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Archive for ‘Philadelphia’ posts
May 17 2011
The words Mary Miller and Green Thumb do not go together at all. Terrible with all things that grow, and that sometimes includes my own children, I have been known to kill plants after just days of buying them, to watch my herbs ( all excpt that pesky mint) droop very soon after arriving home from the nursery and to have bad luck even with those little air plants that need nothing at all to thrive.
But I do love garden stores, maybe for the smell of green and dirt, maybe just for the possibility that someday my thumb will turn from brown to green. Imagine my joy when I first found Terrain, owned by the Anthropologie folks, on one of my treks out to the eastern part of the state. You see, this store is not only a gardener’s dream, but it’s a haven for carefully selected treasures . . . beautiful jams, luscious oils, kitchy dishtowels, sweet smelling lotions and creams. It’s also the site of a delightful, outdoorsy cafe.
On my last visit, I didn’t have tme to stop for a meal, so I made sure to work in some time on this trip.
Warm bread and honey butter topped with Hawaiian red salt arrived first, followed by a spring salad and then Gnocchi Parisienne. (I actually ordered the salad and gnocchi, they didn’t just “arrive” at my table.) The browned gnocchi were topped with seasonal veggies – pea tendrils, asparagus, fiddleheads, peas. . served on a ramp puree with house made goat ricotta. Oh . . my . . goodness! Even the lemon mango iced tea was fabulous.
If you’re a Burgher and summer at the Jersey shore, consider taking a detour to Terrain on your way home. Make sure to leave some space in your trunk for all of the things you will just have to buy!
Apr 7 2011
The last few days have been filled with everything Italian. First, I stopped to say hello to Steve Salvi at Fede Pasta in North Huntingdon. He sells his fresh pasta to top restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, and now all of us can buy it directly from Steve to cook at home. He is truly a master pasta maker. And he’s a really great guy, too. See, it’s not good enough if the food product is outstanding, but the person in charge has to be nice. I’m too old to deal with cranky folks. Not happening.
Steve makes many pasta shapes that are difficult ( if not impossible) to find. When I buy from Steve, he knows exactly what type of sauce goes with each pasta shape or every type of ravioli. Check out Fede Pasta’s website for upcoming Open Houses, Classes and Dinners, too.
On another day, I spent a few hours chatting and tossing back some espresso with master restaurateur (and another gem of a guy), Ernie Vallozzi. This led to a sleepless night because caffeine is a no-no after three PM for me, but it was well worth it. Ernie’s Greensburg restaurant‘s menu mixes classics with contemporary Italian and I love the food there. There’s something for everyone. Pizza, salads, pastas, seafood. And the menu doesn’t always stick to just Italian. Valozzi’s chef, Jenna, recently told me about a seafood entree she prepared with Indian spice marinated sturgeon served with Basmati rice with yams and pears in a curried cream sauce. This sounds like something I have to try. In addition to all the good food, the restaurant has a special cheese area, a refrigerated case of Norman Love truffles and the coolest Enomatic wine machine around. ( I think it’s the only wine machine like this in our area!) Even though Greensburg isn’t far from us in the ol’ Burgh, lucky for us, Mr Valozzi is opening a new place, called Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh, in the old GC Murphy building downtown in Market Square Place. I heard some of the plans for the new digs, and I can’t wait until it opens late summer/early fall 2011.
The next day, I was driving towards Pittsburgh, but still a few miles east of home when the clock struck six. Dinner time. So I stopped at The Sunset Cafe, where the place was really hopping. I ordered lemony cod with lump crabmeat served on top of beans and greens. A beans and greens addict, I had to go with this entree even though I hear their pasta and meatballs are to die for. I’ve been tempted by the roasted pork shank on the menu for some time now, and decided to bring this home for the hubby knowing that he would share a bit or two with me. Both entrees were wonderful. Anna Joe and Bobby Noviello really have a good thing going here. Anna Jo also owns Aunt Anna’s Biscotti, but that’s a story for another day.
My last Italian food of the week (that’s a lie) was at Olives and Peppers on Rt 8 in Bakerstown, where I met my accountant for lunch. The decor was calming, even though the place was super busy. It’s a family place, with a nice menu that includes pasta, salads, pizzas, panini and hoagies, but everything is carefully prepared and quite high quality. I ordered the stuffed banana peppers and a side salad. These were some of the best banana peppers I’ve ever eaten. The key: they weren’t over-loaded with that shredded mozzarella that turns the whole dish into a soupy, calorie laden mess, but topped with some shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano instead. Not too saucy, not too cheesy, perfection. Definitely going back here with the family.
My Italian fest all started with our visit to Rizzo’s Malabar Inn in Crabtree about a month ago. The DeFabo men – Jerry, Sr., Jerry, Jr., and Rizzi – do up traditional Italian in a tasty way at their always busy restaurant. Their Feast of St Joseph celebration in March got me on an Italian kick, and I can’t stop.
Tomorrow, it will be a quick visit to the Italian Market in South Philly for some fig bars and maybe a little gelato. Then maybe I’ll switch to another cuisine for a few days. Doubtful.
Mar 11 2011
I recently took a break from working on my own culinary tours and decided to go on a few food factory tours out in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. First stop: Herr’s. When I stepped out of my car at their Nottingham factory (where they make potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, cheese balls, etc.), a big puff of warm potato-y steam wafted my way. Oh, it smelled so good. I love conveyor belts and packaging and this tour had lots of that. And at the end, the sampling of warm chips was fantastic. The tour was free and definitely worth the side trip if you’re driving to or from Baltimore or Philly.
From Herr’s, the next stop was the Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown. Their Hop Devil beer is one of my husband’s favorites and since I really don’t know much about beer making, I thought it was time to learn. The Victory folks also have a large beer hall style restaurant here and the food is beer focused and really good.
The tour was short and sweet. ( I was the only taker on the 4 PM tour.) My favorite part was seeing the bags of hops before they are used for the beer. The hops add that bitter, somewhat tangy flavor to brews. At Victory, they have an entire cooler filled with large bags of hops. I rubbed one of the buds between my hands and the smell was somewhat like the scent of a frat house party. In a good way.
When at the brewery, I noticed a wonderfully sweet smell outside. Not like beer at all, but more like ketchup. I found out that it was curry, from a sauce making facility in the same area. No one seemed to know anything about the curry production, so I had to investigate. Turns out August Foods, Inc. is an Indian sauce maker that distributes to private labels, including Trader Joe’s. The smell was truly intoxicating.
I guess if I woke up every day to the scent of fresh potato chips, yeasty beer or spicy curry I would get tired of it. But for today, it was scent-sational!
Mar 6 2011
The Philadelphia International Flower Show is this week and even though I have the brownest thumb on the planet, I’ve heard the event is a wonderful burst of cheeriness, so in an attempt to shake the winter out of my system, I’m going there this Thursday night. I heard it snowed in Pittsburgh today and it’s down-pouring outside here at the Jersey Shore, so beautiful colors and sweet flowery scents are sure sounding good to me right now. The local ABC affiliate in Philly did a preview during the opening night of the show, and it looked stunning.
Of course, I’ll need some sustenance before and after the show, and the Reading Terminal Market is just the place. In Philly today to pick up my younger daughter from a meeting, I did a quick run trip through the market to pick up a few goodies for the next few days and to plan my “eats” for Thursday. Pretty much any type of food or ingredient is here. Indian, Greek, Chinese, PA Dutch, Italian . .. the list goes on. My favorites are the fig cookies at Termini Brothers, the salads at Mezze, the blueberry lemonade at Jonathan Best and any flavor of Bassett’s Ice Cream, but especially Teaberry. Oh, wait, there’s the pork, provolone and broccoli rabe sandwich at DiNic’s and the corned beef and brisket at Hershel’s. So many choices!
Another favorite stop at Reading Terminal is the cookbook store. The books are carefully selected and there is something for everyone. The owner is really nice and helpful, too.
So, if you’re going to be battling the crowds at the flower show, make sure you fuel up on some of my picks beforehand.
Nov 3 2010
In the name of research for my upcoming Tastings classes at the Pittsburgh Public Market, I have been investigating all of the amazing ethnic food in Pittsburgh’s little boroughs and suburbs. Great for my taste buds and bad for the zippers and buttons on my clothing. Yikes. This has to stop! Today’s adventure took me to the Bulgarian-Macedonian Center in the old steel mill town of West Homestead.
Already a fan of their homemade soup sales, called Soup Sega ( Sega means now in Bulgarian,) today I branched out into the Center’s Gyuvech (beef stew) and their Banitza ( little cheese filled strudels) and I also went home with a jar of Lutenica, a creamy roasted pepper spread. The Saturday soup sales are so popular, that now the soups are sold on Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10AM until 1PM, too. I had the privilege of meeting with board president Pat Penka French, who told me that this group is the oldest Bulgarian organization in the United States. They’re celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. We’re lucky to have people like Pat who work tirelessly, as volunteers, to continue these ethnic traditions for future generations. The Center is filled with memorabilia, musical instruments, costumes and other Bulgarian items, so while you are waiting for you soup ( it’s take-out), you can admire the items in the beautiful display cases. Customers can purchase Bulgarian pottery (I bought a mug, ) books and other gifts, too.
Upcoming events at the center include Password Love, an exhibition of paintings by Bulgarian artist, Georgi Petrov on November 11 and their annual fall concert at the Carnegie Library Music Hall in Homestead on November 20. For more info or to RSVP, call 412.461.6188 or visit their website. I love this place! Please visit. You will be hooked, too.
On my way back toward the Homestead Grays bridge, I made a quick turn into Nancy B’s Bakery to pick up a few of the city’s best chocolate chip cookies (according to Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2010 poll) for the drive home, hoping that another ten minutes on the exercise bike will help to burn off just a few of those calories. ( I think even two hours on that bike wouldn’t burn off the calories from those giant, soft cookies.)
If you are visiting the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area museum (which is very cool, by the way) in the historic Bost Building , a stop at these two foodie down the road is a must.
Jul 28 2010
I’ve had enough of this hot summer. I know that in January I’ll be whining about the cold, but does it have to be 85 degrees and above every single day?? I’ve come up with a few ways to beat the heat and thought I’d share.
1. Make some ice cream or gelato. I’ve been craving Blood Orange Sorbetto ever since I had it at Anthony’s in the Italian Market in South Philly earlier this summer. So, a few weeks ago, I bought an ice cream maker so I could make it myself at home. With the never ending heat, it is the perfect summer for icy treats. Not sure what to make? Go to the library and check out some of my fave resources for ice cream – The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto, The Ice Cream Bible, and 500 Ice Creams, Sorbettos & Gelatos. Make a quick stop at the supermarket for ingredients and you’re set. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, a blender or processor will do, too.
2. Stay inside and watch some foodie movies ( ideally, with a big bowl of your homemade ice cream.) My recommendations? Ratatouille, Chocolat, Tampopo, Big Night, Like Water for Chocolate and Babette’s Feast.
3. Take an hour to relax and enjoy a radio show. I’m kinda tired of staring at the reruns on daytime TV. How about you? So grab a glass of iced tea, sit back and listen to the radio (either a real radio or live-stream from your computer or other device.) A month or so ago, a newish friend of mine, Lorraine Ranalli, began a radio talk show based out of the eastern part of Pennsylvania. Called Cucina Chatter (also the name of her blog,) the one hour long show is on www.wbcb1490.com every Tuesday from 1 until 2 PM. The show is a mix of cooking and food stuff, humor, coupon tips, and various other bits and pieces. It’s informative and entertaining. Lorraine is a well known Philadelphia radio personality and also the author of Gravy Wars | South Philly Foods, Feuds & Attytudes (2009 Folger Ross Publications) a fun read about Italian-American culture (and she includes some great recipes.). Put Lorraine’s show on your calendar for next Tuesday at 1 PM.
Stay cool and enjoy my ideas for taking a break from the heat!
Jul 6 2010
Even though I didn’t make it to the Fancy Food Show in New York last week, I’ve managed to find some new favorites edibles here and there in my travels this summer. I came across Bissinger’s Pink Grapefruit Gummy Pandas in the mini-bar of my hotel a few months ago. The hotel package came with a ten dollar per day allowance from the mini-bar and since I’m not one to let things like this go to waste, I downed a San Pellegrino or two and a bag of these Pennsylvania made gummies. Oh, they are delicious. Tart and soft, not very sticky and sweetened with organic tapioca syrup rather than corn syrup (if anyone cares.) The light pink color comes from black carrot juice and not some creepy dye. I love these little pandas. Next on my list of new obsessions is the Blood Orange Sorbet from Anthony’s at 915 S.9th Street in South Philly.
If you can’t get there, here is a link to a great recipe for blood orange sorbet.(http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/02/blood_orange_so.html)I’m buying a new ice cream maker this week, just to make this . . oh, and to make Mario Batali’s Cantaloupe Ice Cream, too. Number three on the new favorites list, the Blackberry Mojito Spritzer from Barefoot Tea in Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey. It’s a mix of their Blackberry Infusion herbal tea, mint, lime, seltser and ice. So refreshing on a hot day. And last, but not least, the Vietnamese Bahn Mi from the street vendor who sets up her grill and table between 20th and 21st Streets on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. This sandwich, loaded with grilled chicken, hot chile peppers and pickled vegetables makes you sweat just enough to feel cool on a sizzling day. Yum.
Apr 12 2010
My final Philly morning began at the Rittenhouse Square outpost of DiBruno Brothers, the gourmet market in business since 1939. Ever since I spied a photo of their original Italian Market location with a banner reading The House of Cheese, I knew I had to visit. I love cheese. The stinkier the better.
Turns out the store was a very short distance from my hotel, which meant I could buy a lot and not get my usual arm bruises from jostling heavy grocery bags through city streets. Hooray! (One bonus of driving instead of flying on my adventures is there’s lots of extra room in my (cooler filled) trunk. Foodies always travel with at least one cooler on hand, just in case they come across some great food finds.) Anyway, this bustling shop was filled with charcuterie, artisan cheeses, pasta, tempting chocolates and breads, olive oils. . . all displayed like a Milan market . My most exciting purchase? A slew of flavored bitters. Like chocolate,grapefruit, and sour cherry. Mix them with seltser or use them to make delish cocktails.
After a quick trip back to the hotel to drop off my goodies, one more walk was necessary before that tedious drive on the good ol’ PA Turnpike back to Pittsburgh. I started down Sansom Street, where the previous day I looked into a sweet little boutique (okay, so I didn’t just look, I bought things, too) called SA VA. What does this have to do with food? Well, read on. It was my lucky day because Sarah Van Aken, the owner and designer, was walking between her shop and her manufacturing facility next door, so I told her how much I loved the clothes I bought the day before.
Van Aken mentioned she also designs uniforms for upscale restaurants such as Izakaya at the Borgata in Atlantic City, Alfred Portale’s Gotham in NY and Gotham Steak in Miami, Forge and Rouge Tomate in NY and Supper on Philly’s South Street under the Van Aken Signature brand. So cool. Visit her beautiful shop in person or online and keep your eyes out for Sarah’s creations in the hottest restaurants. How inspiring to see young, innovative people doing good things for their city. Now, it’s back to the ‘Burgh, with one quick stop in PA Dutch Country on the way home.
Apr 10 2010
The number one attraction on TripAdvisor.com for Philadelphia is the City Food Tours. Since I was familiar with them from a Greenwich Village tour I did last summer, I decided to give the Philly version a go. The Flavors of Philly tour, one of 4 that are offered, is designed with everyone – families, older folks, etc. – in mind, so it involves minimal walking and covers the basics of local food trivia and history along with supplying tasty treats along the way. Adventurous foodies will probably want to take this information and then go a few steps deeper into the local food scene. Our small group (5 plus tour guide) made a stop at Joe’s Pizza (122 S. 16th Street) for a slice of their old time tomato pie – a foccacia-like, cheeseless creation.
We then worked our way through hand twisted soft pretzels and Zio’s cheesesteaks (okay, not Pat’s or Geno’s, but a pretty good cheesesteak wit – google that one on your own or take the tour to get the details.) Reading Terminal Market, a mecca for food addicts, was our next stop.
A slice of Italian hoagie from Carmen’s, a chocolate covered pretzel from Chocolate by Mueller and a warm chocolate chip cookie from The Famous 4th Street Cookie Co. later, my stomach was philled and my mind was enriched wit local food history. Just bear with my lame sense of humor.
The carb fest left no option for getting back to my hotel except for walking. Cute shops now line the former red light district at 13th street from Market towards Walnut and the only “red lights” here now are tempting store windows that called out ”stop, and buy things” to me. I get excited finding unique foodie gifts - not just edible products, but also gadgets, linens, soaps and candles that have a food or culinary connection. OPENHOUSE, at 107 South 13th, was loaded with fun, modern, yet useful household items and gifts. Check out the great things I found there.
Across the street was the soap, candle and bath products store, duross & langel, which had tons of luscious, eco-friendly finds, but I especially liked a soap called Black Pepper (seen in photo above.) I bought it for the better half, but I’m keeping it for myself. I got back to the hotel in time for a glass of wine at the evening wine reception. A Phantastic Philly Day.
Apr 9 2010
The City of Brotherly Love. Usually I only see the skyline from my car window while stuck in the eternal congestion on the Schuylkill Expressway (aka Surekill Distressway – sorry, just had to type that.) It’s the route I take on my way from visiting my oldest daughter on the Main Line to my fave beach town on the Jersey shore. This week it was time to get off the highway and explore. After dropping off my bags at the pleasantly quirky Hotel Palomar,
I went in search of Capogiro Gelato. I read about this small batch gelato maker in Saveur magazine and in The New York Times so I had to check it out.
Lucky for me, indecision always reigns, because the gelati and sorbetti can be sampled before your final selections. I tried. . . Grapefruit/Campari, Burnt Sugar, Thai Coconut Milk, Sal (yes, sal means salt and it was fabulous .. so there, sodium police), Bacio (chocolate and hazelnut with bits of caramelized hazelnuts), Tangerine and Bananas Foster. Smooth and creamy, with pure fresh flavors, this gelato was the best I’ve ever tasted.
Due to gelato overload, dinner was a few small plates and a glass of wine at a casual cafe called Tria on the corner of Sansom and 18th near Rittenhouse Square.
Tria focuses on fermentation (think cheese, wine and beer) – one of my favorite chemical processes besides getting blond highlights and using Nair hair remover. Their wine list is playful, with labels such as Zippy, Smooth, Sociable, and Funky to describe categories of wine.. I chose Bold – a 2002 Mas Igneus Priorat that tasted like dark red cherries. Mmmmm. I ordered Tuna and Chickpea stuffed Piquillo Peppers withParsley Garlic Oil and Warm Poached Black Mission Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto. Both were delicious, but the plump, oozy figs were sweet and salty perfection. Dessert was a small sliver of completely unctuous Creme ux De Bourgogne, a cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, served with a spoonful of sweet dried cherries soaked in Allegash White, a wheat beer from Portland, Maine. A walk around tree lined Rittenhouse Square was necessary after dinner and before returning to The Palomar. More in the next post about my fun foodie walking tour of Ben Franklin’s hometown.
A food adventure might be sleuthing out the juiciest June strawberries at a farm market, learning about gone but not forgotten area food treasures, working with a chef during a hands on cooking class or touring Pennsylvania’s artisan cheesemaker’s farms (and meeting a few cows along the way) . . or any of a zillion other fun ways to explore foodie things within a day's drive of Pittsburgh.