after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

California Photo-Storm (pt 1)!

leave a comment »

t says: g and I are in the Golden State once again – we just can’t stop visiting!  Between the friends, the food, and the wine – it’s a triple threat!  We would have mentioned weather for a quadruple threat, but today, it decided to rain on us … hard … so we’re deducting points.  But at least it gave us time to stop and make this post.

asdf

Ridge Vineyards: go there and look out onto Cupertino/Palo Alto/whatever it is that lies below.  And wines are quite good – lots of varietals to taste!

asdf

Anyone want to start up a library of Ridge Monte Bellow cabs?  The cost is steep … but doable …

asdf

 Just watch out for rattlesnakes (there are a lot of signs warning visitors … although we saw no rattlesnakes – much to k’s satisfaction).

asdf

We went to Gabriella Cafe for dinner.  It’s a little, unassuming place tucked away in Santa Cruz … and they served things like this: mushroom-stuffed gnocchia with a pesto and butternut squash.  I was floored.  I did not expect this non-descript eatery to nail this dish, but they did.  Never have I seen gnocchi injected with something like mushroom, but they did it!  I guess that makes it more like a ravioli?  I have no idea.

asdf

g’s tortilla soup was also quite nice.

asdf

the next morning, we went to Kelly’s French Bakery, where we enjoyed a few morning treats.  Above is a chocolate “goodfellow”.  I have no idea if it was done “properly” or not, but it was quite good and something I wish I could find elsewhere.

asdf

Coffee at Verve roasters was a highlight as well.  We snapped this photo because a had mentinoed that his heaven would be a cafe that also served bourbon … so here’s a coffee drink that uses some kind of Bulleit mixture (I assume they burned off the alcohol?).  So, it’s final: heaven is in Santa Cruz.  Next time, we’ll have to try it (they were out of it the day we visited).

There were lots of awesome photos of us scaling rocks in Monterey … but they reveal our identities, so we’ll skip them.  Let’s just say that I’m pretty agile on those rocky shores …

asdf

La Bicyclette in  Carmel-by-the-Sea offered up some simple breakfast items done very well …

asdf

… like the prototypical “California” breakfast featuring tomatoes, eggs, avocado, and a green of some sort.  Not pictured was the flakiest, lightest croissant we ever had in the states.  Rock on La Bicyclette.

hiking ...

We did some pretty awesome hiking around Point Lobos.  We were tempted to do the 17-mile drive … but refused to pay money to see beautiful sights when we saw plenty of beautiful sights for free!

driving ...

This was followed by a twisty-turny drive down US-1, with some of the craziest views ever!

pit-stopping ...

By the end of our drive, we were a little tired, so we stopped at San Simeo, where I was able to walk up to these seabirds and they didn’t flinch at all!

asdf

Enchilada at Estrella in Paso was unfortunately mediocre.  The wine list was a little too focused on nearby producers – which would be fine if they would offer some small flights or something like that for tourists like us.  However, given the quality of the food, we’d pass on Estrella in the future – Artisan and La Cosecha looked great.

asdf

The diner across from our hotel was hi-lar-i-ous.  Take a look at these menu shots!

asdf

lo-cal plate, anyone?

asdf

these are the banana pancakes at Margie’s.  the syrup packet is there for scale.  they were enormous.  and don’t be fooled – they were chocked full of bananas (to be seen on the underside).  I only finished half the plate.  WHY on earth would anyone need pancakes to be this huge?  I don’t know. But if we were staying in Paso Robles for more than a day, I would have brought them with me to the hotel to reheat for later (they had a microwave!).

We did a variety of wine tastings in Paso.  Our fave was Clos Solene.  Sure, their wines are a bit pricey, but Guillaume and Solene are gracious hosts with absolutely superb wines.  Definitely the best Syrah I’ve ever had in the US.  And the barrel-sampling of rose and white wines were fabulous – we’re totally in for some Clos Solene next Spring.

asdf

Inbetween wine-tatings, g and I finally conquered In-n-Out Burger – something g had been wanting to do for years!  Welcome to the “animal style” burger with a “well done” set of fries.  Personally, I think that the “secret menu” is kinda silly.  But whatever.  Grub’s good – I’d go back.  It’s a notch above Mickey-D’s.

On the way back from Paso, we stopped in Mountainview to visit some friends, who treated us to this great little Indian restaurant nearby.  I have no idea what it was called, but all I can say is that it was tiny and had great food.

asdf

After returning to SF, we went to a restaurant called Saru for lunch.  cm unerwent an 8-piece tasting which made his eyes roll to the back of his head a few times out of pure enjoyment.  They did look fabulous …

asdf

I did some fancy yellowtail sashimi (it was some special kind of yellowtail I don’t recall), as well as some way-off-the-hook Chirashi (in the background).  Seriously.  This Chirashi was like full-on 8 slabs of sashimi with egg, mushrooms, and rice for around $15.  This was some of the best raw fish I’ve ever had (up there with Kiss Seafood, also in SF).

asdf

welcome to the grilled yellowtail collar.  keep in mind that we, a bunch of silly sushi neophytes (face it, if your only experience with sushi is Philly nigiri and an occasional o-toro  or “sushi tasting” when you want to feel “spendy” … you’re a noob), had no idea what we were ordering.  now, having googled it, we understand where on the fish this piece comes from.  And let us tell you: it was crazy-good.  I haven’t had grilled fish this good in years.  YEARS.  If you go to Saru, you HAVE to order this and share it with a tablemate or two.

asdf

We brought a bottle of Quintessa with us from Philly to share with kp.  A 2007, it was drinking beautifully, with a purity of fruit that was only beginning to gain some age.  What a treat.

asdf

And now, for the grand finale of this post: our meal at State Bird Provisions.  kp is a SBP veteran.  He knows the standbys like the back of his hand.  And, because of the dim sum style, there were SO many dishes that it was hard to keep up.  The details are fuzzy, so if you are dissatisfied, you’re just going to have to go there yourself for the full experience.  Above is the pork loin with an apple mustarda.  A great way to start the meal (that one was early on).

asdf

Lamb pierogies in its own braising liquid.  You know – how can you go wrong?  Take some pierogies, which are inherently good, and jam some lamb up in there … and you have heaven …

asdf

… well … you had heaven until you ate this, and then you transcend to a whole new heaven.  This was  the “burrata on a sourdough garlic knot” topped with 5 spices.  Easy enough, right?  you figure, “oh, this is a bullshit dish – it’s all bait, and I’ve had it at Barbuzzo, so it can’t possibly be better”.  WRONG.  It can.  And it was.  I don’t know why or how.  Was it the texture of the burrata?  Was it the spices or infused olive oil?  Or maybe it was the pull-apart texture of the bread.  Well, whatever it was, it has taken over as the new Best Burrata to have ever touched these lips …

asdf

This is the dish that made g drool.  Correction.  The food didn’t make her drool – the smell did!  It hit the table  right in front of g, and she immediately started drooling based on smell alone.  She had to wipe her mouth because she was drooling too much – I took a picture of it, but she threatened to delete it if I posted it.  So what was the dish, you ask?  It was the signature “California State Bird with Provisions” – fried quail with strips of cheese and herbed braised onions underneath.  Now, I missed out on the onions (cm interjects: t, your meal must have sucked not having had those”; g agrees: big mistake … huge.), but the quail was juicy and delicious.  To be fair, it could have broccoli for all I cared – it was so fabulously fried – but the quail did complete the dish nicely.

asdf

Yet another dish that sounded underwhelming but delivered the goods: sourdough, sauerkraut, and ricotta.  They look like benign little pancake thingees … but what you got on the palate was a luscious burst of cheese and onion that made you want to order 10 more …

asdf

… but don’t order 10 of those, order 10 of THESE.  These are the dumplings.  They are filled with guinea hen and a combination of spices that was insane.  The waiter’s description required like 3 sentences, 4 dependent clauses, and 5 breaths to finish.  And it killed it.  After that, there was simply nothing else I needed or wanted.  Now the broth that you see it sitting in is the real dark horse.  kp and I could have downed it by the cup.  Meanwhile k spoke out: “you know … it’s too salty”.  We were flabbergasted.  No way.  It was perfect.  I guess you’ll just have to go and decide for yourself.

asdf

The desserts sound lame on the mnu.  Trust us: they aren’t.  They are full on flavors and as complicated as the regular menu items.  I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that they keep the party going and aren’t in the least bit “phoned in”.  cm wants there to be special mention of the huckleberries on the apple cake you see in the background, “they really made the dessert”.

Happy Anniversary [To Us!]

leave a comment »

t says:  Four years ago, we (g & t) went on our first food-centric outing with a & v.  We chose Modo Mio, as we heard about this “great tasting menu option” … and it was FABULOUS.  Fast forward 4 years, and here we found ourselves: four friends, with a helluvalotta good food and stories.  And guess what: Modo Mio is still killing it:

November 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  The challenge of the evening was: “who could eat the most eggs?”  You’ll see what I mean in a second …

dsfa

My appetizer was the chestnut crepes.  It was amazing.  To this day, I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but I was amazed.  I remember thinking to myself, “this  is kind of like breakfast … but boy am I happy to have it now at dinner.”

f

There were lots of fried eggs topping a lot of the dishes.  Consequently, we have no idea what was under each …

f

And here’s another fried egg!  We swear the things under the fried eggs were great.  one was a lasagna, while another was a “special appetizer” featuring some other vegetable concoction.  Darn.  I wish we wrote down notes …

f

Another special, this wrapped up thing included a variety of veggies and meats that I remember wishing they would have put together with a normal noodled pasta (or something thicker like a lasagna noodle – but overall, the flavors were spot on.

f

I remember that v got the papparedelle, which included mushrooms and chicken liver.  The pasta and chicken livers were both fantastic – we hope that the mushrooms were acceptable to v.

f

No wait … THIS was the lasagna … right?  No?  I’m so confused …

f

gnocchia and shortrib … classic …. delicious.

f

My pulled pork was “like  a roast pork sandwich …”.  Except even better.  I don’t know how they treated it, but it was so incredibly savory and sweet at the same time – but not like a “sugary” sweet.  Gawd – is there any animal tastier than pig?

f

ah, yes – a steak hides underneat that egg.  g demolished it.  it’s always good here – but don’t think something like a refined piece of meat cooked perfectly medium rare, meant to stand alone – this is a fixed-up piece of meat with a ton of additions.

 

f

a went for the veal as his main.  It was one of the best veal parms I’ve ever had!

You know – I know we’re light on details – so sue us.  But know that the meal was fabulous.  The price was right (did I mention it was BYO?)  And we’ll go on recommending it friends and family alike … just so long as they bring us with them when they go …

 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 November 2014 at 12:42am

i’m … so … ashamed …

leave a comment »

t says:  I was cleaning out the pantry the other day, and look what I found.

4 bags of chocolate chips ... kinda ...

4 bags of chocolate chips … kinda …

Why on earth would someone require so many chocolate chips?  I’m not sure.  I mean, I am known to eat a few chips from time to time when I need a hit of something sweet … and somehow I managed to have three open bags at once … with an unopened one “just in case”.  I’m going to say that it’s because our pantry is just soooooo big that I couldn’t keep track.  Sounds plausible, right?  Right?

(I think I have a problem.)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 November 2014 at 1:00pm

Posted in Happenings

Preach on …

leave a comment »

t says: sometimes, someone just hits the nail on the head:

http://m.motherjones.com/environment/2014/01/michael-pollan-paleo-diet-inquiring-minds

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 November 2014 at 1:06pm

Posted in Happenings

knead bagels – like a caterpillar waiting to pupate

leave a comment »

t says:  Sooo, I was a little bored-and-hungry after work the other day, and, having read all about the coverage on foobooz, decided to venture on out to Knead Bagels.

November 2014, Thursday Morning, All by Myself.  It was a quaint little operation they had going on there.

a several-person operation

the counter-person in action …

Now, there is some be some sort of bohemian anti-efficiency clause in Philadelphia – like you can’t open up a cool-but-quick place to eat – it must be the least efficient, most confusing process ever.  Now, I realize that this was only their secon day open, however, I foresee an operation very similar to Spread Bagelry and Rotisseur.  You go in, place an order; they work on the order, and then when it’s ready, it comes back out to you.  Simple, right?  Kinda.  But this arrangement is fragile.  Take Spread for example – you walk in and place an order.  That order gets put in line while some suer-cool dude with his hair tied back takes his sweet time cooking eggs whilst singing along to whatever’s playing on overhead.  But of course, your order then needs to be proof’d by the person who took your order before it goes out … but that takes away from her ability to continue taking orders … oh and did I mention the pick-up and order-taking occurs at the same place?  The result is a giant cluster-storm, as the line extends out the door.  Oh – and because the customers tend to be quite the self-entitled Rittenhouse type, the idea of a “line” eventually breaks down and it’s a free-for-all with people huffing-and-puffing, rolling their eyes, coppin’ ‘tude, and placing orders out of turn).  If only Spread’s bagels weren’t so damn good, I would have written them off a long time ago (btw – be careful – their inefficiency at keeping track of fresh vs. not-fresh bagels means I got a super-stale most-likely-day-old one – I would have gone back to exchange, but the ginormous line of Lululemon gear and tight-jeans made me too self-conscious about creating too big a scene).  Ok, so we’ll see if Knead Bagels also has the same systems issues.  I will say that Rotisseur, after many-a-months, did manage to streamline their operation – they can keep up with the lunch rush without issues now – so there is some hope!

Now, as for the bagels.  What did I think?  Well, I tried the togarashi-scallion-lime as well as the black-sesame-kimchi.  You know – I can say they were “ok”.  The flavors were great!  But ultimately, I was underwhelmed.  I couldn’t figure out why.  So I thought: these flavor combinations are something that I’d expect in a small plate of some sort at a restaurant – not a huge bagel.  Consequently, to have the staying power to last through a full bagel, balance is more of an issue.  While they were tasty at first (probably because of the novelty), I grew a bit tired of them after a few bites – there’s just something about having that much cream cheese that was distracting.  If only there was a way to put more flavor in the bagel, and let the cream cheese be more of an accent.  For example, what if instead I had a scallion-onion bagel with togarashi-lime cream cheese?  Or a garlic-kimchi bagel with a sesame spread?  I don’t know if it can be done, but if it could, I’d totally get those again.  Now, there is a bagel that was on my radar that needs to be sampled because it sounds awesome (spiced apricot, lemon-goat-cheese spread) – so I’ll be back.  We’ll see how they fair on round 2.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 November 2014 at 12:59pm

all done at aldine? … or just gettin’ started!

leave a comment »

t says:  So, the gang had the chance to hit up Aldine during their opening week.  There are lots of opinions amongst us, so we’ll do this round a little differently.

October 2014, Party of 4, Friday Dinner.  

re: Location/Ambience:
v says:  are we allowed to ding them for burger.org’s ugly sign underneath?
t says: no, that’s not fair.
a says:  well, one thing is that it was really dark in there!
t says: what are you – like 60?  j/k.  I will agree with you – none of the pictures turned out!
a says: and it was a little “cold” in there – not very homey.  But what was good was the space between tables, and the big windows – but of course it was night, so it’s not like sun was coming in.  maybe they were going for “sexy” and “modern.”
t says: it did come a long way since the times of Noche.  I’d be interested to see how that space evolves as they find out how they’re going to run things.

re: Menu:
a says: the menu was stupid – totally stupid.
t says: it’s true – while grouping items into “vegetarian,” “meat,” and “fish” sounds like a good idea, there really is no indication of how big or small each dish might be.  Like, for example, the carrots dish was larger than the rabbit dish.  I think Serpico might do it better.
a says: as I said, the menu was stupid.  tell us a little more.  knowing “Duck. Quack. Water. Salt” is not helpful. and the prices gave no indication to a plate’s size or presentation.
g says: and it was hard for people to tell us exactly how much to order.
a says: yea – three dishes a person is a total up-sell… unless you are unlucky enough to get three small dishes by accident – but how would you know?

re: Food:
a says: both of my dishes were solid (rabbit rillette, and sunchoke soup), but nothing quite blew me away
g says: but my carrots were really good! and i think my cappeletti may have won me the meal.
a says: I feel like if his “shtick” is being inventive, he could have taken more risks.
t says: my dishes were also pretty good (pork belly and squid, the duck breast), but nothing crazy.
v says: the portion sizes were erratic – mine had three medallions, and yours was the whole duck breast
t says:  the wine was really good.
a says: yea – nice and food friendly – the white Bordeaux had good rubber.
t says: their red wine list looked a bit weak – so we brought our own.  Of course, they messed up and told us $25 corkage on the phone, but then charged us $30 (but fixed it).

re: Service:
a says: the service was kinda cold.
g says: i dunno if she was “cold” – she was friendly, just not so knowledgable that we would find her helpful.
a says: but for example, the wine service was nonexistent!
t says: that’s true.  We did pay corkage on one bottle and we did buy a whole other bottle, and they didn’t pour our wine once after the initial pour!
g says: i think they need to tweak the experience overall — i am sure with more staff training they will be able to guide customers to a better dining experience, from navigating the menu to smooth food and wine delivery to the tables.
a says: if Aldine and Townsend came together, that would be a good restaurant.  the atmosphere and service that Townsend had would have been nice here.
g says: You know – the server (minus that one girl we didn’t have) seemed a little nervous and unsure.
t says: yea – they’re probably still working out the kinks – maybe it’ll get better with time.

re: Overall:
a says: back to the food: I think they want to be Fond – good food, good service, very chill, no pretentiousness, but this place doesn’t do that.
g says: I think they can get there!
a says: I’m not damning them to hell – this is just what happened!  Cuz, like, the overall atmosphere they were trying to give was one of high service, high quality, etc … but in the end didn’t quite reach the expectations they allude to!  oh, and the menu: it’s garbage!

So there we go – a lot of voices, no pictures, and just the raw, uncut, real deal review.

Oh!  I found the photos!

hgfhgf

the duck breast in all its glory!  a sizeable amount for sure!  flavors were pretty good, too – probably the best dish of our dinner.

dadasd

chocolate mousse, coffee, peanut.  it was ok, but the “butter[cream] sundae” was better – more textures and flavors.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

1 November 2014 at 2:55pm

Posted in in Philadelphia, Restaurant Reviews

Tagged with

disagreeing about knives

leave a comment »

t says:  I’m a fan of kitchen cutlery.  And so I was interested in seeing what Eater says about them in their recent “Savvy” videos:

First off, I apologize because this guy is kind of a tool … but I do applaud some of his knife choices (and some of the knife brands in the video!).  I’d have to say that in general I agree with what he has to say, but in an era where people are contemplating buying knife sets, I feel like his video might lead someone down the path for a whole “knife set” which is unnecessary.  For instance, after watching that video, I could see someone thinking “well, if I need four knives, and this set has 7, I might as well just put up with the extra 3″.  No!  Bad!  Futhermore, I disagree with one of the knife choices, so I am going to just lay it out for you the way I see it:

1)  Chef’s Knife:  Yes, it’s mandatory.  Yes, it has to be large.  Yes, it has to scare you for the first two weeks you use it.  If it doesn’t, then it’s likely not long enough (unless you’re already used to a chef’s knife of 8-10″ in length).  To give you an idea, 9-10″ knives are the norm for prepwork in professional kitchens, while 8″ knives [in some patriarchal, sexist societies] are referred to as “ladies’ knives”.  Of course, I refuse to propagate that stereotype (*stares down at his tiny-for-a-man hands*).  Anyways, the glory of the chef’s knife is versatility.  You want it to be large enough to do an occasional rock-chop (personally I don’t like rock-chopping because it destroys edges, but it’s so sexy when you see it on the Food Network, right?), push-cut, and slicing.  At the same time, it shouldn’t be SO long that you feel like you have no control over where the tip is in space (which actually is more related to your grip than knife size).  Corollary: santokus can count as chef’s knives.  While they make me sad, even I got caught up in “the three virtues” bullcrappery when they hit the market circa 2005.  I don’t use mine anymore, but it was such a pricey knife that I can’t part with it.

2)  Paring Knife:  I agree – the paring knife is essential as well.  It’s great for in-hand work, as well as occasional fruit slicing (although I’ve been known to pull out a giant 9″ knife to cut a single carrot …).  Long live the paring knife – the thinner the better.

3)  Slicing Knife?  Really?  Why?  How many of us are going to be slicing raw fish or filet roasts?  And even if you were, what is the likelihood you’d be doing that vs. slicing a loaf of bread?  a hard crusty baguette?  That’s right – forget the slicing knife – go for the bread knife.  And it doesn’t even have to be a fancy bread knife.  Under $75, all bread knives are the same (now, if you want to spend more than $75, there are some very specific superior-to-others bread knives out there).  Could you use a bread knife for the raw fish and meats as well?  Maybe, but I’d rather use a chef’s knife for those – it is one of the reasons why your chef’s knife is long to begin with, right?!

4)  Utility / “Petty” Knife: fine … if you insist that you need something to trim some meat, or just to cut a random piece of something, and you don’t want to pull out a chef’s knife, you can get one of these.  Just hide it when the company comes over so this way they can think that you, too, cut a single apple with your chef’s knife.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

30 October 2014 at 12:28pm

Posted in Happenings

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 483 other followers