after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

a response to the response to Diner en Blanc

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t says:  As the years go on since the start of Philly Diner en Blanc, there has been an increasing tide of anti-DeB sentiment.  For instance, in Main-Line Magazine (i.e. “Philadelphia Magazine”), the fashion/lifestyle/home-and-design editor (who LinkedIn claims her first job out of college is “Senior Lifestyle Editor” for Philly Mag – you may draw your own conclusions regarding qualifications) wrote this little opinion:

http://www.phillymag.com/shoppist/2014/08/13/this-is-hilarious-diner-en-sweatpants-mocks-fancy-pants-diner-en-blanc/

In short, Ms. Goulet complains about the inconvenience of gathering everything, the inconvenience of lugging everything, and the audacity of having to pay for something (and it sounds like she wasn’t thrilled with her pre-packaged dinner by virtue of making no mention of delicious food).  And then she whined that 30th street wasn’t as beautiful as the Eiffel tower.

Oh, and then she links to some anti-DeB dinners taking place as mentioned in another little article in their magazine.

http://www.phillymag.com/ticket/2014/08/12/diner-en-sweatpants-gives-middle-finger-diners/

It got me wondering: am I un-cool?  Are we un-cool?  If PhillyMag can take an anti-DeB position (and they’re usually a year behind the times), does that mean that now DeB is so not a cool thing to do?  I felt torn, as DeB was fun for our gang (g + t + a + v) both years we went.  There are some things we think could be better:

1)  We think there is a fair amount of rules violations (creme is not white) that lends to the “tacky” appearance – but come on – everyone is at least trying!

2)  Transportation is difficult in a city where the trains don’t exactly get to everywhere/anywhere.  So if you’re not mentally prepared, you might be miffed to have your sparkling white dress rub up against the “plebians” who are riding SEPTA (you know … to get home from work … because it is like 6pm on a Thursday!!).

3)  There’s also a fair amount of “trying too hard to be cool” (i.e. you’re not the first person to think of FedNuts fried chicken … or sushi … or delivery pizza).

But outside of these, the ability to look around and see a sea of white is fascinating.  Enjoying the moment as you’re eating a picnic with total strangers, possibly even sharing wine and having each other take pictures – what’s not to like?  And normally I hate being in crowds of strangers!  Maybe I’ll change my tune if it rains on us this year?  I guess what I’m trying to say is: “if you don’t like it, fine, don’t come!  But just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean the people who do are deluding ourselves into “pretending we’re Parisians” – we’re just enjoying the opportunity to create a spectacle.

But I am curious about the anti-DeB dinners – are they cooler or more fun?  Should I want to do them instead?

a says:  I heard about those at work today.  This is what hipsters do because they have been left out or are, true to form, too lazy to make something like DeB work.  I really don’t get the blowback to this event – it shows a​ lack of understanding between something that is exclusive vs. exclusionary.  DeB’s limit is based on location logistics and the fact the previous participants get first dibs, both of which seem fair and necessary.  The only exclusionary aspect of DeB is that it has a fee but I don’t know the world where something like this could be free.​  Unlike the Union League, where people are excluded based on gender, whether they know a member, and in the end, class, DeB is just semi-tough to join.  And guess what, that’s OK! Not everyone can do or be a part of everything. Sometimes you get lucky and the computer server lets you join (DeB, The Philly 10K, concerts, etc.) and sometimes you don’t.  Tough nuggets.  I’m pretty sure Harvard has a few more applicants than spaces and you don’t see every reject starting “an alternative, sweatpants version of Harvard.”  (t’s disclaimer: no one who contributed to this post has ever been admitted to Harvard).   ​It all comes back to FOMO – people want to (have the option) of doing everything in their purview.​ Go cry into your PBR while riding your fixie and stroking your handlebar mustache.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 August 2014 at 11:54am

Posted in Happenings

pondering frozen steaks

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t says:  I love me a good steak at home, and have clung for a long time to the conventional wisdom that should I have had to freeze a steak, then I should thaw it before cooking.  Cooks Illustrated suggests otherwise:

Now, I think that the idea makes sense.  However, it’s really unclear what the starting point is of the “thawed” steak.  For instance, just because they thawed the steak overnight does not mean that it was tempered appropriately (i.e. taken all the way to room temp) before cooking, which is what I do for all steaks, be it fresh or frozen.  Maybe CI would argue that the “gray band” would have been even larger?  But I think another point of discrepancy is that most people preparing properly tempered steaks don’t drop it in a puddle of standing oil, rather super-hot skillet with just a thin coating of oil at best.  So now I guess that I wish that CI would have tested a few more conditions before changing my steak-making practice altogether … but at least now I know what to do if I forgot to pull a steak out of the fridge the night before.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

19 August 2014 at 10:26pm

Posted in Happenings

Hi to Hai Street

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t says:  When it first debuted, Hai street was reported as peddling “Japanese Burritos”.  It kind of turned me off.  Does that mean that ssam are “Korean burritos”?  Does that mean that Samosas are Indian empanadas?  Or maybe these are all just wannabe ravioli?  In any case, the idea of Japanese burrito, in my mind, involves a flour tortilla – kinda how like when Korean tacos were a craze (?anyone remember that?), it was korean shortrib and rice in a tortilla.  But lo and behold, there is no tortilla anywhere at Hai street  Rather, it seems that the product in question is basically ginormous maki.  But, to keep the “Japanese Burrito” theme alive, I’m going to compare Hai Street to Chipotle … because … you know … why not propagate a fallacious simile?

August 2014, Thursday Lunch, Party of 2.

photo 2(196)

The setup is very chipotle-esque. You see a menu behind that gives a rough idea of your “burrito” contents and then you can select the fresh ingredients in front of you.

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Unlike Chipotle, however, they have a structured box that protects the maki from crush injury, which is great – I never did like the foil solution.  Also unlike Chipotle, they make you buy ridiculous water, which I’ve already discussed here.  And the price is definitely up there, reaching ~$10 when all was said and done for my “screaming tuna” roll (it was a special that I saw outside).  That’s a few bucks more expensive than Chipotle (and I did splurge on the guac), so let’s see what I found … 

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I tried to get as up-close-and-personal as possible.  So now some people might be upset with Hai Street because the star filling that you selected isn’t very plentiful – it’s not like the enormous portion of meat you’d get in a Chipotle Burrito, rather, in equal proportion to the various ingredients that’s added.  To be honest, I kind of like this way better!  And the reason is because it comes off more like a maki this way.  No one should complain of a maki having too little of the protein – makis are supposed to have a balance of ingredients in their innards.  And here, with the plethora of other interestingly flavored items (e.g. garlic chips) and interestingly textured items (e.g. mango), it really was like eating a lovely salad and a splash of seaweed and rice.  OH – and the rice wasn’t bad!  That was what I as expecting would have been the biggest problem: bad rice.  But I guess if someone is going to be a sous for Morimoto, they better know how to make consistently decent sushi rice (I mean, it wasn’t blow-me-away rice, but it was good!). 

In all, I’m a big fan of the single maki I had there, and was substantially full by the end.  I didn’t feel gross-full (if that’s what you’re in to), and might even consider the ingredients “healthy”.  I decided that if I ever had to be gluten-free (Why can’t we call it “Celiac Disease”?  Why is it “gluten sensitivity” or “gluten intolerant”?  People with a nut allergy have a “nut allergy” – they’re not “nut intolerant”), I would not hesitate to make Hai street play a larger roll (“roll” … get it?) in my dining repertoire.  Someone might say, “well, you could make this at home”.  There is truth to that … but if I had to individually prepare carrot, radish, mango, aspargu, lettuce, tuna, kimchi, rice, garlic chips, I’d … have no other job …

Is Hai street the end-all-be-all of Japanese cuisine?  No.  Is it going to replace Chipotle?  No (but man, we’d be a helluvalot healthier if it did).   Will I go there again – you bet!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 August 2014 at 6:03pm

Jamonera Jappiness

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t says:  In case you were wondering, yes, that’s pronounced “Happiness” (I know, my attempt at humor was not a success – do I get points for trying?).  g, a, v, a friend, and I went to Jamonera just recently, and all I can say is “wow”.  Since the first time we went, two years ago, until now, there has been such refinement in the offerings that we were all uber-impressed this time around.  It was the gang’s first meal together like this since coming back from Spain (so obviously, we chose to go to a Spanish restaurant), and it was like we never left.  The jamon iberico was acorny.  The veggies were spot-on.  Every fish was done beautifully.  The meats had a simplicity about them but were full of flavor.  In all, it was a splendid evening of food, made even more splendid by Jamonera’s wonderful hostess that evening.  While we were the recipients of some preferential treatment (a, v, and the hostess are friends), I refuse to believe that this somehow translated into Jamonera’s chefs to do anything different with their food – I think the food is just that good.  It’s a shame that I wasn’t fast enough with the camera for the multi-course event – this is what I got:

August 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 5.

shisito

first course of a peculiar mixture of jamon, shisito peppers, some pickles, and then on the right, a pile of smoked salmon atop tomato and goat cheese, which was the biggest “bam” of the dish (i never would have put those together – but now I might!).  And yes, shisito peppers are like new “it” vegetable, seemingly found anywhere that wants to char a vegetable, but I can’t fault them for doing it well.

date

dates+bacon+cheese=happiness.  there really is no other way to solve that equation.  It did remind us of Mercato’s bacon-wrapped figs, and if the two got into a monkey-knife-fight, I would have no idea who’d win.  I will say that this was a wonderful bite overall, and I’m thankful there weren’t more because I would have definitely have eaten all of them.  The background had these eggplant-fries that also made me wonder, “why had I not thought of this?”.  Answer: I’m not as smart as Jamonera.

steak

steak. potatoes.  ’nuff said.

dessert

you have to do the doughnuts for dessert.  Now, the doughnuts by themselves are “ok” – but when you dunk them in the heaven-sauce above, you realize just how lucky you are to be able to finish a meal with this amazing mix of fat and sugar.  sad will be the day i have to start a statin.

Jamonera did a fabulous job, but I’m afraid that no one’s noticing.  All too often, I even catch myself zipping through those 13th street emails (the ones with the “special dinners” at Jamonera, Barbuzzo, and Little Nonna’s) without even noting Jamonera’s offering.  Shame on me!  Is it because everyone’s “over” Spanish food?  Is it because there’s already Amada and Tinto in town, along with the Mediterranean likes of Barbuzzo?  Or maybe we’re now just too stuck on “plant-friendly” (if I hear or read another thing about Charlie was a Sinner or “the new Vedge place”, I might savagely poke someone with the blunt end of a carrot), so richness and decadence in animal form is so “last year”?  Regardless, I will say that the flavors were quite good in this meal – don’t believe me? Ask a.  a states:  the dates, the branzino, and the desserts crushed it (including our double secret desserts that you can’t mention here).  t comes back on: Oh – did I mention the Branzino was to die for? It was. We ate it so fast there were no pictures.  So yes, the food is good – like “almost Zahav” good; I think Jamonera is one hummus plate away from winning that battle (unlike others, I don’t give Zahav extra points for using “off” cuts of meat like duck heart, ground lamb, etc – if it tastes good, it tastes good – I don’t care about what it was).  The difference, however, might come down to price.  While the preferential treatment we had thrown our way did result in a meal that was cheaper than Zahav, we know that technically Zahav is the better “deal”.  Be that as it may, while Zahav’s desserts are quite good, Jamonera’s doughnuts put such a smile on my face that when it comes time for the bill, I’d sign almost anything …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

10 August 2014 at 4:21pm

Catching Up

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t says:  It’s actually be a while since we’ve had some consistent posting – I’ve fallen way behind!  So now it’s time to play some catch-up.

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For one of our recent goodbye dinners with cm and k, we went to Zahav.  The tasting menu is still as good as  ever was, making me wonder how we could have ever have doubted this place (when they first opened, we found a lot of the flavors to be monotonous).  I will say, however, that the hummus portion is actually a bit daintier than it once was (the pita is plentiful, but the humus could barely be enough for 1 pita, much less two).  The salatim was phenomenal …

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… as was our appetizers and entrees (shout-out to the watermelon-feta-olive salad in the foreground, cauliflower on the left – the only dish we purposefully ordered two of).

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I will say that the desserts were solid, too.  Nothing too out of this world (cake and baklava, chocolate mousse thing, vanilla panna cotta thing, watermelon sorbet), but a wonderful ending to the meal.  In short, go to Zahav, get the tasting menu, and dine happily.  It is a pretty good deal when all is said and done (and this comes from someone who used to be <$40pp when they first opened!)

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In other news, it seems that now there will be ramen right on Penn’s campus.  I’m happy they’re there, but I do hope they can step up their game from the first (and last) time I was there.

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For my last update, enter this pretty awesome Sauvignon Blanc that I found at the PLCB store on 21st and Market.  I’ve been a big fan of Greywacke since 2011.  New Zealand rubber/petrol with plush zingee stone fruit and pineapple up front, and then finishes hard with a chalky, lemon pithy finish that is very addictive.  Warning: not everyone will love this wine.  But there will be a population that does.  And hopefully they will leave a few at the store for me so I can reload whenever I need … 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 August 2014 at 6:22pm

Mercato kicks it up a notch

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t says:  Those who have read our blog know that we love Mercato.  As far as Italian BYO’s go, it’s up there with Modo Mio, Monsu, and Melograno.  But now, let’s just say that it made a play for the #1 spot in our hearts.

July 2014, Monday Dinner, Party of 2.  g and I wanted a date night, so out we went, with a bottle of wine in hand.  We wanted something casual and tasty, and because our nearby restaurants are so pricey (looking at you, Fitler Dining Room).  Mercato delivered …

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We pulled out this special bottle of Blanc de Noir, courtesy of Ayoub.  An orange color, it had this interesting mix of vanilla and apple pie up front, with a thunderous lemony, chalky snap.  It was a refreshing way to cleanse the palate between each delicious bite that was to follow.

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If you go to Mercato, you have to get the antipasti.  Made to share, this dish featured meats, pickled items, and pesto brushetta that I would have kept eating and eating and eating had there been more.  Yes, it’s pricey, at nearly $20, but between two people it’s worth it. 

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g went pyramid pasta – an item which she has had before that was still every bit as delicious as it was.  But mine.  Oh mine.  It was a roasted suckling pig and mushroom papperdelle that is most definitely the best dish that I have ever had at Mercato.  Some of Mercato’s pastas can be kind of wimpy.  The sauces can be a little thin, with not a lot of meat shreds.  Not so with this one, where the meat helping was bountiful and had this intriguing mix of pork and herbs.  And I’ve had issues with some of Mercato’s noodles being flimsy – but not this one – the papparedelle had a hearty bite that sticks to your ribs.  I loved every bite.  Now if only it wasn’t a “special”, and was on the daily menu.

We were too full for dessert, but were so happy we didn’t care.  We stumbled home smiles on our faces.  Thanks Mercato!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 August 2014 at 5:50pm

this break brought to you by FedNuts

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t says:  I’ve been waiting for this for a long time:

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Now, Federal Donuts has remarkable donuts.  Duh.  But their cake was always plain … that is … until now …  Welcome to the chocolate cake donut!  Simply glazed!  In all of its chocolate glory.  Couple this with an iced coffee and what you have is an awesome mid-day treat.  Thank goodness for Uni City FedNuts!  (and they deliver to Penn/CHOP!)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

30 July 2014 at 5:49pm

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