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foodzings: August 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brauhaus Schmitz And The Boot

Downtown Philadelphia lost its only german restaurant when Ludwig's closed. Recently, a new spot opened on South Street - Brauhaus Schmitz. I really can't stand South Street at all, but for this, I was willing to make the effort. It's a really beautiful spot. Large tables downstairs in the front, booths along the side where the big bar is. There are some more tables upstairs.
Beer, beer, and then more beer. They have a good number on draught, as well as many more in bottles. They also have some wine. But I don't think they have any booze. So if that's what you're looking for, you should pass this spot along.
Something that they have but that should be passed on by everyone is the boot. Yes folks, the boot. It is a giant, giant mug in the shape of a boot. It holds 2 liters. Yes, 2 liters. That's a big soda bottle if you want an idea of how big that is. One person should never drink this much beer. Especially not after already drinking 3 big ass beers. Which is exactly what H/A did. Ok, he only drank 2/3 of the boot, but that was still 2/3 too much. T drank the rest of the 1/3 of the boot. And let's just say that the boot took out both of them. It is so much beer. Sooooo much beer. We passed it all around when we first got it and all 6 of us barely made a dent. Which is a shame, because the beer itself (the Oktoberfest) was so tasty. But no one should drink so much of it. By the time T killed the boot, we had finished eating and were waiting downstairs for the monsoon to subside. As he chugged, the big table in the front cheered him on, and when he finished, everyone clapped. But really people, you should not be encouraging anyone to drink this much beer. Ever.
Some complimentary bread. This couldn't have come out soon enough considering how much everyone had been drinking (without having eaten), so any food in the belly was welcomed.
The kartoffelpuffer and pommes. In normal terms, potato pancakes and fries. The potato pancakes were great, and so were the fries. I just wish there had been more of them. And the curry ketchup for the fries was amazing. I want to figure out how to make this. I don't think it's as simple as sprinkling in a bit of curry powder into ketchup. So if anyone knows, please tell me!
H/A and J ordered the wurstplatte. Basically, it is a pick two wursts platter... with wursts being a type of sausage. They didn't remember what they had ordered, so I have no idea which of the wursts these were. But the big fat pink one on the left was terribly delicious. The one on the right was pretty good too.
The gulaschsuppe, a hungarian beef stew with potatoes, spicy paprika, and red wine. Quite a nice portion for an appetizer serving. And cheap too!
T got the lachs - which is salmon. Served with spargel! You won't find a country more in love with asparagus than Germany. Also some spaetzle. You get to pick two sides with any entree.
I got the sauerbraten with braised red cabbage and spaetzle. This sauerbraten was super tasty, tender, and there was so much of it. And you know me and red cabbage, I loves it. Like oddly so. And the spaetzle was so comforting and beyond buttery. Would you like some german style egg dumplings along with your butter? Ja, bitte!

This was a good time with good food, good friends, and good beer. But the boot should have been avoided. Once the boot was kicked, the evening soured. Because then you have to worry about your drunk friends and what to do with them. Our server had to put up with a lot, so props to Imogen for keeping up. She was a great sport. I would definitely come back here, but avoid the boot. Just say nein to the boot!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Great Burger Taste-Off of 2009: Elevation Burger

My internet was down for nearly 4 days recently. While most people might just deal with that, it was very hard for me. For one thing, I work from home, so it's kind of necessary. For another thing, I have a business account, and one would think they would give a crap about a business account being down. So yeah, Verizon Fios Internet, you can officially suck it. At one point, it pissed me off so much that I went and ate a burger. Yep, it drove me to a burger. Not that I wouldn't just go eat a burger, but it's just not something that I do regularly. It has nothing to do with health. I just only want burgers when I want them.
Elevation Burger has been open right near my house for only a short while now. It's a chain that serves only organic, grass-fed, free-range beef. And their fries are cooked in olive oil. What's good is that despite these better ingredients, it's not at all more expensive than the other burger chains (think Five guys). I just got a cheeseburger. You can pick any topping for free, except blue cheese, that's extra. I loaded mine with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Nothing too exciting. I would have loved sweet peppers but they didn't have any. They offered me their hot pepper relish to try. It was really spicy and not very good. The burger comes on a potato roll.

So what was the verdict? I liked it. I wasn't blown away or anything, but it is a good burger. The meat isn't obviously better tasting to me (I can't tell the difference between this patty and a five guys patty), but it is a good burger. The caramelized onions are amazing, but they need to put more of them on! The portion was a bit puny. The fries? I wasn't a big fan. The olive oil makes the fries soggy. And gives them a slightly strange flavor. I prefer a crispier fry. And a less greasy fry. For a local burger spot for me, this is now my go-to spot.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chubby's vs Dalessandro's

There's the infamous Pat's and Geno's cheesesteak war, but there's an even fiercer rivalry in Roxborough between Chubby's and Dalessandro's. They're right across the street as well. First stop was Chubby's. They have dining at the counter as well as booths. And they serve booze! Along with beer. Here's my half of the cheesesteak, and my Hank's black cherry.
After I bastardized mine with ketchup. Yes, I love me some ketchup on my cheesesteaks. And not just on top either. I make sure to incorporate it throughout the meat.
You know what I love on cheesesteaks? Sweet peppers. They weren't on the menu so I didn't ask for them. And I didn't find out until I'd finished my steak that they have a pepper and pickle bar! And you can load your steak up with whatever peppers and pickles you want. Hot, sweet, in between, they got em. Gosh, they need to mark this better! I enjoyed this cheesesteak. Good roll, good meat, good onions. The onions are a bit on the big side though, unnecessarily so. Service was excellent. We enjoyed her, and she enjoyed us!
Then we walked across the street to Dalessandro's. They have beer, but no full bar. Their dining area is also hurting. It's quite a small space. There's some counter space, and no real booths. They just have a handful of long skinny fold out tables up. No comfort, just function. There's no waitresses either. You put in your order and then hand you the food. You sit wherever there's a spot.Ok, so I didn't actually try the Dalessandro's, because I was full from my half at Chubby's. Sorry folks, I didn't fast or purge before I came. But I will say just from looking at these, they look better to me. The meat is chopped up a lot more, and so are the onions,and you get more onions! Amongst the diners, it was split about 50/50 over who preferred Chubby's and who preferred Dalessandro's. Next time, I will actually try one at Dalessandro's! Then I'll give you an informed opinion, although I'm already convinced I'll like the Dalessandro's one better!
They also had a bigger and wider selection of peppers at Dalessandro's. And it wasn't hidden either! Don't bother with Pat's and Geno's. Skip that nonsense and head up here for the real cheesesteak war!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

International Smokeless BBQ

After snacking at the Bar Ferdinand fest (it was somewhat early), we wanted real food. We took a little drive over to Washington Ave and ended up at International Smokeless BBQ Restaurant. H/A's friends were there, so we just crashed. I've seen this place dozens of times before as it's in the same vietnamese strip mall as pho ha. But it's not exactly very inviting, you know?
So they specialize in all you can eat, cook your own, meats and hot pots. Seafood too. And a salad bar that comes with your unlimited grub. None of us were in the mood to actually do that, so we just got food from the regular menu. The regular menu is a little schizophrenic. There's viet dishes, chinese, thai, japanese. It basically runs the gamut to cover all your east asian favorites.
T got the vegetables in miso soup, which was basically ramen in a miso broth, loaded with veggies.
H/A got the sizzling beef. It looks like korean bbq, but it's not exactly that. I don't think it's supposed to be either. It still tasted pretty good, but the flavor was definitely slightly different. I loved the onions in it though, and I stole them all.
I got a chow fun (wide rice noodle) with seafood dish. The quality of the seafood wasn't the greatest, but it was still a decent dish. It was tons of food though. Most of it went untouched.
One of H/A's friends had a birthday, so there was also some cake. It had mangoes on it. I ate this like I hadn't eaten all day. I'm thinking that one day, when I'm feeling particularly carnivorous and ravenous, I will stop by to try some of the all you an eat.

International Smokeless BBQ
600 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147-4836
(215) 599-8844

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Happy Birthday Bar Ferdinand

This weekend marked the 3rd birthday of our favorite tapas spot in northern liberties (are there any other ones?), Bar Ferdinand. To celebrate, they had discounted food, flamenco dancing, and free midnight paella. I was lucky enough to be invited to a special pre-party which sported some additional free food from neighboring restaurant El Camino Real, as well as free paella, way before midnight. We had some pork ribs from the real, which weren't bad, but weren't great either. I was absolutely starving, so I scarfed down a handful of these right quick, just to fill my belly. There were also some pulled pork things and guacamole. Holy guacamole! I know my first and last El Camino Real visit was highly disappointing, but for their guacamole, I would return. Swear to avocados. Excellent guacamole here folks. And the margaritas was delish too.
Absolutely the largest paella pan I've personally ever seen. And delicious too. What's better than free paella served up by surly tattooed hipsters?
The flamenco was spot on. This was the last show of the night, right before the freakin monsoon.
Once the monsoon started, we were literally trapped inside Bar Ferdinand. So what do you do? You grab some beers and just hang out. We hung out for a long time. The rain would not let up or stop. Eventually, when it was just lightly raining, we ran and escaped. Certainly, there would be worse places to be stuck during a thunderstorm.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Project Eatway

E was gracious enough to host a Project Runway premiere party. Yes, I watch Project Runway. I don't watch television at all (I don't have cable so I physically can't watch tv) but there are a few shows that I like to watch, when possible, and Project Runway is one of them. I've missed it so!
A smorgasbord of appetizers. I made my super easy salsa/bean/corn dip. We also had a veggie tray, which sported an excellent ranch dip. Some pita and red pepper hummus.
A giant plate of couscous and an equally giant plate of shrimp, overloaded (in a good way), with garlic, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice. These shrimp were perfect!
Chicken kabobs... marinated in bbq sauce, with mushrooms and yellow bell pepper. How come when I make kabobs they never turn out so well? There was also some "asian" style bbq sauce from wegman's, that was the perfect sauce for this. Gah, need to get myself over to a damn wegman's now...

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Mall Food

A late last minute trip to the mall resulted in yet another mall meal. I think this was at those places that are always called Bistro something or other and have every type of food imagineable. R got a tuna panini with a side of fruit salad. Their portions are ridiculous here. That sandwich is huge.
I got a hot turkey platter. You can't see just how much turkey this is, but trust me, it's way too much turkey. And extremely thickly cut. This could have fed a small family. Needless to say, I ended up not being able to eat most of it. The food was ok. The mac and cheese wasn't too bad either. But really, I would have appreciated half as much food, and just a bit cheaper.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Milk Bags... Literally

Did you know that our northern neighbors get their milk in bags? So close, yet so far away. Somehow,
methinks this would never work in the States! We would rather have containers that remove themselves
from the fridge, pours itself into a glass, and then puts itself back in the fridge. Cutting a hole? Putting
it into a jug? Not being able to seal it? All seem so inconceivable here!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Geekette On Call

I spent most of the weekend being a Geek on Call. My mom's computer got a virus and it took forever for me to fix it. After performing my daughterly tech duties, I decided to pilfer some cherries. Then I saw this. WTF? This made me sad.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wedding In Media

I had the honor of attending a really fun and lovely wedding in Media over the weekend. I was really happy to join everyone in witnessing G & M become husband and wife. And then we got our dancing on at the reception down the street. The reception was at a country club, and the decorations were really nice and fancy... but the reception was the complete opposite of stuffy.
How stuffy can you be when you serve pizza and wings at your wedding reception? No fancy sit down meals of chicken or steak or pasta being served by bored catering staff here. Instead, you picked your pizza, you picked your wings, and you got your grub on. And you had to eat up, so that you could have the energy to dance the night away. And they had coors light, yuengling, charles shaw wine ( yes, of two buck chuck fame), and coke or sprite. And I loved every minute of it.
The wedding cakes were adorable. Strawberry shortcakes from chinatown. It was one of the most fun weddings I've ever been to. Congrats G & M!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Little Eats Downtown

I got to attend a little event downtown this week at APO. It used to be called Apothecary, but I remember hearing that they had to change their name since they weren't an actual apothecary. It's a bar. And a pretty cool one at that. They're not normally open on a tuesday night, so we have the place to ourselves. That was pretty cool.
The event featured some food from Leila Cafe, a fairly new middle eastern joint. Honestly, I wasn't too crazy about the food. The hummus was too salty and a bit too dry. The rice and chicken/lamb dish... the chicken and lamb were good, but the rice wasn't, and it was overloaded with cinnamon. I could see all the cinnamon powder on it. Eek. The dolma were pretty good. They had little falafel disks (not balls) that were the best of the offerings this evening. I don't really see myself going to Leila to check it out myself. I think there are better middle eastern offerings around.
There were also mini cupcakes from Cupmakes, a very young cupcake place. These little things were adorable. A might on the dry side, but the frosting made up for it. It was banana chocolate. Incredibly banana-y and delicious.
There were also a number of special drinks for the evening. This is the blood orange swizzle. Really tasty. You could hardly taste the alcohol. Since this is a fancy drink place, they make each individual drink to order. So there were long lines. It was annoying. I can see on a normal night doing this. But when there are only 5 drinks on the menu, and hundreds of people are going to be ordering the same drink, it wouldn't kill you to make bigger batches.
We didn't get quite enough food, so we stopped by El Vez for a little snack since it was right down the street. The salsa mexicana. They all had a bit of a kick. Now these chips. Let me just say something about these chips. They were crunchy. But they were super greasy. Beyond greasy! It just seemed ridiculously greasy. I think they could totally degrease these a bit.
I was driving, so I had a virgin strawberry margarita. I know how strong their typical margaritas are, so I knew I had to be good. Damn it if these virgin margaritas aren't freakin tasty. I could have drank a giant pitcher of this. Gah. So damn good. Since it cooled down a bit, we enjoyed the drinks and chips outside and it was a lovely evening.
Leila Cafe
401 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 319-1903

520A S. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 581-6586

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Indian Chinese Food, Yes, You Heard Me

Since I knew we were going to be roaming around in new jersey, I remembered this little tidbit in the back of my brain from years back. Indian chinese food. In new jersey. So I reached out to my friends who had told me about this and finally tracked a place down. So on our way home from Mitsuwa, we stopped for dinner at Ming. So before my friends ever told me about this phenomenon, I had no idea that indian chinese food existed. What is it? It's chinese food with indian influence. They love chinese food too! And there's a number of these types of restaurants in Edison.
It's kind of a fancy place. But not snooty. Next door is a proper indian restaurant. Let's just say that H/A and I were the only non-indian people in the whole place. They give you some pickled cabbage... which I loved!
I had no interest in an appetizer, but of course, H/A went ahead and ordered a random one. Crispy lamb "beijing style". It was supposed to be crispy fried lamb tossed with shredded carrots, bamboo shoots, and green peppers in a sweet and spicy flavoring. They forgot to say that it also includes giant heaping strips of ginger. EEK. I like ginger as flavor, but I don't like to bite into it as a main ingredient. And you couldn't differentiate the bamboo shoots from the ginger. It was terrible. The sauce itself was great. But too bad you couldn't get over the hunks of ginger. The lamb was thin fried strips, so you couldn't really taste lamb. You just tasted crunchy batter. Mark my words. I'm not going to let H/A order any appetizers in the future without my approval. If I knew he was going to order one, I would have certainly picked a different one.
So here's my biggest gripe of the evening. Rice didn't come with your meal. And a bowl of jasmine rice cost $6. Yeah, seriously. Do they not know that you can get a giant 10 lb bag of jasmine rice for $5? And they were charging me $6 for a bowl of rice? Grrr... I've been to places where you have to order a side of rice (e.g. banana leaf), but the price was ridiculous. But how can you eat chinese entrees without rice? It would be illegal!
The chili chicken hakka style. There were a lot of dishes on this menu that was prepared in this hakka style. What is hakka style? I still have no idea. We asked, but the server did a terrible job explaining. Apparently, Hakka is a type of people in China, but when you are talking about hakka style food, especially in an indian chinese restaurant, it really bears no resemblance to actual hakka style cuisine. In any case, this hakka style chicken was really good, savory and sweet. With a kick. And we asked for it less spicy. But man, it still had a really strong afterkick of spice. Whoa.
We also got the eggplant with paneer in spicy hoisin sauce. Now here is a dish that is obviously a mix of chinese and indian. You can't name one actual chinese dish that would ever have cheese in it. Yet this one did. It was typical eggplant, but instead of being stuffed with shrimp or something, it was stuffed with cheese. And then there was a spicy hoisin sauce on top. Again, this one was deceptively spicy! It was such a strange dish, but I liked it. I like paneer type dishes in indian food, so that probably helped.

All in all, this was a really interesting meal. I'm definitely glad I tried it. Would I want to try it again? Well, I wouldn't go out of my way to have it, but if it was available, then yes. But this place was also quite expensive, especially for chinese food, so perhaps if there was a cheaper alternative. And if there was one that gave you rice with your darn entrees.

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The Great Korean Grocery Store War

We wanted to catch the taiko show, but had a bunch of time to kill, so we decided to explore some more of this part of new jersey. It's chock full of asian neighborhoods. We wanted to go to an H Mart, and googled for one in Fort Lee. Then we got there, and it wasn't even in existence yet. FAIL. One of the only times google has ever failed me. Don't think I won't remember this google!
Luckily, we found another one, an open one, nearby in Ridgefield. This one was a Super H Mart. What makes it so super? Well, it was pretty damn big. And it had more little shops in it than any other asian market I'd ever been too. It almost seemed like a little korean mall was attached to it. And man, did they give out free samples! It was awesome! Because it was such a huge store, there were tons of samples being given out. They usually do that at the one by me, but my H Mart is so small that if there are samples, it's one or two things. Let's just say that we got quite full with samples!The crazy thing was that on our way to this Super H Mart, we passed by the grand opening of H&Y Marketplace. I didn't know what this was, but after a quick google, I found out it was another korean supermarket! Practically next to the H Mart. Seriously, it's like 100 yards away. They could share parking lots if they really tried.
I can't say that I have a preference, but the H&Y was much more attractively decorated on the inside. As if they were catering to a slightly more sophisticated crowd, more of a whole foods crowd, while stocking the same exact food as H Mart. It's smaller though, and the aisles seem quite narrow. They had tons of free samples as well. I loved them both!

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Summer Festival At Mitsuwa

The festival itself was small, just in a small section of the parking lot, but kind of adorable. Really corny, but amusing at the same time. And of course, there was tons of food! And for festival food, quite affordable. And the later it went, they started slashing prices! I have NEVER seen this at any other festival. Ever. Tofu bento boxes. The tofu was in the shape of a heart. Awww...
A giant heap of yakisoba. Whoo!
These pocky were absolutely ginormous. They were part of the prizes they were giving away for some of their really cute kid games.
Lobster! They had whole lobster! And it was $10! And all kinds of seafoods and meats on sticks. You can't have japanese food without yakitori!
Dry ice makes kooky japanese drinks even that more appealing.
Later in the day, we had actual festival food. Some udon noodles. These were only $2! Down from $5 earlier in the day! And some iced green tea. Looks amazing!
Mmm... japanese curry... my favorite kind... That's not me pointing to it, but that's what I'm thinking in my head. Gimme some!
And then I got some... And it was amazing. I got an extra huge helping because I actually got the last of the chicken curry. And the dude gave me every last drop that was in the pot. I love when that happens.
There was also a taiko band and some adorable old ladies in kimonos doing the bon dance. Despite it being absolutely packed, it was still a great time.

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