July 29, 2007
Niall Ferguson, a Harvard professor from across the pond, writes in the Sunday Telegraph that he's having to dig deeper in his pockets to taste the Philadelphia cheesesteak.
The historian, in a piece on population growth and food production, notes:
When I wanted a Philly cheese steak in the States last week, I had to pay through the nose. That's because cheese inflation is 4 per cent, steak inflation is 6 per cent and bread inflation is 10 per cent. (American steak is now 53 per cent dearer than it was 10 years ago.)
I'm guessing he wasn't even talking this pretentious abomination.
January 17, 2007
Written by Adam Erace, a Courier-Post and Philadelphia Style reviewer, it wears its tastes on its tagline:
philadelphia - cheesesteaks + restaurants ÷ jelly krimpets = blogalicious. tastes good.
Blogalicious understands that words cannot be eaten so they'd better stimulate the appetite. The writer generously delivers a sense of place.
Here, in the latest post, he's steeling himself from various annoyances such as glacial melting and another Patriot's trip to the AFC Championship game (watch it, pal) by sauntering through DiBruno's on Chestnut Street.
A little winter showed up today, and a frothy cappuccino on the go kept me warm during the walk to DiBruno's. The lunch swing wasn't in full effect yet, thank God, just a few Rittenhouse mommies browsing the first floor market for lavender honey, hunks of Parm, sticky cinnamon buns, and fruity EVOO. Upstairs, the sunny yellow loft was sleepy. Sometimes it's nice to eat among a ton of other people (e.g. Eagles tailgates, Tria, half-price sushi nights at Tomatoes down the shore), but other times, you just want to dig in solo. Your best bet for a quiet meal at DiBruno's is in the AM. Today, around 11, there was just a Greg Focker in avocado-green scrubs munching a muffaletta sandwich, a mini business meeting, and the white-coated DiBruno's chefs slicing big-mouth hoagies, pan-frying pucks of goat cheese, and assembling antipasto gondolas of tri-color olives, roasted long hots, and bocconcini. DiBruno's hummus is hearty and healthy with crisp lavash triangles for dunking. Herbs and pignoli nuts encrust fresh Flamingo pink tuna rustically presented on a wooden board, the pristine fish easily on par with the city's best seafood restaurants. A fluffy spring mix salad sits in a bowl molded from salty baked Parmiggiano. As I dragged my last bite of tuna across a squiggle of pesto and balsamic, the ravenous Center City lunch crowd was starting its stampede downstairs. Back on the first floor, a stroller almost took me out, but DiBruno's heavenly lunches are always worth a brush with death.
January 08, 2007
"It looked like a jailbreak at Willy Wonka's Factory" -- Inafunk at Philly Blog
Akkams Razor on the origin of Mummering, from cakewalks to the Carnival of Horns.
Metroblogging's Marisa noted how many floats doubled as day-care facilities.
The 700 Level saw green everywhere.
The Publications Office channeled a 30-something sax player from Bustleton Gardens -- no woman, no car, no kids, but lots of ma's chicken parm.
Finally, thanks to reader Christopher H. Paquette, who shared this tasty shot from an unseasonal Saturday.
December 14, 2006
Craig Laban Unmasked, Sort Of
Laban was coming to read from his book of Inquirer restaurant reviews. His looks have been the subject of myriad profiles and blog posts - he visits restaurants anonymously - and a few unfavorably reviewed chefs have schemed to post photographs of him during his career here and in New Orleans. Laban takes great pains to obscure his identity - having friends make reservations for him, mumbling into hidden microphones when reviewing a meal, even changing his facial topiary and body type, although this later stunt might be due to the vast quantities of delicious food he is required by his work to sample, and then work off.
But product must be moved, and so Laban agreed to speak at the book store in support of The Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Guide. What's an anonymous critic to do?
Come in disguise.
He donned a gray fright wig, a druid's cloak and a Zorro mask for his performance. He entered the room with several baguettes obscuring his face.
Arthur Etchells, author of the Foobooz blog, didn't seem to think Laban had blown his cover.
"I didn't notice any maitre d's in attendance," he wrote by e-mail.
(Inquirer photo by David Swanson)
December 08, 2006
How Do You Say 'Wit' in Japanese?
A Bloomberg story on the legal spat between Pat's and Rick's over which grandson of Pat Olivieri has the right to use the phrase "King of Steaks," includes this fun fact:
Temple prof Joseph Goldblatt says cheesesteaks are the third-biggest-reason why Japanese tourists visit Philadelphia.
Historical sights and local colleges were the two bigger draws.
November 15, 2006
Sam Bushman, For Immediate Release
After reading Wednesday's Blinq on food blogs, Ira Morton Goldberg wondered by e-mail what had happened to the South China restaurant, where he and his crowd from Penn feasted on wor shu opp back in the '50s.
I have no idea, but if Sam Bushman were still around, the press agent with the photographic memory could have told me the Chinatown place's social history as well as the whereabouts of the old chef.
In a funny way, Sam is still around.
Bushman may have died at age 91 in September 2005, but in cyberspace he writes on.
His widow, Brenda Freedman, 59, launched Sam's blog earlier this month. It's a way to post eternally his collection of old photographs, original menu and dishy stories, she writes by e-mail from Charleston, S.C. where she's moved. She described a wealth of stuff she's going to put online -- she'll photograph his old Royal Standard typewriter, his collection of canvas bags, some of them from his beginnings in the press agent game in the year Amelia Earhart made her solo flight.
Be prepared when you load "Sam Bushman, For Immediate Release." A voice will greet you, saying, "You know, I never left. I have been waiting patiently for this blog to show up. It must be a bit of a shock to see me alive and well, and talking to you. Get ready for the time of your life. We will be traveling back to a time and place that only exists in the virtual word. Where should we start? I thought some stories from the 1930s would be a good to share another great moment from the Philadelphia entertainment scene."
It's not Sam's voice. It's some computer-generated spectre. Yikes. You can see and hear the real Sam here.
The picture above is of Sam (l) and Arnold Stark (r) best friends and rival press agents. Sam was a Democrat, Arnold a Republican.
Brenda writes: Many of you may may not know that Arnold used to bring cheesecakes from Bookbinders to all the Presidents (at least the Republican Presidents). It was nothing for him to get in his car and drive to the Whitehouse for a delivery. You never knew where Arnold might end up as you look at the postmark from some clipping he sent to you. With Arnold it could be anyplace in the United States. Sam on the other hand was more your "stay close to home type" who rarely traveled and liked to stay close to his home base and clients.
The first post delivers a message similar to that of the voice that greets vistors to the site. "To most of you I am a collection of memories; who was where with who and all of the usual rhetoric. Maybe you needed some information on people, places and establishments in the year I have been gne, but am sure all of you are doing just fine these days."
Yes, but about the South China ....
November 14, 2006
Food For Thought
Since then Philly's gone food bloggy. Messy & Picky are noshing their way through the city's exotic eateries. Edible Complex is finding world cuisine among the strip malls of suburbia. Gastronomy's use of words and pictures makes it a dangerous read on an empty stomach. Stella Bites is so good-looking it could be mistaken for a design blog.
There are more. For all the tasty blogs that post too infrequently (Minor Gourmandry is said to have skipped off to Cornell to study nutrition), Phila Foodie is something to bank on - a Center City lawyer's chronicle of his adventures in food and drink. But Foobooz takes the prize for best-tended food blog. Food, drink and deals is Arthur Etchells' beat, and if he were working the city desk, he'd be a cop reporter. There's always something newsy, like the latest post, which informs us that Le Bec Fin has just received five stars from Mobil Travel Guide.
Then there are the service sites, like BYOB Philadelphia, the tourist agency's creation, which places the city's bring-your-own spots on a Google map -- then shows how to find the closest State store. Lyle's Guide is one man's taste buds, eating their way through West Philadelphia. And Lyle Ungar has a good set. Another site, City Joints harnesses aspects of a social network to show you how people with palates like your rate a particular restaurant. It's got a blog, too. There are national boards with Philly flavor, like Chowhound, Roadfood, the papers' own Philadelphia Restaurants pages, and then, perhaps the oldest site on our list: Holly Eats.
Holly Eats has a motto of "Great Food. Cheap." His real name is Hollister Moore, and he used to have a Rittenhouse Square restaurant during the renaissance of the late '70s and early '80s, and wrote a City Paper column. While he's got a pic on the wall of the Palm, he's more likely to poking his nose into The Baltic Bakery or Johnny's Dog House. He awards points by the grease stains system.
So let's dig in. Here are some fresher morsels from the world of Philadelphia food blogs:
The Gastronomer has only been posting since September. She usually takes her boyfriend along. He is known as the Astronomer. She went to Swarthmore. That's about all we know of her so far, other than she raved about the Maggiano's Little Italy chain, which is something snootier bloggers wouldn't do.
She wrote: I loved my pasta! I wish the Chianti Beef Stew were a menu mainstay rather than a fleeting special. Sigh... The fall harvest menu ends on the 25th, so I have about a week left to indulge. The stew was perfectly seasoned, the meat was tender and plentiful, and the vegetables (carrots and mushrooms) were lovely foils. Pappardelle is my favorite pasta shape and went perfectly with the flavorful stew. So hearty and delicious.
Messy & Picky are Albert Yee and lady friend Kate Donnelly. He's picky and she's messy. They write little travelogues. Here they recall Loie Brasserie & Bar:
When the entrees arrived, about half an hour after we were through with our appetizers, we both stared in disbelief at Messy's heirloom tomato tarte tatin with fresh buffalo mozzarella, baby greens and basil pistou. When Messy first saw the choice on the entree menu, having no idea what "tarte" or "tatin" means, she was expecting something somewhat substantial — maybe an heirloom tomato stuffed with cheese with a side salad and some crusty slices of bread. Not so — It was all of two slices of tomato and a little drop of mozzarella underneath a small pile of sprout-like greens. It was, basically a serving barely passable as an appetizer masquerading as an entree. However, it might have been the best two slices of tomato and cheese Messy has ever had in her life — it was seriously delicious. Unfortunately, she ate it in all of three or four bites and was left to ogle Picky's completely incomparably-sized meal.
He'd ordered the 10 ounce Delmonico steak.
Stella Bites recently shared her favorite quick meal for when you've got about 25 minutes before your show starts - the easy, cheesy quesadilla:
Saute in some olive oil half of an onion diced. Cook until translucent and add 3/4 c of frozen corn, rinsed under warm water to thaw. Saute until corn is cooked through. Add a pinch of cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper and salt & pepper to taste. While corn is sauteing, in a separate dry frying pan, add a flour (or corn) tortilla to warm, flipping so each side gets slightly brown. Add 2T of the corn-onion mixture to one side of the tortilla along with a sprinkle of your favorite grated cheese (I used Monterey jack) and fold tortilla in half. Flip tortilla after about 30 seconds to melt cheese completely.
Cut filled tortilla in half to make 2 triangles and serve with sour cream and salsa (you can also add the salsa with the cheese and corn and onions, which is what I did here).
She has been known to drive 2.5 hours for a donut.
Here's Philadelphia Foodie blogger/lawyer David Snyder, introducing a post about a certain popular BYOB on South Street:
All seasons bring change. But for many people, no season brings changes that are more evocative than autumn's. The days are shorter. There’s a crisp bite in the air. Winter looms. It is a time of new beginnings, too—especially for those whose lives have ever revolved around an academic cycle (or watching football). Autumn is synonymous with the harvest. We set aside time to celebrate the fruits of our labor and explore the flavors of the year’s bounty. Autumn has a distinct feeling all its own. And the one symbol that captures that feeling, and uniquely represents the season of autumn, is the pumpkin.
Elisa Ludwig on Edible Complex goes for the exotic in the anodyne - ethnic eats in the shopping center. A taste:
King of Prussia, land of malls, has become something of a breeding ground for exotically themed chain eateries. (PF Chang, Bahama Breeze and California Pizza Kitchen, for instance.) But it is also home to one of my favorite Indian restaurants in the suburbs. Located in the DeKalb Plaza, and named for the 12th largest city in India, Jaipur is a consistent bite for your buck, and a good place to escape the sodden buffet-table Indian food that's so prevalent in Center City.
Anyway, bet I've missed one or two. Please dish.
October 25, 2006
Good To Go
I'm having a flashback. A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago has linked directly into my boyhood, finding a site dedicated to that smart, indigestible food of the early '60s known as Space Food Sticks.
You remember or you don't. If you do, your mouth may be watering for Tang and some ice cold Zarex.
The Space Food Sticks Preservation Society has collected three TV spots and this original newspaper ad on their site, including the news that these highly compressed snacks were some sort of energy food. I just remember the caramel, chocolate and peanut flavors, wrapped in beat-those-Ruskies foil.
Which begs the question: Just what was I eating as a seven-year-old:
A non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein.
The site tells how a nostalgic fan, a food scientist and Richardson Brands got together to recreate the taste and texture of the rods. And - best news - how this month two flavors have returned, chocolate and peanut butter, courtesy of Retrofuture Products.
There's been some shrinkage.
October 04, 2006
Charting Your Pub Crawl
It's five o'clock. Mappy Hour in Philadelphia.
A Google map to help find those cheap pints.
September 20, 2006
Starbucks' Venti Dreams
My sister just called. She'd driven down from the mountains to see my parents in our old town. "The place is disgusting," she said by phone, stuck in traffic. "They've got all these McMansions. There's a Starbucks in the center of town. It could be anywhere."
And she hadn't even read this:
Starbucks Corp., the world's largest coffee-shop chain, plans to more than double its U.S. stores, exceeding a current target of 15,000 locations.
(Update: And they're raising prices.)
But before you pile on, complaining about the end of the world, consider how some feel the chain has actually improved the quality of coffee at those famous Viennese cafes:
It's been a well-caffeinated year since Starbucks splashed into the land of the traditional Viennese coffeehouse, with its silver trays, heavy cream, and tuxedoed indifference.
With eight new stores in the heart of European coffee culture, Viennese wags are talking about the ''Starbucks effect,'' which to Christian Wurmdobler, writer for the magazine Falter, means ''you can finally go into a coffeehouse and order a latte without them scowling at you.''
There's more spillover: The quality of coffee in the traditional coffeehouses has actually improved, said Wurmdobler, a rare visitor to the 1,900 or so Viennese institutions, because, ''contrary to popular belief, the coffee is not very good.''
Who was that brilliant Knight Ridder reporter?
Photo by Ted Adams.