after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Stop and Smell the Rosa Blanca

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t says:  It’s been a while since we’ve dined at a Jose Garces joint.  Sure, Amada will always hold a special place in our hearts, it’s a bit too pricey for “normal” weekend dinners (as is Tinto).  JG Domestic has pretty much fizzled out in our eyes.  Distrito’s a bit of a hike.  Village Whiskey is fun, but I can’t put away those shortrib-smothered-fries like I used to.  Garces Trading Co is pretty much dead to us now, after deciding to charge corkage, the disbanding of the market, and a previous bad experience. So now what?  Enter the new Cuban Diner inspired Rosa Blanca.  The crew met up a week or so ago and put it through its paces …

March 2014, Weekend Dinner, Party of 4.  The atmosphere’s cute.  Garces is trying to walk the line between a take-out business and a sit-down business, so the front of house has this come-and-go feel, while the main dining room is more “formal” … but don’t let that word scare you – this is not a formal place by any stretch of the imagination.  To be honest, it’s probably the most casual Garces restaurant I’ve been to.  I was happy to see children around – it really added to the diner-esque atmosphere!

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I don’t remember what these were – I want to say they were the croquetes de jamon.  It’s funny because my memory fails me, but I do recall the urge to eat them forever, as they were fried to perfection and filled with oozy cheeze.  It was like a chicken cordon bleu … without the chicken …

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Empanada de Picadillo with beef and green olives.  This empanada was fantastic – g’s not even an olive fan and she enjoyed her share of empanada with nary a crumb left on the plate.  v agreed that the filling was pretty spot-on (oh, did I mention that v is Cuban?)

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You know, when it comes to bread, there’s either “yea, here’s some bread” or there’s “hey, check out this bread”.  This was much moreso the latter.  I believe this was yuca bread, and it was phenomenal.  The textures were just right, balancing an outer layer of crisp with an inside of some kind of intriguing gummy texture that I couldn’t get enough of.

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Cordero al Caribe.  This guy stuck out as the oddest dish – I wasn’t expecting such a curry-ful lamb dish.  Maybe there is a secret Indian-Cuban fusion somewhere in the Cuban culture?  In any case, with such beautifully cooked down lamb and such depth of spices, I wasn’t complaining.  Best darn Indian-Cuban dish I’ve ever had (I apologize if this shows both my ignorance of Cuban and Indian cuisine).  In the background was that RIDICULOUS ropa vieja, with brisket and rice – it was insane.  Probably the best thing we ate – I declare g the winner of the evening.

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Pollo a la Brasa: rotisserie chicken.  Once again, garces nailed it with a succulent chicken presented in such a casual manner that it looks like child’s play – seriously – after eating this, you wonder why it is you have ever come across a dry chicken before.  And, of course, well-seasoned, well-dressed, and nothing we wanted to change, as it really hit that home-made chicken note.

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Masitas de Puerco.  Chunks of fried pork shoulder?  How could you go wrong?  You can’t!  Well – maybe you can, as there is only a limited quantity in the plate.  v confessed that she could have housed a heaping mountain of these guys (and maybe she has when her family has made it).  I would have liked to have seen slightly larger pieces this way beyond the crispy exterior would be more of a tender interior, this way you’d get some more textural contrast, but as far as flavors go, I got nothing bad to say.

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Dessert smorgasboard!  You see the flan, which was ok (it was flan – nothing really to report there) as well as a a chocolate dulce-de-leche cake that vanished within seconds of being put on the table.  v went for the sorbet-shake-thingee and smiled for the rest of the evening.

In all, the gang was really happy with Rosa Blanca.  It’s definitely not fussy, not fancy, not pretentious Cuban-inspired cuisine.  v felt that there was a lot of faithful representations in there, with some notable exceptions (e.g. that curry lamb, and apparently there was one dish that was Puerto Rican, not Cuban, which for some diehards could be a point of contention).  The service was still working out the kinks and trying to hit the right balance of pace, smiles, and confidence in what they were doing.  Certainly the kitchen is doing a fabulous job.  I only hope that the uniqueness of Cuban cuisine is enough to keep us coming back for more.  It’s tough because the style of food is almost weeknight-ish, but done up a little (and priced up enough for) a weekend dinner … where there’ll be a lot of competition from the likes of Kanella, Mercato, and company.  I guess time will tell … but trust us – the food is good!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

11 April 2014 at 7:13pm

just got kung fu’d by some tofu … and i liked it!

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t says:  a was down for a quick trip to a food truck today and noted that Kung Fu Hoagie had set up shop on 38th and Chestnut-ish.  We tracked them down and had them whip up a couple of their banh mi sandwiches.  Personally, I went for the tofu “meatball”, figuring that they weren’t trying to imitate real meat, rather, just moosh together some tofu and seasoning and go from there.  a was bold and went for the “beef”.  I don’t know how his was, but check out mine:

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Up close with the tofu “meat”-ball banh mi.  First and foremost, the bread was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  A nice crunch on the outside and soft inside – and I believe they may have torn out some of the excess to preserve excellent bread:filling ratio.  As for the filling, those pickled carrots are amazing, and the “spicy beans” are an absolute must – to omit them would be to miss out on a very important contributor of flavor.  Now, for the tofu-ball, I have to say that it was pretty darn good.  Do I wish it was something more porky?  Sure – but it was nevertheless well-seasoned and had a firm enough texture to stand up to a few bites before disintegrating.  All in all, this sandwich totally rocked my socks.  I was not expecting such a showing for $5.50.  I’d go back there in a heartbeat for the tofu sandwich (and I’d pay $2 if they’d give me some pig).

a says: My unpictured tofu “beef” had great flavor and freshness, but the only issue was slightly soggy bun and chili paste was less hot than usual.

t says: vendors take note: no one likes a soggy bun. Boy am I glad I ate mine right away and didn’t wait ’til later – it’s the only way to avoid bun sog.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 April 2014 at 1:45pm

hilarious hosemaster post

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t says:  I just had to share it:

http://www.timatkin.com/articles?1296

Written by afterdinnersneeze

7 April 2014 at 8:48pm

Posted in Happenings

a brunch storm

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t says:   I was flipping through some of my previous photos on my phone, only to find that there were a few dynamite breakfasty items I’ve had recently.  While no one particular visit is entirely substantive for a single post, I decided it might be fun to smoosh together some highlights.  And here we go ….

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Honey’s Sit-n-Eat, March 2014, Brunch.  Those who know me know that I am very plus-minus on Honey’s.  To this day, I just can’t understand why this particular place is worth waiting in line for.  Be that as it may, if you do get in (i.e. on a weekday or something), the service is fast, and the food is often “solid”.  Being a pancake-o-phile, I have to confess that I’ve often been a bit underwhelmed with Honey’s; the pancakes are often a bit too thin, and a bit too rubbery/elastic (I prefer cakey!); thus when I go to Honey’s I often try to find something else to eat.  Well … except this time: the above is the S’mores pancakes that was a special at Honey’s last month.  If you thought that finely ground graham powder, chocolate sauce, and marshmallow would make for a CRAZY good pancake, you would be right!  The toppings definitely made up for the pancake’s ho-humness, so much so that I’d order it again if I saw it on the menu!

 

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Parc, March 2014, Brunch.  The above pancake is the polar opposite to Honey’s loaded kind.  These standard pancakes from Parc’s menu are as good as plain pancakes get nowadays.  Yes, there is a luscious taste of butter and sweet sweet sugar when you bite in, but those flavors are oh-so-comforting.  Combine those with a fluffy-cakey pancake, and you have a stunning example of what a well-done, un-fussy pancake can achieve.  Bravo Parc – way to keep up with this classic!

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Cook & Co, March 2014, Brunch.  So this one’s not fair because the eatery is located outside of NYC, quite far away from PHL.  Served at a place that reminds me a lot of Picnic (the eatery in The Left Bank), the above “Elvis” is amazing, harkening back to my memories of Cochon’s Elvis French Toast.  This version is far more restrained, lacking that bananas-foster-sauce, and instead having that peanut-butter cream layer which adds a nice texture and flavor to go along with the banana, bacon, and perfectly battered/cook French toast.  While it would be challenging to eat any more than one of these at a time (it’s still pretty rich!), it was a fantastic experience I hope to re-live on my next visit to Scarsdale.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 April 2014 at 6:57pm

LaBan gets The Fat Ham right!

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t says:  I had some pictures in my phone from a lunch that a and and I had at the Fat Ham, just waiting to be unleashed onto adsz.  But of course, I had been procrastinating … and procrastinating … and procrastinating … until now!  LaBan’s review just came out, reminding me of just how much we liked it!  No time like the present!  While we may not have had the emotional crisis that LaBan went through (he got absurdly bent out of shape over the sauce of the hot chicken), it was a damn good meal.  Check it out:

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ricotta cheese: this was crazy-good.  like Barbuzzo-good.  The creaminess and that little bit of oil was perfect.  It doesn’t have that drizzle of balsamic that makes Barbuzzo’s so ridiculous, but there was something in its simplicity that just kept me coming back for more.  I would have gladly licked the bowl if that was acceptable.

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these oyster po-boys were amazing.  how it is that the super-thin-and-crunchy crust stays on the oyster, which is not the least bit overcooked might be another wonder of the world.  I would have been satisfied with these for a main any day!

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the burger was a little underwhelming.  featuring wagyu beef, the waiter boasted that it was the best burger he had ever had.  and maybe that was true – if we could have tasted the burger!  you see, we were prepared for moo-moo succulence, but found the cow to be completely overtaken by pimento cheese in both texture and flavor!  sorry Sbraga – there’s just too much pimento!  it was almost like cheeze-whiz!

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pecan pie … out. of. control.  best i’ve ever had. period.  flavor, texture, everything.  kp needs to verify its superiority.

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and they have an exhaustive list of bourbons!  some of them downright pricey, but might be worth a stop if you have a hankering for some whisky.  Their sauv blanc that was on tap was not bad for $6!

While this is “only” a lunch, if it is any indication of what dinner may promise, then the Fat Ham has destination dining written all over it.  I say “destination dining” because let’s face it – who’s going to venture out to that weird little void between Penn and CC?  Certainly JG Domestic isn’t drawing any crowds, but maybe the Fat Ham will?  I hope so!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 March 2014 at 8:47pm

Resting on its Laurels

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t says:  Newly opened Laurel has received a ridiculous amount of hype.  Now declared the winner of Top Chef, Nicholas Elmi is definitely reaping the rewards; his E-Passy eatery is booked through June.  I’m happy he’s doing well, although I heard that some felt “the other guy” was supposed to win Top Chef.  Whatever.  I didn’t watch any of the season, so I have no idea who “should” have won.  I’m happy for Nick Elmi … but with my happiness comes high expectations … after all, Sbraga is kickin’ ass there on Broad Street, so Elmi should do just as good, right?  After all, he is the former Le Bec-Fin dude.  Having made a reservation before Elmi was announced the winner, g and I rode out to East Passyunk with a bottle in hand for g’s bday.

February 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 2.  I have to write it here just to make sure he gets the message: a, I’m very sorry we didn’t invite you and v.  While I do try to include you two in all the fine dining we do, sometimes there’s just gotta be a good-’ol-fashioned g + t date night.  You know how it is: wives before guys.

As far as atmosphere is concerned, I have to say that the vibe is definitely fancier than Fond used to have.  There are white tableclothes, plush chairs, and slightly more table space.  As a result, it feels like the place seats less people than Fond – which is quite impressive, as Fond was small enough as it was.  The result was a very pleasant, un-BYO-esque experience in a good way – there was ample elbow room, and we weren’t sitting on top of eachother.

And now … the food:

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I started with the foie gras terrine appetizer, which looked like an interesting slab of marble when it came out, due to the cocoa that was pressed in there with the foie.  The citrus from the blood orange was a nice touch, but ultimately, I felt like the foie didn’t really shine through.  Don’t get me wrong, chocolate + citrus is delicious, but if I’m being charged for foie, I want to be able to taste it.  (It would have been real killer had one side been torched or bruleed or something for a little bit of that roasted foie flavor).

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g did the tuna + asian pear + horse radish.  This was a peculiar dish in that the raw fish was coupled with frozen-then-shaved horseradish.  While this was texturally interesting (it was fun to have frozen horseradish melt in your mouth and slowly pick up in spice level), it was odd with the fish because the cold temperature muted the beautiful fish flavors.  Similar to how you’d never want sashimi to be served too cold, this crudo should also not be too cold.  A fun effect, but overall, it probably hurt the dish.

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We followed up with the charred Spanish mackeral, which was nicely cooked and without complaint, as well as the gnocchi, which featured pancetta and garlic, resulting in a bowl of warmth we wished would never end.  Bravo for course #2.

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Third course featured a roasted “sheep’s head” fish, with … foam.  g liked the foam, as it brought an airiness to the cider-y flavors within.  Personally, I found it to be gimicky and unnecessary.  Instead, I preferred my seared fish instead (?trout?), which had a beautiful skin on it and nicely sized, nicely cooked snails.  It was pretty heavy-handed with the salt, but I’m down with that..

In all, I have to say that it was a “nice” meal.  It’s a step up in “fanciness” from Fond, which I’d have to say is Laurel’s competition in the area for this kind of food.  Whether or not “fancy” is a desirable direction for Laurel to go is debatable.  For instance, the set-up is more “grown-up date” than “let’s just go out on Friday” … which is good if you want a romantic evening (or at least want to give the impression that you’re mature).  The food is fussier as well, with more elegant plating and incorporation of techniques that are a little more new … which is fine … but I felt like some of these flourishes were superfluous, if not letdowns (e.g. frozen horseradish, foam).  Along these lines, I felt that there was only one actually “soulful” dish (the gnocchi) out of the whole evening.  Similar to the atmosphere and cookery, the service was quite professional, but lacking the warmth of something like a Talula’s Garden or Fond.  I guess what I’m trying to say is if you want to impress someone, go to Laurel – it won’t let you down and it’s sure to leave an overall good impression.  But, if you want to a meal to remember, one that will make you go ga-ga for the food, go to Fond … and thank me later.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 March 2014 at 4:11pm

NYT Wine School

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t says: I love this idea – thanks for the heads up, a!

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/dining/get-out-your-corkscrew.html?_r=0

Written by afterdinnersneeze

13 March 2014 at 8:37pm

Posted in Happenings

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