken. Beans were great, so was the rice, as were the plantains, but the chicken was a bit on the dry and bland side. It seemed like they cut the chicken into too big chunks, cooked it separately, and then threw them into the rice. So it was dry and didn't have enough of the same flavor that was infused into the rice. A bummer really.
I was continuing my non-beef kick, so I got an arepa, of the reina pepiada variety, which was shredded chicken with avocado and mayo. Basically, a glorified chicken salad with avocados in the mix. Excellent sandwich. The chicken here was not bland or dry and now I wish all chicken salads to be made with avocados. There's a little bit too much filling on this sandwich, no? There's actually no way to eat it like a sandwich. You have to fork it. Service is good. This is a BYOB. There was a nice mix of people here and they also have excellent looking desserts, including a wide variety of truffles. If you're up for a food adventure off the beaten path, go for a ride to Spring Garden and try out some food, south american style. For you veggies, there are plenty of vegetarian options for you as well.

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Goin Home! O'Hare's Got Food!

O'Hare has tons of food options. It makes me so jealous. It sure beats Philly and it certainly beats Tulsa. I shouldn't even count Tulsa as a real airport. While I typically enjoy the cheese danish from starbucks, I tried the apple one this time. I think I was trying to be "healthy" after all the damn beef. It was good, but I think I like the cheese one better!

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Friday, May 8, 2009

I Told You I Was In Meat Country

I was looking through the local Tulsa alternative weekly and saw this ad. See, when I tell you I was in meat country, I mean it!